Date: July 4
July mileage: 91.7
Temperature upon departure: 61
As the parade moved south, I pedalled north. A congestion of cars spilled out across the bridge and oozed ever so slowly beside me. Blanket and umbrella-wielding pedestrians poured over the pavement for festivities being held more than two miles away. I could still smell bonfire in my hair and I was having a hard time blinking the steady drizzle from my sleep-crusted eyes ... but I pitied them more. No one likes to be lost in a crowd.
I rode out here, north Douglas Island, into the eerily quiet afternoon. It seems Juneau is never silent in the summer, but July 4 must be the all-consuming holiday in this town. Traffic disappeared, people vanished, and even the bridge across Fish Creek - which is now choked with king salmon - was devoid of anglers tromping along the street in their waders. It was empty ... winterlike ... lonely. After I turned to head south again, I couldn't resist the pull.
The line of cars had given up moving by the time I reached the bridge. I slipped through the narrow opening between equally impenetrable walls of stopped vehicles and stroller-pushing parade-goers. I felt like I was chasing a distant exit from a tunnel that was closing in. But there were bagpipes playing softly in the distance, and growing piles of candy and confetti on the pavement, and I knew I was nearly there. I came to a flatbed truck filled with women singing traditional Tlingit songs, slipped around its side and joined the heart of the parade. Bags of Pop Rocks whizzed past my ears as dozens of children darted into the street ... in front of me, beside me, behind me. I swerved and wobbled and craned my neck in hopes of finding an opening to the sidewalk, but I was trapped. Faces lined the streets seven deep. My only hope was to make it to the next intersection, so I tucked in and hoped that the woman throwing Pop Rocks would show me a little mercy.
She did. I finally found a spot to turn, and used side streets to get ahead of the parade. I coasted back to Main Street just in time to see the Shriners, hamming up their roles as the people in miniature cars and hats. Behind them were the Rough Riders, trail-tough children glowering from a truck as their parents popped wheelies on cute little four-wheeled vehicles behind them. One boy in shades leaned against the cab and shot me a look of Supreme Coolness - the kind of look that crossed the face of every boy on every float on every Main Street in America today. All around me was the overwhelming aroma of charcoal and kettle corn, the smoky sweet smell that wafted over every park in every neighborhood in every state today. I took a deep breath, and realized that I was exactly where I wanted to be.