|With Camille at the top of Pikes Peak. I had tried to make it to the summit before, but was turned away just above treeline due to extremely high winds. This day, there was hail, but that wasn't stopping me or any of the other riders I was with!|
For anyone who thinks that "adventure" motorcycles marked the beginning of adventure motorcycling, think again! Men and women have been "adventure motorcycling" for more than a century. In fact, 100 years ago, two sisters--Augusta and Adeline Van Buren--crossed the continental United States, each on her own motorcycle. In case that wasn't enough, they were also the first women to ride to the summit of Pikes Peak on motorcycles.
There is much to the historical account of this adventure, including controversy over the fact they were "society girls" from a wealthy family and the fact they dress in men's attire. (For which they were arrested more than once on the trip) However, nothing can detract from the fact that in 1916, two women completed an amazing journey that riders today often count themselves lucky for completing.
|I'm with Alisa Clickenger--an amazing motorcyclist and the organizer of the event. I was very excited to meet and talk to her!|
In honor of that journey, The Sisters Centennial Motorcycle Ride set off from New York this past 4th of July weekend, and continued across the country, following as best as it could 100 years later the route taken by the Van Buren sisters. I was not able to join the whole trip--which I would have LOVED to have been a part of--but the trip was to include a ride up to the summit of Pikes Peak, and you can bet I was there to join.
I met up with the group at the staging area, right before entering the Pikes Peak Tollway. Three groups would go in on motorcycles--fast, medium, and slow riders--and we would be met at the top by the group of riders who chose to take the cog railway to the summit.
In all truth, though the road is now fully paved, it is not for the faint of heart. Once you get above treeline, there are many hairpin turns on an exposed mountain side, and few guard rails. This is not unusual in mountainous areas, and though we local Coloradans were used to it, many of the women riders were from flatter areas, and found themselves intimidated by the road. One other factor riders used to determine whether they would actually ride up or not, was the fact that altitude sickness is real, and the only way to deal with it was to get down off the summit.
|See the white stuff--hail! And loads of it. But the sun and warming temps had melted much of it, so it was the consistency of a muddy slurpy. Yum!|
Most riders with the group looked past their fears, mounted up, and headed for the summit. The organizers had a plan in place should anyone be overcome by altitude sickness and need to get down immediately. An affected rider was to find someone who would ride them 2-up back to the base of the mountain and leave their keys with their bike. Ride marshals would sweep the mountain at the end of the event and bring down any bike left behind. I don't think anyone needed that service, but it was a very good plan to have in place, and extra ride marshals were on duty that day, including my local friend, Chris Ann Flohr who was along for the entire ride.
If you think exposed, unguarded hairpins above treeline wasn't bad enough for non-Coloradan riders, throw in the fact that a massive hail storm had moved through the area the night before. It may have been 90 degrees in Colorado Springs, but at more than 14,000 feet, the summit of Pikes Peak had not warmed up. As we got to within a mile or so of the summit, we were stopped and told it would likely be two hours of wait time while they plowed. PLOWED!
We had some nervous women with us, as they eye-balled the ice in the roads. The decision was made to get everyone turned around and re-group at a large spot right above treeline, before we all pressed on for the summit again. Thankfully, there were three of us Colorado women up with the big group stopped on the icy, off-camber hairpin. We all pitched in to get riders turned around and back down safely.
We re-grouped and had some time to talk to other riders, use the facilities--big rocks to "go" behind were the extent of the facilities, but they worked--and snap pics. It wasn't long before we got the word that the plows were clear and the parking lot at the summit was a slushy mess. Some of the riders looked doubtful. I can see how they would have been intimidated about taking 700 lb. Harleys up to a rocky, slushy, icy parking lot. To these women's credit, each of them did it!
There was cheering at the top! Some women cheered because they had pushed through their fears and reservations, challenged themselves, and made it to the top. We all cheered because we had come together as a riding community and celebrated the courage those two women had 100 years ago, and the courage all the men and women had on our ride.
|A large number of the group at the top of Pikes Peak--due to the plowing delay, those who had taken the train up had to re-board for the trip down. The rest of us got to enjoy the views all we wanted! Photo by Christina Shook|
Most people enjoyed the views, made use of the facilities--actual facilities this time!--and some even bought some keepsakes in the gift shop or had one of the famous Pikes Peak donuts. They're greasy and crispy at the same time, with a hint of cinnamon, and perfect with a cup of coffee!
|My dear friends, Pat Jacques and Cindy Robbins! We all had donuts and a great time!|
People slowly left the summit in smaller groups, trickling back down the mountain. Later that evening, we would gather at the Harley Dealership, where we were all invited to enjoy the small but beautiful motorcycling museum upstairs. The dealership had Indian t-shirts as gifts for each of the registered riders, and the same year and model of bike the sisters rode on their journey sat in the museum so we could all see what they rode. All I have to say about that bike is that if I ever complain about my seat or suspension again, feel free to smack me!
Keywords: BMW, KTM, Harley, Indian, KLiM, Olympia, AltRider, Wolfman, ADVWoman