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National Bike Month, Week 4: Pedaling and Parades

June 6, 2012

With the end of National Bike Month came the beginning of summer, with Memorial Day weekend serving as both a closing to the month’s festivities and the launch of a whole new season.  Memorial Day weekend is a particularly big deal in Rockville, where we celebrate Hometown Holidays, a three-day long festival ending with the Memorial Day ceremony and parade.  While the city has long held a large community bike / run event on Sunday morning, the Rockville Bicycle Advisory Committee began participating  for the first time last year in the parade and running a bicycle valet service. Although a friend’s wedding took higher priority last year, this Memorial Day, I was able to participate in all of the activities.  As my parents were visiting for the weekend, I even recruited them into my activities.

Ride and Stride, confusingly also known as the Ride for Rockville, is an organized bike ride and run to benefit the city’s recreation fund.  The fund goes to support recreation programs for children as well as scholarships for kids who can’t afford the programming, so it’s very appropriate.  The ride consisted of two routes – a 12 mile route and a 28 mile route, which was the 12 mile loop with another 16 mile loop added to it. Due to the distance, the city both marked the route with signs and handed out cue sheets with directions. Unlike the community rides that the Rockville Bike Advisory Committee leads, it’s not the sort of ride that everyone’s meant to stay together.  As it’s too long and attracts too diverse a group of riders to expect a uniformity of speed, I was particularly baffled when we found out there would be ride leaders.  Even with three sets of leaders for fast, middle, and slow groups, it was somewhat surprising.

Following my mom’s lead, my dad and I started near the front with the “fast” group.  Over the first 12 mile loop, we kept up pretty well as we rolled up and down residential streets and narrow park trails. Rather than going straight into the second loop, we waited around a bit to see if anyone from a later group would want to take the second loop. After about 15 minutes, the ride leader thought that was unlikely and started off. I should have taken that attitude as a sign for what lay ahead. The second loop was on much faster, more heavily trafficked streets. While I didn’t mind the traffic, what I did mind was the sharp uptick in the group’s speed, especially up the hills. I knew a lot of people in the group were either racers or just plain fast, but I thought they’d still treat this ride as a Sunday amble. But all bets were off. We tried to keep up with them, hauling ass up hills, but by about half-way, they were far out of sight. It ended up being my parents, myself, and one other guy who was fast on the flats but slow going up hills. He looked convinced that we didn’t know where we were going, even though I had a cue sheet. My mom didn’t help this perception by biking far ahead of me without a cue sheet. We caught up with the group at the on-route rest stop, where we were able to catch up with a contingent that was less interested in pushing out the end of a pleasant Sunday ride. Overall, the ride was pretty good, although I was surprisingly tired at the end of it. Considering we stopped three times over 28 miles, I felt like I should have held up much better. I think something about the combination of the early start time, the heat, and pushing it a tad harder than perhaps I should have added up badly.

My parents at Ride and Stride.

The rest of the weekend’s activities were far less taxing, but required more mental energy. Later that day, I manned the Rockville Bicycle Advisory Committee’s table for a couple of hours, helped by my mom and some fun neon bicycle pins. Even though Chris was willing to make an appearance then, he wasn’t nearly as keen on joining in the festivities the next day. In fact, when I invited him to march in the Memorial Day Parade with us, I believe our conversation was, “No.” “Really? You sure?” “No.”

Despite Chris’s non-participation, I, Mom, and Dad lined up at the Rockville Swim Center at 11 AM on Memorial Day, getting ready to march. Like overexcited ten-year-olds, we decorated our rides with streamers, flag ribbons, beads, and star tinsel.

We attached playing cards to the forks of our bikes with clothespins so that the spokes made a pleasant flipping noise as our wheels turned. My mom outfitted her head with fuzzy deely-boppers, reminiscent of something one buys at Disney on Independence Day.

In-between spurts of decorating, I shot photos of our fellow parade-walkers, which had some spectacular and spectacularly-heavy-looking cultural costumes.

The beginning of the parade was pretty chill. We spent a lot of time stepping forward a few feet at a time – we couldn’t ride our bikes for safety reasons – while listening to the big brass band in front of us. Excellent marching music. As we moved further down the road, the crowds increased and I started smiling widely, both wanting to please them and soaking in their energy. I practiced my best princess wave.

As we entered the densest crowds at Town Square, we came to the judging booth. I wasn’t part of the parade last year, but helped create the presentation for the judges. Originally, the group wanted to do a rap about bicycle safety, which I helped talk them down from, considering that wasn’t cool in the 1990s, much less 20 years later. We shifted to a cheer about bicycle safety instead, which we planned on repeating again this year. In addition, we wanted to promote our bicycle rodeos, which are mini-safety classes for kids where they receive riding tips and practice them by weaving in and out of tiny traffic cones. So the leader set up the tiny traffic cones, which the kids participating with us in the parade were supposed to weave their bikes between. While they did that, I was supposed to start the cheer. Instead, because the local TV crew was in the way and the cones were placed differently than I expected, I managed to walk right through the line of kids. Then because I was confused – walking and talking apparently eluded me – I totally failed to start the cheer on time. It was terrible, all captured by local public access TV in its embarrassing glory.

The ridiculous presentation aside, the weekend was quite successful for bicycle outreach. Even though we’re still working on it, integrating the Bicycle Advisory Committee into Hometown Holidays really illustrates how important bicycling is as part of our community.

Did you do anything bicycle-related for Memorial Day? If so, how did it go?

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