Pine Tar and Turpentine: Toccoa

Pine Tar and Turpentine: Toccoa

Neither gale force busters blowing in like the scourge, nor the country’s top shelf, high octane, pedal banging demon dogs could derail the unsated Jon Murphy and his unstoppable Victory Train as he stormed to yet another win, his 3rd of the season, on the arduous and intractable Jittery Joes-Pacesetter Steel Toccoa World Cup on 9 February 2008. Murphy was the last one left standing after a 120 mile barroom brawl that saw the Zealots beaten, battered and brutalized by pulverizing winds, and crushed beneath the iron wheels of the heavy-handed pack drovers and their maniacal task master, Matt Shackman. The Toccoa World Cup was an old time jubilee, a tent revival replete with gospel shouting, speaking in tongues, baptism by fire, brimstone raining down from the heavens, and hellfire and damnation hurled down from a bully pulpit. The Toccoa World Cup was a lot of things, but mostly it was a balls-to-the-wall hammer session, and a return to the old school house with a vengeance.

In fact, on the return trip from Toccoa, with 50 miles still remaining to ride straight into the teeth of a raging tempest, many Zealots were already whackered, meaning their legs were drained of all nectar, and there was no more fuel in the tanks. (Whackered is best described as a cross between waxed and plum tuckered out.) The poor whackered souls were summarily tossed overboard into the churning waters—chum for the sharks. At one point when we were still 40 miles from home, I heard a cry for help and turned around. I looked straight into Mike Buechel’s desperate eyes. He was 30 meters off and drifting, like an exhausted swimmer caught in a riptide. There would be no bridging back to the pack today—the boys in front were Dixie-dew-drop-dogging it on up the road. The best course of action once a person let loose of the tether may have been to simply sink to the bottom and sleep. I pray death came swiftly for my friend Buechel. He will be missed. After the ride, I went to his pad and shimmied the lock and drained the beer in his fridge. I’m sure he would have given it to me had he foreseen the future. I also pocketed his cash, his White Stripe c.d.’s, his latest copy of Velo News, a new pair of elf pajamas, a sterling silver pair of cufflinks, his Scooby-Doo bed sheets, and his washing detergent. I couldn’t find his stash though. I tore the place apart.

The average speed of 21 miles per hour, the nearly 6 hours in the saddle, the 7,800 feet of climbing, the back breaking winds, and the strength of this small but lusty group, assure that this year’s Toccoa ride will be ranked as one of the more difficult rides in the annals of the WBL's Big Black Book of Epic Adventures, and one that will be remembered by those who partook of its bittersweet fruit for the rest of their lives. Ten years from now no one will remember a leisurely stroll in the park, drinking water from a cool mountain stream, or a beautiful patch of yellow flowers drawn into a magnificent painting. What a person will remember is the bloody battlefield, especially if his boots were stepping over the bodies. For in life, it is the epic days that matter most. Three cheers for Carney and the map bastards who dusted off this torturous route, unchained it from its shackles, and brought it out of the dungeon. Ten years from now, yall’ll remember Toccoa—this we guarantee.

Rob the Don Giannini also had another stellar performance and his 2nd place on the day has mathematically sealed his Overall win in WBL 2008. But the day was marred by angry and hateful disputations, and there was even a cat fight after the ride. Fault for the fights appears to rest squarely on Kid King's cocksure shoulders. Even the WBL was shocked when Murphy grabbed the microphone at the post ride press conference, stood up, puffed out his chest, which was already swollen with hubris, and declaimed, "I wouldn't even shit in an eye talian's shoe, especially that one." Murphy turned and pointed at Don Giannini. He then turned up the bottle and danced an Irish jig. He was whackered too, but in a different sort of way.

The Don was on the stage lacquering his hair with turpentine at the time. The Don was surrounded by a knot of other eye talians and upstate Yankee rabblerousers. At the precise moment Kid King uttered his lusty taunt, the Don’s head was cupped in his hands and he was patting his hair on the sides, as if it were a good dog. (Giannini claims he uses turpentine “not only because the resin helps my hair maintain its bulbous bulge for extended periods of time, but also because turpentine kills head lice on contact, ya-know-whattamean?”) The Don turned and looked at Hagner, Kid King’s words ringing in his ears. He was in a state of disbelief. "Izze talkins to me? Iz that red headed Irish jackass talkins to me?" He slapped Hagner on the arm. He looked back at Murphy. "You gots to be kiddin, do ya-know-whattamean, you Irish prick." The Don’s body was vibrating like a live wire. His palms were upturned towards heaven.

Murphy turned and looked at the clutch of Southern Gaels—rednecks, hayseeds, toothless hags, liquored-up mountain men, and shyster lawyers—who were clamoring about him like scalywags around clibber-clabber. "Did that eye talian day go just call me a prick? Bless his heart, that beats all I ever saw." He turned back to the Don. "Now you done gimme no choice in the matter—I’m fixin to kick yo eye talian ass."

The Don faced Kid King like a cocky gun fighter. “You wants a piece of me, Carrot Top, well, you got it, ya-know-whattamean. Now meet Mr. Pete.” The Don reached into his back jersey pocket and discovered his bazooka, aptly named Mr. Pete, was not present. He then remembered he had transferred Mr. Pete to his smoking jacket pocket. A look of panic fell over his face like a falling curtain. All he could get out was, “Where the f—” before Murphy was on him like a fox on a one-legged hen.

The two fell to fighting like two of Carney's women who had just found each other out. They were nothing but slashing claws and pumping arms. The whackered but still bloodthirsty crowd yelled, “FIGHT-FIGHT-FIGHT,” led by Pacestter Steel’s Chris Chotas, who was downing PBR’s like his gut sack was in the middle of a three alarm fire. Carney stepped backwards to avoid the melee and fell off the stage and landed square on his head. He was out cold, and Chotas, who was on his 15th PBR by this time, attempted mouth-to-mouth. It was useless. Chotas hyperventilated and passed out too, his three sheets billowing in the wind, he and Carney’s mouths locked together in eternal repose. Where is Mike Buechel? was all I could think. The calm voice of reason in the midst of a swirling storm was nowhere to be found. I knew he was resting somewhere in the mud at the bottom of the ocean in the hinterlands of Franklin County. By now, sea critters were swimming through his ribs. Confusion, to say the least, reigned supreme. I looked up at the skies and mumbled, “Oh Carney, where art thou?” My palms, like the Don’s, were upturned towards the celestial sky. At that moment Carney lifted his head from the pavement, causing Chotas to roll off to the side and up under the lip of the stage, and looked at me through the fog and whispered, “I’m here, Humble, I’m here.” I rushed to his side, shoving Chotas a little deeper down beneath the stage to make room for my buxom being. I needed to stretch out a bit.

The morning of Toccoa, the day’s two sponsors of the event, two of cycling’s more magnanimous philanthropic entities—Jittery Joes and Pacesetter Steel—each arrived with large amounts of cash, an ample supply of booze, and plenty ‘o boxes of booty galore. Jittery Joes treated the Zealots to supercharged espressos before the ride, and Pacesetter Steel promised to crown the winner with gifts galore. Muchas gracias, amigos. All of yalls shall receive rewards in heaven. And we’ll pass yalls’ love on down the line.

But Matt Schickman also arrived bearing arms—a big box of consumer goods—as well as a dare for anyone who would take up the challenge. Scheckerman double-dog-dared anyone to go to the front, pin his or her chest to the handlebars, and hammer all the live long day. And that’s where the trouble began. Plenty of people wanted what was in that box. What Skatmann actually did was to strike a match under a still, but at least he didn’t run for cover. He stuck around to watch the whole shebang go up in flames. Hale, in matters of fact, he was part and parcel of the entire fiery flare-up. Blame for what follows must be shared by Matt Sketchman.

Old Sol was sunning himself on this Saturday and the Zealots set out beneath clear and warming skies. There’s nothing like Old King Sol to put a smile on a cyclist’s face in the middle of February. And there’s nothing like a wicked wind to wipe it right off. Such were the dualities at work during Toccoa. The eye talians and the Irish weren’t the only groups at polar opposites during this cruel day of retribution.

Only two miles into the fray JJ Wadkins and Scott Thomas, the Attila the Pun Professor of Pain at U.G.A., moved to the fore and clasped the bit in their mouths. They shifted to the big ring, crouched low in the drops, and let the wind whistle through their big horse teeth like it was whipping through a picket fence. They slammed it, rammed it, and jammed it up the road. By the bye, Wadkins refused to relinquish the front. He ran through drovers like a drunk through good whiskey. On the right side of the road there was a rotation at the front. On Wadkins’s side of the road, there was only Wadkins rotating with himself. JJ was hammering for the gold. He wouldn’t come off the front for over an hour-and-a-half. He chewed up the road even though the wind was bellowing in his face from from the left side, the east. After two hours of travel the pack had scorched the blacktop leaving a black stain in its wake—the average miles-per-hour was 22! Schithead wore one big smile.

As the group pedaled closer and closer to Toccoa, the lumpy roads became a growing concern. The rancorous ripples swelled to enormous heights and took on preposterous angles. It was as if the pack had ridden into the perfect storm and the swells were tossing their little dinghy about as if it were toy boat in a bathtub. And if the threat of capsizing wasn’t enough to blunt a person’s drive and spirit, the wind was pounding the Zealots from the leeward side like a lunatic with a 2 by 4. The elements were taking their toll on the Zealots. Even before the store stop in Toccoa at the 55 mile point, many had come undone, the very glue of their beings dissolved by the briny sea.

Pulling into the store at the halfway point (the second half is longer than the first), even Murphy was spotted in the back of the van. When Boy Brian Bibens flung the door of the van open (“I smell a rat, he yelled), Murphy appeared to be sound asleep on his back, feet crossed and placed above his head on the seat, hands folded and resting on his chest. When I saw him I thought he was a corpse. “I was jest restin my eyes,” Murphy shouted as jumped out of the van and hopped back on his horse. “Can’t nobody jest rest their cotton pickin eyes fer a minute? Yall beat all I’ve ever saw,” Murphy shouted, shaking his fist at Boy Brian. Bike Gamer Jacob Fetty protested too, but withdrew his petition after his own extended cab ride. Andy Guptil also filed a protest, but his petition will remain safely stored in a big box in an off site facility for now with all the pther unregistered complaints. Crowe, acting as Carney’s lawyer, pointed out that without the $100 application fee, the protest would never even make it to Carney’s desk. Carney, however, did rule that because there was no direct evidence that Kid King was actually asleep, he was eligible for the final sprint. All I’ll say on the matter is that Carney rhymes with blarney, and that should give the astute Reader some idea as to which direction the money flows. (Ireland → Carney’s pocket.)

On the return voyage from Toccoa the ladies and lads buckled their chin straps, stropped their razors, took a deep breath, and prepared for battle. Facing them was 70 more miles directly into a raging blusterfuk. Darren Comer, taking a que from Peruvians and their method of extracting the go juice from coca leaves, licked a cloverleaf and stuck it to his forehead. “Does it help?” the Aqua Man Ricky Fuqua wanted to know. “Can’t hurt,” Comer replied. Aqua Man couldn’t find a cloverleaf, but being the creative sort, just grabbed a handful of twigs and leaves and deposited them down the front of his shorts. The ploy obviously worked, although Aqua Man came down with a terrible case of chiggers the very next day. According to Don Giannini’s spokes person (he makes his spokes), the Aqua Man is now painting his pubic bush with lavender scented turpentine. “Burns like the flames of hale,” Aqua Man reported, “but it sho smells fine.”

The group ripped and roared back to A Town. At various intervals Jered Gutcheck Gruber, Andy Baker, Adam Myspace Myerson, Scott Thomas, Tyler Grahovic, Nick Jelly Bean Reistad, Frank the Tank Crumley, Chris IcePic, Murphy, Schmetknan, and Rob Yo Simpson were spotted at the front driving the train with an absurd amount of speed and a volatile amount of vigor. During one stretch of pave, the pack, the sag wagon, or both were lost on the high seas and separated from one another. It was during this interstice of time that all hale broke loose without rhyme but with plenty of reason. The pack was forced into a long, bobbing single-file line. The hounds of Hades and the devils of Tophet were at the front pushing forward with furious glee. The tail of the line was whipping like the white hot tip of a bullwhip. The inevitable happened—a dozen were lopped off the rear during a blister session at the front. When the sag wagon eventually made it back to the group 10 miles later, it looked like a Tijuana taxi: bodies stuffed inside, bodies dangling off the side, bodies hanging from the roof, goats on a rope, and dirty chickens squawking in wire cages. But there wasn’t room at the inn for all, and some were forced to walk the plank.

After 5 hours and 105 miles of fiercely ferocious pedal stomping, the wayward group of hammering fools finally reached their ultimate destination—the kill box, wherein the object was to kill or be killed. Today’s Toccoa kill box harkened back to the antediluvian days of yester-yore, and was the former J. River Road Attack Zone, a 7 mile rough and tumble section of pain with the finishing sprint at the 1 mile upheaval known round the world as the gut wrenching, soul splitting, eye bulging Pink Church Sprint line. The J. Riviera Wall, a 400 meter pitch skyward, presented a formidable obstacle just after the opening bell in the Attack Zone, and well before the final eyeball popping finish. In order to inflict the maximum amount of carnage, Carney painted a line in the road at the top of the Riviera Wall and offered up 25 bucks to the first person to cross it. Bales hales, I thought when I heard. The J. Riviera Wall would separate the butter from the lard, or at least the lard asses.

The painted stripe at the top of the Wall served its purpose—the pack scorched up the hill. The group was ripped and rent, like prayer flags on top of K2. Gaping holes opened up and down the line, and the bilious bastard of a Wall proved quite the contrarian after 105 miles of less than mellow circle stomping. Kid King Murphy proved his all-around stature by punching forward during the last 200 meters up the hill to swipe the sprint from a hard charging Andy Guptil. The suspiciously fit looking Jelly Bean Nick Reistad sailed across in third. The front was now reduced to eight ignominious lechers. Approaching the King’s Bridge intersection with 5 miles to go, five more latched on at the rear. And then there were 13: Game over, the winner would come from this group of a baker’s dozen.

J. Riviera Wall Sprint

  1. Murphy: 5 pts.
  2. Guptil: 3 pts.
  3. Reistad: 1 pt.

Instead of pedaling down the 4 mile descent to the final 1 mile run to the finish line at a leisurely clip, the pack shifted to warp 9 and blasted away. Murphy, Giannini, Guptil, A. Baker, Myerson, E. Abraham, Big Jon Atkins, Ricky Fuqua, Andrew Wetherington, Reistad, Fetty, Schmuckerman, and Crowe were all digging down the runway trying to rip free of the earth’s gravitational pull. The bunch split in half not once, but twice. Jelly Bean Reistad tore off the front during the frenzy. He angled his Wisconsinite cheese head perpendicular with the wind, and hammered away. Hale hath no furry like a lean and mean Jelly Bean looking for a WBL win.

Jelly Bean’s power tap showed after the ride that he was ripping down the asphalt at nearly 40 miles per hour. He held that unsavory pace for nearly 2 miles. But the group behind recognized this as a danger move from a potential winner. If Reistad hit the final hill with a gap, it could be sayonara, lights out—the fat lady might start singing. So even though the Jelly Man was sending out shockwaves in the roadway, he was hunted down and brought back into the fold by a ravenous pack slobbering for a win. But the Jelly Man is not to be confused with a crème-filled donut. His leg muskels, like Popeye the Sailor Man’s, are filled with spinach. After a couple of deep breaths, and a mouthful of jelly beans, he would give it another go.

Taking the final right hand turn onto the uphill lift of the Pink Church runway, the pressure mounted at the front. Kid King and Jelly Man pulled away with 800 meters to go. Behind, several pedal warriors tossed in the towel, only too happy to be back home, done for the day. But at the front of the affair the battle raged on. Guptil and Giannini kept the pressure on, bending, but refusing to break. They reestablished contact with the two breakaway artists with 500 meters to go. There were now only 7 left in contention for the win. With 400 meters to go, Murphy stood in his pedals and rolled them over towards the line, ever on the ready for the surprise attack, ever observant like a circling hawk. With 250 meters to go Murphy unleashed his infamous mule kick and instantly put his frame into a spot of bother as it bore the full brunt of the 3000 pounds of torque produced by his massive watermelon thighs. Giannini and Guptil grabbed Murphy’s wheel and stayed close approaching the line, but coming around the all time WBL win master, the doyen of the Attack Zone, was out of the question. The two heavyweight hammerheads finished 2nd and 3rd. Big daddy cyclists A. Baker and E. Abraham rounded out the top 5 in a who’s who finish at the WBL. Big Jon took the sprint for the Non Pros, finishing 8th overall, and Tina Mayola-Pic won the day for the gals.

  1. Murphy: 15 pts.
  2. Giannini: 12 pts.
  3. Guptil; 9 pts.
  4. A. Baker: 6 pts.
  5. E. Abraham: 3 pts.
  6. Reistad: 2 pts.
  7. Myerson: 1 pt
  8. Big Jon.: 1 pt
  9. A. Wetherington: 1 pt
  10. Ricky Fuqua: 1 pt
  11. Schectman: 1 pt
  12. Crowe: 1 pt.
  13. Fetty: 1 pt.
  1. Big Jon: 10
  2. Wetherington: 8
  3. Fuqua: 6
  4. Crowe: 4
  5. Thomas: 2
  6. Simpson: 2 (tie)
  7. Crumley: 2 (tie)
  1. Mayola-Pic (15)
  2. Potter (12)

Kudos and shout outs for excellent rides to Ricky Fuqua and Andy Wetherington who both made the front group in the Attack Zone. Pack Drover medals for extraordinary rides from Rob Simpson, Scott Thomas, JJ Wadkins, F. Crumley, and Scnectman, as well as all the others who pulled us around all day is this old time jubilee. Salud!

Special shout out to Jittery Joes and Pacesetter Steel. Everyone, stand where you are and give em a hand.

The Don and Kid King were rolling around on the ground trying to scratch each other’s eyes out. The Don had Kid King’s ear in his mouth, and Kid King had the Don’s hair in his hands, when both WBL champs simultaneously yelled, “BY GAWD, HOLD ON, TIME OUT, TIME OUT, TIME OUT, WAIT A MINUTE, WAIT A MINUTE, JUST WAIT ONE BLASTED MINUTE.”

They each let loose of the other. Kid King said, “My hand is sticky like it’s been wigglin around in a possum’s rectum.” The Don was spitting and saying, “I taste dead skunk. Whatza matter wid your ear?”

“Oh, that thar’s my homemade lavender soap. It’s got lye in it. I always wash behind my ears,” Kid King said.

“Well, that’s just turpentine,” the Don said. “It keeps my hair in check.”

“Pine tar works too,” Kid King said. “Look at my big bouffant. Nothin but pine tar holdin that bad boy in place.”

“Lye, ya say? Does lye kill head lice?”

“Yessiree Bob. Why, I ain’t got nary a one.”

“Let’s talk,” the Don said, and the two left together, each followed by his own retinue of well wishers, hangers-on, lawyers, and security personnel.

On Monday Carney called a press conference. I was there front and center. Carney, the Don, and Kid King were all on the stage. Each of them was wearing a perfectly coiffed bouffant hairdo piled on top of their heads in a beehive fashion. Carney stepped up to the microphone and said, “I’d like to announce the partnership of the WBL, the Don, and Kid King in a joint adventure.” He walked over to a table and yanked a red velvet cloth off a flask of Lavender Scented Pine Tar, as endorsed by the WBL. Carney patted his hair and said, “If you want one of these fine do’s, I suggest you pick up a bottle at once.” The crowd rushed the stage with dollar bills held high in their hands. It was pure pandemonium and chaos.

I glanced around just in time to see Chotas crawl out from under the stage, pull a 10 spot out of his wallet, and wave it in the air. Knowing there was no other option, I fished through my wallet for all my cash. I bought two bottles of elixir and brought them home. As I sign my story, I look in the mirror and pat my head like a dog—my hair is piled up high on my head, like a skyscraper. Damn, I look fine. I’m all smiles.

Humble C.

Toccoa: The Tell Tale Heart: