I went to meet Mark for a beer before the ride. It felt like old times again, except he’s dating someone else now. We talked about Thursday Night Rides past and present. I’d be leading tonight’s ride, the last one of 2016. This urban ride is styled much like Critical Mass, although a bit more peaceful and a lot more party-centric.
This would be the first time the ride would end at a bar, or a brew pub, as it was not meant to be alcohol-centric. The irony is that my plan to finish at a brew pub was to limit the drinking, not enhance it. Also, it’s been in the 20s and 30s degree-wise and I didn’t fancy freezing my butt off under the bridge wishing there’d be more pallets to burn.
On to the ride. The view from the Hawthorne Bridge was spectacular. The city lights seem crisp and sharp when it’s cold and dark. As we arrived at the fountain, we could see a good-sized crowd had gathered. While most are saying Merry Christmas and Happy New Year this time of year, these folks offer a hearty Happy Thursday.
“FIVE MINUTES!”. I delight in yelling this phrase, and talking loudly to the crowd in general. Riders ask if those are bike minutes, beer minutes or real minutes, so I yell again, this time “FIVE ACTUAL MINUTES!”, to the seeming dismay of many. Off we go, on a roundabout loop of downtown, taking the streets where we can and corking intersections when needed.
This is my second time leading this ride. When I create a TNR route, I fantasize about places and roads I'd like to ride but usually avoid because of cars. Because the turnout at this ride is reliably large, we can usually mass in the street and take lanes without conflict. It’s a nice reminder that these public thoroughfares are for all humans to enjoy, not just those who have committed to spend much of their lives in a metal box polluting the air.
We encounter a closed street with a policeman stationed there. Luckily for us, we respected his directions and detoured, as we learned later that some poor soul had taken to throwing bricks off of the penthouse bar at the top of the Nines. This was just the first detour of the evening.
Taking the lane on the Morrison Bridge was fun and I yelled at those ahead of me, RIGHT ON WATER. So much yelling was required all evening, I was hoarse by the end of it. It would be easier if the half dozen riders and one skateboarder who regularly go ahead would instead follow behind. A friend coached me a few nights later to be more aggressive and yell more at those passing me, but I just don’t have it in me. I’d rather lead those who’d like to follow and allow those ahead to run the stale green light that the rest of us will stop at.
Using Ladd’s Addition as a labyrinth was pure genius, if I do say so. First we rode the big circle in the middle, then split west to ride the neighboring diamond, then back to the middle circle. From there we split east to ride the eastern diamond, again returning to the middle circle for one last go-round. Besides being fun, this enables the group to stay together, catch up and generally coalesce.
Finally we exited heading northeast and popped out on Hawthorne, which we were to take to 26th. This was another case of a handful getting ahead of me, and I’ll blame them for missing the turn. Luckily the number streets are in order, so we found our way back. We headed to the Lone Fir Cemetery and stopped in the middle to enjoy the dark solitude.
We lapped the lagging group, then I led everyone into a dead end fenced off area. Swallowing my pride and dismounting, I turned back on foot, letting the gaggle of bewildered riders know there was nothing to see back that way.
Out onto the streets again, we bounced along to as many beats as a dozen sound systems can create. I heard some complaints about the hills and explained that the map I had looked at showed only two dimensions. We circled Joan of Arc at the usually forbidding roundabout on Cesar Chavez and Glisan Avenues.Then off through some northeast neighborhoods until we found Sandy. Several weaves later, we had passed our destination, Base Camp Brewing, home of the worst IPA I’ve ever tasted. Once again, I had to stop in my tracks and turn back. This time, I told my friends “We’re there!” and headed in for a cold one.