Sisters’ centennial motorcycle ride to be celebrated in 2016

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Van Buren Sisters on the road | Photos courtesy of AMA Motorcycle Museum

Enduring two months on unpaved, hazardous roads and in harsh conditions, Augusta and Adeline Van Buren were the first women to each ride their own motorcycle across the continental United States in 1916. Their journey began on July 4, 1916 in Sheepshead Bay, New York, and concluded in San Francisco.

One-hundred years years later, the sisters’ ride will be reinacted July 4-24, 2016, with 100 riders in an effort to celebrate female motorcycling heroines as well as to promote the growth of women motorcyclists two benefiting charities: Final Salute, an organization dedicated to helping homeless women veterans, and the Women’s Coalition of Motorcyclists, which seeks to increase the number of female instructors and coaches for the road, dirt, and track riding.

The ride will loosely follow the Van Buren sisters’ 1916 route, primarily following the Lincoln Highway from New York to San Francisco. The route also combines major cities with scenic routs to provide something for everyone.

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The Van Buren sisters around Mexico

The sisters were descendants of President Martin Van Buren. Augusta was born in 1884, followed by Adeline in 1889. Raised in New York City with their brother, they enjoyed a childhood filled with outdoor activities. The sisters were considered “Society Girls” but refused to be held down by limitations society placed on women of the era and were out to prove women could ride motorcycles across the country.

The main push for the challenge was the National Preparedness Movement, an effort to get the U.S. ready to enter World War I. The sisters wanted to be dispatch riders to help free the men to fight on the frontline, so they set out to prove they could handle the challenges.

Along the way they endured multiple arrests for wearing men’s clothes, as well as technical difficulties, fatigue, ruts, heavy mud. They also were the first women to summit Pikes Peak on motorcycles.

At the end of the journey, they applied to be dispatch riders, but their applications were rejected. The media coverage of their journey praised the Indian motorcycles they rode, but not the sisters. Their historical achievement was described as a vacation rather than the challenge it was.

Now as then, such a cross-country ride is not for the faint of heart. The Sisters Motorcycle Ride Organization suggests participants be experienced enough to be comfortable on a motorcycle and in different riding conditions, such as rain and other weather, high traffic, small roads, group riding formations, riding on your own or making new friends.

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The sisters on the road with their Indian Motorcycles

Each day, participants will drive an average of 200-250 miles, with one 300-mile day.

The ride also offers several options for participants. The first option is the fully guided and supported tour. Included with this option are ride guides, chase vehicle support, luggage service with a maximum size of 50 liters, all hotel bookings, two meals a day, and admission to serval VIP events and museums along the way.

The second option is the self-guided ride, for either a partial portion of the trip or the entire route. This option allows riders to join the group in New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, Colorado Springs, or Utah, with  participants responsible for paying for their own meals and hotels.

For purists, there is an option to start in Brooklyn on July 4. However, the original roads the Van Buren Sisters drove on no longer exist and riders will need to take highways and be aware of holiday traffic. The registration fee for this option includes a hotel room and dinner in Brooklyn with a self-guided drive to Springfield Massachusetts.

Yet another option is to participate in the last leg of the trip, from Carson City to San Francisco on July 22-23. This option includes meet-and-greet festivities in Carson City and admission to the grand finale party in San Francisco.

Depending on the option, out of pocket expenses will include some meals, gas, tolls, and incidentals at hotels, alcoholic beverages, and entry to some parks.

The Sisters Motorcycle Ride organization suggests budgeting $500 for gas based on a 5,000-mile journey at 40 miles per gallon.

Riding your own bike is recommended, but the trip has been designed so that participants can rent motorcycles at various locations along the way. If you breakdown, the chase vehicle is capable of picking up broken bikes and getting you to a dealer or the hotel for that night.

Helmets are required and upon registration, participants will receive a packet with a suggested packing list, camping sites and other useful tips.

For more details, or to register for the event, visit the website.

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