For many young folks who have chosen to make Brevard home, it has often meant working several jobs in order to live close to so much great riding. No one is more familiar with “The Brevard Hustle” than Bernadette Merriman. Juggling work with full-time schooling, full-time single parenting and full-time shredding, Bernadette still manages to inspire people with her passion for this one-of-a-kind mountain community.
On any given weekend, Bernadette can be found rolling around Pisgah with a crew of equally energetic women. They push each other through positive encouragement, and sometimes with some simple follow-the-leader. But if you suggest to Bernadette that they live for the weekends, she’ll let you know that that’s not entirely accurate.
“We live for the moment,” said Bernie, as her friends call her. “I ride whenever possible. It’s not always on the weekends, but anytime I can. In the summer we do dawn patrols, and in the winter we go on night rides with big groups of people. Most of my friends that are close to me also ride bikes because most of my spare time I want to be on my bike or outside in general. I guess you could say I live for the weekend, but I grab any opportunity to get out.” These days, she can usually be found on two wheels with her crew of lady rippers, but as a younger woman she could be found guiding rafting trips on the Chattooga River.
“I came south literally the week I graduated from high school,” she said. “I had been on a whitewater rafting trip and fell in love with it. I headed straight for the Chattooga and got a job and stayed on the river as much as I could.”
During those summers on the water, she eventually discovered Brevard College. She was drawn to the intimacy of the school and wanted to be a part of the Wilderness Leadership Experiential Education program. She began taking classes when she was 20, and, to make ends meet, waited tables and started a daycare service called Camp Bernie.
“I had five or six girls I watched for like five summers in a row. They all got along and were little peas in a pod,” she said. “I just went outside all day with them. We would go to DuPont and hike, go swimming in the forest, and up on the Parkway. I really loved it.”
Camp Bernie allowed her to spend time with her daughter, Greysen, and also enabled her to help out friends who had children of their own. “That’s how Brevard works sometimes. We all look out for each other, and I personally never experienced that growing up.”
Bernie’s first mountain bike ride was on an extra-small bike with no name and caged pedals. Her friends took her up Clawhammer Road and back down Buckhorn Gap Trail. She said she had to stand up the entire time to pedal the bike and that it hurt. But once she got to the downhill she took off.
“I tried to ride the steps on Buckhorn. It took me five tries, and finally I rode the whole thing and everyone was like, ‘You need to get a bike.’ I think two weeks later I bought a used bike from Charisma Herndon at Sycamore Cycles,” she said.
Bernie continued riding until about seven months into her pregnancy with Greysen, who is now 9. The pair can be found at REEB Ranch when there’s an open day, rolling around the pump track, or out on Ridgeline Trail. A favorite loop of Greysen’s is the Jim Branch, Hooker Creek, Ridgeline route in DuPont. They also travel together to spots like Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park in Cleveland, Ohio.
“This year we went to women’s weekend at Ray’s for the second time. Last year she made sure we were going. The amount she has progressed is crazy; being around other women like that, she gained a lot of skills. I was so impressed and proud to watch that progression happen. She can get both wheels off leaving the lip of a jump!” said Bernie.
Bernie is focused on her real estate career this year, but won’t miss an opportunity to get out on some of her favorite trails like Daniel Ridge.
“My favorite ride is probably coming down the rocky side of Daniel Ridge,” she said. “I like a lot of trails. There’s something about Daniel Ridge, though. I wish it were five times longer! It’s good in the wet, the dry. It’s just so much fun. I prefer to ride it as the Cove Creek to Daniel Ridge Loop.” You can follow Bernie’s Instagram feed at @bernadirt.