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Two Road Warriors Meet America


 

 

By Kate McLeod

 

Lori Raimondo, traveling alone on a cross-country trip, remembers some serious hesitation when she pulled into a biker bar in Ely , Nevada . She forged ahead and once inside had one of the most memorable nights of her trip.

 

D.J. Jones, a biker, was also on the road somewhere in the fifty states that night. Being a near-six-foot-tall African American woman traveling alone on a big bike, she received a lot of negative attention.

 

Both women took to the road — one in a Chevy Malibu and the other on a 1999 Honda Valkyrie cruiser­­ — to raise money for medically related not-for-profits. So much for stereotypes: They were both motivated by the loss of parents.

 

Lori Raimondo’s mother died of breast cancer in 2005. Last May, she put a sign on a rented car that read, “every mile I drive, I raise more money for breast cancer research”, under which she wrote her URL, www.roadtoacure.blogspot.com, where people could — and still can — go to donate money and follow her trip. Her goal was to raise $9490, one dollar for every day her mother battled breast cancer.

 

She left San Diego to drive cross country with no support staff, no sponsors, no backup — just the goodwill of relatives and friends, who helped her set up a blog and pack her bags. Raimondo drove for 57 days covering 10,334 miles. When she got home she found that she had raised $13,795.90. Every penny of those donations went to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

 

Girldriver USAD.J. Jones, from New Mexico, had a similar goal. She lost both her parents to heart disease. When she started having symptoms too, she transformed her lifestyle and set up the Posey Foundation in honor of her parents to raise money and awareness to fight heart disease and pediatric cancer. Then Jones put a sign on her motorcycle that read “Posey Foundation, 25,000 mile — 50 state dream power ride” and printed her URL, www.poseyfoundation.com and took off on a 169-day journey that ended on October 21. She believes she is the first person to ride the same motorcycle across all 50 states. She raised only $3500 on her trip but expects to raise more by writing a book about her journey.

 

These two women had dramatically different experiences. Raimondo was elated by her encounters with America ’s legendary friendliness and generosity.

 

“Overall, it was amazing how everyone was supportive and friendly,” she says. “People told two people who told two others. At the end I had 5000 people riding with me [through the blog]. And of course I felt my mother with me for the whole trip. I didn’t meet a person who didn’t have a personal experience with breast cancer — a mother a daughter a friend.”

 

Donations arrived unexpectedly sometimes. After driving in one shot from Chicago to Toronto, she received an e-mail asking if she had noticed a red truck closely following her across Canada . The driver left a generous donation and said he’d have been happy to buy her a tank of gas if he’d known she was financing the trip herself.

 

Jones found that her biggest fans were the children who were entranced by her and her “very large motorcycle.”

 

“They thought I was cool and listened when I told them that whatever they wanted to do in life they should go for it and be the best,” says Jones.

 

But kids don’t have checkbooks. “I think my color, my height, being a woman and a motorcycle rider all played a big part in limiting my ability to fundraise successfully. I encountered judgmental reactions from all races and from both women and men. It really hurt when women would catch their kids smiling at me and pull them away.

 

“I started this nonprofit organization to honor my parents and in doing so I will rise above the skeptics. The plan was to raise money on this journey. Sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them to, but the way they are supposed to. By riding solo 25,000 miles, through all 50 states I completed the first half of the mission. The second half is to tell the story in my book, 50 States of Consciousness, donating the proceeds to help fight heart disease and pediatric cancer.”

 

At one point, Jones was so alone and unsure of her future she wrote in her blog, “If for some reason I don’t make it through the remainder of my mission, I would like to say, ‘I love you’ to my wonderful husband Mark and Darius, my special son and to the rest of my family and friends. . . I hope I have made a difference in the lives of those that have chosen to open their hearts & minds to a new way of seeing life the way it should be and not the way that peer pressure has lead us to believe is important! Please don't mourn my passing but celebrate the life I've led!”

 

Whatever the differences were in the experiences, both women, when asked if they would do it again, replied, “Yes. Absolutely. No doubt.” These are true road warriors, and their spirits are hard to crush.

 

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