Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bike Stories - Tony Almost Calls Home

In the fall of 2007 I rode the Joshua Tree Double Century with one other rider, Tony Martinez, a terrific cyclist and home-builder from Cherry Valley, east of Redlands. The finish of the JT Double is very challenging because it ends with a 50 mile return at a 2%-3% gradient into a very stiff headwind. Both times I've done it, it’s also been very cool as the sun was setting in the desert. Anyhow, Tony and I had plenty of opportunity to visit as we rode the 13-14 hours it took us to finish this double. At the time, we both thought this was the first time we talked to each other.

I next saw Tony on the 2008 Mulholland Double Century, the next spring. I had experienced some challenges early on durng this double and lost time to some of the other riders. At about mile 160, the route turned up Decker Canyon, a 2500’ climb, the first half of which is steep, averaging 10% or so. Part way up, I passed Tony who was climbing a bit more slowly than I. As I approached him, I slowed and we visited for awhile, exchannging observations about the day’s ride. I then continued up Decker on my own. After a time I came upon a recumbent trike rider climbing very slowly. I was surprised to see that it was Peter Pop.

Peter is a terrific rider who had to back-off from his competitive riding when he developed some very bad back problems. He didn’t ride at all for several years, and then was only able to ride a trike. I slowed to visit with him and we talked for some time. I learned that he had come out on this climb to see if he saw any of his old double century riding buddies. He told me of a recent visit with a friend of ours, Hugh Murphy, who used to be the promoter for a large series of Southern California double centuries. Hugh had moved to Lone Pine (he now lives in Cartago) after selling the DC series to Planet Ultra. In any case, Peter and I visited for quite awhile as we climbed at Peter’s pace. Part-way through this visit, Tony rode past us, giving a greeting as he passed. Eventually, I rode on ahead, leaving Peter to his own climbing speed. When I later caught up with Tony toward the top of the climb, he called out to me, and told me this story.

Tony Tells His Story … he says: I just remembered when I first saw you … It was on last year’s Mulholland DC. I was at the bottom of the climb heading up Decker Canyon. I had stopped along the side of the road, leaning against a call box, about ready to call my girlfriend to pick me up. You rode past, looked at me, and shouted out: “What are you waiting there by that phone for? Are you going to call your mother to come pick you up?” When I saw you continue up the road I thought to myself: if that old guy can get up this climb, I can certainly do it. And I got back on my bike and finished the double.

After he told me this story, I recalled the incident from the prior year … and I had to laugh. My comment wasn’t intended to be malicious, just to tease him a bit to challenge him to continue … and it worked. Also, the curious thing is that neither he nor I recalled this initial contact with each other until a full year had passed, even though we rode the entire Joshua Tree Double together in the intervening period! Tony’s done many doubles since then, and finishes them without fail, and with good humor. Thanks, Tony, for this wonderful memory.

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