‘Over the Top’

If you’re a dedicated, long-time Northern California bicyclist, you might remember the name Henry Kingman. In fact, in days of yore he wrote for a monthly called Northern California Bicyclist. He is a good writer, is interested in everything, it seems, and is a hell of an imaginative and tough rider. I emailed him once and asked him to have lunch with me so I could ask advice about Paris-Brest-Paris–Henry rode it one year, unsupported, in 49-plus hours. Before we met, I found an account he had written of a ride he had done once from Chico, on the edge of the northern Sacramento Valley, across the mountains to Nevada. In the winter. On back roads. I haven’t read it in a long time; but with the tragic news yesterday of two cyclists dying down near San Jose when they were struck by a car, I think I was looking for something to lift my spirits a little. So I hunted down the piece, which wasn’t completely easy to find.


“…Down to Crescent Mills, and stocked up at the store there: big jar of peanut butter, 4-pack of Premium crackers, chunk o’ cheese, cookies, pies, big can of corned beef, a couple of ramen noodles, etc, etc. Then headed up to Taylorsville, asking about the various dirt roads over the Sierras there, whether any would be passable. ‘Not a chance you’ll make it in the world,’ was the general reply, ‘but maybe you could get over the paved road to Antelope Lake if someone has taken a plow up there.’

“Meanwhile, though, a tremendous cold snap was on, with highs below freezing, so I had other ideas.

“Monte the stone mason could tell I was going to go for it. He was full of drama. ‘People get into trouble up there,” and so forth. I must have looked at him like he was completely naive. And he was, in a kind of wonderful way. To think for a second that the dangers of being out-witted by nature could come anywhere close to the danger of being fucked over by other people. Only someone living in a place so idyllic as Genessee, doing something as wholesome as stone masonry, only someone like that would worry about you heading off into the woods. The rest of the world knows its when you come out of the woods that the trouble starts.

I’d ridden about five miles up towards Genessee when Monte’s Bronco hauling a trailer scattered with stones leapfrogged me and came to a stop on the shoulder. ‘You okay?’ I asked, thinking maybe he’d broken down. ‘Here’s my card, it has an 800 number on it, call me when you get through. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll send help. I’ll be your backup.’

The link: ‘Impossible Birthday.’

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