My boyhood home was a concrete factory. And in the past I have been accused of employing hyperbole to describe both my training and pretend bike racing, but in this case; I am not exaggerating. The house I grew up in was attached, as in shared a wall with, to the family precast concrete business. This meant I lived in an interesting part of town. An area with zoning codes lax enough to allow houses that were a combination of residential and industrial. As boys, my bothers and I played in the limestone quarry, around the lumberyard and on the railroad tracks. It was tremendous fun, and one of the favored pastimes of the roving band of area children was the irresistible draw of slug making.
Slug making was a very special form of hillbilly kid alchemy. It’s allure was that, if done properly, it could transform a lowly penny into something exactly 25 times more valuable, which could then be put into a pinball machine at the bowling alley. The recipe for making a slug was simple, place a penny on the railroad tracks and wait for a train to come and squish it into the coin of your dreams. The pressure of the locomotive served as the hammer and the tracks played anvil. Granted, most machines that took quarters were calibrated for both size and weight of that specific coin, and would never be fooled by a squashed penny—but this was not something that would occur to the minds of nine year olds (also, kids are dumb). We were trying to beat the system.
Tales spread of kids that had perfected their slug making skills and were able to fool the machines at the Riverside Bowl, but I never had any success at slug making. My experimental pressings would always end up resembling poorly poured pancakes. Of course the greatest tragedy of slug making was that, if indeed you were successful at creating a passable facsimile, it would disappear down the coin slot and be lost forever. Alas, to create a slug was to lose a slug.
As faithful followers of my Strava feed can tell you, I was indeed able to complete my dan-thousand™ mile goal for 2014. I rode my trainer for sixty minutes on Christmas Eve, and then put my bike away for the rest of the year. I lived the next seven days as a person. Eating too much, sleeping in and not engaging in any physical activity more demanding than walking to the refrigerator.
It was awful.
My programming as a pretend bike racer once again compels me to start the anatomical slug making process that is training for pretend bike racing, wherein I attempt to transform myself from a penny to a quarter. It will require getting run over by a train, and the results will most likely not be what I intended, but the allure of a magical transformation is too tempting to resist.