Sunday, December 25, 2011

July 23 2010 Flock of Cycles (July 25, 2010)

Current mood: happy

The July ride was a little more subdued than the previous two. For one, it was a wicked hot day, with a heat index close to 100. For another, it was delayed both by Nick arriving late and me arriving late. My daughter managed to get there on time, but I was stuck with a no-show bus in Robinson. After a couple of quick phone calls, the decision was made to start without me, and I would join the group after a loop around Oakland.

Once fully underway, we had only about 20 riders, a couple fewer than the 30-some we had for the May ride. We had a nice stroll along Bayard, but one of the crew got a flat rear tire near a left onto outbound Ellsworth, so we sat a while as this got repaired. The Flock is a no-drop ride. We're friends; we help one another in trouble, as this was.

A second failure happened to Amy on Penn near Bakery Square, who was taking a borrowed bike on its first real outing since winter. Her own $5 church rummage sale bike has a significant mechanical issue (which didn't keep me from riding it on the May ride, and hundreds of miles since, though I have yet to fix it), so she borrowed a bike from a friend. This rather high-end machine developed a loose crank arm, and fortunately, someone had a tool to tighten it. +1 for having tools along. (*takes notes*)

Barely 200 yards later, after a water stop in Mellon Park, Nick developed yet another problem, a stuck chain on the high bike. This was just after someone, possibly him, hoped out loud we didn't have yet another problem. *snickers all around* But hey, the heat of the day was now off, and we were just out for a nice ride around town.

With all this bad mojo, we opted not to venture any farther east than Penn and Fifth, so headed back towards Oakland. We kept to a single lane, though not single file. After all, we're a flock of cycles in flight, not sitting on a wire. Fifth has plenty of lanes to go around, especially after Bellefield.

As usual, we got split at several lights, and as usual, we kept to our promise not to strand the crew in back. We've gotten pretty good at yelling to hold up in front in case of a split, and this does work pretty well. I for one am curious to go on another Critical Mass ride to see how well they communicate with one another. I haven't been on one since 2009.

Our travels took us over the Birmingham Bridge, then over to the Giant Eagle on the Sahside to get picnic supplies. We were in and out of there very quickly, maybe only 15 minutes, and the first thing we did was to chow down on some drippy once-might-have-been-frozen-but-it's-a-hot-day popsicles. Thank you, whoever bought these. They were wet and cold, right when we most needed wet and cold.

It was starting to get dim once we got underway, so on went the lights, front and back, as we rode East Carson to Hot Metal. As we approached the bridge, some of us stopped to talk to other cyclists in the area, and one decided to join us on the picnic. Great! The weather was now ideal, the sunset as seen from the bridge was beautiful, and we were all having a good time. Hot Metal to Jail Trail to parking lot, over the tracks, and on up the street to the Junction Hollow Trail.

We peeled off to cross the tracks one more time to get to Schenley Park Lake, where we joined the ducks for our picnic. Or they joined us. But we and they were often no farther than 10 feet away. We passed the food and drink around and talked about life and bicycles and what-all, and generally had a good time. One thing that got significant discussion was the ingredients list on Giant Eagle orange drink, which included brominated soybean oil. Just the name made some of us go "ack".

As usual, our ride was tricked out from beginning to end, including picnic, with tunes from the '80s and elsewhen. Just one boombox this time. I recall hearing "Venus" by Bananarama, just as we sat down to eat, with Venus itself very prominently visible in the western sky.

By 10 or so it was dark, and many of us were ready to call it a night. Amy and I made it back Downtown without too much incident. (We were trying to carry the leftover juice bottles but had no good way to tie them down, so ended up just carrying them.) She had never ridden the Eliza Furnace Trail, and it was fun to breeze along at a good clip, with the occasional bunny rabbit scurrying off into the grass. I know she was enjoying herself, then and on the ride, as she said so on several occasions. She was less sure about dealing with Grant and Smithfield Streets, as it was also her first time dealing with city streets in mixed traffic. There were not that many cars out, and we managed to hit every light red from Grant and First Avenue to Penn and Ninth.

The whole night we saw nary one drop of rain, but as we got off the 1D at Northway Mall about 11:45, we were treated to a spectacular light show, a line of thunderstorms about 50 miles north. Horizon to horizon, the clouds were lit up almost continuously. It made the last mile or so home go so pleasantly. We touched the door at three minutes before midnight.

Yeah, a great time was had by all.

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