Jackie, the Director of Trail Angels and I had been chatting about how we should get both the clubs together, GGR & Trail Angels. But where?? Well, since everyone loves Big Bear and its so much cooler there, we decided Big Bear it is!
The plan was to hold this unique get together August 9th and 10th. Just a weekend of chill guided rides, no clinics, just a get together of the clubs to meet each other. Well of course…nothing is ever just a get together….for our two amazing clubs of women…it had to be fabulous!
So we put out some feelers on each respective club page to see what kind of response we would get. As you can guess, it was overwhelmingly positive and EVERYONE wanted to go! YIKES! So each of us put up an event page. The sign ups got overwhelming and too many. So for a 1st time event, we really needed it to be on the smaller size with all the information and sign ups on 1 page for both clubs.
Years ago, Big Bear had the old WOW weekends. Women only Weekends. So we wanted to bring something like this back but with a more social, relaxed weekend for virtually all levels of both XC and DH women riders.
Let the chaos begin!
Well, after moving everyone to one page and making a cut off of about 40 riders, it got a wee bit confusing for the ladies that thought they signed up and needed to sign up on the new page, so the count started growing so we didn’t miss anyone who had initially signed up. We ended up closing the event at 56 riders respectively.
Now I somehow needed to learn the trails so I didn’t get anyone lost and could assign routes and assist others. Jacke was to handle all the DH, and I was to handle the XC.
This was the most difficult, yet the most fun 1st part of this adventure. Why?? Those that know me best know that I can’t find my way anywhere to save my life. So this means tons of ROAD TRIPS so I can memorize the trails by riding them over and over again.
Myself and a few others who volunteered early on for this event, went to Big Bear all summer and rode the trails with the amazing BB local ladies to learn the trails as best as we could and get feed back from the local riders who knew the trails and what was going on better than anyone. The trails were constantly changing with the mountain making major changes, so we were up a few times a month learning every inch of the trails. Well by August, we knew the trails fairly well, but still not even close to what the locals knew….so to the rescue come the amazing local ladies of Big Bear! These ladies have an extra set of lungs! They are truly HAMMER HEADS! Yet still so thrilled to chill and show us LA girls their hood of trails! Gotta luv them! Huge thanks to Ali Hyde from Bear Valley Bikes and Laura the Hammer head Johnson, just a few of our local Big Bear ladies who helped the weekend be a success!
Thursday, August 7th…..
Myself and a few close friends decided to go up early and make it a mini vacation and a chance to catch up with one another’s lives.
So we headed up to Big Bear on Thursday for some kayaking and relaxing. I hadn't kayaked since high school and a few of the others had never kayaked, so this was going to be really fun! We even saw a pirate ship on the lake! YES A PIRATE SHIP IN BIG BEAR!
Friday August 8th….
Today was a busy scheduled day for all of us to fit everything in. We started off riding on the mountain with our 1st couple of runs being what we were going to ride Saturday with the big group.
Skyline East (Plumbers) was the 1st run, about 5 miles. Fun, flowey single track. A great warm up for your lungs and riding fast berms.
Since we started pretty late (around 10:30am, I was exhausted and needed some sleep!), we decided to do one more long run. So we started Skyline from the fun berms this time and rode until the intersection of 7 oaks. Then off too Pineknot to head to Hoochie Koochie a favorite trail of mine. Well most of the girls had not ridden this trail yet, Amy and I were the only ones. So I knew exactly what to expect and of course so did Amy. We are all flowing pretty fast and having a blast. And here comes the only rock garden on the entire single track. Now picture this…a very narrow, off camber cluster of rocks with one path through them and sharp rocks on the landing on both sides of the trail. If you don’t take the line perfectly down the middle, it is very easy to clip your pedals, especially when you have platform pedals on your bike. Well…can you guess what happened next?? Amy had been waiting for all of us to catch up to her since there was a split in the trail (she is fast as the wind blows as Forest would say!). We both knew what was coming up. My plan of course was to ride up to it, stop, dismount my bike, walk it down, then get back on. Amy’s plan was to eat those rocks up for breakfast! And that she did! BAM! Dang…O so close! Sure enough, the pedals clipped the rock and dragged her down. O my! There goes a new scar on her guns! But Amy is one tough young lady and got right back up and kept riding! WHAT an animal!
Then we all headed to Town Trail back to the park. Now it was time to head on over to Bear Valley bikes for Ali’s fund raiser for the Peak to Peak ride. Ali, a local Big Bear rider and Bear Valley Bike staff was holding a bike wash fund raiser so off we all went to get our bikes washed!
Now it’s time for the ride leader meeting at the Hacienda. We had 20 volunteers at the meeting ready to assist and make the weekend an amazing time for all of our ladies! Since many of us didn’t know each other being from different clubs and locations, we started the evening (after margarita’s of course!), by standing up and introducing each other. We told everyone what genre of riding we do and a wee bit about us.
We discussed the plan for the weekend and firmed up the ride leaders which were mostly the local Big bear ladies, and asked everyone else to be flexible until we saw how many were in each group so we could out women as sweepers and floaters where they were most needed. We covered every possible scenario and we were prepared! BRING IT!
Saturday August 9th: A Celebration of Women on the Mountain Event begins!
So I got there at 7:30am to unload my car and get the GGR booth up. Shortly after, some of my GGR gal pals showed up along with a few of the Trail Angels to set their booth up as well. We got everything set up along with the bike valet and product Clif donated ready for the girls and getting them signed in for the day.
Groups of the day were to be: Advanced beginner, Intermediate, Advanced/fast XC and DH. Now my assumption was that most all would join the intermediate group and a handful to adv beginner and a handful to advanced. Well, I was completely wrong…many joined the adv beginner group. So once I saw this, I grabbed the amazing floaters to ride with this group.
After we split up into our respective groups, I gave the morning commencement along with Jackie respectively. We talked about how we were THE voice of women on the mountain this weekend and how critical it was to be the super friendly group of women that we always are and to set great examples for the other women. Trail etiquette and watching out for one another was discussed as well.
There was also the opportunity to come back and meet at 1pm to drive to Rim Nordic and pre ride the Enduro course with our Vet ladies, so that was exciting too!
After some photo bombs and final group arrangements, we set off to the gondola’s. The line of women was a true site to see! Big Bear hasn't seen this since the old WOW days! Once we got to the top and all were present, we did our group photo and it was beautiful! We had 59 ladies riding Saturday.
Each group with the exception of DH was to start by doing 1 warm up run, then meeting back at the tents to see if anyone needed to change groups for the day. Well no one needed to change, however the advanced beginner group did separate into 2 groups to make it easier.
As we all took off down the shoot to start the 1st run of the day, I thought about how awesome it was that we out numbered the men and all the stares of admiration we were getting. Women can do anything and make anything happen. And that we did! I was overwhelmed with happiness and pride.
Our run, the intermediate run, was just pure fun. We had a nice small group of 11 with ride leader Ali Hyde from Big Bear leading us. Some of the girlz had never ridden this part of Skyline which was the old Plumbers, so it was awesome they got to ride some new sections. All I saw were tons of smiles! All of the girlz constantly looked around to check on each other too. It was a wonderfully supportive ride. No words needed....
After convening back at the booths as planned after the warm up run, it seemed no one needed to change groups, so up we went for run #2. Well, we THOUGHT we were going up right away! The 2nd chair lift was broken. There are only 2 places in the world that make parts for the chair lifts and they are both in Europe, needless to say, it would be broken for the rest of the season. So we waited in line for a long time, but got to jibbah jabbah with everyone. It was getting extremely hot for BB, I could feel it. I was run down, a bit stressed and worried that the weekend would go well, and needed about another 8 hours of sleep, so not feeling my best. Once we finally got on the chair lift, for some reason it seemed to sway some. Those of you that know me best know I have a very servere motion sickness problem. I usually get sick just driving myself to BB. So as soon as the lift started swaying, I felt like I was going to vomit. But I tried very hard to suck it up, lift up my chin and relax myself into feeling better.
Nice try………it didn’t work………
This 2nd run was my favorite route, so at least I was excited to ride even though I wasn’t feeling well. I loved starting at the berms on Skyline and was really looking forward to riding a ton of single track all the way to the shop. I started off OK in the middle of the pack watching both the front and the back making sure all were good. Ali was the Intermediate ride leader and hung with the faster riders, then would wait for the rest of the group and make sure all were accounted for. I started really noticing that I was super nauseous during the last bit of climbing on Skyline before the 7 Oaks sign. When we got to the benches, I really felt like crap, I think I had a fever and was just sick as a dog. I wanted to go as far as I could, but I knew I was getting worse and not sure what I needed. The last turn off opportunity, Ali sent Darcie with me to take me back to the shop. (Bear Valley Bikes). Funny, Dacie had insisted that she go with me, knowing that I would get lost on my own having zero sense of direction or map reading abilities. Thank goodness she did, because sure enough, I would have gotten lost.
We reached the shop just a few minutes after the rest of the group. We took the fire road down with hardly any climbing to make it easier on me. I drank a big cold Steaz Tea at the shop and within about 30 minutes already started to feel better. We hung at the shop for a bit, bought some cool clothes, then some of us headed back on the road to have lunch at Snow Summit since we had lunch tickets, and the other girlz had lunch at a grill next to the shop.
So myself, Darcie and Claudia rode back to Snow Summit. It was a VERY busy day with the traffic in BB! I am glad I don't road ride in BB! YIKES! Darcie and I had lunch at the lower level sandwich place since there was no way I was going to take the chance of getting sick on the lifts again. Then we ran into LIZ! One of GGR's newest ride leaders/floaters. So we got to hear about her adventures with the beginners for the morning before she went up for her DH runs.
Now it was getting late and we still had to pull the GGR booth, load up my car and head back to get ready for the big Group dinner/Speed meet and greet. So we get back to the parking lot where the booths were and both were already down. I see Desi with a panicked look on her face. Rut Roh.....apparently, a big gust of BB wind took our tent and tables away breaking some of the upper supports. O well, it was bound to happen. I just wish I was there with a camera to capture Desi's expression when the tent shot up in the air like a scene from The Wizard of OZ!
So after the car was packed up, we drove back to the house we were all renting and got ready for the big group dinner. I had NO idea if the speed meet and greet would be a hit or not, but I was just so very grateful it was sunny and not raining since we were all sitting on the patio! I was also getting worried because the Enduro girlz were no where to be seen and the traffic was just terrible! (at 1pm, some of the ladies drove to Rim Nordic to get in some Enduro runs for the race on Sunday). During all this worrying and getting dolled up for the evening, I just lost it emotionally for a minute or two. I had looked in the mirror and saw the huge bags under my eyes from not enough sleep and worrying, and was just overcome with gratefulness that so many showed up and so far it was going well and no one got injured. When you put on events, even though riders are signed up, you still wonder if anyone will actually show up. So I was ever so grateful that so many did and no reports of injuries. So the emotional, private diva moment was well deserved I think and long over due!
I drove over to dinner with Ali and when we got to the Old Country Inn, well of course.... I worried for nothing. I got there and virtually all were already there lined up and 3 of the lovely Trail Angels had already stepped up and taken care of checking ladies in and collecting dinner money. LUV LUV LUV it!
Once everyone got their drinks and the Enduro ladies got there safe and sound, the evening started. It was difficult to get the ladies attention with no microphone (someone remind me to bring this next year!), and everyone talking to each other to hear about the days events. All great stuff!
So I rang my Cow Bells (a memento from Danusia), to get everyone's attention to kick off the evening. We were about to start the SPEED MEET & GREET. Since many ladies would not get to spend time with each other due to different ride levels and routes on the mountain, we thought this would be a fun way to exchange contact information and pleasantries. Each pair of ladies was given 1 and a 1/2 minutes to do this exchange, then they moved over a seat. Well, it was soooo incredibly loud, it looked like everyone was yelling at each other, but with HUGE SMILES!
We did this for about 35-40 minutes. Then Jacke from Trail Angels got up to handle the remainder of the evening....the awarding of the Essay contest. As soon as she started, I felt such a relief and burden lifted off my shoulders, I about fell into my chair from exhaustion and relief. The hardest part of my weekend was DONE! YEAH! Now where's my pasta!!!
Jacke was kind enough to 1st recognize me and got me something very special in a BEAUTIFUL purple bag for being her partner in this crazy adventure of a weekend! Thank you Jacke!
Then she talked about the amazing women who turned in the Essay contests for How Mountain Biking Changed my Life. Neither Jacke or myself had anything to do with the judging. As a matter of fact, I didn't even know who wrote them until she got up and announced the winners. The emotion in the room was very high and of course as soon as Jacke started announcing the winners, the girls themselves started crying, so then I started crying. Dang! There's NO CRYING IN MOUNTAIN BIKING! I was a blubbering baby! To see how this sport and the women in the room changed each others lives for the better was absolutely incredible! I can't believe I am a part of this! So very, very proud!
The prizes for these girls were amazing too! 3rd place was a kit donated by Shebeest! 2nd place was a private skills clinic given by Leigh Donovan a champion of women's cycling herself! And the huge prize was a bike donated by Rock N Road Cyclery! WOW! WOW WOW! Thank you all that participated and donated to this very, very special contest. These ladies could write books and movies on their stories! I am so grateful they were brave enough to share them with us.
Now it was finally time to sit and EAT! Chicken Parmesan, salad, pasta, veggies and bread. JUST what I needed. I did not have any vino since i had been sick and wanted to stay as hydrated as possible. Dinner was very yummy, I gulped it down and enjoyed chatting with everyone.
I found myself at the end of the evening after everyone else had left, having a great conversation about women's cycling and the events of the weekend and how we can improve with some of the girls. Great feedback and input for next year.
Saturday was now over, as I reflected on the day and evenings events, I couldn't wait to jot down my ideas for making things better for next year as this was our 1st annual Celebration of Women on the Mountain Event. Next year, its not just about bringing clubs together, it's getting women from everywhere to join in. Doesn't matter what club you are affiliated with, just join in to ride with us!
This was check out day and saying our goodbye's before we even got to the trail head. I loved the chemistry and dynamics of the women we had in our house and I was sad to say goodbye. Some ladies had to get back home, some hiked and some joined in on the final ride.
So myself, Mega Watts and Siebs made the drive to Fawnskin for the last ride of the weekend. Other girls were staying on the mountain to down hill. We had 14 of us ready to do some fun XC.
We met at the fire station in Fawnskin. When we started to head up on the fire road to Hanna Flats, we stopped and checked out the Renaissance fair which was pretty cool and took some photo's. Once we got to the trail head in the camp ground, we grouped up into faster/slower. The trail was in great shape, but a wee bit sandy. Always short, steep climbing bursts that make us LA girls wanna just drop a lung!
We all met up at one of the beautiful scenic rocky places to take group shots and pictures of our bikes laying down on the trail. That's when Ali came up and suggested that she take the faster riders all the way up to Grey's Peak and I stay with the others who didn't want to climb to the summit.
I can't tell you how grateful I was that she offered that! I was dead tired and just wanted to relax and really enjoy the company and the trail. And that I did! Myself, Mega Watts, Jill and Heather just chilled, took pictures and chatted. It was really enjoyable. We even stopped and chatted with a horse and rider for a bit.
Once we got back, Mega Watts and Heather decided to go get in one more DH birthday run in at SS. Jill needed to get back, so I waited for the rest of the group to come back and see who wanted to have lunch. Ali was 1st back and told me of this older gentlemen hiker they ran into and were very concerned for. They gave him water and asked him a bunch of questions to make sure he was OK.
Then we took 1 final picture. Many decided to head on home, exhausted from the weekend. Myself, Ali, Allen and Colette decided to have a lovely lunch in town and call it a weekend.
This was another amazing adventure. Women are so very amazing and are coming together again for the love of cycling. I hope we can make this event even better next year and see over 100 ladies this time!
So many people to thank and recognize! I hope I haven't forgotten anyone! Forgive me if I have! I thank and welcome every single Trail Angel who supported the event.
Special Thanks to:
Jacke Van Woerkom, Director of Trail Angels
All the absolutely incredible Big Bear ladies: huge shout outs to: Ali Hyde and Laura Johnson and Tina Follett who spent so much time with us learning the trails over the summer!
Bear Valley Bikes
Laura Siebenthanl (Siebs)
Laura Mega Watts
GGR Girl Wendy E