Saturday, May 31, 2008

Critical Mass and the Impromptu Puerto Rican Pride Parade

First of all, and most importantly, I just want to say thank you to everyone who came out yesterday afternoon to participate in Critical Mass. It was not only a huge success as far as the number of people who came out (a rough count reached into the mid thirties) but overall it had the feeling that we have only just begun to tap into the beast's potential. If one was to refer to the aforementioned Wikipedia definition you might say that we are far from reaching our own critical mass.

For those that missed it, your loss but there is always next month, be there! Regardless of whether or not you deserve it I still will give you the details if only to taunt and entice you to come out next month. The afternoon began with several post-work brews with a few co-bloggers and a couple of fellow riders at the Hook and Ladder. The weather was obviously gorgeous and we took the opportunity to sit out on the patio while we drank our beers and tried to lure in more bikers by a combination of yelling and throwing fliers at them. Not much luck as due to the fact that we were about 15 feet from the road and most people just thought we were a bunch of crazies who must have gotten out of work at like 2 and were already half in the bag (kind of like the kid sitting next to us in the Led Zeppelin t-shirt going on and on about the huge Bob Weir and Rat Dog show that we just couldn't miss, I mean Trey is going to be there man its going to be far out). The best part in my humble opinion, however, was the fact that we must have seen upwards of a dozen bikers fly by in the 30 minutes we were there. Who knew Main Street was such the bike thoroughfare at 5.00!

After finishing our beers we zipped through the back alley and cruised over to Bushnell Park where we found a gratifyingly large group of people ready to ride. What a great mix of people as well. I don't think we broke into the AARP demographic, however, better luck next time. We loitered for a while discussing why there was a huge spread of food and hundreds of kids running around in the carousel and looking for children who might be willing to grab one of us a slice of pizza. Around 6.00 ambitions started to stir and the biomass trickled onto the street. After a bit of a delay getting everyone organized (its not easy to coordinate something that is inherently meant to be non-organized and even harder still to do so while maintaining the aura of informality) the group eventually coagulated on Farmington Ave. just past the semi-suicidal intersection with Asylum and we were on our way.

We rolled down Farmington taking up one and periodically two lanes. In general motorists were annoyed but not deliberately hostile. A few honks were heard but no direct threats were vocalized. Passing bicyclists were urged to join us and one did after he was coaxed from his bag of donuts! Continuing down Farmington Brendan made the excellent call that we should ride through Blueback Square. Turning onto Memorial Rd. the group started to hoot, holler, yodel, and yell, utilizing the tall buildings and small space for all of its acoustic value. The sound was excellent and the looks on the faces of locals out for an evening stroll was even better. You could just see them thinking, "I thought our taxes were so high in order to keep riff raff like this out of West Hartford?" Much to their chagrin we weren't going anywhere and the looks continued as we continued on Main St., back onto Farmington, and down La Salle Rd, before eventually arriving on Park Rd.

The general consensus at this point was that it would be a great idea to take Park Rd. all the way back into the Beat and we made our way out of West Hartford. It was here that the most automobile hostility was felt as cars zipped past us by crossing into the oncoming lane and flooring it. Things got much more pleasant, and interesting, as we inched farther towards Parkville and into the aftermath of what seemed to be a Puerto Rican pride celebration. Flags festooned from buildings and cars, carts were out on the street selling flags and food, and people were everywhere. Several riders pulled over to buy flags and the impromptu bike parade was born. The locals didn't really question what we were doing, preferring to honk their horns and wave. Besides the plastic bottle thrown from a building that hit one of the riders in the head (helmet? check.) this had to be one of the most fun parts of the entire ride. The vibe was great and people were everywhere. It was hard to leave Parkville but there was still the need to hit up a park and ride through the city. We rode through Pope Park and headed back towards Main Street, down Pratt (the wrong way), back onto Asylum, and up High St. (again the wrong way) where a giant inflatable beer can seemingly sapped ambitions from the riders and summoned us towards post-ride libations. Mad Dawgs was the venue of choice and beers were partaken in 12 and 40oz forms on the sidewalk as we all took in the sight of 30 bikes stacked, piled, and hung from every instrument that would accept a lock. We drank, talked, and faded into the evening to the cooing melodies of Black Sabbath. See you next month. Cheers!

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