Steeplechase Tournaments, like American Criteriums, are weekend events in various towns-not-cities throughout America. It’s difficult to purchase an affordable ($635.00) plane ticket from Portland, Oregon to Providence, Rhode Island five days before your date of departure but it’s not all Providence’s fault. And even if you book your flight through United directly and not Expedia indirectly, expressly for the purposes of inserting/insinuating your TSA Pre√ number into the booking, for obvious reasons related to footwear, laptops and clinical insecurity, United will get it wrong and your boarding pass won’t include the proper designations. Also, your connecting flight out of Ronald Reagan National Airport will be delayed six times even though RRNA smells like kimchi farts and the nearest Starbucks is 35 gates away. When eventually I landed in Providence, 14.5 hours after leaving Portland, Oregon, it was 9:30 PM and I was hungry. Without the help of Mat, a 23-year old Enterprise Rent-a-Car Affiliate-Advocate in a sport coat and white sneakers, and Wayne, the middle-age Mexican with dyed-red hair who for a living drives the golf car back-and-forth between the terminal and the Rental Car facility located 0.9 miles off site, and who said at one point during our trip together, “We are going so fast. Your hair is blowing around cute,” I would never have made it to Taste of India on Wickenden Street before 10:00 PM.
Everybody in the La Quinta in Warwick smokes cigarettes. The first floor, which is actually the basement on account of it being subterranean as in located inside the ground, is ONLY for smokers. Non-smokers can’t get in even if you want to, which you might want to, because like Mike the La Quinta custodian told me on the way up to the third (second) floor, “the first (basement) floor is where ALL the parties are at.” Then Mike started laughing to himself which turned into a cough which cough he was still doing when I got off on the third (second) floor. I shared a room with Brady Kappius from Boulder, Colorado. That first night I brought a plastic bag of Indian Food into our room and we watched three hours of Airplane Repo on the Discovery Channel together. Brady likes to wake up early enough to eat the free hotel breakfast—”Especially when I’m on the East Coast”—then go back to sleep for another two or three or whatever hours. Point is, dude likes free Continental Breakfasts and he’s got a system to beat the Man when the Man tries to dictate when Breakfast is and isn’t.
The next morning, before the race, I went to the Garden City Center. I parked in front of the Ann Taylor and walked through the parking lot to the Starbucks. At some point I heard what I thought was maybe music but I couldn’t identify the source. The music was distant and disembodied and changed volume and quality depending on where you were in the parking lot. Then I remembered this was a thing outdoor shopping centers attempting to emulate actual places or “city centers” do. I tracked down the nearest speakers, they were in a bush. Then I Shazamed it and got this result: Anna Nalick – Breathe. Please, please, please, please click that link, mute the commercial, fast-forward the music video to a third of the way or so in, close your eyes and listen for 20-30 seconds while imagining a parking lot and an Anthropologie, and the smell of damp yoga pants, caramel drizzle and new car interiors. Oh, and cigarettes #becauserhodeisland. Oh, and guys, great news: Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back!!!!
The course is the best course, ever. Take it from me, a guy who didn’t race it and doesn’t even like racing cross anymore. On every level, in every manner, using every matrix and metric and measure, this course is rad. It’s got jumps, flyovers, downhills, run-ups, table-tops, flow, character, double-backs, tripple-backs, barriers, u-turns, mud, dirt, grass, marble statues, water features, pavement sections and if you wait long enough, biblical rains. Speaking of rain, a friend of mine getting his masters in Archaeology from Yale down in Newhaven drove up with an oversized rainbow-patterned umbrella and acted as my personal umbrella caddy aka The Umbrella Butler for the duration of the tournament.
After the race, on the way back to A Taste of India—where I ate with my friend and umbrella caddy Will— I accidentally popped the trunk of my rental while getting into the front seat during the deluge. I was too lazy and curious to get out and close it so I drove for 4.5 miles with the trunk door just kinda bobbing and jostling and dancing to our trajectory and the surface of the road. Its movements were dull and lifeless but captivating too, there was poetry in the way the door would respond to a manhole cover, or the seams in a concrete bridge. Then I started to worry about all the rain and whether I was compromising the integrity of the trunk. Was I doing permanent damage? Was someone at Enterprise going to have one of those talks with me?
- Sir, can you explain why there is seven inches of standing water in the trunk? Is it possible that you forgot to close it at some point during yesterday’s record-breaking rainfall event. Do you remember leaving it open?
- No. Never. I mean, why would I leave the trunk open? I didn’t even go in the trunk, I never went in the trunk. I rarely if ever use trunks. I’m a backseat guy, always have been.
- So you didn’t notice the trunk was open?
- No. It was never, to my knowledge, as you say “open.”
- How do you explain the standing rainwater in the trunk then?
- Sorry. Okay so, let me ask you something, are you sure it’s rainwater?
- Sir, we’re assuming that you accidentally left the trunk open during yesterday’s storm and that the water in the trunk is rainwater, that seems like a reasonable or even plausible assumption. It would still be your responsibility but at least it would make a certain amount of sense. If you’re suggesting the water is tap or even purified or something, I guess even distilled is an option, we’re all ears.
- This is crazy. You’re crazy. Now you’re accusing me of using your economy car as some kind of ad hoc above ground swimming pool. It’s 64 degrees for Christ’s sake. It’s not even swimming weather. Also, don’t you think you I would have heard water sloshing around in the back or noticed the trunk door bouncing around in my rearview mirror—which rearview mirror thing really did happen, as it made parallel parking on Wickenden street extremely difficult.
Later that night, back at La Quinta, Team Clif discovered a vending machine selling ice cream sandwiches in the lobby that took credit cards, and Brady helped me set-up my new Mac; we tuned off the alert noises in iMessage, we synced Google contacts and iMessage through iCloud, we dialed in my iMessage view with bubble-style, and helped me solved some Keychain problems.
- After the start I made it into the top 20.
- I was bummed I couldn’t jump barriers on the first lap because there was too much traffic.
- I hucked some jumps.
- I tried to steal/grab a dollar from a kid but I missed, he was like six or seven and sitting on was his dad’s shoulders.
- It started raining harder.
- I had a [undisclosed] mechanical.
- Then… I got pulled.
- The course was siiiiiick. Yesterday it was blowing up all over about how the course was too hard and that they needed to change it, and then I rode it and it was awesome.