I’m Kicking Off My Thirties With A Ride On The Wild Side

“You’re doing what??” My mom asks, brow furrowed, when I tell her that I’m flying from New York to Laguna Beach, California to speed down the Pacific Coast Highway in a three-wheeled autocycle. I want to be offended by her genuine shock, but I can’t; participating in powersports is uncharacteristically off brand for me, a person who gets motion sickness every time she gets into the passenger seat of a car. But that’s exactly why I had to do it. After playing it safe my whole life, I want to race into the last summer of my twenties with different energy — and Polaris’ Slingshot (the name doesn’t ease my mom’s worries) is going to help me get started.
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I’ve never been described as the thrill-seeking, adventurous type; stability and security are two of my most important core values. It wouldn’t be a reach to say that my aversion to doing things outside my comfort zone is a trauma reaction to the period of uncertainty that has been my twenties. My quarter-life crisis has been an extended one, marked by ups and downs that had me grasping at straws for some semblance of normalcy. Between job-hunting, burnout, breakups, breakdowns, and the ongoing pandemic, after survival, my number one goal has always been achieving some sort of base-level calm. It wasn’t until I turned 29 that I realized that all that calm wasn’t really…fun. Sure, I felt more stable, but I wasn't doing anything exciting or new. My life had devolved into an endless cycle of work, bottomless brunch, and Netflix binges — safe, but a little stale — and I needed to do something to get my groove back before I hit 30. 
When powersports company Polaris reached out to me with an invitation to take one of their popular vehicles out on a spin, I felt a rush of excitement (and, admittedly, a wave of nausea) and immediately headed out to California to meet the team and learn more. In Laguna Beach, I was introduced to the team, led by VP Chris “Sarge” Sergeant, who gave us the rundown on what Polaris and Slingshot were all about. If you live in a big city, there’s a good chance that you might have seen a Slingshot zooming down the highway beside you before; they’re three-wheeled autocycles that look like flashy sports cars that could also turn into Transformers, and apparently, everyone between the ages of 18 to 80 are driving them. And I mean everyone.
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To my surprise, a significant portion of Slingshot’s core audience is actually composed of Black women, and Black Girls Ride founder Porsche Taylor is one of them. During the trip, we talk at length about the fact that powersports are often so whitewashed that many Black people — particularly Black women — have been led to believe that riding motorcycles and ATVs is an activity exclusively enjoyed by white folks, but that’s not the case in reality. For Taylor, who is an ambassador for the powersports company and regularly rides cross-country in her flashy customized hot pink vehicle, riding her Slingshot is a frequent, all-encompassing experience. 
The Polaris Slingshot has broadened my horizon to a new level,” Taylor tells me during a particularly picturesque pit stop overlooking the ocean. “It's a new experience — it's its own experience! It's not like riding a motorcycle or driving a car. You're in a vehicle that's open air, so you're going to see the country in a way that you normally wouldn't get a chance to. So if I'm driving through Gilroy, I can smell the garlic in the air. You can drive through Florida and smell the citrus and the strawberries. You get a more panoramic view of what's happening in your space. I mean, it's hard to have a bad day in a slingshot, especially if it's beautiful out.”
I’ll admit to being skeptical even after hearing Taylor sing the praises of the open road; my anxious mind could only imagine going too fast and somehow crashing in my Slingshot. But with Tiger Bracy, the Senior Manager of Industrial Design, in the driver’s seat, my first taste of powersports is in fact an exciting and enjoyable one. As the sounds of Fela Kuti blast at full volume through the speakers (my aux game is very strong), we zip and zoom down the PCH and around the twists and turns of the California cliff side. Things get even more real when I get behind the wheel, where I scream internally and say many hurried prayers before taking off. I don’t think I could’ve gripped the steering wheel any harder, pressing as lightly on the accelerator as possible in fear that I would lose control. But after a minute or two, I realize that I am in control. As it turns out, driving a Slingshot is a lot like driving a go-kart — it’s just a lot bigger with smoother movement — and I soon find peace in that pocket of easeful, comfortable cruising. 
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When I finally gather the courage to pick up speed, it isn’t as terrifying as I imagined it would be. Yes, there’s adrenaline coursing through me at the knowledge that I’m racing down the highway in an almost-2,000 three-wheeled autocycle, but there is also a sense of stillness about me. I can feel the rumbling of the Slingshot’s powerful engine under me, smell the freshness of the open air, and taste the saltiness of the ocean water’s spray as we drive along the beach. I am grounded and present in a way that I’ve never experienced before.
It's wind therapy,” Taylor later explains when I try to make sense of the juxtaposition between the adrenaline rush and simultaneous tranquility of speeding down the open road. “You really can't afford to worry about anything or anybody else while you’re out there, so naturally, you engage in your own self reflection as you're doing the miles. That's where I have my talks with God, where I hone my purpose and the vision of what's next and how I can be of service. Through that, I end up finding myself.” 
She’s right; something clicked in me inside of that Slingshot. I won’t lie and say that it unlocked the adrenaline addict in me — I won’t be jumping 10,000 feet out of a plane or swimming with sharks in the Maldives anytime soon, thank you very much — but behind the wheel, I realized that new things may be nerve-racking, but they are not impossible. I can take risks and actually survive them. More than just surviving, even — I can thrive in these new experiences. And with only a few months left in my twenties, I’m ready to step out of my comfort zone to ensure that this next decade is the adventure of a lifetime. 

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