For more information check out the Ray's website.
My second year attending Women's Weekend at Ray's Indoor Mountain Bike park was awesome. I love having the opportunity to ride alongside so many talented women. The amount of BMX riders grows everywhere which feels awesome. I continue to step outside of my comfort zone as an older rider, a newer rider, a rider with anxiety who is afraid of everything. The vibe at Ray's is always so encouraging & so positive, it feels really special to be a part of something so big. If you have the chance to attend, I highly suggest you do. The park is closed to men until 4pm on Friday and clinics are held. Each clinic focuses on a bike skill that translates to mountain bike or BMX, for beginners to advanced riders.
For more information check out the Ray's website.
Like most people who grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, I spent my entire childhood going down the shore (that means traveling to the beach, for those of you who aren't from the suburbs of Philadelphia). Going down the shore was basically the extent of vacationing for our family, my entire childhood. Once, when my siblings were all really young (Veronica wasn't even born yet) my stepdad piled us all into his Monte Carlo & we drove to Disneyworld for a week. That was a big deal. However, the shore is still the highlight of my childhood, those trips being something we try & recreate in our adulthood. This past Saturday I somehow managed to have the day off from work so I convinced my midwest-grown boyfriend to go down the shore!
It's about a 2 hour drive to Seaside Heights from my house. We didn't leave until the afternoon. It was a spontaneous trip, the very best kind. The drive was uneventful. We spent most of it just talking, at one point my boyfriend declared how stoked he was on life. How everything just seemed really good & now he was on his way to spend the day just relaxing. Around 3pm we pulled onto the bridge that goes over the bay to Seaside Heights. I texted my sister Jennifer & told her to tell Lily, my 5 year old niece who was not-so-patiently waiting for our arrival, that we would be there in 15minutes.
An hour later I had to text my sister to tell her the bridge was broken, we were stuck (see that grey dot up there, that was us) & that we hadn't moved since the first time I texted her. This is probably where I should tell you that, although I'm pretty tough & not afraid of much, I am afraid of one thing & that is bridges. Like, deathly afraid. Like, close my eyes & hold my breath when we cross one afraid. Like, as a child, Jennifer & I visited my dad while he was living in London & during a double decker bus tour of the city we crossed Tower Bridge & they jokingly sang "London Bridge is Falling Down" & I, not-so-jokingly had a panic attack. I am totally afraid of bridges & here we were, well into an hour of my biggest nightmare come true. As people began to get out of their cars & things started to fell very "Walking Dead" to me, we got word that the locking mechanism on the bridge wasn't working and they couldn't cross the drawbridge fully to allow us to cross. Instead, the police would have us all turn around and drive back off the bridge. Once we got off the bridge we would drive up to the next one, cross, and drive down to Seaside Heights. The GPS said it would take us about an hour to travel what should have taken 15 minutes & had already been an hour and a half.
Three & a half hours later we finally arrived in Seaside Heights. My relationship wasn't as strong as when we had left the house & the beach, the one thing I was looking the most forward to, was close. But Lily, my sweet sweet Lily, was over the moon excited that we were there.
The beach was closed but there was still a pool, so we decided to have a pool party & a party it was. My family had been down there for a week by this point & Lily had been working on her surfing skills in the pool on a boogie board. She was totally hyped to show us & we were totally hyped to not be sitting in traffic anymore. After the pool we got changed & headed to the boardwalk, the most magical of kitschy kingdoms. We rode the carousel, played skeeball, took photobooth pictures & attempted to win a giant unicorn for Lily (& failed over & over, so if anyone can get that giant plush unicorn from Despicable Me, I'm willing to pay big bucks for it. I'm so serious).
Side Note: the summer of 1996 I ran away from home. I packed a bag & took the train to Atlantic City & then caught a bus to Ocean City. I slept under the boardwalk under Jilly's arcade, spare changed for money to eat, made out with towny boys. I was a summer squatter & it was the best summer of my life. Some of the friendships I made that summer were with people I'm still friends with, twenty years later. I have an emotional connection to the shore that consumes my heart the minute I smell the sea air. Even now, almost a week after we went to Seaside Heights my sunburn is peeling & I'm itchy as hell but I still hold every minute we were down there in my heart like a horcrux. A little piece of me stays down the shore withe every visit, ya know?
Anyway, my boyfriend being from the midwest, doesn't have an emotional connection to the shore the way I do. He doesn't see the bright lights shine the way I can. The people shouting at him from the games are alarming, not at all charming. It's loud & crowded & the whole thing is just overwhelming & anxiety inducing for him. So, even though it's none of those things to me & I could walk it back & forth forever, we called it a night & headed back to the house because he deserved that relaxation he had been dreaming about the entire six hour drive & he wasn't going to get that on the boardwalk.
The next morning my family packed up & left Seaside Heights. It was raining as we walked to our car but by the time we got to a bagel shop (the only vegan option we could find in Seaside) the rain had stopped & there was no more in the forecast. We decided to spend the day down the shore, Brian insisting that it was the right thing to do, possibly feeling a bit guilty about the night before. I was psyched! We headed back to the boardwalk,watched a pole vaulting competition on the beach for a little while & then changed into our bathing suits (mine, a two piece from Mod Cloth covered in am all-over banana print). As we laid on the beach in the sun with the waves crashing on the shore I felt more calm & content then I had in so long. It hits me every time I'm down the shore: it is my HAPPY PLACE. My anxiety is non-existent there. I don't stress about work or bills or anything. If only funnel cake was vegan, then I would officially be the happiest girl ever.
It's true, I had never been camping before. I had passed out drunk once by a campfire but that doesn't count because when I woke up I just went inside. This was actual camping, in the woods, in a tent & it was terrifying & really, really uncomfortable. But for what it lacked in accommodations (which honestly, was completely our fault for rolling up to the campsite well into the evening ill prepared) it made up for in adventure!
Raystown Lake is apparently the largest lake within Pennsylvania. It is 30 miles long & 8,300 acres. Raystown is also home to Allegrippis trails, some of the best single track mountain bike trails in all of North America which is why we were there. My mountain biking experience is rather limited. This would only be my 10th ride ever (all my other rides had been at Trex or Nox). But I was up for the challenge, even on just a few hours of really uncomfortable & interrupted sleep.
My boyfriend Brian & I rode with two of his BMX friends who were incredibly experienced riders. I made it very clear that it was perfectly ok for them to leave me behind if needed, I would not be offended. I actually worried more about them waiting for me & not having fun. But, like most cyclists I know they were super rad about going at a pace that was comfortable for everyone & waiting for me to catch up in the few spots that really required some serious speed! When I ride I spend most of my time doing two things: worrying I'm going to crash & worrying I'm going to crash really bad. But also, I have this voice in my head telling me to STFU & just have fun. That voice is learning to be louder than the anxious one, the voice that's like "OMG THAT TREE IS GOING TO JUMP IN FRONT OF YOU! SLOOOOW DOOOOWN".
The picture on the left is Brian & I after we rode to the vista point on a trail that, unbeknownst to me, was marked as "moderate" (starting at Buck trail, riding Allie to Grippis to Ridge). I was already feeling totally psyched & totally afraid, realizing these trails were more difficult than what I was used to. But the view was beautiful & the dudes were stoked so we continued on down Berry Patch to Sidewinder. At this point we stopped and I viewed the map (below) & saw that Sidewinder was listed as "most difficult". We had stopped a few times along the way when the dudes noticed I had fallen behind. Each time I caught up they were totally stoked & offering me endless positive reinforcement & encouragement (as you can see in the photo above on the left, I was visibly falling apart & possibly throwing a slight temper tantrum - but not really). We headed down Osprey (moderate) to Hydro Loop & here is where I tapped out. I decided to chill on the conveniently placed bench & let those dudes fang it around the loop (which was 1.9 miles, I believe). The break was welcomed & although the longer I sat there the more I began to regret not joining them, they said there was a decent amount of climbing & I knew it was best I took a break. I spent the time just being in the present, appreciating where I was, what I was doing, what I was capable of. I recognized that before I got sober this wasn't an option. Since getting sober I've gotten pretty good at knowing my limits, pushing them when I feel it's ok but respecting them when it might be best to just chill. It's a weird fine line but riding bikes has really taught me a lot about comfort zones & how to navigate them in a healthy manner.
Once the dudes returned we headed down Eagle to the main road & back to our campsite. 8.7 miles of mountain bike riding, my longest ride yet & my first time riding with anyone other than Brian. It was awesome & exhausting & sort of sent me in a million directions emotionally. But physically, I was done. We headed down to the lake to swim & sunbathe on rocks & appreciate the sun on our skin. Brian however, wanted to ride more so he went back & did it al over again while I hiked on the Old Logger's Trail for 2.1 miles (it would have been longer but I realized I had no idea what to do if I saw a bear - I've since researched it & I guess you're supposed to just slowly back away because running will cause the bar to chase you & they are fast & if you try to climb a tree they will just follow you & anyway, I don't think I could do much of anything if I saw a bear other than freak out so I got out of the woods). Basically, my first camping trip was a success & I can't wait until next time. Invite me camping please.
Today is the anniversary of the day I quit booze. Six years ago I decided if I was going to survive I needed to stop drinking. The last six years have been a ridiculous adventure, a rollercoaster of emotion & pretty much totally fucking fantastic. Last year I threw myself a pool party to celebrate my sobriety. This year I wrote a zine. If you want a copy, just go order something from my etsy shop & I'll include it for free. If you just want this zine, it's available on a sliding scale, pay what you can via paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org.