Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Planes, Bikes, and Therm-a-rest Rafts

This is my kind of "everything but the race" report about the Oregon trip. If you want the pure, un-filtered racing-type-report, that, of course, is over on the 29er Crew blog.

Boston to Bend and Back

I'm not a planner, my wife's the planner, things go differently when she is it at the helm. I leave everything to the last minute and use my time poorly. For instance, right now I am writing about how badly I planned my Oregon trip, while I should be packing for my Colorado trip. In my pre-trip stressed out state, I usually manage to make my wife mad at me. She tells me she's not going to take me to the airport and that I'll have to get a cab or take the train or go fuck myself. Then she caves and takes me anyway, even though I'm a dick.

Inevitably I miscalculate my wake up time, we hit traffic, and then there's a massive line at check in. But I've somehow never missed a flight. My bike has though. It's a fine line, you get there late enough and they might not charge you for your bike case. You get there too late and your bike might have to catch another flight. If I have time, I usually go through various contortions to get my bike on for free or at least for less money. "I'm an Olympic athlete...an Ironman...an Astronaut?" Sometimes it works out. And I never say that it's a bike, its "bike parts" or "exercise equipment" or "trade show supplies." Traveling with a soft case, however dangerous it might be for your bike, is awesome. They see it as a giant bag and they can easily un-zip it and see what's inside (the hard case has all those buckles). When they see the jumbled up mess in there, they think "wow, there's no way that's a bike...I think I'll have pizza for lunch." Usually they'll hit you for no more than $30-$60. Beats the hell out of $100-$150.

I try to fly as cheaply as possible, this means that I end up with multiple lay-overs. It took me over twelve hours to get to Oregon and about fourteen to get back. Not ideal. Part of flying cheaply involves jamming as much crap as I can into my bicycle hard case, while being careful not to go over the weight limit, which is a paltry 60 Lbs. at Delta and United (thank you for your 100 Lb. limit Jetblue!). And speaking of Jetblue, all these lay-overs mean that I get to witness the histrionics of boarding passengers that many more times during a trip. Ya, I have a full-size carry on, and ya it's gigantic, but I'll be damned if I'm going to pay to check it. If the overhead bins are full by the time I get on the plane (I try to sit on the plane, sucking that stale, germ-ridden air for as short at time as possible) and my bag has to get checked for free, so be it. I have to go to the luggage carousel for my bike case anyway, and I sure as hell don't mind not lugging another bag around the airport.

Of course, a lot of other people don't feel that way, and when they can't jam their stupid-huge bags into the overhead bins, they freak the fuck out and hit flight attendants in the head. I just want to voice my support for Mr. Slater, he is my hero. People suck, people on planes suck more. I have no idea how flight attendants put up with the crap they have to deal with, they are superhuman; Steven just demonstrated that he is a mere mortal when it comes to dealing with massive amounts of people's bullshit.

As I shuffled onto the prop-driven puddle jumper that would take me from Portland to Bend, I saw that 90% of the seats were already full, and as I got back more into my seating assignment neighborhood, I saw that only one seat was open. Well, it was about two-thirds open, the other third was being eclipsed by a 300-plus-pound, 6' 4" man. He was so big that his ballooning belly almost hit the seat in front of him. "You have got to be fucking kidding me" I said (in my brain). I squeezed my bony ass in next to him, we were firmly pressed together, he smelled like cologne trying to conceal horrible body odor, I was slightly nauseous. He started talking almost immediately, first about the 4,000 acre forest fire outside Bend, then about his fascinating work on an oil pipeline in Alaska, complete with vivid, mind-numbing detail. He really got going when he hit the subject of fishing, "Do you fish Thom?" "No, not since I was a kid." He recoiled, as if he had just asked me "Do you not-kill-babies Thom?" and I had replied "No, I kill babies all the time, killing babies is awesome!" He recovered, "Well...that's OK, maybe someday you'll find yourself by some water and next thing you know, you'll be fishing." "Yup, and maybe some day you'll find yourself by a bike, and next thing you know, you'll be racing a 100 mile mountain bike race" I said (in my brain).

The smoke form the massive forest fire made for a sweet sunset

I got to Bend and made my way to the race, all that was pretty uneventful, getting home wound up being a little more exciting. I had no plan for a ride to the airport Sunday, I also thought my flight was at 10:30 PM. My printed itinerary was a mess, information had jumped out of columns and ended up all over the page. So my flight was really at 7:15 PM. Still, I had all day to get to the airport, shouldn't be a problem. Right? If there was such a thing as an annoying little acronym that would convey the fact that I am laughing audibly, I would use it right now. With an exclamation point.

What I chose to do instead of getting 100% ready to go and maybe working on editing my cyclingdirt videos was to go floating the Deschutes river with Dejay Birtch, Andrew Genco, and friends while drinking Tecates. I wouldn't trade that experience for all the calm, sitting in the airport with my shit together time in the world. The tube rental place was out of tubes, but Dejay, being the staunch advocate of fun at all costs that he is, worked things out for me. I found myself in the middle of a fairly cold river, scrambling to stay afloat on a double-over therm-a-rest. According to Andrew I "looked like a monkey fucking a football." And I did. A little while later, border-line hypothermic and not-so-borderline out of time, I jumped out of the river and ran in my flip flops (or flip flips) back to the put-in spot. I hammered back to where I'd stashed my stuff, packed the bike, just as Andrew rolled up in the van. It was half an hour to the airport and we had...half an hour to get there. But we beat the Google directions time, by four minutes! I had four minutes to make my flight, with a bike case, could I do it? I stumble-ran to the ticket counter, "you're gonna think this is funny, but I'm here for the 7:15 flight to PDX." "7:15? You must mean the 6:55." AAH! But wait..."You are a very lucky guy, that plane is half an hour late, it hasn't landed yet."

It just goes to show: God watches out for children, fools, drunks, and morons who decide to float on rivers drinking Tecates instead of getting to the airport in a timely fashion. Actually, the fourth category may, technically, fall under the second and third categories. But I'm not so technical.

Chris Sheppard's bike. The tube-rock/dust-guard is apparently an old World Cup trick for keeping crap from hitting you in the face.


George said...

I packed all my crap for SSWC about 8 hours before we got on the plane. In that time, I hit a deer, and we had to re-pack our luggage twice before gong thru security.
Apparently, beer coozies and CO2 is suspicious...

megA said...

I sat next to a large woman on a plane once. She was so large (HOW LARGE WAS SHE??) that her folded arms extended into my seat and her elbow rested comfortably on my left breast for the whole flight.

Comfortably for her, I assume.

Creepfuckingtastically unnerving for me.