Ride To Love, Love To Ride
ON THE ROAD WITH THE LADIES OF HARLEY
Big Bike Weekend rumbles into town this month with proud owners showing off a diversity of makes, models and regalia during three days of events. Among the participants will be the Ladies of Harley.
They all wear leathers emblazoned with their club insignia. At their monthly meetings, they share stories of children and grandchildren, their daily joys and challenges at work or at home, and exchange ideas and information about their motorcycles. At a recent monthly meeting, the order of business included a jewelry party. The ladies represent a cross section of the North State community with one thing in common: they love their Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
An adjunct to the Harley Owners Group, Ladies of Harley represents the distinctly feminine branch of the group. Some ride their own Harleys, while others prefer to occupy the passenger seats of their partners’ bikes. All have found a common bond of friendship that looks very much like a family, related around a common interest with spokes that reach into all parts of their lives. According to one Ladies of Harley member, eight percent of Harley riders nationally are women, but locally, the Harley Owners Group membership is 18 percent female and growing.
Ladies of Harley Director Pam Buono joined the group for several reasons. She and her husband had migrated from Boston many years ago, where Pam worked for Harley-Davidson. They rode independently, but after her husband’s death, Pam got tired of riding alone. She felt the need to meet like-minded people, and she knew riding with others was smarter and safer. She found “good, honest, wonderful” people who “have my back.”
Pam’s friend, Angel Riley, has been a member since 2006. She rides behind her husband. Among the many events on their yearly calendar, Angel particularly looks forward to the Patriot Tour which begins in Washington, D.C. Harley riders carry an American flag from city to city across the country to raise money for wounded veterans through the Nation of Patriots organization. The flag is passed on to a new group of riders for each leg of the journey. Angel and her husband rode in the 2010 tour. This year the flag passed through the North State in early August and ended at the Harley-Davidson dealership in Oconomowoc, Wisc., on Sept. 1. Angel says the Redding Harley Owners Group is very patriotic, sponsoring many veteran-related projects and events.
A Harley Owners Group club from South Africa toured the United States in 2011, stopping off for some friendly exchanges with the Redding chapter. “We’re all the same,” Angel says. They participate in group road trips, holiday parades, contribute goods and services to charitable causes and enjoy good food together.
There is no lack of variety in either their clothing or their bikes. Ladies’ styles run from classic to total “bling” when they embellish their leathers and helmets. They earn patches for each year of membership and for participation in scheduled activities. Pam Graeff might be considered a “girly girl” with her classy jewelry and blinged-out leathers and helmet, but once she sat astride her own Harley for the first time, she never wanted to ride behind her husband again. Her skull and crossbones head scarf adds to the feisty and outgoing personality she brings to the group.
Debbie Allison started riding her own bike at age 50. “I like being in control,” she admits with a smile. Franziska Winn started riding when her husband passed away six years ago. She wanted to continue her association with the group, so she learned to ride her husband’s Harley and says she never wants to ride on the back seat again. Kathy Sonnenberg, newly retired, enjoys riding the “trike” her husband bought for her. Sharon Rodrigues had been a passenger all her life. Now she rides her own trike with a side car. “It’s never too late,” she declares with a smile.
This month, Ladies of Harley will be among the many riders coming together during Big Bike Weekend Oct. 12-14. Many Ladies of Harley members plan to ride in the “All-Bike” just-for-ladies event on Saturday organized by Nanci Rogers, owner of Ace High Leathers of Montague. The ladies, riding all makes and models of motorcycles, will line up at Holiday Inn on Hilltop Drive, head to Shasta Dam for a photo shoot and meander back to Holiday Inn. Says Rogers, “My goal is to see how many ladies I can round up for the ride.”
Redding Chapter of Harley Owners Group www.reddinghog.com Big Bike Weekend events: www.bigbikeweekend.com