(Blame it on Christy!)

In Ventura, all year, preparations are made
For their popular downtown St. Pat's Day Parade.
On that last Winter weekend, folks eager for Spring
Like this hometown event; it's a fairly big thing.

They can't wait for the chance to get outside and greet
All their neighbors and strangers lined up on Main Street
As they watch for that trademark inflatable pig,
At the head of the line, floating high, green and big.
Politicians and bands, dancing troops, vintage cars,
Girls in gowns and tiaras, folks from popular bars,
Monster trucks and equestrians (making a mess),
And somewhere in the pack, you'll see us, I confess:

A contingent of cyclists on odd bikes and trikes,
Some the wrong side of sixty and two laughing tykes,
Dressed in costumes, with humorous placards and such,
All decked out without much of an artistic touch,
Mostly ribboned, ballooned, with (almost) matching shirts,
Plastic hats, funky glasses and wigs, purple skirts;
Blowing bubbles and chatting while waiting (awhile!)
For the line to embark on that short uphill mile...

Then (at last!) the green trash truck cranks up, on the move,
And we pull in behind and get into the groove.
In parades, we're more active than all of our peers,
Circling, swooping and swirling to spectators' cheers.
Our 'bent group enjoys (meaning: LOVES) this parade,
Since in day to day lives, for the most part, we're staid,
Calm, reliable, circumspect, steady, mature –
A disease which parades temporarily cure.

Once they give us a go, I zip off; my feet churn,
As I crank up to speed, check the traffic and turn.
Other cyclists are turning and speeding both ways,
And it might seem a bit like we're caught in a craze,
With a crash or disaster about to ensue,
But it doesn't (except for a sideswipe or two).
If a trike turns too quickly and raises a wheel,
It soon drops back to pavement; it's not a big deal.

Cruising past groups of kids who high-five us with smiles,
We all artfully dodge other cyclists and piles
Left by horses (I trust), weaving intricate tracks;
Figure eights, loops and ovals, and feigned sneak attacks
On the other 'bent riders or spectators' toes,
Are the basic maneuvers that make up our shows,
And we'll ride a lot further, some five to ten times,
Than the entrants just plodding up dull straight-line climbs.

At the judges' stand, this year we had a routine;
Though the group's choreography wasn't quite 'clean'
(As you'd maybe expect if you've seen this bunch ride),
I suppose I should note, with a small show of pride:
We ride mostly for fun, but a trophy is nice,
And at St. Pat's Parade, our group has won – TWICE!
At the top of the hill, it's all over; we slow,
Get together, regroup, form a line and then go...

Single file, riding bicycle lanes to the shop,
Our fun's more subdued, but it still doesn't stop.
After making small changes to cycles and garbs,
We cruise off to the beach to replenish some carbs.
Rolling down San Jon Road is – as usual – FUN,
With the ocean beyond in the glimmering sun.
Down at Joannafina's the trophy arrives;
Sure, it isn't the high point of all of our lives...

But the kids think it's special, so adults demur
To those spirits more carefree, like ours briefly were
As we sped on recumbents, gyrated and played...
We remember the reason WE LOVE A PARADE!

St. Patrick's Day Parade, March 2008 Click for More PixI think it was about three years – and roughly 100 ride notice emailings or so – ago that Christy called and/or emailed me to suggest that our local recumbent group should ride in the (locally very popular) St. Patrick's Day Parade through downtown Ventura. We (John and I) had only very recently agreed to sort of take over as something like primary coordinators for the group from the folks at Cycle Scene, who had been purchased by Performance, the large mail order cycling outfit, and were dropping all their recumbent products. We had never ridden in a parade, or anything even very remotely like that before, and my immediate response was fairly automatic, if not quite true to my most basic gut level instinct: "Why?"

Now, unlike me, Christy is an incurable evangelical; if she weren't promoting cycling, she'd quite possibly be wearing very nice dresses and going door-to-door with religious pamphlets... or maybe more likely soliciting converts to some social practice that would almost surely offend at least a few of those overzealous door-to-door religious proselytizers. Anyway, as you might expect, what Christy offered as a reason for riding in the parade was the excellent opportunity to demonstrate to a large audience the sheer practicality and social acceptability of recumbent cycles. I pretty much went along with that the first time our Ventura County Recumbent Riders group rode in the parade, but even before it was over, at some point I got back in touch with that basic gut level instinct I mentioned before, and realized that the real, best reason for riding a recumbent cycle in a parade is that, simply stated: IT'S FUN!

Now, Christy, of course and again unlike me, is what we relatively committed tricyclists (trikeys) refer to as 'heterocyclical', meaning she rides an almost bewilderingly varied assortment of pedal-powered vehicles: two wheels, three, four, recumbent, hand-powered, seatless, and even – GASP! – Kinetic Sculptures. In fact, for the last two St. Paddy's Parades, she has committed her evangelical zeal (along with her lovely chartreuse peasant blouse and full length, ruffled, billowing purple skirt) to the KSR cause, leaving us recumbents on our own. But I guess that's maybe a sort of vote of confidence, in a way... and anyway that skirt probably wouldn't work real well pedaling a tadpole. At least we still get to visit with her while we're staging.

For me, being much less avid in seeking converts to the recumbent congregation, as well as finding relative fulfillment in riding three-wheeled vehicles almost exclusively, life is simpler. Probably most especially for parades, trikes are (almost) the only way to fly. At the 2008 St. Paddy Parade, almost everyone in our group was riding a tadpole. Since this parade route is relentlessly uphill from start to finish, the stability of the trikes at extremely low speeds and being able to effortlessly brake them to a sudden stop and restart without any thought for balance or clicking back into pedals makes three-wheelers the preferred pedal-powered parade perches.

Our solo two-wheeler this year was Bill, riding his very sleek and unusual lean-steered, oddly hinged stainless steel Chinkara. We even managed to persuade Jaz to sacrifice her tadpole virginity by riding our (appropriately) lime green Catrike Pocket shop demo for this event. Our five-year-old granddaughter Yma was riding in a Burley trailer behind her Dad (our son Cam), as was Pete and Linda's grandson William, towed by Grampa Pete. Coincidentally, William had Felix, his classroom's stuffed bunny and camera, with an assignment for the weekend to take a picture of it doing something interesting.

To prep for this year's parade, we all met at our shop – 3·2·GO – located about a mile east on the same street as the parade route, and decked out our bodies and machines. This time around we wore green tops with the same hats and sashes we've used for previous parades. Well, actually, everyone but Dave wore green; he rode as The Renegade Leprechaun in a bright red jersey, with a curved bowl pipe clenched between his teeth. We were all out of the shop, heading down to the staging area, only 20 minutes or so later than our planned deadline of 9 AM – which was already an hour after the official schedule for entries to line up. Despite the organizers' assurance that the parade would begin "at 10 AM SHARP!", as usual, we still had an hour or so to play around in the museum parking lot, blowing bubbles with the kids, and squirreling around in whatever open spaces we could find.

The parade itself was FUN. The day had started out fairly cool, but had warmed up nicely by the time we were heading up Main Street. There was just enough of a tailwind to affect but not overwhelm the automatic bubble maker on the back of Linda's trike rack. This parade isn't nearly as rowdy as Doo Dah, of course, but it was nice to see friends, neighbors and other folks we recognized as we went through our typical ride routine.

We won the Individual Vehicles class trophy again in 2008, and this year Pete picked up the trophy right after the parade finish, so we got to enjoy it with the group over lunch on Joannafina's patio. Some of the other VCRR regulars joined us for the ride or just for lunch.

However, before we finished eating, the weather had changed, with a west wind blowing about 35 miles per hour right into our faces, along with intermittent sprays of sand, as we struggled back through San BV State Beach on our way back to the shop. It was one of those very rare days when I welcomed the turn onto steep uphill San Jon Road. But it'll be Spring before next weekend (Easter), and all in all, the St. Patrick's Day Parade is a really nice way to say goodbye to Winter... Thanks again, Christy.

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Last updated Mar 19 2008