Sisters' Centennial Ride.

A woman realises her dream.

In 1916, four years before women in the United States were given the right to vote, two sisters, Adeline and Augusta Van Buren, journeyed across the American continent to prove that women have what it takes to be couriers for the US military. Today, exactly 100 years later, a group of women remembers their brave driving endeavours and is following in the sisters' footsteps with the same spirit and determination.

The start of the 3-week motorcycle adventure from the east to the west coast of the United States, which was presented by BMW Motorrad USA, took place on July 3 in Brooklyn, New York (where the Van Buren sisters embarked on their journey in 1916). The route followed that of the Sisters of 1916 as faithfully as possible all the way to the finish line on July 23 in San Francisco, California. 

For the event organiser Alisa Clickenger, the ride was an ideal way to commemorate the 100th birthday of this pioneer drive, which took place in the same year in which the company BMW was founded and seven years before BMW brought the very first motorcycle, the R 32, to market in 1923.

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From departing and arriving

© Christina Shook

For some people, a divorce means freedom. Like Alisa Clickenger, who found the situation inspiring and decided to realise her lifelong dream and get on a bike and ride off. More than 20 years later, she's the perfect female rider who's still living her dream, together with hundreds of women who found Alisa's vision of competent female riders inspiring and participate in the Sisters' Centennial Ride.

In 1995, when Alisa's divorce was under way, she had a dream in which she was running for her life. In her dream she saw a motorbike and instinctively knew how to drive it and that it could save her from the impending danger. Upon waking, she was so moved by her dream that she learned how to ride a motorcycle and tried out different motorcycles before she finally decided on a BMW and a new life in which she designs and leads adventure motorcycle rides.

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© Christina Shook

Her love of travelling has taken her far and wide and put her in a position to gain new experiences and meet new people. "I can drive anywhere", she says "and I'm not afraid of exploring new roads. Unlike many other people, I have self confidence while exploring new territory." It was not enough for this intrepid adventurer to utilise two wheels for getting from A to B. No, she had a larger goal in mind: Alisa wanted to create a community to support women in the bike world and to pay tribute to their achievements. "I women want to give women the feeling that they can do what they've always wanted", Alisa explains, "so I worked out different ideas and came across the story of the Van Buren sisters. I knew immediately that I not only wanted to talk about them, I wanted to make it into an event."

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The historical journey of the Van Buren sisters.

2016 will be the 100th anniversary of the sisters' historic voyage when they crossed the United States from Brooklyn on the east coast to San Francisco on the west coast on motorcycles in order to convince the US Government to take action and allow women into military service.

With their campaign, the courageous sisters, who both had husbands, children and jobs, raised the limit of what was considered possible at that time. Through their departure into the unknown, they wanted to achieve something that we nowadays take for granted. Women serving in the US army is a reality today.

A reason to ride

© Christina Shook

2016 will be the 100th anniversary of the sisters' historic voyage when they crossed the United States from Brooklyn on the east coast to San Francisco on the west coast on motorcycles in order to convince the US Government to take action and allow women into military service.

With their campaign, the courageous sisters, who both had husbands, children and jobs, raised the limit of what was considered possible at that time. Through their departure into the unknown, they wanted to achieve something that we nowadays take for granted. Women serving in the US army is a reality today.

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© Christina Shook

The proceeds will go towards supporting homeless veterans. Women may serve in the military today, yet it seems as if their future is less secure after returning home. There are numerous large organisations that support male veterans, for women however, there are very few offers. When talking about her reason for choosing Final Salute Inc. as a charity to support, Alisa says, "Women give up time with their families so that they can go and serve our country. We therefore owe it them that they can come home after their service and be supported. We hardly know anything about the female veterans who returned after the war."

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"
It's an incomparable experience to be part of the BMW motorcycle world for women. The enormous amount of support inspired me and I want to give some of it back.
"

Alisa Clickenger

Overwhelming support.

© Christina Shook

Overwhelming support.

"BMW has been a supporter of women's initiatives for many years", says Alisa. "This and the fact that they make great touring motorcycles for long distances made BMW the perfect partner for this trip. It's an incomparable experience to be part of the BMW motorcycle world for women. The enormous amount of support inspired me and I want to give some of it back."

Sarah Schilke, National Marketing Manager of BMW Motorrad USA, also agrees with this point of view. She joined the participants for the final stage of the tour when they crossed the famous Golden Bridge into San Francisco.

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© Christina Shook

"This was such an important event for all female motorcycle enthusiasts and we definitely wanted to be there. Another unique feature was that passenger cars also shared the road: BMW provided numerous X5 cars as team vehicles, as well as a BMW 7-series as full-service photo mobile so that the journey along the entire route could be caught on film. This cross-country trip offered a perfect opportunity to show off our bikes whose reputation as comfortable touring bikes with enormous mileage precedes it.

"We have a number of new models, such as the R nineT and the G 310 R, which will soon be launched. Both models are lower and lighter and beloved by female motorcyclists. Many of our wheels, including the F 700 GS, offer an option with a low seat height, now what has gotten around yet not everywhere, that's why we have offered test drives on a motorcycle with adjustable seat height. And as not all women need or want a low seat, this was a great opportunity to show how comfortable women sit on our big motorcycles and how much fun they have in doing so."

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"
This was such an important event for all female motorcycle enthusiasts and we definitely wanted to be there.
"

Sarah Schilke

Out of the comfort zone.

© Christina Shook

Out of the comfort zone.

Over 100 female motorcyclists took part in the tour and those who did the entire route covered a total of 6,800 kilometres, depending on which route each female motorcyclist had chosen through the US states of New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California.

Memories of the journey and the shared moments made it clear that organiser Alisa Clickenger had achieved her goal and had been a great support for the women. "One woman said to me that she had to leave her comfort zone every day during this journey", Alisa said after the journey had successfully been completed. "She said that my encouragement and the support team we had put together for the female motorcyclists had changed her life. I was so caught up in the moment I had to cry!"

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© Christina Shook

For Alisa, the journey's biggest moment of success came on the last stage, when she used one of the rare spare moments to look back. "We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge on the parade route and I looked round: there were more than 200 women behind me on their motorcycles! All these women were there to lend their support for our message and make my dream come true. It was a touching moment."

This mutual camaraderie could be felt throughout the entire journey and not only among the women: there were two male employees as well as Adeline's grandson. The Van-Buren family shared Alisa's vision of following in her ancestors' footsteps. Sarah Van Buren was one of the youngest riders and a good example of what can be achieved. She had never done anything like this before, but she rode and practised every day in order to be able to participate in this special journey.

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Times have changed.

© Christina Shook

Times have changed.

A lot has changed in the 100 years since the Van-Buren sisters' original journey. Motorcycling is no longer solely a means of transportation, but a form of recovery. Alisa is convinced that "motorcycling is a type of self-portrayal and shows that someone is bold, adventurous and to a certain degree barrier-free."

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© Christina Shook

She added: "I think that every woman experiences a feeling of personal power when motorcycling, even though she might not know it or be aware of how much her life will be changed by these two wheels. It changed me at least.

"Motorcycling is like life itself. No one knows what is over the horizon and this feeling can be addictive. Sometimes you have to rely on the abilities you have acquired, but the road always goes on until you have reached this extraordinary horizon that is calling to you."

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