Monday, August 27, 2007

SS Pussycat Alley cat race

On a whim I left softball practice Saturday morning and headed downtown to check out the SS Pussycat race and see what an all-girl (and trans) messenger style alley cat race was all about.  Since I was on my slower commuter bike, I opted for the 'style' race over speed in order to avoid climbing the west hills to Council Crest. 

An amazing cast of characters showed up for the event and after I registered, I fortified myself with a chili cheese dog from Harry's hot dog stand.  While I was imbibing, Jonathan came over to say hi.  Another woman was close behind him.  She introduced herself as Scout and said she reads my blog--the second unexpected person to tell me that.  It's always nice to know I'm not actually shouting into the wind at nobody.  Someday I dream of being popular like Fatty and having readers who, you know, comment so there's like, actual dialog.  But alas, baby steps.  I also had about 17 people tell me they A) recognized me from Flickr/Starbucks/Somewhere B) Met me at ________, including a woman who said she met me in the past year at a bar underneath an apartment building (or some residential dwelling) while I was reading a book .  I have no memory of any such thing and doubt I would have spent precious time away from mom last year in a bar if there wasn't something more compelling to do there than read.  Perhaps she met the other bald black girl who lives in Portland.

Speaking of black girls, there was another black woman in the race so I went over and introduced myself at the start and we chatted.  She had just heard about the race from a flier and was wishing she could find out about more bike events in Portland so I pointed her to the source of all things Bikeportland.  We were told in no uncertain terms that we would need an empty 16 oz water bottle to complete the race so I bought a water from Harry, drank most of it and put the rest in my bike water bottle. Finally everyone was registered and it was time.  Our bikes lay in the grass and we positioned ourselves in a group for the running start.  At the spray of the water pistol, we ran for our bikes, picked up our manifests and commenced racing.

Our mission included visiting eight Portland fountains with two pick ups and deliveries.  Our route was up to us with the caveat that your first delivery be made before your second pick up. After glancing at the locations, I decided to hit both fountains in inner NE first and headed towards the Broadway bridge.  In less than two blocks, it finally occurred to me why my ride had been so bouncy and slow all morning.  DUH, I had a flat!  Oh the horrible timing of it!  And to make matters worse, unless I'm on a trail, I don't generally carry pump and patch kit around town.  Not only was this a really inconvenient habit, but I could've actually gotten race points for “being prepared” which included having a pump and patch kit among other things.  Dang, I knew I should've taken the roadie!

Luckily it was a slow leak so I had enough air to limp along to Veloshop just a few blocks away.  Molly was sponsoring any trans riders who entered the race so I knew she'd be sympathetic to my cause when I walked in saying, “Molly, I have an emergency!”

I waited pretty patiently considering, while one of her employees fixed me up.  I warned him the tire was hard to seat correctly but he didn't seem to have any trouble.  That is, until I got back on the road and felt the tell tale, kaCHUNK, kaCHUNK of a deeply uneven tire.  Well, no time to be picky, I had a race to ride.  Most of the terrain was pretty bumpy anyway which helped to hide my tire problem.

Now with a 15 minute handicap, I raced over the Steele bridge and up to Holladay park.  The volunteer check point boys (a fabulous group of supportive testosterone if ever there was one), were sitting there with stamps in hand.  Unfortunately, the “challenge” was somewhat aborted by the shape of the fountain.  The original idea was to make racers limbo under the water.  But even a contortionist would've been hard pressed to make it under the pitiful foot-high arches.  “You can make up something creative if you want,” was the alternative.

I did the first thing that came to mind which was to ride figure eights through the swirls, for which I received a solid opening score of 9 out of 10 points.  “Most people didn't do anything,” he confessed.

At that point Jess called from work and I tried to explain the concept of the race on my way to fountain number two at the Rose Quarter.  Then I had to hang up, as it was obvious I was heading into the water.  Originally, I intended to try to take pictures on the route, but it became clear pretty quickly that I should probably stow all electronics in my waterproof Timbuk2 bag and keep them there.

Mission number two was to fill my empty water bottle.  This deceptively simple task was complicated by the fact that the fountain in question only spurted up in seemingly random bursts through holes about the size of a quarter (which was also the size of my bottle opening!).  I looked with envy on some of my competitors with wide-mouthed water bottles catching ounces of water per spurt and got down to it.  Picking your hole was important because some of them spurted more often.  Finally I found one in a series that went off one after the other, which made it easy to time my catch attempts.  In a surprisingly short time, my water level was declared good, and I got the blue dye seal of approval.  Then I had to run around the fountain collecting ten plastic toys and I could head to my next challenge.

Each stop got wetter and wackier as the day went on.  The only tame stop was the fountain in Pioneer Place shopping center.  I got there the same time as two other races and we couldn't find any checkpoint boys.  I heard a group of security guys talking about how they didn't allow scavenger hunts so I figured they'd been thrown out.  We took pictures to show we'd been there and raced on.

The rest of the day's tasks included:

  • Playing Twister in the Salmon St springs fountain
  • Singing a sea shanty (I didn't know what this was, but it's s pirate song). This was also the site of another “I've seen you on Flickr” conversation with Austin—a very nice boy married to <a href'””>a very nice bicycle frame builder</a>.  I chose “What do you do with a drunken sailor.” Dignity? Who needs it?
  • A “boat race” involving herding a plastic boat through a waterfall
  • Sticking my head in Chimney fountain and holding my breath (I got the best time of all who'd been there so far)
  • The dramatic rescue of a 'baby' from the Keller auditorium fountain.  The 'mom' in this scenario was really into her part!

Finally I was finished and could make tracks to the finish line at Sellwood park, having thoroughly soaked myself in creative ways.  But not before I foolishly agreed to carry a care package from the last stop and got two beers shoved into my bag.  Like I needed the extra weight!  I don't even like beer, ugh. I stopped once along the Esplanade to pick a couple of blackberries for one extra point.  It's a good thing I was in it for the fun, 'cause I was pretty sure I wasn't going to be a top contender.  But I did have a lot of fun.

There were cheers for each new arrival, especially Andrea who, though she isn't able to walk, rode up Council Crest on her recumbent.  Now that's bad-ass.

When everyone had arrived including the boys (to much cheering), the results were calculated and prizes were given.  The organizers did such a fabulous job getting fabulous sponsors for the race, that there was literally a pile of phat prizes to choose from—and we did get to choose, in the order of our finish.  Natalie of Sweetpea fame dominated the speed race and won the overall title and a cool bike trophy.  There were more than enough prizes for all the competitors with some leftover for the awesome volunteers.  I scored this super cute t-shirt from Sweetpea bicycles.  I also had a nice conversation with Natalie who is a perfectly charming person.  Maybe someday I'll have a bike to match my shirt.

The guy who had given me the beers came up to me with a very suspicious expression.  “Um, excuse me, but why didn't you deliver our beers eh?”

“What do you mean, they're in the cooler over there.”

“They were supposed to go to the Rose Quarter!”

“Well, I told you, you were my last stop!”

“Oooooh, WE were your last stop.”  Apparently there'd been some confusion and they thought I was heading to Rose Quarter before finishing the race.  I assured them their beers could not have been safer.

I stayed long enough to watch this crazy bike-dive into the river.  I heard Natalie explaining to someone that they used to have someone else poised to dive into the river after the bike, but this year they'd gotten the brilliant idea to tie a rope to it! Genius. :) 

After the spectacle, I headed out for the long, slow, uphill ride home.  It's a good thing I didn't try to ride the Portland Century the next day, as I woke up one big sore muscle.  I saw quite a few other pussycats out there though, coming back for more.

Jonathan was at the start of the race and his picture set is here.
Rachel followed us around catching all the best embarrassing moments.  Here pictures are here.
My few pics are below:

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

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