Parting Shot: I Have Dirt In My Blood

After three-and-a-half years writing, shooting and wrenching on, I’m leaving for a new gig. It’s a mix of scary and exciting all at the same time. I’m looking forward to new challenges, but will miss working with the crew here, and the verbal barbs launched back and forth between offices.

Over the last few years here, I’ve managed to wad myself up in a variety of ways at our local tracks, which prompted Swap to classify me as banned from riding. To get myself un-banned, he said I had to write an essay explaining why I should be allowed back on a bike. While it applies to me, I also think it works for just about all the riders I know…and maybe you as well. Anyway, I figured it was good for a parting shot. Hope you enjoy.


I have dirt in my blood.

That’s the only reason I can figure that I still have the desire to ride. Over the last few years I’ve been beat down, broken off, hospitalized, rebuilt, and sidelined. I don’t make my living from riding, which is a damn good thing, because with my speed, I’d be starving. There are definitely no race teams or sponsors waiting for my return. I guess maybe a little history will help explain some of it.

When I was a kid, my mom worked as an RN in an emergency room, so she saw every guy who’d made bad choices on bikes. It didn’t matter whether it was a street bike, dirt bike, or 10-speed it was all the same to her. Equally unfortunate was that when I was 12, my brother and I got to visit Aunt Beth and Uncle Bob in McMinnville, Oregon, for a few weeks. The trip was full of fun learning experiences on their ranch. Pulling the siding off an outbuilding to spray the beehive inside (the adults were too scared), driving a pickup on the dirt roads; and learning how to use rolling papers, tobacco (really), and a rolling machine to make their own cigarettes. But best of all, Uncle Bob was into dirt bikes, and took me to my first-ever MX race…a local event at Washougal.

I can still remember how cool the track and the setting was, and how the gate was filled by red-tanked Huskys with their polished port on the side for the 250 class, and new silver Honda Elsinores in the 125 class. I was bit by the MX bug. Hard.

From then on, I couldn’t get enough of reading and dreaming about MX. Of course, my chances of actually owning a motorcycle when I was a kid were still slim and none. Mom was still dead-set against the idea. So off-road riding on a Schwinn Stingray became a surrogate for a real MX bike. I’d ride from morning until night, building tracks, and finding jumps to hit, nearly always pretending that the right-hand grip actually was a functional item. But even when it came to actually racing BMX, that proved to be a tough sell. When asked if I could race, my mom promptly told me no…so I did what any red-blooded American kid would do. I talked my dad into taking me. Unfortunately, showing off the ribbon I’d won seemed like a good idea at the time. I was promptly grounded for two weeks.

Oddly (and after many arguments), my parents later actually let me race some high school MX events on borrowed bikes. But I was 18 before I actually bought a bike of my own…a ’78 YZ250.

I guess it is sort of ironic that in my years of riding (BMX, mountain bikes, and MX), I’ve mostly proven most of my mom’s fears correct. I’ve had concussions, sprains, dislocations, a variety of broken bones, and a pair of skilled surgeons who’ve pieced me back together at different times.

So what makes me still want to do it? There’s always the challenge of always trying to improve. Maybe part of it is just the shared experience of being able to ride on the same track, and with the same equipment as guys who are really skilled. There’s also the chance to experience the same feelings…even if it’s just a momentary burst of speed, or more likely, a miraculouss save. And of course, there are stone spray sandwiches to serve…or consume.

Or just maybe, it can all come down to one very simple thing…

I have dirt in my blood.