Another night in Portland

July 13, 2008

More than one thousand bicyclists crowd beneath the Broadway Bridge, waiting for the annual Night Ride to start. Some sway to the sound of fifteen young people pounding away on drums and cymbals. When the din ends, bike bells ring in applause. Red and white bike lights are flashing, mine included. Bewildered Amtrak passengers leaving Union Station next door tow luggage through the throng.

My grown son Zack, visiting from Florida, and my wife Suzame, fiddle with their glow stick necklaces, proof of registration for the sixteen-mile ride, a benefit for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. We’re among the bland riders, though Suzame has attached fluffy animal slippers to her helmet.

Some cyclists are dressed as pirates, witches, and Fruit of the Loom underwear characters. There are wings, painted faces, a man wearing a long skirt, a Viking or two, and the occasional toga. One man has built a wooden frame above his back wheel to support two battery-operated landscaping lights. A few bikes sport lighted skulls.

An announcer informs the crowd that one of two rest stops features a parking lot disco party. He also touts the mass gorging on donuts that awaits us upon our return.

I chat with a middle-aged man leaning against his bike. He’s dressed in a matching set of shorty pajamas. “On my ride over here, nobody paid attention to what I was wearing,” he says. “What does it take to get noticed these days?”

“It’s Portland,” I tell him, the simplest and best response to his lament and the sea of wackiness surrounding us.

And then we’re off into the dwindling light.

Video is from the 2007 ride. Still photos from last year and 2006, are here and here.