“This,” she says, holding up a figurine, “Is an Evel Knievel collector’s item.” Her lips curl into a mischievous smile. “Dave was a big fan.” She goes on to tell a story of one particular road trip, when he went on a quest to meet Knievel.
My eyes wander across the rows of signed jerseys—everyone from Carmichael to Villopoto; medals bearing almost four decades of pro motocross series insignia hang from various hooks.
“First edition Redbull can,” she laughs, and sets a stout gold can back on the shelf.
The room is a treasure chest of motocross history. Each piece resonates memories, but judging from the far-off glow I see in Rita Coombs’ eyes, I imagine that it’s only through experience that one appreciates the true value of these treasures.
“And this,” she cackles, “Someone sent us their application on a boot!” She holds up an old Scott motocross boot made of red plastic. It’s covered in a handwritten resume. I’m not sure whether or not the guy got the job, but his application made the memorabilia room, which is, in itself, a great accomplishment.
Later we meet Davey Coombs, editor-n-chief of Racer X Productions. When we tell him we’re planning to hit some of the Civil War sites on our way up to Budds Creek, he begins to map out an itinerary of places to see, starting with Antietam. “23,000 killed—more deaths during the 12 hour battle at Antietam than any other single day of battle on American soil!” he exclaims.
“So you’re a history buff?” I observe.
“I was going to be a history teacher,” he says, smiling.
“You didn’t plan on working the family business?”
“Not at all,” he reflects. “I went to college. Got degrees in English and history.” I raise my eyebrows in surprise. One would assume Davey would have simply fallen in line with his father, Dave Coombs Sr.—founder of MX Sports, father of professional motocross, the man who invented off road moto as we know it today, who knocked on Loretta Lynn’s front door and asked if he could host a national amateur motocross race on her ranch (and she said yes!).
“Carrie Jo too,” Davey continues. “She went off to law school. She’d been practicing law for a little while when I graduated, and she gave me a call. Told me she’d spent some time out there. Told me it wasn’t that great,” and we laugh because we’ve all spent enough time working in the ‘real world’ to know that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. “I was a journalist and a photographer, and I grew up racing motocross, so I came back here and started a newspaper.”
He pulls out a browned newspaper entitled The Racing Paper, dated March 1990. We pause for a moment to marvel at it as the reality of just how far they’ve come, sets in. It seems Dave Sr. wasn’t the only visionary in the family.
Davey’s nonchalance belies his accomplishments: The Racing Paper evolved into what is now Racer X Illustrated and Racer X Online—the world’s top source of motocross and supercross news, videos, features, and photos. Racer X is the source I turned to a year ago—when I left my classroom and my books and my students—to follow a sport I didn’t know much about, to nurture the fledgling business that Jason and I had created.
During the five days we spend camped out in the Racer X parking lot, they offer up not only their office and Internet, but their hot shower, their cabin by the lake, and their boat. We’re astounded by their generosity.
When we reluctantly return to the road, I sit down at my computer as the Racer X building fades into the distance. The page before me is blank. But I know there is much yet to be written.