Anna Kaia

Some people endure circumstances in their lives that grace them with a vast understanding of the world that surpasses the minutiae of the day-to-day. Anna Kaia, at the young age of 24, bursts at the seams with an insatiable thirst for cultivating a life fulfilled. Driven face to face with her own mortality, Anna blossomed to take on her next chapter of life as a rider and a burgeoning physical therapist.

With a humble and shy nature blanketing her personality, Anna exudes an ethereal spirit that makes one wonder about the gold that she infuses in her daily life. From climbing rocks to dancing with fire, or washing herself in the tides of the Gulf, she surrounds herself with the elements of the world. It is only natural that she craves to discover its treasures through the intimate lens that only two-wheels possesses.

The stars aligned when Anna’s father went against the pleas of his wife and purchased his first motorcycle, a Harley-Davidson Wide Glide, two years ago. Her childlike wonder manifested alongside her father’s until she decided that it was time to take reins herself.

We all have circumstances in our lives that are meant to teach us a valuable lesson in whatever shape or form necessary. It is our reactions to the inevitable that have the potential to develop us into a more-aware and fruitful being. These fruits, even if born from adversity, can be tended to in order to grow and nurture societies.

I was at a beachside restaurant in my hometown chatting with Anna when I inevitably asked about her motorcycle beginnings. With a light and honest heart, she showed me a scar that scaled behind her ear. She described to me her ultimate circumstance that allowed her own fruits to grow.

Last year, a fresh resident to Atlanta, Anna had dreams of pursuing her new career of public relations and advertising. A disruption occurred in her daily life as she began to experience sudden bursts of pain throughout her head. Bouts of seizure-like symptoms began to take over, causing simple activities such as eating or talking to become nearly impossible.

She was diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia, better-known as the “suicide disease”. I dug deep into the research when I got back home. Unfortunately, the research is limited, as so few people suffer from this rare disease. Essentially, pain is rooted from the trigeminal nerve beginning behind the ear on either side of the face and spreads across the cheeks, jaw, lips, and nose. The pain inflicted can occur from just the slightest touch, making normal activities debilitating. The pain is cited by patients to be the worst pain one can experience, surpassing limb amputation and childbirth. Being a rare disease with a typical onset after age 50, the inexplicable nature of its manifestation within a vibrant 23 year-old girl was enough to cause for alarm.

The experimental surgery promised slim chances of success, and a probable outcome of paralysis, brain damage, or continuation of the same symptoms. Anna faced the daunting fact that her way of living was unbearable and proceeded with the surgery, even against her mother’s pleas to just take medicine for the pain and go about living life “normally”.

The very same day that she scheduled her brain surgery, she bought a vintage KZ550 and decided that would be her prize to keep her going through the tough road ahead. She spent her time in the hospital daydreaming about how she would rebuild it and modify it.

“I distinctly remember my nurses in the ICU catching me sneaking on my phone at 2 am trying to order motorcycle parts on eBay. The anticipation of getting to learn how to work on that bike and actually getting to ride it after my surgery was the main driving force that got me through the post-surgery agony.”

After she was released from the hospital, the first thing she did was visit her motorcycle.

“My mortality kind of smacked me in the face and I realized that if I really wanted to do something, I needed to go ahead and do it because my time might be limited,” she reflected. Three months after recovery, as soon as her staples had been removed from her head, she threw on her helmet and went on the first liberating ride of her life.

The shift in her paradigm of living allowed a liberation from social stigmas. It allowed her to shed everything that ever held her back and she is now working with a guidance and purpose each and every day. As I chatted with her over coffee a few months later, her bright and infectious energy still shines past those scars and stories.

A typical day in her life today includes going to school to become a Physical Therapist (inspired through her recovery process). She aims to energize and motivate people who have gone through similar traumas, and guide them to regain their functions to pursue everything of which they’ve dreamed. Outside of school, she is adamant about learning the intricacies of her motorcycle to keep it on the road and to boost her self-sufficiency.

When asked to leave a parting piece of advice with DOTR, she responded with this, “My advice is to never be afraid to do something simply because of fear of the unknown or because of social stigmas like ‘girls aren't tough enough to handle a motorcycle.’ If you've always wanted to learn how to ride or to build a bike, then don't waste any more time and just go do it, because you never know when your circumstances might change or how long you'll have to pursue your dreams. It sounds cliche but life changes in an instant, so you gotta take advantage of the present moment.”

What I feel all of us can learn from Anna’s story is how to prioritize what little time we are given on this earth. We owe it to ourselves to seize each opportunity to pursue what best and most vividly colors our personal happiness.

We would like to thank Anna for spending some time to share her story with us all and for having the courage to persevere through everything thrown at her.

To follow her journey, follow @anna_kaia on Instagram!

 

Emma Cases-Moller of Alternate Adventures

Lined with grit and adventure, Emma Cases-Moller has spent years building the only existing motorcycle touring and rental company in Belize. Motorbike Rentals & Alternate Adventures is a company founded on the idea of free-spirited growth and speculation of the world around us. Customers are equipped with not only a motorbike, but also helmets, technology, maps, and an abundance of information to guide them through the beautiful country.

Tune in to Emma's interview as she tells us how the idea sparked, and shares golden nuggets of advice on how to live out your own adventure!   

 

1. Can you give us more of a look into your own personal motorcycle journey? (How did you get started riding, what do you ride, how long have you been riding, etc.)

I have been a rider for about 8 years. I have quite a comical story about how I became a rider. It all started with being afraid of motorcycles. For a person who consider herself relatively fearless, it is interesting to identify a fear and go through the process of facing it. Two things I have learned from this. First, we tend to be afraid of what is unfamiliar to us. Secondly, fears are contagious and often intentionally or unintentionally imposed on us. I was raised in a very loving and liberal family. I was encouraged to try pretty much anything that seemed instructive, eye-opening and/or challenging. That extended itself to explore different sports, education, friendships, countries and cultures but the encouragement took an abrupt stop when it came to power sports. My parents had absolutely no inclination towards engines and as far as they knew, motorcycles were nothing but dangerous and would most likely get you killed. This was their fear, that probably was grounded in what they had observed in life, and as contagious as fears are, it was passed on to me.

Now, one would have to understand that I am Swedish, and Scandinavians are generally speaking not really motor heads. Our riding season is very short and we can easily live our everyday lives (and tons of us do) without owning any type vehicle. The cities are very well set-up for public transport and we use our feet and love our bicycles. All this is to say that for these different reasons, I never really encountered motorcycles in my early life. 

So, my first real chance to a close and personal experience with two wheels was while being in Belize. I was drifting through Central America on a backpacking journey and had seemed to get stuck in Belize. A camping trip in the jungle was offered to me and the way to get there was on the back of a motorbike. The love for adventure tickled stronger than the distress for two wheels with an engine. After two days on the back of the bike it was clear to me. I was done with riding bitch. I wanted to be the bitch in the front handling the powerpack. Fear had turned to a deep admiration for a complete new way of traveling that allowed you to be in the nature experiencing it fully while being parts of its winds, lights and smells.   

My rental fleet consists currently of 15 bikes of 6 different models all ranging between 150-250cc. They are almost exclusively dualsport bikes. In addition to that I have a couple of bikes in parts (and for parts) as well as a little Suziki DR200 which I call my pack horse (it has a kick ass luggage rack and pelican boxes) which I use for a side business were I have to transport my merchandise to remote locations. The vast majority of my time, I however ride my fleet. I constantly rotate the bikes I ride and by doing that, I keep up to date on how my fleet is preforming.

 

2. How did Alternate Adventures come into fruition? Why did you choose to open it in Belize? Why not Sweden?

Alternate Adventures, which really in is complete name is “Motorbike Rentals & Alternate Adventures” (MR&AA) came about as a result of the discovery of the amazing experience of traveling on two wheels in this beautiful tropical country. Very quickly my life became about bikes. I rode them, cleaned them and learned how to maintained them. Also, I did some research and it turned out that nobody in Belize was renting bikes so I decided to take the leap and try this out. I got two 200cc dual sport bikes, registered a company and got myself a work permit. I acquired some tools and taught myself how to program HTML for my website and that was it. The first couple of years before MR&AA was established enough to pay me a salary, I had a bunch of side businesses to support myself. On the side I managed guest houses, had a laundry service and set-up a little breakfast business. MR&AA, was as you may gather by now, not something premeditated or well planned in any way. It was an opportunity to try something and instead of spending much time analyzing if this was indeed a good idea or not, I just did it. I have learned that thinking too much about stuff makes you sometimes get stuck in “analysis paralysis”. Once you try to have everything in place before you start or pre-plan how to solve every imaginary problem that you might encounter, you then tend to end up not trying it. If you solemnly accept that things will resolve themselves one way or the other, it will allow you to launch yourself into stuff, then you will just roll with the punches. Generally if you work at it, it will somehow work out.

 

3. What were you doing before owning Alternate Adventures?

I had spent my adulthood getting a college education (free in Sweden), backpacking the world (little savings get far in developing if you are willing to trade-off comfort) and working abroad (Chile) and Sweden. The last job I had in was a Supply Chain Analyst for a midsized Swedish consumer good company. The job was to identify problems and initiate solutions to any interruptions in the supply chain for 2500 items globally. In other words, computer screens and numbers. I quit this job when company politics showed me that I had reached a glass roof and would not get further ahead. I then packed my backpack and headed to Cost Rica for some surf. On that same journey, I eventually ended up in Belize.

 

4. What have been some of your best and worst memories with Alternate Adventures?

Every day new great memories take shape. I get to ride vicariously through my customers every day. They come back with small stories of places they discovered and people they have encountered, foods they have tried and animals they have seen. It is fabulous. Also, they tell me about the places they are from and about great rides where they live. This allows me to travel vicariously around this planet every day. My list of places I want to see and ride in gets longer and longer by the minute.

My worst memory was to end up having to face the bizarre situation of having an outlandish (non-Belizean) landlord breaking our rental agreement and put me on the street in the middle of high season for no other reason than envy of my success. This was followed by what felt like an entire village helping with dismantling my entire business (had at the time approximately a dozen motorbikes, a connected workshop with tons of tools and office) and setting it up at another location within a day! I wish I had recorded a time-laps of the dismantle and parallel reassembly at the other location – it was a wicked beautifully co-ordinated event aided by about 40 people! In hard times you discover who your friends are. The amazing support I received on this day of Exodus still moves me deep within. I now own the place I operate MR&AA from and have learned a valuable lesson of the essence to strive for independence at all times.

 

5. What do you provide customers with to make their alternate adventure even more incredible than the normal ride through Belize?

I try to find the particular interests and inclinations of each and every one of my customers and use my local expertise to help them design the ride that suits them. It is partly about the ride, but also a lot about the stops on the way. “What would these folks like to experience?” is the question that is brewing in the back of my mind as soon as somebody reaches the door step of my shop. The absolutely most fun people to work with are the ones that want to go as far off the beaten track as possible and that invite new unforeseen things to happen. These are the ones that truly create their own Alternate Adventure.

 

6. What are some of the best riding routes in Belize? What are some of the most challenging rides? Most scenic?

The most scenic paved route in Belize is the Hummingbird Highway. It cuts through the Maya Mountain range and its surrounding hills are curtained by jungle. It offers adventures on the way like waterfalls, sinkholes and caves. Belize is however mostly about dirt roads, back roads into villages, farmlands and Mayan Ruin sites. It is about finding new places and exploring the unconventional. It is in essence limited only by your imagination (and sometimes rivers that hopefully are not too deep to cross 😉 ) 

The challenge of a ride depends greatly on how the weather affects the road conditions. Great amounts of rain on certain soils can rapidly turn the roads into snot. For instance, getting trapped in rain on the Chiquabul forest on the way to Caracol Mayan Ruins can become an interesting experience. While I am very much for my customers’ own explorations, safety is always first. I spend a significant amount of time informing my customers about what to expect and how to make decisions based upon weather and time of day (I advise against night-time riding). I see MR&AA as an enabler and support pillar for my customers to create their own Alternate Adventures, but also to be able to handle their own adventurous creations at all times.

 
 

 

7. You have mentioned that Belize is a macho society. As we are based in the United States, we are often curious as to how other cultures’ gender roles are expressed. What could you tell us about the way of life for a woman in Belize?

Belize is a country of just over 300,000 people and a tremendous amount of different (ethnic) groups of people. The population constitutes of Creoles, Mayans, Garifuna, Mennonites, Chinese, Coolies, Lebanese and Spanish (these are the labels used here in Belize which are not necessarily correct descriptions nor understandable labels outside the borders of this country) living all together. Ethnicity, language, education and location are dividing lines among these groups of people. But plenty of things unite people too, one of them being to be proudly Belizean and another being the love for rice & beans!

Another thing that seem to cross over the ethnic dividers is the arrangement of families. Families are often large and they constitute of many children that not necessarily have the same father. The father sticks far from always around, while traditionally the mother stays at home, caring for the children to the best of her abilities. The role of the man is more free. He is not seldom a wanderer. However, a man in Belize with no children is not considered “a real man” just as a woman in Belize without children is not really a fulfilled woman. The achievement for the man seems to lie more in the production of children, not necessarily in the caring aspect of them. The women’s femininity may be gauged in her ability to attract a man who will contribute to family finances. Therefore, in my view, women put plenty of effort into appearances, hairdos and pedicures. From my northern European perspective, I have a hard time grasping how one could spend hard earned savings on a hairdos when the same amount of money may get you for instance a driver’s license. This description is of course overly simplified to be able convey this complex topic of gender roles. In addition, it is of course gradually changing over the course of generations. I hope that you follow that I am attempting to convey that while female independence is on the rise, it is still quite unusual to see a female business owners. Businesses indeed owned by women are generally speaking food related or other domestic services.

 

8. How do these gender roles affect women who want to ride/already ride motorcycles?

As an effect of a growing economy, motorcycles in Belize are rapidly becoming more popular. Motorcycles are often the first mode of motorized transport that a person or family can afford. Women are slowly catching on to this trend but seem to favor automatic scooters rather than gear shifted motorcycles and they seem to be more prone to ride passenger than owning or driving themselves. I am yet to see a woman (except myself of course) giving a man a ride!

Slowly but surely this is changing. In my company, I also sell parts and do mechanics for locals. Since very recently I have noticed a trend that women themselves coming to buy parts (as opposed to send their men for parts) for their scooters. It is mostly inner tubes, spark plugs and tires they buy and needless to say that I am very much looking forward to the day when they come and buy rings or intake valves on their own. Naturally they don’t fix their punctures themselves but daring to buy the parts is however a first step.

On another related note, the last ad I put out for an open apprentice position in my workshop I explicitly encouraged females to apply. None did, but I did get many comments from people that had noted my attempt to encourage the female segment of the population to apply. Despite the non-successful outcome, it did feel like it was my own (perhaps provocative) contribution towards breaking up imaginary limits of gender roles. I will keep tying 😉

In a wider perspective, I think there is a global trend in increased female riders. Over the years, my foreign customer demographic is changing and I have increasingly more female customers for the rentals and motorcycle adventures.

 

9. What challenges have you faced in attempting to operate a business in a foreign country as a female?

There are tons of challenges to open a business in a foreign country. Perhaps even more so in a country that is significantly less developed. Problem solving takes completely new shapes and forms in places like this. One might be better off to never have learned how to solve a problem before, it would save the effort of trying to “unlearn” what one already knows before having to relearn what one needs to learn. I dare to say, if not every day, at least a couple of times a week I learn something new here. After almost 7 years in business, it is still very instructive.

Personally I think I have been terribly fortunate and have not really seen any direct disadvantage of being a female running the countries probably number 1 motorcycle show. I dare to say even the contrary is true, it is so out of norm that a woman not only ride bikes, but also rents them, fixes them and helps other to fix theirs that I think the word spread quicker than it usually would. I have always felt I have been treated with respect here, but I have also worked tremendously hard (and for the first years with no employees) and people have witnessed this. I guess this combo of really trying hard combined with actually pulling it off, has put me in a position of respect.

 

10. What is a typical day in the life of Emma like?

I get up usually around 6 in the morning. I rent a great house on the beach and it is very peaceful. I never set an alarm, the birds outside my window and the light wake me up. For about one hour I zombie around the house with a magazine, computer or similar and a mandatory cup of coffee. I love to wake up slowly. Around 7 am I jump on my bike (I rotate the bikes I ride – this give me chance to keep up to date with the health status of my fleet) and do a short 5 min commute to work. By the time I reach my location, my assistant manager is already opening up the shop. We take a minute and discuss the main game plan for the day. Which bikes have come back, what maintenance steps to do but also what we need to build to make our garage more functional, ect. My 3rd employee shows up and starts cleaning bikes and doing the everyday basic maintenance of bikes and facilities. At 8 am I open our front doors (that we have made ourselves with old chains and sprockets - they are wicked!) People start to drop in wanting to go on self-guided motorcycle adventure tours, buy parts, get their bikes maintained etc. We methodically work through the crowds. By noon we usually have encountered some type of problem that needs to be solved. For instance, we have sold our stock of mirrors and can’t find any in Belize and need to find somebody who is going to Guatemala to pick some up. Or internet is down and we need to get the technicians to fix it. Or a leak in the roof has appeared because a coconut fell on it. Or, well, you get the hang of it. There is always something to deal with. In the afternoons, we work on a bigger building project, bike tweak or webpage improvement. Around 4.30 pm our bikes start to drop back for the day. I close at 5.00 am and then go for a short spin, yoga, swim or bar depending on the mood. It gets dark around 6.00 – I make or get some dinner and go to bed early.

 

11. What lessons have you learned that you'd like to share with women inspired to move abroad and live independently?

Do it. It is really not that big of a deal. Anybody with the right mindset can do it. But be patient. It takes time to find you place and role. The journey is instructive so you don’t want to rush it anyway. Make yourself a favor and accept that things will be different – not the same. Leave your home at home, don’t try create the same as at home, that will be like swimming against the current. If you move to a less developed country, prepare yourself to be even more patient. Try to not get frustrated when things don’t go your way, if you let yourself get frustrated you will waste your energy. You will need this energy to get ahead. It is an amazing adventure and try to approach differences with a curious and not judging attitude. If you despite all finally figure out it is not for you, you can return home with being one experience richer.

 

12. What about motorcycles/moto-adventuring inspires you?

It is just the best way to travel. It can get you places cars can’t, often faster and cheaper. Also, on a motorbike you tend to stop more often than in a car. This brings you to see more and meet more people. Needless to talk about the whole riding experience by itself, I mean, who do we need to convince? The freedom feeling. The nature experience. The speed. The power. The adrenaline. All of that.

 

13. What is your next milestone? Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

I have never operated quite like that. Opportunities just tend to fall in my lap and then I find it is mostly about having the ability to recognize it, and the courage to run with it. Not sure where I am heading but I am sure it will be great and adventurous!

When I opened my business 7 years ago, my goal was to be able to take a total of 3 months off each year. Last year I managed this for the first time. Of course, MR&AA is open 7 days a week and I work 7 days a week large parts of the year, so those 3 months essentially make up the weekends I don’t usually get. Since last year, I have a great team in place and I managed to take 3 months off in total and managed to spend time in the US, Europe and Northern Africa. My next trip will be snowboarding in the mountains of Colorado and later this spring I would like to bike southern Utah. In between I am also lined up to climb Belize’s highest peak, a 3 day endeavor including Hennesey hammocks, machetes (to sleep and cut through the jungle) and climbing gear. All of that is very exciting to me.

 

Find more information about Alternate Adventures and plan your ride in Belize with Emma at the website, Facebook, or Instagram

Lauren Trantham of Ride My Road

 Photo by Lyndsey Garber Photography

Photo by Lyndsey Garber Photography

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

Tenacity channeled for an altruistic purpose is the perfect catalyst for change. When Daughters of the Road was given the opportunity to ride along with Adam Sandoval (of Scootinamerica/@adam_sandoval_rides) and Lauren Trantham (@ridemyroad), we jumped at the opportunity to witness the product of such a dynamic combination.

Lauren’s Ride My Road campaign is fueled by her mission to enlighten our culture to the horrors of sex trafficking within our borders, but what the first lesson she taught us yesterday (only one of many) was that to combat brutality, you have to shed light on hope. Lauren, a gifted photographer, elected to ride her motorcycle across the country to photograph various survivors of sex trafficking and raise funds for The Rebecca Bender Initiative, a program built to educate and support those who have survived.

Cruising up on a borrowed 1900 cc Yamaha Raider at Daytona’s Bike Week, Lauren’s vivacious spirit immediately came through; we could easily see just how passionate she is about the work she does. The goal of the day was to connect Adam Sandoval, who currently hosts a web series Kickstands Up highlighting influential people in the motorcycle community, with one of Lauren’s muses.

Over our midday meal, Lauren expanded on the origins of her quest and the details of the epidemic that she strives to expose. Our first shock was when she redefined the common definition of trafficking. Conventionally, people associate the term with those who are kidnapped and forced into the sex trade by strangers. Lauren shared that only 5% of trafficked women are victimized in this manner. Over 98% of trafficked women have what most people know of as a “pimp,” or someone who controls the woman’s money, identity and movement. Lauren shared that over 45% of the women she’s photographed were forced into these acts by a family member. What characterizes these women is not how they come into this situation, but the brutality  
that occurs therein.                                                                                                        

Only 1% of trafficked women survive the ordeal. Lauren strives to revive the broken spirits that have been consistently beaten, abused and devalued. Using her camera as a “weapon for beauty,” as she calls it, Lauren aims to heal those survivors by capturing in a tangible medium the beauty and strength that each woman exudes.

Some of Lauren's photography can be seen here:

Rendered speechless by what we were hearing, we had to learn more about the woman who is dedicating her life to change these horrible statistics. You wouldn’t know it by looking at her, but underneath Lauren’s bubbly exterior are years of personal pain. After a divorce that left her lacking a sense of worth and identity. Upon reflection and input from others in her circle, Lauren discovered that she had been enduring years of emotional abuse from someone whom she loved and trusted. This paradigm is repeated time and again: the paradox of a strong woman unknowingly subordinated within an abusive relationship. She was so compelled by this, and having been enlightened by the adversity of her own situation, she set her sights on helping others.

She had always found solace in her motorcycle (a hobby her father had attempted to pass to her at the age of 14, but she did not adopt until age 20), so when the opportunity presented itself combine both that passion with her hunger to affect change for women who suffer abuse, she leapt at the opportunity. Like many women who we speak to, Lauren echoes the idea that the sense of empowerment that a life on two wheels provides is therapeutic in times of crisis. Her journey for Ride My Road has allowed her to heal others while also healing herself.

The road trip culminated in over 10,000 miles ridden, over $55,000 raised, and a countless number of women touched, whether through meeting Lauren in person, or following her on social media.

 Photo by Lyndsey Garber Photography

Photo by Lyndsey Garber Photography

After observing her interactions with others and getting to know her for an afternoon, Lauren exhibits all the qualities that embody the strength that is characteristic of the female moto community.

To follow Lauren’s adventures and learn more about her initiative Ride My Road, you can follow her on Facebook (Ride My Road) and Instagram: @ridemyroad.

Special Thanks to Adam Sandoval and his crew for facilitating this connection and including us behind the scenes of their show Kickstands Up. To follow their journey your can find Adam on Instagram: @adam_sandoval_rides and catch his weekly web series Kickstands Up and other videos on his YouTube channel

Marianna Taylor of Motorcycle Mechanics Institute

 Marianne taylor in north carolina with her harley davidson motorcycle

Marianne taylor in north carolina with her harley davidson motorcycle

In a wave of blue and black shirts that flooded the hallways of my school, I was among the less than 10% of women who had chosen to make a career in the motorcycle industry by attending a mechanics institute. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015 women made up 26.7% of jobs in the motor vehicles and equipment manufacturing industry. A mere 7.3% of these women worked in automotive repair and maintenance.

When I walked into one of my last courses of the Harley-Davidson technician program I was met with an outstanding and inspirational representation of the latter statistic.

Today, yielding a special place in Daughters of the Road’s span of influences, we are sharing the story of Marianne Taylor: the one and only female instructor currently teaching at the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Florida.

Marianne Taylor has worked for several dealerships as a technician (mechanic) over the years. She began turning wrenches at a Saturn dealership, then devoted 14 years working with Harley-Davidson Motor Company. She has taught motorcycle safety courses for 17 consecutive years, automotive courses in vocational schools, and today she teaches motorcycle mechanics courses at a leading technical school.

As a young girl, Marianne’s internal compass aligned with the world of gears, grease, and the intricacies of the machine. Initially, choosing a career as an automotive technician resonated with her because it allowed her to gain a skill that she knew she could take anywhere in the world, find work, and make a living wage. What transpired was a transformative journey, one that allowed her to develop a deep understanding of the intricacies of both man and machine.

Because of the existence of many barriers to entry as a woman in the automobile industry decades ago, the rejections seemed to outweigh the opportunities. In 1993, she was given a chance by a service manager at a Saturn dealership to prove herself. Among the roughly 200 other technicians who serviced every vehicle from Saturn, GM, Pontiac, and Cadillac, she was the only female to occupy a lift in the facility. After about a year, her co-workers began to accept her. “It was challenging to say the least,” she recounted.

With a strong fortitude and an encouraging demeanor when I attended her class, I couldn’t help but imagine what sequence of events molded such a figure, and what interested me moreso were the potential lessons that could be imparted upon me. I was moved by the advice that she so graciously shared with us, and committed to memory the wise words that have already aided me.

A guiding principle that kept her head held high through challenges is a personal commitment that is burned into the fiber of her being: the firm belief that the first step to doing anything takes the strong investment in knowing that you are indeed capable.


“When I wanted to learn how to ride a motorcycle, there wasn’t anyone in my life that supported my decision. Not family, not friends. I learned about the motorcycle safety course, enrolled in it, got my license and had my first bike before I shared with my father what I had done. When I told him, I saw him cry for the second time in my life. It was decision that I made on my own, for myself. It turned into a hobby first, then a passion and a profession,” Marianne stated in her interview.

The newfound and intentional discovery of motorcycles marked a significant shift in her life. She one day faced a grave ride to work, during which one of her customers cut her off in a car and nearly caused a potentially fatal accident. From then on, Marianne vowed to serve motorcyclists both in keeping their bikes on the road and keeping their own lives on the road.

The years she’s spent serving as a motorcycle safety instructor has undoubtedly changed the lives of countless riders.

We asked if there was anything that she noticed different pertaining to women in their participation of the riders’ course, and she responded with a poignant memory.

When instructing a rider’s course one morning, she noticed a woman struggling in one of the first exercises. The woman stated aloud, “I just can’t do this!” Marianne in her empowering and sincere manner responded, “Well, if you truly believe that, then you probably can’t. But you are a strong, bright, and capable woman. I believe you CAN. Try to take that voice in your head and turn it around. Use it to focus on what you need to do to succeed, rather than beating yourself up.”

Resonating with this story, I reflected upon my own journey through both learning how to ride and to wrench on motorcycles. I realized that throughout each, my biggest enemy was my own voice inside of my head. Learning to transform that energy into constructive problem-solving and committed focus shifted the game that I play with myself.

A common tendency for women is to expect immediate perfection. Many of us have been bred through many microaggressions to believe that if we are not producing excellent results to begin with that there is something wrong with us, or that the activity, whatever it may be, isn’t for us. However, the true payoff of learning and thriving lies both within its practice and inevitable failures.

“Be patient with the process” is a statement Marianne reiterated throughout the interview.

Patience fosters the new generations of motorcycle mechanics that Marianne has a hand in developing every three week rotation. She frequently teaches the classes that require complete disassembly and reassembly of various Harley engines and transmissions, and those that delve into the evolving technologies of the motor company.

Since she transitioned into teaching motorcycle mechanics, I am positive that many students will testify to the aptitude she has for teaching, and the genuine quest she has for her students to succeed: no question will go without a thoughtful answer, and no judgement ever will be passed in her presence.

I am comforted in the fact that out of the 7.3% of women devoting their lives to the industry, many motorcycle mechanics and riders to come will have the opportunity to learn under Ms. Marianne Taylor’s influence and together we will increase the statistic.

Furthermore, we hope that her message can be spread even further through other DOTRs that may find interest in motorcycles, whether it be learning to ride or to wrench. With an honest and unapologetic integrity throughout her work, she stands as a testament to the fundamental values upon which DOTR was founded.

Reckless Reda of the American Wall of Death

Reckless Reda is one of the last women traveling and riding for a motordrome in the United States. The motordrome is a silo-shaped wooden cylinder where dare-devils will seek thrill riding machines (typically karts or motorcycles) vertically, performing tricks cradled by the centrifugal forces.

In 1911, the first motordrome debuted at Coney Island. In the hey-day of live action and thrill shows at carnivals, portable motordromes began sprouting up around the country to provide a wider audience with the ultimate thrill. People encounter an experience like no other, standing at the top of the drome, looking down at the riders. They feel the rush of wind as the riders whiz past and are even allowed to extend dollars out, watching as the riders accurately seek out and grab the bills at high speed in the drome.

At the American Wall of Death, the company that Reckless Reda rides with, the riders perform on vintage Indians and Harley-Davidsons. They aim to preserve the experience that audiences had in the 1900’s. Two of the company’s early riders, Jay Lightnin’ and Samantha Morgan, have been inducted into the Sturgis Hall of Fame. Nowadays, you may even catch a show where Jay Lightnin’ tears up his motordrome alongside the crew.

Reda fell in love at first sight of the motordrome and instantly found her calling. She’s been acclimating herself to the wall by performing on the four-wheeled kart, and is looking forward to trading it for the vintage motorcycles. Dive into the experience with Reckless Reda and see what it’s like to be a traveling performer for the thrillist act of the Wall of Death!



INTERVIEW

1. So, it’s been like a year since we’ve known you, and you caught our eye immediately. Kristen and I rode down from Orlando to see you at a festival and we were like “who is this badass chick that is riding along the wall?”, and we had to know you and fangirled when we met you... So, we wanted to just capture your story so people can be as inspired as we were when we met you. Let’s start with, how did you get started riding motorcycles in general?

I got into motorcycles by riding bicycles actually. I used to teach a women’s bike mechanics course and was just looking for the next thing. So, I started riding motorcycles and the more motorcycle things I started getting into, I eventually found this little wooden barrel that we’re standing in.

2. What made you make the transition from someone just enjoying bikes to doing that thing that everyone is so scared to do (Wall of Death)?

 After I saw a show, I couldn’t get it out of my mind, it’s like having a crush on someone and i couldn’t get it out of my mind. After a show I asked Charlie what it takes to get a woman on the wall and he said, “well, why don’t you come find out?”. So i came out and for a couple of months I didn’t get to do any riding, I just helped set up and tear down and run the show and “paid my dues” so to speak.

3. What do you think the biggest challenge of learning to ride the wall or overcoming the fear of doing something so differently, from horizontal to vertical.. a whole different plane of riding?

The most difficult part is getting used to the g-forces hitting you. It makes you dizzy at first. But it’s like conditioning, you take them, get used to it, and it gets a lot easier. Eventually you get used to it and can spin a hundred times without blinking or getting dizzy whatsoever. But the hardest part about doing the show is actually not the show part, that’s the most fun part... It’s all the other work involved. The stuff no one ever sees. The tear down, the set up, living day to day, traveling town to town, constantly around dudes.

4. That’s my next question, what’s it like being a part of this boy’s club? Motorcycling in general is such a boys club, but you’re even in this more masculine, elite boys club. I don’t even know how many women that are currently riding the Wall of Death, only a few?

In the United States, I’m the only female traveling performer. Sandra, that rides for the California Hell Riders, does two shows a year. Other than that, that’s about it. So I feel pretty lucky to be able to do this. I know the guys won’t admit it, but I get treated differently. And feel like I have to work harder all the time. But that just shows the way that it is in our world. And after the shows, guys that wouldn’t even look twice at me, come down the stairs and say, “wow, you’re so badass!”. So it’s fun to change people’s perspectives about what they think about women.

5. So what throughout this whole experience have you discovered about yourself, you know... traveling, picking up something that’s new and different?

That’s a good question, it teaches you endurance, and how much you’ll put up with something to get what you really want. When I first started helping set up and tear down the wall, just doing that that was the most intense workout on the planet. Each one of these wall panels comes apart, there’s 20 of them, and they weigh 400 pound each. So, sticking through it and not giving up was one of the strongest lessons I’ve learned through this. Normally, when a job sucks, I can walk out and say “I’m out of here”. But this is more of a commitment. Plus they stitched my name on this shirt, so...


6. What’s your biggest piece of advice for girls that are afraid to maybe get on a bike in general, or girls that are trying some sort of stunt riding or something adventurous and dangerous, maybe that other people would discourage them from, what would you say to people like that?

A lot of people ask me what my background was, if I grew up on motorcycles and all that. I didn’t even ride a bicycle until i was 19. I got into all of it on my own. I wanted to do it. I sought out the resources that existed. I started hanging out around garages and other people that knew about the machines that I was interested in, so eventually started learning a lot. There are a lot of women groups forming now too! Connecting with other women is important for new riders, new dare devils, and any other girl that can do anything. Connect with the right people, especially the ladies that will take you places.

7. Do you think that this has made you a better rider in general, more than when you’re on normal roads going straight vs round and round?

Absolutely, that bally act that we do on the stage out front when we’re riding the motorcycles on the rollers... that’s all in the core movement and hip movement. Going no handed like that has enabled me to ride on the street, just moving my body going no hands on the street, although nobody gives a crap. But I wasn’t able to do that before so I’m a little more adventurous with my road riding.

8. So what’s next, we just heard from Billy that you’ve got two months off coming up and then the season comes up again, so what’s next for you?

Don’t tell anybody, but I hope I’ll be riding the bike (on the wall). I’m looking forward to getting two wheels on the wall. That’s what really attracted me in the first place.

9. Who are your biggest influences, male or female, that you really channel to get the courage to ride the wall?

One of my biggest influences has always been Emma Goldman who was a well known anarchist from the early part of the century. She always had these messages for women and all people to liberate yourself and do what you want to do. I feel like I take that with me to every aspect of my life and I’ve never doubted that I can’t do anything that any guy can do.