Big Bad Nitro Daddy


On her fifty-fourth birthday, Julianna Wallingford never imagined she would riding a bike on the Bonneville Salt Flats within the year. She had already had her share of adventures in life. 

In her teens and twenties, she dabbled in rock climbing, a sport that took her up rock faces in New York, North Carolina, West Virginia, and her native Ohio, before bringing her to Boulder, Colorado. She credits Devil’s Tower in Wyoming as her greatest climb. “I was a face climber, so to go up pitch after pitch of wedging my hands, arms, or body into cracks was not in my comfort zone.” She and her partners reached the summit before sundown, then rappelled down by moonlight. 

But climbing is in Julianna’s words “a young man’s sport,” and in her thirties she took up the less physically demanding sport of scuba diving. Somehow, she never ended up diving the sites most people dive. “I’m often asked, ‘Have you been to Cozumel, Cayman, Costa Rica?’ No, no and no.” Diving has taken her to many parts of the world, including the Florida Keys, the shipwrecks off North Carolina, the kelp forests of Santa Catalina, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Truk Lagoon, Yap and Palau,
Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, an underground lead mine in Missouri, salt lakes in Utah, and high mountain lakes at home in Colorado. “I loved diving with my teenage children in Hawaii and Florida, but I’d love to go back to the South Pacific. The combination of marine life and World War II shipwrecks is awe-inspiring.”

Like many women, her first experience on a motorcycle was riding behind a boyfriend, but she quickly became discontented with looking over someone’s shoulder. She bought an orange 1975 Yamaha RD 350, and she fondly remembers its acceleration. “It had less of a power band and more what you could call a power point. If I kept the revs right on that point, I could scream up through the gears ... to about eighty, where it got to feeling so light, I would just twist it back down.”

The Yamaha was sold before the move to Colorado in 1980, and it would be more than twenty-five years before Julianna got another motorcycle, another Yamaha, this time a YZF R6. She met Rob Williams at a 2009 summer promotional event hosted by a local motorcycle shop. The sport bike rider and Harley rider had a lot in common, but plenty of differences, too. The first time Rob rode her in the passenger’s seat of his Road Glide, she compared the experience to riding in a child’s safety seat.

Julianna was about to leave the safety seat. Although she was slated to ride the nitro methane BBND Hayabusa at the 2010 BUB Speedtrials, a badly blistered rear tire prevented her from running the bike on the course. When a friend offered her a ride his stock Honda Blackbird, she jumped at the chance. On a bike she had never sat on before, barely able to touch tiptoes to the ground when standing still, Julianna recorded a 143 mph mile on her first run, and improved to  a top speed of 153.

“I had no idea how much fun it would be,” she said. “The bike felt just like it was gliding over velvet. I keep going over the runs in my head, pushing the tach closer to redline.” For Julianna, the 2011 Bonneville BUB Motorcycle Speed Trials couldn't come soon enough.

By 2013, Julianna had achieved both AMA and FIM records on the Aprilia RS 50cc bike with a top speed of over 85mph, in addition to creating a new AMA record for 500cc pushrod fuel engines on the Buell. Now age 58, she looks forward to next year, once again hoping to go even faster.

Julianna free dives in Hawaii

Battle Lantern on the Shinkoku Maru
in Truk Lagoon

Rob Williams and Julianna with the Itty Bitty Nitro Aprilia at Bonneville Salt Flats, 2011
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