Liz Quigley – Why I Ride
An old song from the 1950’s goes like this…………’ I’ve been every-where, man, I’ve been every-where’ then the singer goes on to name famous cities all over the country. I can’t say I’ve been everywhere, man, but I’ve ridden many places, starting in upstate New York, riding a Honda while I was sup-posed to be attending classes at Oswego State Teachers College. Every day in the spring of my senior year, I would fire up my bike, then ride it across the street from the senior girls’ dorm and park it in the parking lot at the student union where all the male riders parked. I was the only girl rider! After class, I was too cool as I rode out with the boys. That’s why I started riding.
Two years later, I was riding a brand new 1968 Triumph Bonneville in California, (I co-owned it with John Quigley). Now that was fun in the sun! We rode it to the beach and to the desert (where a couple of Hell’s Angels came up behind us and passed us on the right and the left at the same time and scared the hell out of us!) and we rode up California Highway #1, where we couldn’t rent a room at night because ‘they’ didn’t rent to hippies! So we had to ride all night! I rode with hippie bell bottoms and strapless tops and hair down to my waist, but no helmet. What was I thinking? How cool I looked, I’m sure! That’s why I was riding then!
But, it wasn’t until 20 years later when we bought two Sportsters and joined Indian Valley HOG in 1997 that I really started riding ‘everywhere’. The bikes got bigger, (a Low Rider for John, a Softtail for me and now two Road Kings Customs) but bigger still is the thrill of riding somewhere you’ve never been before! That’s why I ride!
I have ridden all over upstate New York (and really recommend both the Catskill and Adirondack Mountain State Parks for wonderful, scenic, fresh air rides) and all over Pennsylvania (Route 6 is, as the governor has said, a really beautiful road, Bucks County has some of the most gorgeous farmland and along any one of its rivers, you will find beautiful photo stops and at Cherry Valley State Park, the dark-est spot east of the Mississippi for stargazing!). I have navigated the intense traffic loops around Chicago, getting to Wisconsin (particularly Milwaukee where the friendly residents greet attendees of the Harley Birthday parties with big signs held up on an overpass that say, “Welcome Home, Milwaukee Iron”). I have traveled through Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and South Dakota; doesn’t that route sound familiar?
Of course it does; it leads to Sturgis where John Quigley and I rode in 2005. We had it all – high winds from threatening tornado, burning temperatures, driving rain and gloom of night. But as we neared Wall Drug, just 50 miles east of Sturgis, the excitement mounted as more and more bikes appeared on the roads. Tons of trailer babes dropped off their husbands with their bikes so they could ride into Sturgis, tons of people, crazy people sporting crazy T-shirts (Nice Trailer, Pussy!), freaky bikes like lumbering Rat Bikes and high styling Crotch Rockets that flew by us 120 mph while we kept steady trucking at 75-80 mph. 25 miles from Sturgis it started raining – hard. John asked by hand signals, did I want to pull over and put on the rain gear? NO WAY! By then I was so crazy from the road, I just cranked that accelerator and we roared into Sturgis! Crazy times – that’s why I ride!
More experienced now, I’ve rid-den with John on the highways to Virginia (there we recommend Sky-line Dr.), West Virginia (also recommend Blue Ridge Parkway), through Kentucky to Tennessee, pedal to the metal until you get to your destination, then long leisurely, exploratory rides on the back roads and byways. We enjoyed the West Virginia HOG Rally one year, riding through strangely named small towns like Dolly Flats and Salt Forks, challenged our-selves on the winding twists of the Dragon’s Tail and along the Cherohala Skyway (a friend called it the Dragon’s Spine because of the ups and downs) from Tellico Plains, TN to Robbinsville, North Carolina (check out the remote Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest-I think I should never see a poem as lovely as a tree…). These rides combined the best of both worlds: the long distance travel and the beautiful scenic areas explored. That’s why I ride now.
But more than the crazy times and the relaxing, pretty byways, I ride because it is a task that commands your entire attention (if you want to live, that is). So even if the road is long or intense like in city traffic or easy breezy, like in the country, you get very Zen when you are riding. It is like doing yoga well, you relax when you focus strongly on only one thing. So whether you get a long vacation ride or if the only time you have to ride is a little after work, it is always a pleasure to have your knees in the breeze and your mind operating calmly while you are navigating that big bike. It is (as the guru says): Be Here Now.
That’s really why I ride.
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