A recap from Babes in Bikeland 9, by Nicole @nicycle. Read more about Babes racing Babes here.
Rolling up to De La Salle, I had the traditional butterflies in my stomach – fluttering around underneath my unicorn rainbow shirt, which was over my feminist shirt, which was over my sticky skin.
I had taken the advice of the organizers and printed off my waiver in advance, and signed/sealed/delivered that business to the far right corner of the check in tent because the alphabet put me there. A hearty smile, a manifest, and a gorgeous gray tee shirt later, I bounded over to my group of gal pals. This was the first year I was riding with a group, two of them brand new to the race (SO EXCITING), and some of them were already splayed out on the grass planning our route.
In between the planning, we chatted about whether or not we should have worn sports bras (none of us did), or bike shorts (all of us did, some sneakily), and I was comforted by the fact that every one of us brought some sort of GIANT bag. Pannier, backpack… all of it. We were not riding minimally. We had all the stuff.
My bag contained: multi-tool, tire levers, spare tube, a rain jacket despite NO forecast of rain, a sweater despite high temps, my lock, my water bottle, a bandana for sweat soaking or quick change hairstyling, 2 city bike maps, my banjo brothers phone case which I use as a quick reference of stop order – attached to my key carabineer, in addition to two sharpie pens because they’re just my favorite.
I awkwardly unfolded one of my maps and started making little stars at every manifest-mandated stop to watch the circle unfold. This is my (and many of our) process. Let the map do the talking. Since this was the first year where Babes included both a short and a long route, to be 15 and 25 miles respectively, my immediate inclination was to go short. With Crafty Planet, near the top of Johnson’s hill, as the first of 2 stops on the long route, adding only about 2 miles… that second stop was going to take us wildly off course to make up for that extra 8 or so miles that the long route was allegedly adding.
We were all on the same page, figuratively and literally, for the course. Everyone was too excited to be making definitive statements about the short or the long route. I knew in my heart of hearts that with the 4 hours of sleep I was working on, I was only good for the short route. I understood that might separate me from the group, but I really wanted this year to be the year I rolled comfortably, happily, lollygaggily through the course offering bells and high fives along the way – unconcerned with time or circumstance, but feeling physically able. And feeling physically able was not high on my self-descriptors that day. In fact I believe I stated to my team that my main goals were to finish the race and not $#!% my pants. So, there’s that.
(Spoiler alert: SUCCESSFUL!)
As we lined up closer to the take-off-spot (official name), there was a moment of awkward laughter for me, mostly due to confused discomfort, when Ginny had to repeat herself time and time again for people to move out of the street, for dudes to GTFO, for people to understand that there is MORE GLITTER SO COME GET THE GLITTER! I wanted them to hear her. I wanted them to understand how important it was that the dudes GTFO and that there was, in fact, more glitter, but I needed to realize and remember that this race is for all of us, and all of us does not mean me. Maybe joining us on the take-off-spot made the race too real? Maybe non-racing dudes are important to some riders? I know I like a dude quite a bit – in fact he was the stop captain of the Telephone Pictionary park adventure, what I’ve heard was many riders ultimate favorite stop – but what I like about him is that he jumped at the chance to volunteer, to support our space not take up more of it. So THANK YOU SO MUCH to all the volunteers, dude or otherwise, because you really helped make this race so ultimate, and to make room for WTFs (#nobrozone).
When Kat began making final announcements, I knew we would be leaving soon. We were ready.
We were not ready.
It took a little while to agree which direction to go to get to our first stop, so we stood around perched on top of our bikes and finally split up a bit. Because nearly EVERYONE was headed toward the park for their first stop, we knew we’d find each other again. So off we went!
By the time my manifest had earned its’ first stamp, I knew that I was only in it for the short route. I communicated this to my group, making sure to let them know it was OK if I was alone in this, I’d find some other people to ride with, or I’d ride alone and still have a babealicious blast. After some consideration, we rode off together… we screen-printed our own coozies at Alchemist Print Studio, took a ride through my campus to The Hub Oak Street, got our pictures taken and ate some delicious peanut butter bars at Alex’s house, completed a mini-Powderhorn 24 at Garrick’s house, my team held my bike while I desperately ran inside the Tiny Diner to pee, we took shots of cold press at Five Watt Coffee, we called out when we were “on your left,” we stopped for red lights, we were so very lucky to draw “stretch” from the pick stop and were rewarded with a magical stretching break at Six Degrees studio, we sprouted colorful hair at the Fox Den Salon, and we finished our race by cruising down a relatively barren Franklin Avenue.
While waiting at the red light on Cedar Avenue, I tried to communicate that we could turn right and then left, but would have to go up on to the sidewalk, so it’s a trade. See, I’m a pretty loud person, but I’m not always SUPER loud, and I didn’t get this through to my team. They rolled out first and were hung out to dry by the middle barrier as I coasted over it, but we crossed that mountain and rolled into Solcana somewhere between 7:15 and 7:25pm, joyfully sweaty and ready for beer.
I spent the remainder of the night very close to the Grease Rag tent... that purposeful purple awning of awesomeness that was literally paid for with community. I chipped in what I could to help make that tent happen, and every time I see it I am proud to be a small part of it. It’s a perfect metaphor for Grease Rag, really.
See, I stayed by that tent almost all night because I like looking at it. I like knowing it’s there, and that it exists, and that it is found by so many people. I have always felt peripheral to Grease Rag because I work nights and cannot often attend events. However, the Winter Skill share I made it to several years ago was one of the highlights of my biking life, helping me to understand many of the things that had felt like barriers to riding all year. Things like what to wear so I don’t freeze to death and how to not fall.
Grease Rag is all of us. While there are amazing organizers who do so much for the organization, it would not exist without you or I to want it. And I want it! I have delivered so many WTFs into the hands of Grease Rag, so I like to believe I am heavily involved by proxy. And now, we have this tent.
While hanging out near the tent I admired the amazing Abus lock I scored from the prize table, watched Liberty paint Karl’s toenails, had a sandwich delivered straight into my mouth, and ate a tootsie roll. I also had an amazing conversation with new friends about things that can’t be repeated here, but the kind of things that you get to talk about when you just crossed the whole town on your bike, and you allow yourself to be consumed by WTFs in one space. …The kind of opportunities that opens up. A big REASON WE HAVE THIS RACE, need this race.
Community. Cavorting. Challenges. Cheering. Captivating. Celebration. Coozies.