For more and more women, being on the open road is a spiritual experience
When the Lone Star Rally rolls into Galveston Nov. 5-8, the roar of motorcycles will be heard for miles.
More than 400,000 people are expected to attend America’s largest four-day rally, where vendors selling everything from tailpipes to tobacco pipes, beer to brisket and corn dogs to Coca-Cola, will line the streets of downtown Galveston and along portions of the seawall. Special events will include bike and car shows, the Miss Lone Star Rally beauty pageant, and live music by local and national acts on two official Lone Star Rally stages, as well as in the city’s many bars.
While most of the rally participants are men, each year more women arrive, said Candace Arnold, vendor coordinator for the event. The numbers of women riding their own bikes, no longer just as passengers, also is increasing according to the Motorcycle Industry Council. Still, only 13 percent of all motorcycle riders are women.
Genevieve Schmitt, founder/editor of magazine Women Riders Now, herself a rider for 25 years, predicts the numbers will continue to rise, especially among women ages 20 to 30 who don’t have many of the same preconceptions about certain activities women couldn’t or shouldn’t do.
The adventure of motorcycle riding for some women is almost spiritual, Schmitt said.
“When a woman starts to ride, it touches a part of their soul they didn’t know was there,” Schmitt said. “Rebellion is sexy. You become a star in your own life.”
Coast Monthly spoke with three women who ride motorcycles and plan to attend the Lone Star Rally to get their perspective on riding.
Diana “Lady Hog” Clark, 67, works in satellite communications and fell in love with motorcycles after seeing a police bike in Shreveport, La., when she was 12 years old.
In 1992, she acquired an 850-pound Harley-Davidson police bike she named “Dixie Renegade,” and has since toured all over Canada and the United States, including trips to the famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.
“Riding makes me happy,” the Nassau Bay resident said. “I feel whole; I feel alive when I ride.”
Clark’s love of riding might be best exemplified by her will to recover and continue riding after a devastating accident two years ago on a rainy day in the Clear Lake area.
“Both collar bones were broken,” she said. “Months in recovery and more pain than I can describe. They wanted to write off the bike as ‘totaled’ but I said, ‘No, she’s outlasted any man I ever had. I’ve been to too many places with her. She’s my baby.’ Eighteen months later, she was fully repaired and back with me.”
She plans to attend the Lone Star Rally this year with her favorite riding partner, her daughter, Tina “Speedy” Clark, who rides a Harley-Davidson Sportster.
About 16 years ago, Cheryl Manchac suffered through a motorcycle wreck and was terrified to get back on a bike. At the time, Manchac decided if and when she resumed riding, she would “come back big.” In 2001, Manchac bought a 2000 American Motorcycle Corp. Pavement Pounder from her then future-husband, Buddy. The bike was “as big as they get,” she said. But for good measure, she added “ape-hangers,” which are higher than usual handlebars. Manchac, 54, grew up in Baytown in a family of motorcycle and dirt bike riding enthusiasts, but abandoned the sport as a teenager.
“I woke up one day when I was 28 years old and said, ‘I want to buy a Harley; I want to ride,’” the Dickinson resident said. “And that’s exactly what I did.”
Since that day, Manchac has loved riding. Her American-flag-painted chopper is just one part of the lifestyle.
“The motorcycle doesn’t make you independent, you have to love yourself, be yourself,” she said. “All the years I’ve been riding, I always try to tell young people, women especially, ‘Go do what you want to do. Follow your heart’s desire. Follow your dream. There’s nothing you can’t do,’” she said. “I’ve had women come up to me and tell me I inspired them to get their license and ride. That makes me very happy.”
The wind and the open road is the reason to ride, Dickinson resident Kim Morgan said. Morgan, 34, owns a Yamaha Stryker and a 1968 Shovel Pan Harley-Davidson. Here, she’s photographed with a 2008 Ultra Classic Anniversary Edition Harley-Davidson belonging to her friend Fred Lyttle. Morgan began riding on her father’s dirt bike on sand dunes in El Paso when she was just 8 years old.
The Dickinson resident works on her own motorcycles and also is a carpenter and a bartender at motorcycle-friendly Noah’s Ark Bar & Grill overlooking Galveston Bay in Bacliff.
“Everything I do is, or was, male dominated,” Morgan said. “Things are changing though. When I ride, I feel independent and free.”
While most of her riding is done on the highways and roadways over the lakes and bayous of Galveston County, Morgan’s dream ride is through the rolling hills of Scotland.
“I’ll get there,” she said with confidence and a smile.
Visit visit www.LoneStarRally.com for information about the Galveston event.