It was the 1960s, the days when female teachers strictly wore skirts and dresses to work. Having just entered the workforce as a 6th grade teacher in Maryland, Dottie Mattern bought herself a motorcycle because it’s what she could afford. Plus, she’d been waiting more than two years to get her own bike. It was a white Honda 90 step-through, “a girl’s bike,” as she calls it, because you could ride it in a skirt.
Dottie’s love for motorcycles started her sophomore year at the University of Maryland when her then-boyfriend asked her to come home with him to meet his parents. She got her mother’s permission and they set out for Western Pennsylvania. At some point during the weekend, Dottie caught a glimpse inside her host’s garage, only to set eyes on a motorcycle – a 350 Yamaha as she remembers it. “I asked him whose it was and when he said it was his, I couldn’t believe he’d never told me he had a motorcycle. So I asked him if we could go for a ride,” Dottie recalls.
They hit the twisty country roads and Dottie immediately fell in love with riding. “I asked him if he would teach me to drive it. The poor guy took me out on a back road and taught me. That’s when I realized I wanted to have one of those.” But when she returned home and told her mom, the answer was absolutely not. And since Mom’s word was law, it wasn’t until her first year teaching that she finally bought her first bike.
Dottie continued to spread her love for bikes at her “moonlight job” at a Baltimore County YMCA, where she started a mini bike instruction camp for children. During the early 70s, motorcycling was in a transformation, moving from the Marlon Brando “bad boy” image to an acceptable, alternative form of transportation. “The YMCA was my introduction to motorcycles in terms of groups of motorcyclists. Hells Angels was so totally different. This was very family-oriented where the husband, wife and kids rode. We’d have monthly events and cook outs…it was just good, clean fun.”
And her love for motorcycling has never wavered. A few years ago, as a 62-year-old grandmother (five times over), she set a motorcycle speed record of 94.7 mph at the Maxton Mile riding a 1937 Indian Scout. Her next challenge: she’s currently preparing to take on the 2014 Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run, a 16-day cross country ride for motorcyclists on vintage bikes. She’ll be peddling a 1936 Indian Sport Scout, a bike she’s had for more than 25 years, to raise funds for the Colon Cancer Alliance and Antique Motorcycle Foundation. Added bonus: she’ll be celebrating her 70th birthday!
The Cannonball Ride isn’t necessarily a race against time, but the challenge is in correctly navigating the day’s route using printed course instructions. Dottie will actually have to cut and paste the instructions and put them in a manual route holder on her handlebar. Yes, she’s traveling from Daytona Beach, FL to Tacoma, WA with no GPS!
Dottie is supporting the Colon Cancer Alliance because of her close connection to the cause. Her mother battled colon cancer, her brother, Paul, passed away from the disease and she is a 12-year survivor. “Early detection and treatment probably would have saved my brother’s life. I’m alive because I had early screening and that’s such a simple thing. Go get screened. Colon cancer is treatable; I’m proof and I’m not alone.”
Dottie asks for prayers and good wishes as she embarks on this exciting challenge, recognizing the physical, mental and emotional test of the Cannonball journey. But man, is she pumped!
“Everybody’s staying in the same town each night; people will come out and welcome us into the towns; the evenings will be full of people working on their bikes in the parking lot and swapping stories. That kind of camaraderie you can’t put a price on, it’s just fantastic. Plus, when do you see 60 motorcycles that are at least 60-70 years old? The ride is a piece of living history.”
From September 5-21, Dottie will be traveling 4,100+ miles for the Cannonball Ride. For more information, to meet Dottie during the ride or to support her charitable effort, visit www.ridedottieride.org.