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Saturday, August 30, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 78.0° F  A Few Clouds
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The Bicycle Crank anticipates the first 2010 Ride the Drive
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Ride the Drive on August 30, 2009: Not a car in sight on John Nolen.
Ride the Drive on August 30, 2009: Not a car in sight on John Nolen.
Credit:David Medaris

The Bicycle Crank snuck up on me during the commute to work the other day, appearing in the left side-view mirror mounted on the handlebars of my trusty old Trek. "Hey!" he shouted, startling me enough to knee-jerk my toeclips off the pedals.

"Dagnabbit, dude -- don't do that," I snarled, pulling over to wait for the adrenaline rush to subside and my pulse to descend from its spike. "You know it bugs me."

"Get over yourself," he admonished, "and let me finish my sentence: 'Hey, you going to Ride the Drive on Sunday?'"

"Reckon so, weather providing. Maybe a wee bit before its formal start at 10 a.m. all the way through its conclusion at 4 p.m. Why?"

"For one thing," the Crank began, "I was worried maybe that episode at the first one, last year -- when you were cruising along easy, shooting video with your camera in your right hand, and someone veered in front of you and you had to hit the front brakes hard with your left hand and wound up going over the front bars -- might've put you off doing it again."

"Nah. Just testing the camera, making sure it could withstand a five-foot drop as advertised."

"Yeah, right," scoffed my cranky twin from the mirror. "But then there's the other thing. Given that sequels, like sophomore albums by some hot new rock band, tend to suck wind, don't you think a good chunk of the novelty will have worn off?"

"Maybe a bit, but so what? Look, there's an innate coolness to diverting cars and trucks off John Nolen and opening those lanes to cyclists, in-line skaters, peds and strollers. And they've beefed up the peripherals this year."

I rattled off an abridged list of some of what I was looking forward to along the route: the art installation by Brenda Baker and Bird Ross, the Madison Art Bikes display, "Tunes in the Tunnel" performances echoing in the Monona Terrace underpass (including sets by Yid Vicious and saxophone busker JoAnne Pow!ers), the noon performance by Reptile Palace Orchestra at 30 on the Square, the Planet Bike ping-pong table, the bike rodeo, bike polo, the pedal-powered smoothie stand and the bicycle-powered Triple M music stage, the food carts "and all kinds of 'nother cool stuff, including the possibility of a return appearance by those impressive dudes riding their vintage penny farthings. Might even stop to check out some of the kids' activity zones. They had some cool stuff last year. Kids looked like they were having great fun."

The expression on the Bicycle Crank's face started to soften. The dude may be a capital-c Crank, but he gets a vicarious kick out of watching kids have fun. Reminds him what it was like to be a kid himself, he says, trying to dodge the possibility that anyone might think a sentimental heart hides behind his middle-aged Crank faade.

Plus, I continue, it's a cool route. In addition to John Nolen Drive and East Washington Avenue, it includes parts of Blair, Pinkney, Mifflin, State, Lake, Dayton and Bedford streets, the Southwest Commuter Path and North Shore Drive.

"OK, fine," the Crank retorted. "But ya know what would be a way cool route? Run it all the way out John Nolen to U.S. 12 & 18, and include that segment of the Beltline from John Nolen to Rimrock Road. All kinds of ways to detour motor vehicles around that stretch. Now that would be a kick."

"Dude, stop! Gimme a chance to stop laughing so I can catch my breath. Do you have any idea how many jurisdictions and agencies would have to sign off on something like that? You're kidding, right? I mean, c'mon. Never gonna happen."

The Bicycle Crank glared back at me from the side-view mirror. "No, I'm not kidding," he growled. "And yeah, all kinds of people would have to sign off on it. So what? Remember back in the mid-1990s, somebody managed to convince the relevant security and aviation authorities to shut down Dane County Regional Airport a bit after midnight so they could stage a 5K run on the runways out there? What a blast. I've still got the race T-shirt.

Look, Trek is bringing in Lance Armstrong for the next Ride the Drive on Aug. 29. By then, he may have won his eighth Tour de France. Even if he doesn't, he's got seven, and that's a lot of leverage, and he might think it was a cool idea to Ride the Drive and Beltline. Who knows? Maybe it'll never happen," he acknowledged, perhaps in answer to my skeptical expression. "But what if it did?"

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