2009 International Women and Motorcycling Conference

December 1 2009

This year in Keystone, Colorado, at over 9,000 feet above sea level in the glorious Rocky Mountains, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA)’s International Women and Motorcycling Conference presented by Harley-Davidson and Buell hosted approximately 1,000 female motorcyclists from around the world. Viewed as the United States’ premier event for women bikers, its informative seminars, inspiring keynote speakers, test rides, vendors galore–and the sheer beauty of scenic riding on Colorado highways–were no match for the level of camaraderie and sisterhood amongst the ladies in attendance.

Keynote speaker Ashley Fiolek, the profoundly deaf Motocross champion, kicked off the welcoming ceremony. Her story, told through poetic use of sign language, spoke volumes to a teary-eyed crowd, so much so that she was met with a standing ovation at the end of her speech. As a rookie rider at age 13, Ashley received her first big win at the Loretta Lynn Air Nautique Nationals in 2004. For the next three years, Ashley dominated the MX circuit, capturing 13 national amateur championships, including the title Woman/Girl Amateur Racer of the Year in 2005. In 2008, she won the AMA/WMA Women’s Motocross Championship, and her most recent announcement to her fans is about her win at the X Games. Oh, and did I mention she’s only 18!

Leslie Porterfield and Erin Hunter were lovely, charming and almost religious about speed. Leslie and I met early on at the media gathering, eating chips and salsa and chatting about dogs and men. Later we were affectionately dubbed ‘Lesley Squared’ since we found ourselves posing for the nonchalant paparazzi. All this fanfare was natural action for Leslie, since she conquered three land speed records at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2007, feats all accomplished after an accident that left her with seven broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a concussion. After flying back from Baja the next year, she decided to attend the AMA’s award ceremony and was completely surprised when she was awarded the “2008 Racing Female Rider of the Year” with her top speed of 234.197 mph. Later at the Rocky Mountain barn dance, the ‘L-Squares’ posed for more photos with Erin Hunter, who was the first and only woman to set a world land speed record in a motorcycle streamliner. Can you say WOW–speed goddesses? Anyway, the barn dance continued with everyone chowin’ down on beef brisket and corn on the cob, all the while showing what good sports we were by donning our Kawasaki “howdy doody” cowboy hats. Most of the gals with motorcycle boots on enjoyed a little “heel-step-toe” dancin’, while others gathered around bales of hay for a little lassoing. And me? Well, I just kept walkin’ into the amber softness of a good old-fashioned Rocky Mountain sunrise; you see, a little time alone was in order after a long day rubbin’ shoulders with a thousand amazing women and their stories.

Believe it or not, I’m not a person who really thinks a whole lot about fashion. Usually I find something I totally adore, wear it to death and only then break up the “uniform” with a unique accessory. I see fashion as the special details, items that are more about heart than trend. So, it came as a complete surprise when I was approached by the great-granddaughter of William A. Davidson, Karen Davidson, who is also the creative director for Harley-Davidson’s general merchandise department, and given the big thumbs up about my fashion sense. In 1991, The Council of Fashion Designers of America in New York bestowed the prestigious industry award on Karen and Harley-Davidson for their fashion influence, so I felt quite honoured that Karen was checkin’ out my attire and perhaps designing her next line of Harley gear based on the hodgepodge of the Motorgirl collection–ha!

As hosts of the International Street Party, Canada did us proud. The 63 Canadians at the Colorado conference more than doubled the attendance figure of 28 at the previous International Women and Motorcycling Conference in 2006 in Athens, Georgia. Most of us in red and white, the gals rocked out our national colors while sweet and spirited Liz Jansen, Chair of WRC/MCC started the festivities with a welcome which was echoed by featured speaker, the exuberant and witty, Deb Grey. Dubbed “The First Lady of Reform,” she challenged all of us to transform our future and re-evaluate our lives. The spirit of her words followed their truth. Later that night, every single one of us was ready to leave that bad job, leave that bad love interest, or at least throw out the bad leftovers in the fridge. We were pumped to make some important life changes and ride fearlessly forward to our glorious future – oh my! I laughed the whole way through her speech with tears in my eyes. What do you expect from a woman politician who had the brass to ride her motorcycle to the House of Commons? Later, Canadian band Johnny Rev and the Pushrods entertained us with their music and their shiny red shoes. We stood shoulder to shoulder with our sisters from Switzerland, Australia and Japan while the AMA snapped a group photo from the Village rooftop and the festivities continued into the evening. And little old me? Well, I wandered over to Snake Saloon for a little “local” flavour, danced into the night and then hiked up the Ridge with some locals to watch the meteor showers into the wee hours of the morning, lighting up the night with some poetry reading done by the light of a good old-fashioned cellular phone! Good thing I had such compassionate roommates, especially with grits being served for breakfast around 9:00 a.m…Dizzy…dizzy day…

Ah yes, the long wanders down to the conference centre, light-headed mornings with dragonflies, purple fireweed and little groundhog creatures that taunted your every move. It was always in these moments that I counted my blessings and got excited about the day’s adventures, only later to meet two amazing ambassadors of the Sisters of Scota, Gramps and Grumbles, the catalysts who finally caused me to meet the editors of Helmet Hair Magazine, Becky Shimek and Cara Mae McGuire. This is a magazine in which I had been a featured motorcycle artist and was voted #3 Female Motorcycle Photographer. So, here I finally got to meet these amazing Texan sweethearts and give thanks for their unconditional support for my Motorgirl career and their unique contribution to the world of female motorcycling.

With such unique women and their stories, it was difficult to choose a single memorable moment, but after digging deep into my notes about seminars, test rides, keynote speakers and displays, it could be only one thing–The Golden Hallway. Yes, the Golden Hallway in the main conference building, where a collection of pictures and biographies were proudly displayed. The Women Riders’ Council and the Motorcyclists Confederation of Canada hand-picked these Influential Women Riders of Canada: Audrey Alexandre, Lesley Gering, Sergeant Lise Grenier, Deborah Grey, Toni Sharpless and Meg Thorburn. Kellee Irwin, project lead for the events said, “These six Canadian women have encouraged, inspired, educated and promoted the female motorcycling lifestyle and sport through the industry, government, community or public arenas over a sustained period of time.” I was proud to be among this wonderful group of women. And more importantly, I was proud to be a Canadian female motorcyclist who had a unique opportunity to participate in the conference.

Thank you to all the women at Keystone–your stories will forever be in my mind and may one day end up here, except for those I promised to keep private–thank you for your confidence.

Special thanks to everyone involved for their continued support in the world of women and motorcycling and to the AMA for hosting The International Women & Motorcycling Conference (www.womenandmotorcycling.com). To read more about the Influential Riders of Canada, go to www.motorcycling.ca and click on Women Rider’s Council. To see more of Lesley’s art and writing, visit www.motorgirl.com. And to check out Helmet Hair’s online magazine, go to www.helmethairmagazine.com. Shiny side up, my friends.


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