We didn’t have much money or expertise, so we picked up some loaners from my parent’s place. They were Schwinn mountain bikes that had never ridden out of suburbia. I was not a bike enthusiast. All I knew was to click my gear on an incline. The less my chain popped, the better I got at it. I wasn’t a health fanatic, biking wasn’t for sport. But, I did lose twenty pounds that summer peddling.
We met at 11:30PM on Sundays downtown outside a local bike shop. Hundreds of people gathered waiting for midnight to hit, and then we were off like the drunk tor de France.
One of my largest rides was with a group of three hundred. We rode to City Hall’s circular path that sat in the off hours of Buffalo’s busy business bureau. One guy attached speakers to his bike, played indie jams we could all sing along to, and around and around we went…
Another night, we played follow the bad-idea-leader to Woodlawn Beach, (i rode over 40 miles that night). Our plan was to throw a big party to celebrate our arrival. We almost made it but, when the cops saw a circus of biking bozos barreling down an empty highway, they swerved us back to our Silo City.
Back in 2010, Buffalo was still abandoned with rusted fishing tackle and corroding brick. The Great Depression knocked Buffalo out cold, and for a while we just laid there sleeping. The streets were rich and hardly lit with historic artifacts and sleeping architecture.
We often stopped at the deserted train station, a crumbling landmark and drank Jameson out of flasks. Sitting on the steps, observing other’s dress. Some in costume. Some plain like me. A man nearly naked accompanied by his sneaks streaked gleefully through the playful crowd.
Colorful costumes blended into something sweet under a summer night’s sky in Buffalo June. Roman candles popped and sprang into the dark, infinite gloom above us. Not a suspicion of chemtrails to it, this crowd feared no consequence. These were times not yet analyzed by the consequences to our actions, just a bunch of rebellious souls freely pushing life into another gear.
As the hours turned into morning, the crowd would slowly start to disperse. If you made it to 5am, you rode to the docks- a thin strip of cement tucked into the lake’s armpit near the highway. We’d build bonfires on the disintegrating rock and cook hot dogs with canned beans to fuel up for our last labor toward home.
I was brand new and twenty, like a doll in a daze. Exploring the borders of our city, I was helped not to fear. Things did not make sense here; but, the high on a five speed cruising through the most desolate parts of town was worth knocking the kick-stand every Sunday.