Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Making Of L'Eroica California, The Movie

As I mentioned yesterday, my tale of riding an old-timey bike at L'Eroica California is live for your perusalization:


Of course, in that tale I left several questions unanswered, chief among them being:

  • What pressure was I running?
  • What did I have for dinner every night?
  • Which was better, the original Italian Eroica or the California version?
In this post I will endeavor to answer exactly none of these questions.  I will however tell you that one morning I was doing cold early morning laps (well, lap, at that hour I generally only do one) in Central Park:



And the next I found myself in southern California:


Wait, southern California?

[RECORD SCRATCH SOUND]

I thought L'Eroica was in Paso Robles!

Well yes, it is.  However, the original plan was that I was going to meet up with Bregan, who works with the Eroica organization, and with Ultra Romance, who has a beard, and Nam, who does not, and together we were going to undertake some sort of three-day bikepacking expedition from Los Angeles or some point north of there and ride all the way to Paso Robles.  See, they're all inveterate bikepackers, whereas I'm very much an urban sophisticate with a high-threadcount sheet requirement (or, if you prefer, "woosie").  So basically the idea was that I'd provide live fish-out-of-water entertainment and they could all laugh at me for three days instead of wasting precious battery power watching cat videos on YouTube.

I had certain reservations about joining the bikepacking trip.  For one thing, I have not slept in a tent or out of doors since sleep-away camp.  For another thing, I don't really want to sleep in a tent or out of doors.  If I'm going to sleep somewhere other than my home I very much want it to be more luxurious than my home and not the other way around.  Nevertheless, I agreed, since sometimes you've got to try new things, all the millennials are doing it, yada yada yada.

However, as L'Eroica drew nearer I realized two things: 1) My wife's a big shot at work and I can't leave her in the lurch for a whole week while I traipse up the coast; 2) I still didn't want to sleep outside.  And so I backed out.

Instead, I flew into Long Beach and visited my brother and his family, who recently relocated to Huntington Beach from the Napa Valley.  My brother is in the restaurant industry, which is what brought him out there in the first place, and he's currently the general manager of a restaurant that's situated in a very nice hotel.  So I traded trailside bro-downs for family time:


And sleeping a tent for sleeping in a luxurious hotel suite:


I feel strongly that I made the right choice.

Knowing that I'd be hauling multiple bikes and possibly multiple people during this trip, I'd rented myself a sweet-ass Kia Sedona minivan:


And the next morning I hopped in it and headed north to Paso Robles.  While I may be a semi-professional disparager of American motordom, I'm also a gigantic hypocrite, and I'd be lying if I said I don't savor any opportunity to drive the California coast.  Sure, driving a minivan isn't exactly the stuff of which automotive dreams are made, but it was also a minivan with exactly zero screaming children in it, so as far as I was concerned it might as well have been a Porsche 911.  For my soundtrack I chose the album "Joe's Garage" by Frank Zappa, partially because I figured it would put me in a California state of mind, but also because it's roughly forty-seven hours long and I wouldn't have to fiddle with any buttons.

My first stop on the way to Paso Robles was Studio Cycle Company on Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles:


Bobby at Studio Cycle had kindly agreed to take delivery of the Cortina AX2 from Marin and prepare it for me, and when I arrived it was indeed ready and waiting.  As a shop Studio Cycle skews mountain, and some of the bikes in for service took me on a ride down the singletrack of memory lane:


After purchasing some sundries (water bottles, spare tubes, energy globules, and so forth) I loaded everything into the Kia and continued north along the scenic route until Santa Barbara, where my hunger got the better of me and I stopped for some tacos:


(A photograph I took of some tacos.)

Next I had to pick up the Mead Ranger, which Paul at Classic Cycle had shipped down from Bainbridge Island and which was waiting for me at a UPS store in Atascadero.  I wasn't able to park directly in front of the UPS store, but there was a space a few doors down in front of this super trippy weed dispensary:


Far out, man.

From Atascadero it was just a short hop to Paso Robles, where I was staying in a big house with my erstwhile bikepacking compatriots as well as various other bike world muckety-whos:


Unloading the bikes into the garage, I unboxed the Mead and took my first glimpse at it:


Here are Paul's assembly instructions:


As I mentioned in the Outside story, putting it together was a fairly straightforward affair.  The Marin of course was already together, so all I had to do was put on pedals and cages and make the usual adjustments:


Bregan also lent me a Cambium as no semi-professional blogger should ever have to go Brooksless, and I adorned the undercarriage of the Brooks with an EH Works tool roll:


The bike was fantastic, and besides that stuff the only thing I'd change if it were mine would be to swap the 175mm cranks for 172.5s.

You're goddamn right I notice crankarm length.

That evening we all piled in the Kia and daddy (that's me!) drove everybody to the Eroica reception:


Where vintage people examined vintage bikes:


And I wondered if the Mead would prove superior or inferior to an antique shifting system such as this:


Having briefly ridden a bike with a rod shifter during my Rivendell visit I'd imagine it would be the former.

After the reception my housemates and I went to dinner, and here's basically the whole crew:




I was in excellent company, and after finally meeting Ultra Romance and Nam for the first time I enjoyed them so much I almost regretted skipping out on the bikepacking trip.  (Almost.)  Nam dressed me down for backing out and for not knowing who Cardi B was, and Ultra Romance exuded a preternatural serenity: I'd putter into the garage to tweak one or the other of my bikes and there he'd be poking holes in some yams.  And of course he also took all the photos for the Outside story:


It was genuinely impressive to watch him work.  We'd be riding along, then he'd scurry up some hill or bomb some descent, then I'd forget about him, and awhile later as I rounded a turn or something he'd leap out from behind a rock or dangle out of some tree to get the perfect shot.  Imagine the "It's Man" from Monty Python with superb bike-handling and photography skills and you've got the idea:


He's got quite an adoring following, too.  "There's your man crush!," one woman whispered to her partner as he walked by, and many of the younger Eroica Freds (young people comprise a relatively small portion of the overall Eroica demographic, but still) stopped him for selfies.

(I'm fairly certain only one person recognized me, but that was only after I mouthed off to the MC at the post-ride barbecue.  I'm generally the asshole in any group cycling situation, which tends to stand out.)

As for the riding, Saturday was when we did the Nova Eroica approximation, and you can see the route in detail here.  As you can imagine, the riding out there is almost too good.  One minute you're in the mountains:


And the next you're at the beach:


Then that evening we went to the big Eroica dinner:


It's a diverse demographic, if by "diverse" you mean pretty much every pattern of male baldness was represented.

There was also an auction during which none other than Andy Hampsten, who rode the following day and is generally the most agreeable man on the face of the planet earth, handed out the items:



Then on Sunday I did the short Eroica route on the Mead, which you can see here.  As you can see, I was not the only rider who resorted to walking:


Ironically, the first thing I saw upon crossing the finish line on my 102 year-old bicycle was a sign offering free e-bike rides:


Now you tell me.

Then we ate some barbecue, which is where I mouthed off to the MC:


And with that my work in Paso Robles was done...

...but my time in California was not.  Some years back, when I stopped in Los Angeles on a book tour, Chronicle put me up in a bungalow in Los Feliz.  Prior to that visit I'd never really understood LA, having only visited (as an adult anyway) while working as Michael Moore's assistant--a job that mostly involved people from both coasts screaming at me, as well as wearing an alphanumeric pager which these same people used to charge me with impossible tasks for sport.

As far as I could tell from those visits, sitting in the back of some car service or another, LA was just a bunch of sprawling boulevards that resembled Sunrise Highway on Long Island.  Staying in a bungalow in Los Feliz however was rather beguiling, and I'd been longing to return to it ever since.  So after L'Eroica that's what I did:


I realize of course that this is a rather rarefied view of Los Angeles, and that if I were to actually live there I'd be less likely to acquire a bungalow in Los Feliz and more likely to be living under a bus shelter:


Nevertheless, it was great to be able to roll out the front door and up to the Griffith Observatory the next morning:


And to walk over to Vons that evening for my sad solo lonely guy dinner:


But before I could get too ensconced in my glamorous new LA lifestyle it was time to fly home.  So I drove both bikes over to Studio Cycle so Bobby could ship them to their respective destinations, and then I shipped myself back to New York, where before I knew it I was back in Central Park:


You can take the Fred out of the city, but not for very long apparently.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mouthing off sounds dirty

mile high state said...

What filter were you using to make sunny california look sunny and new york so less than sunny?

sunman said...

I'm in

Still in the East said...

I like the views from the hills in sunny CA - so outstanding. Oui, I am jealous.

Is that the bus stop for Vermont, or did city planners decide to use the Green Mt state as a name for a stop?

But I must admit, your photography makes everything look so g*&^%&%m neat and clean out there, I may have to participate next year.

Olle Nilsson said...

Whole chicken for dinner? All those epic burritos redefine portion size I guess.

Brendan said...

Does this mean you're in for Ultraromance's Fall-Ride-Through-Swamps-Spooktacular this year in Connecticut?

bad boy of the south said...

Los Feliz.First time hearing that one.You see,you can learn something new here,just about every day.

Chazu said...

I hope you sang to Ultra Romance while you were both working in the garage.

"It wasn't very large
There was just enough room to cram the drums
In the corner over by the Dodge
It was a fifty-four
With a mashed up door
And a cheesy little amp
With a sign on the front said "Fender Champ"
And a second hand guitar
It was a Stratocaster with a whammy bar"

Anonymous said...

The Kia is the next best thing to a Hyundai...

BDC said...

Give me a colada and milk. On second thought, make that a water-HTO.

Drock said...

Pictures are worth 1000 words so I just looked at the pics, much longer post that way. Cool trip man. Wish I had your fun lavish lifestyle. Side note pulled the kids a total of 112lbs, 15 miles this a.m., nap time.

Ellie said...

So glad to hear that you were listening to Frank! Next time, "Just Another Band from L.A."

Old man said...

I date myself but "LA Woman" would have provided a good sound track - but then you would have had to deal with all those buttons....

bad boy of the south said...

Good thing it was a bungalow and not the murder house.

der blaue Reiter said...

What i’m jealous of is your coast-to-coast support network, dang! Well deserved, of course. Cool articles and series of posts: thanks!

HDEB said...

Yes to 172.5's for multispeeds and 180's for singlespeeds. How's the weed in CA? Oh, right, 25% of it ends up in metro NYC.

Anonymous said...

Glad you finally got to hang with Bene and Nam, even if you all had to go out to the left coast to do it. Maybe you could take a long weekend and ride with the Nutmeggers sometime this summer or fall. The Beech Tree Cottages are a pleasant alternative to camping (and right across the street from a campground, just in case you get the urge to see a tent).

BamaPhred said...

All this content from The Snob! Bike Forecast, ‘zine articles, blog..I’m really getting my money’s worth!

Colin Wilson said...

Since nobody's actually claimed it so far I think it's fair game:
Podium~

Wayer out west said...

Hey, I think I recognize that vintage person examining that vintage bike! Did Larry have a sweet olde tyme tandem?

Coffee Coaster said...

Yep. LA Woman on an 8-Track would be perfect with the intra-song clank to the next track. Venus and Mars was not the only 8-track ever produced although you would not know it from Goodwills and yard sales.....

leroy said...

All I’m saying is they have hotels and liquor next to Central Park too.

https://twitter.com/leroys_dog/status/1007099750905204737?s=21

JLRB said...

The minivan had a record player? Sweet!

I love visiting Cali but Italy had to be the better adventure?

George Krpan said...

I hate Los Feliz, lived there 14 years. Traffic ravished urban decay.

hellbelly said...

Did Zap (looks like him in yr dinner pic) critique or contrast yr tire pressure or how yr grips were mounted?

Everbody said...

Can I guess the weight difference between the two bikes?

35 lbs.?

Anonymous said...

Did Lucille mess up your mind? That's the real question. Yes I know I'm a dork

Matteo Luzzana said...

Hello Eben, I took too seriously your article on Eroica California so I convinced myself into riding, er partly walking, on a Draisine replica the Gaiole’s Eroica 78 km course in a record-breaking 11 and 1/2 hours. It was a very rejouvenating experience. When it was over. Thanks for breaking ground. Draisinically yours, Matteo Luzzana