Like "where's Waldo, can you find the pink frog??
As you know, a week ago I rode 54.5 miles in the Bike To The Bay. Well, after that brutal feat of triumph I thought I had topped out my "personal best". How could anything ever compare to that...
Then after I had a couple days to go back to normal I got an invitation from Tom (seen above) who is on team Leapfrog, to do a Critical Mass ride a week after the BTTB. He mentioned he had about three definites and several maybes.
Of course after committing, I hadn't the faintest idea what that was, but I told him I had planned on finding some new routes after the Bike To The Bay, so I was in; and then I went home and Googled what this actually was.
I learned that it was an unorganized ride made up of 500 to upwards of a thousand riders taking over the streets of a big city, in the attempt to raise awareness of cyclists' rights to share the streets with motorists. This one happened to be in downtown Detroit; yikes!
It's not in my nature to bail, but I decided to give Tom a chance to admit I might just be too high maintenance for this ride. After all; I needed someone to keep on me like flies on fly paper; someone to make a path, warn me of any sudden stops and lend a shoulder if my crazy leg becomes worthless after hours of riding. That didn't phase him, so this was really happening...
I already had plans to ride on the Greenbelt parkway trail that morning but I could probably handle two rides with several hours in between; I just can't say no.
As it turned out, the only ones who weren't scared off were two of his staff members at the University of Toledo, Nanda who is from India and Xiaozhong from China, and me... What did I have to lose? I knew no one would ever let anything happen to me.
Being there were four of us in a sea of 5 million riders (give or take...) we decided to do the buddy system; Nanda and Xiaozhong, and then Tom and I. The young guys darted out ahead of us so I knew there was no way I could lose track of Tom or I would end up berried among an ocean of strangers; people who don't understand about my high maintenance.
I had never seen such a huge swarm of riders at one time. I had no idea how I was supposed to keep with the flow.
As you can see the crowd was very tightly packed and very little, or I should say "NO" room for error. I had learned my lesson in the bike to the bay after not taking long enough brakes to allow my body and brain to reconnect, as well as staying hydrated; of course, I had the buddy system all set.
But a few things I soon learned would put an interesting spin on my plan... This ride was more or less an anarchy; no one was in charge. There were no rest stops with bathroom breaks and snacks, no wavers to fill out in case of an injury, and no sag drivers to haul you back if you got tired or worse, a flat tire; there was no backing out. It was simply hundreds of random people out to make a stand for cyclists' rights.
I'm not generally an activist type of person; I never want to make waves, but this was my chance to conquer one more personal best, and appreciate seeing all walks of life helping one another.
The only chance we had to take a drink of water was the occasional 20 seconds when we paused to close the gaps so motorists couldn't turn in front of us. Though, if we did catch a rare light we had to haul butt at the speed of over 18 miles an hour just to catch back up with the pack.
At one point it was so tight that I couldn't maneuver my bike and ran right in to a pot hole. Now if I was young and spry I could have just popped a wheelie over it, but since that wasn't the case I hit the brakes, dropped my feet, and walked out of it. Of course, this caused me to fall behind and I had to play some major catch up.
I have to say the art work or "graffiti" on many of the buildings was amazing!
Is that a cell phone in her hand??
How in the heck was he going to get up there??
There were bikes so tall that you could get a nose bleed from riding it...
And bikes that carted ginormous boom boxes that shook the entire street when they passed by.
I mentioned to Tom that my pink jacket definitely stood out in the crowd, and he told me it was perfect for keeping track of me; admitting next time we should put bells on my shoes...
Notice here, there were times we rode next to busy traffic...
And then others where we swarmed through neighborhoods with beautifully landscaped homes.
By the time the ride was done we had ridden 23 miles and I'm not gonna lie; with no rest stops it felt like 100.
The Bike To The Bay was a challenge, however, the difference in this ride was I had no choice but to power on because it was survival of the fittest. If I stopped because I needed a break I would be riding back all alone next to the uncontrolled traffic.
When we finally made it safely back to our cars, I felt such a sense of accomplishment; Tom even commented that I was a very strong rider... It's amazing how desperation will do that... But I was convinced all I need to complete even the toughest ride is an emergency buddy and a voice in my head telling me "you can do it" and "CRAZY GIRL, BE CAREFUL!"
Have a great day!!