My Wedding Ring
By: Annette Dearth
Once I started riding solo and felt more confidence on the road, I set a goal for myself to travel across the United States but at the time, it was not in my cards. As an only child, I didn’t want to put that kind stress on my mother. Unfortunately my mother passed away unexpectedly and I found myself lost without her. It had only been my mother and I since I was 15 and my parents divorced. I was her caretaker for the last three years while she grew weaker and weaker. Two years after losing my mother; I made my goal, my reality.
Planning my trip across the U.S. took about a month and on May 21st, 2018 I set off. I have to admit, leaving my home in Southern California at 5 am to head east – there was a few times I wanted to turn around and just go home. Telling myself I had no business going on this trip alone, putting the stress of worry on friends and family but, I swallowed those feeling downs and just kept heading east. Once I arrived for the night at the most shady motel ever in Winslow Arizona (you know the kind where people live in half the rooms and the other half is actual road travelers) all those feeling disappeared because I had made it to a destination. I just had to hope my bike was waiting for me in the am and that I would be alive to ride it.
I try my hardest to be safe while on the road, whether traveling alone or with others. I am all about personal safety, my safety. I start with preferring to fuel at truck stops that are located on the same side or right side of the highway. I am always looking for my entrance ramps while exiting just in case I need a fast escape back onto the road. Naturally people seem very curious about a woman traveling alone on a motorcycle. They will try to speak with me, asking the usual and various questions. I always try to be friendly and cordial with my pepper spray close at hand and trying not to give too much information while satisfying their curiosity. The name I give those: Lucy, after what I named my bike “Lucy Lue” it’s easy to remember while lying and giving a false name. Lying doesn’t come natural to me so I feel guilty when I give this name to a stranger but giving my real name is just not necessary, by any means. This works well for me and is easy to remember.
Eating alone comes natural to me as well. Pulling into a place to eat anywhere just feels like home. I like to support the small businesses and small people, after all they are the ones doing big things in their lives. Corporate America seems to just suck the life out of the small businesses so mom and pop motels, greasy spoon eateries and bowling alley restaurants work well for me – except for Cracker Barrel, yes I am a big fan of that place! While eating, I try to make sure I always sit facing the front door where I can watch and read people and know where my exits are. These are all just tricks I learned from an ex-boyfriend who was a retired police officer. Even thought he was not a fan of my solo traveling, he knew I was going, with or without him so he figured he better guide me in the right direction with these few tricks. One meal a day on the road is my usual; supper or dinner – I always forget what it’s called in the midwest – but in the late afternoon. My morning coffee and snacks keep me going during the rest of the day. This meal time is when I sit and look for a place to stay for that night. Hotwire.com is my go-to but, there are a lot of good apps to choose from when looking for a good place. If I happen to ride by a small motel with parking by the room doors, I will usually hit them up first – asking them if they would meet the hotwire.com price. This seems to work as I haven’t been turned down yet. I would much rather give them my money than the bigger hotels.
When pulling into these parking lots, people notice the bike first, then that I am a woman and, that I am alone. Once I am checked into my room, I’m usually in for the night. With my snacks and water, there is usually no need to leave my room. I wear half chaps while riding for protection but tucked into them is a knife I carry at all times. I feel safer knowing it’s so close at hand and I never carry to much stuff in my hands just incase… This can take three to four trips to my room as I tend to over pack but, I am learning to down size. I also lock up my bike with a brake lock and cable every night. I would be so heart broken if someone stole her from me, not to mention I would have to fly home ending my bike trip and, I would have to get all my gear home – what a task that would be. I’ve been told I worry too much about my bike as strangers at motels have even mentioned it to me while they watch me lock her up. But that there is a thing I like to call ‘cheap insurance’ from thievery. If there is a pool, hot tub or a lounge, I might venture out but it depends on how safe I feel in the surroundings. The mornings can be tricky as I am a foo-foo coffee drinker and we all know motel room coffee with the powdered creamer can be a challenge so, I travel with my prefered brand and flavor creamer at all times. It’s a must, just ask my friends. I also carry and use my good insulated tumbler.
When I made the decision to travel solo, I took the time to buy a gun, learned to use it and got a licence to carry in about half the states. Where you lay your head at night is your home and you have the right to protect yourself regardless of what state you are in. To be safer, I sleep with my gun loaded next to me. I chose the best position on the bed, facing the door and place the room chair in front of the door. It’s better for hearing someone trying to come in and, it gives them a warning. I honestly do not want to shoot anyone EVER but i feel it’s better to be judged by 12 people than carried by 6.
I’ve been known to enjoy my craft beers and you can sure find some great microbreweries while out on the road. I find that I am usually the only female alone on a moto and all eyes are on me when I walk in. Micro breweries are laid out differently than a bar but being a lone female feels the same in either place. People seem to want to talk while sitting next to you on a bar stool. For this reason, I travel with “my wedding ring” and put it on when I find myself in this situation so I can talk about “my husband” and that he is meeting me at the next city, running a little behind schedule so, I had time to stop for a good beer.
I’ve never really found myself in too scary of a situation while on the road alone and try not to put myself in any bad situations either. Whether it’s riding alone at night, parking at a bad angle that I can’t get my bike moved out of alone or riding on a dirt road without a paper road map. I also have taken the time to talk with close friends and family members about my wishes incase I don’t make it home. It’s not fun conversation but, a necessity. I would hate for my family to fly my body home when it’s a lot cheaper to ship my ashes instead.
I did find myself in a bit of a scary situation once. On my way to South Dakota in 2015, I stopping in Beaver Utah for fuel. I topped off, pulled aside for a rest and went to get back on the bike and my backpack felt lighter than usual. I opened it and couldn’t find my wallet! I panicked and went looking everywhere, checked the pump, asking the cashier, checked my route from the pump to the bike and in the bathroom, no luck. With tears in my eyes and panic in my soul, I had to figure out what to do next as I didn’t have enough fuel to get me home. Thinking of asking strangers for money and feeling like a fool, stupid and scared now, I walked back to my bike for a second time and directly under my bike, layed my wallet. It had fallen out when I took my backpack out of my saddle bag: lesson learned. I now keep extra money and a credit card somewhere other than my wallet for situations like this….
I hope that these safety precautions and my traveling experience can help other female solo riders find comfort on their road ahead.