The tractor-trailer drivers on the professional motocross tour are without a doubt the most unseen, yet vital member of each race team. With a list of duties that include cooking, cleaning, maintenance, setting up and tearing down each weekend on top of seemingly endless time at the helm of a semi, it is a grueling job. We chat with them at each stop, but we figured it was time to give them some time in the spotlight, hence “Over The Road.” For our first installment of the feature, we talked with Dirk Houghton, driver of the J-Star/JDR/KTM team.
How gnarly is it day to day? Getting the hauler out of the pits, traveling to each round, dealing with being behind the wheel for hours, ect.
Sometimes you get a little tired, but for me, if I pull over and take a 15 minute break, I am good. The normal week is race Saturday, go back to the hotel, wake up and leave early Sunday morning, drive for tow or three days depending on where we are going, get to the next hotel, and the next day wash everything so that it is ready when the mechanics get there on Wednesday night. Thursday they build the bikes and I will do whatever polishing I want to do and go shopping. On Friday morning we pull in and set up, go through tech, and do all the stuff we want to do. This past Friday we cleaned all the awnings and valley curtains. In the afternoon I had a part break on the truck, so I had to go and find that. I was back at the hotel by seven o’clock last night.
What do you think about the schedule? It seems a little off to drive from Minnesota to Washington and then all the way back to the East Coast.
That is the only part that is a bit screwy. They did fix some things for this year. Last season we went from Texas to High Point to Budds Creek and then to Denver, where this year it was Texas, Denver, High Point. That is a little bit better, but I think that the hard part is that all these tracks have had their certain “date” and they try to stay close to that. I don’t see that changing, because fans grow up knowing those dates. This one for us will be a bit gnarly, but by living in Southern California, we will be going home after Washougal, stock the truck, and head to Southwick the Sunday before the race. It is 2800 miles from California to Southwick.
How is it to see the country and how many times have you driven cross-country?
I have been across the country over a dozen times. We had a guy go the five hours up to Mammoth and he told me later “I don’t know how you do this.”
What is the craziest trip that you have had?
Going to Toronto last winter. It was blizzard conditions and the lakes you cross going into Canada were whitecaps, like the ocean. I had an alternator go out in the middle of the trip, so there was no power and I turned everything off. Every minute and a half the wipers would go enough to throw the snow off the window. I got it there and called PacLease, and they had it fixed that night.
Isn’t getting to Canada a big problem for you guys?
It is a lot more. We have to do documentation of every nut, bolt, and part in the truck. They don’t look at it like they say they are going to, but you have to have it just in case. Everything has to be clean and tidy, you can’t just be winging it going into there.