Film and text by Mark Kalpakoff.
"A Day to Remember," the title of this story was more like six days to remember for me, but it was the sixth day that will be etched in my mind for as long as I live. I left on the Wednesday before the Monster Cup on my motorcycle for Las Vegas with the main objective to join Lori Wilson—Glen Helen’s manager—for a Thursday meeting with the people from MX Sports to discuss the upcoming Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. Wednesday night was fun, as Lori, her sister Carol, and Ms. World Vet MX Alexis went out for dinner. Not so bad—three lovely gals, all to myself, and they even tried to teach me how to win at the slot machines. They failed! I enjoyed the meeting, as all of the MX national promoters were in the room, and we have become a pretty tight group with only one goal, and that’s to put together an amazing series.
I left the meeting early and suffered through a horrible thunderstorm on the Goldwing, but arrived home safely that evening. Dani and I were on the first flight out of Orange County on Friday morning, so we could attend the Orlando, Florida, AIMExpo and participate in the AMA’s Hall of Fame Banquet on Saturday night. HOF Inductee John Parham had a special dinner for friends on Friday night, and Dani and I were able to join the fun. John is an amazing man. It was great to see him get this recognition, and he chose me to be the "ring presenter" at the Saturday night ceremony. Major honor! I also was asked by the AMA to emcee the Hall of Fame reception before the induction ceremony held in the Chapin Theatre. I just encouraged everyone to enjoy all the drinks they wanted in order to get full value out of the exclusive reception ticket. I didn’t have anything to drink, as I stumble enough on stage with the mic anyway and wanted to fully enjoy the induction ceremony.
If you’ve never attended the AMA’s Hall of Fame Induction ceremony, you are missing something very special. Chet Burks has been doing the videos for several years to honor these icons of the sport and does an amazing job. Everything about this event is just way over the top and congratulations to the class of 2015. John Parham, Industry and Ambassadors; Keith McCarty, Industry and Ambassadors; Rodney Smith, Offroad Competition; John Kozinski, Road Racing; Alex Jorgenson, Dirt-Track; and Richard Tearlink, Harley Davidson’s past CEO. Motorcycle Hall of Famer Wayne Rainey was recognized as the legend.
We flew back to California early Sunday morning so I could ready myself for the sixth day, an early Monday departure to Bishop, California. This day was so special!
Sunday will be the nineteenth year at the World Vet that we have honored a person or persons that Bud Feldkamp and I feel have made the biggest contribution to motocross in American. You can read the list in the program of the past honorees, and you’ll see it is a "who's who" in our sport. There are so many racers, promoters, and heroes that are worthy, but we really like to honor the early pioneers that have paved the way for this wonderful sport of motocross that we enjoy. Bud suggested we honor Dave McCoy, the man responsible for the Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort, but more important to us, a pioneer in motocross, as 2017 will be the fiftieth year of this major event.
The plan was for Mark Kapelkoff and Richard Stuelke to join me for the four-and-a-half-hour drive to Bishop to interview and film Dave. Mark would do the video, and Richard, the retired high school principle and motocrosser that does our World Vet program, would be our photographer. I was way jet-lagged and we left my house with me driving at 4:30 a.m. on Monday. I also struggle with driving when it is dark.
We had lots of time to talk on the journey to Bishop. Both Richard and I had some concerns about how to tell Dave’s story in a ten-minute video. We realized that unless you’re a skier or have raced the Mammoth motocross, people wouldn’t have a clue about this man. Worse, we were concerned that we wouldn’t do a good job with the video honoring this 100-year-old man, and you racers would not get it!!
Back to the plan! We arrived in Bishop at 9:00 a.m. and visited Schott’s Bakery—for my first cup of coffee and an amazing pastry. This day was starting to look better. Our meeting was scheduled for 10:00 a.m. at Jack’s Pancake Restaurant and all the players in the plan arrived on time. We sat down for breakfast with Rick Johnson—ED Award recipient in ’97 and friend of the McCoy’s and Mammoth since he was 14 years old. Also joining us was Mammoth MX race director Mike Colbert and Dave’ grandson—Casey McCoy. Casey runs all the operations at Mammoth’s main lodge, and he really wanted to see grandpa honored in the right way. I had a vision of what I wanted us to try and accomplish with the video, and went over with our team my wishes. We spent the next hour enjoying breakfast and preparing to go visit the man.
We caravanned from the restaurant to the McCoy ranch, which is less than a mile off of Main Street in Bishop. Dave and his 95-year-old wife Roma live in a sprawling ranch-style home with and uninhibited view of the Sierra Mountains behind them. I got to tell you, as we parked in front of the McCoy home, I was a little nervous meeting this amazing man. At first it was just RJ, Casey, Mike, and me that went inside to meet Dave. He greeted us in his office—and OMG what an office. Hopefully the images and video will do justice to this incredible room that showcases hundreds and hundreds of images and treasures from his amazing life.
Before I go any farther, I’d like to share how Dave McCoy became so important to me that I wanted to honor him. At the end of my professional flat-track racing career and right at the time I started White Brothers, I needed to find an activity that would fill in for what I was missing as a racer. I chose snow skiing and spent the winter of 1975/’76 skiing every single weekend. Skiing was awesome, and I not only wanted to ski, I wanted to know more the legends of the sport. I purchased a book titled The Other Side of the Mountain written by E. G. Valens, and it tells the inspiring, yet tragic story of rising skiing star Jill Kinmont. Dave McCoy is mentioned again and again in the book as Jill’s teacher and inspiration, and the training he provided to take her to the very top level of the sport. I invite all of you to read the book. For the next few years I skied up at Mammoth every chance I could get and knew that it was because of Dave we had this World Class ski resort in our backyard.
It wasn’t until 1981 that I attended my first Mammoth motocross, and I have not missed the event since. We all know that it was Dave that helped start and grow this fabulous racing festival—a destination race that so many of motocrosses legends have supported long after their professional career ended. But, no other track has hosted continuous races for fifty years. Dave’s life has always been about enjoyed the outdoors, and since you can’t ski year around, he put the same emphasis on motocross as in skiing. I’ll let the video and RJ tell you the rest.
OK, I’m back to meeting Dave in his office. He has a presence that is hard to describe. We all felt that way. My so-called Facebook friends are already telling me he looks younger than me after I shared the image we took together. Dave is as sharp as a whip, and he made all of us feel like we had been his friends for life. The wall that he faces from his desk is covered with motocross pictures and other treasures that remind him every day of his passion for MX. He shared story after story about his racing, the motocross event, training, and riding with top riders like Jim Pomeroy, Warren Reid, and the man that was going to interview him for our video, Rick Johnson.
But now, I want to go to the game changer for me—the memory that will be etched into my mind till the day I pass. And you know what, I’m going to kiss my own butt here as it was my idea. Steven Spielberg, watch out—there’s a new director in town! We hadn’t been introduced to Dave’s wife Roma yet. She was in another room and just letting us have our time with her husband. So, while Rich was taking pics, and Mark was shooting some video in the office, I went into the other room and introduced myself to Roma. Here is where my brilliance as a director comes in: I asked her to come in and join Dave in the office so we could get some pictures of the two of them. She uses a walker to help her get around, so she shuffles into the room, parks the walker, shuffles over behind Dave and places both hands on this shoulders. He is smiling like "the cat that just ate the canary!"
Roma says, "I want to tell you a story about this man! We were dating and I’m on the back of his motorcycle somewhere near Bakersfield and we hit a slippery patch...mighta been oil, I’m not sure. The bike goes sideways and he pushes me off."
We all are going, "Wow, that’s not good!" She goes on: "Well, he crashes and I’ve fallen in a ditch and I’m okay. I hear him calling for me. 'Roma, where are you?' I didn’t answer right away, I made him wait and worry!" We all just busted a gut! I don’t think even grandson Casey had heard that one before.
Roma wasn’t done. She goes on: "He liked to pick we up at the Bank of America in Bishop were I worked on the motorcycle. I always wore a dress at the bank, and he was picking me up at the bank when I got off work. I didn’t have any problem with just lifting the dress up and climbing on the back of the bike. So, I come to work the next day and the bank manager calls me into his office. He says, 'Roma, it doesn’t look good for our customers seeing you being picked up at the bank by that guy on a motorcycle, please stop that! So I told him, 'I quit!'"
She then wraps her arms around her husband, nuzzles up against his face, and tells us all, "I just love this man!"
There was so much more magic that day, especially with Rick sharing stories with Dave in the Rhino, comments from Casey about his granddad, Mike sharing about Dave at the MX.... Again and again, Dave talks about having fun. You’ll see when you watch the video, but for me, those moments with Roma talking about the love of her life tell me all I need to know about this amazing couple. I’m proud to call him a friend and acknowledge Dave for his lifetime contribution to our sport.