I parked near an elementary school then popped the trunk in search of booze. The sun still shone in this typically quiet neighborhood of SE Portland. Today it was different. Dozens of small groups biked by, each an ensemble of half clothed, half painted, or fully nude folks. Men and women rode together, side-by-side, heading for the same place as me. With my torso bent to the trunk I sneakily poured whiskey in a thermos. I set it atop my car and pulled my bike from the backseat. With it out I returned to the trunk. After a couple pulls from the bottle I closed up shop and waited on the sidewalk for my sister. Soon she arrived and we yanked a bike from the back of her car. All the while naked folks flowed past us. Our clothes were still on.
We biked in tandem, headed for a place we call Hippie Park. Our slang name is due to the free spirits who gather there on Mondays to twirl and drink, play music and dodgeball. I’d go there to people watch, my experience enhanced with paper-wrapped cans of Steel Reserve. But today was different. As we approached the park the din of music and chatter grew. More and more the naked folk on bicycles clumped into a singular mass of paint and flesh.
Rolling up on the park I had a vista of thousands, at least five, almost all partnered with a bicycle. The police were there to direct traffic and ensure the cyclists passed safely. After crossing the street we hand walked our bikes, nestling through dicks, clits, and eighty year old ass cheeks. The mood was joyous and I couldn’t help but to feel the energy of the crowd as I stepped onto grass.
We found a nice spot along a wire fence where we could lean our bikes and observe the crowd. Many women went topless. Many men wore bottoms. Many more bore it all. My sister and I had an agreement that once the ride started we’d separate and strip down. A 50 something dude chatted us up, saying his son was to ride with him last year but chickened out. He was fully nude, cock limp. No one was here to reseed the park with semen. The beauty of having everyone naked is that it becomes normal and non-sexual. I felt out of place with clothes on my body. In this setting it became instantly clear that nudity’s not a big deal. For a few brief hours we could all forget how much we hate our body.
A guy in tie dye walked up and introduced himself, asking if he could hang as we waited. His name was A. He was in his 30s, out of shape, and fully bearded. A was married but his pregnant wife was tending to a casket in Iowa. Like us he was from Middle America and so we got to talking about the transition from Midwest life to West Coast living. We agreed that you’d never find naked folk in a North Dakota corn field, that the scandal would ring for decades if this were there. But we weren’t there. We were in fuck-it Portland. We bullshitted more with A as we waited for the ride to get going. My sister wanted some unclothed photos and he agreed to take them so I wandered off to soak it in.
I guzzled a canister of Red Bull and whiskey, walking past countless naked people of all ages and body types. They ranged from vegan thin to fifty years overfed. Being Portland the crowd was almost all white but there was an equal split of men and women. In this environment a naked woman didn’t phase me, didn’t even warrant a second look. It was all just part of the scene. I found myself engrossed by old dongs and unkempt pubic formations. Soon I came across a group of Christian protesters holding picket signs proclaiming our hellish fate. A naked dance circle set to booty shake tunes formed around them. People clapped their hands and twerked their butts in joyous mockery of those here to fuck up a good thing. For their part the Christians didn’t engage, simply holding their signs and staring forth.
Though we entered in sunshine the day was fading off to evening. The elaborate costumes and bike displays became more apparent at sunset. People rigged their rides with all kinds of glow gear which turned the park to patches of neon as my eyes scanned across it. People dressed as birds, wore masks, and painted imagery across their backs. An elderly Japanese man painted a massive red dot on his stomach, transforming his body into that country’s flag. Many folks had speakers on their bikes from which they played music, sometimes with a light display in sync with the beat. I wore a backpack adorned with the plastic appendage of a mutilated foot. Bone and blood would be the view of those behind me.
I met up once again with my sis and A who’d photographed each other in states of undress. A was drinking and as he finished one beer he’d have me reach in his pack for another. Days later we learned he’d also been rolling on ecstasy. Eventually he stripped himself nude and asked if I was going to do the same. We were all having so much fun we decided to stick together. I’d planned on being naked but since my sister was with I stripped to boxers. You can only kill so many taboos at once. Still she rode topless and A was naked. It was all in good fun and none of it mattered.
The crowd started its shift toward the street which meant the ride had now begun. We walked our bikes until we hit pavement and even then it was slow going. There were thousands of people in front of us and thousands more behind. Soon things thinned and we got to pedaling.
A punk band set up at an intersection and played for everyone who pedaled past. The band was naked, their singer screaming into his mic. My sis and I looked at each other in agreement that this was pretty fucking cool. Spectators lined the street, cheering as we went by. We’d hoot and holler in an almost animalistic manner — you couldn’t help but to be imbued with a raw and primal power. I’d witnessed the bike ride other summers but this was my first time in it. It was so much more immersive and joyous to ride rather than sit on the sidelines.
Though we kept a good speed, things would slow or accelerate in accordance with street changes or the ride taking a pause. I’d purposefully drift far from my sis and our new friend. In those times I allowed myself to be fully naked, ever careful to not explode my testicles or gnarl my dick on the chain.
At one point the ride stopped on Hawthorne, a street I drove down all the time. Tonight it possessed a different character. As we waited in front of 7-11 I thought of how there had to be people here just enjoying their night. In one moment they were buying candy and then in the next encircled by a swarm of thousands. This sea of naked people, the clumps of unfettered flesh, spread as far as one could see. I thought of how awkward it must be for a family to encounter this, how embarrassed I’d feel if I were here with my parents. The stories from this night, the freedom I felt, could never be transmitted home.
After an hour of riding through many main streets and neighborhoods we wound up beneath a bridge on the water. We secured our bikes and walked into this giant parking lot party. It was an orgy of joy both loud and dimly lit. There were naked marching bands and people DJing from their bikes. Four bikes with trailers were lined in a row. Each trailer had a six foot, neon lit letter. L-O-V-E.
I’d barely brought any booze so took off my boxers and biked back to my car in the nude. I stuffed a booze bottle in my bag and circled back, passing stragglers from the ride or those whose night had ended. Away from the crowd I felt self-conscious as traffic passed my body. I waited at a stop sign and a car came behind me, its brights shining up my asshole.
Forty five minutes later I returned to the party and found it going harder than before. We followed the marching band for a bit and then magnetized to whatever direction had the best music, looked the most fun, or glowed the brightest. With a few pulls from the bottle I felt right and congregated to a dance party happening around a bike DJ.
A short boy with pants unzipped and dick unfurled came upon the crowd. I watched him walk up to girls and bop his cock against their behind. Later I learned my sister had also been bopped by the creeper. There’s always one to fuck up the party. People shooed him off and carried on. It was nice to be around those who inherently understood that an undressed body is not an invitation. Respect for others and their autonomy was the only true rule for the night. It wasn’t quite hedonistic but everyone was uninhibited. Still naked. Still having a blast. I partied on, dancing my butt off forever.
In time the party thinned and people departed. One by one the bike DJs shut their music down. People redressed in preparation for a return to the real world. We said goodbye to A then went our own way, fading into night, feeling anew. It was one of the best nights of my life. My soul wanted to live in those brief hours for ages. To enter that evening once more. But it’d have to wait a year. That seemed so far away.