Day 19&20: Asheville Layover x2 – Irma

Eighteen days on two wheels and only one rainstorm dumped in me and another diverted my route slightly. That is a pretty good streak, me thinks. But as I closed in on the east coast, I knew one of these Atlantic hurricanes would make for a soggy day or two.

I kept an eye on Irma, but I made a conscious decision to not make any decisions until I had to give a shit about which way she was tracking. In mindfulness and meditation speak, you call it living in the moment. But seriously, what was I going to do on day 15 or 16 to avoid this other than turn around?

We parked our bikes on the back patio and woke to a constant drizzle of rain in Asheville. Irma brought not only rain, but a decisive drop in temperature. My husband and I both planned to ride on to our next destinations the next day- somewhere in Virginia for him and Durham, NC for me. That meant 4-8 hours in cold, rainy and windy conditions. We were lucky enough to be rained in at a city large enough for a big motorcycle shop. So, we donned our best rain gear and headed to the shop to get more geared up.

I had emergency rain gear, so gore-tex glove and a neck gaiter for me. He, on the other hand, boldly chose a grip warmer kit. We are both quite competent mechanics, but I would not attempt such an installation on the road. It was hard enough to install my windshield, power outlet, rack, saddlebag stays and other stuff when I was in California with adequate tools, but away from my own tools set. In fact, when the said power outlet crapped out after a rainstorm for what I assumed was a short or blown fuse, I opted to not take the headlight apart on the road even though I had done it before. That’s me, but he really, really wanted warm hands.

I will spare you the exact unfolding of events, but let’s just say it didn’t go smashingly. Seven hours for a 1 hour job, two trips to the hardware store, lots of cussing, two pots of coffee, a super-glued and stuck throttle, a lunch order, and finally a call back to the motorcycle shop hoping for a last minute appointment, but at least managing some last minute advice later and the grip warmers were installed.

He alluded to maybe riding with a sticky throttle. I mentally told myself decided that not happen no matter how long we stayed in Asheville to get it fixed. Seriously, never ride with a sticky throttle. That is bat shit crazy.

In the meantime, I absorbed the weather forecast – cold, heavy rain and strong winds. The longer I sat with it, the more I just didn’t like it. I had a destination and a date I wanted to get there. My nephew, 388 miles to the east, was scheduled to make his appearance in the world on September 14th, in three days. I wanted to be a day early. But I wanted to be there alive.

Two thoughts prevailed. One, the possibility I ruin the celebration of my nephew’s arrival with an accident by stupidly riding 250mile in adverse conditions. And, two, the fact this trip was supposed to be about enjoying the ride, not freezing my ass off and fighting wind and rain. Sorry, I unlike the Cheryl Strayed’s of the world, I don’t need to make an already risky adventure downright dangerous by putting myself in dangerous conditions I am not prepared for. That may make for a best selling book that Reese Witherspoon eagerly options for a movie, but I do like being among the living, thank you very much.

So, while the throttle got unstuck, I opted to add another day to my stay. My gracious AirBnB host agreed that it would end a bad idea to ride out the next day. So, Asheville was home for three nights.

Asheville is an outdoorsy city. So, when it rains for two consecutive days, most of the normal activities – hiking, biking, motorcycling and such – aren’t as appealing. Irma even closed down the Blue Ridge Parkway. What that leaves is beer. Asheville is a craft beer Mecca. There is at least one brewery and taproom on every block.

So, once the emergency situation was corrected and another night’s accommodation secured, it was time to drink beer. Honestly, I think with so much market saturation, the quality suffers. There were any great beers, but t was a great way to spend a rainy day. Besides, my husband really, really, really needed a beer or two after his stressful day.

Happy cooking and choosing wisely.

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.