My 4th of July Ride

by on September 5, 2009
in Ride Reports

This guest-post about a July 4 solo ride was sent to me by Susan Yelle. Susan is from southern California and rides a 2009 Harley Nightster. It’s great to hear from other women riders, so if you have a story to share please feel free to send it to me and I will do my best to publish it here. Thanks, Susan!

It was going to be a beautiful day, and I really wanted to go riding, but couldn’t find anybody to ride with. So I went alone on what turned out to be a 5 hour adventure!

I started out going to the OC Harley dealer for their free 4th of July BBQ at 11am. Took Jamboree down, I knew there wouldn’t be much traffic, and the roads were pretty much empty. I got gas (darn small tank!) then decided to ride with my jacket open, just to keep cool. I pulled out of the gas station, and accelerated to 50, thinking “boy this IS nice and cool,” then I got even cooler, too cool, and realized that a gust of wind had blown my t-shirt up under my chin, and my bra and stomach were hanging out in space! I frantically grabbed it down with my left hand, then zipped up my jacket. So much for that. A new lesson learned.

The BBQ was nice, chatted and got some advice from the service guy, then went to Cook’s Corner, but on the way turned into the little side road called Silverado Canyon Road. It’s a quaint little town – VERY small, and that day they were having a big (little) 4th of July parade.

The townspeople decorated their cars and carts, horses and kids. There was a lot of screaming, and as I rode by, people kept jumping out in front of me with cameras yelling at their kids as they clicked away. I rode slowly, and stared at this one lane parade, and they stared back. Soon I reached the end of the road at the Cleveland National Forest. Usually the big gate is down, but today it was open, and I asked the ranger if I could go in. She looked at my bike and said yes, but drive slowly and be careful of the gravel, potholes and algae-filled water. So I went in cautiously, and it was uphill for 3 miles, all in first gear. It was a very wild, deep canyon, very isolated, I only passed 2 hikers, 2 bikers and 1 other motorcycle. It smelled like hot weeds and brush, I loved it.

At the end I turned around and coming back I realized that it was all downhill, so I put it in neutral and coasted down the entire way! It was just like the dirt-biking I used to do, zooming down and missing the dangers. It was exhilerating!

I drove back to Cook’s, then got a Diet Coke and walked around. They had a set-up to photograph your bike against a big American flag for $65 (for a big print). I saw a guy with a purple custom chopper move it over to get its picture taken. The lady told him how and where to position it. I turned away, then heard her scream. I turned around quickly and saw that expensive bike fall over. Gas was spilling out of the tank, the rear view mirror broke off, people were running like hell to it. Lots of moaning and inspecting started by all, as they surveyed the damage. But they ended up photographing it anyway, that guy had a souvenir of the damage to his $35,000+ bike!

So then I rode up Trabuco Canyon and back, then home.

It was a very tiring, interesting day, I will always have those memories.

Best ‘biker chick’ story ever, plus links of interest

by on July 21, 2009
in Just Links

Sometimes my random web reading really pays off. I have a “Google alert” set up to notify me whenever someone writes a blog post using the phrase “biker chick,” and many of the results are utterly useless. THIS, however, is quite possibly THE FUNNIEST ‘biker chick’ story I have ever read. Check out what happens when ‘Dreamgirl’ goes on a date with her tall, dark and mysterious Spanish Harley rider.

Haha, Shirley’s been bit by the “Iowa Historic Marker bug.” She told me the other day that she really enjoyed the trip to Tama and got to thinking about other historic sites around the State, and now wants to ride to the American Gothic House in Eldon, and the Villisca Murder House. Both of which are ALSO on my must-ride list, so we will be planning those soon along with a visit to the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend and the museum showcasing the wreck of the Steamboat Bertrand in Missouri Valley.

Cripes, if you want to wallow in accident reports, set up a Twitter alert for the words “woman motorcycle”.  Nothing but death and destruction. But, there was one gem, from @MissAdventuring (Carla King) who linked to this  thorough “how-to” guide to buying a used motorcycle.

Finally, earlier this spring Harley-Davidson’s very own Willie G. Davidson was a presenter at the American Country Music Awards and participated in the Chairman’s Ride. Video footage of the ride is now available and features many of country music’s biggest stars including: Eddie Montgomery, Troy Gentry, Toby Keith, James Otto, and Krista Marie, as well as Willie G. Davidson. Check out the ride at the HD YouTube channel.

J&P Cycles Open House: hot, sweaty fun!

Cripes I turn around and the summer’s half over! I have been MIA from this blog and all my others for a few weeks, but I am back and promise to do better by y’all who anxiously await word of my adventures. (THANK YOU for that, by the way.)

I’ve spent a few weekends working on my flower garden at home, but prior to that we did have two very nice rides around south-central Iowa that I will try to blog about at some point in the very near future.

For now I wanted to make sure to share the story of our recent trip to J & P Cycles Open House in Anamosa, Iowa.  Been trying for YEARS to make it to this event and for one reason or another it just never worked out.

This year it came up as a last minute reminder from Garry and Shirley so we decided to “just do it.”  Keep in mind the weather here up til about two weeks prior had been cool and wet (at least for Iowa in summertime). Then we hit a hot patch, which hung in there til literally about 4 p.m. on June 27. (That’s the day of the ride, for those keeping track.)

Now normally a trip to Anamosa on the bike is about a 3-1/2 hour deal, about 170 miles or so. But not for us. No, when you ride with us you have to go south to go north, which is exactly what we did. Steve and I, along with our daughter Stephanie, rode down to Carlisle to meet up with Garry & Shirley, from there to the Casey’s just outside Pleasantville to pick up Chuck (Shirley’s BIL), and from there (for whatever reason) decided to take “92 over to Washington.” Mind you, I thought this would be straight east – but it wasn’t. Turns out you just subtley keep going southeast, then, finally, just as you are crying out to the heavens “WHY ARE WE GOING SOUTH WHEN WE WANT TO GO NORTH??”, you turn left at Washington and then you are going north. And realizing you still have a two-hour ride.

So, short version, it took us about 5 hours to ride about 203 miles from Des Moines to Anamosa. That’s with our usual frequent stops for water and potty breaks, of course. Everyone likes to blame me and my tiny gas tank, but I can tell by the constant bum-rubbing that they are all secretly ready to take a break each and every time.

Anyhoo, the map shown here is NOT to give you the exact route we took – I know your eyes are too bad to actually READ it… it’s just meant to show you how far out of our way we went. (And enjoyed every minute, I think… well maybe Stephanie didn’t enjoy EVERY minute…)

So finally arrived in Anamosa and parked just inside the gate, great view of the “sea of bikes” but also a lonnnggg ways from the building and the activities. We found the water/food vendors easy enough (FREE water – bless you, J&P!) and tried to stroll/shop, but there were just too many people and it was too dang hot to be outside. After about 90 minutes or so we decided to head back home. (Yes, five hours in the saddle for 90 minutes of stompin’ around in the heat, bitching. Is it any wonder you think bikers look crabby?)

Took the most direct route home, 151 west to Marion & Cedar Rapids (hit a VERY brief patch of rain just a mile or so outside of Anamosa), then 218 South to the Interstate, then I-80 west to Newton, then 14 south to 163 (where Chuck spun off to head home to Pleasantville), and 163 west into Des Moines. Somewhere in there, the humidity shut off and it was almost cool for the last bit home. (It’s that Iowa weather – if you don’t like it, just wait around 5 minutes and it’ll change.)

Here are the rest of the photos, most of ’em courtesy of Stephanie (our official event photographer – did I mention we LOVED taking her along?).

And, just for the record, it’s two weeks later and I’m STILL sportin’ that fine burn line that shows pretty clearly where my helmet and sunglasses end and my uncovered face begins.  It’s good to be a biker chick!

Iowa Harley Girl interviews the Biker Chick!

by on June 2, 2009
in Other Biker Chicks

What a treat! Stephanie over at “The Many Thoughts of Harley Girl” invited me to be interviewed for her blog recently, and once I agreed she sent over some really great questions – several of which really got me thinking! The interview posted to her blog on Friday, and I’d love for you to scoot over there and give it a read. While you’re there, be sure to browse around the rest of the blog – it’s fantastic!

Friday Fives: 5 reasons to ride your own

by on May 1, 2009
in Friday Fives

This week on Friday Fives, I offer five reasons why I love to ride my own motorcycle.

Accomplishment – I’ve been riding seven years, and still today every single time I’m on the bike I feel so good about myself for having persevered and learned this new skill. The fact that I’m still in the minority of women makes it extra-special.

Independence – I’m very lucky: my husband Steve is a safe, smart rider with (overall) good habits. Still, I like being in charge of (or at least responsible for) my own destiny.

Freedom – Sure you love the house, the husband, the kids… and all you do every day to keep them all comfortable and functioning. But wouldn’t you love to be able to say something like, “Hey family, I’m headed off on the all-women’s bike trip. I love you, and I’ll see you next week.” And mean it?

Rebellion – Similar to freedom, but taking into account that lingering bit bad-ass the general public attaches to riding a motorcycle. Trust me: it feels good to be different, to buck the status quo.

Community, support, and encouragement
– Okay, that’s three things, but they’re all related. I believe that women, moreso than men, seek community, support and encouragement throughout all of life’s challenges. Riding is no different, and the woman-centered communities that exist around riding are as strong as – or stronger than – any you’ll find anywhere. If you want to rebel, but belong, ride your own.

What about you – what got you started riding your own, and what keeps you in the driver’s seat

Coming next week, IowaHarleyGirl Stephanie will guest-blog with “Five Reasons to Ride Pillion.”

April is helmet awareness month, part 1

by on April 12, 2009
in Commentary

April is Helmet Awareness month, so this month I want you to take a moment to become aware of your helmet. You know, that piece of equipment that you sometimes leave at home? I’ll actually do three separate posts regarding helmets.  Future topics will cover proper fitment and care, and the ubiquitous “helmet law” debate.

First, though, I want to take a moment to advocate – not for helmet laws, but simply for wearing a helmet voluntarily.

Look, I would love to ride without one. They look stupid. They prevent me from experiencing that “wind in my hair” feeling that so many bikers speak of. They make me look stupid even after wearing one (okay, especially after wearing one).

But here’s the thing: I wear a helmet because I have direct personal experience with their benefits. In 1978 when I was allowed to buy a Honda Express on the parentally-imposed condition that I always wear a helmet, I dumped said Honda Express going around a curve in a pile of sand and whacked my head on the curb. I understood immediately the value of wearing the helmet, and I happily wore it forever-after.

Fast forward 30 years, and I’ve come to realize something: “the wind in my hair” only makes my hair a tangled, unbrushable rat’s nest and makes me feel utterly unprotected. I don’t kid myself: a helmet won’t prevent the full-body trauma that is the true killer in 63 percent of fatal motorcycle accidents. But it just might absorb enough impact to keep my brain from sloshing around if something were to happen at a slower speed.

So I wear one. A distinctive one, in fact, which makes me more visible, more findable, more memorable. I encourage you to wear one too. At least we can look stupid together!

Some don’t want us to celebrate being woman bikers

by on April 6, 2009
in Blowing a Gasket

This year, I’m finding it interesting that in addition to the usual articles in the media about the increase in female riders, there’s also some backlash against the women riders’ “movement” (if it can be called that).

It’s not backlash against female riders, per se (though there is likely some of that too); it’s backlash against companies that are beginning to cater to women riders, host all-womens’ rides, make products for women riders, etc.

And I ask myself, why would this not be a good thing? Why does Lizzie at Rippen-Kitten so vehemently oppose the new WildKaT bike, engineered by women, for women? Why is BikerNewsOnline critical of International Female Ride Day?

The answer is, I think, that these folks reject the idea of being seen as a woman rider. They instead favor being seen as merely a rider.

Okay for them, but I say, screw that! Blending in with the guys is not why I chose to start riding. Co-ed events are great, and yes I have my favorites and do enjoy riding with my husband. But being part of a women’s ride – that is something special. Why? Two reasons that come to mind immediately:

  • Women seek community. In all facets of life, women seek out those who share a common bond, so we can gather support, share experiences, and learn from each other. An all-women’s ride feels like more of a community, which is a key reason I started riding.
  • Women don’t always want to be wife and mom. Yes, we cherish those roles. But on a women’s ride, we can leave those roles behind for a time and just enjoy each others’ company – as women, as adults, as independent spirits. Good God, why would we NOT celebrate that?

Hey, I truly believe, “to each her own.” If you don’t like the idea of a bike built by women that takes our unique engineering challenges into account, then vote with your wallet and don’t buy one. If you don’t like the idea of a women’s informational motorcycle event, or of an all-women’s ride, then please don’t participate. And feel free to express your opinion – I will be reading, voraciously, in my quest to understand more points of view than just my own.

But hear this: there ARE some things about being a woman that make me a different rider than my male counterparts, and I choose to celebrate them and to applaud those who try to encourage my celebration.