The Biking Lifeby: Naomi Bloom 7/1/2008
First, full disclosure: I did not write the original "Ditched!" story. No, that honor goes to Guy Neenan, who got Ditched! en route to the Great Western Bicycle Rally (GWBR) on May 23 of this year. It happened on the Almaden Cycle Touring Club's annual Ride to the GWBR from San Jose and Hollister to Paso Robles.
Donny Axtell led what Guy called "an adventuresome ride" this year. But, for Guy, "there was some tribulation. . . .too many flats, too much manure, windy/rainy weather, and too many hasty companions."
His point: When you're keeping pace with your fellow riders and all is going well, he calls his companions "our ACTC friends." But when they drop him on a ride, fail to regroup at a junction, don't stop to assist with a flat or a stone in a cleat, ride off while he's in the Porta-Potty, hide at a lunch stop, or ditch him in the shower, those "ACTC friends" degenerate into "those *% ACTC people."
"There was more than one embarrassing lapse in club etiquette," claims Guy. But the one he was encouraged to divulge was the misadventure of being ditched at Star Farms Lake, the final rest stop near San Miguel. "The Lake's a great spot for frolic in the water, on the beach and lawn. We usually arrive by 4:00 pm with time to cool-off, refresh and party before riding or sagging the final 10.5 miles to camp at the fairgrounds in Paso Robles."
There was an unusual headwind for most of the 116 miles down Route 25 and Peach Tree Road, creating about an extra hour of effort. The A and B groups were cut off on Route 25 while they waited for a herd of cattle taking up the whole road. One hundred-plus head of "diarrhea-afflicted cattle, six horses and cowboys, and four drover dogs" filled the road and shoulders. There was nothing to do except roll slowly around-and-through freshly splattered manure. "It's one thing to see crap all over your bike," says Guy. "It's another thing to be able to smell your bike. Then I had the pleasure of repairing my flat. Yes, if you must know, the tire was somewhat sticky."
When he finally arrived at the lake, it was too chilly and too late to jump in. "In my own haste, I loaded my bike on Donny's rack, retrieved a ready backpack, and went directly to a secret shower. I was hoping to get a head start on my companions, who were trying to be cheery on the trampoline, sand, and lawn.
Only one other rider, Kryia, saw Guy at the shower. But he took off on his bike immediately, along with Mike, Allen and John. After a brief shower and change, Guy was shocked to find that all five sags and his "former friends" were gone. No host and no other visitors at the Farm, either. "There I was -- 10.5 measured miles from camp, bereft of my bike and former friends, fully and completely ditched."
With hindsight, Guy admits he should have had (and used) a cell phone. At worst, he should have just stayed put. But "I knew just what would happen," he recalls confidently. "Joanne would drive back to the farm and pick me up in about 90 minutes. I couldn't resist the impulse to go for a walk. The sky had cleared, the wind had died. There was about 90 minutes of daylight left. I donned my pin-studded Death Ride trophy cap and my ACTC award pin lanyard, checked Donny's route sheet, and strode east on Estrella Road. Walking felt good. My step was jaunty. The lanyard bounced on my chest with each stride. Thirteen ACTC award pins glinted in the sun, somehow nursing my wounded pride. I had intended to impress some new friends, Tina and Deborah, with the shining regalia of my high status in the Club.
"I found myself laughing out loud as I contemplated the 'OMG' moment in camp. Would those ACTC people take a vote and decide to leave me ditched?"
Later, he learned what had really happened. When the sag convoy passed the cyclists after just a few minutes, Kryia shouted something like, "Where's Guy?" Mike made an awesome sprint attempting to catch the last sag and wave them down. No luck.
But there was a full reaction at camp. Donny arrived with Guy's bike. Joanne arrived with his duffle bag. Joanne began discussing his absence with Donny and Megan. Eventually Kryia arrived, yelling, "You people left Guy in the shower!" Apparently there was general delight and derisive laughter. They knew well Guy's reputation for wackiness and drollery. "Don't worry," they told Joanne. "He's probably playing a joke on us. Just wait an hour; he can hitchhike here. He'll find a phone if he needs a ride."
Karl, however, did not appreciate the snide laughter. Guy thinks he must have had a good command tone to his bass voice when he said, "I don't think it's funny. Someone should drive to the Farm and find Guy." After most of an hour, they initiated the first rescue attempt, Megan navigating and spotting for Joanne at the wheel of her sag wagon.
"The jaunt was delightful," Guy reports. "There is a beautiful flower farm along Wilsona Road. Hundreds of crimson-bearded irises are jutting-up in rows. There are several horse-breeding corrals with many tender foals near the road. Ponies came up to the fence to meet me. Was I a friendly hiker, or just another hasty person? The roads were vacant. Just 10 vehicles passed. Those people didn't slow down for a hitchhiker. The sun became golden, faded, and blinked behind the somber coast ridge. A chill came up and I contemplated using my damp towel as a serape."
But all's well that ends well, just as he'd imagined. "My heroines, Megan and Joanne, found me along River Road. I got hugs in the middle of the empty road. Donny gave me ride credit of 77 miles plus six miles of extra walking credit. Everyone was ready to take me to Lolo's for dinner."
Dick and Marla Snyder, former ACTC folks who have moved to Morro Bay, visited the camp in Paso Robles the following Sunday. "You're not the only ACTC member who's been cast off," Dick told Guy. "There's a long history of ostracizing and discrimination in this club. Don't feel bad. Go ahead and write up your adventure. Let 'em have it with both barrels. Vituperate!"
"I can't blame the 16 riders and drivers for inadvertently ditching me," Guy confesses now. "I am a slippery person. I owe all an apology for causing needless embarrassment, gasoline consumption and global warming. I confess and pledge to better account for myself. I'm happy to acknowledge and thank the good friends who looked after me and made special effort to pull, watch, shout, sprint, speak up, search, rescue, hug, humor, and feed me so well."
And I thank you, Guy, for a truly remarkable story!
Oh, yeah: Photos by Mike McGeogh
Naomi can be reached at email@example.com