- Things to Do
- Restaurants & Nightlife
- Travel Planning
In 2020, the Suffragists Centennial Motorcycle Ride (SCMR) planned to crisscross the country in a ride celebrating the passage of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, women's right to vote. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the ride was postponed until August 2021. SCMR 2021 culminates with a three-day event in Arlington, where attendees can hear from female motorcyclists from all over the country, learn more about the history of the suffragists’ movement, and connect with other women who have a love of the open road.
ACVS sat down with event founder Alisa Clickenger to learn more about the ride, her vision for the event, and what led her to choose Arlington for its grand finale.
ACVS: Tell me about the Suffragists Centennial Ride. What was your inspiration for the idea?
AC: In 2016, I led a group across the United States from New York to San Francisco to celebrate the first two women to ride motorcycles across America – the Van Buren sisters. I always wanted to lead a group of women across the country on motorcycles. Digging back into the story of the sisters really inspired me that it could be done. In 1916, Augusta and Adeline Van Buren rode 5,500 miles in 60 days to cross the United States, each on her own motorcycle. They were also suffragists and believed in the women’s right to vote.
I love wrapping motorcycle events around historical events because I think it's important to highlight our history and see where we’ve been to chart a course for our future. It helps us see and imagine the possibility for ourselves. That first trip was supposed to be a one-off, but I had all this excitement over the project, and there were so many relationships built and communities touched. I believe in local travel, in communities coming together, in exploration. There’s no better way to do that than on two wheels. As the anniversary of the suffragist movement came closer, all the pieces just seemed to fall into place.
ACVS: Who is the Centennial Ride meant for, and how can riders participate?
AC: It’s meant for female motorcyclists – it’s also meant for women who want to start motorcycling. We had women sign up because they wanted to become motorcyclists and they had to be ready. You have to train, be ready – just like you would for a marathon
There are multiple ways to take part. You can join along the way for a day, a weekend, for a week, two weeks or three weeks. You can join in any of the star cities.
ACVS: What can participants expect with this grand finale conference in Arlington?
AC: (laughs) Well, originally my idea was to just have one big celebration as we got into town. But you know how it is when a bunch of enthusiastic people gets together. We created this fabulous hurricane of ideas, and when the pieces fell, we ended up with this incredible grand finale three-day motorcycle conference. We’ll be at the Crystal Gateway Marriott August 19-22.
There’s a whole educational track: there will be presentations, I’ll be having community-building experiences, it’s really exciting. We’ll also have our big escorted group ride into D.C. along the National Mall, and we’ll also go down to the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, the site where suffragists were jailed. There will be an outdoor motorcycle festival there, demo rides, and it’ll be open to the entire community.
ACVS: What do you want participants and spectators to learn from this event?
AC: The takeaway is that all things are possible. It’s a male-dominated sport, but the number of women riders is definitely increasing. I relate it back to my own story. I was a shy housewife 25 years ago when I started riding motorcycles. The feeling of freedom, the sense of understanding in myself that cycling taught me that I can do anything – all things are possible if I reach outside the box. I’ve traveled the world on motorcycles, often by myself. I’ve learned the world is not a scary place. Mother Earth opens her arms. The people you meet and stories you create on two-wheel travel are like any others. When we do things that challenge ourselves it challenges other believes we have strongly held. It makes us stop and think… are all things possible? Can I be something I never thought I could be?
ACVS: What made you decide to have your grand finale event in Arlington?
AC: Our event is decidedly nonpolitical. Arlington and the staff came together to welcome us and amplify our vision – what we wanted to create. They got down in the dirt with us to throw ideas around, that was a big part of it. It’s a delicate thing, having a nonpolitical event in an election year talking about women’s right to vote. It’s an interesting conversation. We chose Arlington because it’s not D.C. It’s near, but it’s a different statement. It helps us in the statement we want to make. This is about unity, community, and the freedom of the road.
ACVS: What stood out to you most when planning the event here in Arlington?
AC: From the very beginning, everyone just came together, and it’s just what I want to create. There’s this community in Arlington where everyone works together, and they want to make it happen. Everyone just got it.
As an event planner, I have to trust my gut. I have to trust the people I meet along the way and what they say is possible. All the creative ideas we got to make this three-day motor conference was a truly collaborative effort. And it’s brilliant. People will remember coming here.
The Suffragist Centennial Ride will take place from July to August, culminating with the 2021 Women’s Motorcycle Conference in Arlington August 19-22. More information is at www.centennialride.com.
Author: Cara O'Donnell