Outside the Lines

“I’m scared.”

The daunting hills of the ravine lay mere feet away as mottled rocks and boulders dot the hillsides like splattered paint. To my side, cliffs cascade down and away, dried trees and shrubs dangle dangerously, held merely by remnants of once marvelous roots. The environment is eerily quiet — lifeless, even. No chirping birds, barking dogs, or cars flying by, just the low whistle of my breathing and the nearly silent “thud” of my heartbeat. I lean to my right and the trail before us appears as though untouched by mankind. *Sigh*


“Hah!” My dad laughs through the Sena communication system as he eases the bike forward and the telltale rumbling of the engine increases in intensity.

As I admire the barren landscape, the extreme contrast from where this trip began becomes apparent. The bustling military town of Ridgecrest, California has morphed into endless walls of rock inhabited only by those whose wings could carry them high into the cloudless sky.

The bump of the motorcycle’s rocky crossing brings me out of my contemplation as we begin our journey into the unknown. I look back one final time, bidding paved roads and society farewell. The world as I know it vanishes as we maneuver around a rocky outcropping, not to be seen until our return home.

“Great things never come from comfort zones.” These seven words spoken by Roy T. Bennett are a driving force in who I am becoming today. They have helped me persevere through tough times in school, life, my hobbies — but they especially influenced my interest in motorcycles.

I began my journey as an adventure rider long before I can remember. At that time, my dad was working as a tour guide and part of that job granted him a black and yellow 2011 BMW R 1200 GS Adventure. When I was five years old, he would take me on rides through the forest around our house, dodging trees and sandy pits. Back then I was small enough to sit in front of him, resting my arms on the gas tank.

As I grew older, our rides became more and more challenging. Soon I was old enough to ride off our property. I remember my first ever ride outside the realm of the forest — we went to the infamous Starbucks for a coffee (hot chocolate with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles for me). It was an easy trek from our house — about five miles on strictly paved roads. It may seem boring but this ride meant the absolute world to seven-year-old me. Finally being able to leave that darn property? Heck yeah!

That ride began my lifelong love of motorcycles and was the beginning of my understanding of the art of motorcycle riding. It was also in the same year that I flew to New York City to attend my first ever International Motorcycle Show with my dad and meet many powerful and influential figures in the motorcycling industry. These events really did help ignite my motorcycling passion but it wasn’t until two years later that I went on a series of trips which solidified my dream of someday working in the motorcycle industry.

“Hailey where do you want to go on our next adventure?”
“Hmm, Death Valley!”

And a few weeks later, we stood at the foot of a breathtakingly eerie ravine, a few miles away from Ridgecrest, California. After hours of extremely intense off-road riding through Goler Wash and Mengle Pass, we finally reached our destination—Striped Butte Valley. Striped Butte was amazing. Imagine a hill in the middle of absolutely nowhere, surrounded by a ring of mountains, with black seemingly painted along the whole of the butte. But even imagining some sort of zebroid hill will never in a million years prepare you for seeing these magnificent strata in person. Just flat-flat-flat terrain, then BOOM! rainbow-zebra-unicorn hill.

This ride, although unbearably hot, showed me an example of what you can see by simply stepping out of your comfort zone and, in turn, made me want to go out more. In the following two years, my dad and I were able to go on two major trips through Colombia and Costa Rica, two of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen with my own eyes…wildlife and jungles everywhere. It was amazing. These two countries have been my favorite locations to visit and if I ever get the chance to go back, you best bet that I’ll be there.

Nowadays I don’t ride as often as before; I’m busy nearly every day of the week and my dad’s schedule is similar. I am planning on cleaning the carburetor on my mom’s TT-R125 (which I have claimed for myself ) and after I get it running I will ride the TTR around the same forests surrounding our property that I started on as a passenger. But my main goal is to get my motorcycle license at 16 and ride through Death Valley on my own bike, feeling nervous, scared, and like I’m going too far. Because remember, “Great things never come from comfort zones.”

Hailey Thomas
Photos courtesy Shawn Thomas

Hailey Thomas enjoyed her first ever ride on a motorcycle with her father and BMW Motorrad Brand Ambassador Shawn Thomas when she was 4. Now 13, she has taken a chance at journalism, providing OTL with her first ever published work. Well done Hailey, we hope to see more from you!


This story first appeared in  “On the Level” magazine, the club magazine of the BMW Riders Association. Join now and receive six issues of OTL per year plus other member benefits.

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