I started writing this about a week after I came back from Dream Roll, and after lots of procrastination here is my pieced together account.
I like 280 some other ladies flocked to Glenwood WA to camp in the woods for the first ever Dream Roll. I’m going to do my best to tell you my honest to goodness opinion of my personal experience, because I don’t want to sugar coat it. It was cold. It was wet. And I knew absolutely no one. I have some pretty mixed up emotions about the whole ordeal, but overall I can tell you I’m definitely going again next year.
I purchased my ticket for the Dream Roll, like many ladies, because Babes Ride Out in Joshua Tree, CA was just too far away and not financially possible for me at the moment. It also had the added bonus (in my opinion) that as a first time event the number of ladies attending would be much smaller than the 600+ babes expected at Joshua Tree this year.
I was naturally nervous because I was going alone, and I didn’t know anyone who would be attending besides a few names I knew and were fans of. I told myself to get over it and go and somehow I would magically make at least one friend. I’m a fairly shy person around a big crowd of strangers.
The weeks leading up to the Dream Roll just threw one thing after another at me to add to my anxiety. My drive chain and sprockets gave up on life the week before, then I was told I needed a new rear tire less than three days before departure. The place I ordered the tire from said it was supposed to be there the day before my planned departure. When it still hadn’t arrived the day of, I called and was informed that they hadn’t even ordered my tire! I rushed in a fury, got the old rear tire, new sprockets and chain put on and finally got out of Portland at 5pm. Four hours later than I had planned.
I hauled ass as fast as I could down the Gorge, but still didn’t arrive until 8pm at twilight. I set up my tent as quickly as I could in the weakening light, frustrated and uncomfortable surrounded by so many strangers. I couldn’t help but feel incredibly self conscious, as the ladies that were still riding in were doing so in groups. I felt stupid for coming totally alone and sinking increasingly into a pit of social anxiety.
A few very lovely people introduced themselves who were setting up their tents around me. They were friendly enough, and I got the impression that they too were slightly uncomfortable surrounded by so many strangers. It made me a feel a bit better as I finished setting up camp. It gave me the extra oomph I needed to tell my anxiety to go fuck itself.
I ventured towards the teepee and two large Escape Collective domes set up at the west end of the field, to queue up for my free beer. I don’t actually like beer. I figured though, that free booze isn’t really something you can turn down. Besides, I needed something to lower my anxiety levels enough that I could get up the nerve to talk to some of these people. I got my beer and nervously sipped it while walking around the outskirts of the crowd. Eventually I found a place to sit down on a haybale and awkwardly watch the crowd, hoping that someone would just see how lonely I was and come talk to me.
There was a pair of girls next to me talking and one of them stood up and walked off leaving the one sitting there looking at the crowd. I took that opportunity to scoot closer and say, timidly, “Hi.” It turned out that she was just as socially awkward as I was. I felt instant kinship with her as we talked about going to college in Portland. We both had degrees in Arts it turned out, hers in English, and mine in Illustration. I learned about how she had actually written a book about travelling and motorcycles. Her name was Lily Brooks-Dalton and her book is titled Motorcycles I’ve Loved : A Memoir. She was supposed to be there to promote it, and like me was having a hell of a time getting up the nerve to talk to people. I liked her and was sad when she said she was going to head to bed. I was a little tired too, but I didn’t want to give up just yet. We tentatively made plans to go on the ride to see the Ice Caves the next day, and I was excited to have made a new friend. When she got up to go to her tent, I didn’t feel quite as deflated, knowing that I at least would have someone to hang out with on Saturday.
So, it didn’t take quite as much effort to scoot next to the next person to say hello. Conversation didn’t come as easily this time, but I was interested and stuck to it. Her name was Sarah and she was from Canada. She had grew up riding dirt bikes. There was something about her confidence and spirit that I wanted to be closer to. Maybe in hopes that it would rub off on me. That just by being closer to it I would become as majestic and beautiful as she was. I mentioned that I needed to ask Lanakila about the restrictions on camp stoves. Sarah didn’t hesitate, she lead me over to Lana and I blurted out my question.
I was so overwhelmed to be meeting the Lanakila, the woman who set this whole thing up, the woman responsible for the Women’s Moto Exhibit, that I almost didn’t hear her answer. Almost at the end of her explanation, when she was telling me to be extra careful because it was so dry, she was interrupted by a few of her friends dragging her towards the DJ who had just started playing. She was instantly playful and laughing. I was left in a kind of awe after meeting one of my heroes, as she ran off with her friends leaving me with Sarah.
We started walking back to the tents because at that point we were both pretty tired from the ride we had done that day. On our way back to our tents we ran into a girl trying to set up her tent with only a headlamp in the pitch dark. She was clearly having a hard time and Sarah went over to ask if she needed help. Her name was Joceline and she had only been riding a few months. I had a flash of feeling big sisterly towards her, remembering my first big trip on the bike where I had to camp somewhere new. It turned out she just needed someone to stand with her so she didn’t feel quite so alone. She had her tent up in no time then.
Sarah and Joceline headed back to the domes wanting to join the beginnings of what I later learned became a big, raucous, topless, dance party. I made my polite excuses (I’m still kicking myself for not just going with them) and went back to my tent to read for a bit and try to sleep -while the dubstep pounded two hundred feet away. I didn’t properly fall asleep until 1am when the music finally faded off, only to be woken less than an hour later by the light tapping of raindrops hitting my tent. I cursed and flung myself out of my tent half naked, in the spitting rain, trying to get my rain cover on. I was relieved that I was not the only one unprepared, I heard several other girls out of their tent pounding in stakes and putting on rain covers. After successfully putting up my rain cover, I tripped and fell back into my tent. I was thankful that it was dark and no one probably noticed me oh-so-gracefully fall back into my tent wearing only my underwear and an unbuttoned flannel -although it would have been quite the sight I’m sure. I snuggled back into my sleeping bag and tried to ignore the condensation building up on the inside of my tent walls.
I woke up abruptly at 5 am when the wind hit. I’m not over exaggerating when I say it was aggressive. I was thankful that all of my accumulative stuff was so heavy that there was no way the wind would have picked it up. It sure played havoc with the top of the tent though. It whipped the thin nylon against my head and face. I hunkered down in my thick army surplus sleeping bag and prayed to the universe for it to stop so I could just sleep. It didn’t.
Eventually, I gave up the fight for sleep around 8 and begrudgingly put my clothes on. I noticed that a few places had leaked and there was a small puddle forming at the bottom of the zippered door where the zipper was letting the water enter, and I saw that it had actually been dripping on my sleeping bag. I thanked the universe again for my thick army sleeping bag which wasn’t even a bit damp on the inside. It was too windy for me to even attempt to light my tiny penny stove, and I made a mental note that I need to a) get a new waterproof tent and b) buy a proper propane stove.
So, I shambled towards the domes to see if they had hot water so I could make my tea. They did not. Well, they did but it was hiding from me, I found out later. I took a cup of the black coffee and sipped on it. I just needed something warm to hold in my cold hands as the wind whipped my hair and anything that wasn’t strapped down rolled all over the place. I looked around trying to find a dry place to sit and settled for the inside of one of the Escape Collective domes. It was doubly good because it was dry and sheltered from the wind that was whipping the bottom tent.
There was a loud snap and part of the canvas holding the dome down ripped. One of the support guys was right over strapping it back down, when there were a couple more snaps and a whole half of the canvas covering the dome flew up. The girls who were in the tent rant out and grabbed pieces of the canvas and pulled it back down, sitting on it to keep it down. The guys slowly went round zip tying the canvas back to the frame, and we were relieved from our posts, laughing about it. But there was a few more rips and the canvas flew up again. A bunch more of the girls rushed to grab the canvas and I managed to get a shot with my camera, before the support crew decided to surrender the battle with the wind and take the canvas down.
I laughed with one of the women ,who had been next to me when we were holding the canvas down, and made some jokes about the wind and rain. After a little while there were enough girls out and about that Lana drew our attention with her megaphone to hold a vote. We were scheduled to have a few group rides on Saturday, but quite a few people wanted to just hang out at the camp area. The vote was to determine when the ride was to take place and where they wanted to go - the waterfall (2hrs away) or the ice caves. I voted for the Ice Caves, since I’d never been caving before. However, the majority vote went to the waterfall.
I was a little disappointed, but determined to just go to the Ice Caves by myself. I hoped that I might be able to convince Lily to go with me, but after looking about the main area for a little while I couldn’t find her. I went back to my tent and put on a few more layers, rode out of the torn up field to the lodge to find a map. When I entered the main lodge there was a line up of girls waiting to use the landline in the kitchen, and there was more than few air mattresses in the lounge area. I laughed a little to myself, wondering if those girls were paying full price. There were a few girls putting a puzzle together at the table, and I quietly tried not to laugh at the jokes they were making at one another, while they tried to find a piece that would fill in the sky. I found my map just as a few of the other girls were leaving and followed them back out to the parking lot. We were just in time to watch a larger group of girls about 5-7 head out.
I waited for a minute before taking off after them, because I didn’t want to ride in a group when the road was wet. Despite the fact that I’d rode in rain on more than a few occasions, I was still worried about slipping on a turn and running into one of them. I drove through the adorable town of Glendale, where a good 5 girls were parked at the gas station with one pump. There was only the little cafe, the general store and the gas station in Glendale. I smiled as I drove past them and out of town, taking my luck with the gas station at Trout Lake. The sky cleared up a little bit as I drove and I had hope that it might warm up a little. The gas station attendant in Trout Lake was the sweetest old man. I immediately warmed up to him, as he asked me questions about where I was from. Turns out he was also from Montana, and we joked a little bit about the PNW’s rain. He became my favorite person when he said, “ Well shit, a Montana woman who rides motorcycles, can’t get any better than that.”
I rolled out of the gas station just as 5-6 girls pulled in. It took me three tries of going the way the people directed me, coming back, and trying a few other turns before I found the Ice Caves. I pulled up and read the information on the board outside the trail. Turned out that just parking in their dinky dirt lot was gonna cost something like $5. I watched a group of giggling teenagers meander into the cave entrance and looked back at the sign. I sat on my bike trying to warm up my hands weighing the pros and cons, then realized that I didn’t even have a proper flashlight beside my phone. That’s what convinced me to just go ride around instead.
I drove down some curvy roads, until it started spitting on me. I took that as a sign to head back to camp and hunker down for a while. I hunkered down in my tent, read a little bit and ended up taking a nap for about three hours. Much needed, and worked out for me because I missed the downpour that the girls who went to the Waterfall got hit with. I felt a little stupid for napping, but my body was very thankful after a restless night with the wind and rain.
It was really difficult to talk myself out of my warm bed to go and join the group that was gathering in the main area next to the domes. I did eventually, and found myself a seat in the teepee and started talking to the other person who took shelter from the interspersed spit showers. Turned out she was the gal who had set up camp right next to my tent the night before, and was one of the first people to say Hi to me when I arrived. This woman became my bud for the rest of the night.
We huddled in the teepee together talking about motorcycles, her life in Spokane, my big plans for next Summer and how the Dream Roll was going for each of us so far. I found out that the group she had met up with here had decided to ditch and go to Portland Saturday morning when the rain showed up. I couldn’t believe anyone could ditch this awesome woman, let alone come all this way for this event and then bail when the weather showed up. I was then grateful that they had left, because I doubt that I would have gotten to hang out with her like that if they had stayed. We talked to the people who filtered in and out of the teepee, and we all filed out for the giveaway and then scuttled back into the teepee when the giveaway was over.
Sitting in that teepee talking with my new friend from Spokane, and talking with the girls who cycled through taking shelter inside, was really the highlight for me of that whole event. I don’t even really remember all the particulars of the conversations that I had, but being surrounded by all of those incredible women, who had the same unconditional love of motorcycles as me, was amazing. It was incredible, and totally new to me, to be able to openly talk about struggles with the mechanics of the bike without worrying about being judged. I can’t express how good it felt to get to express general feelings about traveling, and have some of the women look at me like I had really accomplished something by making so many 1,000 mile trips by myself. I was glowing by the time I started to feel tired around 1am. Partially from the Fireball&Cider that one of the girls was carrying around in a jug, and partially from the warmth of being amongst so many incredible women.
I walked back to my tent with my new friend and we agreed to holler at each other in the morning when we were packing up. I huddled down in my sleeping bag and read a little bit more before falling asleep.
I woke up again at 4am when the rain began its next assault on my tent. I heard many of the girls around me packing up their bikes. I sat in my cozy sleeping bag, not wanting to leave it for a good hour, listening to the rain start and stop. Telling myself that I’d get up and pack up the next time it stopped. I waited another 30 minutes until it stopped raining again and reluctantly peeled myself out of my warm cocoon. Of course, by the time I was done packing everything inside my tent and was ready to take the tent down it had started raining again. I held my breath for a few minutes, but gave up on the rain stopping again any time soon.
When I emerged from my tent my friend had already packed up her tent and was finishing the last few bungee strap adjustments. I realized that she had been killing time just waiting for me to get up before she left. I was warmed and felt grateful for my new found friend. We said our goodbyes and our ‘if you’re ever in the neighborhood’ speeches, and she tore out of the field. I watched her tires kick up dust and marveled that even after two days of rain, the dirt was so dry that even that much rain was not enough to dampen the thirsty earth. That made me think guiltily of the group of firefighters that were supposed to be camping near us. I had heard from a few of the other girls Saturday night, that we had very rudely kept them awake with our partying and a few of the people in town were not huge fans of us because of it.
I hate packing in the rain, because it means extra work whenever I get to the next dry place. I have to take everything out and dry it to make sure mold didn’t grow in my tent, or any of my gear. Somehow, I convinced myself that sitting in my tent and waiting for it to quit raining was not the best course of action. Thus subjected myself to about 3 hours of cold wind, and colder rain that didn’t stop until I got to Portland. My fingernails were blue, and I spent a long time in the hot shower.
Overall, I was happy I made myself go. I met a lovely author, and made at least one good friend who I most definitely will be hanging out with again as soon as the weather clears up.
I’m now much more prepared to shove myself into the throng and make friends. Can’t wait for next year.