Editor’s Note: A version of this story was originally published on the author’s blog on March 29, the date of Good Friday in 2013. Despite the story’s tie to the original dateline, we are reprinting it in its entirety to retain the article's flavor and flow.
Today is Good Friday, one of the holiest days of the year for more than two billion Christians. It seems a fitting time to introduce you to Joan Krenning, aka Lady Road Dog, and her Glory USA Freedom Ride, the personal, inspired mission she has embarked upon. What’s the connection?
Joan Krenning with her Harley-Davidson Street Glide in a promotional image for her 36-month cross-country motorcycle ride.
Christians represent approximately 32 percent of the world’s population. Although that's a substantial number, it leaves more than three billion people with other beliefs. Not surprisingly, common ground exists at the core of all major religions. At the foundation of each system is a remarkably similar code of conduct that guides behavior. It’s a lofty but conceivable dream to envision a world united by our sameness, rather than divided by subjective differences.
Zoom in to one person in one country, intent on making a positive difference by focusing on higher principles—someone who loves her country, its history, and the people in it, who loves all people, regardless of their belief system, national origin, or other arbitrary divisions.
Joan packing her motorcycle as she leaves for yet another day on the road as part of her ride.
No stranger to challenge or adversity, Joan’s life path epitomizes courage. When she was released from prison in 1989, Joan was 35 years old, a convicted felon, recently widowed, newly sober, a mother of two young boys, and facing a tremendous uphill battle to get back on her feet.
She had her strength, a motorcycle and an idea. “I’ll sew some stuff and take it to swap meets,” she decided. Such were the humble, precarious beginnings that would ultimately lead to her current role as CEO of Design Wraps, Inc., a thriving headwrap and T-shirt company.
Joan makes sure she wears one of her headwraps and a T-shirt when she makes calls on dealerships.
Because she's conducting business while on the road, Joan always has a backup supply of headwraps on her motorcycle to give out as samples at dealerships.
Back in the early days of building her business, Joan sold her beloved motorcycle to raise the cash needed to purchase the raw materials for her products. Fueled by a vision, steely determination, and a healthy survival instinct, Joan spent the next 30 years building her business through triumph and tragedy. The road became her home, taking her to events and people across the United States and Canada—but always in a car.
She missed riding. And she was becoming increasingly concerned about her country. “I’ve always been patriotic,” Joan says. “Last year at Sturgis and again at Thunder Mountain Rally, I was saddened by the pre-election political disparity and partisan bickering. I was sad for myself and for my country, and I wanted change. God gave me an opportunity because I was open.”
Thus the seeds for Lady Road Dog and the Freedom Ride were sewn. She purchased a new denim-black Harley-Davidson Street Glide and began planning a trip that would take her to every Harley-Davidson dealer in the United States over the next 36 months. She was always on the road, anyway—it was time to move to two wheels.
But the message would be far more. She would wrap the bike in the graphics of the US Constitution, using it as a focus of conversation wherever she went.
Joan says she’s grateful and humbled by the motorcycle community's outpouring of support for her ride. Her riding leathers and nearly all the custom accessories on her motorcycle were donated in support of her cause.
Through her Freedom Ride, Joan's intent is to focus Americans on the higher values upon which their country was founded and to end the polarization that threatens its fabric. “We are so selfish, so self-centered, and we’re worried, believing the worst," she says. "All it takes is changing hearts.”
Joan is quick to point out that this movement isn’t about her. “The only reason that I’ve been chosen is because I was willing to do this. We all have a major role to play. God is working through me, and I haven’t said no.”
She also recognizes the role of her motorcycle in enabling this movement. “If I was in a Ford Focus wrapped in the graphics of the Constitution, no one would care,“ she says. But people are receptive to a 58-year-old woman, clad in black leather, wandering alone on a Harley-Davidson around the country on a mission of hope and change.
Joan’s “Freedom Glide" is wrapped in graphics of key phrases from the US Constitution and her road "handle," Lady Road Dog.
The Freedom Glide is the centerpiece of Joan’s ride and is meant to attract attention wherever she goes. Joan calls it her conversation starter.
The need for change is not exclusive to Americans. This is a story that can’t be contained by borders. “Be proud of who you are, focus on the country you’re in and its higher values,” advises Joan. “We can each make a difference right from where God has put us.”
“When I talk to people about the Bill of Rights, I’m talking to them about the fact that, regardless of how you believe, I will love and respect you anyway," she says. "You all have the right to how you think and believe. No one else has the right to tell you different. We’re meant to love each other regardless of our beliefs.”
Although she's focused on the mission of her ride, Joan plans to visit out-of-the-way places along the way, like the Ozello Trail in Crystal River, Fla. She knows what she’s doing is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
On this day celebrated as holy by much of the world—and as just plain Friday by the rest—let’s put aside our differences and focus on our common ground and highest values. As denizens of this universe, we share a common spirit. If we each do our own small part, the possibilities are endless!
Find updates on Joan’s progress by going to the Lady Road Dog website
or by visiting her at one of the many events she will be attending across the United States as part of the Freedom Ride. Author Liz Jansen will be posting updates on her blog
as well. What can you do to support Joan and her ride? The more exposure she and her supporters get, the more the mission of her ride is served. So please "like" her Facebook page
, post comments, and share her photos and updates with your friends.
Liz Jansen and Joan KrenningAbout the Author
at Daytona Bike Week 2013.
Considered one of the most influential women in motorcycling today, Liz Jansen is an author, speaker, event organizer, and owner of Trillium Motorcycle Tours and Events
. Liz, who currently rides a Yamaha Super Ténéré, has been riding motorcycles since age 16 and credits the hobby for inspiring much of what she does today. Liz is also the author of the book "Women, Motorcycles and the Road to Empowerment."
She lives in Orangeville, Ontario, Canada. Learn more at LizJansen.com
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