We journey westbound past Maryhill and its replica of Stonehenge and watch the gorge transform from virtual desert to lush green garden—verdant and alive—working its green magic to transform us. The gorge, where the water flows one way and the wind blows the other, transports us into the future and tomorrow’s race at the same time that it transports us into the green pastures of our past.
The track at Portland seems like a green paradise, especially to people from eastern Washington where green is a tenuous condition and a tree is a statement of defiance. We’re in the infield section of Portland International Raceway, where grass covers almost everything and tall poplar trees surround us, making the place into a green motocross oasis right in the middle of the city, so much so that the setting creates the impression that the rest of the world does not exist.
Todd parks the pickup and sets up camp. Dan and I check out the track. It has two sections: a standard motocross track used for regular Thursday night motocross, and a new section marked off in the middle of a grass field. It’s been disked in a few spots, but it looks like it’s never been ridden on. I see a rock in the track, and the farmer in me takes over: I pick it up and pile it off the track next to a steel fence post.
That night I can’t sleep. We’ve unloaded the bikes, and Dan and I sleep in the trailer on his nifty camp cots. I’m not nervous or afraid—Dan and Todd and Karen have been wonderful and supportive—but I’m excited. And a bit conflicted. I remember that teenage bike fanatic who desperately wanted to race. I had the bike—my Suzuki was the best 250 of its day—but never had the opportunity. But my thoughts are not really about lost opportunities; my thoughts are about coming to terms with two parts of my life: my motorcycle youth and my professional present. I’m been married for almost twenty-five years and have three almost grown children, and I’m a Ph.D. holding a position of responsibility with my students and colleagues. I’m not sure how one self fits with the other. I feel like the self of the present moment on the eve of his first motocross race has leaped into his past, or that the past has leaped into the present and somehow for a moment has wiped away a mid-career life with car troubles, professional frustrations, and mortgage payments.
The next day dawns in a bustle of activity. I sign up for two classes based on engine size and rider age, respectively: the 250cc amateur, and the +50 amateur. Dan, Todd, and I are more serious now and get dressed in our motocross gear. I sit on a chair and slip my feet in to my circa 1977, Full House, Tony D signature, motocross boots—quality relics of a past era. Todd loans me goggles, a chest protector, and motocross gloves. “I’ve got something for you,” Todd says. He emerges from the camper with a blue and yellow No Fear motocross jersey and hands it to me. I’d planned to wear a blue, button down shirt and thought about wearing a tie. “Karen won this as a door prize” he says. “It’s too small for me. It’s yours.” My wife would love the Swedish colors, and maybe No Fear is something prophetic. I’m thrilled. I’m beginning to look more like a real motocrosser and feel like one too.
I feel even more like a motocrosser when we saunter down to the riders’ meeting. I’m sure some of the guys think it’s a bother, but at the same time it’s an important ritual of the day and most seem to enjoy it. And I’ll get to meet Siege. Todd’s earlier description intrigues me.
Siege ascends the stairway leading up to the scorer’s box and reaches a landing half way up. He stops here to address the crowd. Maybe he’ll begin with something literary like “Friends, Romans, Motocrossers—lend me you ears.” But Siege commands attention in his own way. He explains some of the safety rules, practice format, and future events. The sun is at his back and in my eyes, so I turn sideways and listen carefully. The meeting ends, Siege descends, and the riders head back to their bikes.