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‘Sewing club’ rides in Midwest

Members of the International Sewing Club meet a couple of times each year for a weekend of motorcycle excursions and fellowship.

FAIRMONT — They roared into Fairmont on Friday, rumbling through the streets on their motorcycles. Clad in riding leathers, the 11 bikers caused enough concern that one resident reported them to local law enforcement.

And that is how the spring meeting of the International Sewing Club was called to order.

Yep, a “sewing club.” On Harleys. All ridden by their female owners.

Windy Fry of Osceola, Wis., is the current president of the group, earning the leadership position because — well — she couldn’t come up with a reason to refuse it.

Fry joined the group of female motorcyclists in 1993, a year into the club’s existence.

“I think I was probably the fifth or sixth member,” she said.

How did the club earn an international status when members live mostly in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin?

“We had a gal from the Netherlands that used to come over and ride with us,” Fry explained.

The women admit that calling their riding group a sewing club is a bit of a stretch, although they do admit to “sewing” their wild oats, but in a way, it pays homage to their mothers who belonged to various women’s group whose meetings usually included needlework projects.

“But that’s the last thing we’d do,” laughed Dee Dee Kotewa of Fairmont.

The International Sewing Club meets a couple of times a year, usually in the spring and summer, gathering in various parts of the Midwest for a weekend of riding and learning by visiting places of interest.

“My first ride was to an Amish farm,” Fry said.

Saturday’s outing included escorting their fellow member and weekend hostess Ruth Cyphers to a citizen’s forum with city leaders, cruising down to West Bend, Iowa, to visit the Grotto and gathering to watch the Kentucky Derby. Whenever they stop at a gas station, bar or restaurant, the women say the draw stares from other patrons as people look around for the men who must be the ones piloting the noisy machines and, of course, own them.

The group includes women from all walks of life: several business owners, a city council representative, a certified public accountant, a third grade math teacher, a harpist and pianist. All but one of the 11 women at the weekend’s meeting has children, and nine have grandchildren.

“Our tagline is ‘Ride, Mother, Ride,’ but maybe we should change it to ‘Ride, Grandma, Ride,'” Cyphers said.

Like their male counterparts, the members of this biker “gang” have nicknames, only theirs are associated with sewing.

“You can’t pick your own name. We have to feel you out first,” Kotewa said.

Among their aliases are Serge, Tatters, Zig Zag, Shears, Buttons, Tax and Stitches.

“The two that are organizing our summer ride this year in Alexandria are Needle and Thread,” Cyphers said.

The women follow common sense rules when riding in a group. It makes longer rides go more smoothly. For example, they stop for gas when the person with the smallest tank needs to fill up, and then they all fill up so they don’t have to stop again a few miles down the road.

Depending on the weather and their destination, the riders put on several hundred miles in a weekend.

“Yesterday we did 302.6 miles,” said Linda Thate Eisenmenger, a local CPA.

“That’s Tax for you,” Cyphers said of the precise mileage report.

Although they see each other only a couple of times a year, the women are a close-knit group who keep in touch through social media. The camaradarie, friendship and respect they share is obvious.

“There isn’t a thing we wouldn’t do for one another,” Cyphers said.

And with that, the International Sewing Club roared off down the highway, loud enough to shatter a few stereotypes.

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