Over 1,600 miles to and from Babes Ride Out 4, an annual, women only international motorcycle campout, our cramped, stinky and tired bodies poured out of the car.
Our journey began as three through Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California. Two Harley’s and a VW wagon. A trailer hooked up, rattling upon each encounter of every hole, bump and animal carcass in the road. I drove alone in the car for some time, admiring as much as I could, not having driven a noisy metal box with wheels before.
The car was packed with an excess of most camping accessories—four sleeping bags, two tents, food to last two weeks, gin to last one. Knives for regular day-to-day needs and a black machete to tame the environment and communicate to the dangers ahead. Do not fuck with us.
Idaho, with its hills and indefinitely distant snow-crusted mountain tops, was mainly light brown and dry. The sky embraced the ground below it with a soft classic gradient of nearly all monotone blue. I rarely saw a single cloud.
Utah, bit rocky, still light brown had a speckled landscape of black cows and spontaneous boulders. A rogue sheep casually walked on the side of the highway. A base jumper gathered his parachute and nonchalantly dropped off a bridge. We witnessed an orange kitten in a seemingly vacant field waiting for breakfast.
At just about every gas station, a stereotypical, heavy set man would approach us: ball cap, a leech upon a thinning head of hair, local sports team* jacket, and working boots. “Is this your bike?” I immediately would point to my companion, Juli, afraid the next few questions would be related to absolutely anything about motorcycles. To which, I know nothing. He received his stupid answers to his stupid questions, and moved on without a goodbye, thank you or even a “cool”.
And, the further we drove, the richer the culture became for female riders! At a much sought after gas station in Arizona, we encountered skeptical inquiries from middle aged women, many whose ancestors have been here a very, very long time, often visited our trailer with smiling, glowing expressions. “I love your bike.” Conversation would continue on about the tank and the meticulous paint job Juli and her husband, Endy had lovingly painted together. It sparkled in the direct and relentless southwest sun. It was a disco ball juxtaposed on top (in this midwesterners eyes) a strange, aggressive landscape. Almost mocking it.
Joshua Tree National Park resembled another planet. Perhaps a prehistoric Earth. The Joshua trees were like gargantuan and mangled hands reaching out from the dust and dirt.
Every step was a muffled crunch under micro pebbles of sand accompanied by the occasional rock, tarantula, or half-smoked joint (this is California after all). The sun left and with it — warmth and comfort. Beer nor flannel satisfied my body’s need to be comfortable. Thank the babes we had four freakin’ sleeping bags.
It has been said that approximately 1,600 Babes attended the event. One-thousand-six-hundred women! Equipped with motorcycles of all makes and models. Their features customized to the nines, novice riders with factory-default paint jobs. Huge and heavy, light and agile, vintage, cheap, excessive, show offs, matte finishes, unstoppable glitter and bedazzle.
It seemed all ages had attended Babes Ride Out. Women who have been riding for 35 years were proud of the newbies. “You’re continuing and growing this.” The young, just as fearless and badass as the old.
As for myself, I had exactly 0% prior experience on, or about bikes. And that somehow had zero effect on my experience. There was no ego. Only helping hands for when a battery needed jumping or strong, steady shove when a bike needed to be on or off a steep trailer. (Or when our tent decided to roll across the desert floor.)
We shared stories and food and (free) 805 beer. Picked up babes who had fallen into the friendliest mosh pit you will ever witness. Lifted them above our heads as we danced with a Prince cover band while wearing skeleton onesie in the cool, Mojave desert night.
It didn’t matter where you came from, or who you thought you were. We all had a common mission–Do whatever the hell you want, get out of our way and ride. And it felt amazing. I piggy-backed on Juli’s Harley. The roads were calm and long and straight. We were so exposed. 65 MPH never felt so real against my unbuttoned denim jacket, adorned with enamel pins and patches that say “fuck the patriarchy” and “no gods”. I pulled my torso close on tight turns and tried not to wiggle or tickle. Our helmets tapped on bumps as I was holding my friend so tight. We saluted the many riders we passed on the road and our bikes purred next to them. I wanted to ride even faster than we were going. I screamed and yelped when the joy was too much to contain.
There was no one to tell these women what to do. There was no doubt in their minds that this was exactly what they should be doing. And it was an empowering experience to be in their company.
I learned that there truly isn’t a problem in my daily life that can’t be figured out, if I want something I need to live my life first and not to worry about the ‘what if’ scenario. That’s why I’ll be visiting the DMV for a motorcycle test very soon.