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Midnight Ride

Imagine, if you will, wild packs of roving cyclists on the loose in the city at midnight. On a night with a full moon, no less.

Picture hundreds of riders, lights of all kinds adorning them and their bikes: LEDs, christmas tree lights, glow sticks... and imagine them all weaving their way through the city on a sixteen-mile ride.

That might start to give you a picture of what I was up to tonight. The group I was in swung by my house to pick me up around 10pm... we rode down to the start, since it wasn't that far away: maybe added about five miles each direction. The starting point was Oaks Park, along the east edge of the Willamette River. We knew we were getting close when we heard the distinctly tropical sounds of Boka Marimba playing live (well, that and the hordes of cyclists converging on the park.) Here's a surreal scene: the sound of marimba music getting louder, like some kind of twisted Ewok celebration. Passing through the gates of a closed amusement park, the rides and attractions dark. Moving towards the center of activity, we discover: oh so many bikes done up in glowing finery! Sponsors (thank you Portland Tribune!) handing out popcorn and soda and cotton candy (gotta carb up!)

Mind you, this was a fun ride, not a race, so it was very egalitarian. Bikes ranged from sleek titanium road machines to hulking, dual-shock mountain tamers to old Schwinn cruises with banana seats.

Highlights at the start: the Chinese dragon with the glowing eyes, carried by two cyclists. The costume contest, with the cowboy, the girl in her pajamas (teddy bear included), and a couple that showed off more than a little skin (reasonably warm night for it, at least!)

The ride itself was great. I've always loved riding in packs: everyone in the group encourages the others to keep up. It's actually a really good way to train. And yes, I was hurting at times. There were points that I felt like I was going to be sick. But, those moments passed, and there were other times where I felt very in tune, like my bike was a part of me, clipped in, working as one, pushing and pulling, quads and hamstrings compressing and flexing. There's times where it starts to feel a lot like floating. Or flying. Yay.

The mid-point was at the Salmon Street Springs, where there were mini-bagels, bananas (gotta prevent those cramps, kids!), handfuls of candy, and ice cream sandwiches (more carbs!) There were also jugglers, fire eaters, and clowns on stilts. All this, and a floor show, too?!

What had been a very clear day in the morning had clouded up, so we only had occasional glimpses of the moon, but it was still very nice. And the one or two times we felt actual precipitation (a very light sprinkling of rain), I found it a pleasant tonic. We wove across the river twice, and wound through neighborhoods, down quiet, tree-lined avenues, and even through one of Portland's oldest cemetaries. Our pack was always near the front, and while it most emphatically wasn't a race, we were probably in the first 20 or so riders to come in to the finish area. And at the conclusion: donuts! Believe me, one of the best donuts you will ever have is the one that follows a long bike ride.

Rode back home, and am a little high on a cocktail of endorphins and lactic acid and sucrose, but very pleasantly exhausted. Hot and sweaty and achy but smiling. Enjoying a snack of home-made pesto on bread and a Fat Tire amber ale (one of the best beers you will ever have is... etc.) Off to bed now.

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