by Paula O’Kray
International Female Ride Day is the first Saturday in May. It’s a day for women who ride motorcycles to get on their steel steeds and head out for a ride. It’s meant to bring awareness that women ride and to encourage women who are curious about the sport to get out there and ride their own.
You can head out on your own, of course, but many ladies get together, and many women’s riding clubs, like the Stilettos on Steel, have organized rides for their members. After all, riding with friends is always a great time.
One lady in Illinois has outdone herself with this annual celebration of women who ride.
Ellie Rains, of Sycamore, Illinois, has organized a ride for several years now that has evolved into an annual three-day event. Ellie created Midwest Women Riders LLC, and this organization now sponsors three days of biker girl fun, called “Get Your Groove On (GYGO).”
I’ve attended this event for the last three years, and it’s truly a great time to gather with friends, old and new. The camaraderie and support is unmatched! This year featured several mingle events and, in addition to the great mix of vendors and guided rides, workshops were introduced.
On Saturday, the last day of the event, all the lady riders gathered at the Woodstock Harley-Davidson dealership to ride together for International Female Rider Day. I was one of approximately 570 riders escorted by the Illinois State Troopers on an hour-and-a-half ride through the Illinois countryside.
But, I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
This year, my regular GYGO buddy was in the middle of a move, so I made the trip south on my own. I had reserved the room last June, but didn’t find roommates to share it until March.
You would think it a bit odd to room with three virtual strangers, but this is the sisterhood of female motorcyclists, and although we come from just about every walk of life, the love of the sport is what binds us as friends.
Of course, Facebook helps out with that quite a bit. There was a post on the event page about people looking for roommates, so I dropped my name in. After several inquiries, I set up a chat room on Messenger so we could all get to know each other a little better before the big event.
The ladies were from Pewaukee, DeKalb, Illinois and Nebraska. That’s an 11-hour ride, for those of you trying to do the math. And if you think that’s a long way to go alone on a motorcycle, a woman I met at last year’s event moved to Arizona last summer, but she still came to this year’s celebration.
And yes, she rode all the way in. In fact, some ladies rode out to meet her!
I have to admit it was a bit lonely heading down by myself on Thursday morning. Due to the fact that winter hung on so long, it really cut down on my Spring riding time. I barely had time to get my bike in for the annual oil change and check-up before the big weekend was here. So I really didn’t have my “sea legs” yet; after several months of winter, you have to get your muscles used to riding again, and without having gotten that time in, it made me a bit nervous.
Not to mention that in my excitement I overpacked, and that made the bike much heavier, and thus more difficult to manage at slower speeds. Who am I kidding? I always overpack, excited or not!
Arriving at the hotel, I managed to locate Cathy from Pewaukee and Sandy from Nebraska. Tracey, from DeKalb, was still on her way.
We found the registration line quite long and four women deep, so we decided to get supper first. We found a great place in Crystal Lake, the Village Squire. The food was excellent and came out quickly, and they had live entertainment to boot! In fact, we liked it so much we went back the next night.
Cathy had broken her foot a few weeks prior, so she arrived by car. She had a little scooter to get around the hotel on, so it wasn’t much trouble. For us, it was nice to have the option of driving instead of riding to meals, especially when it was rainy or cold out.
The guided rides filled up fast on Friday, so Tracey and I checked out the workshops and vendors instead. We ended up with some nice freebies from the talks and did a bit of shopping therapy afterwards.
The talks ranged from what to always carry on your bike, to what to do at the scene of an accident, to personal self-defense on the road. Lots of great information was shared.
There were several ladies who had written books about their adventures and life on the road. It was fun to ask these very down-to-earth women questions about their interesting lives.
In the parking lot, the sound of revving engines could be heard late into the night on Friday and again very early on Saturday morning. Nobody complained.
Prior to the big ride, there is a lot of activity at the Woodstock Harley Davidson dealership. Besides the incredible number of beautiful new bikes in the showroom, there’s a lot of clothes and other accessories to shop for. They also have munchies for the ladies and a DJ spinning tunes. It doesn’t take much to get us dancing, either, since everyone is very excited.
At 10:30 sharp, Ellie addressed the crowd. Cheers went up as she spoke about the weekend and the awesome attendance. After reviewing the guidelines of the ride, there was a short prayer and then the national anthem.
We all gathered for a group photo (which is taken with a drone), then headed to our bikes. The riders are staged into lines as they arrive at the dealership and parked very tightly together. There are all manner of bikes and all manner of riders, but this is not a competition — there is only admiration and the pride of riding your own.
There are very serious lady riders in vests with matching club patches (and to be honest they scare me just a little bit), to ladies in very bright colors and, would you believe, tutus?
At 11, the lines of bikes began to ride out, one after the other, the riders beeping and hooting the whole way. Once out on the highway, the line of riders must have stretched out for at least two miles. The fun part about a police escort, though, is that you get to run all the stops signs and red lights! The police stop the cross traffic so the entire group can stay together and pass through safely.
The best part of the ride is the people who live on the route who come out to wave, take pictures, and wish us well. I love beeping and waving at the kids, especially the little girls, who can see that they can be motorcyclists someday, too.
That evening, we all gathered for a nice dinner at the hotel in Crystal Lake. There was a live band, great music, and much laughter.
Tracey decided to head home Saturday night. She was missing her man and was only an hour’s ride from home. We made sure she let us know when she was home safe, as we do with every rider.
Sandy had an 11-hour ride back to Nebraska, so she silently slipped out literally at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning and bid us goodbye and safe travels on our Messenger chat, so she wouldn’t wake us.
Cathy and I slept in a bit before packing up and heading out. We all checked in with each other as we arrived home safely. Somehow, I got lost on the way home after being redirected with a detour. I stopped for gas and chatted with locals over lunch in Jefferson, and they got me pointed in the right direction.
Tired but happy as I rolled into my driveway, I was already looking forward to the shenanigans Ellie will come up with and the new friends I will make at next year’s GYGO!
The many beautiful bikes parked at the hotel were a welcoming sight after a long day’s ride.
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