Andrew Bates

electric newspaperman

Outtakes: SO MANY WORDS about Storm the Wall

| 1 Comment

Illustration courtesy Indiana Joel (The Ubyssey)

When we did Storm The Wall in March, we all put together a diary of our experiences. I, true to form, wrote WAY MORE WORDS than could be used in the format we were going with. So Internet, you get the full EXPANDED edition. Enjoy!

At The Ubyssey, the requirements for athleticism are “go outside the SUB” and “eat vegetables.”
I’m not too bad. My particular job gets me around campus and I try to bike to school every once in a while. In the summers, I’m a cook in Penticton, so I’m no stranger to hard work. But let’s be real: I am a man of the stout beer, the pizza, and what you can call a gregarious figure. My enthusiasm for outdoor sport is restrained only by the weak arms years of desk jobs provide. Let’s Storm the Wall.


We filed in for the training video, minus our itinerant captain Jonny and cold victim Geoff. I was a little worried about not getting disqualified, but the challenges seemed workable. I went over the wall first, and it was a flashback to all of the times I failed at climbing fences. Things were real testy, as I forgot the admonishments to keep my legs straight and tried to scrabble over. I couldn’t even haul my leg up to Micki, and I was worried I was about to fall. Once I actually hauled myself over, I found the pulling easy—perhaps I did have arm strength, but just not enough to get me over. It worked out! But there were certainly questions to ask.

That evening, we went over to Arshy’s house to sing along. Jonny and I wandered home through the forest drinking wine and we encountered an owl, who stared us down for two minutes. What did that experience mean? I tried to climb something I’d failed to before my attempt at the Wall in the morning. It was too icy, but still I worried.


The next day was a journalism day—a job interview, for which I prepared heavily, but for which I didn’t rehearse specific questions. I rambled a little bit. I went to hang out with soccer people, but I felt too tired and hung over to go to a match, so I did good things, like buy groceries and make veggie shepherd’s pie. Then we went out for a drink at Micki’s house anyways. I jumped on my bike for the first time in a few weeks, and felt out of breath scaling Kerrisdale’s weird fucking topography. I turned onto Arbutus and some bikers chirped me. I tried to ignore them, but I knew I had to practice further. Before bed, we planned to go to brunch. It was going to be good.


Nobody was good on Sunday morning. An hour after I meant to, I texted Kai, asking if the folks sleeping at her place were waking up. She replied “JONNY PUKED ON MY COUCH.” That is how that went. I took time to brunch knowing it could put me late for my assignment—a rugby game at noon. I biked up down West 16th between Ubyssey Haus and Thunderbird Stadium in a bad way. I was wearing a wool coat and a heavy bag. My legs felt empty. I was labouring up it. I was trying to explain it on my hangover, but at that rate, how could I storm the wall?


I fixed my helmet in the afternoon, but my new bike, the Rocky Mountain, wasn’t on campus. It was a hand-me down from my mountain biking mom—she brought it from Penticton. I hadn’t checked it, but I was sure it’d be okay, as long as I got Jonny to help me put it together. On the way home, I tried looping the War Memorial parking lot. Turns were hard to master and I didn’t feel quite right, but I felt I was as ready as I was going to be. It’d be fine.


It was a fine morning. Took me a bit to get out of bed, but I had what I always did—cooked spinach, cheese, fried eggs and a pair of English muffins with some green tea. Jonny had already been to class, but although I couldn’t put the front brake on, the back one went fine. And the bike was wonderful! So much more power, suspension made it a much more comfortable ride, and gear changes went fine. It was really a pleasure to ride, and all I had to do was get Jonny or the Bike Kitchen to fit the front brake on.

Did you know that the front brake provides 80 per cent of your braking power? I found out when the nice man at the kitchen repeated it three times in telling me that in transit, the brake cable housing had retreated inside itself and the brake would need to be recabled entirely in order to work properly. I wasn’t able to use my wonderful new bike. 15 minutes beforehand, I was without a ride. Jeff offered me his; entirely appreciated, although a purple touring bike I had never ridden before was not what I wanted. I was worried.

I had the advantage of an early start because of Geoff and Micki’s strong performances and pushed out. The new bike took a bit of getting used to, and finding a rhythm between acceleration in the straights and turning with any kind of speed. In the third lap, I felt like everything was firing properly, and even though I hadn’t entirely picked up in the turns, I was running well. Teammates on the sidelines really helped. In the last runs, I was catching up to a few bikers and trying to figure out when was best to pass—I managed it a few times. Coming out of the last turn, I was neck and neck with a guy and pushed pretty even, but I didn’t want to tap into the end of my tank; there was still the wall to do. I couldn’t push just that bit harder and came in just behind. My legs were made of lead, so I got on my bike and rolled to the Wall. (And for your information, I never used my front brake once.)

I was first up. I failed to lean into the wall on my first attempt, but the bases rearranged themselves and I was able to get together. I remembered to keep my legs straight and got my arms over, but I had to tap into my arm strength—I do have it!—to get my elbows across. I didn’t have any problem hauling my leg up, and Geoff had it fine. I got it over, and the worst was done from there. After helping Jonny over, the last three in the base were easy. We ran around, and we did it. We stormed the wall.