April 22, 2005: Where's the beef?

Last week, doing a 24-hour race in Temecula seemed like a good idea, but at 6:00 AM this morning when JB and I rolled out of bed with a full day's driving ahead of us, including passage through a large chunk of LA, we were wondering if it was worth the effort.

I love LA!
The flowers of Temecula
Vail Lake

No way to find out but to do it, and I know that, but mornings do not sit well with me, and I look upon most 6:00 AM propositions with heavy skepticism.

In addition to the 6:00 AM funk, in order to properly prepare mind and body for the trials of 24-hour mountain biking, I had not showered since Tuesday -- it adds an extra little tang to the equation.

Between the tang and the 10.5 hours of driving, including 3 hours just to get from Pasadena to Glendale, JB and I were a little on the grumbly side when we pulled into the charmless strip-mall hell that is New Temecula. There was a time, not so long ago, when Temecula was one of those quaint, rural, quasi-desert towns like Hemet, Indio, and even Banning. Large parcels with horses and livestock. Room to breathe. An aesthetic sensibility in balance with the natural order. You can see still visions of the old Temecula as you drive east on Highway 79 from the 15. Unfortunately, you have to look past miles of strip malls highlighting everything that is wrong with our overconsumptive society/economy, which are themselves flanked by grid upon grid of red-tiled tract homes built so close together they look like a carpet of red flowers covering the valley. Oh bitter irony.

Deeply shaken by the chilling drive down Main Street, Anytown USA, we welcomed the rolling, open hills east of town and soon came upon the race venue, Vail Lake Village and Resort.

Our late arrival nixed any chance of preriding the course in the daylight, but I was still looking forward to the opportunity to meet the other riders on the team and hang out and drink a few beers. For a 24-hour event, Friday night is the really fun night. It's the night to sit around getting loopy, having fun, flowing the bullshit. The race doesn't start until noon the next day, so there's plenty of time to sleep off a hangover or catch a couple of extra hours of sack time.

Of course, we weren't expecting any red-carpet treatment or anything, but we were expecting something, or somebody. As we drove along a long row of camping spots looking for #174 and #175, our anticipation grew with each sponsor's tent and cluster of team campers we passed. Uh-oh, up ahead, we saw a large empty area in the otherwise full row of campers, an empty area just about where spots #174 and #175 should be.

It appeared that we were the first to arrive. That can be a good thing, OK, no problem. We set up our tent, walked Zuma around the campground, and turned in my waiver form. Dain from Bike called to let us know that there would be a team breakfast at 8:30 AM in North Temecula tomorrow morning.

We went back to the registration area for a while and I chatted with Granny Gear Productions founder Laird Knight about his 24-hour events, his competition with other 24-hour race promoters, and the general state of mountain biking. From there, we headed back into hell for a completely unsatisfying meal at some wannabe retro '50s diner so unauthentic that it could've made a Red Robin look like something right out of the Saturday Evening Post.

We returned to the campsite, but still nobody. It was kind of depressing. Other teams had their cars circled around the cooking stoves and campfires like covered wagons. The sounds of laughter, drinking, and music came from all over the campground while JB and I listened wistfully from the darkness of our solitary tent.

As I drifted off to sleep, I was troubled by thoughts of my last 24-hour event, the 2003 24 Hours of Tahoe that I did with Bonzai. Desperate to come up with a four-man team, I posted flyers and ran listings on the Internet for two riders. We did get two riders to ride with us, and we did OK, but it just wasn't any fun because Bonzai and I did not connect with the other two guys at all. What makes these 24-hour events really fun is the team bonding experience. If you've got people that are supportive and into hanging out as a team throughout the 24 hours, it's going to be a really fun event no matter how many laps you turn in. So far, the 24 Hours of Temecula was not looking good in terms of the team dynamic.

I was dubious about what the morning would bring.


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