Bike Sexual Gender Fucker
In 2008, at the end of musky May, I left New Orleans, Louisiana with fifteen other womxn (most of us had never met each other before) on bike. Determined to make our way to New York City, we’d secured six weeks to travel together advocating for reproductive justice, sexual politics, and bike collectives while on the road.
As a multi-racial group from around the United States, ranging in age from 18- 52, we traveled through the Southeast sometimes in costume, often singing and dancing, always on bike. Everyday we’d break for lunch and discuss identity and advocacy. In the evening we’d ride into cities for previously scheduled events and engage with communities about bodily autonomy and access. We met the wildest parts of ourselves, relied on other kind, eccentric individuals along the road, and explored curiosities available everywhere.
It’s hard to clothe in words a trip that asked us to be so naked. I spent six and a half weeks learning about my new mobile family pedaling through states close in proximity to where I was born.
The road’s faces changed and passed by as fast as a filmstrip. The plants along the highway were familiar. The wildlife in the swamps and bayous brought me back to my earliest phobias. It was sixteen hundred miles that allowed cities, rivers, ocean to slide left to right, and me to feel a mix of recognition and rediscovery.
The trip was the brainchild of a small, curly red headed woman named EliNora who’d ridden from Princeton, New Jersey to San Francisco, California by herself the previous year. She was standing buoyant and bouncing upright at the NOLA airport, there to pick me and my bike up, on the eve of our trip departure. The moment I met her after flying from my home in northern Minnesota I recognized a woman who deals with the world as she chooses. The solid globe spun around this way and that beneath her enormous smile.
Later as we rode alongside each other, together leading the group of bikers over hundreds of miles of highways, country roads, and paved trails, I discovered the humming oily center of us both. We were machines where polished rods slide and pistons thump. For the first three weeks on our wheels (both Bianchi-ed) we flew, sometimes fast as forty miles per hour down mild mountains, my Leo fire matched her Aries arsenal. As in any easy beginning, we grasped things firmly yet loosely, loved to coast and climb, loved to fight and say “Fuck Yes!”.
Outside the Triangle of North Carolina (Raleigh, Durham, & Chapel Hill) the group encountered our first emotional flat tire. We were tired. We’d just passed the half-way point in the trip. As scheduled, about six of us left to go back to work only able to be away from our other lives for two and a half weeks. New womxn arrived anxious to be part of the continuing adventure. Hard questions about leadership and privilege were asked. During a picnic-tabled lunch together twenty-five days in we felt tension fall from the sky and envelope us all.
Our muscles were breaking down, something common to that time during a bike tour.
Our group’s internal structure was also week. We’d traveled through parts of our country where racial tensions had killed the heart of a nation. We felt, as a multi racial group, how white womxn can navigate the literal and figurative roads of the South, the history of reproductive health, and our sexual and gender identities in different ways than womxn of color.
We’d also physically and mentally set the bar higher than most of us had ever before been asked to. Group dynamics, racial politics, a nine day heat wave of 100+ degree temperatures, believing in our own individual strength in ways that defied the reoccurring waves of words others had tossed our way all our lives- telling us “we wouldn’t or couldn’t or shouldn’t” as womxn- were sweltering challenges.
On some days, I didn’t have the strength or belief in my ability alone- aching ass, petty mind, exhausted quads, sunburned arms- yet my bike family said I could and we did. In many ways, we didn’t know each other’s stories or where each other “lived”. Over hundreds of miles and in city after city, I’d forgotten and relearned details about these womxn I sweated and pedaled sweated and pedaled sweated and pedaled next to that summer.
Yet while nights are short at that sultry time of year, we closed every day under a reluctant darkness and a terrace of stars near enough to walk upon- just as witches used to. There in the dark, setting up camp, cooking dinner, de-briefing public and private discussions and making decisions by consensus, we became family. Then we’d rise before the light rinsed the sky and prepare for another day of moving our world with us- with the help of wheels.
Yes, those mornings days nights belonged to us- unworn by any but ourselves. If life on bicycle were a house, it almost seems like rooms could go missing. We close up entire wings during the winter and the house does not fly at all but sits among trees and rocks brooding. In summer though, alight with parties and ablaze with the sun, the “house” is lofty, all movement and voices, hardly a stone at all.
On bike, advocating for reproductive justice alongside fifteen other bike sexual gender fucking womxn, I was able to wear a part of my self and my country I’d never worn before. I was a mother to and believer of indelible stories. The road was my brain, the hills my body. My heart sat steadily pumping in every campsite, rest stop, and gas station. I was allowed to simply be- strong, complex, spinning, still- with carbon frame and rubber tires as tools to my soul.
Fifteen womxn, six weeks, sixteen hundred miles. Placed on all maps exactly where the nature of the road unleashes the erotic and pulls forth who we are. It’s a process. Each stroke a revival- as we peddle uphill and down on every given day.