Neither rain, nor wind, nor abnormally cold temperatures could keep a crowd of women riders from raising money for MDA and riding in the Harley-Davidson Women's Parade in Daytona Beach in early March 2010.
One-half hour into the parade staging only a handful or women riders braved the weather to register for the parade.
This marked the third year for the Harley-Davidson sponsored parade. Eighty women endured the lousy weather to do their part and share in that special female-brand of camaraderie enjoyed at events like these. Most importantly, the small gathering (compared to the last two parades) still raised more than $25,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
The lines began getting longer as participants rode to the parade's starting point at the Daytona International Speedway.
Barbara Festing from Nova Scotia, Canada, learned about the parade last year but didn't have her bike available to ride. This year she made sure she had her Heritage Softail at the parade. She said she admires the work MDA does and wanted to raise money. She solicited more $2,200 in one week from friends around the globe and was the parade's second highest fundraiser.
Barbara Festing on her customized Heritage Softail.
Aileen Shulde hails from Ocean View, New Jersey. She learned to ride two years ago and says "Maggie" is the only passenger she's ever had. "I love this because it's not just a girl's ride. We're raising money for a good cause."
Aileen she says her pooch Maggie shares her enthusiasm for the road as well. "If you leave the house for a ride and she's not in the box on the back of the bike, she's not happy at all."
Jeannine Wilder from Bradenton, Florida, says she didn't learn to ride until she was 50. She's now been riding for nine years. "I think these events for women are great because it encourages women to get out and do something they might not do. At first I was scared to death of bikes, but now it's the best thing in my life. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment. I can get on my bike and go wherever and whenever I want with or without anybody else."
Jeannine Wilder places the MDA flag on her handlebars of her Heritage Softail showing that she's a rider in the MDA event.
Parade participants received these special flags to attach to their bikes.
Kim Billingsley (left) from Nashville, and Caj Pinero from Ormond Beach, Florida. Caj says her mother taught her to ride more 30 years ago. Her advice for new riders: "Get a bike that's comfortable. You're the one going to have your butt on it and ride it so it has to be comfortable for you, not your husband, boyfriend or girlfriends."
Kim Billingsley cut short her vacation to Key West just so she could participate in the Women's Parade. She has ridden more than 60,000 miles in three years! The reason she rides? "I just love the freedom of getting out by myself and clearing my head. My Harley is my stress reliever, my therapy."
After leaving the Speedway, the parade wound through area roads for an 11-mile ride which included a parade first, a ride down "Main Street," the hallowed center of activity for Bike Week revelers. At Harley-Davidson headquarters on Beach Street, the riders gathered to hear words of thanks from Motor Company officials
The parade of women riders arriving at the ride's landing point -- the Harley-Davidson display area on Beach Street in Daytona Beach. Bystanders cheer and take pictures.
Skyler Kein-Jones from Sanford, Florida, is the local goodwill ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Central Florida. Skyler told WRN that seeing all the women riding to raise money for MDA made her happy. During its short three-year lifespan, the parade has raised more than $125,000 for MDA.
Karen Davidson, great-granddaughter of one of Harley-Davidson's founders, addressing the crowd of riders after the parade.
Karen told WRN, "This energizes me. Women who ride feel very empowered so there's this infectious energy that's conveyed from one woman rider to another. It makes me think about how much more potential we have because of this spirit and how we can encourage other women who may be interested in this sport."
Karen noted that March is Harley-Davidson's National Garage Party Month with events being held all over the country at Harley dealerships where women can attend to learn more motorcycling. More than 400 garage parties around the country are scheduled during this month. Visit this WRN news story for more information.
Lisette Deschamps is a motorcycle officer for the Daytona Beach police. She and other officers escorted the parade during the ride, and once again, kept the line moving so no rider had to 'put her feet down' during the ride.
Lisette Deschamps has been a motorcycle officer the last six years (and motorcycle instructor to officer trainees). She told WRN it's exciting for her to see all these women riders on the road together. "The women's parade is definitely a great event. I like to be able to encourage the women who come out and if they can see me, say, make a sharp turn, then they might be willing to because I'm no bigger or no different from them. I hope I encourage women to try."
WRN reporter Pam Collins at the ride's end on Beach Street.
We have three more photos to share from the event with you. Deborah Speicher, a faithful WRN reader from Tampa, Florida, provided some pictures she took that follow. She's been to all three of the Harley women's rides.
Deborah Speicher (center with green shirt) poses with her friends from her local HOG group in Tampa along with Karen Davidson in the back with black cap on.
Here are Deborah's thoughts on the Harley Women's Ride:
The MDA people were ecstatic as our group drove into the staging area. Many other woman followed suit as the sun began to break through the dark clouds. The Daytona Beach Motor Police once again did a great job of escorting us. Since Harley-Davidson moved its location from the Ocean Center to Beach Street, the route was changed and for the better. We actually rode down Main Street with cheering crowds and no traffic gridlock! The city also blocked off part of Beach Street so we could all park our bikes there in front of the Harley-Davidson tent. Pretty impressive.
Deborah says, "The MDA children are our inspiration to ride in this parade and raise the money."
Even more impressive were the children (all afflicted with muscular dystrophy) and their parents who came out to the staging area and then met us at the end of the ride. These children are the ones who benefit from the monies we raised that day. They and others will be able to attend an MDA Summer Camp for free.
A great shot of Karen Davidson on stage as she greets the crowd of riders.
Karen Davidson, was there to talk and later mingle with the ladies. However, when the children and their parents got on stage and thanked us for what we had done for them, I don't believe there was a dry eye in the house. I participate in a lot of charity rides and events, but this is always the one that is so emotional for me. For any woman who didn't or couldn't participate, they should consider it for next year. I think this might be a great motivator for those still riding on the back to get their motorcycle endorsement and their own bike, especially if they ever had the opportunity to watch and be a part of this event.
Women's Ride Taking Place At Daytona Bike Week
One-of-a-Kind Parade of Women Riders
Nancy Davidson Inducted into Hall of Fame