Ok what can be said once you have experienced perfect weather, wonderful people and more wheels than you thought could ever have existed in one place. Call it Peter Pan Syndrome, Adolescent Reversion, or what evah. I have been to cyclist heaven and I have seen the mountain top. I can now die happy!
Remember yesterday, when I talked about that feeling of anticipation? Well, fughettaboutit... The anticipation can not compare to the reality. The crowds are now arriving, and they are huge, but so is Sea Otter. No matter where you turn there are wheels, Mountain Bikes, 29'ers, Unicycles, Kids Bikes, BMX, Touring Bikes, Xtra Cycles, and even Road bikes, but then that is only the tip of the iceburg. Then let's add in all the variety, sizes, colors, riders, and... the only bikes I did not see were Tall Bikes and the bike powered smoothie maker I once saw at a New York Bike Show.
So how precisely is today different from the other days? Let's call it focus. Now it is key to recall that there are simultaneously occurring, virtually every type of cycling race imaginable, with the exception perhaps of track. But in wearing out a pair of sneaks and a whole bunch of legs, you can walk around Laguna Seca and watch, Road, Mountain, Circuit, Dual Slalom, BMX, Downhill and Super D Races, or you can watch jumping, stunt riding, or trials. If you can think of it, you can find it here as long as it is done on, or with, some kind of bicycle wheels.
And I guess that is it, the common thread, the core, the unifying theory, the singularity. It is the wheels...
Shortly, after you find yourself walking around, you realize how much better it would be if you were riding. My pick would be a 29'er good on the hills, smooth over the ruts, and it has big wheels... The stairs, you know on those bridges that you walk up and down to cross into the vendor's area? Well, these are merely ramps with "texture" for many of the attendees. And, ride them up and down they do!
If I had to guess, and I will, I'd estimate that a good percentage of the "walkers" at Sea Otter are newcomers to the event, and perhaps even cycling.
Ed Note: I will let you in on a secret here, a rare inside glimpse into the dark side of PPOL. Our non-biking, steadfast, design team back in their dark grottos in New York said to me as they waded through the massive take, "We have to admit this makes us want to ride!"
I suspect the same happens to the unwitting non-rider who chooses to spend a quiet, beautiful, afternoon on this glorious side of the mountain. They will become believers. To come home bored from this event, one would have to be bullet proof. Yet somehow, and again perhaps it is because it is California, the event is still laid back and friendly. One woman who was having a little difficulty carrying her bike up the stairs was immediately given a hand. Drop something and it is picked up. And smiles? They are everywhere. I am finding myself tongue tied... I can't find the words to precisely describe the degree to which I have experienced being in the midst of people doing exactly what they want to be doing. It was... Fun... complete, utter, and absolute glee.
Part of covering an event such as this, is really watching the people, where they go, what they do, as well as the "events". More and more I found myself drawn into vignettes, "Walter Mitty" imaginings of what is on the mind of the observed faces. Inevitably it was fun. Vendors row, the finish line, on the side of the mountain bike track, or as I wandered, watching the crowd, the feeling was peaceful enjoyment. Even as they watched the wild antics of the daredevil extreme jumpers or cheering for their favorite racer, or their Junior at their first competition the feeling was that in this moment time had taken a vacation. The clock had stopped in the cafe of a greater power. It didn't matter what event, what demo, which vendor's booth I observed. Sure there were cheers and bell ringing. Sure there were waving arms and jumps for joy as mom and son cheered on Dad in the Masters Road Race. Yet, all the jubilation was somehow calm. Maybe it's that California thing...
But I feel that it is more than that. And, that is when it occurred to me. This is a convocation, a gathering, a coming together of like minded people. Their icon is the wheel. Their alter is the active life and the joy of being. So let's ride, and ride they do. In every possible frame and wheel configuration, and in every possible application, The Sea Otter Classic is the High Mass of bicycling and here for a weekend at least, the bicycle reigns supreme, and its riders are the high priests of the temple that is Laguna Seca.