November 20, 2000
Kim Traylor had little difficulty coming up with a costume for Austin Peay's “Halloween at Work” day last month. She grabbed her leather pants, boots and helmet, threw on a fake tattoo with a Harley bar and shield accented with a rose, and she was ready.
Appearances to the contrary, the petite, pretty secretary for computer services has a surprising alter ego: she's a chrome-polishing, engine-revving, leather-wearing Harley rider.
Traylor's love of wheels is nothing new. In childhood she rejected dolls in favor of her younger brother's matchbox cars. “It got to where Mom would just buy the same thing for both of us so there wouldn't be any fights,” she recalls.
Her mother tells the story of people meeting Kim and her brother Jody and exclaiming, “Oh, are these your sons?”
At least a part of Traylor's penchant for “boy toys” can be attributed to environment. “We always lived in neighborhoods with no girls,” she says. “So I had to do the boy thing- football, baseball. You name it, I did it.”
She also “did” dirt bikes. “I was about 10 when I first rode. It was a neighborhood boy's bike. I had to stand on a bucket to get on the thing. But I just sat there a minute, then took off.”
Traylor remained an inveterate tomboy until her sophomore year of high school, when she “started getting into boys” at Cheatham County High School. She found that pink and lavendar eye shadows made her blue eyes sparkle, that hot rollers added curves to her short blonde hair and that, good heavens, when she wore a skirt boys suddenly opened doors for her.
But her love of wheels never disappeared. In fact, it played a pivotal role in her future.
Pickup lines. At the age of 16, Traylor got her first vehicle--a 1974 Chevy step-side, three speed-on--the-column pickup. “I put fancy wheels and tires on it and had it painted burnt orange,” she recalls with a smile.
Now, as any truck lover will tell you, truck lovers notice other people's trucks. One day, as the 17-year-old Kim was driving past the William Shearon place just down the road from her house, she noticed a new pickup in the driveway.
“I thought it was cool and honked and waved real big at Mr. Shearon,” says. “Next thing I know I'm seeing this truck going up and down the road in front of my house.” It wasn't Shearon behind the wheel; it was his grandson, Paul Traylor, who finally caught up with his grandfather's “friendly” blonde neighbor at a convenient store and asked her out.
“If it hadn't been for that truck, we never would have met,” Traylor says.
The couple's mutual love of wheels played a big role in their relationship. “He told me one of the things that attracted him was that I wasn't afraid to drive a tractor,” the former farm girl says.
In fact, it was Paul that bought Kim her first motorcycle, a smart little ‘95 Harley Sportster she first spotted in the Austin Peay parking lot.
“I saw it sitting there and I thought ‘I could ride that,'” Traylor says. “Months later when my husband was looking in Wheels and Deals for a bike for himself, I told him about it. We went and looked at it and brought it home.”
Easy Rider. For two months Traylor was strictly a passenger. Then one day she made the big announcement: “I want to ride by myself.” The prospect of his 5-foot-tall wife wrangling with a 500-pound Harley clearly made Paul a little nervous.
“Are you sure you can ride this thing?” he asked. But being the supportive husband he is, he took his wife to a country road, gave her a word or two of instruction, then let her rip. “At first he ran alongside me,” Kim says.
“But finally he said ‘Okay, I'm tired. You're going to have to do this on your own.”
So, with visions of hefty repair bills and the accompanying audio of “I can't let this thing hit the ground. I can't let this thing hit the ground,” playing in her head, she took off . “And to this day I haven't dumped the bike,” she says proudly.
In 1999 Traylor took a motorcycle safety course offered through Austin Peay's noncredit program. “It was like boot camp,” she says. “The middle of July and you've got on long pants, gloves, and a helmet.”
But it was worthwhile, so she persevered, even convincing some girl friends--who'd envied her sleek leather pants and her hutzpah--into coming along. “Now two of them have bikes of their own,” she says. “Sometimes we have a ‘girls ride,' where the daddies stay home and take care of the kids.”
Though Traylor often participates in rallies (she was snagged for an interview when Channel 4's Holly Thompson caught her riding solo in the Rolling Titan Thunder event), she often rides alone.
“It's a stress reducer,” she says. “Out there, I don't think about anything but me, the bike and the road. You can't. You have to be on the ball.”
Her only worry about her hobby? The potential dangers. “You're vulnerable,” she admits. “And I have two young children.”
The kids, Jared, 2, and Jacob, 5, don't seem concerned about their mother's safety. In fact, they seem to have inherited their mother's ease with wheels. “My five-year-old was riding a bike without training wheels by three,” Traylor says. “Now he has his own gas-powered four-wheeler.”
Jared, too, found the toddling thing a bore and prefers other methods of navigation. “He got a Fisher-Price Harley for his second birthday,” Traylor says. “He got right on it and took off.”
The Harley theme seems to be a hallmark of the Traylor family's gift-giving. Paul bought Kim her first fashion doll--a Harley-Davidson Barbie in sturdy-heeled boots and full leather.
With Paul's purchase of a 2000 Road King, every member of the family is now a card carrying member of the Harley Owners Group: HOG.
The moniker doesn't bother this chap-wearing, cycle-straddling lady a bit. It's just an embellishment on what her mother declared long ago.
“She always said my middle name should be go.”