It was dawn on the quiet, dew-covered field. The morning summer fog lingered, keeping company with the stillness before the sun rose to burn it off. Weary cyclists were beginning to stir. Bootyville was waking up.
I arrived at our team tent to drop my gear for the day. And as I did, a tiny tuneful babble broke the silence. It sounded like… like a baby?! My ears followed the raspberry coos to the tent next to me, and my sleepy eyes spotted him through the mesh opening. It was a baby! And his fuzzy little head was grinning right back at me. I smiled a tiny wave at him — presumably the only one yet awake in his tent. He grabbed onto the rail of his Pack ’n Play, his wobbly toddler legs not quite certain enough to stand on their own. We made eye contact. We shared a moment.
And as the golden sun began to glow over Bootyville, I too beamed.
I went on to ride the Loop for a couple of hours until I got hungry. I smiled the whole way — my heart nourished by the happy little nugget I had encountered that morning. I was curious to learn more. From the colorful energy in the Kids Zone to the families of all shapes and sizes along the Loop, Booty is without a doubt, a happy, child-friendly event. But a baby camping in Bootyville?
This was a first.
To miss Bootyville breakfast is a sacrilege. Dutifully, I heaped a plateful of scrambled eggs, bacon, and fruit to fuel my morning ride. I perched my chamois-clad booty in the shade of the meal tent and ate. Then, from across the way, I spotted those familiar blue eyes and bare toes. This time with his family, he sat at the head in his portable tabletop booster, savoring a slippery chunk of pineapple with his fist and two bottom teeth.
I went over to say hello — admitting to his mama that little dude and I had flirted a bit earlier that morning. Eager to know more, I learned that my new pal’s name was Benjamin. He and his sister Evelyn, 4, and parents, Chelsea and Shane, live in Lincolnton. They schlepped everything they needed to spend the night in a tent in Bootyville with two little humans. That’s a lot of loot. That’s bravery. And adventure. On a steamy July weekend, that’s a Pack ‘n Play, a booster, clothes, diapers, food, water, sleeping bags, blankets, toys, stuffed snugglies, sippy cups, bottles, creature comforts, a wagon… That’s a commitment.
Through dating, marriage, graduate school, pregnancies, babies, and a pandemic, this young family has an unwavering commitment to an event they cherish. Chelsea and Shane first rode together almost 10 years ago when they were newly dating, and they have not missed a year since. They love the majestic sense of community they feel at Booty. Even last summer, 2021, when Chelsea was very pregnant with Benjamin, and Evelyn, herself, was a tiny toddler, they showed up. They have cycled (on an array from beach cruisers to serious road bikes), walked, cheered from afar, strolled, schlepped, and camped. They have heard inspirational tales and together, have made significant memories.
For Chelsea and Shane, it’s more than just a cycling event. “It’s a learning experience for our kids,” a spontaneous and spunky Chelsea explains. To make her fundraising minimum this year, Evelyn (yes, the 4-year-old raised money as a Booty participant), hosted a lemonade stand, and sold bouquets from Chelsea’s cut flower business.
“Cancer is bad,” Evelyn told her customers. Then smiled, “This is how you can turn bad into good.”
Yes, it is, sweet girl!
Thanks to you and Benjamin for allowing me to see this really cool event through your young, wise eyes. Thank you to your parents for their commitment. It was great to meet you. I can’t wait to see you next year!
Written by Courtney Oates
Courtney is a 24 Hours of Booty participant. She rides and walks with Team GoJenGo.