Ladies and Germs: (rimshot and cymbal crash)
Theme for the year 2002 Cirque Du Cyclisme was indeed "Maddogs and Englishmen", which I assume makes us Yanks the Maddogs, no? It's OK, I'm comfortable with that and I'm sure the Brits won't be claiming foul on that one either. For the benifit of those listmembers who were unable to attend the three ring event this year I will do my best to give an account of what it was like to be me during the course of the past few days. One of the most interesting aspects of being where we were is that many different "levels" of contact with other people take place. By this I mean everything from being alone to being in the company of one, a few, a small group, a large group, or an airport full of people at any given time. Already that makes it not an "ordinary" day in my life. The dynamics of each of these groups are different and I will explain much of what I experienced while being part of this everchanging element. As usual my disclaimer; I'll just let it fly and do my best to get through without too many typing or spelling mistakes. There's a lot of material here so if you're prone to faceplants into your keyboard when you read boring stories on the internet you might want to pass on this one.
Where to begin? Unlike last year, my flight East was pleasant and thankfully uneventful. Chuck Schmidt was due to arrive about an hour later at just past midnight, and our lift to the hotel in the form of Dale was to collect us about then. Chuck shows up and we hang for just a little while waiting for our ride. There's a small glitch but Dale shows up shortly and we're wisked down the highway with the vehicle set on autopilot; destination Krispy Kreme doughnuts. As the machine hones in on the target, already Chuck is at full tilt with pre-event conversation. I'm feeling the effects of the flight and off to a slow start. It's not a problem though, Chuckster has enough piss and vinegar for both of us. Dale is his usual cheerful, excited, and talkative self. I figure if I join in this conversation I'll slow down the paceline, so I opt to suck wheel at least until I see if injecting a Krispy Kreme jelley doughnut in my veins will put a different perspective on the "morning". Then I remember, where I'm from it's really only 10pm. Whatever. After an encounter with a slightly less than Menza material cashier; we headed for the Battleground Inn. I think Chuck and Dale both snorted at least one of the tasty circular sugar fortified health food biskits; oddly I refrained. Partially on account of as we made entrance to the Lodge we encountered Mike Self and friends Scott and Dan. Their mission was to seek moisture for oral consumption in the form of BEER! No one had to twist Chucks' arm and since I hadn't had time to injest the certain to disagree with my stomach and beer KK death discs, I was in. So we walked accross the street to Chumleys' Bar and found an empty table where we could talk. The locals knew that strangers were about but noone seemed to care. Oh yeah, forgot one minor detail. There was one one person in attendence. Mr. Spicey Italian Meatball himself, John Pergolizzi. We ordered up a few Basses and a couple of Guinesses and bike talk was the order of the day. Somewhat to our surprise the brew arrived in clear plastic beer cups, which later on would be a blessing. Somewhere along the line we were talking about extended head tubes and so on. To puncuate my point at the time I suddenly and without warning just squashed this empty plastic cup on the table top with my hand. The looks were priceless. I'm easily entertained. We closed down the joint and headed back accross the street. Our host for the room was unable to make the flight down on account of weather so Chuck and I had the room. We finally ran out of gas at 3am.
Friday morning. As usual there is a small crowd gathering in the hotel lobby and this is one my favorite times. It's a "small group" situation and it's the first chance to see who's in town already. Anticipation is high as I come down hoping Richie is here to join us. For him I have prepared a special gift. Word on the street is e-RICHIE himself is due to materialize within 30 minutes! The group is fully perkolating as Ray Etherton, Chuck Schmidt, Matt Gorski, Jay Van de Velde, John Barron, Chris Kavale, John Pergolizzi, and numerous others engage in discourse. I prepare the table with the worlds' first Twizzler filled jelley doughnut that looks like it has red spegetti spilling out of it. I arrange it artfully on the service plate and then pen the greeting note on a napkin to cover the "surprise" part. "Special Richard Sachs 30th Anniv. doughnut by R. Brian Baylis" I think. Richie finally makes his entrance and we guide him towards his gift, our token of our love. Smart ass. Richie is amused. To my surprise Richie doesen't consume the worlds' first doughnut created by a moron; but instead carefully takes the entire "display" and takes it up stairs or something. Based on what I have learned by being around Richard for this time; it's not impossible that this "artifact" might end up on display in a vacuum sealed bell jar in the Richard Sachs Memorial Bicycle Trivia Meuseum some day. Or maybe bronzed. "Richie Saves Everything" could easily have been the title of his presentation on Sat. You think I'm kidding?? Next stop breakfast at IHOP down the street.
I don't remember who all was there in total but breakfast involved some bike talk and there were no food fights. I'd call that a success. Conversarions during meals are usually among a small group and never fail to produce a useful piece of new information and several instances of near suffocation as we gasp food from laughter. Meals are probably the most dangerous times; the rest of the joking goes on where no food is involved and the worst that can happen then is a collapsed lung. Nothing a good bike pump couldn't fix.
We did the dine and dash (20 people at once, how are they going to catch us?) and we headed over to Dales' place shortley after it had opened for business on Fri. We figured the police would never be able to find us; after all this was North Carolina and there was a Krispy Kreme blocking their approach. Piece of cake.
The congregation assembled finally in the upstairs loft where some of Dales' stuff hung so there were bikes to talk about. Imagine that. A few had to unwrap frames so there was the atmosphere of Christmas in the air as well. To the horror of the crowd (which contained two of the best framebuilders in the world in the form of Richard Sachs and Chris Kavale); the wrappings were removed from two frames I'd sent via UPS. The possibility of causing trauma or disfigurement from gazing upon such tortured and twisted metal pipes trying to pass as "bicycle frames" was high, but our perverse curiousity forced us to want to see the carnage anyway. Now we know how the Elephant Man must have felt. One was even indecent enough not to have any cloths on. We decided to "bus drive" (a term framebuilders use to describe nitpicking someones work) this amature attempt and concluded "this guy's a hack" as I recall. Someone mumbled it could't have been worse if it were held together with paperclips and bubblegum. That's a rather cruel insult to bubblegum, don't you think? Jan and Peter Johnson showed up about then and I got my patented red-as-a-beet hug from Jan in front of everybody. She greeted Richard Sachs for the first time as if she were meeting the Pope and kneeled deeply before him. Richie was taken aback a bit. I think everyone realized at this point that the rest of our time here was going to be nonstop foolishness and complete indulgence in oldie mouldie bikes. Jan and Peter add that special blend of Johnson pizzaz that no event is complete without. We get them out west all the time; but to have them here for the Cirque was really special. Peters' sense of humor is sometimes private and always reflects the true and pure retro-grouch foundation that I expect from him. An expert framebuilder and a fountian of knowledge and experiences lurk just below the surface of this serious bike affecianado. In contrast, you don't have to look far to find Jans' lighter side. She's on form all the time. The party broke up and I think we all kinda went back to the hotel and formed around the lobby as newcommers came in pretty steady. If you sit in the lobby you can watch a Parade of Bicycles as they arrive. Another fun time to just "be there" and suck up the vibes.
Suddenly an underground buzz starts making it's way around the busy hive that is the hotel lobby. Word gets out that a Preview swap is to take place in the room of John Barron and Chris Kavale at 5:30. They're using Heinies and Corona and snacks as bait. Man, these guys are sharp; I think they've done this before. It's so organized it's scary; prices on everything and the whole bit. Room 402 begins to bulge and the concrete strains from the pressure as the room fills with a high concentration of authorities on vintage bike crap. Mike Kone, Richard Sachs, Hilary Stone, Ray Etherton, Chuck Schmidt, Matt Gorski, John Barron and Chris themselves, and a bunch of others all swilling beer and fondleing bicycle exotica. The minutia that comes out during a session like this is staggering. Inside I'm laughing my ass off as Richie and John Barron go through this routine relating to all kinds of dropouts and stuff, John has this stuff all catagorized and in little bags and so on. Some things wraped in various types of original tissue had to be opened and the scene with deadpan Richie messing with John about which way to refold the original paper was almost too much to hold back. Had they known how close they were to a beer shower I can assure you that John Barron would have been preparing to cover the precious dropout exhibit with his body to protect it from the spew. That was the first time I noticed that each framebuilder had his own distinct sense of humor. Richie slays me. Always that mischievious gleem in his eye as he delivers his patented Richie Sachs lines. It took me about two days to catch on to him. He caught me between the eyes many times with that deadpan serious face and the matter-of-fact delivery before I began to tell when he was pulling my leg. But I watched him be the one and only Richard Sachs Master Framebuilder/Standup Comic all weekend to my absolute delight. Watching Richie wind someone up is really funny. Richie already knows what makes us all tick and he's got it as bad as the rest of us.
Chris Kavale and I met 20 years ago for the first and only time at the New York Bike Show. I don't recall the meeting at this point maybe on account of my encounter with the famous Ernesto Colnago who pitched a fit when he saw my traditional club as one of my lug cutouts. Chris is somewhat quiet but not actually reserved. He's right there with everyone else with the passion and knowledge of and for old bikes. Also serious about his riding as well from what I heard. Chris also took me a long to time get when he was baiting me. He would come at you with a question designed to catch you off gaurd or to cause a brain fart. His delight is watching your face as your circuits overload trying to figure out if he's serious or not or in watching you fall for the bait. Chris has a twinkle in his eye that could easily be mistaken for Santa Clause. It's a boyish mischief that is harmless and delightful to observe in action. I think Chris is always on a mission to crack you up.Both of these guys have the type of humor that intelligent and confident people have. It's purpose is to entertain and provoke thought or answers to their own questions about the nature of the people around them. I've never been around a more fun and brotherly group of people than this. These guys are icing on the cake because they have rich experiences and farreaching talents, and yet can interact with people without any attitude or pretense whatsoever and are completely accessable. I don't know, maybe the jokes only flow between us and the rest of you people only see and experience the framebuilder. But between us and a certain type of person there is a common bond that allows this interaction to take place. I'm sorry if you don't get the same thing from being around these guys; but it most certainly is the largest part of what good things I get out of attending these events.
Anyway, eventually someone in an adjoinging room compalined to Mgt. about the rauchious crowd gathered in 402 and a call came in from downstairs. Oh well, just about time for our first dinner as a group on Fri. nite and most people have arrived.
Going to have to take a break here; it's 3am. Obviously I'm not even close to finished. I'll take up where I left off unless I come back on to find tomatoes and garbage on my screen and the theater filled with boos.
Brian Baylis La Mesa, CA Will normallacy ever return or am I scared for life?