A final post

by on May 25, 2020
in Blowing a Gasket

Backroads of Iowa | Biker Chick NewsIn May of 2018, I lost my job. It took ten months to find another one that would pay my bills, and in the meantime I used every last dime just to survive in my cute-but-expensive rental house.

During that time, I went for a ride one day and when I came back I realized I had a damaged rear tire. Fixing it just wasn’t in the budget, and I felt a sense of dread as if I had tempted Fate. So I sold my bike, as so many have done before me in time of financial crisis, and used the funds to live day-to-day. I haven’t been on a bike since then.

And you know what? I haven’t missed it. This surprises me, because so often in years past, as Winter came to a close, I found myself itching for that first ride of the season and feeling a true sense of joy when I was finally able to take it. Even in those seasons just prior to 2018, when I wasn’t quite feeling it but decided to ride anyway, I was always glad to have done it. But I haven’t felt the urge to ride since I sold my bike, and I don’t yearn to get back to it.

In fact, there are only two things I do miss: the camaraderie of a group ride, and touring the beautiful back roads of my home state.

Palmyra Church | Biker Chick NewsI was reminded of the latter element the other day when Greg and I went out for a brief but scenic drive on some roads just southwest of Des Moines… most of which were NOT suitable for motorcycles. Watching the greenery go by from the passenger-side window of the car, I realized how much I miss exploring small towns, learning bits of history, and taking the opportunity to appreciate the scenic beauty.

I don’t think that returning to motorcycles – either riding them or writing about them – is in my future, but I will say this: everything I wrote in my e-book still stands, and I encourage every woman to learn to ride her own if only for the sense of accomplishment. And I will also say that I am looking forward to rekindling and re-discovering my love of Iowa, so perhaps there will be yet another new blog in my future.

Here’s wishing you many safe and happy miles – thank you for reading!

P.S. – A final housekeeping note: after several years of flawless functionality, the theme for my blog seems to have developed a glitch where you can no longer click on a headline to read the entire post. Not such a big deal since the entire post is visible anyway… but sort of a bigger deal because it means you can no longer leave comments – which were only possible on the individual post pages. Just email me if you want to comment!

How to use windshield time

by on January 28, 2014
in Blowing a Gasket

This week in our local weekly business newspaper, a well-known sales coach offers up some suggestions for how the busy and motivated sales person can use their “windshield time” – the time they spend behind the wheel, going to and from sales appointments – to increase their chances of a successful sales call. He encourages them to use the time to anticipate or reflect upon the appointment, and gives suggestions such as:

  • Listen to CD’s that inspire and motivate you.
  • Voice-to-text yourself the primary questions you want to ask your prospect.
  • Listen to the music that gets you pumped up and excited to go in and be your best!

But, I’ve got a better idea for sales people and everyone else behind the wheel: stop fiddling with the knobs, buttons and electronic devices, and pay attention to your driving. Hurtling around town in a 3,000-pound-plus automobile carries with it a responsibility – primarily, the responsibility not to harm others. You are far less likely to cause harm to others if you are paying attention to the road.

I know this might put a cramp in your style if you’re a sales person who drives to and from appointments and needs to squeeze productivity from every second of the day. But let’s face it: if you cause an accident on your way to that sales call because you were digging your favorite motivational disc out of the console, you’re going to be late and blow the sale anyway.

Believe me when I say (and this applies to everyone, not just sales people), everyone who is in your path appreciates your attention to the task of driving.

Would that we all were using our “windshield time” to see and process what’s actually happening on the road ahead of us.



22 miles of string

by on July 11, 2013
in Blowing a Gasket

Okay so the other day I was riding along highway 34 from Albia to Ottumwa. Now the west-bound half of the highway appeared to be freshly paved. The east-bound section did not. While I was mildly annoyed at having to even be on this highway in the first place, and further annoyed to be riding on the crappier half, what really ticked me off was the presence of string.

Every several feet, for probably 22 miles – to the point of complete distraction from all the stuff I should have been thinking about – there were lengths of white string laying in the road. Some of the lengths were sort of tangled up, some were outstretched. Some were pressed down into the pavement, but some were loose and sort of half-billowing/half-laying across the road.

I could not, for the life of me, figure out why it was there. Had it fallen off a delivery truck in spools, and unraveled? Come out of a garbage truck?

It seemed like the sort of thing that wouldn’t bother a cage driver one bit. But if a hunk of that string got caught up in somebody’s spoked wheel or tangled up in a chain-driven bike, well I don’t know what could happen but it just seemed potentially dangerous.

And unsightly. Why if an old Indian chief happened to be standing anywhere along here looking out over the roadway, I’d bet dollars to doughnuts he’d have a tear running down his cheek because of all this wretched string*.

Eventually, after looking at wad after wad of used string, a thought began to form that it had something to do with the paving project taking place in the other lane. As I got closer to Ottumwa, one thing I noticed about the string was that there was a bright red-orange dot of road paint every however-many feet, and on each dot was where a length of string seemed to be stuck to the pavement.

My Holmesian mind began to whir and click like a well-oiled steel trap. Or something. Clearly, a road crew person had painted the red dots on the highway. And the string was anchored at the dots. That meant a road crew person had something to do with the string, and since paving was what was obviously occupying the road crew, it stood to reason that the string was connected to the paving project.

But if the string was used in paving, and the paving appeared finished on that side, and the string was no longer stretched out but was instead either lying in tangled clots along the road or ground into the pavement… why would they leave it in the road where it might pose a hazard? Why not simply remove it? Hell, why not even re-use it, and save us poor schlubby taxpayers some money?

Anyway, the Internet is a wonderful thing. I looked it up when I came home and sure enough, there is ample evidence that string is used in paving. Just LOOK:

Evidence that string is used in road paving projects! Image courtesy rocktoroad.com, where they would not lie about such things.

Evidence that string is used in road paving projects! Image courtesy rocktoroad.com, where they would not lie about such things.

And here, we have what appears to be some math-y thing going on which is from pavingexpert.com and clearly references string.

I think it was Mr. Dann in tenth grade who promised I'd someday wish I'd actually paid attention in his class. Here is evidence he may have been right: this looks a lot like geometry. Have you checked your hypotenuse lately?

I think it was Mr. Dann in tenth grade who promised I’d someday wish I’d actually paid attention in his class. Here is evidence he may have been right: this looks a lot like geometry. Have you checked your hypotenuse lately?

So after staring at string for 22 miles and looking it up on the Internet, I’m now pretty sure the string was used in paving. I’m unclear as to why it was still there, even though it was obviously no longer serving a useful purpose. Can it be that road crews love to litter, hate motorcyclists, and loathe taxpayers?

I hesitate to paint with such a broad brush here, but you KNOW that on every road crew there’s one guy doing all the work and seven others standing around.

You’d think one of them could pick up the frickin’ string.


*PS -Did you know that “Iron Eyes Cody,” the Indian in that “Keep America Beautiful” PSA from the 70’s, wasn’t an Indian at all? Nope. He was an Italian from Louisiana. True scoop, I read it on the Internet.




Do loud pipes save lives?

by on August 7, 2011
in Blowing a Gasket

Straight pipes on my Sportster.  I took part in a good online discussion recently that stemmed from a photo of a guy wearing a t-shirt that read, “Loud pipes save lives.” The question that arose was whether loud pipes do indeed save lives.

I believe that they can, and here’s why:

When I am driving my car, if I hear a motorcycle coming from any direction, I look around until I see it so I know where it is, the same way I do when I hear an emergency vehicle siren. Maybe I only do this because I ride, and am therefore more sympathetic. But I would certainly hope that at least a percentage of others do the same.

Conversely, I’ve been startled by quiet vehicles (including motorcycles) that suddenly pass me, seemingly coming from out of nowhere. These situations have made me acutely aware that I was not aware of their presence, and that’s dangerous.

It was suggested in this discussion that I should consider the AMA’s position on loud pipes. The AMA states that bikers should keep noise levels reasonable out of respect for others. I think this is actually a good “play nice” position, similar to their position on helmet use: it should be voluntary.

The AMA also believes that law enforcement should enforce “appropriate” laws against excessive sound. Noise ordinances already exist in most communities. Where loud pipes are truly a problem, I imagine law enforcement is out there writing the tickets and collecting the revenue – just as they are out in Sturgis right now writing tickets for high handlebars.

The best argument the AMA makes is that excessive noise eventually causes fatigue for the rider and could thus impair their riding abilities. I think they should be putting some resources into proving this point, and making a fact-based argument for it.

In reality, all the “play nice” thinking doesn’t matter much. What matters is what happens on the road. And on the road, drivers who hit motorcyclists love to claim, “I didn’t see the motorcycle.” Obviously, then, awareness of motorcycles is a big issue. And if loud pipes make drivers aware of motorcycles, then perhaps that will mean fewer accidents.

So – do loud pipes save lives? I think they can. What do you think?

Avoid the pink cliche

by on July 15, 2011
in Blowing a Gasket

Let me just say this outright: if you have a product and you are suddenly deciding to tailor it to women, DO NOT make it pink. Just don’t. Painting it pink and thinking women will automatically dig it is a cliché. It’s unimaginative. It’s an insult.

This has been a beef of mine for awhile, but I’ve recently noticed more than a few examples of this happening and so it seemed timely to mention it. (I won’t name names – I don’t intend to call anyone out specifically, I just want to encourage everyone marketing to women to be smarter than this.)

Now don‘t get me wrong – I like pink, sometimes. I own things that are pink, and I am not insulted to own them. But make no mistake: I chose pink in these instances. It wasn’t handed to me along with a condescending note stating, “Here you go, this one‘s pink so you‘ll love it!”

So if not pink, what color should you pick that offers universal female appeal? Trick question – there is no such thing!  If you’re tailoring something to women, you’ve got to stretch your brain past the pink and get to the idea that women are different and like different colors. Some like the colors of nature… some like the colors of the garage. Some like pastels, some like bold or jewel tones.  Some like every color under the rainbow, at different times and for different purposes.

If that makes it too difficult for you to tailor your product, consider the notion that maybe a designated “female color” isn’t needed at all. In fact, I can just about guarantee you that color is not what’s keeping women from using your product. Maybe all you need to do is tweak  your  advertising or your outreach program to acknowledge that your product is suitable for women. Use a female spokesperson  (in a non-sexual way). Encourage the women who do already use your product to show their support. (This is easier than ever in the age of social media.) Maybe your product has more serious problems that are keeping women from embracing it. The fact is, to successfully market to women, you‘ve got to uncover the real issues and address them.

All this is not to say you can’t offer a pink product. Go ahead, if it’s easy to do and you have other color options available as well. Just don’t put pink out there and proclaim, “Now in pink – just for the ladies!”

A big sigh of relief, I’m ready to ride, and now it’s @#$ winter

by on December 11, 2010
in Blowing a Gasket

corn dog license plateDearest readers, it has been a hell of a year. After spending 8 months unemployed I am finally back to work and SO grateful for the opportunity! And, in talking with some of my friends and new co-workers, I’ve come to realize how lucky I am that my “stint” wasn’t any longer than it was.

Here’s the thing about being unemployed and owning a motorcycle: it’s hard to enjoy yourself when you are weighted down with guilt and self-doubt, but in all reality a few more motorcycle rides were probably just what I needed to keep my spirits up. I regret not having indulged a bit more – I put a little under 2,000 miles on my bike this past season, so she’s essentially still brand new.

Photo up top is the vanity plate I got for my birthday. For some reason a couple of my close friends seemed unsure of what it meant. Come on, people, it’s only missing one vowel! It stands for “CORN DOG,” which of course is my biker-chick nickname. My first choice for a plate actually was “KITTEN,” which is the bike’s nickname (why yes those ARE ‘Hello Kitty’ screwhead covers – why do you ask?), but a snafu at the DMV resulted in getting my second choice. I am okay with that – I really like this one!

I know that I completely neglected to tell you about two rides – one was with friends to the Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge, and the other was a shorty solo ride I took on my birthday. I guess it’s a little late to tell you about them now, but I’ll still share a few details in my next post.

Okay, more soon (this time for sure!) – who’s ready for SPRING??

Rules for talking to woman bikers

by on January 27, 2010
in Blowing a Gasket

Although the number of women who ride their own motorcycles is growing (aren’t we up to, like, 13 percent now? I think that makes us THIRTEEN PERCENTERS!), I’m still astounded at the reactions some people have when they learn I am a rider. Most of them are well-meaning, I’m sure. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take a step back and reconsider their words. Here are a few “rules of the road” when it comes to communicating with women bikers:

DO NOT share your gruesome stories right off the bat of friends/relatives/mythical figures who have died in motorcycle accidents. It’s not helpful. And if you do, be prepared to hear about someone she knows who died a horrible death doing that thing you love.

DO ask her what make/model she rides. DO NOT ask her if that’s considered “a girl’s bike.”

It’s perfectly okay to ask her how long she’s been riding her own. But, DO NOT start a conversation with, “Do you ride that big ol’ bike all by yourself?” Because you’re bound to get this in return: “No, I have my big strong husband run along behind and push it for me.” Or maybe this: “Do you see a sidecar, Douchey?”

DO NOT chastise her for riding just because she has children. Anyone who has children could die stepping out the front door or driving their car, so don’t blather on about “greater responsibility.” DO congratulate her for showing her kids that life was meant to be lived doing things you love, and that it’s never too late to discover or learn something new.

Okay, women riders, it’s your turn – what are some of the reactions you’ve had to the fact that you ride your own motorcycle?

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.

The Picky Bitch Lives! But Corn Dog has seen better days

by on July 18, 2008
in Blowing a Gasket

Wow, folks, I don’t even know where to start. The summer is proceeding without me. Biking adventures have been on hold for a few weeks, and the ones I did have, I haven’t even been able to post about yet! Here’s what happened:

On June 8, my father passed away after several months of battling the effects of late-stage liver disease. In the midst of planning for his funeral, the City here began talking about possible flooding along the Des Moines River. We live about two blocks from the river and levee system, and our home was severely flooded in 1993. At that time we rebuilt, and trusted the City when they said it would never happen again. As the talk escalated this year into a voluntary evacuation of our area, I stopped sorting through photos of Dad long enough to pack several plastic tubs full of keepsakes, mementos, important papers, etc. into our camper and car. After a couple of days of nervous levee-watching, we sent our daughter and pets to stay with her older sister not too far away.

On Saturday, June 14, one of the permanent levees about six blocks from us washed out. We received a knock on our door at 4 a.m. from the Sheriff’s department, insisting that we leave immediately. We drove out in our packed vehicles, and watched from a couple blocks away while the National Guard tried to build a temporary sandbag wall to save our neighborhood. When this wall gave way and water began rushing over Second Avenue, we knew what the ending would be. We walked away as our daughter called via cell phone and told us, “I’m watching it on TV and I just saw the water reach our house.”

Eventually, we’d discover that our home – a sort of makeshift split-level consisting of two homes butted together and joined by a short interior staircase – had about five feet of water in the master bedroom. It came to just below the countertops in the kitchen. Everything we couldn’t save that was under water was ruined.

Since that day, we’ve been trying to figure out whether to rebuild again or move. The City government has been involved from Day One with myriad rules, inspections and always the promise of a possible buy-out – but we are stalled. The present rules of the buyout would leave us homeless and owing a large chunk to our mortgage company. To rebuild, the City says we must first fix the foundation – estimated to cost at least $32,000. 

We do not have the resources to pursue either option, and so we wait. Our family is still apart – Steve and I are living in a camper in the driveway, our daughter is still living with relatives. It has already been one month, but it seems like much longer. The stress of not being able to make progress down either path is overwhelmingly frustrating.

One of the important questions, of course, is “What happened to the Picky Bitch?” Well, she is fine – she was moved to higher ground along with my husband’s bike and our 1959 Ford – and she remains tucked away in a high, dry garage not too far from here. I miss her, and I really think a ride would do me good. Hopefully soon!

For now, my head hurts. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers. Maybe I can blog a little more about this soon – there is so much to talk about.

Pay because you ride: The Iowa Legislature hates bikers

by on February 1, 2008
in Blowing a Gasket

iowa state capitol in winterIn researching a state legislative bill on a non-motorcycle-related topic, I found out that last year’s Iowa Legislature introduced two biker bills that could come back for debate this year: one was the obligatory helmet law, requiring motorcycle riders under the age of 18 to wear helmets (HF465). The other proposed a “safety helmet surcharge” (appropriately, HF666) on motorcyclists – $5 or $10 per year of license validity.

That’s right, a tax on being a biker.

I was livid. For years the argument for requiring helmets on all bikers was that “the public” shouldn’t have to pay their medical bills if a rider has a helmet-less accident and happens to be uninsured. (“Why should we have to pay for your stupidity?” has been the cry, as if helmets were the key to preventing all death or serious injury on a motorcycle.) So, our state apparently wanted to charge $5 extra per year of license validity if the biker declared s/he and all passengers on her/his bike would always wear helmets. $10 per year if they wouldn’t make such a guarantee. Point being, as a biker you were going to pay extra whether you wore a helmet or not.

This is absolutely an unfair proposal that singles out one group of legal vehicle operators for no reason. Except for this: the state of Iowa offers a deep discount on vehicle licensing fees to people who drive pickup trucks. In the old days, when pickups were used as farm vehicles, lawmakers of this largely agricultural state thought it would be helpful to offer this price break to poor farmers who couldn’t afford to pay the standard annual registration fees on their “working vehicles.” These days, of course, Iowa’s urban areas are large and growing. All kinds of people drive pickups for all kinds of purposes – even as family vehicles. But the state doesn’t have the balls to reinstate the normal registration fee because the ag lobby is still very powerful. So they’re looking for any and every way to force other vehicle owners to cough up more money to make up the difference.

Which is chicken-shit, especially because bikers get the short shfrift when money goes out, too: another bill in the 2007 session would have offered tax credits to individuals who purchase “fuel-efficient vehicles.” But guess what: motorcycles, which typically get anywhere from, what, 30-50 mpg? – are excluded. So bikers get hit with the helmet surcharge, but they don’t get the benefit of the tax reduction for riding a 40-mpg vehicle. Nice.

When you put this with the disturbing trends in road repair I reported on last summer, it adds up pretty quickly: Iowa legislators view bikers as some sort of expendable cash cow. We don’t deserve a smooth ride on the highway, we don’t deserve help with medical bills if we are uninsured (even though non-bikers who do stupid things probably do), we don’t deserve the tax credit for our fuel-efficient bikes. But we DO deserve to be stuck with an exhorbitant fee tacked on to our driver’s license just because we choose to ride, and we DO deserve to have our freedom of helmet choice taken away.

Four words to sum this up: Thank God for ABATE.

And two words for the Iowa Legislature, but I’ll let you guess which two they are.