In 2007, she bought her first Harley. Five years later, she overheard her cousins planning a ride to Alaska and committed without hesitation.
Touring was not new to Gayle; she’s made multiple rides to Mexico from her home in Northern California. But those rides, primarily to visit family along the way, were different from what she would face on the road to Alaska, where a campground was the destination most days.
“My cousins planned everything,” she says. “All I had to do was show up with my gear.”
Gayle met her cousins in Salt Lake City to start the ride. From Salt Lake City they headed north through Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and Glacier National Park in Montana. Once they got out into the wilds of Canada, the ride was both challenging and spectacular, with amazing scenery, lots of wildlife, and the occasional rain storm and rough roads.
As much as she was enjoying it all, Gayle soon realized that her riding style did not mesh well with that of her cousins. They, on their larger bikes (an Electra Glide Ultra Classic and a fully dressed Dyna), liked long days at leisurely pace. Gayle, on her Sportster, preferred a faster pace – with frequent stops to take pictures for the H.O.G.® ABCs of Touring contest. So one morning she decided to just ride ahead by herself and meet up with the crew at that night’s destination.
Outside Whiskers Point Provincial Park, she made the turn too slowly and laid the bike down on a narrow, uphill road.
Normally, it would be no big deal to pick up her bike and be on her way. As an experienced rider, she knows how to do it properly, without risking injury to her back. But the bike was fully loaded for her 7-week journey, and there was no way she could move it without unloading it first.
Gayle caught the attention of an approaching fully loaded logging truck. After bringing the truck to a screeching halt, the driver hopped out of the cab and helped get the bike in the upright position. With a push of the starter – and a sigh of relief – Gayle fired it up and rode to the side of the road. Then, with a wave of his hand and a few kind words, the driver was back on his way.
“He was just gone!” Gayle says. “After he left I was like, ‘Oh, man, I didn’t get his name or his phone number or anything. But he was my angel that day.”
The only damage was to a camping cup that had been hanging on the outside of the backpack strapped to her bike.
“Just a busted coffee cup,” she says. “And a bruised ego.”
After the mishap, Gayle enjoyed a new sense of freedom, riding ahead of the group at her own pace for most of the trip. After a final rendezvous with the group at the Arctic Circle, she made the return trip mostly solo, meeting up with her cousins only occasionally at certain pre-planned stops.
Before the ride, Gayle wasn’t sure she had it in her to take on such an adventure. But now her outlook has completely changed. And she drew confidence from the riders and one special trucker she met along the way.
“I saw more bikes and more people doing the exact same thing, at gas stations, campgrounds … there were bikes coming and going all the time,” she says. “It was one of those rides I was afraid to do, but now, after I’ve done it, I’m not afraid to go anywhere.”