Brent Allen, author of Motorcycles, Life, and… and The Elemental Motorcyclist and his wife, Julie, are on a road trip, two-up. They are heading to the AMA Superbike races in Elkhart Lake, WI, riding their Honda ST1300 from their home town of Nampa, ID (just southwest of Boise). They will be our guest bloggers while on the trip, and each will give their own impressions on their travels and give us a look into each of their own individual ways of looking at the same experience.
First, from Brent:
Sunday June 1/Road America/Full Day/Local Miles Only
Day two of the double header started well. We slept late. The autopilot didn’t come on at 6 or 7 and I slept until after 8. We were just that tired and we woke up just that refreshed. The morning was overcast and things went well & screwy from there. The morning was practice and we got there in time to watch some bikes scream past. OH! According to a very kind lady at the St John the Baptist concession stand a piece of blueberry pie with a generous shot of soft serve ice cream is a traditional Wisconsin breakfast. Further inquiry wasn’t warranted and I simply partook. I paid for the pie and the ice cream was free making it the deal of the day. Life is good at Road America.
First race of the day was the Harley XR1200 class. The class is designed to encourage parity and keep the racing close. Dear AMA, the plan works, the racing is great, I could have watched it all day. It was a symphony of delightful thundering music because thanks to Vance & Hines those big twins sound fabulous. Weather was nice, a touch overcast and a tad muggy but walking around was pleasant with just enough of a breeze to keep flying insects at bay. Vendors were starting to wrap it up and they were cutting prices enough to make a couple of purchases worth it. Hello new gloves…and bug cleaner stuff that actually works. (“Bugslide”. Bought it. Used it. Wildly good. Crash happy.) Part of today’s adventure was watching things wind down. There seemed to be more people here to watch the races and fewer that were here. By that I mean the crowd was here to watch and the crowd that was here for the event had receded. Does that make sense? The party seemed over and it was a bit like cleaning up Sunday morning before your parents got home but without the urgent sense of fear or danger. It was more like cleaning up your own place with friends who didn’t judge and just wanted to help get things sorted out.
Any major event requires the local population to step up and step in. Road America isn’t the sort of place that’s going 24/7 and has a large fulltime staff. Venues that host large events need an army of part time help who work for more than just the money. Large destination events need staff that wants to be there, that cares about the event and want the people who are coming to have a great time. If you don’t have staff with heart then your event loses its soul. Road America has soul. Mrs. Crash saved her pennies and our Road America experience was VIP. We had access to an air conditioned suite complete with free drinks and food. Better than that was a sweet, middle-aged, young at heart, woman named Jodi who ran the suite and never made us feel like she was getting paid to be good to us. Her heart was pure and she was a joy and pleasure to have as a touchstone. We first met Jodi on Saturday when we arrived about a half hour before the tower and suites opened. I would have told us to come back after things opened but Jodi took us under her wing, showed us around and pointed out places we needed to go and the best places to be in order to see. She was part shepherd, part tourist information/GPS, part historian, part mom and all friend.
I have a habit of telling Mrs. Crash one of two things about humanity. I either say, “People are good” or “People are scum” depending on the situation or the story. I do not believe the words, “People are scum” could possibly ever come out of Jodi’s mouth because she couldn’t say bad things about anyone or anything and that wasn’t a fake kindness. As we talked I realized she has likes and dislikes but she enjoyed her time at the track and she honestly wanted Mrs. Crash and I to enjoy our time there as much as she does her own. A long time ago I learned an important lesson: It’s OK to not know; not having the answer is alright, asking for help isn’t a bad thing--it’s a necessary thing. Our new friend Jodi understands the opposite side of that equation: answering questions makes you a mentor and friend. For me, the question of “good or scum” is simply a way to say I’m impressed by our collective humanity or depressed by our collective humanity. Going out on a limb here I believe that Jodi is the sort of person who simply understands that we are all human and as such we all deserve to be treated well and have others expect the best from us as well. She’s a “people are good” person and I fully believe that is the world she really lives in. We call could learn from that.
As the day wore on the skies darkened and light rain began to fall intermittently on the track. My curiosity is always piqued when people run into adversity, particularly when the adversity comes from a source out of their control, like weather. Rain on a racetrack is particularly dangerous for the classes of racer that use only slicks or rain tires. Some classes use DOT tires; tires with tread patterns. The big dogs use race slicks. When you have a class out on the track that uses slicks and rain falls the race is red flagged (stoppage for a mandatory minimum of 10 minutes) and the riders come in to wait to see if the race is declared “wet” which will allow them to change to a designated rain tire. The challenge comes when the weather is halfway between rain and shine. A rain tire used on a dry track will disintegrate in no time at all. Rain “slicks” are very soft to deal with the cooling effects of standing water. Race slicks have no tread and once you’re in water they cool, get hard and, well, they have no tread so they hydroplane.
Today the AMA took a page from the Crash “Scum or Good” book. During the superbike race when the rain was sporadic people wanted the race stopped so they could wait out the showers. The AMA made an excellent decision and rather than calling it over (enough race had been completed and they could have done that) or waiting until it cleared completely they simply declared the race “wet”. This means that if you wanted you could run slicks or rain tires. The decision was put on the teams; wet or not it was now their decision. They had about 7 minutes to decide if they were going to bet on it not raining or betting on it to rain. Turns out all the teams bet on no rain. And they were wrong, wrong, wrong. Not more than 2 laps back on the track and the heavens opened. It rained. It really, really rained. Josh Hayes had built a good lead and he wound up tiptoeing around the track trying not to crash. It was epic to watch Josh out there on straight up race slicks trying to keep it upright to the finish. They eventually red flagged the race but not before several riders had succumbed to their tire choice. No one had put on rain slicks. In the great Crash “good or scum” debate they had all bet “good.”
Curious side note: after the race the podium ceremonies were held in the media center next to Jodi’s (our) suite. As Josh Hayes came down the hall the lovely Mrs. Crash heard his mother ask him, “What happened out there?” He answered, “I’ll tell you later.”
People are good. Jodi chooses to see the world that way, race teams bet sunshine and Josh Hayes doesn’t feel the need to whine or complain immediately after a race. People are good. Really. I believe that.
For the moment…
And, from Julie:
Sunday, I'm not sure if the races and riders were just snake bit today or if God was angry that there was some mammoth sabbath breaking (by orthodox standards) going on- There wasn't a race that wasn't red flagged at least once if not multiple times nor one that escaped riders, going down, flying off, high-siding, low-siding and hydro planing. It looked more like a grudge match with some malevolent being than motor bike races.
It could have been the all impressive Mother Nature who hinted from the beginning of the day that she was feeling particularly temperamental. Sun, clouds, sun and clouds, more clouds, gray clouds, heavier deeper gray clouds; she changed her mind and demeanor just like a fifteen year old girl changes clothes and demeanor while getting ready for a school dance. At the end of the afternoon she finally decided that she didn't like the way she looked and threw a giant tantrum. Lighting up the sky with fury from her eyes. Her thundering voice echoing thru the valley. Tears falling from her eyes. In the moment of stillness between Mother Nature's emotional roller coaster ride we hurried to the bike, scrambled into our riding gear and scurried back to the hotel, praying she wouldn't see our attempt at escape and lash out at us.
I spent the remainder of this evening fighting for the laundry room with the pit crews in the building. All of us preparing to leave early in the morning. Packing and repacking the new acquisitions into the saddlebags and wondering if we'll have to make a stop at the local post office in the morning to send a few things home ahead of us.
Crash hopes to be on road towards Illinois early in the morning. Mother Nature appears to have a bad case of PMS (I'm a woman. I can say that.) and doesn't look like she wants to cooperate tomorrow so I'm hoping Crash has impeccable timing or can smooze or should I say beguile her.
Our time in Elkhart Lake has ended. It was exciting, exhilarating, fun, mesmerizing, relaxing and far to short. Just like a trip to Disneyland if it were everyday it would lose its appeal. Now onto part 2 of our adventure...DA DA DAAA....