Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Emily Newsom and her nine siblings were practically raised outdoors. “We were what people now call free-range kids. We had chores and schoolwork, but when we had free time, we loved to run around and explore. Half the time my mom didn’t know exactly where we were, except that she could likely find us outside.” The one thing that could draw Emily indoors was the piano, and she has been smitten with it ever since she took her very first lesson at age seven. “I loved it right from the start. I would run inside, put the books on the piano and start practicing immediately because I wanted to hear what the next piece would sound like.”
Photos by Jeff Wilson
Emily’s passion and musical talent drove her to pursue her bachelor’s in piano performance at University of Idaho, then moving to Texas to attend Texas Christian University for a master’s in this same discipline. But when she wasn’t accepted into a prestigious post-master’s program that she had her heart set on, she was devastated. To cope with this setback, she threw herself into running and later cycling, where she discovered she had a natural gift for endurance sports. Little did she know that this unwelcome fork in the road would lead her on a most amazing journey that she never could’ve predicted.
Not only did she meet her future husband through running, she caught her second wind and discovered a brand new stage through cycling. At first glance, the two disciplines of piano and cycling couldn’t be more different, but if you have ever seen Emily race, you can see how the skills she learned as a pianist have propelled her as a cyclist. She tackles each new terrain as if it was an unchained melody to tame, and you can almost hear her inner metronome pacing her tempo as she plots her next break away. With trails as intimidating as their race names imply, Emily has made a name for herself in gravel racing, taking first or podiuming in races like the Unbound Gravel 200, Gravel Locos 150, Texas Chainring Massacre, Rattlesnake Gravel Grind, and more.
Just as she was once inspired to play the perfect chord, being outdoors in the grit and grime of a gravel race now strikes an equally inspiring chord within her. “I just love being out in the woods, in the desert, in the open… away from the cities and towns. It strikes a chord in me, and I’m truly happy when I’m out there in those untamed circumstances.” Embracing the outdoors is also something Emily is intentional about passing on to her young daughter. “Living in a city and raising a daughter, I’m always striving to get her outside. It’s totally different for her than it was for me growing up around nature and siblings, so I have to be very proactive about taking her out to parks to hike and bike and experience different areas.”
Emily and her daughter recently got a sneak peek of Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, which will be the newest state park in North Texas in 25 years. “Fort Worth is relatively flat, so we joke that there’s a hill coming up in 10 miles, and another at mile 80. But you go out to Palo Pinto, and it’s so beautiful. You drop into an unexpected landscape of ridges, hills and really good climbing. As a Texas cyclist, you’re always trying to find that terrain, and it will be such an opportunity for cyclists so close to DFW.”
This is one of the many reasons why Emily is honored to be a We Will Not Be Tamed ambassador for Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation during the Texas State Parks Centennial anniversary. We Will Not Be Tamed calls us to appreciate the wildness of Texas, the vastness of our Texas spirit, and why we should be inspired to conserve it.