An annual motorcycling event, which started in Vancouver and is now hosted on the Sunshine Coast has been growing every year, and is organized by some pretty lovely folks (ie. Disaster Dave and Motorcycho Norm). It’s called Disasterdaze. I have some good memories of this annual weekend, especially when I would camp-out with my lady riders the night before the official event. And yet, upon reflection, I’ve realized that I do not thrive in group-partying environments and that in every seemingly “cool” scene, there are genuinely welcoming people and there are incredibly insecure people. The trick is to find the inclusive folks, know yourself and what makes you happy, and focus on the positive.
I think I’ve always known that I have hermit tendencies, but it’s only as I’ve “come of age” that I have acquired the clarity of mind to pinpoint this fact and the confidence to call it out for myself. Last summer it was a real dilemma regarding Disasterdaze because the rush of being part of a huge group of bikers at the front of the ferry, blasting onto the highway is pretty incredible. The trouble for me is how everything changes when darkness descends.
The first Disasterdaze I attended was a casual gathering of folks in Vancouver. It was 2007 at the Cottage Bistro pub on Main Street. My goal that evening, as a new rider was simply not to stall in front of the mob of people hanging out on the sidewalk, and not to drop my bike and cause a domino effect, bashing down all the motorbikes lined up! I successfully managed to maintain a facade of confidence that evening, and enjoyed mingling with the randoms on the street.
There was a decent band from Vancouver called Pack A.D., and Erika bought their CD. I was just stoked that two women were killing it on stage – if there even was a stage. It was a really tiny pub, and I felt comfortable relaxing with friends. The only sketchy part was when I nervously had to roll out of the line-up heading north on Main street in front of everybody. I left my kickstand down like an amateur! But, no harm done since I noticed it immediately, before I made the mistake of leaning left, and no one saw. Phew!
By 2008, Rhianon, Erika, Marcy and I had made our MUMC patches, so we would be a proper crew when we rolled up for Disasterdaze. We were fielding questions about it’s meaning and having a good time, but I don’t recall heading indoors for the show. Just mellow times inspecting all the motorcycles.
This is not a video of me doing a burn-out in 2008:http://motorcycho.blogspot.ca/2008/08/disasterdaze-burnout.html
In 2009 things began to change. The El Dorado Pub on Kingsway was rented out and word was getting round that Disasterdaze was a good time. Rhianon, Erika and I headed over to Marcy’s apartment because her bike was dead, so I doubled her to the event. It was pretty exciting to roll into the parking-lot packed with primarily vintage bikes! I only briefly made it into the Pub, but preferred to lurk in the parking-lot, and then dashed home before dark.
I think the El Dorado got torn down that year, so maybe that’s why they were cool with a mob of bikers taking over their venue? With the space gone and the main organizer Disaster Dave living on the Sunshine Coast, it made sense for the event to relocate to Sechelt. The Sunshine Coast is incredible! Once you get past a few small towns, there’s a super fun twisty, windy road where you get to lay down your bike and push it through the tight corners. It’s because of this change of location I really got confident riding, in an attempt to maintain control and keep up with the dudes.
The ferries in BC always let motorcycles go on first and leave first, so the Disasterdaze weekend created a pretty impressive mob of bikers! I enjoyed the hanging out times on the ferry and swimming at Ruby Lake, but the evening of the actual event was such a nightmare for me. In 2010, I ditched the scene and I rode up the highway at night alone because a buddy of mine had invited me to his friend’s cottage. It was an unnerving ride at night, but I tracked down the turn-off and start calling to be picked up, since the cottage was boat access-only.
I called over and over, and would simply get kicked through to the answering machine. My messages became increasingly more desperate. It was too late and too dark for me to turn back to the main party, so the best option seemed to be to hunker down beside my motorbike for the night. I was so grateful that there was practically a full moon overhead because otherwise I would have felt very alone. And then suddenly, the line was connected at just the moment I had admitted defeat.
It took them almost an hour to come over by boat and pick me up, and I realized my mistake immediately. I had landed myself in a whole other ugly party scene since everyone at the cottage was raging drunk and coked up, and I was stone-cold sober. It was a horrible night of trying to hide out and sleep, while the Living Dead partied on. I couldn’t decide which party was worse, but I was trapped at the lake cottage so that age-old question “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” wasn’t applicable.
The only silver-lining was that the next day I had the most relaxing swim in the warmest lake while the rest of the crew were super hung-over and haggard. It also sounded like I didn’t miss much at the original party because Gilligan’s Pub was right next door to a cop shop. There was some tension with the Police dumping people’s drinks, and generally just laying down the law. I wonder if my two best friends had been there (Erika and Rhianon were overseas volunteering with Skateistan), perhaps my memory and choices might have been different.
In 2011, the weekend started with a super fun ladies camp-out on the Friday, followed by a hang-out in the parking-lot, with some fun riding up the coast, a mob swimming scene at Ruby Lake, and then debauchery in the evening. This round I was armed with my Bivy Sac. A single-person tent that my sweet Dad had bought me. The moment it got dark I went to the beach and set-up my tent. I had no idea where my friends got to, except for two girls we had just met on the ride who were busy chatting up the dudes. I simply hid out, popped in my ear plugs and tried to pass out. The next morning I swam in the ocean and felt grateful.
The secret is that no one actually remembers if you were there and any crazy story that emerges from the party can simply be relayed with relish by the observers. I’ve never felt like I missed out on something important or epic that happens in the dead of drunken nights. And the nights that I have participated in are usually tainted with boredom or regret. I would never try to dissuade people from “going for it” because the anticipation of an all-out party seems to give folks such hope, like something or someone will come along and change their life in the moment. It’s romantic to hope in chance encounters and I have definitely been there, so who am I to suggest an alternative?
Due to the tension with all the Police at Gilligan’s, and the fact that people were trying to drive off drunk from the event, a whole new set-up was arranged in 2012. I had high hopes for 2012 because my friends Tyler and Lisa were opening their rugged piece of land for the event for a proper camp-out, insuring that people would stick around. It sounded ideal because to acquire the directions there had to be an invitation from a member of the Filth Mode (FMMC), in an attempt to include folks who might respect the space. Naturally, this invitation process couldn’t be controlled and some total weirdo randoms showed up, but at least the majority of people there I recognized.
The land was not far from the Sunshine Coast ferry terminal, but I went a night earlier with Emily and Sage to make sure we had a full day of lounging at Ruby Lake before cruising into the official party. Ruby Lake is a special place. You drive up the coast, past Pender Harbour and then keep your eyes peeled for a certain section of the highway where you pull over and hike down a path to a clearing of rocks jutting into the lake. With a group of friends, it is so much fun to cool off in the fresh water! Some folks turn into big kids, launching cannonballs, instigating waterfights, and entertaining the scene, while other dudes lounge about like mobsters or celebrities, feigning ignorance of the ladies checking out their tattoos. People want to be seen, to feel known and be part of something that gives them value and happiness.
The tricky part is that something or some place that was once a refuge will eventually blow-up. And like most people, I’ve been on both sides of the discovery spectrum. I can remember when Third Beach in Vancouver was a fairly quiet nook in Stanley Park that a few people would make an effort to bicycle out to, and the same goes for Ruby Lake. And yet, what’s the point of being protective or exclusive? Instead of being critical of folks who come along late in the game, it’s easier for me to just be selective when I go. I figure that as long as you don’t care about “who’s there,” you can find a way to enjoy yourself in most environments.
In 2012 I was pleased to know that people I trusted, being the members of the Vicious Cycles Motorcycle Club (VCMC) band, and several of the Zenga brothers were present. This meant that I had comfort knowing that several individuals would not be drinking, and were there as friendly spirits. I’m not implying that anything sinister occurs at these events, but realistically, as a female in a male-dominated party environment you just have to be smart. I stayed up later than I normally would, as there was a huge bonfire for folks to mingle about and I can’t resist roasting marshmallows. I had my buddies Tim, Stephen and Ben on both sides of me sitting on a log, so when a guy lurched drunkenly up to us and tried to wedge himself practically on my lap, he was quickly directed elsewhere.
That was my cue to leave the scene. So, I bolted for my trusted Bivy Sac tent far enough away from the bonfire that I could hopefully catch some sleep. Unfortunately, boozy couples also thought they were finding seclusion and my ears were witness to way too much, even with ear plugs! The next day I did manage to enjoy a quiet walk to a creek in the forest, but I had to question if the experience was worth my time. The gray skies reflected my mood, and even a dip at Ruby Lake couldn’t restore my spirits. I felt sad for my friends.
And then, when I left the coast and returned to Vancouver I had to pass by a frightening motorcycle accident on the highway and viewed a gentleman alive, but stretched out on the highway beside a mangled bike. I suspect it had a sobering affect on the usually festive mob of motorcyclists ripping home after a crazy weekend.
It’s funny what a year can do to your memory. By the summer of 2013 my friends had convinced me to go to Disasterdaze one more time. Tyler and Lisa must have had quite the ordeal managing some extremely drunk people doing burn-outs in the firepit, and probably a mountain of garbage to collect, so the party was diverted elsewhere, to a campspot near Pender Harbour. I left on the Friday with Emily, Dylan, Sage, Amanda and Clare to camp at a Sage’s friend’s property – a total hippy cabin, where we celebrated an early birthday for Emily.
I was riding Jimmy the Triumph, on his first getaway and was feeling pretty sketched out. The week before I had snapped his brittle clutch cable while driving down West 4th, and had replaced it with an equally sketchy cable that my friend had loaned me from his old Triumph. But, I figured that this cable only had to last me a weekend and then I would order in a new one, so it was worth the risk.
The main draw for me was that there would be a proper stage and my friends the Vicious Cycles were playing again. I have seen the VCMC play so many times since 2007! They are truly the most lovely, silly, fun-loving buddies in the motorbike community. Motorcycho Norm, his son J-Rat, Billy Bones, Rob, and Skinny Tim. All their songs are odes to motorcycles and their love of motorcycling. The simple, catchy anthems get people rowdy in the mosh-pit, and swaying back and forth singing along with their arms thrown about the shoulders of their buddies.
The guys stepped up, I watched the wild scene and then as darkness closed in, I retreated to my tent. The usual antics went down, and I avoided everything. I find I just shut down when people get weird. This also explains why I always “missed everything” at the old Night Fighter MC season opener and ender parties on Frances Street. I simply left. Sometimes I wonder why I went in the first place, but I do enjoy the rides, the pre-party camping, and the times it feels like a fun reunion even if it is just people I superficially know. People are good, and I like people in small, sober doses.
It’s not that I’m antisocial, I just know that no meaningful conversation or connection is going to occur at a certain point in the evening, and that’s when I bail. I prefer self-preservation over riding my motorbike the next day feeling trashed. This is not to say that I’ve never crossed the line on having an excess of drinks, but there has to be a certain level of trust in my surroundings and the people I’m with.
Unfortunately, even those bare elements of security can disintegrate when alcohol, drugs, loneliness and darkness are mixed. I’ve experienced how you can lose your sense of identity, standards and consequences too easily, and if all of your friends are lost to the scene, there’s absolutely no accountability. I’ve seen myself and others acquire this temporary confidence to boldly make moves and “get what you want,” without any assessment if this is truly what you want, truly what is best, and will actually bring you genuine happiness and joy.
It’s tempting to idealize and glorify the motorbike scene because everybody wants to be ‘in’ and feel part of something. And yet, once you’re ‘in’ and you’re exposed to people’s vulnerabilities, it doesn’t always seem so rad. But to protect this image of radness, the highs and lows are rarely exposed. I figure it’s wise to focus on the elements that are accessible to everyone, such as the way that motorbikes can offer anyone an option to get away, go camping, explore new territory and even meet really genuine people who easily share their skills and friendship. It tends to be those humble folks who are actually the most ruling individuals because they have nothing to hide, and their identity isn’t threatened if they show you some kindness.
My final Disasterdaze ended with a big load of stress, as I snapped the temporary clutch cable while riding. Fortunately, I was in town and managed to frantically weave the bike through the city without stopping or shifting! I was exhausted when I got home, but happy. I imagine Disasterdaze will continue to grow and evolve, but I’ve decided that I’m going to pluck my favourite things about the weekend (especially the Sunshine Coast) and let the party people represent.