Growing Up in the Home of a Gearhead

It took me steadily humming down the freeway, actively clearing my mind by letting it wander freely, and with much relief, to stumble upon why I find so much comfort in spinning wheels.

Some of my first and strongest memories from my childhood is the smell of my father’s two-stroke 250R three-wheeler, and the scream it made as it left camp. Rivaled only by the chest vibrating roar of my uncle’s Blazer, alongside my cousins as we dug in the seemingly endless sandbox.

It would be years until I had wheels of my own, three wheels to be exact. But oh how my heart filled and my eyes lit up the day my brother and I received our very own Honda 110 three wheelers. It was my world with its baby blue seat and metal gas tank that I would clutch with my knees, which became more bruise than leg since the little machine didn’t have a single shock on her.  The way she would only start when my arm was on its last ounce of strength pulling her alive and as I grew and she stayed the same, how I would will her up some unforgiving hills.  

Around the same time, my father had brought home a dune buggy. Well boxes of what would eventually become a dune buggy. Imagine my mother’s surprise headed to the garage, expecting a vehicle and instead being greeted by cardboard boxes filled with bits.  “The Bug” was my father’s vehicle of choice to drop my brother and me off at Catholic school in our plaid and penny loafer best, amongst a line of Cadillacs and BMWs, without a single care in the world. My favorite spot was right up front, in the passenger seat that had a hole in the floor where I could watch the blacktop speeding by.

The Bug would also be where I would first learn how to drive stick, out in the desert lined with electric towers backing up to the mountains behind our house. It was quite intimidating around 10 years old when the only clutch you had ever used before was in your left hand and changed gears with the tip of your left foot.

It wouldn’t be until many years later that my little brother and his best friend, who might as well be classified as my little brother, took me out to the hilliest neighborhood they knew in my little Mazda.  Steep seems like an understatement to describe these beasts. I proceeded to go the base of the steepest hill, and before I went to take off, Keith got out of the back seat and stood right behind the back bumper. I can still hear my brother go, “Well you either do it right the first time — or you kill Keith,” his words broken between chokes of laughter.

I’m happy to report Keith lived.

I’ve always found myself most comfortable on a bike. Today, it’s my Suzuki 400 quad that feels like an extension of myself. Could I use a little more power? You bet. But there’s just something that feels so fluid with her sailing over the sand. Therapeutic, so very therapeutic to me.

Someone recently described their personal experience, and it truly resonated with me. He stated that when you’re in a car, you have a huge windshield keeping you from the rest of the outside world, much like you’re simply viewing the outside world on a screen. When you’re on a bike, you in that scenery, no simply viewing it, you’re reacting to it, you’re a part of it.

Personally? There’s a freedom to it, a high you get from the unknown and a satisfaction of growing as you learn your limits, and the comfort of family with like-minded people.

It feels like home.

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Written by ashleighrenay

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