The races at armadillo.

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The races at armadillo.

Remember this one guys?  Lost a lot of it, had to rewrite almost the last half of it.  

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Re: The races at armadillo.

It was 1972.

And really, might  have been 1973.

The built in swimming pool, in the back of Johns house, was beautiful on that sunny Friday afternoon.  Crystal clear, cool water, on a blistering hot summers day, it was just another day in Suburbia.

There were 3 of us, John, Dale and myself.  On the verge of graduating HS, all 3 of us were in good spirits.  We all were doing pretty good, for that time in life.

Everyone had a girl, we all rode, both street and dirt, and had part time jobs.

Which meant we all had a little money.

Dale had a Kawasaki 90 for the dirt, and a 350RD for the street.
John was on a Honda something, a 90 I believe.
I had been riding a Hodaka 100b+, completely into the ground.

Both Dale and myself had discovered the thrill of Dist 7 Motocross.  
It was his 90, and my 100, that had been stripped of kickstands, lights, turn signals, and anything else not needed at the track.  

I had been wanting a new dirt bike for the races.  
Montesa had an orange 250, white frame, long and low, that I had ridden at the quarry twice.  A rich guy we knew from school had it. 4 speed, shift right, that thing was incredible.  I could almost scratch top 5 in the 125 class with my Hodaka at the races.  But I realized the limits of a converted Enduro, and wanted one of those Cappras more than just about anything else.

And the anything else was my 1971 Blue Kawasaki Mach 3.  I had scraped for over a year working part time to plunk down $999.00 for it.

At the time, a 10 second quarter mile, 120 mph, 500cc 2 stroke triple.
That was, quite frankly, the baddest street bike a guy could buy.
And it was a looker to boot.  

Now, I don't know about the other guys. But between the back flips, the "lets see who can do the most underwater laps", and boasts of last weekends conquests, there was one thing kinda lingering in the back of my mind.

And that was an uneasy feeling of, well, what's next?
Coupled with the seemingly unending, mind numbing school years behind us, it was easy to ask oneself a question.  

Which was, "Is this all there is?".

When Johns mom, who could have been a stand in for "The Beeves" Mrs. Cleaver,
brought out burgers we took a break.  Dale had copped a six pack of tall neck budweisers somewhere.  A Doober may have materialized.  Time had no meaning.

Life in middle class America was good.

It was then that I mentioned I had read an article in CycleNews the week before.
Apparently, there was gonna be a motocross race in upper state New York.
And get this, the top European riders, and Americans, were gonna be there.

"You're kidding", Dale said.  
Now, if you weren't in it, or never followed it, the names Hallman, Lackey, Weinert, didn't  mean much.
But, as motocross racers in local AMA events, to me and Dale, they were Gods.

"You guys ought to go."  John said.
"Where is it again, what track.?" Dale was interested.
"Some place up by Canada. I dunno. I think it was called armadillo or something.." I replied.
"You guys Ought to go.  When is it?" Again John chimed in.
"It's this weekend." I told 'em. "Sunday. We'd have to leave like, tomorrow, if we wanna go.  We could pack double on my bike.

The reason I mentioned packing double?
I wouldn't trust that RD 350 of Dales.
Itold them, "It needs a chain, tires, it's running like crap.  We could ride up, catch practice on Saturday, the races on Sunday, haul ass back and be home Monday morning."

After a pause to consider, well, I don't know what, Dale and I looked at each other.

"I'm in", he says, "I have a backpack.  We can camp. Let's go."

And so, it was on.  The first, at maybe 500 miles away, long haul ride for me.

Looking out front, the almost new blue Mach 3 sat there.
Like it was waiting, waiting for me to decide on what to take, how to outfit it for 4 days away.  

We had bonded, on the back road twisties, the drag races on Friday nights,
the top end of 126 mph, the fastest both of us would ever go.
No, it didn't say it, the Doober wasn't that good, but I could feel it, it was in too.

Visions of Billy and his chopper from Easy Rider flashed thru my head.
Pics of those old BMW touring blokes, with their panners and tents, invoking a kind of Grapes of Wrath image, flashed thru also.

"My Uncle has a pup tent." Dale said, "I can get that too."

"Na, the back pack is cool," I replied.  "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of boloney in it.  Maybe a piece of plastic and some duct tape.  We'll be good. I'll get a map down at Parsleys Sunoco.  Tomorrow, around 10, I'll pick you up.  Maybe be there by 5 or 6."

And so, me, and Dale, and my blue Mach 3, we were ready.

The next thing, the future, the indecision on life and what was to be, eh.

We were on our way to Armadillo!


It was well past 11am when I got to Dales house.
It took a good part of the previous evening, and some of the morning,
to put the sell job on my Mom and girlfriend.

Plus, I had slept in.

"It's so far away!" One said.  
"You mean you're gonna be gone for 4 days?  Thats almost a week!  What am I supposed to do?" The other said.

I'll let the reader figure out who said what.

Dale lived with his younger brother, and divorced father, who was rarely home.  He was a bartender on the other side of Baltimore, and had a girlfriend there.

Dales house, ya, no adults around, that place could get pretty crazy.  
The first site for many of the alcohol fueled parties we had as mid teens.  More than a few boys and girls, became men and women, in that 3 bedroom rancher.

When I asked him what his old man said, he told me, "He said OK, without taking his eyes off the television."

By the time we had scavenged some clothesline to tie the back pack down,
and went over the bike, (tighten chain, adjust brakes, oil levels), it was almost 1pm.  Dales Dad had one of those roadmaps, the kind you can never quite get folded back the way they came off the shelf, laying around and he had grabbed it.

All of my tools were back at my house, in the shed out back, the nerve center for all that rode in the neighborhood.

I was kinda surprised, everything I needed was in the factory tool kit.

The only thing we didn't have was 2 stroke oil.
Sure, the little tube in the oil tank showed we had oil.
But, when I pulled the cap and looked inside, you could see, we were low.
"We'll just hit American Cycle on the way." I told Dale.

And with that, we both jumped on, pulling a wheelie up in 2nd, and riding it all the way thru 3rd.  I heard Dale yell from the back, "YEAH BABY".

American Cycle sold Kawasakis, CZs and Bultacos, on the main drag in Brooklyn, about a block down from the Honda dealer.  
It was the place my Mach 3 came from. As kids, on old Honda 50s and Rupp mini bikes, it was a place that had kinda tolerated us.  

"Do I really have to buy the whole master link? I only need the clip.", I remember once saying.
The owner would just shake his head, and dole out a sliver of reality,
telling us "no, you have to buy the whole link."

Plus, they kept a good supply of weeks old CycleNews on the counter.
Right next to the worn out couch that was nestled in the corner.  You could sit there for an hour after buying a tube, or spark plug, and nobody said anything.

Worn, tattered, you could visit the world and every venue of motorcycling,
and not leave the place.

For Free!

When the owner saw the bike and back pack, and asked where we were going, he and the counter guy laughed when I said, " Some big motocross in NY. I think it's in a town called Armadillo."

"No guys, it's called Unadilla. And it's not a town. It's a valley." the owner told us, shaking his head again.

"What?" I said.
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Re: The races at armadillo.

In reply to this post by grado
Again. the owner of American Cycle just shook his head.

"Yeah.  Do you guys even know where you're going?  It's a long haul. Closest town is a place called Norwich. It's out in the boonies. A few guys have stopped in on the way up this morning.  You're buddy Chad was one of them.  He rented a motor home for a week just for it."

As I checked the Parsleys Sunoco official map, to see what was what, I was informed it might be a good idea to just fold the map to the route I was taking and just tape it to the tank.

As the plastic bottle of Amalie 2 stroke oil went into the backpack, the roll of duct tape came out, and the map became a kinda fixture between my legs.

It was then, for the first time, the owner, who's name I never knew, looked us in the eye.  

Was it concern? With a bit of envy?

"You guys be careful, "he said", see you when you get back."

Brooklyn, on the South Side of Baltimore, was a dirty, shady place.
Even in the light of day, the working girls could be seen on the corners.

And all of a sudden I felt a sense of urgency.

We had gotten a late start. The map showed, well, how far Norwich really was.  It was time to book.

We flew out of Americans parking lot, heading North, past the fast food joints, the bars, the working girls, to the very end of Richie Hwy, or Rt 2.

There is an entrance ramp there, maybe 200 yards over the City line, that takes you straight to The Harbor Tunnel.

I rarely used it.

It's one way, you can't get off until you are on the other side of the Inner Harbor, the East Side of the City, a place guys from my neck of the woods rarely went.

Taking the exit, the road slopes up, and we were thrust from the dank, drab warehouses, whose windows were covered with plywood, the grime, and the ugliness of it all, to the approach road to the tunnel.

Instantly, we were above the blue water.  You could smell the salt of The  Chesapeke  Bay.  The Sun never seemed brighter.

It was like somebody had flipped a light switch on.

Across the Harbor, to the left, the gleaming hi rise office buildings of downtown Baltimore stood, together, like one big mountain.  

Directly across, on the outskirts of Dundalk, were the white and red wharf cranes, unloadinthe ships that hailed from all parts of the globe.  

To the right, the massive Bethlehem Steel complex.  Half Shipyard, half steel producing, it was billowing the white steam clouds that rose high into the atmosphere.  2 of the 3 blast furnace towers were running full tilt, doing their part, in a place that made American steel, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

We went thru the gears, and let the bike come alive.
In less than 5 minutes, the entrance of The Baltimore Harbour Tunnel, the tube, came into view.

Just before the ticket booths came into sight, like teeth before the tunnel opening, I glanced to the right.  There lay Maryland Shipbuilding & Drydock.  All blue and black, the companies colors, denoting who they were.
Unknown to me at the time, it was the place I would spend a good half of my 20s, learning the intricacies of the sheet metal trade.

Easing up to a ticket booth, the attendant looked up from a magazine he was reading, gave us the once over, and smiled.
As I handed over the 50 cents, or whatever it was then, he asks, "Where you headed?".

"New York, motorcycle races", I yelled from under the clear, full faced shield that was snapped to my Buco helmet.

"Ya'll have a good time......".

Before he could get another word in, the bike went into 1st, and we were off.

Full tilt, I knew there wasn't any radar in the tube.
Going thru 3rd, it was another world when we hit the white tiled, fluorescent illuminated tube.

Thru 4th, wide open, hitting I don't know what, a guard in one of those glass stations that were spaced thru the tunnel heard us coming.  
I mean, in the confines of the tube, the echo of the intake and exhaust of that bike was incredible.

He stood up from the chair that looked like he was half asleep in, flashed a wide smile, and started waving ahead, as if to say, "Go on boys, give it all you got!"

4th tapped out, it was up into 5th, which meant we were doing 80 easy, close to 90.

Heading North, as we were, thru that tunnel, it bends slightly to the left, and rises to the exit.
Clearing the bend, above us, the small square of bright sunlight that was the exit came into view.

Halfway thru 5th, I never let off.

Blasting out of that hole, heck, it was the same sensation we had had but a few minutes ago, leaving Brooklyn.

We were clear from what we were familiar with.

Sure, both Dale and myself had been all around Baltimore.
But, here, now, this was different.  This wasn't normal.
This was the beginning of a trip.

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Re: The races at armadillo.


From what the map said, it was stay on 695, or 95, they were one and the same, till we hit the beltway on the north side of the city.
Take that west, to 83 north, which turned into 81, which would take us all the way to Binghamton, the first big city in NY.

Piece of cake.

Well, after all the, ah, commotion it took to get out of town, we settled into a steady thump.......thump......thump......thump of uneven expansion joints on the concrete road they called 83.
Pulling a steady 65, 70mph, I felt the miles slip away.

A year later, this thing called the Arab Oil Embargo would force us all to crawl at 55.
But hey, this wasn't then.

Just before the Pa. line, (Welcome Pennsylvania!), the countryside changed from horse and cow land, to one, big, continuous corn field.

I never realized there could be that much corn on planet Earth.

After what seemed like hours, when my butt was starting to feel a bit numb,
for the first time ever on a motorcycle, I kinda felt the bike falling in on itself.

Which was kinda weird, and unsettling.

I mean, that bike ran flawless.

CDI ignition, surface gap spark plugs, auto lube injection, maybe 3 grand on the clock, like I said, it ran flawless.
I backed off a bit, took it down to maybe 60.
A minute later, there it was again.


Pulling off to the gravel shoulder, in the middle of nowhere, with no traffic anywhere, there were at least 10 things running thru my head.

2 stroke oil, just filled it, have a full bottle in the back pack.
A fouled plug?
Clogged petcock?

Getting off the bike, in the middle of a sea of cornfields, Dale said he noticed it too.

Checked the spark plug wires.

Pushed it a few feet, it rolled easy, wheel bearings and chain were fine.
Jumped back on and pulled the gas cap, looking inside, and ..........totally empty.


I had thought of everything.  But forgot about gas.

Looking around, we are but a speck in a desolate sea of green.
I mean, there's not even any cars going by.
I look at Dale, he looks at me.

After a few seconds, when the seriousness of the situation starts to sink in,
Dale mentions something so simple, so obvious, so beautiful.

"Doesn't this thing have a reserve?"

"God Damn F$&@;'g right it does! Or should!", I half yell.
I had never used it. Never needed it. Never read the stinking manual.
But there, as plain as day, was an R stamped into the side of the petcock.

With the flick of a lever, and 3 or 4 kicks, the bike came to life, and we were on the road again!

Now, at first I was relieved, to say the least.
But, buy my thinking, we were half way thru Pa. by now.
And I noticed the map indicated there weren't a lot of places to get fuel on that stretch of 81.

Come to think of it, I hadn't seen any highway signs for awhile.

I really didn't know where we were.

"Did you see any signs saying Harrisberg back there?" I yelled back at Dale.
The map showed Harrisberg as the Southernmost city in Pa.
It was like 1/4 the way to the track.
Confused, I was about to pull over again, when I saw the sign ahead,

Harrisberg, 8 miles.

We pulled into the truck stop off 81, just outside Harrisberg.
We had to be running on fumes, never before was I so relieved to see a gas station.
All you guys have been to one.
You know, the one under the massive "EAT HERE" sign.

"You mean we're not even half way?", Dale asked.
"'s gonna take another 2 days."

He was looking at the map on the tank.
"Man, I dunno. I thought we'd be at least half way by now." I replied.


"Look, lets hit the head, maybe grab something to eat, think about it for a bit." I didn't sound overly confident.
"OK, but I'm telling you, it's another 2 days to get there." He said.

Coming out of the bathroom, on our way to the diner, I noticed a guy standing next to my bike, looking it over.
"Hold on man," I told Dale, "Look. Some guy is checking out the bike."

Visions of a rollback snatching the Mach 3 hit me.
We made a beeline to the bike.

Well, the guy's name was Ron. A trucker in the truest sense of the word.
Short, massive beer belly under a torn tshirt, huge tattoos on each arm, that had faded to basically dark blue blobs.
If you looked real hard, you could see the outline of a ships anchor on one.
It was amazing he could speak, with that stub of a cigar in his mouth,

"Real pretty bike ya'll got here. Reminds me of my 1945 knucklehead. Had it painted the same color. Called it Maxwell. On account the painter called the color Maxwell House Blue. Me and that bike, heck, we were as one for quite awhile. Took us everywhere. You know, people say they weren't reliable. Yea, it leaked a little oil now and then, but, if you kept up the blah blah blah.........".

"Well, where's your knuckle now? What happened to Maxwell?", I asked, in a kinda sarcastic way.

I was tired. Hungry. Trying to sort out the situation I was in. I was irritated.

He looked at me, paused, and told me straight up.

"Life. Life is what happened to Maxwell and me. When I got back to New Jersey, after visiting some friends in San Fransisco, putting just under 6000 miles on him in under 4 months, I got married. I had 2 kids. I got a mortgage. They put power steering and a sleeper in the trucks, and I had to drive...........Life happened."


"So, where you boys headin?", he asked.

"Ah............New York. Motorcycle races just outside a place called Norwich. At least I think we are. Thing is, we're way behind schedule. I'm kinda having second thoughts tho. I mean, we left Baltimore just after noon today. From the look of it, we got another 2 days to get there. At that rate, the races will be over." Glancing at Dale, I added,
"Just might be smart to head on back, do it next year."

"Sheet son, Binghamton ain't but ride up 81. Latch on to a truck that's a makin time.
We all got CBs. We know where The Man is a waitin. 2 hours, you'll be in Binghamton.
Norwich is a just a hop from there. No time like the present.............................or,
you boys can head home.
Mans gotta know his limits. Anyway, nice meeting you 2."

I coulda swore he kinda chuckled to himself.

And with that, Ron turned, and disappeared into trucker land.

"Let's get something to eat." Dale said. "Come on man, lets get something to eat."

Staring at the row of trucks across the parking lot, something bugged me.
"Screw that guy, and Maxwell." I said to myself.

"Dale, let's say we break out the Bologna. Put your sweatshirt on. I'll grab 2 cokes. We gotta roll."

He looked a little confused. But hey, Dale was Dale.

"Ooooo kkkkkkk", was all he said.


By wolfing down 2 sandwiches each, and putting on the sweatshirts, we barely squeezed the 2 gallon red plastic gas can in the back pack.
Sure, I had 4 of them, just like it, back home.  2 of them still even had the spouts and caps.  It killed me plunking down 3 times what I paid for the others at Montgomery Wards.

But hey, I saw we needed it.

Sensing the, I'm not gonna say somber..............sensing the businesslike mood, Dale half joked, "You know, if you wreck us at speed, we're gonna make a hellofa Fireball."
We had topped off the tank, and the can, and thinking about it, there was a lot of fuel..........

Going thru the gears getting back on 81 North, I had to back off a bit and let an 18 wheeler blast by.

Jerk wouldn't change lanes to let me on.
As I latched on to him, keeping maybe 40 or 50 yards back, the final scene of "Easy Rider" flashed thru my head.  You know, where the hillbilly shoots Peter Fonda, and the Captain America bike blows up in a ball of flame.

The human mind can think of some crazy stuff sometimes.

Well, the Jerk was flying.
The Sun was getting real low to our left.

And I got my first look at central Pa.

81, long and straight, passed thru miles of gravel pits, barren grey blue ranges, and what appeared to be worked out strip mines, with not a lot of green anywhere.

Nothing like the corn fields a few hours back.

Darkness was closing, 5th gear droned on, as I set into a steady pace behind The Jerk.

Boredom  had set in a bit, and patience may have been getting thin.  I began to notice, when we hit an incline, getting close to him, I'd have to back off as the Jerk and his load would slow a bit.

Running 75, 80, we'd drop all the way to 60 some times.

Maybe it was the, boredom, I dunno, that was messing with me.

Somewhere, In the mind numbing state I was in,
I let us get close to him at the next incline.
Then, next time, closer.
After that , even closer.
Kept it up until I noticed, the wind would buffet us pretty good at a certain point, moving us side to side a bit.
But, there, I was awful close to the Jerks back bumper.
Maybe 25, 20 feet.
5th or 6th time, we got so close, when the buffeting began, and got pretty strong, the adrenaline started pumping.

All of a sudden there was a contest, that primeval chess game, many humans chase in one way or another.  

It wasn't a roulette table.
I wasn't shoplifting a worthless piece of crap for the thrill of it.
Or throwing a bead on a 10 point whitetail buck.

Yeah, there it was.

It, was one of the main things that set my ancestors line, that had survived, apart from those that had died off. Thousands of thousands of years ago.
Somehow, I found myself, on Highway 81, loaded down with fuel, with the Sun setting to the West, playing that primeval game again.
Trying to beat the odds, trying close the deal, trying kill the prey.

Living, by beating disaster.

In this case, playing a kind solitaire chicken with an 18 wheeler.

I noticed, the wind would buffet us pretty good at a certain point, moving us side to side a bit.
But, there, I was awful close to the Jerks back bumper.
Maybe 20 feet.

I had heard about drafting.  NASCAR drivers, mile dirt trackers, would talk about it.
Sometimes  on  ABCs Wide World of Sports, or in CycleNews, when they covered a big race, you'd catch a blip of it.

But I had never experienced it.

Gathering up courage, with bit more gas, my senses became something of an alarm clock ready to go off.

The Sun had gone down, it was truly dark.
The bikes headlight, illuminating pretty much just the back of the rig, was all I could see.

We pulled in real close, into the buffeting zone.  

A bit more throttle, at maybe 80 mph, we kinda just held pace.

I hesitated.  Then, a bit more throttle.

The buffeting was getting hard to control, the bike was acting kinda wild, like it didn't want to be there.

More throttle.

As we inched a bit closer, my heart started racing.
I mean, we were 15 feet off the Jerks bumper.
Doin 80.

I hesitated. A bit more throttle.

Both of my hands were in a death grip. The wind was knocking us left and right.
I tried not to think about what would happen when we hit that old rusted out muffler, laying in our lane, as it popped out from under the truck.

More throttle.

It was maybe 2 bike lengths, you could see the Phillips head screw heads in the license plates, when the back of the truck towered over us, that I felt it.


Somehow, I could sense the front of the bike, and some of me, were breaking into a kind of void.  Dale, and the back half of the bike were still under attack from the wind.

Felt like an impatient Expert at the motocross, on my ass and rubbing some plastic to get me out of the way.

More throttle.

Closer.......maybe a bike length, 6 feet, doing 80, when.....we broke thru.

All of a sudden, it's still as can be.
Like in the eye of a Hurricane.

I didn't know if it was some kind of vortex, or the sudden lack of resistance, but I immediately had to shut off on throttle.  We were like being sucked into the back of the rig.  At 3 feet from hitting him, I touched the back brake.

Backing away I felt the tip of the buffeting try to suck us back in.

A little throttle, a little brake, delicately, like riding in the mud, 6 feet off the Jerks bumper, Dale and I were in that sweet spot, a place not a lot will ever go.

"HOLY CRAP!", I heard Dale yell from behind me, "WE'RE DRAFTING!"

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Re: The races at armadillo.

In reply to this post by grado
We drafted the Jerk most of the way to Wilkes Barre.

We had to hit reserve again, maybe 20 miles out.

The first exit for the next little town had the usual, green, official State Roads sign you see virtually everywhere.  I can't remember it's name.
But, right under it, was a home made sign, painted in day-glo yellow and purple, that said, "THE TUBBS".


We took the exit, a gas station was right there.
Jumping off the bike, Dale and I talked about the draft thing while the tank got filled.

Squaring up with the gas attendant, I asked him, what THE TUBBS were.
Said it was a stream, with these round hole like, holes, that had been carved out by the water, over ages of time.

"The Hippies have pretty much taken the place over." he told me, with a hint of  sadness in his voice.

In the following years, in the half dozen or so times we made that trek, it became a favorite place to stop.
Roughly half way to Norwich, you could take a dip, stretch the legs, and relax a bit.
When we had girls with us, they loved it.
I Wikipediad it just yesturday, THE TUBBS, Pa.  Came right up.

Back on the road, it's pitch dark by now.

We blast around Wilkes Barre, thru Scranton, feeling kinda naked against the cops without the Jerk to hide behind.
Im starting to think, "Will we ever get there?"

Hunkered down, riding like its a job, it seems like minutes after we clear this place called Hallstead, that we see it up head.

The biggest, brightest, boldest sign I ever remember seeing.
I yelled in glee, and so did Dale.


The map showed it was gonna get a bit dicey from here on in.
The next roads we would ride, would be 2 lanes with a double yellow line to follow.

With very little lighting, and it's freaking dark.

Not stopping in Binghamton, we pick up on Rt 12.

Minutes after making the switch from highway to byway, I notice, off in the distance,flashes of what appear to be lightning high in the atmosphere.
 "That's nice." I say to myself, just before Dale yells at me...."Did you see that!"

One thing about New York, at that time anyway, was they had good roads.

Rt 12 is smooth.
Bright, freshly painted lines.  
2 lanes, it snakes thru the mountains and trees, which I kinda like after what seemed like an eternity on 81.

Mostly uneventful, except for the 2 dogs that run out of that farm house, all lit up with blue Mercury lights, trying to intercept us like a pair of SAM ground to air rockets.
Dropping a gear a grabbing a handful, my heart flutters, and they miss us by a few feet.

"THEY ALMOST GOT US!", Dale half yells and laughs.

The map says there are no real hairpin turns ahead, so I've got things going at a pretty good clip.

Not Isle of Mann speed, but we are booking it.

After awhile, I get to feeling anxious.
We've been making good time.
Fuel has to be getting low.
We have to be getting close to the target.
The prize. Norwich can't be too far off.

The heat lightning is getting stronger, sometimes it's like a giant strobe light.
Illuminating the trees, creeks and country side, for an instant.
It only increases my sense of urgency.

I find I'm almost yelling at myself, in my head, asking,
"Where the f$&k is Norwich?".........    

Finally, that kind of glow a city or town has over it from a distance in the dark appears.
Dale notices it also, and we both fist pump the air, Effin right, we made it!

We pull into town, I dunno, somewhere around 11.
Norwich is a quaint little town, painted all up, clean as a whistle.
Lots of turn of the century buildings, a few 50s era storefronts,
a small square in the middle of it.

After riding the dark backroad called Rt 12,
It's like an oasis of light in pitch black ocean.
There's traffic, people are out, but not a lot is open.
Hardly anyone on the sidewalks.

On the left, right in the middle of the town square, I notice a small storefront restaurant.

"The Bluebird", Looks to be open.

There are no posters around, about any race, anywhere.
Haven't seen another motorcycle in hours.
I'm hungry, and I'm thinking, if anywhere, the local diner is the place for what's up in town.

So I slide up to the curb.

I swear, I felt like that guy in  the flick, "Back to the Future".
I'm looking for the clock stuck on 1 pm.
It's like, 1955 and Eisenhower is in office or something.

We get off the bike, my butt is numb, and my legs are kinda stiff.

Dale ain't complaining, it's a diner, there's food in there.

Walking in, the whole place is painted aquamarine green.
Booths all the way down on the right.
The white countertop, running 2/3rds the length of the place, on the left, has those round, chrome, toadstool seats that swivel completely around, all along it.  
Cash register in front. There's a long, square hole in the wall,  behind the counter, where I sense the kitchen is.

The place smells like deep fryer cooking grease.

There are three people in there, in the serving area anyway.

1 waitress doing her nails, half way down the counter, leaning against the sandwich unit,  under the kitchen, ah, window.
The other waitress is all the way in the back, standing there having an intense conversation with a pretty big guy, sitting on the last stool.
All are about our age, with the hulking dude, who mustta been called Jethro, maybe a few years older.  

Well, Carol, leaves the guy in the back, introduces herself and begins taking the orders.
Cute little thing. Bright smile. She kinda perks up realizing we're not from around there.
I'm checking the place out, for any hint of any bulletin board, or sign, and
notice Dale already working her.

"Yeah, we've been on the road all day.....ran out of gas just south of Harrisberg, drafted an 18 wheeler all the way thru Pennsylvania, almost crashed when these 2 dogs tried to bite us......oh yeah, we're from Baltimore........on our way to the motorcycle races in......", he pauses and glances at me, "Armidillo".

I didnt even acknowledge it, I mean, it was kinda funny.

Carol and Dale have this thing going so much it's the other waitress that
takes the orders and brings the food. Next thing I know, he's got both of them talking.

I glance at Jethro, he's sitting back there, all alone, and he's looking straight at us.

"Great", I say to myself, "Effin Dales gonna get both of us killed."

I polish off the hot turkey sandwich, with Cole slaw and fries, "no gravy on the fries please...", ignoring everybody.  Was a great meal.

The girls are steady chirping away with what's his name.

I glance once too many a time at Jethro I guess.
His girlfriend was being an ass ignoring him for Dale, wasn't cool, I could sense it, woulda pissed me off too.

Then, in a tone meant to be heard half way down the block, he asks,
"You guys looking for something?  Ain't no Armidillo town in theses here parts."

Now, I wish I could say it was funny, but it really wasn't.
He's not looking at Dale. He ain't looking at the girls.
He's looking straight at me.

Now, believe it.
I'm not a big dude.  And I ain't scared. I've won a few, I've lost a few.
And I'm sure I'm not the smartest guy on the planet.

But I do know, this guy could break us both like dried out little twigs.

And all of a sudden, you could hear a feather drop in that place.

My brain goes into, I'm not gonna say panic mode, let's say, the intense sell to save ass mode.

"No guy, not Armadillo, it's a place called Unadilla" I say. "Supposed to be some big motorcycle races up here in Norwich.............................Had to get away from the farm, for a bit, been pullin suckers all week."

I'm trying to be as straight, good ol boy and down to earth as can be.

Jethro sizes me up, you can see the wheels turning in his massive, blockhead, ah, head.  

"That don't help none. Why you even bother with them?"
"What are you guys, truck farmers or something?" he says.

A note to all that don't know.  Suckers, are the small, bottom branches of a corn stalk.
They are pulled that time of year, when the corn is maybe half grown.

Some, like my Uncle Roy, who I used to work for on his 250 acre farm as a kid, believed removing, or pulling them, made for a juicer, tastier ear of corn.  Especially white sugar corn. Which is all he grew. And the reason all he grew was white sugar corn was he was what some referred to as a truck farmer.  Unlike the farmers that grew large tracts of yellow corn, harvesting with giant combines, for livestock feed, he sold all his product for human consumption.

A truck farmer usually grew a variety of crops, turnips, corn, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, water melon, whatever.  And usually, he would harvest different stuff every day, as most ripened at different times.  And usually, it was a full sized pickup truck that did the deed. If you were lazy, you took the truck to the market at 4am, got everything sold, wholesale, by 6, and were home and done for the day at 8.  But, if you wanted to make more money, you sold at the stand on the side of the road.  9am to 2 or 4.  Longer hours, you had to deal with the public, but you got more for it.

That, is a truck farmer.  And the feed growers, with all the big silos, and machinery, and acreage, and livestock, sometimes..........well you get it.

"Yeah. Sweet corn, maters, melons, sweet potatoes, egg plant, turnips n peppers mostly. Those suckers won for a day or so. My knees couldn't do no more." I told him.

Another thing about pullin suckers. You get on your hands and knees. You reach over and rip the 2 small branches off. You kinda crawl to your left or right, sideways, to the next plant, and do it again.  All. Day. Long.

It's the worst job, I don't care what they say, in farming.

"And man, we're kinda lost. Supposed to be here in Norwich, was figuring it would be right outside town, but really, ain't seen nothing about it anywhere." I lamented.

"Shoot, that ain't happening here.  That's over on 8.  North of New Berlin.
Don't you guys even know where you're goin?"  He says.
Like I'm a dumb ass.

I'm in disbelief. Kinda dumbfounded. A little confused. And bummed.
We've been in the saddle for 12 freakin hours already.
I mean, I thought we were there.  
And now, this Neanderthal is telling me otherwise?

It must have shown, my disappointment that is. That I was sincere.
And even tho we were strangers, he had bought into the 'we really were the same.'
We were alike.
We were farmers.
I ask'd him how he'd get there, if he knew a good, easy route, how would he do it, and he jumped right on it.
All of a sudden,he was part of it, he was involved, he was part of the conversation.

And he was the one with some vital, important information.

Right then, I knew, we were in. Dodged getting broken like a dried out twig, and were gonna get the final key to this puzzle known as,
"The Races at Unadilla and its Actual Location".


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In reply to this post by grado
More tomorrow guys.....  
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Yes. More.
I really HATE trying to rebuild a large batch of wordage... It's never the same.
Supports splitting everywhere.
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As we left The Bluebird, and walked thru the half stainless, half glass, almost Art Deco door, Dale says, " Man, what was that guys problem?.............And what was the suckers thing.  You haven't pulled a sucker in probably 4 years."

I just let it go.

Actually, Thomas, was a pretty good guy. To me. Between the very serious looks in Dales direction, he told me the deal.

There were 2 routes to the track.  Which, to my relief, would take half an hour, 45 minutes at most.

North, out of town a bit, he would make the right on 320, take that over to 8, make the left at New Berlin, and in a few minutes would be at the track.

But, that was a small road, and maybe it would be better if we just took 23. Which was the right maybe a block or 2, right here in town, to South New Berlin.
8 ran thru both Berlins, just take the left at either town.

If we were going to the town of Unadilla, we'd make a right at 8, to 7, and make a left.

I'm paying attention. It's dark. No flashlight. No matches. No lighter.
Don't want to pull that map off the tank and hold in front of the headlight.
"You got this." I tell myself.

And yes, his name was Thomas.  
I heard his waitress girlfriend, behind me as were were leaving, smoothing things over, covering her butt.

"Thomas", just as sweet as could be, "How about a slice of coconut
custard pie? We just got it in today. It's really good.  Let me get you some and a fresh coffee."

Don't know what irritated me more.  
Knowing, on the outside, both of those girls were
all sweet and innocent, and that 4 hours at one of Dales parties would bring out the real in them.

Or, that they didn't tell me they had fresh coconut creme pie.

I mean.............I really like coconut creme pie.

Anyways, we had been informed, there were no gas stations open at that time of night.
We pulled the gas can out, and the bike took all 2 gallons.  Just about topped it off.

I spilled a good bit of the 2stroke oil all down the side of the oil tank.
Got that topped off also.
No little funnel, no flashlight, overfilling was easy to do. Had to wipe off what I could with my sleeve. At least the Amalie was in a plastic bottle.  I think it even had the clear stripe going down the side, where the ounces and ccs were molded into it.
But the spout, hey, this was back then, the spout was a little stub, center of the bottle.
Now, today, one of mans greatest, and most taken for granted, advancements would have really helped.  If the spout was a little longer. And set to either side on the top of the  

People nowadays, don't know how easy they have it.

The chain was loose, and needed lube, but that was gonna have to wait.
One kick, that bike fired right up.
It almost felt like a horse under me, that had been ridden all day, and could smell the stable on the way back in.

I wanted to get there, Dale wanted to get there, and even the blue mach 3 wanted to get there.

We took the first right, maybe one block past from where The Bluebird was.
1/4 of a mile out, it was pitch black except for what the headlight put out.
The heat lightning seemed to be fading.
It was behind us, and no longer lit everything up like a giant strobe light.
I remember it being cool enough to appreciate the sweat shirt, and there seemed to be a lot of moisture in the air.  Not like heavy fog. But thick enough to you could feel it in your clothes.

At the intersection of Rt 8, the sign confirmed we were on the right path.

South New Berlin.

We suck the left, heading North.
It's gotta be well past midnight, the town is deserted.
Not a car or person in sight.

A few minutes, "WELCOME TO NEW BERLIN" jumps out of the darkness.

A clone of South New Berlin, I wonder what the story is behind the 2 names.

Thru the town in the wink of an eye, my spirits jump when I see, to the left,
a small, one story motel.  The kind you pull right up to the room you're gonna probably get.

It's full, of cars and vans, some pulling dirt bikes with number plates.

"Yes!" I say to myself.
Without speaking, I point to it as we blow on buy.
Dale yells his "YEAH BABY", and in maybe 15 minutes I see it ahead.

There, in the middle of the pitch black, 2 lane road, are a set of tail lights.
I can tell, whatever it is, it ain't moving.
I sense we're kind of in a valley. The heat lightning shows a ridge to my left.
And as we pull-up to the back of what is a small, enclosed trailer, with some
bike shop logo on the back, the road opens up.

Floodlights illuminate the red barn on the right.
There's a big banner, hanging from 2 poles, above what appears to be a conglomerate of food and tshirt type of vendors.

The 2 guys with flashlights back away from the driver side window of the rig in front of us.
As the vehicle starts its slow right turn off the road, to what looks like a darkened pit area, they motion for me to pull up, waving the flashlights like some railway worker on a caboose.

We pull up, the guy half  blinds me with his light as he asks, "You guys here for the races?".
"Yep." I half yell, "Straight in from Baltimore."
He gives our show a quick once over, I detect a faint smile as he lets me know, "Free bike parking and camping right here to your left. Go thru the gate, on the left. It's flat, there's water over at the barn. That's the track right there." He's motioning to my right, over to where what looks like the pit area.

I look up at the big banner, which is now facing me.
Large blue lettering, like a beacon in the night it is.
Pausing, absorbing the slight euphoria that engulfs me, I point it out to Dale.



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Looking left, I put it in first and turned onto the gravel entrance road to general parking/camping.

Right in front of us, there was a kinda flat area, a few football fields wide.
After that, a pretty good ridge stood to maybe 10 o clock high.

“The Hill”, as i would later come to know its name, but for a few campfires on it, was pitch black.
The sky behind it, being just a shade of purple/ black lighter in color, would still light up now and then with heat lightning.

The place had begun to fill with people.

There were a few RVs and campers already set up.
The sign on the left pointed to “Motorcycle parking”, which is where we went.
This was a small, fenced off area, sitting right on Rt8.
Maybe half the size of a football field.

There were a few bikes already parked, a few pup tents already set up.
The light from the barn, and big banner, across the street, gave off that weird, mercury blue/flood light glow.

I recognized a pair of beemers, panners and all, on their centerstands.
The small campfire separating them from a pretty cool, round pup tent was but a few embers now.
Glancing around as we pulled in, I picked a spot to the right, next to the snowfencing, that looked pretty level.

Killing the bike, we both took a moment before getting off, to just look around.
Except for the occasional vehicle on Rt8, and the guys directing those showing up where to park, it was quiet.
It had to be around 2 am, one would think.

Getting the bike on the centerstand took a few tries.
The lot was mainly shale rock with but a sliver of grass here and there.
We ended shimming it mostly level with a few loose rocks we grabbed from a pile by the fence.

The back pack came off.  The plastic sheet came out.  We draped the sheet over the bike, duct taping to the bars and rear fender.  Pulling the sheet out, we made a impromptu tent. More rocks from the pile were laid along the ends of the plastic, and poof, shelter!

We both were pretty tired.
Crawling in, each on either side of the bike, Dale got the backpack for a pillow.  Me, after putting my helmet back on, staring at the loose chain that was right in my face, laying on a bed of shale rock, drifted off, as a light rain began to fall.

I awoke to that damp thru the clothes, that had been slept in feeling.

The Sun was streaming thru the clear plastic sheeting.
It was hot in there, and really muggy.
Sort of like a miniature greenhouse.

Taking a minute to gather my senses, I could sense activity all around.
There was the sound of car engines at idle, cars passing down Rt8, voices
both loud and muffled everywhere.

Crawling out from the makeshift shelter, it was another world.
Very bright, very humid from the rain that apparently fell overnight,
with the smell of trees and grass in the air.
A beautiful, East Coast, kind of morning.

At maybe 9am the whole place was abuzz.

30 yards away, over the red primer painted snowfence, there were 2 guys
taking money and directing people right or left, to the pits or to camping.
The line was backed up on Rt8 maybe a dozen deep.
Pick ups, vans and motor homes mainly, a somewhat motley caravan at best it appeared to be.

A few more bikes had shown up, but apart from a guy working on one of the 2 beemers, bike parking was quiet.

People everywhere were setting up tents, cooking breakfast over Coleman stoves, looking around, and just getting their bearings on what was up.
It was a festive atmosphere.
There was a kind of energy going on.
Aside from the grumbling you saw now and then when a tent pole wouldn't fit, or whatever small calamity arose, smiles were the order of the day.

And I noticed, Dale wasn't around.

The backpack was stored under the bike, jammed under the exhaust pipes that ran under the frame.
Across the way, on the other side of the road, next to the pits, I saw smoke coming out from a few vendor trailers.
Feeling hungry, and all of a sudden curious about the track, which from what I could see, was massive, I headed out to bag some breakfast.

The ham egg and cheese, with ketchup, chased down with a Pepsi, was great.

Standing there, on the edge of vendors row, you can see all across the valley, to the next ridge.

And the track took up a lot of it.

Like I said, it was massive.
All grass, with big sweepers, uphills, downhills, a section I would later come to know as Screw U, where you jumped into a kind of gully only to be spit right back out, launching a guy 20 feet in the air.  In the back, an almost vertical hill, half a football field high, The Wall they called it. With a hairpin turn at the bottom, keeping everyone in first gear as they began to attack it,
I wondered if I could pull it even with a running start.
The finish line wrapped right, around the now half full pit area, in one giant

It was like something out of a movie.
I almost expected Steve McQueen to blast by on an old Triumph, with Nazis in hot persuit.

Then I noticed Dale trudging up from the bowels of the track.
Waving with a quick yell of, "Hey Grady!", he took maybe 30 seconds to get to me and the concessions area.

Out of breath, and uncharacteristic for him, plainly excited, he gushed,
" gotta see this track!".

Well, we walked the track, talking here and there with others doing the same, about, well, motocross stuff.

It was pretty cool, the different accents.
Some were easy to recognize.
The Southern Drawl, The Boston Kennedy Speak, The California..Like..Cool..Talk, most you didn't have to ask.
But some, you did.
"Where you guys from?"
Kansas City.
Heck, there were 2 guys that looked like factory mechanics from Japan that just smiled and nodded.

All of us different, but then again, kind of the same in a sense.
Each of us drawn, like moths, to a candle.
In this case, the candle was called MotoCross.

Well, by noon we had made our way around the whole circuit.
With our fill of oooooossss,  and aaaaahhhhssss, we walked in to the pit area.

And got another dose of amazement.

Realize, at the time, we we're racing Hodakas, Kawasaki 90s, (which at the time, in our little world, ran the strongest with their rotary induction), Dt1s
and the like.  Heck, the biggest modification most of us had was taking the lights off.  

And I kid you guys not, if you were hard core, and actually went and ran
an AMA District 7 event, paper pie plates and black electric tape for your numbers were by no means unheard of.

That's why, when we hit the pits, it was like a wonderland.

Bultacos, Ossas, Husqvarnas, Montesas, Maicos, they were everywhere.
Sure, at an AMA event back home, a few rich kids or sponsored riders would have one, but they were rare. And exotic. And just down right beautiful.
But here, it was like being transported to Europe.
Heck, the only Japanese bike I remember seeing was a tricked out DT1.
And that thing was like no other Japanese bike I ever saw.
Even the gas tank was held down with some kind of strap.

I mean, WTF?

And you could tell who was serious.
Sure, there were the usual, well off, mom and pop and billy in the massive motor home with the brand new Maico sitting out under the awning.

"Honey, don't forget, I made lunch, it's on the countertop".

But, what got me, was the guys that meant business.
Doing it out of a van, or a small enclosed trailer, heck, this was before the box van scene, those guys had extra everything.
Fork sets, motors, swingarms, geez, you could not count the spare sets of brand new, razor sharpe tires, already mounted on rims ready to go!

Just jammed into the back of those tiny trailers and vans.

And believe me, they worked on those bikes.
Just keeping them clean was an eye opener.
Nobody had a power washer.
Everything was flat screwdrivers, wire brushes, buckets of water and rags.
And you'd be surprised how clean you can get a mud caked bike, with just those things, in maybe 20 minutes.

Not knowing it at the time, we even got a glimpse to the future.
That tricked out DT1, they even had a few Japanese looking guys working on it.  

Wearing, could you believe it, what looked like, some kind of uniforms?

The tricked out DT1 guys were pitted right next to the vendors area.
Which was a long string of trailers and trucks selling all the standard circus/county fair stuff.  Cotton candy, Philly cheesesteaks, fried chicken, polish hotdogs, lemonade........the same food that had been sold at these kinds of events for decades.

You could smell the cooking grease from a half a football field away.
And it smelled freaking great.
So, off we went for a gourmet meal.

Dale and I were about half way thru the cheesesteak subs when I heard right behind me........"What the hell are u guys doing here?"

Chad Anderson was a friend of ours. He and his wife Sherry were in their mid 30s.  Coca Cola hippies they were.  That is Chad worked, sometimes,
as a carpenter.  Sherry did some kind of volunteer stuff.  They had a pretty nice house, drove nice cars, and even had a long stretched out orange Dodge van, decked out just for dirt bikes.  
That's where the connection was.
Chad didn't actually race, but he was usually at most of the sand pits and riding areas we rode.  
Every year, he'd have a brand new Bultaco.  
His house was back on the edge of the woods, in a big field, next to a cement factory.  We'd ride our bikes thru the woods to his place and sometimes mix it up in the small track he had out back.  
Sherry was a total fox, and had a daughter, Cindy, even hotter.

Always friendly, always happy.

They were living the life.

Ya, Chad was cool.  

Sometimes, rumors would float around, that he was into other stuff, but as far as we were concerned, nobody asked, and he never said he did anything more than build decks.

They both were incredulous when we told them we had rode up.

"Man, you guys should have told me you were coming.  I rented a motor home for a week.  You could have rode up with us.  Cindy and a friend of hers, I think her name is Laurie, are back at the camp."

Right then both Dale and I, had his undivided attention.

Because, you see,that was a rather important piece of information.

When I was in the 7th grade, Cindy was in the 9th, after failing and repeating a year.   They held her back for hooking class most of the time.  For one year we rode the same bus to and from school. Half the time some older mechanic looking dude would be waiting after school, giving her a ride home in a beautiful blue chevelle, crager mags and all.

And believe it,  Cindy, even at that time, was a woman on a bus full of kids.

I mean, she was just beautiful.  Long blonde hair and legs, great smile,
pretty didn't do her justice.  And a rack like Dolly Parton.
Aloof, distant, some would say stuck up, one could see why.  
Everyone wanted that.  Heck, all the male, and half the female teachers acted like the wanted to do her.   Let alone the students.
Rumors they did abound, of her at late night parties, with the older crowd and things that went on.
Put that all together, and one could see where the attitude came from.

But, whenever by chance we sat together on the ride to or from school, she was always cool to me.  Maybe it was because I rode with her dad.
She'd talk about this and that, and me, it would be total stage fright.  
"Ah huh.  Yep.  I know.  Yep."  I was a 7th grader talking to the equivalent of a Sophomore in high school.  Heck, she could have been a college coed on Spring break if you didn't know any different.

And It was like I was a moron around her.

But hey,  that was then, and this was now.

3 or 4 years had passed since the last time I'd seen Cindy.
And from what Chad had said, she and her friend were gonna be sleeping
not a football field away from where the bike was parked that night.

So, when they offered us dinner and a place to sleep, both of us almost fell over each other accepting.

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After shooting the breeze with Chad and Sherry for a bit, we headed back to the bike and camp.  

There was no practice, it was Saturday afternoon and the place was kinda buzzing.

I took the time to go over the bike.  The chain got tightened. I put some of the Amalie 2stroke oil on it. Brakes were fine.

It was then a guy pulled in and parked right next to us.  
Darryl I think his name was.
Nice as heck, we all nodded and introduced ourselves as he started to unpack.  Unlike us, he had a good bit of gear. A pup tent and sleeping bag even.

And he was on a Honda CB 750.  The only bike at the time that could outrun
my 500.  And only in 4th and 5th.  Stoplight to stoplight around town, nothing, and I mean nothing, was quicker than my blue Mach 3.
Even when I ran at Capitol Drag Raceway, it wasn't till maybe 2/3 down the track those 750s would pull me.

We talked bikes, comparing the 2.
He had come back from Nam in 69, and bought one of the very first ones.
Little did any of us realize at the time, as he was talking about getting ready to trade it in for a Triumph, what he had.
What he had was a first run bike that would change the land scape of street bikes to come, for the next 25 years.  
A 1969 Honda Sandcast CB 750.
It's not uncommon to see a 750 Sandcast, most of the first run 1969 750s had their engines cast in sand molds, go for 30, 50 thousand dollars nowadays.

If he would have just parked it on the garage, and thrown a tarp over it....

The place was starting to hop.   The line of cars and trucks stretched a good bit down Rt 8 waiting to get in.

And one could see, this was more than just a motorcycle race.
Sure, you could see the people that fit the mold of a rider, or racer.
But there were a lot that didn't.
Cases and coolers of beer were everywhere.
Now and then, a wiff of marijuana would float by.
I'm not saying it was another Woodstock. But you could tell a lot of guys coming in did not know the difference between a Husquvarna and a Maico.
They were there for the party.

And so we killed a few hours.  The BMW guys offered us dinner.  They were staying till Monday and had plenty of food.  2 guys showed up on a set of Harley Choppers. Hardtails.  They knew bikes. Both had ridden dirt, and were there because they knew the best in the world were gonna run.  

It was pretty cool, a melting pot of motorcyclists there, for, well, motorcycles.

And so it was, as the Sun began to set, that Dale and I buttoned things up at the bike.

It was cool, really a good time just hanging out talking about motorcycles.  
All kinds of motorcycles.

But Dale and I, we had other things on our mind.

Chad had told us he was parked 3rd row in from Rt8, all the way back.

We found him in like 5 minutes.

He had backed the Winnebago in the last slot, so the side door faced the snow fence.  There was maybe 16 feet of space, with nothing but a row of bushes, and then a pretty big field of what looked to be rye grass about 3 feet tall.  No awning or ezup, just a small campfire and a few folding chairs.
Old telephone poles lined the base of the bushes.

It was cool. It was almost private. The Sun was already slipping behind The Hill when we knocked on the side door.

Well, Chad sticks his head out, flashes that big, "What, me worry?" Look and tells us he's glad we showed up.  He ushers us up the fold out stairs and in we go.  

It's clean in there.  The 12volt lighting is soft. Overstuffed cushions abound.
It's like walking in from the outback, to a Suite at the Hilton.

Sherry looks up from doing, well, something on the small kitchen counter,
flashing that beautiful smile of hers.  "I'm so glad you guys found us. I'm just now getting dinner started. I forgot the hot dog buns, but we have plenty of cole slaw, chips and marshmallows. You guys thirsty?  There's 2 cases of Budweiser in that big cooler. They've been on ice all day."

Dale grabs 2 tall necks, and Chad starts with a tour of this house on wheels.

"That table drops down into a bed. Up there, behind that curtain is enough space to sleep 2.  Totally self contained.  That means we have our own water, bath room, heat and ac. Plus a refrigerator! There's a generator, but it's so loud we turned it off.  Power steering and brakes. A big ass motor,
sucks the gas for sure. And look at this!  An 8 track built into the dash!
And check this out, it's called cruise control. Set it and all you need to do is steer!"

He goes on and on, with the excitement of a little kid almost.  Which was a bit different really. I mean, even tho we all rode together, and knew each other for a long time, there was the age difference thing. That subtle, keep your distance issue, that was always in the background.

And now, for some reason, that had all but evaporated.

"I'd show you guys the bathroom and shower, and the master bed in the back, but Cindy and Laurie are back there getting dressed."

Now, Chad might have gone on about some other things, I don't remember.
All I could think of was, right behind that little, flimsy, folding door, there were 2, twenty something girls, with half their clothes on.  

10 feet away.  At most.

And I know I wasn't the only one thinking it.  A quick glance at Dale, and his look back, without even a hint of a smile, told me he was thinking the same thing.  

"Could you guys see if u can get that folding table out from the storage compartment up front for me, maybe set it up by the steps, and we can get this show on the road?"   It was Sherry that brought both Dale and myself back to reality.  "I'm ready to start setting things up. I'm hungry"

Chad stayed in helping his wife, we found and set the table up along with 2 more chairs. Out came the cooler.  Sherry gave Dale a blanket to drape over
one of the telephone poles laying there, apologizing for not having enough chairs.  Out came the trays of food, Chad along with it, saying we needed a few sticks for the hot dogs and marshmallows.  Sherry followed, flitting about for a minute or 2, and it seemed like all was ready to get with it.

It was then that I heard a few giggles, looked back at the motorhome and saw Cindy and her friend Laurie coming down the stairs.

Now, I don't know if it was the light from the campfire in the darkness.
Maybe it was the riding and rough living of 2 days.
Or just a guy of 17 going on 18.

Whatever, it was everything I could do to keep from staring.

Both of them, they could have been sisters, almost twins.  Both blonds with long, almost waist long hair. Long tanned legs, with matching, cut off blue jean shorts.  Short shorts.  No waists. Both were in these tiny construction boots, making even them look good.  Laurie had this tank top on, but Cindy,
Cindy had one of those old man undershirts on.  You know, with the suspenders over the shoulders things.  And you could see, that was it.
And yea, I had grown to maybe an inch taller than her, but she had herself
had grown even bigger in another way.

I don't know what it was, but for sure these were females in the prime of their lives. Beauty reserved for those between say, 18 to 25.  With that carefree, happy vibe that sometimes goes with it.

Freaking awesome.

They say it takes a person 3 seconds to size up another human being.
And that's about how long I took as they both approached us.
Did I, when looking up catch her still looking down?
Whatever, when the eyes met, she flashed that smile, and said, "Hi Rich! Long time no see!"

Now, the 7th grade Rich would have mumbled something, maybe looked away and went back to chokeville.

But that was then, and this was now.

Purposefully,  looking her up and down, and taking my time doing it, I fought the adrenaline rush that began to flow.

"Cindy," I told her, "life has been good to you.  You look even better than I remember. If that's possible...........".  

Pause.  The guy from the 7th grade was trying to get out.........

Snapping out of it, I got it together.

"So who's your friend?" I asked, turning to and giving my attention to Laurie,
as if I didn't already know.  

"Laurie, this is Rich." Cindy began.
"He's a friend of my dad. We used to ride the bus to school together. Rich, this is Laurie.  Her dad is some big doctor in Annapolis.  She didn't want to come, she thinks all guys on motorcycles are like, hells angels.  Her dad didn't want her to come either, but I told him I'd watch out for her."  
They both glanced at each other and smirked with that one.

"Yikes." I thought to myself.

Dale had in seconds materialized beside me.
He was fully aware I knew Cindy.
And that Cindy was with Laurie

With a glance to acknowledge him I did the intro, and made the claim at the same time.  

"Laurie, this is Dale. Good friend of mine, a good guy. We go back a long time.  He knows motorcycles pretty good, and isn't some hells angels guy.
I'm sure he can show you what's up, get you filled in on what's happening."

Looking back at Cindy, there was that smile, that little hint, or unspoken word, part of the language we as humans use in our little game of mating.
She understood what had just happened, and was just fine with it.

Now,  back at one of Dales parties, there might have been words between
the 2 of us, Dale and I.  "I wanted that one!", when we got out of earshot.

But hey, Laurie was total looker also.  Maybe not quite a Cindy. But when Laurie lit up and moved closer to Dale, saying let's help Cindy's mom with
the hot dogs, believe it, everyone was happy.

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Re: The races at armadillo.

This post was updated on .
Thanks for bringing this great read to here for us to enjoy.

Now if we could convince Oldiron to bring is spectacular EU read on over we would have even more great reads.

You meet some of the best folks behind bars.
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Re: The races at armadillo.

Dinner was great.

Hot dogs on a stick over the fire.  Cole slaw and potato chips. Even without hot dog rolls. Desert was marshmallows on the same stick.

With all the Budweiser we could drink

As the cars seemed to keep rolling in, and the partying up on the hill seemed to get a bit more, ah, pronounced, the six of us slipped into an easy place.

We laughed at Chads stories of crazy customers, and stories of the home improvement business.  

And got a bit sobered when he explained, how on his first trip behind the Iron Curtain, to a World Championship GP, the East Germans made the whole tour bus take off their shoes at one checkpoint.

"They told us", he explained, "they didn't want any Western dirt in their country.  So there we were, all standing on the side of the road, shoeless, with these border guards carrying AK 47s, searching us."

Chad might have looked like a hippie, and in some ways, some bohemian ways, he kinda was.

But, unlike many of that era, his view of America was a bit different.
"Really, you guys don't know how good we have it here.  This is a great country to live in.  Over's just plain scary."

Laurie, she was all about Annapolis, yachts, sailing and her old man the heart specialist that just didn't understand her.

Sherry, after a few, lamented how quiet the house was now that it was just her and Chad.

Dale was on a roll about the ride up, and I think I might have slipped into a kind of remorseful rant on the, "Is this all there is?" thing.

Funny, surrounded with the world of Moto cross, we found ourselves immersed in the daily points of our everyday lives.

Chad and Sherry turned in first.  Said they were used to early to bed, early to rise.  I think it had more to do with the Budweiser's vs their sleeping

Dale asked Laurie if she wanted to check things out, it sounded pretty wild up there on The Hill, and they split.

And that left me and Cindy, sitting on a blanket, in front of a fire, half drunk,
400 miles from home, alone with each other.

We laughed about some of the things back in school.  Where we were in life.
Where we thought we were going.  She was gonna marry a rich guy. I was gonna be a motorcycle racer.  She had just been promoted to barmaid in some high class hotel.  Some of the old guys could get kinda creepy she said, but not all of them.  I explained how I was into a cardio training schedule, light lifting, riding, and could go 25 minutes 3 times a day, no problem.

"You can go 25 minutes 3 times, no problem?" She asked, kinda smiling.

It must have been the beer, because I was half way thru explaining how cool it was reeling in the front runners late in a race, when I realized what she was talking about.  I know I had had 3, maybe 4.  And she was out drinking me, 2 to 1.

I shut up, she moved closer, and we both laughed at my stupidity.

Her hand went on my thigh, I leaned over, gently brushed that long, blond hair off her shoulder, leaned over, and gently kissed her neck.

She smelled like blueberry shampoo.

She wrapped her arm around my back, pulling me even closer, pressing herself into me.  Her other hand moved from my thigh to, well, me.

As I worked up the nape of her neck, to the back of her ear,
she kinda whispered, "That's nice."

It was maybe 10 seconds.  I was thinking, yes, nice is an understatement,
this is Effin great, when I felt her pause.  

I pulled back a bit, she pulled straight up, sat at attention, and looked directly into the fire.

WTF?  I thought.  What did I just do?

Then, she uttered the four words no guy in that position wants to hear.
The words of despair. The words of doom.

"I don't feel good." She whispered.

"No, No , No, no no no no!!!" My mind raced as I stared at her.

Before I could say a thing, do anything, my worst fears were realized.

Cindy tilted her head back a bit, along with her shoulders, stuck that beautiful chest out, and puked a stream of vomit clear to the edge of the fire.  Which was 6, maybe 8 feet away.

Let me tell the reader, I've seen a lot get sick.  But this girl, heck, puking wise, the girl from The Exorcist had nothing on Cindy.  She could throw it. Hot dogs mixed with marshmallows and beer, I guess didn't agree with her.

And I knew right then, it was over.

Wasn't happening.

I mean, I could overlook a lot in those situations.  She might be b&&&h. She might be, ah, overweight.  Maybe not the best looking.
But I could never get past the smell of vomit.
And no matter what they did, brush their teeth, mouthwash, whatever,
it was there.  And it was a deal breaker for me.  It's like it gets into their lungs
for 24 hours or something.

And so, I knew, it was over.

She threw it a few more times, nothing quite as strong as the first, finally
slumping down with her head between her knees.

"Oh my God......." was all she could say.

Which was more than I could.  I was dumbfounded.

Sherry must have heard her, she came to the door, asking if everything was all right.  

"I don't feel so good mom, I'm coming in." Cindy said.

After Sherry invited me in to spend the night, I thanked her. But no, I think I'll check on the bike I told her.

With that, Cindy disappeared into the hulking motorhome.

And I was left standing there, half drunk, looking up at the campfires on The Hill, listening to the far off yelling and laughter only idiots seemed to be capable of.

With some guy in the dark distance, holding a 2 stroke wide open, like he was trying to blow it up.

I woke Sunday morning, under the plastic sheeting, with my helmet on.
Was a better pillow than a slate piece of rock. There was a greasy rear sprocket and chain in my face.  The Sun was already up, it was hot, and I did not feel so good.  A couple of Harley's had
just arrived, and it was the potato, potato, potato sound only they make, that woke me.

I crawled out of the makeshift shelter, and as I was taking off my helmet I noticed the quizzical look Darryl, or Darin, whatever his name was, the CB 750 guy, was giving me.  I don't know why.  I mean, it was day 3 in the same clothes. I had slept 2 nights on a slate/slab parking lot. In my helmet.  Because I didn't even have a pillow.  And I was hung over.

He laughed about the helmet thing.

And I could not believe how bright it was.  

Looking around, I saw things were really happening.  The bike parking was almost full.  The Harley's that woke me, I expected to see chopped, weren't. Turned out, they were what looked like a husband and wife thing.  Both big cruisers, Electra Glides maybe?  Not chopped in any way, more stock looking, both clean and shiny. One white, one black.   Matching white open face helmets, small beak visors, blue jeans and jackets.  No colors, no 1% patches, just a slightly overweight, middle aged couple out for a Sunday ride.

They were between myself and the track, and even in the state I was, I could not help taking a look as I got close.

 Because you see, the first motorcycle I ever remember, was a big white Harley.  My neighbor and adolescent friend Anthony had an older sister, Pat.  Pat dated, I can't remember his name, a guy that looked just like Elvis.
I might have been 10. His bike, as far as I remember was also stock.  But the guy kept it immaculate.  

White with the typical chrome everything, it gleamed.

 He was a throwback to the greasers of the 50s.  One bad ass. Greased back ducktail hair, always a scowl or smirk.  He'd come to pick her up in the early evenings. That bike would just sit there as she jumped on, front end shaking, loud as all get out, even at idle, and just command everyone's attention.
Then, they would blast off into the evening, and really, your imagination had no limit on what or where they did or went.
Whatever, It had to be cool.

 So, I stopped and said hi to them.  Helmets off, they really reminded me of just a slightly overweight, middle aged couple. They were from upper state N.Y., the bikes were almost new they said.  I noticed the AMF logo.  I had heard something about Harley  being sold.  The guy said it was the 3rd one he'd had, and there wasn't much difference. Mentioned the windshield being a lifesaver, that the throttle was new and updated, but besides that, they were the same, and he loved it.  
The guy struck me as being a banker, or farmer.
 Which was, not weird, but different.  

I remember feeling, every guy I know
that rides orange and black, is some kind of self imposed outcast, or renegade.  Or Elvis wanna be. And these 2 just weren't that.

Which made me think for a second or two.
 There had been a split in the road, in my neighborhood, between us young teenage guys.  Some went to the dirt, and the ricer side.  The others, chose  ape hangers with fishtails.  Even tho we mostly remained friends,
there grew an underlying current of, Im not gonna say resentment, but for sure a kind of tolerance.

2 tribes.  What had happened?

 Why I had pre judged this couple, I just did not know..........

 Anyway, after a few minutes admiring their rides, we bid each other a good day, and I headed to vendors row across the street.

 No way I was eating anything. But, when that guy at the Cotton Candy place pulled that can of  Coke out of the ice water, and the acid in that liquid began to burn the film off my tongue, I thought, this stuff must be the elixir of life.

And then I heard Dale yell from across the gravel road, in that happy kind of mode only true happiness delivers.......... "Hey......Grady!"

Sitting there, in the grass right in front of vendors row, I got the whole scoop.

He and Laurie had taken a walk over to the track after leaving us.  They tried getting into the pit area, but it was kinda on lockdown.  Unlike what was going on across the street, in the camping areas, Dale said it was real quiet.  

Then, he pulls out 2 plastic baggies.
There is a small piece of red ribbon taped to each one, and some kind of note or paper in them.
Looking at me, grinning from ear to ear, he says, "Check these out."

"What the hell are those", I ask.

"Pit passes. I looked at what was getting people in the pits last night. The guys at the gate just glanced down at them and waved them thru.  Sherry
fixed me up at breakfast with what I needed, and I made them up. Look pretty good huh."  He was of proud of his handiwork.

"So, you spent the night in Brads RV?" I asked.

Grinning from ear to ear, I'm informed yeah, he did.  He and Lauri had taken
a tour of the place, even went up the hill into no mans land. Said she really enjoyed it, even tho it got a bit sketchy up there.  He and her had slept in the overhead bunk.

Looking him straight in the eye, I watched the big grin disappear.
We both feigned a serious look.
Then a pause to let it sink in.

"She's a real nice girl." He volunteered.

At which point we both busted out laughing.

He asked about what happened with Cindy, said she was passed out on the
couch when they got in.  And that she didn't look so good when they all got up.  When I told him what had happened he said he figured as much.

"Bummer". Was all he said after, another short pause. "Anyway, I figured with these we can get in pretty much anywhere."

By this time it's mid morning.  The sun was brilliant. Sitting there, you could hear bikes being started and blown out in the pits.  Vendors row is jammed with people buying T-shirt's, hats and whatever they are offering up for breakfast.  The smell of cooking grease is in the air.  The view of the track and outlying countryside is just beautiful.  

There is something about a motocross track on race day, in the morning.

All prepped and clean.  Before it's been ridden on.  I dunno what it is.  
The anticipation of what is to come maybe?
Like that paycheck in your pocket on Friday, or the feeling one gets pulling out of the driveway heading to vacation?

Whatever it was, all of a sudden I didn't feel so rough.
What was left over from the night before, I was done with it.
The Coke a Cola, The Sun, the view, the 2 strokes announcing their readiness from the pits, it was time.
I was ready for some air, ready for some racing.

Standing up and brushing myself off, I suggested we hit that thing all participating racers are supposed to do at that days event.
If the posters and article in CycleNews were accurate, all the best motocross racers in the world would be at that little, kind of exclusive meeting. If it was open to the public, it would be great.
It would be like getting back stage at Woodstock or something.

"Let's go down and see if they're gonna have a riders meeting."

I watched the light bulb go off in his head, as Dale almost yelled,
"Yeah  Baby!"

We worked our way to the pits. At this time they were packed.
Even tho there were smiles and the feeling was upbeat, you could see,
it was business on the other side of the red snow fence.
Bikes and parts were everywhere.  

The mechanics especially, reminded me of short order cooks hustling out the morning breakfast at the local diner.
There were wheels, rags, chairs, tools and downright trash everywhere.
Organized mayhem seemed to be the order of the day.

In the middle of every pit, there they stood.
Like actresses in dressing rooms, minutes before the curtain went up.

The Bikes.

Unlike the beat vans and trailers, or the dirty clothes and tools that were everywhere, the bikes just stood there.  Gleaming, immaculate, in the final stage of prep before the race.  Each one had its own identity.  Even if it were only for some stickers or paint scheme.  All had the latest, trick stuff you really only saw in the classified section of CycleNews. Or so it seemed.

We stopped and gawked for a minute, along with the crowd that assembled all down pit row.

Dale was talking about the razor sharp piles of Metzlers in front of us when I realized, there were no riders.  Anywhere.

"Come on man, lets go, we're gonna miss the riders meeting". I said.

Thru the crowd we pushed, with a slight sense of urgency.
Looking around, we had no clue where we were going.  
Half circled the pit area, nothing.
Hustled past the vendors area, which were packed, nada.
Checked under the announcer tower, zippo.

It was Dale who said, "maybe they're having it down in the middle of the track."

Off we went, down the hill, into the crowds and poof, there they were.

In a small, snow fenced area there was a guy standing on a milk crate.
Half yelling, well, that's what it looked like, to a group of guys all sitting in the grass around him.

As we got close you could see, something was up.  A crowd was watching  what was going on.  There were 2 cops on horses just standing there.
And 3 guys guarding the opening to the meeting, which was closed in with snow fence.

I'm thinking f###, we're just gonna have to join the herd and see what we can see.

Then, Dale jabs me in the back.  I half turn around and he's in my ear.
"Here", he says as I feel him stuff one of his homemade, ribbon in a sandwich baggie pit passes in my hand.

With a quick glance, I see that grin from ear to ear smile he at times can have.

My heart starts beating faster.  I know the routine. Like thieves in the night, playing music on a stolen guitar, we're going in.

I push thru the crowd and get behind maybe 4 people standing inline waiting to to get their stuff checked.
"There's no way we're getting in", I say to myself.
But, hell with it. What's the worse they can do I figure.

Like that, I'm next in line.  

I flash the best "I don't have the time for this let's go" look to the guy ok'ing entry.   He looks at me for maybe 2 seconds. We make eye contact, and he then glances at the ribbon in the baggie pass I'm holding down by my waist.

And just like that he looks behind me at Dale, kind of motioning him to come foward.  Taking the 2 or 3 steps thru the gate, poof, I'm in the riders meeting!

Not turning around, hey, Dales on his own as far as I'm feeling. I see a slew of names on the backs of jerseys any half riding motocrosser would know.
Dale appears next to me, we look at each other, both grinning like the cat that ate the canary.


It's like a freaking allstar game, but just Moto.

Now, if u were in it back then, there was one guy that was the pinnacle of cool.

Brad Lackey was probably the best American rider at that point.
Long hair, like most of us, rode with a dove perched on his handlebars. Had already been living in an unheated shack somewhere behind the Iron Curtain, riding a factory CZ in the GPs.  Plus, he was from California.  
He was doing it.  If there was any American that was gonna take it to the Europeans, who were just trouncing us, it was him.

So, I kinda walk up, and take a seat right next to him on the grass.
He's in an animated conversation with Jimmy Weinert.  Dale finds his place next to me, and both of us are trying to be cool, but at the same time in on what they're talking about.  

Lackey senses someone right next to him, glances at me, we both give that "hey what's up" look, and back he goes with Weinert.  Hand gestures between the 2, and it's obvious they're talking racecraft about today's track.

The guy on the milk box is going on and on about what flag means what, and where guys can enter and exit the track during the race......blah blah blah.  Nobody is listening.  Thing is, even if you've only lined up 5 times,
local events included, it's a given the referee is just rehashing what was said the 4 time before.

It was then, when I was thinking of some way to get into that conversation,
without being a squid, that I felt Dale elbowing me in the side.  I look over at him and he's looking past me, towards the crowd we had just beat.
Sensing something amiss, I turn and the first thing I notice is one of the cops
on a horse is staring right at us.
 Turning away just as quick, I'm trying to find that "what, me worry?" look
when I feel the elbow again.

Turning back to the crowd, and the cop, I see he's got his hand out.  He's leaning on the horn of his saddle, and he's pointing right at us.
He sees me make eye contact and slowly curls his pointed finger back and forth.  I look away.  A few seconds and there's that elbow again.
Looking back at the cop, he puts both hands on the horn and half tilts his head, scowling at the same time.

Letting us know, either you guys come here........or I'm coming in there.


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Re: The races at armadillo.



Knowing the jig is up, both Dale and I get up and head out of the riders meeting, into the crowd of the unwashed, and squander up to the cop.
He did not take his eyes off us the whole way.

First thing I notice is, this is a big freaking horse.

The crowd opens up a bit, and the cop, who looked just like John Forsythe
from that 80s "Dynasty" show, leans down and says..
"Can I see your tickets and passes please?"

I dig in my pocket, pull out my ticket for the race.  We really did buy tickets.
He looks at it, doesn't even move for maybe 3 seconds, then says, "And the pit pass?"

Reluctantly, I hand him the ribbon in the baggie pit pass.
He takes it, looks it over, without even changing expression, shifts on his saddle and says to Dale.  

"What about you?"

Now, I know Dale. Unlike me, he's grown up mostly a latchkey kid. Dad nor
Mom were ever around.  At 18 he wasn't real good with someone all of a sudden throwing authority in his face.

I mean, I witnessed him and his old man go to fisttacuffs over a sink of dirty dishes one time.

You could tell, this guy had been dealing with the likes of us for a few days, and was pretty fed up with it.  Had to be a flat top haircut under that hat. Impeccable uniform.  Well spoken.  Had some kind of brass bar or medal below his name tag. Black leather leather riding boots with matching gloves.
He could have been a centerfold in some equestrian magazine.

And then there's Dale and myself, longhairs that haven't had a shower in about 3 days.

"Well?" The cop says to Dale, who's standing there looking up with a "I could care less" look.
He pats himself down, pulls a pants pocket inside out, taking his time, just messin with The Man.

Slowly the contraband and tickets appear, but Dale is milking it, now staring at the cop.  Half hunched over on the horse the cop sees what's up, and zones right in on my buddy.

They both lock eyes, staring at each other.

"Please please please please please!" I say to myself.  I can see this might get ugly.

Dale reaches up, stretching, but the cops hands stay on the saddlehorn.  
He's like a statue, staring down, not even blinking.  
Dale on the other hand is almost on his toes, outstretched arm kind of waving the baggie at the guy.
Looking like a fool.

I dunno how long the cop toyed with him.  5 seconds maybe?
Felt like 5 minutes to me.

Finally, a hand comes off the horn, he grabs the baggie without even looking at it, and stuffs it in his side pocket.

Turning to me he asks where we live, and how old we are.

"Baltimore, I'm 17, he's 18", I tell him.

"So, you guys think you can come up here, in my back yard, do whatever you want, and make me a fool?"  

He glances at Dale and back to me.

Neither of us know what to say.

"I want you to tell me'', he says, "why I shouldn't lock you guys up.  Disorderly conduct. You, being a minor, your parents would have to come and get you.  And you, you'd have to make bail or wait for a court date."

Like that it's Dale and the cop, and it's stare down time again.

I can feel it.
Dale wants to yank this guy off his horse and the cop wants him to do it.

"Please please please please please......", I say almost out loud.

"Officer", I almost plead, "We're racers too.  These guys are like Mickey Mantle to us.  I got carried away. It's the first time I've been back home in almost 8 years.  We didn't mean........"
"Hold on", he says, like Perry Mason would do in those old tv shows, "I thought you said you were from Baltimore."
"Well, we are, but I was born in New York."
"Out on The Island".
"Where on The Island?"
"Islip".  I say. I really was born there.
Now, he's staring at me.  Like I'm trying to pull one over on him.
"What's between Islip and Lindenhurst?", he asks.
"What's the name of the lake in Babylon".
Geez, this guy won't let go, I say to myself.

"Argyle Lake.  With the falls.  I used to fish there a lot." I tell him.

"Really.  Ever catch anything?  What did you catch there?" He asked.

My mind raced.  I never caught anything there.  It's a shallow lake with sponge looking things living on the bottom.  No, I did catch a blue gill once or twice.  The size of a big minnow.  Or did I? I mean, that was 8 or 9 years ago.

"Small Sunny's".  I say.  In Maryland they're called bluegills, on Long Island they were Sunny's.

"My sister lives in Lindenhurst", That lake isn't worth fishing, tried it myself",
The cop says, not changing his expression one bit.

Silence and another stare. "WTF", I ask myself.

Turning to Dale he tells us, "I'm gonna let you guys go with a verbal warning.
I don't expect you guys are gonna do anything else along theses lines.
Am I right?"

He and Dale are locking eyeballs again.

"Yes Sir." I say.  He doesn't even acknowledge me. He and Dale are in the zone again,
"Am I correct?"

Please please please please please......

Slowly....never losing eye contact, Dale says, "Yes.....................................Sir."

They both didn't move for maybe 5 seconds.
Then the cop straightened up, like some civil war general.

And he and his horse moved on like nothing had happened.

Collecting myself, I glance at Dale, and he has this look like, well, better that be left unsaid.

Looking the other way, into the riders meeting I see 3 riders, I don't know who they were, right on the other side of the fence.  All 3 of them were looking at us, grinning, almost chuckling, like, hey, nice try guys, maybe next time..........

Well, after about 5 minutes of just walking around the track, the smoke stopped coming out of Dales ears and we started making our way over to the start area.

Sizing it up, we settled on a spot on the outside of the first turn.
It's a pretty long straight to the first corner.  We figured either get right next to the guys on the start line, where you could see who did what to get the jump on everyone else, or by the first turn where its about intense as it's gonna get.

The crowd was pretty deep at the starting line, we opted for the right hand sweeper.

For the first time in a few days, Dale and myself, good friends, had maybe half an hour to just take a breather.

I mean, in one way or another, it had been full tilt boogie since we started looking for a backpack and a loaf of bread for the ride back in Baltimore.

As the bikes started to trickle to the starting line, laying in the grass, in the Sun, I don't think either of us realized, it really wouldn't get much better than this.  

Sure, both would go thru and have the things one does in a lifetime.

Even tho we were pretty much broke, packing double on what was really a crotch rocket, this was life. The monies, materials and relationships that were to come would never have what we at that time possessed.

Some may call it the ignorance of youth.  
And there might be a lot of truth in that saying.

But I don't think I've ever experienced the carefree, unencumbered, lightness
of being, or state of mind I found myself in that half hour, again.
Recapping what had been, laughing, without concern of consequence,
or what tomorrow would bring.

A half an hour taken for granted, but never forgotten.

Anyways, the races themselves?

I don't remember a lot about them.

Who won what, or got on the box, like a few things that weekend, are still a mystery to me.

I know the starts were awesome.  But, as far as keeping track of positions and finish places you gotta realize the state of American motocross back then.

We found ourselves, Dale and I, walking around this massive track, unable to even hear the loudspeakers, trying to figure out who first place was.
Remember, this was the first year we, as a country, were running an AMA  National Championship 250 Motocross Series, for American riders.

Yes, there had been for maybe 3 years prior, the AMA Trans Am Series.
And the InterAm Series, which a guy by the name of Edison Dye had started
back in 66 or 67. Which had just folded.
There was a lot of animosity between the 2, Dye and The AMA, and there were guys riding from all over, well, riding all over.

So here,  in the middle of July,  1972, there were the best Americans,
and a few top Europeans, out there at the same time.

Add the lappers, and it was like....."who's on first?"

Anyway, what struck us both was not only the speed these guys had.
Sure, they did stuff that left both Dale and myself awestruck.
It was the strength, the endurance, the businesslike manner a lot of those guys had.  

Even late in the races, you'd see someone get totally sideways, totally squirrel, and they would just grab a handful and keep going like it was just another day at the office.

No, for us it wasn't the party.  Or the autographs.
Those motos up there in New York, were like going to night or trade school, or some seminar for work we had to go to.

Big difference was, education wise,
this was something we WANTED to do.....
We were convinced, in that small space in time, we were gonna be professional motorcycle racers.

Well, while it lasted, it was grand.
The actual races that is.

As soon as the last rider, heck, maybe before, crossed the finish line, the crowd started to disperse.

Walking towards the camping area, one could see a few grabbing track banners and maybe a Klotz sign or 3.

We kind of lingered.  

Walking the track, taking our time, returning to the bike and what both subconsciously knew was reality, and real life, a kind of melancholy set in.

The smells of the freshly turned soil, the setting Sun, the overall quietness
of it all, meant one thing we both had experienced before.

It meant the races were over.

And believe me, when you kinda live for it, when the races are over, it can be, I'm not gonna say depressing, but yeah, depressing.

Hey, a sunny morning, on a unridden, well prepped motocross track, with a new day to come, that can almost be a high.
And that same track that evening, when it's all over, the feeling can be a bit desolate.

At least for one guy that is.

We worked our way back to route 8 and the camping area.
We actually had to wait to cross the road, as another kind of race had started.  

There always seems to be those that can't wait to leave, to get back to, I dunno.........whatever.  Races, concerts, ballgames, take your pick, happens every time.

And even tho I wasn't in a rush, I mean we weren't jockeying for position
or anything, I wasn't immune to it either.
Already, I was thinking, even tho it was in the back of my mind, of the week to come.
The job, the girlfriend, money, or the lack of, the hassle of living at home when I knew it was past time to go......whatever.

Back in the camping area Dale suggested we stop by Chads motorhome.
Which was good, because the mood there was upbeat.
Everyone was glad to see us.  As the girls were packing things up, we, the guys, got into a conversation with the people next to us.

"Did you see this?  Did you see that?!"
They had a bunch of food left over, and a few beers, which between all of us evaporated.

By the time all was said and done, the packing and eating, it was just about dark.

It was Chad who all of a sudden told us all to quiet down, and listen to the radio that was playing in the background.

They were giving the weather.

Apparently, there was a front not far away, moving from west to east, bringing severe thunderstorms and rain with it.

Looking directly at me, Chad asks if we are heading home tonight.

"Yep, sure are.  I gotta be at work at 10 in the morning." I said.

He didn't say anything, but the look he gave me, well, let's just say he made me feel a bit uneasy......

By the time we got back to the bike it was dark.

Maybe half the place had already left. Or were in traffic lines trying to.

The only guys in the bike parking area were the BMW/panner/pup tent crew.
And they weren't going anywhere.  
Coleman stove going full tilt, dinner and coffee on the boil, it looked like they were staying the night.

As we started getting ready to leave, it was real easy deciding what was going with us, and what was staying.

The planning mode, the thinking of what we needed, ha, that was gone.

"We taking the plastic?" Dale asked.
"Nope", came the answer.
"What about the gas can?"
"Screw that gas can."
We put what gas was in it in the tank and chucked it.
Having a hard time gettin the back pack strapped in, Dale finally just threw it on the pile of trash that surrounded the 55 gallon can that was well beyond full.

We both knew the trip, and felt without even saying, that this was gonna be little more than a full on dash for home.
The sudden sense of urgency, totally overrode any rational thought, of what could be to come.

Off the center stand, the bike fired right up.

With little more than the clothes on our back,and helmets on our head, we waved to the Beemer guys as we left.  Smiling and waving us back, as if to offer food and shelter for the night, I gave the thumbs up sign.

And just like that, we were gone.

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Re: The races at armadillo.

That's an amazing entry.
I can feel all of it.
Love the dialogue.
Thank you.
Supports splitting everywhere.
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Re: The races at armadillo.

I'd like to say the traffic held us up.
But, in reality, all the way down Rt 8 I had to kinda push it to run with the crowd.

After the right turn that pointed us towards Norwich, things settled down.
I was planning to fill up in Norwich, then hit that gas station by The Tubbs,
hopefully stretch it to the gas station where we met that trucker that kinda pissed me off, which would then give me enough to make it home.

Piece of cake.

It was right outside of Norwich that I noticed the lightning in the distance.
Heck, it must always do that up here I thought.

The gas station in Norwich was still open, we got in and out like it was a NASCAR pit stop.  I jammed what fuel it would take in tank and we were off.   Knowing there weren't any real hairpins between us and the 4 lane highway of Rt 81, we flew thru the night.

It was somewhere around Binghamton that the lightning started getting pretty pronounced.  

Telling myself, no worry, and half believing it, we blasted on, the police be damned.

When we got to The Tubbs, I was relieved that gas station was still open.
The lone attendant stood right next to us as we filled up, made me feel he thought we were gonna run on him or something.

It was kinda spooky, in the middle of nowhere.  

We had hardly any money.
It's nighttime.  The lightning that was in the distance seemed to be getting closer. And we were still a long way from home.

As we blew that place, maybe a few minutes after going thru the gears on the entrance ramp, like it was a drag strip, I noticed something.

I could smell it.

Was that rain?

There wasn't a lot of warning.

A few sprinkles on the face shield for a few seconds.

And then the sky let loose.

I'm not saying It was like riding under Niagara Falls, but it sure felt like it.
The rain hit us so strong, the drops so big, I had to drop my speed from 75/80 to maybe 40.

It wasn't the water that all of a sudden filled the slight indentations in the road from the cars and trucks.  Or the greasy feel the somewhat not under water the center of the road was giving.

It was, at that speed, the Effin raindrops that got under the wrap around plastic face shield, that stung like my face and neck like heck.  

After a minute or so, I heard Dale yell something like "Holy Crap!".

At this slow speed, it wasn't long before the cars behind me, the ones I had blown by minutes before, were right on my ass and going around me.

I got to thinking, maybe pull over, wait it out on the shoulder.
But then visions of us getting into a tank slapper in the gravel, or just getting creamed sitting on the side of the road, like sitting ducks, overrode that.

No, we kept on, holding our line.  Like a thinking racer that's about to get lapped, by much better riders, white knuckles and all.

Well, after 10 or 15 minutes, we were totally soaked.

Any illusion that pulling off to wait it out were proven to be just that, an illusion.  If anything, it was raining harder.

It was around the time the water had worked its way around my body, to the point I felt it going down the crack of my butt, that I thought, "What the heck.  It's just water."

I mean, I had ridden and raced dirt bikes in the rain and mud.
And found, if you just don't make any quick moves, go easy on the rear brake and don't touch the front, let the bike kinda go, just be smooth, it will be fine.

And it was.

Thing was, at 40, it was just a matter of time before someone just ran us over.  Especially the truckers.  
So, I found at 50, the rain drops that hit my gloveless hands, and bare neck, were tolerable.

And in the slow lane, we fit right in.

I dunno how long it was.
Maybe an hour.
Dale had just yelled in my ear that my long, wet hair, was whipping him in the face, that some guy got right on our rear fender.

And stayed there.

I'm thinking, "What a jerk".

Its raining cats and dogs.  There's lightning all around.  It's well after midnight, maybe 1am, and this guy can't go around.  Wonderful.

Suddenly the guy behind jumps in the left lane, and starts inching up on us.
Then he backs off.
Then he hits it again, pulling right up next to us.

You know, every time a guy in a big rig goes past a bike at speed, the guy on the bike has to compensate for the wind coming off the big rig.
You gotta kind of lean into him at first, and then back the other way as he finishes his pass.

But this guy, he's not completing the pass.  
I'm waiting, eating the wind and rain coming off him, getting ready to flip him
the Dennis Hopper finger, because he ain't passing, he's pacing me.

Hearing Dale yell something, I look over and see it's an RV that's messing with us.  And thru the 50mph wind, mist and rain, the passenger window goes down.

Visions of the ending of Easy Rider go thru my head, until I realize it's Chads wife, Sherry, sitting way back in the passenger seat, with Chad driving, pointing frantically to the shoulder of the road.

I nod, he guns it for the pass to get around me, and hits his right turn signal.
Moving into my lane, I back off as he starts going for the shoulder.
Seeing what he wants, I ease off the road, wrestle the bike onto the shoulder, into the gravel, both of us stopping, heck, I dunno, in the middle of Penn Sul Effin nowhere.

Well, Chad is mostly off the pavement. It's still raining pretty good. Dale jumps off and I thread the bike off the gravel, into the wet grass and pull up to the side door of the RV.

Just as Dale joins me the door opens up and out pops Chad.

"Are you guys Effin crazy!" he half yells at the 2 of us.

A big rig blasts by us, laying on his horn, like, "Are you guys Effin crazy!"

Freaking rain and mist is blowing everywhere.

"Hey man, we're okay."  I half shout back.

"You guys are gonna get killed out here! What the hell are you thinking!
I thought you got a room or something. You got money for a room?"

"Yeah" I lied.  "I gotta get back for work tomorrow".  Which was half true, I didn't want to lose my job at the car wash.  It beat washing dishes.

Chad stared at me. Another 18 wheeler goes by, drenching the 3 of us.

"Well screw it then, let's throw the bike in the RV.  The 3 of us can get it in!"
He's yelling now.

I look up and see Cindy and Laurie, faces glued to a side window, eyes as big as saucers, watching this thing unfold.  

I dunno.   Yes, I'm thinking, we probably can get the bike in there.

I look at Chad. Then at Dale. He ain't saying anything. Another glance at the girls.
I know what I should do.  
Put the effing bike in the motorhome and cruise it in style all the way back to Baltimore.

But.....for some reason, I just didn't want to.

I just felt like it had gotten personal or something.
Like I was gonna be a quitter if we loaded that bike up.
And I wasn't a quitter. Heck, at the races I didn't give a crap if I was running
last place, I always finished.
And this, really, was no harder than Moto. Maybe endurance wise.  But my arms weren't pumping up.  No cramps in the hamstrings.  

So what, I was wet.

Chad is staring at me when I point to my chest, and then down the highway.
He looks at Dale, and yells at him, "What about you.  You wanna funeral too!"

Dale looks at me.  I can see it, he's conflicted.

"Man, go ahead, the bike will handle better.  Really." I yell.

Another trucker goes by, drenching the 3 of us again.

"You sure?" Dale yells.  I nod, and just like that, helmet still on, he bounces up into the RV.

Chad, now totally soaked,  stares at me for a few seconds, shakes his head, turns, and poof, the motorhome swallowed him up also.
The RV lurched, he whipped it on the the pavement, and he must have put his foot in it, because they really took off.

I just sat there, and watched them pull away.  

Well, a lot of people will form a lot of different opinions on the above event.
But really, the end result was, for me, a kind of liberating feeling.

Now, I had only myself to contend with.  

That's one of the things that drew me to the Moto Cross. I didn't have to take into consideration a teammate and his feelings, or performance.  It was just myself, and the belief in my ability.  Good or bad, it was on me.  And I liked it that way.

I took a minute, walked around the bike, collected my thoughts, telling myself, heck, I'm more than half way there.  If I can just make the truck stop
in Harrisonburg, or whatever it was called, where Ron the trucker had pissed me off, I was home free.  

And yeah, I thought, as I kicked the bike to life on the first shot, screw him, and Maxwell.

The feeling the bike gave now was like night and day.  
Sure, packing double, it was real easy to lift the front in 2nd, shift with it up in the air and ride it thru 3rd.  That was kinda fun.  But for most everything else it sucked. I had gotten used to a guy and the weight behind me on this haul, and now, without a passenger, it was like the bike came back to life.

Easing it thru first, it was back on the concrete, and right into 2nd.

Effin right, there it was.  

Leaning over the tank, getting some weight off the rear and onto the front,
a handful was applied.  As the rather peaky 3 cylinder 2 stroke, especially for a street bike, came to life the rear wheel broke loose. Leaning into it, the ass moved around a bit. But like I said before, that bike and I had bonded. I knew what it was gonna do before it did. Right before red line a power shift into 3rd, I never let up.  As 3rd wound out, the rear hooked up, and it was into 4th for a bit. Then poof, cruising speed.

In the pouring rain, on I81, in the dead of night, we were heading home.

I remember telling myself, at the track, that was a hole shot.

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Re: The races at armadillo.

As I pulled up to the pump at the truck stop in Harrisburg, boy was I relieved.
The rain had steadily tapered off in the hour or so it took me to get there after the Chad thing.  Now, under the roof at the pumps at least I was out of the elements.  I hadn't needed reserve, but I could tell fuel was low, the bike was light.  

Hitting the head I thought about getting a coffee.  I was soaked, and the temps had dropped as the rain had faded. Feeling cold and a bit wore out
the old lady that took my money for gas gave me a look like, what the heck is this guy doing.

Back on the road it was into the really, really dark stretch that I knew in daylight was nothing but cornfields for miles.   The rain had stopped, but it was pretty foggy.  My headlight gave me nothing but what was right in front of me.  I settled in at 60 mph, and within a few minutes found myself riding one handed, left shoulder into the wind and fog, subconsciously trying to stay warm.

A half hour of that and I had to start moving around on the bike.  
Not only was I almost shaking from the cold, I was freaking tired.
It was monotonous. I was really beat and felt like I could fall asleep at the wheel.  

I stood up for a bit, like bracing for some ruts in the dirt.   I put my feet on the passenger pegs and laid on the tank like a road racer.  Then back to straight up riding one handed.  

The wet clothes, the constant 60 mph wind, whatever the temp was, it was cold, it got to be a struggle.  

I remember getting so cold my teeth felt like they were gonna start chattering.  It was hard just keeping my eyelids up.  I started thinking about some crazy stuff. For some reason my mind got to thinking about my late father, who was lost in a car accident, when I was just a kid. I was doing the roadracer thing, chest on tank, when, in a kind if daze, thought I saw the "WELCOME TO MARYLAND" sign flash by.   Told myself the city was only an hour, 60 minutes away, and I could do this..............

The next thing I remember, the entrance of The Harbour Tunnel was straight in front of me.  

I've found, over the years, tunnels on a bike are cool in the summer, and somewhat warmer in the winter, than the surrounding area. Even tho it was mid July, some kind of cold front must have moved thru.  I was freezing it seemed.

Blasting into the tube was like crawling into the bed of a cold room.  With an electric blanket on high.  The bright, white tiles, and almost blinding fluorescent lights, along with the warm air, bordered on shocking me.

Noticing I was doing almost 80, I backed it down to around 60.

Shaking my head half way thru the tube, like a guy coming out of a concussion or something, I wondered what was that?  How the heck did I just get here?  I didn't remember taking the exit, the big left hand sweeper at the beltway where you came off 83.  Or the hour or so it takes from the Pa. line to where I was.

 Before I knew it I cleared the tunnel.  

At the ticket booth I fumbled getting a dollar bill out of my wet pants.
I think there was change, maybe not.  But I remember just sitting there,
gazing at the concrete highway in front of me.

When the ticket guy half shouted "Are you okay?", I glanced at him, threw that bike in gear and was off again.

The Brooklyn exit was in my face in minutes.  The exit ramp dropped me back into the city, it was warmer, lights were everywhere, I felt, I dunno, more normal.

Stopping for a red light right before American Cycle,  a cop car pulled up right next to me.  Looking over I saw the officer inside was checking me out.
It had to be 3, maybe 4 in the morning, with me looking pretty rough I'm sure.  Who knows, maybe the ticket guy called me in.  He just might have by chance pulled up next to me.  We made eye contact as the light went green,
I nodded slightly, put it in gear and was off.  Shifting up cleanly, up to but not over the limit, I kept it straight as an arrow. He paced me for 3 or 4 blocks, then pulled a u turn and was gone.  Passed the test I guess.

I gotta admit, cruising thru town, and then my neighborhood, it felt good.

I was home.  

Up the long drive way, I parked the Mach 3 right in front of the house on the cement patio.  
Shutting the bike down, flipping the kickstand out, I just sat there for a minute.  When the helmet came off, I'm not gonna say it was surreal, but it was awfully close to it.

It was so quiet.  

There was a slight ringing in my ears, my hands, slightly tingling. The mercury lights on the telephone pole had everything bathed in an eerie blue.  

Getting off the bike I slowly walked around it, just kind of looking at it.  The blue tank, the blue light, in the almost pitch black of night, was mesmerizing.
I ran my hand over the headlight, across the triple clamp, along the gas tank and then the seat.  

I almost felt like talking to it.  If it was a living thing, a horse maybe, I would have thanked it for what it had given me, what it had done for me.

Standing there, a kind of calmness, a feeling, slowly overrode the moment.
A feeling I would come to know maybe a half a dozen times in my life.
A feeling that appeared after some dicy incident, or close call, usually from my stupidity, when things went ok, instead of really, really bad.

Was I just overly tired, was it more than that, those thoughts I'll keep to myself.

It was then that the front porch light came on, yanking me out of the moment.

Looking back, it was like that was the moment that called me back to reality,
ending this trip, and by no small measure, my adolescence.

The light?  It was my mom.
Is everything ok?  I'm so glad you're home.  Come on in, it's late." she said.

With one last look around, I told her, "Yeah mom, everything's ok."

The end.
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Re: The races at armadillo.

Standing slow clap.......

Yes. Yes. Very much, yes.

Supports splitting everywhere.