Sunday, October 27, 2019

Moving On-The Great Rock n Roll Return to LA

My hero!  On Sunset Blvd, LA.  He did serveral circles in the street before giving drivers the One Finger Salute and  moving on.

Well, cool title.  All the leaves were turning brown and the skies were grey.  Nope, the weather was still decent in Iowa.  Blue skies but definitely cooler.  We did not go to California for the weather.   WE WENT TO CALI FOR ROCK & ROLL!!!!  And there I checked up on the bicycle scene and commuting life in LA.  I was there two years ago and wrote THIS.  This year I expanded my activities to using the available mass transit, Metro and Amtrak, or  trains.  No buses.  We did a lot of walking.  Taking a break for the hustle and bustle and filth of the big city, we visited Laguna Beach and hung out with a friend who is a local.  Beautiful beach city that we hit during the non tourist season.  Bliss!
Official Who tour shirt.  After leaving the venue there were many opportunities to purchase bootleg shirts ranging from $5 to $15.

We caught the last gig of the tour although several have been rescheduled for 2020.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

We, and by we, my beautiful wife Mary and our good friend Cynthia, flew out of the Des Moines International Airport and landed  at LAX.  The reason was Rock & Roll as mentioned above.  The Who were playing at the Hollywood Bowl with Liam Gallagher, Oasis front man, opening.  Mary had never been to the Golden State and neither of them have been to the that iconic venue.  The Moving On Tour of The Who featured a massive chunk of Tommy, then a set of older Who classics followed by a set from Quadrophenia and a few classics and two new yet to be released tracks sprinkled in between and after their rock opera tracks.  A 42 piece orchestra backed them up.  I was a bit leery about the orchestra but they really added to the experience and made this one of the best gigs I have ever seen.  Read the REVIEW.  Our only complaint was that Liam Gallagher's set was criminally short.  He is rock star and we were tempted to switch planes and fly to NYC to see him again.  His new lp, Why Me, Why Not, is an outstanding album in which everyone who loves rock should purchase.

But does that have to do with bicycles?  A lot.  It was the reason for our trip in LA.

I gave the girls a break and did not order the Butt Crack O Dawn flight.  But out flight landed conveniently in time for rush hour.  The 110 and the 101.  Traffic crawled.  By the time we got off the FlyAway bus it was dark.  About a two mile walk to our hotel.  FYI  FlyAway goes to many places in LA and it is a mere $8 per ride (card only, no cash).  Service begins at 5 am or so and will pick you up where they dropped you off.  Cheaper than Uber or Lyft or a cab.

So we are walking to our hotel and encountering the first bikes we have seen since leaving home.  Mostly on the sidewalk, mostly without lights.  Occasionally we saw a professional commuter.  Vest, lights, helmet.  People would bring their bikes on trains.  Infrastructure exists such as sharrows and bike boxes near some of the Metrolink (commuter train stations).  Amtrak trains had designated cars for bicycles.  Unfortunately, I failed to get a photo of that.  There were a lot more bikes on the late train headed back from Union station.  I think they were out for a good time that night.  One woman had a Townie.

We spoke to one commuter.  He had a red Cannondale racing bike in Saeco livery.  This was on the commuter train.  He said he had 3 bikes stolen from him in a 6 month period!  Now he never let's his bike out of sight unless it is totally secure.  "I carry it on my shoulder when I go into stores," he reported.  We complemented him on his nice bike.  Said he paid $500 for it in a pawnshop.  I did not have the heart to say that that it may have been stolen if it was for sale at a pawnshop.

A note about LA Mass Transit, Metro Link (not Metro Stink as Winston called it).  One needs a pre-paid Tap card.  The machines take cash or card and those awful dollar coins.  If memory serves we paid $7 for 24 hours access.  That's a bargain because the subway was fast and convenient, clean and took us from one end of LA to the other.  Refillable and monthly options are also available at reasonable price.  Get to the train and tap the turnstile and board.  Simple.

Took the subway to Union Station and made the mistake of walking to Chinatown.  Not impressed.  True we did not get into the heart of it but it looked like basic LA ghetto.  All three of of us made a "mistake."  Mine was picking the Sycamore Tavern on Sunset.  Two years ago on football Sunday it was a great place to be.  On a Wednesday during their "dojo comedy" night it was not unless you like watching sex dwarfs, trannies and other assortment of humanity walk in and out of the mysterious door near the bar.  Just saying that I could have stayed for another round or two but my traveling companions wanted to GTFO.  Grease was airing on the tellie btw.  Mary's mistake was having us take the train to Universal Studios.  The idea was to walk back to Hollywood.  Unfortunately, a mountain was in the way.  Unfortunately, the tour was $115 each.  We declined.

The Universal Studio Excursion was not a total waste of time.  These bicycle lockers are near the MetroLink stop.

The next day we were back at Union Station to catch the Amtrak to Laguna Beach.  The The Pacificsurfliner! $37 for commuter class seats.  Big and comfy.  Electric outlets for charging phones and such.  Only a few stops.  Some and fast.  Could have taken this to San Diego if we wanted to.  The only problem, ugly industrial scenery.  Not the beautiful mountain and Pacific vistas that I envisioned.  Urban sprawl, more homeless camps, dull shade of green flora and brown dusty desert scenes.  Not the rail services fault, just modern realities.  I felt like Ed Harris in Enemy At The Gates, just wanted to close the curtain until our stop arrived.  More about this later.  Great train just don't look out the window.

The Great Rock & Roll Swindle

We stand in ground zero for tourist.  Hollywood.  Our hotel was about a 10 minute walk from the Hollywood Bowl.  Perfect location.  Despite the lack of hot showers, they were cold, it was not a dump.  Walk further down the hill and it is hell.  Overflowed with tourists and homeless.  To make things more interesting, dockless E-scooters and E-bikes were all over the place.  I don't know how many locals used them but they were everywhere and after seeing this I start to understand why people do not want them in there cities.  Some people that rent them, just requites a smartphone, leave them all over the place.  People ride them on the sidewalks.  We even saw them laying on top of the homeless.

A note about the homeless.  Back in 2017 in the same area I only noticed them late at night or in the morning.  Most were sleeping in doorways and near benches and steps.  Two years later they are everywhere.  99% are asleep.  It is like a virus outbreak.  A person is just walking and falls ill, clothing turns grungy, shoes disappear and they drop where they are standing and lay asleep on the sidewalk with a blanket and a few possessions.  One man apparently walked up the steps from the subway and had one more set of stairs to go but just collapsed, one shoe off a few feet away, face down on the tile without  blanket.   Just made it to the top of the stairs and went to sleep.  Others  have shopping carts and are in a shady area of a sidewalk.  Others camp out on the sides of the freeway.  It is overwhelming.  60,000 of them at latest estimates.

Mary and I walked to a coffee shop for breakfast early one morning and encountered quite a few sleeping in the streets.  The smell of urine filled the air.  Walking back along the Walk of Fame I had to warn her several times of human feces smeared on the walk.

How does this happen?  What can be done about it?  Cynthia noted that their will to live must be stronger than ours because we agreed we would not have the strength to live like that.

Up 16% from 2018

Good photos of the problem

On the corner of Highland and Franklin we noticed a small busted couch that a homeless person was staring at contemplating that it would make a nice comfy bed.  I could not resist.  Later I found a dockless E-Bike, downloaded the app and rented the bastard.  Two wheels, seat and a throttle!  DAMN, this is fun!  Look Ma, no effort!  I would like to take this home with me but I did not plan on saving money for extra carry-ons or Grand Theft Bicycle.  Thus I became the first person not only to score a California GeoCouch but a Hollywood GeoCouch.  I ended up with two and passed up on a few more.  Hollywood is literally covered with trash.

Back to the Great Rock & Roll Swindle....Earlier in the day we stopped in a record store and made a few purchased.  Upon our return to the Hilton Garden Hotel I discover that one record had a chunk missing.  Broken record.  Of course the most expensive one.  My thought, grab the E-Bike I left at the geocouch and fly all the way to the record store.  Time was tight.  We had to pre-game before going to see The Who.  Of course the bike was gone, the second problem with dockless rentals.  So I hoofed it until I found another one.  I did notice that people were laying around them recharging their phones on them.  Guess they provide another service.  Eventually I found one and I was off to the races.  The clerk at the record store recognized me and found a suitable replacement.  BACK TO THE HILTON GARDEN!!

Easier said then done.  "Low Battery" light was on.  Gotta nurse this heap home.  Glad I picked the hilly route.  It was a struggle.  Had to push it up a steep hill.  Rocket down the backside.  Stop for geocouch 2.  But I made it back.  Took a photo of the bike as per app instructions to show them that I parked it properly, $5 fine for parking like a selfish bastard.  Most importantly, made it to the Hollywood Bowl on time!

Laguna Beach

The day after the concert we traveled south to visit a friend of mine and life long resident of beautiful Laguna Beach, California.  Our plan for this trip was to visit a beach at some point.  Always good to stand in the water at the end of the continent.  It's as far as we could get from home on our budget.  The train stopped at Irvine Station which seemed to be out in the middle of nowhere but my friend Winston was there with his car to take us to Laguna Beach proper.  Red Flags were everywhere.  He explained that there was a Red Flag Alert which means that The National Weather Service has warned that conditions are ideal for wildland combustion and rapid spread of fire.  If they see you toss a cigarette butt on the ground locals will beat your ass," he said or something to that effect.  "Good, they should do that when it rains, too," I replied.  Smoking is banned in Laguna Beach except in homes and cars.  After waking up at 3 am CST, my body's clock never adjusted to PST, I watched in horror the wildfires burning up this State.

It was lunch time so we ate a local cafe to avoid the tourist scene although it was not "Clown Town" as Winston refers to tourist season.  Same prices as we would find in Iowa.  Situated on pacific Coast Highway, I noticed a few baggers, people on loaded touring bikes, heading south.  Later we would see roadies.  Automobile traffic seems a bit thick and my friend reminds me that this is the slow time of year.  I was more concerned about the hills.  Perspective.  After lunch we walked don the hill to the beach, his car parked at his residence.  Ubers from now on if we were tired of walking.

Good bye North America!  Hello Pacific Ocean!

This is the reason people live here.  That and the perfect weather.  Quite a shock stepping off that jet to 40*F in Des Moines.

The beach was beautiful and we stood in the water for photos.  Later we returned to watch the sunset and see the haze of the fires on the horizon.  Fire is not a stranger here, while my city of Des Moines flooded in 1993 Laguna Beach fell victim to a wildfire.
That is a pint glass!  Evil Chris would have walked out with it.  Perhaps I should have asked if they were for sale.  Like I need another drinking vessel.

Yes, they have sour beers at the SeaHorse.

After the beach we were thirsty for a beer so we hit a few pubs.  I really enjoyed the SeaHorse.  Dan, Winston's friend stopped in and immediately put American Beauty on the turntable.  As he said, this is real California.  Very laid back.  "Billionaires come here but you'd never realize it."  It was hard to leave.  Last stop was at The Sandpiper Lounge, a Marine bar.  We saw the unit badge his father wore and other photos of the First To Fight.  Drinks were cheap.  Finally we ended up at his place and drank a bottle of wine before the Uber arrived to take us back to the train.

VMF-311.  The Sand Piper is frequented by USMC.  Rumor has it there is a large Marine base near here.. Winston's father flew for that fighter squadron .

The train trip was uneventful.  Irvine Station has facilities such as restrooms and vending machines.  At night it seems a bit lonely.  just a few groups of people waiting.  One side for the trip to San Diego, the other LA.  A speaker system makes announcements to break up the silence.  One is a computer voice anti-suicide message.  "You are not alone...."  How depressing.  I wonder if it has actually saved anyone or had the opposite effect.

We got back to Union Station in time to watch the the Metrolink train roll north to Hollywood.  20 minute wait.  Young people on the trip back, obviously going to and fro shows and parties.  The homeless man who was asleep on the stairway at our stop was gone.  The day before it looked as if he took 5 steps after a flight of stairs and face planted, one shoe off laying 2' away.  Sadly, one grows immune to this.  In Hollywood one could not get two blocks covered in a day if they stopped to help everyone in this situation.  It's overwhelming.  In the morning we walked around one sleeping shoeless within a few yards of our shuttle out.

My Impressions of This Trip

Homelessness has hit hard here in the past 2 years.  In 2017 I did not really notice this until I had to catch my shuttle to LAX at 530 am.  Then every doorway, every set of steps, every bench had someone sleeping.  E-Bikes and E-Scooters everywhere and I have now witnessed what people complain about although I appreciate their availability when I travel.  Loved the trains, subways and Amtrak.  Easy to use and clean.  Cars still are the dominant problem here.  We witnessed a crash not far from our hotel.  We were stuck in awful traffic/gridlock. People were friendly especially those in the service industry who were most likely afraid to lose their jobs and end up in the streets.  Even people walking on the streets were friendly, mostly, an Amy Winehouse clone pushing a stroller and playing with her phone almost started an incident with us but she looked like a tourist.  On one occasion someone reminded us not to jaywalk.  Good info as it seems really easy to get hit by a car in LA.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Good Bye Eric Crabb

Ragbrai 2011, Lake Anita Park.  Joe Bridgeman is in the background repairing a flat tire and Eric is posed to pop Joe's inner tube with a cigarette.

I always thought he would be the first of my friends to pass away but it was an extreme shock when I received the news that he was hospitalized.  I did not expect this.  I thought heart attack would be the cause.  He had lost a lot of weight, over 100 lb in the past few years.  Eric was back to cycling weight.  He gave up junk food.  As usual, the optimism I possess led me to grief.  I've seen it before. Hospital scare.  Things improving.  Date to go home. And then the setbacks sandbag that hope.  Damn, I, we thought you would pull through.

I met Eric through the bicycle community of Des Moines, Iowa.  I believe it was through the early version of called CIBROC before Facebook killed online forums.  His handle was Pharoutman.  Probably met him in the flesh on some bicycle ride/event about that time.  Those memories which should have been preserved are lost to me.  It seems like we were friends forever.  If you think he was an obnoxious crude rude beast of a man in recent years you should seen him back then. He settled down.

Settled down indeed.  Tonia, his life partner, came with two children for Eric to practice his fathering skills on.  Not very often an easy feat to care for other's children yet he did.  Even assembled a Barbie Dream house for Ryleigh, and helped Dylan cope with his father's untimely death among other things.  And like most father daughter relationship, Ryleigh would call him Erica just to get on his nerves.

Eric was part of my 40th birthday celebration/ride.  At The High Life he bought me 40 tator tots wrapped with bacon. The server questioned thus and he repeated himself. No half measures in celebration.  I of coursed shared with everyone.  That was 14 years ago this month.

Eric was one of millions that had issues with alcohol. He spent time at The Fort for his third OWI.  That's when he started bicycling.  He never had a driver's license since. He tried once but the State could not find the record of him completely alcohol treatment/education.  He did not pursue it. He had a bicycle.  We was a hardcore bicycle commuter first from the south side of Des Moines and later Altoona. His ride of choice was the venerable Trek 520.

Eric was a strong rider.  I recall riding with him from Richard's in Altoona to Elkhart.  He smoked my ass.

We rode a lot together.  Our most epic ride was from Newton to Grinnell at night for The Fall Equinox ride.  Highway 6 had just been repaved and freshly striped.  A huge harvest moon hung in the sky.  We stopped at a house with a large bonfire and talked to people we did not know and exchanged beer for jerky.  Later in Kellogg we stopped at a tavern and upon leaving a woman from the bar pulled her shirt up and exposed her breasts at us. Eric said it best, "it was two slices of pepperoni above a slab of bacon."  Then back on the road he engaged the turbo and left us in the dust. Show off.  Loaded touring bikes we rode.  The Human Bike In was his favorite.

The Back 40, Ragbrai 2011.  Our tandem and Eric's beloved Trek 520

Usual pose
In 2011 we hooked up on Ragbrai and ride from Des Moines to Macedonia. He had a friend that had a house there.  Starting our from are respective homes wet met up in Redfield and rode to Atlantic.  Once there he called for the airstrike and Mark Knope picked us up and hauled us to Carson, Iowa, where we loaded up on beer and rode to Macedonia, Iowa.  Mark had a rental property there and we were able to sleep in that house.  But first we spent some time in the Back Forty Bar & Grill.  I would go outside with him whenever he had a smoke and the street clock always read 3:24 pm.  Plenty on time.  Then a few more beers before and another smoke.  3:24 pm again not realizing the clock was broken.   When the cowgirls walked in Mary pulled the plug and forced us to leave before we started trouble!  Crabb later on related to me that the heat from that year killed Ragbrai for him.

And so his bicycling end.  Not sure when. His job in Altoona ended and found a new job in Ames that he held until this spring. No more bicycle commuting.  Several years of getting a ride to and fro Ames.  He hated this and was contemplating finding a job closer to home.

Trek 520

Yet the real killer of his cycling was the replacement of his 520.  A braze-on rack eyelet broke in Grinnell if my memory serves.  Could have just moved the rack to the fender braze on and lived happily ever after.  Crabb never cared for fenders, much like me, "just get in the damn way."  But it bothered him.  He took the bike in and warrantied the frame because they could not fix the braze on.  He got a new frame.  He was given the root beer colored 520.  He added a generator hub and light to it, a great upgrade.  But it was never completely dialed in properly for him.  I don't think he really took the time to do this.  Crabby would confide in me that he wish he would have kept the green 520.  Now with his favorite steed gone his desire to ride lowered.

The video below is from our SAG out of Atlantic.  Eric was explaining "off route.'

Honestly, I do not recall if we ever rode together after 2011.  I kept a fairly detailed bicycle ride log stretching back to 1994.  No mention of riding with Eric after 2011.  But I tried.  My requests to ride with him are as numerous as the sand in the seas.  Turned down every time.  Year after year falling on deaf ears.  Excuse after excuse.  Shame, really, as he lived near the Gay Lea Wilson/Four Mile Creek Trails.  Then the weight gain.  He got big.  And the weight loss, he was at riding weight.  If it was not his condition or time commitment it was his bike.  Tires need air.  Need new tires, cannot find my biking stuff ect ect.  No was always the answer.  I was not alone in attempting to get him to ride again.  Steve tried.  He even brought over a truck full of bikes and said pick one and we'll hit the trail.  No dice.  Always some excuse.  He never wanted to ride.

I would ride to his place.  It was not very far away from mine.  Before he stopped riding he'd ride to mine, usually a stop from his way back from Cumming, Iowa.  I found an entry on my bike log that noted that we rode to Cumming together and sat at the Lean To on the last Saturday of Ragbrai 2010.  Bob Moural was with us.  I remember the blue sky and noted that no matter where you were when Ragbrai was on if you were riding with friends you too were on the Brai.  Another time I forget the circumstances but he could not make it home so he slept on out back deck.  "Too filthy to sleep inside" he said.  Our last great adventure was the Tool concert at Wells Fargo.  I picked him up and we started at the downtown Hy Vee Market Grill for the great Happy Hour specials and I needed food.  He never had been there.  Then The Royal Mile for Handle Bar Happy Hour.  His first appearance to cycling community in years..  The Lift was next, my haunt and much better service than the Mile.  Finally the venue.  He had never been to The Well before!  I felt like King Farouk as HST once said.

A Cry For Help, A Hint of Anesthesia

Should have seen this coming.  His face was red and veiny last year.  Signs of high drinking.  I'd like to think that the loss of his job was the final proverbial nail but it should have gone the other way.  Must have been in April of this year.  He immediately had interviews, some places were extremely close to his home, within biking range.  But no joy, nothing worked out.  I told him he had an excellent chance to start riding again, lose more weight, clean the body and mind up.  Buy that Salsa he wanted since he hated the 520 now.  When I left my job in 2007 I took the summer off and rode like no other.  Lost weight and righted myself.  But this was a lost opportunity for Crabb.  Depression hit hard and he hit the bottle hard at night electing to sit in his garage with the door open at night drinking vodka and Fireball until he passed out.  He'd go to bed when Tonia left for work.  Like a meteor crashing into the earth he went down in flames.  By the time he sought medical help it was to late.  Irreversible damage.  6 weeks in Lutheran, Mercy and Mercy Physical rehab.  The rehab center gave him a release date.  Just had to be strong enough to walk up the steps to his home.  He never regained that strength and the liver never came back online.  In the end his blood pressure dropped dangerously low and he passed away on a Sunday.

Eric's new 520 on the High Trestle. He used this photo to sell the bike.  I'm glad he got to visit that bridge.

Even though he most likely never rode past 2013 he considered himself a cyclist.  He was on the numerous Face Book cycling forums offering advice or raising hell.  At one point he posted a photo of his new 520 at the High Trestle for a sale advert.  At least he made it there and got to see it.  Tonia asked me how we could bring up his bicycling for the funeral service.  Place his bike next to the coffin just like Logan's service.  So Mark and I set about cleaning his bike for the service.  The first thing I did was air up the tires.  rear first.  Then the tube exploded.  Eric was right, his tires were shit!  Fortunately there were  tubes available although I had to call Mark for levers.  When I resumed pumping I only put enough air in them to make the bike look proper for display.  Just here to make it pretty for static display.  It was Crabb's desire that I get the bike and in the advent of his death.  When Eric's parents brought the 520 over on the rainy Friday that he was buried, the front front tire was flat!  That's Kenda Qwests for you, good for the cheap short term but not the long haul especially when sitting in a garage for almost a decade.  I put an old rugged set of Marathons retired from my single speed (10,000 miles on them no flats but one is basically bald) on it (sing this line to the tune of Ol' Rugged Cross, Old rugger Marathons"...).  That night Mary and I rode to El Fogon in West Des Moines.  Just lowered the saddle and rode off.  How long did this bike sit?

For all his faults, for his rude and boorish behavior in life and online, Eric was among the most cherished friends I had in my adult years.  Others would attest to this as well.  He call or text every Friday night to see how I was doing, just to check up on me.  He would do this with others as well.  In a world of vapid people and false friends it hurts to lose a true friend.  Fare thee well, Commander Crabb.

After Thought: The Crabb Ride

I am planning a bike ride in his memory.  The destination will be the Haverhill Social Club.  I would like it to be from Collins to Haverhill and back.  40 miler.  Visit his grave and pay our respects and then to the social Club.  Stops along the way.  Flat ride.  Maybe the Heart of Iowa trail could be used.  Haverhill Social Club has been in our discussions for years.  He wanted to make that a riding destination or part of a ride.  Even on his death bed he mentioned it.  Mary and I scouted a potential route.  It would most likely be in September.

BRR 2011. Photo credit Catt Carr