Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Reflections on the Old School BMX Reunion (OSBMXR) at Woodward West - a FIRST TIMER Perspective

Now that I've had a week gone by, it's given me time to reflect on my time spent at the OSBMXR. Being a first timer, I wasn't sure what to expect; Steve Swope's itinerary helps some, but not all. I hope my report helps other first timers get a feel of what to expect and what to bring. Also, there's a little insight of how this event changed me.

Tehachapi, Ca.

Tehachapi is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. Even as a MTB'er who explores the great South Bay Area, Ca. hills and forests, this place was magical. Woodward West is about 15-20 minutes outside of the small town, and everything you need for the weekend in terms of food and amenities can be found there - so if you forget your toothbrush or want to go dine out, it's just a short drive away. Nothing fancy, but whatever is there get's the job done. Since I don't eat fast food and I'm a vegetarian, my choices were limited, but I was able to "make do".


Woodward West sits at about 4000' above sea level, surrounded by mountains and green meadows. Wildlife has found its place there, as cottontail bunnies, deer and snakes wander about the Lodge at all times of the day. At night, the coyotes can be heard within earshot howling and barking, and bats flutter about as you drive to-and-from the Lodge and hangar as the sun sets.

If you stay at Hilltop - like I did - you will bunk with other OSBMXR attendees - so if you come with a group of friends, make sure you arrange to all room up. I went alone and had a great roommate - Dean Johnstone - a vert/park rider from Bristol, UK. The rooms are bare minimum, but have a bathroom with a shower. The beds are small bunk beds, and you will need to bring your own bedding, including a sheet to cover the basic foam cushion. Bring what you need for a weekend stay: a towel, soap, oral hygiene, etc. It is very much like camping as basic as it is.


The other rooms have one single bed, and if you get one of those, I would recommend you bring a cot or air mattress to sleep on if you have roommates. Honestly, I may bring an air mattress next year, even if I do get a bunk bed. It wasn't the most comfortable thing to sleep on!

If you have an RV, trailer or camper bed, sleep in there. Rooms are $20 a night, which is a great deal, but if you are self-sufficient, sleeping in the Lodge parking lot doesn't seem that bad. Then, bother one of your friends to use their shower in the morning.

Even if you are a brown boy like me, bring sunscreen. Especially if you are white. All the outdoor riding is in direct sunlight, and you definitely get burned. Also, hydrate as one should hydrate. I was so pumped to be there, I don't think I drank enough water at all.

I would also recommend bringing an ice chest full of goodies for the weekend. Food is essentially nonexistent there unless you want to drive into town. I did buy lunch and dinner tickets, but those meals were very small. I didn't even eat the dinner. If you are on a special diet like I am, I would highly recommend you bring your own stash of food. 

Bring all the tools and small parts you think you will need. I brought extra gyro and brake cables, tubes, extra brake pads and all the tools I would need "just in case". Last thing you need is to be in BMX heaven with a bike that's unrideable.

One last recommendation for a first timer is to arrive on FRIDAY if possible. I drove 5 hours from San Jose to Tehachapi, and if I didn't have all that adrenaline going, I probably would've dropped dead. I can rally as much as a man can, but that drive starting at 5am on Saturday morning simply SUCKED. I also missed a whole day of riding on Friday. I would've preferred to arrive there on Friday, get acclimated, and took my time. Saturday, I was up from 5am to 1am, and rode all day during that time. I don't know how I did it, but I was running on octane that day.

Riding Woodward West

Woodward West has about everything you would need as a BMX'er. There are about a half dozen parks, a dirt jump area, a flatland area (which I will get into in a bit) and, of course, MEGA RAMP. You must have full pads and a helmet to ride the park.

The hangar is filled with wood structures, including a big vert ramp, a handful of mini ramps, a foam pit and a resi-ramp. There is also a "street" area with benches, rails, platforms and a banked wall ride.

Outside, there are a few cement parks, a wood park and dirt jumps. Everything is ridable - sort of like the scene in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, "Everything is eatable".

The flatland area is one to contend with, however. It was small and slanted. It was ridable, but definitely not level. You find yourself going uphill in some areas and downhill in others. Some acclimation was necessary. Stuff I would normally pull, I just couldn't pull.

Mega Ramp was gnarly. I've never seen such a structure in my life - to a planter-box guy like myself, it was terrifying. Seeing the guys ride it was incredible and is something that you have to witness yourself to appreciate it - pictures do not do it justice, especially if guys are airing 15-20ft. above the coping. Adam Carolla would say, "This is why the terrorists hate us..."


The Vibe

In reality, a BMX'er doesn't have to travel far to ride. We all have our local spots, so while Woodward West is an amazing place to ride, we don't go there for that alone. The Vibe was so positive, so uplifting and gratifying, this is the reason why people travel from all over the country to attend this event. 

I got to meet nearly all the freestylers I grew up idolizing. Not only meet them, but ride with them. If I could travel back in time to a 14 yr. old version of me and tell myself that in 24 years, I would be hanging out with Martin Aparijo - my little brain would've exploded. Standing on top of the vert ramp while Mat Hoffman and Dennis McCoy floated above my head was incredible.

Meeting guys like Jose Yanez and seeing him - in his mid-50's - still rock a backflip like he did in the movie "Rad" was mind-blowing. Speaking of "Rad" - sitting in a theater while Eddie Fiola and Martin Aparijo gave us the inside scoop of the filming and production was very entertaining. 

Vans showed up and brought 200 pairs of free shoes and a pile of free t-shirts. Others brought swag and gave it out; thanks to Primo for the hat and shirt! Special shout out to the Curb Dogs, as well. Thank you, Maurice Meyer for the shirt and being so welcoming to the NorCal crew.

The weekend was capped off with a party at the Lodge. Drinks, food, socializing and an EPIC flatland jam. My edit below says it all.

L to R: Jorge Luzuriaga, Rick Allison, Martin Aparijo, Brian Gavagan, Dave Nourie, James McGraw, Eddie Fiola and Todd Carter. Photo: Steve Peralta

The Take-A-Way

Going to this event changed me. 

Being away from technology, TV and without a constant bombardment of negativity, politics, etc. gave me time to reflect what is important to me and what is not. It made me appreciate what I have and what I'm striving for. It even set into place for me what my career means to me and what it does not mean to me. It helped me identify who I am and what I love. It put into perspective why people act the way they do - both in positive and negative ways.

I love riding. I despise racing and alpha-male dominant inspired scowl-face competition. This event put into focus why I ride - why I got into BMX and why it has called me back. I can now confidently turn away from the cross-country MTB testosterone pissing matches with a smile. That no longer matters to me. With all respect to those that race, I can see how it can fuel some. To me, however, it destroyed my passion in a major way.

I know to some, that's a lot of mumbo-jumbo, but I needed something like this to inspire me again. I was getting burned out on MTB'ing, and training for racing really was the nail in the coffin. In fact, if it wasn't for this event putting it all back into focus, I was finding it harder and harder to unhang that MTB everyday to ride, because "training" was eating away at my passion and my riding soul.

I gleefully ate my race fees and dropped out of racing Sea Otter this past weekend, and I couldn't have been more satisfied by doing so. I woke up at 7:30am (sleeping in for me) and had pancakes instead.

BMX offers freedom. The ability to be creative; to do a trick, or simply roll down the street. To me, the restrictive nature of pumping away at personal records and Strava leaderboards was really eating away at the very core of why I ride. Thankfully, 300 fellow BMX'ers helped me get my passion back.

While this event re-surged my passion for MTB'ing, I also found that BMX has no limitations for me. I discovered that I am only limited to the restrictions my mind sets. I don't have to box myself in with a title such as "flatlander" or "park rider".

As my roommate, Dean, said, "It's all BMX."



More pictures can be found by "wired" on BMXMuseum's site HERE and HERE.

2 comments:

  1. Great reading your words and seeing your pics from the OSR 2013. I totally agree-the event "changed me" too! So refreshing to have such a good time riding and talking without attitude or expectations. Wow. It was great. Thanks!

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