Almost Bastille Day, 2K03
Tha LATE RIde
has been going on in Chicago for around 15 years.
I first rode in it in '91,
but this is only the second time. I was busy, OK?
The ride activities
start at Midnight, including awards for fancy helmets and lights.
this year there was a competent
bar band to get everyone in the mood to ride.
Apparently, covers of "Crazy Train" have been found to
be the right music
to get overnight bike riders in the proper frame of mind. Go figure.
Picking up material in Grant Park, Seasrs Tower in
More packet Pickup. The order of starting for the thousands (5K?
10K? Dunno.) of riders was: Blue, Green, Red, Orange, and Yellow
(?). I was in the Red group, but didn't realize that until later.
Le Bicyclette, with flash. Notice all the nice reflective tape.
Plus, the helmet hanging from the handlebars.
Le Bicyclette, without flash. Notice the chemlights, in red and
That's the moon, alright. Plus, the shadow of the photographer
on the bottom left.
Bright lights and the madding crowd.
Right, Pridential Building in the background, lots of popel, But
the important part of this picture? The Grant Park Cafe (or whatever
the name is) was still open.
I only realized that I was actually part of the Red group (instead
of Orange) after the Blue and Green group had started. I thought
was at the front of the Orange group. But that became the rear of
the Red group. Still, that saved me 20 minutes of waiting for the
staggered start. Blue started at 1:30 (I believe), and then the
groups went every 20 min. after.
This is the scene on Columbus Avenue at 2AM or so. Way ahead in
the distance, the was a guy on a cherry picker, calling out the
start. In between, he was entertaining/annoying the crowd. Calling
for waves and cheers and such.
Here's where I started with the Red group. You know, it's really
hard to take a picture with your right hand, while steering your
bike at slow speeds with your left.
We had four lanes on Columbus, then we turned on Randolph and got
over to Lake Shore Drive. This is the backup of people climbing
slowly up the on ramp.
I stopped to take this shot, because I have a very similar one
from "Bike the Drive". (Look to your right!)
Bike the Drive, a 2 year old event. This was June 15th.
In both cases, LSD was shut down to car traffic. In the case of
Bike the Drive, it was both sides of the Drive.
Also, it was day.
I also should point out that the pic above came right after I got
past the first accident of the night. An older woman was sprawled
out in the headlights of a support minivan, while volunteers looked
at her and waited for professional help.
No visible blood or broken bones, but it looked like she hadn't
been wearing a helmet. There were a lot of folks not wearing helmets,
though less than on Bike the Drive. Both rides required that helmets
be worn, and LATE Ride even had Village Cycle renting helmets to
people who didn't own one. And still some folks rode in bare heads.
You know, I hate wearing a helmet, but in a crowd of 5K, with varying
levels of skill, in the DARK, how could you NOT wear a helmet?
This isn't a very good shot, but it's the only one worth showing
wher I was holding the camera in one hand, and pointing it behind
(Above left, above right, right, below left)
This is the first rest stop, where the ride got off LSD at Bryn
Mawr. During Bike ther Drive, this is where you turned around and
headed south. LATE ride headed west on Bryn Mawr.
Below, you can see the crowd waiting for a banana and a bottle
of water. I quickly decided that waiting in the line sounded like
a crappy idea. Plus, I had a water backpack, so didn't really need
I wish this had turned out better. This is the "peloton"
(it amused me to think of the motley crowd of riders as equivalent
to the riders of the Tour de France) crossing under the El platform.
It looked cool from the main pack, but I would knocked people down
trying to take a picture from the street. Ah, well. I'm surer Ansel
Adams had shitty negatives, too.
We had just passed a group of guys cheering everyone on. There
weren't connected with the ride in anyway, like all the volunteers
who pointed out turns and cheered people.
Sadly, after I snapped the pic, a guy waiting in the alley behind
me got out of his car and asked, in a desperate voice, "How
many more of that are going?"
"Um, about four thousand."
He turned white. "How'm I gonna deliver my pizzas?!"
As the ride moved west, we curved around and about Rosehill Cemetary.
For me, this was the best part of the ride. Especially along Berwyn,
it got too crowded to ride fast, and the group settled into a nice
steady paxce. The traffic noise was limited, or non-existent. (Not
surprising at 2AM on a side street.) Calls of "on your left"
were pretty prevalent, though.
At intersections, I would hammer past people to move up to the
next group. At this point, I had decided that my goal was to enjoy
myself, but to catch up to at least the back of the first starting
group, the blues. I was mainly amongst the Greens at this point.
Drivers would cheer, or look pissed. Some would look horrified
and scared at the long line of riders, blocking their left turns.
This was the aprt of the ride that most reminded me of '91, the
last time I did the ride. Quiet, dark streets. Groups of bikes whizzing
and passing in the dark, occassionally racing past cars stopped
in intersections. The most Critical Mass part of the ride, though
In '91, though, I remember drunk guys in cars throwing fircrackers
at groups of us, which made that ride like riding in Southern Michigan
after the 4th of July.
This guy was a notable. You can see the two speakers he had on
the rear rack of his bike. Being a mobile DJ was a noble goal, but
unfortunately, he choose Jimmy Buffet as the soundtrack. Bad DJ.
(Better than the cover band at the start of the race, though.)
It was around this point that the one cop-civilian incident took
place. Some moron had been driving around the ride, and one of the
cops had stopped him. I'm pretty sure he was drunk, because as I
passed, the cop was shouting, "YOU are the BIGGEST JAG in the
Once we all realized he wasn;t talking to any of us, it was pretty
This was as we were heading back east toward LSD again. The woman
in the blue shirt ahead of me had a Chicago SKyline on the top of
her helmet, but the pic didn't really turn out. Kind of entertaining,
This is cruising south on the bike trail near the beach.
This is also after the second Rest Stop, where we got PB and J
and crasckers, as well as water. I was early enough that the lines
were short this time.
I hadn't taken pictures for about twenty minutes at that point,
because their were only two narrow bike lanes, and I started reacing
people. Which was dumb, and on the edge of dangerous, but so are
most group bike rides. It's only bad if you hit someone.
This is the mess of bridges around Navy Pier, coming back south
near Lake Shore Drive. It was at this point, I noticed the camera
battery was about to quit.
When I got back to Grant Park, I tired to take on shot of pre-dawn
coming up over Buckingham Fountain, but the battery died before
I could snap a shot. Ah, well. Just picture what it looked like
in the shots at the top of the page, only with people picking up
breakfast instead of registration packets.
I caught up with the Blue pack pretty easily, btw. I don't know
when I finished riding, but I made OK time. I got home around 6
I'll leave you with this picture of the skyline looking south at