Every year Columbus puts on Red White and Boom, billed as the “largest fireworks show in the Midwest.”  I can’t verify the claim, but it’s not a bad show and it does attract a few bazillion people.

(Look in the background, beyond the people in the foreground to see the crowds lining up along just one street.  I think they always estimate the crowd at over a million people.)

I’ve driven down to RW&B a few times since I’ve lived in Columbus.  Every time I’ve done so, I swear never to do it again.  The last time I made that oath I stuck to it.  Haven’t intentionally gone near the place in years in a car.

This year I wanted to see the show so, I decided to bike.  Trust me when I tell you that’s the way to go.  The years I’ve driven downtown I’ve never been able to make it out of downtown in less than three to three and a half hours.  Biking?  Was out of downtown in minutes.  Was home in 48 minutes.

Ride to Downtown

Finished Cycle: Jul 3, 2012 9:51:48 PM
Google Maps URL: http://maps.google.com/?q=http://share.abvio.com/fc28/825e/4e37/b4c1/Cyclemeter-Cycle-20120703-1902.kml
Ride Time: 1:04:48
Distance: 14.03 miles
Average: 12.99 mph
Fastest Speed: 38.55 mph
Ascent: 1269 feet
Descent: 1484 feet
Calories: 1091

Ride Back Home

Finished Cycle: Jul 3, 2012 11:22:58 PM
Google Maps URL: http://maps.google.com/?q=http://share.abvio.com/fc28/825e/4e37/b4c1/Cyclemeter-Cycle-20120703-2227.kml
Ride Time: 48:44 
Distance: 10.26 miles
Average: 12.63 mph
Fastest Speed: 20.24 mph
Ascent: 296 feet
Descent: 77 feet
Calories: 833

It’s funny to see the crowd makeup based on the direction they arrived from.  For example, coming from north High Street are the college girls.  (No, I don’t ever pay attention to men.  When I people-watch you can take it to the bank that I’m girl-watching.)  Young, fresh faced, a good percentage of them dolled up to beyond Victoria Secret supermodel levels.  (I’d have taken pictures but I literally can’t think when there’s a 5’2″ cutie, long straight blonde hair, 38Ds, wearing a red mini-fuck-me dress standing a foot from me.)  Their overwhelming attitude is, “Let’s party!”

Coming from west Broad Street is a completely different crowd.  Still young, but, “ridden hard and put away wet.”  The overwhelming majority are not fresh-faced. They’re toting very small children.  Cigarettes dangle from their mouths.  None without tattoos, many covered with them.  The overwhelming attitude from this crowd?  “Mmm.  Fried dough and explosives!”

I had some time to kill before the show, so I’d taken off down west Broad Street.  I stopped at a convenience store to grab some water.  I took this picture of what’s available for “Quality Literature” there:

I figured for some of the residents of this part of town that these papers would be their only chance to catch up with what’s going on in the family.

There were plenty of restaurants, but I decided I’d “eat street”:

It wasn’t bad.  $4 for the two drinks, $6 for the Philly Steak.   I stood there in front of the cart and ate my dinner. While standing there, some guy wearing a badge and a bored expression on his face rode up in a golf cart.  I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but it was obvious the bored badge guy was checking on licensing.  The proprietor had to do a lot of head nodding, then he ran off across the street to fetch some name tag / ID thing and affix it to the front of his shirt. 
There were street vendors every where, of course.  That’s part of the draw, isn’t it?  Go down to a festival, eat some “fair food,” people-watch, and see what crap they’re hawking this time around.  This young mother had three kids, all wanting to buy something from the vendor, and nothing was priced under $10.  I’m sure she already dropped $30 to $40 on food.  Expensive night on the town.

In addition to all the vendors, there were a number of street preachers, perched on boxes, complete with microphones, trying to get The Word out.

I thought it ironic that I could hear the street preacher as this young lady walked in front of me.  I remember involuntarily exclaiming as I watched her magnificently walk away in those tight little jeans, “Jesus!” 

Obligatory video of the Grand Finale:

At least it lasted longer than the San Diego fireworks display.  (From the comments section:  “It was great because it was big, but it sucked because it didn’t last longer? Typical. Women.”  And:  Somehow I understand my girlfriend’s disappointment better . . . ”  And:  If your fireworks grand finale lasts more than 4 hours, call your physician.”)

After the show, I hopped on the bike and took off towards home.  There’s a nice big bike trail that goes from a little ways north of my house all the way downtown.  I knew right where I was in relation to picking up the trail.  Turns out this wasn’t an original idea.  (Not that I expected it to be.)

I’d not be afraid to say there were 200 bicyclists all trying to negotiate the intersection of Marconi and the bike trail simultaneously.  It was painfully obvious few of these people had ever ridden in a large group before.  And if they had, I can flat guarantee you none of them had ever done a group ride in the dark before.  (A lack of headlights and tail lights is a dead giveaway.)

I snapped this picture, but it doesn’t show the bulk of the group:

About 3 years ago, on this very bike path, I got a flat tire.  I had no spare. No tools.  No phone to call anyone.  (Not that it mattered.  Anyone I knew that could come get me wasn’t available.)  I was faced with a 10 mile walk home.  As I’m weighing my options a black dude on roller skates came by and saw my distress.  He asked if I needed some help.  Told him I had no spare, etc., etc.  He stopped, took off his back pack, and handed me a new inner tube.  He then whipped out bike tire changing tools and we got the bike up and running in just a little while.  I tried to pay him, but he refused and suggested I just pay his kindness forward.

About a year later, on a 4th of July weekend, I encountered a lady who’d broken down.  I was able to help her husband with a patch to his wife’s tire.

This year was another couple.  She had a flat on the front and back tire.  (Did she run through a broken bottle or something?  Don’t know.)  I stopped and asked if they needed some help.  Guy worked at a bike store, so he knew what he was doing, but he was short a tube and a CO2 cartridge. Which I just happened to have.  Just like I did with the black guy, he wanted to pay me, but I was having none of it.  Shook their hands and wished them a safe trip back home.