By: Sally Lyndley @sallylyndley
From the minute the state of Wisconsin granted me a motorcycle endorsement on my drivers license, my dream was to drive across country. Alone. My boyfriend had waxed poeticly about his solo trips every summer touring this whacky country, and I had done quite a few trips on the back of his bike, following him on my own bike, and then riding with my best babes through a few states. All of those trips fed my obsession and my need to do a long solo trip. To prove to myself that I could do this. To prove to myself that I am a real biker and that women have nothing to be scared of traveling across country (or anywhere) alone.
My first long journey on a moto was to Babes Ride Out East Coast with my buddy Gabbi from Detroit to NY and back. My little 883 sportster was a blast but not much fun in high wind or over 70 MPH. The rear view mirrors would vibrate so much I couldn’t see cars behind me or my road buddy. If I was going to make my solo journey a reality, I needed a bigger bike. I needed a big bike that could pass 18 wheelers, take mountain passes and handle the strong winds.
After many discussions with my man, whom I consider a moto expert, and hours of internet sleuthing, I was ready to go to the dealership and buy my “real” bike, my big mamma, my powerhouse. Her name is Cherry and she is a 2005 Harley Davidson Road King. When I bought Cherry, that is when my journey to Babes Ride Out truly began. I was ready. I had a year to get used to my Cherry before riding her across country to BRO5. I was well equipped and now I could wrap my head around riding across the varied terrain on this gorgeous red jukebox meets railroad engine of a big twin engined motorcycle.
As the months passed and the journey to Joshua Tree came closer and closer, my plan came into perspective. First question I had was which route would I take? My route determined my gear and my clothing. My skill level of riding determined my route. Eventually after much debate between the gorgeous terrain of Colorado and Utah, I chose to ride Route 66 from Illinois to California. This was a bucket list dream.
On various road trips throughout the years I have done bits and pieces of Route 66. But I have always been in a hurry to get somewhere with no time to enjoy the knick knack stores, curiosities and sights along the historic route. I was stoked!! Looking at the schedule, how many miles total, how much time I could take off work, I gave myself 7 days to ride solo from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Joshua Tree, California. 2100 miles! At the least I could ride 300 miles per day. Comfortable for me. On the most aggressive trips I have taken with friends, I have ridden 600 miles in a day. So the idea of having 300 miles to conquer everyday seemed easy and relaxed. And that’s what I wanted. Time to chill, wakeup naturally, have a nice breakfast and then have the time to stop at landmarks for sightseeing and lunch.
Once Route 66 was chosen, my gear obsession began. How little could I pack? The idea of minimalism is always so interesting and appealing to me. Until I decide I need to bring my own coffee, a coffee press, vegan snacks and about 50 beauty products. LOLZ. On my last trip to BROEC, I packed WAY too much shit. I felt like a moto bag lady with 5 bags strapped to my sportsters little back rack and two packed saddle bags. The thing I hate about overpacking on a moto trip is unpacking your bike every night and repacking it in the morning. Having this process be super easy and quick was very important to me. Minimal bungees is also important because I hate using them (always manage to mess up my nail or whack myself in the face with one).
In order to minimize my packing and gear, I had to figure out what I truly needed. My night time arrangements of hotels and a trailer at BRO made the gear lighter since I wouldn’t have to pack a sleeping bag, pillow or tent. Although in the end I wish I had my sleeping bag because it got HELLA cold at night and my comforter in the trailer didn’t quite cut it. I checked the weather for my route. Knowing the Midwest and Texas, I knew I would be riding in all weather conditions except snow. So that dictated gear too. And although I wanted to pack a whole bag of vegan snacks, in the end I just took whatever would fit in the three bags I had. My Road King has two saddle bags, so I bought the saddle bag liner bags for them to make loading and unloading easier. I also had a Harley Davidson travel duffel with a pouch to live right onto my sissy bar. That was it. I had to pack for 10 days in three tiny bags plus my fanny pack. LOLZ.
Here is what I packed and wore:
- Atwyld All Time Moto Jacket
- Atwyld Shreds Riding Jeans
- Heated Jacket
- Rain Suit
- Leather Riding Gloves
- Cold Weather Riding Gloves
- Fanny Pack
- Camping Knife
- Lavender Hand Sanitizer
- SPF 20 Lip Balm
- Hand Balm
- Neoprene Pony Tail Holders
- Face Oil (Moisturizes AND Cleanses)
- Travel Perfume
- iPhone and Charger
- Bose Noise cancelling ear buds
- Lap Top (cuz I still had random email work)
- Coffee From Fuel Cafe MKE
- Jet Boil with Coffee Press accessory
- 5 pair of underwear
- 5 pair of sports bras
- 5 pair of socks
- 5 tee shirts
- Atwyld Overalls
- Vintage Army Shirt
- BRO Sweatshirt from BROEC2
- Under Armor Base Layer Top and Bottoms
- Red Wing Lace Up Logging Boots
- Camping Knife
- Leatherman Multi Tool
- Poler Head Lamp
- Organic Almond Butter in Travel Sizes
- RMS uncover concealer and buruti bronzer
- Mascara and Eye Lash Curler
- Pendleton Bandana
- Toothpaste and Toothbrush
- As many LaCroix’s as I could fit into my duffel bag when I left
- 2 extra bungees since I love to shop
- Net bungee to pack down my leather jacket when it got too hot to wear
- Road King Bike Manual
- Harley Davidson Tool Set
- Gas Cannister (that fell off somewhere between Oklahoma and Texas)
So as much as I want to be a minimalist, I definitely wanted to have my creature comforts.
As the days of my trip got nearer and nearer the fear set in, am I really going to ride across country by myself? People started asking if I was scared, what if something happened, what if I got attacked? Or murdered? Fear hasn’t stopped me from doing anything ever so I just figured if I died, then at least I would be having fun when it happened. I had my knife so attack wasn’t an option, I could shank someone if I needed too.
My fear was really about being alone. Would people mess with me? Would I be able to guide myself? Fix my bike if it broke down? Remember to get extra gas?
Previously, moto trips entailed me riding with packs of very experienced, older riders who could fix any bike and knew the routes and roads like the back of their hands. Going on this trip alone meant letting go of my rider dependency of my friends. Could I do it?
Turns out I could. And I loved it.
To remove my anxiety of breaking down, I took my bike to our favorite moto shop in Milwaukee and asked them to triple check Cherry and give her an oil change. Also, I called my insurance and triple checked that I had roadside assistance. Broke down…. worries over.
Other than one incident where I may have run out of gas on the highway in Arizona, my whole trip went on without a hitch. No one messed with me. Most people were in awe. Lots of strangers blessed me and prayed for me in gas stations. Something I had never experienced before with group riding.
More than anything, I realized how much I love to spend time by myself. Having the freedom to leave when I want, stop when I want, pee when I want, eat when I want and choose my own hotel was incredibly freeing. And took a lot of pressure off of my trip.
After the first day of riding from Milwaukee to the border of Illinois and Missouri, I checked into my hotel at sunset and then plopped down at a Ruby Tuesdays for a glass of red wine. Enjoying the lovely house blend red, I realized how fun this trip would be. My only guideline and request from my BF was to be in a hotel by sunset. We made that rule for me because
- Drunk Drivers (far more likely at night)
- My Night Vision sucks
When choosing a hotel, I had some criteria to keep me feeling safe and relaxed. First, I like to be in a hotel or motel that had a lobby and a front desk to walk through to get to the hotel rooms. I felt much safer knowing a creeper would have to get by the 24 hour front desk attendant before getting to my room. Second, I like a hotel where they allow me to park my bike under the covered checkin driveway with cc tv. The cc tv will come in handy if anyone steals my bike, the covered area keeps my bike from getting wet in case it rains. The hotel front desk almost always has a view of the check-in driveway and it’s well lit for less chance of someone stealing shit off my bike, or stealing the bike itself. I made the mistake of staying in what I thought was a cute little motel and felt so freaked to leave my room when I realized I was the only woman staying in the hotel full of dudes with no 24 hour front desk or safe spot for my moto to sleep.
Historic Route 66 was incredible. And is in a romantic level of decay. If you have any interest in riding or driving Route 66, do it now. In another 10 years, I think it will be gone. Many towns are now ghost towns. A few towns still have a few cafes and knick knack stores left, but those are looking scarce.
My favorite moments where both man-made and natural. The Blue Whale of Catoosa in Oklahoma is both cute and creepy. A giant figure on the edge of an old swimming hole on Oklahoma’s branch of Route 66, the whale is poised to eat you as you walk into it’s giant open mouth to access a ladder and a slide coming out of it’s blow hole. Some dude made it in the 70’s for his wife as an anniversary gift for his wife who collected miniature whales. The whale become so popular, he opened it as a local swimming hole for years. Now it’s a Route 66 landmark and picnic area. Well worth the stop.
The Big Texan in Amarillo is a fun tourist spot that even I enjoy. I am from Texas so places like this tend to make me cringe. But not the Big Texan. With a one-man band, live rattle snake on display, steak for breakfast, lunch and dinner, a shooting range, a bar, hallway of zombie victorian holographic pictures, a gelato shop, a fudge shop and a robot game where you electrify an inmate, how could I not love this place?! Only in Texas would all of this crap exist under one roof.
Richard’s Trading Post and The Ranchero Hotel in Galllup, New Mexico are two other hidden gems. The Ranchero Hotel feels like a trip back into a 1940’s western and has a cute little cafe and legit Native owned gift shop for Native Jewelry and Art. Richard’s Trading Post is the best Indian Pawn in the world in my humble opinion. The jewelry, belts, rugs, turquoise, beading, and crafts are the most beautiful I have ever seen. I always spend a ton of cash in this shop because the prices are amazing and I know my money goes directly to the Native Americans who made the jewelry. Richardson’s has been around since 1913, and recently changed hands. Hopefully, the new owners will keep it in tact as it’s truly a treasure.
The Petrified Forest in Arizona is one of the most gorgeous national parks I have ever seen. The painted mountains are mesmerizing in pale blue, purple and pink. The 28 mile loop through the park is worth every penny and don’t forget to stop at the gift shop to buy some killer crystals, especially petrified wood.
Then I ran out of gas. Apparently motorcycle insurance doesn’t cover running out of gas. Learned the hard way. So I packed up my bike and started walking. Arizona has 60-80 mile distances between gas stations. When I passed the last gas station before I putted out of gas, I had over a half tank of gas. That’s when I realized exactly how many miles I have when that fuel light comes on, 10 miles. In a 20 mile headwind going 80 miles per hour, I ran out of gas three miles from the next exit and the nearest gas station. My gas bottle had fallen off two days before mid ride, and I had forgotten to replace it. Whoops. As I packed up my bike and prayed no one would steal Cherry or all of my shit strapped to her, a group of bikers was passing on the highway. The dudes signaled thumbs up or thumbs down to me and I gave them the thumbs down. The stopped up the road and one guy rode back to me and asked me what’s wrong. “Yall have any gas?” I asked embarrassed. He radioed to his buddies ahead, and no one was packing extra gas. “Well, I am walking then! Thanks for stopping!” I quipped. “Do you have water? It’s 100 degrees out here!” he asked. “Nope, it’s only a couple miles to the gas station, I will be fine.” I said, again embarrassed. “No way, let me at least give you some water!” and this sweet teddy bear leather daddy moto dude hopped off his giant harley and gave me two bottles of water and a good luck goodbye. And I started walking again. Two minutes later a truck stops in front of me on the shoulder. Another dude gets out and starts walking toward me. I remember my knife and take note in case I need it. He asks what’s up and I tell him I am out of gas. Lucky for me this sweet man has a gallon of gas in the back of his truck!!! SAVEDDDDD! YAS! He let me fill up and wished me luck. I have to say this experience made me realize many things.
- Many women passed me on the road, and only men stopped to help me. With everything going on in the world, it was a wonderful reminder of the courage and help that men are to me. There are still so many awesome dudes in this world.
- Running out of gas and being stranded on the side of the road was not the end of the world. It all got handled and I didn’t die or kidnapped or anything.
- I always want to have a fuel bottle on board!!
- Gas up at every gas station in New Mexico and Arizona and anywhere you don’t know the roads. I almost ran out of gas again the next day when my GPS app took me on a 90 mile stretch of highway the back way into Joshua Tree. You never know when the next gas stop will be.
- It would be nice to have a tour pack and saddle bags I can lock down in the future, in case I break down on the side of the road and need to leave my bike somewhere.
2100 miles from Milwaukee to Joshua Tree and no major hitches. That is until I turned onto a loose sand road to get to my hotel the night I arrived. Turning onto the “road” at sunset with super poor visibility I get 100 feet down the loose one foot deep sand road and fall over. I lay in the sand and start laughing my ass off. All this way and I drop my bike 100 feet from the hotel. WTF?! I call my friends I am staying with to ask for help after 10 attempts to pickup my 1200 pound bike alone. There was no way I was getting this big mama up alone without some serious practice. My buddies come to my rescue and the three of us lift Cherry out of the sand. with not a scratch on her. My homework this winter, learn to pick up my Road King alone. Humbling for sure, dropping my bike put my ego back into the right place, a place of a learner.
I am already dreaming my next solo trip already… would love to go up to Maine in the summer. And maybe New Orleans. Maybe go pickup my mom in Texas next year and take her with me to BRO6 on the back. Either way I am hooked. Riding with my friends is awesome, riding alone is ultimate freedom.