The Long Haul, the Short Haul, and the White Minivan

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For those of you who have never visited the fine burg that is Flagstaff, Arizona, there is a watering hole/convenience store/refuge for dorky cyclists known as the Pay N’ Take that is unlike any other establishment in which I have become inebriated. When I first moved to this town, I spent most nights sitting at the bar, drinking myself drunk and talking to no one because I knew no one. The Pay N’ Take was my first real home in this town.

P.T. Pay N Take. He Might Be Illegal.
P.T. Pay N Take. He Might Be Illegal.

Fast-forward five years and I barely go in the place anymore. I just don’t drink like I used to, and now that I’m all marriaged up, I don’t really feel any strong desire to go out to ‘meet chicks.’ I have also since found a more permanent home that is less like a barstool and more like an actual home. All good things.

Last night, however, I wandered into the Pay N’ Take, and I’ll tell ya, the barstool still fits just fine. While I was there, I ran into the Gnome and Scott (Goldmember, I believe he’s been called once or twice, though I’m not exactly sure why), and we had an interesting chat about racing bicycles and the mental trauma such races inflict. More specifically, we  talked about what runs through our minds when the race begins, when the race keeps going…and keeps going…and keeps going…and keeps fucking going…

Two in the Morning. Racing Sucks Balls.
Two in the Morning. Racing Sucks Balls.

Scott’s point: when racing, shit gets emotional. And not just in a “fuck my legs hurt” kind of way. It’s more like a “why the hell did my dog Skippy get hit by the mailman’s truck when I was in third grade?” kind of emotional. Irrationally emotional. The amazing thought processes that happen while racing are like none other. I can’t think of a single activity that makes me think so irrationally.

Case in point: a few years back, I was doing a 24 hour race in Colorado called 24 Hours in the Sage. It’s in Gunnison, and it’s a cool course. It was my first solo crack at a 24 hour race, and I saw shit. I mean, I SAW shit. Like a white minivan driving through the desert at two in the morning. It wasn’t really there, but goddamn if I didn’t swerve to avoid it anyway. The Lohan pays good money for hallucinations like that.

The White Minivan
The White Minivan

Funny thing is, the white minivan did not even surprise me. It was like I was waiting for the damn thing. What was surprising was the downward spiral of disjointed thoughts that followed. Am I destined to be a failure? Why didn’t I kiss Jen in the fifth grade? I hope I’m not homeless when I’m old. Does anybody really love me? I fucking hate mayonnaise and any sonofabitch who eats that congealed bird spunk. There is just no goddamn reason David Hasselhoff should be a multimillionaire. Do I take shits more than normal people do?

Okay, so that’s sort of funny and quirky and entertaining, right? Well what about when shit starts to get real? When you start having arguments in your head, and you’re always losing the arguments? When you land on something that really stings, that you don’t go near when you’re straight and sober and off the (racing) sauce because that shit just gets too out of control? The why-didn’t-daddy-love-me shit that gets you down and out before  you even start? That failed marriage seeping into your brain, that fist fight in the locker room, that heartbreak, that let-down, that time you pussied out, that time you shit the bed…

Yeah, that kind of shit. That’s the white minivan.

Daddy Never Loved Me.
Daddy Never Loved Me.

Racing does that to me sometimes. I was relieved to hear I wasn’t the only one.

I’m not sure it actually qualifies as a moment of clarity, or if it’s just oxygen-starved brain cells ringing the death knell, but I think there’s a lot of entertaining stories to be made simply by racing, by depriving our bodies, by stretching our means, by going too goddamn far. I’d like to hear your stories. What’s your white minivan?

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About D2

I am a writer and a photographer. I never killed a man in Reno, but I once rode a bike through a casino in Vegas. Bikes are cool, huevos rancheros are for breakfast, whiskey is for dinner. Denver, Colorado, USA

16 Replies to “The Long Haul, the Short Haul, and the White Minivan”

  1. Hell yeah!
    Funny how certain memories enter when you are in the pain cave.
    Twenty years ago I experienced what I just called trail memory.
    Riding a section of trail that I have rode before and my thoughts the last time I rode it came back to me.
    It has happened several times and the cool thing is that there is an essence to it…one sweeping bend after 40 minutes of pure climb and there it is…maybe my brains way of telling me that it is okay, you have been here before.

  2. In the winter, I used to leave my trucking dock job at 2 in the morning on Saturdays and drive to the Grand Canyon. Then I would hike to Phantom Ranch and back by South Kaiabab. Well one rainy evening I entered the bright lights at the edge of Phoenix on I-17(this was 1994). It was dark and lots of street lights and no traffic. Well a gang of bikers came past me at about 100 mph and started weaving around my car. Then they started doing handstands and flips on their cycles. I said, “Thou art the Satan!” I started for my cross. Then, in a flash, it was all quiet, just the whine of the engine and the wind. Never saw that satanic stuff on the bike though.
    John 3:18

  3. I did a crit in Austin 10+ years ago. It was hot and I was in The Cave for 60 minutes. After, I laid down on the sidewalk (on 6th St. no less) and broke down. I shook uncontrollably and cried. I had no idea why, or how to stop it. I overheard Ron Kiefel say, “That’s leaving it on the road…” Oh, and I attacked with one to go, got caught @ 100m and finished 13th…they paid 12 deep!

  4. Last day of a stage race on 70 miles of shit California farm roads and everything stayed surprisingly mellow until the last circuit. Some guy jettisoned his bottle and smacked another rider in the head with it. Cussing out ensued for the next five minutes. Then in the middle of a half dirt half destroyed asphalt section my teammate flatted. Neither of us were in contention on the G.C. but he was a talented junior with some potential. I should have stopped and gave him my wheel. Instead I flew over the bars at 30mph when two guys bumped and went down in front of me about 600 meters from the finish. With a broken collar bone and a huge tangerine sized lump swelling up on my side I had to go to a local ER to get checked out. After some morphine and a beautiful X ray tech named Surrender, I went home had a plate installed in the shoulder, rehabbed for a few weeks, raced one more local crit, and quit the racing. Yes, I believed in Karma a little more after this and came to realize what a complete neurotic basket case I can become while racing a bicycle. One of those “playing with fire” things kind of like the hard drinking in many ways. My White minivan had Rabbit ears and was so Grace Slick.

  5. Early 90’s I was doing a MTB race in a teeeny tiny town in BFE OR, called Lakeview. Big 30 something mile loop out in the hills. I missed a turn, ate shit into a Ponderosa pine, breaking my post off at the frame and dislocating my hip. Popped the hip back in, stuffed my week old flite saddle into my jersey and stood up for the remaining 8 or so miles. Upon finishing, the guy who beat me, a regional ripper named Alex McClaren, comes up to me all excited and says “dude, I hit a cow” What? says I. “What cow? Where?”
    He shows me his brake levers, and sure as shit, there’s cow fur stuck in the pivots of his levers. He said it felt like hitting a car.

    I finished maybe 2 minutes back….never saw the cow.

  6. D2 great story. I had one of those where the hell did my brain just go moments. I was doing the MS Bay to Bay ride out here in CA. It was when I first started riding road, I was on a all aluminum felt F85. I rode with a bunch of friends who were even less experienced then me. On the first day I ended up doubling my miles because I would always get talking with someone realize I had left my group and then have to double back to ride with them. No problem I was on a bicycle and enjoying myself. Well that night in Oceanside we went out and I drank more than my fair share. I stayed up way too late and got absolutely no recovery.

    Well next morning I hop on the bike and proceed to roll out to the starting line. My whole group woke up late and are one of the last packs to roll out. I decided that I was gonna ride alone that day because the girl who I was riding for pulled out day one. She has MS. Well being tired, hungry, and a little hungover I push it on down the road. I start thinking about my Mom and her fight with MS while I’m pedaling, bad idea. Right before we get into the climb that is Torrey Pines there are a whole bunch of people lined up along the side of the road. They all have the signs that say “Thank You for riding for us” and etc. Then I see my mom, well what looked like my mom from a distance. It was an older woman who looked similar except for the fact that she was in a wheel chair and mom isn’t there yet. Well the emotion of the ordeal took over I was sobbing like a baby while I climbed Torrey pines. Couldn’t shut it off. I would get it under control and as I rode into the finish line in Mission Bay, every time my heart rate went above 75%, I would start crying again. I finished, got a massage, eat and drank tons of water. As soon as I got sustenance in me the whole brain shut off. I couldn’t even wonder as to why I had started crying in the first place.

  7. Like dreams, every ride commits to temporary memory such free-form creativity, that could I hold on to it long enough to exploit it, I’d either be dead or a millionaire by now. But then, as fast as I step out of my cycling shoes, the freedom to roam through my own imagination disappears as well.

    Thus, my mind and those moments when I am out on the trail are some kind of magic nobody will know of, but me. Rock on D2.

  8. I’m with you Virgil.
    Lost my dad a couple years back to cancer. He was a ripper on his Scalpel.
    Found his hydration pack in the closet and started wearing it. When I start to sweat it smells like my dad…Old Spice and Ricola. Damn near makes me cry every time I ride. If I lose this pack I’ll be sad.

    Next ride is for Pops.

  9. you sound like you have PMS! thats what it feels like for a woman about 14 days of the month, ok? now ya know. :)

    p.s. that shifter works peeerrrrfect. thanks again.

  10. Perhaps we have discovered true male pms. You could be on to something, Judi.

    And you’re welcome. Glad it’s getting some use. That thing sat in my parts bin for about a year and a half. Shame on me.

  11. 2:00 AM riding the motorcycle 12 miles home in November in New Hampshire after the 10 hour grind they call “the pot-sink” …. slow reaction vision, seeing holes where there aren’t, black dogs that I slow down for that aren’t there, and the bat that came out of nowhere and hit my arm, causing me to be distracted and crash.
    4:00AM riding to the base on Aviation bikeway: Forgetting to bring a light with me and the blinding glare of the cars making it so you literally cannot see the bike path, and then of course the slow mind of such an early wake-up.
    Taking a step up when you’ve reached the top of the stairs, or, expecting another step down when you’ve reached the bottom… similar feeling.
    Goddamn if I see a white minivan that ain’t there I’m going to quit drinking once and for all.

  12. Worst I ever had was coming off a 2 week bush patrol in Namibia in the 80’s

    I crashed early.

    The side of the tent was down because it was so hot & various base lights were streaming in.

    I woke up to see a cowled Druid leaning over my bed.

    Damn near shat myself, all I could do was croak a ‘hey man’ & then grabbed my R1 SLR to blow him away.

    Fortunately, the barrel knocked the towel off the washing line before I started blowing holes in things & suddenly he was gone.

    Don’t care what anyone says, there was a Druid in my tent that night.

  13. Back in my racing days, there was a 24hr race in the Austin area (it might still be going on, but I haven’t thought about it for ages…) Some time in the early morning, one of my teammates and I were trying to wind down and recover for our next laps, when the subject of gnomes came up (not the DC gnome) Both of us had hallucinated gnomes following us down the trail. Not the travelocity gnome statues, which were used as trail cairns to mark a few turns. I knew where those were. Little fucking gnomes being mischievous and throwing rocks into the trails and digging little potholes for us to stuff our front wheels into. Both of us had the same hallucination. The 3-4 am laps in a 24hr race is when the hallucinations hit me the hardest.