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Two hours later, when we finally pull up at Laguna Seca, Dan scams a parking spot in the reserved lot by claiming he's just dropping off some stuff for his mountain bike sponsor. "I was the champ here last year," he told the security guard. For some reason, this half-truth persuades these rent-a-cops to treat the dudes in the Subaru wagon with the keg like official dignitaries. They let us down in to the area reserved for bigwigs and hotshots. We park there for the rest of the day.
As Dan and his boys pull out the keg from the back of the car, two young hotties walk by.
"You riding, ladies?" Dan asks in his flirty-sweet voice.
"Who you here with?"
"I'll call ya later," he jokes.
Kirt riffs off an annoying cellular phone commercial and quips, "Can you hear me now?"
We roll the keg and boombox into the vendors' area, an outdoor trade show for bike nuts. Like most such events, the Sea Otter shamelessly promotes its corporate ties. The official name of the event in press releases and signs is "Sea Otter Classic, Powered by SRAM." This, I take, means underwritten by the good people at SRAM, the makers of bicycle components. Traditional American sports like football and baseball may have purist fans who complain about such impurities, but that's definitely not the case with cycling. Having a corporate sponsor is considered a badge of honor here, a symbol that you're somebody. Dan is sponsored by Emeryville bikemaker Jericho Bikes.
Cody and Dan roll the keg and boombox to the middle of the grassy quad next to Jericho, and crank up a CD by 50 Cent, the foul-mouthed Queens rapper. Looking around at all the little kids, Kirt suggests turning down the music or moving somewhere else. "Nah," Cody mocks, "this is perfect."
Dan, dressed in baggy jeans and a baseball cap with silhouettes of naked chicks he bought at the Coliseum flea market, slaps hands with Jericho's main man, Josh Ogle. Ogle recalls when he met Dan a couple of years earlier through his friend at the Solano Cyclery in Berkeley. He and Dan eventually met up to do a downhill ride described by MtbReview.com as "the hardest single track on this side of the bay" at the Side-O trail. Dan showed up wearing jeans, gardening gloves, and boots -- hardly the look of a bad-ass mountain biker. Josh started out in front, but not for long; soon he heard Dan warning from behind to get out of his way. "I've never been so outridden before by anybody," Ogle says.
A few minutes after we settle in, Dan borrows a bike and sneaks off. A half-hour later he returns with four girls in tow. Four very young girls -- one even has braces. They cautiously approach the keg, looking at each other with faces that ask, "What's with this guy?" One girl scratches her face, then grabs a blue plastic cup and pours herself a Pabst. Dan sits down on the grass next to the girls and, before launching into his sales pitch, asks, "How old are you?" In succession they all say, eighteen, eighteen, eighteen, eighteen. Satisfied, Dan shows them his medals from last year's slalom race.
Later, I ask Dan how he wooed the young chicks down there. "Free beer. That's it. That was my pickup line. It works. That's a great pickup line: 'Free beer,' or 'Do you chicks wanna smoke some grass and hang out?'"
Dan has a reputation among his friends as a nonstop flirt. Although he says he once came close to marrying his long-term girlfriend of seven years, he's now a committed bachelor, something his mom doesn't like hearing. "I have definitely been denied grandchildren," she complains during a later interview.