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Friday’s Foaming Rant: Road trip! No, road kill

Editor’s note: We don’t hear from editor at large Patrick O’Grady as often as we once did, and we had become accustomed to not seeing black Crown Vics full of gray suits and black sunglasses in our rear-view mirror. So imagine our surprise at receiving a "diary" of sorts purporting to be the work of our peripatetic foaming rantist. It appeared to have been scrawled in No. 3B pencil on the sort of coarse paper one finds in rest-area toilets, and thus we can only hope that the copious stains involve mishaps with a coffee cup. A transcription follows. February 5 — On the road to Arizona via

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By Patrick O’Grady

Our intrepid foaming rantist, about to go batty, bids his bride adieu before flapping off alone on a sorely ne ...

Our intrepid foaming rantist, about to go batty, bids his bride adieu before flapping off alone on a sorely ne …

Photo: Renfield


Editor’s note: We don’t hear from editor at large Patrick O’Grady as often as we once did, and we had become accustomed to not seeing black Crown Vics full of gray suits and black sunglasses in our rear-view mirror. So imagine our surprise at receiving a “diary” of sorts purporting to be the work of our peripatetic foaming rantist. It appeared to have been scrawled in No. 3B pencil on the sort of coarse paper one finds in rest-area toilets, and thus we can only hope that the copious stains involve mishaps with a coffee cup. A transcription follows.


February 5 — On the road to Arizona via Santa Fe, Flagstaff and other blue pixels in the vast scarlet pointillist canvas that is the Great American Desert. Got to get away from the computer and slap some sun on my dome. No running for a month, thanks to cyclo-cross-related Achilles’ tendinitis, and a cyclist doesn’t get a lot of solar through a helmet and tuque, especially if he’s not riding. I’m starting to look like a porky Nosferatu.

Hit Second Street Brewery in Santa Fe just in time to catch the final throes of the Super Bowel. Eight slobbery drunks watching it at the bar; quiet jazz playing in the background for the rest of us. None of Second Street’s fabled IPA to be had at any price, but plenty of ESB and stout on hand. The cranial odometer rolls back to zero. I have a free room at the Hilton, a green-chile breakfast burrito at Tia Sophia and days of sunny desert cycling ahead of me.

February 6 — Flagstaff. A word of caution for velo-travelers: Inspect your windshield carefully if you bought your vehicle used and carry expensive bikes on a roof rack. The rubber trim around my second-hand Subaru’s windshield began unraveling at 80 mph on I-40 and launched into a Ginger Baker drum solo on the moonroof until I pulled over outside Flagstaff and yanked it the rest of the way off. Happily, my trusty Steelman Eurocross was inside the car. The auto-glass wizards say a half-assed windshield replacement is not unheard of when dealerships buy used vehicles en masse, at auction, for resale to the Irish.

Staying at the Days Inn, a depressing little rathole with high-speed Internet, big divots in one wall, and one of the best beds I’ve ever slept in. Go figure. Indian management, but not one of the local clans. This crackerbox boasts a “presidential suite,” just in case the Cheerleader-in-Chief pops by, looking for some curry-flavored fry bread and a quick workout with Condoleeza. Ate and drank at Beaver Street Brewery. My server was a teetotaler, which must feel like being a virgin changing the sheets in a whorehouse.

February 7 — Lovely morning for a bike ride, if you’re a polar bear on a unicycle and Zombie Ed Sullivan is booking new acts. Otherwise, 16 degrees is a tad brisk for outdoor exercise, even for a Gaelic whale with a fine thick jacket of insulating blubber, so I enjoyed a tureen of hot black java from the fine bicycle people at Late for the Train instead and motored south at high speed.

Maricopa County’s McDowell Mountain Regional Park outside Fountain Hills is like Texas wishes it was, a whole other country. Eighty degrees and drier than a popcorn fart. It hasn’t rained here since October and there’s already a forest fire burning near Payson. I was looking for warmth, but flames seem a bit over the top.

Still, the riding here is superb, if your idea of a good time is cyclo-crossing on Tatooine. The trails aren’t just dusty, they’re powdery, like finely ground Chimayo chile, and with similar effects on the mucus membranes. Everyone I talk to has some class of upper-respiratory ailment, coughing, sneezing, wheezing. I don’t care. It’s not below zero, I can feel tan lines forming as though they were being hammered in by a tattoo artist’s needle, and I figure I can flee whatever is hanging over the Phoenix metro area before it gets me by the alveoli with a downhill pull.

February 8-10 — I spend my days riding trails and nights drinking Full Sail Pale Ale at my little campsite, listening to KJZZ and watching jets queue up for Sky Harbor like something out of “Close Encounters” with a soundtrack scored by Miles Davis for coyotes.

Mind you, this is “camping” in the sense that the first few kilometers of a Tour de France stage are “bicycle racing.” Water and power are at hand, even flush toilets, and the least civilized aspect of rolling out a sleeping bag in these parts is that I have to lock the bike to the grill if I want to take a shower.

The ultra-swank Mad Dog Media spring training camp headquarters

The ultra-swank Mad Dog Media spring training camp headquarters

Photo: Patrick O'Grady

As a consequence my two-man Eureka tent looks like a rowboat adrift among the Pacific Fleet in this place, where recreational vehicles named for battleships (Endeavour) come to dock. All these monstrous land yachts have bicycles attached, real garbage wagons too, but oddly comforting until you realize that they’re only used to navigate the campground because even a blue-haired red-stater thinks it’s insane to crank up a diesel bus to drive 500 yards to the crapper. One giant jet-black rig towing a Jeep Commander with a massive bike rack looks like something the Stones might tour in, or maybe Shaun Palmer.

One night a family of javelina comes calling. These midget swine take no more interest in me than their burlier cousins in our nation’s capital, but are more fun to watch as they snuffle around the campsite. Plus they don’t steal, or suddenly start oinking about Jesus when they get caught with a trotter in the till.

February 11 — A quick ride and it’s back to Santa Fe and Second Street. A trade-mag colleague and I enjoy several pints and the floorshow as a youngish female photographer with low-rise jeans climbs onto and off of various chairs to get shots of a world-music band. Note to old hippies: Don’t dance in public, where food and drink are served to weary travelers. Really. I’m not kidding.

February 12 — A visit to Ten Thousand Waves was a weekly must when I lived in Santa Fe, back in the Eighties, when I was riding a couple hundred miles a week. But the debut of a women’s-only tub has played havoc with the scenery in the same way that faux-’dobe condos have with the tierra surrounding this Japanese-style bathhouse tucked nearly away in the pines. Happily, today the clothing-optional public tub is alive with cyclists and runners and skiers of the female persuasion. As a consequence I hit the cold plunge more often than is prudent for a man of my advanced years. It’s the visual equivalent of eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow, we die. Come Monday, it’s back to Colorado, the home office and another stint in the dope-stained barrel of cycling journalism.

(Several pages of unintelligible scrawl)

March 24 — Oh, Lord. What was I thinking? I took my vacation for this year in February, forgetting that this grotesque month, named for the god of war — crawling with birthdays, St. Patrick’s Day, work and day after miserable day of vile wintry weather — was lying in wait for me. The only thing that vanishes faster than February tan lines is the memory of a sunny desert afternoon on a bleak mountain morning when you’re chiseling ice off the sidewalk with a plastic shovel and a hangover. This bugger comes in like a lion and goes out like Godzilla.

Spring is not here, no matter what the calendar says, nor is it in any of the places we’ve been getting letters from. It may never arrive. A black plague of cabin fever has darkened the land, and the mood out there is uglier than Karl Rove bent over in the shower.

If this is a preview of life in the post-Armstrong era — our readers whipping themselves into a lather over non-issues like whether Tyler can race an unsanctioned Boulder crit series or Mac users can enjoy three minutes’ worth of four-day-old Windows Media Player video from Paris-Nice — imagine what we’ll be dealing with when the actual racing commences.

It’s gonna be a long season.


But not nearly as long as this column. Was it a vacation for you, or too much like work? Send a postcard to us at webletters@insideinc.com. Gluttons for punishment can get more of the same at O’Grady’s website, www.maddogmedia.com. A word of warning to sensitive souls: When unconstrained by contracts, editors and a gag, O’Grady uses language you will not find in the family Bible.

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