Wow. It’s all so crazy nowadays. As the world gets smaller, everything we do just seems to continue to get bigger, faster, and stronger. Be that as it may, I have been on a long stoke for the past several weeks. Sometimes enough travel to the right places, reading the right things, and being around the right people will reward you with a realization that things are pretty damn amazing on this mud ball we call home. It isn’t hard to be happy or excited this time of year anyway, but I want to use this week’s column to explain my stoke in particular and hopefully spread some of it around.
A month or so ago, I wrote to you about how cool I thought it was to be pecking in data from the 1993 running of Loretta Lynn’s. Since then, I continue to be attached to the pulse of this incredible event. The last time I competed at the AMA Amateur Nationals at the ranch was 1996, and it was just beginning to grow to what it is today. They put a roof on top of the pavilion, bigger sponsors were rolling in, and the family haulers were getting bigger and, well, more bigger. The riders were getting faster, too.
Upon arriving, I just kind of took off on my own like I always do and went for a stroll around the pits. It had been almost 10 years since I had last been there, and I was shocked to see that I could see all the way across the track. The trees were gone and the place looked like a real racing center. Then I climbed to the top of the three-story announcing tower (also new to me) to watch some practice. As I gazed out across the beautiful, rolling, spring-green hills of the High Point course, I stared across the bottom past the starting gate and set my eyes on the famous uphill triple step-up. The days of seeing Guy Cooper stand his RM125 straight up and down and barely skim the lip on that shot through my head. Man, I wanted to ride and maybe go jump that jump like I did in 1994.
Just then, I heard an engine singing in the meat of the power band. I turned my head to see a little guy on a KX80 with his feet on the pegs and his throttle arm pinned at his rib cage, grabbing gears around the banked corner leading into the step up. I just kind of smiled and thought, Yeah, right, kid, you better let off or you’re toast. Nope. The grommet preloaded his suspension, shot upward and outward like a rocket, storked the front up end, then tapped the rear brake, threw a little whip, and kissed the backside of the third jump smoother than a baby’s butt. Holy smokes - 80s are jumping what only Bradshaw and Stanton could in 1991!
From there my stoke just continued to pick up steam. I joined the entire motocross industry and waited in giddy anticipation for last week’s conclusion of the 2006 Amp’d Mobile Supercross Series. It was so cool to read all of the preview articles and all of the message-board threads and watch the commercials, which all hyped the race of the decade. If all of that wasn’t enough, my favorite band of all time, Tool, had just released their fifth installment of musical genius, 10,000 Days. Talk about progression: That insanely brilliant group of musicians from the Midwest have raised the bar of what can be done with a couple guitars, a set of drums, and a man with an unprecedented set of pipes. Music always enhances my surroundings, and this album came out for me at the prefect time. It almost seemed like divine intervention!
The time finally came. The weekend was upon us and the opening act, if you will, was Mike Metzger and his Mission Impossible: III leap. Now, some of us “insiders” know that there are probably a dozen other guys that could have flipped that gap, with any number of variations. The jump was incredible, but Regis would have probably only given it an 8.5 (you know, for over-rotating and all. Ha!).
Then, of course, was the race—the live television broadcast of the biggest race of our generation. Shamefully, I had failed to put myself in a position to attend. Instead, I made plans to attend Richmond International Raceway and watch my brother try to get it done in his #07 Jack Daniel’s Chevrolet on Saturday night. At the race, I was surprised how many people were asking me about the supercross series and how many had planned on running back to their motor coaches to watch the live show. I was already on a big high when I got to the event, but after standing along side Clint on pit row with my hat over my heart during the national anthem and feeling my chest cave from the F-14s that crushed the air overhead, man, I was stoked. That thrill stayed with me all the way through the 400 laps when Clint took the checkered flag in 10th place. If that wasn’t cool enough, Dale Jr. won the race. Now, attending a NASCAR race is an awe-inspiring event in itself, but being there when Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins a race is completely spectacular. The adoration he gets from 70 percent of the 100,00-plus fans in attendance is staggering. The vibe was so positive and triumphant, it’s hard to find the words to describe it. I guess the best way to describe it would simply be a big smile.
As far as we have come and as far as the sport has progressed, it’s abundantly clear that we still have a ways to go. But I have faith we’ll get there. We are going in the right direction, and that is what counts.
But hey, like I said, I’m stoked. I have always been a huge fan of progression, and we’ve seen a mountain of that in the past few weeks. It’s a great time of year! Everything is getting warm and turning green, girls are walking in short shorts, and the outdoor nationals are right around the corner. Did you hear me? The outdoor freaking nationals kick off next weekend! I’m stoked! The title of this week’s column is “Progression.” Ask yourself one question: How much did James Stewart’s outdoor skills progress in one year? We’re going to find out in eight days. Now that should put a smile on your face.
Thanks for reading, see you next week!