Bailey Swan: Shares her journey across the United States
I'm writing as a young woman, 21 years old, traveling the United States on my motorcycle. I'm currently on my 7th week of travel. I've made it through 9 states and would love to continue riding throughout the country. I'm hoping to inspire other young women to get out there, follow their dreams, and find the open road that's calling to them.
1) What is your full name age and where are you from
My name is Bailey Swan some call me Bailes, Bill, or Billy. I'm 21 years young, and I'm from Valparaiso, Indiana. I was born and raised there, near Chicago just South of Lake Michigan.
2) Why did you get into motorcycles
I've been into motorcycles since I was very young. I'd ride between my grandparents on their 80's Honda GoldWing. A few years later, my dad bought a Harley. My parents began riding together and they'd take us to MDA rides, poker runs, and HOG meetings. My older sister and I experienced Harley culture as part of our childhood. At about 10 years old, I was riding a shitty Honda Elite Scooter around my grandparents place and eventually brought it home to ride back and forth to friend's houses at the age of 15. I even crashed it once, which gave me a good sense of how NOT to fall, ever again. When I turned 16, my dad bought my sister and I a $500 bike to learn how to ride on. It was a 1970 Honda CB175. I took to riding immediately, my sister didn't like it quite as much. I loved it. I signed up for an ABATE course, passed with flying colors, and I rode the bike to high school and my part-time job bussing tables. We sold the bike when I went to college for some extra money, but, thinking back, I wish we hadn't. After returning home from college, I decided I wanted to go on motorcycle tour. I'd been thinking about it for almost a year. I found a shit bike on craigslist, a gutted 1993 Honda XJ600s and bought it for $500 bucks. I rode it a bit and then tore it apart to fix it and resell it. I made a couple bucks on it and then sold my car to buy my Triumph.
3) What was your first motorcycle
My First bike: 1970 Honda CB175 Current bike: 2010 Triumph Bonneville
4) What is one of the hardest things you've gone through and how have you come out on the other side
When I was a child, I'd gotten into a few serious accidents that made growing up a challenge. I got a finger cut off in a car window by my on mother (on accident of course) and had severed a tendon in my thumb and had serious surgery on my hand and wrist by falling on a glass bottle. I learned how to ride a bicycle with a cast on my arm. Later in life, I overcame much more serious social and emotional challenges. As an 18 year old, I was basically forced into going to college by the pressures of my generation. Just because I'd had good grades in school, that meant I HAD to go to college or I'd be wasting my previous education and knowledge. I spent a couple of miserable years at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. When I first got to school, I immediately took on way too much; I was one of the most responsible 18 year olds I'd ever met. I got a boyfriend, moved out of my dorm, found a job, and changed majors. I went through some crazy physical and emotional trauma that, for some reason, I never linked to the stresses of being in school. I blamed everything else around me except my own decisions. After two years of hating school, my major, and overworking myself, I realized I was in way over my head. I'd been miserable- lied to and forsaken by the system and the people I held closest to me. I dropped out. It was the only way out. I then realized I was $50,000 in debt at the age of 20, and I had to figure something else out. I followed my intuitions, that I'd been blocking out for the past few years, and moved home, found an online nutrition program to continue studying, and worked my ass off at two different jobs to make enough money to travel.
5) Who inspires you
A great inspiration, who inspired the beginning of my touring route, was the host on my first farm. She'd locked me in by telling me about her Permaculture farm and how she'd owned a motorcycle shop and salvage yard that was now closed. When I met her, she was even more inspiring. She's a 73 year old trans woman, who'd built her home, her farm, and her motorcycle shop completely by hand, by her self! I was absolutely in awe when I saw everything she'd created and heard all of her crazy stories. She built this shop, made tons of money salvaging bikes and reselling them in a small town with no motorcycle shop, and even flat track raced and won multiple races in her 40's. So inspiring. She had so much knowledge to teach me and I wanted to learn ALL of it: motorcycle mechanics, diesel mechanics, electrics, sustainable construction, permaculture, and the list goes on.
6) What prompted you to ride across the country
I'd been thinking about wanting to travel during my summers between college. I had a close friend that moved to Salt Lake City, and I knew I wanted to ride a motorcycle out there to see her. A year later, when shit was hitting the fan, I decided that I'd take a tour, for myself, where I'd be doing three things that I absolutely love. I focused all of my energy on working, planning, and saving up for this trip. I'd heard about a website years ago where people can work on organic farms in exchange for food and lodging called World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). This was right up my alley, as I'd always been interested in food and sustainable agriculture since I was in my teens. I decided that I'd take a long tour to see the country, stay on these farms to travel cheaply and learn what I can in the mean time, and ride a motorcycle throughout all of it. It was my dream, and I was going to make it happen.
7) What route are you taking
I'd originally planned to make a b-line to the Seattle area to meet a friend after he graduated college. The plans changed, and like I said before, I was swayed to go a particular route by a woman who'd contacted me on the WWOOF website. She had a permaculture farm in Arkansas in the Ouachita Mountains, and had convinced me to stay with her. I set off in August and headed to Mena, Arkansas. I stayed there for a week and then found another farm in Norman, Oklahoma where a woman was growing medicinal herbs. I traveled there, stayed for one week, and then headed through Amarillo, Texas where I met someone at a bar, crashed on their couch, and later met them in Questa, NM to camp together. After passing through Amarillo, I made it to Ocate, New Mexico. There I stayed in Los Hueros canyon with a man and his dog. We grew vegetables and herbs and made jars and jars of pesto to sell at a farmer's market. I then trekked up through Red River and Questa, NM. I passed over the border of Colorado, through Alamosa to a small town called South Fork. I stayed there and fell in love with their farm, the people, and the mountains in Colorado. I didn't want to leave, but had to head to Salt Lake City. I stayed a night in Grand Junction, CO where I, again, met some random people at a bar to stay with. The next morning, I headed to Moab, UT to spend a day in Arches National Park, and then finished out by landing in SLC. I'm currently here in the city and will be heading to San Francisco next week and down the coast. I'm hoping I can make it to Babes Ride Out 4, if money permits. Then I'll make my way back through the Southern states, spend some time on the farm in South Fork, and decide where I'll land for the winter months.
8) What is the hardest thing you've encountered on your journey
The hardest thing I've encountered on my journey has been pushing through days of solitude and mourning the loss of a close friend while on the road. I've also been challenged by people mentioning my age, gender, and small size, saying that I shouldn't or couldn't be riding a motorcycle cross-country.
9) How many miles have you gone and how much further do you have to go
I've ridden about 3,200 miles so far and I think my tour is about half-way done.
10) What specific kind of labor do you do on these farms
On the first farm learned about diesel mechanics, hitch systems on tractors, driving tractors, using front-loaders and backhoes, lifted heavy heavy loads of fencing and building materials, and learned about construction design. I also learned how to fabricate guards for a new set of saddle bags on my Triumph.
At the second farm, I designed and built a new gate for a chicken coop, mowed the side of a hill over an ecohome, learned about medicinal herbs, harvested the herbs, and learned about salves and tinctures.
At the third farm, spent hours pulling weeds, hoeing and raking the beds, and planting new seeds for the winter crop. I harvested lots of basil and learned how to make pesto in a large scale. I also put my sales skills to the test by selling plants, vegetables, and pesto at the farmer's market.
At the fourth farm, I learned a lot about permaculture design of growing beds, greenhouses, and compost. I turned compost, fed and chased little piglets around, learned various preservation methods (made saurkraut, kimchi, pickled beets, dehydrated kale and other greens) I spent a lot of time harvesting crops, putting together and delivering Community Supported Agriculture baskets, and selling vegetables, eggs, and pork at the four markets I went to. At this farm, I met some amazing people including the hosts and 5 different WWOOFers. We worked a lot, but also had some fun rock climbing, going to hot springs, and skinny dipping in the Rio Grande.
11) What are you greatest fears and biggest dreams
My greatest fear is living a life where I'm stuck in the system, living to work, and not fulfilling my potential. My biggest dreams are to travel the world via motorcycle or bicycle. I also dream to help less-fortunate communities build sustainable food systems, so everyone can be fed real food.I wish nothing more than to educate young people on the importance of nutrition and eating sustainably to help themselves and our environment.
12) What words of wisdom would you give other women who are struggling to achieve their dreams?
I believe that YOU are the greatest person standing in your way of your dreams. Anything can be accomplished if you can take the time to learn, plan, and execute in order to accomplish your goals and dreams. It's important to break free of the gender norms and stereotypes that society places on women, and to use that freedom to do whatever calls to you.