Distance Riding

by Alystar McKenneh
(So. Cal)

Just Me

Just Me

I can’t tell you how many women have stopped me over the years to ask me about riding. They are excited and want to know everything. Am I afraid? Is the bike heavy? Do men love me or hate me? And…they all have a story about how much they would like to ride but why they can’t.

I would like to say, “Yes I understand.” But I don’t really. I’m no different than any other woman. I love to look pretty, have my nails done and smell flowers. I indulge in hot candle lit baths, girlish chatter over tea and walks on moonlit beaches with the wind in my hair. It’s just that I enjoy smelling my flowers while motorcycling along the highways and side roads of America. I prefer feeling the wind in my hair while screaming down the road on top of my motorcycle.

I've ridden a fair amount of miles across America. Many times alone, not for money or fame but because it is the thing that helps me stay sane. It's my out, it's my coping mechanism, my release.

Some women eat, smoke, yell, or just beat themselves up when they're angry or frustrated with the world. I ride. Most people go out to dinner, go dancing or party like there's no tomorrow when they're happy. I ride.

I have things to share. Little notes on places that were welcoming. Advice I have found useful. Warnings I wish some people had given me.

Women should be riding. All women should be riding. Don't believe that it's too dangerous, too masculine, too anything. All women should be riding. I'm not a he-woman, amazon, weirdo. I'm just the woman next door. Just like you. You who should be riding!

Alystar McKenneh

Comments for Distance Riding

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Apr 02, 2010
Boots for a Long Ride
by: Alystar Mckenneh

I saw a woman riding with huge heels the other day...

For all those women who are totally convinced that spiked heels make you look oh so chic?there?s nothing more embarrassing as coming to a stop and falling over when your feet slip on the pavement. Someone once told me to think of my feet as another set of tires on the road when I?m stopped. Nothing could have been more true. I pulled into a rest stop in West Virginia one time, I put my foot down in a small puddle of oil as I parked and immediately fell over. From that point on it was rubber soles for me. Leather boots with good gripping rubber soles are just as important as tires with good tread. Although not as sexy, boots with thick rubber soles and short heels provide good traction and slip resistance while absorbing the vibration of the bike. Some of the dealerships carry beautiful women's boots with very high heels but just because they are selling them does not mean that they are for riding. Again leave those for the hot party or riding on the back seat.

Leather is the best choice for boots. Thick leather just like with jackets provides much greater protection than any of the man made materials you find in fashion boots. Your best choice of boots should be at least 6 inches above the ankle because they can protect your ankles from exhaust pipe burns and crap kicked up from the road. Man if I had a nickle for every rock, tire piece or one time a plumbing elbow that blasted a hole in my ankle and lower leg as I rode I?d be rich. By the way? Cowboy boots have slick leather soles and tend to shoot off in a motorcycle accident as do your new Nike?s. I know a guy who was riding with tennis shoes. He turned a corner and his toe grabbed the pavement (just what a tennis shoe is made to do). He didn?t drop his bike but I myself was the one to put the kickstand down, turn his bike off and drag him into the back of a pickup so the doctors could turn his foot back around. He had two spiral breaks on that leg. And I had seen something I can?t un-see. Eewww.

On a long ride your boots will save you! Cold feet, wet feet, slippery feet are just not my thing. I need toasty feet to ride. And a safe feel when I put my feet on the ground.

Mar 31, 2010
Road to Sturgis
by: Alystar Mckenneh

I'm about to head out on my 10,000 mile trip across America. I have the itinerary on my site roadtosturgis.net. If I am in your area please come ride with me. You don't have to ride your own, I would love to chat with you no matter where you place your butt on the seat. And get an interview to post on the web. You can say anything you like! It can be political or just a shout out to someone but I'll be asking you how you feel about riding. We have all heard the wind in my hair stuff and that's good but...

I would like to know your personal feel. I myself feel bullet proof and stronger as if I am in control of my destiny. I'll bet you have personal feelings too. Something women can relate to, something women who don't ride but would like to, should hear. Check my map. Call/text me when I'm coming near your area 516-507-9592 or write a not to roadtosturgis@gmail.com and we will hook-up. Thanks, Alystar

Mar 26, 2010
Sand, I Hate Sand!
by: Alystar Mckenneh

I can ride anything and in any terrain but sand....I hate sand. Gravel is a little frightening if they have just laid a heavy load on the corner of a dirt road but for the most part I'm bothered by changing terrain. I've ridden dirt bikes on grass and hills and up mountain sides; so there is very little that can unseat me on a paved road. But sand. Sand on the road is crazy like a slip and slide. I hate it.

When I was in Pass Christian working in the aftermath of Katrina, the sand was drifted over the road and my back tire would slide all over the place. I slowed way down and it was still like a slip and slide. So if I would warn you about anything it would be sand on pavement. With a dirt bike and knobby tires it's no big thing but on a paved road with street tires...watch out.

Mar 25, 2010
Keeping Connected On the Road
by: Alystar Mckenneh

A cellphone can be a lifesaver in an emergency. You can dial 911 for help anywhere you find cell service, but you?ll need to tell a dispatcher where you are. Keep track of route numbers, interstate exits, towns you?ve passed, mileposts?anything that can save emergency officials time in getting to you. Don?t forget your charger! And keep it charged!

I carry a laptop with an airport card and it?s power cord. It is my most valuable possession. It helps when I?m lost, when I need help, when I need to contact my family or the police. I can sit outside a hotel and make reservations and save a bundle on? internet deals only?. I can upload my pictures to it and send them home so my camera is not full of digital pictures. It saves me time, and money. And with all the WI-FI locations it?s pretty easy to find a wireless signal in libraries, coffee houses, hotels and air ports, even in places like Benton Kentucky. Many times you don?t have to go in; I just sit on my bike in the parking lot.

I also have a newly installed Bike Sentry for this 10,000 mile trip I'll be taking in April. A ping on an internet map keeps my family and friends updated on my location. Most of the stress I've had on a trip has come from my family when they were worried so make certain they get a picture or two every few days. I carry a cord to upload pictures to my laptop from my camera. And now with my iPhone I can send right from the phone. Oddly enough they really want to see my face not just read my writings. I understand they need to see for themselves that I am alright so....

Good Luck on all your trips this year!!

Mar 22, 2010
Great Info!
by: Just a Girl

I'm planning a cross-country trip from LA to DC this summer. Thanks for all the great lessons learned about what to pack and how to stay safe.

I've just started riding this spring and love it, love it, love it. I've got to head out for work soon, and even though it's raining (it *always* rains in Hilo, HI), I don't care...I'm gonna take the bike.

Any ideas for communicating from the road? Posting photos, etc. I know my family is going to want to know where I am and that I'm safe. I figure the best way to go is to update daily on my blog or facebook page. Any thoughts?

Mar 21, 2010
Stuff to Take You Don't Really Think About.
by: Alystar Mckenneh

Wear a dog tag with your name and contact information around your neck, especially if you?re traveling alone. They?re easy to make at those pet stores with the machines that make them right there. They are indestructible ? think United States Soldiers.

Disc lock, fork lock and a big chain with a padlock. If they wanna steal it, make em work for it. And don?t forget the short metal cable with loops on both ends perfect for securing your jacket and helmet to your bike.

A rubberized motorcycle cover not only keeps your bike clean and dry overnight, you can use it to sleep under, on or off your bike. I sleep under my cover all the time while I sleep on top of my bike.

An extra pair or two of gloves takes up little space and having dry gloves to put on if the weather turns cold or wet is heaven.

Flashlight, a spare fuse and spare batteries at night could mean the difference between being blind and stranded on a dark road (and maybe in danger of being hit by other traffic) or being on your way quickly. Don?t forget to turn those batteries around so if your light gets switched on with all the vibrating your bike is doing you will not use up your batteries.

Spare Key. Zip-tie or duct tape it somewhere hidden on your bike, in your boot or give it to your traveling companion. I use mine as a zipper pull on my little purse that looks like a leather jacket.

A First-Aid kit with eye drops, medications , bug sprays and sunscreen - On high-mileage days carry eye drops and use them. Keep aspirin for heat headaches, antihistamines in case you run into something that doesn?t agree with you like old chemicals stirred up by tractors in farm country or wasps you had no idea you were allergic to.

Mar 12, 2010
Travel Clothing
by: Alystar Mckenneh

Carry clothing pieces that work together instead of a bunch of different pieces. I carry a leather jacket with adjustable vents and a removable lining which can cover a wide range of temperatures. When it rains I put my rainsuit over my leathers which keeps me warm and dry with little added bulk. I also carry gaters and boot covers because even though wet clothes take just a few hours to dry, boots take days.

I went to LaConia, New Hampshire to see the oldest Harley run in the United States and ended up with feet that looked like pickled pigs feet in a jar. After four days of standing under tarps, drinking beer and ?talking? about riding I decided I was not a fish. I headed back to New York. Believe me breathable waterproof linings in boots and or gaters will transform the way you think about bad weather.

Extra gloves should be sticking out of every crack and pocket. I love love love those $14.00 flannel lined jeans from Wal-Mart. I have only found them in the East but they are so warm. I tend to be cold blooded and they are perfect for everyday!

I have a neoprene wrap that goes around my waist. It's made for the old cassette players. I put one of those little heat bags in it and it keeps my core warm for quite a while when I'm riding at night.

Motor cops in LA wear a little soft nylon cap under their helmets and they don't get hat hair. Silk scarves serve the same function, have no bulk and keep your head warm. Just make certain they are small and don't unravel and start blowing behind you. I use a few bobby pins to keep mine in place.

Socks - I use dry wick socks for hunters or hikers for long distances. And I layer them because when they are wet, they are still warm.

Mar 07, 2010
Thank you...keep it coming
by: Kim

I enjoyed your postings. I hope to read more of you thoughts and travels. I am just setting out on my beginnings of motorcycles....and am working through my motorcycle class....

Soon....I will be able to ride alone....soon, I will feel freedom on my face.....

Mar 07, 2010
For Starters!
by: Alystar Mckenneh

There is nothing like the feeling of joyful anticipation while loading up and heading out on a long motorcycle trip. The difference between a good tour and a bad tour depends on what you remember to pack for the trip. If you prepare for thirty five degree mornings, one hundred degree afternoons not including the wind, the rain that will hit somewhere along the trip, being sand blasted by semi?s and wind storms that make you feel more like you?re sailing a ship than riding a motorcycle you?ll be fine. Here?s a list of things you should remember to take while packing your gear and a few tips from the many long distance riders that came before you. I'll post them a day apart so I don't use all her space. And of course you know I have a story to explain where my Ah-ha moment came from. :0

First and foremost, keep your bike gassed!

I hate the smell of gas. I used to think it was an inconvenience to have to stop and mess with it. And I ran out of gas at 2am on the Long Island Expressway just after I came through the tunnel. What was I thinking? Anyhow I grabbed my helmet and started walking down the ramp toward the street below. The first gas station I found did not have a portable gas tank. The next one had one but at 2am he refused to open the door. (Are you kidding me?) I got about 300 feet away and a truck pulled up with two guys in it. They asked if that was my bike up on the highway, I said yes. They said they were talking about going home to get a trailer and stealing her. I suggested an alternative. Why don?t you guys give me a ride to the gas station and help a girl out.

I hopped in the back, they took me to the next gas station and then drove like mad men to get back to her before some one really did steal her. They also filled my tank and returned the gas can to the gas station for me.

Thank God they were Bikers! In most cases I would have returned to find no bike. Standing along the Long Island Expressway, 3000 miles from home!

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