I’d just gotten a promotion at my place of work and it didn’t take me long to realize I was over my head. Sure, I’d passed the test to get me there, but I knew nothing about my role or how to perform any of the tasks required. I was all of 20 years old, and I wasn’t getting much help from my co-workers, but Steve, the general manager of the company, saw my struggle. Apparently he saw some promise in me and thought he could help me succeed in my career. When I was eventually offered a promotion in a different city, a vice president named Marcia took me under her wing and showed me the ropes. Even better, she was politically adept and showed me how to navigate the shark-infested waters in that cutthroat environment.
Not long afterwards, I took a new job with another company where I began working with a guy named Tom, a longtime motorcyclist. We became fast friends and when I told him that I wanted to learn to ride and then buy a bike, he gave me tons of helpful advice, but fed it to me in spoonfuls so I didn’t get overwhelmed with information overload. They say when the student is ready the teacher appears, and that seemed to be the case here. Never pushy or controlling, he always came up with a helpful hint or two about whatever I’d been struggling with. It sounds a little silly now, but I stressed over everything from what kind of boots I should buy to whether I could finally turn that wicked corner without dropping the bike—again.
They say when the student is ready the teacher appears, and that tired cliché has proven true. I’d only been riding for a little while when I started hanging around with a bunch of riders who invited me on road trips, taught me how to safely ride in a group, and built up my confidence to tackle the 1,100-mile ride to Daytona Beach. Through my early riding years, there were others who stepped in to help me with my riding skills as well as showing me how to perform basic maintenance and repair functions.
When I chose to make my living in this motorcycle world I came to love, a few professionals in the field acquainted me with the world of publishing—freelancing, advertising sales, magazine layout, and even the dark art of magazine distribution. The editor of the first motorcycle magazine I ever wrote for, which happened to be THUNDER PRESS, nurtured my writing talent and encouraged me to hone my photography skills. Eventually I met Terry Roorda, THUNDER PRESS editor-in-chief, and he offered me the position of Northeast bureau chief, joining the ranks of several other bureau chiefs in different areas of the country. Apparently Terry also saw some talent in me, and under his tutelage, I spent four years learning the ropes by working with contributors, identifying interesting stories to cover, and generally bringing a Northeastern flavor to the media mix. When the position of North editor opened up nine years ago, Terry lobbied for me to take that position. So for close to a decade, Robert Filla, who was South editor, Terry and I were the “three musketeers” who brought the best of our motorcycling culture and lifestyle to the pages of THUNDER PRESS.
Terry was the kind of boss that, although sometimes tough and demanding, knew how to bring out the best in those who worked for him. He wasn’t a micromanager, instead, trusting his staff to do their jobs. Yet he was always there to lend guidance and he always had our backs, so we always strived to make him proud. We wish Terry the best in his retirement, and the next chapter of his life. Terry, maybe you’ll have time now to take some of those road trips you’ve always dreamed about.
Even while I was still the beneficiary of Terry’s wise counsel, I realized that budding journalists were turning to me for help with their craft. And I became involved with a group of women whose mission is, in part, to mentor other women just learning to ride. None of this happened in a planned fashion; it was just the nature of things. It only seemed fair; throughout my life people have helped me not for any type of gain, but rather, to see our passion, and our profession, thrive and grow.
Conventional wisdom has us believe that millennials and Generation Z are not interested in motorcycles, or, for that matter, any vehicles. Studies show many young adults ditching driver’s licenses in favor of using Uber and Lyft. You can buy into that dogma, or you can do something about it—like Kevin “Teach” Baas who I first met at the Donnie Smith Bike Show in 2005. A year prior, Teach, an industrial arts instructor at Kennedy High School in Bloomington, Minnesota, started the Kennedy Chopper Class where he taught, helping kids develop mechanical as well as business skills while sharing in his passion. The class is not funded by the school, rather, Teach and the kids accept parts and cash donations from folks in the industry, kids’ parents, and anyone that’s interested in drawing younger generations. It’s been such a success that other high schools across North America have started their own classes.
My own AMCA chapter has been discussing how to bring younger riders, and even would-be riders, into the fold on both an enthusiast and mechanical level. Formal apprenticeships in the motorcycle industry are rare in the U.S., as is the apprenticeship system in general—except for certain trades. Overall, European and other nations have done a far better job of preparing craftspeople for their chosen vocations. So it’s up to all of us that have a few years under our collective belt to bring the younger generation into the lifestyle we love. After all, somebody older or more experienced probably did this for you.