A weatherman would have described the weather during the day as “scattered showers.” I would have chosen “dreary.” That same weatherman would describe the weather in the evening as “mostly cloudy.” I would choose “fuzzy.”

I stand under the Morrison Bridge in nothing but my undies, a bottle of champagne in my hand. I have been told by people who had done the naked bike rides in the past that it was a good idea to get buzzed before the ride. That is my mission. I am surrounded by a half-dozen of my friends, all of us stripped down to our underwear. Drums thunder in the distance (or within close proximity, the bridge’s acoustics muffling the thumps).

I take a pull from the bottle of champagne, and somebody recognizes me from the pizza shop where I’m a cook. Champagne dribbles down my chin, and I confirm that he is correct. Around us are thousands of other riders, all in the buff. We finish off the bottle and decide that it’s time to get a move on it.

Everyone is so naked that the mind is desensitized. When I ride out from under the bridge, accompanied by all of my nude friends, it is shock to see spectators fully dressed. There are a lot of people watching. Some take pictures. For no reason at all, I am okay with a man who has a Nikon fully decked out with zoom lens and flash, but I am unsettled by the guy with a camera phone.

It’s the ancient old art versus pornography debate.

I shrug it off. Police block every intersection for us. I wonder how all of the drivers feel knowing that they’ll be stopped at that corner for nearly forty-five minutes in order for thousands of naked people to cycle past. The police line the streets, because technically, we are protesting the use of fossil fuels. Although, I hear more shouts of “show me your tits” than I do “no blood for oil.”

We ride down MLK Blvd. and up and over the Burnside Bridge. The air is crisp over the river. I look around and see my friends smiling. It is a good feeling to know that we are all having such a good time. When we get downtown, there are spectators everywhere. Many reach out, either searching for a high-five or hoping to cop a feel.

Their actions bother me. Clearly they knew about the ride, but either out of insecurities or unwillingness to face the chilly evening, they chose not to participate. Instead, they thought they would enjoy the show, free of charge. I shake it off. It is nothing I hadn’t expected. I had read that the previous year’s ride had been full of this frat boy mentality.

Soon, we are on the Broadway Bridge. It is stop and go, but mostly stop. I run into a couple of coworkers, and no one seems bothered by our nudity.

When we are cycling down Broadway, a truck sneaks past the barricade and is riding among the thousands of riders. I stand up directly in front of him, baring my ass tattoo and flashing him the finger.

We ride down 28th Ave. and naked skateboarders buzz by me, hitching a ride by grabbing on to fellow cyclist’s seat. By now, the champagne is working its magic, and I’m yelling with everyone else. Next, it’s Cesar Chavez Ave (formerly 39th) and I can’t believe that I am naked on one of Portland’s busy byways.

Hawthorne is our final stretch. Everyone else will be returning to the river for festivities, but we have agreed to turn off at 34th, where our friend lives. It is strange to be the only naked ones on the street. But it only feels strange when I think about it.

We get off of our bikes and carry them to the porch. Instantly, we are bubbling about the ride. Several people proclaim it as the most fun they have ever had in Portland. I have to agree. I use my friend’s bathroom and come back to find that I am the only one not wearing clothes. For the first time all evening, I feel awkward.

I get dressed. We continue drinking for the rest of the evening, the conversation moving between subjects, but the bike ride continues to come up. It hovers over our thoughts.

It has been weeks since the Naked Bike Ride, and I still think about it daily. It was certainly the most fun I have had in Portland, at least as far as I can remember.

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