Saturday, August 29, 2009

Critical Mass - 08/28/09

Last night was the first time I've ever participated in Critical Mass, a periodic (monthly in most places) event which takes place in many major cities around the world to celebrate bicycling. I had known about Critical Mass, but since I've had my bike, I hadn't thought about attending. Anyway, I didn't realize it took place every last Friday of the month in Seattle. But it does. Oh, does it ever.

After a day of doing absolutely nothing, I got up off my ass and rode down to Westlake Center, our meeting place, around 6. Met up with Ricky, the guy who had come in to Pagliacci (where else?) the night before and told me about it. After a good 10-15 min of just hanging out, talking, whatever, some of the group starting making the rounds, trying to rile everyone up, and the rest of us eventually all mounted our bicycles and started riding. With no actual leader and no set plan other than our meeting time/place, I'm told that this is how it starts every month.

So we set off, and I found myself at the front of the group with a girl named Jennifer. We'd come to an intersection, and she turned and asked "Should we go left, right, or straight?" I said "I have no idea; this is the first time I've ever done this." "Me too!" So we went straight and begun our ride through Pike Place Market. Such spontaneous non-parade-routing is what generally makes up a Critical Mass ride. There's a general plan to end up at a park somewhere, but everything else is a surprise to all involved, which is half the fun, really.

The other half of the fun, of course, is taking over the streets of Seattle with a horde of rowdy 20-somethings, and confusing tourists and residents alike.

One might say it's a stick-it-to-the-motorized-vehicle-driving-man sort of move, and a few members of the group definitely feel that way. But really, the majority of us just want to have fun with it. Maybe cause a little raucous in the streets, hold up traffic a little bit, but that's all.

At some point during our tour of Pike Place, a few people started suggesting parks to head toward. Someone mentioned Alki, we all kind of looked up at the threatening clouds in the sky, and agreed. A swim at the beach seemed in order for such a typical Seattle day, and thus, it was decided. TO ALKI!

We sped down to the stadiums, where Mariners fans and parking lot attendants gawked and whooped at us. The industrial district was ahead, and we might have turned toward the bike trail that leads to West Seattle. But no. Why go the easy (not to mention boring and predictable) route, when we could embark on a new adventure instead?

That's right. We took over the West Seattle Bridge.

It was seriously the most epic thing I've done since being back from Europe (other than cutting all my hair off, of course). We rode the fucking freeway. I guess the cops were worried we would get a little too out-of-hand (or you might say they were looking out for our safety), so they escorted us most of the way, keeping traffic on the far left and "allowing" us (not that we wouldn't do it anyway) free passage.

At the top of the hump of the bridge (and it was a bitch of a hump, I assure you), a few people stopped to breathe for a few minutes, and admire the view.

And, yes, I suppose my hand was shaking a bit. I'll also add that all of these pictures were taken on my phone, and most of them while I was riding my bike, trying to balance, not hit other riders, and get a decent shot. So I will not apologize for their crappy quality. I won't.

So off we were, to Alki Beach, where much paper bag beer-drinking and free Food Not Bombs PB-and-Jambulance sandwich-eating would ensue.

Annnnd the Bike Lift. An epic end to an epic ride. We mustn't forget the Bike Lift.

After the bike lift, though, the sort-of-party at Alki was almost anti-climactic. A good number of people left to find drinking holes, and some left to go home. The rest of us just hung out, resting and chatting with friends and new acquaintances. As far as I saw, there was no skinny dipping. Damn.

This man was my hero of the evening. He roller bladed ALL THE WAY FROM DOWNTOWN. I was talking to him at one point, telling him how awesome he was for skating, and he told me that he'd thought other skaters/bladers/boarders would be in attendance. But alas, it was just him.

I think it makes for a better story, honestly. I mean, this man ROLLER BLADED across the freakin' WEST SEATTLE BRIDGE! He was probably the first (and only, so far) pedestrian EVER to cross the bridge, for the sole purpose of transportation (and not as a result of a broken down car or being part of a road work crew). I wish I'd gotten his name.

So, as a reward for our 8.6 mile (according to Google Maps) bike ride, we got to make an 8.6 mile ride back.

...Oh, and I guess the twilight view of the Seattle skyline was pretty nice.

Alright, it was pretty gorgeous, actually. But that doesn't change the fact that our stomachs were whining about our excessive calorie-burning and our asses were protesting their prolonged positions on our bike seats.

Which is why, once our little group of Capitol Hill-dwellers got back, we went straight for some delicious Rancho Bravo burritos and a long sit-down in their chairs, which, thankfully, had backs to lean against.

It was a fabulous way to spend my Friday night; I haven't had this much fun with a bunch of strangers (some of which are now friends) since the incredible Spontaneous Pillow Fight of '08 in Ballard.

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