Tales from the Tarmac | The Devil’s Paceline: A Case for Bourbon

Tales from the Tarmac is the weekly home of the stories, insights, opinions and occasional rants of Art’s Web Content Editor, Kevin Rouse. Read at your own risk, and please don’t ever take him seriously—it might just go to his head.

Up until now it had been a solo journey, a day trip with me, myself and I, down the California coast from foggy Monterey to Sunny San Luis Obispo. But now, just shy of a century under my belt, with nearly 40 miles still to go, I was definitely in need of some company as I pulled into the sleepy town of Cambria (host of the Stage 4 finish of this year’s Amgen Tour of California)

Lacking the requisite social skills (or the hygiene) at this point to solicit the several groups of cyclists frequenting the go-to coffee stop in town, I pushed on for a few more blocks until I found a spot where I knew I could recruit a few adventurous souls to help share the burden of bearing the brunt of the wind for the last stretch of the day.

Unclipping at the Cambria General store, I tap-danced my way up to the register, asking simply if my good friends Jack and Jim were around.

It's funny how the pace starts to pick up when jim and Jack start trading pulls at the front.

Despite a judging look from the cashier, the exchange was made and we were ready to go. A few miles outside town, the brown bag was opened and away we went. Now, before your judgement takes hold, let me make my case.

Alcoholic beverages and cycling have long been two peas in a pod. Back in the glory days of six-day racing alcohol was simply part of the game, and as Vernon Felton notes in his historical look at substance abuse in cycling for Paved Magazine:

“To fend off fatigue, racers turned to chemical solutions, initially consuming mild stimulants such as coffee and peppermint, and gradually upping the ante as the days wore on. Whiskey took the edge off the pain. Cocaine gave a rush of energy. In small doses, strychnine (the key ingredient in rat poison) tightened muscle contractions and gave users a more powerful pedal stroke. Nitroglycerine and brandy “opened” the lungs.”

You know you're in wine country when...

Lest that not assuage your impending character assassination of yours truly, don’t you dare worry, I’m not done yet. For my next witness, I call the good ol’ Napa Valley to the stand. For that matter, I call most other flourishing wine regions to the stand as well. These days, the thought of embarking on a tasting tour via bike is billed as “the perfect way to spend an afternoon” or “the best way to get your tongue to match that purple jersey of yours.” There may be a less than small chance I made that last one up, but just look at the number of bike racks popping up outside tasting rooms, as well as the “Napa by Bike” articles popping up in non-cycling publications such as Food and Wine, and Bon Appetit, and it’s clear as crystal: as far as most are concerned there’s nothing wrong with velos and vino (hell, try this on for size)

Stubborn are you? Not ready to cut me some freaking slack? Alright. Let’s give it one more go.

Fat Tire, a beer inspired by bikes. Who's to say Bourbon can't follow suit?

Mosey on up to just about any trailhead in the afternoon and take a look around the parking lot. Odds are you’ll see one of the finest collections of craft beer in the county being swilled by men and women with soiled chamois from a long day on the trails. What do they turn to for sweet relief? A heavily hopped IPA or a spicy small-batch Hefewiesen. Do they get dirty looks? No, they get a round of “Cheers!” and a pat on the back for a job well done.

So before you doubt my character for my paceline preference of an alcoholic persuasion, give it a try (moderation is the name of the game of course—let’s not be stupid) and we’ll see if you’re so ready to judge. Unless of course, you were never in a judging mood to begin with. In that case, come join my paceline anytime.

Kevin Rouse may have been a bit late to the bike-riding party, but he’s certainly making up for lost miles. Having discovered cycling while studying journalism at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, he enjoys long days in the saddle whenever—and however—he can get them. You can usually find him on two wheels, but if not, you’d be well served to check the nearest coffee shop.