WIMA International Rally- Sweden Ride Report
Wet Riding, Wild Women and the WIMA World 2005 International Rally
Hopes gave way to reality as we came to a stop under the overpass and started hopping on one foot and then the other pulling on our rain gear. We burst out laughing when simultaneously we pulled bright yellow rubber cleaning gloves from our saddlebags. Making jokes about being able to `pick up a dime', an advertising line from our mother's era, came easily for the two of us even though we'd just met the day before.
Here we were, two women, two motorcycles and two wide grins despite the pouring rain and long ride ahead of us.
After dragging my gear from Arlanda airport, wrestling with it through the city of Stockholm using all forms of public transportation, including the subway, plus traveling the last several blocks on foot, I finally arrived at the hotel. Getting there only about two hours later than I had planned, not bad. Linda Lockhart an energy attorney from Gray, Maine, whom I'd never met, was waiting with two big cans of beer on ice in our bathroom sink. Again, not bad, pretty damn good, actually! Tonight we would get to know each other over dinner at the hotel and tomorrow we'd pick up the bikes. Kawasaki-Sverige (Sweden) was providing us with two test machines for the week. Linda would be riding a Z1000 and I was on a Z750S.
The next morning, Ann Malmborg, another woman rider and Kawasaki-Sverige employee had our bikes ready and waiting. We tried unsuccessfully to persuade Ann to join us, but she had her own plans to ride through Scotland. After transferring our gear, consulting several maps, and making some last minute adjustments, we were on our way to one of the largest international meetings of women motorcyclists in the world. The 47th Annual Women's International Motorcycle Association (WIMA) Rally, where over 300 women from nineteen different countries would gather, was being held at Lake Gyllebosjön, some 600 plus kilometers south of Stockholm in the most southern and ancient province of SkŒne. This trip would be my third to attend a WIMA International Rally, for Linda this would be a first.
Driving all day in the never-ending and sometimes drenching rain, both bikes ran effortlessly handling the highway speeds and stop-and-go of heavy traffic as one would expect a new bike to perform. We stopped only briefly for gas (about $7.00 USD per gallon), the beefier Z1000 sucking down fuel near a third faster than the Z750S. Arriving at the rally around 8:00pm tired, wet and hungry, my fear that there would be no dinner remaining was quickly eliminated as our Swedish hostesses swept us off to waiting plates of interesting and abundant food, some of it unidentifiable, but all of it delicious. With the welcome dinner packed away the week long party begins.
With ample beer and wine flowing, dancing at the disco and singing by the campfire goes on every night and literally, all night. The disco, complete with flashing lights and loud throbbing music is always a hot spot, right next to the beer tent, of course. One or two nights are filled with live music and traditional regional dancing. Folk songs at the campfire, accompanied on guitar by more than one professional musician, go on until dawn and are sung in German, Italian, Spanish, English, Dutch, French, and even Japanese. Songs we hadn't heard for many years ("Where Have All the Flowers Gone?") surfaced, and it seems universal that even those who speak no English sing in English quite well.
The days are filled with riding, riding and more riding! One day is an organized `Rally-Ride', another day is field games, another day a police-lead parade, add in some free time to explore the region, and the week is pretty damn full. This year the `Rally-Ride' was an all day four-destination tour visiting local attractions conducted in small eclectic groups. At each of the destinations, there was a `quiz' consisting of questions about the attraction or local features such as the name of the family operating a local winery, or the fruit the area is known for growing. Similar to what we in the USA might call a `Jeopardy Ride'.
The first destination was Ales Stenar, the Viking `stone henge' in Käseberga, a fishing village on the South coast. The stone formation was constructed about 600 A.D. and consists of stones set in the layout of a ship, 67 meters long and 19 meters wide. Theories as to the origin of the stones include an Iron Age burial ground, a memorial to honor the crew of a ship lost at sea or a ceremonial site of astronomical significance, such as marking the changing of the seasons. Almost as enthralling as the stone formation, were the hang gliders silently riding the currents of air created at the point where the field supporting Ales Stenar steeply dropped to the sea below. http://www.raa.se/sites/ales.asp
Another highlight of the `Rally-Ride' was a stop at Kungagraven in Kivik. Kungagraven (King's grave in English) is a 3000 year old circular burial ground, built of rocks, about the size of those you would see in a New England rock wall, the whole thing about 75 meters in diameter. Most intriguing were stone tablets with picture-writing set to guard the entry of the gravesite. Linda searched the nearby gift shop for information interpreting the stones. A long-time student of ancient feminist religious beliefs, she was hoping for some insight into the historical spirituality of the region. No hint of goddess worship in this Nordic stronghold. Apparently no one has been able to unlock the mystery of the tablets, though predominant speculation is that they simply describe burial rituals. http://www.raa.se/sites/kivik.asp
This year's field games were `Viking Games' and oddly enough were won by the Japanese.
The `Rally-Ride' quiz winners and other awards were announced on the final party night in a blaze of shouting and laughing in undecipherable languages. The finale of events was a spectacular fire dance. Two women dressed in black danced provocatively with fire, wildly twirled and swirled torches suspended on chains while performing intricate choreography, ate fire, breathed fire, and terrifically thrilled everyone with their dramatic dance. What a spectacular finish for the rally!
The last morning, it poured early and the 300 WIMA separated into two groups: those who left early to get ahead of the rain, and those who slept in and hoped for clearing weather. The latter group won the day and after saying good-byes until next year left the rally ground in warm sunshine, heading for far-flung destinations. Jenny Kelso and husband Peter were just beginning their ride home to New Zealand. Along the way they plan to stop and do peace charity work in India and are trying to figure a way to legally cross Burma. Sheonagh Ravensdale and Pat Thompson were heading back to GB (Great Britan) to finalize plans for their up-coming trip from the tip of South America up to and across the USA. Ingrid Schneiderelt and Cora Stern were headed home to Germany after just completing a trip around the world; the rally had been their last stop. These women ride!
Our trip from the rally would not be quite so adventurous. I had planned to blast straight north to the Arctic Circle, but the rain, slow highway speed limits (110 KM) and efficient police quickly changed my mind. Instead we headed west to follow the coast around the southern tip of Sweden and then northerly tracing the outline of the west coast. The weather cooled and as the afternoon wore on, we began looking for hot coffee to warm us. We learned that the west cost of Sweden is the place where folks live, and not where tourists gather, so our attempts to find liquid warmth seemed futile. At one point we were caught in rotary roulette and kept ending up in shopping center parking lots. Finally, we found coffee and appelpaj (that would be a McDonald's-type apple pie a la cardboard) at a fast food chain called Max.
That evening, we pulled into the beautiful seaport city of Helsingbörg, looking for a place to stay the night. On a cobblestone street perpendicular to the harbor, we found the Grand Hotel, with two motorcycle parking spots available right by the front door. After long, hot showers, Linda and I headed out in search of food and wine. We found a small Italian restaurant with outdoor tables and warm wool blankets for those who preferred outdoor seating despite the cold. Blanketed diners sitting street-side turned out to be typical of the areas of Sweden we visited. We enjoyed our Swedish-Italian meal Swedish style, with blankets.
The next day we headed inland in hopes of escaping the cold and damp and spent the day riding into and out of black clouds emptying themselves of rain as we passed through. Arriving in the lakeside town of Mariestad by early evening, we found a room in 300 year-old Berg's Hotel, on a cobbled street in the old city. We again dined street-side, this time at a modest steakhouse, with our meal served by a Turkish immigrant who spoke English, as well as four other languages. We met more than a few foreign transplants that have taken advantage of Sweden's liberal immigration laws.
The last day of motorcycle travel, completing the loop to Kawasaki-Sweden in Stockholm, was largely freeway. After returning the bikes, we headed by taxi for one of the cities top hotels. Located right on the inner harbor and on one of Stockholm's most grand shopping boulevards, Strandvägen, the Diplomat Hotel was a wonderful and much needed treat after enduring a week of primitive camping at the rally.
We spent the day visiting the Stockholm's museums, including the world-famous Vasamuseet, which houses the complete warship, Vasa. The ship sunk in the harbor on it's maiden voyage in 1628 due to engineering flaws; it was simply too narrow to support it's grand height and heavy rigging. Preserved in mud for 300 years, the Vasa was raised in 1961, and restored to her former glory for this purpose built museum. http://www.vasamuseet.se/
Later that evening we arranged to have dinner with Rita, an American born Stockholm resident and WIMA member at her friend's restaurant in the old city or Gamla Stan. We asked what foods we should order to complete our Swedish experience. The answer: reindeer and real Swedish meatballs. Linda ordered reindeer and I ordered meatballs, with the idea in mind that we would try each other's choices. Linda tasted my meatballs, which were delicious, but taking note of the near bloody state of the reindeer, and the fact that I had previously eaten near-cooked wild boar, I declined to taste Mr. Rudolph.
Afterwards Rita took us on a walking tour of the old city. No cars aside from taxis are allowed in the Gamla Stan. With restaurants and cafes lit only by candlelight, the mood is set for history and intrigue. We walked through the narrow, cobbled medieval alleys and explored ancient, albeit now very tony, cellar taverns. Rita told us stories about the secret route the prince took through these very narrow alleyways from the castle to the home of his forbidden lover. We stood in the main square, Stortorget, impressive with it's tall pastel-painted buildings, narrow windows and curling gables while she told us of the city's most famous and gruesome battle, the Stockholm Bloodbath. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_Bloodbath
One last night in our fancy hotel and then our visit to historic and beautiful Sweden sadly had to end. It was time to head home. Sweden is one of the most progressive countries in Europe with the highest percentage in the world of women in the workplace. About half of Sweden's ministers are women, and women hold many jobs traditionally seen as male occupations. Women traveling alone can go almost everywhere in comfort and safety as the Swedes are genuinely courteous and friendly people.
As for the WIMA International Rally, there is no other women's motorcycling event in the world where in one week you can ride to lunch with the Japanese, swim in a lake with the Germans, drink pints with the British, sing by the fire with the Swiss, dance on tables with the Dutch and howl at the moon with the Finns! Next years' International Rally will be in the Swiss Alps where they are promising an `Alpina Motorcycle Competition'. It's anyone's guess what that will be!
| Kawasaki's Public Relations Manager|
Receives WIMA USA 2005 Image Award
Jan Plessner Honored For Dedication To Women In Motorcycling
IRVINE, Calif. (October 17, 2005) - The Women's International Motorcycle Association U.S.A., (WIMA) honored Jan Plessner, Public Relations Manager at Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. with their "2005 Image Award."
The WIMA U.S.A. Image Award is presented to women who are dedicated to the sport of motorcycling, and pave the way for future generations with their positive attitudes. The award was presented in Las Vegas, Nev. at the banquet dinner for Femmoto, an annual "all women" track day event which Kawasaki co-sponsored.
"Jan Plessner was chosen to receive the 2005 WIMA USA Image Award for her significant success in demonstrating the great things of which women riders and racers are capable," said Alice Sexton, President of WIMA USA. "No other motorcycle brand has shown the continued commitment to women riders as has Kawasaki."
When asked how it felt to receive such an honor, Plessner replied, "It's an incredible feeling to have everyone you respect and care about share in something so special. I am very fortunate to be working for such a leading-edge company within a thriving industry, which I truly love."
Plessner, who has worked in the motorcycle industry for 16 years, has been instrumental in helping raise awareness for women in motorcycling in a variety of roles and events. Kawasaki recently hosted a weekend ride and track day for women motorcycle journalists in conjunction with the AMA
Superbike Races at Infineon Raceway. Not only is she a positive role model for women in motorcycling, she continues to increase awareness and encourage women that they too can ride a motorcycle.
Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. (KMC) markets and sells at wholesale Kawasaki motorcycles, ATVs, personal watercraft, utility vehicles and power products through a network of more than 1,500 independent retailers, with an additional 8,400 retailers specializing in power products and general purpose engines. KMC and its affiliates employ nearly 2,400 people in the United States, with more than 350 of them located at the Irvine, California headquarters.
Kawasaki's tagline, "Let the good times roll.™", is recognized worldwide and the brand is aggressively carrying its heritage of leading-edge power, performance and exhilaration into the 21st century. Information about Kawasaki's complete line of recreational products and Kawasaki affiliates can be found on the Internet at www.kawasaki.com .