Women Who Ride – Petrina
Story/Interview by Randy Twells; Photos- RT & Courtesy Petrina H.
Petrina Herman is a petite gal, who has been riding for about 20 years and is always interested in a challenge. Born in Long Island, New York, she grew up and moved to San Francisco, but returned after the 1989 earthquake. Her brothers, sister and Dad all rode motorcycles.
Her Dad taught her to ride on an old Honda in only two days, in a school parking lot. She went from a Sportster 1100, to an FXR, and graduated to her current ’94 Road King. Her family has ridden together for some pretty long hauls– NY to Florida, San Diego to Milwaukee for H-D’s 100th, even shipping bikes to New Zealand to tour all over.
Her Dad moved to San Diego and she came to visit. He knew New York Myke, and one day told Petrina, “Go to the Harley dealer & get acquainted.” So she met New York Myke, went riding with some people, made friends. Petrina had been a model agent for a well known NY agency; in San Diego now, she married a man who was in the motorcycle industry, and started Select Model and Talent Agency, booking models on high end jobs, catalogues & magazines. She eventually located her office on trendy Melrose Ave. in Los Angeles.
Petrina’s marriage ended, and later, Myke became single again as well. They had always been friends, but now friendship bloomed into more, they began dating, and became engaged! Taking long bike trips with Myke included going to Rolling Thunder held on Memorial Day weekend each year, and making friends with Founder Artie Muller and Organizers Steve Prager & Magic Mike DePaulo. Each year, Rolling Thunder invites high-profile people as special guests. 2011’s special attendees were Admiral Mike Mullen, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
So in 2011 Petrina made her fourth trip to Rolling Thunder with Myke, meeting the Palins at Crystal City Marriott. Todd Palin wanted to ride so, Myke got him a bike through his friend Jennifer Stipkala, GM at Harley-Davidson of Washington, DC. Petrina had also borrowed a bike there, but burning her leg on it she decided to return it, and just ride with Myke on his bike.
Then, Sarah Palin also wanted to do the ride, but with a woman rider. Her team asked Myke, did he know a good woman rider? Myke felt Petrina could do this, but since she had returned her borrowed bike, the only bike available was, Myke’s 110” customized Ultra. Petrina was away from the group when Myke volunteered her; upon rejoining them, she learned of the plan.
Petrina never had carried a passenger. Or ridden a bike as big as Mykes Ultra. And, had a tailpipe burn on her leg. In that instant, she had to decide, and said, YES. Maryland and Virginia Hwy. Patrol escort officers standing around heard all this. They suggested Petrina take Myke’s bike around the block first to see if she was comfortable on it. So, she jumped on Myke’s 110” Ultra and took off. The officers’ comment? “I think she can ride”. Petrina came back, “Wow this is GREAT, I love it, it’s so easy to ride”—But she was still unsure about a passenger…
So Myke said, “Ride 20 feet with Sarah on the back; if you aren’t comfortable you can stop there and no problem.” One step at a time. She rode the 20 feet with Sarah who is very small, on the back, and she was fine. But—she told Sarah, “Wave small, no big gestures or movements please”. She trained her passenger well!
Meanwhile Myke rode ‘bitch’ on the back with Jennifer’s hubby Ed, and they set out on Rolling Thunder! As they rolled in for the stop at the Pentagon, Petrina says, “Hundreds of people closed in, many with cameras, leaning on the bike, getting in my way, to get a shot of Sarah. I just held onto the bike, very slow speed, and was really afraid they were going to knock us over!”
Mike, Steve and Artie all right there, pushed the paparazzi back, and actually pulled a photographer off the bike. As they then left the Pentagon, to go on to the National Memorial, Petrina was the second bike in the group and faced another challenge, to make a very steep sharp right turn immediately with no warning. Ed and Myke are right behind Petrina and Sarah, who make it through.
They arrived at the National Memorial where the Wall is. Having trouble keeping the bike lit as they rolled on the grassy bike parking area, Petrina let Sarah dismount, and the bike died for good. Unknown to anyone during the ride, the clutch had fried. 110” engine, 100 degree heat, stop ‘n’ go. They never mentioned it to Sarah so as not to upset her since the ride was over, but once this magazine hits the street the word is out.
Petrina and Myke walked around the event with Todd, Sarah, Bristol & Willow, had photos taken together, and had lunch. As Sarah’s son was in the service, she wanted to focus on the reason for Rolling Thunder- to bring attention to POW and MIA’s, supporting wounded warriors, Vietnam Vets; so she visited soldiers & families that were there in a tent, some with combat wounds.
Because Sarah Palin was there, riding behind Petrina, Rolling Thunder got more exposure and publicity than ever before- millions of dollars worth. Interestingly, with photos of Sarah and Petrina all over the papers, TV and internet, no one in the media asked who this woman rider was who carried Sarah on the back, or realized what she’d accomplished there. In fact, Life Magazine’s December 2011 issue “The Year in Pictures” on page 23 has a photo spread showing Petrina with Sarah behind her on Myke’s bike at Rolling Thunder, without naming Petrina as the rider! ……Sometimes, your big moment is known only to you and a few others…. But Quick Throttle decided this was an important accomplishment to recognize- so we included Petrina’s info with her Rolling Thunder photo in our own “The Year in Pictures” eNewsletter and website feature at www.quickthrottle.com!
Now that Petrina met such a big challenge, what is next on the bucket list? Petrina says, “Ride cross-country, coast to coast. With a group of women, or by myself, in the next year or two. The only reason I have not done it yet is, work responsibilities or just the timing.” Her farthest solo long-haul ride til now? NY to Florida. Farthest with a group? San Diego to Milwaukee.
What riding means to Petrina? “The freedom! And complete strangers meet, and wave, just a very positive community. I live, eat and sleep motorcycles. That’s part of what brings Myke and I together! And inspiration–My mother who had been around bikes with us but never ridden herself, had breast cancer, said if she got through it she wanted to learn to ride. She got through the cancer and got her license back in April 2011, and is now riding motorcycles.”
Does she ever blend the modeling business with motorcycles? Petrina had wanted to be in the Motorclothes magazine herself years ago. That never did happen but “H-D’s ad agency held a casting call, needing attractive people who really know how to ride. They contacted me as a fluke out of the blue, not knowing my role with bikes or NY Myke, just looking for riding models; they get attractive people who say they ride but can’t, and they drop bikes, which costs huge $$.”
“So I got models for this shoot, and got them to take the Riders Edge course. They now could ride and H-D hired them through my current business, Professional Model Management.” And H-D has continued to hire models through Petrina, and to this day still doesn’t know that she herself is also a rider.
Last fall, San Diego Harley held a Ladies’ Garage Party event, and had hired TV stunt rider (Sons of Anarchy) Brenda Fox as special guest speaker. Brenda introduced Petrina to the group as a role model for her accomplishment— Riding a passenger the first time ever, Sarah Palin no less, on a bigger bike than she’d ever ridden before, with a burned leg and a fried clutch besides– and commented that having a good foundation of skills is essential to being ready to take on any challenge that arises.
Regarding her encounter with history, Petrina said, “20 years of riding experience prepared me for this moment!” 2012 is the 25th Anniversary of Rolling Thunder. We know Petrina will be ready, for whatever lies ahead on the road- are you?