Women often come into motorcycling after a spiritual awakening. They go through a divorce, become an empty nester, or come to terms with some abuse in their life. They land on the seat of a bike as rebels, pushing against expectations, and experience a transformation.
LIVINGSTON, Montana ꟷ In 1989, while working as a producer on money reports for Good Morning America, an assignment came in: cover a story on the emerging market of women riding motorcycles. I never had exposure to anything with two wheels in my life. In fact, when I heard the loud rumbling of a bike, I plugged my ears, but this was my job. So, I picked up the phone and started calling local dealers looking for interview subjects.
On a steamy hot afternoon in May, my crew gathered at a local park in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Can we just get this over with,” I thought. The sun beamed down relentlessly as we busied ourselves getting the gear ready. Suddenly, I heard it – the roar of engines. I looked over my right shoulder at the roadway coming into the park. This was only my second job out of college, and I didn’t have the routine down yet. I hollered for the team to get the footage as ten bikes piled in, one after another. I wondered, “How many of them are women?”
They slowly came to a stop in front of us and put down their kickstands. One by one, their helmets came off, and one by one, ten die hard, passionate female bikers emerged. I watched as a young woman pulled off her full-face helmet and her beautiful blonde hair cascaded down her back. “Wow,” I thought, “I want that energy.”
I spent the next hour interviewing each of them encountering women with a real sense of self who emanated beauty. It was pretty rebel in that day for a woman to step away from the kids for a while and do what she loved. As an impressionable 25-year-old looking for her place in the world, I saw pioneers. Soon after, I was invited to take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course for free as a journalist. When I threw my leg over that bike and gunned the throttle, I was hooked.
Over the years, I gained a national reputation as a producer in the motorcycle industry. I covered the Love Ride, Arizona Bike Week, and Sturgis. I interviewed celebrity riders like Stephen Baldwin for EXTRA, bringing motorcycle stories to the forefront. When the prestigious Sturgis Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame began looking to highlight a woman, I was right there.
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally takes place during the first and second week of August every year. I arrived in 2001 with my future husband beside me, not just as a journalist this time, but as an inductee. The event began with breakfast outside, before moving into the armory. The stifling heat surrounded us, me wearing my biker jeans and a cute little velvet brown shirt. I found myself in good company, sitting at the dais in front of the audience beside senators from Colorado and Wisconsin who were also getting inducted.
In time, this event would become much more formalized, taking place at a fancy hotel with all the modern technology, but back then no one shot video or took pictures. My friend snapped a single, grainy photo with my little Canon Sure Shot as I delivered my speech. One of the only women in a room full of men who represented the who’s who of the motorcycle industry, my confidence soared. “I have to live up to this,” I thought. I knew what I offered, and I knew I could hold my own.
The officials went on to create a formalized wall of honorees at the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame. To this day, my plaque hangs on the wall among the class of 2001. That moment springboarded my career.
For nearly a decade after my first encounter at that park in Fort Lauderdale, I continued to ride as a hobby, freelancing on the side for motorcycle magazines. I went from Good Morning America to E! Entertainment Television, and finally to the show EXTRA. Then, one day, an opportunity arose. I took a job to turn around a fledgling publication called Asphalt Angels.
Bought out and discontinued, I suggested a rebrand: Woman Rider. They loved it. For four years I ran this national quarterly publication for women who ride. Harley-Davidson launched a whole division of marketing toward women; but four years in, the publisher decided Woman Rider just wasn’t viable.
At noon on a weekday, I was driving home from the post office when my cell phone rang. I heard my boss’ voice. “Let me call you back in five minutes when I’m in my office,” I said. I settled into my chair and looked out at the stunning Montana mountains. I just turned 40, we bought this house, and I was engaged to be married. When the phone rang again, my boss told me, “There are no legs to this women in motorcycle ‘thing.’ We cannot continue publishing the magazine. We are laying you off.”
It felt like a shot in the arm, and a little bit sad. I always had control of how I left a job. I let myself grieve for 48 hours, when suddenly, I thought, “I’m not going to sit around crying over spilled milk. I’m going to take this severance money and do another publication in the women in motorcycle space.”
Driving down the interstate, the name of my new business flooded into my brain like a download from the Holy Spirit: Women Riders Now. I launched in January 2005 and sold in 2017. It remains a top publication for women who ride to this day.
About five years into my business, with no children, I began thinking about my legacy. “What am I leaving behind in the world,” I asked myself. I questioned my place and my purpose. My motorcycle carried me through the stunning landscapes of Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota. The energy of the scenery – the pioneering spirit oozing from the mountains and the rivers – brought me to tears. I often wept as I rode my green 1994 Harley-Davidson Dyna Low Rider through those incredible spaces. It was in those moments, I truly discovered God.
It felt like the very Spirit which God left on earth spoke to me as the wind blew by and I rode free. “Life is more than the grind; more than a 60-hour work week,” He told me. My two weeks at Sturgis every year felt like a summer camp for adults, a time to forget about the paycheck for a while. It was during this free time that I was able to hear the Holy Spirit speak to me. “There is more to life than working all the time,” that still, small voice whispered.
As a young girl, I learned that you get an education and a job. You go to work. When friends started having babies and I did not, I just worked harder. “Oh, you are tired and stressed,” the world would ask, “Well, just keep going.” When that voice whispered to me in the mountains, I did not resist. I listened.
By now, I was regularly giving speeches at motorcycle events, but growing weary of writing articles about seat heights and the ergonomics of a motorcycle. I observed how Joyce Meyer and Oprah Winfrey fearlessly spoke with transparency about their personal lives. “If they can be authentic, so can I,” I thought, “but will it resonate with my audience?”
I figured I had nothing to lose, so I wrote my first column called Everyday Miracles, marrying my spiritual life with my industry work. It turned out, my risk was not unusual. Women often come into motorcycling after a spiritual awakening. They go through a divorce, become an empty nester, or come to terms with some abuse in their life.
They land on the seat of a bike as rebels, pushing against expectations, and experience a transformation. As I gently wove God and Jesus into my writing, I encountered a pleasant surprise. The comments poured in and newsletter subscriptions shot through the roof. Personal emails flooded my inbox. “Your story sounds like mine,” they said. “I resonated with this!”
It was nice to get confirmation from God that I was heading in the right direction. In 2017, he sent me just the right buyer at just the right time for Women Riders Now. I retired and prayed for quiet – no more calls, no more constant activity. I settled into my beautiful life in the Montana mountains near Yellowstone.
In time, my mind began to wonder, “What will I be remembered by?” Then I received the announcement: I was being honored with the American Motorcyclist Association Bessie Stringfield Award for forging new markets. I wept.
I didn’t slave until 2:00 a.m. writing press motorcycle reviews or rushing to get the newsletter out by noon for accolades. It wasn’t for a paycheck that I presented at trade shows, traveled the world, or wrote story after story. I did it all out of passion.
To be recognized by the AMA proved a truly humbling experience – and it wasn’t about me. It was about the women – those ten pioneers I met in the park in Fort Lauderdale, and all the women motorcyclists who followed.
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