She Was Going to Quit, but then Took a Cross-Country Ride

By Monica Holmes

The motorcycle sat. At first it was because it was winter. Then it was a career. Then it was family commitment. Truth be told, it was fear.

The beginning of Monica’s solo cross-country journey in 2008.

Tooling around the city was one thing, getting on the highway was another. I had a BMW R 1200 GS in the garage, and I felt guilty. I loved to talk about riding a motorcycle, but I wasn’t riding the motorcycle. Talking about riding made me feel cool. The gear was fun. I had taken the Motorcycle Safety Foundation licensing course and had ridden around Manhattan. I was not comfortable on the highway and that limited me to places I could ride to.

Then, my father died. It was spring and I needed to grieve, and I needed an adventure. I packed my bike and, in the fall, I rode out of Manhattan and headed west. I was going to make it to Los Angeles, or I was going to give up my motorcycle.

September can be a tricky month for riding. I didn’t have music in my helmet so it was just me and my thoughts. The first half of the ride was challenging. Construction and flooding in Pennsylvania with water up to the foot pegs. Sideways rain in Ohio where I could barely see. Unbearable heat in Illinois, and so on. All things that did not increase my comfort level. I just kept on going.

Some days, I rode 60 to 70 miles; those were the days I was scared. Other days I rode 300 miles and the fear was gone. I stayed off the interstates and took the two-lane highways. Stopping at roadside diners, I had some of the most amazing conversations and most amazing pie. Nothing sparks a conversation like a woman alone on a motorcycle. Most couldn’t believe I was alone. Many asked where my husband was. Everyone was curious.

A stop in North Carolina to check the oil and chat about air-cooled engines.

The weather cleared when I got to South Dakota and it was sunny for the rest of the ride. I felt more confident and looked forward to getting on the motorcycle every day. Three weeks from the start, I rode into LA a different rider. I was keeping the motorcycle.

I had no idea it would lead to other adventures — including a ride from Tucson, Arizona, to Patagonia — to meeting the most interesting people (my wife among them) and, eventually, becoming a certified MSF RiderCoach. I wanted to become a coach so that I could help more people discover the joys of motorcycling. I coached for eight years and loved every minute. 

Monica coaches an MSF Basic RiderCourse class in New York.

Curiosity got me into riding, wanting to do something cool. The solo trip across the country kept me riding. What I didn’t expect was the community and experience. I have met the most amazing people from all walks of life, and we all have motorcycling in common.