A trip of a lifetime
AMENIA — Ellen Flanagan is a motorcyclist with a taste for adventure. Seemingly unrelated, as of last month, she can now add “travel writer” to her resume.The 40-year-old Amenia resident, recently achieved two goals with one exciting trip down South: Not only did she cross off “riding a motorcycle on one of the highest, most dangerous roads on the East Coast” from her bucket list, but she was also able to get a travel piece she wrote about the trip published in the July issue of American Motorcyclist, one of the country’s premiere motorcycling magazines.Flanagan’s story detailed her August 2010 trip along the Tail of the Dragon, a notoriously curvy and dangerous stretch of U.S. Route 129 that snakes along the Tennessee-North Carolina border.Flanagan conquered personal fears, several roads with daunting names (Devil’s Drop, anyone?), extreme temperatures, torrential downpours and an ill-timed wrong turn to deliver a wonderful account of her once-in-a-lifetime ride.“This route was all new territory for me, with some of the most challenging roads I had ridden, some with little room for error. This was no place to push my limits,” she said. “It was something I had been thinking about for a couple of years,” she went on. “I had ridden to Virginia with some friends who offered to let me tag along with them down the Blue Ridge Parkway. I did not feel ready yet for such technical roads, but was intrigued by the thought and eventually felt ready to go there myself.”Flanagan said that she loves motorcycling for the feeling of freedom and the close interaction between the driver and the environment. “[It’s] not a passive activity like driving a car. It is both invigorating and relaxing. And challenging,” she said. “I have a hard time remembering what I did for fun before I took up motorcycling.”Flanagan’s interest in motorcycles was sparked during her childhood when her older brother began riding. It wasn’t until her 30s that she decided to learn to ride for herself, but once that decision was made, she took a motorcycle safety course and got her permit, license and a bike all in less than a month. That was seven years ago in 2004.Flanagan currently owns three motorcycles, a husky Suzuki Savage, a sporty Kawasaki Ninja and a powerful Honda Shadow. It was the Honda that carried her safely to the Tail of the Dragon and back.In addition to a wonderful sense of accomplishment, Flanagan said that her trip made her more confident in her riding abilities. “It’s made me more willing to seek out other roads or areas that interest me, and less afraid to explore them,” she said.Her journey into the world of travel writing gave her the opportunity to explore more new territory. “This was the first time I had actually written about any of my travels. I have to admit it was exciting to see my name and story in print,” she said. “It was a valuable experience and I think I may try submitting other stories to other motorcycling or travel magazines.”Flanagan plans on taking to the open road again next year, destination still yet to be determined. After her first success with her writing, she said hopefully she’ll remember to bring a pen along for that ride, too.