Paingiving Thankstaking or the reverse?

Morning 2 a.m. Moon in eyes, another fool moon has come round, this time much colder. Downstairs the snoring neighborhood is unruffled by the couple of cars tearing home from the bars.It’s the eve of the annual Appetite Seminar, a fat tire tradition in Fairfax each Thanksgiving Day, and I am wide awake as a Christmas crazed kid. T-giving is a sacred anniversary for me, indeed a birthday. The guy that pulled me into that world –let’s call him the “mid-werf” (werf as in ‘throw’) is our guest tonight at Taj Mahovel. Darryl Skrabak is his name…a lifetime ago he guided the bowling ball of my destiny in its swift and curved course, making sure I was aware that I would be making some kind of history, and to keep my eyes and ears open. I met my life partner, and he his, and we stayed closer than I did with my family of origin.

I put my ear to the ice-cold aluminum door of the trailer shining in the yard, but gather no sounds at all…DS is out cold, under the influence of a hand-numbing ride from the City (at 65 it’s getting tougher to just knock off twenty five miles) weighed down with plates of ravioli, long beans, a couple cups of potato soup and apple crisp with cream. Only the bibb lettuce salad (no dressing) went un-touched. Typical, if you live by the motto “No calorie left behind”, the non-caloric stuff remains untouched.

Over our supper, I reminded him about how he fed me Thanksgiving morning at his place in the Haight almost thirty years ago. How he’d impressed me by grinding the wheat, making a yeast-raised batter, offhandedly checking the hot waffle iron…what a PRODUCTION!

Come to think of it, it wasn’ t just one meal…he was always feeding me. Most Wednesdays around supper time I’d visit him and his cat. That big Siamese was louder and more obnoxious than I was, but I was better at withholding affection.

Years passed and our bond loosened and in the last decade I scarcely saw him.

He called the other day, without having spoken with me since February–a lapse this long in cat years is an eternity–to see if I’d be at the Appetite Seminar.

I was and I would be thrilled to have an excuse to do some serious cooking for the night before, as the larder was overflowing. When he appeared an hour after dark, I was relieved he’d arrived alive. No cycling hostess is immune to this sickening feeling, waiting for the two wheeled guest to roll in. One cannot relax until one’s visitor arrives in one piece. This is vaguely reminiscent of people in another era when travelers faced routes stalked by highwaymen. Only this generation’s highwayman is just as likely to be a highwaywoman, or a highway teen.

We swapped stories. He described his first Appetite Seminar (1979), how he wrote it up for City Sports Magazine…Initially the owners Jake & Maggie didn’t like the piece, but the women down in the art department loved it, and they pointed out that they’d already sold a couple of ads based on the strength of that story. So in it went…(do read it, it is very fine writing, funny and soooooo true! )He’d typed it out barely hours after completing the ride and finishing his dinner at his parent’s place on Ulloa St… 

Proof that same-day writing gives an added zing to any account because nothing has interfered with all those raw impressions. 

Reader, I didn’ t take that lesson to heart yesterday when I returned from my umpteenth Appetite Seminar. I went straight to Toad Hall and buried my fresh impressions under a feast!

Still I recall echoes of that unforgettable First Time (1980) during yesterday’s ride. Both times, the weather was perfect, cold , sunny and clean (appetite sharpening) air. There seemed to be far fewer people this year (other rides duplicate the fun, the rigor, and one doesn’t have to be in a car for 4 hours, should one live in the South Bay).
Few women.
Endless pleasant gab, shared food (thank you SeeKAY for the cookies that Mary and Dana must’ve made)and overhead, a big cloud of blue grey smoke. If you click on CK’s “Mountain Bike History Hubsite” you will see a photo of the riders atop Smoker’s Knoll, including a very easy-to-spot (only one with helmet, helmet has duck on it) Yours Truly. Only this year, instead of a long ride from San Francisco on my Raleigh Sprite five-speed, I zoomed around my valley scrounging more good grub for the inevitable picnic on the knoll.

I packed my ‘good’ banjo, the SS. Stewart American Princess. Yes, it’s heavy and yes, it’s 90 years old but what the hell….I won’t crash

Problem: Tea thermos + banjo + sandwiches + boastcards + a dozen or so freshly-fallen feijoa fruit = WEIGHT. 

Weight=gouged ribs. I’m 150 pounds and damn if my luggage didn’t feel like about twenty.

First friend encountered: Paul McWhirr and his bubbly sister Carol, who accompanied me up the pa-vay. A few racers blew by, I resisted chasing. It’s easy to forget how hard it is climbing with a real burden.

Arrived at knoll at ten, and stayed til noon, spread out in the oatgrass in the sunshine, swilling and pouring tea, and overhearing fascinating conversations about the little demon that lives inside us all…to my left,Fisher and his friend Sheila Moon the clothing designing entrepreneuse, Charlie Kelly, the piano mover, Pat Reddix, er… Chris Ioakamedes probably one of the youngest grommets back in the late 70’s. Retains a distinct youthful grommetiness. Chris Ryan. As above. John Loomis (racing legend and spiritual teammate, who was in reality Joe Murray’s Fisher teammate) Barry London and Steve (Gravy) Gravenitis , defendants in the Federal case over bicycle access to Pt Reyes area… John and Suzanne Aronson, and most surprisingly, Peter Lewendal who was inducting his new friend into the trials and tribs of first-time mountain bike rides…

If she still speaks to you after this, she’s a keeper , Pete.

These days most of the riders are able to pedal up even the steepest steeps. In the first years EVERYONE pushed up “triple ripple”. A truly weak rider rarely attempts this ride anymore. I was chagrined to see at least a half dozen 4×4 motorcycle things, with pudgy uniformed patromen (unsmilng variety) plus trucks, trucks and more trucks. At least four of ‘em…Perhaps they really rescued someone, I’ll hear about it if they did.

I headed back the way I’d come…a novelty. In fact, “wrong way” for the first time ever. I was astonished at the difference in the views…never noticed those “raisins” (chunky rocks) in the chapparal before!

My bike behaved (barely), the long neck of the banjo holding down my head… Over the top of my sunglasses, the trail seemed foreign (like a person on a cassette tapespeaking backwards). The descents seemed too steep. My hands, feet, eyes were trading primitive, jumbled phrases with the well-worn fire road, and I kept a sharp ear for on-coming late arrivals…since a brand new (THANK YOU NOAH) six oz camera was part of my luggage I forced myself to stop (I’d ostensibly been in a hurry to get back to reach Mildew Valley by 3) and click off a fiew of the view. I am becoming just like everyone else, and I want my friends and associates to put MY skin on and see the ride through MY eyes, despite the plain truth: tain’t possible.

A rider came along during my photo moment, and we exchanged pleasantries, and within a half an hour I’d learned he played accordion, taught himself Keith Jarrett style improvisational piano, and really liked my mud boastcard…Friendly exchange on a bike is nothing new, but brief intense exchanges of world view, opinion and other less nameable units of communication come about only rarely. William Binzen is such a soul, and as I usually do, I said I’d keep in touch.
After all, the two wheel tribe is my chosen tribe, and tending these web-lines is my life line.
Or is it : “My village raised me” ?
Sometimes planned
other times accidental
delicate and strong as a bee’s wing
those connected lines makes my whirl go ’round.

~ by jacquiephelan on November 24, 2007.

4 Responses to “Paingiving Thankstaking or the reverse?”

  1. Might I suggest…paragraph breaks?

  2. Ahhhhhh….

    I can breathe again.

  3. 12 years in arrears,twas my first mountain bike ride ever, this Appetite Seminar. Needless to say, I was all hook line and sinkered, never again to know life without knobbies.

    From huffing 30lbs of rigid steel up Tripple Ripple in year one, to a perfectly executed over-the-bars pirouette dismount on the steeps after Smoker’s Knoll in year two (stuck the landing mind you, to claps all around!), to bombing through the creek after repack on an warm T-day(forget the year), to the catharsis of this year’s late start out and back(wrong way IS neat!) on a practically deserted mountain, I am reminded why this thing is so fun.

    It’s not really the ride. It’s the people. It was the people(including yourself and Charlie) who made my first time so fun. Now I try to pass that along to other first timers. It’s like a geometric progression of smiles and good times. I’m thrilled beyond belief!

    And next year, I’ll remember to pack that snickerdoodle for you. Maybe I can trade it for a song.

  4. Hey Jacquie, And speaking of the enigmatic Peter lewendal… Is he sort of like, the Jim Morrison of Mt. Bikes. God that guy makes a mean crepe and as far as a down hiller… Maybe the best ever! Perhaps it is a combo of talent and certain tendencies.

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