Friday, May 29, 2009
An Interview with Janet Green of Biker Chick News
Janet Green is the author of a great Blog called Biker Chick News. It is for and about women who ride motorcycles. I found this site a few years ago and have followed it ever since. Janet gives great insight on what it is like being a Biker Chick. Her Blog also has great stories about the many rides she has been on and various other topics including tips for women that are ready to ride up front. Janet has also become my motorcycle event go to because she always seems to know when the local rides and motorcycle events are. As you know I love getting to know people by doing interviews so I thought I'd see if Janet would be interested and sure enough she was. Enjoy the interview...
Could you give me a brief bio?
I was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa, graduated from Roosevelt High School here and then Iowa State University in Ames. My immediate family includes my husband Steve and daughter Stephanie. My professional background is in marketing and corporate communications; I am currently the Executive Director of the East Des Moines Chamber of Commerce. I've experienced all of the usual ups and downs of life: births and deaths, new jobs, new homes, etc. I certainly don't mean to minimize them - they have all been milestones in my life - but for sake of brevity, my life's been pretty normal.
Was there something specific that drew you into the biker lifestyle?
The "biker lifestyle" that I live is not the traditional hardcore lifestyle that many people think of when they think about "bikers," and that is not the lifestyle that appealed to me. I had ridden a bit as a passenger and enjoyed the travel aspects, so for me the "lifestyle" is all about travel and camaraderie. I generally just live "my" lifestyle - I am who I have always been, and bikes and riding have fit naturally into that.
How long have you been riding?
My first ride ever was a week-long trip to Colorado I took with Steve, in 1989, before we were married. I rode as his passenger for several years after that, although there were periods when we did not own a bike so didn't ride at all. I decided to get my own bike in 2002, which not coincidentally was the year I turned 40.
What made you decide to ride your own?
Steve had built this really cool Sportster custom (around 1999 or 2000) and was taking it to local bike nights, and I used to see a few women there who would ride in on their own bikes. I thought they looked so powerful and independent, and just utterly cool, and decided I wanted that for myself. It took me a couple more years to finally get serious about buying a learner bike and getting started.
What do you ride and does he/she have a name? If he/she has a name why did you name your motorcycle that?
My bike is a 2000 Harley Sportster 883 which I affectionately refer to as The Picky Bitch. I like to joke that this name fits her because she is slow to warm up and demands a lot of accessories. While the name initially started out as kind of a joke, it has stuck and really suits her for those very reasons. My first bike was a Yamaha 250 and I have also owned a Honda Shadow Spirit, both of which were very good bikes.
Do you think you will always ride your current motorcycle or do you think you will eventually purchase another?
I love this bike a lot - it fits me perfectly and we have a lot of history together. That said, she is not the most comfortable long-distance bike on the road so someday I might consider getting a Heritage Softail, which is the bike my husband rides.
You write a motorcycle blog. What is the name of your blog and why did you begin blogging about your motorcycle experiences and other motorcycle topics?
My blog is called Biker Chick News and I started it in 2004. I started it because at my core I am a writer and always have been - writing is something I must do - and because I was (and still am) experiencing so much joy from learning to ride that I wanted to share the experience with others. It includes not only my own riding experiences, but also some of the material I read elsewhere as well as commentary on what's going on in the world of motorcycling.
Is there a motto that you live by?
"A clean house is a sign of a wasted life." (haha) Seriously, there was a book in the early 70's by Richard Bach called Illusions. It's about a barnstormer pilot named Richard who encounters a modern-day messiah named Don. In the story, Don gives Richard "The Messiah's Handbook." Illusions appealed to me in many ways, and one of the bits of wisdom that has stuck with me is this: "Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they're yours." It means, basically, that if you think you can't, you're probably right.
What other things do you like to do when you are not riding?
I'm a writer at heart, and blogging is a wonderful outlet for writers so I have three blogs and have a romance novel in progress. Other than that I am very much a family person and enjoy activities with my husband and daughter, plus quiet pursuits like genealogy and gardening. One of my favorite not-so-quiet pursuits is karaoke. I am not a trained singer, but I love to sing. My favorite karaoke set consists of "Here for the Party" by Gretchen Wilson, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," by Elton John, and "Statue of a Fool" by Ricky Van Shelton.
Where is the best place in the country to ride?
The best place I've personally ridden was the Black Hills area in South Dakota - particularly Spear Fish Canyon, which was stunningly beautiful, and Iron Mountain Road/Needles Highway, which seemed to be made with my nimble Sportster in mind. That said, my favorite place to ride is really anywhere I can look in my rear view mirror and see my merry band of friends behind me.
Do you have a favorite rally/s?
I haven't attended a lot of organized rallies, with the exception of one trip to Sturgis. My favorite way to enjoy my bike is to gather some friends, and take a day-ride somewhere around Iowa or a weekender around the Midwest.
Do you have a favorite ride or rides that you attend every year? Why is it or are they your favorite/s?
One of my favorite annual rides is the ABATE District 4 Toy Run. This is a huge, police-escorted group ride that just gives me goosebumps. And yes, I do know how frustrating it is to be in a car waiting for a break in the column so you can turn left. But come on - bikers delivering toys for children? Give us ten minutes and we'll be out of your way. Another annual ride that's absolutely amazing to be part of is the Estrogen Ride, which is a women's ride organized by a group of local friends. I've written a lot about these on my blog, but again it all boils down to the fellowship.
Do you have any mentors or people that inspire you and if so who and why?
I'm inspired by strong, independent women riders. Two that come to mind: Donna McNichol, who learned to ride with her husband several years ago, then lost him to cancer and proceeded to take a round-the-US bike trip on her own in his honor; my friend Teresa, who just completely embodies the spirit of a woman rider. She has not been able to ride since having a serious accident a couple of years ago, but she has persevered in her recovery and is just amazingly strong. Apart from that, my husband Steve has been an excellent teacher and is always very encouraging - I would consider him to be my mentor.
If you could change anything about yourself what would it be?
I wish I was disciplined enough to change my eating habits so I could lose some weight, and I wish I was not such a procrastinator.
What is the craziest thing that has ever happened to you on the road?
I have taken a lot of memorable rides, but haven't had any experiences I'd personally call "crazy." A lot of people have told me it was crazy to ride a Sportster to Sturgis and back, but to me it was a great ride and just part of the Sturgis experience.
What are your thoughts on women in the motorcycle world?
The more the merrier! Learning to ride gives you an amazing sense of accomplishment, and I wish more women could feel the way I feel cruising down the highway on my own bike. You know, back when someone first stuck a motor on a bicycle, women rode them all the time. It wasn't until the bikes started getting more powerful that they were then deemed "unladylike," and society shunned women for riding. I say, screw that - it's about time we took it back. I also tip my hat (do-rag? helmet?) to those women who rode (and ride) regardless of what society has said.
Do you feel that men take you seriously when it comes to your love and passion for the motorcycle lifestyle?
This is a thought-provoking question. It actually never occurred to me that men would NOT take me seriously, and frankly if they don't, that's really their problem rather than mine. I've met several men who are surprised that I ride my own bike, and have told me I "don't look like a biker" - but I consider that a badge of honor: it's education (and hopefully serendipity) for them rather than disrespect for me. Also, there are several men in the group of friends that I ride with, and they have said they like riding with me in the lead, so I take that as a sign of friendship and respect. I can't imagine someone not taking me seriously - I mean, I have a bike, I ride it, I love it, I'm a good and caring person. If I have to do more than that to earn their respect, then we're talking about a person who's honestly not even on my radar.
Do you belong to any motorcycle groups? If so how has it enriched your motorcycle experience?
I have a core group of friends I ride with most often - people who literally come from all walks of life. I love them all dearly and we have a lot of fun. I also belong to the Des Moines Harley Owners Group (HOG) and am a past officer in that group, so they are my extended family. Again, it's all about the friendship for me. Sometimes that comes from riding the same brand of bike, and sometimes it just comes from being in a varied group of people that you love sharing the journey with.
Do you have any advice for women wanting to move to the front of a motorcycle?
Do not let anyone push you too far too fast. Unfortunately, a lot of times your husband or boyfriend doesn't make the best teacher because he's been riding forever and just thinks it should come naturally - they can't remember what it was like to have to think so consciously about operating the bike, maneuvering through traffic, looking out for hazards, etc. Be firm - you must be allowed to learn, and expand your comfort zone, at your own pace. You might have to remind them of this a few times. :)
Are there any important lessons you have learned on the road?
Nothing too different from life in general - play nice, take time to stop and smell the roses (or the manure, or whatever is wafting by at the time), to each his own, that sort of thing. With regards to riding itself, you have to be ultra-aware of everything and everyone around you - even more so than in a car, because you're so vulnerable. I've also found I'm far more aware of bikes when I'm in my car, now that I ride.
What do you think makes a "Biker"?
It's pretty simple for me: a "biker" is literally anyone who enjoys their motorcycle, to whatever extent they are able and willing. There's no brand requirement, no membership card, and no annual mileage check.
Are there any motorcycle publications that you read?
The only one I read thoroughly is the HOG publication, "Hog Tales." I mostly enjoy reading biker blogs because they're about the experiences of individuals.
Just for fun...
What is your favorite swear word?
I'm told I cuss too much, so apparently I"m fond of all of them.
Do you have any pets?
Yes, two cats and a dog.
What music are you currently listening to?
These days the only place I really listen to music (besides my favorite karaoke bar) is in the car, and my daughter controls that with her iPod and CD's. So, currently I'm listening to some rather interesting Christian/praise music by Family Force 5 and Toby Mac. It's quite different of course from normal "church music," but even different from any of the recent praise music I've heard. It's very current-sounding, and some of the lyrics are quite moving. I generally like country music (old as well as new), rock/pop oldies, and a little of the more current pop.
What are you currently reading?
Janet Evanovich's "How I Write," and a how-to book on writing short stories. I haven't read any new fiction for awhile, but I am always up for a re-read of anything from Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series.
A Huge THANK YOU to Janet for doing this interview. If you would like to visit Biker Chick News go to http://www.bikerchicknews.com/ .