Sisters Centennial Motorcycle Ride

by Liz Jansen

I recently sat down with Alisa Clickenger for a conversation about the epic cross-country Sisters Centennial Motorcycle Ride she’s organized for this summer. A summary of the conversation follows. You can hear the whole interview by downloading the audio MP3. Alisa will be hosting Q&A Conference calls on May 4 and 5. See the website for more details.

Alisa-in-Namibia-October-2014Alisa describes herself as a moto traveler and motorcycle journalist. She credits motorcycling with completely transforming her from a shy housewife into a bold adventuress who has ridden over a goodly part of the world. Solo.

She once led motorcycle tours for a large company and now runs her own motorcycle touring company – Women’s Motorcycle Tours – focusing on motorcycle tours for women. For 15 years, she helped Kawasaki with demo rides and is now part of the team that leads them for BMW.

She’s giving back to the motorcycle community not only by being a responsible motorcycle rider but also by empowering others to ride their own dreams, as she has.

What is the Sisters Centennial Motorcycle Ride?

SistersCentennialMotorcycleRideLogoIt’s a cross-country motorcycle ride for women, starting in Brooklyn on July 3 and spend three weeks crossing the country, following for the most part the route taken by Adeline and Augusta Van Buren 100 years ago, and end up in San Francisco on July 23.

Who were the Van Buren sisters?

They were two sisters who grew up in NY in the early 1900’s and were the first women to ride their own motorcycles across the United States. They were part of the preparedness movement (preparing United States for their inevitable involvement in WWI) and did the ride partly to prove to the US government that women could help in the war effort as dispatch riders.

This was one of their many accomplishments. They were also suffragettes who helped get the vote for women. Adeline went on to get a law degree at a time when women didn’t practice law. And Augusta went on to join the Ninety-Nines—the International Organization of Women Pilots established in 1929 by 99 women pilots, with Amelia Erhart as their first president.

Adeline Van Buren

Adeline Van Buren

Gutsy ladies, and they’re such an inspiration for me.

Were the sisters already motorcycle riders?

Motorcycles had a different role in society than they do now. Cars weren’t that popular yet because they were still very expensive to manufacture. In 1916, if you were a family of means, you had a motorized bicycle. It was a very popular form of transportation.

As Adeline and August prepared for their cross-country trip, they took longer and longer journeys.

How did they think they were going to get across the country on uncomfortable and unreliable motorcycles?

The Indian Power Plus motorcycles they rode were the most reliable in the day. There was a precedent the year before with Avis and Effie Hotchkiss, the mother daughter duo who rode across the country and back in a Harley-Davidson sidecar.

There was a whole wave at the time of exploring across the country because of the advent of the motorcycle and car.

Who maintained their bikes along the way?

They went to the Indian Factory and learned from the factory how to work on the bikes. Learning the mechanics was just the beginning. The most incredible thing in my mind, Adeline and Augusta were 5’2” and 100lb, riding these 1000cc motorcycles across the country with a stock seat height of 32” inches. Starting, stopping, pushing them through mud was a monumental achievement; traveling across the country on farm roads that weren’t paved.

What inspired you to organize the Sisters Centennial ride?

AugustaPortrait RevA

Augusta Van Buren

I have a lot of women who come up to me and say they wish they could do what Ido. And I kept hearing a lot of women say they’d like to ride across the United States. That was one of my dreams a decade ago.

I’ve been yakking to my friends about leading a group of women who thought they couldn’t ride across the United States, across the United States. A couple of years ago, I bumped into the story of the Van Buren sisters again and a light went on. 2016 was approaching, the centennial of the Van Buren sisters ride—the perfect time to do it.

Listen to the audio to hear how the ride grew from 10 to 100 women.

Is it just for women?

No. We have a number of men already registered who are riding with their partners. We’re focused on a nice balance of riding, smelling the roses, feeling what it’s like to ride day after day across the country and experiencing small town America. Riders are going to be awed by how differently things run in small towns like McCook, NB.

What are some of the points of interest you’re stopping at?

Sisters Centennial Motorcycle Ride is in Ohio at the same time as the AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days. The Van Buren sisters were inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame (HOF) in 2002. Now that we’re spending an extra day in Ohio, we’ll have a reception at the AMA HOF on Fri. evening. Saturday evening we get to attend the vintage races and we get to do a victory lap on the mid-Ohio race track!

We’re stopping at the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa. I really believe in supporting the history of motorcycling and the people who have come before us. The only place that stuff is preserved is in these museums. National Motorcycle Museum also has a large collection of women in motorcycling.

ClassicThen there’s Pike’s Peak . Adeline and August van Buren were the first women to ride over the 14, 115’ summit. We’ll summit and have a group photo at the top, come down and celebrate.

See website for a full list.

What other ways can you join the ride?

Folks can sign up as a self-guided ride and join in a variety of spots along the way. You can join in Colorado Springs for the Pikes Peak with us and ride to San Francisco (10 days). If you only have a day or two and meet us at one of the community events that’s on the website. We’re about to launch a day-rider option so folks can still come with us for a day or two.

We’ve organized a fabulous agenda for the AMA Vintage Days weekend and there are different ways to join up for one night or both.

Listen to the audio to hear about the grand finale across the Golden Gate bridge in SF.

Tell us about the charities you’re supporting.

We’re supporting Final Salute—a non-profit that helps homeless female veterans. The Van Buren sisters’ ride was all about women entering the military. Fast forward a hundred years and women are able to serve in the military but they aren’t supported when they return home. This organization helps homeless female veterans get back on their feet.

The Womens Coalition of Motorcyclists have a train the trainer fund that trains women to train more female motorcyclists so we’re supporting them equally.


BMW Motorrad is the title sponsor. We’re thrilled to have such a premium sponsor for the event. They’re great machines, always on the leading edge and they’ve really started paying attention to women’s riding needs. There’s a BMW for everyone.

Note: BMW Motorrad has Ladies only Demo Days at 3 locations in Canada – in BC, Ontario and Quebec. Learn more.

Find out more at Sisters Centennial Motorcycle Ride.

Photos courtesy of the Van Buren Family.





Posted in Adventure

10 Steps for a Spring Motorcycle Checkup

by Liz Jansen

Updated for Spring 2016

spring motorcycle checkup

After having your motorcycle in hibernation for the winter, getting out for that first ride is one of the most anticipated rites of spring. But before you do, there are three things to do:

  • Check your motorcycle
  • Check your gear
  • Check your readiness to ride

They’re important rituals before any ride but especially at the beginning of the season.

This article will cover how to check your motorcycle before that first ride. Even if you were meticulous in winterizing it, corrosion, condensation, and critters may have caused damage while it was stored. A thorough and methodical check can alert you to areas that need attention and reassure you that it’s safe to ride.

Always refer to your owner’s manual for guidance for your own specific motorcycle.

Check Your Motorcycle in 10 Steps

  1. Tire condition. Check for tread depth, flat spots, embedded objects, bulges, damage, and cracks. They should be OK if you followed our winterizing instructions – however, it’s always good to make sure. Keeping your tires in good condition is one of the most important, and easiest, checks you can make to keep yourself safe. Read Motorcycle Tire Guide 101 from RevZilla
  2. Tire pressure. Check both tires when they’re cold and make sure they’re at the setting recommended by your motorcycle manufacturer. Tires can lose air pressure with time, especially in cold weather.
  3. Fluids. Check for any leaks before and after you’ve started it for the first time. Make sure your brake fluid is within spec, both in terms of quantity and age. It needs to be replaced periodically; fluid that is dark amber is likely due for a change. Do a full circle check, inspecting hoses, cables, and fluid levels.
  4. Oil and oil filter. Change your oil and filter unless it was done in the fall.
  5. Battery and wiring. If you’ve kept your battery on a trickle charger, it should have maintained its integrity. Examine it and make sure it is fully charged and topped up, depending on the type of battery you have. Make sure the strap that holds it in place is secure. Check the terminals and leads to make sure they’re secure and free of corrosion. Check the wiring for any signs of wear, corrosion, or damage. Make sure all the lights and turn indicators are working.
  6. Tool kit. Make sure the tools in your bike’s kit are clean, and free of rust. Double check to make sure everything is still there and replenish if necessary. You may want to add a few small frequently used items that aren’t in your kit, such as an air pressure gauge.
  7. Drive chain and sprockets. Make sure the chain is clean and well lubricated. Check the sprockets for wear and before you take it out for the first time, make sure the chain tension is set to your manufacturer’s specifications.  How to Maintain Your Motorcycle’s Chain and Sprockets from BikeBandit
  8. Air filter. If you plugged your air filter to prevent critters from nesting, make sure to unplug it now. If you didn’t, check for evidence that it’s been used as a winter residence. One season mine was full of sunflower seed shells. Also remove any plugs from your exhaust pipes.
  9. Fuel intake. If your bike is carbureted, make sure the gas supply is turned on.
  10. Brake pads. Look at each set of brake pads on your bike to confirm there’s still lots of wear left. Often brake pads have wear bars on them just as tires do. Change them now if necessary.

Even if your bike didn’t rust over the winter, to varying degrees, your skills will have.  Ease back to riding gently and safely. You want to enjoy a full riding season. We’ll cover how to check your gear and your readiness to ride in subsequent posts.

photo credit: Field of Light via photopin (license)

Posted in Motorcycle Tips Tagged with: ,

An Open Road

by Liz Jansen

open road

Life changed on August 27, 2014. That day began more than 18 months of stillness, reflection, and learning. I knew the Liz that was a confident, free-spirited, 60-year-old professional woman riding her motorcycle solo across the country. I didn’t recognize the Liz with limited mobility, having to ask for help and rely on others, let alone knowing how to live like that. Unless of course it was motorcycle related. Then asking for advice was not an issue.

That crash on an isolated country road in Alberta was traumatic, but it was merely a catalyst. As I stood there brushing the dust off my riding suit with the one arm that could move, surveying the mutilated remains of a beautiful and trusted motorcycle, I felt only curiosity and a deep knowing that my route had changed. And gratitude that I wasn’t more seriously injured. Shock kept me from feeling physical pain, but aside from that, there was not, and has never been, anger, remorse, or sadness.

So began a series of events that dragged me through foreign territory. Through circumstances beyond my control, I surrendered my independence, mobility, plan for an open-ended 18 months on the road, and my motorcycle. I was relegated back to the starting point with no home, no car, and very little work.

In a stroke of divine timing, I’d begun my studies in Energy Medicine the previous summer on a road trip to the Pacific Northwest, drawn to it because of its simplicity, logic, and keen ability to get to the root cause of personal challenges. In a healing practice that combines ancient wisdom with modern science, it addresses the root cause of physical, emotional, and spiritual trauma.

The practice complemented the coaching, facilitation, and teaching work—and even the writing—I was already doing and brought me full circle to the healing work I’d begun as a Registered Nurse in 1974. Not only were the teachings the exact tools I needed for personal healing, but they fit seamlessly into my motorcycle inspired work, applicable to any aspect of life.

Contrary to what many thought, the goal of my big trip wasn’t to ride through the Americas. That was a wonderful side benefit but the motorcycle is my teacher, not my raison d’étre. It appeared in my life when I was 16 and has been my greatest teacher ever since. With pure delight, I am riding again, on an aptly named Triumph Tiger—Triumph to symbolize overcoming challenges and Tiger the wild spirit in each of us.

I’d set out to understand who we are before we’re shaped by our culture; to understand my ancestors and their migrations, and how their thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs formed my values and perspective.

On that August day, the roles I identified with had been removed in a dramatic, definite, and unexpected way. Now it was up to me to discover the person under all the layers. And it was traditional ancient wisdom conveyed through my energy medicine studies that guided me through a treacherous stretch of road—a practice that I now weave into my work and share with others.

Make no mistake. The intervening time has been rife with challenges. It’s also been personally enriching and continues to unfold in a way I couldn’t have dreamt possible. Ahead lies a blank page, an open road, and uncharted territory. Now it’s up to me to heal the past, live in the present, and create my future.

Care to join me?

Let me know how you see your open road. Email Liz.

photo credit: Peak to Peak Highway via photopin (license)

Did you enjoy this article?
Subscribe to receive our weekly newsletter!
You'll also receive a copy of 50 Moto Gadgets and Gizmos!
Posted in Adventure, Personal Growth Tagged with: , , ,

Pushing Off

by Liz Jansen

pushing offIn my dream, the bow of the canoe rested up on the bank of the waterway while the stern floated in water already deep a few feet from shore. I climbed into the bow, kneeling. My niece and nephew, both in their 20’s, climbed in behind me, Andrea in the middle, Fraser manning the stern.

Ordinarily this would be no easy feat because they had to cross water to do so, but this was dreamtime where anything can happen. Nonetheless, it was a precarious maneuver and we all understood the importance of staying balanced. As I used my paddle to push off, I braced with my knees, closing my eyes and focusing inward to stay calm and centered. The canoe broke free of the land, slid back into placid water, rocking back and forth gently before stabilizing. I exhaled, and we were off.

Dreams are always symbolic, not literal, and although I’m no expert in their interpretation, there were clear messages.

What immediately came to mind is it’s time to push off. I’ve been on shore long enough. While that may sound like a relief, it’s accompanied by fear, depicted in my dream by holding my breath over fear of tipping.

In the past two years I’ve had a few major upsets when I’ve pushed off. Shortly after setting out for an epic journey (little did I know how epic), my crash and severe shoulder injury was the first. Seven months later in early spring, when I thought it was time to get moving, I slipped while walking and broke my ankle. Recovering from that, a stubborn physical condition took me down. My hesitancy to push off is understandable.

Even since the dream comes news doctors had expected greater progress following hardware removal from my shoulder in January. I was doing my home exercises diligently but therapy was not effective. Following my intuition, I’ve switched to a new physiotherapist who’s administering intensive treatment three times a week. The other two days, I’m seeing other, complementary practitioners. Plus home exercise three times every day. It requires a lot of time and energy, but regaining as much mobility as possible is a priority. If I don’t get movement back now, it’s not likely to happen. Still, it’s a struggle to defer work activities. Again.

Fortunately, along with the trepidation of pushing off, the dream offers guidance, support, and reassurance.

There’s a reminder to balance masculine and feminine energies, the creative and the receptive. One completes the other and nothing comes to life without the involvement of both. I can’t go full out without allowing time for stillness. There can’t be all action without periods of rest. Body, mind, and spirit need nurturing so they stay strong, healthy, and vibrant.

The third message reminds me that support is available when needed. Without Andrea and Fraser, I could not have pushed off, let alone navigated down the river. Somehow I knew they were there just when I needed them, I had only to invite them to join me. And they’re kin. Special kin. My writing and research into the role of culture has uncovered strengths and shadows in my bloodline that I hadn’t appreciated, yet they’ve shaped me. These two wonderful beings are a reminder that there is no power greater than blood.

Fourthly, there’s advice on allowing myself to be guided, trusting my intuition, and staying in the flow. In a canoe, the stern paddler does most of the steering. The bowman provides power, sets the pace, and watches for obstacles. Both have to work together to navigate the waterway successfully. There’s also a powerful symbolism in moving downstream rather than creating unnecessary resistance by going against the flow, against one’s inner guidance.

Lastly, there cannot be a metaphor without including the motorcycle. There are similarities between the modes of conveyance. Both a motorcycle and a canoe require balance to stay upright. Both have limited room for cargo, and although you can pile extra stuff on, it takes more energy to stay balanced. Both handle better when you travel lightly, carrying only what you need.

It’s time to push off. How that unfolds remains to be seen, but it won’t even begin without that push.

photo credit: Basingstoke Canal Claycart-Eelmoor 10 January 2016 005 via photopin (license)

Did you enjoy this article?
Subscribe to receive our weekly newsletter!
You'll also receive a copy of 50 Moto Gadgets and Gizmos!
Posted in Personal Growth

The Best Laid Plans

by Liz Jansen

It sounded like a noble and doable plan: take four months during the winter, off-riding season and write the first draft of Crash Landing, my next book. At least get a good start at it. It began well but as I’m learning, from its inception, this project has had a timeline all its own.

best laid plansThe focus in November and December was on research but things took some unexpected turns in January. Surgery, to remove hardware installed after my crash to rebuild and stabilize my shoulder, was postponed for two weeks because of a flood in the OR. Right on the heels of a rough post-op week, my almost 90-year-old father fell and broke his hip. My parents live almost two hours away but I’d made the trek that day to take my also-almost-90 year old mother bra shopping. She lives with dementia and he is her primary caregiver. Shopping got shelved and the world changed.

Early on in her cognitive impairment, she hung a sign in their apartment that reads, “We may not have it all together but together we have it all.” My father’s fall set in motion a whirlwind that saw his hip replaced and mom placed in long-term care. The loss of independence and mobility, setbacks, and separation have been very difficult for them—and the whole family—at a time when they need each other the most.

It’s easy to view this as an interruption in plans, but a second look offers a different perspective. Crash Landing explores the role my culture and ancestry has played in shaping who I am and how I respond to life. The latest events have brought with them new learning.

Out of necessity, both parents have been independent and since childhood, worked to contribute to meager family coffers. They’ve weathered life’s storms with aplomb, but immobility and dementia have taken them to new territory. Their responses, fueled by the same thoughts and beliefs they passed on to me, have opened a window to seeing them with new eyes. Furthermore, this time has been an opportunity to reconnect with extended family on both sides, gather new stories and rekindle a sense of community I thought was lost. As much as I wouldn’t have planned this, it’s provided invaluable insights.

I feel like I’m back at the starting point—where I thought I was when I set out on August 4, 2014 on my motorcycle. Technically and motorcycle wise, I was well prepared for the trip, but from a grasp of what I was about to undertake spiritually, I was nowhere near ready.

Now there’s a whole new arsenal under my belt. A new understanding of where I came from. So although not a lot of words have landed on paper in the last three months, it’s part of the grand project after all.

When I left on my ‘big trip’, I vowed to be open to what the road delivered. Little did I know where it would take me or the challenges it would deliver—things I didn’t learn in school. I may not have moved very far down the road geographically, but the journey has taken me through completely new terrain, all the while furthering the quest I thought I had to go to South America to satisfy.

I still don’t know where the road will take me but I’m open to it, knowing that Spirit’s plan and my well-intentioned plan may have two different maps. The adventure doesn’t get much more exciting than that.

photo credit: Map-Mother Road Museum-Route 66-Main Street-America-Diagonal Highway-Will Rogers Highway-Barstow-California-Golden State-San Bernardino-HMG via photopin (license)

Did you enjoy this article?
Subscribe to receive our weekly newsletter!
You'll also receive a copy of 50 Moto Gadgets and Gizmos!
Posted in Adventure, Personal Power

She Rides Ontario!

by Liz Jansen 

The material on this page was included in She Rides Ontario, presented at the Toronto Motorcycle Show She Rides Evening. It highlights Ontario’s riding opportunities, resources for route planning, maps, and touring ideas, and events for women riders. It’s by no means an all inclusive list, merely a primer to inspire ideas and further research.

Articles mentioned in Presentation:

Ride Planning:


BMW Ladies Only Test Rides

Check out to review the full BMW motorcycle line up. For further information and to book your test ride, please email Jenn Martin or call her directly @ 705-725-4252.

She Rides Ontario








Clare’s Harley-Davidson Garage Party & Boot Camp








Barrie Harley-Davidson Garage Party


Posted in Adventure, Travel Tagged with: , ,

Welcome 2016! We’re off!

by Liz Jansen

welcome 2016

2015 ended as 2016 began—in golden silence. No dragging through the past year to tally results, evaluate progress, or check off boxes. No setting goals or making resolutions.

Even as last year ended, plans were changing. Shoulder surgery booked for today was rescheduled to Jan. 22 because of a flood in the OR. I don’t know the details but I’m glad I wasn’t on the table when it happened!

Don’t get me wrong. I do set intentions and act on them. But it’s my heart that’s in charge these days, not my limiting mind.

This year I participated in a 4-day Silent New Year’s Retreat, led by teacher, thinker, activist, Michael Stone. Spending time at a beautiful center, walking in the woods, eating delicious organic meals, and meditating, in quiet, with no speaking, texting, phoning, or emails was a delicious and refreshing gift to myself.

It’s always fascinating to feel the sense of community that develops around a common interest and this gathering was no different. Even if you don’t know anyone, you feel the connection and the sense of belonging right away. It’s the same feeling as attending a motorcycle event. And then there’s the extra special heart-charge when you learn you share more than one passion with someone. Michael’s a serious rider, most recently on a BMW 1200GS, but now with a partner and two small children, he’s reassigned his priorities.

My prime focus is on writing Crash Landing, and seeing where that takes me. Even if none of it appears on the page, it’s been enriching to reconnect with kin to learn about the lives of my ancestors. Keeping family intact was paramount to my great-grandfather, and he succeeded through WWI, revolution, famine, civil war, and finally, getting established in a new country. Just for fun, we counted the direct descendants originating from him and his two wives. At latest count, there are almost 400 of us carrying this man’s blood!

The advent of the motorcycle show season is a sure sign that spring is almost within sight. If you’re at the Motorcycle Supershow in Toronto tomorrow, stop by the Renedian Adventures booth where I’ll be helping out my friend Rene Cormier.

A few other dates on my calendar are the Toronto Motorcycle Show on February 22nd where I’ll be hosting a new She Rides Night event, Horizons Unlimited (HUBB) Virginia Travelers Meeting, Apr. 28-May 1st, and HUBB Ontario June 9-12 (watch for more details).

Lastly, I’m happy to again be working with an eclectic, vibrant team of enthusiasts at What A Ride, sharing the best of Ontario motorcycling with you. Researching is a blast!

Looking forward to sharing the Road with you and what promises to be an outstanding year!

photo credit: Carve A Turn via photopin (license)

Posted in Adventure Tagged with:

Keep Singing

by Liz Jansen

keep singing

Until recently, I’ve left the electronics off when I hike, preferring only the sound of the wind and my footsteps. I’m well aware there’s a tendency to get carried away with volume when listening to iPods, both with what’s coming in through the earphones and exiting through one’s voice, and it clouds my thoughts.

Recently that’s changed. Hardly anyone uses the nearby conservation area during the week and with the leaves off, visibility is pretty good so I can hit pause on the music if I spot someone. Last week I thought I was pretty safe to let loose, but I’d overlooked one critical set of ears.

The book project I’m working on has me digging into my past to understand the lives of my ancestors. What they experienced lives in me, often in my subconscious where I’m not even aware of it. I’m eager to learn and understand their stories, knowing they’ve shaped my beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and actions.

To really ‘get it’, I try to put myself in their shoes, imagining what it was like to live the experiences behind the stories passed down through their descendants. Although I’ve always known how important music was to them, they’ve taught me how specifically hymns, can bring me right to them. It was their direct line to Spirit, more so than sermons or Bible readings. Especially if they were sung in German.

Singing their songs opens my heart and brings me symbolically to my knees, and often to tears. It puts me in the heart space I can write from—where I feel their joy, sorrow, angst, and faith. I’ve downloaded their favorites and sing them (in English) on my walks—Christmas carols and hymns sung at their funerals. A favorite is Nun Danket Alle Gott, (Now Thank We All Our God)—the song which erupted spontaneously from weary passengers on the train carrying them across desolate Russian countryside as it passed under Red Gate—after one last military check—and over the border into Latvia and freedom.

Coming around a corner on the trail, up ahead and up wind was a woman standing at the side of the path. The slack leash in her hand was not necessary to restrain the little dog sitting quietly beside her, waiting for me to pass. In fact, the dog had heard me well before she did and they’d stopped to listen. Hymns aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when you see someone tethered to electronics. Sheepishly I offered a two second explanation of what I was doing, and why. Somehow it resonated with her and what would otherwise have been a passing greeting became an emotional bonding. “Keep singing,” she spoke in parting.

I know my grandparents walk with me on this journey, teaching me, and guiding my steps. On that day in the woods, they’d reached out from the past to touch yet another soul.

I honor them and myself with their songs and will keep singing.











photo credit: puppy via photopin (license)

Posted in Liz's Stories

No Motorcycles Allowed

by Liz Jansen

No Motorcycles“No motorcycles!” The underground parking lot attendant glowered, shouting in barely legible English, intercepting me before I could push the button for the ticket. “No motorcycles,” he barked again, thrusting his arm and pointing to the exit. “Park on the street.”

He’d just thrown a match on gasoline.

“What do you mean no motorcycles?” I exploded. “Why not?”

“Company rules,” he responded.

I was livid. A barrage of exchanges followed as I focused on balancing my bike and trying to figure out what he was demanding. “Back up!” Back up!” I was past the ticket machine and thus the sensor that would enable him to lift the gate. That was because the machine was on an incline and I’d moved ahead to a more level surface so I could get off and obtain the ticket. Now he was asking me to back up an incline!

I was in Toronto for an appointment and had left plenty of time for travel hiccups. Most of that buffer was used up in stop and go highway traffic. Staying safe while navigating downtown streets in the midday cacophony demands full attention. Concurrently watching for traffic, one-way streets, pedestrians, ubiquitous streetcar tracks, and searching for a parking spot is a challenge. Not finding one on the street, I’d turned into a parking garage, winding down the steep ramp into the bowels of the building to where I now sat.

There was no reason to deny me access. There were no signs, no logic. “How dare he turn me away?” I fumed in silence. Riders who’ve been around for any length of time will likely have experienced such overt discrimination, but I haven’t seen that since my 1977 Yamaha 650 was a baby. I could have forced the issued and parked my bike but it wasn’t worth the risk. I’m sure it wouldn’t be there when I returned.

Later in the day when I’d had time to reflect, I was curious to understand what had touched a nerve. I’d surprised myself by losing my cool in such a way. Perhaps his actions had sparked a tension I hadn’t felt. Maybe I was frustrated because I couldn’t understand him through my helmet, earplugs, and his broken English, spewing instructions as he paraded around me trying to figure out what to do.

No. It wasn’t any of that. My outburst came from a source deeper within me. Being turned away just because you’re on a motorcycle is a violation of fundamental rights. While it’s a minor example, it triggered a more collective memory of arbitrary practices that have defined history. My ancestors fled a country where their existence was threatened by iron rule cemented by brutality. Indigenous people in this country had their culture systematically erased. Escape routes from hot spots around the globe are choked with families fleeing violence and unspeakable horrors. I was responding from the collective tension that bombards us daily.

The answer isn’t in returning hatred, violence, or aggression. My agitated response only exacerbated the situation. Likely new to our country, this was probably one of several jobs the attendant held to support a family making a new start. He wasn’t about to jeopardize his income by allowing a violation of company rules, right or wrong. Whatever the case, neither of us felt good after that encounter.

I’m not suggesting we sit back and let these things happen, but there were more constructive ways to diffuse the situation.

Peace begins with me.

The man whose face I don’t even remember lifted the gate so I could turn around and climb back up to street level. Perhaps it was getting back into the light, or maybe it was the tiny parking spot right beside a KLR that rescued me from that dark place within myself. It was not my proudest moment but I was back in familiar surroundings, wiser for the understanding my travel to the underground taught me.

photo credit: Above the Law via photopin (license)

Did you enjoy this article?
Subscribe to receive our weekly newsletter!
You'll also receive a copy of 50 Moto Gadgets and Gizmos!

Posted in Leadership, Liz's Stories

The Itinerant Writing and Riding Life

by Liz Jansen
niskamoccasins itinerant

Today I’m taking a day off from writing and going riding! Actually I don’t write every day, but most days. When I’m not putting words on paper, I’m digging into the past, and the present—both with their treasures and landmines.

As it turns out, it’s fascinating to see that the major interests in my writing—culture, Indigenous wisdom, and riding—have all come together on a single December day. Even the weather looks like it’s cooperating so I can tie them all together on my motorcycle on a 265 km/165 mile loop.

First up is a pre-op appointment at St. Mike’s Hospital in Toronto in preparation for surgery on January 8th. The hardware that held my shoulder together after my crash at the beginning of Crash Landing’sresearch trip” is coming out to give me more mobility.

After that I’ll ride to the Mennonite Central Committee offices in Kitchener to attend My Moccasin, an event in the Dancing to Reconciliation series where Indigenous men and women share their knowledge and stories. I’m eager to hear from Shirley Ida Williams nee Pheasant (Neganigwane) and even more fascinated to understand the history and the nature of the link between the two cultures. Ironically, there was a time not so long ago when the only connection between Mennonites and dancing was to turn and run the other way. How times have changed!

I mention these plans to illustrate how events are unfolding for me. My heart is taking the lead these days and even though I can’t see the details of where this writing is taking me, people and experiences show up at just the right time to take me around the next corner. Most of my life I’ve tried to make things happen rather than allowing them to happen, but those patterns weren’t working. This is a very different approach and at times scary with many unknowns, yet I’m continuously amazed, but not surprised, by the synchronicities that occur

December has already granted an extension on the riding season and the snow will soon be here. I’ll make the most of it while I can before putting the bike away for the season.



WMRE CoverMaster a motorcycle and you can master anything. The women in this book have confronted and overcome personal challenges, physical challenges, societal stereotypes, and cultural expectations. They’re now embracing the freedom and independence of motorcycling. For many of them, it’s been the catalyst for other long-awaited life changes. The book makes a great gift!  Purchase here.

It’s always heart-warming to receive emails like this from a reader in New Zealand:

Your book arrived safe and sound and I absolutely loved it! Couldn’t stop reading, but I wanted to make it last so I limited myself to savouring only two stories a day. I could so relate to all the stories, woven into your own journey. I have only been riding for a year, but it is the best thing ever.  My husband is reading it now, he finds it fascinating as well. Thank you for writing Women, Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment.”  Angela

Posted in Adventure, Freedom Friday Tagged with: , ,

Subscribe to Blog!

Enter your email address to subscribe and receive new posts by email.