Life in the fast lane

GREENFIELD — During a Motocross National race in Millville, Minnesota, a few weeks back, Crystal Meyer crashed her ATV into the face of a hill.

The vehicle that had been humming along the dirt track at 40 mph had suddenly shuttered to a halt. The Greenfield resident was launched from her seat and thrown clear 20 feet over the peak of the third in a series of hills.

Weeks later, Meyer, a Minnesota native, cannot recall how long she laid prostrate on the ground. It couldn’t have been too long, she thinks. No one came out to attend her. But it’s hard to remember more than that.

Based on the ominous crack in her helmet, her husband later said, it is likely she suffered at least a minor concussion.

But the stars she was seeing were of little concern to the 29-year-old. She had bigger problems. At the time of her crash, she was in fourth place, and she was losing ground. Meyer hustled back to her Yamaha, hopped on and finished the race. She came in seventh.

Meyer now talks about the crash with a smile, laughingly recalling its after effects.

“I was pretty sore the next morning,” Meyer said with a grin.

Her husband, Jim Meyer, is less amused by the tale. He is caught somewhere between being concerned for his wife’s safety and being somewhat proud of the reckless abandon with which she competes.

He wants her to be careful, but he knows his wife’s fearlessness is her leg up against the competition.

“She has more courage than me out there, that’s for sure,” said Jim Meyer, who has been racing ATVs since 1995. “She’s had some pretty bad tumbles. She’s broken some ribs and had a concussion. But she keeps going out there. I’ve seen her do things the top riders in Minnesota would never do. She’s that competitive. … She always has been.”

She does not know any other way to race. It is both who she is and what she loves.

Crystal Meyer began racing ATVs as an avenue to grow closer to her older brother, but it has blossomed into so much more.

Racing four-wheelers has become one of the most reliable sources of happiness in her life. On the track she has found countless moments of liberation from the stresses of life, euphoria in the throws of success and relief during her greatest time of need.

It’s also how she met her husband.

Crystal and Jim’s quick romance isn’t all that complicated, Crystal said, but like a racetrack, it does come full circle. They met at a racing event in 2010 at the Motocity Raceway in Staples, Minnesota, where Crystal caught Jim’s eye with her performance on the track.

They began talking on Facebook, then in person. A year and half after meeting, they got married at the same racetrack where they met.

“It is one of my favorite tracks back home,” said Jim, now a mechanic at Flat Out Motorsports in Indianapolis. “And it’s where we met. That’s pretty much it, really. It was a lot of fun”

By the time they got married, Crystal already had enjoyed an outstanding run of success in quad racing. She had only begun her competitive career in 2008, but by 2010 she had earned championships in the women’s division of the Fergus Falls Motokazie Indoor, the Staples Motodome Indoor and Staples Motocity events in Minnesota.

In 2011, she enjoyed even more success, winning five more events and laying claim to the first of her two District 23 (a Minnesota racing series) championships.

Through 2012 and 2013, she continued her ascent as one of the top female ATV racers in Minnesota. However, in December of 2013, her career was derailed by a life-altering event.

While living in Minnesota, Meyer said, she was attacked and raped by a man who had invaded her home. The man, she said, had been stalking and making death threats to both her and her family for months.

Her life has not been the same since.

She and Jim moved to Wyoming a short time later. The state, Crystal said, was bereft of racetracks, and they were so far away from most events they could not afford to travel to them.

“It was hard,” Crystal said. “I missed it.”

After spending less than two years in Wyoming, Crystal and Jim decided to make a change.

Crystal, who is an EMT by trade, was having trouble securing full-time work at the local fire departments, and they decided to move to the first place where she could find it.

That happened to be in Greenfield, a town they gravitated toward because of its similarities to the small towns where they were raised in Minnesota.

Crystal currently works full-time for Care Ambulance out of Shelbyville. She hopes that she will soon be able to find a full-time job with a fire department, unlike in Wyoming.

Along with the job, the move to Greenfield has proved beneficial in another way. Now a citizen of the Crossroads of America, Meyer and her husband find themselves in the ideal position of being able to attend more racing events.

Where traveling to compete in events in Minnesota, Tennessee or Michigan was once near impossible, now it has become affordable.

“When we lived in Wyoming, the closest race to us was 14 hours away back home in Minnesota,” Jim said. “Now that we live here, 14 hours would be the furthest we’d have to travel to get to any race.”

Considering racing ATVs year-round costs close to $15,000 per person annually, the money saved on travel expenses is a huge relief.

But the biggest benefit of moving to Greenfield and being able to compete more often is the therapeutic effect racing has on Crystal’s recovery.

While she is driving, she said, she feels untouchable, like nothing and no one can get to her. It, more than almost anything else, has helped her deal with the traumatic experiences left behind in Minnesota.

“There is no better feeling that getting out there and forgetting everything in the world for eight minutes,” Crystal said. “Everything else goes away. It’s just you out there.”

Crystal has raced in only a few events this past year, but she and Jim both plan on getting back to a full schedule next year.

Jim thinks it will be good for her, and Crystal, well she just wants to get back to racing.

Who could blame her? She has found friends, family and happiness while on the track.

“Racing has been very good to me.”

Crystal Meyer

Name: Crystal Meyer

Age: 29

City: Greenfield

Family: Jim Meyer (husband)

Jobs: EMT and Care Ambulance in Shelbyville; part-time employee at Walgreens in Greenfield

Hobby: Racing ATV motocross

Racing vehicle: 2007 Yamaha YFZ 450

Years racing: 7

Current standing: Meyer is ranked 13th (of 31 racers) in the Women’s Class of the 2015 Mountain Dew ATV Motocross Championship Racing Series

Most recent race: Meyer finished sixth in June’s race in Millville, Minnesota.