After the fantastic day at the Ace Cafe in London, Livi (one of our bad ass Admins) and her partner Sebo give the three American Admins a ride to Sittingbourne to our hotel for the night. It’s already well after dark when we arrive. We are heading to the track in the morning for some riding, and possibly racing.
Of course some fantastic conversation, imbibing and Moto talk follows, along with a slice of caterpillar cake to celebrate Hayley’s birthday, before calling it a day. We have dinner at a local place and then retire to chat in one of the dozen or so rooms occupied with WRWR riders at our hotel.
You have to love motorcycle women, and the women and men who support and love them. Women you’ve never met take you in and treat you like family (family that they love, not the weird kind they might shun).
In the morning we dress for riding, grab our helmets and pile into cars for the short ride to the Sittingbourne Speedway. It’s overcast but not cold.
As often happens with gps systems, we get the scenic tour of the area around the track while trying to get there on time. We eventually make it, and haven’t missed a thing. Except the wind.
Turns out our hotel was tucked into a low spot somewhere on the windswept green of Kent. But quite to our surprise, Sittingbourne is up on a knoll and is taking a beating from the wind as it makes its way to the sea. It’s strong and very gusty, and not ideal for riding.
WRWR – Women Riders World Relay sets up the welcome table and goods for sale inside a small shed. Riders (who have clearly had to hunker down to get here) arrive and park, working to keep their bikes upright while they dismount. It’s a shit day for a ride.
But being the bad ass women that they all are, the riders and attendees show up for the festivities – trials bike demos, talks, contests and prizes, and the good company of other women riders.
Wall panels around the main track break loose and start blowing across the raceway so Alan (the manager or owner) closes it. A kind and patient man gets stationed at the door of the grub shack to keep it from either blowing off its hinges or from accidentally hurting/killing someone who might not grip it properly.
There is a discussion about whether or not the riders can make it to the ferry, and whether or not the ferry from Dover to France will even run. Not long after we discuss it we hear the ferry has closed, answering our pondering.
This is the first of the first real weather test our relay will face. Over the next year there will be wind and rain, snow and ice, political unrest, protests and blockades, natural disasters, and who knows what else to slow it down. Each of those challenges will need to be faced and overcome. And with our full schedule there isn’t much room for adjusting the itinerary because of any of it. The show will have to go on, and on, and on.
The dozen or so riders making the ride to Dover gather and decide they will ride. Hayley has reached out to some contacts and has arranged a truck for those who don’t feel comfortable. But eventually the women brave the 60mph gusts (made exponentially more dangerous when they have to cross an enormous high-arching bridge over a river and wetlands not far from the track. We wish them well and cheer them on.
We alternate Moto fun with hot tea or hot chocolate in the grub shack. We try our hands at balance tests, trials bike riding, watching Hayley ride a lap around the smaller track, watching a youth race on the same track, wandering to look at bikes, watching riders on an obstacle course, and just generally enjoying each others’ company.
Alan and the Speedway have been stellar hosts and have given our members an incredible experience this day. Weather aside it was even better than I could have imagined.
The Admins and UK team rally after a short rest at the hotel late in the day and head to a local restaurant for a curry. We’ve only been in country for a couple of days, but already it’s hard to leave this amazing bunch of women. They’re warm and friendly, hilarious and kind. They’re like family (again, the good kind of family)…like sisters.
At the hotel we stay up late chatting, not wanting to miss a moment of our time left in England. And after what seems like a cat nap, our alarms wake us to the pre-dawn rush to pack before our taxi arrives. I go to the front desk to make sure our account is settled and stop by Liza and Shana to make sure they’re awake too. A door in the corridor opens as Hayley comes to give us goodbye hugs. We didn’t think we’d get to see her again and are so grateful she has gone to the trouble. A moment later Livi arrives. We go next door to ambush Sara and have a few last laughs as a pile of Admins.
In the lobby we find two more women have come to say goodbye, such a kind gesture which means a lot to us. Thank you, Lorraine and Katy. Finally our cab arrives, and Liza, Shana and I head for Heathrow. We haven’t even been in the UK long enough for jet lag to kick in.
Massive thanks to all the UK team for putting on a fantastic weekend of events. Mide, Janet, Sara, Lorraine, all the speakers, supporters, attendees, vendors and donors, sponsors, Alan and the Sittingbourne track, Mark and the Ace Cafe…gosh, I hope I’m not forgetting anyone…from the bottom of all our hearts. THANK YOU and job well done!