I’m riding my little Sportster 883 with a tiny windshield. How small is it? It’s the size of a server plate, not really big enough for a windshield.
So, I’m rolling along about 50 mph and see a wasp heading right for me, from the one o’clock position. He flew diagonally right up my left sleeve. Excuse me, was that a wasp? Can you really spot one from 50 mph?
Well, let me tell you, it sure looked like one and once it was up my sleeve, it was wiggling around and felt like it might sting me. I’m somewhat of a bee expert and a honeybee has no business flying around like that wasp. A wasp will sting you just because it feels like it and it can do it over and over again. When I’m against the wall and it’s “him or me” I have to fight back.
So, I wrapped my hand tight around that sleeve and crushed that little guy to death. I am so sorry about killing an innocent insect. I don’t even kill spiders in my home. I save them. I save ants and other little creatures of God. But they won’t sting the daylights out of me, so I fight to the death.
Well, that didn’t work. I could still feel him wriggling around in my sleeve. You have got to be kidding. This time, I gave him the death grip tight, then I wrung my hand back and forth to be sure the deadly deed was done.
Not so fast, my friend. The critter was still wiggling and I’m certain he was lining up his stinger and was nearing Defcon 5. I quickly turned a corner and brought my iron beast to a quick stop. This means war. I give it the death grip. I rotated my sleeve back and forth. Nothing can withstand my force. Suddenly, it flew out of my sleeve and harmlessly to the heavens.
Darnest thing I’ve ever seen. Neither of us was harmed and both survived to tell the tale of facing down death and living to tell about it.
Burned right inner thigh on Harley Soft tail Deluxe. If you ride this model much, you’ll soon find that your leg gets really hot from the engine.
One solution is to put a large piece of leather over the engine to protect your leg. Many say it works.
I just had to have my charging system repaired and overhauled. Mechanics told me that this was often due to overheating. An air cooled engine needs air blowing over it to stay cool. I bought my bike recently and it only has 20,000 miles on it. I have no idea what it has endured, but they said heat damages the charging system.
So, I’m trying the Harley Davidson plastic heat shield. This is spaced out from the engine to allow air flow under it.
Next, I bought and installed the Harley oil dipstick that is also a thermometer for the oil. Research indicated that 200 to 220 degrees is the designed operating temperature for the oil.
Now, I can see if my leg burns and also if my engine is getting too hot.
Just some thoughts for those who want to protect their bikes and lovely legs. 250 degrees is considered overheated and also breaks down the motor oil.
I grew up riding little Honda motorcycles all over cities and campgrounds. I understood how to engage the clutch to get the bikes moving off a stop. I also rode a bicycle all over before I could get a driver’s license, so I can turn on 2 wheels with ease.
What I never did understand was how to work the clutch in the friction zone on a big Harley Davidson open road bike. Cars and trucks have a dry clutch and you don’t want to slip that clutch much in order to minimize heat and wear on the single disc system.
Motorcycles have a “wet” clutch that is multi disc and designed to slip a lot. This is the backdrop, here’s why that is important.
Part 1. Understanding the Friction Zone. Start with a bike on flat, level ground. Pull the clutch lever all the way in and put the bike in gear. Give it a little throttle, let’s say 1500 to 2,000 rpm and slowly let the lever out until the bike just starts to creep. That is the beginning of the “Friction Zone”. You may call this the starting point if that helps. As you let the lever out very slowly, the bike moves more and pretty soon your feet are up on the pegs, but you are still holding the lever in a little and the clutch is slipping. You are in the zone that lies between the beginning and full engagement, where you let go of the lever and the clutch is fully engaged.
In this situation of partial engagement, you can regulate the speed of the bike by applying the brakes in varying degrees. A little brake or a lot of brake will speed up and slow down the bike. Remember, you are still slipping the clutch while holding a constant engine speed.
Practice this maneuver with as little engine speed as you can. Just work on straight line starts and get accustomed to the feel of the clutch, throttle and brake. You are now learning the friction zone. It’s important to understand it is a Zone, not just a single point. Start, roll and stop. Over and over until you feel yourself becoming one with the bike. This is one of the most important things you will learn about riding a big open road bike.
Part 2 Now that you understand the friction zone, let’s learn to use it to our advantage. With the clutch fully engaged at a very low speed, the engine has very little power. If you enter a tight turn with the clutch fully engaged, the engine doesn’t have enough power to pull you back upright in the event that you get too far over. The engine will stall and you fall down, go boom. (direct quote from Tweety Bird commenting on the sudden demise of kitty cat).
When you lean your bike over to take a corner, the power of the engine can pull you back upright if you tip over too far. The engine is your asset. The engine can save you. Engine speed saves the engine. If the speed gets too low, the engine stalls.
This is the same concept as flying an airplane. You can only gain altitude as fast as the engine can pull the plane. Pull the stick back too far and the engine can’t pull it. You’ve stalled the plane. Take a corner too sharp, at too slow a speed, and you’re going down.
I was riding my Harley Ultra Limited on a road trip. I’m over 70 years old and too weak to manhandle a thousand pound bike. I’d stopped for gas and headed out via the front of the gas station. What I didn’t realize was that what looked like pavement was really black gravel and there was no entry to the street, just a tall curb. I recognized this too late. I knew if I stopped in deep gravel, I’d go down. I turned to try to get back on pavement. It didn’t work. The next thing I knew, I was headed for a huge curb drop. The front tire hit the gravel side of the curb and the front of the bike flew high up into the air. The frame of the bike hit the curb hard and then the back of the bike hit the curb. I was tipped over further than I could control. I was tipping over and the bike was going down hard.
Instinctively, I pulled in the clutch, hit the gas with everything I had and popped the clutch.. As I came down, the power pushed the bike back upright and I was able to stabilize the bike and come to a stop sitting on the bike. A guy witnessed all this and came running over to help. He said he never thought I would save the bike and keep it up. I told him I never thought I could do that, either. 🙂
That was how I learned the true value of using the power of the engine to keep a bike from going down. Engine revolutions (RPMs) provide the power, the clutch connects the power to the wheels.
Now that you understand how to begin to master the friction zone to get your bike moving, you can use it to start the bike moving from an uphill stop. You can either hold the front brake to hold the bike in place, or use the rear brake and hold your bike up using your left foot. It’s a good idea to practice both techniques on level ground. Use the engine to pull against your brake on level ground to help you learn how to do this.
Now, let’s learn how to use the friction zone to corner a bike. Start out by pulling in the clutch on every turn, so you use instinct to set the friction zone. As you practice wider turns, you’ll get better at finding the friction zone right away. I practiced right turns by trying to follow the edge of the curbing through the turn. You want to always look at the end of the turn as you enter it. Use the rear brake to regulate your speed, not the throttle.
The rear brake will keep the bike stable and using it to regulate speed can help keep the bike up. Under ideal slow speed conditions, the clutch and throttle don’t change. The brake controls the speed. The engine speed is up to provide the power needed to keep the bike from tipping over and the clutch enables it to have the necessary speed.
I had extreme difficulties keeping my Harley Ultra Limited upright at stops. I finally admitted to myself that the bike was simply too tall and heavy for me to continue beating my head on the wall, or the pavement. I was heading for an injury if I didn’t relent. I made arrangements to sell the bike and wandered into the used bike department to kill some time. This was like a visit to the animal shelter for a person who had just lost a pet. This bike stood tall and picked me. It’s a 2011 Harley Softail Deluxe, a model that’s a favorite among women riders. The seat is only 26 inches off the ground and has a very low center of gravity, making it easy to keep upright. I know when I’m licked (pun intended) and realized that my love affair with motorcycles can continue. This is my new Girl.
I’ve developed excellent riding skills and I find that I may have been taking too many risks. I love to lean my Ultra over in a curve, to the point of scraping the foot boards. I’ve come to understand that any unforeseen hazard in the roadway might result in a crash. So, my new Girl and I are learning how to ride all over again. First off, she won’t let me lean like that. It doesn’t take much lean for her to protest and tell me to knock off the daredevil stuff. I got a nice afternoon recently and rode Highway 6 west to the roundabout. Interstate 80 has replaced Highway 6, which was a major east-west mode of transportation. I turned south and rode to Crete, Nebraska, then on to Wilber, DeWitt and to Beatrice. There was very little traffic and the sun shone brilliantly. I love this little Girl and am whipping her around like she was a Honda 350. She loves to dance and has a wonderful soft, cushy ride. I took Highway 77 north back to Lincoln and then decided to continue north to Highway 79, through Valparaiso and on to Highway 92. I stopped for gas in Weston, Nebraska and rode through Wahoo. I paid my respects to the phone booth which served as the World Headquarters for the David Letterman show for many years. Yes, look it up, it was a phone booth in Wahoo, Nebraska. I was on a long curve to change roads and leaned over and accelerated, but the bike said, no-no, don’t do that. Her little foot boards hang low and scrape easily, to help train me to ride safe. I rolled off the throttle and slowed. I finished the day with 180 miles for the afternoon. We have a lot of miles left to fully bond with each other, but so far it has been a wonderful experience.
I’ve made no secret of the joy of finding interesting places as a woman riding a motorcycle. I recently related my joy of riding hundreds of miles in cold, heavy rain. 🙂 This is one of the things I like about long distance trips involving overnight travel. You have to be prepared for just about anything. I love a challenge and adventure.
So, on day 3 of travel recently, I discovered Bucksnort, Tennessee. Yessiree, the real mountain south of this scenic country. I’m not kidding, the densely wooded mountains of this area are very pretty.
A little ways further down the road is a sign for gasoline, so I pulled in. First off, the pump didn’t like my credit card. Apparently, something about my card must have caused the system to consider me a possible fugitive from justice. The long arm of the law dictated that I must go inside in order to pay to fuel up my little bike.
So, I noticed a sign on the way in explaining that the building was built in 1911 and has no indoor bathrooms. Those in need would have to utilize the porta-potties placed discreetly at the back of the lot. Fortunately, it was a nice, sunny day. My urgent physical needs at that point precluded me from just waiting to go at the next stop.
I paid cash for my fuel and used the facilities. To their credit, they were clean. My positive attitude reminded me it could always be worse. I have used the real outhouses over a hole in the ground.
But, I have to express my disappointment at finding I was not yet in the deep south. I searched the little store for the only true, genuine lunch of the south–a Moon Pie and an RC Cola.
Finding none and thinking I was hearing the faint sound of banjo music, I fired up my big Harley and headed for the open road. In theory, this bike is supposed to be able to do zero to 60 in four seconds. I can tell you that I was doing 75 at the end of a short on-ramp, leaving the banjos in the dust.
I relaxed, put on “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, set the cruise and motored on.
Riding the Cherohala Skyway takes you across the tops of the mountains into Robbinsville, NC. It was in the planning stages for a long time and was completed after 30 years of construction with a total cost of 100 million dollars. It is the most expensive road in North Carolina.
The curves are wider than the Tail of the Dragon and a woman riding it on a motorcycle is a lot less tense. There are many stops for scenic views. Although it is only 43 miles long, it takes 3 hours or so to drive it.
The beauty from a motorcycle is breathtaking. The heavy scent of
pine air in places overwhelms the senses and enhances the experience.
This creates another serious danger and that is paying attention to the
road. They sure didn’t blow the budget on guard rails, if you get my
meaning. Some of the drop offs are a long way down and extremely steep.
Shoulders may be non-existent.
There are many wide
observation stops, some of which are level. This is no big deal in a
car, but a heavy road bike is another issue, particularly when the added
weight of luggage is very high on the bike. I’m still traveling, loaded
with a few weeks of baggage as I make this ride.
of parking this iron monster is a real learning experience. The kick
stand is on the left side. So, if the pavement slopes to the left, this
means you’ll need 2 gorillas and 3 tourists to help you lift it back
upright off the stand. Conversely, if the surface slopes to the right,
there is very little lean weight on the stand. In this situation, a
light breeze or a heavy dragonfly landing on the far right side and over
she goes. I know far too much about all this and some has been painful.
Oh, I’m not done with parking. There is no reverse gear, just weak old legs to push the bike backwards. This means you NEVER park heading downhill, into the curb, unless you have AAA to send a truck to pull you back out. Ideally, you pull the bike around where you can back it into aforementioned downhill spot. Most roads are crowned so water runs off. Angle parking almost always means moving back and forth to get the bike to slide backwards into a parking position.
Part 3–Everybody loves a Harley. As a woman riding a motorcycle, traveling alone might seem to put you into threatening situations. I’ve not found this to be the case at all, rather it might be the opposite.
Perhaps the general public might consider that dressing like a pirate in black leather may indicate that the rest of the “biker gang” is right behind me and due to show up and take hostages at any moment. 🙂 I get left alone.
I get a lot of long looks at the Harley. Many will stop and relate stories of how they used to ride, how they want to ride or just admire the chrome and steel. The machine projects power and freedom. I love to offer people the chance to get their photo taken sitting on the bike. I tell them if they have a camera, I have the Harley. Their eyes flash with adventure when they get on and it’s easy to imagine what’s going through their brain as they grin proudly and sit erect on top of the world.
Being in a crowd helps keep a person safe and a Harley always draws a crowd. I’ve heard too many stories from the thirties and forties of women being denied gasoline or even arrested because “they shouldn’t be on one of those things”. Well, the times, they are a changin’. Thank goodness.
Photo ops over and scenic overlooks covered, I get back on the bike and fire it up. I finish the Cherohala Skyway and am looking for a biker bar for some lunch. There don’t seem to be any, even in the little towns. I have to remember that there are dry counties here in the south. Those who have read much of my material know that I’m an expert in finding great burgers in small town bars. The bars are the restaurants in these towns. Apparently, beer pays the overhead. So, it’s no stretch to consider that, with no beer, burgers may be at a premium.
I drive all over Robbinsville, the nearest town to my destination of the Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge and find no one serving food. I stop in the center of town and use technology to save me. I ask Siri to find food. She cheerily informs me that it’s only 8 miles away, so I instruct her to guide me to the fries.
The roads in Nebraska are laid out exactly east and west in populated areas, so navigation is easy. Not so much in the Appalachians, as roads have to wind every which way to overcome the obstacles of geology. Aha, we arrive at our destination. There is nothing here. Not only is there nothing here, there is no sign anything was ever here.
I heave a heavy sigh and turn around. Looks like it’s convenience store delectables. I am so lucky, as this place actually has a little pot of hot pork bbq. It’s not really bbq, rather it’s baked pork with sauce mixed in. I’m hungry enough that I’m just happy my lunch is not a Moon Pie and an RC Cola. I am in the south, you know.
I get lunch, fill the bike and head for the Iron Horse Motorcycle Lodge.
Early on in my biking life, I remember reading that “you’re not a real biker until you’ve made an overnight trip”.
I thought that might relate to packing luggage, which it does. However, it also relates to weather. Like many other riders, there have been a lot of days where I thought about riding, then went outside and felt the bitter cold of a windy 50 degree day. I quickly went back inside to see what else I could do.
Here’s a thought for you and it is, “You’re not a real biker until you’ve made an overnight trip with a group of experienced riders on a mission”.
3 years ago, I took my first Women’s Freedom Ride. I didn’t do the whole thing, but I did 3,500 miles. I remember the leader, Momma Bear, talking about questions asked from potential riders. “You don’t ride in the rain, do you?”. She laughed and said, “We have a schedule, we ride”
So, recently, I was on an overnight trip. When I came out in the morning, it was extremely windy and 50 degrees. It was cold. It was also raining, which makes it bitter cold. My bike is soaking wet, including the seat. Ick.
I’d already ridden in the rain, with 35 other women, at 80 mph, all day long. Thank you, Momma Bear and all the skilled, gifted and patient Ride Captains, who tutored me on how to do this.
I went to my room and put on my layers. Long sleeve insulated top, heated jacket liner, thick insulated jacket liner, leather jacket and Harley rain suit. Load the bike and get underway.
After getting dressed in the hotel, I was quite warm and it felt good to get outside. Although I had heated gear, I didn’t turn it on, as I was quite comfortable. I was surprised at how nice and warm I felt.
My bike has a full fairing in the front to keep the wind off of me, as well as little leg fairings to protect my legs. The sloped windshield beads the rain water and it blows off easily. My full face helmet protects my face and keeps my head totally dry.
I am totally amazed at the effectiveness of my rain suit at 75 mph. At this point, I’m riding in a total deluge of rain. The spray off of the other vehicles makes it a little difficult to see for everyone on the road. My vision is pretty good and the bike is stable and smooth. I’ve got the cruise control set, the tunes rocking and I am rolling along.
Without past experience pushing me to do things I would have never done on my own, I might have just stayed another night and watched the weather through a rain spotted window. I’ve done this before at home, said “Not Today”.
The rain clouds parted around lunch time. I pulled into a Red Lobster for lunch. One rule for riding all day is to always stop for an hour for a nice sit down lunch. It takes a lot of mental energy to ride a bike safely and the break is needed.
I can think back to before my biking days, seeing those wet bikers riding in the rain. I felt sorry for them, probably cold and soaked to the skin. In my case, not even close. I’m still warm as a Red Lobster cheese biscuit and dry as the cheap toast on a 99 cent breakfast.
Our first announcement for special events for women bikers is the RAD (Ride, Adventure, Dream) event. This will be in Stillwater, Oklahoma June 18 thru 20.
Here is the web page. Scroll down to the bottom to sign up or get more information:
This is a women’s motorcycle ride event in Stillwater, Oklahoma, June 2020. Celebrate Biker Sisterhood with women bikers. This is an opportunity to develop close bonding relationships with other women. You’ll improve your riding skills dramatically if you ride in a group to the RAD, Ride, Adventure, Dream event. Many women bikers complain of the dangers involved in many group rides. This is because the group leaders are not well skilled in leading a ride. It’s just a bunch of bikes, not a true group motorcycle ride. As you learn to ride together, you’ll develop trust with your sister biker riders. This can be a life changing event in which you develop friendships that last a lifetime. Read the information on the website and sign up to attend.
When one thinks about women riding motorcycles, they don’t often consider her riding alone in desolate country. That is exactly one of the best places to ride.
Saturday morning found an overcast sky and rain. I pursued other interests until the sky cleared in the late morning. I put on my biker clothes. I NEVER ride without all the gear. I have a wonderful Harley mesh jacket that offers slide protection and allows access to the cooling wind. I wear jeans lined with kevlar, Harley biker boots, gloves and a modular helmet. Being dressed for a slide will hopefully prevent one from happening.
Today, I would ride about 20 miles west on 2-lane Highway 6, then slide over to Interstate 80. I-80 is a major east/west traffic corridor and is loaded with tourists this time of year. They have a destination in mind and they drive like it. There is little obstruction on this day. I set my cruise on 75 mph, the exact speed limit.
In a fairly short time, I’m exiting the road at the Grand Island exit, about 100 miles down the road. I stop for gas, clean the windshield and get on Nebraska Highway 2, the Sandhills scenic byway. I’m now a little warm and ready to stop for an iced tea. I select one of my favorite places, the aptly named Watering Hole in Cairo, Nebraska. Cairo was established in 1886 as a railroad stop for the Burlington Railroad.
I cool off and am shortly back underway. Today, I notice a wide variety of clouds. Once in the Sandhills, there is virtually no traffic and the land is as pristine as it has been for thousands of years. Riding a motorcycle excites all the senses and allows a full enjoyment of the outdoors.
On this trip, I take advantage of totally unobstructed vision to notice the clouds. Normally, there are clouds in the sky and I’ve generally regarded clouds as a 2 dimensional sight, much as a photo might present them. Since there’s no traffic, I’m able to study the clouds in detail. There are a few cirrus clouds, which are very high up and lightly streak the sky, like they might be portrayed by the gentle sweep of a painter’s brush. Below them are more puffy clouds and then I notice some that are closer to the ground. I can begin to see the full depth of this sight as I pass below them. At 65 mph, the fact that they are readily discernible really stands out. The speed of the bike highlights the different levels of clouds as I’ve not often noticed before.
These are things that never get seen from a moving car. I’m having a ball just watching clouds on this trip. Light traffic in the Sandhills means you only see oncoming vehicles over a mile apart. Overtaking and passing someone happens maybe every 15 miles or more. Riding in this environment allows all the senses to work and the scenery is soothing and relaxing.
75 miles passes too quickly and I’ve arrived in Broken Bow, Nebraska. This will be my turnaround point, so I cruise around town. This small town has been completely resurrected. Most Nebraska towns are built around a town square, which is a full city block with a government building in the center. This means there are 4 blocks of shops all around. Every shop features a business and the buildings are painted and in good repair. This is a contrast to many other small towns, who are losing population and the empty storefronts with cracked and broken glass highlight this occurrence.
There is a very nice old hotel here with a corner restaurant and grill featuring outdoor seating. I see a Harley parked in front, so I decide to stop and take a break. A very large biker man and his lady are sitting outside and invite me to join them. Bikers are a very special breed. They look scary with their leathers and head covers and you don’t know if they’ll take hostages or ask you to sit a spell.
In this case, I met John and Amy. John has been riding for decades and Amy loves riding on the back. They were both highly intrigued to see a woman ride up on a big bike. They’d watched me cruise the town square and were surprised to see a female. Amy asked me how I managed to handle such a large bike. She said she never imagined that she could do such a thing and I reassured her she could if she wanted.
We visited easily for quite some time. They go to the Black Hills Motorcycle Rally (Sturgis) every year and we talked about that and found we had a lot in common. They lived about 70 miles straight south.
When it came time for us to leave, they invited me to ride with them and I eagerly accepted. Our route would take us on a road that was even far less traveled than Highway 2. It was even more remote and primitive. John was an expert rider. He never slowed for a curve and he held a nice, even line on curves. Our ride together was well synchronized and coordinated, even though we’d never met before. We each knew how to ride with others. Just like when musicians get together and jam, we were dancing together like Fred and Ginger using bikes.
We split up and said our goodbyes at the Interstate. They are wonderful people, whom I hope to see again. Motorcycles have enabled me to enjoy the ride and meet great people. Many single women might experience some discomfort at being alone and vulnerable out in the country. I have to say that when I’m on my bike, dressed like a biker, no one has ever caused me to feel insecure at all. When I see other bikers, I have every confidence that they will have my back should the need ever arise. I see other bikers as friends and never an adversary.
I had a 180 miles to ride to get home and the time seemed to fly by. I bumped my speed up to 79 mph, as it seemed that was the general speed of traffic. That worked nicely as I was moving with everyone else. The big Harley touring bike seemed comfortable and smooth at that speed and had plenty of additional throttle should it be needed.
I watched clouds and took in all the sights and sounds of Nebraska. Before I knew it, I was back home before dark with 400 miles under my belt. Another great day on a bike.
In a few weeks, I will be one of the Ride Captains for the Women’s Freedom Rally, leading a group starting in Sioux Falls. We will spend the night in Lincoln, then ride on to Topeka, where we will set the World Record for the most women on motorcycles in one place at the same time. This is a serious event to raise money for veterans and our company is a major sponsor. So, I need to get in shape. Friday, I got a late start after lunch and rode I-80 to North Platte where I spent the night. I was not the only one fleeing the city for the holiday. Traffic was solid in both lanes as far as the eye could see. Normally, it thins out around York. Not today, folks. From North Platte, I mapped out a route through the Sandhills. I took I-80 on west to Ogallala, then turned north to Hyannis. This is a very unique road. It is 75 miles long, with only ONE intersection, in the town of Arthur. Otherwise, it’s just you, the virgin prairie and blue skies. There are many places where there are no signs that civilization has ever touched it. No power poles, no homes, no signs, no rest stops, no Taco Bells and no merging traffic. In 75 miles, I only saw about a dozen cars coming the other way. Pretty much no one was going my way. I’m certain they were, of course, but arithmetic told me that cars were roughly 6 miles apart. Riding a motorcycle is unique, in that it involves all 4 appendages. Clutch for left hand, front brake and throttle for right hand, rear brake for right foot and shifter for left foot. It also involves all your senses. Naturally, sight (which is supposed to be used mainly for texting and Facebook), sound, feel (for the vehicle’s interaction with the roadway), smell (which is lovely, pure clean air in the Sandhills. The air is so clean that you can smell water) and, finally taste, which is for the native bugs of the area. (biker joke). So, I’m loving this trip. The sky was clear, the temperature perfect and the whole scene is serene. Riding a bike is an experience like no other, as you are exposed on all sides and can see many things that just can’t be seen and experienced in a car. Like a rattle snake curled up in the middle of the road. Holy Jeminy! I’m riding right down the center of the lane. The soft sandhills often erode the right edge of the pavement, so it’s not always a good idea to ride on the extreme right edge of the road. In this case, the road is coming apart due to expansion and contraction, so there are cracks and bumps at regular intervals. The left side of the lane is bumpy from traffic. The very center of the lane is reasonably smooth. I set the cruise control on 68 mph, the speed limit is 60. The bike loves this speed and cruises with no effort. There is no wind, I mean no wind of any kind. Every body of water which I see is just like a mirror. So, back to the snake. Yes, YIKES!, a rattlesnake, curled up in the center of the road. By the time you perceive that there is anything that minute in the road, you’re pretty much on it. I mean, I saw something in the road about 2 seconds ahead, but it wasn’t anything of substance. A piece of rope, a rubber drive belt off a vehicle, but not a log, a dead possum or a piece of lumber. Nothing that would present a risk to a bike. As I am now on a collision course with a snake, suddenly I can see the dark brown diamond pattern on a light brown body. It’s right in the middle of the road, right where I’m riding. My legs are open on the side of my bike. I have no opportunity to swerve or to avoid the snake. I am only able to quickly life my feet up slightly as I run over the snake. Thump-thump and I’m right on down the road. I’ve seen photos of snakes that ended up stuck to the underside of a motorcycle. I took a quick look. I am so *not* stopping to inspect the underside of my bike to see if I have a very unhappy rattler that has checked in as an undocumented passenger. I am literally shaking at what has just happened. If that snake wasn’t dead before, it’s had a rough day now. This is just one reason that I always wear protective gear. I have heavy motorcycle boots and I mean heavy boots. I wear jeans lined with kevlar, which probably won’t stop a bullet, but will resist shredding in a slide, leather coat, leather gloves and a full face helmet.
It would appear that I am the only living being aboard the bike. I settle down and enjoy the ride. The sky is brilliant blue and there are but a few clouds scattered here and there.
The pavement is brand new on the road and the bike rolls along very smoothly. The old road can be easily seen to the side. Engineering progress is in stark contrast to days of old. The old road has zero shoulder. If one had to change a tire, it would be done right in the roadway, as the drop off the pavement is sharp. I rode this old, original road and I have vivid recollections of soil (sand) erosion in places where the water ran off the pavement.
The old road is extremely narrow, only wide enough to allow antique vehicles to pass each other. The roadway was mostly pavement laid over the ground, with not much preparation over hill and dale.
The new road has a well prepared graded roadway. Sides of the hills have been shaved away and the soil used to raise the road above dips and to prevent water flowing across the road in low places. There are shoulders now. The new roadway is nearly 4 times as wide as the original.
Soon, I encounter road construction. Then, the new pavement gives way to what was before, a patched, pock marked old country road. I’m glad I’ve got good suspension on this bike, as it’s being challenged by road surface. I slow down and now have to pay attention to obstacles. I’m on a slalom course now. It’s kind of fun to swerve back and forth, seeking flat ground.
This is a road that doesn’t see much traffic. I’m still enjoying seeing undisturbed grass land and occasional herds of cattle near the fence. They are curious as I pass and their gaze is fixed upon me as I ride by.
The little cowlets are sticking close to their moms. They are only a few months old and are the hardy ones who survived the recent blizzards that took the lives of many of the herd. It all seems like a dream now, as the grass is lush and green.
The Sandhills are really sand and are left over from the sea that covered this area long ago. When the water left, the wind blew the sand into ever shifting dunes. This is one of the largest areas of wind blown sand in the world.
The grass took hold and the buffalo thrived. The bison ate the grass and their droppings fertilized the soil. There were millions of them at one time.
I’ve been told that there is something highly unique and nutritious about the grass that grows here. It is apparently unlike any other place on earth. There are no native trees, as fires started by lightning kept them from thriving. The cattle that grow here are of amazing quality. It’s easy to see, as they appear to be well fed, with nice, thick coats that look like they are groomed daily. There is lots of room for each cow and they are free to roam all over. In fact, the grass shows no sign of ever having been grazed. There are no bare spots. It appears the ranchers have done a great job of determining how many cattle the land will support and are careful to preserve the land that is their resource.
Mile after lovely mile I ride, enjoying the majesty of this natural land. The rough road smooths out some as I see a 45 mph speed limit sign. I always observe the exact speed limits in small towns. I downshift and slow to 45. As I round a corner, I see a group of people standing. It’s a cemetery and they’re holding a service. Out of respect for the group, I slow way down and keep my bike as quiet as I can while I do my best to pass unnoticed.
I ride by and soon I’m in the little town of Arthur, Nebraska. Main street is 3 blocks long and I’m stretching that. I pass the Bunkhouse saloon, which is closed at this time. There is also a log cabin from the 1800s.
I ride out of town and open up the throttle back to my cruising speed. The road is not straight at all. It twists and winds through the hills. It meanders between the hills most of the time. There are places where the hills open up to a wide valley and you can see for miles. As I round a curve, I can see something in the road in the distance. As I get closer, there are 2 pronghorn antelope just standing smack dab in the middle of the road. I get on the brakes and slow down quickly. They turn and see me almost close enough to ride them and that sets them into flight mode. I chuckle as I see the first one duck under a fence, followed by the second. They were just being lazy, as I believe they can clear a 6 foot fence if they want to. Then, they’re off and running. They are very fleet footed and cover ground effortlessly in a hurry.
I stop and take their place on the road. There is no traffic and I mean *no* traffic. I watch them run. I’ve visited with many antelope hunters and those critters can run for miles without even slowing down. As I’ve traveled, it’s not uncommon to see them grazing quietly among the cattle.
I crank the throttle on the Electra Glide and accelerate quickly. The giant Harley is a monster machine, capable of going from zero to sixty in under 4 seconds. My backrest pushes hard against my hips to keep the bike from jumping out from under me. I love this. It’s a serious rush of adrenaline as I can feel the front wheel nearly lift off the ground at every shift. OK, so four seconds is up, fun is over. Back to cruising. This is one place I’m not likely to get a citation for exhibition of speed, especially since I do observe the speed limit.
As I top the next hill, my heart sinks as I see the sign warning of a stop sign ahead. Phooey. That means this part of the ride is over. Time to head into Hyannis for gas.
As I ease up to the stop sign, I’m looking straight at a lake. I mentioned before that there was no wind. It’s extremely rare to see a body of water as smooth as glass, but this was it. The reflection of the opposite shoreline was a perfect picture in the water.
As I made the turn, I saw a closely bunched flock of white swans swimming tightly together. Wait a minute. There aren’t any swans around here. The perfect “S” curve of the neck was distinctive. As I looked closer, I could see long yellow beaks sticking down in front. They were pelicans. It was a beautiful sight.
The gas station in Hyannis is sort of a combination fast food place, with a little bit of grocery store built in. We are a long way from much civilization here. We are so far away, (how far are we?) that the last time I stopped here, they didn’t have credit card machines on the gas pumps. You just pulled up, pumped the gas and walked inside. They sometimes used binoculars to read the amount of the pumps.
This time, they’ve gone full modern. They not only have credit card processors on the pumps, they have real live TV. Golllly!
I’ll stop here and pick up this story later. This story and much more can be found on my website: www.beckysbikerblog.com
We are about 7 weeks out and are getting a LOT of questions about the exact route and precise details of the ride schedule. For many, there may be comfort in knowing the exact time we will arrive and depart any given place.
I’m one of the Ride Captains and here is my answer: This all sounds great, but it doesn’t matter. 🙂 First, we have security issues. We need to be absolutely certain that every woman on this ride is part of the group and has signed a waiver. Every rider has already been carefully screened to reduce the chances of trouble. Believe me, there are some people we don’t want near this ride. Posting a schedule invites anyone to tag along and blend in. Second, every stop, every cafe, every route needs to be ridden ahead of time. In case you haven’t read the papers lately, we’ve had massive flooding in Nebraska and Iowa. There are roads and bridges gone. Other Ride Captains and I have met and gone over potential routes. She and I are both experienced Road Captains. Between us, we’ve already ridden much of the route. Some of the places that I think would make for great stops have been affected by the flood, others only open for the summer. You will just have to believe in your Ride Captains and let them work. In past years, ride routes have been routinely changed and adjusted overnight. 🙂 It’s only a short distance each day. We are working hard to put together a ride that is far more than just getting from one place to another. We are working to help you experience memories that will live with you for a long time and we want those memories to be great ones. So, please be patient and work to get yourself ready. In the meantime, Dream and Believe. <3 Our fabulous experience will be on us in no time and just like that, it will be over.
Next, get your bike ready.
There are less than 5 weeks to go. It is time to take your bike to a
very good shop or mechanic and have it completely serviced and
inspected. Tires are critical. We may have to ride in the rain. Yes, we
ride if it’s raining.
🙂 Be certain your tire tread has been measured and the sidewalls checked for cracks. The drive belt should be inspected and drivebelt tension checked. We do not have the liberty of a friendly chase vehicle with a warm trailer to pick you up in the event of bike trouble. In addition, please ask them to check your spoke tension on the wheels for loose spokes and the wheels for being straight and true. Also, please get the battery checked. Any battery that is 5 years or older should be replaced. Every ride I’ve been on has involved some sort of bike trouble, so let’s all do what we can to be prepared. Thank you and, like all of you, I’m looking forward to a great ride.
5 Weeks to go: This is getting to be fun, now. We are getting wound up. People are now getting worried about different things. Our greatest fears are the unknown. Perhaps some of you have been dropped from a group or left behind, belittled because you have a small bike or lack experience. Terrified because you were made to ride with bullies.
Here’s what you need to understand. First off, you have Ride Captains
who are the bomb. We have been there, done that and ridden in every situation
there ever was. Second, we love you and care about you. Our job is to
see you there safely and we know exactly how to do it. We will protect
you and teach you.
You will leave this ride a far better rider than you came in. Depending
on conditions, you may be challenged as a rider, but we will help you.
What you need to do is read every word we post and take it to
heart. If we ask for information, it’s because we need to know. We will
tell you when to get up and when to ride, where to stop for gas and
where to eat. You will have the time of your lives, because we have
planned it all out.
We will be giving you instruction on
how to prepare, how to pack, how to ride and what to bring. Please humor
us and play along. It’s imperative that everyone follow directions
without question and trust your leadership.
This is not a
huge deal, as we only have 2 mornings and 2 full days of riding. We also
have 2 nights of parties on the way. There are thousands of people
following our adventure and you are part of a very special group, with
an admirable mission.
Don’t bring any gas cans. We’re not crossing the Mojave desert. 🙂
We’ll be posting photos showing how to pack your bike and
giving you exercises to do with your bike so you are prepared when we
hit the road.
That said, it will be a good idea to
practice some highway riding. We will have a short stretch of
Interstate, but it will be near the end of the ride. Mostly, it will be
rural 2 lane scenic highways.
While we need to be very
clear that there is no drinking while we are riding and this includes
our parties at the Harley Dealers, once we park the bikes, fun is on
your own. All we ask is that your fun doesn’t affect your ability to
ride the next morning. Please don’t break the chandeliers. 🙂
There are a LOT of Ride Captains involved. We love you and can’t wait to ride with you. Thank you for being part of this great adventure. Oh, I forgot. Woot! 😁
Time to talk about packing for the trip. This is how I started on my first Women’s Freedom Ride in 2017. I had a Fat Boy, which is a soft tail. I bought the large Harley luggage bag and the medium size bag.
I had to carry 2 weeks of clothing, a coffee pot and a spare helmet for a potential passenger.
As you can see, this puts a lot of weight up high on the bike. Riding solo for the first time on an overnight trip, I tipped over at a gas stop. Fortunately, people came to help me.
Although I had learned to lift my bike upright from a tipover, I
was not prepared for the additional weight, which was also leveraged to
be far heavier when tipped.
First lessons: Put the heavy
stuff down low. Whatever is up high will make it far too easy to tip.
Next, load up and ride all over in the next few weeks to become
accustomed to how your bike will feel and handle, because it will be a
Next, be certain that your stuff is very
secure. Try to pull it off after it’s strapped on, because gravity,
vibration and bumps will be doing that for you. Find your luggage
weaknesses now and learn to secure your stuff.
don’t bring stuff you won’t need. We’re only on the road less than a
week. Allow LOTS of extra room in your luggage, because you’ll be buying
tee shirts, hats, clothing and antique bird cages. You’ll need room for
So, pack up, load your stuff with rocks and start practicing.
Rain Gear–great discussion. First, don’t go too cheap if you don’t have to. We will be riding, even if it rains. This may mean that we end up in heavy rain, as it’s not always possible or safe to pull over in the event the rain comes up while we’re on the road.
much anything will keep you dry for a short sprinkle while sitting
still, even a blue tarp from the closeout store. But think about a
downpour at 65 mph. The wind will rattle the fabric and the seams will be tested.
Be sure to select a coat size that will fit over your leather
jacket, as the weather often cools during rain. I recently discovered
that my summer rain jacket doesn’t fit over my heavy winter coat. Oops.
Next, the pants, oh, yes, the pants from Hell. They all look good
on a hanger, but check the ease of getting into them. My first pair were
a 10 minute project to put on. Now, I have a pair with zippers all the
way up to the waist. This mean they don’t get caught on my boots
slipping into them and I can put them on quickly.
Pants that take a long time to put on my mean that you’re soaked to the skin by the time you’re wearing them, which only serves to keep you wet, even when the rain stops.
Last thing, possibly most important–visibility. Get BRIGHT colors and lots of reflective area.
Here’s how you do it. Take a photo of the gear without the flash. Then, turn the flash on and take a second photo. When you compare the two pictures, your choices can be clearer.
The Color Purple
Our official color for all WFR events is purple. Jazz dyes her hair purple, we get our nails done purple, we wear purple bandanas and also tie them to our bikes. This enables us to show that we are a unified group and helps us find our bikes. 🙂 Walmart sells purple bandanas for a buck apiece, but in my wide travels across the country, purple bandanas are not in vogue at every store.
At any rate, please stock up on purple.
3 weeks to go and we’ll be asked, “Will we ride in the rain?”. Our answer, “We have a schedule and we ride”.
This is a more detailed analysis of riding in the rain.
So how do you learn how to ride in the rain? Great question. First off, no one looks out the window, sees a downpour and says, “What a great day! Let’s go ride motorcycles”. A “cruiser” class bike is built so you can leave home, cruise around and go home that night. Luggage has to be strapped to the bike, exposed to the elements. A “touring” bike has lots of hard, waterproof, locking compartments and is designed for long travels involving overnight stays. Generally, you’ll learn to ride in rain when you get caught in it. 🙂 I know, it sounds dumb, but it’s true. First thing, everything in your luggage should be in plastic bags. That way, the luggage gets wet, but the contents don’t. Next, you need to have rain gear. Well, duh. OK, you not only need to have it, you need to be able to get it on and off easily and quickly. You’ll find that your boots will not slide easily into the pant legs. They’ll snag and stick and you’ll cuss. It’s critically important that you learn to put your rain gear on in the comfort of your living room, so you know how it works, how to secure it and fit it to your little body. Here’s the real secret to riding in the rain and rain gear. You have to put rain gear on BEFORE you ride. There is no such thing as pulling over to put it on. First off, you’ll be killed when you get run over on the shoulder of the road and, if not, you’ll be soaked to the skin before you get your gear on, anyway. What you’ll discover is that putting on rain gear dissipates rain clouds. Just as sure as you put it on, it won’t rain. But failure to put it on often angers the Rain Goddess, who will show you why you should have. 🙂 My first experience riding in the rain was in my second week of riding. I had an appointment to get some work done to my newly-acquired bike at a dealer 50 miles away. It was a simple job and could be done while I waited. The forecast called for rain. I almost called to change the date and then said to myself that I would have to learn to ride in rain and the only way I would do that was to ride in it. Off I went. There was no rain, but as soon as I arrived, it started to sprinkle ever so lightly. I wandered over to the clothing section and said, “So, you got anything for rain outfits?” I got all fixed up. Bike got done, no rain yet, but the clouds looked threatening. I put on the Harley brand rain gear and headed home. As soon as I turned on to the highway home, the sky unzipped and torrential rain ensued. Not just rain, but strong, gusting winds, blowing me sideways. I barely knew how to ride, much less handle this. I’d been sold a cute little “salad bowl” helmet. It was a real helmet, but offered no protection for my face or ears. It felt like metal darts were hitting my face. My glasses got splattered with rain drops, as did the windshield. Basically, I was now blind, except for finding the outside lines on the road. I was riding about 45 mph and doing my best to stay upright and in the lane. I was surprised that the bike held the road well. There was no skidding or slipping. Of course, I was easy on the gas and the brakes, especially the front brake. I gained confidence as I rode. The bike was performing wonderfully and I was doing a great job handling the side wind. My face was another issue, entirely, as it continued to get pummeled with darts. I tensed up as I entered a highway curve. I was barely competent to take those on clear sunny days, but here I was in driving rain. Once again, I couldn’t believe it, but the bike went right around that curve, completely ignoring rain and wind. So, now about 30 miles into this, I was strutting my stuff. I was riding in the rain. Me. I wasn’t just riding in it, I was owning it. I had just realized that the biggest part of riding in the rain was the fear of riding in the rain. I no longer feared it. I was actually enjoying the smell of fresh rain. I was watching the rain come down, much like the joy of sitting on an outdoor porch, watching the rain. Only I was moving and seeing the sights. Trees were flexing in the wind, the ditches in the road were carrying water, as were the streams and creeks. The bike didn’t care. The engine purred confidently, as the fuel and ignition systems were unaffected by moisture. The tires held the road well, even through puddles. The water splashed up around the bike, but never seemed to hit me directly. Soon, just as quickly as it had come up, the rain stopped. I was almost home now. The one thing that ticked me off was that as I was pulling into home, the streets had become dry. My sacred Angel, the Goddess of Safe Biking, had just put me through a valuable riding lesson. I had just passed one of her first tests and earned my first of many quality rider tests–beginning rain riding. As I took off my rain suit, I realized that it had worked wonders and I was as dry as a cheap piece of truck stop toast. And THAT is how I learned to ride in the rain.
This is a more detailed analysis of riding in the rain.