Sitting in the cab on the way to the airport, I felt eager, excited and a little nervous. Was I really about to fly to Los Angeles, rent a bike, take a trip with a friend I have never traveled with, and meet up with 1,200 women in a place I have never been? Yup.
I was on my way to Babes Ride Out, a women-only motorcycle ride and camp-out that takes place in October. As I stood in line at the airport to get coffee and something to eat, the girl behind the register looked at me, my jacket, and my helmet. Then, she smiled a really big smile. I don’t think I can properly explain how awesome it is to see someone light up because you ride, but seeing her excitement reminded me why I was going to California. I smiled back and took a photo to commemorate the start of my journey.
In Los Angeles, I met up with my friend, Kelli, who was already there on business. At home, I ride a Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 and Kelli rides a Suzuki GS500E. Though we ride together often, neither of us has ridden very far. I also tend to be a bit of a worry wart, a momma bear, if you will. Kelli typically throws caution to the wind. When we arrived at Eaglerider and they didn’t have the Iron 883s that we reserved, she shrugged and hopped on the first Harley she’d ever ridden, a Sportster Custom 1200. Me? At five feet, two inches, my stomach turned when I saw a bike with saddlebags, forward controls and my name on it. But this time, I followed Kelli’s lead.
At Eaglerider, we also met Lauryn Besasie from Milwaukee, who flew to Los Angeles by herself in hopes of meeting some cool girls in a sea of hundreds. Thankfully, she met us and we stuck together almost every step of the way.
“We adopted a babe,” as Kelli put it.
On Saturday morning, we woke up in Joshua Tree, Calif., along with about 1,200 other women. We looked at all four of the suggested rides for the day and decided to go to the farthest one, Salvation Mountain. We taped directions to our tanks and headed south. Our first stop set the tone for the day.
At a gas station in Coachella, a woman walked up to us with her daughter in tow.
“Are those your bikes?” she asked.
We could tell she was surprised when we confirmed they were, because she turned and nodded excitedly to the little girl. Then she said told us it was her daughter’s eighth birthday.
“Would you take a photo with her for her birthday?” she said. Before she even finished asking, we said yes. Her daughter walked over to us shyly, but smiling from ear to ear.
As we rode away, I remembered something that happened a few weeks earlier at The Race of Gentlemen in Wildwood, N.J. A friend of mine yelled to a lone woman racer, “Do it for the babes!”
It was just a joke at the time, but the phrase stuck with me.
We left the gas station and soon we were on Route 111, an incredibly scenic two-lane road with mountains on the left, the Salton Sea on the right, and the desert in between. Completely beside myself, I couldn’t take my eyes off of the sea. It was so blue and seemed to glisten and move at the touch of the sun’s rays. The whole time, I kept thinking, “It can’t get any better than this.” And just when I thought it couldn’t, it did.
Salvation Mountain was beautiful, but extremely hot. We left in about the same amount of time that it had taken us to peel off our dusty jeans and throw on some shorts. On the way back, we decided to take a few hours to ride through Joshua Tree National Park. It was the best decision we made all trip.
I knew that Joshua Tree would be beautiful, but it was way more enchanting than I expected. The vast canyons cast shadows over us the size of buildings. As we rode through them, the temperature seemed to drop and rise with each curve of the road. And the roads themselves were completely empty. It was humbling and a welcomed change from the traffic we had experienced in L.A. the day before.
As the sun began to set, we stopped to take it all in. Looking at the blue and pink colors in the sky, my heart started to melt. How could I live so far from something so beautiful? I looked at the road ahead and felt like I could stay in Joshua Tree forever.
When the sun did actually start to disappear, we hopped back on our bikes, realizing we had at least an hour to go before we were “home,” and that we were low on gas. As we rode, it got darker and darker until it was pitch-black. I could barely see Kelli’s tail light ahead of me. The roads also felt more winding, with posted speed limits varying from 25 to 40 mph. I don’t know if it was the curves or the darkness, but it seemed the road was never-ending.
We exited the park on a hill overlooking the town. For the first time in a few hours, we saw a skyline with lights. For me, seeing the lights was a big triumph mixed with a little twinge of relief that we had made it out of the park without running out of gas. And as we rolled into the first gas station we saw, that’s exactly what happened. It was perfect timing.
When we got back to the campsite we immediately cut loose. We did it! We ate, we drank, we partied and we danced. We met new friends and finally met old ones that we only really “knew” through Instagram. At the risk of sounding trite or even predictable, everyone seemed to feel really happy and really free.
But on Sunday morning, it was over! We woke around 7 a.m. and planned to leave camp by 10.
Before leaving, I ran into Anya Violet, co-founder of the event. I had never met her before, but I had to smile and say hello as she walked by. She stopped and actually hugged me as I thanked her for putting together such an amazing weekend. I can wholeheartedly say that she was just as down-to-earth as the vibe of the weekend she helped create. She and Ashmore Ellis created Babes Ride Out in 2013 and it has grown from a few dozen women to more than a thousand. Their purpose was to give women a space to make friends and have a good time without the usual distractions. The mantra is “No ‘tudes, no dudes.”
But I think it’s important to say that it isn’t so much about excluding guys as it is about focusing on women. In a male-centric culture like motorcycles, guys dominate most events. So I guess what I’m saying is that it was just nice to hang out with other women for a change.
“No tudes,” in my opinion, was the big one. I’ve seldom been somewhere with that many women (or people, in general) who were so friendly and so happy to be surrounded by each other. The first time I sat down to write about this, I almost wanted to say that it was like being with your fellow... brethren? But no, that’s not correct. It was exactly like being surrounded by your fellow babes. Because, as cheesy as it sounds, at Babes Ride Out, everyone is a babe. It doesn’t matter if you’ve thought of yourself that way before or not. After all, who decides what constitutes a babe?
In the end, Babes Ride Out is really what you make of it. Women came from all over the world to attend the event, some from as far as Africa, Europe, Asia and even Australia. For some, it was their first long ride, their first Iron Butt ride, or their first time in the United States. Anya’s mom also rode out, and for her, it was probably just an opportunity to see her daughter do something big.
For me, it was my first 600-plus-mile trip, my first time riding in California, and my first time on a 1200 cc bike. It was also my first riding trip with other women!
But most importantly, it was an opportunity to do something that I only dreamed of doing and I got to do it with the unwavering support and encouragement of the women around me. And that is truly inspiring. I feel changed not just as a rider, but as a person too.
So, the next time you aren’t sure whether you can do something, think of us, think of the girls to come, and do it for the babes.