Before I forget. Before it all fades away too fast.
It was a cold, wet, and absolutely wonderful weekend in the beautiful city of Portland, seeing so many old friends who radiate fervent energy and vivacity. The impetus: Mini Bike Winter. The reward: Genuine joy.
I began my trip Thursday morning.
So Thursday morning comes, one week in Santa Cruz and time to hit the road again, for Mini Bike Winter. After 7 silent days, I received a reply on my rideshare ad offering a morning departure. Just before 9 my phone rings; my ride has arrived. Hurried goodbyes – “when will you return?” “Maybe Monday…” – and I’m out the door.
I get to the car and see…a friend! The ride was arranged through a girl living in Santa Cruz, but her boyfriend, sitting in the driver’s seat, just happened to be a bike friend from L.A.! So of course, they were going up for MBW too, and we all delighted in how Craigslist brought us together for this trip. After a smooth 13 hours on the road, including a pleasant dinner stop in Eugene, we arrived at Cock Palace* (they’re raising chickens). Beer, pizza and reuniting with old friends made the night fly by.
On Friday I woke up feeling pretty hazy. Not quite hungover, not quite anything else. But it didn’t matter much what my body felt like because I woke up in a room filled with some fantastic friends. The kind you get into trouble with and go adventuring with and have embarrassed yourself in front of so many times you can’t be embarrassed in front of them anymore.
Friday night we all rode out to Bike Smut, which was good and smutty. A little bit bikey, too. After that the mob at the theater headed to Colonel Summers park to kick off the Dropouts ride. Rumor has it that they made the ride much longer than normal because they wanted to impress L.A. – or something like that. Regardless, it was a good ride in through the cold, wet night, the kind that was bound to wind up under a bridge with a burning fire and a dance party. How else are we gonna keep warm when we’re not riding?
It was getting around 4 a.m., we were swaying with whiskey and electro beats; the christmas tree had been set ablaze and we’d free-styled our way through a rousing rendition of an original tune we’ll all refer to as “Bob Dole.” The group was pale and dwindling; the rain had dissipated into a mist, so we headed back on the illustrious 205 bike path that guaranteed our safe return. We lost the path a couple times when it broke up at large intersections and wound beside the highway, but the 10-mile ride went quickly and culminated in a ravenous drunken feast of dumpster pizza.
The food and adrenaline kept us going, and eventually six of us were bearing some magnificent sharpie tattoos – I ended up with by far the best: A portrait of Mateo with a banner reading “Mateo Lyfe.” Mateo has the counterpart tattoo, a not-quite-portrait of me, with a banner that reads “Krystal Lyte.” And we all ended up with objects that were zooming on our bodies – a T-Rex on rollerskates, a Taco (to-go)…and then there was Raina’s Hollywood Thai hot dog. Mateo ended up with an epic (truly) chest tattoo reading:
I HAVE FEELINGS
Finally we got tired of sniffing sharpie fumes and went to bed.
On Saturday I woke up around 9. With 3 1/2 hours of sleep, I felt ready to face the world again – wait. no, not really. what I felt was very hungry. Ate half a bagel while the room lay still with only the sounds of boys snoring on the north and south ends of the room. After that, people started to stir, I settled back into the comfort of my warm sleeping bag, smoked a joint with Shues, and went back to sleep for another hour. By then the bodies had mostly all become the friends I know, groggy and giggly and recounting the night and how groups of 2 and 3 made their way back to the house, staggering their departures from the party throughout the night.
The main event Saturday was the Ben Hurt Chariot Wars. The chariot racers battled for last man standing in their hand-built bicycle chariots, with hand-built weapons…and smoke bombs…and flour. Los Angeles held up its reputation to be the loudest, most obnoxious bunch of kids on bikes to hit PDX – and just when the complaints began to be uttered – that’s when the megaphones came out. You asked for it. Just sayin…
That night there was a ride and party. It was hard to get out of the house, where it was warm and cozy and the beer was plentiful. But we headed off to see what the night had in store, which turned out to be a rager twice the magnitude of the night before. The ride lead us all to a warehouse near downtown, beside another bridge. Although it was dry outside, the interior of the warehouse was spotted with puddles – and piles of debris, dark corners and empty rooms. The perfect obstacle course for a bunch of drunken bike hippies. The night featured some electronic dance music, a punk band, more rave music, a metal band, a fashion show, some rooftop exploration, knuckle tattoos and quite a bit of debaucherous fun. I lost my scarf but ended up safely wrapped in a Santa (Youth) jacket. I ended my night about an hour before night itself came to an end, napping on my pal’s porch before I finally made my way inside.
On Sunday I rose worn out but motivated. Filthy and sore from mixing it up in the pits the night before, with a bruise the size of Texas below my knee. Shortly after noon I arrived at Alberta Park, where 7 or 8 Portlanders and my roommate and fellow polofile, Sarah, were already heating up the court.
With boards running along the entire fence and banking the corners, the play on this court is continuous, and the bounce in the boards allow for some really killer passes off of them. On top of the court itself, the caliber of play in Portland, the steadiness and skill and inherent dynamics of the style of play here make for some real primo polo. It was a treat to spend the day at Alberta playing pickup with the Portland polo club.
After polo, we stopped off at the polo house to unload bags and pick up beans for taco dinner at Tom’s. A few blocks later, we arrive to pizza coming out of the oven. Portland Pizza Party!! There was ample pizza of all kinds throughout the weekend, including burrito pizza at the Polo House on Saturday. Beer, pizza and polo videos wound the night down, but a few shots of whiskey wound it up again, and before long we staged a Bike & Bake invasion, debated egg substitutes and imbibed more whiskey.
Monday came and signaled my departure. Although I hated to leave, I’d done enough raging and raving to hold me over for a while, and the hella chillness of Santa Cruz beckoned my return.
Disheveled and hungover, we loaded up the bus, including the fantastically cozy easy chair I paid my pal Tim $1 for. Best purchase ever.
Comfortably carrying 10 of L.A.’s crussiest ridazz, the bus rolled out of Portland, leaving behind tiny pieces of our hearts, along with an array of lost bike lights, clothing and miscellenea.
With a fire siren, amplifier, two tables, four benches, a full-size bed and an easy chair, our motley crue of 21st century pranksters rode in comfort, snuggling to keep warm in the absence of a heater. The drive back was mostly smooth, though not without a few small hiccups, like the bus not wanting to start each time it was shut off, and worn wires shorting out the tail lights and being generally ornery.
At about 2 a.m., after 12 hours of travel, we were pulled over for the tail lights being out. Unable to find the wires at the root of this problem, we resorted to taping a few bike lights on the back of the bus – an interim fix that would get us back on the road for the time being.
In Sacramento, around 3 a.m., I left the bus, wishing them all good luck making it all the way back to L.A. The 13 hours on the bus was just as fun as any of the past few days spent in Portland; and I’ve never been more certain that the friends I have are simply NOT REPLACEABLE.
The station was locked until 4, so I spent the next hour wandering through the desolate downtown Sacramento, where the air was warm and still, and the only thing open was the 24-hour bail-bond office.
At 4:30 I boarded a train that would take me to San Jose, a three-hour trip that would leave me with one last leg – the 17 express bus to Santa Cruz. After 20 hours of travel and 23 hours awake, I arrived in downtown Santa Cruz, where my short one-mile bike ride to the Polo Dojo was the most welcome, though shortest, leg of the entire past day.
Since returning to my NorCal polo outpost, I’ve been recovering, re-calibrating, and refocusing. I’ve filled my days with writing, baking and bike repair (after a wet and raucous weekend in PDX my brakes, chain and rims were suffering semi-serious maladies). The nights have sustained me with a steady dose of polo at the dojo, and now the weekend is at hand; three dozen poloistas are beginning to roll in for the Shit Fest, a combination bench minor and 2v2 tournament of the semi-legit, semi-underground variety.
Though Mini Bike Winter spanned just a few brief days, the days were full and the filled with a million priceless moments.
Til we meet again, PDX.