THIS ISN’T AMSTERDAM
Friday, June 24, 2011: I leave work a little early to get home and let my dogs out. Itʼs hotter than
heck, with high humidity and a forecast of scattered thunderstorms. I jump on my bike at
5:10 PM to head to Critical Mass, which puts me on the road in peak Friday afternoon
traffic with a bunch of tired, cranky, distracted motorists. Itʼs a four mile ride to the
Orlando Critical Mass starting place. Thereʼre gusty winds, and some mandatory
sections of crappy bike lane to get through, then, mercifully, the end of what passes for
“bicycling infrastructure” here. Itʼs me and the road, which I am happy to share with
several hundred motorists. Parts of my ride I would have considered crazy-dangerous a
year ago, and which were terrifying the first time, then exhilarating the second time, now
just feel ordinary. (Thank you, Cycling Savvy!) Well, ordinary with a bit of “Wow, this is
The weather is looking pretty “iffy” when I arrive. When itʼs less than perfect, there is
usually a much smaller, more hardcore group of riders, which is indeed the case here.
This particular mass is a memorial ride for a 20 year old cyclist.
I would estimate that there are about 100 riders, of which maybe half a dozen are female. It appears that they are nearly all in their 20ʼs. Except for me. Also, I am utterly lacking in tattoos, but I do have a few age spots, if that counts.
There is light rain soon after we start, then moderate rain after a couple of miles. By the
time we reach the I-4 and Ivanhoe interchange, it is raining in earnest. For some
reason, the ride pulls off into the small space under the overpass, which appears to be
more for a cigarette break than anything else, since we are already wet. After a few
minutes, the ride resumes, with a deafening crack of thunder just as we pull out.
We ride down Orange Avenue (downtown Orlandoʼs de facto “Main Street”) in the storm. I
have previously ridden a vintage Raleigh with fenders for a Critical Mass in the rain, and
found that it did absolutely no good, since no one else had fenders. There is no way to
avoid the rooster tails of dirty water from the bikes in front of me. Sheesh, itʼs not like
anyone would put fenders on a fixie or a track bike or anything else for that matter. Iʼm
riding a Kona Dew Deluxe, so throwing up my fair share of road spray as well.
We have all seen those videos on YouTube of the Dutch riding their bicycles in the rain,
which are held up as a shining example for us. This is just like that, only we arenʼt riding
heavy 3 speed clunkers with fenders, and we arenʼt holding umbrellas over our heads,
and we arenʼt riding really slowly, and we arenʼt tediously making our way through some
complicated, segregated intersection with multiple signal lights for different users, and we arenʼt in a
gentle shower, but a serious storm. Weʼre not too worried about being “chic” either,
although I am wearing a pair of shorts with “Harlot” embroidered in red on the rear.
We encounter an outraged motorist when we turn on Robinson. He pitches a complete
tantrum at his momentary inconvenience by laying on the horn and yelling, continuing his performance
even as he eventually passes us. Whatever.
As the Mass turns north onto Summerlin to head to Willʼs Pub, I decide to continue on
Robinson and go home to feed my dogs. The storm, which has been going on the whole
time, kicks it up a notch as I head east. Planes are not able to land at OIA. I am hit by
sheets of rain, the streets are flooding, and thank goodness there isnʼt much traffic on
the road. It is dark as night, except when a flash of lightning illuminates the sky. The
rain stings my face and burns my eyes. I am riding in the left lane, as the right lane is
submerged. Torrents of water are rushing into the storm drains, which are overwhelmed.
There are signal lights out. On Primrose, just south of Anderson, the water is at least
6 inches deep, and my feet are alternately submerged with every downstroke of the
pedals. Strangely, the water is warm as bath water, heated by the hot pavement. I am
nearly thrown off my bike by gusts of wind and torrential rain. I feel like whooping and
hollering, although I restrain myself, but I am laughing as I pull into my driveway. I feel
like Iʼm ten years old. This ainʼt Amsterdam, but itʼll do