steadman
5000 Miles, 8 States, One Portal

Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride

“8 states, 5000 miles, 20+ bags of Mint Chocolate M&Ms, two broken bike racks, and one broken down car.” Sounds like a hell of a trip, eh? This is the description of a lo-fi video I made 10 years ago about one of my most epic road trips. I was 33, going through a sort of early/mid-life crisis, and needed to get out of my own head for a while. So, I set off down the Pacific coast with no real plan. It was one of the best decisions of my life.

Before that trip, I was working for an action sports camera company called Contour. If you’ve been in the bike world for a minute you may remember these lipstick tube-like cameras. Quite sleek, and very easy to use. I loved that job. It sent me to some cool places, including the Gumball 3000, which I got to drive in 2013. (That’ll be a post for another day.) It was the job that truly brought action sports to the forefront of my career and built the foundation of my love for working with mountain biking.

driving sky

The kind of views you see when driving with no destination in mind.

And then, one day in 2013 we showed up to work and were told via a call on speaker phone that the company was officially shutting down that afternoon. We had two hours to pack our stuff and vacate the building. No severance. No holiday or expenses were paid. It was total chaos. People didn’t know what we could take and what we couldn’t. Did our computers belong to us? There was no information given about property. Just something along the lines of, “Pack your stuff and leave. Thanks for everything. Have a nice life. Go fuck yourself.”

Contour happened to have two in-house mountain bikes that staff could use. As I was gathering my belongings, I saw the small Giant Reign sitting in the corner. What would become of this bike? Those Venture Capitalist overlords didn’t know a knobby tire from their Kenneth Cole loafers, so I grabbed my box of stuff and rolled it out with the bike and the rest of Contour is literal history.


While we were there, we witnessed Trish land her first-ever backflip to dirt. The place went NUTS. It felt like she was so ahead of her time, but really she was foreshadowing a much bigger moment.

When you find yourself suddenly unemployed, making decisions feels like trying to emerge from quicksand. Everything feels so incredibly hard. I didn’t have a true north and felt like I was drowning, and it was during that time that I decided I needed to GTFO of town. I had a trusty 2005 Subaru Impreza that was begging to be driven hard, so I packed it with my bike, riding, and camping gear and pointed it south toward Monterey. My timing coincided with Sea Otter, where I met up with two friends, Jay and Trish, and our merry band of misfits was complete.

If you don’t know Trish Bromley, let me give you a brief background. Trish is the master of stoke. Her smile is megawatt bright and her positive energy is infectious. She’s also one hell of a bike rider. She was the first female to compete in Speed and Style in Crankworx and was ticking off some big moves on her dirt jumper. Trish and I became fast friends when I used to spend all my spare time riding in Whistler, and I became her biggest fan.

sea otter yakima rack

Trish and Jay, and a bike rack we managed to procure from Yakima on-site at the 2014 Sea Otter Classic

Our pal Jay Trautman is quite the character, and is a sleeper talent on the bike. The dude could go head-to-head with the best slopestylers and hold his own. He is tall and lanky and earned the nickname, “Gangles.” With our little pool of jumping talent (myself excluded from said talent), it was only natural for us to make our way to the Post Office Jam (RIP) after Sea Otter. While we were there, we witnessed Trish land her first-ever backflip to dirt. The place went NUTS. It felt like she was so ahead of her time, but really she was foreshadowing a much bigger moment.

From Aptos, we continued to make our way south. We camped in Big Sur and watched ducks surf at sunset against a pink sherbert-colored sky. The field near our tents was entirely covered with pastel succulent flowers. It felt like we were living in an impressionist painting. We followed Highway 1 until we hit the Santa Ynez mountains at midnight. We parked our car, hiked up to the top of the ridge with the world’s dimmest headlight, and set up our tents. We had no idea what the landscape looked like around us or what we were in for but were awoken in the middle of the night by the most violent windstorm I’ve ever encountered.  I was terrified I was going to be blown away in my tent. The next morning when I opened my zippered door, I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz after her house was tossed around in the tornado. The technicolor view of the valley was shrouded in sun-kissed fog. To this day I don’t think I’ve ever woken to a more stunning view right out of my bed.

Feeling energized and motivated by Trish and Jay’s riding at Post Office, we headed to Tehachapi to play around at Woodward West. I didn’t have a DJ bike, but Trish let me borrow hers. Martin Söderström was riding the park that day and was practicing some massive tricks into the foam pit. After taking a few dead sailors into the pit, he and Trish somehow convinced me to try a backflip. The first time I landed squarely on my head. Martin said, “No, you have to really look through the flip and your head will pull your body around.” The second time was the charm and I somehow completed the rotation. This is basically akin to a roadie hitting Hardline. This was wildly out of my wheelhouse but I found that with a little encouragement, and the right space and time, progress was possible. I think I found my theme for this road trip.

After Woodward, we wound our way north through Arizona and Utah and found the holy grail: Virgin. At that point, I hadn’t been to Rampage, and seeing the old stomping grounds was mesmerizing. We took our bikes and hiked up into an old zone and played around in the red dirt. Jay and Trish only had dirt jumpers, but that wasn't a problem. I watched them both play in the corners and flow down the landscape which always reminds me of melting cake. We stayed there for a few days, cruised through Zion, and made our way north to Eric Porter’s house in Midway.

If you’re an old-school BMX fan you might remember Matt Beringer’s waterslide set up in his backyard. Eventually, Porter inherited those slides and created an absolute backyard dreamland for riding. His place is wild and it turns out riding waterslides is freaking hard. There is little margin for error, and if you crash, well, it doesn’t feel good. But when you find that flow it’s got to be a cool feeling. I wouldn’t know. I got too scared to commit to any kind of speed.

From Porter’s, we made our way north through Jackson, watched buffalo roam in Yellowstone, and had a wild night in Missoula. Here’s a road trip tip. If you’re ever in Missoula, go to the Dark Horse Tavern. Eat some mushrooms. Party to live metal or country music. They have both, often on the same night. Have a revelation about your life and how to find forward progress. See into the future. I found myself sitting there with Jay, who by all means is Hunter S. Thompson reincarnated. In fact, he might have even loosely quoted Thompson saying something like, “Buy the ticket, take the ride...and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well...maybe chalk it up to forced consciousness expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten.”

Screenshot 2024-06-09 at 11.02.19 AM

Buy the ticket. Take the ride.

This trip, literal and figurative, had me tuned in. I found myself wondering deeply about where everything was going. The walls danced to the rhythm of my mind. My mind danced to the rhythm of my heart, and my heart was telling me something big was on the horizon. As we spooned our way through midnight McDonald’s ice cream sundaes I felt a strange sense of gratitude for this experience. For the people willing to buy the ticket, take the ride. For my car which had ticked over to 300,000 miles on that journey, had broken down in the Mojave after some rowdy off-roading, and somehow managed to limp its way toward home.

Our final stop was in Leavenworth, Washington. It was not a part of our loose plan, but none of us were quite ready to be done with the journey. We had friends come meet us and we rode the Leavenworth classics. I found myself staring off at the Enchantments across the valley while waiting to drop into a trail. I sat there pondering the future. My life. Mountain biking.  Where would we end up? Trish flipped her bike. What else could women do? What would the next decade hold?

rampage trish drop

Trish playing around on her dirt jump bike in Virgin.

This week it was announced that women were going to be invited to compete in Rampage. I’ve read so many captions and blurbs about this. My initial thought is, “It’s about time.” Women have been pushing for this for so long. We’re seeing the fruits of that old-school persistence come to bear. What Claire Buchar and Katrina Strand were riding for forever ago is resulting in Rampage. What Micayla Gatto rapped about, and Katie Holden dedicated the second half of her career to, and the path forged by Casey Brown and all the women that followed in her wake, and all the female coaches that have been saying, “We can do this too,” have pushed for is here. Watching the women compete in Hardline, and watching them throw down at Hang Time here in Bellingham, reminds me of that day that Trish landed her backflip. It brought tears to my eyes. She did something really big back then that didn’t feel possible to me.

Trish helped open a portal—one that has been pried open by women and their supporters all over the world, and honestly, one that was been opened against all the odds. Contrary to what a lot of people believe, women’s sports are worth it. It’s being proven every day by newfangled stars like Caitlin Clark, yes, but more so by the women who kept swimming upstream; who didn’t take no for an answer. They, instead, took it as a reason to dig deeper. Fight harder. Go bigger.

Sitting on that ridge staring at the mountains rolling through the memories of those three weeks, the 5,000 miles we’d driven, the things we’d seen, and the wild times we had, I found myself ready for the next step. Ready to go bigger, too. My bike and the people that biking has brought into my life took me to my mental Rampage and during that trip, I found my way down the most challenging course of my life. I can’t wait to see how the women of Rampage find theirs. It’s about fucking time.

Posted in: Editorial, Features

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Comments

Bose-nONK
+6 shenzhe Mammal bishopsmike vunugu Velocipedestrian Pete Roggeman

Thank you - that was an absolute delight to read.

I'm borderline burned out, struggling at 45 and the excitement and burn of your story is really encouraging.  I loved watching the vid, too - beautiful stuff!

Reply

lacykemp
+4 Mammal bishopsmike Dustin Meyer Pete Roggeman

Buy the ticket. Take the ride.

Or just go get out of town for a couple of days. Don't have a plan. Point it. Get out of cell service. I know it's easier when you're 33 and don't have kids. But do what you can for your brain. It's worth it.

Reply

Hawkinsdad
+1 Pete Roggeman

Hi Lacy. Great read, thank you. I'm stoked to see many more women of all abilities enjoying mountain biking, including my partner and one of her daughters. My partner and I will follow your advice by taking off with our trailer and our bikes numerous times this summer. Hopefully, we'll be out of cell range for some of those adventures. I look forward to your next set of musings.

Reply

Roxtar
+1 TerryP

Awesome inspiring read. 

Side note; I had one of those Contour cameras. Great product. Sorry it was such a POS company.

Reply

Jotegir
0

At least she got a bike out of it. Hopefully that was around the same value as her vacation pay account.

Reply

taprider
+1 Velocipedestrian

Thank you Lacy. Great read

Reply

mammal
+1 Pete Roggeman

Great story and great advice. Looking forward to seeing how Women's Freeride develops moving forward, with such a huge stage set.

Reply

Timinger
0

Such a great story! I was lucky enough to meet Trish at Summer Gravity Camp in Whistler - she definitely brought the stoke to everyone - so cool  to hear more about her backstory.

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