Friday, August 14, 2009

A Day At The Races...

There are three sounds that never fail to get my pulse pulse racing. The first of these is a husband’s voice saying, “Honey, I’m home.” The second is the abrupt metallic snap of a cartridge being chambered in an automatic pistol. And the third is the barely muffled snarl of dozens of motorcycle engines, raging with hellish fury from the pits at Hagerstown Speedway, in northern Maryland.

I got plenty of the third kind on July 25, 2009 as the invited guest of motorcycle racing superstar Chris Carr at the AMA* Grand National Twins on the Hagerstown Speedway half-mile. Carr is best known to bikers with a taste for speed as one of the world’s fastest men on two wheels, holding the motorcycle land speed world record from September 5, 2006 to September 28, 2008, during which he hit a blazing 350.884 miles per hour on the salt at Bonneville.

The streamlined "motorcycle" that Chris Carr rode to 350.884 miles per hour on September 5, 2006, on the salt flats at Bonneville. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge)

Yet he holds an equally distinguished record for motorcycle racing fans as Seven-Time AMA Grand National Flat Track Champion and a Seven Time AMA 600cc Dirt Track Champion. He is the only rider to hold the title of “Rookie of the Year” for the flat track and for super bike road racing -- ten years apart!

An avid reader of “Twisted Roads,” Carr invited me to join him in the pits for this race event through the auspices of Mac Pac** member Jim Ellenberg, who is a mutual friend. (Ellenberg reads this blog first thing in the morning and last thing at night in lieu of prayer.) Carr and I have exchanged stories on a number of occasions -- most of which were social events in Ellenberg’s yard.

Hagerstown Speedway is a tribute to the back room of American culture. Located at the end of a crumbling asphalt driveway just off US-40, it has the same vacant air about it as a state fairgrounds after a hard winter. We arrived around 2pm and found ourselves at end of a long line of recreational vehicles (some battered and some in the million dollar category), waiting for an element of processing. About a third of the parking area was already filled according to some chaotic plan. RVs, campers, vans, and trailers had staked out spaces in the bare July heat. The occupants of these, racing aficionados I presumed, sat under awnings or brimmed hats, and surveyed the proceedings with a contagious sense of non-expectancy.

Arriving at 2pm, we found ourselves at the end of a long line of RVs and trailers, all waiting for credentials. At the time, I had no idea these were the superstars of dirt track motorcycle racing. The gaps in my education would be filled by the end of the day. (Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

I caught it, and dozed off while “Big Jim” Ellenberg disappeared into the crowd to renew old acquaintances and get the scoop on the day’s agenda. The program seemed somewhat vague to me. I expected to arrive at a kind of stadium, with flags flying, crowds cheering, and the smell of French fry oil vying with engine oil for the predominant fragrance over the stands. This is the result of seeing too many bullshit movies and not attending enough races. In reality, this was only the third motorcycle race I had ever seen up close -- and the only one to be held on a dirt track. It would be nothing like I expected, and so much more.

Once issued my pit credentials (and I love the sound of that phrase), I cruised around the northern end of the track, crossing it about halfway, under the direction of an official whose job it was to see that assholes driving ancient GMC Suburbans didn’t bog them down in the dirt, nor take a practice lap for laughs. My 1995 Suburban is a surefooted old shit box that hasn’t burned an ounce of oil in 14 years. Yet she wallowed like a pig crossing this track. To be exact, the ass end of the truck slipped at little to the right when I stepped on the gas.

“What the fuck is this,” I asked myself philosophically. It had been raining on and off all week and this track had been absorbing water like a huge tea bag for days. It was as slick as fresh cow shit on wet plate glass. “They’re gonna race on this today.... Not likely.” I consoled myself with the thought that I would organizing my notes on a the bar of a nice little gin mill by the track before too long.

The author interviewing Chris Carr, Seven-Time AMA Grand National Flat Track Champion and a Seven Time AMA 600cc Dirt Track Champion, in the pits at Hagerstown Speedway. (Photo by Jim Ellenberg -- Click to enlarge)

Team Carr was set up in an area the size of a commercial campsite... A campsite that was for all intents and purposes a bivouac on the threshold of motorized hell. On one side was the team’s 40-foot truck, which housed a complete workshop, vertical chests of tools, racks of tires, boxes of spare parts, three motorcycles, two complete spare engines, and living quarters for three men. On the other side was an equally impressive bus-type motor home, tricked out with every conceivable convenience. This was chez Carr, the racing season residence of Chris, his wife Pam, their two sons and three dogs (Jack Russell types).

Two hand-built Harley-Davidson XR-750s sat on rubberized mats in the center. Covers concealed both machines from the triple trees on back. I figured this was potential rain protection, but another source informed me it was to prevent the competition from viewing strategic adjustments. Further work was being performed on a third machine, under a tarp. Everyone in Team Carr moved with purpose and military-like precision. I couldn’t help but notice that in the confines of this little campsite was about $2 million dollars worth of equipment.

Carr's pit area included a 40-foot support truck with facilities capable of building a motorcycle from the ground up. His two Harley-Davidson XR-750s were rolled out for prepping, but covered from prying eyes. (Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

The entire center of the race track was given over to dozens of “campsites” like this. Some were bracketed by tractor trailers and motor homes of similar scale. Others were a bit more modest and some more weathered. The pit set-up had all the esprit de corps of a World War I aerodrome, with mechanics working on engines under canvas... Engines that would run flat out under circumstances that would consume the average asphalt bike in seconds. Yet the bonding spirit of the track was limited to circles within circles. It seemed like a big family here, but there was no doubt that some family members were here to kick the asses of the others.

It is just amazing at who drops by to say “hello” to Chris. Among the celebrities was Al Wilcox, (90 years old) and a factory rider for Harley Davidson from in the late 40's and early 50's. After his racing career, Wilcox went on to be a flagman for the AMA for many years. This was his honorary night to flag the “Dash for Cash” race.

Legendary Harley racer from the '40s and '50s and AMA flagman Al Wilcox, 90, gets ready to drop the green flag. Chris Carr, #4, is the second bike from the right. (Photo by Jim Ellenberg, also 90 -- Click to enlarge)

All of the women who hang around motorcycle racing events are hot. That is the law. Whether they are wrenches, racers, reporters, tattoo canvasses or umbrella girls -- each must have the ability to generate 50 gallons of testosterone from a cigar store Indian.

All kinds of folks drop by the pits looking for a story, advice, or a good lead. I tried to be of assistance whenever possible. (Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

I got to meet a legitimate member of the motorcycle press, Miriam S. Deitcher. Deitcher is the author of the “Racer X” column for Flatrack.Com and the Director of Advertising for Progressive. She sashayed into Chris’s enclave looking for a scoop, and I introduced myself as the newest moto editorial parasite. She politely listened to the first four words of my pitch -- "My name is Jack Riepe..." -- before giving me that familiar look which indicates I have been dismissed for life by one more good-looking woman. (I’m used to it.)

Miriam S. Deitcher, author of the “Racer X” column for Flatrack.Com and the Director of Advertising for Progressive (Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

One of the most capable business people I have ever met is also one of the most thorough on-site managers and organizers I have ever come across. This is Pam, Chris Carr’s wife. She could also be the cover girl for a magazine titled, “Women Capable Of Reducing Most Men To Sawdust With A Single Smile.” I tried hard to just look at ground in her presence and not to talk, lest it become instantly apparent to her that I am one of the few males without justification in the food chain. My strategy must have worked as she extended the hospitality of the pit to me without reserve.

Chris Carr took time out of his pre-race preparations to give me a tour of the operation, and to explain what was going on. I asked him about the tires for racing in the dirt, expecting to be shown a set of vicious knobbies. That was not the case. Carr pulled two tires off the rack: one was worn and the other looked newer, but was far from the aggressive tread pattern I expected. Carr explained that tires from other races on the asphalt (that were not too far gone) were selected and sanded down to present an even surface on the dirt. These were considered more effective as the tread pattern would be less inclined to retain the dirt and clay, and to pack it all over the bike.

The tire on the left was prviously used on the pavement and repurposed through sanding and cutting for service on the dirt. The tire on right is a new tire with the same tread but greater depth on it. (Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

Judging from the equipment carried in Carr’s support vehicle, his team, under the direction of crew chief Kenny Tolbert, could easily rebuild a motorcycle from scratch. One cabinet revealed two spare Harley engines, wrapped like Christmas gifts.

The support truck, easily the size of a moving van, was close to being the equal of a full service repair shop. It was nice of Chris Carr to take me on a tour of his operations. (Phoro by the author -- Click to enlarge)

Ominous clouds were stacked up over the race track by 4pm and things were looking grim. Conferring among themselves, Team Carr noted that races at this particular event seemed to have a history of being bedeviled by thunderstorms. Heavy rains used to routinely flood the pit area until an extensive drainage system was installed. Sure enough, raindrops started to fall with the same effect my former in-laws used to have at barbecues. People scattered. Within seconds, Carr’s motorcycles were brought to the lift gate and moved into the truck. Tools, mats, benches and all the gear of preparation disappeared in a matter of seconds. This Chinese fire drill would be repeated a number of times as the weather alternately cleared and worsened.

A formation of official “maintenance” vehicles began endless circuits of the track in an attempt to pack down the clay and present a less porous surface to the rain. These vehicles were an eclectic mix of automotive shit boxes that elevated my truck to the “highly desirable” category. None of this machinery seemed to be equipped with a muffler and they sounded like a squadron of low-flying B-17s coming in over Dresden.

Kenny Tolbert, Team Carr's Crew Chief, rolling out #4 (Photo by the Author -- Click to enlarge)

The rain would lessen, clear, and return in varying strengths over the next four hours. I figured they would just cancel the program, but that would be the very last option as no rain date was available. Team Carr tracked the path and intensity of approaching thunderstorms on the screen of an iPhone.

Throughout all of this, the stands continued to fill. There was a couple of hundred people in the bleachers around 3pm. The number had swelled to 10,000 or so by 6pm. The noise level mounted as motorcycles being prepped screamed in mechanical defiance, and good-old boy announcers shared news and details of races past and to come -- over a sound system that rivaled the one used to announce the retirement of Lou Gehrig from the New York Yankees -- in 1939.

At one point, I heard mechanics yelling for a rule book to gauge the amount of noise a bike was legally allowed to make.

“That’s right,” said Carr. “There was a time when raceways were far out in the country and noise wasn’t a problem. But the suburbs start at the end of the driveway now and local taxpayers are first to stand up at town meetings and yell about the noise. So in response, there is going to be a greater attempt to muffle down the exhausts of the bikes.”


video

To get the full impact of the noise I experienced at the track this day, turn your speakers 0n "high" and click on the video above. The blonde lady (far left) shucking corn in the video is Chris Carr's wife Pam. The young girl is her neice. Pit crew work is a family effort for the Carrs. His mom and dad were there too. (Extremely primitive video by the author -- Turn up the sound to North Korean interrogation technique levels)

I was amazed. The noise of the bikes was one of the best parts of the whole experience. Quite frankly, I thought the PA system made ten times more noise than the bikes. But in truth, I liked the contribution of the announcer’s voices too. Each part was integral to the overall fabric of this unique experience. Dirt track motorcycle racing is one of the AMA’s best kept secrets... And it is up there with the old wooden board tracks of the ‘20s.

I watched Chris apply a loose-leaf pad of clear tear-off plastic sheets to the face shield of his helmet. This is a well-known practice to those of you who ride in the dirt or who follow dirt racing, but I had never seen it before. It allows the rider to simply tear off a dirt-smeared sheet from his helmet, leaving a clear one underneath, when his vision gets impaired.

I explained to Chris that I have a similar system for condoms on a Friday night... Simply pulling off the last one with each encounter.

At 8pm, the brain-washing PA system droned that conditions had just about improved for racing to commence.

“Bullshit,” said Carr. “They really need to get a grader out here or riders will be stacking up in those curves.” Almost on cue, a road construction grader was rolled out and run around the track.

Shortly thereafter, the riders lined up for the starting flag.

I wouldn’t have considered walking my bike on a surface like that track. It glistened with moisture in suspension and offered all the traction of goose shit mixed with wet leaves.

Lined up for the main event, the racers take their starting positions on one of the slickest surfaces I have ever seen. (Photo by Jim Ellenberg -- Click to enlarge)

Yet a wave of the flag brought a new explosion of sound as the riders jockeyed for control of the track. I would like to nonchalantly say that the drenched half-mile dirt track limits the speed of the riders going into the curves to about 75 miles-per-hour, with a higher speed of 95 miles-per-hour reached in the straightaway -- except there was nothing nonchalant about it. These riders exercised tremendous control maneuvering around each other, while trading sweat for inch-by-inch gains in curves where centrifugal force and gravity threw dice for their souls.

A chocolate-tinted miasma hung above the track, caught in the glare of the floodlights, quickly covering riders and machines with a coating of clay slime. I had one of the best vantage points in the house, and it was almost impossible for me to pick out individual numbers, let alone critique riding technique. I was mesmerized by the way these riders not only anticipated a degree of slippage in these curves, but how they used it to their best advantage.

Chris Carr had offered to let me watch the race from the roof his support vehicle. “You’ve lost enough weight to fit out the port-hole door in the roof,” he said. Looking up the steel ladder, I realized the roof door was about 58 inches in circumference. I could fit through it now. The roof of Chris’s support truck sported a railed-in verandah that gave a nice 360-degree view of the track. But then I had a vision of myself leaning on the rail, and the whole truck falling over sideways, crushing the two Harleys.

“Thanks,” I said. “Next year.”

From a vantage point by one of the curves, I found it hard to watch these guys face the sausage monster in each turn, while wagging their asses in its jaws as their rear tires blindly sought purchase in the mud.

The racers passed by in a blur of motion. If I were ten years younger, maybe even three, I'd be out there with them. (Photo by Jim Ellenberg -- Click to enlarge)

Carr competed in two events that night, but failed to place in the top money in either one. The second event was slated to run 25 laps, but was stopped after 18 due to falling rain. It could be argued by some that Carr’s race strategy called for a stronger finish in the second heat, but that weather could have deprived him of the opportunity.

I used a lull in activity to get my Suburban across the track again on my way out, and the rear wheels spun all the way across. The condition of the track had dramatically worsened since the afternoon. I was secretly delighted that no dirt track Suburban races had been scheduled that night, as I was able to leave for the two-hour ride home with the water-tight integrity of my jeans intact.

I was wise to try and beat the crowd out the crumbling drive to the road, as the parking lot was jammed with thousands of cars, pick-ups, and motorcycles, clustered around rain flys, tents, barbecue grills and coolers. It was apparent this night that the back room of American culture had spilled out into the parlor -- and it made me sorry to be leaving.



Author’s note:

I would like to thank Chris Carr and Jim Ellenberg for a great day at the track. Chris Carr assured me that he was going back after the title of “World’s Fastest Man on Two Wheels” at Bonneville this fall and encouraged me to attend the event. (Actually encouraged me.)

“You can even ride ‘Fire Balls’ over the course and get a timed certificate,” said Chris. Now that prospect appealed to me mightily. To ride the same course as the likes of Bert Munro and Chris Carr has set my imagination in gear. The movie could be called, “Fire Balls Like Mine.”

Jim Ellenberg is a pisser. Jim and his wife Dot drove 90 miles out of their way last week to have hot dogs with my brother Robert and myself at Rutt’s Hutt in Clifton, NJ. Rutt’s is an armpit of a place that has been there forever. My dad’s dad took him there as a kid. On that trip, my dad, who was about six at the time (1929), sent my grandfather inside to get him a chocolate ice cream cone.

“Is that chocolate,” asked my dad, inspecting the cone with skepticism.

“No, it’s shit,” replied my Grandfather, starting a new tradition for Riepe family factual brevity in dealing with children. (True story)


•AMA -- American Motorcycle Association
•• Mac Pac -- The premier charted BMW riding club in southeast Pennsylvania

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2009
AKA The Lindbergh Baby: The Mac Pac
AKA Vindak8r: Motorcycle Views
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

58 comments:

Allen Madding said...

I raced stock cars on dirt tracks for several years. Your description of the track conditions rang familiar with some of the slopfests the dirt track provided on some select Saturday nights. Racing has a dedicated amount of fans that will pay money to go home at the end of the night sporting an orange hue that matches the clay dirt tracks of the south. But, some of the best racing I have ever seen has taken place on 3/8-mile dirt tracks from places like Cordele, GA, Phenix City, AL and Habstaudt, IN.

Hope you were not shocked at the incredible performance of Harley-Davidsons :)

Good Reading

-Peace

fasthair said...

Mr. Jack: Most excellent reading. I could see every bit of your great day at the races. I've seen my fair share of races but I have never seen Chris Carr and his buddies race. Ever since you posted about this on my blog I've been looking an planning to go the races in Springfield coming up here shortly. Any chance you could put in a word with the man and get me some of this up close and personal treatment. Hell I would be happy with just a pit pass.

The thing I remember most about riding across the slat flats was the smell. That place stinks to the likes you have never smelled. Between the high winds that whipped up the salt and blew it across the interstate and the smell I was really looking inside my head and wondering just what the hell I am doing out in this God forsaken land. But once I stopped at the over look of the race course I instantly got it. In my minds eye I could see these men and women with no fear speed across that baron land. Now knowing I can ride my bike on the course and get a time slip for doing it I really want to go back. I haven't been on a trip all year... hummm...

fasthair

Douglas said...

Jack: What a great story. I'm sure, like others, I log on to Twisted Roads for your hilarious outlooks on BMW's and babes but truly enjoy it when you sneak in a serious bit of journalism. You are a "word smith" Should that be one word or Two. See you next week. BRALEY

BMW-Dick said...

Jack:
Congratulations on another fun story. I think you captured the spirit of the event. I especially enjoyed the Jack Riepe link. When you mentioned riding the salt flats I had this mental image of Burt Monroe crawling out of his Indian with his roast leg of Burt after setting the world's record. His was a red bike, too.

Joe Dille said...

Jack,

One of your best. Dirt track racing is one of the best sports in the world. Your account is great, and you used the word miasma in a sentance. My best regards to Chris Carr.

Ride Safe,

Joe

MackBeemer said...

Jack:
Your story brought back memories of the only dirt track event I've attended. I was maybe 15 years old. I didn't have credentials, so sat in the stands. Ear splitting raging engines and 120 mph entrance to the turns at the end of the straights. Too bad NJ doesn't have a flat track, or I'd be sure to take in a race or two.

Thanks for the writeup.

cpa3485 said...

That kind of event is probably not one that would be high on my list to attend. But your writing made me feel like I was there with you and enjoying the sights and sounds. Sounds like a great way to spend a day.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mr. Madding:

It must have been apparent in the first few paragraphs that I will never be a real moto sports writer, but I wanted to offer my readers something other than the usual tripe.

Dedicated "Twisted Roads" readers like yourself should know that they will occasionally be treated to a unbiased account of a legitimate motorcycle event or development, from time to time.

And I want you t know that I have had great times--on a motorcycle -- in small towns like Cordele, Ga; Phoenix City, Al; and Habstaudt, In. (They were actually Secaucus, NJ; Bumphuck, Ne; and Turdo, Md.)

Thank you for reading my blog, and for your thoughtful, well-focused response.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mr. Fasthair:

If I used all of my influence in motorcycle circles on your behalf, you wouldn't get a padded seat in the executive shitter. Despite my pretensions otherwise, I hitchhike through life on the generous nature of hardworking friends, who always end up wondering how the hell I got an invitation to their party.

Riding buddy Jim Ellenberg open a few doors for me and said, "Okay Fatass, waddle through and try not to make us all look like horse's asses for knowing you." Regretably, everyone crosses their fingers when I show up for something. (This is the absolute truth.)

I first met Chris Carr at a Mac Pac (BMW riding club in south eastern Pennsylvania) luncheon. One of our more distinguished members (famous in his own right as a mechanic and a racer) said to me "Try hard not to talk to this guy... Maybe he'll come back."

I no sooner published this piece, then fellow club member Gary Christman wrote in and sent me pictures of himself riding his BMW GS on the course at Bonneville. But you are the first to tell me about the smell. And believe it or not, that is generally the first thing I remember about an event, a place, or a woman.

I am delighted that accomplished Harley riders like yourself (and Fasthair or Ms M) can read my tripe and validate it with a comment. Between you and Gary Christman, I am now compelled to get out to Bonneville.

Thank you for reading my blog, and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • Reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Doug:

I was delighted to hear from you this morning... And it wll be my pleasure to have dinner with you next Thursday evening. Do you want ethnic or a steak? I will assemble such members of the Mac Pac as can be roused. Do you like Cajun? We have that right in the neighborhood. Two in fact.

And I am thrilled that you would construe any of my work as serious journalism.

Thank you for reading my crap, and for writing in. By the way, my next story will focus on my obituary. If you want some things done right, you gotta do them yourself, in advance.

Fondest regards,
Jack • Reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dick:

I wondered if anyone would click on the "Jack Riepe" link in the story. I thought "anyone game enough to try that ought to get a payoff."

The da at the races was a pisser and a vital part of the lifestyle that you and espouse. This story is one of more than a dozen legitimate ones I have planned.

As ever, you can expect to find yourself in a few of them.

Your riding pard...
Fatass.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Joe:

I'm really glad you got a kick out of this piece and rate it as one of my best. The word "miasma" is burned into my mind. I used it to great avantage one Friday night when playing "Strip Scrabble" with a former Victoria's Secret model.

Thank you for reading my blog and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • Reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mack Beemer (Harrell):

How are you doing? It is always a pleasure to hear from you. I am headed over to New Jersey soon, maybe next weekend, to do a retrospective piece for this blog. I'll zap you the details and maybe we can ride together.

Nothing puts motorcycling in perspective like racing. And going to one lets me live on the edge vicariously through the efforts of someone else.

Thanks for reading my blog and for writing in. I suspect I'll see you soon.

Fondest regards,
Jack • Reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear CPA3485 (Jimbo):

I was delighted to see your note in the mail here this morning as it appears you are recovering nicely from your mis-event.

I never thought I'd be interested in racing either. And I also said that abot trout fishing, pheasant shooting, deer hunting, Russian women and model trains. No thrill should be dismissed out of hand.

Some day, I am going to get out in your neck of the woods anf get a chance to ride with your group. I'd rate that as a real thrill too. Thanks for reading and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • Reep • Toad

The race event at Hagerstown was a total pisser, and I can't wait to do it again. You might like it.

Dennis said...

Jack,
You are a good man. Thank you for writing this article and putting a spot
light on a terrific part of our sport. I unfortunately missed Hagerstown
this year. Flat track racing is truly grassroots motorcycle racing in the
U.S. I was fortunate enough to be involved with both amateur and
professional flat track (and TT) racing on the West Coast in the '70's. Flat
track racing faded, overshadowed by Super Cross events (exciting, but too
predicable) and Super Bike racing. A small group of old racers keep the
Vintage Racing (http://www.vft.org/) going on the West Coast still (Eddie
Mulder (http://www.eddiemulderswcvdts.com/), Skip Van Leeuwenn, Gene Romero
(http://www.wcfts.com/ )). There seems to be a recent resurgence in the Pro
ranks and Chris Carr has been a great evangelist. The September issue of
Cycle World actually has 1 - 1/3 pages on Flat Track, with quotes from CC
saying the slump is over. CC recently spent some time in the UK promoting
Flat Track racing with the Brits.

And yes Joe, you are correct. A BMW F800 is currently racing in the Pro
Twins Flat Track events (not doing too well unfortunately) Ron Wood is the
builder/tuner
http://thekneeslider.com/archives/2007/08/13/ron-wood-bmw-f-800-flat-tracker
/ and Steve Murry the rider
http://www.amaproracing.com/FT/riders/rider.cfm?did=3387.

Make an effort to go to a Flat Track race. You can get up close. Smell the
Bean Oil. Feel the engine power. Maybe get sprayed with a little dirt.
And see a lot of action - lead changes and handle bar banging. You'll go a
way a fan.

Digger

Nikos said...

I wish to register a complaint with Senior management (i.e. YOU).

When the caption says

"All kinds of folks drop by the pits looking for a story, advice, or a good lead. I tried to be of assistance whenever possible. (Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge) "

And I click, the whole picture gets enlarged in proportion not the wobbly bits? I'm most disappointed (but still jealous)

Cantwell said...

Spectacular story Jack,
Thank you so much for bringing me into the pits with you and letting me enjoy the race.
Awesome!

Cantwell

Charlie6 said...

Great report on the day at the track, Mr Riepe.

I've never been to a motorcycle race, paved or dirt, must put it on my list of things to do. Must also, apparently, remember to bring my ear plugs.

The skills shown by riders on slippery tracks is really amazing, seeing it live must have been something special.

By the way, if you do plan on doing a run on the salt, a la Munro, I am told the surface can be tricky.

I am currently searching for a race venue suitable for your Suburban as it now has a taste for it.....what's the license plate number?

cheers

dom

Redleg's Rides

Cantwell said...

Charlie6,
I think it's suitable for the target vehicle in the demolition derby at the Essex County Fair. But he'll have to wait until next year...

www.essexcountyfair.org

sgsidekick said...

What the heck, Jack?? THis was like...real reporting!! *lol* I could see the mud hanging in the air, and smell the exhaust mixed with clay with your every word. And the video was a nice touch!

Must tell you, you are looking slimmer and slimmer You know, the down side to losing the weight is that soon you won't fit your lovely custom seat. THEN what will you do?

Thanks for the writeup. It took me back when my brothers would ride dirtbikes around the back hayfield, creating our own little dirt track.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dennis (Digger):

I had a good time at the track, meeting new people, and writing this up. I learned a lot at the track that day, including that I have barely scratched the surface when it comes to motorcycle racing -- dirt or otherwise.

I do intend to catch a couple more of these events, provided I can go with an authority who will explain the fine points to me. One things that neded no explanation was the fat that these racers have nerves of steel.

I'm glad you got a kick out of this story. It is a bit of a departurte from the stuff I normally write, and I inrend t include more stuff like this in the future.

Thank you for reading my blog, and for taking the time to comment on it -- both here and on the Mac Pac list.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Nikos:

The management regrets your recent dissatisfaction with our blog product. And while we really don't give much of a shit, we will attempt to concel this fact by sending you a warmly written form letter, dripping with the kind of sincerity most commonly found in the bottom of a quality rum bottle.

Yet as a kind of concilation prize, we urge you to read the blog again, and to click on the author's name where it appears as link. Let us know if this meets with your satisfaction.

Sincerely,
The Management/Customer Service Dept.
Twisted Roads

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Cantwell (Michael):

Admit it... This piece was a bit of a surprise coming from me. But you and all my other readers can rest assured that my next piece will be a return to the sort of stuff you have become accustomed to here at Twisted Roads.

Thanks for the compliment.

By the way, I can't get any more of the shots directly into my knees and hips until next year. The distance from the house here to Wilmington, NY is 378 miles. I am going to head up to the Adirondacks the Thursday before Labor Day, stopping for the night if the pain gets too bad.

I'm staying in Ihor's cabin on Hardy Road. Let's plan accordingly.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Chrlie6 (Dom):

You actually gave me the idea to try and post something other than my usual bullshit. I was fortunate enough with this one that I had some help with the background data, and with personalities who were familiar with the topic.

Like I said, I intend to write something like this at leasr once a month. If not on racing, tnan on other aspects of motorcycling. And I am thinkling of going out t the Salt Flats.

I will be doing another Chris Carr story next month, titled "150 Miles Per Hour In First Gear." He tells me that the salt surface is relared to the degree of moisture in it. He has seen it as hard as a paved road and mushy enough to stick to the tires. (But I'm giving away the plot here.)

I couldn't produce pictures of mountains, but I did my best to make it interesting and "different."

Thank you for reading this piece and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sgdsidekick:

This will be like telling tales out of school, but I have 11 hours of writing in this story. As a budding writer, I thought you might be interested in learning the realisatic amounts of time it takes me to piece things together.

But every now and again I feel like writing a real piece that conforms to the tenets of conventional story-telling. If you look back in my past pieces, you will find the snake story I wrote. That represents a 16-hour investment, but that one had me feeling especially pleased. I haven't been sure with the last two.)

I regret to report that I am still dealing with the "blahs," and am unable to get as much done as I would like. I owe you two e-mails. I may be able to get to them in a day or so.

And, I would regard it as a personal favor if you could drop me your blog address in my e-mail again.

Thanks for reading and commenting on every piece.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

John said...

Great story Jack. Having had the pleasure of Mr. Carr's company a couple of times I know what a great, and funny guy he is. He was willing to explain the streamliner to me over lunch on New Years day, and that has been a highlight of my life.

ray said...

Hi Jack,
Im a new reader of your blog here and have been enjoying your wit and vividly descriptive phrases like, "It glistened with moisture in suspension and offered all the traction of goose shit mixed with wet leaves."

Fun stuff for sure and a great way to kill time while being forced to spend one of my weekend days sitting in a cubicle and trying to avoid actually working.

I also thought your line,

"These riders exercised tremendous control maneuvering around each other, while trading sweat for inch-by-inch gains in curves where centrifugal force and gravity threw dice for their souls."

was pretty profound too. Seriously!

Good stuff!!

I've never been to a bike race myself of any kind but what I've seen on TV or heard stories about really makes me realize what a light-weight I am when it comes to riding. I have a pic of Valentino Rossi I got off a rider forum that I printed out and hung on my garage wall. This guy is in full race mode leaned over in a curve with another rider right on his ass.....and Rossi is pulling off a tear-off with his left hand. So this guy is riding this curve ONE HANDED!!

It's a real "Wayne's World" "we're not worthy" moment for me.

I enjoy your stuff....keep it up!

Ray

Conchscooter said...

Dear Toad,
I checked the link and found the video of you to show that indeed you have lost a great deal of weight. The smile looks artifical though, and a bit too feminine for someone of your disposition. I found the comment about the condoms confusing. If you stack them and use them only one at a time wouldn't you always be stuck using the innermost one?
Badger

Steve Williams said...

A fine piece of moto-journalism. You fast become the Willie Mays of such field and Twisted Roads is without doubt the Citizen Kane of riding blogs. I'm certain you will remain far above and ahead of us who try and emulate your example.
And can't.

You are predictable in some areas. As I watched the video of the bikes and saw you pan left to the women and then pan back to the bikes I said to myself "he'll be back".

Sure enough, back you pan. Panning right was the most difficult part of your day I bet...

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Lance said...

Hello Jack - I've had the pleasure of reading your comments on the numerous blogs our paths cross, and I was very happy to see your comment on mine. Thanks for stopping by, and yes, feel free to add me to your list, and I will add yours to mine.

Having seen and read about the HD XR1200, my curiousity in dirt track racing was piqued, and your post really brought it to life - thanks! Hopefully the redhead appreciated your offer of assistance.

bobskoot said...

Jack "r":

I can imagine how loud it was there. I once went to a truck tractor pull. It was so loud we had to leave shortly after we arrived.

on your video, the next time, please pan left a little longer, and zoom in a bit more

bob
bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Todd said...

Jack,
Colorfully written as usual. I enjoyed every bit of it. Now you need to catch the Syracuse Mile, that's some fine racing there.

Woody said...

Captain Jack,

Captivating story. I was particularly intrigued by the photo of you pretending to be taking notes while listening to Chris. The expression on his face looks as if he really thinks you are taking meaningful notes!

Another great story. Thanks!

Ihor, armed with a reality check, said...

If you think that 10 or 3 years ago you'ld join in the race, I beg to differ. Try 30, on a good day. And the roof opening wouldn't have been a problem, flimsy roof and a capsize make for exciting headlines and coroner's reports! That 58" opening would have used up all the butter slated for the corn on the cob. Then what would people say?

See if you can free up your spellcheck, the creative typos invest even the comment replies, and we can't be having that now.

Oh, and did I mention that this was a great read! Good trick getting in deep. You are like Will Smith in "Six Degrees of Separation" and all these folks are none the wiser, YET.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear John C.:

I am delighted you liked this. Chris Carr is an ace, especially to put up with my nonsense. And I will be doing another story about Chris soon. It is titled, "!50 Miles Per Hour in First Key."

Thanks for reading my tripe and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • Reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Ray:

Welcome to "Twisted Roads," the blog for discerning bikers who crave nothing but the truth. I hope you will never be disappointed. Thank you for your high degree of praise. Getting higher is at the top of my agenda for the day.

Thank you for reading and for taking the time to drop me a line.

Fondest regards,
Jack • Reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Conch:

Your comment is proof that exercise pays off. And it's not a question of whether or not my condom schemes work, it's that I am always thinking. And that is what keps dedicated Twisted Roads readers -- like yourself -- coming back.

Thank you for the kind vote of editorial confidence. Your letter was so encouraging, I read it to my mother.

Fondest regards,
Jack • Reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steve (Scooter In The Sticks):

Your recent communication was so flattering, that I had it copied over into a tattoo, and inked upside down on my chest, so I can read it. I cannot tell you what it means to me, to have my blog called the Citizen Kane of blogs, by a blog writer of your caliber. I mentioned this to Leslie (my hot squeeze) today, and she wanted to know if that meant I was the Orson Wells of moto writers.

Fondest regards,
Jack • Reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Lance:

Thank you for your kindness and courtesy in adding my blog to those so honored on yours. I wish you many thrilling miles on the Triumph "America." I feel assured our paths will cross sometime. Kindly keep a stool warm for me at the nearest rum and chowder dealer in your vicinity. The quality of the chowder is not significant as I use it to wash my hands.

Thank you for reading my blog and for adding your commentary.

Fondest regards,
Jack • Reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Bobskoot:

As you are aware, noise is one of the great fun aspects of riding a motorcycle. We strive for the perfect pitch between power, effect, and public acceptance. All three of these are served with equal generosity at the race track.

I once attended a race in Canada in which the finish was delayed as the racers piled up just before the checkered flag, all saying "After you," to the guy behind them.

Thank you for reading my blog and voting it "Blog of the Year."

Fondest regards,
Jack • Reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Todd:

As you are aware, realism is the ultimate goal anytime I find myelf at the keyboard. I know you have come to appreciate this from stories I have written about rides with your crew. And there is one of those in the works as we speak.

Thank you for writing in and for reading my pure adventure blog.

Fondest regards,
Jack • Reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Woody (Wayne):

I am a man of pure undisguised emotions. The look on my face, as I struggled to catch the facts from Chris Carr, is pure editiorial rapture. I often cry when I look at your photography blog. Sensitivity is my middle name.

Thank you for reading my blog, and for taking the time to tell me how it has changed your life.

Fondest regards,
Jack • Reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Ihor:

I ran your comment through the wringer three times and managed to squeeze a compliment out of it. Even though the effort left me drained, I am touched. I am so looking forward to spending Labor Day at your cabin, and draining the unwanted rum bottles.

Fondest regards,
Jack • Reep • Toad

Ihor, while amending the shopping list, said...

Note to self: BUY - Cheap rum;
Ensure (6 pk.)
Aleve
'Elements of Style'
- for Riepe visit.

Let me know your
ETD, and I'll coordinate our departure for an in-route meeting if you like.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Ihor:

I am going to roll on Thursday night. About 4pm. There is a remote possibility that I may actually ride the whole distance, instead of plan "A." I would save about $200 in gas.

Fondest regards,
Riepe

Ihor, planning ahead, said...

I assume that a number of variables need to gel for either plan A or B, weather not the least of them. We'll leave 6 or 7 hours earlier, to avoid the rush hour and fit in some stops along the way. Given your starting point and the estimated travel time, you'll get there around 1 AM as you said, well after us. Not to worry, the light will be on and you're in the 1st floor room.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Ihor:

What time are you leaving? I can leave when you do.

Riepe

mq01 said...

jack, thank you for sharing your pit credentials with us and taking us along.

ah munro, ah bonneville, ah the smell...the ONLY thing better, is summer rain at the salt flats while riding, and tasting the perfume of the desert and its flowers in dew. that my friends, the smell and taste, its simply divine.

ps, i aspire to be one of the umbrella girls :) woohoo

pps, have a fantastic tombstone spot ride!! i cant wait to hear all about it!!

Ihor said...

I'm thinking that we'll leave about 9 AM or so. Up the NJTP to Route 17 stopping at Stew Leonards and Trader Joe's for food and maybe at Campmor. Then a final fillup and up the Thruway, catching lunch in there someplace. Should make Wilmington by dusk, Helen may wish to stop at some attraction on the way. Perhaps a visit to Scott is in order?

Anonymous said...

Jack,

I just got off the phone with Chris Carr and he LOVED the story. The two chairs that you left with Walter and I to bring home have taken a small tour of the USA in the bottom of Chris's motor home. However, they are being covered in those cheesy stickers that said you have been to many places and a few racing related stickers thrown in for good measure. We will have to have another party so that they can be brought back to you in their new illustrious grandeur. I personally thought the story hit the nail right on the head as far as the racing goes. It's all good.

Jim Ellenberg

DC said...

Jack,

Be sure to bring that sticker adorned chair to Bike Night in 3 weeks!

Another gem of a story, although your video camera pulls to the left. ;-)

Dave Case

Pathfinder said...

Jack, nice piece. This year was my first "Daytona" and the highlight of the experience was one night at the dirt flat track motorcycle races. You captured much of my experience. Flat track dirt oval was more exciting than 3 days at Barber for the Honda Superbike races last year.
I enjoy the blog - write on, cowboy!!
Pathfinder

Sojourner rides said...

I felt there...and really like the picture of blurred racers. I'm impressed by your "pit" creds.

dave said...

Well it has been two weeks and as a loyal reader I am worried that something may have happened to you...

Ihor said...

Dave, a two week delay does raise some questions, but John has always been a conscientious and prompt individual, both professionally and in dealing with his friends, acquaintences and creditors.

There is likely no reason for concern, he is probably just tied up on a beach by the Lilliputians and thinking of a means to ingratiate himself between Gabby's shouts of "There's a giant on the beach!!!"

Patience is the key when dealing with giants, as we all know.

ADK said...

Back From Morocco.

Yes Ihor, it was blisteringly hot.

Yes Jack, the happy couple is.......Happy.

Yes, Both Of You, I'll see you this weekend.

Jack, are you riding up?

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Cialis said...

This looks so fun!