Thursday, September 21, 2017

Looking Back At I-Bike: The People

Just a couple of doodes hangin' out. Jeff Kerkove and I, Image by Sonya Looney
 Editor's Note: This is Part 5 of a series on Interbike experiences. Interbike is happening this week for the last time in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The people of Interbike were the best part of the week outside of the riding of bikes with the people of Interbike. Bikes and good folks are always the best combo! That even happened a time or two outside of the Outdoor Demo. I'll be getting to that today.

There were a few outside of the show meetings which were memorable. The first was my first year with TNI. Back then, I was working for Tim Grahl and his then partner in "Blue Collar Mountain Biking", and his name was Mike something or another, I do not recall now what his surname was. Anyway, they were total noobs to mountain biking, and we went to an after the show party where there was beer served. It was a Mountain Bike Hall Of Fame induction ceremony.

I was super stoked because all the Kings and Queens of mtb were gathered there that night to induct a few of the new folks into the Hall. I was totally geeking out. Grahl and Mike were nonplussed since they had no idea who anyone was! I found myself explaining everyone and the terms they were using in their speeches as though I was some UN translator at a high level meeting between the Soviets and the US delegations. It was hilarious. I recall I stood next to Maurice Tierney of "Dirt Rag" fame and that he had on a pair of cracking green trousers. Awesome!

There was another meeting where we met up with the heads of Jenson USA and they were top notch guys. We also had a few breakfasts with the Salsa Cycles crew over the years. One year Grannygear and I met up with the rep for Alpinstars in a motel on a high floor and we were catered to like we were some hotshots. But the best one was the night Grannygear and I went to Trump Tower and met with the BMC gang in a suite high above Las Vegas just off the Strip.

Free gourmet meal, wine, and Swiss chocolates? Oh yeah! By the way, what'd he say? Ha!
BMC pulled out all the stops on this one. There was a table in the hallway loaded with huge bars of Swiss chocolate. Not the garbage we get here called Swiss chocolate, this was imported from Switzerland. You could take as much as you wanted. Mrs. Guitar Ted was very pleased with my haul, I must say!

We had a gourmet meal, Swiss wine, and heard from the head of BMC himself. It was an odd night, but I had a lot of fun being wined and dined. I'm still not sure how we got on the guest list, but...... Hey! We were and I went.

Then there was the criterium they had a few times down at the Mandalay. One time, a "Bikehugger" social was going to take to the Strip on bicycles, ride down to the Mandalay, hang out, and then ride back to the convention center. I got invited so I was set up with a 24" wheeled Dahon folding bike. It was quite the scene! There was a DJ with a Big Dummy converted into a party rig with full on stereo power. Rocking tunes with a peloton of biking weirdos on The Strip has to rank as one of the more unusual things I've gotten to do in my life!

The other time I went to that criterium I rode this bus, and I was supposed to ride it back. However; I couldn't find the proper shuttle, so I got frustrated and just walked all the way back to the mid-Strip on my own, much to the consternation of my fellow Interbikers!

From my bike ride down The Strip. We were stopped at a red light. Note the lack of helmets!
Then there was the CrossVegas gig we got invited to by then Raleigh honch, Brian Fornes. We got free passes to the event and a ticket to the Raleigh Hospitality corner. Free food and beer was there, but being right down in the action of CrossVegas was amazing.

Back indoors we had a lot of friends to track down. I always made sure I saw Jeff Kerkove, so Ergon's booth was always a must see. I would also always stop by the Surly booth to see who I knew there. The Twin Six booth was a perennial visitation where I might stay for an hour or so. Obviously, the Salsa Cycles booth was a big visiting spot and that is how I met Grannygear.

I still remember overhearing Jason Boucher say, "Guitar Ted? Well there he is right over there!" I looked up and saw Grannygear, only I had never met him before. That started a long distance relationship that continues on to this day.

Namrita, Team Dicky, and Sonya, left to right.
One of the more hilarious meetings was when I first met Sonya Looney. She was just breaking into the scene back then and was Jeff Kerkove's friend at the time. Jeff said she wanted to meet me since Jeff had spouted off about me. So, I tracked her down in a women's clothing company's booth where she was holding down the fort while the others that were working the show were off doing something else. The minute I got there she hurriedly asked if I could stick around and watch things, and before I could say "yes", she was running away to the booth next door, grabbing a waste can, and barfing in it while she headed off to the restrooms.

Well, fortunately no one was interested in women's riding clothing for the next several minutes, and a red faced Sonya Looney came back apologizing for being down with the "bottle flu" from the evening before. That was probably the most interesting introduction I've ever experienced with anyone in my lifetime so far. I doubt that one will get topped!

Once I was supposed to appear on "Interbike TV", this ongoing "show" which most folks ignored. There was a "live taping" going on at all hours of the Indoor Show and when I was getting wired up to go on I was with "Singletrack Magazine" writer "Chipps" Chippendale. He was cracking these dry UK comments and I was jumping right in with some witty comebacks of my own. We were asked to keep it down more than once! That was fun.

29"er and mtb pioneer, Wes Williams and me with "The Pontificator" Image by Bob Poor.
A couple of years I didn't even stick around for Thursday's show. One day indoors was enough! But by 2011 I was back to doing two days of the indoor show and bailing out on Friday night or super early on Friday morning. But when I did stick around on a Thursday, I usually was winding things down by mid-afternoon and a few years I was found at the usual Ergon party which was generally the last thing going on on a Thursday.

A few times we actually stayed through until Friday, but that was generally such a waste of time it wasn't even funny. Vendors would be putting things away by noon and no one wanted to sit down and talk at all by this point. All eyes and efforts were directed toward getting outta Vegas, and fast. A couple of those years Grannygear bugged out early on Thursday and I would be left to my own devices for half a day or so. Generally speaking, all I was doing was visiting people I likely wouldn't see again, ever, or not until the following year at Interbike. I typically always had mixed feelings about these last hours of my time in the show. I get sentimental, and I often would be depressed about it all at that point. Honestly, the whole Vegas ordeal was so emotionally and physically draining that I probably wasn't thinking straight by Thursday afternoon.

So, the long road back home sometimes started right there at the show. Sometimes Grannygear would drop me off at the airport. But however it went, there was one more thing I often did that I found strangely satifying and fun to do. Staying up all night in McCarren Internbational Airport.

Next: The Long Road Home

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