October 5, 2012

Critical Mass, and the Best Surprise

Last weekend, I rode my first Critical Mass in Baltimore. When Andy first mentioned it a month ago and asked me to join, I thought, "What the hell is critical mass?" He told me to just come, it would be fun, and so I agreed - after a little research to see what it was.

Critical Mass started in San Francisco 20 years ago, so my first ride was on the 20th anniversary. It started as a loosely organized mass ride of cyclists of all types. The purpose: fun, and a middle finger to cars. It now happens all over the world, and is typically on the last Friday of each month.

So I packed up my car and took off for Baltimore, having no idea that the best surprise EVER was waiting for me. When I got to Andy's,  he immediately ripped Beast of Burden off of my car, and then insisted I sit on the couch - he was being rather pushy and I couldn't understand why, but after 10 minutes of chatting, I finally sat. Next to a big puffy blanket. And 2 feet poked out and attempted to wiggle under my butt. And then McKinley sprang up from that blanket! (On the road when her feet were cold, she would wedge them under my butt to warm them, so her thought was I'd immediately know it was her - I didn't. It scared me, and I thought an animal was under there.) I screamed, then had the pre-cry face, and couldn't stop hugging her. Confused? Yes. But excited as all hell? Absolutely! They had been planning my surprise since the minute I agreed to ride the Crit.

The ride from Andy's to the meeting point was, I realized, the reason that motorists hate cyclists. In the interest of time, we rode like wild, uncaged beasts for 10 miles. We barreled down city streets, weaving in and out of cars at red lights to get to the front. We hauled ass the wrong way down one-way streets. We hopped on the sidewalk to cut a corner or two. Never the way I ride - I respect the rules and act as motorist - but holy crap was that ever so fun! It also made me realize how much I miss riding with a cycling partner that I'm so in tune with. McK and I rode wheel-to-wheel in draft style, as per usual, and we giggled and chatted about how much we miss riding together. It sure is great to have someone to talk to and point out the debris. She even threw out the "Hitler Arm," a hand signal we crafted for when there's a very, very long stretch of debris or pot holes. It immediately brought me back to the TransAm. I miss it.

Critical mass was some of the most fun I've ever had on 2 wheels riding that slow. There were 700 cyclists clogging the roads, ringing bells, and whooping and hollering. I think the ride back to Andy's was even more fun at 2 am, whizzing through the crisp, fall air at 20 mph. And then McK snapped a chain. It's never a legit bike ride if something doesn't go wrong.