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Lady bikers roll through Prineville

What started as an on-line discussion grew to an annual motorcycle-riding event

by: JASON CHANEY/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Women motorcycle enthusiasts from locations throughout Washington, Idaho, and Oregon held their West Coast Gathering in Prineville this past weekend.

On Saturday morning, about 20 women from at least three different states fired up their motorcycles in the Stafford Inn parking lot.
   It was time to hit the open road for the day. Some went to Sisters to check out the shops, and another planned to visit an alpaca farm.
   Later that evening, they reconvened and finished off the day at Barney Prine’s Steakhouse.
   The West Coast Gathering, a once-a-year gathering of female motorcycle enthusiasts, began in 1999.
   “There was an online message board and we all kind of chatted on it for a couple of years,” said 13-year member Debbie Weber of Albany, Ore. “And finally, somebody said, ‘Hey, let’s all meet up.’”
   Since then, they have held gatherings at Mt. Shasta, Calif., Clarkston, Idaho, and the Oregon communities of John Day, Hood River, and Redmond. This year, they came to Prineville for the first time.
   According to Terry Bennett of Puyallup, Wash., they try to pick a central location with good surrounding roads to ride.
   “We try to look for a smaller community,” she added.
   The participants of the West Coast Gathering are not affiliated with any organized group and are not sanctioned, Weber said. Instead, they have formed a network of friends with a common denominator — an interest in riding motorcycles.
   “The website that we got involved with earlier, several of us were just learning to ride motorcycles,” Bennett recalls. “And it provided kind of a virtual support group. The ladies who had just started riding would ask other ladies who had been riding longer, what do you do about this, or what do you do about that?”
   Since the gatherings began 13 years ago, the women have met during early June. Most of those years, they got together the first weekend of the month, but recently changed the date to the second weekend.
   Choosing this time of the year does leave the women at risk to the whims of Mother Nature. As they left for Prineville on Friday, for example, the weather didn’t look too promising.
   “I was expecting it to be raining the entire way,” said Weber, who ventured over the Cascades. As it turned out, the weather played nice, and all the mountain passes were clear.
   But even when they face the prospect of inclement weather, the West Coast Gathering goes on.
   “It’s rain or shine,” Weber said. “The year it was in Hood River, we left the house in pouring rain — we hit snow over Mt. Hood. It’s one of the few things I will actually leave (home) in the rain for.”