I grew up on a farm 5 miles outside of a small town of only 850 people in central Illinois. After receiving my undergrad at ISU in art, I moved to San Francisco to pursue a master’s degree from the Academy of Art University. I graduated with a Master’s of Fine Art in Digital Art—the first person to graduate with that degree which I helped the school establilsh. I fell in love with SF and decided to stay through the ups and downs of the dotcom boom and bust. Today, I make a living as a graphic designer but am also a digital, watercolor and acryllic artist and photographer.
The evolution of Bubblegirl and Pinkie Tuscadero:
I used to rollerblade all over SF. Besides the bus, that’s how I got around. In fact, I am still called Rollergirl by my oldest friends. But… it’s really difficult to rollerblade and blow bubbles.
I’ve always loved bubbles. What’s not to love? I discovered from my balcony that I could blow bubbles and watch them drift quite a distance down the street. I thought about putting a happy wish inside each bubble with my breath and watching it blow away. Then what if that bubble popped right in front of an unexpecting passerby, putting a smile on their face and making them wonder where it came from? Maybe my wish would come true for them? I also love how bubbles define the wind, swirl and twirl around, then stop and blow the opposite direction or hang in mid-air. They’re simply magical.
My bubbling evolved from a single wand to battery operated hand-held machine to an industrial electrical nightclub bubble machine called the Bubbler 9901. On sunny Sundays, I would often put a bubble machine on my balcony and enjoy the honks and hollers from the many fans of my balcony bubbles.
But in 2005, my life changed. I met Pinkie Tuscadero. I call her that because when I grew up, the most realistic super-heroine was Pinkie Tuscadero in the TV show “Happy Days” who did tricks on her pink motorcycle and put Fonzie in his place.
When I first laid eyes on my bike, Pinkie, she was sitting in the window at Big Swinging Cycles on Lombard Street. I decided to go in and give her a test ride just for fun. Up until then, I had never had a bike that truly fit me. I rarely biked on the farm because of the gravel roads and the few bikes I had were hand-me-downs but I do have one fond memory of when I was in a parade in my small town where we decorated our bikes and were awarded ribbons. I do love a parade. What’s not to love? But I left the store that day telling myself that $450 was more than I could spend. By the time I got home, I knew I had made a mistake, called the store and told them she was mine!
My other bikes since I moved to SF included a man’s mountain bike. The seat was uncomfortable but especially the forward lean and weight on my arms was painful, having experienced a ruptured disc in my neck in 2003 that resulted in a great deal of nerve damage in my neck, shoulder and left arm. I only bought that bike for Burning Man and rarely rode it in SF. My next bike was supposed to be an upgrade and a more comfortable ride. It was a 9 year old girl’s pink Schwinn to which I then added metal side baskets. It, very obviously, didn’t fit me. I had to stand up to get full leg extension and it weighed a ton. I did ride this bike around SF and even used it to commute to work.
But nothing compared to Pinkie. I fell in love immediately. It’s an Electra cruiser, not to be confused with electric. It’s a 3 speed and the one time I let a friend ride it one block (only because it was her birthday), she described it as being as smooth as a ride in a Cadillac. Pinkie, like me, has had her own evolution. She came with a leather fanny pack, leather streamers, a rack and fenders. I added collapsible baskets which I eventually covered with sparkly fabric. Other additions include tulips in the baskets, fuzzy dice (because you’re always rolling the dice when you bike in SF), dice tire caps, a pink disco ball, 2 horns, 2 bells, a Garmin GPS, retro headlight, Cat taillight, at least 3 new cranks (because I wear through them about once every year and a half), a hot pink flower on the handle bars, a cup holder I sewed, stylish pedals and ultimately, a Bose stereo, six Monkeylectric spoke lights, three down-low-glow lights from Rock the Bike, two handlebar side lights and a bubble machine, or more often two bubble machines at a time, because inevitably, one will fail, so at least I’m always running on at least one engine.
The addition of the bubble machine was almost immediate. I figured what better way to spread the most bubbles throughout SF than to put them on my bike. Plus, I like the idea that this is my ironic form of “car” exhaust. I enjoy how they define the wind after I pass by and give a whimsical quality to my wake which lasts for blocks and how the bubbles make almost everyone smile. But—it hasn’t been easy. My bike weighs 50 lbs with nothing on it and approximately 85 lbs fully loaded. I have to bring gallons of bubble juice and pounds of extra rechargeable batteries. For big events, I’m charging batteries all week. I’ve gone through dozens of bubble machines and batteries. I’ve used hundreds, maybe thousands of gallons of juice. I don’t make it myself. I haven’t figured out a good formula that works with my machines and it’s truly easier said than done. I buy my juice and it costs me about $20 a gallon mostly because of the shipping. After every time I blow bubbles from my bike, I have to wash it, not just for aesthetics but because the juice turns to glue and will eventually rust my bike if I leave it slathered.
I used to say I get paid in smiles but it’s become too expensive for me with all of the events I do throughout the year, so I now accept donations. I’ve had a wonderful time bubbling SF. I’ve made many friends and I’ve especially enjoyed delighting the little kids. I call them my biggest little fans. 🙂 I have a lot of wonderful fun, funny or special stories to share with you. So I decided it was way past time to share the adventures of Bubblegirl and Pinkie Tuscadero. I hope you enjoy the bubbly ride with me. 🙂