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Sunday, June 26, 2005

Ride Report Atomic War Preparedness Ride Thurs 23 June 2005

I must admit, I wasn't as prepared for this ride as I would have liked to be. In the hectic days of PedalPalooza it was hard to put together a zine for this particular adventure, nor an appropriate costume. So the riders had to settle with a quickie handout and me in a dress, respectively.

But that ain't to say the event wasn't fun! We had over 50 people show up for this ride--an Urban Adventure League record! Also notable was showings of other infamous PDX bike-culture contingencies (ZooBomb, CHUNK 666, Alberta Clown House aka Pepto Dismal) and the sheer amount of people that dressed up for this. Mad props for getting in character.

After a brief briefing along the Esplanade, the word came in that the Russian bombers were on the way. Quickly, we MUST EVACUATE! The gaggle of velo-evacuees took to SE Clay. Despite orders of "Stay Calm!" shouted through my megaphone, screams and shrieks of panic could occasionally be heard through the crowd.

Quickly and efficiently the "Critical Evacuation" headed through Ladd's then along Clinton, urging the onlookers to "not panic". Could they be admiring our smarts, heading to the hills to await the apocolypse?

And god, what a spectacle! A pack of fifty crazily dressed cyclists heading eastward through the city, being led by a man in a dress with a megaphone! The dazed onlookers seemed to be having fun as well, except for one grumpy man outside Ladd's Inn shouting "Shut Up!" (and he was locking up his bicycle, go figure.)

Onward, eastward. We were making good time, so we took a rest stop by Franklin School while I told people of Mount Tabor's role in this drama. The ride went problem-free until we crossed 82nd, where I was hit by a Rogue Russian Attack Craft--er, another bicycle. But not to fear! I wasn't that damaged, but my left pedal was. Luckily the Prepared Masses had Duct Tape with them, just like they've been instructed to do by our Homeland Defense ministers! We're thinking ahead.

After crossing I-205 we approached SE 101st Av, the entryway to Kelly Butte. Or so I mistakenly thought. Much of the mass had gone down one hill and up the next before I figured out that we should have been going up 103rd, not 101st. Oops. Bad ride leader.

Okay. Up the very steep hill on 103rd. Halfway up was the gate, where everyone either had to lift their bike over, or lock up to. Everyone walked up the steep drive until they reached the summit of Kelly Butte and the prize--The Command Center, a.k.a. Portland's Nuclear War Bunker.

This part of the ride was over, so everyone relaxed for a bit. In front of the now sealed bunker I told the tale of the Command Center, a shelter built in 1955-6 to house Portland's government in the case of atomic war. (We need to make sure the government carries on, despite the city being flattened and its people vaporized!) This was a relic from a more optomistic time, when atomic war wasn't regarded as the total armageddon we think of it now, when all you needed was preparedness and initative to survive it.

As the sun set, we departed from Kelly Butte. Half took off to continue on other adventures, while about 20 of us continued west on Divison to Chez Bernard, the site of the outdoor movie screening. Provision stops were made along the way, which led one rider to compliment me for going into a 7-11 at 92nd with a dress on. Sheesh, t'aint nothing!

At Chez Bernard, the lawn chairs and digital projector were ready for us. After some audio and visual adjustment, the hour long screening started, featuring four 50's Civil Defense films:

Atomic Alert: an Encyclopedia Brittanica movie from 1951, this one shows "boys and girls" what to do when the A-Bomb is dropped. Pretty ridiculous nowadays, as the effects of an atom bomb seem pretty minor. Jeez, a good thunderstorm could do more damage!

Duck and Cover: the classic! Shot in New York, it shows schoolchildren practicing for the a-bomb apocolypse. Check out the ducking bicyclist. Of course, it features Bert the Turtle.

Our Cities Must Fight: also shot (mostly) in New York by Archer Films (see Duck and Cover). This must have come very early in the atomic age, as it urges people to NOT EVACUATE in the face of nuclear danger, so you can "defend" the city. Defend WHAT city, after the bomb has dropped?!

And of course:

The Day Called X: "dramatized" atomic evacuation from Portland, shot circa 1957-58. See the "Command Center" in action! See the evacuation! See technical goofs! See people look bored!

  • total riders: 50
  • riders all the way up Kelly Butte: most of that 50
  • riders all the way to Chez Bernard for the movies: about 20
  • men in dresses: 1
  • tall bikes: 3? 4?
  • gas masks: a few
  • hazmat suits: 2
  • authentic Civil Defense hats: 1
  • confused civilians: many
  • buttes climbed: one
  • wrong turns: one (sorry!)
  • bike collisions: one
  • total length of ride: 4 1/2 hours

Jeff Bernards for so graciously providing his backyard for the movie viewing

Jon Van Oast for burning the VCD of the movies

Ben Salzberg for loaning the digital projector. At the last minute, even!
Timo Forsberg for getting said digital projector. Also at the last minute.

Dan Miller and Jay Pinka for theatrical help on the ride for providing the source material of the movies
and the City of Portland, Office of Civil Defense, and the Cold War for providing the fodder for the ride!


  1. sounds awesome. but where the heck are the photos? didn't anybody take any photos?

  2. The ride was very much lacking in that you should have donned a bonnet or 50's hair decor to accompany your uniform.


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