Monday, October 31, 2005

A Tribute to Things Two-Wheeled...

Saturday evening a group of us forsook the usual weekend Halloween party and met at the Ram's Head Tavern in Savage, Maryland. While a couple of freaks pedaled straight from their front doors, travelers from afar (such as yours truly) and those who otherwise lacked sufficient ambition drove to the gathering, bikes sprouting from our cars like mutant antennae, and parked in the overflow parking lot, since the tavern was hosting a wedding. It was a good mix of fixed gears, singles speeds, and geared mountain bikes, and a slightly skewed ratio of guys to girls. The plan, cooked up by riderx, was for the 11 or so strong pack to pedal about nine miles to the Columbia Art Center to take in BIKE: An Exhibition, after which we'd return to the tavern to eat and toss down some pints. Three of the riders among us had works of their own on display at the event.

After the usual salutations, riderx broke out a box of glowsticks, and we all spent a few minutes adorning our bikes with the colorful tubes, weaving them between spokes and wrapping them around various parts of our framesets. Then we mounted up and headed off.

The route was a mix of paved and gravel trails, with an interstitial stretch of road thrown in here and there, a relatively direct line along a path that formed the backbone from which occasional secondary trails seemed to spread out in all directions like crooked ribs. We kept up a pretty good pace given the disparate abilities of the riders. About a quarter of the way there, Jay managed to strip the threads on his track hub, allowing the now unfixed cog to spin freely in both directions, and greatly undermining his efforts to move the bike in a forward direction. That ended his ride, and he rolled back to the parking lot to drive over to the center.

At some invisible point, the rest of us passed from Savage into Columbia, eventually making our way to the center as dusk seeped into the autumn sky.

Outside the center, we stacked the bikes in a jagged pyramid reminiscent of the one that sprang miraculously from the sidewalk outside a bar in PA this year on the eve of the SSWC. The tangled mass was an apt prelude of the artwork to be found inside, though considerably less esthetic. Bikes properly secured in accordance with Maryland law, we made our way en masse to the door.

The first thing to catch my eye from a distance was a full-size bicycle suspended from the ceiling, visible from the outside through a window by the doors. It seemed to droop under its own weight, like the cycling equivalent of one of Dali's clocks rendered in 3-D. As we came closer, it was clear that this bike had an infinitesimally low rider weight limit, considering that it was crocheted entirely from yarn. Talk about frame flex. Then again, I've never seen smoother welds. Just from the scrupulous attention to detail, I'd guess that the artist spent as much time on this bike as some custom builders do on their frames.

The group split up to take it all in. Lots of intriguing pieces, with media running the gamut from the aforementioned yarn to celluloid to watercolor to oil to acrylic to, well, steel, and more. It wasn't long before the place was packed. My girl and I managed to find the stash of microbrews secreted behind the front counter, and proceded to polish off a couple as we mingled and observed.

Riderx had three framed photographic works on the wall, a color shot and two black-and-whites, some cool stuff. Not to be outdone, the disco cowboy had on display a large action shot, entitled Paying the Rent, that ended up garnering him an honorable mention at the awards ceremony, and his girl had a beautiful shot of a twisty descent from Snowshoe, WV, that somehow managed to capture the essence of mountain bike racing in a single fleeting instant (unfortunately, my shot of her shot failed to pay proper homage to the quality of the original...should have shelved my beer and used both hands on the camera). All great stuff, to be sure, an eclectic collection that really seemed to please the attendees, cyclists and non-cyclists alike. All those who put their time, effort, and talent into making this event happen really deserve commendation for the results.
Our group of riders shuffled out the doors about an hour or so after the awards, bellies primed for dinner by the h'ordeurves we'd eaten during the event. We untangled our bikes and pedaled off into the night, taillights flashing, headlamps blazing, and glowsticks doing their thing.

Back at the Ram's Head Tavern, we reassembled and, over dinner and a few pints (mmm...Resurrection Ale), discussed the details of an upcoming C&O Canal Towpath "girl's ride." Well, most of us did. My girl and I managed to arrive upstairs a bit late (the band downstairs doing Hendrix covers was just too damn good to miss) and ended up sitting with the disco cowboy and his lady at an adjoining table somewhat removed from the main group of cogitators, so I'll have to catch up on the specifics sometime this week. Looks like that's the next big adventure, so plenty of stuff to get ready in the meantime.

You like bikes? You like art? You like bikes AND art? Then check out BIKE: An Exhibition. Because after November 20th, it's gone-daddy-gone. (For an insider's take on the event, check out DC's blog.)


gmr2048 said...

once again, very good write-up. i gotta get myself up there and check out the show. i wish i'd have known you guys were in the columbia area on saturday. i was up there having some beers with some non-riding friends. i would have swung by.

Hjalti said...

Great write up. I had wanted to get there, but ended up venturing into Northern VA on non bike errands. Bummer. I will get over to Columbia to see the exhibit though.

gwadzilla said...

sounds like a cool art exhibit