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Too many people and a place between places. Far from home, far from my destination, and I’ve got three hours to fill with hundreds of strangers wearing carefully chosen travel outfits. I’ve met two children under the age of two in the last hour.

Woman carrying two tennis rackets. Androgynous being in khaki and plaid. Ziplock of beef jerkey. Surprising tattoo. Girl with uncombed hair, smelly purple vans, and ridiculous helmet-shaped tanlines…

The fine folks at TSA yanked me back through security because my bike box was leaking a “mysterious white substance.” Good gracious. Luckily it only took a roll of paper towels and a mangled explanation of the wonders of stans to get it back onto the plane. I was psyched to go behind the ticket desk, where I’ve never been before, but then they wouldn’t let me reach in to adjust my shifter, which I could see was going to rub on my fork. Ah, well.

And I was going to avoid the token security joke- but really? Do you people really think I could cause more potential terror with a full bottle of shampoo than with two skewers, a set of wrenches, a shock pump, chain breaker, bolts, cleats, pedals, and a set of very-throwable ninja brake rotors? Really?

You might not be able to tell because I’m still a little sore about my bike, but I really do love airports. I especially love seeing what people have come up with to direct the huge numbers of other people all trying to go places; the little arrows to siphon currents, the icons and alerts- it’s an imperfect system, but usually we manage to fill the gaps. Sometimes not.

For example, after walking through a series of tunnels leading away from our last plane, my flightmates and I encountered, shockingly, a locked door. It was a dead end in the maze we hadn’t known we were in, and suddenly no one knew what to do. The tunnel began to fill up, and people started looking uncomfortable. Luckily, and to our collective relief, an attendant soon opened the door. We trickled out into another series of dividers and arrows, which directed us eventually towards new terminals and the baggage claim. Brilliant.

This time last year I was driving to Monterey from the LUNA summit in San Francisco. I was en route, somewhat unwittingly, to the annual pseudo-alcoholic industry circus that is Sea Otter. Of course I greatly underestimated the effects of baja fogs on race performance, but it was exhilarating to be at the epicenter of all things bike for a few days. I’m on my way back this year a little warier, a lot fitter, and ready to race after a rejuvenating week of ski touring with good friends. Poison oak? Fireroad? Pavement? Bring it on.

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