Wednesday, June 28, 2006
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 www.sarahlyon.com.
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