I’ve just returned from an excellent near-death experience, courtesy of our local post-apocalyptic bicycle buccaneers known as C.H.U.N.K. 666 . We rode amphibious bicycles across the Willamette River, battled aqua-Nazi CHUDs, claimed Ross Island as our own nation, roasted weenies, amused the Coast Guard, drank whiskey and got home in time for tea.
CHUNK are the original Portland bike freaks — they put the rest to shame. I first wrote about them for the Portland Mercury way back in 2000, and they’ve only gotten worse since. The Chunkathlon, their yearly gladiatorial melee, was elevated to a higher plane of existence several years ago because they broke this one. The core team members have all grown, mutated and metastasized. Some have been raising a new generation of bicycle warlords. Others are writing books, playing the viola, doing jail time. Chunk 666 has kept such a low profile lately, some people have even dared to suggest they ride no longer.
My friend Gabe & I became the godparents of a certain bastardized Indonesian rickshaw (or Becak) two years ago. This thing has been everywhere, and on every new voyage it’s had something else welded to it. We put new wheels on it and repaired a broken joint, but it rode so crappy we figured it had no future on land. So when we heard the call of the Chunk-sirens, we got busy.
In order to bicycle on water you need either Jesus Christ or some pontoons. We found Jesus but had trouble strapping him to the bike. Fortunately, discarded food-grade plastic barrels are easy to find in Portland because of the industrial quantities of imported food that yuppies eat. These used to contain foie gras.
In structural engineering terms, our strategy was to … err … screw a bunch of shit together and strap it on real good. Meanwhile, these Cyclecide jokers came up from San Francisco just to make us look bad with their custom canoecycle, the Sea Nympho:
Fortunately for my fragile self-esteem, the rest of the team kept their engineering up to the strictest Chunk standards.
All in all, I think we set out with ten watercraft in our expedition, and came home with six, half of them capsized. Our mission plan was simple: bicycle to Ross Island, obliterate all CHUDs, eat Hobo Pie and sausages, take a nap and sail home. But getting to the water was harder than crossing it. The designers of Portland’s bikeway system cruelly discriminate against bicycles wider than six feet! We had to lift our four-hundred-pound three-seater over a six foot concrete wall and a couple of bollards. Which we did; it happened kind of miraculously with about a dozen people involved. I would have photos of that but my hands were full.
I won’t keep you in suspense: we all died.
KIDDING! We had a great night exploring Ross Island, a former gravel mine and home to one of Oregon’s most dangerous amusement parks.
We searched for CHUDs but found only scrap metal and deerprints. Someone swore they saw Bob Pamplin’s ghost, but it turned out to just be Bob Pamplin. Here’s us eating him:
In the morning we lashed all our broken, capsized bullshit together into a big worrisome hunk of drifting pondscum and attempted to sail home with two tarps and no mast. It took us three hours to cross two hundred yards of water. But they may have been the best three hours of 2011.