Archive for the ‘all about the ride’ Category

San Francisco vol2

In all about the ride, eat drink man woman, out and about, san fran, stateside, travelling, west coast on December 6, 2010 at 11:34 am

So I’m in Berkeley and its nice, got a real laid back charm, probably from it being a university town, the campus itself isn’t far from where I’m staying, right before some hills stop your forward path, all cut lawns and open space, with big old stone buildings.

Berkeley’s more constant inclines than steep ascents, and what you think is just a leisurely rise, soon turns into something a bit more teeth grinding, but the traffic is well-trained and I’m enjoying just tooling around. I get the BART into San Francisco on more than one occasion and let it whisk me into the heart of the city. And as with most buses on the west coast they come rigged with bike racks on the front which you can shove your bike onto and sit back and relax as it takes you back to the wherever you need to be.

Kyle from Trackasaurus Rex/Orange 20, back in LA has told me about this place out in Oakland, called Bakesale Betty’s which does the greatest fried chicken sandwich. Kyle does not stint on his praise of this sandwich and told me that I would be remiss if I didn’t try it. So come the weekend, cometh the jaunt down into Oakland, google directions, written onto a slip of paper, as I try to remember which straight road I’m supposed to ride down.

Crisply, affluent Berkeley slides into more down at heel Oakland, and the road seems to go on forever and I’m counting crossroads, trying to make sure I get the right turning. The sun for once has come out. Its been grey in Berkeley and its been getting to me, the dreariness, just sitting there in a washed out sky, it hasn’t been as warm as LA and I’ve been pondering wearing more than my regulation t-shirts and shorts.  But the sun comes out and it is glorious, pitched against a picture perfect blue sky and soft tremulous fluffy white clouds.

After a small detour round a bit of strip mall, it shouldn’t even be described as a strip mall, it’s on a junction, big car park, set of businesses arranged along the junction. It looks kind of like a smaller version of an industrial estate, just businesses backing onto a shared car park. I ride round it, and see the queue before I see Bakesale Betty’s.

Motherfucker is down the block, and it’s not just long, its two/three/four people deep. There’s a stretch of ironing boards set up as tables, which are all in use as people scoff their sandwiches, and I’m starving just looking at them.

I’m not even going to try and pretend, or extend the suspense, the sandwich was better than advertised with a lovely citrus dressing on the masses of lettuce salad that comes with. It takes a good half an hour to eat, and every bite is glorious. The cookies that I purchase at the same time are something special as well..

The Haight:

To get upto Golden Gate Bridge, I ride upto Haight Ashbury, and the drag of shops and bars and diners and restaurants along that thoroughfare is crowded whenever I make the journey. But I come to like this part of town not for that drag, but the neighbourhood that leads upto it, the lazy Bohemianism, the casual slightly sleazy charm, the record shops that spring up, specialising in funk and soul, and other things, but who cares about those. They are the quintessential record shops of your dreams, and I don’t even collect records. Quiet, crate digging affairs, with quality vintage posters and charisma by the wall load. Just being there made me want to spend money on vinyl that I would never play.

And the bars and the murals that dot the wall along that side of town just add to the feeling of creativity and social rebellion.


One morning I wake up and decide its time to go to the cinema. Toy Story 3’s been out for a while and I’m going to see it, morning screenings are cheapest and I’m donning a pair of 3d glasses in a deliriously empty cinema. It’s as if I’m a VIP and they’ve cleared the room for me.

Now some of you may know I am a big Pixar fan, from way back in the day with Luxo Jr, and Red’s Dream, and where I’m staying in Berkeley is just down the road from Pixar (obviously this is America and just down the road means an entirely new town, but what the hey). But I don’t make the pilgrimage, I’ll tell you the Roni Size fanboy moment that still fills me with embarassment another time, to explain why I don’t.

But Toy Story is a joy, and I’m enraptured immediately, just the whole coming of age thing, and the evilness of the pink bear, and the passing on from one generation the next. Just plain flawless, I’m still not sure whether they’ll ever be able to top the first dialogueless opening to UP, but there isn’t a week film in the Toy Story Trilogy and how often can you say that about a movie trilogy. toy story 3 empty cinema.

Coast road:

So to get to Golden Gate Bridge, I’m riding through Golden Gate Park, where deep in the center is a  fine art gallery/museum, a rusting hulk of deep brown metal and glass atria, with a spectacular view-point at the top of a tower, more about that later, and opposite it San Francisco’s natural history museum, this lovingly crafted steel construction, topped with a green eco roof, attempting to make sure it has a tiny, tiny carbon footprint. you ride past both of these and then take a road which curves and dips, away to the left which brings you out by the water’s edge finally. The road that winds along, though relatively not that windy, runs along the high bluff, with a drop to the blustery beach, to the left and across the road, a slice of greenery snakes along, with a bike path running its length. The further along the road you ride, the further out the green tufted dunes spread, sending a fine then heavier deposit of sand across the road. The breeze isn’t too strong and I’m not trying to pull too hard, and as usual its just nice to roll along, no particular destination in mind, just follow the road for as far as it goes. Attempting to look over the dunes to the ocean that is ever constant on my right side.

When I get to the end of the road, which takes a turn inland, at a boarded off junction, where some road works are being completed. I sit, drink some water and just watch the people walking along on the sand. It’s another grey day in San Francisco and looking out across the waves it feels like the sun’s never going to shine again.

The ride back I make along the bike path, which is higher up than I’d at first thought and allows me a better view of the ocean and a chance to commune with and avoid fellow cyclists, and joggers. To my right, hidden previously from me by the cycle path and the greenery growing on it is a long row of two storey houses, that sit along a smaller arterial road. Each one looks like it’s been drawn by a child, sloped roof, windows and doors making a face. I wonder what its like to live so close to the sea, to smell it and feel it and hear it, but not be able to see it over the dunes. How frustrating would that be? Would it frustrate me.

I eat one of the biggest wrapped sandwiches I’ve ever ordered, several different types of meat, twisted around cheese slices, and sip on a coffee as reward for the ride I’ve just made…

tourist trap

In all about the ride, san fran, stateside, travelling on December 6, 2010 at 9:49 am

So I’ve just ridden over the golden gate bridge, and it was a bit of an anti climax, headwind all the way in, dodging other cycling and foot tourists, it’s enough to turn you into one of those pompous self-important travellers who want the whole unspoiled, no one else has ever set foot here but me types. And if I ever have to look at one of those people posed in front of landmark photos it’ll be too soon.

There are lots of photos being taken and I wonder how many photographers there are taking them.

Vista point on the Marin county side of the bridge is bustling with people, daytrippers, travellers, school trip, everyone camera in hand to record the moment.

San Francisco has been grey and windy, the microclimate here meaning that summer, as in the good weather doesn’t get here until august through October, with the June gloom which covers Coastal California extending for months. San Francisco reminds me of Wellington in that respect, windy and grey but still warm, occasionally hot when the sun peaks through.

But back to the tourists, the sightseers, and I’m one as well don’t get me wrong, but I’m reminded of Mr Smiths speech in the matrix, comparing humankind to a virus that replicates itself to the detriment of everything else around it, that is kinda what tourism does if it isn’t controlled or marshalled correctly. I rode through Fisherman’s Wharf and the tourist tat that is on sale there is the experience that I want to avoid. The codified experience that forms for the out of towner, the t-shirts, the jewellery, the experience of being somewhere confirmed and validated by the purchasing of items that explain this fact, whether you need them or not.

Being on the tourist trail, at sights which you must see when you come to town and the languages and accents that aren’t native to that space start to co-mingle. Sometimes I get the fear, an aversion to the bodies, and the swift strides, and the constant posing in front of sights for posterity’s sake. It is the cousin of that feeling I’d get on the weekends when there was stuff to do, but the thought of the crowds, the bustle, the struggle to move through was enough to keep me in the house, scouring the cupboards for something to eat and wondering whether noon was too early to be ordering in pizza.

Cycling pushed most of that away as the desire to be on the bike and owning a bag big enough to contain most of my shopping needs of a weekend, made the crush of people something easily navigable rather than born like Christs suffering.

But here I am full circle, amongst the teeming masses, wondering where they have come from, where they are all going to and when will they all leave and let me enjoy this space without them, but as always the realisation sits in the back of the mind that they are enjoying the space as well, and despite my inbuilt feelings of superiority, I have no inherent right to this space, I don’t own it, so I’ve just got to get on the bike and enjoy the ride…

san fran bike shops

In all about the ride, bike, san fran, stateside, west coast on December 6, 2010 at 9:38 am

San francisco is a single speed/geared kind of town and when you see the hills which rear up into view you can understand why.

But more than being a type of bike kind of town, it is a bike town, small enough to be easily navigable and with a vocal enough bike lobby to have made the bike voice heard loudly and clearly. The bike is in the ascendency here, bike lanes, bike racks on buses, spaces on metro’s, more bike shops than you can shake a stick at, and all kinds of bikes circulating across town, day and night.

San Francisco is a city at peace with its cycling inhabitants and the car gives way to the bike at every intersection, and the bike lanes are many and wide. It’s easy to ride here, so I do, over the slight inclines and declines, trying to avoid the steep spikes which hem in certain parts of the city. Down long thoroughfares, boulevards, avenues. Enjoying being part of the multitudes, enjoying being anonymous, just another cyclist. No stares, no doubletakes, no jeers, or ironic cheers, just people making space for the cyclist.

The bike shops are myriad and varied, from designed and curated spaces, to overflowing bits shoved into as many corners as possible. But what each of them has is that American desire to please, greeted on entry, and knowledgeable staff who put you at your ease when asking questions. And despite the disparity in size and stock, each and every one feels like a local bike shop, this is the equivalent of going looking for a bar in Berlin, where everyone is a one-off down some alley or under an arch, the same is true of the bike shops in San Francisco.

Everyone rides everything here and though I’m sure it’s there, I don’t get any sense of snobbery, or disdain for what people ride. Everyone’s still got to get over the peaks, that split San Francisco.

I spend afternoons, tooling around, looking at the fixed bikes rolling past, and heading over to Haight Ashbury, picking a route that avoids the steep bits, only to take a turn and there jutting upwards is the type of hill, I’d been trying to avoid, and its a red-faced surge to try to get up it.

Don’t buy into the hype, the hills in San Fran are steep, and don’t get me wrong they do feel scary when you approach them and they loom ominously in front of you, but every block they plateau so the impartial grid, that was so unceremoniously dumped onto the uneven, lumpy landscape, provides an escape a level section to catch the breath before charging on, out of the saddle, stomping hard, heaving from side to side. Making the journey to Haight Ashbury was one of the most rewarding rides of my journey, because you knew as soon as you got to the top, that on the way back it’d be all downhill, riding the brake obviously, as those crossroads that had provided such eager release and sanctuary, now provided the opportunity to be sideswiped by oncoming traffic if you didn’t get the lights right, as you spent all attention to the spinning of your legs…

Bike wise San Francisco felt pretty unique, in that so many people were riding bikes, of all different shapes and sizes on a regular basis. No fanfare, no look we’re riding bikes, just riding them to go to the shops, to go to work, to go to school, to go out drinking. Just riding. And the range of bike shops had grown to accommodate that as well. Wish we had such a diverse range of bike shops in London, rather than the hegemony of the Evans and Cycle Surgeries, that dot the landscape.

I Linus, I Linus

In all about the ride, bike, los angelenos, stateside on December 4, 2010 at 9:46 am

So I was riding around down in Venice Beach when I came across asome bikes lined up along the central shopping street, all the frames were set up as single speed or geared hubs, and they looked nice enough. So I popped down the alleyway and lo and behold, found a rather fetching little bike operation, Linus bikes.

Little did I know from speaking to the owner, who was south african or australian, memories a bit vague on that one, that I’d be seeing these bikes up and down the west coast and in new york as well. The simple utilitarian design seems to strike a chord with the cycling masses out here on the left coast, and imagine my delight when I saw the range of Brooks saddles and accessories, and the smiling faces of old cycling friends spread across the catalogues.

So as I do I talked bikes with the owner, discussed the desire for the female populace to have bikes in pink or pastel shades, and generally the state of cycling on the west coast. It was fun, think he’d do a good trade if he exported the bikes to the UK, though not sure he’d make enough money out of it, with the exchange rate and VAT and all..

link to website here

fast friday

In all about the ride, los angelenos, stateside, travelling on December 2, 2010 at 2:14 pm

The boys at Orange 20, tell me about the fast Friday heat that is happening out at a velodrome in Encino. After listening to their instructions about the best way to get there. Writing them down obviously. On the Sunday that it happens I’m grabbing the metro and a bus, which might as well be a metro, for all of its straight line no interaction with other road users course. I shove my bike into the rack on front and sit watching the destinations tick away.

I’ve got to say I do love the bike racks on the front of the buses here. LA is a spread out kinda town, and the buses make it slightly more manageable, for those journeys that are too fucking far you can just dump the bike on the front of the bus and sit back and let the bus take you there. Only problem is that you can only fit three bikes on the racks.

After getting off the bus at my stop, its a leisurely roll through the park, over a  bridge, and then along a dusty track until I get to the velodrome, down a road and behind some fencing. As I roll up and have a quick chat with the organisers a couple of guys from DVS, its pretty quiet. I tell them who I am and they fill me in on whats happening, all the qualifying rounds around the country, leading to one big shootout, for a big amount of cash.

I sit down in the stands take off my shoes and watch the riders roll in, in dribs and drabs. There are some of the guys from Orange 20 so I walk over to the center of the velodrome and have a quick chat with them. Its all very laid back and west coast, seemingly no stress or pressure at all. Even thought there’s a large cash prize at the end for the winner. Whats interesting is the small group of fixed/freestyle riders who are going to be involved in a competition at the same time as the racing which brings together two steadfastly different “scenes” which I’m thinking even as I watch it wouldn’t happen over in london, just a bit too much generational divide to overcome maybe.

My thoughts about the laidback nature of the competition are buried as more riders turn up and their track weaponry unveiled and tweaked for the coming races. Stiff alu dolans, and tubular wheelsets mounted, gearings swapped over and game faces applied. It got serious in a hurry. And as the races start, there are some seriously quick people on track, the rumble of a group of riders flashing past is intoxicating and I’m smiling from ear to ear. This reminds me that I have a track bike for a reason and come next summer I’m going to be doing the same as these boys at Herne Hill whenever I can. I’m going to grit my teeth get down on the drops and push as hard as I can, jump onto a man’s wheel and let him pull me round even as the velocity ratchets up, try and keep pace, until I make that break for the line.

But for now I watch these californians race, the exertion etched in their faces as they slowly spin round on the wind down, cheats heaving, sweat dripping, all raced out, until the next heat, semi, final.

I had a good time, and came out of it with a free t-shirt and a bit of track fix, which I didn’t think I’d get since I’d be missing the track days back home, but it was nice to see how the other side race and compete, even if I couldn’t get on the track and race with them.

critical mass west coast style

In all about the ride, los angelenos, travelling, west coast on December 2, 2010 at 1:27 pm

People are starting to arrive, the trix boys are first, pulling wheelies and keo spins, the crowd as it grows seems to me to be defiantly young. Fixed, single speed is for the young, the flexible, most of the kids are rocking conversions with one piece cranks and rattlecan paintjobs, or a sprawl of stickers. More people come, rocking gears, old school racers, new school racers, girls on mountain bikes. There’s a man with a booming voice from channel 4 news whose interviewing cyclists and the police. He’s older, grey hair, a badly fitting suit, and a female cameraman whose eyes dart over the crowd looking for cutaways and nice shots to fill the spaces of the interviews.

There aren’t many of us when Newsman arrives and he asks me for an interview, I politely decline, then change my mind, as much as I don’t like being in front of camera, having worked in TV for as long as I have, I’m generally not down with being edited and shortened and soundbites cut out of longer responses. But what the hey, I’m on the otherside of the world, whose going to see it that I know. So I answer his fairly mundane questions, the sort of questions that non cyclists generally ask, about danger and risk, and why you want to ride in the first place. All I’m trying to tell him, that riding a bike brings me joy, and I wouldn’t be taking a bike around the world with me if I didn’t. And in all honesty the traffic in LA isn’t that bad, the roads, now thats another matter, but the traffic, nah..

Did I not tell you about the police this is the first mass with police outriders, there are fifteen/twenty of them standing waiting for the mass to start. More people turn up, on bikeboom, a local cycling website, the ride was down as between 6-8, and I mistakenly thought that was the time of the ride, but as I sit here and more and more cyclists appear I realise that actually this is the meet window and the ride will start after 8.

Listening to conversations it seems that people are expecting upwards of two hundred people, do we get that many at mass in London? More/less. The mass isn’t for me in London, to slow, too many people, too much anti car, eco rhetoric. So many different ideologies stuffed into the bulging sock that is critical mass, a bike ride to raise the profile of cycling, which nowadays only seems to be there to provide group dutch courage to those who have issues with cars and drivers and an arena to vent spleen on them.

My attention is diverted by a chubby red headed policeman having a go on a tall bike, cheers and whistles ring out. After riding round in a stately circle he safely dismounts.

I take a quick walk round, the amount of people feels like four hundred to five hundred. As we ride we stretch down the long boulevards taking up the road to the horizon. With this many people I thought the pace would be slow, but it’s not, it’s consistently swift, think a bridges ride without the sprints from every light or over the bridges, it’s nice I can stretch the legs, feel like I’m putting in the miles, just sitting in the saddle turning the pedals, pushing uphill, spinning downhill.

The rides full of all sorts of bikes, there’s a couple with a full suspension tandem mountain bike. Lots of fixed conversions, a dolan track champion, a tt lo pro, some kids on bikes a size or two too big for them, seatpost pushed all the way down and their crotch is still banging the top tube when they get out of the saddle to hoof it. The group is big and the police provide a loud and efficient outriding unit, blocking off traffic and allowing us to jump reds with impunity. But the young riders are restless, constantly crossing into oncoming traffic, rushing the kerb and skidding like a babies nappy. The level of group riding competence and awareness is all over the shop and i’m just looking out for number one, keeping my mouth closed and my eyes open.

There are several accidents which I don’t see, but I do see the aftermath, bodies lying on the floor, bikes twisted and bent. The most serious is supposedly the result of a hit and run. I rubberneck as the train passes by and then I’m heading off to some new part of Los Angeles. We ride far and wide, through Beverly hills, passing big shiny bright malls, bars with the friday night crowd outside dressed up as if they were going to a wedding. Everywhere we go, whoops and yells follow, horns are tooted and ulations chorus from throats, hands raised high. For tonight we are superstars, as we roll down Hollywood boulevard, the flashes going off are capturing our image, rather than the latest starlet, shouts of “what is this? What are you doing?” are flung at us. But no one replies “having fun” for that is what we are doing, riding our bikes, a cycling anaconda, weaving left and right, buoyed with the joy of cycling with others, even if most of them are a danger to themselves and anyone else around them.

We stop at a big park, the grove i think it’s called, the first rest stop of the night, we are splayed across two sidewalks, the road and the parkland verges. Drivers lean on their horns in annoyance as the police hold them back.

As we ride, I squeeze myself to the front, making up ground on those who choose our course. Not wanting to be stranded in a splinter group at the back and having to figure out exactly where I am after the disorientating journey i’ve been on. So I stick doggedly with the front, threading myself through the riders around me, the talkers and the skidders, the sprinters and the no handed merchants. We pass streets that I know and have ridden down, but these roads look different, I am at strange ends of them, in different parts of town, western av, Melrose, wilshire, hollywood.

The police disappear for a while, and we are left free to choose our own course with no police interference, it seems there is some jurisdictional politics going on and the police won’t follow us into this part of town. I have a quick chat with a young guy on a tall bike, who rides serenely alongside me, yelling at others in front of him as the river of bikes becomes an accordion being pushed together, as everytime we slow and come to a halt he has to make preparations to leap down. I ride with an older english pilot, in his fifties, who carries a loud hailer and uses the crispness of his english accent to yell “wanker” at some of the younger riders. He is witty and articulate and we share the road for a pace before a sprint starts and there is confusion over which way we should be going, the peloton splits and loudhailer manb goes straight ahead and I plunge to my left to head with the main pack.

We roll on and on through the night and I wonder whether it will ever stop, whether the ride continues till its last rider pedalling. But eventually we pull over into a carpark of a strip mall in a part of town that i recognise. And I bail, because I can see this ride going on for a long time and my map only stretches so far…

hollywood, hollywood

In all about the ride, los angelenos, stateside on November 19, 2010 at 4:42 pm

So been here a day already I’m enjoying it more than I did Miami. As strange and bizarre as it may seem, I am staying in west Hollywood, just round the corner from Hollywood boulevard and manns Chinese theatre, and the walk of stars, and sunset boulevard and if I walk down the road a couple more blocks I can see the Hollywood sign high up on the hill.

I’ve been out on the road on the bike and as noted previously when riding round Buenos Aires grid systems don’t provide for the most stimulating or exciting of rides. But at least Los Angeles has two-way traffic which means you can turn left as well as right, and jumping across three lanes of traffic is much less intimidating than trying to get across five. But the roads in l.a are atrocious, riding by the kerb is just treacherous as the tarmac is folded and rippled and churned to shit, so much so it’s like riding over cobbles, disappointed that l.a hasn’t produced a Paris-roubaix winner after that experience, I was gripping the bars so hard my hands ached and I’d have to clench and unclench them to try and work it out.

Felt like I rode forever, whilst trying to find Orange 20, headed down Hollywood boulevard until it angled off and I turned onto Vermont, then took a right onto Melrose until I hit heliotrope and found orange 20. Then went back onto Vermont and headed south until I hit Wilshire, turned right onto Wilshire and rode down it for a long long time, passing through koreatown, past the contemporary arts museum and the la brea tar pits. Finally get to Fairfax and took another right and rode up a slight incline for another long period of time until I crossed sunset, took another right and headed back towards the hostel. My legs feel weak and my stomach is now full of pasta and I want to take a nap. But today has been a good day.

The hollywood hills, rise up, just over there, and its weird to be able to see that really iconic sign, suppose that’s how american tourists feel when they head into the center of town and see big ben and the houses of parliament. I’m going to get up there and have a look around at some point, as it doesn’t seem to be that far away from the hostel at all.

Took my chance to grab some authentic mexican food as soon as I was out on the bike, grabbed a burrito and some quesadilla’s over on the edge of los feliz/echo park at this corner shack. To say it was delicious would be an understatement. It was very good. Thick and chunky and filling and all the spicy things mexican food should be. Not sure whether whilst I’m here that I’m just going to eat mexican food, but I may give it the good old college try.

My hostel is just off hollywood boulevard and I spend some time walking along the walk of stars, and I’m walking for blocks and blocks, motherfucker is long yo! But I get excited about all the names I see, so many stars, literally and figuratively, old names, forgotten names, and heroic names, lying in the street for you to walk over, doing the tourist thing of walking along staring at the ground, the bipolar opposite of what you do when you’re in new york which i stare up into the sky looking at the skyscrapers which claw like dead fingers into the wild blue…

orange 20

In all about the ride, bike, los angelenos, stateside, travelling on November 19, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Been in Hollywood for a couple of days and decide I need to find some bike shops, hopefully where the staff aren’t dicks, and a friend who I met in Brazil has told me about Orange 20 which isn’t that far away from where I’m staying.

So ride down to it, across the bumpy, cracked tarmacadam, with the large buses, and cars strangely enough giving me quite a wide berth, and discover that the guy who does trackosaurus Rex, who was super cool and was arranging for me to go and have a look at swrve’s (cycling clothing manufacturer) office space, runs the shop, or is one of the bods who runs the shop.

Orange 20 is a cool not so little store that is down on Heliotrope, opposite the bike kitchen, which was closed when I was down there, but I’m going to go back as I hear they have a very good bike map of Los Angeles and at this point in time that is what I really need.

Orange 20 felt like a bigger version of Brixton cycles, cool staff willing to answer your questions without any attitude, interesting selection of bikes and bits, obviously more track than geared, young men coming in with their bikes to be repaired or buy parts, or just joke and laugh with the staff. It’s good to be back amongst bikes and bike people.

Grabbed a couple of t-shirts, some caps, and hung out for a little while. They also let me know about a track day for Fast Friday which was happening out in Encino, on the weekend, and the critical mass that was happening on the friday. All in all, I had a lovely time there, and was well fucking stoked to have found it.

miami off

In all about the ride, miami, stateside on November 17, 2010 at 5:57 pm

So apart from the cold/chest infection I caught in Tokyo and the shingles/not shingles I had in Argentina/brazil, I’ve been pretty healthy on this trip and the only bike accidents I’ve had have been alcohol induced and my own fault, and haven’t been faster than 5/10mph.

Until I hit Miami, 1st full day on the bike and I’m just tooling around, trying to figure out the lay of the land, cruising up to the stretch of street where the shops and bars are, checking out the beach, just turning left and right, oh and trying to find a currency exchange – to change over some Brazilian reais and Argentinian pesos (who knew changing money could be so hard in America), rolled over to the apple store – to buy a new charger for the iPod and iPhone as the old one just quit working in Rio, and a bookstore – to grab some maps of the immediate area so I can navigate around this motherfucker.

So I’m heading back down a road, wide as all American roads are, car parked on the right before the junction, cars on my left, coming to a halt as the lights ahead are red. I can see the car immediately in front of me and to the left wants to squeeze the gap between the car in front and the parked car to its right to turn right at the junction – for y’all that don’t know you can turn right on red in the states, dependent on the state/city laws and junction rules – most junctions you can, some you can’t. So I can see what they want to do but I decide to hit the gap between them and the parked car anyway because they are making abortive attempts to squeeze that gap like a first time wrist slasher.

And I believe foolishly that they’ll be checking their mirrors.

They aren’t.

The abortive move becomes a positive one and I clip moving cars wing mirror, which sends me into parked cars wing mirror and fender and the world takes that crazy slow/quick Dutch angle tilt, like a camera on a tripod falling over as it films. And I’m on the floor, clips springing me clear of the bike, rolling over and ending up on my arse, as usual. And I’m standing up checking myself for injuries.

Grazes on elbow and knee, which promptly issue forth slow streams of crimson. The female driver is out of the door, telling me that she didn’t see me and i want to tell her if she’d used her mirrors she would have, and there’s an old man on the kerb, close to where I’ve gone down whose staring saying next time I won’t be there,because I shouldn’t be there and I feel to ask him where should I be, adding a, for fuckssakes on the end for good measure.

But I don’t. I examine my wounds, reassure the older woman that I’m alright, examine the bike, straighten the stem and ride off towards the pharmacy wondering how much plasters will cost in this town as the ones I’m carrying aren’t big enough to cover these new road rashes…

Get to the pharmacy and spend some coinage on plasters and antiseptic salve, and whatnot. Woman working in the big pharmacy/corner store/whatever it is, informs me that I’m bleeding all over the floor, as if I didn’t know. I really want to laugh at this point, but I don’t I think it should have been obvious that I knew I was bleeding, who is generally oblivious when they are bleeding?

So anyway long story short, I purchase the necessary and head back to the hostel for the cleansing/covering of wounds. What I don’t take into account is the humidity making it practically impossible for plasters to stick to flesh as I’m sweating so much. I return to the pharmacy a couple of hours later and buy some durable coverings, and they don’t stick either.

I then decide that letting it air dry and scab over is the best thing for it. Must not pick scab, must not!

Swirl, sniff, sip, swallow

In all about the ride, Argentina, eat drink man woman, Sud America on August 17, 2010 at 3:03 am

So a whirl of us from the hostel went on a wine tour, hired some bikes from mr Hugo, mine had a basket on the front and some snazzy purple brake calipers, and went riding down the bumpy fractured roads amongst the vineyards for tastings at the various Bodega’s on the map/flyer that Mr Hugo had given us after we’d rented the bikes.

To say it got messy would be an understatement. Wine and riding don’t mix, the two broken spokes I returned the bike with can attest to that. But it was fun. Matt the escalator was knocking back the absinthe he’d purchased at the liquor factory we’d started out at before the sun had risen to its highest point.

We did a proper wine tasting at the Trapiche Bodega, which was a lovely mix of old and new, new buildings modern, glass and metal hidden behind old original walls, with shiny metal vats for the fermentation of the wine set into the main buildings in long rows.  Before discovering a small outdoor bar round the back, down a long dirt road, and off the beaten track. It was just like someone’s large backyard, which just so happened to have a bar in it, and a cooker, on which the owners made home-made pizza’s and empanadas’.

Then it was off to Latitude 33 for more wine tasting and casting envious glances at the food that was brought out for the other cycling wine tasters. Obviously I managed to get the bods to break out a bottle of rose for the people, and how sweet it was.

Drunken ride out to the very last winery, when I’m trying to ram into the back of the people in our group, I have no idea what took over me, though I’m pretty sure it was the wine. Which precipitated me breaking like two or three spokes in the front wheel, tipsily pulling them out, and then trying to figure out where everyone else had got to. Finally found them and drank even more wine. And good it was too.

Rolled back to Mr Hugo’s and handed back the bikes, making sure I pointed out the broken spokes, a shrug, and a never mind shake of the head, and then the big man was pouring house red all round as the bike was rolled back in with the others.

A good day was made better when we rolled drunkenly back to the hostel and you know when you’ve been out on the lash from lunchtime and you think you’re talking at an acceptable volume, but in reality you are shouting like a five-year old trying to get their parents attention. Well that was the situation when we hit the hostel a whirlwind of drunkenness and loudness. We had been drinking since noon so we could be forgiven a little bit….