Sixteen Thousand Miles

16,000 miles driven; 2,130 gallons of fuel; 313 hours of driving; 298 cups of coffee consumed; 105 days living in a trailer; 45 truck stops slept in; 30 races worked; 8 National Parks visited; 5 tires blown out; 3 people (and a dog); 1 cross-country adventure.

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Fifteen weeks later we rounded the corner of a familiar street, and we arrived: Home.

People ask, “How was your trip?” and you might try to convey in a word or a sentence the experience, but it is near impossible to do so…

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On the northernmost outskirts of the United States, we felt the impact of 2,800 tonnes of water per second as it plummeted over Niagra Falls.  In Butte, Montana, we placed a toy motorcycle on Evel Knievel’s grave.  In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, we helped an Amish man push a downed tree out of the road after being ambushed by a flash flood.  In Morgantown, West Virginia, we ate baguettes and aged Provolone in the Racer X boat on Lake Cheat.  In Omaha, Nebraska, we caught bullfrogs and trout that we threw back into a little stream.  

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In New York City, we gaped at the magnitude of man’s creations—giant sky scrapers reaching to the clouds. In Ottawa, Illinois, we spent hours sipping Yuengling watching fireflies dance around a cornfield. In Park City, Utah, we wandered through a street fair, eating crepes and buying necessities, like a hand-made wooden crossbow. In Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, we ate steaming bowls of spicy jambalaya at a campsite, surrounded by strangers who treated us like family.  And between all of these experiences, we drove and drove and drove.

Every week we arrived at a new destination—a world class track—where the best motocross racers in the world would duel it out for our entertainment.

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We came to know most members of the track crew by name, and they laughed with us as we regaled stories of the latest breakdowns and blow-outs encountered on the drive there. We backed in, set up, cleaned up, as we moved a million moving parts, to create our booth.  We slogged through rain and mud, persisted through sweat and muggy heat, buckled down as thunder shook the earth, and squinted through wind and dust storms.  

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Each Saturday, we addressed crowds of 20,000 plus, hearing our words ring out over the loudspeakers.  We reminisced with fans, listening to stories about Hangtown in the 70’s, about 40 years of racing at Southwick, about meeting Bob “Hurricane” Hannah and the GOAT.  We trekked around the track taking photographs, cursing our cable providers as we tried to post some epic shot of the day to Instagram.  We pushed our way through crowds to the podium, to be there for that brief moment when the champagne would fly.

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Then, after the gladiators had battled and crashed and triumphed—Villopoto, Tomac, Dungey, Barcia, Stewart, Canard, Roczen, Musquin—after they had spoken their thank you’s on the podium and returned to their hotels, we lounged around in the mess, high fiving and sharing beers with the show masters, procrastinating cleanup, so that by the time we trudged toward bed, we were exhausted, but content.

Each week we left the track, having learned at least a dozen new things. And then? More road. More truck stops.

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Now that we’re here, at the end, we ask ourselves what was gained. We stumble with words because how does one express the experience as a whole, when it is made up of so many tiny moments?  We can only say that we ventured, that we discovered the soul of motocross, and along the way, we felt life pulsing through the veins of America.

 

To Say that we had Lived…

Before Nevada becomes Utah, down Highway 50, the loneliest road in America, past the silver mines of Eureka, beyond the neon motel signs of Ely, up a slow and sleepy road, buried 190 feet below the surface of a mountain peak, lies a colony of caves. These caverns, like ancient tombs preserved in absolute stillness, are over a million years old.

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As we meandered along our cross-country journey, we took pause at the Great Basin National Park to take the 90 minute tour of the Lehman caves, to discover their great secrets.

Inside, colonies of stalactite formations reach their great fingers from the cavernous ceilings toward their stalagmite kin below. Draperies, where water has dripped down cave walls for hundreds of thousands of years, cascade in calcite ripples. And shields, like great round clams protruding from cave walls, ooze their long, stoic tentacles. Where water drips, they glisten, like prehistoric jellyfish.

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The whole scene appears so other-worldly, that our tour group begins spouting all manner of similes to describe it, to take it all in. 

“It looks like something out of Indiana Jones, or an alien movie!”

“I feel like I’m at Disneyland, the buried treasure is just around the corner…”

“Look at that wall, it looks like a curtain.”

“These two, almost touching, like the painting, where God reaches out to Adam.”

“This one looks like a dildo.”

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These stalactite formations, monuments of nature’s patience, are still growing, imperceptibly.

“Quiz,” the tour guide says, “see these broken off pieces,” he says, pointing to some sheared off stalactites” these couldn’t have been broken until after the cave was discovered in 1880, but not after it was preserved in 1922, so how old are these little growths?”  He points to a thinner piece, no more than two inches, that protrudes from a sheared off stalactite. 

“That would make it anywhere from 90 to maybe, 130 years old,” someone replies. 

“Exactly,” the tour guide beams. Our mouths all gape as we look beyond, to the massive stalactites that reach 30 or 40 feet from the ceiling, realizing all at once the scope of such a project.  How many droplets of water trickled through that straw before such a structure was constructed? 

When we reach another opening, our eyes fall upon the low ceiling, which is covered with the initials of former explorers, scrawled in candle smoke and preserved in the chill, still air. “Graffiti,” someone mutters. “Boy they really messed this place up,” says another.

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The tour guide interjects, “These were created sometime before the caves were preserved in 1922, so they’re considered a part of history. What do you think of them?” He surveys the group, I’m sure making what could be for him a very monotonous job, into a study of the humans who pass briefly through his path every day.

“Well, I guess they’re a part of history, but I don’t like them,” someone grumbles.

“What God made, man cannot top,” laments another. 

The tour guide looks almost disappointed. He searches the crowd for a dissenter.

Finally, a scruffy young man boldly ventures, “I wish my name was up there,” and everyone chuckles knowingly. For who, at some point, has not desired immortality?  Isn’t this why we carve our initials into tree trunks? Why we write epic pieces of literature? Why we build architectural bohemoths, monuments to last the tides of time? Don’t we all want to leave our mark, to say that we were here, and that we had lived?

The tour guide remarks that before 1922, kids would hang out down in the caves, even hold dances there, bringing with them live music, and beverages, and building camp fires. I imagined teenagers who, having made the extra effort to brave the dark crawl into this particular cave, emerged, feeling their own ant-sized mortality surrounded by nature’s ancient might, and instinctively feeling the urge to leave their mark. The same way the water had left its own calcite mark all throughout the caves. I smiled to myself thinking about those kids, scrawling their names upon this immortal place, and I wondered, could you really blame them?

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