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 ~

Thursday, November 27, 2014

T is for the Trek to The Bake

Cabin fever sets in during the winter months when motorcyclists can’t get out on their bikes. And, though Bakersfield is not normally a travel destination, from 2006-2008, it became the kick-off site for the California Sunblazers riding season -- The Trek to The Bake.

Beth, Laurie, & Virginia
Oregon club members Laurie and Beth would climb on their bikes around the last weekend in April and head south. Virigina would ride from Littlerock, California, and go past Bakersfield to meet Laurie and Beth on the road and escort them into town. One year, our members from Aguanga, Elaine and her Gene, joined us.

As with most events, we fell into traditional patterns. Friday we’d hold a reunion potluck. Good food, much reminiscing, games and laughter filled the evening. 
Sylvia, Debi, PattyB, & Trudy

There would be a day ride on Saturday. One year, to Porterville and the nearby iris farm. Another year, up the Kern River Canyon to Kernville, where they were having an arts and crafts fair. 

Perhaps the most stunning was our final year when we rode to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve in Lancaster. Sunday morning was departure time for our Oregon amigas.

During the weekend, maps would be strewn over kitchen counters and on tables as we discussed summer plans, destinations, and routes. One morning Laurie, Beth, and Virginia traced the map and talked about their trip to Rapid City, SD. Beth would be going on to Kentucky to the WOW® Ride-In. It dawned on me that I could join them for a part of the way then break off on my own and head back to Coos Bay. Right then and there it was decided, and I was ready to ride.

As with all things, lives and priorities change, and the annual Trek to The Bake came to an end. But, on this Thanksgiving Day in 2014, I am grateful for the wonderful memories of our marvelous times, and for our deepened, enduring friendships.

~ xoA ~

Monday, November 24, 2014

S is for Sunblazers

Trudy 2012
I’m imagining the conversation began with Trudy pacing near her bright yellow Magna, puffing on a cigarette. It probably went like this: “I want to get out and ride!”

Then, agreement and head nodding from her friend.

“There must be some other women who want to ride, too. l’m gonna check out Women on Wheels®. Get some names of other women riders.”

More head nodding from her friend. It was hard to get a word in when Trudy was hot on a topic.
 * * * *
In early 1996, a letter arrived in the U.S. mail. It was from a woman named Trudy Albrecht. Little did I know that she and I would become great friends as a result of this letter and her desire to bring women riders together and form a Central Valley chapter of Women on Wheels®.

After the required number of meetings and memberships, and the necessary paperwork was filled out and filed, we were ready to ride as a formal group. So, on a Saturday in March of 1996, from all over the valley -- Fresno, Visalia, Corcoran, Clovis, Gustine Hanford, Coalinga, Bakersfield -- we met up at a gas station/convenience store on Highway 65 near Ducor, California. From there, we took off on our first excursion, to California Hot Springs Resort.  Mountain Road 56 climbed and wound into the central-southern Sierra Nevadas, and 25 miles later, we were at our destination.

Many of us were new to each other, so we spent time becoming acquainted over lunch in the resort dining area. Then someone went outside and came back yelling, “Snow!” We cleared the restaurant in no time, jumped on our bikes and carefully headed back down the mountain. This was the first of many memorable adventures with the group that became known as the California Sunblazers Chapter of Women on Wheels® -- Sunblazers, for short. 
Laurie shows off our Logo
The highways and byways of California and across the nation became ours. Excursions to the coast, the desert, and the mountains were all within reach -- sometimes on a day trip, other times, over night.  There were great weekends when we camped or rented a house at the coast. Once we were lucky enough to have a member with connections and stayed at a home overlooking the ocean at Cayucos.
Sunblazers in Redding 2001

We conducted meetings in which we learned about safe riding habits through reading, watching videos, and members’ experiences. Then, we put those behaviors into practice on the road, assuring safe journeys and fun experiences together. Basic maintenance seminars, given by our chapter director, Sylvia Thornton, enabled us to become more knowledgeable and feel more confident when out on the road.

One of the things I’ve been most proud of with the Sunblazers is our willingness and dedication in mentoring new riders. Often women have a desire to begin riding their own motorcycles but have few options for practice with seasoned, safety-conscious bikers. We have a history of helping those women gain experience and self-assurance.

The greatest gift for me is the personal connection between members, the friendships and loyalties that have developed over the years. We know we can count on each other on and off the bikes and enjoy time together over meals, in our book group, and in other travel adventures.  
Trudy, Earlene, Judy, Gil, me, & Sylvia
Kern County backroads ride
For nearly twenty years, a number of us have traveled the continent together -- to all points between both coasts, to Alaska, and even across Canada.  We can count on each other, knowing that our bikes will be road worthy, clutches will be out at the agreed-upon time, and will be considerate, law-abiding, safe riders.
3-Dam Ride - Redding 2001
From a group of strangers to a band of buddies, we are all the richer for knowing each other and bonding as Sunblazers.

Friday, November 21, 2014

R is for Ridin' the Rockies

Colorado Rockies [internet photo]

Living on the western edge of the United States, motorcyclists get to ride through some gorgeous country in our own neighborhoods. But, riding any distance to the east, we must traverse the magnificent Rocky Mountains. From Canada south to New Mexico, the Rockies inspire us and tantalize our senses.

Map from internet
Having motorcycled back and forth across the country six times, I’ve seen my share of the Rockies but have never gotten my fill. The towns of Colorado stand out -- Durango, Estes Park, Denver, and Aspen, to name a few. And, Cañon City, the scene of the 1998 Women on Wheels® Ride-In. It was at that Ride-In that I overheard one of the Motorcycle Safety Instructors in our groups coaching a brand new rider: “Chin up, stay up, as you go around those curves.” This is a phrase that I now repeat often, sometimes aloud so I can hear it as well as think it.

Ten years later, Laurie, Virginia, and I rode through the Idaho and Canadian Rockies on our way to Michigan. As we pulled in for the evening at our motel in Coleman, Alberta, Canada, the view of the sun setting on the snow-topped mountains was breathtaking. Too soon the next day we rode out of that storybook setting and began two days of travel through flat farmland.

Beartooth [internet photo]
The Rockies of Idaho and Montana treated Judy and me to some glorious vistas and twisty roads on our trip to Glacier National Park one summer. I’d heard from a fellow motorcyclist about his trip across the Going to the Sun Road at Glacier and was eager to ride it. Though we met with a lot of rain on that trip, and it didn’t feel much like we were “going to the sun,” we still had a memorable time.

Virginia & Sylvia view the Grand Tetons 2013
Most recently, the 2013 summer ride to Billings, Montana, allowed the “four amigas,” Laurie, Virginia, Sylvia and me, the pleasure once again of the Grand Tetons, Beartooth, and Yellowstone. 

Majestic in stature, fascinating to look at, and riveting to ride, I never tire of the Rockies.

~ xoA ~

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Q is for Q & A

Las Amigas in Nevada
When folks see a group of women riders, or a lone rider, they are surprised and curious. Questions, the reasonable and the ridiculous, roll out of their mouths.

“Hah! A bunch of women?”

“Where are you going?”

“How much does that motorcycle weigh?”

The first cross-country bike trip I took was with my friend Sharon in the early ‘90s. Starting out on Honda Helix scooters, we rode west to dip our toes in the Pacific Ocean. Then, we headed east to do the same in the Atlantic. I remember one question: “What are you going to do if it rains?”

Naïve, we laughed and said, “We will get a motel, sit down, and read our books.”

Beth and I coming home in the rain
The reality is this: When the rains come, you slow down and keep going as long as you can see well enough. You’re watchful that the water on the road doesn’t make your bike hydroplane and that no hazards are below the water’s surface. If the water rises high, swirls around you, or becomes so murky you can’t see, it’s time to pull over. On my Baja trip, our leaders cautioned us particularly about running through rain-filled vados, big dips in the road since we couldn’t see to the bottom.

Always, my first response is, “Strangers have jumped out of their vehicles and off their porches to help me pick it up!” And that’s true. It’s happened more than once. I could take you through the alphabet with names of places where folks have come to my aid. But, at almost every women’s motorcycle rally, there are demonstrations and opportunities to practice picking up a downed bike. Even a Gold Wing.

“Can you change your own oil or work on your bike?” 

I have to quote and agree with one motorcycle buddy from years ago who said, “That’s why I have a job. So I can pay a mechanic to do that.”

I can check tire pressure and put air in, check the oil, and, thanks to my friend Sylvia, refill the coolant reservoir. Once I even changed the battery, with Judy beside me reading the directions.

Getting TJ's bike started; Sylvia in the saddle
A lot of women riders have the knowledge and skills to do their own motorcycle repair and maintenance. If anything goes wrong with a bike, Sylvia, can figure out the problem and most often fix it. There have been times when Sylvia’s just laid hands on an unresponsive Big Red and she starts! The women I ride with, Laurie, Virginia, and Sylvia, amaze me with their skill, determination, and guts when tackling the mechanics of motorcycles.
PattyB in Glenwood Springs, CO

“Did you ride that thing all the way here?”

This question is one that is tempting to answer with sarcasm. Believe me, those kinds of retorts flash through most women’s minds. But, we refrain from speaking them aloud out of decency toward the speaker and as a matter of insuring our own safety. But, when we gather over dinner and a beer, the comebacks and laughter flow. “Well, I rode it half-way and pushed it half-way.”

Every motorcyclist I know welcomes the opportunity to talk about his or her bike. So, go ahead. Just ask your question. What is it that you’ve always wondered?
~ xoA ~

Friday, November 14, 2014

P is for Pocatello

One of Idaho's many beautiful waterfalls 

The summer of 1999, the year I retired from teaching, Big Red and I tore up the roads. For more than 10,000 miles, covering 21 states, it was a summer of riding and seeing this great land. Toward summer’s end, the Spud Rally in Pocatello, Idaho, came along to divert my attention from the fact that school was about to start.
“I don’t see any reason why we can’t go,” Judy said when I showed her the Wing World magazine containing the advertisement for this Gold Wing Road Riders Association (GWRRA) event. “You’re retired.”

And, within a day or so, we had travel plans and reservations in place. Even with limited space in the trunk and saddlebag compartments, packing for two would be simple. Unhurried, we could stop for sight-seeing along the way.

This was our first time to attend the Spud Rally. But I’d seen photos and heard stories of other big Gold Wing gatherings so I expected hundreds of decked-out bikes and a huge number and variety of vendors peddling motorcycle gear. Both those expectations came true. Gazing at the motorcycles all over the fairgrounds, we marveled at the creativity and liberal use of lights and chrome and the customized paint jobs, many with stunning murals. We also shopped for items that would make our cycling adventures even more comfortable.

I changed out the windshield for a taller one that would better protect Judy from the wind current as she perched in her elevated passenger seat and had armrests installed for her. 

Air wings, like plastic paddles, were added to Big Red’s fairing, just below the handle bars. They would deflect the wind from my legs and arms, or direct it onto them, depending on how I positioned the blades. Judy bought a striking set of brown leathers -- chaps and a matching vest -- for warmth and protection. We were set to go anywhere. 

An unfamiliar, long-held tradition of this group became evident from reading the program and seeing posters and signs. They announced events such as meetings, a luncheon, and a dance for the “COY”. We wondered, what the heck is the COY? Finally, we asked someone and learned that “COY” stood for Couple of the Year. We knew we’d never become the COY in this organization. But we had a good laugh figuring out what we might be called.  I counted four other women riders, but we were the only two women riding two-up. However, we weren’t keen with the acronym for a Couple of Women.

The jaunt to Pocatello for the Spud Rally was an interesting experience, though a bit over-the-top for us. When we’d seen enough and had made all the purchases we wanted, it was time to head home. Idaho’s farmland scenery and eastern Oregon’s desert rolled by and gave way to the coastal forest lands on our quiet ride west. Just a couple of women and Big Red.

~ xoA ~

Sunday, November 9, 2014

O is for Ohio Adventure

Otterbein University, in walking distance from the American Motorcyclists Association in Westerville, Ohio, was the scene of the first ever National Conference of Women and Motorcycling in 1997. I was there.

In an effort to learn about women motorcyclists’ issues and preferences, the AMA put this conference together. Otterbein University would accommodate us with dormitory housing, cafeteria meals, and classroom space for seminars and meetings. I loved returning to campus life for a few days.

It turned out to be a marvelous setting, where women riders from all over the country, regardless of their club affiliation, gathered to inform the motorcycling industry and to learn from each other. 

Donna Brown with her MVP award
I remember calling in my housing reservation months before, and requesting to be placed in the same dorm, and if possible, on the same floor as Donna Brown from Michigan. The woman taking my information said, “You’re the fourth one who’s asked to be near Donna Brown. She must be a wonderful person.” The lady was correct about that. Donna is revered and loved by all who know her. And, as the first person to sign up for this first conference, Donna Brown received an MVP award from the AMA.

A big highlight for me was sharing this Ohio adventure with my sister Reenié. She rode the Greyhound bus from Detroit to Columbus to spend the last day of the conference with me.
Outside Greyhound station, downtown Columbus, Ohio

There was an extra bed in my dorm room for her and I would ride her home the next day. At that night’s closing banquet, Reenié rode two-up with me. In the midst of the colorful procession of motorcycles making our way to the restaurant, she giggled with joy at being part of that huge parade.

The next morning we put on our gear and saddled up for the 250-mile ride back to Detroit. Though she had ridden with me before, this was her longest motorcycle journey. By our lunch stop in northern Ohio, Reenié had her motorcycle swagger on. "You just feel different," she said, striding into the restaurant.

A few hours later, we were at her house. When we parked Big Red in the driveway and dismounted, my sister took off her helmet and said, “Now I understand why you love this so much.”

~ xoA ~

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

N is for Novice

Like anyone attempting to learn and perfect a life-endangering skill, the novice motorcyclist is, well, nervous. It’s not a good thing to be nervous and adrenalin-pumped when trying to control hundreds of pounds of machinery while maneuvering through tangled streets among much larger vehicles and inattentive drivers. But, we feel the nerves and fear and do it anyway, disregarding friends and family who think we are crazy. In time, the fear and nerves fade, cropping up only in dire situations.
First scooter (circa 1985)

As a novice rider, the most important factor in developing into a competent motorcyclist was my mentors. These fellow riders gave me valuable riding tips about cornering, safety gear, and riding in traffic. They answered my un-ending questions, encouraged me, and accompanied me on rides, all of which helped build my confidence.

Members of our motorcycling club, the California Sunblazers, prided ourselves on assisting new riders to become skillful and confident. We all remembered what it was like to have the thirst for motorcycling adventure and to shift from novice to biker.

The Rider

Cringing, teetering,
Timid, self-doubting, unskilled.
Silent screams flavor false bravado --
What am I doing here?

Just riding my ride --
Bold grace and joy in motion
Confident. Certain. Solid.
Soaring, beaming

Summer of 2014

~ xoA ~