Discovering an advertisement for Women on Wheels® in the spring of 1992 changed my motorcycling life. I’d had no idea of the power of belonging to a group of strong, competent, women who love to get out on their motorcycles and ride. In those days, we rarely saw other women riders. If a woman showed up with a helmet, she was climbing onto the passenger seat.
So the following summer, when I attended the Women on Wheels® International Ride-In near Atlanta, was a critical time -- a time of discovery, growth, pride, and of developing confidence as a rider.
My friend Sharon and I arrived on our red and white Honda Pacific Coast motorcycles at the host hotel in Dunwoody, Georgia, not knowing if we’d like this three-day event -- or this group. We’d pre-paid for our registration, but hadn’t bought the official Ride-In tee shirts. Neither had we made banquet reservations for the closing evening. What if we wanted to leave early? What if we didn’t like this group?
|Huntsville, AL 1999|
|Greenville, SC 2012|
Walking into the hotel lobby, we saw clusters of women, some still wearing their riding gear, standing around, talking and greeting each other with hugs and squeals. And we heard lots of laughter. It was a scene of unbridled friendship. And, they welcomed us in.
|June with her mom and riding buddy,|
Ms. Hazel at the 2012 Ride-In
By the time we returned from that first ride, had felt the warmth of comradeship and the joy of being with this crowd, we were hooked. Sharon and I rushed to the registration table to see if there were any banquet tickets left. Somehow, we did manage to get two tickets, a lucky thing because I became a big winner when door prizes were awarded.
The second day, we all rode to Two-Wheels Campground in Suches, in the hills north of Atlanta. On a narrow, curvy road, it seemed like a longish ride. That’s where I learned that in Georgia, when the road sign on a curve shows 20 mph, they really mean it.
This first Women on Wheels® International Ride-In is where I met women and men who have become dear to me. They are now long-time friends who over the years have continued to inspire, reassure, teach, and befriend new riders. Donna Brown was one of the few women Gold Wing riders at the ’92 Ride-In. She pumped me up and told me I could ride one, too. When I bought Big Red a year or so later, Donna instructed, “You need two things: floor boards and a back rest.” I got them immediately, and on many a ride I have blessed her for that advice.
|Donna in Huntsville at the 1999 Ride-In|
Friendships with other riders whom I met at that Atlanta event have lasted more than 22 years. We’ve ridden together at other Ride-Ins, hosted each other in our homes, and kept up with each others’ lives.
Each year, Women on Wheels® holds the Ride-In in a different region of the country. This event is often a family event that is the central focus of many riders’ vacations. Attending it and seeing new territory have been why I, and so many of us, have ridden all over the U.S.A., multiple times.
|Group Photo in Eureka Springs, AK - 1994|
The mission of Women on Wheels®is “to unite all women motorcycle enthusiasts for recreation, education, mutual support, recognition, and to promote a positive image of motorcycling.” Even in the days before websites and Google and the mission statement flying across cyberspace, we knew it to be a reality. We felt it at each Ride-In. We rode a little taller in the saddle when on our own.