After a long weekend of drinking hot beer and accidentally mashing a chocolate muffin all over my chicken nuggets, I remembered that I don’t totally love camping. What I do love is riding dirtbikes with 14 other women through the back roads of Central Oregon. I’ll put up with night-peeing in the cold and fighting my way out of sweaty pants inside my tent forever to go ride with these amazing people.
Learning to ride my dirtbike has been an intense journey frought with heat exhaustion and wipeouts. I’ve had a lot of street bikes over the years, and have always loved the freedom that comes with riding and maintaining my own motorcycle. Who doesn’t? So when I started dating Eli, who prefers riding off-road, I got my first dirtbike. It was a 1993 KDX250 which was too tall for me, had a 2-stroke motor that needed a new top-end, and the white hand of Saruman slapped on the rear fender. He would just take me riding wherever he wanted to go, figuring that I would pick it up quick and be able to keep up, because I am one of the Uruk-hai. So I would try with all my might to follow him and keep up, because I am one of the Uruk-hai, and supposedly a tough girl. Instead, I would do things like run into trees, burn myself on my exhaust header, fall entirely off of the trail and get stuck under a tree root, drop my bike 13 times in a row in the sand, get overheated, cry, try to take a G.D. break for one fucking second, lean my bike up against the Brown’s Camp sign but then tragically drop it and injure my shoulder somehow. Every ride was an incredibly physical battle, and I couldn’t understand how everyone else was so much better at it.
Finally, one day I followed him up a chunky rocky hill, bike bouncing all over the place, and I didn’t wipe out. This had happened before, miraculously, but this time I knew I was going to make it up the hill without crashing. Suddenly, dirtbiking was fun, instead of just the faint promise of future fun. We went to a cool dirtbike rally in a ghost town in Nevada, we joined local dirtbiking forums and made new riding friends, but I had still never ridden with another girl. Apparently, not a whole lot of women ride dirtbikes (I have my own theory as to why, and it’s not because girls are wusses who hate adventure and dirt). I would have dreams that I met a new dirtbike girl and she became my best friend and we would go find cool jumps together, and most importantly, she wouldn’t say I was pretty good at riding, for a girl. She would know that I’m pretty bad at riding, for anyone.
Last year was the first Ladies Adventure Ride that I attended, and it changed my life. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up, or would crash, get brain damage, go berserk, turn violent, and they would have to finish me off, carry my body out in pieces, and tell Eli and my mom the bad news. None of that happened, of course. Everyone was so wonderful, and I found out that not only do other women ride dirtbikes, but they are not all like me! I don’t know how to explain why that fact was such a relief to me, but it was. Some of them were old, some were my age, some had discovered it on their own, some started riding with their husbands or boyfriends, some were girly, some weren’t, some were confident, some were afraid. All of them were inspiring to me.
Who got this sappy windbag started, sheesh. Anyway, the year is 2014. We drink cheap beer and whiskey every night, and go on adventure rides during the day. The first day we left with 8 riders, headed for the glory that is the South Ice Cave. While I was hoping to see something along the lines of Elsa’s ice palace from Frozen, I am never disappointed by a dry volcanic cave. The one I have been climbing in all summer is full of broken glass, graffiti, many
species of turds, and an eternal dust cloud, so by my standards this cave was tall and beautiful.
After looking at the last map that we hadn’t burned in our drunken heathen sacrifices the night before, we headed towards our lunch stop. Unfortunately our leader’s bike had other plans, and those were to dump all of its oil in the road and then die. We couldn’t leave her behind because we weren’t even in a war, and soldiers risk being shot at all the time to retrieve their dying friends. She was very bummed out, so I thought it might be helpful to take the focus off of her recent tragedy and do some wheelie practice. April on the KTM did some rad wheelies, and I tried real
hard. Eventually Staci’s husband arrived and swept her and her broken bike away, and the rest of us headed to lunch, where I picked my dirt-filled nose the whole time and drank a well-deserved beer after all that hard wheelie-ing. We rode to the obsidian flow after lunch, which is less shiny and flowy than I imagined, once again, but still looks like space terrain so I was satisfied.
Back at camp, our group had doubled in size and Staci returned triumphantly with her sick van and her mysteriously street-legal KDX220. Our friend from the previous Ladies Ride, Kathleen, had shown up and the three of us went on a dangerous grocery mission. To the store. My duties were to acquire mustard packets, and advise the other two on what kind of shitty food and drinks we would need for the weekend. We settled on Cheladas and Cheetos, along with candy and pre-cooked Cheddarpeno sausages.
Saturday was the big day. 15 girls on thumpers headed out towards Waldo Lake. We took mostly gravel and pavement to get to Little Cultus Lake, and from there we rode to Waldo Lake by way of a surreal road through a hollowed out forest that had been ravaged by the Taylor Burn about a hundred years earlier. The road itself was so much fun that I was doing as many jumps as possible and feeling like I actually knew how to turn on a motorcycle. Staci went ahead and hid behind a rock garden to take pictures of everyone. I went first, and tried to do a cool jump off the top of the rocks. I might have
caught air, but I definitely whacked my skidplate on the rocks when my rear suspension compressed. Didn’t think anything of it, and thoroughly enjoyed myself drifting around sandy corners and bouncing up rocky hills until the forest became alive again, and then I gunned it through a giant mud puddle for the grand finale of this awesome trail. I stopped on the pavement, noticed my bike was dripping some brown liquid and freaked out that I was leaking oil. Luckily, April pointed out to my dumb ass that I had literally just gone through a huge mud puddle and it was probably water. Angela crouched at the end of the mud puddle and took rad pictures of everyone’s water crossing.
Everyone was together again and we stopped for a swim and picnic at Waldo Lake. Seeing 15 bikes all owned by women lined up next to the clear lake on a sunny day was inspiring and the psyche was high. Most of us got in the water; I actually jumped in, which is a once-a-year occurrence that only happens at the Ladies Ride, and I hit the bottom. Got a booboo on my foot. Waah. It was too cold so I also panicked and got out to eat a sandwich. Everyone else wasn’t a wuss and swam out a little further to find a nice sand bar to stand on. Soon we were all eating lunch in the sun on the dock, and passing around the Canadian Hunter. Leaving Waldo, I did what may have been the best wheelie of my life, and then I had a ton of fun going back through the Burn road towards Little Cultus Lake.
Waiting for the rest of the group to join us at Little Cultus, we learned that Krista had had a spectacular get-off at the rock garden, and were hoping she took pictures. Her bike flooded and the battery died while they were trying to get it started. By the grace of whatever the heck, a mechanic rode by and helped her get it going again, and we all headed back towards camp. Grilling, drinking, campfiring, and enjoying our last night, I fell asleep sitting up because I didn’t want it to be over.
Sunday morning we would ride to Paulina Peak. Staci didn’t want to take the KDX on another pavement ride, and we had just been married according to our campground check-in sheet, so we tied a bunch of cans to my bike and rode 2-up. The hairpin turns on washboard gravel near the peak were pretty crazy since neither of us could stand up. So I jostled the both of us pretty good and she hitched a different ride on the way down. From the top you can see two different lakes, smoke from California fires covering the mountains, and the obsidian flow. It was a lovely way to end the weekend, but I had even more fun when we all got back to camp hungry and still tired from the day before and had a communal lunch of Hamms, Cheetos, and Buddigs before we had to say goodbye. Then I went to the gym, climbed like crap and fell asleep at 9pm with a beer in my hand while watching 450 Moto 1 from Indiana. Best weekend ever.