A crisp fall night, cyclists at the ready, and stomachs at full attention set the stage as riders prepare for the annual Pizza Crawl, hosted by Carytown Bicycle Company. Now in it’s 6th year, CTBC’s Pizza Crawl is one of the most anticipated events in Richmond, especially by those who have participated in previous years. With a turnout of around 100 cyclists ready to crush some ‘za, and a couple of hills along the way, it all started in the back lot of Carytown’s popular cycling shop on Saturday, November 8th. As the sun began it’s painfully early winter decent, we mobilized to Scuffletown Park- one of Richmond’s many hidden ‘pocket parks.’
There, with beers cracked and appetites ready, the group waited in anticipation for our first round. Strawberry St.’s 8 1/2 came through with a mountain of cheesy goodness. The popular pizza spot killed it with their Red Pizza, which I paired with a lukewarm pint of Tecate. Poor choice in beverage aside, they take it home every time with its thin crust and perfect cheese to heavenly sauce ratio.
After all the pies were distributed, our leaders called out “Drink ‘em up!” and we funnelled out of the park. The ride trucked along through the Fan at a leisurely pace, eliciting shout-outs and curious calls from residents enjoying the evening on their porches. Our next stop was Jefferson Park in Church Hill. Instead of flooding the stores with our motley crew, this year Carytown Bike Co. chose to have the pies delivered to near-by parks so the riders could enjoy a scenic slice of Richmond along with their pizza crawl. Anthony’s on the Hill’s cheese pizza was the choice for this stop, which had some interesting flavors going for it, getting a solid review from a few riders. My pairing for this was half a cigarette I couldn’t finish before grabbing a slice, and a nondescript beer from the bag of a fellow rider. At this point my slice count was up to around 4.
After we demolished this stop, we went onto the next- the Manchester Floodwall for Papa’s Pizza. If you haven’t been to the Floodwall walk, give it a try; it’s as garish and grey as public structures come, but the trail attached allows for great night-time views of downtown Richmond.
Back to the issue at hand: the pizza.
The selection was a hit or miss depending on who you ask. Cheesier than those before it, Papa’s had a strangely addictive flavor that can only be described as ‘mac-and-cheesy.’ I paired this one with a shared Black Label, and a feeling somewhere between satisfaction and self-flagellation creeping in from my escalating slice count. A feeling that was going to increase with the daunting climb out of the bottom.
As we creeped up the hills leading back to the Fan, a rider screamed from behind the pack:
“Pain is Pizza leaving the body!”
We were on our way to the last stop on the Pizza Crawl route, but not the last stop of the night for some riders. Recently established and opened late, Christian’s Pizza on Harrison served up some cheese pizza, all of which disappeared in a matter of moments. As he grabbed another slice, one rider groaned “Ugh, more like pizz kill me. The only thing I hate more than pizza right now is myself,” All in all, Christian’s was basic. Good basic. If you want pizza, they have it. Nuff’ said.
Carytown Bike Co. ended the ride back where it had started: in the store’s lot. There, riders were greeted with a cold keg and wood fired pizza provided by Pizza Tonight and their magical, mobile oven. They dished up some killer pizzas and closed out the ride on a high note.
I got a moment to talk about the idea behind the ride with Andy Stites, one of the organizers of Carytown Bicycle Company’s Pizza Crawl. “It’s pretty simple- cheese, sauce, crust.” When talking about cycling in Richmond, sometimes this same concept gets lost. Novice riders seem apprehensive to approach the shops and other, more seasoned riders because they don’t want to give off the air of ignorance in a city with such a strong cycling culture. Yet, when you look at the people that turned out for the ride, none of them can be pigeon-holed as simply ‘bike kids’ or ‘snobbish.’ The bikes and riders ranged widely, some even going so far as to ride a tandem bike for the event. The most memorable- and adorable- was the family with a small child riding a three person tandem, their daughter in the middle seat.
“You say to someone, ‘let’s ride bikes and get pizza,’ and it’s just as simple,” Andy continues. The Pizza Crawl started with a couple of ‘za lovers and bike riders wanting to do something fun, then expanded it into a city-wide tradition with the goal of bringing together the cycling community.
“We want to show people how to explore their city.”
Andy and the Carytown Bicycle Company are forward thinking in this model, hoping to organize something for the UCI Road World Championships due in Richmond 2015.