I had a pretty standard childhood, with 2 parents that love me, not a child of divorce, I didn’t wont for anything, raised in your typical middle-class east coast family. My parents had a pretty wild youth, but after marriage, and 3 children (all girls), they became very sensible people, very parent-like. My mother is incredibly cautious, and in turn my father is cautious if for nothing else than to appease my mother. My sisters and I were raised as city folk; as a small child I was often taken to the Science Museum, and loved it by the way. I have very fond memories of going to the Zoo, museums and any of the other education activities my parents indulged me in. We were fortunate enough to be able to go on vacation at least once a year. However, most years we headed to my father’s parents house in Alabama. We would all pile in the family van drive days to Fairhope AL, stay for 5 days and then drive 2 days back. A few times we went to Disney World, but again never terribly adventurous or outdoorsy.
I didn’t learn to ride a bicycle until I was 7 years old, almost 8, after second grade! Anytime I got on bike, I had to wear my helmet, it was mandatory. I didn’t dare get caught riding without it not only because I was scared of my mothers wrath, but also was convinced that I would die without it. My family wasn’t terribly adventurous, we didn’t hike, camp, or fish. In fact, I grew up in a town with a river and still to this day, have not set foot in it. (And if I did I’d likely wear a life vest.) I never rode ATVs or dirt bikes. The only motorcycle I knew of in my neighborhood, belong to my neighbor a few houses down. One day during a block party, he took his bike out, and let some of us kids ride around the block. I was terrified, but someone persuaded me to try it. I HATED IT. I was scared, clung tightly to him, and hid from the wind behind him. We were barely going 25 MPH.
So now that you know a little background you might be wondering how I ended up becoming the mile pounding badass that you know now. How, HOW in the hell did this safety conscious little girl end up on this two-wheeled death machine?
I moved to Salt Lake City in January of 2010, to be a bird trainer at the Tracy Aviary. I didn’t bring my car because I was afraid I would get snowed in driving across country. I took the bus everywhere for a few months, but in March my friend offered to let me buy his wife’s old bike. I hadn’t ridden a bike in years, and it took a little bit of time to get used to it, but soon i was riding at least 10 miles a day, a few to work and random trips around the city. I loved the freedom it gave me, not having to do things on the bus’ schedule, and being able to get places quicker. I enjoyed the scenery, noticing business and places I was too distracted to notice in my car.
I wanted to go further, farther and faster. I wanted to explore see more of the Salt Lake Valley ride through the canyons, but I am no mountain biker. The thought of a motorcycle crossed my mind, but I shook it off. I shook it off every time. I thought, “How could I? No, there’s no way. I am not a ‘biker.’ They’re so dangerous!” and my personal favorite, “I’m a woman, how could I ride a motorcycle.” The fact that I am a woman, actually kept me from seriously considering a motorcycle as a form of transportation. Until one day it was suggested to me otherwise. My bicycle also allowed me to stay out later, experience Salt Lake Night life. I had become friends with some people who worked at Keys on Main, and one night I rode my bike downtown, and my normal bike lock was missing so I had to lock it further down the street. I walked into the bar, and noticed my two friends Brandon and Aron decorating on the far end of the room. I walked over, helmet still in hand, and asked if they knew what had happened to my normal stand, stating I had to park my bike further down the street.
The both stopped what they were doing and looked at me, shocked. “You ride a bike?” one of them asked.
“And you parked it on the sidewalk?”
“Yeah just down the street.” They looked at each other and started for the window. I was very confused at this particular line of questioning, I couldn’t figure out what was so interesting about my bicycle.
They got to the window, and their expressions dropped. “You mean a bicycle!?”
“…yes?” I held up my helmet, “I mean I—” They cut me off and wandered off joking about my bicycle vs. motorcycle.
I paused and let them walk away. I stood there slightly bewildered but mostly deep in thought. I couldn’t believe that they thought I owned a motorcycle, that I rode one! Me, this boring, play-it-safe girl from the East Coast. I mean, really? These two men, bikers themselves, thought that little ol’ me might also be a biker. That small error in judgement was all I needed. If other people could see me as a biker, why couldn’t I be one? I started going through all the excuses I’d had before and realized they were just that. There was no reason that I couldn’t buy own and operate a two wheeled machine. If I wanted to ride one, was I really going to let other people’s opinions and perceptions going to stop me?
I didn’t buy my first bike until about 2 years later, but it was that moment that started me on my journey. I began looking for bikes later that summer, and took the Beginner Rider course the next spring. Turns out all I needed was a little change in perception, a little push and support of some good friends. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be riding if it wasn’t for this particular moment. It really makes you wonder, what’s holding you back?
This was one of those moments when you can look back and know when your life changed directions. One of those “It’s a Wonderful Life” moments, where you know that your life would be different if it wasn’t for that comment, that turn in the road. Unfortunately we don’t get that many definable moments in our lives, and I for one am grateful for this one.