Rides this weekend!

So there’s two rides that I plan to attend this weekend.

The first: The Midnight Mystery Ride

The Midnight Mystery Ride (hereafter referred to as MMR, which is what Shawn and I usually call it) has been going on for, geez, more years than I know about. A long time. Longer than I’ve been going on them. (Shawn says eight years.)

And the idea is always the same: On the second Friday of every month, a location is announced during the day (or, in some cases, earlier in the week). The location is always a place that serves alcohol. Everyone shows up late in the evening and (in theory) behaves politely. At midnight, we all take off, and only the leader of the ride knows where we’re going.

It’s a different leader every time, although some people have done it many times.

The ride varies in length, usually it’s three to five miles, and ends in a place where we can be rowdy, almost always outdoors. I have been on MMRs that have ended near train tracks beside the highway, the top of a bluff, on the bike path under I-205, the Columbia Slough, Oaks Bottom, the Sierra Club office, a grassy area off the I-205 bike path near Maywood Park, Rocky Butte… Generally people attempt to go someplace that MMR has not gone before, but that gets tricky when they’ve been doing it so long.

The ride itself is fun. If you’ve never ridden your bike in a big group of people having a good time, you’re really missing out. Generally at least one person has set up a stereo on their bike, in a trailer, or a sidecar, or the setup I saw once that was built into someone’s panniers. Unless I really hate the music, I usually try to ride near them! Most people seem to play dance-y stuff, sometimes older (Michael Jackson is usually a hit), sometimes more recent (I first heard MGMT on group rides). There’s a fun sense of camaraderie, a party feeling. I love looking ahead and seeing all the red blinkies, or turning around at a stop to see everyone’s headlights.

One of my favorite experiences on an MMR ride, was on SE Division. We were taking up a lane, and cars were passing us on the left. A lady leans out her window and yells, “Where are you all going?” and, because none of us were the ride leader, we had to answer, “We don’t know!” The look on her face was priceless.

Attendance varies…the summertime MMRs, especially during Pedalpalooza in June, can attract hundreds of people. An MMR in December during cold weather might get twenty.

When we get to the destination, people crack open beers, dance, stand around talking…sometimes someone will start a bonfire and make popcorn! Eventually people get tired and leave a bit at a time. The trick is in staying long enough that you feel like you didn’t miss out on fun, but leaving early enough that you’re not totally exhausted. If the ride ends up really far from home, I’m likely to leave earlier. (I once went up to a friend of mine who lived in the same part of town I did and said, “You can’t leave without me! I don’t know where we are!”)

Sometimes people have a theme for the ride. The woman leading the ride tomorrow is doing so in honor of her birthday, and is asking people to wear stripes. I think the only striped item I have is socks, and I have lots…it’ll be difficult to pick…

As the sticker says: At midnight we ride!

The Second: The Palm Tree Ride!

Shawn leads this one! His post about it is here. This is his seventh year doing it!

The basic idea is that we ride around the city and look at palm trees and other exotics from far-flung (and/or tropical) locations. The basic idea being, if they can survive the winters here, so can you! I’ve been on a Palm Tree Ride that was beautifully sunny but below freezing, and with winds so bad you could coast uphill if you were going east. Last year was rainy but warmer. It’s always fun, and when the ride’s officially “over” we often go somewhere to eat and have a beer and chat for a while.

If you’re too lazy to click on the link (you should though, so you can see Shawn’s flier), here’s the info:

Sunday January 16, 2011
Bi-Partisan Cafe 7901 SE Stark St

Here’s a bicycle ride to prove that winter in PDX ain’t so bad! Come along for a tour of the multitude of palm trees and other tropical and evergreen vegetation growing in the city. We always do each year’s ride differently, this year exploring some untapped regions of the east side. Flat-ish terrain, with the possibility of a hill (no shame in walking it!) Plenty of stops and a refreshment break. UNLIKE PAST RIDES, this one will actually be (mostly) a loop (no, I’m not going to leave you in Gresham.) Rain or shine!

This ride is possibly the most fun ride I do all year!

(Don’t worry if you run a little late, we won’t actually leave the Bi-Partisan until about 11 am.)

Bi-Partisan is one of my favorite coffeeshops in Portland, partially because they have pie! Vegan (and non-vegan) pies made right there on site! Plus yummy bagel sandwiches. And Stumptown coffee.

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12 Responses to Rides this weekend!

  1. Leonard says:

    The MMR rides sound like a lot of fun, maybe even more than the Naked rides. And yes, riding in large groups is quite an experience.

    BUT… (I mean this to be constructive…), if I have gotten it straight, the group first meets someplace and (since the place serves alcohol) has a few. Then they get on their bikes, go a few miles, open a few beers and obviously party a while. Then everybody has to go back and eventually gets home, all at night. One result of this event is going to be a large group of people under the influence of alcohol on the roads, and at a time when there are likely to be more drunk drivers on the road. I don’t think anybody would say that cyclists should not obey the law and rules of the road, obey traffic signs and lights, the ordinary rules of right-of-way, etc., just as car drivers should. Why doesn’t the ban on the use of alcohol and operating a machine on the streets also apply to cyclists?

    Has this question ever come up among people in the MMR?

    • It has, but not as often as you’d think.

      I have joked with friends that the bike scene in Portland is soaked in beer. Most of the silly rides in Portland (and a ridiculous number of Pedalpalooza rides) involve drinking at some point, and any sponsored event is pretty much required to have at least a keg, if not an outright beer garden.

      The general consensus seems to be this: Everyone is responsible for their own safety and knowing how much alcohol they can handle. In addition, most of us feel that drunk cyclists are only a real danger to themselves…drunk drivers are likely to go too fast and kill other people, drunk cyclists mostly weave a lot and maybe fall off their bike. And while it’s just as illegal to bike drunk as to drive drunk, I really don’t think the two are comparable in their harm to society.

      I won’t deny it–I am not the only one of my friends who has gotten home from a party and then realized the next day that they don’t remember how they got home. And I have fallen off my bicycle because my coordination was so off.

      But I did have an accident in October (one I plan to post about). I wasn’t even drunk–I’d had three beers, yes, but I’d also had three pieces of pizza, and both were consumed over a couple of hours. I was in the hospital afterward for five days, and since then I have been much more careful about how much I drink when I know I’ll be riding my bicycle. I have no way of knowing for sure if the alcohol contributed to the accident (I hit a speed bump that was unpainted and unlit and went over my handlebars), but I’d really rather not have to go through any of that again.

  2. Leonard says:

    Alas… I must voice an opinion that is against the general concensus (the story of much of my life…):

    “…drunk cyclists are only a real danger to themselves…”

    I am sorry to really disagree with this statement. Cyclists who are RWC (Riding While Crocked) are of course a danger to themselves. But they may also

    -hit a pedestrian
    -hit another cyclist
    -ride in such a way that a car driver (or cyclist) swerves to avoid them and collides with another machine on the road, anything from a freight truck to a bicycle.

    While the statistics vary from country to country, these types of accidents plus the ones the RWC cyclists expose themselves to, constitute a majority of injuries and deaths in bicycle related accidents.

    I don’t mean to pour cold water over the rides, but, be more careful out there. RWC is a real risk, not only to yourselves.

    Maybe this is my fatherly (grandfatherly?) concern for all of you over there in the New Portland.

    Sorry that I delayed so long in this reply, but we do have a 10-hour time difference.

    Take care!

    • -hit a pedestrian
      -hit another cyclist
      -ride in such a way that a car driver (or cyclist) swerves to avoid them and collides with another machine on the road, anything from a freight truck to a bicycle.

      I have never heard of these things happening. I’m sure it’s possible, and I’m also sure it’s happened somewhere, but I doubt it’s very common.

      Cyclists getting hit by *cars* while drunk does happen, though, as do falls.

      You’d still have trouble convincing me that it’s anywhere near as dangerous or harmful to society as driving drunk. The speeds involved, generally, are just so much slower.

      In any case, I had a good time last night, even though we got shut down by the police! That used to happen to MMR more often. I dunno if there was a noise complaint (we were under a freeway underpass in an industrial part of town, so I doubt it) or what. They were pretty polite about it though: “Party’s over, go home…”

      • Leonard says:

        All of the things I have mentioned have happened of course, and the cyclists have been both drunk and sober. We could dig up the statistics.

        You said that it is “not anywhere near as dangerous or harmful to society as driving drunk” I agree. The key words in this statement are “anywhere near”. The implication is that this practice IS dangerous and harmful, but a lot less harmful and dangerous than driving drunk. Car drivers are the people who must clean up their act, be sober and accept and respect cyclists on the road. However this eventually comes about, through dialogue or legal confrontation or whatever, cyclists must come to the table with clean hands. Nobody should be able to accuse us of operating a machine on the street drunk. It is no defence to say that we are only doing small harm. Cyclists must always stand on the moral (or ecological or ecomonical) high ground. This is going to be a long process, but every little bit DOES count. (What is it going to take to get the overwhelming majority of cyclists to, for instance, obey traffic signs?)

        Over here in this little country RWC cycling gets you the same fines and sentences as drunk driving, and allowed alcohol blood levels are under half of what is tolerated in most US states. And it is enforced. See yesterday’s Bike Snob NYC for a link to the LA Times about police busting drunken cyclists.

        Is this to be a dialogue between us or are other poeple going to join in???

      • Where do you live? I’m curious. (You said Europe but I don’t think you mentioned where.)

        I think it’s silly to expect that people who ride bicycles can’t ask for anything unless we’re perfect. It’s ridiculous and it’s never going to happen. Whether or not someone on a bike runs a stop sign has nothing to do with whether bikes have a right to the road. Debating our behavior on bicycles is a total red herring. It’s irrelevant. (I do think some education would go a long way–I’d be very pleased to see an end to salmoning, riding without lights, and excessively riding on the sidewalk.)

        We do have the high ground in many ways, including ecological and economical. But when I’m talking to someone who thinks I’m crazy for riding a bike and can’t picture themselves riding for transportation, I don’t go on about how good it is for the environment, I go on about how much fun it is 90% of the time–it’s exhilarating and enjoyable. I do mention economic things, like not having to join a gym, not having to pay for a car or insurance or gas, and how much cheaper bicycle repairs are than car repairs.

        In Portland drunk cyclists can get ticketed, but last I heard they’d only ticketed a few cyclists over a number of years. It’s not a priority for the police.

        On my way home last night, I saw very very few cars–it was past two am and there was almost no one on the road. I wasn’t in a part of town with lots of bars though.

        For the record, though: I run stop signs all the time. If I can clearly see that no one is coming, I go. If someone is coming and they have the right of way, I stop. If I can’t see enough of the road to tell, I stop. (If I see a police car, I stop.) I stop for pedestrians whenever I can (this always seems to amuse them). Oh, and last night? On the way home? There were several intersections where we had a red light but there were no cars as far as the eyes could see. We went through them anyway.

        I think that’s more defensible than the people driving cars who stop for a split second and then go without looking. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to brake when I had the right of way because someone driving stopped but then didn’t bother to look, or thought they didn’t have to wait for me. I may not be obeying the letter of the law, but I’m doing a better job of obeying the spirit of the law.

        I’m meandering, sorry. I’m not going to say, “Oh, I think drunk cycling is fine and dandy,” because clearly it’s not. But it’s not something I worry about terribly much except for my personal behavior.

        BTW, there was a pretty good debate on the subject at bikeportland: http://bikeportland.org/2010/12/08/drunk-biking-no-big-deal-or-time-to-get-real-44194

        Lastly: I think this isn’t a conversation between other people than you and me yet, because not many people read the comments to my posts, as most of my posts have few or no comments.

  3. adventure! says:

    Yes, the MMR does start in a bar, and yes, people do drink on the MMR. But that doesn’t mean that people haveto get drunk, or even drink on the ride. True, because of the nature of MMR, it does attract more of a drinking crowd, or at least people tolerant of drinking. But in the nearly eight (eight!) years, I’ve seen the gamut, from teetotalers to those truly wasted. Just because there’s the possibility of drinking doesn’t mean that everyone’s drunk. And in these eight years, I have seen some incidents because people were drinking, but it’s never been a significant number.

    I think the bigger problem here in the US is the lack of options for getting people home safely after a night of drinking. Even though Portland is a major city and has a decent public transit system (relative to the rest of North America,) the buses stop around 1-1:30am, yet bars get out at 2:30am. So if people want to go out and enjoy the night, most of them drive. And a lot of them are drunk at that time. No matter how much we talk about “designated drivers” or stiff penalties for drunk driving, people still do it. And obviously prohibition didn’t work. So what’s the option? Until they start running public transit to 3-3:30am on a weekend (and offering it for free), I see bicycling while intoxicated as the lesser of two evils. It’s not perfect, people can get hurt, etc. But it’s better than drunk driving.

    Leonard, since you say you have a 10 hour time difference and use the term “crocked”, I’m guessing you’re in Western Australia. Perth?

  4. Leonard says:


    Is it really you? I drop in on you often, sometimes just to admire that fine picture of Union Station in virtual dripping rain. And I liked the recontexualised cartoons…

    No, I am not Australian. Good guess. You just counted the hours the wrong direction: I am writing from Finland. (Crocked? I am from Portland and have always said that.) My tale (or part of it) is in this blog, in a reply to April’s Photo Set! posting. Weather report: -5F, light snow, brisk wind. Road conditions: Light snow over very irregular surfaced ice. Normal. Today I did a 25km ride around the perimeter of the city.

    Thank you April for the link to the debate on this question in bikeportland. I missed catching it myself for some reason. I had a lot of work at just that time… I think you can see which people I would agree with or not.

    I want to hit this once more and from a totally different angle.

    First, I don’t think most Portlanders are aware of how famous the place has become because of the bicycle culture that has sprung up there. You pop up in the international media all the time. Most recently here in connection with the problem of the growing number of cars on the streets in China. You are seen as a model. And people are watching to see if the Portland model rubs off in a bigger way in North America. Seeing as the US is the largest consumer of fossil fuels, the Portland model could have global repercussions.

    That said, I want to go back in time a few decades, when I was a demonstration orgainiser and monitor in the 60’s in the anti-Vietnam War movement on the West coast. Our biggest problem as monitors was keeping a certain minority in line. If people marching in demonstrations started throwing rocks, breaking windows shouting obscenities, etc., we had to set on them. The media, the press and TV, were always on hand and waiting for something like that to happen. The next day’s Oregonian would have photos of the “mob” of “anarchists” and “hoodlums”, when in fact there were 98% ordinary people and their children with an age spread of 75 years.

    There are major economic forces that would profit greatly if cycling advocates could be discredited. I read of road rage incidents in Portland that seem to reflect a wide spread image of cyclists and a lawless and selfish bunch. Very worrisome. They are basing their image most likely on the actions of a small but very visable minority. Cyclists and cycling advocacy groups should come down on people not obeying the law and rules of the road. They give us all a bad name. They give cycling a bad name, and at this point there is too much to loose if cycling as a real alternative to continuing to burn down the planet does not go into high gear over there in the US.

    Gesturing to the media? No. Just coming to these questions, as I said before, with clean hands. The moral high ground. And maybe just as in the 60’s we knew that for each and every one of us were out there on the streets, there were 10s who didn’t dare to come, and we had the responsibility to honorably represent them, so today each cyclist not burning fossil fuel is in a way out there for the 100’s or 1000’s who are thinking about it.

    • I’ve done protests here in Portland…admittedly that was all ten years ago, but yeah. I was at the huge WTO protest in Seattle in 1999 as well. So, to a small extent, I know where you’re coming from.

      But here’s the thing: We can’t control anyone’s behavior but our own. It’s frustrating and downright futile to try. I do sometimes talk to people about their behavior (I once even criticized a superior where I once worked when I found out she ran red lights on her bike–an old habit from when she was a bike messenger in Boston), and I’d support a public campaign towards everyone being safer (although I think the biggest thing we could do, outside of banning cars altogether, is to lower speed limits for cars and strictly enforce that and the cell phone laws). But saying we can’t ask for enforcement of the laws (in regards to people driving), or more infrastructure, or whatever, because some people on bikes misbehave, is just plain total bullshit. You’re never going to get everyone to be perfectly behaved. That’s just a fact of life. And it’s totally unrelated to whether I have a right to the road.

      I know that when I’m on the road, many people see me as an example of all cyclists, and that other cities watch Portland as an example. But I can’t let that totally dictate my behavior. I do tend to ride closer to the letter of the law if there’s people driving cars around, sure; and I know that photos of our rides end up all over the world. But there’s no way I’m going to spend all day worrying about how other people are going to interpret my behavior. That’s a sure way to drive yourself crazy.

      I think I get a lot more people out on bicycles by living as an example–of how fun it is, of how not-hard it is, as a source of information. I’ve helped former coworkers figure out safe routes to work and even ridden along with them. I always answer questions when honestly asked. I don’t mind being an ambassador of cycling–but on my own terms.

      Especially! Especially since many people who don’t ride bicycles, will misinterpret me anyway. There are plenty of people out there who get just as pissed off that I’m in “their” lane, as they do about the possibility that I might run a stop sign. They want me out of the way and off the road, and complaining about “those law-breaking bikers” is just a front. I have had arguments with this kind of person before–their complaints are actually examples of the way I am supposed to ride–either according to the law or to protect my safety or both.

      Just the other day, I was at an intersection with a light. I was stopped over the loop in the road so I could trip the signal, there was even a logo painted on the asphalt to show where a person should stand with a bicycle. A gentlemen decided he needed to get through, and even though I was not in his way (as he was turning right), he yelled out the window, “FUCKING BIKE!” First of all, it’s telling that he didn’t say “biker,” he said “bike.” Apparently I am not a person, I am an inanimate object. Secondly, I bet he complained about me later–even though I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

      Even in so-called bike-friendly Portland, I get honked at/yelled at/passed too close for taking the lane.

      Oh, I just remembered! Mia Birk did a blog post about this, and it’s pretty good: http://www.miabirk.com/blog/?p=211

  5. Leonard says:

    Thank you for the miabirk connection. I really liked it and she is talking sense.

    I have been tossing around this subject here a bit. Mostly people just listen with their open. There are no bicycle advocacy groups here. Not only is bicycle infrastructure a given, but there is a totally different car culture over here. I have never been shouted at by a car driver in all my 38 years here. Nobody I have spoken to in the last few days has ever had that happen. The usual reaction after they manage to close their mouth is ” How can those people be so IMPOLITE?”

    In the matter of alcohol and riding, people here observe the same rules as car drivers do. I have been setting in a bar sometimes with my bicycle tethered outside, and as I leave the bartender or waiter tells me to make sure and walk that thing all the way home….. Binge drinking is sort of the national disease here and people observe very strick rules in drinking. I have said, for instance, that in the US a lot of bars have parking lots. This sounds like a stand-up comedians line here. Maybe the American equivalent might be something about the mini-bar in the cockpit of an airliner.

    Now not everyplace here is another Copenhagen, The capital Helsinki is a very bad place for cyclists, with little infrastructure and high traffic speeds. But Jyväskylä in central Finland is better than Copenhagen with a core area with no cars, a pedestrian and cyclists’ city. This place, Vaasa, is someplace in between. I once counted 500 bikes parked in front of the railway station. The flaw in the bike lanes here is that they are on the left side of the sidewalk, not the right side of the street. On busy days far too many people walk in the bike lanes. I often prefer to take the street and go vehicular.

    But April, you don’t need to “let setting an example” “dictate (your) behavior”. All you have to do is be polite. A person shows the moral and ethical code they live by in ordinary everyday things. You hold a door for somebody with a load of packages, give a seat to somebody older and tired, you say thank you to others who do show you the same respect, you go half way to the right when meeting another pedestrian in a tight hallway…. Ritualistic correct “politeness” is not what I am talking about. It is everyday consideration and respect for anybody you meet. If you meet somebody and both are operating transportation machines of one sort or another, nothing changes. You stay polite. It shows what you are. It shows how ethical a person you are in everyday life.

    This is not 60’s idealism or flower power or any of that equine excrement. I remember the tear gas, the police riots and the sound of bullets over the heads of demonstrators. We didn’t take up arms. We held the line. And in the end the polite, ethical way, the way of Gandhi, always wins.

    • I think in the end, we agree more than we disagree, because I feel the same way about polite behavior in general. I do my best to be considerate of others.

      There are always going to be jerks. I’d certainly rather have them on bikes than in cars! There was a woman from the Oregonian who decided to try bike commuting and ended up enjoying it far more than she expected. In the article where she talks about her early experiences, she said something like, “I’ve discovered that it’s not a case of bikes vs. cars, it’s a case of jerks vs. non-jerks.” She shares stories of people driving who were polite and who were jerks, and of people riding bicycles who were polite and who were jerks…she mentions a guy in spandex passing her so close (and fast), without warning, that she was terribly startled, as well as a big burly dude covered in tattoos who stopped and got off his bike to help her when her chain came off.

      I’m totally not perfect, but there are places re: politeness that I’m personally trying to improve. For instance, always giving notice when I pass a cyclist or pedestrian and thanking them as I go by. And when someone says, “on your left,” I try to acknowledge them: “Yup!” lets them know that I heard them and I’m aware they’re passing.

      I think part of the reason I hate being yelled at/honked at so much, (other than that it’s startling and it can be downright scary) is that I’m trying to be polite and considerate while looking out for my safety and acknowledging my right to the road. It’s like I’m waving the proverbial olive branch only to have my hands slapped away.

      Tear gas sucks. I only got it once, from several blocks away, and it was still pretty unpleasant.

    • Oh, and walking drunk is actually, per mile, the most dangerous way to get anywhere, at least to you personally.

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