The Litas, New Orleans: Women to Recognize

Sometimes we wake up to the realization that our decisions are far too often governed by our obligations to work, to responsibility, to other people. About three months ago, I realized that my sense of adventure was beginning to dull, like a muscle atrophying after a period of dormancy.

It is because of this that I made the decision to take a solo ride to one of the most seductive cities in the south: New Orleans. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I packed up my Sportster and spent a week on the road exploring the great states of the gulf coast.

I was met by some of the most breathtaking scenery, and soothing back-roads in the southern United States. Amongst all this natural beauty, what stole my heart the most about Louisiana was the people who, without any bond between us except a love of riding, met and welcomed me along my journey. It is for this reason, that I have decided to devote this essay to pay homage to the badass ladies of The Litas: New Orleans.

When PJ (she calls herself this because their little sisterhood houses 3 Paulas)  and I connected on Instagram, she was immediately enthusiastic about meeting up. One of the girls, a free spirit by the name of Jahnavi, agreed to meet me in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi and escort me into New Orleans, where I would be greeted by some more friendly faces from this branch of the international women’s group.

As a rider I was immediately tested by the roads of Louisiana-New Orleans, in particular. Overly-trafficked and beaten by the elements, the roads of NOLA are riddled with potholes, humps, unpaved patches, metal slabs and the wildcard element of one-way streets. Needless to say, I found myself on-edge at first, but also awestruck at how easily these women seem to dominate one of the most unforgiving transportation environments in the Southeast.

Upon arrival, I was immediately ushered into the fold, and began having a conversation with this rare band of misfits to see what brought them all together to daringly embrace the Mad Max-ian traffic system that is typical of this city. It is fascinating how a person can often emanate the culture of the society of which they are a product: New Yorkers walk quickly, Californians embrace warmer weather, and Floridians are drawn to water.  I was quick to notice that these women perfectly embody both the spirit of riding and the spirit of New Orleans: eclectic, exciting, and experienced.

My first query was about why and how this group of women came together as a unit. When PJ and PB (another Paula of the group) first organized a meetup with fellow riders from the area, (mostly men) they realized that they were lacking a sense of camaraderie. They found the boys to be judging the girls’ bikes, riding styles and not respecting their space and pace on the road. Sara (a sport bike rider of the group) added that she feels boys often challenge or try to compete with her just because she is a female rider.

They felt the stark contrast. Female riders feel immediate community and mutual respect. This may manifest itself in many ways: pulling over when a bike malfunctions, waiting for another rider who may be left behind, or just a general encouragement within the group. They felt that the mood of their first ride with the boys was tainted by the machismo demanding that the women who ride with them match their definition of “tough” riding.

PJ began recounting the moves she made that led them to the birth of the formal group. She shared that she was drawn by The Litas because of its international following and effortless reflection of diversity.

What most inspires me about this group is the basis upon which they build their credo: all bikes, all ages. An integral part of the contract to join this group is that one be accepting of all bikes and riders.

The Women Behind the Movement

There were four women who welcomed me onto their turf that day:  four unique souls, bound by a love of riding, and each one reminding me myself in some way.

PJ, a woman so effortlessly free, has riding in her roots. She began at the age of 15 on a Honda Rebel 250, being unapologetic as the only girl tearing up the woods with the boys. She’s had five or six bikes since then, but a sense of loyalty and nostalgia has led her back to the Honda Rebel. She has a Harley-Davidson Sportster 72 waiting for her at home, but the little 250 ripper is enough for her to navigate the mean city streets. Riding for her means liberation; she feels wild and free, like she’s in her natural habitat. She equated the sensation of being on the road to finding true inner peace and serenity-a release from the chaos of daily life.

She and her husband wrench together at home and have instilled the love of riding in their daughter. At age 11, she has been on a bike since she was 5, but began riding her own motorcycle just three years ago. She took interest in them on her own. PJ remembers the day the words, “Where’s my motorcycle?” were uttered. Now that little girl can be seen on two wheels tearing up as much and as often as she can.

Jahnavi’s story is different, yet familiar still. She rode her first scooter when she was 12 and spent an entire summer ripping that scooter up and down every street of her subdivision. It wasn’t until the age of 17, that she and her boyfriend split the cost of a 250cc motorcycle and decided to learn together. She felt the fire ignite within her and has since owned seven motorcycles. In 2009 this fearless woman took a group ride in the Himalayas of India. She remembers the jarring differences in the traffic culture there. She joked that the horn was essential, not a courtesy or option. She also recalls how treacherous the roads proved to be. She had been riding about four years at the time, and true to her characteristic tenacity, she was the only girl operating a motorcycle that day.

I must admit, sport bikes are unexplored territory for me, so when I pulled up to see Sara on her Suzuki GSXR 1000, I was immediately intrigued by her. Sara’s ex taught her how to ride 10 years ago and she has since owned two bikes- blame it on loyalty to her bikes. She hated having to sell her 600cc, and feels a tinge of pain when she sees that first bike occasionally rolling through her town. She owns the road and her machine, and displays an enviable level of confidence on her bike.

By far the most curious and eclectic soul, PB, has an infectious personality and unparalleled wit. Her tale began with a cultural identifier: she remembers feeling connected to a classmate in elementary school who had a grunge rock style. She noticed that he wore Harley-Davidson t- shirts, and tied that feeling of kinship with motorcycle culture. Fond recollections of riding on her uncle’s motorcycle in the Philippines as a child, still sit in front of her memory, but the most impactful moment happened years later, when she went to Milwaukee for her aunt’s wedding. It happened to be at this exact weekend that a huge gathering of Harley-Davidson motorcycles took place. She remembers being mesmerized as the chrome-laced machines roared along the highway in droves. The image of this stuck with her, and she immediately knew she had to be immersed in this community.

She began her two-wheeled journey on a 2007 Honda Elite scooter. She loved that machine with all the force of her being. Ever the rebellious soul, she rode without an endorsement for some time. She playful stated that once a police officer, “threw the book at her,” filling up “all the lines on the ticket” one day. That was all it took. She soon got her endorsement and was one of only two women in her class to pass the certification test.

After losing a muffler on that little scooter, and getting a taste what a stronger engine might sound like, PB was coaxed to attend a Harley-Davidson tent sale one afternoon, and the rest is history. She is now the proud owner of a 2015 Harley-Davidson Sportster Superlow.

The Future of The Litas NOLA

Amazed by how quickly their group has grown, and how many women who ride live in their area, PJ has high hopes for the outlook of their group. Posting flyers to recruit and keeping an active social media presence, the group is now 16-strong and hope to plan a huge Southern moto campout within the next two years. They aim to embrace and promote all elements of motorcycle living, including garage nights/workshops, regular rides, even bike wash nights.

When I asked PJ where she sees the group five years from now, her answer was simple: a bigger, tighter community. She aims to cultivate a real sisterhood that sustains supportive lifelong friendships, one in which they push each other to venture out to ride in other states, or even other countries.

PB spoke of building a group that could create a legacy, something that could house a second generation of riders in the years to come. She hopes to establish the group within the community, so that all riders know this tightknit community of female riders.

Inspiration is a key goal of these women. They want women who ride on the back, but ache to feel the wind to their chests, to learn and join them. Sara chimed in here saying that her mother has been inspired to rekindle her love of riding after hearing of the birth of The Litas NOLA.

Bound for Life

It was clear to me from the first Instagram connection, that these girls love everything about riding. Their perseverance, strength of purpose and vision for their future solidifies for me the certainty that they will soon be a powerful force in the riding culture of Louisiana.

This impromptu ride to New Orleans gave more than just the adventure and fortification of spirit that I sought. Through this experience I forged lifelong bonds with women who superficially may seem nothing like me, but, as all riders know, the bond between us runs deep.

Follow along the journey of the Litas: New Orleans on their Instagram page, @thelitas_neworleans.

Gabrielle Jones of One Down Four Up

Creating timeless pieces of art through vintage motorcycles and beautifully curated apparel, Gabrielle Jones sifts through her many passions as she grows One Down Four Up. She remains fierce in her built up arsenal of skills and unapologetically herself in the endeavors to contribute to and build up the motorcycle scene at large.   

Breaking down barriers in the business side of an industry that is known for being unforgiving, Gabrielle Jones, co-founder of One Down Four Up, is a testament to the payoff of relentlessly chasing one’s passion. For those unfamiliar with One Down Four Up, Gabrielle and Wayne (her partner in crime) have developed a business that captures a nostalgic, bright, vintage aesthetic in the mediums of moto-themed clothing and vintage bike builds.

Gabrielle granted us the privilege of getting to know a little bit more about her, her business, and what led her to create a life balanced on two wheels. What we found therein was a woman so genuine and driven, that it is no surprise that she has found success in her endeavors.

Tracing us back to her roots, Gabrielle began riding in 2011 in San Francisco. Wayne (her now partner-in-crime) rode his bike from South Carolina all the way to San Fran in search of a graphics design job, but little did he know he would spark a fire in Gabrielle too big to extinguish. After her first ride on the back of his classic Honda, she knew she had to be the one behind the bars. She quickly began the search for the bike that would best encapsulate her personal identity, something raw and beautiful in its shell, but one that still allowed her to experiment with her own hands and infuse her style into. She fell in love with a 1971 Yamaha HT1. It is this motorcycle that has crystallized her love for vintage Yamahas.

Avidly conquering her home terrain, Gabrielle shared that although she struggled through years of anxiety and severe depression, she has discovered a new level of strength and perseverance from the process of learning how to ride. From the countless times of pushing herself to what she recounts as “too far or too hard”, no matter how many tears were shed she never stayed down for too long when it came to her motorcycle.

Her sincere personality and passion for riding came through as she shared with us the story of how she spontaneously befriended another Yamaha-riding girl in the area. Ecstatic to see another woman in her town on two wheels, every whiz of the two-stroke riding by would cause a wide-eyed burst- “Look, Wayne, it’s a girl.. It’s a GIRL”. Occasional sightings, and a few months later would intersect them at a quaint Thai restaurant. Gabrielle eagerly tucked her business card into the seat of the YJ2 and waited for a response. A few hours later, an Instagram post magnetized their relationship. They rode everywhere together and Gabrielle even got the chance to teach her how to work on her own bike.

“It was a huge confidence building moment in my life. I had someone learning from me and willing to learn, just like I had learned from Wayne”.

It was through this experience that Gabrielle learned the strength of the bond built between motorcyclists. She fell in love with the feeling of inspiring other women, and hopes to continue to do so through her work.

A certified Ophthalmic Assistant by trade, Gabrielle balances her day job with the pursuit of her passion in One Down Four Up. Every aspect of the business is developed in the hands of it’s makers. Between Gabrielle and Wayne’s combined wrenching/building skills, her natural knack for math and numbers, his eye for photography and graphics, and her abilities to create upholstery for their vintage builds, One Down Four Up organically became a self-sustaining enterprise.

What their industry has yielded is a body of work that exudes their mission of creating a brand that is clean and timeless, staying true to the aesthetic of the vintage enthusiast. When asked what was next for the brand, Gabrielle replied, “I hope that we can appeal to a broader range of motorcyclist; men and women both. I just want to put out an image that would inspire every type of rider and make them genuinely happy.”

A notable triumph for the One Down Four Up team came with their first win at The One Moto Show in Portland. Since then, they have taken home an award each of the last three years and have been asked to make the trophies for the upcoming show. Her excitement for all things vintage moto is palpable as she recounts the events that thrust this passion project further along.

We inquired as to her advice for women looking to break into the moto-industry. Gabrielle honestly answered, “Start small and work your way into it. I see a lot of people try to go big and blow a bunch of money. It doesn’t always work out. Keep your day job and build your business roots.” She emphasized that remaining realistic has been an asset to keeping their business afloat. She was quick to add, “I don’t view men and women differently, this is advice I would give any person. The only specific thing that I could say to a women would be to be prepared to have your feelings hurt on occasion.” She humorously cited times where people would immediately approach her business partner and fail to acknowledge the possibility that she was an equal partner in the business.

Looking to the future, Gabrielle hopes that One Down Four Up will continue to grow and that their apparel will be carried in more stores in the U.S. and internationally. Having just recently relocated to South Carolina, Gabrielle has been able to take this winter to focus on maintaining and caring for her motorcycles and explore this new terrain.

Her dedication to riding and the development of her business make Gabrielle Jones an obvious embodiment of the core values of DotR, and even more endearing is her genuine personality and effortless nature that make her, and the business she has evolved, relatable and successful within the motorcycle community.

To learn more about One Down Four Up and to check out their rad builds and apparel, you can visit their website at www.onedownfourup.us or follow their Instagram @onedownfourup.

Janelle Kaz "Moto Gypsy"

Fueled by a mission to protect the wild, Janelle Kaczmarzewski leads her life on the cornerstone of community outreach and educational reform. Charting unknown territory, teaching conservation and health awareness to children and adults, and joining the fight to dig up lost UXO bombs are upon the extensive resume that consume the daily life of the ‘Moto Gypsy’. Armed with the knowledge of wildlife conservation and ecology, and a heart filled with compassion, she aims to equip all those who walk her path and beyond with a better understanding of how they can contribute to a more positive global impact - from paw to footprint.

 

Here at Daughters of the Road, we constantly seek inspiration from the multitudes of movers and shakers across the world. Janelle (@motogypsy) caught our eye from the get-go. Her daily conversation boasts of light and love, a positive angle that isn’t expressed nearly enough in the motorcycle community.

She has been riding her enduro through Laos over the past several years, dedicating her life to multiple projects benefiting humanity and wildlife at large. From teaching children about the importance of their local wildlife, to charting unknown territories on her motorcycle to dig up missing UXO bombs - every day is an adventure and an opportunity to leave a lasting impact on not only the communities around her, but the world at large.

We loved how Janelle told her story throughout this interview, so we decided to let her tell the story this time..


We’ve been following along with your journey and are inspired by the work that you do in the motorcycle industry, but also wildlife/humanitarian activism at large. Can you expand on how you chose this path to fight for these causes on two wheels in a foreign country? Why Laos?

Sometimes in life our path chooses us! I’ve been inspired by animals, our planet, and the universe since I was a very young girl. I always knew I wanted to explore far off places and such adventures are inspired by the animals that live in those places.

I first learned about wildlife trafficking while studying evolutionary biology and ecology at the University of North Carolina in Asheville. It ignited this flame inside my chest and I just knew there was no question of whether or not I would devote my path to ending this dark trade. I chose Asia because it is the heartbeat of the illegal wildlife trade.

What (if any) apprehensions did you have before setting out on your trip?

I was terrified when I first set out to leave the US. I had never been on the other side of the planet and I was going with no plans to return and not much money in my pocket. Stepping away from security is hard, but I’m pretty good at pushing myself through my fears because I’ve only ever felt more alive and become a better person by doing so.

What was your life like prior to your travels?

I feel as though I’ve lived multiple lifetimes already! Back in school while studying endless hours for my science degree, I was also married to a Brazilian with a heart-of-gold and living a very domestic lifestyle. I prepared our meals and mowed the lawn. But I ended up with a longing that I couldn’t really articulate. Now, seeing the lifestyle I’ve chosen for myself now, it is no surprise why I felt so discontent in my routine.

Did you ride motorcycles before traveling to Laos? If so, what model? Which motorcycles do you tend to find yourself more attracted to?

I didn’t come from a family who was into motorcycles; I became infatuated with them as a teenager, wanting to go as fast as possible. The first loan I ever took out was for a Kawasaki Ninja and I rode it all over the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

I love the contrast from riding an enduro in Laos on endless dirt roads to my higher displacement pavement cruisers in the states. However, I currently love tracker/scrambler style bikes and at the same time have fantasies of riding a chopper through the deserts of the American SW.

What is the two-wheeled culture like in Laos? How would you contrast it to the moto culture of westernized societies?

It is so different! Everyone rides motorbikes there, so in a sense the roads are safer. People are used to seeing them on the road and the law states that if there is a collision, the larger of the vehicles is at fault. However, “big” (175cc and over) bikes are pretty rare, especially in Laos. In fact, Laos just lifted the ban on the importation of motorcycles over 250cc in 2014. Also, there isn’t so much in the way of driver education and driving school… you generally just purchase your license. So people do some pretty crazy things, especially because there isn’t enforcement of traffic laws outside of the handful of cities there are in Laos.

What is it like riding a motorcycle in Laos? What specific obstacles have you encountered while riding/owning a motorcycle in Laos? Do you maintain your own motorcycle while traveling?

Riding in remote parts of Laos is like the wild wild west, only extremely different, culturally.

There isn’t much in the way of comfort or convenience – no temperature controlled rest stops, endless dust or mud (depending on the season), and no reliable communication services.

I maintain my own motorcycle as much as I am able while traveling in Laos, as it is pretty difficult to find someone who has ever seen the type of bikes I’ve been on. I have to carry my own spare parts or plan to visit the capital city, Vientiane, the only place in all of Laos where I can find the necessary parts and knowledge for my bike. On my Yamaha Serow, I had to replace the Cambodian Frankenstein-clutch, and I was able to find the part in Vientiane and had it done there (thank you, Fuark!).

I once had my sprockets and chain replaced in a city in the south of Laos and if I hadn’t kept my eye on the whole process there were a few things that would have caused damage over the long run (like not aligning the rear wheel). They aren’t used to these bikes so you have to be really careful and it is just usually better to do it yourself. They are pros at changing tires though and as long as you keep a spare with you at all times, you can have that done at any roadside shack.

What special programs have you been a part of in fighting wildlife trafficking? What do they focus on, and how do they accomplish their goals?

The fight against wildlife trafficking is multifaceted and therefore so is the approach to combat it.

I’ve been working with a wildlife conservation organization, Project Anoulak of Conservation Laos, founded by an incredibly dedicated and at woman, Camille Coudrat. Anoulak means conservation in Lao and this organization acts on four pillars: research, education, capacity building, and patrolling. Camille is a hardcore scientist and asked me to help with the education outreach program delivered to the schools within the protected forest.

I’ve been working on teaching resources that can be delivered by Lao teachers to their students and is therefore implemented into the existing curriculum. The key is to give the program longevity by empowering existing teachers, trainers, and classroom leaders to pass on the knowledge and make it a part of their learning agenda.

Often we’ve found that the locals within these remote forest villages are not aware of the global significance of specific wildlife found there. They’ve been surprised to learn that much of their wildlife is endemic, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world. This awareness brings them pride and respect for what they have, and I hope to pass along a hefty dose of curiosity and compassion, too.

We read that you had a personal encounter with UXO bomb exploding in Laos, what was that like?

This experience literally left me shaking in my boots. I was on this narrow, winding road in the mountains, looking for this mysterious archaeological site I had heard about while at some hi-so party I didn’t belong at.

One of my first days in Laos's capital city, Vientiane, I attended a fancy-lawyer-cocktail-party where I felt incredibly out of place in borrowed clothing. My hands were peeling from rock climbing and my nails dirty with engine grease (my bike had broken down on the way into the city). Unsurprisingly, I wound up talking with the most underdressed person there; a t-shirt wearing archaeologist from Oz. He told me about his very exciting, upcoming project to begin archaeological research at one of the seven (out of 90) Plain of Jars sites safely cleared of UXOs (unexploded ordinance, these ones are dropped by the USA). The Plain of Jars is an archaeological landscape in Laos, dating back to the Iron Age some 2000 years ago. They still don't know what these prehistoric, megalithic vessels were used for. They are theorized to be a part of burial practices, but myth has it that giants used them to store their rice wine.

I was asked if I could head there to do some reconnaissance to see if the project site, known as Site 52, could be reached by dirtbike.

There is nowhere in the Xieng Khwang province, where the plain of jars are located, that is safe to put a shovel in the ground unless it has been designated safe and cleared of dangerous explosives.

With approximately 300 new incidents per year (mostly farmers, though 40% of victims are children), Laos is still haunted by past conflict everyday. Thankfully, there are organizations like the Mines Advisory Group (MAG), helping to make people safe from dangerous explosives -- saving lives and building futures.

My time in the Plain of Jars started out utterly unsuccessful, as my hunt for Site 52 led me four different directions within a 50km radius. The sheer amount of conflicting information is still hard to fathom, even from local guides and reputable sources. On my second day of searching, I realized just how far I was going to have to push myself out of my comfort zone in order to find these mysterious relics. With the sound of bombs exploding nearby and the instantaneous hope that each boom was an intentional detonation, I carried a sort of nervousness with me that I haven't ever felt before. I stopped on the trail and took some time, listening to the insects, admiring the white blossoms on the trees, and eating some fruit I packed along.

I could turn back… I could return to the safety of the town and perhaps be more certain of my path. The landscape was beautiful in its vastness and simultaneously daunting in its remoteness.

Do I choose comfort in safety or do I move forward into the adventure?

I had a roasted coconut in my bag and became determined to crack into its sweet water among the ancient stone jars I was seeking.

What plans of action/programs are you currently taking/participating in to remove the UXO bombs from Laos?

With over 80,000,000 UXO still in the ground, this is a massive undertaking with multiple organizations working to clear UXO, and yet, even with all of these crews it has been said that it will take nearly 100 years before they are cleared.

The Mines Advisory Group (MAG) is the one organization that I would regularly see out hard at work. I almost always saw their trucks and teams alongside the road and I had learned about the education projects they were implementing to make children (and adults) aware of the lurking dangers. Unfortunately, children will often see something shiny in the ground and want to dig it up.

Have you experienced any backlash while traveling by motorcycle in Laos, or is it accepted as independent mobility for women as well as men?

I’ve had more than one older Lao woman tell me that my life was in danger and that a “bad man” would come and slit my throat and steal my motorcycle. This, however, isn’t anything I’ve ever heard of happening and never felt any man, despite his moral code, threatened my life in any way.

This isn’t so different from the fears expressed by those in the States, by people who watch the news too often and fear for my safety as a woman. I believe that love and compassion prevails and I feel welcomed in the world. I am safe and smart in the risks I take and would encourage any woman to travel and live the same way.

What is a typical day in Janelle’s life like?

You know those days when you’re covered in dust and riding down an endless dirt road, dodging pigs, chickens, and cattle, and a roadside fresh coconut stand feels like it manifested directly from heaven into your reality? Or when the map definitely shows a road but when you arrive, all you see is an expanse of river and are perplexed until a small bamboo barge pulls up and beckons you and your motorcycle to come aboard? Or when you get woken up by a farmer at dawn wondering who/what you are and why you’re hammock camping on his land (you’d hear “Sabaidee” which means “hello?” in Lao)?

A day in my life in Laos could certainly be like that…

There is no typical day, honestly. Some days it feels like I’m forever on the road, or I could be in the company of friends in tiny a Lao town in the mountains, or endlessly trekking through the forest with education supplies to reach schools in order to deliver our Wildlife Education Outreach Program, or even just hiding out near a cave, trying to stay cool in the heat of the day.

There are certain things that I make time for almost every day, such as drinking tea. I love herbal teas and am often ready with my own teas and cup to see where I might find the boiling water. Often it is from the large metal kettle that is sitting directly on the fire in almost every Lao home.

What pieces of advice would you impart on the next generation of women that are interested in fighting for a cause in a foreign country while on two wheels?

I would impart the eloquent words of Edward Abby:

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. ...where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you -- beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.”

At times, you may feel lost, weary, and scared. Know that you are not alone in this world and things will likely not work out how you’d planned or hoped. Your bike may chronically fail and/or you will likely not make it to your intended destination - but wherever you wind up is exactly where you are supposed to be. Open yourself up to those experiences and feel welcomed in the world. People are our mirrors, so sending out love and compassion will reflect that back to you.

What's next for you? Any long term initiatives or goals you are currently working towards?

I have dreams of exploring a different part of the world to learn more about the wildlife trafficking situation there and the solutions being explored and implemented to fight it. I would like to join their forces and gain more knowledge, experience, and skill to bring back with me to Laos.

To read more about the UXO removal and find out how you can help Janelle in her efforts, please visit

https://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/uxo-in-laos-awareness-removal-hope. To follow along on the amazing day-to-day journey, follow @motogypsy on Instagram!

Paving a Road Untraveled: Chronicles of Becoming a Self-Taught Rider

 PHOTO BY ISACC YI

PHOTO BY ISACC YI

One of the trends common within the motorcycle industry is that it tends to be a lifestyle bred through legacy; people tend to be born into a life on two wheels. However, for many of us, it is an obsession we find later in life, often during a time of crisis, a time when, without a drastic change, we may find ourselves in the chaos of darkness. I can honestly say that discovering motorcycles, and my capacity to love riding unconditionally, saved my life. I will be frank and admit that breaking into the scene as an adult and attempting to learn it all “on-the-fly” is both intimidating and challenging, but the rewards of the journey itself far outweigh the obstacles.

It is that fear of undertaking the unknown that has inspired me to share anecdotes of my experiences of joining the scene late in the game. With my stories of triumphs and follies (many follies), I hope to encourage those just starting to ride, inspire those who are only considering it, and maybe provide a few laughs or moments of camaraderie to those of you who can relate to my stories all too well.

By the age of 24 I had created the life that is the catch-all definition of success: a steady job, homeownership, marriage and the prospect of building a family on the horizon. What was unseen by the eyes that so doted on those life choices, was the creeping feeling of dissatisfaction that I had to constantly suppress. The answer to this need was a total life adjustment: divorce, independent living, and a much-needed period of self-reflection.

Light-heartedly, I refer to this time of my life as my “Quarter-Life Crisis”. Among the drastic choices  I made were a nose piercing, multiple tattoo sessions and moving into a house with my first male roommate.

I’ve never really figured out if my roommate understood the fire he ignited when he first opened his garage door to allow me to move in my furniture that first Monday of January, but he truly was the catalyst for the itch that never subsided, the moto-lust that infects me to this day.

Desperately seeking some kind of fulfillment, I would watch him wetsand his gas tanks, or disassemble a top end of one of his various beloved metrics. Little by little he would share with me the smaller tasks and include me in the excitement of finishing a new build, or the rush of finding a new project on Craigslist.

“Just take the class,” he said one day, half in jest, I’m sure. That was all I needed to hear. I took the plunge and gathered the required gear, some freshly unwrapped and some borrowed from my roommate, and began studying the Basic Rider material.

I consider myself a fairly-intelligent, daring and confident person, and with all that said, the first day of the Basic Rider Course (BRC) was probably one of the most intimidating experiences of my life. I was the only woman in a class of about twenty students, and even more unnerving was the fact that I was the only one who had never attempted to ride a motorcycle before setting foot in that classroom.

The most common trope in the BRC is the young male who has been riding/learning with his father (brother, uncle, grandfather, etc.) and is just now getting around to taking the course so that he may ride legally. These boys are often known for showing off their knowledge in the most peculiar ways, their bravado a flashy badge of honor that can be blinding to the newer riders.

A particular moment stands burned into the fabric of my memory: dropping the bike in the BRC. IT is the ultimate fear of anyone taking the class...and yup, I was that guy (girl). All we were learning was how to walk the bike forward by slowly releasing the clutch. Well, the finesse required for a gradual release of a clutch was not a strong suit of mine. So, what did I do? Naturally, I dumped the clutch, lurched forward, looked down and we all know what happened after that.

I was mortified. I had done the very thing that I had vowed to avoid. I had accepted that I would not be perfect, even that I may struggle in some areas, but going down on a bike? I was not prepared for that. Regardless, with a little coaxing, I continued to ride, though not with ease, for the rest of the morning.

Upon returning to the range in the afternoon, the exhaustion of the day was getting the best of me. I felt myself waning fast, and it wouldn’t take much to send me over the edge. We started our bikes and rounded the course to do some maneuver, the specifics of which have now escaped me. It was finally my turn to go, and I hear some sighs and snickers coming from the back of the group, one of those “lifetime riders,” no doubt. I lost it. I finished the maneuver, and parked the bike. The instructors released us to lunch, and I lagged behind, attempting to hide the tears that I could no longer stifle. I was beyond grateful for the protection that my fullface helmet was offering me at this moment. I could not stand being underestimated, and what was worse, I was beginning to doubt my own abilities.

Noticing that I was taking entirely too long to get out of the blazing sun in all of my gear, the MSF coach walked over to me, quickly at first, and then he stopped dead in his tracks. Our eyes met, and my look of shame must’ve given away that those rivulets of liquid spilling off of my chin were not just sweat.

The man, who was a six-foot-tall biker in his mid-60s, stomps right over to me, grabs me by the helmet and says, “Are you crying in there?!”

All I could do is nod and sigh deeply.

 PHOTO BY ISACC YI

PHOTO BY ISACC YI

“Listen, girl,” he barked, “Don’t pay attention to those assholes. If they can do it, you can do it. You’re just starting out; that’s what this class is for. I will make sure that, no matter what, you leave here with your endorsement.”

I was floored. This man didn’t know me from Adam, other than the fact that I was the only non-Adam in a sea of Adams in this round of his course. Yet, that moment of encouragement was the fuel I needed to make it through the next day and a half.

I completed the written portion of the assessment with flying colors, not missing a single question-something the instructor announced proudly aloud to boost my confidence.

Although the nerves of the riding portion were almost unbearable, I sucked in a breath of air before each segment of the test and did my best. Turns out, this time, my best was enough. I had passed.

I was never able to tell the instructor how much his 30 second peptalk impacted my life, nor share with him the joys of becoming the fierce rider that I am today, but every once in awhile I reflect on how far I’ve come from that emotional breakdown on the range.

 

Laura's List for the Long Haul

As we mentioned in our latest article featuring Laura Buitron and her trip called "Ashes of Freedom", we are passing along her gear list which will make the long haul packing process a little less daunting. If you are traveling outside of your home country, for months at a time, this list is suitable for you. If you're planning on taking a smaller trip, or have a smaller bike.. just adjust accordingly! Keep in mind that Laura's ride is a BMW F800GSA, and has the storage capacity for this, but she has cut down quite a bit along the trip. Let's get to it!

I. Documents

  •  Passport
  • Driver license
  • ID
  • Birth certificate
  • Immunization card (no need but I like to have it)
  • Motorcycle title
  •  6-8 copies of each document, useful on border crossings (I have made color copies of my license plate and laminated. Reasons: with vibration the original can get lose & fall off, a collector may want to take it, police may threaten to take it in case of accident or speeding ticket. Carry the original in a safe place with the luggage)

II. Miscellaneous Bike Gear

  • Brake disk lock, thick plastic coated cable with lock & bicycle cable lock (for helmet)
  • Flat tire fix spray
  • Light weight cover
  • Ziplock bags (2 sizes)
  • Cable ties (3 sizes)
  • Strap (the simple one, no ratchet strap)
  • Bungee net
  • Few luggage straps (simple thing)
  • 2-3 ft wire
  • 0-35 ft line (to tow or tie down the  bike, no need too thick)
  • Tire patches tube repair
  • Head lamp & spare batteries
  • Chain spray lube
  • Bag with bolts & nuts for the bike (I have 1 metal clamp, 1 plastic hose connector (2 female end))
  • Bag glues & tapes: 2 part epoxy or JB weld, 2 part past that when mixed becomes hard as a rock (to repair metal), electrical tape duct tape, thermic tape or tape for hose
  • Liner for the pannier (it is like a duffle bag that fits perfect inside the pannier)
  • Back pack, better if waterproof. (If not, it would need a garbage bag inside, sits across and behind me; very useful for hiking day trips)

III. Spares Parts

  • Bulbs
  • Spark Plugs
  • Brake pads
  • Oil filter
  • I'm using a KNG air filter so I can keep cleaning it without exchanging it.
  • (Before installing any type of spare lights talk to the mechanic, you don't want to overload the bike and burn the alternator).
  • My bike doesn’t need fuses, but what about yours?
  • Spare tubes: due to my tire size it is hard to find spare tubes, unless the country I am on has big bikes.

IV. Tools

  • Leatherman
  • Wrench ( to take off front & rear wheel)
  • Tire spoons
  • Tool roll specific for my bike
  • 12v air compressor

V. Riding gear

  • Boots
  • Gloves
  • Neck brace (I have the foam one)
  • Jacket, pants
  • Dry fit underwear down to knees (helps with rash)
  • Socks (I use compression ones sometimes as it helps with circulation)
  • I don't carry rain gear, my jacket has a removable waterproof inner liner, pants has it to but I didn't bring it.

VI. 1st Aid kid

VII. Electronics

  • Unlock iPhone: so you can buy a SIM card for each country, if you wish
  • Selfie stick
  • Mini articulated tripod & regular size tripod (don't used it often)
  • Camera Canon Power Shot G6 (shutter control remote)
  • GoPro Hero 4 & 3 fittings
  • iPad Air, but I recommend a small & light computer.
  • Logitech Ultra-thin keyboard
  • External hard drive
  • Cables & adapters
  • GPS but my only had USA & Canada maps, so I use on my phone “MAPSME” it is an open source map that you download  the maps of the country or region you will be traveling, no need phone service to do the routing. There is an app called OVERLANDERS, it is a map where overlanders pinpoint places they have been and the info about.

VIII. Clothes & personal

  • Running shoes (because I like to run)
  • Flip flops
  • 6 Dry fit underwear
  • 3 Sport bra
  • 4 Dry fit shirts (I feel 3 should have been good for me, they are sponsor shirts)
  • 4 Sleveless shirts (I feel 3 should have been good for me, but they are sponsors shirts so I need to carry them)
  •  1 legging
  • 1 jeans
  • 1 sport short
  • 1 jean short
  •  1 skirt
  • 1 long sleeve button shirt
  • 5 pairs of socks
  • 2 buffs or bandanas
  • Bikini
  • Mini pepper spray
  • Light jacket or rain coat
  • Toilet treat bag: ½ comb, floss, tooth past, sunblock, face cream, razor, deodorant, hair ties, leave-in, mini nail clipper, mini nail file, tweezers, mini mirror, oil for my hair     
  • Wet wipes
  • Sunglasses
  • Backpack made with of a material similar of parachute, very think and folds to the side of a fist
  • Documents: original title, passport, ID/ Drivers license

VIV. Camping Gear

  • 1P tent
  • Summer light sleeping bag
  • Thermarest sleeping pad, only ½ size (for my back)
  • 1 burner & 1 gas canister (I didn't bring my JetBoil as I didn't know if I would find gas canister. I could have brought the MSR multi fuel burner but with the fuel canister, it was taking a lot of space)
  • Collapsible mug & bowl
  • Plastic spoon & fork, pocket knife
  • Cigarette lighter
  • Machete or big knife, mine is tie down to the frame of the bike

 

If you've taken trips of your own and have some items to add to this list, please feel free to send them over at contact@daughtersoftheroad.org!