It's one thing to be radical and do something that has never been done before. Originally, this started as a thought from last year. Every summer the most liberal cities have something called World Naked Bike Ride Day and they have taken a life of their own. Perhaps one of the best ones happens to be out in Portland next Saturday. There's one in St Louis on July 16th and Chicago was last week. In past blogs, I have discussed about participating in one, and while I debated about St Louis, the Madison one came up on the 18th. And as the countdown begin, I started looking for motel rooms close by, and I found one a block away from State Street, The Graduate Hotel, very pricey but I figured I may as well spring for the 12 dollars parking and not have to deal with moving the car every hour on the hour. I do recommend the Graduate Hotel if you want to scope State Street and all the happenings. Next up, renting a bike. Not a problem, the city has those B Bikes that you rent for a hour or day and they have a bike station in about 10 different places close by. And then my boss was kind enough to grant me the day off, although she might have questioned my sanity.
For a world wide naked bike race, the organizers kept things in secret about where to meet and I did not know about the meeting place till a day before it took place. You basically meet at a gathering spot, and then they take you to the actual meeting place, which came to my surprise, a block away from the hotel, a sorority apartment by Lake Mendota. In the couple days to this, I didn't sleep at all, anxiety and back spams didn't help as I did a mini bike ride Friday Night just to get my legs in shape. Last time I rode a bike was March of last year. Once I left home, I had to crash course on wear to meet, etiquette and so on. You couldn't ask for a better weekend, plenty of sunshine, mid to high 80s and plenty of bike riders and scantly clad college girls too. But I had to find a hat to protect myself from UV rays and packed some potent SPF 50 sunscreen and a carry on for my wallet. Since I was wearing shorts, I had make sure this was in my sight at all times. If I lost my wallet, I would have been SOL.
Another rare thing, this bike ride had me getting up early in the morning than I'm used to. At around 9 AM, I showered and put my shorts and shirt on and rented a bike and head out to the meeting place. The first rule is that you do not show up naked at the meeting place, they'll tell you to cover it or go home, but most of the folk there were actually guys, in shorts and they were covered up. I was chatting with John a model actor who mentioned that they are filming this for a documentary. After a 15 minute wait, we then backtracked our way through the city to the gathering place. It was 9:30, and there was a handful of folks but once inside this gathering place, everybody pretty much took everything off. So I figured why not and did the same thing.
(Photo: Ayo Blood)
In reality, being naked to world in public really that big of a deal. There was no body shaming, no cat calls, nothing out of the ordinary. Contrary to rumor, there was no big sex parties or orgies going on, one of the host dude was puffing on a hooka pipe, and no booze was present, they saved the beer and booze till after the bike ride. And they had donuts and food and some of that yucky no sodium or sugar flavored water cans, which I must have four cans of that. As I was undressing myself in front of a different house with an opened window, it came to my attention that I was being watched by patrons inside, it was a coffee house of sorts! Anyway, they did eventually closed the window binds. But for the most part there were a plenty of guys, a few older men, older than myself and bald or showing touches of gray. It was somewhat oblivious I was among some gay men and a few of them were tanned completely, no tan lines whatsoever and plenty of tattoos and piercings and dick rings so to speak. But a few women showed up as the day was going on, Krystal Price was one of them, and she's a season veteran of the nude Madison bike rides, while last year she was naked, this time out she went topless. I sat around and make some small talk with a few guys before we all finally went out into the open at around 11 oclock.
In reality, this bike ride was uneventful. Oh there were some oddball preachers standing by the road, shaking their bibles and preaching fire and brimstone bullshit, I found it somewhat comical. The preaching of sinners going to hell by going out all naked, God didn't strike us down, He just provided the sun and occasional wind. I had my oversized hat on my head and sunglasses too. I could pick myself out of the video and pictures if they ever surface on line. I'd love to see the documentary about this naked bike ride. But when the Bike Ride started in 2010, the police didn't like this at all and there were a few arrests made but as the event progressed on, they provided some sort of escort and watched from afar with amusement. There was a gospel guitar player singing down State Street, and he was selling his CDs but I don't think he was all that great of a singer. As we make our way up State Street towards the capital during the Farmers Market, we begin to hear the cheers and applause and the public whistling and taking photos as we rode on by, me tipping my cap or peaking through my sun glasses. There was a concern about me handling this ride with so very little riding, and hoping that I didn't cramp up and in hindsight I should have taken some water along just in case. The State Capitol lies on top of a hill and there's a bit of strain getting up one part of the hill but then you can coast down the other side. Madison is in a two year construction (it's been said that construction will continue for next year's WNBR day). I also had concerns about keeping up but most of the trip I was out close in front. And yeah, there were a couple of nice looking girls I couldn't help but notice, but since I was 3 decades older than they were, it was just window shopping. Among the rest of the bike riders, there was shouts of Come Join Us!, This is Democracy, and More Ass Less Gas, the latter would have come in handy for me. And there was dude next to me honking his bike horn throughout. It's strange riding the bike down John Nolen and then on Washington Street but since there was so many of the bike riders (142 final tally) I didn't see no bad drivers on the road for a change. And then we stopped to pay a moment's silence for the Orlando shooting victims before heading onward.
Going past the St Vincent De Paul thrift store, where I donated my records and CDs the day before I heard some woman yell "GET A LIFE" or was it "GET A BIKE" since they had a bike sale going on. At the Co Op down the road they had a sale on Sausage links, the term Sausage Saturday was on their billboard and we all got a laugh out of that. We were on Williamson Street at that time, which is basically one of my favorite hangout streets to go bike riding anyway. But back on 151, we were treated plenty of car horns honking, people shouting and whistling and I even managed to do a half assed high five to a black woman taking pictures. Towards the end, we got off to a side road that led up a hill and I start getting leg muscle cramps, but I wasn't about to end this. I walked the bike up the hill and we reached a lake side park. One crazy girl on skates decided to take a jump into Lake Mendota, which I have to commend her, but that water really did stink pretty bad.
And then we went back on Langdon Street to our starting point and it was over, just like that. At 1 o'clock, the trip took two hours to complete. And I was surprised that I managed to do this, stripped down to just socks and shoes, hat and glasses and rode out with the radicals and liberals and the old guys and the new kids and gay guys and girls. Surprised that I made good with the promise and managed to do something different than just look for scratchy records and not have fun. But with the bike ride now over, and while people were grabbing a beer or champagne to celebrate, it was time for me to get back into doing what I like to do and after grabbing a doughnut and more of that flavored water, I put my shorts back on and rode on out, briefly talking to a Chinese dude who was asking about the nude bike ride and when it started. Told him he missed the bike ride but the party was going on. And then proceeded to return my bike back to the rental station and back to motel room.
While some of the bike riders will move on to Portland and later St Louis and other places in between, this was my summer vacation. And I do wish John well in his model career, he was a cool dude. I can't say if I'll be back next year to take part in WNBR Madison on June 17,2017 but let it be known that I did take part in this years event. And there are pictures out there to prove it. I'm sure they're not safe for work either. And guess what? Ayo Blood filmed it and posted it on You Tube. The Old Crabb is in there. NSFW so be careful https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leGA_1hMZHA
Regardless I did have fun.
The video shoot explained: http://www.windmillermedia.com/2016/07/wnbr2016.html
Update of more pictures: http://photos.thechicagostar.com/Destinations/2016-Destinations/June-2016-Destinations/18-June-2016-WNBR-Madison/
(Photo: Bryan aka Maddobry via Twitter)