What’s a bicycling patent attorney to do, but keep returning to our nation’s capital? After all, it’s a great bike city, it’s the home of the United States Patent & Trademark Office, and it’s a beautiful place filled with buildings to gawk at, and more museums than you can visit in a lifetime (or so it seems).
Usually, I visit D.C. in connection with some sort of intellectual property related business, and the biking just gets worked into that. But every March, bicycling enthusiasts from across the country gather in our nation’s capital to attend the National Bike Summit, hosted by the League of American Bicyclists. They aren’t your typical weekend warrior MAMIL* types, either. These are real-honest-to-golly-jeepers transportation cyclists who have an interest in getting more folks turned on to cycling, who see the future of urban planning enhanced by better bicycling infrastructure, who are actual professionals in the realm of bicycle advocacy. In other words, they are saints. And I love them also because they get my product, Bikie Girl Bloomers.
I first heard about the concept of a Bike Summit back in September 2012, just as I was first cooking up my plans for launching Bikie Girl Bloomers. A National Women’s Bicycling Summit was held right here in Southern California, at the Long Beach Convention Center. I didn’t really have any idea what a bike summit was, but knew I had to go to this thing. I loved it. It was so exciting just to be at a place populated with a huge number of other women who loved cycling as much as I do! I met a lot of interesting women, and I was inspired by the speakers, and I knew I just had to really run with my Bikie Girl Bloomers idea.
A few months later, I learned about the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C., scheduled for early March 2013, AND that this would be preceded by a one-day Women’s Cycling Forum, AND the Women’s Forum would feature a Women Bike Pop Up Shop. The Pop Up Shop would be an opportunity to showcase women entrepreneurs whose businesses were inspiring and encouraging more women to embrace bicycling. I had already had my test samples made, revised, and finalized (sort of) for the introductory line of Bikie Girl Bloomers. So the Women Bike Pop Up Shop seemed like the perfect opportunity to debut my new line of skirts and shorts designed to make it fun and easy for women to bike to work.
As it turned out, my first production of bloomers and skirts was still in progress when it came time for the Pop Up Shop. I still went, and I did have some samples to show, and promo cards to hand out. I even had a few hundred 3/4 sleeve boat neck tees imprinted with my logo to sell at the Pop Up Shop. That was a heckuva project (both having them made and figuring out how to get them to D.C.), and I didn’t even end up selling a single tee shirt at the event! But my samples, and the bloomers concept, drew a lot of attention. I even successfully processed my first pre-order! It was a grand and exciting learning adventure. But I digress.
The point is, I’ve been going back to D.C. every March since, as I grow my little enterprise on the side. I love being at the Bike Summit with my bloomers, and I love being around so many people who understand and appreciate my product. So, March 2017 marked my 5th annual trek to D.C. to participate in the Women Bike Pop Up Shop. One new and exciting thing about this year’s visit was that the D.C. Cycling Concierge was offering some guided bike rides around the city to Summit attendees. There was even a free introductory ride planned for the Sunday afternoon before the Summit and Pop Up Shop began, which meant I could actually participate. So I did!
I decided to take up the offer to rent a bike from Bikes to Borrow. I had rented a bike from them when I came to D.C. for my first Bike Summit in 2013. That time, I was joining a special ride held on a very, very chilly (as in, so cold, they had to cut it short) Sunday night for women who’d gathered to celebrate the launch of the League’s Women Bike program. I love the way Sega delivered a bike directly to my hotel, and all I had to do when I was finished with it, was lock it up and let him know where I’d left it. Renting a bike doesn’t get any more convenient than that!
The D.C. Cycling Concierge takes people (alone or in groups) on bike rides around D.C. It’s a great way to see the capital, and he can tailor the ride to different themes or the interests of his guests. For this ride, he wanted to give Summit attendees a preview of some of the places they would be visiting during the Summit. That wasn’t necessarily what I was needing, but this was the ride that best fit my schedule, so that’s why I went. Plus, I love the concept of his business, and was curious to see him in action.
Once I had my bike, which was delivered to the meeting hotel, I met up with the group and off we went, first through Chinatown. I was having fun, and trying to snap photos when I could, and visit with other cyclists along the way, so I confess that I missed much of the informative commentary. I still picked up enough to learn things I’d not yet known after many years of visiting D.C.
It was fun to meet people from all over. I visited for a while with Deana from Montgomery, Alabama, and with Erick from Austin, Texas. There were people from Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, you get the idea!
We rode past Union Station, the Senate Office Buildings, the Supreme Court, Library of Congress, and stopped for photos in front of the Capitol Building.
We made a nice loop back to our meeting hotel. All I had to do was leave my rental bike locked up and text Sega the location so he could pick it up. Easy schmeasy!
The next two days, I was busy with at the Women Bike Pop Up Shop. Although I had to mind the store, I was able to catch part of the Storytelling program put together by Melissa Balmer of Pedal Love. She brought together several women from the Pedal Love Culture & Lifestyle Council, each of whom shared their own story of their bike style. We heard from women of different ages, races, and parts of the country (Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Cedarburg, Wisconsin, Seattle, and New York). It was inspiring to hear such different perspectives, each woman pointing to how they came to love and live their bike lives in their own way, and in their own city. The program was a great example of the power of authentic storytelling.
It was also fun to set up my Pop Up Shop, meet women from all over who stopped by, and get a chance to visit with the other vendors. I especially loved it when a woman would bring a friend over to my garment rack, telling her that she bought some of these bloomers last year and loves them — yeah!! I also love it when men come to my booth, shopping for a wife or girlfriend back home. It’s so sweet!
I still had an extra day in D.C. after the Pop Up Shop. Andrea of the local Women & Bicycles group had thoughtfully organized a special meet up of the Coffee Club for that Wednesday morning, so that Maria of New York-based Po Campo and I could join in while we were in town. We met at the nearby Buttercream Bake Shop.
Holy cakes alive: that place is loaded with sweetness! I was overwhelmed on my arrival at the splendid array of tempting delectables to choose from. I succumbed to the call of the cinnascone and paired it with a cinnamon toffee latte, both of which were divine!
One by one, the others arrived, and five of us enjoyed visiting over coffee and pastries. Afterwards, I walked to the nearest bike share dock to get me a bike for my next adventure. There was just one bike remaining at the dock, but I was unable to get my bike share key to work. I thought at first it was the bike or the dock that wasn’t working, but after walking to two other docks and having the same problem, it finally occurred to me that my key might not be working because the credit card linked to my account had been changed recently due to fraudulent activity. I called Capital Bikeshare and learned that, yes, that is precisely what was preventing my key from working. I was able to log into my account from my phone and update the credit card info, and, voila! My key worked.
Then I noticed the time, and realized I had better get hopping so as not to be late for my reserved entry time to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I was less than a mile away, so it was doable. I was so excited to have been able to land tickets for the recently-opened museum, as I knew that they were hard to come by. To reserve them in advance, you have to book many months in advance, or you can get tickets for the same day by checking the website at 6:30 a.m. I logged on at 6:30 that morning and was able to land a ticket for 11:00 a.m.
The museum is very well-designed. There is more than you can see in one day, but to maximize the first visit, I followed the recommendation to begin at the bottom. An elevator takes visitors down to the bottom, and you work your way up through over 500 years of history, starting with the slave ships, the Colonial era, the Antebellum South, the Civil War, various contributions over the years, such as the Tuskegee Airmen, moving through the Jim Crow era, the civil rights movement, and on into the present-day Black Lives Matter movement. There is an interactive display set up as the Woolworth’s lunch counter, where visitors can choose how they would respond to a given scenario, and then see the consequence of that choice. Along the way, figures from politics, sports, and entertainment are profiled. Throughout the exhibits, it is apparent that care was taken to tell the stories in ways that include both ugly truths and beautiful moments throughout our nation’s history. The upper levels of the museum are devoted to thematic exhibits focused on athletics, military, music, film, theater and television. I skimmed through those sections, but took a longer pause at the extraordinary view from the upper levels.
Today’s riding did not add up to more than a couple of miles, but they were quality miles, due to sunny weather and unbeatable urban scenery. I was so glad I had this extra day to see the city before returning home!
*MAMIL = Middle-aged men in lycra.