TRAVEL/Road Trips: "The Road is My Home"
by Sasha Mullins
The road is her home: the woman rider is a nomad, an adventurer, a discoverer.
She is curious. She is both leader and guide on the journey of life for herself, her friends, and family.
She is an explorer and a pioneer discovering layers of wisdom and talent hidden in the dull recesses of everyday life.
Motorcycle riding piques awareness in the highest state. Rain sounds like an orchestra tumbling notes as drops strike metal, plastic, and rubber.
The sky morphs into a storyboard of cloudy tales. The terrain communicates with your inner territory to address the empty barren wasteland of a personal canvas awaiting color from the brush of self-renewal.
The urban tangle becomes a mental foray into harnessing one's focus. The mountain top becomes something not to conquer but to achieve.
The wistful prairie mimics the hypnotic rolling sound of rubber humming along highway. And the asphalt ribbon never ends, leading to whatever, whenever because you are present to the beauty of each moment.
The motorcycle offers an intensifying voyage into joy.
Sexy, powerful, and free describes the woman who rides a motorcycle whether she drives it, passengers, or races. The female gender is powerful in its own right, in its own design and instinct.
The female biker is in control because she is aware of her personality, her needs, her womanhood, and especially aware of all that surrounds her.
Often the road that she follows to finally take hold of her destiny is filled with endless potholes, gravel, and uphill climbs, and the motorcycle rides her away from the same old pitted, dark trail and onto her light-filled purposeful path.
The bikerlady is a woman free to be herself, a woman who is sexy because she allows the seduction of the road to awaken all of her senses full throttle. She lives on the edge of her own personality and grabs hold of chance opportunity.
She embraces whatever the winds of change offer that will completely expose and reveal her inner radiance, even if it may tear her apart, because that will shed her old self.
Lets talk about "sexy". Sexy is all your senses fully engaged and alive...It is an awareness that unites your bodily senses, mind, and soul in an orgasmic celebration of spirit.
It is sexy because we begin to love and accept ourselves, warts and all. Engaged in the passion of windy freedom on the road, we experience confidence. That is SEXY. That is power.
The motorcycle. Chrome, steel, rubber. A machine. But it is more than just a two-wheeled form of transportation.
Everyone who rides has her own reason to love motorcycles, but the seduction of the winding road and motorcycles cannot be explained.
Harley-Davidson coined the phrase, "If I have to explain, you wouldn't understand."
Riding a motorcycle takes us away from space and time into a silent abyss of oneself; the spirit is free to be and the mind can't help but release that which holds it prisoner, be it time constraints, responsibility, adversity, perceptions of others, whatever life experiences keep us from freedom and joy.
Time doesn't exist. Space is boundless.
Motorcycling allows us to connect with all that surrounds us because we are so vulnerable and completely exposed to our journeys.
We are available to become a character in our own road story. Whatever happens, happens and we both welcome the adventure and become it.
The motorcycle smashes down any barrier dictating what we can and cannot do. It crushes boundaries that cage our identity from free expression and breaks through glass ceilings that keep us from soaring and realizing our dreams.
But why the motorcycle? Why not a car or a bicycle? The reason is that while those vehicles can also produce a free feeling, its nothing like being on a motorcycle.
A motorcycle is raw and exposed -- it is a panoramic experience and perspective on life.
It can gallop into a small town, a large city or a gas station and invite camaraderie, human interest, and communication. Hey, roll down all the car windows, but youll never escape that steel cocoon or even come close to the rush of wind and freedom you feel when galloping down the road on your steel horse.
On a motorcycle, you glide deep into uphill twists and turns. Youll never break the same sweat you would pedaling a bicycle, but the unity of flesh and steel at breakneck speed, dipping and soaring, is life transforming.
You get a workout most health and fitness magazines wouldnt feature: that of the body, mind, and soul united with a chrome horse to simulate a feeling of flying. Flesh and steel become one. On this journey, one cannot go forth without the other.
Riding for hundreds of miles facing the unpredictable environmental conditions provides somewhat of a physical workout -- but the mind, the heart, and soul get the greatest workout. To cruise the endless ribbons of highway completely exposed to natures mood swings; its fun, it's power, it's sexy, it's freedom.
Free will. Free to be. And what results from freedom is a banquet of gratitude that emanates from the absolute core of our souls: We are in awe of the riding experience, so we thank God, the sky, the earth, the journey, our motorcycles, like an endless highway mantra...
Riding my motorcycle, I move as fast as I can away from the weight of the world and feel every sorrow, worry, insecurity, fear, regret, and shame rip away, like shedding an old skin.
The real me is set free. Nothing remains the same, change is constant and inviting - the motorcycle is an old friend, familiar with my every move and thought. The motorcycle completes me. It finishes my sentences and answers my questions.
The road introduces us to uncommon experiences that are life transforming. When we ride, we meet people who change our lives.
Riding makes you release judgment and suddenly you think, "to each her own." There are different types of riders in the motorcycle lifestyle, indeed.
The culture is about the freedom to be who you are; I respect all riders and wish them well on their journeys.
Motorcycle riding helps us focus on our dreams and goals because it clears our minds and fills us with youthful enthusiasm.
Riding takes us back to childhood. We smell like the outdoors, just like when we were children, running free with our hair all wild and laughing at simply nothing at all.
We didn't care if our faces were dirty then and we don't care if they're dirty from miles of road dust. All of this - the freedom, the play, the wonder, the power of controlling our own - is the magic of riding a motorcycle.
Oh, the danger of it all. Oftentimes folks will only admire motorcycles from a distance because the machines are vulnerable to highway speeds, to dopey drivers and hapless animals.
But we love that vulnerability! We love the wild road. We love exposing ourselves to the panoramic experience of life on two wheels. Life aint a safe warm blanket.
As riders, we love to open our souls to the powerful experience of riding a motorcycle and anticipating the unknown outcome of a journey.
When we return from a trip, whether short or long, we have come from visiting that secret place in the wind where self meets soul...
I'm in the mood. The rising sun and blue heaven outside are inviting me to enjoy an adventure.
But I have work to do. I have errands and chores that have been abandoned all week in favor of more important duties like career, family needs, and miscellaneous urgent matters screaming for my immediate attention.
So much to do. I even set my alarm for a ridiculously early hour on a Saturday morning to get a jump start on the day, but where do I begin?
Deep breath. Let me start by realigning my priorities. I decide to wear my leather chaps to ward off the early chill and take my rain gear just in case.
I need to get the hell out of town.
With my dark Rapunzel-length hair still tousled into a bed head mess, I skip over to the parking garage a few blocks away to get one of my motorcycles. A silly smile rises as I mull over which route to take into the unknown.
I love magical mystery style jaunts, but planning is essential, too. The urban jungle of New York City's Upper West Side is home for me. In my neighborhood, I'm affectionately known as "the motorcycle lady" or "bikerlady."
I gun the throttle to let traffic know that I'm cutting in and roar away; pure elation seems to lift the machine right off the ground and I feel like I'm hydroplaning from excitement.
An unplanned, free-wheeling jaunt is outrageous fun and a tasty break from an over scheduled lifestyle, but preparation builds confidence and fosters awareness. Preparation gives us freedom to discover and experience with reduced fear.
Whenever I ride, there are basic essentials that I always carry just in case the wanderlust in my gypsy soul decides to extend the day trip into two days or more, and also in case the bike has her moment.
In the left saddlebag is TLC riding stuff for me: rain gear, Ziploc baggies (to keep stuff dry) containing extra panties, socks, lady moon (feminine) supplies, a first aid kit, Wetnaps, travel-size toiletries, sun block, Advil, moisturizer, a little camera, bandannas, a sweatshirt, flip-flops, cut-off shorts, and a black silver scripted baseball cap with"It's All Good" inscribed on the front and"Biker Chick" on the back.
In the right bag is TLC stuff for the bike: a small tool kit; extra spark plugs, fuses, and bulbs, a tire gauge and patch kit; clear eye glasses; hundred-mile-an-hour tape (a.k.a. duct tape) and electrical tape; bungee cords; a flashlight; extra leather gloves; medical gloves; sandwich baggies (for water leaks in boots or gloves); maps; bike locks; rags; cleaner; and the bikes mini owner manual.
In my waist satchel: bubble gum, a Swiss army knife, matches, antibacterial hand gel, lipstick, a mirror, earplugs, scented body oil, tissues, super glue, my wallet with ID and bike papers, vitamins, and a cell phone loaded with essential numbers.
Its both risky and risqué to ride. To be a true free spirit requires a bit of risk management, too. So the maternal instinct springs forth to offer tender loving pre-ride care.
Bikers use the "T-Clock" inspection method to check the mechanical functions: Tires, Controls, Lights and electrics, Oils and fluids, Chassis and chain, Kickstand.
On a Harley, it's a known fact that you've got to check for loose nuts and bolts every time you go for a ride and throughout the day.
After I finish my pre-ride inspection, I run upstairs to my apartment to wash away the grease from under my perfectly manicured nails.
I finish my make-up and braid my long, brown hair into one rope laced with colorful bands. Silver Native American jewelry decorates my wrist and fingers.
Then its a last-minute check to be sure that I have all I need for todays great escape.
My two favorite leathers (a jacket and a shirt style) get layered atop each other to ward off sunrise chill -- now it's time to head out on the highway and discover today's escapade.
The northbound West Side Highway delivers me bumping and shimmying all the way along its deeply worn grooves of well-traveled pavement to the George Washington Bridge.
Traffic is light and the sun has now stretched its golden rays over the skyline.
Just over the George Washington Bridge, instead of heading southbound to the beach, I swing onto the Palisades Parkway for a gorgeous ride along the Hudson River.
Its hard to imagine that a few miles north of New York City are daring cliffs that resemble the sheer drops along the Pacific coastline.
Only twenty miles from the bridge and I'm in true suburbia, sailing through the air crisply scented with bouquets of roadside flora.
The canopy overhead is a lush late spring green and bursts of yellow, white, orange, and red wildflowers dot the meridian and sway along to the morning breeze.
As I cruise along the Palisades, I also notice lots of mowed-down fur. The dirty gym sock smell of fresh road kill that pierces through the otherwise perfumed atmosphere is so rancid that I breathe outward so I don't get nauseous.
A few months prior, I'd hit a deer on my motorcycle, but I managed to keep the bike upright.
It was a dewy, pretty morning and I was on my way back to the city.
I rounded a blind turn on a winding country road and there stood the animal. It dove right into my path.
Oh, I handled the whole thing with sheer grace. I screamed and swerved slightly away, slamming the frightened animal back onto the side of the road. Animal parts splashed my chaps and bike.
In horror, I rode to the nearest gas station to wash off. Bewildered folks with their powder-dusted donut mouths, sipping coffees, watched as I hosed off my chaps and the bike. My body shook from the flight-or-fight serum that pulsed through my veins.
Truth is, anything can try to take you down, on the road and in life. The key is to be prepared and aware.
A quick merge onto I-87 and I'm feeling so carefree that I break into singing Sheryl Crow's "Everyday is a Winding Road.'
There's no room for guilt at leaving behind the 'have to' chores. Those chores are always going to be there, no matter what; even if I get them all done, they'll reappear.
Time to fuel up and change the chewing gum, which has hardened into the consistency of cardboard.
I pull into a full-service rest stop and over to the gas station, lean over with my cash card, punch up the numbers, and feed my hog while fishing for some fresh bubble gum.
Another biker, nicknamed "Fuzz" because he's a cop, spots me and strolls over to say hi.
It turns out he's on a HOG (Harley Owners Group) run with eighty other riders and I'm invited to join in.
I usually allow myself to be open to the day's opportunities but I decline, explaining that I'm on my own little journey today and thanking him for the invite.
At the next exit I cut off onto Route 32, a winding road through the Hudson Valley farmlands that will lead me into the middle of New Paltz.
As I gallop along the asphalt, I feel like an iron Godiva commanding the reins of her steel horse as my gloved hands gently operate the controls of the motorcycle.
The fringe on my chaps and jacket flutter wildly in the wind. My legs are stretched close alongside the rumbling V-Twin engine to keep warm.
As I gain a mile I gain freedom, I gain my sense of true self, I gain awareness, I gain power.
I leave behind the intense everyday rigors and structure necessary to keep it all together in a demanding lifestyle.
Each mile can tear away at another dutiful label placed upon us -- identities adopted so that we can interact accordingly in the various worlds that define our roles in life. The winds easy elimination process is a reminder of just how lightweight the sticking power of those labels really are.
The winding roads stimulate my creativity as a singer/songwriter. New verses to songs seem to compose themselves with every new mile. The wind and the ride are poetry in motion.
Sometimes I even pull over and dial up my production team and sing the lyrics over the phone to them, and then appear in the studio to lay down the vocals to the music they have created based upon my roadside phone call compositions.
That kind of creativity is God in the wind, pure and simple. I would have never known the extent of my creativity had it not been for my motorcycle.
Its just after lunchtime when I arrive in Woodstock. The town is packed with visitors and the sidewalks are lined with motorcycles of all makes and models.
As soon as I park my Tigerlily, she lures people over for an "ooooh" and"ahhh" fest. She really does exemplify sexy, powerful, freedom and feminine prowess. The town is alive with street entertainment, an outdoor art show, and a musical tribute to the 1960s.
While I stroll through town, friendly hellos are shared between fellow motorcyclists as we recognize each other as moto-passionate individuals.
A large biker stuffed into crisp black leathers embossed with the Harley-Davidson logo everywhere taps me on the shoulder.
"So, where you off to today, lil' lady?" he asks, watching me through thick-lensed sunglasses.
Next to him is a round, bleach-blond woman with heavy fuchsia lipstick painted upon smiling lips.
"Just cruisin'. And you?" I reply.
"There's a pig roast over in Saugerties, next town over. It just started. These folks rent out a bunch of cabins and campsites at the KOA. You should come on over with us."
We make small talk about the riding day and ourselves. It turns out that George is a retired airline pilot and Margie is an environmental attorney. They met at Daytona Bike Week.
And thats how bikers are, they dont even know you, but will extend an invitation to join a good time. A definition of how the world ought to be, loving and caring towards one another no matter if you're strangers. I'm game.
So I follow the giant biker and his sweet girlfriend over to the bikes. Margie's Yamaha Road Star is painted completely pink with flowers and butterflies.
The inside of her windshield is taped with plastic-wrapped pictures of her grandkids, "her road angels."
Her leathers are beige with red roses. She is one stylin motorcycle mama. George rides an Ultra Touring Classic Harley-Davidson equipped with every modern convenience. They're happily retired from a previously structured existence and are now celebrating life and each other.
We head over to the roast. Its a five-dollar entry fee. The party is high octane and there's a small band playing country and western tunes. It's great.
Bikers come from all walks of life and bond together because of their love for riding and freedom. Children are dangling from swing sets or playing tag among the leather clad and tattooed bikers. Two little girls are sitting on a motorcycle sidecar rig pretending they're riding.
About a hundred bikes are parked all over the woods. The host is a short fellow dressed in a ragged denim vest covered with ride pins and patches. His nickname is Peanuts.
Peanuts and George carve the roasted pig in front of a cheering, hungry crowd. It's a potluck picnic featuring homemade recipes from several committee bikers that spearhead the party.
I hang around for just three hours and in that short time, meet some really uproarious folks through George and Margie. These two road romantics know most of the people there and warmly introduce me as if I'm an immediate family member. We exchange telephone numbers. Again my riding family expands.
They invite me to George's granddaughter's birthday party next month. "It'll be a biker baby birthday bash," Margie giggles.
Since I want to cruise the back roads toward New York City and get home by nightfall, I say my good-byes and head home.
I love the serenity at dusk. It offers a gentle reflection of the day and serves up excitement for evening festivities.
The evening ride is smooth and peaceful as I glide along the highway now. I feel deliciously relaxed as the night air rushes against my face.
I'm just sweetly drifting in the wind. The road is so romantic that I almost wish I were riding alongside a fabulous chrome cowboy.
The evening also invites a bug fest and my windshield is getting pelted with all flavors. Although it feels exhilarating to ride without a shield, dead insects are better collected on the screen than on my face.
Many of my friends hate running with a shield, and its funny to see what they look like when we stop. Their faces are dotted with bug parts. Of course, I'm usually the one offering up the Wetnaps so they can clean the insect graveyards from their skin.
I've put the bandanna that's tied around my neck over my lips so I don't get insect goo inside my mouth. Now I look like some outlaw chick on the run from bugs.
I ride over the George Washington Bridge and witness the energy of Manhattan through her skyline lights.
Today, I leaped off the path of everyday rigors and rode away on the path of least resistance.
Cobwebs are cleared away, I can think clearly now and continue moving forward in my life. In one day and two hundred fifty miles, the ride brought me peace and an adventure. I met a new riding family, experienced the motorcycle magic through the eyes of babes, took control of my personal priorities, and let myself get spellbound with freedom and empowerment united as one with my motorcycle and the rapture of the wind.
Now, back to life.
[Shown: Sasha Mullins]
About this book: "The Road is My Home" is excerpted from the book "Bikerlady: Living and Riding Free"
About Mullins: Sasha Mullins
Sasha is a popular freelance journalist for several motorcycle publications like "American Iron," "Harley Davidson's HOG Tales," and "Thunder Press". She pulls a spontaneous road trip whenever the mood hits. She has also appeared in several documentaries about biker life. Recent sightings: TLC's "Biker Girls: Born to be Wild," with co-host and professional racer
Vicki Gray, and Discovery Channel's "Motorcycle Women". Mullins is currently at work on her next book.
Find more travel articles in the July 2004 issue of "Arte Six".