Revisiting my solo Pony Express ride

Seventeen years ago, I started thinking about riding in a fundraiser for breast cancer called the Pony Express. I had been inspired the summer of 1998 when the PE ride came through Seattle. I don’t think I had yet bought my 1981 R65 BMW.

In May, I bought a Ducati Monster, M900. I started “training” by doing long weekend rides. I also became a Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor.

Originally, I was only going to ride the first leg: Seattle to San Francisco. At that point in time, I’d been riding less than two years. My longest ride was from Seattle to northern California in August 1999, but my friend J.C. and I took three days to make the trip.

However, with urging and support from my motorcycle social group, WetLeather, I decided to ride to the central staging point, St. Joesph, Missouri (via Omaha, Nebraska). But I wanted to do most of the ride solo. (I’m still not a fan of large organized rides.) I rode about 6,000 miles in two weeks (and 1.25 back tires).

My travel log (reproduced here) consisted of 31 emails (over the course of a 16 day trip that included a campout) posted to the WetLeather mailing list. The feeling of “newness” comes through. I remain boggled at how I found time to write such detailed missives! Having tried to do the same while riding with Mike, I’m convinced that they are possible only when riding solo. [Warning: the travel log contains motorcycle shorthand and insider-to-WetLeather references.]

What also comes though is how unprepared I was to hear stories of breast cancer from complete strangers.

I need to process the past two weeks – especially the stories of how breast cancer has affected the lives of the total strangers who shared their experiences with me. I understand why EC wanted to do this again. I expect I’ll be doing it again next time, also.

In 2010, while taking a class on video storytelling, I created this short. While brainstorming stories, I had developed two wildly different takes on the trip. The best advice was to tell the story that is the hardest to tell. This meant that I had to do something that doesn’t come naturally to me, tell the emotional story. But I did. The closing is especially poignant today.

In 2003, Mike and I would ride the Pony Express to LA. That would be my first road trip after my September 2001 hysterectomy.

The Women’s Motorcyclist Foundation has hosted campaigns involving riders from all of the United States and Canada, beginning with Arctic Tour ’93 – Ride for Research. Four Pony Express rides raised $2 million for breast cancer research.

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