We went over to Ted Watkins Park this morning in Watts, after I’d spent three hours pedaling around the South Bay and getting pulled over by a police. The police was a PVE police, but he was all right. “You gotta stop at stop signs,” he said, which was pretty fair.
The event started at 10:00 but John Jones and his crew had been at it since 6:00 AM, setting up tents, grill, cooking area, and staking out the space on which they were going to hold the event. Ted Watkins Park is a very nice park. When we got there we passed a soccer field jammed with a women’s soccer team that was going full tilt. When we left the park, the field was still jammed.
East Side Riders does more than appreciate its members and supporters. Even when they are thanking folks, they are lending a helping hand. I met a homeless kid named Davion and we talked for a long time. He was hungry and like several other people at the event, even though he wasn’t affiliated with them he was welcomed, fed, and made to feel like a part of the family. It’s a beautiful vibe, I can tell you that.
We ate burgers, hot dogs, chicken, and watermelon, and we sat around and jawed. They had a domino table set up and man, if you don’t have domino game, you had better not sit down there. It was serious business.
I got to meet JP of Los Riderz. He teaches kids how to make bikes. From scratch. “Our goal is to give kids an alternative to gangs,” he said. “We teach them how to do the welding. Kids love it.”
I also got to hang out with Will Holloway, the founder and big boss of S. O L. A REAL RYDAS, along with his lieutenants Henry and Gee-Man. Will, like John Jones, has a vision for making communities stronger through bicycles. “People have to get out of where they are comfortable and meet other people,” he said. “The bike wheels make a rotation, and that rotation, going round and round, is what brings us together. You gotta keep the rotation going.”
I also got to meet Chicken Man and the Brothers of Color, another low rider bike club. People were so damned friendly. Of course I told everyone about the All Clubs BBQ and South Bay Cycling Awards on August 18, and a bunch of them are going to make it.
The only problem with the event was me. I tire out at parties and picnics pretty quick, and after four hours I was toast … and when I was turning into a pumpkin the rest of the party was just getting started. Kids’ games, more celebrations, serious fun. Before we left, John held the award ceremony and recognized people for their contributions over the past year. Yasuko and I got an award, and I only made about a 50% fool of myself. The plaque is beautiful and going on my dresser.
After almost forty years of competitive cycling, it’s eye-opening to start understanding how diverse and complex the fabric of our cycling community is, so far beyond the “race around in your underwear” scene. It’s easy to fixate on your own backyard and the Big Group Ride, but hanging out with people who are using bikes as a way to change lives is pretty danged rewarding.