04/9/14

Flooding in Burundi hits close to home

by Jessie Kwak

This has nothing to do with bikes, nor crafts. A few years back I worked with an organization called Global Citizen Journey as their communications team leader. At that time, they sponsored a women’s farming collective in Burundi – but in February torrential rains and flooding wiped out the women’s livelihood. Their crops were destroyed in their fields, and all the tools and supplies GCJ helped them purchase were lost. About half of them lost their homes, as well.

The floods moved this storage container full of tools almost 65 feet.

The floods moved this storage container full of tools almost 65 feet. Photo by Prosper Ndabishuriye.

I wrote an article about it for the Seattle Globalist, and I wanted to share it with you all. GCJ’s contact in Burundi is raising money to help the women rebuild – there’s a link at the bottom of the page.

These women could use a hand up if you’ve got a few extra dollars to spare.

Three of the women pose with what rice they've managed to salvage from storage after the flooding. They lost nearly 2 tons. Photo by Prosper Ndabishuriye.

Three of the women pose with what rice they’ve managed to salvage after the flooding. They lost nearly 2 tons. Photo by Prosper Ndabishuriye.

09/18/12

Get your cheerleader fix: Cycle the WAVE

by Jessie Kwak

Seriously, folks. When was the last time that you had an entire high school cheer squad waving their pompoms and yelling “L-E-T-S-G-O, let’s go, let’s go!” as you pass by?

Maybe never, if you were a band and drama nerd like myself.

You should all be totally jealous, though, because I got cheered on last Sunday. And not by only one cheer squad—no. I was cheered on by something like 4 or 5 different high school cheer squads, all because I rode with Cycle the WAVE.

Cheerleaders at Cycle the WAVE

I mean, I am pretty rad like that.

Mom joined me for some WAVE cycling action, along with one of her fellow teachers, Kristina, and my friend Robin. Now, this story is really about how awesome my mom is. (For the record, both my parents are awesome. But this story is about my mom. Dad and Rob were out shoe shopping while we were on the ride–you know, like guys do.)

Mom and Robin - Cycle the WAVE 2012

But, back to mom.

Ever since our drizzly Mercer Island Ride, she’s been hunting down places to ride out by her house. That’s not an easy feat, given that my parents’ farm is surrounded by sketchy, shoulderless country roads where drivers flaunt the 50mph speed limit.

A cyclist’s main enemy out there, however, are the mangy half-wild dogs that some of our neighbors “keep.” They spend their days tearing after car traffic, and their natural view of cyclists is “Hey—easy prey!” As kids, whenever we’d ride our bikes out there, mom would ride with heavy rocks in one hand to pelt at them when they’d come snapping after us.

All that to say that if mom wants to ride her bike, she loads it on her car and drives somewhere where it’s not a nightmare to ride. That amounts to a 30 minute drive or more, but if you know my mom, you know that nothing so trivial has ever held her back.

She’s caught a fever, and she’s going to damn well ride her bike.

So on Sunday, we assembled in the Issaquah High School parking lot with a huge mob of other women on bikes, and set out on the 25-mile course.

The going was pretty slow at first, while hundreds of women at varying skill levels made their way out onto the course. I took it easy, chatting with Robin while Mom and Kristina chatted ahead of us. Eventually the crowd began to thin as the faster riders eased toward the front and the slower riders fell behind. Our pace picked up, but Robin and I kept up a steady conversation until I looked up and my mother was gone.

Long gone, up ahead.

Not content to be one of the pack, she and Kristina were a half-mile ahead of us, burning past slower riders like nobody’s business. Apparently I was not in for an easy ride.

The ride itself was incredibly fun. Besides the cheer squads posted up along the route, we were treated to a posh rest stop, traffic-directing husbands with cowbells, and firefighters handing out Hot Tamale candies. The 25-mile “Girly Girl” route was gorgeous, with lovely wide roads, smooth hill climbs and fun descents.

Mom’s riding a Scott with front suspension and some fairly burly tires (to deal with the burly countryside she rides in), so she fell behind a lot on the hills even though she’s in pretty good riding shape. (I’d post a picture of her calves, but I think she’d be embarrassed. But damn, my mom’s got some awesome calves now!) When we got to the rest stop, she confided that she’s thinking about buying a second bike. A road bike, this time, so she can go riding with some of the clubs that go out together in Yakima.

“I want a really nice one,” she said, musing. “And I don’t think I’ll tell your dad how much it cost.”

(Don’t worry, Dad—really nice road bikes run around $300-400 tops. Way, way less than a tractor costs. It’s all good—just check out her awesome calves!)

I tried to snap this shot when a car was going by an the sign said “30.” But trust me, Mom was going way more than 1mph.

If you’ve never done Cycle the WAVE before, you really should check it out next year. They really treat you right, with a yummy lunch, tons of swag, free massages and more. This year, we also had the pleasure to join one of Kelli Refer’s (of Yoga for Bikers) yoga sessions. She’s got a couple pictures on her website. It felt crazy good after the ride!

So, cheers! Here’s to my mom, here’s to Robin and Kristina, and all the other ladies out on their bikes! Thanks to the Cycle the WAVE folks for organizing it, thanks to the student volunteers and the vendors and Kelli and the musicians and the volunteer husbands and the firefighters, and a big big thanks to the cheerleading squads.

You made this theatre and band nerd’s day.

08/27/12

Gals & bikes: The Vagina Monocogs and Cycle the Wave

by Jessie Kwak

Hey there folks. I don’t do a lot of event announcements here, but there are two coming up in September that every bike-loving lady in Seattle ought to know about.

The Vagina Monocogs: September 7-8

First up is The Vagina Monocogs (September 7-8). Robert’s been organizing a series race for the past few years known as the Rebel Without a Cog. It’s a fixed gear only event that’s historically had a very masculine turnout, and so this year he’s throwing a women’s SINGLE SPEED only event at the same time.

The idea is that anyone is welcome to compete on a fixed gear bike in the Rebel, but only ladies on fixed gears and single speeds can compete in the Vagina Monocogs. The two events will start, finish and cross paths with each other, which ought to make for a splendid, chaotic party.

(Don’t have a single speed? Come anyway! Through the magic of zip ties we can immobilize your shifting capabilities, thus qualifying you to compete.)

There will be events on Friday and Saturday, each with individual prizes, but to win the overall prize you have to compete in all 3 events.

Oh, and the overall prize? Registration to the Westside Invite in Los Angeles in November, and cash to get you there. Pretty cool, huh?

The events, from the website:

The Alleycat will be Friday night and consist of multiple checkpoints that will be revealed at the beginning of the race.

The Time Trial will begin on Saturday around noon, and riders will be let off at two minute intervals. You must complete each checkpoint in order. Fastest time wins. [Map here.]

The Circuit Race will be street circuit with 4-20 laps depending on the length of the lap. Work together and chase down the leaders or blow up on a solo attack.

So grab a girlfriend and come hang out, challenge yourself, make friends, and just in general have a blast.

This event is a fundraiser for the North American Cycle Courier Championships in Seattle next summer.

Cycle the WAVE: September 16

Cycle the WAVE is another cool lady-and-bike-centric event happening next month.

It’s an incredibly fun, supportive event with four lengths of rides women can choose from. From the website:

The 15-Mile Little Sister is a short and sweet 15 mile out and back route that travels marked bike lanes. The total elevation gain is about 640 feet which averages 42 feet per mile. Please click here for the Little Sister Map and check back for the Little Sister Cue Sheet.

The 25-Mile Girly Girl is a fun ride through the rolling hills of Bellevue’s quiet neighborhoods and includes Bellevue College. The Girly Girl Map is available. Please check back for Girly Girl Cue Sheet.

The 42-Mile Middle Sister offers a few more scenic miles. The Middle Sister Map is available, please check back for the Middle Sister Cue Sheet.

The 62-Mile Burly Girl is a great ride and will challenge the experienced rider. The Burly Girl Map is here, please check back for the Burly Girl Cue Sheet.

Last year I rode the Girly Girl route with my cousin, and I plan to do so again with my mom. I found that the route was really well marked (with guides point the way at tricky intersections), and the rest stops were great. I especially liked the fire fighters handing out Red Hots.

Oh, and the catered lunch and free massages at the finish line were rad, too.

Plus, the whole event goes to support the WAVE foundation, which works against domestic violence. How great is that?

Hope to see you out on the road, ladies!