Sara Groves was riding her motorcycle down Thunderbird Road, geared up in a sleek Kevlar jacket and helmet, just as she had many nights before.
She often took long cruises at night for the sweet, therapeutic release of the world flying past her.
“I can clear my mind of clutter, feel the wind, the raw power of 900 CC’s roaring between my knees,” Groves said.
She was doing one of her favorite things in the world to do, when suddenly, a vehicle running a red light slammed into her right side.
Groves’ motorcycle hit a median, causing her to fall over onto another oncoming car. In a matter of seconds, her body was struck two times by vehicles moving at full speed. The vehicle that originally hit Groves did not stay at the scene.
“There could have been many reasons why this person didn’t stop, I don’t know why they didn’t stop,” Groves said. “The second car did stop, and thank God they did, because if they hadn’t called an ambulance I likely would have died.”
Groves faced 20 bone fractures and a brachial plexus injury that caused complete paralysis of her right arm. As a former guitarist and hair stylist, everything Groves had come to know was quickly taken from her.
“All of my creativity, in a split second, was taken away from me. In that rage, I was like ‘My life is destroyed, what am I going to do now?’’ Groves said.
While adapting to life with one mobile arm, Groves decided to morph a devastating experience into a way to help others. In January 2016, she bought a large white truck, began painting it and covered it with LED lights.
She turned the truck into a party bus and coined the name “Jam Tram.” When riders enter the party-centric van, they are encouraged to play their own music and celebrate.
“When music wasn’t an option for me anymore, the music graduated into the Jam Tram,” Groves said. “Music is a big part of the Jam Tram, and although I’m not performing on stage, I’m still performing my art and I get the same feeling.”
Groves charges a flat $5 fee per rider, but her motivation behind driving the Jam Tram is not the money.
“Drunk driving is huge in Phoenix, it’s quite possibly an epidemic. I push that as one of the reasons why you should use the Jam Tram, because it’s a fun way to not drink and drive,” Groves said. “Every five dollars I get is a bucket of paint to just keep building and building it.”
While her gleaming car is now a familiar sight at popular locations throughout Phoenix, Groves admits that starting a transportation business, especially after a life changing injury, has been anything but easy.
“I wasn’t born disabled, I was born an able-bodied person. I lived 35 years with an able body. So, learning to live with one functioning arm has been the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced,” Groves said.
In order to keep her business going, Groves keeps Saturdays open to work private events.
Suzanne Wilcox attended one of Groves’ first ever Jam Tram events at a bridal party.
“It was so much fun, her attitude was so positive, and she just wanted us to have fun,” Wilcox said. “Everyone was safe and having fun and dancing. It was one of the most fun nights I’ve had at a wedding party.”
In addition to working events, Groves brings the Jam Tram to festivals to provide safe and enjoyable transportation. This year, she will be providing rides at the 10th Annual Grand Avenue Festival on Nov. 10 in Historic Grand Avenue. The Jam Tram will provide free transportation and will help connect the festival-goers between many destinations.
“I think the festive nature of the tram, which she is actually refurbishing, will add a fun element to the Festival and assist us in getting people to the north and south ends of the route,” said Beatrice Moore, the director of Grand Avenue Arts and Preservation. “Who wouldn’t want to be ferried to their destination in a delightful, lighted, musical bus?”
Groves continues to promote safety in a celebratory way and believes that the process of creating the Jam Tram has helped her to grow through immense tribulations.
“The Jam Tram gives me the opportunity to learn how to function with one arm, the possibility of having a career with one arm and the opportunity to go out and face society,” Groves said. “It gives me the opportunity to go out in a crowd and have people look at my disabled body, but feel confident, because they’re also looking at something really cool that this disabled body built.”
In the future, Groves plans to continue promoting safe driving conditions in her own specialized way.
“I’m working as hard as I am physically able to with my limitations, so that one day being disabled won’t even be an issue in my life,” Groves said. “I hope people get it, not just for my self-centered sake, but for the sake and safety of everybody in our city.”