Backroads With Betsy: Revamping Ruts

Betsy gets her spark and shares tips

By Betsy Huelskamp

One of the greatest challenges I experience as I mature is learning how to keep the many different aspects of my life fresh and exciting. I am a person who constantly hungers for new ideas and experiences. Yet I am such a creature of habit that unless I make a conscious effort to re-energize certain areas of my existence, I often find an area of my life getting stagnant, or stuck in a rut. Having ridden a motorcycle in southern California for 20 years, I have seen many of its back roads, with a variety of different friends, and Ive visited many a local biker hang out for a bike night, or a sunny Sunday afternoon. But lately I have found that on many picture perfect sunny California Sundays, the girlfriends I have left who still ride are all busy with other aspects of their lives. There are days when a long ride alone in the hills is therapeutic, but sometimes you want to share the day. There have been times in my life when a motorcycle was my only means of transportation, and I didnt want it any other way.

Enjoying Utah back in the days when it often was just me and motorcycle.

But now I find myself looking back on those times when a big group of us used to ride every week to new destinations, and relish in spending a day sharing all of the elements of nature, riding and laughing with friends.

A big group of us near Silverton, Colorado. That#39;s Genevieve and me on the far right.

I dont even know when, where, or if there are any bike nights anymore. Im out of the loop. My idea of a party is my dog, Ute, and I sharing a Subway sandwich in bed, while we watch “The Biggest Loser” on TV. I fear I am in a self-created motorcycle rut! One of my best buddies Qian (pronounced Chin), with whom Ive spent the majority of the past decade traveling, has gotten quite busy with the many other aspects of her life. For awhile now she has been inviting me to ride with some of her newfound friends who also have motorcycles. And being the creature of habit that I am, I had not made myself available for that.

My riding buddy Qian is still up for planning our next motorcycle adventure.

Its easy and comfortable riding with my same small group of friends, riding down the same roads, to the same hang outs. I know that change is essential for growth, but I always seem to resist it. Sometimes I fear that if my local grocer Pink Dot would deliver food to my door, I might not ever leave my own safe compound of tranquility. So I came to the realization that perhaps it was time for me to broaden my horizons and get back into the heart of the motorcycle scene. So I told Qian to go ahead and invite a handful of people for a Sunday ride. “OK, where should we ride?” she asked. Where should we meet? What time should we get started?

About a decade and a half ago, Genevieve and I had a different destination every week. Some were local, and others took us all over the country together. Some were just the two of us, but many involved big groups of people: guys and girls, old and young, rich and poor, experienced and inexperienced riding has introduced me to all types of friends. Looking back on what kept that going and what kept it new and exciting, was the love of riding that Genevieve and I shared, and a love of nature and the great outdoors. It didnt matter if that was riding with a group of friends to the beach in Malibu, going cross country to Sturgis, or just the two of us poking through old ghost towns in the wild west.

Genevieve and I at a friend#39;s horse ranch in Gallatin Gateway, Montana.

I have long missed the riding buddy that I had in Genevieve, but what I just came to realize was that she was a lot more than that. She was the trip planner, the location scout, the detail organizer, and a map professional! I am just the wild girl looking for adventure, and whatever comes my way. I tend to wander a bit aimlessly, and blow where the wind takes me, which is fine if you are riding alone. But if you want a group of motorcycles to travel safely from one place to another, a certain amount of organization is required. Somebody has to take the time to make the decisions, and set it up.

Genevieve with her map and me in my…yes…that#39;s me in a raccoon hat.

All this reflection is making me think about the different groups I have ridden with over the years, and what made them work or not work. The more personalities you throw together on one road, the more ideas and riding styles you are trying to meld. I have found that most people who ride any type of motorcycle have a strong personality unique unto themselves. I remember riding a few times with big groups, and I would sort of blow ahead just enjoying the feeling of speed with no concept of where my destination was and with half of the group following me I got half of the party lost in the hills. Which never bothered me, but my riding style or should I say lack of direction, used to annoy some of the other riders. I also remember a few people accusing me of riding less than safely as my need for speed encouraged the less experienced riders to try and keep up. I guess I always felt like we were all in charge of our own vessel, and that each person needs to assume responsibility for his or her own space. In my defense, I would like to say that the wisdom of my years has taught me to ride a little more respectfully, but I do so love to fly through the canyons. When a tight turn is coming up and the sign says to slow your speed that is exactly when I hit the gas. Nothing puts a smile on my face quite like the feeling of leaning and screaming through the canyon curves! Wheeeee!

Even test riding this Street Glide in the curves for Harley-Davidson put a huge grin on my face!

So Qian and I decided we would get a group together at least once a month. Combine new friends with old friends to ride to new destinations. Or old destinations that we hadnt seen for so long that we dont remember how to even get there. So on the first Sunday of every month that is exactly what we are going to do. And for our first outing we decided to make it easy and ride up to the Deer Lodge in Ojai, which I had not visited in years. Qians friends all showed up at my house at 10:00 a.m., and we just had an easy, carefree day riding through the back roads of the valley.

Qian and her buddies arrive at my place ready for a day ride.

Over the years I have known many people to get hurt and even die in tragic motorcycle accidents. So it is always a good idea when you ride with a new group of people to pay extra close attention to the habits and riding styles of your new friends, especially if they are relatively new or inexperienced riders. It takes just one wrong move for a whole lot to go wrong. So ride defensively, and always leave room for error. Keep your own personal circle of safety at all times. Because this group was all riding together for the first time, we didnt exactly ride in a tight formation, but it didnt seem to matter. We all had fun, and made it safely through the day.

Pit stop for gas and coffee.
Scary, aren#39;t we?

It was warm, sunny, and beautiful, and we all enjoyed lunch, and each others company. It was fun to spend the day with friends who still have that new enthusiasm for the sport and lifestyle of motorcycling. We stopped often just to talk and goof around, and appreciate the views, which along the mountain roads winding over to Ojai are fantastic. Vast horse properties and old rock houses, orchards and fruit stands are all along the way.

Taking in the view and goofing off at the Ojai sign.

The Deer Lodge, located at 2261 Maricopa Highway, is a small, fun hangout just outside of Ojai. Its like an old hunting lodge surrounded by pine trees and palm trees, so its got that California flare.

The Deer Lodge.
I caught Qian checking out the Demons.

Old deer skulls and exotic taxidermy garnish the walls of the old stone structure. On weekends they have an outdoor barbeque going, and the barbeque chicken salad was awesome. Add the football screens, and cute waitresses in cowboy hats, and its got just about everything a biker needs for a fun and entertaining pit stop.

Cute waitresses and taxidermy inside the The Deer Lodge.
Even an ostrich was stretched out on a wall.

Ever since I rode in the Discovery Channels documentary “Motorcycle Women” and started writing for various motorcycle publications, a lot of women have contacted me asking to join in on organized rides. So if you live in Southern California, and want to join us for a ride, contact me. If you have location suggestions, or events of interest, let me know. Bike nights, weekend runs, anything somewhat local and fun. You can email me your contact info at:

Me and Qian outside The Deer Lodge.

And here’s the next big ride you can start thinking about and planning for now! A documentary film will be shot this summer covering my annual trek from Sun Valley, California, to Sturgis, South Dakota, for the rally. Many events during rally week will also be shot. If Sturgis is something you’d like to join in on, here are the details:

The Sturgis Rally official dates are: Monday, August 3 through Sunday, August 9. We will arrive the Friday before the rally and stay from Friday, July 31 to Sunday, August 9. The schedule and route are still under planning, but we could leave Southern California as early as Sunday, July 26th. We will ride through Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming, if anyone along that route, man or woman, wants to join in. It is being filmed by my good friend and independent filmmaker RJ Joseph, and will be shopped around at film festivals. This is a bottom of the barrel adventure, and everyone is responsible for his or her own health, safety, accommodations, food, and bike maintenance. The only thing being offered is a guaranteed adventure full of surprises, laughter, friendship, sunshine, and fun, mixed in with the usual rain, wind, flat tires and other obstacles life inevitably throws our way. If you should choose to join in on this ride, you will be required to sign a release form. Stayed tuned for further details about the Sturgis trip.

To read more about Betsy, visit her Web site,

23 thoughts on Backroads With Betsy: Revamping Ruts

  1. Your article and pictures are inspirational! Tomorrow, Monday I start a very intense work out specifically to get in shape for summer riding. Reading your article gives me the will and heart to get to my goal with a whole new attitude that will include a better outlook for safety outside my safety circle because as all you riders know that riding can put you in “the” moment when we want to take those canyon turns a little too fast but sometimes without realizing or taking into consideration that other riders are at risk to our risky behavior. So I promise to be a safer and more considerate rider from now on.

  2. This makes me want to quit my job and just ride, ride, ride, and RIDE.

  3. Yahooo! This trip looks like you had a blast. I just came back home to Oregon. I rode from Oregon to Louisiana and to Atlanta. For 2 1/2 years, I traveled the east coast — from the Keys to Nova Scotia. I traveled alone most of the time. I would love to do it again. I traveled on a Honda.

  4. I'm in. This sounds like it will be an adventure of a lifetime. I've been on a few, but not with a cool group of gals. I would really like to join in from the starting point if that's cool. My cousin will be coming along, she doesn't ride yet. She will when this is said and done. She'll be hitching a ride with me on my bike. Can't wait to hear from you for the rest of the details. I'll be on the look out.

  5. I'm looking forward to my first time in Sturgis. Betsy and her friends have embodied the true “biker chick” lifestyle and it is inspiring to see so many women, including WRN, share their experiences with all. Thank you!

  6. Wow, sounds like heaven! Living in the Southwest has been a dream come true for my husband and I. As a late bloomer in the motorcycle world, I encourage all women I meet to take off and ride if they have the desire. You never know what you can do until you try. We would welcome you to south eastern Arizona if you ever have the chance to get this way.

    Many thanks to you and Genevieve for your contribution to women riders and thanks for sharing your story.

  7. I think this is an awesome Web site. Good work ladies.

  8. This article speaks to my heart! I'm a new rider who has discovered that getting together with other riders is a great way to meet peole make friends and improve my riding skills. I just started riding in Septemeber 2008. I won a 2005 Honda Rebel and a 2000 Honda Shadow. I love the thrill and passion that riding has opened in my life. I can truly say it is one of the best feelings to introduce riding to another. I never thought I would be a mentor, but I have become one of sorts. I hope to continue to grow and share this adventure.

    1. You won those two bikes? We'd love to hear THAT story. Please share it with us by submitting to our Readers' Stories if you'd like.

  9. Would be nice if you would come to the mountains of Arkansas. we have beautiful roads around here. I'll keep tabs on ya. Have a safe and wonderful ride!

  10. I really enjoyed this article. It speaks to me because I have seen the groups with whom I've ridden change and disappear as friends became grandparents and gave up riding to babysit and others left riding for…golf (ahem). I mean I play golf but one has got to keep their priorities in order! Ha!

    I think it is a great message to encourage people not to get into a rut and lose the joy. Explore and see things with a fresh eye…that to me is the secret. The down side is that it does probably require riding by one's self a lot of the time, at least that is my experience. Of course this is all dependent on one's philosophical perspective but there is nothing better than to have a riding buddy who shares a similar outlook. Ride, smell, see, hear, feel, and enjoy!

  11. Great article that touches on many aspects of riding and growing through the years. It's happened to me too, the change in riding friendships. Sometimes, all it takes is a phone call to re-ignite that friendship. Right now, most of my riding is done with my husband. I'd like to change that and maybe I will call my friend Nancy after I finish this email. It's getting warm enough to ride up here!

  12. Betsy,
    I just love the trip you took me on…fab. I am sitting here in Canada and it's still freaking cold, had my bike out for the first time last weekend, oh what a feeling. I am back on track now! Good riding to you and your friends, so lucky, so warm. Our riding season is fairly short, about eight months of the year, so this is the exciting time, getting your bike ready, waiting for the first day when the temps are over 32f, and blast off.

    I am one of the older riders — just turned 65. I ride solo and belong to the Motor Maids, that international club of 69 years…and still rolling.

  13. Betsy,
    Great article! We did the same thing this weekend discovering some backroads in Eastern Colorado, great old farm houses, barns and silos, places we road years ago and forgot about. We saw some great opportunities for some black and white photo shots. Hope you roll through Colorado for your Sturgis trip. Will have to meet up with you, even if only for little while.

  14. This sounds like great fun! I can't believe that I have been riding for almost 30 years, and never met up with you all before. I live in Ramona (near San Diego), and will be in O'ahu until October 09, so, I will look for a ride then.

    By the way, riding in O'ahu is very different from SoCal. there is gusty winds, rain, rain, and some rain, and then, well, beautiful, gorgeous days that just can't be beat. Aloha!

  15. Loved your story. Says a lot. I am envious and very much like you in so many ways. You go girl and keep going, OK? Stay safe and keep developing that lovely spirit of yours.

  16. Greetings Betsy.
    Have you ever explored the Finger Lakes region in central NY state? It is one of the finest location in this great nation.
    Having lived here most of my life, I am now moving on and this coming summer may be my last. The house is going on the market, and if it does not sell,
    I may offer it again next year.

    I am extending invitations to fellow club members (Motor Maids, AMA, ROAR…) to take advantage of my home,
    while I have it. I love to serve as tour guide or just home base host. Hemlock is in the heart of the Finger Lakes and the wine country. Within a 50 to 75 mile radius there are many large wineries. The closest to my house is five minutes away.

    Letchworth State Park is nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the East (not to be confused with the area in PA with the same name). There's nothing like a local to show you around.

    So, I just thought I'd throw the offer out there in case you are on the East Coast.
    Second week in July I will be at Motor Maids annual convention in Maine.
    In August I hope to be in Colorado for the AMA Womens Conference.

  17. Does anyone know where I could get or view a copy of the “Motorcycle Women” documentary? I looked all over Discovery Channel's Web site and can't find it. I'd sure love to watch it to help pass the time until it gets a smidge warmer and drier here in Oregon and I can finally go ride my new (to me) Harley Sportster 883 longer than a quick lunchtime ride between storms.

    I get so much inspiration from this Web site. Thanks to you all!

    1. For as many requests I get, I'd love to duplicate my copy and sell it I'd make some money. But that would be illegal. If anyone knows where a copy can be obtained — legally, let us know by posting a note here. In the meantime, why don't you call Discovery's office and ask them.

  18. Interested in the ride you have coming up this summer. Is it just for women or can my husband join us? What's the itinerary?

    1. Linda,
      As Betsy states at the end of the article, the ride is for men and women. Further details can be obtained by emailing her at the address at the end of her article.

  19. Diggin' the story and especially your smiles! Very Inspiring indeed. Looks like your having fun and that's what it's about.

  20. Hey Betz.
    I know what you're saying. I'm always out there soulo it seems. Wish I lived closer to you and Qian. Getting out for the adventure is so much fun and having another chick rider to go wild on the road with is even better.

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