Category Archives: feminism

Day 24: Ferry to Cape May, NJ – Kindred Spirits

Meet Margo Pellegrino, my Spirit Animal. No, she’s not the bird, that little f*%ker attacked me. Margo is the amazing and awesome woman who inspires me to do amazing and awesome things. If you think my solo adventure where I learned to ride a motorcycle, flew off to California, bought a motorcycle then rode across the continent in a span of less than 6 months sounds a bit nutty, then you can look no further than Margo as my inspiration for such solo adventure feats.

In 2007, Margo took her first solo adventure from Maimi to Maine. She didn’t do that on wheels though, she did that on water, along on a 25-foot long fiberglass outrigger canoe. Since 2007, she’s completed solo adventures from Seattle to San Diego, Long Beach Island to Washington, DC, Maimi to New Orleans, Cape May to Montauk, New York to Chicago,  and Chicago to New Orleans.  Next, she will paddle from her backyard dock to DC to lobby congress to protect one of humanity’s most precious resources – clean water.

She has paddled solo on the Pacific, on the Atlantic, up the Intracoastal Waterway, in the Gulf of Mexico, up the Hudson River, up the Erie Canal, across the Great Lakes . She moved alone among vast expanses of water, some polluted, in sweltering heat, and hypothermic cold, over crashing waves, through crushing chop and along raging surf. She’s paddle in downpours, sunshine and everything in-between. Alone. Solo. One Woman.

Along the way, she raises money and awareness about the importance of one of humanity’s most precious resources – water.  Some of her causes include the National Resources Defense CouncilGulf Restoration Network, NJ Clean Ocean Action. Along each of her solo adventures. . . neigh, each of her solo one-woman-on-a-mission missions, Margo spends time with coastal communities giving talks, advocating for action and recruiting communities to take action. For each of her trips, she relies on a network of hosts recruited through the Surfrider Foundation, and The Blue Frontier Campaign to support her along the way and provide places to stay.

In my telling of my own solo adventure crossing the continent, if I told you I encountered a few hairy situations, rest assured, they pale in comparison to what Margo has encountered. There was the landing in Northern California that nearly snapped her tiny craft in half. There was paddling up the Hudson wondering about the rainbow sheen on the surface of the water. There was the encounter with a certain ex-president out on a motorboat in Maine. Shout out to another bad ass lady and solo adventurer, June Bernard (Salty Blue Designs) who drove a van supporting Margo’s whole West Coast Trip and helped with some of those crazy beach landings.

If I sound like I have a bit of a girl crush on this amazing woman, well, it is because I do.

While I met some shady characters with questionable judgement and unguarded not-so-witty commentary who made me feel uncomfortable on the road, I rarely felt the danger that comes with being isolated, on a vast puddle of water and totally vulnerable. Not in the way rendezvousing with your next support host in open water to find out it is a guy on a pontoon boat already several beers in. Then, although everything turns out for the better, your first encounter with said host sets your neck hairs on end as he greets you, who is sitting perched on a tiny fiberglass boat in the vast, vast ocean, from his pontoon with a freak you the fuck out  “Well, you got pretty blue eyes.” Seriously guys, shit like this is not cool.

Given all that, I found it laughable that when I arrived at her doorstep in New Jersey, she proclaims my self-indulgent motorcycle ride of self discovery to be a crazy adventure.

Despite my morning crossing the Cheasepeake Bay into an insane head wind, then cruising the entire Atlantic coastline of Maryland and Deleware and catching the Ferry from Lewes to Cape May where a captive audience queried me on my own adventure, it was really the compliment from a queen of adventure that made my day.

Happy Cooking and Happy Solo Adventure!

Women have a RIGHT to Feel Safe

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook know I recently had a very visceral reaction to this article “10 Tips to Reduce Risk to Your Personal Safety on a Solo Motorcycle Trip” on Women Riders Now. To summarize the tips offered, the article basically says “Ladies, know your place in this unsafe world where your are prey and, just in case, carry a concealed weapon and prey to Jesus.”

Yeah, this is 2017 and an article’s best advice for women on a solo trip is 1.) do not camp in scary, lonely places, 2.) do not ride on scary, lonely roads, 3.) really, just avoid scary, lonely, places altogether, 4.) look tough, 5.) be ready to escape, 6.) do not look cute, wear lipstick or dress cute, 7.) be very, very cautious even when you are not in scary, lonely places, 8.) avoid the darkness (darkness makes every place a scary, lonely place), 9.) carry a concealed gun because really, it is a scary world even if you take precautions and 10.) prey to Jesus.

Here’s a pic of me looking cute, in case you didn’t think it was possible. AND it is exactly how I looked on the road.

I cringed at this article (I will save you the picture of me cringing).

Nope, it did not mention one thing about gear, extra gas (like my RotoPax tank), GPS locators (like my SPOT), emergency IDs (like my RoadID), a cooling vest for hot days (like my Bilt), a small toolkit (like this JAS Metric SpeedKit), a tire inflator (like mine from Slime) or a whole host of other gear. Check out this photo of all my gear. I can tell you all about it.

No mention of getting extra training like the Total Control Intermediate Rider Course I took at 2WheelSafety (there is a photo of me getting safety training). Actually, there was nothing really about motorcycling. Just a bunch of crap about how women need to take extra precautions to keep themselves safe in this dangerous, dangerous world.

Then, I wrote this comment on Facebook, on the article and in my own post…

I just rode solo from California to North Carolina and will continue this trip to Massachusettes in a few days after spending time with my newborn nephew. I pretty well broke every rule here, other then preparation. I’ve also solo-ed on four wheels for various long-distance and long duration trips including a trip where I only camped in the back country or a remote campsite in the middle of nowhere. I’ve even back countried solo for 14 days with nothing more than a backpack and certainly no concealed weapon because they are usually no-nos in National Parks. My pickup even broke down on a Blackfoot Reservation where I spent time hitchhiking to help then had to have it towed off the reservation for service.

I admit, I have taken some unnecessary risks on a few occasions, but I prep and research before I go.

The fear and suspicion outlined in this article first saddened me and second angered me. The idea that as women we need to even consider this as necessary precaution to prevent ourselves from getting hurt is a sad, sad, sad statement of the world and country we live in. We have to play it safe and not do the fun routes lest we make ourselves victims and be at fault if anything happens. Of course, as any motorcyclist knows, better alive than right.

It also angers me that this is the world we live in. That we all have to live like we are prey having to avoid things we love so we don’t end up attacked, injured or dead. Very few of these tips would apply to men. Articles for men about riding solo would tell them to take the road less traveled and have fun and throw caution to the wind and make is once in a lifetime trip and make memories. But now, us women get patronizing fear articles.

I am a mechanical engineer with a masters degree from MIT. I always hated the women in engineering groups that wasted my time on career balancing and making it in a man’s world and how to cook fast meals for the family. I now bristle at these articles geared toward women that encourage us to go around acting like targets for violence.

Sad and Mad.

The email response from this Women’s publication?

Sadly, it was invalidating and chose not to enter the debate about feminism and women owning their RIGHT to feel safe.

Hi Kimi, I’m saddened that you read this article, which we’ve gotten very positive responses to, as a “patronizing fear article.” In fact, the writer’s entire introduction was about each of us making personal choices, and then she outlines what she does. She never suggested that these are tips everyone should abide by. Take what you like, leave the rest. Motorcycling itself is an inherently dangerous activity, and those of us who choose to partake even while knowing this, are then faced with the choices of how to minimize our own personal risk (or not). When WRN publishes these types of articles, it is in attempt to provide readers with information to help arm them with the knowledge and tools to minimize their risk. It’s not about instilling fear, its about offering solutions and suggestions.

Name Removed, Assistant Editor

Here is my response to that.

As a professional publication, WRN should not hide behind the “take it or leave it” bit. It should own its content, especially content provided by staff. This is an article written by a staff writer for an online publication on a public forum.

One of your taglines is “the longest running—and most comprehensive—resource for female motorcyclists anywhere.”
As a place offering this service, I assume information provided by your staff writers are part of that wealth of “resources” it aims to offer. Sure, the article offered a disclaimer that these are preferences, but the author also chose to use authority as a staff writer for what aims to be a credible publication to provide advice. This response asks me to disregard that authority, that expertise and that advice as merely a personal preference?
As a reader and consumer of WRNs content, I offered a reaction to the content WRN is providing. Invalidating the opinions of readers by claiming the publication does not offer authority on it’s advice is unfortunate. Rather than engaging in a debate about the place of women in society and stand for a feminist point of view that us women should be allowed to own our space in the world without fear and without having to take ridiculous precautions , the publication has chosen to hide from this pre-eminent issue in the world for women.
Instead of embracing how we women should behave so we stay safe, WRN should be standing up for rights of women riders to feel safe – no matter how we behave (unless we are not wearing all the gear all the time). Like so many aspects of society where men dominate (which is really all of them), WRN should produce content that proclaims women are here to ride and we are here to stay and we are here to own our place in the world of riding. Refer to content by Amber Tamblyn on sexism in the film industry. And this response to that op-ed by Mary Kate McGrath. You can also see work by Brianna Wu (who is also a motorcyclist, by the way and general BAD ASS) and Anita Sarkeesian (another BAD ASS) in the tech industry.
Now, you might say, “But motorcycling is a leisure sport and we don’t want to be controversial.” Well, in my opinion, if women have to do things like not wear lipstick or ride fun roads when alone, then our presence is already controversial. Furthermore, it isn’t just industry. Take this Serena Williams piece in Time. Or this reflection on the sexism of the Olympics.
And yes, even other motorcycling publications are tackling this issue. That is Chris Cope, a male author, writing an article on an issue about women. Funny, I thought us women would be able to articulate our perspective better than some man, but per this response, it appears a man is carrying that torch rather than a publication with another tagline saying “An online motorcycling lifestyle magazine from the female point of view.” I guess the WRN perspective from the female point of view is to avoid this type of content and invalidate the women who wish to voice our opinion that we belong with our lipstick, our cute tee, our tight jeans, our skirts and our cute bad ass selves and we deserve to feel safe no matter what.
No need to respond or worry over further reactions or contradictory or debatable response from me. I will no longer read, recommend or follow this publication. Good luck with empowering women using soft tactics.

Ultimately, ladies, I cannot say this loud enough WE HAVE A RIGHT TO FEEL SAFE.

That is all.

WOMEN HAVE A RIGHT TO FEEL SAFE.

WOMEN HAVE A RIGHT TO FEEL SAFE.

WOMEN HAVE A RIGHT TO FEEL SAFE.

No fucking gimmicks. That is all.

WOMEN HAVE A RIGHT TO FEEL SAFE.

Happy Cooking and Happy OWNING your place in the world.