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Where to begin...oh, that's right, the beginning.

Dad was supposed to fly me to Houston, but during his plane's annual inspection a leaky oil check valve was discovered. He bailed on Thursday. Which left me to either start driving right then or purchase some heavily non-discounted fares. Southwest happened to have a seat available, and only $500! Plus $25 for the bike. Woo-hoo.

Thursday night it snowed, and I put my pencil-eraser snow tires back on. Don't want any trouble on the drive to Salt Lake, do we? No, no, no. A pleasantly uneventful trip to SLC in the morning, and I was winging my way to Hobby via Albuquerque. I had reserved a car at Alamo, specifying that it be able to hold my bike box in the trunk. But when I got there, because of the trunk opening shapes the only thing my box would fit in was a Caprice. Off I drove in a Shamu-mobile, twice as big as my car. Ick.

Houston, four o'clock, mid sixties, cloudy. I headed straight for the stadium lot. Strangely, it only takes about 20 minutes to reassemble the bike from the box, but usually over 30 to tuck it in safely. But safe it was, no paint chips, woo hoo. Spun around the track for a bit, noting once more the nasty bump in turn 2. This year's patches are nice and smooth, though. Mike Hardy says a re-pave is promised before next year. How about a little banking? No, that would be too much like a velodrome.

I got bored of spinning (Vitus man was there, but then he left) and went over to Jones. There I found Mike Hardy with purple hair, and a bunch of people cleaning bikes furiously. Hung out a bit, then headed to my aunt's house for dinner. The Caprice (and I assume all such Caprices) cruises quite easily and quietly on smooth freeways. It does float a bit on non-smooth pavement and/or at higher (>80) speeds. Needs better shocks, like an Impala SS. I would have rented one of those, you betcha.

In the morning, I went over and hung out at Jones again before the parade. More people with purple hair that I don't know really well. During the parade, I was busy dodging water balloons when I ran into Tricky, with his shoes in a bag and looking for a bike to borrow. Squeezed a nice-Eddy comment or two out of him, and went on my way.

Weather: there was supposed to be a slight chance of showers, but it turned out to be mid-80s, sunny, not even too humid. Very nice. Got to the track, spun around some more. I spotted my aunt and my mom in the bleachers. Mom was observing her first Beer-Bike, hopefully the first of many now that she can just drive down from Plano.

I decided it was time to go into the pits and see how many times I would be riding. Surprise! Just once. Though it's possible we would have done better had I ridden about three times. But I have a theory about the importance of a Beer-Bike victory being directly proportional to time since graduation. Now it's nice, but not the most important thing in the world. I hate getting older. Anyway, Cristin had me down to ride first and asked if I wanted to chug too. Sure, why not. Who needs practice?

The big clock was ticking down towards alum-race start, in a curiously stress-free fashion. When you ride last, there is a lot more pressure, it seems. I note Garrick also riding first, as per usual, along with Tricky and Mike Doyle on the Crest Cannondale. And some dweeb in a Motorola jersey on a mountain bike with slicks. Ooh, he'll be fast. The first Hanszen rider had luckily changed from his warm-up Spinergy front wheel, which I had been about to tell him was illegal - after he rode, of course.

The countdown, the air horn blown late by a guy standing six inches to the side of where I will start pedaling, and I am still in the pits twiddling my thumbs as everybody else gets pushed out. What the _hell_! Nice chug. Finally I get pushed, ahead of exactly one other guy. Oh, so this is where the pressure comes in. I have to go catch people. I manage to pass somebody before I get to the track proper - and starting from lane one, I have to take the turn onto the track even more slowly. Urk. Catch a couple more down the backstretch, into the non-calm wind, and catch Mikes Dixon and Doyle dangling 20 yards behind Garrick (in the lead) coming up the front straight. Going around the back again, Tricky starts to die. Need to set that Monarch for a little more resistance, Mike? Doyle goes around him, and I go around Doyle. Still can't quite catch Garrick, but as I finish only a little behind him I console myself with the thought that I started way, way behind. Glide into the catch, and my riding is done.

I goof around in the infield. Ride by Garrick, who says Brown put their fastest chugger first. Was there even time for a chug before he was thrown? Hope my aunt got that on tape. I watch people ride. After Brian Knowles, who rides third, I have no idea who is riding for Jones or what our position is. A bunch of people in denim shorts and running shoes, it seems. My throat is still raw as I down my water bottle. I get to chug 9th instead of 10th, oh well. I get up on the chug table with a dinky 12-oz can of water, and helpfully I'm still really thirsty. When was the last time I practiced this?

Cadence, and away I go. Suck, suck, done. That was quick. A nearby person with stopwatch says 1.8. Well, now. If only riding improved without practice. Wander around the pits some more. The race appears to be over, but the officials haven't figured out the results yet. I later hear Will Rice won the alum and women's race, but the officials and PA sucked so bad I didn't hear any final results announcements. Mr. Hardy, official results please? And times?

When it's safe to cross the track, I go retrieve my Tevas from Mom. She says she was very confused by all the riders on the track, couldn't keep track of positions either, and also couldn't hear the PA. Over to the alumni/beer tent, where I run into Nate and Tricky. Tricky rode twice, as did Garrick, and Nate not at all. Hang out for a while. The Motorola-jersey dweeb comes over and drools on Eddy. I decide to go put Eddy away and drive back to the track. Then I have to go back to the car for my wallet in order to get ID'ed so I can drink free beer. Some guy shows up in a new 911 Targa, the one with the sliding glass roof. License plate says "THINQ" - about what, carjacking?

Hang out at the alum tent through the women's race. We drink beer, have no idea who's in what place. The men's race starts, and some other college is doing the old fastest-rider-first trick. Jones is somewhere around third. The race progresses. Around the fifth rider or so Jones appears to be in front. Nate and I salute this with another beer. We, Jones College that is, never relinquish our iron grip upon the lead, winning by 40 seconds (Mike Hardy could no doubt supply a more detailed account of the men's race).

Afterwards, I join some slightly wet Jonespeople for a bit of barbeque and then take off. It's their glory now. I hear we were in a three-way tie for third in the alum race. How is that possible? Hmm?

Time to review the tape. My aunt dropped her camera off the bleachers, breaking off the eyepiece on the viewfinder, but this was after the alum race so that's all she got. At her house it seems from the audible countdown that the horn was a little late, so people were getting thrown as it was going off. It's at least possible that the Brown chugger had time to finish before Garrick crossed the line. But from observing the judges at the Jones table, I have little confidence in their exactness. But that's why the alum race is first, to get everybody into the groove, right? I try to get an idea of my time, but my aunt was following the lead pack out onto the track. Best guess is somewhere pretty close to 1'18", maybe tying the record - ooh ooh. I probably put at least five seconds on everybody else. We made a (full-size) copy of the (VHS-C camcorder) tape, which Mom took so she can show my sister in Birmingham before returning it to me. The camera work is pretty spotty, since my aunt didn't have much of a clue what was going on either. Oh well.

Lay about the house until it's time to head back to Hobby. Return the Caprice, it takes five gallons for 93 miles - not too bad for a boat around town. I get there plenty early (in the first 30 boarding cards - Southwest) and even tell the baggage-checking agent that my oversize baggage is "art". Which does not cost me $25 extra to transport, despite the USCF and "Tri All 3 Sports" stickers on the case. It _is_ a really nice paint job; wouldn't those of you who have seen it agree? I'm feeling pretty smug. Until I get to Salt Lake.

This part may be excessively detail-oriented, as a warning for those of you who might be getting sleepy. I notice skis and golf clubs apparently-from my flight arriving on the odd-size chute, and immediately accost a Southwest baggage services guy, describing my baggage. He gets on the radio, and thinks he hears the cart driver say he indeed has my box. Time passes. I catch his eye again and he radios the driver, who says that he does _not_ have my box. Great. They call over to the cargo area to see if it wandered over there. Nope. They try to call Houston - no answer. Albuqerque - no answer. Reno (next stop) - no answer. More time passes. Apparently it didn't get off in Albuquerque, and by the time Reno answers the plane is on the way to San Jose. No, really. No bike there either. Meanwhile, I am reading some books I borrowed from my aunt, and I don't care as long as my bike gets found sometime tonight, though it would be nice if I get home with it before midnight. It's now nine. Cargo calls and claims to have it. They send someone over bringing it, I get a $100 Southwest voucher, call Dad and tell him I'm on the way home. Then cargo-guy shows up with a grey 4-foot tall 1-foot diameter cylinder. Not my bike, so I'm not leaving. More calls, and then someone in Houston remembers that my box didn't make it on the plane I was riding, though I was there 90 minutes before departure. Or the next one coming through Salt Lake. But the next one, currently spending the night in Phoenix. Perhaps art has a lower priority than bike, that's what the $25 gets me? It's now 10:30, and my bike will be in Salt Lake around 8:30am. Wonderful. The little baggage girl promises to ship it up to me on a Skywest flight, and get it delivered to my house. Of course I will be at work, so I say I can pick it up from the IF airport. From there, surprisingly, everything works as expected. I get home before 2, go to work, sleepwalk though a Windows 95 installation and Netware server problems, go home and pick up my precious box. Haven't opened it yet, but I think the box would have to be pretty much destroyed to hurt the frame. It's fine.

So ends my Beer-Bike odyssey. $500 for the fare, another $120 for the car, it still costs me much less than a quarter of last year's damage to my car, buying the bike box and two tickets.

I welcome other perspectives, official Beer-Bike times and places too.

later, hah