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LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — Ask Sean Talkington how he got his 1970 Volkswagen van ready for a 550-mile road trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, and he and his traveling partners will bust out in laughter — we’re talking good, hearty guffaws.
He changed the oil, and checked the brakes, “but nothing too major,” Talkington says. In other words, hardly anything, and the team that was headed for Interbike on behalf of Mission Workshop and Acre, piled it up with bikes and camping gear (including Talkington’s Tempur-Pedic-style packable mattress), took the gamble and headed for Sin City.
“The last eight hours [of the drive], I had to use a bungee cord to hold it in fourth gear. The starter went out so we had to push start it or hit the starter with a hammer. You know, just cliché Volkswagen, old-car stuff,” he said during a happy hour at the trade show hosted by Mission Workshop and Acre.
“No one thought I should have been the guy to win their race.”
On October 21, 1976, a small group of cyclists and a dog named Junior gathered on Carson Ridge, which rises just west of Fairfax, California. It was mid-morning and the sky was bright blue, a beautiful day for racing 50-pound vintage Schwinn Excelsior clunkers down Cascade Canyon Road, whose winding dirt surface plunges 1,300 feet in less than two miles, past serpentine outcrops, low-lying chaparral, and scattered oaks on its way to the confluence of San Anselmo and Cascade creeks.
Among the bike riders assembled that Thursday morning, at an hour when most folks were dutifully toiling at their boring 9-to-5s, was Fred Wolf, an early off-road cyclist, and owner of Junior the dog; Charlie Kelly, a roadie for a beloved local rock band called the Sons of Champlin; Larry and Wende Cragg, who carried her trusty Nikkormat 35mm camera almost everywhere; and an airbrush artist and vintage-bicycle customizer named Alan Bonds, whose recorded time of 5 minutes and 12 seconds that day (average speed, about 23 mph) was good enough to take first place in a race that quickly became known around the world as Repack.