Texas Tornado Boot Camp – All Girls

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Day 1:
Imagine spending four days with 26 girls on motorcycles and shooting guns; well, this is exactly what I did this past weekend. I flew into Houston International Airport on Thursday afternoon and arrived at the Camp around 5pm to sign in. TTBC, to say the least, is impressive. It’s over 25 acres of riding, ranges, and buildings.

We were greeted by one of the instructors and brought to Donna, who had us sign our lives away and issue us any gear we needed. Since this was the largest crowd of women they’ve seen, they were quickly running short on gear to loan out. We managed to piece it together and went to our rooms to get dressed up for the day. No wastin’ time here!

The room was quaint and full of bunk beds and girls frantically getting dressed. I hurried to get everything on and get to the saloon where the instructors and Colin Edwards greeted us. We got the low down on what to expect over the next four days and went through all the formalities. We even had a girl who hadn’t been on a motorcycle before, so I was really curious to see how they would handle this.

Within a few minutes we were all headed out to the bike area and issued our rides. I got number 34, an instructors bike with a kick start (which at times was the bane of my existence), and we were off to the track!

TTBC has three courses, all totally different in traction, style, and path. All of our bikes were Yamaha TTRs with a knobby front tire and a rear slick, something I didn’t have a lot of experience with. They gave us some basic riding tips and let us go at it for a while to get an idea of how each of us rode. After a few minutes we were all pretty excited and anyone who had anxiety was feeling pretty good (for now).

Next up was some dinner, beer, and socializing before we all headed to bed to rest of for our first long day.

Day 2:
I woke up around 7:15am and rushed to the coffee maker for my morning dose and forced down some cereal for some additional energy.  With little time to relax we all threw our gear on and met back in the Saloon for the days events. We were split into two groups, mine was with Shea Fouchek, and told about our drills and Superpole timed session.

“Fooch” led us outside for some calisthenics (in our gear, mind you) and then back on the bikes for some warm up laps. The next several hours involved one handed riding, a chance on all three laps, more drills, and I officially had my first small spill.

Riding one handed presented an interesting challenge, particularly for me. As a street rider I will rest my clutch hand but I generally don’t guide the bike completely with my legs and body. The point of this exercise is to prove to you how much control your body has over the bike. It’s an odd sensation but after a few go rounds, the sense of control you have over the bike increases.

Thank goodness for Dainese knee protectors, could have been much worse

Shortly after, we were all summoned to lunch at the Saloon. We were all so sweaty and famished that the room was inhaling as much food as possible. Next thing we know, we’re hopping in the back of Colin’s truck and being toted off to the gun range for some pistol shooting!

The last time I shot a gun I was around 9 years old at a summer camp; it was a heavy rifle and I needed help just to hold the thing up. I was pretty excited, so much so, that I missed every single shot Colin loaded in that 9mm. He smiled and said “you’ll get another chance.” I shrugged back and waited in line for the next gun. Fortunately, I learn from my mistakes and did a fairly good job of hitting the target next time around.

After we ran out of bullets it was time to head back and start our engines again. We were all exhausted after several more hours of riding but we had to complete our first official Superpole lap before dinner. I was both exhausted and hungry, plus I was a bit nervous. Superpole, links all three tracks together and times it. I pulled in 2:02, not a great time but I didn’t crash. I think riding while everyone watched was a bit hard on me, too, but I tried to have some fun with it.

Finally shower and DINNER!!! I can’t really remember eating, I just remember being full. I managed to make it to the shower and somehow up the ladder to my bunk.

Day 3:
Saturday morning was rough. I was sore in places I didn’t realize I could be sore, and crawling out of a bunk bed was quite the challenge. Despite that I was excited to get started. I spent the entire night dreaming about clutching, braking, and sliding my rear tire. After coffee and breakfast we were all revving to go (but all walking funny).

Two days of being loaded down with drills and techniques finally started clicking in. I felt faster and more adept. The other girls were tearing it up and people were definitely getting comfortable. I also managed to get in a second crash at some point, sliding out in a corner flat on  my stomach. Not one bruise this time around! One of the girls behind me said I did a nice Hail Mary. Riding road all these years develops habits that you can’t carry over into dirt riding, something that was a challenge for almost all of us.

They scheduled Superpole a bit earlier so we would be a bit less hungry and tired, and I managed to shave almost 10 seconds off my time with a sweet 1:53! One of the instructors followed us with a GoPro camera while a photographer caught shots of us on the TT track. It was a ridiculous amount of fun the second time around. I relaxed into it and tried to remember everything I had learned over the past two days.

After Superpole we broke for lunch, more guns. I sat this one out and opted for a nap. It was a tough choice but I wanted as much energy as possible to ride.

After napping I threw all my stinky gear back on and we practiced our one handed drills, braking, lines, and more that I can’t possibly remember now.

The braking drills were my favorite. They paint two lines in the dirt, tell you to get to 3rd gear, brake, and make sure you stop between the lines. Aside from learning about rear tire braking, you pick on visual cues of where to begin braking. Better yet, they put you next to another rider and turn it into a bit of a contest. My very little competitive edge came out during this exercise (I grew up an only child!).

At the end of the day I stopped to realize how much of a boot camp this really is, how useful the instruction was for me (and everyone) and ultimately, how bonded us gals felt at this point.

Day 4 – Last day of camp 😦

Despite all the pains and aches, we all woke up a little sad (but mostly happy), realizing that we’d be packing up in just a matter of hours. All of us rode our little hearts out that morning, getting as much two-tire time as possible. After some morning drills and track laps, we were all offered a free ride before the final Superpole of the trip.

My favorite drill of the day was the rear brake slide around the bales of hay. Slow speed, push your butt out, rear brake, tire slide, repeat. I was great in one direction, rough in the other. We didn’t have a ton of time to practice these before our free ride, but I managed to get a few attempts in.

I took off for a few rounds under the arena. I rounded one corner under the arena and BLAM! Big crash! I actually realized that someone had even ridden over me. As I’m realizing that I’m actually really hurt, I open my eyes to about 10 people hovering over me. Quite the sight when everyone has goggles and helmets on. Even Colin came over to see what had happened. After having my pants removed (reminder: always wear clean underwear), my knee was the size of a softball and I’m realizing that I’m done for the day. BOO!

In hindsight, I’m glad this happened on the last day, and I had an awesome story to follow (injury report = cracked kneecap and a torn meniscus). I was also the third girl with a knee injury, so I didn’t feel so bad. In fact, we were able to do a Superpole lap two-up with the instructors. A bit unnerving for a few seconds, then addictive and fun.

Thanks Sherb and Shea!

After Superpole it was time for the big guns to come out. From what I can tell, TTBC is famous for this gun, a .50 caliber. I was pretty intimidated after hearing the first shot and feeling the blast, but I HAD to shoot this thing.

Talk about exhilarating. This thing has some kick.

… and this was the finale of the trip. We went back and packed up, said our goodbyes and some of us left early. I had the opportunity to stay an extra day since my flight was the next day. They were extremely accommodating and I slept well that night.

As I drove off early the next morning, I felt a little emotional. In the beginning I was anxious and nervous and at the end I felt like I made life long friends. Thanks to the team of TTBC, Colin Edwards, and all the girls for making it such a memorable experience.

Pros: Regardless of experience, you leave with more confidence, skill, and love for riding. The camp is great for anyone, regardless of level. The instructors are genuinely friendly, communicate well, and put you at ease immediately. The tracks are constantly changing in traction, forcing you to learn something new at every corner and preventing you from ever getting bored.

Cons: I’d be hard pressed to find one.

Reminders: Wear clean underwear and bring longer socks.

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2 responses to “Texas Tornado Boot Camp – All Girls

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