this morning i went on a free bike tour sponsored by the cambridge bicycle committee (CBC), as a part of the bike week festivities.1 about 170 cyclists congregated in cambridge common. we left promptly at 10:30, escorted by cambridge bike police who blocked off traffic as we rode. even without the escort, this convoy of bicycles would've stopped cars from its sheer size.

the theme of this year's ride was public art installations, but we only stopped to rest in a few places, riding for much of the time. the route took a large figure-eight pattern through the entirety of cambridge, beginning from harvard square, to historical brattle street, fresh pond, davis square, porter square, central square, cambridgeport, kendall/MIT, and finally the galleria mall just across the charles river from boston for a total of approximately 12 miles.

the first rest stop was at the water treatment plant at fresh pond. everyone went inside to check out the place (and to witness firsthand why cambridge was the only greater boston town that had drinking water during that boil water alert beginning of the month). the next stop was an unscheduled one at danehy park, to allow time for everyone to catch up. there were kids playing little league and soccer, and what looked to be birthday parties and picnics at the few park tables.

from danehy we took a "secret" underground bike path beneath the train tracks to davis square. at porter square we rode by close to where i live. i decided to go for an action photo taken from the bike itself. i only had the camera to my face for a split second to snap a few shots but that was enough time to set in motion what happened next: almost getting thrown off the bike.

what i'd forgotten about a wide angle lens is objects in the viewfinder are much closer than what they appear. very much closer. by the time i lowered the camera, i realized i was moments about from crashing into the bikes in front of me. i slammed on the brakes and the back of the bike (heavy with milk crate and bike lock) swung around, nearly whipping me off my ride. a acrobatic miracle saved me from landing on the ground. even though i was still standing, i did painfully tangle my legs into the bike frame. the pain was secondary though, since i was mortified for falling off my bike like a total newbie.

people behind me kept on asking if i was okay. i waved them off with a smile to assure them i was fine. the bike seemed okay, but i couldn't pedal forward anymore. soon the convoy was gone and i was left behind. since i was so close to home anyway, i decided if i couldn't get my bike to work, i'd just call it a day. to my surprise, one of the bikers (bruce) stayed behind to see if i was okay. he appeared to be some sort of bike mechanic because he knew right away what the problem was: my rear wheel had fallen off the frame slightly. he had a pocket wrench and fixed my problem instantly. he called his girlfriend (katherine), who's actually a CBC officer, and got the location of the group. we pedaled to catch up with her (she was waiting for us a few blocks away) and then the 3 of us biked down to dana park in cambridgeport where the group was taking another short break.

turns out biker bruce wasn't actually the "staff" mechanic; i had a chat with the real mechanic (mike) who said my bike seemed okay and lubed my chain for me. he said i could use a overall tuneup because my crankshafts were a little bit loose; i didn't tell him it was probably my doing when i took apart my bike during the winter.

from that point on no more unnecessary riding risks. i was glad i didn't have to give up the ride, as we headed up vassar street, passing a bunch of MIT buildings, taking the charles river bike path (including a stretch of boardwalk), and finally arriving at the back of the galleria mall to the lechmere canal park. here we picked up free water bottles compliments of the galleria along with watering stations. there was also supposed to be cookies, but the delivery van couldn't find the park, so the organizer told them to wait for us back at cambridge common. i sat near some bike cops who were sharing stories. one of them tried out a recumbent bike and took it for a spin. i wanted to ask them how they felt about the other kind of bike cops, the ones on motorcycles, but didn't get the chance.

the final part of the ride was the best part: up to this point we had police bicycle escorts who stopped traffic for us at busy intersections. this last stretch, the convoy biked a straightaway down cambridge street with a police cruiser escort clearing the road for us. i've never been in a parade process before, but this must be what it felt like. people were waving at us, and cars honked their horns in support when we rode by.

when we finally got to cambridge common, i grabbed my cookie and returned home. i'm glad i participated in the ride. opened my eyes to some new routes and learned some secret areas of cambridge. not sure if it'd be as fun without the police escort, but some of the devoted bike trails are free of cars so are safe to ride anytime. those are better than the bike lanes that share the road with street traffic; not only are you danger of getting clipped by cars passing on your left, but you never know when a door will suddenly pop open from the right. cities like cambridge (and boston) just weren't "designed" for biking. retrofitting the local landscape with more bike lanes is a noble goal, but in my opinion, it seems to further crowd the streets.

after a shower, i took the motorcycle to cambridge, getting some gas at a local hess station first. the trip odometer read 120 miles, which i thought meant the tank was close to empty, but i was surprised i only added less than 2 gallons before it was full (a full tank is something like 3.4 gallons i seem to recall). at this point i'm still not sure how far the bike will run before running out of gas. later i'd find out i'd been riding on reserve again, a dangerous thing to do if i don't like getting stranded miles away from the nearest gas station.

the other kind of irises - the rhizomes - have started to bloom as well. apparently they're a few weeks behind the dutch bulb irises. besides the delayed blooming schedule, the rhizome irises are also different in appearance: the leaves are flatter, the flowers are more purple, and the falls have a reticulated pattern.

some irises are supposedly fragrant but that's not the case with the two varieties i have growing in the garden.

of the three cucurbitaceae (gourds, melons, cucumbers, squashes) family groups i have growing in the belmont garden, only the bottle gourds seem to be doing well, with full upright stalks and curly tendrils waiting to climb. the fancy melons are okay but they're droopy and leggy and i'm worried that they've been putting out flowers so early in the season, when the plants aren't even fully developed yet. the worst are the cucumbers, a combination of cold damage, sun scalding, and transplant shock. leaves are pale and many plants seem wilty. the one saving grace is none of them are dead, and even the ones that seem to be the most damaged, new shoots are emerging that look to be healthy.

despite slugs that ate half of my lettuces, the ones that are still around seem to be doing well. they're big enough that i can tell which ones will be romaine (the longer variety) and which ones are icebergs. the mescluns are doing well too, although it's hard to figure out how to use them other than picking off individual leaves (even then, not sure how many servings i could potentially harvest).

the sweat peas that i thought were slug food since i only saw a few emerging have sprouted some more. still nothing near the 30+ seeds i planted, but good enough for a bit of a show once they're mature. not sure why they germinated so late, when the other peas - the snaps - have already been out since the beginning of the month.

garden staples like peppers, tomatoes, and basil are faring well in the garden. new this season is i'm growing the basil in clumps instead of individual plants. not sure if this will get me more basil leaves or less. with the tomatoes, i've already pruned one of them. tomatoes are easy to grow given plenty of sunshine. they're always the biggest things in the garden, expanding to the size of a shrub depending on the variety. i don't even eat that many tomatoes in my normal life but i grow them anyway because that seems like the gardening thing to do.

some wild sunflowers have emerged from the seeds of dead sunflowers from last season. surprisingly, the transplanted chinese lantern plants are doing okay. they have a strong survivalist instinct, which probably means they're some sort of weed. fortunately they're in an area of the garden that's easy to control should they take and become invasive at some point in the future.

ever since the celtics beat the magic in game 2 tuesday night, i've been waiting impatiently for the start of game 3 back in boston on saturday. an absolutely awesome game as the celtics win again taking the series to 3-0. does orlando really sucks that much? is boston really this good? with the magic having no chance to win the series now, game 4 on monday will be played for pride, so at the very least they won't be swept by the celtics. but statistically speaking, boston will most likely close it out on monday, given their performance throughout this series.

some more game thoughts: why was an interview with jake gyllenhaal at the 16-6 mark, so he could plug his awful new movie that's coming out? that film has box office bomb written all over it. and because the corporate overlords that control the networks and movie studios decided the NBA playoffs would be a nice venue to shill for their lame movie, i'm even more disinclined to ever see that film; magic forward-guard mickael pietrus - is it just me or does he remind you of chris partlow (of the stansfield crew) from the wire?; rondo diving to intercept a magic ball bouncing into the back court then pulling a layup to score on jason williams was AWESOME; with a 30+ point lead, the final minutes of the game was trash time as all the good players sat down and the reserves got to play.

1 since i didn't have time for breakfast, i ate one of julie's milky way bars. mmm mmm good!