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Going Underground (continued)

BMX bike, but I managed to follow him, and even though the truck got away from me, I eventually found the work site I’d been underneath half and hour before. The same three guys were bullshitting around their work truck. With a grin on my face, I realized exactly what I should do: I rode by the three of them on my clunky bike, slow and close as I could, whistling “Purple Haze.” I was definitely wearing my badass pants.

There is a right way to ride drains, and lots of wrong ways. Never go in the rain. Drains are designed with one purpose in mind, and that is to move incredible amounts of water off of the streets as fast as possible. In a rainstorm, every drop of water that hits the street eventually gets funneled into one relatively tiny tunnel. If you are riding in there when a storm starts, a loud rush will be the last thing you ever hear.

So, worry about the rain and not much else. Don’t worry about the legality of riding down there; drains are built with your taxes, just like roads and sidewalks, and they are likely to be the safest of the three. Don’t worry about being seen, because no one will care. I often find myself rolling out of a drain and met by a curious onlooker with a smart remark, but nothing more severe. Don’t worry about what you’ll find inside either; in most drains, the only thing down there will be you and your bike. Wear a hat; you will bump your head. Don’t wear a helmet; you are already too tall.

When I ride a drain, it never fails to excite me. It’s an environment like no other I could ride. I perpetually hear a woman’s voice just around the next bend, and even though I know that the chatter is only the effect of the dripping water and strange acoustics, it never ceases to be eerie. When I ride near an entrance, I always find an explosion of beautiful graffiti. When I ride deep into the system, I still stand a chance of finding graffiti, but there it will be sparse and obscure and say things that make me want to pedal faster. Sometimes I see oily little dog prints on the floor, yet I’ve never actually seen an animal larger than a roach down there. Being in a drain, you might as well have never been outside one, because nothing on the outside is anything like what you’ll find.