Daymaker - a person who performs acts of kindness with the intention of making the world a better place.
~ David Wagner
, author of Life as a Daymaker; how to change the world by making someone's day ~

DayMaker - any thought, word, or deed that spreads happiness, compassion, or fruitful ideas.
~ Annis Cassells ~

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

M is for Motorcycling Mama

Ms. Ruthie (Mom)
I’d pestered my mom to take a ride on Big Red for years. On her 79th birthday she said, “Oh, I’ll ride when I’m 80!” 

When the next year rolled around, I made a special trip from Oregon to spend her birthday with her and give her that ride. It was time for Mom to walk her talk.

The morning of July 5, 2000, dawned much cooler than any of us expected. But at 6:30 a.m. on her 80th birthday, Mom showed up at my house, as planned. She climbed out of her car and I greeted her, “Hey, Mama! Are you ready to ride?” I moved toward her to give her a hug.

We walked hand-in-hand to the house. “Well, I might as well be,” she said. “Hmmph,” she eyed Big Red, parked at the curb. “Today that motorcycle looks about the size ‘a that little model on my bookcase!”

Our friend Trudy came over to ride with us and to photograph the event. Mom had known her for several years and liked her. And I felt more comfortable having Trudy along -- just in case.

After a bit of conversation over coffee and a Happy Birthday and encouragement call from my sister Reenié, we were ready to ride. I took Mom through the mounting procedure and told her what she needed to do, where she could hold on, and where to put her feet. “Your jobs, Mama, are to just go with the bike and to wave at other motorcyclists.”

Clad in jeans and a denim jacket, she also wore my extra candy apple red helmet. She mentioned feeling “top-heavy” but with a little help from Trudy and me, Mom maneuvered into Big Red’s passenger seat. I connected her helmet cord into the intercom system so we could communicate.

“Okay, I’m on this thing. Let’s go!” she said. After a ride around the block to get the feel of the bike and to practice stopping, we took off to the south of town.
As we traveled west, I heard Mom’s breathy voice over the intercom. “Annis! How many pounds will this bike hold?”

“Enough, Mama. You don’t have to worry about that.”

Trudy came up even with us in the next lane and took photos. We turned north at Buena Vista, passing by sleepy Stockdale High summer school students on their way to classes. Trudy sped ahead to Mimi’s Café, where we would celebrate Mom’s birthday.

As we neared the restaurant, I spotted Trudy. She’d already parked her motorcycle and was ready to capture Mom and me on video. Mama took her job seriously. She waved to Trudy and to another  motorcyclist who turned the corner while we waited for the light.

Once seated inside the restaurant, I asked, “Well how did you like the ride, Mom?”
“It was great -- just like riding in a rumble seat of an old Ford. If you know what a rumble seat is.”

After breakfast, Mom became a little cocky. She quipped that she could just run alongside the bike. We laughed and, once geared up, she remounted, ready to go. When we finally arrived at the house, we’d clocked 19.2 miles according to Big Red's odometer.

“I’m glad I did it. It was fun, and I’d do it again sometime,” she said once she stood on firm ground. I unbuckled her helmet, but she pulled it off herself and said, “I’m old hat at this now.”

I will never forget that day. My chest swelled with overwhelming pride and gratitude for the trust she’d placed in me. Tears formed in my eyes and I threw my arms around my mother. All I could get out was “Thanks, Mom. Happy Birthday.” She looked at me, and I knew that she understood everything I couldn’t say.
~ xoA ~

Sunday, October 26, 2014

L is for Larnach Castle

The town of Dunedin was the third destination our New Zealand motorcycle tour itinerary. I remember the morning at breakfast when our tour guides asked us to choose our dinner entrée for that evening’s meal. “Prawns or chicken?” We’d be dining and staying over at Larnach Castle. I’m usually a happy hosteler when it comes to lodgings on the road, but once I knew we’d be in a castle, I envisioned the palaces of movies I’d seen and imagined myself there. I ordered prawns and Judy ordered chicken. 

That day’s ride took us to New Zealand’s only castle, built in the late 1800's atop a huge hill on the Otago Peninsula, overlooking Dunedin. 
Internet photo

Our route wound through the heart of the city, where we stopped for a bit of sight-seeing, including the southernmost Harley Davidson shop in the world.

Then, to reach Larnach Castle, we crossed a bridge to the peninsula and circled around the edge of the harbor for 9km.  Finally, we traversed 3km of narrow, twisty roads back up into the hills. It seemed to take forever; there were no sign of the castle. “Where the heck IS the castle?” I said out loud into my helmet, but I kept going in hopes I was on the right road.  What a relief when Larnach came into view, every bit as spectacular as I’d imagined.

After years of neglect and disrepair, a couple, the Barkers, bought Larnach Castle in 1967 and restored it. They added a lodge and converted the stables into guest accommodations. Assigned to the Sea Room, which was situated on a corner of the Lodge, we had a terrific view of the sunset beyond the hills of the city. The next morning we were delighted by the pink rays and clouds as the sun rose over the water. 

Along with our friend Donna, we took a quick tour of the gardens and the castle, going to the highest roof for a 360° panorama of the whole area.

Internet photo
Dinner was served in the castle dining room.  Everything, except for all of us in our motorcycle gear, was very formal. There were finger bowls on the table for those of us who had ordered prawns.  We sure needed them. The shrimp were still in their shells (with heads on!), and the dish was served with some fancy sauce splashed over the shells. We didn’t get to taste much of the sauce, but those finger bowls were put to good use. Judy’s choice, the pesto and sun-dried tomato stuffed chicken breast, was far neater.
Internet photo of Stables

Though there were stories of the castle being haunted, we found no evidence and spent a peaceful night tucked into the Sea Room.

Breakfast was served on the ground floor of the stables the next morning. Among wrought-iron-and-wood conveyances,tables and chairs were set up on the cobblestone flooring, and the whole affair was a lot less messy than dinner.

Did I feel like a princess? Not really, but staying overnight at Larnach Castle was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

~ xoA ~

Friday, October 24, 2014

K is for Kansas

 Kansas is one long drawn out state when traveling through on one’s way to the curvy tree-lined roads of Arkansas. Between the flat landscape and the stink of the stockyards, crossing Kansas takes forever. Yes, we have the “amber waves of grain,” but there’s not much variety in the view.

My first long-distance ride on Big Red, in 1994, was with my friend Sharon, who rode her pearl white Pacific Coast.  We were on our way to the Women on Wheels® Ride-In, that year in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

One night we stopped over in Dodge City, Kansas. Maybe it was all those western movies that lured us. Remember, the cowboys always had to “get out of Dodge”? Or, it may have been that the AAA tour book write-up, boasting a replica of the old western town, piqued our interest. Dodge City awaited us.

When we rolled into town, we found our motel right next to the stockyard. The stench filled my nostrils and brought tears to my eyes. Wow! The dust, stirred by the hooves of thousands of cattle, filled the atmosphere, nearly choking me. Several minutes after the initial shock to the senses, the odor miraculously subsided.
Internet photo
The old western town looked typical of a movie set. Saloons, stores, a bank, and a number of other buildings lined the main street, a dirt track. We ambled along and came upon a big barn that had been outfitted with a stage and benches and turned into a theatre. A show was about to start, so we hurried in and found aisle seats.

It’s been over 20 years, so I don’t exactly remember the show. But I do know that before too long, we’d both had enough. One of us spotted a nearby side door. Motioning to each other, we decided to slip out that door instead of walking back up through the rows of people on the benches.

We wanted to make a getaway without a big ruckus. As carefully and noiselessly as possible, we stood and eased toward the door, opened it, stepped out, and closed the door with care. But, we’d landed in a small fenced-in field full of cow pies. The cows noticed us and began to move in our direction. There was nothing to do but hustle back inside.

Luckily, that door hadn’t locked behind us. We walked back in to find the show stopped and the audience enjoying our scene and laughing at us city slickers. Red faced, we held our heads high and strode up the aisle and through the crowd to the main doors and outside. Somewhere on the street we found water and washed off our tainted motorcycle boots. It was time for us to mount up and get out of Dodge.
 ~ xoA ~

Saturday, October 18, 2014

J is for Journey Fever

2013 - Sylvia & I warm up our bikes.
We're meeting Laurie & Virginia to head for Billings, MT.
It never fails. Never. Anticipation rises like steam from a boiling tea kettle. Judy and I laugh about my restlessness.  “Journey Fever?” she asks. I own right up to it.

I go to bed, but sleep is short on the night before a big ride. Last-minute rememberings of items to check or to bring cross my mind. And, the first day’s route loops behind closed eyelids. Journey Fever.

Finally asleep, my eyes fly open an hour before time to get up. When I’m about to take off on a big trip, I need no alarm clock. I should try to rest, but in thirty minutes, climb out of bed anyway.

Dressing is quick and easy; I'd laid everything out the night before. Layer by layer, in the order that I will put it on. My black over-the-ankle boots will be the last, right before I head out the door.

A light breakfast, and I am ready to roll. Clutches out. Big Red has been pre-ride-inspected to make sure she’s roadworthy. Her saddlebags and trunk are loaded, and she's turned around to face the garage door so we can ride straight out.

If I’m meeting up with a buddy, I wait to leave so I can be there a few minutes before the appointed time. But, if traveling alone or scheduled to rendezvous at the end of the day, I depart at first light. It’s no problem if I arrive at our destination early, or if I have to wait for my friend somewhere on the road, that’s okay. Because I am ON THE ROAD. The journey has begun.

~ xoA ~

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I is for Impressions

Bill, the carpet cleaner technician, lifted his gaze after 30 minutes spent surveying our floors and dragging in his equipment. He caught a glimpse of Big Red under cover on the patio. “Hey! Whose motorcycle?”
“Mine,” I said, moving right into my proud WingWoman posture.

“That’s a Goldwing!”

“Yep,” I beamed.

Wide-eyed, Bill turned and seemed to size me up. I could see a flash of admiration cross his face as he said, “I could never ride one of those.” Then he went on to talk about the discomfort and uneasiness of being unable to stand flat-footed and hold the bike up when stopped. “Those things are heavy,” he said, nodding at Big Red.

Like many others, Bill didn’t expect to discover that I am a motorcyclist. His surprise has been the typical reaction. Over the last 25 years, countless middle school students, members of my social and service clubs, and strangers on the road have been shocked at this news.

The people we encounter while on a trip ask questions that women riders find hilarious. “Did you ride that thing all the way here!?” and “Where are your men?” are two favorites. When one friend and I stopped for a bite to eat in one of the southern states and the clerk asked where our men were, my friend answered, “Oh, we buried them in the backyard when we built the swimming pool.” That remark got us some weird looks.
Sylvia, Virginia, Laurie, & me - US Hwy 50 in Nevada
Though the number of women riders has increased and women are the fastest-growing group purchasing new motorcycles, many folks retain the stereotype of the “biker babe” decorating the seat behind the man. So they are amazed that a woman can handle her own bike.

And, there’s still that image from biker movies of the rough, tough, burly, tattooed “Hell’s Angel.” 

Once people meet a real motorcyclist, they realize we are everyday, hard-working, fun-loving individuals. It’s just that we are willing to take calculated risks and seek adventure, fun, and new vistas. The freedom of the road calls, and the hum of our engines and wheels soothes. On our motorcycles, we are at one with nature and ourselves.
California Poppy Preserve
 What’s your impression of the motorcyclists you’ve met along the way?
~ xoA ~

Saturday, October 11, 2014

H is for Hustle to Huntsville

When Women on Wheels® announced Huntsville, Alabama, as the location of the 1999 International Ride-In, I began planning. Huntsville was the trip's centerpiece, but Judy and I made it a comprehensive event by visiting family and friends and doing a bit of sight-seeing in the east.

First, I took off on Big Red and saw relatives in Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan. A couple of weeks later, Judy flew out to visit her brother and his family in Chatham, Virginia. I wound up in Lynchburg, 50 miles north of Chatham, where Judy met me at my friend Peggy’s. The three of us took off on the “Hustle to Huntsville” with Peggy’s car and Big Red as our transportation. Judy and Peggy took turns driving the car and riding two-up with me. If it rained, they both rode in the car.

Driving the rural roads of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama was mostly peaceful, except for a few near misses when folks driving autos weren’t good at sharing the road. In many cases, it was more nerve wracking for Judy or Peggy, driving the chase car and able to only watch as errant drivers crowded Big Red’s space. Well, they did honk, yell, and make wild gestures, but I’ll bet those other drivers paid no attention.

We arrived at the Ride-In site with a few stories to tell our roommates, Sylvia and Trudy, from Bakersfield. Sylvia had ridden in from Missouri, where she’d been working. Trudy had just completed the Four Corners, riding to each of the four corners of the U.S. in 21 days.

From the list of possible lodgings available, I’d reserved a cabin that would accommodate five people. It was a peaceful place near the lake, where Trudy did fish, and there were kitchen facilities to have some of our meals in.  Cool evenings, we relaxed and chatted away on the deck, getting to know each other even better.

With three motorcycles, we could all ride up to the main lodge for Ride-In programs, test rides, and general hanging out with friends from all over the country.  The group excursion to Jack Daniel’s country in Lynchburg, Tennessee, found us sweltering in the July heat and humidity. But that’s just part of the deal. The sights, camaraderie, and laughter make up for barely tolerable weather.

I did take BMW’s new touring bike out for a test ride. It was about the same size as Big Red, and seemed like it would be easy enough to handle. I felt comfortable just sitting on it, but when we began to roll and I looked through the curved windshield, I got woozy. Nearly sick to my stomach, I turned around within a mile. “Back so soon?” the surprised-looking salesman asked.

I nodded my head and handed over the keys, “I can’t ride that bike. The windshield’s curved too much for me.” And that was the last time I took any bike for a test ride.

From the first night, when our Georgia friend June rode an Elvis impersonator into the pool party, to the banquet on our final night, that Huntsville Ride-In was one of the best. It was even sweeter to share with best buds.

~ xoA ~

Friday, October 3, 2014

G is for Georgia

Georgia is the birthplace of my long-time love affair with motorcycling and Women on Wheels®. Attending my first Ride-In, held in Dunwoody, changed my life. Inspired by the women I met there, I went on to ride for another 22 years. More about Women on Wheels® and its outstanding women when we come to “W.”

Beth and Sunshine in Bakersfield, April 2006
Georgia was on our minds when my friend Beth and I planned our ride from the Oregon Coast to Athens, Georgia, in 2006. A motorcycling double-header would happen that July: the Women in Motorcycling Conference, followed by the Women on Wheels® Ride-In.   Beth riding Sunshine, her bright yellow Suzuki, and I, on Big Red, made a splash of brilliant color as we sped down the highways and through the small towns along our itinerary. 

In Georgia, we met up with friends from the California Sunblazers WOW® chapter. The next morning some of us nervously anticipated the ride through Atlanta’s notorious tangle of freeways and fearsome traffic on our way to Athens. Shirley, who had honed her riding chops zipping around Los Angeles on two wheels and now rode a sports bike, spoke up, “Just stick with me.”  

We reviewed the route and set out. Moving as a unit, our quartet of riders held on tight and stayed close. It was after noon, as we made our way through the fast, steady flow of vehicles. After we reached the other side of Atlanta and were onto a state highway, Shirley turned into a fast-food chicken restaurant. The parking lot was empty, but the lights were on. We circled the building, parked facing the exit driveway, climbed off our bikes, and removed our helmets. At once, all four of us began talking or screaming, telling what we’d felt and thought. “Did you see that car that…?”

What we didn’t know was that we had grabbed the attention of the young fast-food workers inside. There were no other customers and they must have noticed our four motorcycles ride up. As we walked through the doors, all of them stood at the counter -- smiling big and applauding, some whistling. One young woman yelled, “We ain’t never seen four women ride up on motorcycles before!”  That rousing welcome shifted us from horrified to cavalier, and we swaggered up to order our food.

The motorcycling events turned out to be everything we expected -- riders attended from all over the world; close friends and fellow chapter members, as well buddies from years past, showed up; vendors, activities, and seminars made a great program.

What we didn’t expect became a bonus and an enduring gift. Beth and I were leaving the conference center to return to our hotel when two women walked up to us. “Hi,” one said. “Do you know what’s going on here?” Nodding with enthusiasm, we told them about the Women in Motorcycling Conference and that there were nearly 900 folks attending -- most of them women on their bikes.

“Well, we saw a lot of motorcycles near our house and caught a little something about it on the news.  So we thought we’d just come down here and see what was going on.”
Everyone introduced herself. They were Susan and Jen, and asked if they could walk with us back to our hotel so we could continue our conversation. “Sure,” Beth and I said. And we chatted all the way. That was the beginning of the friendship with Jen and Susan.
In the next day or two, our hotel phone rang and a voice said, “Annis or Beth?”

“Yes, this is Annis.”

“Well, we got to thinking we’d like to know you two better, so we wondered if we could take you to dinner.”

Beth and I, always up for new experiences and meeting new friends, were delighted. So, we arranged to have Jen and Susan come to our room the next day for a glass of wine before dinner. After an hour of visiting, we walked to a nearby Indian restaurant for a wonderful meal and more conversation with these witty, intelligent, friendly women. It felt like we’d always known them.

Before leaving Athens, I needed to go to the motorcycle shop to pick up an order that had come in. I made a quick call to ask Jen and Susan for help, and they gave me a lift, so I didn’t have to ride in the rain.

I came home telling Judy about the new friends Beth and I had met in Georgia. “I know you’ll just love them,” I said. Judy got a chance to see for herself the following year when their home became part of our itinerary on our cross-country road trip. The ladies welcomed us into their home, and we had an evening of fine food, fun, and friends.
Jen and Susan, 2012
My chance to re-connect with Jen and Susan came along two summers ago. I had rented a car to take me from Chapel Hill to the WOW® Ride-In in South Carolina, by way of Georgia. Susan and Jen put me up, and I enjoyed a delightful evening, visiting and catching up on their lives.

I’m still in contact with these women who dared to reach out to strangers that day in Athens. Facebook and email close the distance between our homes, and I follow their humorous cartoon blog, Clay-doh. I am grateful for the heartwarming gift of Susan and Jen and this Georgia connection in my life.