I was up at 6am, we had to leave by 6:30am to get to the Lake and set up the Kona stand. I met the boys in their hotel room and used their bathroom, then we went for breakfast. No questions were asked about me, I walked in like I owned the place and helped myself to bagels, orange juice and scrambled eggs. Winning! We head off in our vans to the lake and stopped at a servo not far from the entrance where I put my bike in my car, parked it, grabbed my gear and jumped in with Kelly. We did this so I could avoid the $11 parking fee and also because I couldn’t be seen with a Giant if I was working for Kona. At this point, I had a bit of an internal panic because I realised this meant I couldn’t really leave early if I wanted to, but figured worst case I could walk back to my car. Experience.
We got to the spot and started setting up. I was in awe to see the packing system of the bikes in Vince’s van. Front wheels off and blankets in between everything, he had enough room for them, bike stands and two marquees. All the bikes were out within an hour. Unfortunately so was the rain, but the event was promised to go ahead, rain or shine. We all stood around chatting to various people, mostly about bikes and riding. I was riding Kelly’s Hei Hei, a beautiful carbon bike with all the fancy gear. I went over to registration and signed up for the advanced group ride, which resulted in me getting an REI swag bag. Feeling like a spy, I then rode around on the Kona for a bit until I found a queue which was for free t-shirts so joined it! No scams, they handed out purple “Girlz Gone Riding” t-shirts. It started raining a bit more at this point. I got kitted up in a Kona jersey and baggies then headed over to the pre-ride talks. I rode over with a lady who was demo’ing a titanium Kona and explained to her how and when to use her dropper post. I huddled under a tree with a bunch of other ladies that I made friends with while we tried to stay warm in the rain and wait for everything to get going. There was thanks to all the sponsors, with some speeches from each of them. When we finally got to the end, they announced we wouldn’t be able to go riding because the trails were so wet. So we’d stood in the rain for an hour, just to be told we couldn’t ride. SAD FACE! We did get a big group photo anyway (there were one hundred plus disappointed riders) and I stood at the back and held the Kona above my head to get noticed. Consolation was that the skills courses would still go ahead so I went and crashed that.
In spite of joining the intermediate/advanced category, they taught beginner stuff, but I won’t say it wasn’t useful. It was interesting to hear people discuss the different aspects of riding. We started with “next” and “now” vision, then the three essential bike bits: dropper post, wide bars, and knobby tires. When we got to ride, we focused on vision, then body position, then cornering. It was all a bit drawn out and simple, especially because we were standing around in the rain most of the time, but there was a photographer, so I did my best to put the Kona on display for the team. I was chuffed when the instructors asked me to demonstrate cornering to the group because they liked my skills.
At 12, the raffle had started so we cut the course short and everyone head over. I was shaking from cold at this point, so I went straight for dry clothes. Vince and Kelly then gave me a bunch of raffle tickets and instructed me to go win some stuff! There was so much swag and many people had left so the swag-to-people ratio was ridiculous. The idea was to put your tickets in for what you wanted to win. I wasn’t too selective, just going around and putting a bunch of tickets in different goodie bags. I stood with a few girls that had done the skills course as the numbers were called. They were winning all sorts of gear between them. Then my streak started. First I won a bag with a seat, handlebar grips and a bike pump. A few prizes later, I got a whole box full of gear. The third time, I was embarrassed, but the whole crowd was laughing at my success. Between me and the girls I was standing between, we were building a mountain of gear. As the raffle went on, I started going through the bags and giving away stuff I didn’t want and what I didn’t think the boys would be interested in. To top it all off, the girls next to me won the main prize, a mountain bike from REI. I was definitely in the lucky corner!
I reported back to Kelly and Vince, fairly chuffed at my effort, as were they. We split the swag happily. We also gave heaps away to one of the local ride organisers who had an event coming up where she could do giveaways.
Famished from all my hard work, I went to the only food truck and got myself a sandwich and fries, then returned to Kona headquarters to help pack up. Thankfully the rain had subsided so it was a quick job. Once we were done, we hung out playing with Kelly (the dog) and chatting with lingering vendors and riders. I met Harrison, who worked as an outdoor instructor, travelling all over the states taking groups of all ages and types into the wilderness to show them the ropes and how to survive in the wilderness. Cool job much? We exchanged numbers because he was also heading to Joshua Tree in the next few days so there’s a chance we’ll meet up.
We were some of the last people to leave the festival. Me with much more than what I came in with. Kelly dropped me off at my car where we really geeked out on van kit as they checked out my house. They were off to Kelly’s family to carve pumpkins and prepare for Halloween celebrations before heading out on the road again. We got a photo together then parted ways. We were all happy to have found each other, we’d all had a great time.
I felt elated as I drove away. I was heading to Santa Monica Mountain Cyclery that I now had a $50 voucher for. I was excited to get some wide handlebars for my ride. Unforunately they didn’t stock bars and we couldn’t figure out any shipping solution, so I settled for a bunch of cable sheaths to replace everything on my bike, new shifter cables and a pair of gloves. The guy in the shop was great, he gave me the advice to quit storing my bike with dropper post down to increase its life, which completely makes sense.
By now it was 4:30pm and I was tired, so I decided to hit the highway to get to my next destination: Big Bear. Here I was seeking out the Skyline Trail per Kelly’s suggestion. As soon as I got off the highway I was climbing the mountain, into fog and light rain and was desperate for camp. I made a few futile searches before I struck gold with an out-of-sight pull out at the entrance of a shooting range. It was still just light as I made camp. Very happy.