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The City Journals

Draper retirees take to the open road to find adventure and history

Nov 18, 2021 02:12PM ● By Katherine Weinstein

Bruce and Robyn Brown pose with their motorized tricycle and their personalized Temple Riders Association flag in the driveway of their Draper home. (Photo courtesy Bruce and Robyn Brown)

By Katherine Weinstein | [email protected]

Many retirees grapple with the question of what to do next and how to fill their days when they leave their working lives behind. Draper residents Bruce and Robyn Brown found a new lease on life when they took up riding a three-wheeled motorcycle. As members of the Temple Riders Association, the Browns are participating in a contest in which they ride their trike to historic destinations and photograph historical markers. 

Robyn had the idea to travel the US by motorcycle a couple of years ago, but the size and weight of conventional motorcycles posed a hindrance to the couple who are in their 70s. "It's a big, heavy piece of machinery," Bruce said. 

They discovered motorized trikes on a trip to the Black Hills. "We saw hundreds of three-wheeled motorcycles," he said. "There was a three-wheel rally in Deadwood. That got me thinking, 'I could ride that.'" 

“It’s very stable,” Robyn said. “Neither one of us has to hold up the weight of a heavy touring bike with a passenger.” 

The Browns purchased a used three-wheeler at the Harley-Davidson dealership in Lindon and took a motorcycle safety course at Salt Lake Community College before getting their permits. "We spent three weeks practicing in a church parking lot,” Robyn said. They soon ventured out far beyond their neighborhood.

“Last year, during Covid, we’d pack a breakfast and go for a ride,” Bruce said. “We’d go to Thanksgiving Point, Liberty Park, Brighton or Alta. Sometimes we ride all the way down Redwood Road to Elberta. We go to Cedar Fort a lot.”

The couple made many new friends when they joined the Salt Lake chapter of the Temple Riders Association in 2019. Founded in 1988, the association’s motto is “Where great people, good values and amazing rides meet.” The Temple Riders Association has over 500 members and groups in 17 states. It was originally founded by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As Bruce noted, however, “You don’t have to be LDS to join.”

The chapter members get together for dinners and at least once a month they have a ride. Last April, they started a contest for members to ride out to historical sites and photograph commemorative markers. The photographs must depict the bike or trike, the personalized, numbered flag that each contest rider carries as well as the historical marker.

“It can’t just be a statue,” Robyn said. “It has to be an actual historical marker.” Historical markers are plaques often made of bronze but can also be made of other metals or stone. They are usually put up by the National Register of Historic Places or state governments.

The contest has two categories: one for who can photograph the most markers and another for who visits the most states in the process. Bruce admitted that there’s no big prize involved. “Maybe bragging rights,” he said with a smile.

“The contest works well for our riding style,” Robyn said. “There is history in all the towns and cities in Utah and beyond and we have tried to see them all. Some we didn’t find. Some were on the historical lists but had no marker. We found others that weren’t on any list. We just had fun riding and searching.”

The Browns have photographed a little over 450 markers so far and have visited historical locations in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona and Nevada. Along the way, they have had exciting, up-close encounters with wildlife such as deer, antelope and coyotes.

The Browns have also met many friendly people on their travels. They recalled getting behind a group of high school kids on a hayride in Idaho. “The kids all cheered,” Robyn remembered. “We waved and honked. Wherever we go we see little kids who will stop and wave.”

Bruce mentioned meeting other cyclists who defy the “tough guy” biker stereotype. “Even motorcycle groups who look tough really aren’t,” he said. “There are some neat people out there who are riding.”

“Our favorite ride was going to Evanston, Wyoming in early August for the Railroad Days,” Robyn said. “We attended a model train show at the historic roundhouse while we were there. It would have been a 90-mile trip up Parley’s Canyon and taken a little over an hour to get there. But we went up Emigration Canyon, then East Canyon. We visited all the little communities along the Weber River. We got 39 historical markers on the way.”

While in Evanston, the couple enjoyed the train show before returning home through the Uintas and down Provo Canyon. Along the way they found more historical markers in Kamas, Francis and Oakley.

Initially, their families weren’t quite sure what to make of Robyn and Bruce’s new hobby. “They were all shocked,” Bruce said. “But they see how safe we are.” The Browns are safety minded and careful not to overexert themselves on the road. They take turns driving, stay hydrated and stop hourly to walk around and rest on longer trips. Bruce explained that they pack light but have invested in good quality safety gear.

“You need a well-fitting helmet,” he said. When they go riding, the Browns wear gloves, protective jackets, heavy cotton pants and durable motorcycle boots.

They are careful drivers as well. “We never exceed the speed limit,” Robyn said. “My one pet peeve is that people do not obey the speed limit.”

The Browns have been married for 51 years and have six children. Riding their motorized trike provides an outlet for adventure, but more importantly it’s a fun activity that they enjoy doing together. Their helmets are connected by Bluetooth which allows them to chat with each other while they ride.

“You only live once,” Robyn said. “For us, we’re doing it together and having so much fun.”

“If the weather’s good,” Bruce said, “we’ll ride.”