Jessica D's bio
Jessica is a traveler by heart. She loves to pen her thoughts related to her travel experiences and her knowledge about motorcycle adventure products to keep you safe and enjoy the ride. Jessica loves to meet new people during her trips.
Read Jessica's feature on B&B Off-Road Engineering about choosing the ideal tyres for your adventure bike here.
Guest Post by writer Jessica D
They say that age is just a number: and Mardelle Peck proves it. She began racing a motor bike at the age of 65, surrounded by racers in their 20s and 30s, and has inspired many other women to get on their bikes and race.
Mardelle met her husband Ron when she was 18 and he was 21. They had a number of things in common, but their love of motorbikes topped the list. While Ron was a motorbike enthusiast, Peck worked as a fleet manager for Chevrolet in Chico, California, and rode and tested bikes in order to choose the ideal bikes, tyres and accessories, as part of her job.
Mardelle and Ron have owned quite a few bikes, including Hondas and Harley Sportsters, and they have enjoyed frequent road trips around the US, but in her fifties, Mardelle decided it was time to tick off an item on her bucket list and take her 2001 Honda CBR 929 to the track.
She attended the SuperBike School in California, set up by Keith Code, and being among the oldest students in the school, didn’t deter her one bit. In fact, she enjoyed it so much, she kept coming back to complete all three levels.
For the next 11 years, Mardelle raced on the track, practising and training for her next goal. In 2012, at the age of 65, she debuted in the American Federation of Motorcyclists’ annual all-women Afemme race at Thunderhill Raceway Park, near Willows in California.
The AFM, founded in 1954 by a group of sport riding enthusiasts in the North Bay Area, had seen famous motorcyclists such as Kenny Roberts, Randy Mamola and Wayne Rainey race in its ranks. It was also rare in its inclusion of an all-women’s class.
Over the next few years, Mardelle continued racing in all the tracks she could, with Ron cheering her on from the sidelines. Quickly, Peck graduated from the novice to the expert class. Age was never a factor; her single-minded aim was to enjoy the thrill of the moment and to relish the focus and dedication motorcycling racing demands.
In 2014, she was racing at Afemme again. This time she was riding in the expert class, and landed a cool third on her Yamaha R6.
Even before getting to the start line, however, Mardelle knew that this would be her last race. She had suffered only one mishap as a motorcycle racer so far, when she came off her Suzuki GSX-R on a track day, bruising herself badly and damaging the bike. However, she had seen five racers come off in the expert class, and it scared her. She wanted to continue riding, but she knew the time had come to bid farewell to her brief and exhilarating racing career.
With her trademark twinkling eyes and in her forever-young style, Mardelle said goodbye to racing, happy with the experience it had given her. She had learned a lot, and touched many lives. In her brief career, she managed to inspire a lot of women to take up motorcycle racing and had gathered a significant fan base. It gratified her immensely when fans came up to tell her how she had inspired them.
Now in her 70s, continues riding and experiencing the thrill of being on the road. Just as they did 50 years ago, she and Ron continue to take trips across Canada to Wyoming and Montana on their customised BMW G8 1200 motorcycles. And Mardelle continues to inspire her fans, telling them that their time is now, and they can go out and accomplish everything they want.
Once, when a girl told Mardelle that she wanted to be like her when she grew up, she told her simply that she shouldn’t ever grow up. It’s sound advice.
Back in 2007, I was privileged to interview the brilliant Debbie Mielewski, Ford Motor Company’s Senior Technical Leader, Materials Sustainability, for Automobile magazine about soybean-based foam being used for the first time the 2008 Mustang.
It wasn’t easy to achieve the durability standards for seat cushions, which need to rebound for the equivalent of 15 years. In early trials, the soy and petroleum materials separated, and the soy foam didn’t smell too good.
However, the team at Ford kept trying, and I was very pleased to see that the company is now celebrating 10 years since this ground-breaking step on the path to sustainability. Since 2011, soy has been a key material used in the seat cushions, seat backs and headrests of every vehicle Ford builds in North America.
So, 18.5 million-plus vehicles and half a trillion soybeans later, the company estimates it has saved more than 228 million pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. This is equivalent to the amount consumed by 4 million trees per year, according to North Carolina State University.
Ford has also began to develop other renewable materials for its vehicles and in some cases this has allowed for weight reductions, leading to better fuel economy.
Its production vehicles now feature eight sustainable materials — soy, wheat, rice, castor, kenaf (hibiscus), tree cellulose, jute and coconut. Debbie Mielewski writes in a recent press story: “As we continue to experiment, the list of renewable resources we are researching reads like an entire farm — wheat straw, tomato peel, bamboo, agave fibre, dandelions, even algae!”
I’ve always loved convertibles, in fact I always drove my 1957 Metropolitan Convertible and 1941 Chevy led sled roof-down, because I couldn't see out of either with the roof on. (A leather jacket kept the rain off.) So I was fascinated to see this infographic by Exotic Car Collection by Enterprise naming the 40 most important convertibles of all time.
Of course, you could argue that the convertible came before the car as we know it. In 1888, when Berta Benz took her husband’s motorwagen for the first cross-country automobile trip to visit her mother 60 miles away in Pforzheim, she didn’t have a rood over her head. The first horseless carriages were just that – luxuries such as a windscreen and a roof only came later. (I’m still wondering how electric cars will look when they evolve away from vehicles needing a big lump of engine in the front or back.)
So enjoy the infographic. Lists are to be argued about, so would you have chosen these vehicles at your top 60? What has been missed out? Which one would you choose? I’d have the Cord 810/12 Phaeton, or the Porsche 356…or maybe the XK120. Don't make me choose.
I enjoyed an fascinating visit to the National Transport Design Centre, part of the University of Coventry with fellow members of MIPAA Motor Industry Public Affairs Association. The brand-new facility will be used by post-graduate study at Masters and Doctorate level looking into the future of transport.
The studio has room for two full-size clay models, or there are various 3-D printing machines using a UV resin-based compound. Director of Strategic Initiates David Wright described how they could ‘grow a model out of liquid’ and create shapes it’s not possible to machine.
He then handed out some cool-looking glasses, and demonstrated the Power Wall, which can show designers a large detailed 3-D image, take it to bits and put it back together. (At this point I actually ducked, as a giant wing mirror seemed about to knock my head off.)
I was pleased to hear that computer-generated models still can’t replace the clay model. This is not only because of some annoying clashes of ones and zeros at the interfaces of complex 3-D models, but also because designers still need to stroke and feel the surface of a model.
Areas people will be researching here include making air and rail travel more comfortable by taking a new approach to interior design, creating modular vehicles and the use of wearable tech.
If Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke or Philip K Dick had lived to see this, it would have blown their minds.
A survey by Renault has found that the car has become a quiet sanctuary where parents and kids can really talk.
I don’t know how my Mum would have reacted to me asking about the birds and the bees while she negotiated a roundabout. (8% of those surveyed said kids wanted the ‘sex chat’). I can only guess because my mum took me on the back of her bicycle, and my only question was can we walk please? I suspect, however, that we wouldn’t have got to school on time.
These days, the study found, that the family car is becoming a travelling confessional with more than half (54%) of the 2,000 people surveyed said their kids are more likely to open up about topics such as what happened at school and trouble with friends when mum or dad is behind the wheel.
One in 10 (9%) of the parents surveyed said they deliberately go on a car journey in a desperate bid to get their child to talk more. 28% of parents said they learned more about their children in the car than at home.
It’s a little sad that parents and kids are not finding time to talk at home, probably because of the simple chaos of feeding them, washing their clothes, or making sure they have the right ingredients or costume for a school project.
How many times has a colleague around you glanced at their phone and yelled shi-i-i-t because some smug mum has put up a picture of their kid dressed as a panda, and they’d forgotten it was World Dress as a Panda to School day?
When you ask a child directly, how was school? You’re likely to get a grunt, or "It was OK" and you can’t just sit around hoping they will decide to open up.
There’s also the ‘helicopter parent’ syndrome where children take a phone to school and call their mother at work when their friends have suddenly decided to shun them. A hard choice for mum to help her distressed child or get that important pitch for a new client finished.
Driving is a neutral time. You’re busy in that getting to somewhere, and you do have to concentrate on the road, but to a child, you’re sitting with them and quiet, it’s precious time. It’s an opportunity to share their music, hear their latest joke, and maybe answer their questions about sex, with no chance someone if going to walk into the room. So if you need tour child to talk, maybe take them for a drive.
See the full results of the survey on Renault’s website here.
I photographed this majestic 1970 Mercury Colony Park Station Wagon on the Classic American stand at the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show at the NEC a little while ago - and I had difficulty getting back far enough to get all of it in. Its owner, Gary Lucas, has just got in touch, letting me know it now has its own website. (See below.)
I love this car because it’s so unapologetic. It just goes “Ta-da! I’m here, move up there, make space!” It comes from a time when people genuinely didn’t know about climate change and didn’t have to worry squeezing into a tight parking slot.
Back then it wasn’t an excessive purchase. It’s 18.5ft long – but then so were all the other American station wagons from the 1950s on (and, guess, what, the 2017 Lincoln Navigator L still is). Power under that football field of a hood came from a 429cu in V8, and Gary quotes the mpg as ‘Don’t ask’. In 1970, you didn’t need to. Gas was around 36c a gallon.
But perhaps the best thing about this piece of mechanical excess is that it’s not an executive chariot, it’s a car for an aspiring middle class family to enjoy and be proud of.
Mercury is a bit posher than Ford, not demanding a round of applause like Cadillac or Lincoln. It’s a ‘nice’ marque for people who’ve done quite well – like a pre-Honda Rover. The Colony Park name was used for top-of-the–line wagons from 1957 to 1991.
We Brits love an estate or a shooting brake, but in the States these days, people want SUVs. Station wagons were what mom, or even gran used to drive, and sure enough, the first owner of this Mercury was Carolyn M Gaunt of Fresno, CA.
I imagine her choosing it and driving off, thrilled her Mercury, just as I was thrilled with my more humble Mercury Marquis sedan. Her neighbours would have admired its revolving lights, diamond-pattern vinyl upholstery and Rich Yacht Decking vinyl wrap ‘woody’ trim. They may have said something like “Gee, that’s really neat!”
She really must have loved it, too, because this car is immaculate. No football cleats have scored the carpet; no dogs have scuffed the load area. When I spotted it at the NEC, I couldn’t stop walking round it looking at the flawless paintwork, and the perfect condition of that ‘wood’.
Sadly, it wouldn’t have held its value after the fuel crisis hit in 1973, so the best thing to do would have been to hold on to it. Now it’s a priceless snapshot of a more optimistic time.
Gary loves it and is giving people the opportunity to admire it again. They probably won’t say “how neat!”. They’re more likely to say “Wow!” or “WTF” but in a nice way.
See Gary's My Wagon website here.
The wagon was also featured in Classic American magazine March 2015
This blog is by a woman driver, for everyone to read