Michael and I went down to Encino this weekend. Willingly. Well, I didn't go so willingly. I went because Michael wanted to go and he is very cute and so usually gets his way.
He wanted to go because there was a 400 lap (that is not a misprint) $10,000 (also not a misprint) scratch race on Sunday. $10,000? We could run Velo Bella for two years on that. I can think of few women's races of any kind that give out that kind of prize money. I can think of no track races. But in SoCal, money grows on trees (just like water and gasoline and nail salons) and so they can throw this kind of cash at stuff like this I suppose.
400 laps. At least the earning of that cash would not be easy. 400 laps of a track may not sound like much, unless you have ridden on the track. Everything about the track is amplified times ten. A small teeny one foot gap on the track is like a 100 foot gap on the road. And a 6 minute race feels like a one hour crit. Time on the track is time spent stuck in fast forward. So you can get out the ten key to figure out what a 400 lap track race feels like.
We headed down The Five (freeways in SoCal are proper nouns)(The Five is an abomination of a road by the way)Saturday night and clicked off the miles, looking forward to the king sized bed awaiting us in Van Nuys. Whenever we travel, we like to get the king sized bed. We are like two kids when we see a king sized bed. Two naughty doctor playing kids, but kids nonetheless.
However, just before the approach to the Grapevine we noticed a sign that said the Grapevine was closed. I think we both read it and took the same few moments to comprehend what that really meant. And thats because its so incomprehensible. The Grapevine is 4 heavily traveled lanes of traffic in each direction. Saying the Grapevine is closed is sort of like saying the state of Kansas is closed. Something that big, can't "close".
We took the exit and looked for a hotel. With thousands of drivers abandoning the highway, we thought we would be forced to spend the night in Sputnik, but suprisingly, the Ramada had a room. And it had a king sized bed!
Unfortunately, this Ramada used something nasty and caustic in their laundry and Michael spent half the night in the throes of an allergy attack of some kind. He was caughing and choking and really making a gawdawful amount of noise. I was having a very tough time sleeping. So I kicked him out of the king sized allergenic bed and he spent the rest of the night on the floor. I used the opportunity to sleep totally cross ways on the bed.
We got up early and the road was open. We discovered the freeway was closed for a whopping 3 inches of snow. But we remembered that lady in the hotel who was all pissed off because she couldn't get to Burbank and it was all the Ramada check in guy's fault and someone had to pay for this as it just wasn't fair and didn't anyone understand how important it was for her to get to Burbank who's in charge here anyway, and we agreed that closing the freeway probably saved about 87 selfish insulated lives.
We arrived at the Encino velodrome (after a quick visit to IHOP which I love because they give you your very own pot of coffee) bright and early. Michael registered and I fiddled with my new camera. Michael made some new friends. I read a book. Michael warmed up on the trainer. I ate a bagel. Michael put on his racing gear. I looked at my shoes for a very long time and wondered if I should buy another pair of Danskos.
Then I went to watch the messenger race. That was fun. They got to race with cool clothes on. The kind of clothes that wouldn't get you kicked out of a bar in Texas. I have no idea who won that race, because I was too busy trying to figure out how to get my camera to focus and taking pictures of their shoes.
Then Michael's fan club showed up. A real live fan club. They had tshirts and everything. They reminded me of Mel
and that scared me a little. But they had beer and were adorable and so it was okay.
Michael's race started off pretty civilized but as soon as it wound up, I could see something was not right with Michael. I can tell instantly by how he moves on the bike. And by the the fact that he wasn't off the front.
He pulled out after about 20 laps and I saw him in the infield (through my new very cool telephoto lens) wheezing in the infield. It scared the crap out of me but they wouldn't let anyone in the infield and I couldn't do anything. So I got a beer and took pics and contemplated my Dansko situation again.
The race had a halftime break and Michael escaped the infield. Apprently, his throat was still messed up from the hotel and he had some kind of allergy or asthma attack and couldn't breathe. Pretty scary and I won't joke in this part and I hope he goes and sees a doc about it but he doesn't listen to me.
The good news was he was full of some good natured piss and vinegar from being denied a chance at a race he was looking forward to. He started a great heckling/cheering section in the NorCal seats that made the SoCal audience look like storefront mannequins.
We all had a good time the rest of the afternoon being the fans of the sport that we are. In the end, the race whittled down to five riders and Curtis Gunn won. I think. I sort of lost interest after the DeWalt tool dude dropped out.
The drive home was uneventful, except for the part where I fell asleep while Michael was sleeping.
More pics here