The road, the ride, the moment
The 24th annual Mid-Atlantic Women’s Motorcycle Rally was held in Shepherdstown last week, with over 100 women participating; women who embrace a passion for riding as their defining characteristic.
The rally has evolved since its inception, starting with just a breakfast gathering to its current incarnation of a weekend long event. In the beginning, women from NY, VA, and all over the Mid-Atlantic came just from word of mouth. There were a few localized groups in Maryland and Washington D.C. like, Women on Wheels, Silk and Steel and Capitol Cruisers who would gather together for support and fellowship.
Lynn Oldenburg, who has been participating in the rally for each of the 24 years said, “There weren’t that many women riders at that time. I couldn’t find any women in Montgomery County. I went to Baltimore to connect with women. You’d ride for weeks or months sometimes without seeing any other women riders.”
“We all love riding and we always remember the first one (rally),” said Elaine Vance, another woman who has been at all 24 rallies. “My son was six weeks old and it was my first time back on the bike, riding, since I was pregnant. I hadn’t ridden for about nine months. It was the first time I left him (son) home with my husband. But it was just for brunch. I rode up there and as soon as I arrived, I ran to the pay phone and called home to make sure everything was ok,” she laughed.
“But that’s how important riding was to me. Getting back on the bike and taking this ride and meeting all these women was so important because there were so few of us.”
Carol Nelson was friends with Nancy Warren who founded MAWMR in 1993. She attended the first rally and hasn’t missed a year yet.
“If you pulled up to a light and there was a car full of people next to you, people would stare–they would look at you like you were an alien when they discovered you’re a woman,” she said. “It’s like people couldn’t believe a girl was doing that (riding a motorcycle) all by herself.”
According to a 2012 survey from the motorcycle industry council, women make up 12 percent of the motorcycle owners in the United States. A 2013 survey commissioned by Harley Davidson indicates that women who ride are less stressed, more confident and are more content with communication with their significant other versus women who do not ride motorcycles.
“Riding truly is my link to sanity,” said Nelson.
“When everything else is pressing in, get on a bike and it all goes away. It’s called, ‘wind therapy’.” said Oldenburg.
“A lot of people call it meditative,” said Vance. “It’s actually hyper-awareness. You have to be really careful. You can’t zone out, and that means you can’t be thinking about anything else. You don’t think about your problems-the future, the past. You’re just concentrating on the road, the ride, the moment.”
“I love it when you’re riding down the road-like we did today-and all of sudden I smell honeysuckle and then the cow manure,” laughed Nelson. “I love it. It let’s me know I’m in the country. Then I would smell coffee, and then cut grass.”
“You’re very aware of your senses when you’re out there,” said Oldenburg. “It also gives you more confidence. You carry yourself and think of yourself differently.”
“Yes,” said Vance. “You’re empowered and in charge of what you want to do.”
Lori Simmons, Shepherdstown resident, is new to the rally this year.
“I bought my motorcycle when I was 50, going through my mid-life crisis,” laughed Simmons. “I heard about the event from the motorcycle dealer where I bought my bike a few years ago. I never quite had the guts to go to this rally. I thought the women would be really tough. When I found out the rally was coming to Shepherdstown, I thought I didn’t have any excuses this year, even though I was still hesitant. But these are the sweetest women. They know how to party, and they’re very safety conscious when it comes to riding. I’ll definitely attend again. I recommend it to anyone. These women are so accepting and welcoming.”
“This is a big family,” said Vance. “There’s people here that you don’t see anywhere else. You see them once a year. It’s like a family reunion.”
The women said they enjoyed their trip to Shepherdstown and riding through the scenic Eastern Panhandle. They also lauded the generosity and friendliness of the town and local businesses.
“Please thank the town for us,” said Nelson. “We’ve had a great time here and we thank the town for letting us be here and take over.”