Saturday, December 17, 2011


While the tumblrs are tumbling and the blogs are blogging the outlaw brotherhood, I thought it would be a breath of fresh air to pass along a little story and a few pictorials of true sisterhood...not related to the outlaw culture euphemism. The inspiration and story itself was passed along to me from our own Knees in the Breeze. We were on the tele the other night chit chatting about work, family and of course moto's and he asked me if I have ever heard of the Van Buren sisters, I replied "No, why" He just said look them up, he lead on a little bit about what I was in store for, just enough to make sure that I would follow up with his request of further research. Well, I hung up the jack and instantly googled VAN BUREN SISTERS, what popped up was instant attraction, and a story that I fell in love with. I would like to share this true American story of 2 sisters that set out to explore our country in a time when there wasn't even a highway infrastructure, pre Eisenhower. This story is about untraveled terrain, love and companionship of two sisters, that set out to see the country on INDIAN motocycles with the wind in their faces and freedom on their back.

It was the summer of 1916. Women didn't have the right to vote, nor were they considered equals to men. But they did have the same tenacity, courage, and creativity that women have always had, regardless of the recognition they received for their talents and abilities. This is the story of Augusta and Adeline Van Buren, two sisters who journeyed from New York to California, the first women to do so on solo motorcycles.

Gussie and Addie were intelligent young women in their 20s when they set out from Sheepshead Bay in New York City to begin their transcontinental journey. They left on July 4th and arrived in Los Angeles on September 8th after traveling 5,500 miles over hazardous roads. There were no superhighways in those days. They would have to be content with dry weather, although washouts, heavy rains, and mud were often the conditions that they had to accept.

The Van Buren sisters rode Indian model F powerplus 1000CC motocycles that were pretty powerful and big for the sisters size, the ride consisted of mostly dirt roads up mountain tops by way of switchbacks (no guard rails) and rocky terrain, through the cold and mud, along dirt roads and some paved roads only in city limits. They received local help at different times along their journey from getting stuck in mud to having mechanical failure, people were grateful to help once they told them their story. With no mapquest and google earth they even wound up lost a few times, and had to be rerouted by fellow Americans who knew the lay of the land. West of Chicago they were arrested many times. Not for speeding or riding dangerously, but for wearing men’s clothing (women’s motorcycle gear wasn’t invented quite yet). The planned expedition must have been so much fun that once they reached California, they continued on down the pacific coast to Mexico. The sad part about this story is that Adeline wanted to enlist in the Army, and thought that her proven ride would secure her a spot to serve our country as a dispatch moto rider in the Army, but her application was rejected. These two sisters proved to our country that woman can do it with true integrity and will power just like the men can, They play sort of an unsung hero role in the womans rights movement that bloomed just around that time, allowing womans rights in this country to vote and serve.

There is so much beauty in this story the beauty of the woman them selves, the beauty of accomplishing a dream, and sharing that feeling with someone you love, the beauty of our country being so simple and unexplored, and to me the underlined beauty is saddling up a motorcycle and going out and experiencing the freedom that it can offer when your knees are in the breeze.......

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