Willy’s version of stage one, which actually discusses the ride, can be found here on Nancy Yu’s blog.
“California City has been good to me,” explained a man, the local gas station character, to the many people hanging out at the gas station in California City.
California City is about 80 miles from Valencia, a city I had been completely unaware of other than as the name of an orange. I had never heard of California City either, but the Furnace Creek 508 uses it as a time station and Jason and I hung out in this fine town for about two and a half hours waiting to take the baton from Willy and Deb.
The gas station was a hub of activity, not for the Furnace Creek people, but for the California City folks. At the edge of the parking lot in the gas station, someone had placed four umbrella-shaded tables. This area also was slightly shaded by some trees. This gas station picnic area may have been the only pleasant outside place in California City. The sun shown brightly in this desert town and while it was hot in the sun it was still tolerably cool in the shade and these tables were full. I had never thought of a gas station as a place to hang out, but that was what people were doing.
The guy to our right had a dirt bike and was wearing motorbike leathers. He had a stereo and played his music for all to hear. At first he played music that I found offensive, but like a disc jockey reading the preferences of the crowd, he soon changed the music to 60s and 70s era rock. I liked sitting in the shade listening to his music. He was at the station when we arrived and he did not leave until just before we started our stage, about 2.5 hours later.
When we arrived, the men sitting at the table to our left, were watching a movie on a laptop computer.
At one point a young man showed up and started chatting at length to the local gas station character, who had stationed himself at the table closest to the gas station. This rather in depth conversation concerned the local scene of skydiving. I am pretty sure that the young man had not planned on talking to the local gas station character, but he seemed happy enough to have this long conversation about wind conditions (very important in skydiving) and hideous ways to die jumping out of a plane. I was not as happy about this conversation and was pleased when some other characters showed up to distract the local gas station character. One guy had a new scooter, not the two-wheeled type of scooter, but the three-wheeled type that people use in lieu of a wheelchair. He seemed pretty happy about it and he showed off his scooter handling skills by spinning the scooter around and maneuvering it around tight corners.
When we had arrived at this station, the local character was having a loud conversation on his phone that was so one-sided that I was not altogether convinced that there was someone else at the other end of the line. His main concern was his nephew, who he feared might come under the evil influence of some woman. His main advice reagrding women was that “you’d better be careful; those things have minds of their own.” I found his view of women as conniving men-catchers slightly annoying.
He, however, seemed to really enjoy the arrival and departure of each of the women who worked at the gas station. They talked reluctantly to him, seeming to have long ago grown weary of older men who chatted at them slightly teasingly and tried to put them down.
He was still at the station when we started our stage over 2.5 hours later.
The scene reminded me of my local cafe, where people hang out for hours sitting outside at the umbrella-shaded tables. The biggest difference was that no one at this gas station was crazy or clearly high. A number of people with mental illnesses hang out at my local coffee shop. I had never considered that sitting outside at a gas station for hours would be something I would purposely do, though I have done just that at cafes on many occasions.
Jason and I had originally been slated to do stage one, but Deb had wanted to switch her stages. She had had a rather adventurous trip this past summer, which involved civil unrest and being holed up in a hotel listening to sniper fire. However, stage one turned out to be rather headwindy and was harder than expected.
LONG LIVE THE KING!!!
Ken, for those who do not know him, is referred to as the king. He is a rather superlative person. Super nice, super strong, and super fast. Invincible. He had had a hard Devil Mountain Double this year. I have never done this double; it scares me. However, Ken had had a hard ride, which was unusual for him. He is the king; he never has a hard time. He conquers all rides, usually on his fixed gear. He decided to skip his next scheduled ride, the SF 600k, because he was not feeling well and his left arm was having some numbness issues. He instead went on a shorter ride from his house, went into full cardiac arrest on the ride, and was found by an off-duty ER nurse, who started CPR. The paramedics shocked him back to life and took him to the hospital. He eventually had bypass surgery and was released back into the world. These events all occurred this past spring. Seeing him back in action at Furnace Creek was great. Trading places back and forth with Ken and Steve was the best part of the whole race. This picture makes me happy.