The Spider Rides Again!
Never let it be said that I come from a long line of regular folks. I don’t even come from a short line of regular folks. I think there was a great-uncle who was said to be sane and normal, but we’re not at all certain of the legitimacy of his paternity claims. One of my cousins pretends to be normal, but let this remove any doubt whatsoever. (heehee!)
Now, don’t get me wrong. Very few people in my family are criminally insane, and most of them are very smart. Certainly there are a few “evil geniuses,” but there are far more “good natured eccentrics” and “absent-minded professors.”
Which brings us to my dad. When I was in high school, he was known as “Boss” but in his retirement he has revealed his superhero identity and is now called SpiderStan in friendly company. My dad’s into a lot of things, but if you ask anyone to name the top 3 things he’s into, they would probably include some mix of: my mom, fishing, cars, hiking, a good cup of coffee, eating mass quantities of tasty food. But there would be no doubt about one of them: bike riding. OK, there’d be no doubt about my mom either. But the man loves to ride his bicycle.
Four years ago my dad decided to prepare for the Paris-Brest-Paris ride (PBP). PBP is a 1200Km bike ride which must be completed, unassisted (meaning no one can meet you along the way to bring you a new bike, or food, or a change of clothes) in around 90 hours. If you can do this, you can rightfully call yourself an ancien. That’s French for nut-case.
To simply qualify to participate PBP at all, you must complete a series of four qualifying rides, or brevets, in the year preceding the PBP event. The rides are 200-, 300-, 400-, and 600-Km. Each has a time limit, each is unassisted. Rain, hail, sleet, snow… they have to ride whatever conditions are sent their way. Sleep is taken in little 20-30 minute naps on park benches or gas station parking lots, whatever is available.
Why would someone choose to do this, you ask? This is how I see it: When dad was doing brevets, he’d stop to eat every couple of hours or so. A typical snack would include: two 12” Subway sandwiches, a 10” pizza, a family-sized bag of chips, a candy bar and a liter of Coca-Cola. He coined the expression “Subway Virga” to describe the way that the food doesn’t quite hit the stomach before it is metabolized on the way down. In other words, he was doing it for the food.
And, of course, my dad did finish the brevets, and he qualified for PBP. But after the last one (600-Km), he said that the fever had run its course and he no longer felt compelled to ride the PBP.
We thought that was the end of that. It wasn’t.
SpiderStan’s blog is back in business and he has lost his marbles.
(Yes, he rides with no hands while photographing the scenery in countries where he doesn't speak the language and makes friends everywhere he goes. But that's not the crazy part. Crazier is that I took this picture while riding in front of him.)