Dear fellow bike riders,
Here, in Portland, we’ve had a series of pretty hot days, but the nights are nice and cool.
I still love the late night bike riding.
August is shaping up quite nicely in that regard. Biking to school in the heat of the day may be superior to taking the bus or paying for parking, but it doesn’t come close to the nocturnal tour-de-Portland.
I know I am not the only one out here for whom night riding is the best thing the city has to offer. Apparently someone somewhere named Portland, America’s most bicycle-friendly city, and now we are playing host to this month-long event called BikeSummer.
Feats of human powered transportation take the spotlight in this effort to bring “people together to celebrate bike culture and cycle toward Biketopia,” according to the official calendar.
Volunteers have been handing out coffee and bagels to bike commuters on Friday mornings at the Hawthorne Bridge.
As you might have guessed, I’m generally not up early enough to take advantage of that situation. I still love free coffee as much as the next guy, but there is a limit to how early I will get out of bed for a bagel.
I guess I haven’t changed much since the last time we hung out. Maybe I’ll make it out there one morning before the end of the month.
For now, I’m content to enjoy the evening offerings of this festival.
Last week I biked to the Portland Beaver game at Civic Stadium (now called PGE Park). There I joined over 300 other cyclists in parking up at Lincoln High School and receiving a free ticket for the game, but biking home was the highlight of the evening.
Do you know that Bette Midler song from “Beaches?” I think it is called “The Wind Beneath my Wings.” I have no idea what that tune is about, but when I’m riding after dark, I truly empathize with the Divine Miss M.
What’s the biking like where you are? Any epiphanies? Have you finally started wearing a helmet?
You know, when August hits I stay inside for as much of the day as possible. This cold-blooded strategy has actually worked out pretty well for my studies, since the library here at school is pretty nicely air-conditioned.
Once the sun sets and the outside cools down, I creep out of my cavern like some kind of benign werewolf. But not like Michael J. Fox in “Teenwolf.” On second thought, I might be a little like Teenwolf. I drool and cast about for the Schwinn as if it were my broomstick or magic ring or whatever it is that little magic people who don’t ride bikes in the summer cast around for.
It was just following such a protean transformation that I made my way, helmet donned and lights illuminated (yes, I have finally given in to “safety,” whatever that means) to Laurelhurst Park last week.
There, I joined a couple hundred other velo-philes on the lawn for an outdoor screening of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” I still haven’t figured out exactly what Indiana Jones has to do with bicycling, apart from being an adventure-loving, extremely sexy force for justice.
It warmed my heart to see the happy little families locking their bikes up next to sketchy-looking characters, kicking back with Harrison Ford for a couple of hours before the night’s ride home.
Speaking of sketchy-looking characters, I ran into the kids from that CHUNK bicycle gang at the screening. One of them, Megulon-5, has welded at least two frames together, creating a chopper that allows him to slam dunk while seated. While showing off his latest creation, he promoted the upcoming Chunkathon, set for Aug. 24.
According to the BikeSummer calendar, this strange “series of death-defying contests” will “purge their ranks of the weaker members while amusing themselves and others.”
Still, though, it is the long rides home that have really kept me sane this year. I can leave someplace completely fed up with my friends, our fearless president or just humanity in general. After a few blocks of singing old Queen songs to myself on the three-speed, my disgust dissipates.
Maybe it has something to do with the lungs or the heart or some brain chemicals. I have no idea (biology still isn’t my strong point). By the time I’m halfway home, I find myself smiling as I pass porch parties.
Old men with little dogs seem to like watering their lawns in the middle of the nights as well.
Every once in a while I run into some familiar faces. “Where you headed?” It’s that strange phenomenon of bicycling home: I’ll think I’m finished for the night until an acquaintance rides by and invites me to join him for some stargazing on Mt. Tabor.
On the ride up the hill, we will pass parked cars shaking under the power of their own stereo systems. The high proportion of drunks and idiots to responsible drivers keeps our feet light on the pedals.
I love biking, feeling like I’m silently threading through the sleeping city, I know you know what I mean.
Don’t forget bike polo on Aug. 25!
For more information about bike events in Portland, go to www.bikesummer.org