It is Thursday and the scene is one of contradictions. The sun is bright and warm, but the gusting wind is cold and dry. Crystalline blue skies hold swiftly moving white puffs, the paths and single track are dry dusty and yet at least one vendor had to set up shop in a pool of mud. Any exertion leads to a fast and furious sweat, but the legs of the riders are gooseflesh. The jarring idea of a mecca of iron speed transformed into a haven for a very green bunch of tree hugging bicyclists sets the tone. A major sponsor, Toyota displays their enviro angel Prius directly across the path from their FJCruiser SUV fully loaded and guaranteed to tear up the sod. Yet everyone travels by bike. They are every where...
The last time I was on the Monterey Peninsula I was 20 and, needless to say, a lot has changed since then. Most of the dinosaurs that were around then have been boiled down to fuel the race cars that normally speed around the track here. Laguna Seca is arguably the epicenter for petrol burning road rockets, but this weekend the roar of the fossil fueled behemoths has been replaced by the sometimes amplified voices of announcers, the squeals of small children playing, and the raspy breath of the human engines that power their vehicles up the hills - followed by the ragged breath of those same riders as they pray against all knowing that they will reach the bottom of the hill with the rubber side down.
Thursday and California seem to lend a quiet expectation to the entire event. It is the first day - tomorrow will be crazy, so today we chill. All the booths are pretty much set up by 1:00 PM but the day is still laid back - maybe it is the California thing. The crowd is modest and yet very friendly.
The atmosphere on Vendors Row is one of anticipation. They are willing to chat informally unlike so many other events in which the pressure is on. Tomorrow I sense will be different.
The children however boundless in their energies enjoy the inflatable playgrounds with gusto. The big kids enjoy the downhill races, Super D's, Dual slaloms, Insane Jumps, and really good bike talk.
Time is set aside to push down forcibly on handlebars to check the fork travel. Fingers spin and fondle the latest pedals, cranks, bottombrackets and headsets. Bike talk and lust is king, but still underscored with a sense of what is to come. There is something looming.
Sound itself is different here. Strangely muted it is the rural peace, but the wind is huge and loud across the mountain tops, ripping the booth banners. The vendors can be seen huddling against the chilling wind. The terrain is very hilly and the track and vendors' area are in a bowl in the mountainside perhaps that is it or perhaps nature is simply waiting.
There is dust and gravel and yet there are beautiful flowers popping up everywhere. The day and the mode of travel are marked by fat tired mountain bikes and I am surprised by a pair of roadies as we pass on the bridge. I am used to seeing Downhill and Dirt bikes, full body armor and full face helmets, the spandex and almost ephemeral bikes seem frail and out of place, but then I realized that they have merely left and are only now coming back.
But then again perhaps it us, we cyclists, who may have fallen out of place... the tread marks in the dirt will be soon only memories in an arena dedicated to Detroit iron.
Or will they?