Don’t Ride Sally, Don’t Ride
Last summer, All-City sponsored rider Grace Anderson organized the Black Liberation & Joy fund to contribute to the joy, dreams, wellness and imagination of Black folks. We donated a bike to the fund, and the recipient of the bike, Endria Richardson, has generously agreed to write about her experience touring across the U.S. We’re excited to share her words with you.
I took my bike, the beautiful blue Space Horse, across the whole country, twice. I didn’t ride it once. I drove through Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut to the city where I grew up, Worcester, Massachusetts. I drove back across Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. I thought I was going to ride my Space Horse in at least some of those states. I imagined that I would pump down empty dirt roads and pedal up some short-ish hills. I’d ride the brakes all the way down. I’d weave through bison. I’d tail coyote. I’d park my car on lonely dirt pullouts and explore backroads for an hour, then get back in the car and keep driving. I would definitely at least take quick solo rides around Yellowstone and Badlands and the Grand Canyon and the Mojave Desert. I didn’t.
I drove through states fast and I stopped rarely. I did jumping jacks while I waited for gas to pump. I ate a lot of Doritos. I took my bike off my bike rack when I got to my campground or hotel for the night. I would consider riding it. I would not ride it. I put my bike back on my bike rack in the morning. I would drive another five hundred miles through a country I always knew was so beautiful, so unfamiliar, so full and empty at the same time, and so threatening. I’d never felt these things from so up close before.
I wasn’t scared of biking alone. I was definitely scared of biking alone. Going fast, but not fast enough, in the middle of the country, in the middle of a pandemic, the week before an election that ended up taking another week to end — that didn’t feel like it would be an adventure. It felt like it would be stupid.
“Don’t do anything that makes anyone look at you more than once.” This is how I moved through long stretches of empty country, past six-foot-square Trump banners, past six-foot-long U.S. flags, and in and out of rest stations where I was the only person wearing a mask. I smiled a lot over my mask and was super friendly. I kept things real quick. I definitely didn’t park, hop on my bike, and go for a joyride without any friends or family around to put me into context.
I stayed in my car, a safe box on four wheels that could get me out of Dodge fast if I needed to get out of Dodge fast. If you’re Black, and queer, and a woman, you’re always thinking about how to get out of Dodge fast if you need to get out of Dodge fast.
I didn’t ride until I got back to Oakland, California, where I live now. I got on my slick blue horse in her slick gray city. I pedaled around the east side of Lake Merritt, all the way down East Twelfth, past Pho Ao Sen, past Lucky Seafood Wholesale, and past Vantage Point Park and the Burger King. I rode past the auto-repair shop whose name I don’t remember, and the Shell station, and the nice artists’ studios, to Red Bay Coffee. I got a latte. What incredible context. What gorgeous sights. What a beautiful adventure.
About the author: Endria Richardson is a Black and Malay queer writer living on Ohlone land in Oakland, California. You can find her writing on climbing and the outdoors in Alpinist and Outdoor Retailer; her fiction appears or is appearing in FIYAH, Anathema, Clarkesworld and Fireside.