22 July 2014

Women, Motorbikes, Solo Traveling and Other People's Paranoia

A week ago, I finished my first solo motorbike trip consisting of more roads than just those in Colorado. This was a pretty big deal for me, and though I was certain I would be nervous as I set out, the nerves quickly melted away. The freedom to follow my own path, ride my Titan Blue German steed, see people I love and meet new ones, lay before me like the blank screen of my blog waiting for me to share my stories with you.

Most of my stories tell of the great times I have and the great people I meet. Occasionally, there are posts like the ones where I bitch about BMW dealers/shops outside of my home ones, but for the most part my experiences are fun and upbeat. I'm not editing my life for my readers--this is how my riding, traveling, and life experiences in general tend to be. I made the conscious decision a number of years ago to be as positive about life, people, and experiences as I could be, but it doesn't mean I'm blind to ignorance, danger, or just plain unkindness.

Occasionally I wrench on my bike. It has certainly come in handy when I've been on the road alone and needed to fix something. As it turns out, my engineer brain is completely cut out for this kind of stuff.

I have heard it said, over and over by seasoned solo travelers--trust your instincts. I suppose it is true no matter who the traveler is, but I hear this regularly from happy, successful female travelers the most. As a woman on a motorbike, riding alone, I meet A LOT of people. Men and women, motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists seem to come out of nowhere to ask me about my bike, about my trip, about my stickers, or simply to share their story with me. I love this; I don't do well with large groups of people, and I can't say I often feel really comfortable with these new people I meet, but I'm always thankful for the experience I've had when it's done. And sometimes, (it's pretty rare, but it does happen) I meet people who stick with me, who I want to keep in touch with, who I want to meet again the next time I'm in their space or they're passing through mine.

I was on the road for a couple of weeks, riding through five states: Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, and Arizona (yes, it was only 30 miles of AZ, but I'm claiming it, dammit!). Of the approximately 3000 miles I traveled, the number of highways and cities I saw, and the many people I met and chatted with, I only had one bad experience. Only one person on this trip made me feel uncomfortable, and to be honest, a little threatened. I can't say what it was in particular about him that made me feel this way, but my instinct told me to avoid this person.

He stayed at the same campground I did in Zion, and stopped to talk to me about my bike and my travels when he passed by one evening. His name was Barry and he rode a shiny red Harley, towing a trailer behind. He was walking around the campground in jeans with no shirt, all tatted up, looking pretty pleased with himself, and he was shocked to find I was traveling alone--that my family would LET me do that. He then proceeded to tell me about the one other solo female rider he had met. He had asked her if she carried protection and she told him no. He then informed me that she must have been a felon and unable to buy a piece, and said, "You carry a piece of protection, right?"

I looked him directly in the eye and said, "No. I carry two." I didn't feel I was necessary to tell him I was carrying bear spray (for bears) and my knife, which I primarily use for cutting rope. Or a ribeye. That was none of his business--let him wonder.

I didn't see him again that day or evening, as I was away for the evening, returning after dark and avoiding his section of the campground. I felt safe there, no one was going to fuck with someone in a national park campground. But his presence made me feel uneasy, and the next morning, the morning I was supposed to leave, I contemplated staying one more night in the park. As I looked at my map to see what the next two days of riding would be like, Barry came into my campsite and sat, uninvited, at my picnic table. He chatted away in his slow, southern drawl, complaining about the town of Springdale, the prices at the local grocery which he was not going to pay, and the fact that he needed to drive almost all the way back to St. George to get what he wanted at Walmart instead.

Springdale is a small town, seemingly filled with lovely people and nice places. I was more than happy to support the locals--I want to keep returning to Zion, and if visitors to the park don't spend in the town, and support the local economy, there will be nothing left eventually. I will happily support the area rather than running off to Walmart, 30 miles away, to get cheap crap. His tirade cemented my distaste for him, which I think had really began when he whipped out his switch blade knife and itty-bitty 4-shot .22 pistol to show me his protection the evening before. He made my skin crawl, and I finally dismissed him by telling him I needed to get moving, get my stuff packed up, and get on the road. Before I knew what was happening, he was hugging me and telling me to be careful.

Let me just say this. I don't like being touched by people I don't know. Had he offered his hand, I probably would have shaken it and wished him well also. But honestly, that's the kind of stuff that makes me really feel uncomfortable. No matter how much I wanted to stay another day in Zion, I couldn't do it. Asshole.

This was the ONE exception to my otherwise amazing trip, and the otherwise amazing people I met. In hindsight, I was probably being a little paranoid, and things would have been completely fine. But it made me want to leave, and the beauty of this kind of traveling is that I can always motor on.


One weekend I rode off to Silverton and rode jeep trails with 200 people I didn't know. By the time I was done, a couple of people in this pic became actual friends of mine.


Over the years of hearing other women's stories of being on the road, I have heard similar stories, but with about the same amount of regularity. For every 99 people you meet, you'll probably meet someone you wish you hadn't. I'm okay with those odds. So it makes me really cranky when I tell someone about my plans to travel, and I see that shadow cross his or her (though usually her) face and hear about how dangerous that sounds. I'm kind of over it, in fact. I am apparently smart enough to plan a trip, research places to go and things to avoid, and wrench on my own bike when I need to. But it seems to be that other people think I'm not smart enough to take care of myself in places they have never been.


Sometimes I even take the Tacoma out alone and go 4-wheelin' in the snow!


I suppose it won't stop. People like to warn me away from doing things because they "care" about me. I don't doubt the veracity of statements like that, but I would appreciate a bit more respect than that. I'm not going on a trip I don't research, and I'm not staying somewhere my instincts tell me to avoid. But I'm also not going to NOT do something, simply because someone tells me they don't think its safe. And, I'm not living my life based on other people's paranoia.


This time I took my brother's bike out for a ride. All alone--he didn't even mind.

I will continue to have amazing adventures. I will meet fun new friends, and occasionally someone I don't care for. I will continue to share my stories--and you know me, I'll have many stories to share. This makes me happy, this makes me smile.



  1. Your instincts are working just fine. I love ridin' with your dad and hope to do more of it.

  2. Motorbike Wonderful motorcycle with great economy I am very happy to find matters that speak about these wonders of four wheels I am in process with my habilitation and I think it all a marvel