Women’s Freedom Rally – June 13-16, 2019

It’s all about the numbers.

  • 4 Days
  • 355 Miles
  • 30 Kitties
  • 762 Lady Bikers
  • 3 Laps
  • 0 Rain Days (for 29 of us; one got plenty of it!)
  • 1000’s of memories

After months of planning and anticipation, the 2019 Women’s Freedom Rally has come and gone and we enjoyed, participated, photographed and loved (most) every minute of this four-day event. To the 30 Kitties who journeyed north to Topeka, thank you! Thank you for the laughs and the memories; thank you for the love you have for your Kitty Sisters in the best of times and the worst of times; and finally, thank you for following the Yellow Itinerary and being where you supposed to be, at the time you were supposed to be there and wearing what you were supposed to wear and rolling with the punches when things didn’t go exactly as the Yellow Itinerary said it would. If there’s one thing the Kitties have learned, it’s how to be flexible and we got to practice that on more than one occasion.

Editor’s note: Normally, I like to give a detailed blow-by-blow accounting of our Kitty Road Trips, but with a road trip that spanned four days, you would be reading this article until the July Road Trip. Nobody wants that. So, here is my best attempt to summarize what was our largest Kitty attended event….ever! Yes, I know even in summary form, it’s plenty long. Please forgive any errors or omissions in my reporting. It was a LOT to remember and I may have gotten some facts or details wrong. If you do see something that is off, please do not report it to Greg. I try to every day remind him that I’m never wrong.

On June 13th, Kitty after Kitty after Kitty filled up the QuikTrip parking lot with saddlebags filled to the brim and tbags strapped to their bikes. Along with the Kitties came our very own Sending-Off party.  Annette’s mother, Carmen, and Kari’s Tom Kat, Daryl, was there to meet and greet Kitties; our resident photographer and Alice’s Tom Kat, Gary, arrived with his fancy schmancy camera and started clicking away; and shortly thereafter my Tom Kat, Greg, arrived to say good-bye since he was going to Twister City and was so close. It’s not every day I get to say “That’s some smart thinking right there” to Greg, but this was the day I could. As he was leaving our house, he thought “You never know who might need a little something tightened up, taken off or put on so I better throw my suitcase-sized tool kit in the bed of my pick ‘em up truck.” Turns out that was a very smart decision indeed. In case you haven’t heard the saga of Lori’s new saddlebags, it has been a battle since day one involving acorn nuts, belt guards and pulling hair out.  A friend of hers initially installed them; Nellie’s Tom Kat, JT, has worked on them and on that morning, Lori discovered there was an acorn nut digging into the side of one of her bags. The saddlebag drama has gone on for so long that I named her bike Bewitched. Time will tell if that name will stick, but I’m here to tell you, them darn bags are hexed! Mechanic Greg rolled out his tool kit (yes, it is actually on rollers!), removed the belt guard with said acorn nut and Lori was ready to roll – belt guard-less – so the chronicles of ol’ Bewitched ain’t over yet! To be in compliance with the rally “rules”, Alice provided a purple bandana for everyone to tie onto their bike. If there’s one thing we can count on is Alice following rules! Thank you AliKat! After taking roll call and confirming that everyone was present and accounted for and Suz snapping one last group selfie, we rolled out at exactly 12:30 on the dot with Christine in the lead of Group One with Colleen in Sweep position and Kathryn in the lead of Group Two with Lily in Sweep position.

I was hoping since the Ramada was a “convention center”, there would be a great big huge wide-open parking lot. I couldn’t have been more wrong. A grocery store has more parking than that hotel and what parking they had was completely swallowed up with bikes, cars and vendors. After parking in the middle of a lane and wondering what’s a Kitty to do, we learned that the parking lot across the street was ours to use and would be guarded overnight. Sounds good to me! Let’s circle around AGAIN and get off these bikes! Of course, then there was the issue of unloading our bikes and hauling all our belongings across the street, which was no easy task.

And the chaos of the parking lot rolled right into the lobby of the Ramada. Bandanaed heads and black vested ladies were ev-er-y-where! And what little real estate was left from all the milling about lady bikers was covered in tbags, helmets and jackets. I gotta give credit to the Ramada as every check-in line was open and they were processing bikers as quickly as possible. However, they told me a little fib many months ago when they said they were completely sold out. Turns out that wasn’t quite true and since we had two Kitties, Tanya and Justine, staying at the Baymont, we quickly snagged one of the open rooms at the Ramada. But then there was the matter of cancelling their Baymont room and their registration counter did not have their happy pants on and wouldn’t let me cancel that Thursday night, but would allow me to cancel Friday and Saturday. It was agreed that Tanya and Justine would stay at the Baymont that night and then move over for the remainder of the rally. In the meantime, Kristi, who was using free points at the Best Western, ran by the rally registration desk to pick up her goodie bag and sign papers and then scooted on over to get checked in.

By the time I made sure everyone was checked in without issue and got the Baymont matter settled, the rest of the Kitties had long ago gotten settled in their rooms and were already in the hotel restaurant hoping to have a nice, enjoyable dinner…hoping, but not having. This is where the Ramada lost all their “way to go” points they had earned in the check-in process.  There were Lord knows how many women staying at the hotel.  They’ve known for probably a year that we were coming that weekend.  Yet, they had one waitress covering the entire restaurant and probably double that number of cooks in the kitchen. By the time I got to the restaurant, Kitties were already frustrated because food was coming out very slow and orders weren’t coming out right. It was definitely an opportunity for us to practice our patience and we just tried to make the best of a bad situation. However, no one made the best of it quite like Kristi. By the time she returned to the Ramada from getting checked in and entered the restaurant, she was oblivious to the meal chaos that had come before her, but what she wasn’t oblivious to was the more than half a leftover steak Suz couldn’t finish. Figuring there was no reason to let perfectly good food go to waste, she grabbed a couple of pieces of bread that no one wanted and made herself a steak sandwich. Kristi should give a class on how to go away for the weekend on a shoestring budget.  Speaking of shoestring, anyone gonna eat those fries?

While we were still trying to just get through dinner, the Thursday late shift of Dawn, Bobbie and Cindy arrived. Of course, they also expected to be fed because after all, this was a restaurant and the universal concept of a restaurant is to prepare and deliver food to you…the right food and in a timely manner. We cautiously told them to order if you dare and hope for the best. In the meantime, Lori and Annette decided to hire an Uber and go liquor shopping and liquor shopping they did! They brought back enough booze for the entire 4th floor of the hotel and needed a luggage cart to get it to their rooms.

Following the Great Dinner Debacle of 2019, several of us decided we needed a stiff drink and as luck would have it, there was a party going on in the Banquet Room, not to mention there was a mini-liquor store in a couple of Kitty rooms.  When we walked in, there were like four ladies in there. Well, I guess the party don’t start till we walk in and we is here so let’s get this party started! We woke that room up and piled on the dancefloor and shook our booty to some pretty darn good music courtesy of the band Straight Shot. If we weren’t dancing, we were fake singing into a karaoke microphone that wasn’t hooked up to anything courtesy of Lori and didn’t care one wit if we didn’t know the words. Then the band made the frightful mistake of leaving a tambourine way too close to the edge of the stage. My vodka cocktail said, “Trust me Janice, you CAN play the tambourine and sing, so you just get right up on that stage and do you!” And so, with all the confidence that vodka will muster, I hoisted myself up on that stage and I punished that tambourine against my swinging hips. Seeing what a superstar I was, the lead singer, Shawn, shared his microphone that was hooked up to everything and I provided some powerful lead female vocals. To my friend Vodka I say thank you! Thank you for proving that Janice CAN dance; Janice CAN sing and Janice DOES have rhythm. To all those who have for years said I couldn’t do any of those things, well, there’s a video that proves otherwise so booyah! PS: I did not receive compensation for my performance in the way of cash, but I did get a drumstick to add to my collection and that is so much better. Never mind that I asked about a gazillion times for it and eventually had to resort to pizza bribery, but I got it and that’s all that matters.

The first thing on the Yellow Highlighted Itinerary for Friday morning was meet at the Ramada fountain for the Elder Abuse Awareness Day picture that Kristi needed for her office. Immediately following breakfast, a sea of purple Kitties arrived and although we were missing a few, we got a great shot.  I don’t think there was an award presented to Kristi for gathering the biggest, prettiest group of purple people, but one co-worker reported that the picture was “supper cool.” By the way, I think we should all start using supper in place of super. I’m a fan of having our own Kitty language and this is a great addition. I would go so far as to say it’s supper fabulous!

Following the supper cool purple picture, Kitties kinda scattered. Lily was the only one who signed up for a rally-organized ride and she rode to Atchison, KS to tour the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum. Several of us grabbed our Gloria Struck book and stood in line to get her autograph. For those who were on this trip, you know what an amazing lady Gloria is.  For those of you who weren’t on the trip, I can’t stress enough how gracious, kind and classy this woman is.  She started riding at the age of 16 and 78 years later, she is still riding.  She’s ridden in every state in the nation and several European countries in every kind of weather imaginable. From this point forward, any time I don’t think I can go one more mile or ride through one more minute of rain or move my heavy bike around, I will think of Gloria and use her as inspiration.  If Gloria can do it, then so can I and so can you!  At the age of 94, she sat at that table and personalized autograph after autograph; posed for picture after picture and chatted with fan after fan. I know I speak for everyone who stood in line that day that it was a true honor to get to meet this motorcycle legend. I have often admired the David Uhl painting of her and to get to meet her was pretty mind-blowing.

In between breakfast and lunch, some of us went vendor shopping and some of us tried on other people’s purchases. Some may say it’s not high fashion to wear a knee-high motorcycle boot with a short skirt.  Bobbie will say they are wrong!

After all that shopping and relaxing, we had worked up a powerful appetite and decided only the Blind Tiger could satisfy it.  But right before we left, our First Shift Friday Kitties of Stephanie and Linda arrived from Wichita. So, who’s riding to lunch and who’s Ubering it? While some got on bikes and some crawled into cars, we all met at the Blind Tiger where the portions of food are out of this world! Sure, we were hungry but Holy Half Pig on a Platter, they should have said “Must be shared with friend” on the menu! Christine stuffed mushrooms were the size of saucers and there wasn’t anything “let” about Colleen’s pork cutlet! Not willing to let an alcohol opportunity pass her by, Susan brought home not one, but TWO jugs of Blind Tiger beer and gave a whole new meaning to the statement, “Them’s are some mighty big jugs!”

Following lunch, the riding group of Kitties went to the Historic Harley Davidson to shop and participate in the activities there, while the Ubering Kitties returned to the hotel to do whatever the heck they pleased.  I know for me and Maureen, we were pleased to have an opportunity to take a nap before getting ready for the Friday night banquet.

Getting into that Friday night banquet was quite an experience.  The mass of humanity all packed together outside the door ready to race to snag a table looked like the pre-opening of Walmart on Black Friday. Once those doors opened, it looked every bit like shoppers clawing their way in to snatch up the 75% off big screen TV. It was absolutely crazy, but we already knew how many tables we needed and everyone had their orders for grabbing three tables as close to the front as possible…and it was mission accomplished! We all got settled in our seats and semi-enjoyed typical large banquet average food. We also got a chance to welcome our Second Shift Friday Kitty, Stefany, who had just arrived from Wichita and Sherita, who had been volunteering at the rally and staying at Perry Lake so we hadn’t had much of a chance to hang with her.

Very soon after we began eating, the speakers’ presentations started and thank-yous given to the rally organizers. Finally, the speaker we were all anxiously waiting for, Gloria Struck, gave her presentation, which was fascinating, inspirational and captivating with just the right amount humor sprinkled in. She told many stories about her 78 years of living on two wheels, but my favorite was one she recounted about a trip to Daytona Beach. Gloria lives in New Jersey and there’s no such thing as trailering a bike as far as she is concerned.  Ain’t gonna happen – no way no how.  So, on the morning she was to leave for sunny Florida, she woke up to piles of snow in cold New Jersey.  She did what any respectable motorcycle legend would do. She got out her shovel and starting clearing a path on her driveway AND her street just wide enough to get a big ole Harley through. Now that’s commitment people! I think even Frosty (Kristi) would have a hard time leaving on a bike trip if she had to ride on a narrow strip between two snow banks! We hated to see her stories end, but what followed Gloria, we hated even more. The MC introduced a gal by the name of Jessi Combs, who holds the four-wheel land speed record. Almost immediately into her presentation, she said and I quote, “I hate everything about Kansas.  I love the people, but I hate the state.” We were pretty much dumbfounded and even more so, when she went on to say, “Just try to find a decent place to eat in Kansas” followed by “Everything is just flat and green and boring.” The girl wouldn’t stop with her derogatory comments about Kansas so a big bunch of Kansas girls got up and left the banquet, including yours truly. I have no idea what Jessi was thinking by saying those kinds of things while in the host state of a rally, but I’m confident the Kitties weren’t the only Kansas girls who were highly offended. I hated that this is how the banquet ended, but it what it is and I’m just going to focus on the words I heard from Gloria, which were definitely the highlight of the evening. Besides, we got important business to take care!

We got word that there were a bunch of Kitties who were gathered at the bus stop. The bus stop? Is that a bar and if so, how did they get there?  Did they Uber it? Surely, they didn’t ride there. I just kept following the few Kitties who were in front of me and imagine my surprise when I see a small gathering of Kitties at the bus stop….like a real bus stop…where people wait to catch a bus. It had a bench and an overhead cover and it was as good a place as any to hang out and enjoy an after-terrible-speaker cocktail.  So, I was right, it WAS a bar! One Kitty who was there was Bobbie. “Oh Booooobbie, we got a little something foooor you.” I knew that Bobbie was going to be celebrating her birthday just a few days after we returned home, so Lori gifted her a bejeweled crown and satin sash that screamed to the world, “Look who’s turning 60!” We got lots of fun pictures and explained to one of the members of the Punishers MC, who were guarding the bikes overnight, that yes, we know the bus doesn’t come by until 8:00 a.m., but we don’t mind loudly waiting.

I had planned to draw the winning 50/50 ticket at the banquet, but with the long speaker program and the abrupt end to our attendance, I was unable to do that. So, Plan B was initiated. There were quite a few Kitties at the Bus Stop Bar so we employed the assistance of Tess from Wisconsin to draw the ticket and if the winner was among us, then great. If not, then I would put the winning number on Facebook and let the winner reveal herself on social media. As it turns out, the winner was a Bus Stop Bar partier and she was Melaina! Melaina just got a whole lot more vendor shopping money with a wad of $62.00 clutched in her little Kitty paws.

The alarm went off at o’dark thirty on Saturday morning and we all threw on our 15th anniversary shirts and were at the bikes at 7:00 a.m. Dawn led us on the 25-minute trip to Heartland Motorsports Park where the official line-up and count of the female bikers was to take place. I gotta give mad props to the organizers of the rally as they had lots of volunteers stationed everywhere to tell us exactly where we needed to go and got us parked nice and tight. However, to the Heartland Motorsports Park concession stand, I have some constructive criticism for you. How about investing in a box of tea bags for us non-coffee drinkers? Unless you were a coffee drinker, there wasn’t a hot drink in sight. Ahh, such is the plight of non-coffee drinkers everywhere. Although we were instructed to be at the Park by 8:00, we didn’t go anywhere anytime soon. This left oodles of time for picture taking and picture taking we did! It also gave us an opportunity to hook up with Sonja, who was with another group of ladies but documented her time with the Kitties in photos. We were also joined by the last remaining Kitty from Wichita – Deborah, who made the trip solo. Dawn made sure we all looked supper patriotic and brought little flags and zip ties for us to mount the stars and stripes on our bikes. There are entirely too many pictures to even think about including in this article, but most of them were posted on Facebook so you got to see the fun and shenanigans that took place in the parking lot. We were also given very clear instructions for how to file past the video camera which would officially document our attendance for the world record count. Finally, we were given the go-ahead to mount up, but don’t start up. After another good amount of time had passed, we were at long last told “Ladies, start your engines!”

And then we were released into the gates of hell.  Actually, the beginning of our time on the race track was fine. We just moved very slowly to get lined up two by two, with occasionally moving up to allow more bikes on the track. After all the bikes had finally squeezed onto the track, we started on one of the most difficult riding experiences of my life. Let me paint a picture for you. It’s a 2.5-mile track and not just an oval track. It’s a road course so there are many turns and some slight elevation in spots. We were moving at a speed that rarely allowed us to get out of first gear. We had to stop frequently which meant sometimes having to walk our bikes because we weren’t moving far enough to actually ride. Our bikes were supper hot and we couldn’t get our legs away from the heat coming off the engine and pipes. We completely wore our hands out with the constant braking, clutching and accelerating. After the first lap, we were ready to pull back into the parking lot; however, the police escort at the front of the line thought differently and led us around again. Somewhere during the second lap, I was pretty sure my left leg had melted right into my jeans, while at the same time, I was berating myself because I was convinced I was the only one who was struggling. Everyone else looked like they were doing fine. I kept telling myself, just get through this last lap and it’ll be over. Well, it turns out the rally organizers and Greg have something in common. They believe if it’s worth doing, it’s worth over-doing and darn if they didn’t make us go around a THIRD time! When I passed a guy with three fingers held up, I decided right then and there if I pass him again and he’s got four fingers held up, I’m pulling off the track and I’ll jump back in when I see we’re done. Fortunately, we never saw the four-finger guy and after 7.5 miles of grueling riding, we were led back into the parking lot. When we got parked, the first words out of my mouth were, “That was one lap too many!” Several of the Kitties laughed and I couldn’t tell if they were laughing because they thought I was funny or they laughed because they thought I was silly for complaining and they were totally okay with lapping Heartland Evil Track three times. I was relieved to quickly find out it was the former and not the latter and everyone was just as miserable as me. This must be what they mean when they say “misery loves company.” The purpose of riding together for 7.5 miles was to make it difficult to beat a record of that many women bikers riding that far all together. I can appreciate that but Good Golly Miss Molly, give a girl a heads-up and she would have worn her chaps! Before leaving the parking lot, we learned that we didn’t beat the world record for the most female bikers all gathered in the same location. The record is currently held by Australia where they had 1132 lady bikers. We came up short with a total of 762, but we were thrilled to find out that that was enough to beat the National record so we still felt we were part of something pretty great. Although, I will feel even greater about that when my burns heal on my leg….which they haven’t yet done.

Several of the Kitties decided to go ahead and point their noses home following the friction zone lesson, so we said our good-byes to Kathryn, Lori, Krista, Dawn, Chris, Tricia and Colleen. A large group of Kitties decided to head back to the hotel, while Tanya and myself said we were going to ride to the Historic Harley Davidson to do a little shopping and tour the Evel Knieval Museum. One Kitty said she was also going to the Harley Davidson dealership, but she said, “I’m gonna hitch a ride in this here truck with this nice man. Oh, and I’m gonna have that nice man load my Little Blackie motorcycle on the back of his truck because something ain’t right with him. He needs some serious medical attention stat!” That Kitty was Maureen. As Maureen was riding around the track from hell, she noticed all kinds of banging and clanging going on with Little Blackie. It was a stroke of good luck (and the last bit of good luck Maureen was going to see for a while) that Klondike Medevac had pulled up right behind us and agreed to transport Little Blackie to the HD Medical Center. After a thorough examination by the medical staff in the emergency room, the diagnosis was that Little Blackie had completely bled out from his primary. There was literally not one drop of oil to be seen, felt or smelt. What was in his primary was a lot of burnt up bike parts, all of which were on the brink of completely failing. The Chief Physician on the case brought us back into the operating room where he had Little Blackie’s primary opened up. Everything was so brown – the case, the chain, the clutch assembly and a lot of parts that sounded like gibberish to this non-medical professional. Never really having seen an exposed primary, I asked, “Is it supposed to be all brown like that?” The Chief Physician tried to not giggle at me or be patronizing (all of which he successfully accomplished) and said, “Uh no. All the brown is the residue from what little oil that was in there completely burning up.” Although there were several exchanges between Maureen and her boyfriend, and not all of them in her happy voice, they were never able to determine how this happened. No one remembered draining the primary oil, but clearly they did and in the words of the boyfriend, “Evidently we forgot to put oil back in.” Thank you for that bit of wisdom Captain Obvious! Tanya and I kept Maureen company while surgery was being performed on Little Blackie and it gave us plenty of time to tour the Evel Knieval Museum, which was very interesting. We found a supper-sized oil container in the museum that I suggested Maureen see if she could buy to make sure she always had plenty of oil on hand. Too soon? Four hours and $1,100.00 later, Little Blackie was released from the hospital and he was completely cured from the banging and clanging. So, the lesson learned is…

If you drain, avoid the pain.

Refill with oil so parts don’t boil.

To properly take care for your primary,

Don’t use a mechanic by the name of Larri.

Those on board for the 355 mile ride to the 2019 Women’s Freedom Rally were Queenie (Janice), Glitter (Christine), Boom (Lori), Lady (Kathryn), Wrench (Melaina), AliKat (Alice), BadA$$ (Stephanie), Sugar (Lily), Star (Kari), River (Chris), Lil Pibble (Kim), Inky (Susan), Moonshine (Maureen), Annette, Cindy, Krista, Sycho Suz (Suz), BatKat (Nellie), da Vinci (Dawn), Ice (Linda), Half Pint (Tricias), PonyGirl (Colleen), Tink (Bobbie), Tanya, Justine, Frosty (Kristi), Curly (Stefany), Sherita, Shorty (Deborah) and Sonja.

Janice – Founder