By John Basher
Hello, old friend. I’ve missed you. It has been a long time
since we last saw each other. Chatting on the phone every
now and then is nice, but it has been many moons since
I’ve seen you at the track. Although it seems like yesterday
that we were banging bars, I know how quickly time passes.
Weeks turn into months, and months into years. Life is scary
in that regard. And time, like wrinkles on a person’s face,
isn’t realized until it’s too late.
Years ago we joked about discovering our very own
fountain of youth—a motocross bike. We laughed about how
Ponce de Leon was wrong all along. Had the Spanish explorer
realized the redeeming power of a motocross bike some 500
years ago, then old Ponce would probably still be racing the
40 Novice class. You thought that he’d ride a Bultaco, while
I envisioned him on an Ossa Phantom—both Spanish bikes.
As they say, once a Spaniard always a Spaniard. As for me?
I spend as much time behind the handlebars as possible,
because motocross makes me feel like a kid again. It also
helps maintain some semblance of sanity in this crazy world.
What do you do to decompress from life’s daily stress-es now? I know that you’re like me; at least that’s what I
thought. Motocross hasn’t even been in your vocabulary as of
late, so how do you keep from going postal? Your poor wife
must really have thick skin these days. I recall how you would
get grouchy whenever you went more than a week without
riding. I still laugh when I think about how you pouted that
time you left your gear bag at home and thought that you
weren’t going to be able to ride. You threw a temper tantrum
in the pits like my oldest son, Brayden, when he doesn’t get a
snack. Fortunately, I came to your rescue that day. For some
reason I brought an extra set of gear with me to the track.
Since then I’ve stowed a spare set under the truck seat in
case that situation were ever to occur again. Only that gear
has been sitting for several years, untouched by anything
other than the crumbs from Brayden’s granola bars.
Speaking of children, how’s your family doing? I bet that the
kids are getting big. My wife, Hope, tells me that she sees
photos of your offspring from time to time on Facebook. Our
conversation always turns to whether I’ve seen you lately. She
first asked that question many months ago. Back then I didn’t
put much thought into the answer. I casually replied, “Oh,
he’s busy doing a side job this weekend to make some extra
cash.” I figured that you would find free time to ride the following weekend. Only it didn’t happen the following weekend.
Or the next ones after that. And, as time passed, I started
wondering when I would see you again. I actually began
missing your beat-up claptrap truck at the track. In all
honesty, I can’t recall now what color your junk truck is.
What have you been up to? Have your weekends been
monopolized by toting your son to soccer games and your
daughter to gymnastics lessons? Don’t tell me that you drive
a minivan! I’m kidding, of course. A minivan is a practical
vehicle, especially for a family of four. Not only that, but it’s
probably more reliable than your old truck. You better have
motocross stickers plastered across the rear window of that
top-safety-rated grocery-getter of yours.
Has work consumed your life? Yes? I’m sorry to hear that,
but it makes perfect sense. People these days work to live
and also live to work. It seems like there aren’t any more
9-to- 5 jobs. A roller-coaster economy can have that effect
on the workforce. The job landscape is much different than
when we were young. Back in those days our parents were
paid enough to put a roof over our heads, buy groceries, and
have some play money left over to go riding on the weekends.
They didn’t seem to have a care in the world. I wish that
was how it could be for us. People in our age range—that
is to say, 25- to 40-year-olds—are fighting for a small piece
of a much smaller pie. The rising cost of living, high health
insurance premiums, exorbitant gasoline prices and runaway
taxes strain our wallets. It’s enough to make someone lock
their doors and hide. I presume that’s what you have done,
because I haven’t seen you. I hope that tactic is working. It
really stinks that, regardless of the color of your collar, more
and more people are cutting costs in order to survive.
Bye-bye hobbies such as motocross.
“PLEASE DON’T THINK THAT I’M
ANGERED BY YOUR ABSENCES ON
RACE WEEKENDS. FAMILY IS MOST
IMPORTANT, AND PUTTING FOOD ON
THE TABLE COMES BEFORE RIDING.
IF THAT MEANS EARNING EXTRA
MONEY TO SUPPORT YOUR BROOD,
THEN SO BE IT. HANG IN THERE.”
I don’t blame you for putting your bike in storage. Getting
to the track is hard enough, not to mention the $25 gate
fee. Most people forget about the hidden costs of riding—bike
fuel, gasoline for their vehicle, bike repairs—the list goes on.
I’m aware that my travel expenses are paid by the kind folks
at MXA. Nothing comes out of my pocket on race weekends.
I am spoiled, there’s no denying that. However, it would be
sheer ignorance for me to believe that everyone else receives
the same treatment. I only wish that I could relieve your fiscal
burdens, but I’m not Bill Gates.
Please don’t think that I’m angered by your absences on
race weekends. Family is most important, and putting food
on the table comes before riding. If that means earning extra
money to support your brood, then so be it. Hang in there.
Motocross isn’t going anywhere, especially not without you. Of
course, you probably miss strapping on boots and lining up to
the starting gate. Don’t worry. Fortunately, whether you’re 35
or 75, racing will still provide the same adrenaline-pumping
thrills. Motocross is a sport that has many charms. Your
riding brethren will welcome you back with open arms whenever you do decide to return.
How are the races, you
ask? They have been a lot of
fun. I don’t get out every weekend like I used to, because
my wife and two boys take
priority. Still, I sneak out from
time to time and burn laps.
When I do, more often than
not I win my class, though it’s
not as if I’m setting the world
on fire. The reality is that
most of our mutual friends
have been forced to cut back
expenditures, and fewer and
fewer keep showing up. They,
like you, are trying to make
ends meet. I’m reaping the
rewards, but the wins are
hollow without buddies like
you to battle with. In the end,
motocross isn’t about winning, but rather sharing your
passion with those around
you. Please come back soon,
because I miss you.