TT Issue One--October 2002
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Well Behaved Women Rarely Achieve Fame:TigerLady's Serendipitous Take on the AMA's third Women & Motorcycling Conference
TT Issue: One--October 2002

Well Behaved Women Rarely Achieve Fame, Part I: TigerLady's Serendipitous Take on the AMA's third Women & Motorcycling Conference

Some women never accept the explanation, "You can't do that-you're a girl!" Whatever it is we're doing that's not ladylike, maybe we're acting out, maybe it's rebellion, or maybe we're just doing what we want. We've been considered perverse, mentally unbalanced, contrary, headstrong, even deviant, when all we wanted was to have fun. I suspect if we heeded the threats of "You'll never find a man if you behave like that!" (something my mother said to me) we'd be regretful, timid housemouses, numbing our crushed and starving Wah with alcohol, pills, or some other self-destructive behavior.

Those of us who are heedless of such ridiculous injunctions are perfectly capable of running with wolves-or running with the bulls-and certainly even running a two wheeled motorized vehicle. And that is why the AMA recently held its third Women & Motorcycling Conference, this past June 28-July 3, 2002, at the West Virginia Wesleyan College campus in Buckhannon.

In preparing my thoughts and notes on this most recent conference, and comparing it to the previous two, I was in a quandary as to how to discuss it in a way that would be refreshing, and keep me engaged as well as my readers. I decided to break my content into two distinct parts. Part I spotlights all the self-determined, diverse, spectacular gals, there in the flesh and in spirit, who made this event such a thrill and a success. Part II will focus more on our voices, opinions and values, and how we see ourselves in the sport, the industry and the community.

Many of the women I met at the second Women & Motorcycling conference and hoped to see this year would not be attending, so I sent up a request to the Powers That Be for assistance in meeting everyone I should meet-for whatever reason, whether they had a great story to tell, or great accomplishments, or were just plain fun. And it happened, over and over and over again, as I literally bumped into extraordinary women gathered for the purpose of meeting kindred spirits in the welcoming environment supplied by the AMA and the town of Buckhannon.

It was serendipity, it was kismet, and it was a whole hell of a lot of fun.

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The opening ceremony for the conference included a live performance of excerpts from the memoir of Effie Hotchkiss, who is famous for having taken off in 1915, at the age of 20, on a 1915 Harley-Davidson with her mom Avis in the sidecar, from Brooklyn, NY to attend the World Exposition in San Francisco.

Although Effie and Avis' adventurous spirit and tremendous accomplishment are celebrated in the AMA's Hall of Fame Museum's traveling "Women & Motorcycling" exhibit, it was just 12 years ago that Craig Dove came across a trove of family documents. Included was a hand-written manuscript by Dove's great-grandmother Effie, who, at the age of 40 had been diagnosed with a bad heart and was advised by her doctor to write her memoir before she died.

She committed 300 pages before getting bored and lived another 50 years, when her heart finally gave out. Dove had no idea what he was in for when he got to the chapter titled "Wheels in My Head" in which Effie writes about seeing her first motorcycle at the age of 16, dreaming about bikes, getting one, and finally the trials and tribulations of the cross-country trip, long before the time of paved roads, interstates, proper riding gear, rest stops, and hotel and restaurant chains offering creature comforts. "I didn't know anything about the history of my family," said Dove."When I got to the motorcycle part, I thought, 'Oh my gosh, this kicks butt!"Apparently biking is genetic: Dove got his first bike at the age of 12 and still rides today.

Anne Mitchell is seen here holding an example of her artwork.Besides illustrating "Sit Down, Shut Up and Hold On," Mitchell does art for several motorcycle magazines, including Woman Rider and Thunder Press.

The opening ceremony's live performance showcased Effie's indomitable spirit, her spunk, her strength, and her hugely amusing view of things. The actress playing Effie strutted across the stage in period clothing, speaking with authority, self-reflection and unapologetic hutzpah, as 'Avis' sat in the sidecar "tatting" and alternately smiling indulgently at her 'daughter' and rolling her eyes at her dissertation. "I had tears in my eyes," claimed Dove after the performance drew a standing ovation from the assembled conferees.

Dove wants to bring Effie's story to the public, and will be posting updates at

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Effie and Avis were only an early example of the breed of women adventurers on bikes, I knew, as my suspicions were aroused by the single-cylinder Kawasaki KLR650 parked on the conference campus midway that stood out so much from the surrounding two-wheeled BarcaLoungers, cruisers, standards and sport bikes. The comparison begged the question: what the hell would anyone traveling any distance at all want with a mount like that?

Owner Mariola Cichon plans to be the first American woman to ride around the world on Roma, her trusty 650. Completing the entire course will make her approximately the 103rd "looper" to accomplish it so far, and one of only three or four women to do so. Other American loopers include Greg Frazier, now on his third loop, and Dave Barr, who did it with two prosthetic legs.

Polish-American Cichon, 42, and mother of two teenaged boys, has already traveled from her home in Chicago to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, the northernmost point of North America, and down to Ushaia, Argentina, the southernmost point of South America, covering some 40,000 miles.In October of 2002 Cichon plans to enter North Africa through Morocco and head south. After

Mariola Cichon and her beloved Roma. 'Roma' is the name those most commonly referred to as 'gypsies' prefer to call themselves.

conquering Africa her agenda continues with Europe, Asia and Australia.Major challenges she anticipates are tropical disease, trying to correlate weather changes with her route, and political instability that will affect her personal safety and ability to cross borders without trouble.

For instance, one day 150 miles north of the Ecuadorian border in Colombia, terrorists had stopped six semi-trucks on the Pan American highway, lined them up diagonally and slashed their tires, leaving them to block the road. Cichon was detained from 6 AM until about 1 PM, when, after spending two hours of trying to persuade police, she was allowed to pass through, in spite of the continued roadblock.

"It was a real mess," she said. "They warned me that if I didn't see traffic coming from the opposite direction for a half hour to pull off the road and stay put." Guerillas tended to attack mostly in the morning, and Cichon was able to continue without any personal danger, though she added, "An American passport does not do you any good in many places down there."


You've got to be half-dead to not find Cichon's documentation of her travels extraordinarily beautiful. The CD I reviewed, "Land of the Llama," features over 450 spectacular photographs of surreal and sublime South American landscapes, the oddities of local cultures and beauty of the native peoples, and dozens of sunsets over exotic and remote terrains.

Gorgeous, entertaining and informative, the pictures transport you there, to almost feel the mountain mists, hear the mud sucking at your feet, and experience the curiosity of the people from remote and untamed landscapes gazing out at you, survival and hardship and ancient ways etched in their faces and written into their genes.

And, no, I'm not getting a kickback-I just like to promote a good thing. Visit to find out more about the motivation behind these travels, purchase any of the three CDs currently available, or to check for progress reports Cichon submits from the road via email. visit

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At a British Biker Cooperative rally honoring the Panther motorcycle a few years back, I met Derek McLean, US president of the Panther Owners Club, and his wife Val. Plastered on the walls of their display tent, which showcased Panther literature as well as their plethora of restored Panthers, was a clipping about Theresa Wallach. I, too, had some info on Wallach, and through McLean I found myself corresponding with a Barry Jones in England, who was trying to acquire and publish the recently deceased Wallach's memoir of an extraordinary trip she made through Africa on a motorcycle a lifetime ago. At the AMA conference, while browsing their museum table,

I spotted a copy of "The Rugged Road," by Theresa Wallach, and bought it immediately. In fact, my squeals attracted so much attention others wanted a copy, too, but I had gotten the last one: How's that for kismet? It wasn't till I'd gotten it home that I found my name in the Acknowledgements-more squeals, of course!

Theresa Wallach grew up in an English household surrounded by the art and artifacts collected in far-away exotic lands by her career army father. Thus infected by the adventure bug, Wallach eschewed a life of factory work and domesticity, the only choices for young women back in the 1920s and 30s, and took up motorcycle riding and racing at Brooklands.

In 1935 she set off with Florence Blenkiron to conquer Africa on a Phelon & Moore single cylinder Panther 600 christened "The Venture," with sidecar rig and trailer! North Africa, with its challenges of blazing heat, unmarked routes up and down steep sand dunes, and hidden tire-shredding bedrock, made perishing 100s of miles from the nearest town a real and constant threat. Pushing the entire shebang up sand dunes only to slide down and stop at the foot of the next, they considered a 25 mile day a success. Traveling without a compass, they were told repeatedly they'd never make it.

Relying on their own wits and mechanical ingenuity, as well as the hospitality of local tribal peoples, regional authorities, and fellow travelers, make it they did to South Africa, safe and sound. But the bike was a wreck, the motor flogged relentlessly throughout the journey. Then immediately upon arriving in South Africa it was involved in a collision with a car. Though the manufacturer supplied a fresh bike for the return trip, Theresa and Florence had a falling out, and Theresa returned to England directly from South Africa by boat. Florence rode the new Panther only partway back: without a traveling partner she was not allowed by the authorities in northern Africa to continue alone for safety reasons, and so the Panther covered the final northern portion strapped to the top of a lorry.

Wallach's memoir of the trip, The Rugged Road, is itself a miracle of achievement. Urged by Jones, Wallach officially set the journey to paper when in her 80s, based on notes taken during the actual adventure, but she died in 1998 on her 90th birthday without getting it published. It took the keen efforts of Jones, from his home in England, to pursue the keepers of her estate and track the manuscript down, then transcribe it and see it to print.

The Aga Khan, who suggested the title to Theresa along her route, is only one of the many political notables and social elite the two women met while traversing the Dark Continent. Though rife with typos and grammatical errors, the book details the blood, sweat and tears paid dearly for the experience-and the ability to live to tell! With 40 photos and maps, it is a worthy addition to the "infamous rides" section of your motorcycle library. Look for my name in the Acknowledgements!

The Rugged Road by Theresa Wallach, Panther Publishing Ltd. 2001, $24.95 Also The Rugged Road Video, 35 minute silent black and white VHS or NTSC, featuring unedited footage shot by Wallach.

The book is available from the AMA Hall of Fame Museum gift shop (item # 040095). Call your order in to 614-856-1900. For information on ordering direct from Panther Publishing email Or write to: Panther Publishing Ltd./ 10 Lime Ave./ High Wycombe, Bucks/ HP11 1DDP/ UK

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Gagnon signing her book at the Woman
Rider booth

Dee Gagnon, quoted above responding to that butt-headed statement we've all heard, headed off in 1995 for 100 days on a 1986 Honda Interceptor 500, logging 17,381 miles.

The resulting autobiographical Dee Tours is zen-like, spiritual, and decidedly girly, but it's got adventure, attitude, danger and sex. It reveals her suffering, her doubts, and her tears. Most of all it's an amusing and exultant narrative of Gagnon's daily travels, as she encounters strangers and friends who repeatedly ask her, "Aren't you afraid?" and laud her with "You've got guts!" Gagnon is open, friendly, and interactive with all she m the most spectacular natural wonders along her route, and doing it all on a budget. For those women who have ever wanted to do a long distance solo bike trip, this book's message is, You go, girl!

DeeTours, by Dee Gagnon, Pegasus Publishing 2000, $24.00
To order visit, email, or send a check or money order to DeeTours, PO Box 2141, Taunton, MA 02780-0974. Applicable taxes and $4.00 shipping will be charged per book.

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Back in the mid 90s, Kim Brittenham, with husband Matt, founded, a very successful woman-friendly but not gender-specific free e-zine boasting a mailing list of over 50,000 readers. Cybercyclemag was eventually sold to, which soon became the largest motorcycle web business, surpassing Honda in 2000 in visitor traffic. Brittenham then managed consumer content for and started up CyberCycle Publishing. She served on the planning committee for the 2002 Women & Motorcycling conference, and fostered the Round Table discussions, developing topics and recruiting moderators.

Visit Brittenham's website at and click on the Resource Section for handy links to riding and race schools, racing organizations, race info, and women's resources and links.

Pat Gagne (not pictured here) was tracking the same crowd I was meeting, and so our paths crossed very early on. Turns out she is an associate professor in sociology at the University of Louisville, is collecting material on the culture of women in motorcycling, and was conducting interviews and taking photos at he conference. Cris Sommers-Simmons was a co-founder of Harley Women magazine back in 1985. She left the magazine to marry Doobie Brother Pat Simmons, and rides her '88 Heritage in Hawaii where she lives with her husband and three kids. She writes a women's column for the

Conference planners Kim Barlag, L, and Kim Brittenham, R

Front, Cris Sommers-Simmons of now-defunct Harley Women magazine, L-R, Femmegear's Dee Modglin, Woman Rider editor Genevieve Schmitt, and freelance writer Sasha Mulllins.
Japanese magazine Hot Bike Japan, and contributes occasionally to V-Twin and
American Iron. Cris has two books in the cooker, one a sequel to her kids book "Patrick Wants to Ride," the other a collaboration called "Chicken Soup for the Music Lover's Soul."

When asked what she most liked about the conference, Cris replied, "Seeing all the women riding in from all over. Some alone, which shows that spark of independence that I really admire. Also the way the industry and the AMA have sat up and taken notice that we are out here and deserve to be taken seriously as a big part of this market. I almost cried-really!-when I saw all the demo rides set up, just for us women."

Sasha Mullins is a freelance writer whose mantra is that all motorcycle women are 'divas.' "The motorcycle opens up a world to do for yourself," she told me, and feels that bikes empower women and enrich their spirits. Mullins is currently working on a book about "women, motorcycles, empowerment and freedom on the road and in life…a celebration of the feminine spirit set free in the wind." For out more on Mullins' book or philosophy visit

Cate Leonard is shown here with mom Doris, who loaned Cate the money to buy her first motorcycle, then persuaded her to buy a bigger bike. Eventually Doris told Cate not to bother paying the money back. You go, Mom! Leonard wound up with a 750 BMW, after a Honda salesman insisted she really wanted a 750 Nighthawk. "He was an idiot!" exclaims Leonard, who is never at a loss for self-expression.

Leonard served as moderator of the Lesbians in the Community Round Table, featured in Tiger Talk #2, Well Behaved Women Rarely Achieve Fame Part II. She is an anthropology PhD candidate whose dissertation is on the culture of women's motorcycle race clubs, and hosts, , a forum for motorcycle-related intellectual discussion and scholarship.

I had met Leonard the last morning of the second conference and put out the hope to run into her again. While sitting in on the "You, Your Bike and the Kitchen Sink" workshop (see Part II), I noticed the woman next to me spinning raw wool into yarn with a drop spindle, and observed her skill with some interest. Upon seeing the familiar tattoo on her wrist, I realized it was Cate, and so our friendship was renewed. Ah, serendipity!

Leonard, L, demonstrates manual spinning with fellow
fiber artist Wyn Jones, who rode a V65 Magna from Cincinnati

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A series of views of the exhibit which was displayed in the gymnasium throughout the conference. Yours Truly contributed as a member of the Advisory Committee.

Worth noting: Bessie Stringfield and Adeline and Augusta Van Buren are to be inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in October 2002. The Van Buren sisters' 1916 bike trip established them as the first women to made a transcontinental journey on two solo bikes. African American Stringfield, crowned the "Motorcycle Queen of Miami" in the 1940s, completed eight solo cross country trips while breaking gender and racial barriers on two wheels. Married numerous times, Stringfield's motto when replacing her Harleys was "It's got to be new, and it's got to be blue!"

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AMA Hall of Fame Museum director Mark Mederski with the 1915 Harley and sidecar used for the opening night ceremony Avis Hotchkiss reenactment

I had to feature Sonja Schafram from Dearborn Heights, Michigan, cuz she's on a 1989 NT650 Hawk, same as my bike. "I came for the demo rides, and to meet up with friends. I got a chance to ride things that aren't a Honda Hawk," she said, citing the BMW R1150R as "a treat." Hey! That's MY second choice to my Hawk! Kindred spirits, indeed…

Tom Barlow and Kim Barlag at the 1999 conference

Tom Barlow and Tracey Powell watching the Bike parade

An informal survey of the bikes parked in the midway on campus during an afternoon turned up 220 bikes: 73 H-Ds, 50 Hondas, 29 Kawasakis, 27 BMWs, 16 Yamahas, 15 Suzukis, 6 Buells, 4 Triumphs, and 2 Ducatis.

Worth mentioning is Jeanne Clendenon, who turned 70 just a month after the conference, who rode a 250 Honda Rebel from Washington State to attend! She's definitely got more ovaries than me!


The Women & Motorcycling Conference 2002 Advisory Committee included Kim Barlag, Tom Barlow, Jan Barrett, Laura Brengelman, Kim Brittenham, Rosemary Curtin, Gail Gray, Joan Horst, Debbie Matthews, Lance Oliver, Tracey Powell, Robert Rasor, Jane Queen, Sarah Schilke, and Will Stoner.

In the opening ceremony Kim Barlag observed, "We are, after all, the largest growing market in the sport," and urged the crowd, "The road is paved: let's ride it!"

Mayor Elect Joe Manchin, speaking for the town of Buckhannon, told the assembled, "You made a great impression on our townspeople. We had a great time hosting you. We in West Virginia appreciate you. We want you, we need you, we love you-please come back!" As for the impression we've made on the American public, Manchin added, "I don't think we were taken seriously until you ladies took up riding in the numbers you have."

Tracey Powell opened the Saturday night welcoming ceremony and ran herself ragged throughout the event. Afterward she said, "The women's conferences have been the most rewarding of all AMA events I have ever been asked to help organize. This 2002 conference was no exception: The people at Wesleyan College and Buckhannon were a treat to work with, the participants enthusiastic and the area a great location for riding. My only regret is that not more women took advantage of attending."

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*Remember gals, we vote with our feet! Powell urged those interested to stay tuned to the American Motorcyclist and women's club publications for announcements of possible future events. Visit the AMA's website at also for updates.

In the meantime, stay tuned to for the second issue of TigerTalk, containing Part II of Well Behaved Women Rarely Achieve Fame. The focus will be on the workshops, clubs, and more, so check it out!

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