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Motorcycle Grandma : A great-grandmother from Oxnard defends her long-distance title with a 2,851-mile trek to a convention for women riders.

July 29, 1993|ROBYN LOEWENTHAL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Great-grandmother Helen Boffer, 64, found herself dodging floods in Illinois this month as she rode her new 786-pound Harley-Davidson FLHTC-classic motorcycle to Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.

The 5-foot, 7-inch Oxnard resident covered 2,851 miles to attend the annual international convention of Motor Maids Inc., an all-female motorcycle club. Her journey enabled Boffer, who is the group's California state director, to defend the longest-distance title and trophy. She has won the honor every year since attending her first convention in 1989.

That first trip took her to Sturgis, S.D., followed the next year by a trip to Columbus, Ohio, for the Motor Maids 50th anniversary. In 1991, Boffer rode to Emporia, Kan. And last year she visited Monroe, Mich.

Since 1949, members have traveled from across the United States and Canada to participate in the parade and dinner held during the three-day convention in July.

"This year there were 183 Motor Maids--250 people total including husbands and guests," Boffer said. "Even Wille Davidson, the owner of Harley-Davidson, was there. And I shook hands with the man."

Boffer has been riding motorcycles for 46 years. She is also secretary of the Ventura chapter of the American Dresser Assn., a club for owners of a particular model of Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

"You have to belong to Harley Owners Group (HOG) before you can join AMA (American Motorcycle Assn.)," she said. "And you have to belong to AMA before you can join Motor Maids."

Membership in Motor Maids also requires that a woman own a motorcycle and have a valid license to operate it, added Boffer.

To qualify for the long-distance trophy, a member must ride her own motorcycle or that of a relative or dealer to the convention, Boffer said.

She may "pack," or carry, a rider behind her. Or she can ride in the company of others. But Boffer generally travels alone. However, during her most recent trip, she was accompanied part of the way by a friend whose daughter rode in a sidecar.

"For the 1990 trip to Kansas, it took me eight days because of the heat," Boffer said. "It was 123 degrees in the shade in Las Vegas."

This year she left Oxnard June 26 to visit friends in Ohio before returning July 15.

"I got rained on a little bit in the Rocky Mountains. But I don't count that. Every night I'd pull into a motel and go down to supper. And I went through Des Moines the day before it went under the floods," she said.

"Motor Maids is very selective," Boffer said . "When I joined in 1953, you had to have a sponsor. And still they allow no tattoos, no shorts, and no spaghetti-strap tank tops while riding. They are ladies. They are not motorcycle mamas."

And their uniform reflects that idea.

For the annual parade and dinner, Motor Maids must wear light gray slacks, an electric blue shirt, and a white Western-style tie. The rest of the time they wear conservative clothing while riding and always a helmet.

"They're looking at safety. The kids don't realize if they drop a bike going 50-60 miles per hour, they're gonna lose a lot of skin from road burn," Boffer said with emphasis.

Boffer's husband, Mike, who is a Seabee, has always been supportive of her hobby. But she goes it alone. An accident years ago affected her husband's equilibrium.

"When I ride, I don't get flak. But I do get a lot of this from the guys," she said demonstrating the supportive thumbs-up gesture.

Boffer got hooked on motorcycles at age 5 when she became lost and a policeman gave her a ride home on the tank of his motorcycle. She bought her first motorcycle and began riding seriously when she was 17.

"I learned on an Indian Brave--they're not made anymore--but I like Harleys. And I've never had anything but a Harley."

She bought a Harley Lowrider in 1986 and rode it for six years. Then she traded it in for a red FLHS Dresser weighing 568 pounds. Finally, last November, Boffer achieved her dream of owning a blue Harley.

"It has an AM/FM/FM-stereo radio with the weather bands. Plus I carry a portable CB radio. The Electric-Glide Classic cost "$15,650 out the door," she said proudly. Now her eye is on a more expensive model with a built-in CB radio.

"They call me the 'Freeway Flyer.' Those surface streets will kill you. I'd rather take the freeway anyday," said Boffer, whose only accident occurred years ago.

And what do her six grown children think of Mom's passion?

"The kids love it," she said. "I brought them all up on motorcycles. When they were little, I used to take them with me in a sidecar."

When Boffer is not pursuing trophies, she is employed at GTE in Thousand Oaks as an administrative clerk.

"I sit in front of a computer and build circuits all day," she said. At first co-workers teased her about the hobby. "But now the men especially are impressed," she said.

"When one of the guys retired, he gave me a big hug and said, 'The next time I hear from you, I'll bet you've been around the world,' " Boffer said.

"And I am proud of my accomplishments," she said. "But I don't flaunt it."

* FYI

To locate a motorcycle club, contact your local senior center or motorcycle dealership.

For details on Motor Maids Inc., call 986-1932.

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