This guest post was kindly contributed by Melissa Paris. Melissa is an accomplished road racer and has competed in MotoAmerica, the Spanish CEV championship and several 24-hour World Endurance events. She owns the MP13 Racing team, which currently competes in the MotoAmerica Supersport class. Melissa is married to fellow racer Josh Hayes and they reside in California with Hawk and their dog Huckleberry. When Melissa is not racing you can find her on a road bike or mountain bike training and spending time with her family. Follow her on Instagram.
After spending close to two decades working in the world of motorcycle racing, when my husband and I found out we would be having a baby, we were sure of only one thing: this kid was going to fit into our lives; it was not going to be the other way around.
It may sound harsh, but the fact is, we have been blessed to live out our dreams, traveling the USA and the rest of the world, riding and racing some of the coolest motorcycles ever. And even when it hasn’t been part of the job, we have always taken any opportunity we could to throw a leg over something with two wheels. The thing is, we spent a lot of time cultivating a life we loved, and we didn’t intend to give it up—we just wanted to add another riding buddy to the fold.
It sounds easy, right? Until you find yourself with a newborn in your arms and a race on the other side of the country. We had to do a lot of creative thinking to figure out how to make things work. Suddenly the RV that used to be a luxury was now a necessity. In the past, having a house on wheels meant I could sleep not only myself, but I could put up a number of mechanics right at the racetrack. It might not seem like a big deal, but after a late night putting a crashed motorcycle back together, not having to drive to a restaurant and then the hotel is a huge bonus. For years that RV had allowed us to save money and time. But after Hawk was born, we realized its value tenfold.
Babies need a place to sleep and get out of the elements. They also require a TON of gear and if you intend to get any work done at all, a babysitter. As a new mom, being able to peek my head in between races and see baby Hawk having a nap was a luxury; having a quiet place to peel my leathers down and nurse an infant was a necessity. There is no doubt in my mind that without our RV, I could not have gone back to racing the way I did. That first year of his life I felt really lucky to be able to bring my baby to work with me.
Now that Hawk is a little bit older, we have the chance to indoctrinate him into the two-wheeled life. We aren’t just bringing him to work anymore; now we are going to racetracks as a family. What started with packing his Strider alongside our race bikes has evolved into packing his Stacyc and Oset alongside our off-road bikes.
This past winter, my husband Josh started doing a lot of one-on-one coaching at track days and it’s been really cool to see how our trips to the racetrack are evolving. When we get to the track and unload our race bikes, Hawk is now impatiently waiting for his bikes to come out of the trailer too. It’s pretty awesome to come in from a session on track and see our kid ripping laps in the dirt with another racetrack toddler.
COVID-19 threw a huge wrench into our 2020 race plans. When MotoAmerica, the racing organization we compete in, finally announced that we could go back to work, it was with one caveat: essential crew only. Apparently, two-year old Hawk was not considered essential and we were left scrambling. Coincidentally, about the same time we had brought home a new Heartland Torque T333 toy hauler. Suddenly, we had all the ingredients to turn lemons into some seriously tasty lemonade.
Our new trailer is definitely designed with outdoorsy people in mind. It has a 13-foot garage area which once unloaded converts to a huge living space with a queen-sized bed and enough seating for the whole family and a few friends. We laugh because the bedroom has a bigger bed than our actual house does, and it has all the amenities of home: huge TV, recliners, fridge, even an oven (I don’t cook, but frozen pizzas are great!). When we first picked it up, they showed us this feature where the ramp converts into an actual patio. I remember thinking it was kind of gimmicky, but honestly, it’s turned into one of our favorite features. We usually put an easy-up over the top of it, and then it’s an awesome way for Hawk and Huckleberry (our Great Dane) to be comfortable while seeing what Mom and Dad are up to outside. Josh really likes having the big TV so he can review onboard footage with students when he’s coaching, and I like having dual air conditioners so I can cool off even when it’s 115 degrees outside.
Back to that lemonade we were making. The plan was to base ourselves in Idaho between the first two MotoAmerica rounds. My parents live there and would be able to watch Hawk and Huckleberry while we were away racing. In between events we planned to get into as much two-wheeled trouble as humanly possible.
First step was packing up our lives to leave home for over a month. You can fit two off-road bikes (Yamaha WR-250 and YZ125X), two motocross bikes (Yamaha YZ250f and YZ450f), two mountain bikes, two road bikes, a Strider, a 12-inch pedal bike, a Stacyc AND an Oset 12.5 in the 13-foot garage of a Torque T333, with room to spare. We loaded up every toy we owned and a few we had borrowed from Yamaha and set out on an adventure.
Every day was a new adventure for us. At my dad’s place outside of Boise, there are tons of mountain biking trails right out the back door. When Josh and I wanted to go mountain biking, we put Hawk on his Stacyc so he could rip along the trails with us. We found some public land where cattle grazed with some mellow off-road riding and let Hawk ride along with us on his Oset and he could jump into my dad’s side-by-side when he was tired. Just down the road from my dad’s place we found Eagle Bike Park with a BMX track and got to watch Hawk rip laps until he ran not one, but two Stacyc batteries dead. They also had some cool single-track run. You haven’t lived until you try to keep up with a toddler on a Stacyc going up a steep grade. Watching him bomb down the single track after was epic.
A few weeks in, my parents packed their trailer up too and we all headed up to McCall, Idaho, where we found some more phenomenal mountain biking in the most beautiful forest setting I’ve ever seen. We pulled our trailers a bit further north to Coeur d’Alene so I could take part in an all-girls Enduro clinic put on by Dirtastic. While I was learning how to wheelie over logs, Josh was getting dragged through some of the most gnarly single track he’d ever seen, and Hawk and my dad were exploring on bicycles.
When it was finally time to head back home to Oceanside, Josh and I did something we have never done before: we decided to take the scenic route back. My favorite stop on the way was Knotty Pines RV resort near Park City. Our buddy met us there and took Josh and me on an off-road ride with rock gardens I wasn’t sure I could even walk over, let alone ride over. We also got to do a few river crossings (during one I nearly turned my YZ125x into a submarine!). But my favorite part was cruising around the resort with Hawk on his Stacyc. A bunch of other kids were playing on those Power Wheels type toys and the look they gave Hawk when they saw him riding was incredible. Most parents were so shocked when I told them Hawk was only two and half years old. It made me realize that most people really underestimate what their kids can do!
In six weeks, we had the chance to ride together as a family in a ton of different environments and really got to see Hawk’s love for motorcycles grow.
I love when I have the chance to talk to people about how we got our kiddo into riding. It started before he could even walk. We had a Strider in the living room on the rocking horse base. He loved crawling and climbing up on it before he even really knew what it was. When we first took it off the base to try to let him start scooting around on it, he was a little confused. Here is the part where parents have to do their part. I got out MY bmx bike and started riding around the driveway around him. But the big thing was that I hammed it up BIG. I’d do little wheelies and bunny hops and the whole time I was laughing loudly and saying “wheeeeee!” (Hawk does this when ripping down trails and it cracks me up!). I even fake-crashed a bunch of times and laughed about it, to make sure he knows falling down is part of it. Kids imitate everything and right away he started copying me. When he would crash, we would clap and cheer for him and say, “Good wipe out!” We also allow Hawk to ride his Strider in the house, which maybe isn’t ideal for everyone, but it makes for some fun racing around the kitchen island.
A lot of people watch Hawk on two wheels and comment on how advanced he is for a two-year-old. We get a lot of comments like “Well of course he can do it, look at his parents,” since we are both professional racers. But I believe that what we’re seeing has little to do with us, other than our love for the sport. I think the more important thing is opportunity. Josh and I have such a passion for riding and we want to share it with Hawk, so we try really hard to make sure he has plenty of chances to ride.
If I had any advice for people who want to be able to share their passion for adventure with their kids, it would be to think about the things that you love about riding and try to make sure that’s the message you’re delivering. If all your little one sees is you being frustrated by their lack of skill or short attention span, they aren’t going to love riding. Case in point: I was SO excited to take Hawk to ride bikes on a small trail by the river in Park City. As soon as he saw the water all he wanted to do was throw rocks in it. I had been so pumped to “go for a ride” but I had to quickly wrap my head around the fact that we had gone for a ride and we had found something super fascinating along the way. And my two-and-a-half-year-old absolutely HAD to throw big rocks in the river. At the end of the day, he’s going to remember that we got on our bikes and found something cool.
When I was pregnant, we said our kid was going have to fit into our life, and not the other way around, but if I’m being honest, we’ve all had to do some adjusting. It’s been a trade-off. We haven’t stopped going to the motocross track. But now we do have to take turns riding so that someone can hang with Hawk. And when we go to the road-race track, we have to bring along a babysitter to watch him riding in the paddock while we are on track. In a lot of ways things have definitely gotten more complicated and difficult, but when I see Hawk smiling in his helmet, its 100,000% worth it, because I’ve got a riding buddy for life.