Yesterday afternoon, a crowd of nearly a hundred eclectic Burlington characters gathered in the parking lot of an undisclosed location for a relatively hush-hush cycling event known as the "Decade Ride." The secrecy is just for thrills, but it also ensures that the event grows each year by word of mouth alone. Despite the lack of advertising, the countryside parking lot teemed with spokes and bodies.
The ride didn't start in Burlington itself, so folks filled their truck beds with bikes and made a caravan out of town. There was just one requirement for the ride: To come in costume, be it theatrical feathers and tutus, hipster plaid, or biker-geek Spandex.
There is also an unspoken preference for fixed-gear bicycles, unusual contraptions or retro models. I have never seen so many fixies, tandems, unicycles, penny farthings and tall bikes in one place. The crowd was equally varied and unusual, composed of cycling enthusiasts, acrobats, train hoppers, musicians, artists, bus drivers and retired businessmen.
The ride is more social than athletic, and in truth we spent more time eating and laying about in fields than pedaling. Everybody made sure to strap baskets, crates and even mailboxes to their frames to contain an overflowing store of edibles.
Only a few miles after a very dramatic and slow start, we gathered by the lake's edge for our first picnic break. People popped champagne corks and munched on sandwiches. A few brave souls stripped and dove into the lake. We hopped back on our bikes after it began to rain, and rode on for a ways over a few slight inclines and shaded bends in the road.
Sunlight always seems more beautiful after a brief storm, and the crowd let out a colletive sigh as the clouds parted. No sooner had the sun appeared than we came upon a creemee stand, which we assaulted like a swarm of bees. At this pit stop, a small cone will get you two hefty scoops, and a large creemee is nearly the size of a hog thigh.
We took our frozen treats to the lawn and unloaded the rest of our picnics. I wandered and sampled from the generous spreads of the crowd: blueberries, cured meats, honey wine, grapes, cupcakes, sushi. I watched as one large man unwrapped a package on his lap. It contained an entire steak and one piece of wilted romaine lettuce. Whatever calories we had burned during the 10 miles to this spot were soon balanced out by our indulgent lunch.
We eventually rolled back onto the road, but not for long. The next gas station we passed provided a perfect opportunity for picnic #3. I heard somebody say, "My happiness levels have dropped to euphoric, I need something quick!" During this rest, people broke out their juggling balls and ukuleles, and performed somersaults, cartwheels and handstands. We played an extensive game of leapfrog and attempted balancing acrobatics in the grass, snacking on chocolate-covered espresso beans and plums.
There are two more "Decade Rides" this year, and I'm sure people will be exercising their appetites more than their biking muscles in preparation. If you want to join the festivities, dust off your ugliest bicycle — the rustier the better — and ask around. Chances are, if you see somebody in Burlington riding a bicycle with food in their basket, they will know something about the next location.