Twinkie the Kid, RIP

Hostess, maker of Twinkies, Ding-Dongs, Ho-Hos and Wonder Bread declared today that because of a failure to reach an agreement with the baker’s union they would cease production and begin liquidating assets. Boxes of Hostess Twinkies are going for $100 on Ebay. It is indeed the end of an era.

You may be wondering why I am posting about Twinkies on a bike blog. Twinkie the Kid my have died today, but I almost killed him in 1978. It was the summer before my senior year in high school. I was 17 years old and riding my 4th RAGBRAI. RAGBRAI is a week-long group bike ride across Iowa, in those days there were about 7-8,000 riders.

It was the middle of the week, Wednesday. This was the century day, 100 miles. I was riding with my friends and just a few mile into the day, my derailleur broke. Rather than quit, I simply shortened my chain put the bike in a medium gear and carried on. In this configuration, I could only ride in one gear. For the next 45 miles I rode in one gear, uphill, downhill or flat no shifting. It was painful but I didn’t want the guys to think I was a wimp so I rode on. When it came to hills, I tried to charge down each one so as to make it easier to climb the next. My single gear was really too high for climbing so I wanted to take advantage of momentum.

I had arranged for my dad to meet me at the 60 mile mark. He was supposed to go to my local bike shop, Europa Cycles, and get me a new derailleur and chain. In praise of local bike shops, the guys didn’t know (and neither did my dad) what kind of derailleur I would need so they just gave him a whole box of new derailleurs and said, I could pay them after the ride. When I eventually met up with my dad he had a box full of Huret, Shimano and Campagnolo derailleurs and Regina and Sedis Sport chains.

Before I met my dad, I had to run (ride) a gauntlet. At about the 50 mile marker, I’d been riding my single speed for over 40 miles, at the low spot between two hills most riders had come to a stop. So as I came over the top, I sped up to charge down the hill. And then I saw him, bigger than life — Twinkie the Kid. It was a guy in a Twinkie suit passing out Twinkies to riders. Things might have been different but I hate Twinkies, had it been Hostess Cupcakes, I might have stopped.

I was not going to stop I pedaled as fast as I could down that hill, head down over the handlebars and while I don’t remember what I said, I think I was screaming. All I knew was that if I stopped I was going to have to stand up on the pedals and climb the next hill in my high gear. People heard me and started moving out of the way, until finally there was no one in the road but me and Twinkie the Kid. I had visions of me and my bike strewn across the road smeared with cake and cream filling.

At the end of the day, Twinkie the Kid saw the look in my eyes. He knew that this town wasn’t big enough for the both of us. Twinkie the Kid wisely stepped aside as I streaked by. So Twinkie the Kid, lived to fight another day. I must say that I was saddened to hear of my old nemesis’ demise. He survived our showdown outside of Hudson, only to be done in by a baker’s union strike.

Over the years, as I’ve gotten older, Twinkie the Kid hasn’t seemed to age at all. I though that he would live forever (at the very least Twinkies last for years and years without refrigeration).

Goodbye old friend …