Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Meet Sarah

Sarah, a 27 year-old artist, photographer and motorcycle mechanic in Louisville, Kentucky, is about to leave town on a month and a half cross-country motorcycle adventure where she will meet and photograph the lives of other female mechanics. Mentally she is in preparation mode, mapping routes, deciding what cameras to bring and making sure her bike, a 1978 Yamaha, runs well. Sarah plans to make stops in Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Arizona, and potentially South Carolina, Ohio and Florida. Staying in hostels, hotels, on friend’s couches and occasionally camping along the way she will pack the bare essentials in a saddlebag including a few pairs of socks and underwear, a couple t-shirts, maps, a notebook, cameras and all of the tools needed to fix her bike, just in case.

Sarah has not met many women who are interested in mechanics and by taking this trip she hopes to connect with a few. With the purpose of creating a 12-month calendar she will document these women in their natural work environments. The Female Mechanics Calendar Project began a few years ago when Sarah noticed that typical shop calendars mostly depict barely clothed women spread out on a cars and motorcycles, sometimes holding a tool. Her calendar will be offered to shops as an authentic alternative to the typical 'tool-girl' calendar. Through word of mouth and the help of a grant she received through The Kentucky Foundation for Women, who published a 'call for female mechanics' in their newsletter, Sarah was able to locate other female mechanics across the country. She was also featured in a local woman's magazine and had a well-received art exhibition with photos from a preliminary 2003 cross-country trip documenting the lives of friends who had moved to other states.

Included in the list of women Sarah will soon meet are a jet plane mechanic who has worked for UPS in Reno, Nevada for thirteen years, a German mechanic and motorcycle racer in San Francisco and a student attending MMI, a mechanic school in Phoenix. While in Reno she will also connect with a mechanic named Celeste, who owns an auto shop, and together they will travel on their motorcycles to San Francisco. Sarah also plans to attend the Moto GP races in Monterey, CA.

Sarah has been riding motorcycles since she was eighteen. As a little girl she liked riding bicycles, building Lego’s and has always been a bit of tomboy. “I like to get dirty, I like fixing things and being creative.” She is a self-taught mechanic and started learning eight years ago when she bought her first bike. For the past two years she has worked part-time at Magnum Cycles, a unique motorcycle and repair shop on Dixie Highway in Louisville. Her coworkers at Magnum, who are all men, have been very supportive of her project. “The last trip I sent them postcards and then they mailed me parts when I needed them in Chicago.”

While on the open road Sarah often goes days without music, distractions or communication with others. "All I hear is wind, but that makes me appreciate music so much more when I get to listen to it." She enjoys the time by herself but really enjoys reaching a destination where she can hang out with new and old friends. Sarah, who admits to being shy, is not scared of being on the road alone saying, "You just can’t look at it like everyone is out to get you, because they’re not.” She does however have to be extremely aware of other cars and drivers. During her last trip one of her favorite places to ride was South Dakota because the roads were straight and she could zone out a little and sing songs in her head. Sarah says that it is pretty spectacular to ride through the rain and when it storms she sometimes pulls over and just sits it out. In case of an emergency she can always use her BMW Riders Anonymous Book that list contact information of bikers throughout the country willing to lend a helping hand. The hardest part of the trip is to know that she makes her mother back home very scared.

Sarah says this trip will be a great learning experience and is excited to meet other women who have found a vocation that makes them happy. She plans on publishing her calendar in 2007 and will also create a traveling art exhibition that documents her journey and lives of the women she meets.

To check learn more about Sarah and her project go to

Sarah is also currently looking for places to stay along the way, so if you have a free couch add a comment below with contact information.

Sarah and Leonard working in the shop

Sarah standing next to her 1978 Yamaha

Last minute tuning

Friday, June 23, 2006

Man plays harmonica for me on 1-64

I was driving in my truck on the 1-64 this evening listening to music, windows rolled down and all the sudden I look over and see this older man playing the harmonica to me . We drive side by side for a minute or so, I smile, he smiles as we try to keep too the same speed..... wow, what a feelin'

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Meet Kim and Her Family

In the yard of a house located off a small highway I notice a large group of people playing croquet, throwing baseballs and having, what appeared to me to be a really great time.

Kim Vittitow and her husband Bernie are hosting a birthday party at their home in Trimble County, Kentucky for family members born in February, March, April and May. Inside the house is a large birthday cake with over thirty-two names on it. Kim purchased the cake at Sam's Club and decorated it herself. She says it wasn’t much fun, yet smiles and laughs while showing it to me.

The guest are all outside playing croquet and enjoying the yard, which has an above ground pool, covered deck, and small quarry stoned pond filled with lotuses. Bernie and Kim are proud of their yard and have been working on it together little by little since 1999. They have two grown children, a daughter who is in the house getting ready for a friend's wedding and a son who is outside with his wife and newborn son. Bernie and Kim have lived in this house for ten years but raised their children mostly at her parents house in another part of the county. Kim says she loves her entire family and is expecting over fifty people to show up throughout the day. “There were six in mom’s family, three of them are here right know and three of them that are expecting. They all live in this two county area, Pendleton and Trimble." Kim says she can't help but think how lucky she is to have such a close family and today’s celebration is only her mother's side.

In addition to celebrating birthdays, today also marks the beginning of Kim's weeklong summer vacation from her job at the Trimble County Prosecutor’s Office. She is the Child Support Coordinator for the entire county. For vacation Kim is going camping with her brother and mother, a family tradition since they were kids. Now that their mother, who is sixty eight, is less mobile they stay close to home, pitching a tent in Kim's backyard. “I want her close to the house, so if she get’s hot, she can go cool off in the house”. Bernie says he won't be joining them, "I like camping, like at the Holiday Inn", he laughs.

Kim has seen many changes throughout the years in Trimble and Pendleton County. When Interstate 71 was built in the late 60's and the Pendleton Drive-In shutdown the town completely died. "We had a skating ring at one time, several big restaurants, stores and it just died", Kim explains. She says however that in the past four years the area has started coming back to life, which is good for the community. In her opinion it is because property in the area has become the new and only cash crop now that the Tobacco buy out has started. "There is not enough money to pay taxes on big farms so our farmers have no choice but to sell." She says Trimble County is a very beautiful and friendly place to live and new subdivisions go up every month. Personally Kim is enjoying taking classes at new art studio that a retired schoolteacher opened down the street. She has become a natural painter and is currently working on a portrait of her son when he was a kid.

I let Kim get back to her game of croquet and we exchange emails.

The Cake

Bernie with his son, daughter-in-law, and grandson

The tent

Kim's mothers dog, who will also be camping with them this week.

Kim shows me the painting she is currently working on.

Bernie playing Croquet

The pond

View from accross the street

The family

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Meet Aleyda

Aleyda is a seventeen-year-old recent high school graduate who works at a Mexico Lindo, a restaurant/grocery store in historic downtown Carrollton, Kentucky. Although she works six days a week she admits the job is pretty easy. This week there have been few customers but she expects to be busy tomorrow for the soccer game. Mexico is playing in the World Cup and they have a television.

Aleyda is from Veracruz, Mexico and moved to Kentucky with her mother and younger brother five years ago. Her father had been living in the United States since she was six and when they came to visit for summer vacation, they stayed. Aleyda says it is great to have her whole family together again. As typical for siblings, she says her younger brother can be a big pain in the butt, but she still loves him. America has been an adjustment, but one that she has done gracefully. She recently received a scholarship to attend the local two-year community college and plans to become a Chemical Engineer, finishing her studies at Northern State University in Covington, Kentucky. Aleyda took a strong interest in chemistry and science her freshman year of high school but would not consider herself a chemistry geek.  “Everybody says it’s pretty hard but I think when you like something it’s not hard to do.”

Aleyda has a boyfriend of nine months named Brendan. She says at first a few people looked at them strangely because he is white but then they just got used it. She is mature about the relationship."We get along great and talk about our differences and what we can do to make it better. If something is bothering him or vice versus we always touch base with each other.” Aleyda enjoys the differences in people and has friends from many races and backgrounds. Her Hispanic friends in Kentucky often look at her strange because she has been in America longer than them and has integrated more into the culture. “The Hispanic people here are always together in a corner at school. My brother and I talk to everyone pretty much.  That is why they look at us weird. They are not racist and I am still friends with them but they just like to stick together. I ask them, ‘How come you don’t talk to everyone?’ and they are like, ‘I don’t know.’”

When Aleyda first moved to Carrollton the Hispanics were a small segment of the population but in the past five years, the number has grown tremendously. She says Hispanics are moving to the United States because there are more opportunities. Despite their differences she says the town is somewhat close-knit. “It’s a small town and everyone knows everyone. You can’t really do anything without everyone knowing about it the next day.” Aleyda comments that Carrollton can be boring at times. She likes to spend her time at the movies, hanging out with friends and going swimming at state parks. Today her friend is in a beauty pageant at the county fair behind Wal-Mart and she wants to go when she gets off work. Aleyda spends a lot of time on the computer at work and particularly likes Myspace, on online social network. We agreed to become Myspace friends and I was honored when she has added me to her top 8.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Meet Jose

JOSE is a tree deliveryman in Miami, Florida and drives a custom-detailed sparkling blue Chevrolet Kodiak 5500 commercial mini semi-truck. Tonight Jose’s work truck has become his ride. It is Hip Hop Weekend in South Miami and Jose along with friends is cruising the main drag. Traffic is barely moving with one pimped-out car behind the other and by far Jose has the largest ride on the road. He says that driving around has been fun and that his truck is receiving many stares. So far he tells me I am the first girl they’ve picked up. Jose purchased his Chevrolet because it was large with a DVD player and extra engine designed into the frame. Just to fill up the tank it cost him two hundred dollars. It is all worth it too Jose and the light turns green.

Jose's Truck

South Beach, Miami

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Meet Nardia and Jantzen

JANTZEN and NARDIA are also in South Beach tonight on a neon green Kawasaki Motorcycle. Both are visiting Miami for the Memorial Day Weekend. Nardia is originally from Jamaica but lives in Tampa, Florida and works as a receptionist at a Medical Center. Jantzen is a Senior Operation Analyst for Bank of America in Dallas, Texas. Jantzen and Nardia have just met tonight. She says she choose him because her green dress matched his green ride. “She is walking and socializing, I’m riding and socializing”, says Jantzen. Jantzen used to race Kawasaki’s and was sponsored by the company but says now he just rides, “it is my hobby”. Referring to the neon color of his bike, “If you ever race for Kawasaki this is the color you are going to be racing in. It is called Kawasaki green and they have a patent on the color.” Jantzen is dressed in green from head to toe and even has neon green riding gloves. “Whenever I ride my motorcycle I have the responsibility to match my motorcycle. That is just my choice and some may say that’s my signature.” Jantzen attends motorcycle events with the fellows because they are the guy trips. But other than that he does like to take in social events with the woman in his life. “But a lot of them I try to do with the fellows, because that is the fellows bonding time.”

Nardia on the sidewalk later in the evening.