Critical Mass San Francisco (I don't know, about 9 miles I think)
Adam and I were jazzed about this ride; the Halloween Critical Mass typically draws an even crazier peloton than most months. We rode our bikes from work to the Walnut Creek BART and it started to drizzle on us but it didn't dampen our spirits. At every stop more and more Mass Riders got on the train and the ambience began developing.
We got to Peewee Herman Plaza at a quarter til 6 and the festivities were in full schwing. There was a guy in an Evel Knievel costume doing some stunt riding in the circle. There were costumes of all kinds. One guy had a fish bike that was really cool - it had two side-by-side wheels in front like a cargo bike and the front was a sort of paper machier fish head with big eyes that lit up with lightning bolts and a moveable jaw operated by a lever in the cockpit. The bike was articulated and the rear section was like a scaly fish body but the scales were all "FREE AOL" CDs… very creative.
As always, there were people handing out flyers promoting protests and activism, I almost scanned one in for your reading pleasure but it's got too much fine print… suffice it to say there was a big anti-Bush Regime sentiment at the Plaza.
There are always a few guys with trailer-mounted stereo systems. One guy I've seen several times has like eight giant car speakers mounted on this big long deck-plate kind of wagon with batteries inside and he has enough watts in there to power a concert at the Pavilion.
After a lot of hooting and noise making we started rolling and Adam and I were eager to go so we got near the front. After about a block though we pulled off and watched the crowd go by because it's much more fun in the middle. We saw Wonderwoman, Ninja Turtles, ghosts, pirates, and assorted weirdoes; we felt a little out of place being dressed so normally. It wasn't raining but I kept my coat on just in case.
We rolled down Market Street for about 8 blocks at 1.2 miles/hour. Adam was on his fixed gear and his gear ratio was a little too high for such a slow speed so he walked a good chunk of those 8 blocks (no trouble keeping up!). Then we turned right and went through the Tenderloin which was kind of eerie because there aren't many street lights in there. Then we headed north on Van Ness and that's when the cops got a little more involved. They blocked the intersections for us and made sure no cars tried to crash our party. At one intersection there was a really mad guy in his car yelling at us and telling us we were all worthless disgraces and should be ashamed of ourselves! That's the kind of guy I like to piss off, so I just waved and a few people rang their bike bells. Then we turned on Broadway and started riding toward North Beach. I found myself separated from Adam and realized that I was surrounded by police motorcycles and a couple of squad cars; I turned around to realize I was the Lanterne Rouge of San Francisco Critical Mass! I don't remember being passed by too many people, I was just fitting in and enjoying the slow ride. Then at the west end of the Broadway Tunnel we all stopped and crowded together. It was about an hour into the ride now and we filled up about two solid blocks as crowded as we were (maybe 2,000 riders?) We just malingered there for a while and let the atmosphere get electric, and then the guy with the amphitheater sound system cranked up some satanic speed metal music and we bombed through the tunnel like we were crazed demons being released from hell to take over the Earth HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! Anyway, quite an experience with the music making the whole tunnel vibrate and scaring the bejeezus out of the cars on the other side.
After that Adam split to go catch a BART home, but I stayed on for a while longer. We rolled through North Beach and entertained the restaurant patrons. We wound up at a big intersection and corked all the streets while some of the stunt riders performed some more trick riding. I decided I'd had enough at that point and found my way to the Embarcadero and then to the BART station. It was a very tame Critical Mass; no confrontations, no taking over any bridges or freeway on-ramps, just a bunch of regular joes enjoying this monthly coincidental convergence on their bikes