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How Freedom and Riding Motorcycles Saved My Soul

Following the rules meant repressing motorcycle dreams

By Mattie Murrey Tegels, Lake Shore, Minnesota
7/17/2018

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how_freedom_riding_motorcycles_saved_her_soul_mattie
Mattie grew up craving motorcycles, but it took a lifetime before she was finally able to own this Indian Chief Vintage motorcycle she rides today.

Anticipation of a ride…it can fill all the nooks and crannies of my brain when I am planning a ride. My favorite part of the ride is before my tires even turn. I am crazy happy when I am on my bike, engine running, eyes forward, and I pull in the clutch, drop my bike into gear, ease out the clutch, and ride.

Born in Japan to a Navy family, I was raised by a nanny, spoke Japanese before English, and ate with chopsticks before I could use a fork. I flunked kindergarten upon returning to the states where my devout Mormon family settled in northern Minnesota. I always knew I was a little different; a free bird.

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At age 10, I raised 55 chickens and started an egg route, delivering eggs to my backroad neighbors on my Honda Trail 90, a little yellow bumblebee. My nickname was “Matt,” because I was such a tomboy. At 11, I took my first real motorcycle ride behind a nice Mormon boy named Curt. I broke the sabbath riding on a Sunday and had to ride in a dress but that didn’t stop me at all—I just hiked it up, climbed on, and hung on.

At age 12, I talked the neighbor boy, Jimmy, into to letting me ride his motorcycle in the ditches and I developed an appetite for ditch riding, launching the bike over driveways. My parents wouldn’t allow me to race so I graduated to a Kawasaki 250 that I had to hide in Jimmy’s garage. I strapped my boobs down, cut my hair, and began racing with the boys.

At 16, still had my Kawasaki and would tie a milk crate to the back of my bike so I could hold all my sports gear and schoolwork and ride 40 minutes into town. Two years later, I left for college and went back to riding a little scooter to campus and back. I was a practicing Mormon who complied with the campus policies. There, I competed in Nationals for Brigham Young University and was ranked 13th in the nation for women’s cross country skiing and awarded MVP by actor Robert Redford at his Sundance ski resort.

When I was 20, I eloped and changed my name back to Martha because I was now a wife and there were certain expectations. Whenever the subject of motorcycles came up, my husband’s answer was always “no.” I followed all the rules that were laid out and expected of me. I didn’t drink or smoke and homeschooled my kids. I didn’t ride motorcycles either.

Fast forward 21 years. My father, husband, and mother all tragically passed away within 18 months of each other, not to mention me running over the family dog! Now I am a single mom with five kids. I’ve been blamed by my church for my husband’s death (suicide) and shunned by my family. To survive, I changed my name to a variation of who I was before and I found a new group of friends. To them, my name is Mattie. One of my new friends has a Kawasaki. I ride it around and around his fields—free again!

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After losing her parents and husband, Mattie found a new life with new friends and a new motorcycle.

One day, I passed by a Yamaha 600 on the side of the road with a For Sale sign on it. I wondered what I should do, replace the carpet in my house or buy that motorcycle. The answer was obvious. I rode that toaster bike for two years, polishing my braking and cornering skills, and riding in the rain.

One hot summer day, a friend and I decided to load our kids into my motorhome and head to a large amusement park. The Indian Motorcycle dealership was having demo rides that day and I must have mentioned it to my friend, who suggested we “stop and just look” at the bikes. As I completed the test ride, I fell in love again and put a down payment on Zeus, my 2014 Indian Chief Vintage motorcycle, #630 on the cam cover.

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Now with her own motorcycle, Mattie exclaims, “I am a woman who loves to ride. I am a free bird—I now make my own choices and I soar when I am on my bike. I am unique, authentic, true, genuine, and transparent. I am learning, I am listening, and I am healing.”

I am easing the clutch out and I am ready to ride. It’s the anticipation of the journey—the ride. And ride I will because I am a free bird.

Do you have a story to share? Please send it to us, but follow these submission guidelines.


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