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Wheels on the bike go round and round 11: Admin Day
by Mike Jennett
2009-06-03 08:49:46
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This is it; Day1.

That’s Day 1 on the Crossroads calendar. To my way of thinking, it should be Day 0, so here is our first terminological conflict.

In my mind, the experience begins with the first downward thrust of the pedals and that won’t happen until tomorrow but the first day of actually getting together is today. It’s like that endless religious debate over whether Sunday or Monday is the first day of the week – but we don’t want to tread that path today.

It’s a fresh and early Saturday morning when I leave Burbank, after a pleasant evening spent with friends Mitch, Claudia and daughter Ella - who will no doubt, become a film star in the near future. The cool moistness of the air is refreshing after the burning desert of just two days ago.

There’s a Starbucks within half a mile and I can feel the attraction. It’s like a magnet, pulling me against my will. I have to go there. It’s not my fault. It does not make me a bad person. Whoever invented these places sprinkled a dose of black magic over every one and I can’t pass by.

Is it the coffee? Is it the food? Is it the music – and I do like a touch of Frankie or Deano, I have to admit – or is it my small successes in the constant battle to get the servers to accept ‘medium’ I place of ‘grande’ and thereby placate my sense of linguistic failure? Don’t know, don’t care. Let’s just say I like the roast.

Los Angeles being the intense, endless freeway that it is, causes my hair to go white and takes three weeks off my life by the time I reach El Segundo. People in every state in America think that people in every other state can’t drive, but this is one place where they have at least some excuse.

Indians and Italians are perhaps the worst drivers in the world – or maybe Arabs, since they have everything to gain by dying and don’t seem to worry if they do – but Americans don’t win any medals for it. Traveling at the speed limit in the left-most lane and then swerving suddenly across all five to reach an exit 100 yards ahead is no way to drive. I, of course, am the greatest driver in the known universe and there ends the discussion.

It’s 9.30am by the time I reach the Courtyard Marriott and find Tracy outfitting the Ryder luggage truck. Tracy hasn’t chaged at all – still brunette, still short haired and still just as huggable. Rick appears immediately, but is less huggable. Both make hints, as subtle as a flying mallet about my ideas on carb loading (carbonated, not carbohydrates) and I have decided to get them both wasted in a scummy bar at some point.

My bike’s assembled and waiting but there’s no point collecting it until after check-in, but there’s the first obstacle. It’s early and the only room available thus far is one dedicated to handicapped and a burst of altruism for my wheelchair-bound white-on-blue fellow man makes me reluctant to take it. Besides - a shower fixed at four feet above bath level is about as inviting as taking a dump between guide rails.

Nothing’s happening and I want something, anything, to occur. Nothing is acceptable only if it’ll be that way all day or at least for a specific period because then I can substitute something of my choice. Nothingness for an indeterminate length of time reminds me of being a kid on a day when we’re going to the seaside and having to get up much too early and wait and wait and wait until the grown-ups get themselves organized. Really, at fifty-two, I’m done with waiting for grown-ups.

The pool’s blue and inviting but it’s too chilly to undress and, anyway, I can’t swim. Don’t ask why, without expecting a long and sadly involved story of school bullies and dunkings, just accept it and realize that there’s little I can do about it before breakfast. Oh sure, I could splash around at the shallow end but then some young girl with blond hair, blue eyes and perfect California teeth would dive in over my head and do 30 lengths at the speed of sound and I’d feel inadequate.

Breakfast seems like a good idea but I can’t face the chain restaurants around the hotel. There’ll be enough of them in the coming months and today demands something better. It’s like a man’s last drink before the gallows – the ‘One For The Road’, of which no one except me knows the origin. (Think – Tower of London, prisoner of the crown, execution and the subsequent road to Heaven).

Despite driving a couple of miles in either direction, the best place I can find is an IHOP near another Starbucks. Yes, it’s a chain, but I’m hungry so I give up thoughts of a local diner with Greek-daughter waitresses in white skirts and starched hats and give my name to the girl at the desk.

The food passing by astounds me. Even after all this time, I can’t understand how Americans can eat so much and think it all normal. It’s entirely the opposite extreme to England, where it would be seen as extravagant to ask for a second egg and sheer gluttony to suggest a third. Don’t even think about adding hashed browns, a fried steak the size of a frisbee and a stack of three pancakes.

Oh well, it’s horses for courses as they say - which probably has some relevance to acceptance of different cultures. So, with a mental sigh, I browse the menu, order a meal the size of a banquet and then go to Starbucks and consume enough caffeine to kill a horse.

Read more at: www.mikeonwheels.com OR www.wheelsonthebikegoroundandround.blogspot.com   

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