getting tweedy

My usual ride reports on this blog are of a more “epic” proportion: long distance, plenty of climbing, tales of extreme endurance.

My ordinary? Alas, no.This is certainly not one of those! Indeed, this is a story about a more leisurely ride that resided entirely within the District of Columbia: the First Semi-Annual Washington DC Tweed Ride, organized by DC’s own “Dandies and Quaintrelles” club.

The basic rules of the day were:

  1. Wear tweed or other retro garb (lycra was verboten).
  2. Ride in a genteel, well-mannered way, obeying the local constabulary and all signed appointments.
  3. Enjoy the ride!

Simple, no?

The organizers of the ride likely had no idea of how popular such a ride would be. It helped that Sunday was a postcard-perfect weather day: clear skies, low humidity, and a high of 72. So when over 250 riders showed up at the appointed starting point (behind a PNC Bank on 8th Street NE), it was a cause of both celebration and (for both organizers and riders) a bit of confusion. As the ride came together so quickly and loosely (with PR largely by word-of-mouth and mentions on local cycling and hipster websites), there wasn’t a formal registration process – something that was clearly evident given the bottleneck to pick up liability release forms and cue sheets.

sprite and I had rolled in from Dupont Circle (scaling our biggest “hill” of the day along the way: the viaduct over the tracks at Union Station), and met up with Michael and his famous borrowed bicycle. We all soaked in the atmosphere: lots of tweed, wool, knickers, frocks, hats, pipes and tea sets were on full display as we awaited our turn to ride.

Around the turn of noon, we were off (dig my knickers, vest and argyle-patterned helmet – thanks to Eric Gilliland of WABA for snapping the shot)!

The route was a meandering path through DC: through the Capitol Hill neighborhood, down to the National Archives and Penn Quarter, then to the White House and up to Dupont Circle, eventually finishing at 14th and U Streets NW at Marvin, a lovely tavern.

Our crewOur spirited group of 25-or-so riders was in good spirits throughout. As I was one of the few who had a cue sheet, I was appointed the “leader” of our pack (though we had the person who cued the ride in our midst, so the likelihood of wandering off track was nil). Our average speed was in the neighborhood of 7 miles per hour, and we caught the eye of many passers by, most of whom were charmed by the sight of so many people, dressed to the nines, enjoying a scenic roll through town.

We smiled and laughed. We conversed. Folks took pictures and filmed the merriment. We waved and smiled at pedestrians, motorists and fellow tweed-free cyclists – as was said many times: this was not a race, but a parade (of sorts). Folks on Segways and street hockey players made way for us, and we thanked them for their courtesy. According to a few reports, Michelle Obama met some of the earlier tweed riders as they passed by the White House – very cool.

A trip through timeThe 6.6 miles of the DC Tweed Ride went by very quickly, even at a deliberately slow pace. We rolled in at Marvin to see a mass of bicycles of all makes, models and vintage, with riders wandering in any out of the tavern. Inside and on the roof deck, gin fizz and good beer was enjoyed by many.

As for us, we picked up lunch around the corner, as we had arrived too late to get brunch at Marvin. Pity, that. And that brings me to the one gripe I had about the ride: it ended at a location that wasn’t made to accommodate such a large group of riders. Perhaps reversing the route, ending at a theatre or a park where a band can play, people can stretch out and more food can be served – that would make the ride even better.

But as it was, the First Semi-Annual Washington DC Tweed Ride was a superb way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I can’t wait for the next installment of the ride come springtime.

In the meantime, the rest of my photos from the event are here, sprite’s are here, and still others are here. Also, be sure to enjoy Michael’s film of the event:

DC Tweed Ride 2009 from Piso Mojado on Vimeo.

sick to my stomach

That a basic, seemingly inherent human and civil right – the right to equality under law – can be put up for a vote is abhorrent to me.

And that rights that have been granted by government can be taken away via referendum is doubly abhorrent.

The scary side of referenda reared its ugly head last year in California, with the passing of Proposition 8, overturning the right of same-sex couples to marry and be equal under the law and to the majority of society. Reactionist and fringe groups rallied support against equal rights, and stripped the rights of millions of Californians via a simple vote.

Human and civil rights, denied.

And it seems that the voters of Maine have done the same tonight, in the form of Proposition 1. Maine’s governor and legislature granted the right for all couples, regardless of gender, to have access to civil marriage. In the same measure, they also preserved religious freedom by not requiring churches to perform marriages that run counter to their tenets.

But on November 3, 2009, slightly over 23 29 percent of registered voters in Maine decided to strip the rights of their fellow citizens. They decided that discrimination is just fine, and that the United States Constitution is wrong, and that all men (and women) are not created equal.

It makes me angry that anybody would vote to deny rights to people simply because they don’t agree with genetics. That anybody would be so twisted with hate, fear or confusion (or a combination of all three) to declare via one of the most basic responsibilities a United States citizen has that there is an under-class of people who don’t deserve the same access to a public and legal expression of love and commitment is something that does not compute with me.

I understand that a belief in God, or in the literal word of The Bible, or in a set of morals and beliefs that denies full inclusion for all members of society is a reality, and that many people ascribe to a life molded around such a code of conduct. But when these people have such myopic views and insist on forcing these views upon all others, I have a problem.

I grew up in a theocracy, where such practices are commonplace throughout the state and local government. As an atheist, I feel most unwelcome in places that force such beliefs and practices upon me.

I believe that love is the answer, that love makes a family, and that a family is not defined by a ratio of women to men. If two people love each other, are committed to each other and are willing to legally declare their love and commitment to each other, who am I to deny them that right?

Indeed who is anybody – individual or government – to deny that right?

Society should embrace those who love each other with true commitment and responsibility. They should allow them to be married – in a civil marriage. Marriage need not be religious to be legitimate, but it needs to be marriage. A civil union, seen by many conservatives as the “equivalent” of marriage, is separate but decidedly not equal under the law or under most societal definition.

I hope that DC’s pending legislation to legalize same-sex marriage equality (with protections for religious freedom) passes into law, and that all people in DC will embrace a society where all men and women are equal under law.

But tonight, Maine just makes me sad, angry, and wishing that fear and division were a thing of the past. Indeed, I feel sick to my stomach over this.

To the voters of Maine who voted NO on Proposition 1, I send my heartfelt thanks, and urge you to continue to fight the good fight.

To those who voted for Prop 1, I hope that you open your eyes to love, equality and acceptance of all people. Because fear, bigotry, hatred and myopia will get you nowhere in this world (or, according to friends of mine who are believers, the world after this one).