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Month: July 2019

TNMX at PIR – 53rd Anniversary


WHY THEY DO IT

I’m not a very good golfer. Maybe I could be if I really tried hard. But then again, probably not. I can generally hit it straight and am pretty good around the green. I do find that the more I DON’T play, the better I usually golf. Practice doesn’t seem to make perfect for me. In reality though, I’m just not that good. I will admit that the highs of golf are quite incredible. Hitting that one perfect shot, exactly where you aimed it, almost makes all the pain you went through to get to that point worth it. Almost. But it’s the endless hooks, slices, and shanks that eventually get to you. As high as the highs are, the lows will drive you absolutely nuts. “A Good Walk Spoiled” is the name of the best-selling book on golf. It is a theme I can well relate to, as I recall countless furious rages at the Gods of the links. The general idea is; why would you want to spend significant time and money on something that frustrates you to no end?

This is what I was thinking about after spending time at the 53rd Anniversary Thursday Night Motocross at Portland International Raceway. Yes, I said that right. 53rd anniversary. That makes it the longest running night motocross series in the known universe. For those of you who haven’t been there before, let me tell you how it works. As you pull off the I5 freeway just north of downtown Portland you head down a street that takes you to a left turn onto a road that runs down a half-mile or so past a dog park. The actual entrance to PIR is to the left on this road, and only holds about 30 or so vehicles. After that everybody stages along this road running by the dog park. You drive down as far as the backup is, do a U-turn, and get in line. For this 53rd anniversary race they opened the gates at 2:00 to accommodate the huge crowds expected. Or at least they were supposed to. They didn’t actually open until much later. I decided to get there early as I knew it was going to be crazy, but it was way beyond that. I arrived at 1:00 and found myself just outside the entrance area, not too far back. But as the vehicles quickly piled in the backup looped all the way back to the main street. I had never seen his before. A major thoroughfare became essentially blocked by traffic trying to get into the race. It was insane!

Getting there is just stage one, however. After entering the facility and winding your way past the road race track finding a good place to park becomes your next challenge, especially on a hot, sunny summer day. You then unload your bike, get your gear ready, and setup your pop-up. Expect long lines at sign-up. The staff at PIR does a great job, which makes it all seem less stressful than it could be. Lines at the restroom, food stalls, and beer garden are just expected. Hopefully you got there in time for practice. And did I mention the traffic?

After all this you would expect a great night of racing, and it really was. The TNMX crew does a great job putting on these events. But there are sacrifices to be made when a zillion racers are signed up to race. For this night it is one moto only, except for the Pros who qualify for the main event. For everyone else they have signed up for one 5 lap moto, if they signed up for one class. This brings me back to my golf analogy. It seems like an awful lot of time and money spent for such a limited racing experience. Many of these racers had raced earlier in the day at the outdoor Washougal Amateur event earlier in the day. Wrap your head around that! Why would anyone want to put themselves through what appears to be a very low return on investment? Why would you want to spend significant time and money for only 15 minutes of actual racing?! Those of you who race know the answer to that question. For the rest of you I will fill you in. It’s kind of complicated…

FAMILY. Everywhere you look there are families racing, wrenching, supporting, engaging, and enjoying. Virtually every racer who has gone anywhere has had a family supporting them. The effort required to be even moderately successful in this sport requires a team effort. That cannot be denied. Motocross is a family affair. Always has been. Always will be.

FRIENDS. “Facebook Friends” is such a misnomer, at least in my opinion. It completely destroys the meaning of the word “friend”. A friend is someone you know well. It is someone who you have been through things with. It is some you trust. How do you develop these types of relationships in today’s time-deficient world? Friends have to spend time together in challenging circumstances. That is the only way you can truly know someone. Whether that is kayaking, snow-boarding, or dirt-bikes it doesn’t matter. It’s just that motocross happens to be the best.

COMRADERY. In a world dominated by social media and the gravitational pull of the couch, it takes something special to get people together to engage in extreme activity. That is the power of motocross. Being part of that group. Being part of that relatively young history. Seeing the huge crowds of people of all ages there to see you race is powerful. The bonds you can build in an environment like this are as extreme as the racing is.

ATMOSPHERE. The crowds. The announcer. The noise. The anticipation. The thrill of competition. The extreme performances. The jumps! The evening sky. The lights coming on. The satisfaction of knowing you did your best. PIR Thursday Night MX always has a great atmosphere.

GLADIATORS. Modern motocross is about as close to ancient Roman gladiators as it gets. Look at the gear they wear. The helmets, the boots, the gloves, the chest protectors, the pants, the jerseys, the knee braces, all specially designed for these warriors-on-wheels. The battles waged on the track can get very intense, but good sportsmanship is the rule of the day. No one wants to get hurt out there. In the end it is all about testing oneself. Surrounded by all the noise, excitement, and crowds, each racer is in battle against their inner demons of fear and doubt. Putting those demons to rest, at least for one night, is a noble undertaking to say the least.

IT’S THURSDAY! What the hell else are you going to do on a Thursday Night?! Watch Big Bang Theory re-runs or binge-watch Stranger Things again? Go grocery shopping at Wal-Mart? Play some lame video game that you aren’t that good at? Come on. Life is short. You can do better than that. April through September is the time to get out to Portland International Raceway and check out Thursday Night Motocross. They have been doing it for 53 years, so they must be doing something right. If you don’t have the guts to get out there and race, at least get out there and cheer on these amazing warriors. Just make sure you get there early and bring some patience. It will be well rewarded.

To see ALL photos from the event go to:

Misc. and Racers #0-100 https://motohubnw.photoreflect.com/store/thumbpage.aspx?e=10459217

Racers #100-300
https://motohubnw.photoreflect.com/store/thumbpage.aspx?e=10459218

Racers #300+
https://motohubnw.photoreflect.com/store/thumbpage.aspx?e=10459220

Heroes: KENNY ZAHRT

Kenny Zahrt – Argyll

If you grew up racing motocross in Lo Cal or No Cal in the 70’s, or were partial to the Spanish MX brands with their right side-shifting and left-side kick starters, you were probably a fan of the skinny kid with style for miles. I took this photo at Argyll MX Park in Dixon, CA. It was my local track/home-away-from-home during my teenage daze. Although it was 40 years ago I can still remember almost every section of the track, from the rubber band start to The Matterhorn.

One of the more prominent features was a tabletop that came up after the long back straightaway. It was about 15-18 feet high, with about a 12 foot landing area, and steep on both sides. Everyone would try to get up to the top then scoot across and drop down as quick as they could. When it was muddy many Beginners and even some Amateurs couldn’t make it up. If you were unlucky, like me, you had a decent chance of center-punching one of these losers as they slid out sideways going up the slope. Forcing you to go back and try again.

One day, I remember it like it was yesterday, Kenny Zahrt came to Argyll. He didn’t race there very often at all, but I knew about him from religiously devouring MXA on a monthly basis and seeing him at other CMC events. Kenny could fly! The fact that he looked like he weighed 100 pounds soaking wet must have helped him reach heights others couldn’t. He was so graceful, like a bird in flight. When he cleared that tabletop it was the first time I had seen anyone do it. He was the FIRST. Electricity filled the air that day, as all the spectators crowded around the tabletop to see it again and again.

Zahrt was one of those guys who didn’t care so much about having the latest, greatest technology. He rode Bultaco well past their peak of effectiveness. And in this photo he is on an Ossa, another Spanish brand that was a rare sight on local tracks. Most of his competitors were on superior bikes, yet he always got the most out of what he had and rode with great pride and grace. He just loved to ride.

“Magoo” may have done it later on his KTM, clearing that tabletop. But Danny Chandler was no bird in flight. He was more like a terrifying Pterodactyl, darting here and there, always on the verge of catastrophe. One of those riders that actually scared the hell out of you just by standing by the fence watching him. Kenny on the other hand was poetry in motion. He passed away in 2014. I am sure I am not the only fence-hanger who remembers these courageous deeds of a brave man. And that’s why I consider him a hero. Because on this one day he showed me something that I did not know was possible. And that’s something you don’t forget.

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