Bikes, Building, & Burlesque

A few months back, I was invited to attended an event called “Tour de Tatas.” It was a fundraiser for a fellow cyclist named Heather, AKA Tori Adorable.

Front of Le Tour de Tatas flyer, designed by Dizzy Von Damn!

“Le Tour de Tatas” was the name that Tori Adorable and Dizzy Von Damn came up with for this event that would help raise Tori’s entrance fee which would allow her to go on this amazing cycling/humanitarian adventure. Heather’s fundraising event was for the totally awesome Bike & Build project, which I will now let her explain.

Heather managed to pry herself away from being awesome to answer some questions about bikes, burlesque, and being pretty much one of the most awesome people ever.

El Rich: First, can you explain what Bike and Build is? How did you get involved with that?

Tori Adorable:Bike & Build is a non-profit organization that helps to raise money for affordable housing organizations. Bike & Build’s trips are cross-country cycling adventures for people ages 18-25. Not only do we cycle cross-country, but along the way we stop in different towns and help to build homes for families in need.

I first found out about Bike & Build when I went home to New Jersey for the holidays. I got together with a few friends for dinner and one of my friends had a cousin with him, who always managed to find fun new adventures. I was excited to see what her newest adventure was, and I got a response that I never thought I would hear. She said she was going to be cycling cross-country and building homes for families along the way. How did I not know about this program?! I began asking her all sorts of questions and was eager to find out how I could get involved. I was already a cyclist, living in Los Angeles for 3 years with no car and only a bicycle to get me around the city. The only problem was at the time I was bound to my job in LA but vowed that I would do Bike & Build one day. The following year I paid close attention to when the applications would be posted. I think I sent in my application the day after they were posted and I was accepted in 2009 on my birthday. It was the start of a beautiful journey…

ER: To come up with the money you needed to go on the Bike & Build trip, you showcased some Burlesque with Tour De Tatas. How did that idea come to mind?

Jewel of Denial and Tori Adorable pose with raffle contributor Rebecca King

TA: To participate in Bike & Build, each rider must raise a minimum of $4000 in donations, which is quite a task. To accomplish this, I started by sending letters to all of my friends and family, explaining what it was that I was going to be doing, and asking them for donations. I knew that there was no way I would raise $4000 in donations solely from friends and family, so I had to come up with ideas to reach out to strangers. The first step in reaching out to strangers was pedal-a-thons at local farmers markets, where I sat on my bicycle on a trainer and pedaled for the day while handing out flyers and talking to people about Bike & Build. This still wasn’t cutting it and I felt I needed a big event to really bring it home with the fundraising. I’ve been into the burlesque subculture for some time now and had met an amazing woman by the name of Dizzy Von Damn! at Miss Exotic World a few years prior. We kept in touch and she introduced me to the Burlesque scene here in Los Angeles. Dizzy is an incredibly talented performer, producer, designer and most of all a friend, so when I decided I wanted to have a burlesque show I knew who I could turn to for advice. I asked if I could meet with her before one of the regular Hollywood shows, Monday Night Tease, to discuss. She agreed to help and sent me home with a list of venues to call. I will always remember her reaction to me telling her about participating in Bike & Build. She said “you do realize the Rocky Mountains are between the Atlantic and the Pacific?” Of course I did, but somehow her vocalizing the point made it that much more intimidating. Once the venue was secured, Dizzy helped me contact a bunch of amazing local burlesque acts, who all agreed to do the show with all the proceeds going towards my fundraising. Tour de Tatas helped to raise 20% of the funds I needed to participate in Bike & Build.

ER: Had you ever done any Burlesque prior to the Tour?

TA: I had started to take beginner burlesque classes with Striptease Symposium in the spring of 2010. The beginner class was great because it helped to build my confidence as a performer and re-energized my love for the art of burlesque. I had my first proper show after returning from Bike & Build in August 2010 at an evening hosted by The Petting Pantry, here in Los Angeles.

ER: What was the most challenging thing about throwing that event? What was the most fun?

TA: Throwing an event was a completely new experience for me. My biggest concern at first was worrying whether or not enough people would show up. Was the room going to be empty? Once I started getting the word out there, I began to worry that the room was going to be too small. The list of performers was amazing and there seemed to be an overwhelming response when I put the word out about the show. I was lucky enough to have Dizzy Von Damn! helping me every step of the way. The show really wouldn’t have been possible without her. Her wisdom made any challenge that came my way easier to handle.

The best part of the show for me was seeing how willing these performers were to offer their time and talents to the cause. THEY are what made the show a success. Because of their entertainment I was able to have a fun time and so did the audience which is what really made me happy. Even a girl I had been taking the beginner burlesque class with volunteered to be a raffle girl and then made her costume out of raffle tickets! The more tickets you bought, the less she was wearing!

ER: How was the actual Bike & Build ride?

Some serious sawing for Rebuilding Together in St. Louis, MO

TA: EMPOWERING, BEAUTIFUL, AMAZING… The list of adjectives could go on and on. I got to ride my bicycle 3,927 miles across 12 states and see them in a way very few people ever do. I could smell them, taste them, touch them, and hear them. It will forever be one of the highlights of my life.

Enjoying the wild flowers and magnificent scenery at Grand Teton National Park.

ER:How many miles did you ride each day?

TA:The average mileage per day was 75 miles, although some days we rode more and some days we rode less. We had a few centuries (100+ miles) in there as well.

In Rocky Mountain National park on Trail Ridge Road. Anticipating the 12,183 ft. peak (yes I pedaled every mile to the top!)

ER:Did everyone get along?

TA:At the beginning of the trip, just about everyone were strangers. After we dipped our bicycle wheels in the Atlantic at the start of the trip, one of the ride leaders gave a speech. He said to us, “Look around you. These are 30 new members of your family.” At the time I didn’t realize how true that was.

I wouldn’t have made it across the country had it not been for the people I was with. By the end of the trip I really did feel like each of my fellow riders was part of my extended family. It’s also really crazy how you’re now a part of a larger community, and it’s a great community to be a part of. Young, positive, smart and empowered individuals.

All the Bike & Build ladies, so happy to have made it to Colorful Colorado! Photo by Jesse Bright

ER:Best memory from the ride?

TA:This is a really tough question to answer. I spent 72 days on my bicycle and building houses, and as I’m sure you can imagine, I have an incredible amount of great memories from the trip. One of the highlights for me was in Akron, Colorado. We had just finished riding through Kansas, which took us about a week, and I was really excited to get a change of scenery. We stayed at a little church in the middle of nowhere and had no cell reception and no internet. Which was a nice change of pace. I felt half dead by the time I arrived to the church. That was until I saw the little above ground pool and trampoline! Immediately I felt revived. I took off my jersey and shoes and jumped in. As people arrived they joined me in creating one of the craziest whirlpools I’ve ever been in. If the color of the water after we got out of the pool was any indication, it was time for a shower. After a “refreshing” (freezing) hose shower and amazing pot luck dinner from our host we all sat around and watched the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen. Since we were all there with no distractions we really got some quality time together. One of our ride leaders passed out bracelets that said “Live. Love. Ride” and life was just as simple as that. One of my other favorite memories from the trip would have to be meeting the Cookie Lady. The Cookie Lady is a woman by the name of June Curry who lives in Afton, VA at the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway. She has been hosting and feeding cyclists since the mid 1970s. We were lucky enough to be able to ride up to her house, meet her, have a cookie and get to look around at all of the photos and postcards she has received from fellow cyclists through the years. It was a little cycling museum from the last 35 years of cyclists going through the Blue Ridge Mountains.

ER:Did you learn anything about yourself during both of these events?

TA:I have learned that if I set my mind to it there is nothing that I cannot do. I rode a BICYCLE over the freaking Appalachian and Rocky Mountains! This is coming from a girl that broke her hip at age 11 and preferred the arts over a gym class any day. Maybe at the time it was because I felt I wasn’t capable of such activity. Throughout my life I’ve gained confidence and have proven to myself that I am capable, it’s a wonderful feeling!

ER:Will you do either again?

TA:It’s funny because if you would have asked me this right after completing either of these events, I would’ve said probably not, for two totally different reasons. After Tour de Tatas I realized how much work goes into the events that I go to. It wasn’t that I thought they were easy to put together, I just hadn’t really thought about it. After Bike & Build I was just happy that my body had allowed me to take on such a physical challenge and I was concerned that I might not be able to make it again. After a bit of recover from both events, I started to think about how I absolutely had to do things like this again. They made me feel alive and helped me realize that life should be fun and challenges are something that help push me to be a better person. I learned my mind and body are more resilient that I had ever imagined.

ER: Any closing thoughts?


Here is a glimpse of the magic that was and is Bike & Build, Central US 2010

Video Filmed & Edited by Heather Ryan

Music by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Song Title – “Home”

We finished off a two day build in Kansas City, MO with a special project for their Habitat for Humanity ReStore…Doggie Houses!

Further Info:

Tori Adorable can be found on FaceBook