Become a Biker Chick

Dream and Believe

It all starts with a dream. If you want to become a free riding, skilled and confident Biker Chick, you first have to dream that you can. More specifically, you must dream that you have. See yourself through your own eyes on the open road on that bike, feel the wind and the warmth of the sun on your cheeks.

Next, reinforce that image by cutting out photos of bikes or other women on them or with them. Post those photos on your walls or mirror. See them, visualize them and believe them.

I bought my first Harley before I had any business riding it. I worked through it and spent 5 months riding all winter before I had the chance to take the class. Always, always take the class. I said at the beginning that I wanted to ride mine to Sturgis, 550 miles away. I had 10 months to prepare.

Learn to ride a day’s ride. Traveling by motorcycle involves more stops than in a car. Using the Women’s Freedom Ride formula is as follows. Put gas in your bike the night before. Get up at 5:30 or 6am. Get yourself ready, pack your bags and your room. Load your bike and have it ready to roll by 7am. Eat breakfast and it’s KSU (that’s Kickstands Up) at 7:30. Ride about 135 miles or so and stop for gas. It will be 9:30 or so. Take 30 minutes to relieve yourself and drink a bottle of water. Water is important because the wind really dehydrates you.

10am, back on the bike, ride another 135 miles. It is now just before noon and time to fill the bike and have a sitdown lunch. You have ridden 4 hours and covered 270 miles. At 1pm, back on the bike stop at 2:30. Another break and another bottle of water, besides the glass of water you drank at lunch. Ideally, you can cover 400 to 500 miles in a day using this as a basic riding template. More to come later.

I never thought I would do such a crazy thing

I drove a car on a trip. Yes, really, I drove a car. First time this year that I’ve traveled by car. I’ve logged 23,000 miles on motorcycles in the last 12 months through Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, South Dakota, Minnesota and, of course, Nebraska. It’s easy to social distance when you’re the only one on the bike. 🙂 The motels were nearly empty and I hit restaurants and bars during off times.

But, I digress. This trip would take me to St. Louis for Christmas. I had a sniffle at Thanksgiving, so it was me and the kittens at home for that holiday. Here you can see the St. Louis skyline, complete with the arch and the ferris wheel. The wheel changes colors and patterns in a non-stop light show.

My 450 mile trip starts out the week before, having the George Witt Service Team give my car a complete inspection. It was a good thing, since one of the rear brakes was about to implode. Got that fixed, new wiper blades and an annual maintenance with good motor oil. They also found that my tires were too thin for the weather. So, I bought new tires that I knew would handle glare ice better than any other. Snow would be a piece of cake.

Two days before, I hand washed and detailed the car. She was ready for the car show. The next day, it snowed. So, I started my trip the following morning, on city streets covered with a light coating of Nebraska slush. I was only 5 miles out of the city when I ran out of slush and the roads were pretty dry, but my lovely car was covered with crud. From here, it was only an occasional segment of black ice. My winter driving experience taught me to disengage the cruise when on ice and to watch for it going under an overpass, on an intersection due to cross traffic or from the shade of trees close to the road. Any Mom can tell you that cross traffic puts down a mess on a clean road, just like foot traffic does to a clean kitchen floor.

After 50 miles, I turned off on Interstate 29 and that was the end of the ice. My little Acura TL is a great car. It’s small, has a very powerful V6 and takes tires rated to 160 mph. Set the cruise, put on my riding music and relax. That’s the first problem. Turn the steering wheel an inch and we’ve just changed lanes. This is a super handling sports sedan and is really fun to drive, but she’s like taking a Jack Russell terrier on a walk. She has to be all over the place all at once, all the time. I’m not used to this. My motorcycles run a nice straight line. Think of riding a bicycle. It just goes straight unless you have some input on the handlebars. So, I begin to get used to how this little race car handles.

I’m enjoying the super quiet ride. It’s the day before Christmas and I was on the road at 6:30 am. There’s hardly any truck traffic and I’m very happy to see that the truckers are able to take the time off. I hope most of them are home with their families. I’ve got a display that shows me how far I’ve traveled, how long I’ve been driving, my average speed and my miles per gallon. Press one more button and it tells me about how far I can go on the remaining gas I have in the tank. I will only need one fuel stop and I can do that any time on the route, as I’m only 50 miles short of making it on one tank.

Due to Covid and traveling on Christmas eve, I wanted to avoid a lunch stop at a crowded restaurant. I packed a package of cashews and some home made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. It was a nice change to be able to snack on nuts while driving, as this stuff tends to blow away in 70 mph winds on a bike. Once again, just like the terrier, my car didn’t like diverting my attention to tip back the nuts while driving. She keeps my attention on the road. For the record, I never text or talk while driving or riding. Never. I don’t even read incoming texts. The phone is for music. As I expected, my leg started to go to sleep and my bottom hurt eventually. My little Harley Soft tail Deluxe starts to cause discomfort almost right away, but I learn to overcome it. My Honda Goldwing is like riding on a Barca lounger in the back of a Cadillac. It is the most comfortable vehicle for me. So, suck it up, cupcake, it was 6 degrees F. when I left town and I had enough presents to fill the trunk. The bike is out of the question.

The music plays on as I roll along with light, courteous traffic. I have 500 songs in my biker play list. I run the gamut from Chuck Berry to Molly Hatchet to the classics of Mozart and Beethoven. I never know what will come up and life is good on the road. I arrive at my hotel. The parking lot is empty and I find there are only about 6 guests in the whole place.

I had a great time with family and leave the morning after Christmas. We didn’t go anywhere and it was a very small group. A heartwarming trip.

I am on the road at 5:30am and I still have the gas in my tank from the trip out. So, one gas stop is all I need. I am now accustomed to handling the terrier and we have bonded, except for my bottom. 🙂 I set the cruise at the speed limit and make only one stop. Gas, bathroom, a bag of nuts and a bottle of water. Smoke the tires to get back on the road. I arrived home just a few minutes over 6 hours for a 450 mile trip. My car trip for the year.

The Danger of Planning an Overnight Ride

November in Nebraska ushers in the end of long motorcycle rides. Cold weather limits riding adventures. A cold front can create danger from exposure or accidents from ice and snow. Prudent bikers learn a little about meteorology, or at least the value of consulting several forecasters prior to putting up the kickstand.

All I needed to see was high temps in the 70’s and no rain. I am ready to go. Woohoo. The wind was supposed to be blowing out of the south, that just means the temps will stay warm. I plan to ride west across Kansas for 300 miles, then south to Dodge City to make a 522 mile day. Settling in at the Long Branch with Miss Kitty and Marshall Dillon awaits. Careful planning ensures a tail wind going home. How great.

The wind was substantial on the way out. I am riding west with a south wind, so I am getting buffeted from the side. I’m riding my Honda Goldwing 1800 and it is a marvel of engineering. When the bike gets hit with a blast of wind from the left, she leans into it on her own. You could almost ride this bike with no hands in gusty winds. That was in the dark.

As the sun comes up on the prairie of Nebraska, it brings the real wind. Residents of this state understand the wind. It blows all the time. In fact, the wind is only noticeable when it stops. Then people say, “wow, there’s no wind”.

So, as the day goes on, it seems the wind gets stronger. I reach the far west point on my trip around 10:30am. I had already covered 300 miles. This red Goldwing loves to run. Set the cruise and hang on. As I turn to ride directly south, I now get to switch from a stiff side wind of about 20 mph to a straight on head wind. I am headed for Colby, Kansas, made famous by John Denver. The wind now wants to stop the bike, or at least hold it up. No such luck. A Goldwing has a 6 cylinder engine that can pull a camper if you want. A piddly little 40 mph wind is no match. In fact, with the cruise set, you can’t really judge the wind at all.

I ride south and enjoy the scenery. I roll into Colby and marvel at small town Kansas. Many homes are well kept and the town looks nice. Shortly after I leave, the road angles back east and the wind gains an advantage. It starts to buffet the bike and I feel like I’m in a wrestling match. Yes, the bike leans into the wind, but I have to pull it back up again. This is done by either pushing on one side of the handlebars or pulling on the other side. Back and forth, I’m getting a physical upper body workout like I was on a TV infomercial.

Then, the road turns back straight east. I am tired now and the wind has gained strength. It must be 40 mph. Passing another vehicle really pushes the bike every which way. I can see the other vehicles swaying in the wind and wandering back and forth on the road. Now comes the test of resolve for the biker. You are miles from home and there’s nothing you can do but keep riding. Stopping only makes it harder and means you may end up riding in the dark. I stop for gas and the wind wants to tip over the bike. I have to hold on to the bike just to put gas in it.

Back on the road and I am blessed that the route goes back straight into the wind again. I am a little over an hour and a half from Dodge City and I need a break. I find a wonderful little town of Ness, Kansas. Right there on main street is the Mother Lode of comfort, the Cactus Club bar and grill, with a parking place right in front.

I had a great burger and fries, sat and relaxed. My strength and attitude replenished, I got back on the Wing. We seemed to fly the rest of the way and arrived in Dodge City. I got checked into my hotel and got on the bike to explore. Later, I found a really nice Italian restaurant. Not a pizza place, but a real Italian restaurant. When you see several choices of dishes with veal, you know you’re there. Great meal at the Bella Italia in the old street frontage of Dodge City.

I can’t remember being more tired after a day of riding. 522 miles in brutal winds had taken a toll on me and I still had to ride 380 miles home in the morning.

Part 2 of “The Danger of Planning an Overnight Ride”.
I had just ridden 522 miles in 20 to 40 mph winds on my Honda Goldwing. I had eaten a substantial dinner early and flopped into bed before 6pm.
I had 380 miles to go to get home and wanted a very early start. I did not sleep well, which is unusual for me.
I got up at 3am, started a pot of my famous rocket coffee, began getting ready and packing my stuff. The hotel had “grab and go” breakfast bags all ready, so I took one back to my room.
A banana, perfect for potassium, a muffin and a container of yogurt. Couldn’t be better for me. I relaxed and readied my body for combat with the wind.
When I carried my bag out to the bike, the wind was blowing hard and my heart sank. This is one of the main dangers of an overnight motorcycle ride–you are a full day’s (or more) ride away from home, you have to get home and the weather sucks.
Suck it up, cupcake, you are the one who wanted to take advantage of warm temperatures in November in Kansas. I put the bike in gear and rode out. I took a different way out of Dodge City and discovered an entire Casino District! Flashing lights, ringing bells. fortunes being lost and I’d missed the whole thing. Well, now I have another reason to ride again to Dodge City, Kansas.
I take the highway that will lead northeast out of town, to help me better deal with a strong south wind. This is similar to tacking a sailboat at an angle to the wind. I actually felt pushed at times. The aerodynamics of a Goldwing are very helpful in the wind.
I ride past the airport and a large manufacturing plant, probably food, human or animal. These are the last of the lights of the city. Traffic is absent, the sky is overcast and it is dark. I am very glad that I have great lighting and I always ride within the speed limit. I’m wary of deer or other wildlife. I love riding with music and at night, I put the music on the powerful speakers. The idea is that the racket will warn critters that humans are coming and they will remain still, so I don’t hit them. Does it work? I don’t know, but I gotta believe in something. 🙂
In the pitch black of the night, I can see red lights, lots of them, off in the distance. They are spread out along the horizon. It’s the airport, I tell myself. No, airports don’t use red lights. Airports are blue lights. Fair enough, it’s a very long freight train, then, I tell myself. After careful study, I realize that there are no side lights on trains of any sort. What on earth?
As I ride on, I don’t seem to be approaching them that fast, but they stretch as far as I can see in either direction. I focus on a group of lights and realized that some of them just went out. It wasn’t a blink, they just went off. Soon, I realize that others are coming on.

I’m pretty sure the Martians haven’t landed, but I can’t figure this out. Well, I finally broke the code when I had to ride through them. This was a Wind Farm and these were wind generators. Hundreds of them and each was required to have a solid red light on top. As I passed by them, one would disappear behind another, hence the lights going off and then back on as others appeared.

Mystery solved and the Goldwing hummed quietly on through the night. I was still wrestling the wind, but it was mostly manageable, except when the road turned straight east, putting the wind squarely at my side. The eastern sky began to turn pink to welcome another day. I had ridden this road many times in the past, as this was my route to Las Vegas. Every fall, I attended the second largest convention week in Vegas, Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week. I knew every little town and the country around it. I’d traveled by car, motorhome, travel trailer and motorcycle. I enjoyed my music collection and the picture man in my brain kept me entertained with images from previous trips. I love riding solo.

The bike has everything, including navigation. All I had to do at Dodge City was select “home” and away we go. Naturally, I had a route in mind and, as anyone who has ever used navigation before knows, the computer is clueless as to your own intentions.

Part 3 of “The Danger of Planning an Overnight Ride”.

The sunlight had now ramped up the strong south wind, which was whipping at over 40 mph. The route in my head was on the road(s) that took me diagonally with the wind in a northeasterly direction. In this part of Kansas, there are roads going everywhere and they are not always straight. Traveling back roads, as opposed to Interstates, involved making turns and connecting at junctions.

As I said before, I’d traveled all of these roads many times. The problem with that is pretty much everything I saw was familiar. At Great Bend, Kansas, my navigation told me to turn left on to Highway 281. The navigation was programmed for the fastest way, but the horrendous south winds were not part of the program. I turned left and the wind was right at my back. Oh, the relief. I was now rolling along being pushed by the wind. Great glory.

About 7 miles up the road, I came to a horrifying realization. Yes, I was traveling north, but that meant it was taking me many miles away from angling with the wind. What did this mean? I would eventually have to ride directly sideways to the wind for a long way. I was totally worn out at this point and the idea of having to expend more energy keeping the bike upright and out of the ditch was depressing. I had 3 choices; continue riding north and pay a heavy price when I had to turn back to the east, turn around and ride back into the wind or catch the next road that would put my back on to the northeasterly path.

My choices could be summed up as, bad, worse and terrible. I chose bad, take the next right turn and suck it up with a side wind until I could get back on my planned course. I finally got to the turn and almost got to practice my motocross skills. I thought the first gust of wind was going to put me in the ditch. A Goldwing is an amazing bike in the wind. When a side wind hits it, it leans immediately into the wind. That lean causes it to steer in that direction. All the rider has to do is push on the handlebars to countersteer the bike back upright.

The leaning of the bike and the physical effort to countersteer was taking a toll on the muscles in my lower back and the upper body and arms. I’m an old lady, well past retirement age and this is no spring time in the garden ride. This is more of a full workout supervised by Helga, the head mistress of pain. Fortunately, there was very little traffic and few curves. It was just hilly central Kansas.

I finally arrived back on course and it was heaven. I paid close attention to my route this time and filled up with gas. The trip was far easier and less eventful until I turned on to Interstate 70 headed straight east. The wind was brutal and now I have encountered my first bout with a tractor trailer rig. The air directly behind the big trucks was super turbulent. It was like going a few rounds with Mike Tyson. The wind was buffeting me hard from every direction all at once. I rolled off the throttle to try to ease up the effects and it didn’t seem to help. There was another truck gaining on me.

OK, we’re going to pass the truck. The left lane was on the downwind side of the truck and it wasn’t too bad until I hit the wave of wind pressure off the front of the truck. I was steering the bike to counter the wind and after I got past the truck, it wasn’t too bad. Now, I was just back to dealing with a very strong side wind. I finally got to my exit, which would take me straight north for over a hundred miles.

I got on that road and could have ridden right into Canada. It was smooth and silky riding. As I rode 80 mph, I was passing the shadows of the clouds above, but I wasn’t passing them by much. Near as I could tell the winds aloft were over 60 mph. There were curves that refreshed my memory of riding with punishing side winds, but each challenge was short and then I was back headed north.

I stopped for gas with about 140 miles to go, 50 of that would be straight east on Interstate 80 with heavy traffic. I took a break, ate a banana for potassium and drank a large bottle of water. My body was hurting. This was the very essence of the danger of an overnight motorcycle ride. It was Sunday morning and I had to be at work the next day, no excuses, no sick days, no time off. Had to be there. I was being challenged by the Goddess of Motorcycling.

This was not the first time I’ve ridden in these conditions. On the Women’s Freedom Ride (WFR) of 2017, we rode down a canyon on Interstate 80 in Wyoming. The wind was exactly the same, pummeling us from every which way, seemingly all at once. There were 35 of us women bikers all in formation, all fighting the wind with every bit of our strength and riding skills. I’ve been on 4 WFR rides and they can challenge you to the breaking point.

I rested a bit, then fired up the bike and got on for my last segment of the trip. The next 90 miles was easy and pleasant. I wished there was some time warp or that Scotty could just beam me home. Soon, I was at the I-80 interchange and made my turn for the final segment. 50 miles to go and the bell for round 15 of the heavyweight fight had just rung.

I was no sooner on the Interstate than I was fighting it out with the truckers. I love truckers and always treat them with respect. They seem to reply in kind. The wind turbulence was unbelievable. Passing a truck pushed my bike all over the road. This was like wrestling with an anaconda.

I was not afraid, but I was challenged to about my limit. I never went off the road or crossed lanes, but this really wasn’t where I wanted to be right about now. I rode 30 miles this way, then I turned off on to Highway 6 for the final 20 miles in to town. There were a lot of trees next to the old road that gave me a lot of relief. In addition, there were no trucks. This last segment allowed me to relax some and just ride.

I arrived home shortly after noon. I was physically beaten to a pulp, but I was safe. I’d ridden 922 miles in two days in awful conditions. Well, the weather was warm. 🙂

Would I ever do this again? In a heart beat. I was on a bike. Nothing more to say. Ride safe, friends.

How I became a Biker Chick

Part 1

It was four years ago this weekend that I bought my first Harley for open road riding. I had lost my spouse of 41 years to cancer 8 months earlier and I believed I needed something that would help me look forward, instead of always looking back and thinking about what I don’t have.

This model is called a Fatboy. It’s stripped down and much lighter than the big open road models. I could hold it up.

When I asked if I could take it for a test ride, they said yes. (I think they were idiots). Yes, I had my motorcycle endorsement, but I really had no business on that bike at that time.

I bought it from Dillon’s in Omaha, so I had to ride it 50 miles home. I remember the terror in me when I encountered a curve in the highway at 60 mph. It took a long time to overcome that feeling and learn to ride properly.

A week later, I had to return the bike to Dillon’s for some add ons. It looked like rain and I was going to cancel, but thought I might was well learn to ride in the rain if I was going to be serious.

It was just starting to sprinkle when I got there and I asked if they sold rain outfits. I got all suited up.

I got on the bike when it was ready and took off. About 20 miles into the ride, the sky unzipped and the wind blew with fury. I had a half helmet and the blowing rain stung my face like darts. I thought the wind would blow me off the road and the windshield got wet and so did my glasses.

I could barely see, but there was no place to pull over. I was surprised at how well the bike tires gripped the road. I rode on at about 45 mph and the cars behind me were very patient. The rain and wind continued until I was almost back to Lincoln. The last few miles it had stopped completely and when I made the last turn, the street was dry.

Somebody upstairs saw to it that I had a good start to being able to handle things on that bike.

Part 2

September of 2016 marked a major change in my life. I was newly alone on my own and had just taken delivery on a 2004 Harley Davidson Fat Boy motorcycle. I had no business riding that bike, as I had no training on a big open road motorcycle.

I needed something to help me look forward and make friends. I bought the bike and joined the Frontier Harley Owner’s Group (HOG).

Within days, they had a big ride for the 9/11 anniversary. We would leave Frontier Harley Davidson and ride around Branched Oak Lake, then down to the State Capitol building. We got our photo taken in front of the statue of Abe Lincoln on the west side. That part of the ride was close to 50 miles.

I had no idea how to ride the bike, much less ride in a group of over 50 Harleys. I watched what others did and tried my best to not cause an accident. I was amazed at the skill of the riders and they made me feel welcome and part of the group.

I parked among the others and after the photo, we rode through downtown and met for burgers at a nice bar. It was a lot of fun that day and I looked forward to being an active member.

On this day, I started a new chapter. I was having fun (most of the time, when I wasn’t terrified) riding a Harley and beginning to make new friends. Life was good.

I would like to offer special thanks to those members of the Hog Club who welcomed me and accepted me as a part of the biker community.

Part 3

I lost my soul mate of 41 years when I was 69 years old. After months of grief, I was determined to find something in my life that would help me look forward. I needed something that excited me and helped me make friends.

So, what else could I do but buy a Harley Davidson? LOL I had experience on bicycles and small motorcycles, but never a big open road bike. I found a 2004 Harley Fat Boy that was pearl white.

The day that I rolled her out of the dealership in September, I declared that I would ride a motorcycle to the Sturgis Bike Rally, only 540 miles from my home.

I rode every day and began to bond with this bike. I had a lot to learn and had no idea how much that was. Still, I was determined and having fun. I had already been caught in a frog-strangler rain storm, so I knew I could handle that. I had ridden in the dark a few times, so that’s new.

I rode out 25 miles to Branched Oak lake, a beautiful recreation area. I stopped at the Marina for a nice break and started home in the dark. As I left the park, I heard a growl noise from the back. Old Harleys make all sorts of noises and I was still new to this one. As I headed down the highway, the bike made more and more noise and then felt like it didn’t want to roll so much. I pulled off on to the side of the road and another biker behind me stopped with me.

“You’re shooting sparks out the back of your bike!”, he exclaimed. I looked at the back hub and sure as could be, the large bolts that hold the rear drive belt pulley had come loose and backed out until they were hitting the frame. The bike was broke and going nowhere. I thanked the rider and he went on, as there was nothing that could be done.

I was now helpless, defenseless and stuck. It was just me, a broken bike and my favorite coyotes on a dark country road. I used my phone to call a tow truck. They have no way to bring in a bike. I didn’t even know where to tow the bike. They gave me a reference to a guy who does tow bikes. I called him and he said he could do the job, give him a half hour to get ready. I was already a half hour out of town. Great.

A woman in her late 60’s, alone on a dark country road is a nightmare situation. Even worse is being on a motorcycle. A farm dog or angry raccoon might be a serious threat, as I couldn’t even roll up the windows and lock the doors, as I had neither. Well, I do love living in Nebraska, as quite a few people did stop to see if they could help. They were all nice. It was frightening when they stopped and reassuring when we talked.

So, where to tow the bike? I had purchased the bike from the Harley Dealer in Omaha, but that was too far. The Harley Dealer in Lincoln was closed, so I elected to have it towed to my auto repair shop, where I could lock it safely inside for the night.

The tow guy was very nice. He professionally got the bike loaded up and I rode with him. I was now safe and so was the bike.

My love affair with the bike was now seriously in danger. This clearly was not a machine on which I could depend to carry me carefree 540 miles to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. I’d only had it a few weeks. Cue the coyotes and a nice moon.

Part 4

The dealer from whom I bought the used bike was very nice. They sent a trailer to pick up the errant motorcycle and took it back to their service dept. I visited them a few days later. They informed me that it would take time to get the parts and more time to get the bike worked in to the rotation to get the repairs completed. “Two weeks” was their best guess.

I’ve spent my career in auto service and I believe firmly in the bond between owner and machine. When a vehicle owner hates their car, the car hates them back. I’ve seen this too many times and been the victim myself. This Harley has ripped my heart right out of my body. The love affair is over. Just like when your man has cheated on you, it will happen again and again. He can no longer be trusted.

Furthermore, I will not wait two weeks to resume riding. I went directly to my salesman and asked, “So what else have you got?”. He seemed stunned at first, but recovered quickly when he realized I was serious. The bike I had purchased had been modified and probably had too many things changed and taken apart. It was a 2004 with over 30,000 miles on it. I intentionally bought a cheap bike because I wasn’t certain if I would really be a rider. Perhaps I would ride a few times and park it, where it would gather dust.

My house may gather dust, but apparently this was not a risk for any bike I would own. I wanted to ride and do it right now. I was into this, big time. I wanted a passion and in grand fashion, I had discovered it.

I no longer feared getting on a Harley. Several weeks of riding had helped me overcome the basic fear of riding. I still feared many situations on the bike, but getting on it and pressing the start button was not one of them. I wanted to ride every used bike they had to try to find the one that fit me.

I did just that, even the ones with ugly colors. Some of them vibrated and shook like a bucket of bolts when given throttle at certain engine speeds. I was very concerned, but was told that was normal for those models. Fine.

I ultimately selected a beautiful black 2010 Fat Boy with only 10,000 miles on it. She was just traded in by her female owner, who rode a new one home. Oh, yes, she was lovely and had a very loud “Thunder Header” exhaust on her. Holy demons of the dark, she talked and would be the ire of neighbors everywhere. This was a bike that I could ride to the Sturgis Bike Rally, only 10 months away. I traded the broken bike and took possession of my shiny new to me friend.

I rode her 60 miles home, still fearing those highway curves. On this trip, there was no rain, it was sunshine and roses with the loud exhaust as the background music. I rode most days of the week, when the warm October sun kissed my cheeks. The nights were getting colder and the leaves soon began to fall. I had to accept that winter was on its way to Nebraska. I was not ready for that and I refused to accept its approach.

What have you got up your sleeve?

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.

Hot Leg on Soft Tail Deluxe

Also called “roast leg of lamb”

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.

Ride safe and be educated.

The Friction Zone

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.

Part 3

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.

Changing Motorcycles

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.

Riding to the 2019 Women’s Freedom Ride Fall Getaway

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.

Part 2

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.

The art 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.

What group rides teach you that you can’t learn riding alone

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.

You just have to be pushed to do it.