Den Daddy’s Secret Old Farts Confab

Old Farts!
Old Farts!

Perhaps there is no greater sin in the gay community than to become old. Lord knows there’s only so much good a jar of pearl cream can do before one is forced to throw up one’s arms in exasperation and don a veil. Or just hide. And hide we did, sort of, until at Derek’s behest this past Sunday a rather exclusive gathering of old (in both senses) Spokers convened over in the East Bay at—where else? Rossmoor!—for a ride, a nosh, and to catch up on the latest personal news (“So, what have you been doing for the past 25 years??”) I don’t know when this evil idea of an old farts confab first came to Derek. But as part of his bucket list he wanted to pull together as many Spokers from the early days of the club as he could locate and, as he put it rather unartfully, “After having been the ‘old guy’ in the club since the early days of the club, I wanted to see how all of you would feel when you were finally old!” To add insult to injury, he opined, “And some of you don’t look half bad now that you’re old!” Ah that Derek, such a card.

It wasn’t listed in the club ride calendar, as if it would have mattered since almost none of the old Spokers are still members or would even bother to look at the club website. But through word of mouth/email almost thirty of us showed up for a leisurely ride to Danville and up to Blackhawk for a coffee stop before returning back to Rossmoor for a post-ride nosh ‘n josh with a few others who forwent the ride. There was a lot more grey or white hair (or lack entirely thereof), widening waistlines, and creaking joints than your typical Different Spokes ride. For the most part these old Spokers could still turn the cranks but maybe it was at a more casual pace than one tends to find on club rides these days. Derek may have been the oldest in years. Those of us who were in our twenties or thirties when Different Spokes was formed are now older than Derek was when he joined in 1983!

In any event, the purpose of the ride wasn’t to lay waste to each other in anaerobic battle as it was to schmooze and socialize. When was the last time you did that on a club ride? We went down the Iron Horse Trail to Danville and then up Camino Tassajara to Blackhawk where we stopped at a Starbucks for refreshment. I suspect some of the livery we were sporting would either elicit guffaws or strange looks in the club nowadays. Yes, there were a few ‘contemporary’ bikes—Matt O’G’s carbon Tarmac probably being the most recognizable—but they were far outnumbered by the old school road bikes—for example, a couple of Vitus 979s, ancient Cannondale aluminum steeds, a mid-90s LiteSpeed, a lugged steel Guerciotti—and the old school mountain bikes (yes, we used to have a very active mtb group) with nary a bit of suspension or hydraulics in sight. Even some of the garb was old school: t-shirts, Bermuda shorts, tennis shoes; Eric Jansen sported the original club jersey from 1988, a true relic of the age (he also rode an original Bridgestone mtb, a brand that was probably the most popular in the club during the late ‘80s).

And what would a club ride not be without at least someone getting dropped and getting lost? That fate befell Tom Jewell and Paul Quintilian, who eventually made their way back to Rossmoor, their SF sense of navigation having been temporarily derailed by the lack of fog and Muni tracks. We followed Derek into Rossmoor proper and reconvened at the Rossmoor Gateway Club, where we met those who chose not to ride, for more refreshments and more chatting.

I won’t bore you with the entire guest list. There were many who couldn’t make it for one reason or another anyway. Peter Renteria was the only original club founder who could come, along with his husband Kevin, who met through Different Spokes and then vanished. (Me: “When was the last time you guys rode your bikes?” Kevin: “About 23 years ago!”) Dennis Westler, who was President for umpteen years in the late ‘80s and ‘90s showed up; he now leads rides for Performance Bike. Almost everyone present had ridden in at least one Bike-A-Thon; someone there had ridden in them all. Many had been in a club leadership role at some point such as board members, BAT coordinators of various flavors, and plenty of ride leaders. Joe McClinton and Rachael Ginsburg, both of whom used to lead tours for the club, came out as did Sharon Lum, who pioneered many now-eponymous standard club rides. There were a few original 1985 BAT riders: Karry Kelley, Paul Quintilian, Dennis Westler, and Peter Jenny. Strangely there were four ChainLetter ex-Editors in attendance: Doug O’Neill, Rob Bregoff, Don Lapin, and I. Overall it was an exceptionally involved group of oldsters.

On a personal note, not only was it a chance to reconnect albeit briefly with old friends but I also got an opportunity to chat with several Spokers whom I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting before. In the back of my mind—and I suspect in the minds of others in attendance as well—were thoughts and memories of old Spoker friends who had passed on. Thirty-three years is ample time to lose many friends and club members. This was one last time to ride in spirit with them as well.

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