Monday, August 01, 2005

July Mass Highlights - It's a small world after all ...

A few high points from July critical mass...

The route was more meandering than usual, which was a welcome change. Started out through downtown as usual, but then headed south down Hennepin into uptown, east down Lake St, north via Nicollet, I think? From there on I don't remember the exact route, as I was busy chatting w/random people. But it was a route I haven't done on mass before.

There were several occasions when people tried to lead the mass in a direction opposite the "normal" direction (like turning right at a certain intersection where the mass traditionally turns left) and in nearly every case the mass revolted and instead opted for the "standard" direction. Kind of disappointing - mass is a perfect opportunity to take the road less traveled, but so often the mass behaves like a rat that, having learned the "correct" path thru the maze, refuses to deviate.

The notable exception was riding one block on Hiawatha - pretty ballsy and a welcome addition to the ride. Next ride, 2 blocks??? You never know.

Near the end of the ride (with a much diminished mass of about 12-20 people) headed north from downtown into north Mpls. I don't know what route we took, but we were up there, and people were saying this was the first time the mass headed north. I don't know if that's the case, but again it was a welcome change.

I recognized surprisingly few people on the ride (Bjorn, Landon), so I spent more time chatting with randoms. Spent some time chatting with a guy on a green bike w/inverted cruiser handlebars. Later, we exchanged names, he says his name is Zoey. It was at this point that I recognized him ... I was like "dude, you're Zoey M. right?" I recognized him from High School, oh, 14 years ago! Pretty small freaking world, when you consider that graduating class size in our school was about 100 students and it's a good 5 hours away.

I didn't tell him my name at first, and he didn't recognize me (OK, not surprising since I had a huge mullet back then ... ya, ya, you can laugh now, I'm laughing at myself too.) But when I told him my name, it came back to him, and then the reminiscing started ... Frau Billman's german class (and how you could easily distract her simply by asking her about her kids ... good way to waste at least 15 minutes of class), the year we were on swim team together, updates on what other classmates were up to nowadays, etc. Really cool stuff. Even stranger, he says he now lives in the same building as EvilChuck. Small world indeed.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Hangin' with the Sis in Chicago - Part 3 - Saturday June 25th, Sunday June 26th

Jojo had planned a Cycling Sisters century ride, geared toward riders who had (hopefully) done some longer rides, but perhaps hadn't yet tackled a century. She opened up the ride to men as well as women, specifically so I could join her.

But in the end, I bailed. Why? Jojo would tell you it's because I'm weaker than I'd like to think. And that may be the case. But for me, it came down to the fact that I was on vacation after all, and why should I do a century ride in the crazy heat and humidity when I could instead do other fun stuff, like explore the city and see the sights? I also had a certain sense that Jojo hadn't planned the ride out as well as I would have liked, evidenced by the fact that she was still pulling together the ride route in the hour or two before the ride was to begin.

So while she took off on her century adventure (which you can read all about here), I choose instead to sleep in until the sun streaming in through the living room windows was heating the apartment to the point where it was easier to just leave the premises. First stop: Star of Siam restaurant, where I had easily the Best Pad Thai Ever. Probably didn't hurt that I was a little ahead of the lunch crowd, so I was the only patron in the restaurant, as I'm sure my dish received the full attention of the cook.

From there, I meandered down to the Lakeshore to the Field Museum. There was an exhibit on design innovations in prefabricated housing, which if you're at all curious, you can read about here and here.

Afterwards, I headed to the Shedd aquarium, only to find out that they were closing several hours earlier than usual for a fundraising event. They had failed to post this info, however, and were turning people away at the door, pissing most of them off in the process. Thankfully, I was still able to get in by using jojo's annual membership, so I saw as much of the aquarium as I could in the hour or so before they closed their doors.

Since they closed their doors so early, this gave me time to take a nice long nap down by the lakeshore. I'm reading Jared Diamond's book Collapse (which is a followup to his best-selling Guns, Germs, and Steel) so I spent several hours reading, then finally dozed off. Despite the recent 95+ degree heat, the breeze off the lake was a little cooler than refreshing, so I covered up w/my long-sleeve shirt and dozed off for a few hours. What a refreshing and relaxing way to spend an afternoon and early evening.

Met back up with Jojo at the Handlebar around 9PM, and heard all the stories about the near-century-ride, and was super pleased that I'd decided to bail on that ride. I don't think I could have dealt with the slow pace and general pokiness that ensued.

Can't remember what we did Sunday morning. On the way to the Gay Pride Parade, we made a stop at Home Depot to pick up a length of pipe to support the CBF banner. We weren't the only ones there - Home Depot was seeing a run on all manner of 1/2"-3/4" pipe that morning. Right next to our spot at the parade staging area was a parking ramp, with a small, empty bike rack inside - we carried the rack outside into our area, so we could rack our bikes while the "decoration" process was carried out - streamers of crepe paper were added to wheels, handlebars and frames. What a stunning collection of bikes.

I thought the parade was a ton of fun. Jojo thought that last years bike group did a better job of interacting with the crowd, and getting the spectators excited - I don't know if it's true, but I had a fun time either way.

And then, before long, my trip to Chicago came to an end, and it was time for me to get back on the train to the airport.

To my eyes, Chicago's bike community seems both broader, and deeper than that in Minneapolis. Jojo says that CBF is the biggest bike advocacy group in the nation, and I believe it, based on the number of Jojo's friends that I met who are (or were) associated with CBF. I think we have a good thing going in Mpls, but would be well served by taking a look at what's going on in other cities, like Chicago.