It isn’t that Jonny didn’t want me to ride my own bike. In fact, he surprised me with a Vespa 50cc before I knew I even wanted one. I had no idea how much fun it would be to do my errands on a scooter. But I never thought I could—or should—make the transition to riding a motorcycle. My attitude changed one day when I was standing in a Starbucks parking lot on the East End of Long Island and happened to meet a woman who was riding her motorcycle right then to Alaska. We talked for a while; I was mightily impressed, then I forgot about her.
About four weeks later—I know this sounds unbelievable—I happened to meet this same motorcyclist the day she was coming back from Alaska. I took these two providential meetings as sure signs that riding to Alaska was something I had to do.
When I told Jonny my dream of riding to Alaska the following summer, instead of reacting with “Say what?” he surprised me again—this time with six lessons at a nearby motorcycle school, where some of my instructors were women.
I purchased a motorcycleI thought I could handle, a BMW G 650 GS and I chose the color red to match my lipstick. Jonny and I spent the winter planning and purchasing items for our trip and loading and unloading our gear on our bikes (his was a BMW F 800 GS). We also made sure to outfit our motorcycles properly, changing to larger windshields for protection on the unpaved roads we’d encounter, and even buying Alaska butt pads to cushion our ride.
We left Westhampton, New York, in June and rode into Ontario, traveled the Trans-Canada Highway, went up the Alaska Highway, into Anchorage and back again. A total of 10,230 miles in 51 days. We weren’t contending for the Iron Butt Association; we took our time and stopped to visit family and friends.
Although Jonny is a seasoned rider—he’s crisscrossed America on a Norton Commando 850, and a Triumph Bonneville 750 among others—he agreed to go easy. We averaged about 300 miles a day. We also agreed that I would ride in front, which meant I could set the pace I wanted. According to him, it was never fast enough, until the time I hit close to three digits while passing a turtle of an RV somewhere in the Yukon. (I hope there’s no retroactive speed ticketing.)
Some men might not want a woman to ride next to them and would rather have them sitting behind, their arms wrapped around their waist. Others might think that it’s still men and not Zen when it comes to motorcycle maintenance. Finances might be a problem—the maintenance on two motorcycles is double the price of one. But now that I’m riding with Jonny instead of sitting behind him, I finally get it.
I know how it feels to have 50-mile-per-hour winds lash at me from all sides near Winnipeg; its as if you’re having an arm wrestle with Goliath. I understand the exhilaration, the challenge, the mental and physical exhaustion of riding through a construction zone around the appropriately-named Destruction Bay on the Alaska Highway with gravel the size of golf balls. Or what it’s like to narrowly miss a 20-ton truck on a muddy patch of road in Montana. Rain has dribbled down the back of my jacket, heat has sizzled my helmet and my hands have been clenched frozen while riding on the Icefield Parkway in 37-degree cold, wet fog.
Ive learned its so much more fun being an active and skilled participant instead of just a passenger, not only on a motorcycle but in life.
Diana Bletter is the author of The Mom Who Took Off On Her Motorcycle. It can be purchased here on Amazon. Click here to read the WRN review of Dianas book.
Do you have a story to share? Please send it us, but read these submission guidelines first.
All-Women Alaska Tour
Reader Story: How the Front View is so Much Sweeter
Reader Story: Restless in Seattle
10 thoughts on Reader Story: How One Woman Inspired Another to Ride
So inspiring! I want to learn/get into that safety course and get my own too one day after being a passenger for 7.5 years.
After breaking up with my boyfriend who introduced me to the biker life, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I live in Miami and as you guys may know, the traffic and the driver’s attitude towards motorcycles is a little less than desirable. For more than 10 years I wanted to learn how to ride but fear always stopped me. I love the feeling of adventure and the freedom that a motorcycle gives and this time I decided that one break up wasn’t going to stop me. I took the classes, got my endorsement, and was lucky enough to have a friend lend me one of his bikes.I am a very new rider and I practice with a Honda shadow 750. The fact of the matter is that there is no time or age to start doing what you love. I am 58 years younger and I love the feeling of accomplishment and success. Dreams come true as long as you believe in yourself. Now I am not longer a passenger. I am riding like I always wanted. To all of us I say, don’t never get discouraged in following your dreams and the desires of your heart. Believe that life will present the right time and is up to us to take it! God bless us all!
I just got my first bike, a Harley-Davidson Fat Boy, and I can use all the positive stories I can get. Whenever someone hears I’m riding, I hear all the horror stories. So it’s so nice to see what can be with patience, practice, and confidence. I’ll get there! Thanks for sharing your story!
Thank you to Suzie, Cheriand& Joan for writing. Yep, Suzie, a 650 can definitely make the distance. Cheri, you remind me of the story of the 70-year-old woman who wants to learn to play piano. But she says to her teacher, “Do you know how old I’ll be by the time I learn to play?” Her teacher said, “The same age you’ll be if you don’t!”And Joan, thank you so much for reading my book. I hope you can leave a review on Amazon – I’d really appreciate it!Best,Diana BletterPS. When I re-read this article I thought, “Oh, we are always braver than we think!”
Great article! Truly an inspiration. Glad to see someone fully geared up. I want that shirt in the first photo (but not in pink)!
Great article, Diana! It was our pleasure to help you get started on your adventure. It is such a thrill to see your pictures and hear your story; thanks for sharing it with us all! Ride safe and have fun.MannaOn the Road Again motorcycle school
I think I can, I think I can, I oh so want to! I love riding on the back but currently trying to go it on my own. Long Island is just soooo crowded. Beginners class, a few private lessons, MSF class, licensed, reading, DVDs and a 2003 Buell Blast in the garage. Ladies come on with the encouragement! I’ll keep you posted.
I enjoyed reading Diana’s book, “The Mom who took off on her Motorcycle. Life Lessons on the Road to Alaska.” The book is filled with adventure, struggles, and the wonderful experiences that she had riding to Alaska. I admire Diana’s courage to take on such a challenging ride, especially being a new rider. She definitely has more guts than I do. Great job Diana!
Hats off to you Diana! It is true that we see what we see, and do what we do when we are read, and not a moment sooner. I loved reading your story because I came to motorcycles later in life, and what it shows me is that life can always be an exciting adventure.
Lovely article! That’s my bike, and Alaska is one of my dream trips. Thanks for posting. Glad to know the 650 can make it. Now, I just have to work out the time off.