Lady Lovin’ Her Life: Many Women, Many Stories
By Paula O’Kray
Part two of a series
I looked around for some familiar faces. As I walked into the hotel, there was Karen Collins herself, the lady who organizes the Women’s Freedom Ride, with Ride Captains Glenda and Tink by her side. After a warm welcome and a round of hugs, I checked into my room and then checked in for the rally.
At a table set up to sell my books, I spent the afternoon chatting with some amazing lady riders, and was humbled by their stories. I encouraged every one of them to write their story to empower others to ride. One woman was traveling the country with her 86-year-old mother on a 2017 Spyder, a motorcycle with two wheels in front and one in back. Talk about living the dream!
Friday morning there were local organized rides, and mine started at the Kickstart Saloon, where ironically enough, I met about a half dozen other lady riders from Wisconsin. They were part of a group called Stilettos on Steel, and were from the Madison/Milwaukee area. They were very excited to make my acquaintance and were instant friends from the start.
We rode up and down the very hilly Kansas countryside, and stopped at several unusual taverns and enjoyed some great food. We also rode through a lot of hurricane damaged areas, which was devastating to see firsthand.
Back at the hotel, Gloria Struck, a 94-year-old woman who had been riding motorcycles her whole life was in the atrium selling her new book. I was honored to be selling mine at the table right beside her. She’s a great storyteller and so much fun to listen to, and everyone really enjoyed her talk at that evening’s banquet. There were several other women speakers, and it was a deeply inspiring night, including a touching dedication to Karen Collins.
Saturday morning was all business. We were told to be at Heartland Motorsports Park as early as possible, and the parking lot was very loud from 6 a.m. on, with women getting ready to head out. I had no idea what 1,200 women on motorcycles looked like, but I was about to find out.
We were put into groups to keep us organized. When it was time to enter the track, we were given a number on our left arm which was immediately photographed to keep official track of the entrants. A certain number of riders were let onto the track at a time, and each time the group had to move further down the track, so there was a lot of waiting.
Riders spent the time playing music and dancing on the hot track, and using the porta potty. Once in awhile, tempers would flare, but generally everyone was in a good mood.
When it came time to roll, we moved along at 10 mph, which meant constant clutch work. The 2.5 mile loop of track was completely filled with riders, and the front of the line followed immediately behind the tail for three laps.
I was excited when they took the ride through the pit area, since not many get to see that side of the track. There were many fans in the stands and around the track, and TV stations were there to record the event. In the end we did not break the world’s record, but we did officially break the U.S. record with 762 riders.
I was glad to have been a part of history, but the best part by far was making new friendships and bonding with other riders.