Women prepare to travel cross country on motorcycles, honoring their pasts

Marjorie White, right, and Lisa Niner plan to cross the country as part of the Sisters' Centennial Motorcycle Ride. White, of Finksburg, lost her son to a fatal crash in 2013.
Marjorie White, right, and Lisa Niner plan to cross the country as part of the Sisters' Centennial Motorcycle Ride. White, of Finksburg, lost her son to a fatal crash in 2013. (Barb Solberg / Submitted photo)

When Marjorie White and Lisa Niner first met in the early 1970s, the two bonded almost immediately over their love of dirt bikes and motocross, riding and racing together.

Now, more than 40 years later, the pair of friends are making preparations for crossing the country on two wheels as they participate in the Sisters' Centennial Motorcycle Ride.


The ride, taking more than 100 motorcyclists from New York to San Francisco from July 3 to 23, honors the 100th anniversary of Augusta and Adeline Van Buren's motorcycle ride across the country to prove that women could serve as military dispatch riders, as well as to support women's suffrage.

The centennial ride mimics their original path, taking participants along the Lincoln Highway from coast to coast, while supporting the nonprofits Final Salute, a women's veterans organization providing housing for homeless veterans, and the Women's Coalition of Motorcyclists, which supports trainer scholarships for female instructors and coaches.


This ride is the second time that White, of Finksburg, will cross the U.S. on motorcycle, though she faced the journey alone on the past trip.

In 2013, her son, Tommy, was killed while riding a motorcycle in California. In his memory, she decided to cross the country on her own — her first real experience with a road bike — in a journey that lasted five weeks.

"I just woke up one morning and said to myself, 'I have to go, and I have to go now,' " White said. "Not everybody understands that. Some people thought I was crazy, but I had to do it."

During her travels, White followed her own sense of direction, setting her own pace and stopping at campgrounds and motels whenever she wished. She said it's going to be a very different circumstance riding with others and following a set schedule.

"When I was riding by myself, it really renews your faith in human beings," White said. "Not once was I scared or worried. People helped me. They went out of their way to help me. The United States can be a beautiful place."

Unlike White, who only recently moved from dirt bikes to motorcycles, Niner has been a rider for her whole life. She said she grew up on 500 acres and her father encouraged her love of every motor vehicle on two wheels.

Niner, of Fallston, said she won her very first motocross race and was instantly hooked on the hobby, becoming No. 1 in the district as a 13-year-old. Today, Niner continues to race motocross at the age of 54.

As a preteen, Niner started dating White's brother, a fellow motocross racer, and the two young women became fast friends. Over the years, however, Niner said they lost touch until the death of White's son.

"She called me and told me Tommy's dead," Niner said. "I immediately told her, 'You've got to get out there.' I had three tickets to California, and we flew out there together and we rebonded after 25 years."

After returning, the two made a pact that they were going to ride across the U.S. on motorcycles in Tommy's memory in 2017 when they both had the time.

Soon after, though, White said she couldn't wait. In her heart, she said, Tommy was telling her to take the trip now. Niner had a job and couldn't join her, so White set off on her own.

Earlier this year, White discovered the Centennial Ride in a magazine ad. She reached out to Niner, saying this was the perfect chance to actually take on the journey they had initially planned.


When Niner began to research the ride, she discovered that one of the charities being supported by entry fees in the ride works with female veterans. As an Army vet herself who had done three tours of duty, she said, she couldn't turn down this opportunity.

"We have to do it," Niner said. "We both have our own stories, and we both love to share it. Mine's different from Marjorie's, but we both have these reasons to go on this journey."

To prepare, the pair have been weighing all of their gear and prepping their bikes for the long journey. White said she learned so much about maintenance and proper procedure from her last journey, but it's going to be difficult to be in a circumstance in which she has to push on and keep up with her fellow riders. Niner said this is a new experience for her as well.

"To be nervous and to be excited or unsure is a little different for me," Niner said. "I compare it to Afghanistan or Bosnia. I know what it's like to be gone a year and a half. This is three weeks. But then again, I've never done anything like that on a motorcycle. I've found myself getting a little hyper."



Recommended on Baltimore Sun