12 July 2009

L.AT.E. ride

The most impressive part of Chicago's L.A.T.E. ride? The shear number of people who participate in it each year. Navigating the city streets down to Buckingham fountain where the ride began was nearly as exciting as the ride itself. As we got closer and closer to our destination, we could feel a building of excitement in the air as riders joined our caravan and common goal. When we broke onto Van Buren and caught sight of the fountain's grounds, I was amazed to be greated with a sea of bodies of all shapes and sizes dancing to music, chatting, and warming up for a night of riding. As you can see from my spot at the starting line this year, this is a very popular ride. Race organizers have been forced to cap the ride at 10,000 riders...that's right more than 10,000 crazy bikers want to ride the city streets all night in an organized critical mass. Despite truly impeccable organization by numerous volunteers, this fact was a little frustrating, as my five person group was almost instantly separated as the race began.

Luckily, I was able to stick with one of my teammates throughout the entire twenty-five mile ride, which brings me to my second favorite aspect of the L.A.T.E. ride...encouragement of costumes. As you can partially see from above, my friend and I came dressed to the nines, and received a stream of compliments for our stylish outfit choices throughout the ride. I especially appreciated the riders we passed multiple times who remembered us and called out 'ribbon girls!' or 'it's the sparkly divas!' and above all, the man who told me I would have won the helmet decorating contest had I been bold enough to challenge the competition.

Finally, we have wound through countless city streets, beat exhaustion, reached some sort of level of euphoria, and made it to the last leg of the race. The last perhaps seven miles of the ride runs down the lakefront path as the sun is beginning to rise and the city begins to awake. This is when I realize why more than 10,000 riders yearn to join the L.A.T.E. ride each year. Although my butt is sore, my eyes hurt, and I am wondering why I ever agreed to stay awake for this long without any sort of alcoholic aid, as we ride down the usually overcrowded and chaotic lakefront path in the peace of early morning, I am struck by the beauty of the city laying in wait before us. It is quiet on the path, as riders take in the serene beauty surrounding our critical mass. We experience the same peaceful sense of calm as wheels churn and faces turn to admire the wonderful dichotomy that is Chicago's lakefront path, a true intersection of man and nature broken by a smooth line of two wheeled power. Ok, perhaps we are all just tired and daydreaming about soft pillows and sheets and a hot breakfast, but I am going to remember this moment as euphoric and meaningful for all involved.

We make our triumphal return to Buckingham fountain and reunite with the rest of our riding group just as the sun has finished rising and daylight has officially set it, along with true exhaustion. We recap our riding experiences, say a few bleary goodbyes, and begin the long trek towards a comfortable resting place.

_A special thanks to all who made this ride possible, the great participants we met along the way, and words of hope for any injuries and accidents that become inevitable at this scale._

11 July 2009

From A.B.C. to O.P.P.

Summer, why do I love thee...let me count the ways....

Here is a phase I never thought I would be able to utter..."I saw Naughty by Nature perform in an alley the other night....and LOVED it". Naughty by Nature performed at the Cans Festival a few weekends ago, and luckily this happened to occur the day after my birthday this year, so I was easily able to convince a group of friends that this would be the perfect way to celebrate the occasion. We hopped on our bikes and peddled down to Cans, and once we got within a mile radius of the bar, we could hear the beats bumping and the crowd cheering. We piled into the melee and began swaying to the beats along with maybe 500 other hipsters and yuppies sipping PBR tallboys and attempting to 'rap along'.

What a perfect 'venue'. Nestled in between two three flats, lucky (depending on your perspective) apartment dwellers sat in windows and dangled over back porches, watching over the mass of bodies undulating in front of the impromptu stage below. What really made the night for me was the multiple shout-outs to the late, great Michael Jackson. One of my favorite moments was when Treach screamed, "pump your fist in the air for MJ". As the crowd obliged, NbN broke into their first hit 'O.P.P.' who's beat sampled from the ever famous 'A.B.C.' by the Jackson 5.

I will leave you with a few quotes taken strait from my friends' mouths while at the concert...

As the show began, my one friend yelled 'lets see if we can get this whole crowed to perform the thriller dance, who knows the moves?!' quickly followed by him whispering 'man, I NEVER thought I would be at a Naughty by Nature concert...mostly because my mother refused to let me listen to them when they were popular in the early 90's'.....I would say these two quotes set the mood of the evening perfectly. As the night progressed, and the crowd responds to a 'you down with O.P.P?!' line, another friend leans over and says, 'I used to love this song, but I recently googled 'OPP' to find out what it means, turns out I am not so down with it!' To which I could only respond, 'to each his own' while keeping in beat to the music.