Blog Posts - Women in Motorcycling
 
For my birthday on 10/10, all I wanted to do was to get a chance to ride the motorcycle. I had spent the majority of the season riding here in Illinois and venturing into Wisconsin, so I wanted to add a couple more states to my tally. So, I decided to ride to Michigan for crepes. So, I set out from the garage and hopped on Lake Shore Drive. I have pretty much reached peace with riding on the Drive and did not freak out too much when I entered the curve where I had my incident earlier in the season.

I got on 1-55 and then 94 without any major issues and headed to meet up with Carol at the Torrence Road exit. I'm really surprised at how at-ease I've become on the bike-- especially on the interstates. And now I have ridden on all of the major interstates in Chicago-- kind of cool really.

Carol and I stayed on 94 to get past Gary and then hopped off to take 12 through the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. It was a BEAUTIFUL ride. The trees were ablaze with changing leaves and the curves were gentle and plentiful. It was a bit chilly, but MJ had loaned me her heated gear in honor of my birthday so I was toasty warm.

We crossed over into Michigan, and in New Buffalo we had lunch at Pierre Anne Creperie. Lunch was delicious-- I had a ham and gruyere crepe and then shared a nutella crepe with Carol for desert. Both were fantastic.

Then we hopped back on the bikes and headed back into the city and split up where we had met. I headed back towards the garage, making a pit stop at my house and then taking Lake Shore Drive all the way back to the garage. Buckingham Fountain was still on and the lake was simply shimmering in the sunlight.

I had 2 major realizations on the road today.  The first is that this is the first "Birthday Ride" I've taken where I was not the passenger. I've had many people over the years take me out on the back of a bike for my birthday, but this is the first time I've been the one driving. It was awesome.

The second realization was a bit more profound. I had a moment on the road where I was completely content. I have a very busy life and every moment is filled with things I'd rather be doing, things I should be doing, or things I'm worried about getting done. But today was different. There was no where else I would have rather been than on the back of babybike. All other cares and worries were locked tightly away and left in the garage. In that moment, I found joy.

I get it now. I understand why people talk about riding as therapy. I understand why the first thought on a warm day is, "Can i ride?" and why the first thought on a cold day is, "Can i make myself warm enough to ride?" I understand the "freedom" that so many speak of and the peace others have found.

After pulling into the garage and having a deliciously hot shower and finally feeling my toes again, I got to have dinner out with my chosen family here in Chicago. There was much laughter, blue cupcakes (don't ask), and wonderful fellowship.

I couldn't have asked for a more perfect birthday.

Miles ridden today: 167
Total: 1759

Hoping to hit 2000 before REALLY gets too cold to ride!

 
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Another Sunday—another ride. The calendar goddesses have been very good to me the month of September, as I have gotten to ride four Sunday s in a row. That is coming to an end, but it’s been a fantastic month of putting miles on the bike. This just makes me more sure that I want to own my own bike so that I can ride whenever I wish!!

This Sunday, I set out with my mentor MJ—she decided to ride her Ducati 650 Monster instead of her Road King and she made me lead on our way out to the meet up spot. This is definitely an area for growth, as when I’m in front I have trouble maintaining a consistent speed and going fast enough. But we did make it to the meet up spot. 

We met up with the other riders for the day—4 Furies- Kathie (the leader for the day), Lisa, MJ and Caryl and then 3 guests- myself, Kitty and Staci. It was a good group for riding and I was BY FAR the least experienced rider in the group but for the most part I didn’t have trouble keeping up.  We headed off towards Wisconsin—twisting and turning our way through back roads and beautiful fall colors. The trees were gorgeous—so many of them turning goldens and reds and oranges and the sun was just warm enough to keep the day from being too crisp.

Kathie led us through Wisconsin to the town of Delavan to Spring Grove cemetery. Apparently Delavan used to be a circus town and many of the circus folk who made it their home are buried in this cemetery.  Each circus performer buried there is denoted by a little grave marker bearing an elephant and a number. I assume there is a registry somewhere of who these various performers are, but we did not have access to one.  It was completely fascinating.

The cemetery was also home to some other really cool grave markers—metal markers for WWI, WWII, Korea, and the Mexican War. Additionally there were GAR and DAR makers as well as some that I was not able to identify. 

But what was really sad (besides all the dead people) was that some vandals had been into the cemetery and damaged the graves—they had pushed them over and cracked some of the headstones and monuments. Some of them cannot be up righted or repaired. I don’t understand why defacing the graves of people who have been gone over 100 years is considered fun or entertaining.

After our graveyard adventure we were starving—I swear some of the stomachs were rumbling louder than the pipes on a Harley. We found our way to a restaurant, and Captain Kitty nearly ate the manager alive when he wasn’t concerned about my onion allergy, but despite that it was nice to hang out and enjoy a leisurely lunch.

After lunch we all rode together for a little while. My biggest scare of the day was when we were taking some wonderful sweeping curves and the seat of the bike shifted way off kilter. I freaked out. The seat has been giving us issues, but I hadn’t had trouble while riding. The shift of the seat and the speed of the curves caused me to panic in my head and it was not god—not good at all.  Then we unfortunately ended up in a traffic nightmare where 4 lanes suddenly became 1 and there was a 4 way stop…for about 30 minutes we were in first gear or stopped and barely went more than 1-2 mph. My clutch hand cramped painfully!

Finally we headed home—a jaunty ride down 176 to I-94 with MJ in the lead- on the Ducati. She goes really fast on the Duc. We were chasing daylight but still managed to make it home before dark.

Miles for the day: 220

Total: 1592
 
I started off the morning by meeting a fellow rider, Mercedes, at the “blue angel parking lot” (although the blue angel isn’t the blue angel anymore). We headed off towards Elgin to meet up for breakfast. It was COLD. The air temperature was hovering around 40- so it was around 30 on the bike as we zipped down  I-90. My fingers and toes went numb, my teeth were chattering, and I was going 70 mph not because I wanted to go fast, but because I was desperately seeking our exit and the promise of warmth. Note to self: heated gear- buy some soon!

We met up with Furies and Hangers on at Alexander’s in Elgin for breakfast. There were 9 of us at breakfast, but 4 of them were off to a skeet shooting adventure so that left 5 for the ride. Shannon was the leader of the day and the others were Mercedes, myself, Jodie, and Caryl. So it was 2 furies and 3 guests and we were off on our adventure to Norway and Peru.

We wound our way through some fun back roads and ended up first at Elvis. After some pictures and obligatory guitar strumming we hopped back on the bikes and were off to Norway. Norway, IL has a fantastic little Viking heritage museum and a store that has been run by 5 generations of the same family and still has the original wooden floors. It was a really neat little stop.  We waved to the dead Vikings in the cemetery and at the downed plane commemorating the farm crash in the 80’s and then were off again.

We hopped on 71 and went towards Starved Rock State Park, we changed the line up of folks so that we could each go through the twisties at a comfortable speed. It was fantastically beautiful to be zipping in and out of the trees and up hills through the park area. It was also fun fun fun! I loved the road and wanted to do it again the second we were done. 

Then we headed towards Oglesby, IL and Woody the Rootbeer Man. We ended up having a snack at the Rootbeer Stand http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/3378. They make their own rootbeer and it is delicious and the prices were fantastic. It was one of the highlights of the ride for sure!

Then we were off to Peru and the Star Trek Vulcan Hand were we all had to pose “Live Long and Prosper” style.  After a few more winding roads it was time to say goodbye and we split off to find our ways home. I ended up leading the I-88 crew and I’m actually growing more comfortable at leading.

I find that despite small issues (killing the bike once at a stop sign, fighting to get out of neutral, fighting to get into neutral), that my general ability is improving and I am growing more confident on the road. I am much more able to relax on the bike and to actually enjoy the ride. I do however have these moments where I think, “I can’t believe I ride a motorcycle”. I do. And it’s awesome.

Miles ridden: 250

Total Miles:  1372

 
So, the Furies were out on an all day ride and I had too much homework, so I opted instead for a short afternoon jaunt. I met up with Staci and we headed up to the Mars Cheese Castle in Kenosha, WI. It was a great day-- beautiful weather and sunshine. We took the interstate all the way and I'm quite shocked at how comfortable I'm getting riding on the interstate at appropriate speeds.

We visited the Castle, had some grilled cheese sandwiches and then headed back home. I ended up taking 41 and then Sheridan road through the ravines. I was so proud of myself that I was able to do the curves through the ravines without once tapping the brakes. It was an exercise in control--slowing and rolling at the right moments, and as I hit the top of the last hill i "Woohooed" as loud as I could.

Miles for the day: 122
Total miles: 1122
 
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Sunday morning bright and early, I set out with my most awesome mentor, MJ. We headed towards the breakfast meetup spot, the Canteen, in Barrington IL. It was a fantastic little breakfast spot with great food. There were 11 of us for breakfast, but only 9 would end up riding.

Initially the weather was a little crisp, but as the day progressed it warmed up enough to be perfect. 70’s, blue skies, perfect fluffy clouds dotting the horizon. It was a beautiful day to be on the roads with a great group of riders.

We took off from breakfast and followed Dr.HiViz aka Dr. Gaget aka Nadine. We twisted and turned our way through Illinois and ended up at our first Giant, The Colonial Man.

Then we hopped back on the bikes and wound our way through more back roads and then onto I-55 to find our way to Route 66 and our second giant, The Gemini Man.

Next we wound our way through some more roads in an attempt to find the Metal Menagerie.  We experienced a minor delay when we lost 3 of our pack and picked up some random guys on bikes in some confusion around a traffic light. 5 of us ended up napping atop our bikes on the side of the road while a scout was sent out to locate the wandering souls.  About 30 minutes later with all bikes once again in our lovely stagger, we set out in search of the Menagerie.

We of course zoomed by it the first time, did a u-turn in a church parking lot and came back and again parked on the side of the road.

The Metal Menagerie was the creation of artist Jack Barker, a scrap metal sculptor and collector.  He created this whimsical zoo of metal animals throughout his lifetime. Although he passed away on May 16, 2012, the sculptures are still there to see for now. We met his son who says everything will be auctioned off later this month, which is kind of sad. The sculptures were awesome though—this man was truly inspired by metal.

 

Then we hopped back on the road following the day-glo stylings of Nadine and headed along the Kankakee river. We didn’t actuall see much of the river, but the ride was beautiful. Sweeping turns, tree lined views, beautiful sky up ahead and not a stop sign in sight. It was awesome

 

We ended up in Bourbannais near Olivet Nazarene University and stopped for Ice Cream! There was also “The Library” bar across the street so of course my fellow v-star riding librarian Joyce and I had to have pictures taken in front of it.

 

Then it was time to head home—lazy twisting turns led us up the other side of the river and after a brief potty break we headed to I-55 so everyone could peel off on their separate ways to get home. I ended up leading MJ and I home on I-55 and then Lake Shore Drive.

We pulled in having ridden 244 miles for the day.

Some thoughts from the day:

I’m becoming much more confident on the road. I’m able to actually relax, look at scenery, do the “biker wave” and enjoy what’s going on.

I need to learn not to focus on what is making me crazy about other riders—their mistakes, or their issues. I need to focus on my ride and not worry about others unless my safety is endangered.

I know when to take the lead and keep myself safe—something I didn’t know I was ready to do until we were on I-55 an we were in the wrong lane and about to get run over. Instead of panicking, I took control and moved us over. I was really proud of myself for that.

I over came my fear of Lake Shore Drive. I had been so worried about it after the incident earlier in the season and had not been on it again. I was fine.

I still have a lot to learn. I’m still making mistakes, some little some not so little. But each mistake is something to learn from.

And the best news of the day:

 I hit 1000 miles!!!!!!!!

 
This weekend my riding mentor MJ, my timeshare buddy Nora and 3 other riders attempted something I don't think I'll ever be brave enough to do. They did an Iron Butt-- 1000 miles in 24 hours. 4/5 riders made the whole trip in  under the 24 hours and they actually all made it to Canada.

I am completely blown away by these women. I am in awe of the commitment, bravery and slight insanity it took to accomplish such a task.

Many congrats to MJ, Nora, Nadine, and Monique!
 
One day, I would LOVE to have the chance to be a part of the awesome group of ladies that are known as the Furies. In the meantime, I'm very lucky they have open meetings. I love getting to go and hang with them and learn from them.

This month I got to ride to the meeting, so I met up with Furies Sue and we went from the city out to where the meetings take place.  It was great to spend another Wednesday evening out on the road on babybike.

The meeting itself was good-- it was general tips and such and I got to ask a question I hadn't understood prior to actually spending some time on the bike, so that was good. I hadn't understood the concept of the "sweep" bike closing a lane and Caryl explained it very clearly.

Then there was the ride home-- in the dark--on the interstate. And then the last part alone.

Firsts? This was my first ride without any firsts! WOW!

Total miles: 756

 
So, not sure what possessed me to ride on a Wednesday but Furies Friend Shannon offered an adventure and I was ready to go. I headed out from the city and fought my way through traffic-- it took 45 minutes to go the first 6 miles, but then I finally  made it to the meet up spot.

Shannon and a new friend Carol and i left from there and headed out on our little ride. I have no idea where we were. I know we started in Villa Park and then there were roads. Curvy, fun, long stretches without stopping, roads.

And then we were at sonic. Which was really funny because I had taken the day off of work and somehow ended up about 3 miles from work.  But it was all good because it was SONIC.

Then it started getting dark and Me, being the new brave less scared of the dark and real roads me, was all bout getting home all by myself on 88 but Shannon decided to escort me part of the way, which was really  nice of her.

Firsts?
First interstate in the dark.
First "ice cream" trip
First time riding alone in the dark (after Shannon let me go)

Rode 100 miles!

Mile total: 702

 
After getting clearance to ride, I was totally ready to go! The Furies were heading to the 3rd Annual A.B.A.T.E.  Women’s Ride out of Fox Valley Harley Davidson in St. Charles IL. So, I tagged along! My riding mentor, MJ and I started out in the city and rode out to the meet-up spot in Elgin and we totally took the interstate the whole way. I did pretty well on the ride out, but had a few learning moments. The first was: remember to keep on the throttle when changing lanes. I kept falling off of my speed when changing lanes and it finally dawned on me that I was rolling off the throttle every time. Once I realized it, I was able to fix it and lane changes were easier. Well, except for the other lesson: when  you are the back bike and the front bike signals they want to change lanes, YOU HAVE TO REMEMBER TO CLEAR THE LANE! Poor MJ sat there with her left arm out waiting for me to get a clue and switch lanes so she could change lanes too. I finally clued in and remembered I had to do the lane change first. Oops!

Despite those little issues, we made good time to Elgin and were able to meet up with Sue, Shannon, Caryl, and Kathie.  We headed off to HD and I was in the middle of a Furies sandwich—surrounded by excellent riders who were keeping me safer than safe. It was great to FINALLY ride with the club.  We pulled in to the HD with plenty of time to hang out and line up and meet folks before the ride.

Let me pause here and state this: If you are “helping” with a charity ride FOR WOMEN it is generally considered rude to have a “NO FAT CHICKS” sticker on your bike in multiple places. I realize that if you are short, balding and have a beer gut it might be tempting to think that women will be falling at your feet, but putting “no fat chicks” on your bike makes that scenario even less likely. How would you feel if we all had “no small dicks” all over our bikes? Yes, some of us aren’t supermodel thin. SO WHAT? We ride, we have fun, and most of us aren’t looking for a disgusting pre-evolution primate like yourself anyway. Yes it’s your bike and you can decorate it as you see fit, but next time? Don’t pretend to care about women and show up to help protect us on our ride. Ok?

Ok, rant over…sorry.

The ride itself was fantastically organized. Women riders were in front, followed by men with women passengers, and then by men riding alone. There were “Rescue Riders” interspersed among the riders and blockers at every intersection. The blockers were AMAZING. We were able to go through stop signs and red lights as an organized group and weren’t in danger of cars not stopping thanks to the blockers stopping cars and in one case even running them down.  I LOVED the route. Sweeping curves and gentle hills led us through cornfields and farms and to our lunch stop. The bar where we were supposed to all eat was way too crowded, so we found our way to a diner where there it was a fried food fiesta!  I had fried baloney, tatertots AND fried oreos. Diet be dammed—it was delicious! AND, Lisa was able to find us and join us as well, so that was even better.

Then it was back to the HD—more curves and hills leading us all back. And then the city girls broke off and headed back on the interstate. And this time I remembered the throttle AND to get over!

The highlight of the day for me was having 2 different people compliment my riding skills. I know I’ve still got a lot to learn and a lot of areas for growth, but to have my skills thusfar acknowledged was pretty special to me.  I’m learning a lot and growing with each ride and now I’m up to 602 miles!

 
It has been a while since my last ride, due to some surgery on my bottom half.

Once upon a time I was 14 years old and had a scary birthmark. The birthmark got scarier, grew red and angry, and then started getting painful. My parents thought perhaps this was a bad thing, so they took me to a dermatologist who said something to the effect of oh my god we have to take that thing off! So, a few weeks later and about 180 stitches later, it was gone. They had to cut all the way down through all my skin and fat until they hit muscle to be sure they got the whole thing, so there were 180 total stitches to sew me back up. A few weeks later the pathology on it came back as Melanoma- somewhere around stage 1A, so not a big deal but still freaking cancer for a 14 year old. Because they had removed the mole and a significant hunk of surrounding tissue, no further treatment was required.

Fast forward 20 something years and we have a magical mole on my left butt cheek. Not red, not growing, but painful to the touch. If i bumped it on a table or fell on my ass skating, i swear to you it hurt all the way to my toes. So, being me, i let it sit there. History of melanoma? So what? Let's just leave this painful ugly thing on my bottom rather than having it cut out. Yeah--enter some very persistent people-- my mother, my partner, my friends. So, anyway, I went to the dermatologist.

The dermatologist, a woman in her 50's ish, with a bit of a Russian or Polish accent, YELLED at me. She poked the mole, it hurt, she yelled again. So she decided that because of my history it had to go- RIGHT NOW-- which actually meant about a month from the appointment but considering the above, 1 month kinda = right now. So back i went and because of the history, they had to do the same kind of cut as before-- and because my bottom is significantly LARGER than it was when i was 14, going through all the layers of skin and fat was even more fun than the first time. I didn’t have nearly as many total stitches this time-- just about 8 on the top layer but they are weird looking. I  did have a 4 inch incision on my left butt cheek. The incision did heal  nicely i suppose—the doctor said “You heal very well” which I suppose is a compliment of some kind.

The great news is that the results came back benign and I can finally ride again! Yay!