This visit took place on March 31st, 2011. Due to Cathy’s Eye Surgery and trip temporary suspension, the story is being written on May 24th while we wait for our bikes to clear Customs in Bangkok, Thailand.
Motorcyclists, especially women motorcyclists, have touched me throughout my life. Returning to Zacetecas brought back a flood of wonderful and significant memories.
In the early 90s, long before Larry entered my life, I participated in an All Women’s motorcycle tour of Mexico. Traveling with eight members of our Atlanta Chapter of Women On Wheels was a wonderful adventure. Zacatecas, Mexico, is the only city that my two motorcycle trips to Mexico share.
Hazel Reeves, riding behind her daughter June, was our most senior lady. At 73, she had more Mexican men whistling at her beautiful and well toned legs. When on a later motorcycle trip, that time to New Zealand, Hazel bungee jumped at 77, saying that “I better do it now, I may not get another opportunity.” That statement is her mantra and continues to this day. This summer, Hazel, who just celebrated her 90th birthday, will ride on the back of June’s Gold Wing while they ride from Atlanta to California for the Women On Wheels International Ride In. Hazel continues to inspire me and I have adopted her “I better do it now” philosophy.
My mama, Dody Davies, rode with me. This first, major, mother/daughter voyage for us was wonderful. I remember touching her leg as we crested the mountain range which led us to a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean and saying, via intercom, “Mama, I’m so happy you’re here riding with me.”
Instead of riding the “safe,” (and expensive) toll road route to the coast, I had chosen the road less traveled. Mama trusted my choice, even though the road was so bad that I told her to watch the scenery and take pictures while I kept my eyes on the pot-holed path up the switchback-filled side of the mountain. Mama taught me about expanding my comfort zone when she agreed to drive the stick shift support truck pulling a trailer through the mountains. This allowed the driver to ride June’s bike while June recovered from an intestinal bug. I was, and still am, so proud of my mama.
That’s not the first time my mama has encouraged me to explore and grow. When a teenage girl, I desperately wanted a horse. My parents suggested that I consider a motorcycle. It would be safer since it’s a machine that doesn’t have a brain and, when I would tire of it, we would not have to pay to feed it. Although they supported my pursuit of a horse, their reasoning made sense and I started riding my dad’s Cushman scooter at twelve. The first day the DOT would give motorcycle license tests in the spring after I turned 16, I passed my test and quickly adopted my dad’s Yamaha 125 Enduro bike. My father, a life-long motorcyclist, soon found out that if he still wanted to be able to ride, they needed to buy another motorcycle. Mother, a passenger since they began dating in the 40s, was supportive. They did and my life was forever changed. My parents, turning 80 this year, still ride nearly every nice day.
Only after years as an airplane pilot, Lois Wyatt got into motorcycling. Our Mexico trip’s most senior rider had the smallest bike – a 250CC Honda Scooter. And scoot she did! Despite her bike’s small engine and even smaller tires, she handled everything. A broken part, for which no replacement could be found, relegated her Honda to the support trailer. She took it in stride, riding the few final days of our trip behind tour leader, Ed Culberson.
Ed was renowned in the motorcycling community. He was one of only four people who have crossed the Darien Gap, a dense jungle portion of northern South America, by motorcycle. His book, “Obsessions Die Hard,” tells his tale. Unfortunately, Ed is now referred to exclusively in the past tense. Early signs of the debilitating “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” were showing up during our trip. Within two years of our trip, this incredible man went from talented motorcyclist and tour guide to wheel chair-bound, to dead.
Riding a Harley 883 Sportster was Toni McCall. The small fuel tank size of the stock Sportsters made it advisable to install a larger tank for the trip. I’ll never forget Toni’s robin egg blue bike with it’s bright orange gas tank. With a heart much larger than the carrying capacity of her motorcycle, Toni bungeed a huge mound of Mexican blankets and souveniers for her entire family on the back seat. The Sportster, and Toni, were unphased. Later, Toni logged over 100K miles on that bike which most riders would use for short trips only.
Marilyn Vershure, June, and I had originally planned to have our mothers be passengers on our bikes. Unfortunately, Marilyn’s mother died before we could complete that plan. Despite her loss, Marilyn embraced the adventure with her usual enthusiasm. No matter how many bottles of nose spray she needed to breathe in challenging air, we knew we’d see a smile when she’d remove the dust mask protecting her from the burning sun.
Marilyn, June and I have shared motorcycle adventures during our 24 ½ years of friendship. We three rode to Alaska in 1992. That trip alone could spawn a book!
On a Harley touring bike was Louise Moore. Although I haven’t seen Louise in years, I credit her with my migration from riding in T-shirts to long sleeve, white shirts. She maybe saved my arms from Melanoma. I have since adopted the habit of riding in padded, abrasion resistant clothes. For one who remembers going 95mph on my 1973 350 Honda while helmetless, gloveless, wearing a halter top, cut- offs, and sandals, switching to anything that covered more skin was a big step in the right direction!
Even though Billie Jean Faust is another rider that I have not seen in ages, memory of her on our trip sticks with me today. A Georgia Motorcycle Safety instructor, she rode her Honda Gold Wing beautifully. I’m SURE she saw many techniques demonstrated by each of us on the trip that could have used improvement but she happily rode with us anyway.
Last, but most definitely not the least influential in my riding life, is the “baby” of the Atlanta delegation of the Mexico trip – June C. Reeves. When I first met June, at the July 1987 Atlanta Chapter Women On Wheels meeting, I was riding a 1979 Yamaha XS750 Special. June, a rider since youth, had graduated from a Honda 750 to a 1200cc Gold Wing the fall before our meeting. When I stated that my 750cc was too big and that I would never buy a larger bike, June challenged me by saying, “You could ride a Gold Wing.”
When June, Marilyn, and I rode to Daytona’s Bike Week the next spring, we test rode Venture Royales, Yamaha’s competitor to the Gold Wing. Three weeks later, a 1988, 1300cc, Yamaha Venture Royale, found its home in my garage.
Since I was just finishing the coursework for my MBA at a university in Atlanta but my degree would be from Western New England College, riding to my graduation seemed like a perfect first big trip for the Venture. Fortunately, June agreed and off we went. Our nine-day adventure took us camping up the Appalacian’s Blue Ridge Parkway. We leisurely toured up the USA’s east coast. You would have thought that we had been on the road for a month for all the fun and adventure we shared. On graduation day, June cheered me on as I received my diploma. Despite the sea of black caps, gowns, and Master’s hoods, it was easy to see me on stage. I was the only one who had black leather pants and bright red boots completing the ensemble. On our way home, June and I completed our first “Saddle Sore 1000,” the Iron Butt Association’s term for riding over 1,000 miles in less than 24 hours.
This spring’s return to Zacatecas truly took me down memory lane. My life continues to be enriched by the motorcyclists I encounter. Our Discover Our Earth Expedition team is inspiring new chapters in my memory bank. Our incredible leader, Kevin Sanders, the entire Globebusters’ team, and each rider I’ve befriended over the past months our enriching Larry’s and my lives.
Thanks for the memories, past, present, and future!
31-Mar Zacatecas, Mexico Rest Day
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