Tag Archives: Grolsch

‘Hup Holland!’: Critical Mass Bike Ride to Celebrate Dutch Queen’s Day

30 Apr

I always thought Critical Mass was some sort of Catholic thing that I didn’t want to be a part of. I’m not really a biker. But I’ve just moved to Miami and want to experience the city in every way possible, so I agreed to go on the Critical Mass bike ride last Friday, April 27, in celebration of the Dutch holiday Queen’s Day. An after party with food and beer, sponsored by Grolsch, was promised at the end. I had no choice but to give the ordeal a whirl.

I did a bit of research beforehand. What is this holiday? And why is the theme color orange? Queen’s Day is by far the most widely celebrated holiday in the Netherlands. On April 30, the Dutch celebrate Koninginnedag,”Queen’s Day,” a national holiday to commemorate the birthday of the country’s (former) Queen. Amsterdam festivities in particular rival those of Mardi Gras in New Orleans or New Year’s Eve in New York City. As such, Amsterdam is packed to the gills on April 30, welcoming up to two million party-going visitors. But the Dutch have some other interesting practices on this day: Koninginnedag is known for its nationwide vrijmarkt (“free market” or flea market), at which many Dutch sell their secondhand items. It is also an opportunity for “orange madness” or oranjegekte, for the national color, when the normally straight-laced Dutch let down their hair, often dyed orange for the occasion.

Queen Wilhemina of the Netherlands, 1942, via Wikipedia.com

Across the ocean, thousands of locals gathered in downtown Miami at Government Center,150 NW First Street. Advertisements suggested you arrive by 6:20 or 6:30 pm in order to get one of the 800 free Grolsch t-shirts that had been made for the event. Not only were the t-shirts cool and bright orange, but you received a discount for wearing it, at the after party. We arrived promptly at 6:20 to find hundreds of cyclists already waiting.

The energy was high and positive in a way I had never experienced before. Like I said, this was my first Critical Mass, and already I could tell this experience might be my jam. The diversity of the crowd was particularly surprising; I really didn’t know what to expect, but I like what I saw. All ages, all walks of life, and everyone was down to have a great bike ride through the city together. Cyclists were not the only participants; people on blades and skateboards came as well. My good friend James, who is Dutch and the driving force behind this outing, taught me the phrase ‘Hup Holland!’ (Go Holland!!), which we began chanting to continue pumping up the crowd. (I was later informed this phrase might not actually be used by anyone in Holland. But it was fun at the time.)

An excited crowd decked in orange mingles before the Critical Mass, Downtown Miami, Florida, April 2012

The ride started promptly at 7:15, perfect timing to catch the sunset while biking through the Miami neighborhoods of East Little Havana, Miracle Mile, Coral Way, Shenandoah, Little Havana, and Downtown. The total distance was 12 miles and fortunately it was not too hot outside, so sweat didn’t make a personal appearance. James and I had invited a few friends, so we had a nice little wolf pack going on. Initially I was worried about running into other cyclists with my handlebars, since the ride starts off slow due to the mass of people. But I was pleased with how easy it was to ride along with the group. We organically transformed into a school of fish, riding in sync and moving with the flow while keeping safe distances apart.

Riding through Little Havana and Miracle Mile were by far the best stretches. Crowds of pedestrians lined the streets, cheering us on. We laughed about how victorious we felt, even though this wasn’t a race. As we picked up speed and each rider spread out, we were still close enough to each other to enjoy casual conversation. On the ride, I spoke with our friend Andy about where the term Critical Mass comes from. I learned it means you have gathered enough bike riders together (the mass) to make it critical for cars to yield, get off the road, and generally give bikers the right of way.

And indeed, the Critical Mass stopped traffic for miles around. Some drivers were yelling at us from their cracked car windows, but most were surprised and laughing as their cars were engulfed by the sea of riders. Cars were either stopped at lights, or were forced by the Mass to stop in their tracks in the middle of the road.

Critical Mass, Downtown Miami, April 2012

12 miles went by in a flash, and we made it to Grand Central Park for the after party. The first item on our group’s agenda was hitting up the Grolsch stand for some nice Dutch spirits. Long beer tent lines were expected, and we were not disappointed. Fortunately we had the Dutch-inspired apparel costume contest to watch, and we were able to listen to some tunes that a local DJ was spinning. As expected, the food was outstanding! Elwoods Gastro Pub, Sparky’s Roadside BBQ, Kork Wine & Cheese, and Puntino all had tents present. Elwoods Gastro Pub blew me away with their bratwurst with curry sauce, although for $5 the portion was disappointingly small. For my main course I tried the bbq brisket sandwich from Sparky’s, a local favorite. Not only were the Sparky’s guys awesome, but the brisket was amazing too; topped with coleslaw, bbq sauce and hot sauce, piled on a fresh bun, I was pretty much in heaven.

Many beers later, we decided to hop on the Party Bike (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Party_Bike), which is a bar on wheels, pedaled by the patrons on stools. Also called a beer bike, or a cycle pub, this ride was awesome, but actually hard work! I secretly wished there was a little engine hidden away that would carry our weight—but there wasn’t. We had an awesome spin around the block, after signing our lives away with legal waivers, and we even decided to try to climb a hill. It was this point where one of the chains broke. The night ended with a stalled out party bike at the top of a hill, but a sense of comraderie sunk in as we stumbled and pushed it down together.

P-Cubed= Pushing Party Pubmobile (down the hill), Downtown Miami, Florida, April 2012

The next Critical Mass in the Miami area is the Emerge Critical Mass on Saturday, May 12 at 10 a.m. Visit www.emergemiami.com for more details. See you on the road!