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.
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.