Every year on July 4th in Bend Oregon, a couple thousand people take to the streets riding bikes, skateboards, rollerskates and whatever else they can think of in a wild and colorful expression of freedom.
The event is completely un-organized and not even an official city event. Much like the “critical mass” bike protests, there’s just not much anyone can do to stop thousands of people flooding the streets all at once. The city of Bend police, in their wisdom un-officially supports the event by not trying to stop it, and mostly standing watch while people have their fun.
Fueled by beer, herbal medication or just the clean buzz of freedom, the energy is high as the crowd gathers in the usual meeting location. At some undetermined time the crowd reaches a boiling point and they set off down the main streets of Bend. With no official route the huge mass of riders sometimes takes odd turns and wraps around the downtown area like some kind of mad snake. Spirited yells of “Freeeedom!” ring out from all directions.
At one point I stood right in the middle of the street, taking photos as the parade of revelers sped past. Some might say the scene is just am excuse for young adults to drink in the streets and cause general chaos. But it’s easy for the spirit of it all to win you over. Because if drinking a couple beers and cruising the streets in ridiculous red white and blue costumes on a hot July day isn’t a slice of good old American freedom, what is? That said you don’t see many kids or older folks and the energy, especially towards the end resembled a rowdy college party. Accidents can and do happen so take care. Luckily, one can enter or exit the crowd at any point.
I think almost anyone would agree America isn’t perfect. Especially with today’s politics. But I for one am grateful to have lived in this corner of America. The outdoors are amazing, the people are friendly and the living is good. Beyond the politics of today and the drone of the news, there are still many reasons to celebrate.
So next 4th, grab a chair and watch the show, or a bike and join on in while the sun is shining and the living is good.