The shirt on Allison Tunaley said it all: "A woman's place is on the road!"
She was joined by hundreds of like-minded women Thursday on the Capitol grounds as the American Motorcycle Association kicked off its weekend of celebration of women riders - some with leather vests proclaiming their club name, such as the Motor Maids or Crimson Steel Sisterhood or shirts saying, in effect, the same thing as Tunaley's: Women have a place in the motorcycling world.
"Women riders as a group has sort of been pushed to the side and patted on the head," Tunaley, 62, said. "Now, the companies are starting to realize a lot of us ride, and that gives us a lot of power."
Tunaley has ridden motorcycles for more than half her life and took her Kawasaki 900 Vulcan 200 miles from her home in Lookout, Calif., to her former home in Dayton. She hasn't ridden as far as some of the estimated 800 women at the sixth International Women & Motorcycling Conference that's in Carson City through Sunday, but it doesn't change much - whether it's the long-haul trucker or the Midwestern housewife she met earlier, they're all part of something bigger.
"It's a real sense of camaraderie," Tunaley said, adding with a smile, "Women just do it better than men."
And women's increasing presence at the front of biker lines with their fingers around the handlebars isn't lost on the AMA, speakers at the opening ceremony said.
"I'm proof that motorcycles are no longer just a guy thing," said Maggie McNally, the AMA's first vice chairwoman. "As all of you are."
Mary McGee, who started racing motorcycles in 1958 and is a special guest at the conference, couldn't hide her excitement at her fellow female road warriors filling the grounds. She said that when she started racing in Phoenix initially, she was the only woman in it she knew, though she was sure there were some out there.
"I am so damned impressed," McGee, of Gardnerville, said. "I can't believe it."
But as much as events like this are important, she said, it's the everyday riders, who show off the joy of motorcycles to their friends, neighbors and family, that deserve recognition, also.
"(Women riders) are a huge demographic group and we're getting bigger," she said.
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