Suzanne’s Angels – Women on the road for Women on the street

By Moira Nordholt

By the time this month’s Beachhead comes out, I will be back in Venice relishing the comforts of home. I’ll be enjoying quiet time with my kitty and savoring the sounds of my partner’s piano improvisations while cooking a meal of fall’s market bounty.

I’ll be delighting in the simple pleasures of a long hot shower, a Sunday paper and my own bed – simple pleasures made blissful by the effort required get back to them, and by the daily reminder that to be provided with these creature comforts is a blessing.

By the time you read this, I will have completed an epic motorcycle ride from Venice Beach to Inuvik, in Canada’s Northwest Territories, 2 degrees north of the Arctic Circle on the MacKenzie River Delta near the Arctic Ocean – and back. I will have logged almost 10,000 miles on my 1997 Buell S1 Lightning named Henk.

I left Venice on August 19, and today, more than a month later, I’m about five days from home – if everything goes smoothly.

It’s been quite an adventure…

I’ve ridden to the Land of the Midnight Sun, camped under the northern lights, entered (and lost) the legendary Outhouse Races in Dawson City, had my fair share of bear sightings, bumped up and back the entire dusty Dempster Highway, burned up a pair of tires, and broke down.

The other day, I rode for the first time ever in snow. I love the Alaska Highway for its stark isolation and the sheer will power it requires in foul weather to carry on. But I had a rip in my drive belt and my tires were balding. This particular portion south of Fort Nelson was not fun.

My fingers seemed permanently frozen around the handgrips and I had ice on my rain suit, but when the snow lightened and the sun came out three hours into my ride, my spirits lifted. I became hopeful I’d make it down to Mile 0 in Dawson Creek and be off the Alaska Highway before winter closed in on northern Canada.

But right there and then, at the height of optimism at the peak of the day at the summit of a mountain pass, I hit the depths of despair. The tear in my drive belt gave way and I was flying beltless down the chip sealed road – tons of torque, but no drive.

It could have been a nightmare. But within seconds of my breakdown, the crisis was diffused by Mark, John and Richard, whom I flagged down and who thought nothing of loading my bike into their pick-up and driving me to a trucker camp down the highway where I could wait for them to stop in the following day to take me 500 miles to Prince George for repairs.

The rescue happened so quickly, I was barely able to register the severity of the situation – just how vulnerable I’d have been standing out there in bear country in the freezing cold on a highway where traffic is scarce and trucks with three willing and able guys, room in the back and tie-downs at the ready even scarcer. It’s only now that days have passed, my motorbike is repaired and I’m safe and warm that the enormity of it all is beginning to sink in.

Before setting out in August, I started Suzanne’s Angels – Women on the road for Women on the street – to help a friend in need.

Perhaps you’ve seen her funky truck, the wooden shingled art home on wheels, or maybe you’ve had the opportunity to hear her read her beautiful poetry at Spontos.

Suzanne lives in her truck with her four beloved adopted cats. She lives homelessness as art, with a great deal of dignity, but five years of being exposed to the elements and sleeping in a crawl space is taking its toll.

She’s been an enormous source of inspiration to myself and many, finding beauty in the smallest details, and never taking a thing for granted. Yes, she’s the real muse behind Leonard Cohen’s poem, which became the hit song, “Suzanne” covered by no less than 20 artists since the 60’s. His ethereal description of her forty years ago still rings true. She still finds “heroes in the seaweed” and “shows you where to look among the garbage and the flowers.”

Suzanne is an eloquent writer and a sensitive poet, and has lived a fascinating life. Her dream is to have a small studio where she can make herself at home and finish writing her book.

She has recently taken large steps toward that dream. Suzanne is presently near Santa Cruz with her truck and her kitties, trading garden work, along with her cooking and massage skills for the use of a new friend’s kitchen, bathroom and electricity.

She just needs a leg up. Response so far has been wonderful. I’ve had pledges of a penny per mile or more from friends, friends of friends, and strangers. Even Erik Buell, designer of my motorcycle and CEO of the Buell Motorcycle Company, has made a personal pledge. My goal is to have a dollar per mile pledged before the cold rains of winter begin in the redwoods near Santa Cruz. I’m almost half way there.

Whenever I embark on a solo adventure, I prepare myself with the uncomfortable reality that I may occasionally, due to mechanical failure or inclement weather, have to rely on the kindness of strangers to get me out of a jam. I sometimes have no choice but to trust in the innate goodness of humanity. Perhaps because of that trust, I’ve encountered angels every time.

I’ve set up “Suzanne’s Angels” as a group on Facebook, as well as a blog at Anyone who would like to help me help Suzanne get a roof over her head can email me personally at

Posted: Mon - October 1, 2007 at 07:52 PM