A note from the guest interviewer, Lisa Dougherty:
Flight attendant by day and front woman for Rock Gaga (a Lady Gaga cover band) by night, my friend Jamie Charles is the epitome of a Renaissance woman. So when she took up riding motorcycles and planning solo trips to the Grand Canyon, I wasn’t the least bit surprised.
In my interview with Jamie, we find out where her solo moto trips have taken her so far and the community of other female riders she’s met along the way. Check out the story below!
Banner image by Lisa Dougherty
Meet Jamie Charles
How did your moto trips come to be? How often do you take them?
Four years ago I went camping with two of my best friends in Eastern, Oregon. We were sitting around shooting BB guns when a crew of six dudes on Harleys rolled into the campsite next to us. Jokingly, I announced it was our mission to get rides before the weekend was over. It only took about 30 minutes before they walked over and asked if we wanted to ride to the store to get beer with them. So with blind trust we each saddled up behind strangers that were our fathers’ age, and took in the sights from the back seat. That ride was such a blast and each one of us had the biggest smile on our face when we got back to camp. It was then we knew we’d just discovered a new passion, but we wouldn’t be content unless we were driving. We vowed to get our licenses, buy some bikes, and start a lady crew in Portland.
The stars aligned after some time and I pulled the trigger, got my license and bought my dream bike (a 1972 CL 350 I later named Dolly Parton). Once I started gaining confidence as a rider, I began challenging myself with longer rides that were out of my comfort zone. While traveling for work [as a flight attendant] and on layovers I started renting bigger bikes and now I try to take solo trips every month or so. Once I cross one place off the list I just think, “where else can I go?” Riding motos has become my favorite way to explore new places.
What has been your favorite solo-moto trip and why?
It’s always been on my bucket list to see the Grand Canyon. Back in May I had a couple days off work and decided to just hop on a plane the next morning and rent a bike in Vegas. I had ZERO plans. I just packed a backpack, grabbed my helmet and left my house to catch a 7am flight. Once I landed in Vegas I called up a shop (Eagle Rider) to see if they had any Sportsters available and they did! So I hit the road stopping for pictures and to stretch whenever I wanted. I grabbed lunch at a greasy spoon diner along Route 66 and just took in the sights. That day I rode 280 miles and made it to South Rim just in time for sunset. There’s a Ron Swanson quote from Parks and Rec that says “Crying: acceptable at funerals and the Grand Canyon”, and it couldn’t have rang more true. When I pulled into the park I found the perfect rock to scramble onto, watch the sunset and truly felt all the feels.
After the sunset I decided to backtrack 60 miles to Williams, AZ and grab a motel for the night. I didn’t anticipate driving so many miles through the actual park so when my gas light came on in the middle of nowhere on a road with no shoulders or cell service, I had a mini panic attack. Not to mention the fact that I had also JUST narrowly avoided getting hit in the face by a bat while passing “beware of elk” signs every 5 minutes. It’s moments like that where all you can do is take a deep breath and keep trucking. Luckily, the crisis was adverted and I was able to roll into the last open gas station on fumes. I chugged a bottle of water, bought myself an opal ring from the native jewelry display, talked to a cop about what mile markers to keep an extra eye on for elk and continued the trek to Williams. I finally checked into a cheap motel around 10:30pm and face planted into bed. I remember laying there and reflecting on how many cool things I saw that day and how special it was. I passed out feeling strong, independent, and capable of conquering the world.
Crying: acceptable at funerals and at the Grand Canyon.
— Ron Swanson
What is your favorite thing about riding solo? What’s the most difficult thing about riding solo?
There are no rules. You can stop wherever you want and have nobody’s agenda to please but your own. You can check out ridiculous tourist traps, stretch, or take bathroom breaks whenever without worrying about being judged or frustrating anyone. Also. I’ve found it’s really easy to meet people and strike up a conversation when you’re by yourself. Anytime I roll into a coffee shop or restaurant with my helmet, a lot of people, especially old guys, want to know my story…and then they want to know my bike stories. It’s been really fun to get stopped at red lights or parking garages and asked what year Dolly is. Having a vintage bike has been a really great conversation starter and I’ve gotten to meet a lot of new people with their own bike stories.
The difficult things about solo moto trips are physical exhaustion and loneliness. When you’re at it by yourself you have no one to tag you out if you start getting fatigued so you have to be really conscious about your limits. Also, it’s easy to let your imagination run wild and stress yourself out. I’ve come pretty close to running out of gas in the middle of nowhere a couple times which is scary! So I’ve done my best to be as prepared as possible for trouble. I always have extra layers, I’ve started carrying a fuel bottle, and I also signed up for AAA for worst case scenarios and peace of mind.
You’ve recently become more involved with the women’s motorcycle community and attending moto events. What has that been like to meet other women who ride?
So incredibly inspiring. Almost every single woman I’ve encountered at a motorcycle event has been kind, inclusive and a total badass. The thing I love most about the motorcycle community in general is the staple rule “you look out for your own.” If you’re broken down on the side of the road, I guarantee someone on a bike will stop before a car. Women are naturally intuitive on how to look after others. Combine that with a “more the merrier” mentality and you instantly feel like family to so many people. There’s also a special bond that’s created when you ride with someone. It’s like sharing an experience, but independently.
You’ve attended events such as Babes Ride Out and The Dream Roll where women from all over the world come together to ride and camp out. What has been your favorite moto event so far and why?
I can’t choose a favorite really, each event is different yet entirely magic in its own way. Babes Ride Out takes you through Joshua Tree and the desert while the Dream Roll takes place in the lush, Pacific Northwest. Each event offers a very different terrain but both are breathtaking. I think my favorite part is that women specific moto events draw the same familiar faces no matter how far apart they are. It just goes to show that this community is really like a sisterhood that you become a part of if you attend.
What advice would you give other women who are interested in getting involved with the women’s motorcycle community?
Just get out there and do it! If you don’t have your endorsement go take the class. If you aren’t confident in your riding just keep practicing, it’ll come. If you’re scared to show up to an event because you’re intimidated, don’t be! We all started somewhere and we know exactly how it feels. The women’s moto community is very much the “more the merrier”.
What is it that you get out of riding motos trips that you don’t get out of traditional road trips in cars or even with flying- which is what you do in your professional career as a flight attendant?
Riding motorcycles connects you to your environment in a way you can’t experience in a car. When you’re driving in a car you’re enclosed in your own world, you have full control over music, conversation, even snacks. On a motorcycle you’re way more in tune with your surroundings because that’s all you have. You pay attention to the details; the difference of a temperature drop from shadows, the smell of wet leaves or fresh cut grass, and you get hit with bugs. It’s a powerful feeling to have all your senses used at once. As far as road tripping goes you tend to discover little gems you might not have in a car because you’re not usually googling the next place to eat on your phone. You’re simply feeling it out and checking out places on a whim. They say the best way to explore a place is to just get out there and walk around, I feel like motorcycles help you to do that but by covering more ground.
You’ve taken multiple trips now and ridden a variety of bikes. What’s your favorite type motorcycle and why?
While there are still a ton more bikes I can’t wait to have the opportunity to try, so far my favorite has been The Indian Scout I got to take for a spin at this year’s Babes Ride Out in Joshua Tree. My friend Sierra and I had both reserved them but the rental company only had one left so we had to take turns between that and a Harley Heritage Softail. Whenever Sierra offered up the keys to the Scout though I felt like a 16 year old boy whose dad just offered up his sports car for prom night. That bike is sex on wheels, so much fun it’s trouble. There was a long straight road in the middle of nowhere on the way back from Salvation Mountain where I was able to punch it up to 100mph (sorry mom). It gave me bingo wings, you know when the back of your arms flap in the wind like an old lady screaming out Bingo, I never knew the most unflattering feeling in the world could make me smile so hard.
Take a photo of your top 5 pieces of equipment for moto trips:
1. Helmet – a staple to be comfortable in something that’s yours and you trust. Even in states like Utah where you don’t need one I still bring a helmet.
2. Bungee cords – you don’t always have saddlebags and you need to strap your shit down
3. A solid backpack
4. A phone battery charger– you never know when you’re gunna have time to charge especially if you’re camping.
5. A knife
What’s next? Where will your next moto trip take you?
Well, my next dream is to road trip the entire West Coast and ride from San Diego, California to Barrow, Alaska. I’ve always wanted to drive through Canada up to Alaska and I think doing so on a bike would be a challenging yet insanely rewarding experience. It’s also a trip that I’ll have to put a lot more forethought and planning into than I’m used to.