The fifth annual Harley-Davidson MDA Women’s Ride at this year’s Daytona Bike Week was a great success, with approximately 168 riders (and three dogs) in attendance.
The Harley-Davidson MDA Women’s Ride started back in 2008 as an opportunity for women to meet up with Karen Davidson, great granddaughter of one of the founders of Harley-Davidson, and a small group of fairly new lady riders who had won a contest. Initially, a group of women riders would meet Karen and the contest winners and “escort” them on the last leg of their journey. However, the response from women wanting to join in was so great that the event was turned into a fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).
This year, Karen once again led the group. Some other well-known lady riders also joined in, including Laura Klock, Cat Hammes, Vicki Roberts-Sanfilipo and Gina Woods. Cris Sommer Simmons was in attendance on a new Harley-Davidson Dyna Switchback. Cris was also at the 2011 MDA Ride on her 1915 Harley-Davidson known as “Effie,” the bike she rode in the Cannonball Coast to Coast Endurance Run in September 2010.
The MDA Women’s Ride is now attracting some motorcycle celebrities. Renowned motorcycle photographer Michael Lichter photographed the ride from the starting point on Beach Street to the finish at Destination Daytona, and even in between at “the Loop.” At the end of the ride, there were more surprises in store for the group. Cris’s husband, Pat Simmons, lead singer of the Doobie Brothers, presented us with an acoustic guitar concert. David Uhl, motorcycle artist extraordinaire, was on hand with new artwork featuring Cris as well as motorcycling pioneer Gloria Struck. We were also joined by Arlen Ness, world-class bike builder; Buzz Kanter, publisher of American Iron magazine; and Gloria Struck herself. When I grow up I want to be just like Gloria, who is 87 years young and still riding her 2004 Heritage Softail. Gloria rides her bike from New Jersey to various rallies each year, including Sturgis and Daytona.
However, the real stars of the event were the three girls from the MDA, Mary Vida, Skyler Keim-Jones and Abbey Umali. Mary and Skyler are Florida ambassadors, and Abbey is the national ambassador. A trike and two bikes with sidecars were on hand so that the girls could ride with the group. All three looked thrilled during the ride, and it seemed to make their day.
Due to a funeral for a local police officer, there was no police escort this year. However, the Daytona HOG chapter volunteered its drill team to help out, as we had to stop at some of the red lights, thus breaking up the long parade of riders. Between a few motor officers and the drill team, the ride went off seamlessly. In the end, more than $35,000 was raised, which will be used to send children with muscular dystrophy in the central Florida area to a special camp each summer. Way to go, ladies!
To learn more about the Muscular Dystrophy Association, visit MDA.org.