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2008 L.A. Calendar Bike Show
Only Mad Dogs and Englishmen and One Other Guy
I’m sure Che Guevara would have known better when he set off on his 1951 bike tour through South America during his pre-Castro days. He might not have known the exact UVA index, but as a medical student at the time he probably knew you needed 15 minutes of sunlight every day in order for your body to produce the vitamin D it requires to function healthily. He also probably knew it was not recommended to stuff 24 doses of the daily requirement into one day, at least without sunblock Hiroshima 700.
It was mid-July, the sun cooking up a barbecue, and I was invited to the grill which happened to be located in Long Beach, CA, specifically at the Queen Mary and the site of the annual L.A. Calendar Bike Show.
So I got fried. But sunburn pain is like when your ex-wife calls at the first of the month with some startling bit of news, something about money. It still comes as a complete surprise as if you’re hearing it for the first time. And so it is with sunburn.
What...? Standing in the sun for hours can burn your skin? Who knew? Even when your eyelids feel like deep fried tempura shrimp and someone’s dipped them in wasabi sauce.
Does it seem like I might be delirious? I am writing this tome barely 20 hours after the event, intent on remembering the moments before they fade away like retinal afterburn from light too bright and memory too faulty. And, yes, I wasn’t even wearing my official Motorcycle.com baseball cap so my brain was being cooked in a nice broth of cerebral fluids as well, hence this somewhat jaundiced/skewered view of the event.
It’s a flood of images, smells and sounds. Like the raspy echo of a loudspeaker going off near the stage where someone is announcing the bike show winners. The announcer is also saying something about the Dyno Shoot-out Results, something about a massive explosion earlier in the day when a Hayabusa said sayonara as its engine exploded. I didn’t hear anything about shrapnel.
'It’s a flood of images, smells and sounds.'
Then the narrator’s voice blurs into the background of my consciousness. I was trying to focus on the bicycle pulling a trailer with what looked like a moonshine still, my face wobbling in the beautiful polished surface. No, not a still, a mobile beer dispenser/tailgate party machine, explained its creator D. Craig Jones of Craigerator, Inc., a Van Nuys company who builds among other things, custom refrigerators.
He has a motto on his business card that reads: “Why Roam When Beer’s At Home?” To prove his point he’s built The Little Wagon That Chugs. Okay, that’s my description, but it’s a small trailer that transports a beer keg with an electronically controlled dispenser.
In turn the work of the brewer’s art is tethered to and hauled by a hand-built streamliner/beach cruiser bicycle complete with dual shocks from a Harley Sportster.
It is spiffy. And the Long Beach lady cop standing nearby agreed. Naturally I asked her if she wanted a cold mug full. She replied, rather nicely, “At some other time, sure.” When I asked her about the legality of toting your own beer bar around with you, say, at the beach, she said, “Well, the city has certain rules and regulations about beer and open containers.”
'The day was young but already beastly hot, and I was wearing my official “get-into-any-event” photographer’s vest pasted with every piece of official looking documentation I could find...'
At about this point she notices I am chomping down on a tuna fish sandwich I had transported in my bike’s tank bag on the 45-minute trek to Long Beach at mid-day. She was more focused on the aluminum foil wrapped can I was swigging from. Noticing her eye’s narrowing, I said, “Ice tea. No, really.” I peeled some of the aluminum foil away and Lipton Brisk appeared. She was satisfied and continued her patrol.
I did not regale her with the tale of my 90-year old Uncle Earle who to this day attends his hotrod shows with a large 7-11 cup that says “Slurpee” on it but contains enough fermented Russian potatoes to feed Volgograd. He’s taught me much about camouflage, and not just the pants he often wears.
I myself said farewell to the Craigerator people and continued my own patrol. The day was young but already beastly hot, and I was wearing my official “get-into-any-event” photographer’s vest pasted with every piece of official looking documentation I could find in my collection, including some press pass from the Grateful Dead concert 10 years ago.
In its various pockets I carried two cameras, notebook, pens, ear plugs, a change of socks, the rest of my tuna sandwich, spare batteries, business cards, a 16-LED flashlight, cell phone, backup cellphone battery thing, a liter of oxygen-enhanced water supposedly from Fiji, and my passport and three large magnets – you never know when you’ll need the latter.
In any case I was humping through the Queen Mary grounds with an extra 20 lbs. of gear. Needless to say I had set off every “magic wand” carried by the Security Guards at the gate. After they were sure I wasn’t carrying an AK-47 and flashed my Grateful Dead press pass, they let me in.
Okay, let’s hit the highlights before my next treatment of Aloe and ferret saliva to reduce the sunburn inflammation. Here are some snapshots and some words of explanation.