Chi’s Massive Critical Mass
After our stay at John’s, we spent the day ameliorating the soggy socks situation at the laundromat. It poured pretty much all day long, but the rain somehow let up just in time for Critical Mass that evening.
On the way downtown to the ride, we attempted to follow a jolly mad recumbent rider toting a trailer with a stereo system and Halloween installation. I thought it would be a good idea to follow someone since we really had no idea where we were going, but he looked like he was on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and was weaving in and out of traffic and hauling ass. We lost him in his attempt to break the land speed record.
Chicago Critical Mass was the biggest we’ve ever attended. It converged at Daley Plaza, which is a square downtown which features a 50 ft. Cor-ten steel Picasso Sculpture. The square is in the middle of a lot of really tall buildings. The Richard J. Daley Center building was once the tallest building in Chicago, but more importantly was the headquarters of Wayne Enterprises in The Dark Knight.
As we pulled into the square we beheld a sea of bikes and people dressed up in Halloween costumes. It was exciting to see such a turnout. There were people of all ages, but I was especially impressed by a strong showing of the over-60 crowd. I don’t know if the performance was in conjunction with Critical Mass or not, but there were acrobats and jugglers.
Soon after the culmination of the performance, there was a bunch of noise and whistle blowing and people slowly started trickling out of the square and into the streets. Our new friend and bicycle refugee aide John was dressed as Johnny Walker (red jacket, cane, and bottle of whiskey) and hopped onto the back of my xtracycle. It must have been a little precarious for him because he was sitting on top of my sleeping bag and Therm-a-rest. The ride circled around the square a couple times, then headed north.
The first thing I noticed was how jubilant everyone seemed. It was a seemingly neverending stream of all sortsa bikes and clever costumes. John’s friend TC was dressed as an angry motorist and had a smoking tailpipe made with dry ice as well as a grill attached to the front of his bike. He would come up behind you and honk his horn really loud and yell….pretty hilarious.
Other than TCs costume, nobody was really trying to be agro, and a few people were Hi-5ing motorists and pedestrians along the way shouting “Happy Friday!”. The most striking thing was that the bike cops were actually corking the intersections for us. I was told that there was once animosity between the riders and cops, but eventually the cops just started assisting the ride in delaying traffic. It almost gets treated like some sort of parade now. The ride winded through downtown and north into Lincoln Park eventually ending at Navy Pier. Unfortunately Jared became hungry and demanded pizza, cutting our ride short. It was hard to tell how many people there were altogether, but it was well over 1,000 people on a brisk and slightly dreary evening. Hooray for Chicago!