|Heart Mountain, Wyoming|
Our destination was Billings, Montana, for the 27th Annual Women on Wheels® International Ride-In. From Cody, we’d ride only 100 miles, stopping at Heart Mountain Relocation Center, where Japanese citizens were interned after Pearl Harbor. When we rode up to the Billings Hotel and Convention Center, the motorcycle-filled parking lot blazed with color and chrome.
Immediately, the things to love about this WOW® Ride-In Vto happen. We’d barely dismounted our bikes when a male support member approached and began singing the praises of the Olympia jacket that Virginia wore. While we waited in line to register, friends from summers past stepped up to greet and hug us. Squeals and laughter rang out, and small groups of women riders chatted and cooled down throughout the large lobby.
The next three days offered seminars and other motorcycle-related activities on site, area rides, city trolley excursions, and numerous opportunities to re-connect with old friends and to make new ones.
The culminating banquet featured Women on Wheels® awards and video presentations that included a preview of next year’s Ride-In location, Monroe, LA. We also learned that the 2015 event is set for Wisconsin. With the varied regions where the Ride-In is held, attendees have ridden some of the most beautiful and daunting roads in the United States. Another thing to love about the Ride-In.
The Ride Home
Three of the Amigas eased our clutches out before 6:00 AM. Sylvia stayed behind to check out a potential electrical short before getting on the road. Assured it was not a problem that would affect her Goldwing’s running, she took off 90 minutes behind us to meet up at our destination in Pocatello, ID.
As Laurie, Virginia, and I rode along the interstate, speed limit 75, we observed the Montana Department of Transportation has a way with words. Flashing, overhead digital signs aimed to keep us safe: “205 Road Deaths in 2012 -- 75% cent unbuckled.” “Plan to live; Buckle up. Arrive Alive.”
Dimpled green-and-gold hills back-drop ranches and farms where the main houses nestle beneath stands of trees. Outbuildings may match like a Fisher-Price toy farm set. Sometimes they’re bright barn-red or paint-peeled, washed-out or bare wood. Beyond the homesteads, surrounding mountain ranges: the Absaroka, Crazy, Bear Tooth, Tobacco Root, and Pioneer, rise to meet the sky. Sandwiched between the road and the Yellowstone River, railroad tracks carry lengthy processions of boxcars east and west.
Amid nature’s beauty, we see evidence of man’s presence and less beautiful effect on the land. Wastelands of rusted-out farm and construction machinery and old cars and trucks intrude on the landscape. So do small colonies of washed-out, permanent mobile homes that have seen much better, shinier days. Abandoned farmhouses stand on their last cornerstone in overgrown, neglected fields.
In southwest Idaho, I observe a crop duster gliding through the Carolina blue sky. I enjoy the beauty of its movement over the amber fields then am pulled into reality as it swoops low and a chemical odor fills the air, overpowering the natural scents.
There’s no such thing as a curmudgeonly motorcyclist. It’s a rule in the unwritten Code of The Road. Another is to acknowledge other riders. We may extend a hand or give a wave or a nod in passing. We will chat each other up at gas stations and rest stops. “Where ya’ from? Where ya’ goin’? Where ya’ been?”
At one refueling stop in Idaho, a motorcyclist approached me. “Oh, California!” he said, checking my license plate. “We’re from Minnesota. My wife is kind of a novice and this is her first long ride. She’s doing great! I’m so proud of her.” His wife moved from the gas pumps and parked her bike. She came toward us, a broad smile on her face.
“I hear this is your first long ride and you’re doing great!” I said, smiling back at her. She put her arms out and came in for a hug. Perfect strangers, connected by our bikes and our love of riding.
|Sylvia, 6 AM in Pocatello|
At Pocatello, the four Amigas split and go two by two. Virginia and Sylvia head south on I-15 toward Salt Lake City to travel through Las Vegas and home to southern California. They meet up with monsoon rains that pull them off the road to wait out the downpour. What follows is debilitating heat coupled with humidity.
|Laurie, 6:05 AM in Pocatello|
Laurie and I go west into central Oregon to get to the south coast. We ride comfortably, a 500-mile day through the mountains on US 26 through John Day and on to Prineville for the night. For our final chilly morning departure, we layer up, knowing that we will wear most of these clothes all day.
Everyone arrives home safely. The southern California women are welcomed home by blistering heat. We Oregon women refuel at home in high winds that make it difficult to stand erect.
|The Amigas at Jackson Hole, WY|
The roads, the places, the people, the hardships, the beauty, the memories are all part of the riding experience and adventure. Now that we're home, it’s time to start thinking about the next big ride.
~ xoA ~