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Taking risks in life allows reporter to grab ultimate experience

Nov. 5, 1997

The older I get, the more like my mother I become.

This is only one of the thoughts that flashed through my mind as I hurtled along Highway 77 on the back of a motorcycle. I could hear my mother screaming at me: 'Why are you riding a motorcycle? WHY AREN'T YOU WEARING A HELMET???'

It was strictly in the line of duty, of course, that I was risking my life: I and James, our Lariat photo editor, had teamed up to take on the story of what could have been a lifetime. Since I am THE Baylor upperclassman without her own car, James and his neo-Western motorcycle (complete with leather saddlebags) were the obvious mode of transportation.

I almost backed out. I had never been on a bike before, and I was convinced that I was taking my life in my hands for the last time. But James assured me that he drives very safely, and if he can make it to work every day on that thing, surely I could handle one trip. So, I vaulted my leg over the back seat, grabbed onto James for all I was worth, and sped off.

I can't even describe the sensation. It was as though I was gliding on air. There is nothing so free as the wind whipping through your hair, with no barrier between you and death but speed. I tried to hide behind James as much as I could, but I couldn't resist keeping one eye open to witness this marvelous ride. Soon, I learned that choking James half to death wasn't necessary, as long as I held on when he turned corners. I also learned to keep my mouth shut. I kept thinking about Paunch on 'CHiPs:' how did he keep his teeth so sparkling white when there are so many BUGS out there???

My mother experienced these things when she was also foolish and young. I was shocked to find out this summer that my sweet, over-protective mommy used to sport around town on her boyfriend's motorcycle. Her parents hated the guy, partly because he was into risk. Maybe they had a point, because Mom still has a scar on her leg from the exhaust pipe. If she didn't, I probably wouldn't believe her. These days, Mom is not at all a risk-taker. My mom, formerly the girl on a bike, is now the woman who cringes when I walk down the street by myself. She loves me, of course, and I love her, but it's a struggle to teach her that I'm adult enough to take chances, and that she needs to let me learn by doing rather than by avoiding. If I get into anything I can't handle alone, I know I've got my family to bail me out, but for now I don't want to hold anybody's hand.

Just as I shut my eye to keep my contact lens from flying out, I noticed that the speedometer wasn't working. I could only assume that we were pushing a million m.p.h. To keep calm, I silently chanted, 'This is going to be a great story!' That was the moment I realized that life is about risk, and reporting is about grabbing the experience. Living for the moment, sometimes, is all the reason you need to keep going, because if you're willing to push beyond fear, those moments are fantastic.

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