Well, I may be the last one to post a VR report, and quite a bit has already be said, so I'll just ramble a bit about the good times.
I got off the east coast a little early, dodging the coming monsoon and heading for San Diego, in hopes of stealing back a week of summer before the plunge into autumn weather here, and attending to some other business there. "Keepers-of-the-RIH" secret society member Matt Gorski had clandestinely deposited the RIH in the lair of a troll on the outskirts of El Cajon. I tracked down the RIH there, and wrestled into shape so that I would have a suitable steed for the upcoming festivities.
Arriving in Pasadena on Thursday a full hour before the scheduled ride, I found a few other bicycle junkies stumbling around the parking lot. However, these were not native species, rather misfits like me from the right coast. It didn't take long for the natives to start descending though, and before long I was chatting with a bunch of pals I hadn't seen in too long. The ride got started right on time, about a half hour late. It's a California thing. Like all the rides I would do over the next few days, this one started as a rolling social fest, this one along the shore, with stops for pictures or just to look at some picturesque view. Every few minutes we would hear a blast from Brian's handlebar mounted bulb horn, especially if there were female natives in the vicinity. We were also treated to a tour-guide like soundtrack by Charles Andrews, adding local color to the already colorful landscape. After rolling down the beach path to what I presume was the mid point of the ride, we all stop and Charles inquires as to whether we want to climb the hill for the view or head back for the beer stop. After a universal vote for the beer stop, Charles says "right, let's go" and heads off up the hill. A few of us lemmings followed, while the smarter of the herd headed back. The climb wasn't too bad, fun actually, but the view wasn't really that much better than the one from the beach. No offense, Charles. The best thing about any climb, of course, is the corresponding downhill, which gave us a chance to leg it out a bit in anticipation of hooking up with the others at the designated spot and beer. We had a brief delay when Brian learned the ball from his horn had come adrift and gone missing. It was recovered, but the impact with the ground or some car tire had ruptured it beyond repair. We immediately christened that section a "ball-buster" of a decent. After hooking up with the rest of the group for what seemed like too short a stop - I don't think we got there until the second or third round, we jumped back on the beach path for the last leg of the ride. Also like the subsequent rides, the last leg is where testosterone rears it's unrestrainable head. The pace quickened the closer we got to the end, until Pergo overcooked a corner and sailed off into the sand. After an impressive and graceful recovery, he was back in the pack for the sprint to the end. The day ended in a nearby southwestern restaurant with the sun setting over the water. Not a bad start. A few of us ended the day back at the hotel bar, where Bret taught us the six-day racer's drinking game of "Shultz". Or did he really just make that up?
Friday began like each of the other days, with picture-prefect California weather. Is every day like that? Don't you bored, if just occasionally? I didn't think so. We descended on the park near the Rose Bowl to be greeted by coffee and donuts and an expanding group of bike nuts. Most of the morning was devoted to discussion about frames and frame builders. I never get tired of listening to the Baylis Fountain of Knowledge when it comes to frame craft and history. I brought my super-drillium derailleur as a discussion topic, and Bret Horton showed up with a folder full of original Rebour drawings and Freddy Maerten's Worlds-winning Colnago. Plenty to keep us busy until Paulie and Al showed up with arm-loads of pizza for lunch. After lunch, we all suited up for the day's ride, which started right on time, a half hour late. This day's route was one I had done before, which, in the beginning, winds its way through neighborhoods and shopping districts, and leaves lots of time for socializing. Everyone rotating through the pack to get a chance to talk with everyone else. I didn't notice the elevating temperatures until the road tilted up for the couple mile pull to the Bean Town coffee shop stop. Felt a little like the east coast in the summer and made the climb feel a little worse than is really is. After a stop for caffeine injection and more socializing, we headed for the mostly down hill, open road roll, back to the Rose Bowl. Once again, there was a jump near the end that had to be checked. And once again, Pergo was the attention getter, with a nasty speed wobble on his '75 Hurlow at a least opportune moment. John's usual graceful recovery put him back in the pack, but I noticed he was a little more hesitant on later rides. For dinner, I was at the Gorski-described "naughty" table, which I wouldn't have missed for the world. As we were leaving, someone asked about Jan and Peter Johnson, to which Felix replied "oh, they're probably wandering around outside right now". We promptly ran into them about 10 minutes later as we made our way to the gelato emporium. The crew was just about complete.
Saturday's ride started early, so us hotel rats rolled out from there and made our way to the Rose Bowl park. The ride started right on time, well, you get the idea. The route was the same as the day before, but the cooler weather was a nice surprise. There were even some tights and long sleeves in the crowd, and a good day for wool jerseys. Being contrary, I wore my Atala/Campagnolo lycra. The climb to Bean Town was so much nicer without the heat. We split up at the end, Chuck to go home and load up for the seminar, the hotel rats back to the hotel, and the rest were left to duke it out back to the park. Since no lunch was scheduled for the seminar, I hooked up with Felix and Fritz in the hotel lobby and went around the corner to a little bistro for sandwiches and cappuccino. We sat at tables out on the sidewalk and, before long, Matt came strolling down the sidewalk from the opposite direction and joined us. Paulie and Al showed up a little later and we all ended up being late for the start of the seminars. Sometimes socializing has a price. The topics were all interesting. Ted continued to educate us on the early days and Rex made everyone jealous and/or envious with his personal Masi connection. But, for me, Charles and Jay's segment was the most interesting. It was more than a presentation. The way it was presented really generated some broad and lively discussion within the group on the topic of restoration. A topic worth continuing (at the Cirque maybe?). Saturday closed out with a great family style dinner at an Italian restaurant. We were all seated at a long table, and it really reminded me of a similar dinner I had in Italy some years ago with both old and new friends. Great food, great service, great people and great topics of discussion - and not always about bikes. We all had to waddle our way back to the hotel and try and shake off the effects of food and beverage to prepare for the grand finale.
I skipped Sunday's ride to recover from the night before and prepare for the sensory overload that I knew was to come. At the park where the bike show was to take place, I realized I had stumbled into some weird Masiland. They were everywhere. Sort of like Raleigh Internationals on a club ride in '78. 36 Masis by my count. Most of them lined up in chronological order, but still more stragglers mixed in with the other offerings. They can't be worth much. There are so many of the damn things. And some of those other offerings were pretty fine indeed. Way too many to list. But, once again, the highlight of the show was really the people. What a great bunch of folks to hang out with. It was great to get to know yet more folks that I previously knew of, but had not had a chance to meet. The community of people is what I treasure more than the hardware. This was my second VR, and I know it won't be my last. Just too much fun to pass up.
I was one of the last to leave the park, trying to squeeze every bit out of my brief visit to the other side. To those of you that haven't made the commitment to attend a VR event, just do it. It's like the Cirque, but totally different at the same time. Definitely something not to be missed. Something well worth the effort. Special thanks to Chuck for carrying the torch, and giving me (and many more) to opportunity to revel in the camaraderie that these events promote.
I had to catch the red-eye back east on Sunday night, but it was worth it. I've sort of recovered. And dreaming on another trip to the left coast.
Oh yea. The RIH was sent off with another "Keeper". Who knows where it will pop up next.