Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Building A Strong Women Riders Community

I've found joining the women's motorcycling community to be quite difficult at times. Even though I hope to make a positive impact on everyone I meet, I know I can't please everyone. I am finding that I, and many other women, are being ridiculed and insulted, find exclusivity, and outright "Mean Girl Syndrome" when we want to be included.

Over the years I've found women to be far more sensitive to my gregarious and aggressive nature. Perhaps this is because I'm opinionated, stubborn and usually quite vocal about my beliefs and that really pisses some women off. I've stopped apologizing for being bold and started accepting the consequences of my behavior.

My honesty and forthrightness have brought some of the most wonderful women into my life, especially over the last 5 years. I feel more comfortable in my skin than I ever have. But I am learning there is always a balance. With praise also comes criticism and like most people, it can be sometimes the criticism on which I focus.

Within the women's motorcycling community there seems to be a deep sense of territory. Perhaps some of the women who have carved their niche aren't willing to share the spotlight, simply because they've worked so hard to get there. Perhaps they didn't want to carve a path for others to follow, but to simply create their own private, exclusive niche.

Certainly this doesn't apply to all of the women of motorcycling notoriety I've met. Genevieve Schmitt, Alicia Elfving, Lisa Brouwer, Brittany Morrow and Laura Klock have gone out of their way to help me on my journey as a motorcycling publisher.

I've been told I need to pay my dues, earn my place, and to wait, step back, and learn more about the industry before I try to be included. That advice has been noted, but rejected. I've been in publishing for over 10 years, had hundreds of articles published in print and online, and even though I don't know all the players in this industry, I know about publishing. How can I learn if I am not attending events, meeting people and asking questions?

In my opinion, it seems the only requirements for inclusion into this community is to:

1. Ride a motorcycle, either on front or back
2. Have a desire to meet other women riders

I'm on a mission to take personal responsibility for my behavior. If I am knowingly harming anyone, I pledge to make changes. That is not something new with me, as I've been living my life this way since I got off of drugs in 1993. I believe that my experiences in life begin with me; my attitudes, my behaviors, my choices. I am not a victim, even though at times I've felt like one. I'm doing my best to move out of self pity and into action.

So, I reached out to a few women riders whom I greatly respect to get their views on this topic. It is my hope to get to the sources that cause this friction among the women riders and find solutions for change.

Madhavi Priya Davila
Age 39
Makeup Artist, Key Holder at MAC Cosmetics
2003 Honda Shadow 750

Priscilla Griffith
Age 60
Owner of ProGuards Crash Bar Protectors
2008 Harley Davidson Peace Officers Ultra

Annette Presley, LCSW
Age 59
2007 Yamaha V Star 1100

Genevieve Schmitt
Age 51
Founder/Editor of WomenRidersNow.com; Sturgis Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame Inductee 2001
2008 Harley-Davidson Street Glide

1. What do you see as the problem with building a strong and cohesive women riding community, if any?

Madhavi: I notice that women can sometimes be competitive with other women. This in turn leads to insecurities, jealousy etc. I've seen women purposely exclude other women they felt "threatened" by from group rides, moto events etc. A lot of times it seems certain women (the insecure ones) like to be the center of attention at meet ups, rides etc...especially if there are men on the rides. They don't want competition so to speak. It's stupid and I've never been able to grasp that way of thinking. On the other hand I've met a lot of cool biker chicks who are encouraging and love to ride with other women etc. I hang out with those ones!

Priscilla: I think we (women as a rule) are our own worst enemies. We tend to cut each other down more than give support. In the riding community there is mostly type A personalities.

Genevieve: The number of women riding motorcycles has skyrocketed over the last decade. There are millions of women riding their own motorcycles. The evolution of this is similar to the growth in women climbing corporate ladders and breaking through glass ceilings. Insofar as women identify a need to create a community around a shared passion to network, and exchange ideas, those groups will arise.

Annette: Women have generally been socialized to control, sublimate their natural competitive spirit. As a result women do not learn to express competition in a healthy way. We are raised to see other women as competition. Who is really a blonde, has bigger boobs, nicer butt, dates the football star, has the nicer house, the best behaved kids? Seeing other women as competition and threats is socialized in to us in very innocuous ways.

Media promotes comparisons to each other. Jealousy and envy are also natural emotions that occur when we want something or want to be like someone. This competition affects every female relationship we have. Our strength will come in our confidence in ourselves. Our power will come in our support and encouragement for each other in spite of our differences. I have seen Facebook attacks on someone who says they ride slower, faster, someone who doesn't wear a helmet, someone who has more followers on their Facebook page, someone who doesn't ride many miles, rides the wrong motorcycle. We are our worst enemies.

The female archetype of the "wild woman" is what I imagine when I see a woman rider. She is someone not bound by the rules that keep women subjugated. She is a threat to subjugated women, and the men who want to keep us controlled. How sad it is that we play a role in attacking each other in that same way.

2. How have you been impacted by the negativity of other women berating you, not just in the riding community, but in your lifetime?

Genevieve: Anytime you put yourself out there as a journalist, you subject yourself to the opinions of others. I try not to let those opinions affect me. There will always be caddy, insecure people who will do their best to knock others down. With Facebook and email it's easy for angry insecure people to fire off a note without checking their emotions first. I've found in my personal and professional life, if you are always kind and deal with people with the utmost of integrity, then it's easy to identify the insecurities in others and let what they say roll off your back. I choose to come from love and end up praying for these kind of people that they can find their way out of the darkness.

Madhavi: I've experienced being pushed away by some women because of their issues etc. I try to avoid negative people like that altogether but some women are always gonna be haters.

Annette: I was raised by a single parent. She was always waiting for that man to come riding in on his white horse to rescue us. Needless to say, it never happened. There were many boyfriends that came and went as I was growing up, but no one who ever stayed. Both of my parents were alcoholic and I had no safe place. I knew I was different than most kids. I knew their families were different than mine. I tried very hard to present a "normal" appearance, but the "mean girls" we're quick to let me know when I failed. I tried diligently to win their approval, but I never did.

Women could not be trusted. I had to purpose in my own therapy to develop female relationships.

Recently, I have found some women in the Motorcycle Community to critical to different opinions. I have supported a couple of women who were attacked by others, and got very harsh messages about this. There were judgments and name calling. I left many women's motorcycle pages as a result. I only belong to pages where I see support in our differences as well as our likenesses, and encouragement for transparency.

Priscilla: I’ll have to say, I haven't had many issues with negativity. If I have I didn't realize it. I began riding with guys. They were wonderful. Once I began to go to women forums (Women Who Ride, Rumble Sisters) I began to see some of negativity.

I think it's easy for people to post a message online that the would never say in person. I have seen so many "shit storms" started that way. When I see this happening I just distance myself from those posts. Often, I will write a comment, but erase it without posting. After re-reading it, I realize it could be misconstrued. I would rather my thought go unsaid than to be misunderstood and cause harm.

3. Give me one way we could all incorporate into our lives that would build a stronger relationship with other women.

Priscilla: I think we can build better relationships by being a friend we would want to be. Less judgmental and more caring. But sometimes there are some people that you can't please or change their mind. And that’s OK.

Annette: We must get to know each other. We have to move beyond "how many miles have you ridden?", "how long have you been on the road?". These are good places to start, but then we need to go deeper. Most of us started riding because we weren't like everyone else, we have stories. We need to listen to each other's stories of failure and success and relish in the strengths embodied in women. If we don't understand, then we need to ask to understand, not to get ammunition to judge or change them. We must purpose to know each other, really know each other.

Genevieve: People we react from one of two places, love or fear. Not both. There is a lot of gray area in between, but basically, we're acting and reacting from one of those places. Fear is all about negativity, darkness. Love is positive and full of light. If we all come from love and humility, putting others' needs before ourselves, there'd be no ill will towards others in this world.

Madhavi: I work in a predominantly female environment. The beauty industry. So I lose patience sometimes when women take out their frustrations and insecurities on myself or my co-workers. I try to make a conscious effort of being more patient and helping them see their inner and outer beauty in themselves and to always remember I may not know what difficulties in life they are going through that day.

4. What are your final thoughts on this issue?

Genevieve: I'm excited about the record number of women riding motorcycles today. There are hundreds of women motorcycling groups thriving all over the US—and the world!—proving that when a woman humbles herself to another, putting another's needs before her own, good things can happen.

Madhavi: Motoladies need to unite and stick together! We gotta have each other's backs, always!

Annette: There are inexpiable things I get from my relationships with women that I will never get in a relationship with a male. My women friends "get me". They "get me" because they also have a story. They can support me because they know where I come from in a way that only a female can know. I will not ever give up seeking out female relationships. Women bikers are a unique minority. We have so much to give.

Let's meet on common ground and quit judging the differences.

Priscilla: I think first and foremost we are riders. It doesn't matter if your male, female, black, white, purple, ride cruiser, sportbike or three wheeler. We all ride for different reasons. Some ride to be with a spouse that rides, others ride to get away from our everyday life and all of us ride because it's fun.

We ride. That's the common denominator. Let's not over think it. Just enjoy it!

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

The High Price of the Road

"While you're out riding your motorcycle around the country, you're not getting to know your own grandson. He's afraid of you! I'm not saying you're a bad grandmother, but. . . "

With those words, my daughter broke my heart. As she sat in my hotel room with my young grandson in her arms, she spewed her pain of being a new mother, blaming me for not giving her enough support.

My daughter Olivia and my grandson Jackson

"You're never here. You're all over the country, thinking only of yourself, having a great time, forgetting about me and Jackson. What about us? You're not the kind of grandmother who takes the baby for the day, or gets to know him, or bakes cookies. . ."

I knew she was referring to her husband David's mother, Jackson's other grandmother who had recently come to visit. Olivia has compared me to Anne in the past and it always hurts.

I cried for an hour. I just couldn't help it. Olivia always has a way of hitting me where I live when we fight.
With Olivia, David and Anne, David's Mom, a couple of years ago. She's astoundingly patient and sweet, unlike me.

Olivia and I are like oil and water, yet remarkably attracted to one another. We miss one another, love each other so deeply, and fight more than half of the time we are together. I can't shut my mouth when I'm near her, constantly giving her advice and often, to my own chagrin, criticizing her. My own behavior infuriates me because the truth is, I think she's amazing. And as much as I try to tell her that, I still find myself being a critical nag all too often.

Olivia responds with anger, frustration and spewing guilt. She holds my mistakes as a parent in her heart and slams me from with them time to time. I've always encouraged Olivia to embrace her emotions and share them freely, even when it breaks my own heart.

This day, my heart was broken.

Steve stepped in and mediated our argument, showing each of us where we could improve, helping us understand what the other was truly saying. He's amazing at that and has helped the relationship between my daughter and I immensely.

The visit had it's high points too. We went out with Olivia's friend to dinner, shopping and drinks and had a great time.

Olivia is frightened because she feels she needs my help raising her new son. She is angry that I've chosen to ride my motorcycle on this journey of self discovery rather than settle down and be a grandmother in the traditional sense of the word.

I feel guilty for not being a better mother and grandmother. I am doing my best to balance my responsibilities with my desire to live a fulfilling life. As much as I love Olivia, David and Jackson, I don't want to spend my life in one place, fighting her every other day. It would simply be miserable for me and I would make a pretty miserable grandmother.

And this, is my greatest failing.

It always has been.

As much as I tried to fit into the role of a happy soccer mom, I've always struggled with it. I loved hosting the weekly summer sleepovers, assisting with Girl Scouts, the morning talks we had in the car on the way to school, cooking dinner every night and baking cookies at Christmas time. I miss those times greatly on the road, but I must admit, the rest of the duties of motherhood took an enormous toll on me.
At Olivia's Middle School Graduation, so proud of her achievements. These years as her Mom were beautiful and fulfilling in their own way, but those days are long past for me. 

The road comes at a high price.

With it comes the guilt of riding away from those who love me and want my attention. I have friends who feel as abandoned as my daughter and can only think of what my leaving does to them. Some of these friends have walked away completely, breaking a piece of my heart, one by one.

For some, absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. But for others it hardens the heart with resentment and longing, causing a painful backlash.
Riding into Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado, for my second try at crossing the Continental Divide in Colorado on two wheels. My first attempt was nothing short of dramatic.

My burdens in life have not disappeared, but only changed. As I no longer struggle with the burdens of motherhood and a miserable marriage, I struggle with guilt and loneliness on the road. I miss my kids, my niece's family, and my friends from time to time, ever so deeply.

So I suppose it is true, that to all things, there is a balance.


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Friday, April 24, 2015

Meeting Online Motorcycle Friends

Most people have "online friends" who they never have the opportunity to meet, but as motorcycle vagabonds, we've had the great fortune of meeting many of these people. Moto-Bloggers and riders we've met on social media with whom we've shared tales, advice and information have weaved their way into our travel plans.

In fact, this year when we planned our route for the warmer months, we made a list of people we wanted to visit and then worked the plan around those people as best we could. We aren't always able to meet everyone on our list, which gives us a reason to continue traveling, but we do our best.

I don't think I've met anyone over my lifetime with more interesting stories than motorcycle riders. But there is something quite special about meeting the riders we've already come to know virtually.

Below are just a few of those who've made the time to share with us some food, drinks and great tales from the road.

Rob Thijssen, who we met from a Google+ Motorcycle Riders community, happened to be in Portland while we were here too. This was a happy coincidence to meet a friend with whom we've interacted with online so much. Last night we shared dinner, drinks and road stories, compared cultures and laughed a great deal. Recently Rob has been riding throughout Europe and keeping us on the edge of our seat with some of his stories from Greece and Croatia.

While in Denver in August 2014 we took a ride with Jason ON, Amy and Brian Green. We met all three in the same Google+ Motorcycle Riders community. 
Todd, Rania Madanat and George Ferreira met up with us in Pennsylvania for a wet ride in the Lancaster area. We met Rania and George on Google+ and were determined to meet when we hit the East Coast in June 2013. George is also a moto-blogger, author of Riding the USA.

Madhavi Priya introduced herself on Instagram one morning, telling me she also lives in San Diego and rides. We met that same day and rode together, having a wonderful time. We've ridden together, even including our fellas, several times and are now great friends.

Alicia Elfving is the owner of The Motolady, in which she profiles beautiful, strong and amazing women who ride. As a long time fan of hers I contacted her in hopes we could meet. It took a few tries, but we finally got together in San Diego, then again in Long Beach, where this photo was taken in February 2015, where she was throwing a 3rd Anniversary party of her blog. 

We met Lucky, author of The Great Motorcycle Pizza Tour, when we visited St. Paul in the summer of 2013 and enjoyed some delectable pizza.

Paul Malone is the author of Arizona Harley Dude and one of the first bloggers we met along the way. Since our first meeting in April 2013 we've stopped in to see Paul several times in Surprise, AZ, a suburb of Phoenix. Paul loves to ride often and has taken us to some of Arizona's best roads.

Brad and Brandy are the authors of Troubadour's Treks and Trobairitz Tablet respectively, and longtime moto-bloggers interacting online with loads of other bloggers. They've attended some organized moto-blogger meetups in the past and love meeting other riders who also write about their experiences on two wheels. We stopped in Corvallis, OR just last week and met them along our way up the West Coast. 

After building a great relationship on Facebook, Chris Black and I were excited to meet when we made it to Tucson. She and her husband Mike invited us to their home for dinner, as well as inviting us to join the Royal Enfield Club of Tucson for a ride.


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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Motorcycling The Best Therapy

Tucson was a place I had heard about most of my life. My mother spent most of her childhood in Tucson and longed to return there one day. Many years ago I tried to make arrangements to take her there as a gift, but it never worked out. So spending more than 3 weeks there was a real treat for me, as I wandered the older parts of the city imagining what life was like there in the 1940's.

I remembered that I have a photo of the house my mother grew up in and decided I wanted to try to find it. The photo is in my storage at my niece Shelli's home. So I asked Shelli's son Zachary to find the photo and scan it to me, along with any other photos of the neighborhood. After some searching and a Google Hangout to go through photos together, Zack sent me all there was. Amazingly the house address, 243, showed clearly in one of the photos.

My mother and I don't speak, nor have we for years. There has been so much pain within our relationship that I think we both prefer it this way. So I called my daughter Olivia, who has a good relationship with my mom, and asked her to call my mom and see if she remembered the street name she grew up on.

"Nana says she grew up on 23rd Street. She said it was near the major freeway. Does that sound right?"

23rd Street in Tucson is very near the main part of Downtown where many older homes are still standing. Looking at the map I saw an East 23rd and a West 23rd. By looking at Google Maps I couldn't see the home from the photo, but I did see one quite similar on East 23rd. I hopped on the Indian Scout and rode over to the 23rd Street.

When I came upon the home at 242 East 23rd Street I realized immediately that this was not the house. The house I was seeking would have been across the street from this one anyway. This house had the same architecture as the house I was seeking and was probably built at the same time. The owner of the house was sanding and painting doors on his front porch and was kind enough to talk to me about my quest.

"I'm sure that's East 23rd. Look at the way it's situated on the corner," he said as he looked at my photo. "You probably won't find the house still standing, but that is definitely the east side."

So I mounted up again, filled with excitement and anticipation, and headed to East 23rd.

One look at the corner where the house should be and I realized it was long gone. But I also knew that I was in the right place. I stood on the corner where my mother had once played as a child and this brought me a great sense of completion. In many ways, in that moment, I had come full circle.

Thinking of my mother as a little girl helped me find forgiveness for the brutality I suffered at her hands. My mother will always be the only mother I ever have and I'll always love her, even though she hurt me. When I think of my mother as an adult, she has always been such a child in her mannerisms. So to find the home of that little girl who never grew up helped me connect with the part of my mother that I love.

Riding away from Tucson a week later I was filled with peace. I feel I've sorted out another painful part of my past, found forgiveness, and I've been able to leave that pain there on that street corner in Tucson, free to ride away from the resentment.

Motorcycling is often called "the best therapy." For me Motorcycle Therapy has been remarkably effective. So many miles have given me the time to really meditate on the issues of my past, helping me to recover, find forgiveness, and finally let go and be free.

Just as time has changed that corner in Tucson, time has changed my perspective on my life with Mom.

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About Sash

People call me "Sash" because I'm a former beauty queen in my old home town. My father used to ride in an MC which got me interested in the culture. After my last divorce I said "goodbye" to Susie Homemaker and became the rude biker chick I always felt inside. (Read more...)