Its almost my birthday. And I feel really fucking weird about my birthday. This is a recent thing – it started in my late 20s and has been gaining intensity, year after year, and providing me with a whole host of problems around this time of year. Shitty. I’m a big fan of birthdays, too, which is all the more tragic.
But this year, I am taking a stand. An awkward, duck-footed stand, in cleats, saying that I am not going to sit idly by and watch myself get sucked into the same and sadness spiral that my birthday seems to generate, and will instead do what I have been doing for over a year; riding my bike to make myself feel better. I have been slow starting. I joined a Strava challenge and promptly did nothing else to further my cause, unless watching six back-to-back episodes of Doctor Who counts (which, FYI, it does not).
Last week, I took a hard ride through hilly terrain with some of my most cherished fellows from ALC, and that was exactly the punishment I required. Exhausted, sweaty, and sort of smelly, I crawled home victorious. But, again, momentum is hard to build, and there is so much Doctor Who I haven’t seen! So I have been wavering. There are so many good group rides going on right now, so many bombshell races (anyone in the bay area, head to the one in Oakland this Saturday – the last before Shanghai!) – all of which I have been pacing around on the sidelines for, not wanting to commit myself. But a girl like me needs community to thrive, and this is a good one.
So, against louder, more doubting voices, I registered myself for some pre-birthday weekend bike adventure. This weekend I will be taking off on a one night (baby steps, right?) camping and riding experience. The event is sponsored by the East Bay Bike Coalition, and is an all ladies bike camp out, in part to observe a meteor shower that I personally had no idea was happening. Departure will be preceded by Bike Party on Friday night (where I must remember not to drink myself into oblivion) and this will be one of the only times I find myself in the Oakland hills without being on a training ride. It will be one of many times I will find myself riding these roads in a group of all women.
A good friend came over to my place last weekend, and we cooked two jars of grapleaves (which, alone, takes fucking forever). While we were rolling our millionth leaf, she made a comment that, in large part, swayed my decision to join up with this ride. In her infinite wisdom, she offered that “cooking with women is psychically healing. The sowing circle is no accident”. I am going to extend that idea to doing a whole lot of other things with only women – including riding bikes. Unless you date around in the groups you socialize with, there is often a freedom from drama and unnecessary weight when you are with those people. I count myself shy, but I always feel a little bit lucky when I am getting acquainted with a new group – I am whomever I want to be. With this group, I am still in that space.
This is also the gateway to touring I have been looking for. I have no idea how to pack for riding like this. Or, more specifically, for not dying of hypothermia while trying to sleep – are *you* familiar with the Bay Area in the summer? Its less ‘summer’ and more ‘mid-late autumn’. I am looking foreward to harnessing the collective wisdom of people much more seasoned than myself, who will inspire my ambitions, rather than my fears. That feels like a good birthday gift to myself – certainly better than a night at home, feeling angsty.
So show me open roads, and hot ladies on hot bikes. Show me switchbacks, and how to put a rack on my road bike. Show me where the hell I put my sleeping bag when I moved, and show me stars. I am ready for all those things and so many more.