Saturday, November 17, 2007

Woman Biker Spotlight: A Jewel Among Women

Julie -Jewels- HinzI’ve recently come to know a very special soul in the world of women bikers. This post is about her, and the role she has played in honoring this country’s Veterans, and her life as a woman biker.

Jewels, so nicknamed after her given name of Julie, is a blond woman of 55 years. She is a woman of great passion, evident in everything she says and does. Like me, she is a very trusting soul, and she shared her innermost thoughts with me; about life, and also about her life.

Listening to her tell me the stories of her childhood and family background in the red clay farm country of Donalsonville, Georgia, her ‘Southern Belle’ accent makes one think of Mint Juleps and sultry afternoons on a porch swing overlooking endless fields of cotton.

Originally a ‘left-coaster’, I found myself listening with studied intensity to catch the meaning of words or phrases I’d never heard of, and laughing delightedly at the definition of those I asked about. Her unique way of speaking in half sentences, one running into the next, almost as if her speech cannot keep up with her thoughts, was a challenge for me. But as I came to know her and understand the complex person beneath the small town southern upbringing, I discovered a very intelligent and grounded woman, with a very big heart and a great deal of honesty and integrity. One has only to leave preconceived ideas behind to see what is beneath the surface.

Jewels left her family home, after graduating from high school, seeking to learn about the world beyond what she’d known for 18 years. She realized that staying in the small town where she was raised would eventually suffocate her. Her journey took her to Europe where she met, and married her first and only husband. (When her two sons were small, she divorced, and set about raising them on her own. She never remarried.)

While in England, she owned a 1972 Triumph motorcycle (her first), and rode about the English countryside with friends. Somewhere along the line, she experienced a crash as a passenger and decided riding wasn’t conducive to her safety. Twenty years passed before she rode a motorcycle again.

Jewels obtained an education in the world of real estate and insurance (life, health, and variable annuities) from the University of MD, and the University of VA. In the course of her life, she took other educational courses to supplement her knowledge. She made Washington, DC her home. Through her work, Jewels made friends and rubbed elbows with powerful, high rolling executives, and the common man alike.

I can easily see how Jewels could be at home with anyone, switching from her easy southern speech to that of a professional woman in a very visible position in the world of finance. She is loveable, kind, and holds her own with anyone who presumes to push her around. She is comfortable with who she is, and shows it.

Since I am also one who left the ‘comfort zone’ in life to raise children as a single mother, and to pursue a professional career, I know what it takes to become assertive enough to survive among the professional men of the world. It’s not easy, and it eventually shapes your attitude into one of confidence, with a sometimes solitary content. You want acceptance, but you no longer need it.

Women don’t often successfully achieve that plane of existence, where we feel equal in a professional world. It takes many years to get there, struggling and persevering throughout. The results come from seeing and learning much about the world, and the people in it, learning about ourselves in the process, and adapting.

Washington, DC is the extreme opposite of Donalsonville, GA, and even Tallahassee to some extent. The daily traffic in DC alone can shake even the most confident driver. The business world is dog-eat-dog and only the sharpest survive. You learn, you adapt, or you fail. I can’t see Jewels giving up or failing at anything. Her tenacity is the root of her success.

Throughout her life, Jewels has met life’s challenges head on; even the painful ones. No moss-growing for Jewels. She made many trips back and forth between DC and Georgia to deal with the death of her sister-in-law, who died tragically in a drunk-driving accident. She held her family together and fought for her brother’s right to keep his children as he lay in a hospital fighting for his life. Her worldliness helped her niece and nephew learn to overcome this tragedy and move on with their lives. She allowed these ‘bumps’ in the road to help her grow as a person, rather than let them drag her down.

Jewels and TommyAround 1995, Jewels met Tommy Rhodes, who became her ‘other half’ and though they chose not to ‘ruin a good thing’ by marrying, Tommy is still a major part of her life.

Tommy was and is an ‘old school’ biker, and Jewels decided that riding full time again was where she wanted to be. Having owned and ridden various motorcycles on and off since 1992, Jewels was secure enough in the world to make it a consistent part of her life. She jumped into the world of bikers, the way she does everything else, with conviction and purpose.

She became actively involved with Rolling Thunder at the national level. Following that, she became a lifetime member of National H.O.G., an active member of Fairfax, Virginia H.O.G., and a member of Ft. Washington H.O.G.

In October of 2002, one month after the 1st anniversary of 911, the Fairfax, VA H.O.G. chapter was contacted by Congressman Frank Wolf, who pointed out that inpatients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC received all the attention of well-wishers and volunteers, while overflow, outpatients, and families housed on the base received little or nothing.

Fairfax H.O.G. members brainstormed the issue and decided upon a Pizza Party and biker show for these brave souls. With help from the Red Cross, Jewels among others, began the planning and execution. It was their first 'Operation Atlas' Event.

As Jewels tells me of this event, the emotions are evident in her voice and expression. It was the beginning of an effort Jewels needed in her life; giving back to those who gave so much to us in the course of serving our country.

She recalled how heart wrenching it was to see those men, women, and their families, enjoy some respite from the harshness of military service, and how delighted they were that ‘someone’ cared. The smiles were everywhere, and the tears flowed freely.

Speaking for her involvement in the H.O.G. chapter and these charity events, Jewels declared, “No matter which way the wind blows, we will not cease events such as these until the last soldier comes home”. The intense emotion elicited from such an experience would not bar the way.

One is reminded of the passion of Scarlet O’Hara in Gone With The wind, “As God is my witness…..”.

Other events followed at Walter Reed. Jewels arranged for the first decorating party in the recreation center for the Christmas holidays. Fairfax H.O.G. members were also asked to hold the first breakfast for the soldiers on Christmas morning (some 200 hungry participants) at the Maloyne House. Add to that, along with other organizations who helped with the expenses, they purchased gas and phone cards for the troops and their family members.

In August of 2005, with her sons grown and off on their own, Jewels decided it was time to “go home”. She packed up and moved back to southern Georgia, and then to Tallahassee to be closer to the employment pool, which presented another challenge.

Tallahassee is termed a “little big town”. It may be where the Capitol of Florida is, but employment in Tallahassee is nothing like Washington, DC. Many years ago, I moved to the high-tech region of New England and Boston, where high paying jobs are plentiful for the educated professional. Tallahassee is a college town, and for every job there are 20 applicants. Pay is directly proportional to the low cost of living in the area. Nevertheless, Jewels chose to move home regardless of the job opportunities.

However, armed with the numerous rental homes Jewels owns to supplement her income, she searched for the right job. After trial and error positions, she moved into a job with AAA Insurance.

“The pay here is nothing like working in DC,” Jewels tells me, “but I love the work, and I’m happy”. (How many of us can make that claim?) A further testament to Jewels adaptability, and character.

Jewels (right) & friend Linda (left)Jewels’ need for charity work continued in Tallahassee, with her involvement in a local motorcycle group called the Chrome Divas, consisting of all women riders. She also became an active member of the local Tallahassee H.O.G chapter.

“These days, military facilities are off limits to civilians, because of Journalists.” Jewels informed me.

“Getting in to visit Veterans now takes an ‘act of Congress’, unless you have a track record and know the people who run the volunteer programs.”

In April of 2006, Jewels began what would be a lengthy attempt to contact the right person at the Veterans Hospital in Lake City, FL. She never gave up.

More than a year later, in June of 2007, after speaking to many uninterested people and months of leaving many phone messages, she connected with someone who could give her the permission to organize a visit to the Veterans residing there; a gentleman by the name of Michael Allen.

The initial reluctance to allow this visit to happen was met with the tenacity Jewels is so famous for. She patiently explained that it was not a solicitation, and she merely wanted to gather a group of bikers together, and bring them out to visit the Veterans; a gift of appreciation, nothing more. Michael Allen decided to trust Jewels, and allowed her to make the arrangements.

The ride was scheduled for November 10, 2007. All 13 riders were proud members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a nationwide organization dedicated to serving and honoring those who fight for our freedom. Six of those riders were also members of the Chrome Divas. Jewels was the only member of Rolling thunder. You can read Jewels’ account of this visit here.

If Jewels has her way (and I have no doubt she will), this will become a regular thing. Thank God for people like Jewels. She is certainly anything but “ordinary”. Those with such big hearts, like Jewels has, will always have room for others, and her selfless motivation to include so many deserving souls in her world makes her stand out in the “spotlight” of women bikers, and the world in general.

Jewels currently resides in Crawfordville, Florida, a small town south of Tallahassee. She shares her home with her tiny (and old) dog, Tyler, and rides her Dyna Low Rider whenever the opportunity arises.


Shirley Vandever said...

She's not only cool, she's a knockout as well !

There is still hope for me....

Sam said...

Yes, she is.

I've never met you in person, but I can see the beauty within you, Shirley. I've known many 'knockout' women before who were plain beneath the surface. I much prefer to know what's inside a person, for therein lies true beauty.

rc said...

not only a knock out but a hell of an MC rider too....rc