TEXARKANA — By the hundreds, lady bikers roared into Texarkana to ride and rally together in solidarity this past weekend.
Participating in the Ladies in Leather Parade & Rally, women from across the country arrived in Texarkana sporting their biker pride and sense of camaraderie, riding motorcycles that, for each rider, hold a special place in their lives.
Women hailing from all backgrounds steered bikes of all shapes and sizes through town, including the Saturday parade with hundreds of bikes.
We talked with four of the local women who planned to participate, asking them about their love for motorcycles. Here's what they had to say:
Wheels: A silver Harley-Davidson 2006 Dyna Low Rider.
Aly Dwyer's biking roots rest in her college days. Back then, her family was starting to ride. She didn't have the opportunity to ride with them, being in school, but she hopped aboard her brother's bike and her dad taught her some.
She came back to it.
"I didn't really ride ride until fairly recently when I bought this bike," Dwyer said. A couple of years ago she got a job at the local Harley-Davidson shop, eventually transitioning to the service department. Although relatively mechanically inclined, she didn't have much background in it.
"I got a trial by fire and learned my way through, and I had a lot of really great mentors," Dwyer said. The dealership techs helped, and she learned how customizable and accessible a bike can be.
"I'd always been interested, but I never really rode because everything that I ever tried was someone else's," she said. But she gained intimate knowledge of customizing, she said.
Her bike now is a hardtail with shocks on the outside of the frame. "So it's more of a rigid ride than most. It's a bit stiffer, it's a bit more nimble," Dwyer said, comparing it to a sports car.
She bought it, honestly, because it was already set up for a short woman, even a shorter one than her (she's 5 feet, 3 inches tall with boots on). She's able to firmly plant her feet when stopping the bike, which adds comfort. She's modified the Low Rider, redoing the paint and more.
"You can still feel the road but I'm comfortable doing it," Dwyer said. She feels in control, the aspect she enjoys the most.
As a woman biker, she's felt welcomed into the community.
"For the most part, bikers are some of the most accepting humans I've ever met in my life. There's always kind of that cliché the bikers are my brothers and sisters and stuff. But it's true," Dwyer said. "With anybody who actively chooses to sit on top of an exploding engine in a very dangerous situation, they're the same kind of crazy as you are."
And when Aly rides, it's all about focusing on the experience itself. She compares it to the feeling she gets from yoga.
"In that it's very much a moving meditation. You have to be absolutely present, yet it's one of the most relaxing things you've ever done," Dwyer said. "You have to be present in the moment, and everything else fades away because you have to pay attention."
Wheels: A black Harley-Davidson Street Glide.
For Christina Myrkle, her riding started many years ago, only to be picked up again later.
"I rode one time a long time ago as a kid, and I was more into horses, so that's what I rode," Myrkle said. But living in Illinois with her husband and getting involved in a Harley-Davidson group, she met lady riders.
"That's how it started. I saw a bike that I really liked. Well, in order to ride it you've got to have your license," Myrkle said. With the motorcycle came a learn-to-ride class with Harley. That was a couple of years ago. She became an activities director with the chapter.
"It was instrumental for me because before that I never thought I would ride," Myrkle said, noting she'd experienced anxiety about six or seven years ago. She never thought she'd get to the point of wanting her own bike.
"It has actually helped with that," Myrkle said. Getting on a motorcycle helped soothe her nerves.
"A lot of people refer to riding a motorcycle, they call it wind therapy," she said. "Because when you're on that bike, especially as a new rider learning to ride, you can't focus on anything else but what you're doing on that bike. There's so many different technical things that go into riding a bike that you have to focus on what you're doing almost the whole time as a new rider."
This allowed her to focus on something else besides her anxiety. And getting involved in riding, she met many people, and they all had a life story.
"A lot of bikers, especially lady riders, they want to share that because they're proud of where they've come from, what they've overcome. It's almost this big family you didn't know you had until you're in it," Myrkle said.
She's a taller rider, so she says she doesn't get as much flack as some other lady riders, such as "you can't ride a bike that big" or "where's your man at?" That's common, she said.
But Christina is used to challenging stereotypes.
"My whole life. I grew up on a dairy farm. It was all girls in my family, so we grew up fighting stereotypes, thinking it only applies if you let it," Myrkle said. The attitude they had: "Shut up and show."
Wheels: An electric blue '02 Harley-Davidson trike.
How did Penny Tyrone become a motorcycle rider? It's all rooted in marriage but proved to be stronger than that institution.
"Years ago I married a guy that had a club, and we divorced. When we divorced, I didn't have nobody to ride with so I went out, bought a motorcycle. It's a trike, it's a Harley-Davidson trike. I taught myself to ride it and I've been riding ever since," Tyrone said. "I'm on the board of the Pink Ride and have just been asked to be on board with the Toys for Tots, so I'm very much involved with the bikers around here."
And why did she get back to her riding roots?
"I love leather," Tyrone said matter-of-factly, noting her bike, Roxy, is well-known across Texarkana.
"Everybody in town knows Roxy," Tyrone said. "She's very popular. I've already got a trophy on her."
People just love Roxy. She's done modeling shoots on her Roxy, which she enjoys.
"I have fun with her and I ride a lot," she said.
But there's a deeper meaning, too. She divorced, then lost her mother and father — all within a year. Riding was a way to pull her up from that misery.
"When he died, I went out and bought that bike. That bike probably did save my life," said Tyrone, a retired hairdresser.
Tyrone loves bikers, riding and traveling, and she'll head out on the open road with anyone who asks. She attends bike nights twice a week, and she's been back riding with her own bike about five years although her time on bikes stretches back about 20 years.
As a single woman with a daughter and grandchild, biking is a big part of her life. She was looking forward to the rally here and seeing women gain a new interest in riding. She suspects many are scared to buy their own bike, being by themselves, although they're curious about riding.
Penny recalls being a proud woman when she got that first bike.
"My bike is my everything," Tyrone said. "I ride as much as I can."
Wheels: 2016 Heritage Softail.
Back in the mid-'90s, Sue Wormington's husband, who since passed away, began talking about riding. She was scared of it and her parents had forbidden riding, talking about the dangers. "The parents-speak," she said.
But she went riding with friends and she kind of liked it. They went to the Honda shop, test-riding a bike and then buying one. She asked the sales person what she should do on the back of the bike.
"He said, 'You do what he does. If he leans, you lean. Whatever he does, you do,'" Wormington said. She rode on the back of her husband's motorcycle for six years. "We made wonderful friends I'm still in contact with them today."
Then around 2000 she wanted her own bike, so she's had her own motorcycle for two decades. She was something of a pioneer.
"There wasn't a lot of female riders at that time. There were a few, but not a lot," she recalled. She enjoyed being a woman on a bike.
"I felt like there were lots of women in the area that wanted to be motorcycle riders, and sometimes you just need to see someone like you doing what you want to do," Wormington said. It wasn't intentional, but she became that person. She was just doing what she wanted to do, "making friends and having fun."
But now, Wormington said, there are many female riders around.
She took the soft bags off her current Heritage bike and put hard bags on it. "It's very pretty. It's turquoise and white with whitewall tires. Very retro," Wormington said about her bike. She suspects she's probably bought her final bike. She's purchased bigger and bigger bikes over the years.
"It fits me. I'm a shorter-stature woman and so this bike fits me, which is important," Wormington said.
Sue, who since remarried a man who sold her and her late husband their first motorcycle, has done some research on where she's gone. She's a member of the Texarkana Hog chapter. They have "a big time" going out.
"Last year 12 of us, 12 bikes, went on a tour of national parks," she said. They went to Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Canyonlands, Arches and more. "For me and my husband it was like 3,400 miles. The word for that trip was epic."
If she had to choose, her favorite place was Bryce. Having the wind in her face and the sun on her skin, it recharged her.
"Thirty-four hundred miles of laughs, stories. There's always stories. You usually come back with all these stories, usually on somebody else or on yourself, some stuff that you've done, you know," Wormington said.