By Deborah Speicher
The Harley-Davidson MDA Women’s Ride started back in 2008 as a gathering for women to meet up with Karen Davidson and a small group of fairly new lady riders who had won a contest. Initially, we were to meet Karen and the ladies to “escort” them to the Ocean Center on their last leg of their journey. The response from those of us wanting to join them was so great that it was turned into a fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and continues to be a wonderful event every Daytona Bike Week.
This year, Karen Davidson (great granddaughter of one of the founders of Harley-Davidson) once again led the group. Some other well-known lady riders also joined our group – Laura Klock, Cat Hammes, Vicky Roberts-Sanfilipo and Gina Woods. Cris Sommer Simmons was also riding with us this year but on a new H D Dyna Switchback. Cris had ridden with us in 2011 but on her 1915 Harley-Davidson known as “Effie.”
This ride has started to bring out the motorcycle celebrities. Michael Lichter was photographing the ride from the start on Beach Street to the finish at Destination Daytona, and even in between at The Loop. At the end of the ride, there were more surprises in store for the group. Cris’ husband Pat Simmons (lead singer of the Doobie Brothers) presented us with an acoustic guitar concert. David Uhl, motorcycle artist extraordinaire, was on hand with artwork of Cris Sommer Simmons and Gloria Struck. We were also joined by Arlen Ness (world class bike builder), Buzz Kanter (Publisher of “American Iron” Magazine) and Gloria Struck. When I grow up I want to be just like Gloria who is 87 years young and still riding her 2004 Heritage Softtail. Gloria rides her bike from New Jersey to various rallies each year which include Sturgis and Daytona.
However, the real stars of the event were the three girls from MDA – Mary Vida, Skyler Keim-Jones and Abbey Umali. Mary and Skyler are Florida ambassadors and Abbey is the National ambassador. A trike and two bikes with side cars were obtained to transport the girls so they could ride with us. You cannot believe just how thrilled they were and how this ride made their day. As always, they and their families cannot thank us enough. Monies from this ride stay in the Central Florida area and send children to MDA Camp each summer.
One thing that was a little off for the ride this year was the lack of police escort. There was a funeral for a local officer and police were scarce that day. The Daytona HOG Chapter volunteered their drill team to help out since we would have to actually stop at some of the red lights, thus breaking up the ride. Between a few motor officers and the drill team, the ride went off seamlessly.
In all, approximately 168 riders and three dogs completed the ride and over $35,000 was raised. Way to go ladies!