Tuesday, March 27

A note on my camping experiences...


As a solo female rider, I am leery of camping alone. Gender is an issue. Allow me be honest, race is a factor too. As much as I’d like to pretend that race doesn’t matter, it does. I am not naive; I know I don’t have blendability, that quality that allows me to cross boundaries with nary a notice. To some extent, we all have limits on our ability to blend. Truth be told, some of us have more difficulty blending than others. Long before riding a motorcycle, I was made aware of how my presence in some places could generate certain crazy dynamics, which has taught me that being female is challenging enough, but being a visibly distinct “minority” and female raises the stakes a bunch of notches! I’m talking firsthand experience here. Please don’t tell me, as someone did, that we get or find what we’re looking for on this earth and that I only need to practice positive thinking to reap positive outcomes. Look, I’ve been drawing breath on this earth a long time; I know the limits on positive thinking. I have been spit on, yelled at from moving cars, ignored by wait staff in restaurants, and fended off enough unwanted male attention to know that along with positive thinking I need to be realistic and committed to self-preservation.

Years ago, I did a lot of camping so I’m not a complete novice. Then, I weathered the stares, the whispers, the nasty epithets that sometimes came my way. I chucked it up to ignorance. As long as I didn't feel physically threatened, I dealt with others' stupidity. I wasn't, back then, camping alone. My upcoming camping venture will be solo. I’m planning to camp at least twice--maybe more--while circling Lake Superior. I'm a huge fan of creature comforts but I also want to experience, up close and personal, some beautiful sunrises and sunsets; I'll need a great spot to do so along the lake’s magnificent shoreline. I refuse to allow my or anyone's limitations preclude me from having a great time.

First on the list: new gear. My allergies can exhibit monstrous results with one whiff of old, dank and dusty equipment. Thus, I’m not even thinking about using anything from the old stash. I bought a new tent and sleeping bag and pad. Then of course, there are the accessories, like head light and binoculars. Second on the list: items that serve a useful purpose but double also as a weapon. Given that I’ll be traveling through Canada, I will need to avoid carrying anything that might be a red flag during customs inspections. My motto: expect the best but prepare for the worst. Here’s what I took on the Lake Michigan Circle Tour (LMCT). Does anyone know…will I need to leave the knife at home? What about a hammer? I think I’d feel more comfortable sleeping with a hammer nearby. I’m open to suggestions for dual-purpose items—if you know what I mean.

Next: Gear talk

5 comments:

Tim Foster said...

I am a biker want-to-be and I have been reading the forum on about.com and ran across your blog address. I hope it does not bother you. Any way I thought I would make a suggestion for a dual purpose item. Have you heard of Mag lights? They come in many sizes and there is one that takes some thing like 4 D size batteries. They are great flash lights and could be used as a good club or nightstick. Anyway have fun on your trip and keep the rubber side down.
Tim (toolman)

Sojourner rides said...

Tim, Welcome! I love your idea! I have heard of the Mag lights but didn't think of using them for whacking onery creatures! Thanks. Come back and visit again!

Crusty Says: said...

Hey Sharon

Of course I can't possible know how you feel as a woman alone on the road. I can only imaging it must ad another level of fear and stress that you must deal with. The one thing I can understand is the ignorance factor that we all seem to deal with these days. I have been amazed at what I call the "dumbing down of America". Our society accepts ignorant behavior and even glorifies it. This new Jack Ass generation will say and do some amazingly stupid things. Most of them will even admit to doing it because they don't know any better....like that is an acceptable excuse for doing it! I can't possibly know what it is like to be an African American, because I'm not. My own tiny little experience with bigotry stems from at times being hated for riding a motorcycle by people that don't even know me or by being hated for the type of motorcycle I might happen to be riding. Not anywhere as severe an issue as the challenges you have faced, but yet another example of the dumbing down of America. Over the years I have become more and more of a loner out on the road. Not wanting to deal with the ignorance of other people in cars, and other bikers that have forgotten what being a biker means. I have developed a sense of which "establishments" might be biker friendly and which ones to just avoid the whole dirty look syndrome.

Camping gear has come along way from the old days, but in my experience it will always be the little things that make your trip comfortable or a living hell. Chapstick, bug repellant, toilet paper, headache meds, extra socks! and other "personal" items are often forgotten at home or overlooked.

Ride on....

Sojourner rides said...

Crusty, thanks for your kind and warm words. Just knowing that someone tries to understand is saying a lot. I think we're cut from the same cloth!

Carla King said...

Hi Sharon, thanks for sharing your camping plans and especially the stories of your past experiences. This was very interesting to me; your unique experiences related to gender and race. Definitely a challenge to face the world on your own terms, to do what you dream of doing despite knowing what "challenges" lie ahead, positive and negative, safe and scary. I'm sure that you know that the fact that you simply move through the world, seen by many, is quietly inspiring and stereotype shattering. When I ride, I so often note the delighted faces of children riding in cars (more often now, SUV's), their little faces pressed to the window, smiling at the unusual sight of a woman riding a motorcycle, fully packed for camping and obviously solo. Being African-American I'll bet you get double the attention that I do! Will the day come that people don't stare at a woman or an African American on a motorcycle or camping (alone) because it is just so "normal" that it is no longer notable? Well...we are doing our part! Thanks again for the dispatch. --Carla