Where to?

1-Do you want to go for a ride?

2-Where to?

Luckily the answer to question 1 is almost always an immediate “yes”. However, getting an answer to question 2 can be a bit trickier. It’s similar to asking someone what they want for dinner. If you’ve ever argued with your family over that decision you probably already know what I mean. And if you are riding solo, there are still times question 2 could be hard to answer. It’s like the options become overwhelming. If you’ve ever made your closet resemble a ransacked crime scene while you argue with yourself over what to wear, you surely know what I mean! My fridge is once again getting pleasantly wallpapered with flyers to remind me of nearby events, rides, and rallies now that spring is here. However, when some free time comes along where a ride is certain but the destination is not, how do you answer the question, “Where to?” This year, I’m finding solutions as well as new roads by taking part in a season-long run.

The 2018 Marble Run, to benefit the Frederick County Chapter of ABATE of Maryland,marble run Inc., is underway and wraps up with an After Party on October 6th in Frederick. This scavenger hunt of sorts is simple: buy a book, ride to the participating locations, keep track of your marble colors in the book, have a good time at the party, and see if you win a nice chunk of gas money! While cash would be nice, I think the biggest payoff of this run is the adventures I’ll have, discoveries I make, and people I meet along the way. There are marble stops in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, some at places I already know and make a point to ride to often. Yet some are at cool spots that I didn’t even know were there. For example, I pass through the town of Lovettsville several times a year. Turns out there’s a great coffee/tea/shake shop just around the corner and off my usual route, that I might not have found out about if I hadn’t ridden there to score a marble.

In addition, it’s my opinion that anyone who rides a motorcycle should be involved with and support a motorcycle rights organization like ABATE. Are you unfamiliar with ABATE (A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments)? Having been a member of the organization in three different states now, I can tell you it’s made up of a group of women and men who fight hard for our rights and freedoms as motorcycle riders. I encourage you to find out more about ABATE in your state, find a chapter meeting near you to attend, and join! If in Maryland, see www.abateofmd.org. Also, try your luck on the Marble Run for a chance to win at the After Party. There will be live music from regional classic rock favorites Special Delivery, a good time with others in our riding community, and the knowledge that you’re helping to protect our rights on the road. Because freedom isn’t free.

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Can Bear-ly Wait Til Spring

“When you drive a car, it’s like watching a movie. When you ride a motorcycle, it’s like being in the movie.”

I can’t remember where I’ve heard those words, but it’s a decent analogy of the difference between riding on a motorcycle and traveling inside a vehicle. It’s not easy to describe that feeling of heightened awareness, especially to someone who’s never been on a bike. There’s more of a sense of being in the moment, and a connectedness with your surroundings when you’re in the wind as opposed to driving in something with more climate control. It all adds to the excitement of a ride and the suspense of what could happen next. Especially if a wild animal is involved.

In my last column, I mentioned a black bear sighting while riding on Skyline Drive. Here are the details of a slightly unnerving, yet awesome experience. In the summer of 2009, I rode up into the mountains with my friend Debbie to take advantage of the cooler temperatures at that elevation. I was in the lead as we enjoyed Skyline’s big sweeping curves and scenery, mostly by ourselves since it was a weekday and the traffic was light.

Our ride was interrupted when I noticed a man on a bicycle pulled over on the side of the road. While passing him, I realized he wasn’t just waving, but signaling for us to stop. When I did, he came up alongside me and asked if he could ride through with us. As I wondered exactly how fast this guy could pedal, the confusion must have shown on my face.

“There’s a bear up there, I’d just feel more comfortable going past it with you guys”, he explained. I looked where he pointed, up ahead on the mountain slope to our right. Sure enough, I saw a bear peeking out at us from the tall weeds before it lowered its head back down and was hidden from view.

Thoughts of oh, wow and cool flew through my head. I told him I understood and asked if he was ready to go. He nodded, then suddenly screamed, “NO! NO! THERE HE IS!”

I focused back on the hill to see our furry friend now lumbering down to the pavement, and that was the last I saw of the bicyclist. Don’t worry, he wasn’t attacked and eaten. I have no idea how long the bear had kept him engaged in this standoff, but that man was DONE! I caught a glimpse of him in one of my side mirrors making his escape back the way we had come. It occurred to me he probably COULD pedal fast enough to keep up with a motorcycle! With his knees pumping so quickly they became a blur, he resembled a big pink hummingbird in a helmet, and managed to whiz away in seconds.

I turned my attention back to the bear. Long and lanky, apparently an adolescent, he ambled his way onto the road in front of us. An oncoming pickup truck stopped in the other lane as the bear continued to cross in front of it. I watched in awe as it climbed up on the stone wall on our left. But instead of disappearing over it and down the side of the mountain, he turned back to face the road and sat down.

I wondered if this bear was young enough for mama to be nearby, and started to worry that if so- would she see our idling motorcycles as a couple of snarling enemies she’d need to attack in order to protect the baby? With the bear simply sitting and checking out his audience, I turned to see Debbie wearing a kid-at-Christmas-grin. Disappointed that neither of us could reach a camera quickly, we decided it was probably a good idea to get moving anyway.

Even without a picture I’ll always remember the way the bear looked as we eased by, at one point just a few yards away, keeping the bikes as quiet as we could. I hoped if it decided to chase us we’d have enough time to react and speed ahead behind the vehicles now lining up from the other direction. But it only leaned forward from its perch, head nodding and nose twitching as it sniffed at the air between us. That is one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had while riding a motorcycle.

Memories are part of what makes the winter months more…well…bearable! Over the past few weeks, days that were nice enough to get out on the bike were few and far between. Spring is on the way though, full of much better riding conditions. Let’s just hope it gets here as fast as that pink hummingbird guy could.

Into each road some mud must fall?

A light rain fell all morning during my niece’s recent lacrosse tournament. While the mist didn’t seem to dampen any of the players’ spirits, it did manage to turn the fields used as parking lots for the event into slimy mud pits. “Look at this mess,” my boyfriend muttered as he maneuvered the SUV back onto the slick road to leave. I have to admit I was relieved not to be on two wheels that day, even as my mind wandered down a very slippery memory lane to another time when I was.

It happened during an impromptu ride to explore the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Vacation in the summer of 2009 was supposed to consist of a group road trip to Kentucky to reunite with a bunch of friends. You know how plans go sometimes…they don’t. With only about a week left before the departure date, a few of the participants had to cancel, a few decided to reschedule for later, and that left me and my friend Debbie with time off from work and a need for Plan B. We started naming places we hadn’t been yet, but wanted to visit, and agreed on Chincoteague as our destination.

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Cuddling with Lightning of Chincoteague

We had a blast; over and through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, straight to Chincoteague to find a place to stay and check out the town, then on to continue our adventure by heading south and making stops in places off route 13 that had captured our interest on the way up. During one break in Onley, imagine our surprise to discover a bike rally was just getting started nearby. We checked into a hotel, then rode over to the event grounds to investigate. We met some great folks and found out the schedule for the weekend included games, wrestling matches, bands, and vendors. We also learned camping space was available and while we hadn’t brought any supplies, we could rent a tent from the organizers. We took them up on that when we returned the next afternoon, especially considering bottomless mugs o’ beer would be available throughout the rally.

It was so much fun I really didn’t pay much attention to the on-again, off-again showers throughout that night. I didn’t really think about the rain until the next morning when I ventured out of the tent looking for coffee. I was distracted by a bit of commotion at the lone entrance/exit to the rally site, as those attempting to leave slipped, slid, and wiped out on their bikes in the mud. It was like watching some sort of bizarre biker rodeo game going horribly wrong. Wet weather had taken its toll on the short driveway from the road onto the soaked property. The event organizers had tried to help fix the problem by spreading shells and gravel across what was becoming a huge mire, but too much traffic had come and gone leaving deep trenches of glop to try to navigate through. As I stood there, another rider made it through the muck at the gate only to flop over on the road, and I cringed at the sound of chrome scraping pavement. Then I noticed a vendor we’d met during the previous night’s live music waving me over closer to the action.

“Ain’t this a mess?! Me and most of the other vendors with RVs and trailers have sank down into the field and are waiting on trucks to come pull us out. I’ve been watching this all morning, and here’s what you gotta do to get out of here.”

I paid attention as he explained we’d have to approach the gate from left to right. He pointed out the track most riders were following to find success in staying upright, and told me to approach the gate almost parallel to the opening to stay where the mud was the shallowest. He warned that we would have keep heading right once we were on the road, because a thin layer of mud had been smeared up onto the surface. That coating was hard to see, like black ice. He’d seen many make the mistake of thinking they were good to go once they reached the asphalt, only to roll on the throttle and have the bike shimmy out from under them. Aha, that’s how the peg-crunching topple I’d witnessed a bit earlier had happened. It was now understood that not only would we have to head off in the wrong direction, we’d have to ride far enough to reach bare pavement to keep from taking a spill in a U-turn, and pass over the film of mud again to point ourselves home. I thanked him for the tips, and went to fill Debbie in on the details.

“This has the potential to suck,” I announced.

“What’s the matter, are you afraid you’ll drop your bike?”

“No, I’m afraid if I drop it there’s no way to get any footing or leverage for me or anyone to lift it back up.”

I finished packing my bike with disturbing visions of it on its side in ankle-deep sludge flashing through my head. I could just imagine a half-dozen well-meaning people trying to help me upright it. And instead, we’d all wind up in a Woodstock-inspired, grime-coated pseudo game of Twister on a motorcycle instead of the usual multi-colored gumball-stamped mat.

Finally, we were ready to try and make our escape. We putted our bikes around to the left side of the gate and paused to watch a rider with his dog in a sidehack ease his way through the exit. A guy waiting for someone to come tow his camper out yelled, “Good luck, honey!” I thanked him and then tuned in to hear my inner voice chanting:
NOSUDDENMOVESNOSUDDENMOVESNOSUDDENMOVES, as we slowly squiggled, wiggled, and painstakingly churned our way to solid ground. Once I was sure I was on dry pavement, I glanced back to see Debbie still following, and thankfully still vertical. We turned our bikes around, and carefully crossed the slimy patch of road in front of the gate to start the ride home.

A couple of days after that we rode up on Skyline Drive and encountered a black bear, but that’s a story on its own for another time. No matter what jogs your memory, here’s hoping you can reminisce on beautiful rides and laugh at the stickier situations. And as you look back at the old year and anticipate what the new one will bring on this strange trip of life, my wish is that you’ll find more smiles than tears. Cheers and Happy New Year!

Saddle Soar

I headed to the refrigerator the other day to grab a cold one, and it occurred to me things were looking a little bare. Not INSIDE the fridge, that was well-stocked with plenty of food and drinks. It was the OUTSIDE that seemed to be a bit sparse for some reason. Then I realized that a few months ago, I was sticking flyer after flyer of rides and events I wanted to go to on the side of the refrigerator as a way of saving the dates. Now those happenings have come and gone in a flash of fun, the handouts have come down, and the magnets on the fridge are looking lonely! Guess it’s time to check the calendars for the upcoming weeks and do some planning.

One rally I look forward to each September is OC BikeFest/Delmarva Bike Week. goofin off 2012There’s plenty to do which makes it easy to find something to suit your mood. You can get wild and crazy at any number of cool places, or wild and quiet by checking out the feral horses a quick ride away at Assateague. I’ve seen a lot of awesome concerts there, and I think this year promises more with Kix and Lynyrd Skynyrd in the lineup. In addition to the live shows, I’ve had a great time in Ocean City along with my boyfriend at past rallies. We’ve seen the sun rise over coffee, walking on the beach, and the celebration the sunset becomes when watching it synchronized with music at Fagers Island. But a favorite shared memory actually happened after we’d left the oceanfront and were on our way home.

He was on his Road King, and back then I was riding my Sportster. We left the beach very early that morning, between that and the fact you never know what the weather will be like each year, it was a chilly ride home. On what we figured was the final fuel stop, we decided warming up with some coffee was in order before wrapping up the last hour of the trip. As we stood next to the bikes treating ourselves to that dose of caffeine, a man came over from a nearby van to chat with us. He admitted he had always wanted to ride a motorcycle, but had a disability he felt made it too unsafe. He was the driver of the van however, turns out it was a church group out of North Carolina made up of mostly older folks. While we talked, the van passengers started filtering back to the vehicle from the gas station to join the conversation.

After a few ladies asked me questions about how it was to ride by myself and what I wear to keep warm, one of them wanted to know if she could pose next to my bike for a picture.

“Sure, you can sit of them if you wa-“

That was all it took, before I could warn them about hot parts or anything they were off as if afraid we’d change our minds. It was like watching a few dozen elderly transform into a wild pack of kindergarteners set loose on a jungle gym for the first time. We juggled cameras thrown at us, taking picture after picture as they scrambled on and off the bikes squealing, laughing, and striking poses. Finally, once everyone had their turn and the chaos fizzled out, we parted ways as they all waved frantically while we rode off. Much later, as we reminisced about our vacation, we realized that in the middle of the parking lot confusion neither of us had taken pictures of them with our OWN cameras.

I regret that oversight,fagers island sunset 2012 but the memory works to the front of my mind a few times a year, especially around OC Bike Week. It brings a smile to my face as big as the ones we saw on them that day, joy as contagious as theirs continues to lift my spirit. And that’s my kind of post-ride saddle “soar”.

MAWMR or Bust

How is it something cyclical like the passing of time can suddenly seem so sped up? I mean as far as I know the rhythm of an hour is still sixty minutes, there are twenty-four hours in a day, and a week consists of seven days. Yet the summer weeks seem to be rolling by at full throttle. Maybe it has something to do with the weird weather this year; eighty degree days in March, cold rain in May- our seasonal context clues were a bit mixed up and it was July before we knew it! Or maybe it’s simply that time truly does fly when we’re having fun. Fall promises to be busy as well with October just a short trip straight ahead. Not only will the leaves start to turn shades of red, orange, and gold, you’ll notice pink popping up everywhere.

That’s because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Just as we hope drivers will watch out for us on the road all the time and not just in May when it’s Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, I hope this cancer is something you’re on guard against for more than 31 days out of the year. Some don’t have a choice, it’s always on their mind as they fight to beat it. For others, it seems like advice on what age to start or how often to have screening tests varies. With breast cancer in my family history, I faithfully grit my teeth and go in for the tata-flattening vise of a mammogram annually. If you haven’t experienced one, it’s not THAT bad. I do have to confess I won’t look down though in case seeing the pale crepe that used to be the right or left boob might shake my resolve to keep rescheduling! Nah-I wouldn’t stop practicing a little self maintenance, but it is nice when the opportunity comes along to fight cancer AND have a good time instead.

In June, I was ready for a reunion with a group of good girlfriends/old riding buddies. This year we chose to get together during the 25th annual Mid-Atlantic Women’s Motorcycle Rally, or MAWMR. IMG_20170802_222028 (1)The ladies that organize this rally do so not only to give women the opportunity to meet others who love to ride, it’s a fundraising event to help women who are victims of cancer. There are two Pennsylvania-based charities that benefit from MAWMR: Help for Oncology Problems & Emotional Support, or H.O.P.E., and the Pink Out Women’s Cancer Fund. This time the festivities were held in Front Royal, Virginia, a place that’s always given me the impression of being biker-friendly. A feeling that was reinforced on this trip when I got to the area and someone spotted me checking my tires at a convenience store air pump. He ran over to warn me that he thought the gauge was off on the machine and more air is pumped in than it reads. I kept my own pressure gauge I was using as backup hidden in my hand and simply thanked him
for his trouble. I’ve never trusted the accuracy of these parking lot contraptions, just consider myself lucky when they’re working at all and it’s a bonus if they’re free to use! Then it was on to MAWMR!

The hospitable vibe continued once I arrived, not only from the organizers and attendees of the rally but from the hotel staff. And as it turned out, the Mayor of Front Royal was set to lead the Parade of Chrome that weekend as part of the event. MAWMR consisted of another few days  that seemed to spin by quickly and offered up lots of adventures, like taking advantage of riding great area roads, (Skyline Drive IS right there). You could opt to park your bike to go on a river tubing excursion or take to the air on a zip line tour. 2017 also brought us games, themed parties, vendors, workshops, and inspiring post-dinner talks from Ursula Wachowiak, Tamela Rich, and Danell Lynn. Sound like your cuppa? While different Mid-Atlantic states have hosted the rally in the past, it will be in the same month and town next spring. See mawmr.org for more information and pictures.

And as far as breast cancer goes, don’t just assume guys are excluded. I have to admit I didn’t realize male breast cancer existed until as recently as ten years ago, when Peter Criss revealed he was a survivor. (If you’re not a fellow KISS fan, he’s the original drummer aka Catman.) Statistically, a very small percentage of men are diagnosed with breast cancer. Still, while the wet-tee contest winning bust might not be there, breast tissue is. If a lump ever forms or any other unusual changes become apparent, it’s better to be safe and have it checked out than to ignore it. So, EVERYBODY take care- on and off the road! That way no matter how fast the cycle of seasons seems to be moving, we’re up for spending the time on our motorcycles.

Does a fox whisper in the woods?

Slumber Party – Whether you’ve been an active participant at one or just in the vicinity, those two words should evoke memories of all-night whispers, laughter, and music. But what would happen if a few hundred women had a sleepover in the woods and most of them arrived by motorcycle? You wouldn’t have to worry about keeping it down to a whisper then, now would you? I had to get my answer to that question and a few more. With a tent strapped to the bike and all the bags full of supplies, off I rode one weekend in May.

My friend Bev had turned my attention to this event online ahead of time, The Fox Run Moto Camp Out in Lancaster, PA. It was inspired by a cross-country ride that founder Lucy Sarah took in 2013 to a motorcycle show in California. She met a lot of female riders there, and wanted to host something similar that united women and brought them together in one area.new sticker for Stevie

So, what does happen when over 300 bike-loving, adventure-seeking women go camping? For one, you reunite with friends and make new ones. I hadn’t seen Bev in years and it was good to catch up. I also got to meet some of the awesome women she rides with in a network formed to help moto-fixated women connect, The Litas.

What else do you do at The Fox Run? Ride in beautiful Lancaster County taking care to watch for horses and buggies. Cheer on burlesque dancers then turn to oooh and ahhh over a fire dancer. You yourself dance half the night away to fantastic entertainment. Do yoga. Swap trip stories and check out all the bikes. Shop from sponsoring vendors for riding clothes and gear, food and drink, and more. Like Tarot readings. I had to take advantage of the opportunity to have my cards read by a professional and Hope Diamond was amazing. She gave me lots of insight, as well as some sound advice I’ve been reminding myself to take heed of ever since.

Lucy highlights competing against Marina Grubb in the slow races as one of her favorite memories this year. She and the team of organizers are already planning for the third annual Fox Run next spring. Plus, an inaugural co-ed Moto Camp Out is in the works for late September 2017 to coincide with Open House happenings in nearby York, PA. For details check out thefoxrun.co

If I only had the list- I mean nerve…

The older I get, the more I seem to forget. Then again, maybe my memory was never the best to start with…I don’t remember. See how vicious that cycle can be?

I’m sitting at my desk which is covered with a smattering of Post-it notes, reminders of all sorts of things scribbled all over them. I’ll admit there is a bit of a festive feel, like the Memory Fairy marched by tossing giant-sized confetti my way to help me out. But it’s a beautiful day and I’d rather be riding.

Since I can’t head out yet my alternative is to ignore the multi-colored lists and dream of trips that are on the way, or reminisce about others past. Thankfully some of those stick in my mind as easy as the words of a song I can sing along to even if it’s been twenty years since I heard it last.

There are people you meet that can make certain rides memorable. A chance encounter with one such person has left me with words I’ll never forget. It happened during an outing where about 6 or 7 of us girls had taken the scenic route to a bike show. We stopped at a bar and grill on the way back and were seated at a long table in a section set up for larger parties. There was some sort of a celebration going on next to us, but I didn’t pay much attention to anything outside of our own shenanigans.

At one point, I thought a fly had landed on my shoulder, and I still thank God I looked back instead of swatting at it because I would have smacked her hand. No bug there- I was facing a tiny, elderly lady from the other occupied table who had come over and tapped me. Thinking we must have gotten loud, (who us?), to the point of disturbing her I got ready to apologize.

Instead she leaned over and said, “I just wanted to let you know I think what you ladies are doing is wonderful, and I wish I’d had the nerve when I was younger.”

It took me a second to realize she was talking about riding motorcycles rather than scarfing down burgers. The boots, bandanas, vests, and the like must have given us away. Still, I wasn’t sure what to say at first. Usually if someone tells me they want to ride a motorcycle I tell them to do it. Given her apparent physical limitations I realized that response would have been asinine so I simply thanked her. Little did either of us know how many times I’d think of her and thank her after that. Basically, any time I just needed that extra nudge to get my nerve up to step out of my comfort zone and try something new.

The man who had helped her walk over, (her son I think), gave us all a good laugh with a story about the one and only time he ever got on a bike. Decades before, his buddy bought a motorcycle and offered to give him a ride. He got on the back, then wound up on his back after falling off when the friend sped away. Meanwhile the older woman stood and beamed at all of us as if we were actual members of her family. I suppose in a way we are, kindred spirits or sisters looking for adventures big and small. I hope she had many of her own, even if none of them involved riding motorcycles.IMG_20170526_203335

What about you? Plenty of things beyond our control can stop us from doing something we want to do. There are also goals we wish we could reach, and the main obstacle is simply working up the nerve. Think of what you would like to experience before it’s too late and go for it.

With that it’s about time for me to switch gears from looking back to planning for rides coming up, which means making more sticky lists of things I’d better not forget to do or pack. Now if only I could remember where I put my pen.