My first day of work at my new job is tomorrow, so I was tempted to skip Night Riders tonight. If it hadn't been for the fact that it was the Cowboy Ride, during which all of us were supposed to wear western clothing, I would have stayed home to do some laundry and prepare for my work day. As usual, the inner child in me won out because I just couldn't turn down a chance to wear my hat and boots and ride my bike down Main Street to the Stockyards.
By the time I made it to the Chat Room Pub, which is really only a couple of blocks from my front porch, I was already a sweaty mess in my Wranglers, my long-sleeved plaid shirt, my heavy leather boots, and my palm straw Larry Mahan hat. I had tied a brown bandana with Fort Worth printed on it around my neck for the extra flourish of city pride and stereotypical cowboy attire, but it was too hot, so I gave it away shortly after I got the pub, where a group of about 40 riders milled around, socializing, sipping beers, and generally not dressing as cowfolks.
There were only a handful of us crazy enough to sweat it out in jeans or boots, but I have to say that some of the ladies pulled off the look with much better grace than I could muster. My buddy, Hector, looked at my outfit, which is not far from what I wear on a regular basis, and said, "Hey man, you really dressed the part...you even brought the gut.." and he looked at my belly and laughed. Yeah, that's why I love Night Riders.
A number of the red Bcycle Bike-Share bikes were among the wheels gathered tonight, and we soon found out that we had genuine circus performers in our midst. Usually, Troxler is the biggest clown, with his off-color and punch-line-predictable jokes, but tonight, we had a proper clown, a woman who gets frequently shot from a cannon, and a trapeze artist, just to name a few. I had seen that the circus was in town, as I sidewalk-surfed around town earlier this week, but I never imagined that we would be so honored by their showing up to ride with us.
We left Magnolia and the near south and headed North on South Main. As we approached the Sundance Plaza, we dismounted and walked our bikes right past the fountains as the late summer crowds turned to take our pictures on tablets and phones and children waved and commented about all the cowboys and bicycles. After cruising down Main, and congregating around the White Elephant, Night Riders split up to visit various saloons along Exchange. I casually smoked my pipe, letting the toasted Cavendish cover any offensive odors that my sweaty hairy manly self might be exuding. I thought about skipping the beer, but then chose to walk over to the Beer to Go Booth next to the White Elephant, where a cute young bartender looked up at me and said, "Aren't you a teacher?" I may have groaned because I generally don't like to have a beer near my students. It's certainly frowned upon at school.
"Yes ma'am, I am. I thought you looked familiar..." I lied. "What's your name again?"
I have the world's worst memory for names. I leaned against the bar as another member of the gang sidled up beside me and said, "she's cute...what do you think?"
"I think you better back off, brother." I laughed and explained how this paternal attitude comes over me when I encounter my former students out in the world beyond the classroom. Even ones whose names don't readily come when I try to remember.
As we started to rally the forces at the end of this first stop, one of our regular riders got a flat. And unlike a seasoned Night Rider, he had no tubes, tools, nor air pump. Fortunately, Kyle Blake was riding his fat-tired Yuba, a cargo truck of a bike, and had plenty of gear and even a floor pump stashed in his oversized panniers, and with Macy Moore working on the flat, the tire was ready to go in under five minutes.
We headed out passed what used to be the Spaghetti Warehouse and as we approached our final turn before Samuels, we saw that a train was stalled on the tracks, so Troxler led the group down an off-road trail frequented by horseback riders. Soon, we were back on the main part of the Trinity Trails, skirting the Coyote Drive-in Theater as we made our towards infamous Taylor Street Hill.
The circus clown whose name I was too bashful to ask, and the cannon-baller were our slowest riders, partly because of their use of the Bike Share bikes, and partly because the clown claimed she hadn't ridden since she was a child. I hung back to give her and our tail-gunner or drag person (the one who makes sure no one is left behind) someone to talk to. She really was a cool person, warm, and affable, describing how she lives with the circus, and gets one month off every two years. She said that it gave her a chance to see what she had never seen before...and she was glad for the opportunity to ride with us like normal folks. I quickly explained that the Night Riders are far from normal!
The ride continued through town, all the way to Malone's Pub, where I waved farewell so that I might get home and get ready for my first day back on the job.