Saturday, July 30, 2011

To Oak Mountain and Beyond: Wonder Friends Forever

Heather Parker and Mandi Green-- Wonder Friends
Last weekend the Southeastern BMX community came together at Oak Mountain BMX in Pelham, AL to celebrate (and mourn) the final NBL SE Regional Championship. Because of the new and unbendable (ha!) 2011 rules, many riders, including mine, were not qualified. Unlike many, we knew going in, and registered both boys for their respective open classes, in order to prepare them for the national qualifier on Sunday.

Wyatt and Brady battled it out in 8-9 open.
Racing seemed somewhat secondary as the fun commenced. Our family gathered with some of our oldest and dearest BMX friends, the Greens and the Wolfs. We welcomed my cousin Joan Beth, a Birmingham local and excellent freelance photographer*, who came to visit and photograph the boys. We even had a visit from our old high school pal Chad Johnson, who we hadn't seen in 20 years, but still shared his cold beer with us like it was yesterday.

Grant and William dominated 10-11 open. 
On Saturday, to make things more interesting, the Greens registered their boys Grant (10x) and Brady (9x) in open class with William and Wyatt. All four boys raced hard on the track, and played just as hard off. Post race, we lingered at the track for hours, sharing barbecue and swapping race stories, while the boys explored the woods. The party continued well into the night, eventually relocating to the home of the Johnson family in Pelham, where we carbo-loaded the boys with pizza.

Grant and William pushed each other hard on Sunday, sharing all motos in 10x and cruiser. It is always fun to watch these two, knowing they've been racing one another since the age of 5, each mindful of the other, but neither one giving an inch.

Best photo of the day- 8 challenger main
I bet this little guy will wear gloves from now on!
Wyatt continues to exhibit rapid development in speed and skills, as evidenced by his 2nd place cruiser finish on Sunday. He rode hard against tough competition in 8 challenger, and finished 4th.

It was hard to say goodbye to our friends after such a fun weekend, however, we were able to meet the Greens for a day at the beach just yesterday. Mandi and I talked for hours, while watching the boys skim and boogie board, counting heads each time they emerged from the rough surf. It's funny how you can know someone for years, and suddenly be surprised...

Wonder Woman by Mel Ramos
a Christmas gift from my Incredible Hulk
Eat your heart out MG.
Mandi: "You do know that I am Wonder Woman, right?"
Me- confused: "Um. No you're not. I am Wonder Woman."
Mandi- indignant: "How can this be when I AM WONDER WOMAN."
Me- snotty: "How many Wonder Woman t-shirts do YOU have? I have seven-- top THAT."
William- perfectly timed: "She's not lying Miss Mandi."

Then I proceded to blow her mind by primping myself with my limited edition Wonder Woman lip gloss neatly contained in my Wonder Woman cosmetic case. You'd have thought I revealed the golden lasso. Mandi has promised to reveal her true self at the Grands by sporting her Wonder Woman outfit. Please, dear readers, make sure you remind her of this promise.

The boys ditched the sand and water when William and Grant discovered that the X-Games were on at the bar. As the sun set, the bartender passed them a round of Shirley Temples, while they sat wide-eyed and happy, watching their heros.

After seeing them together like that, somehow I knew this was only the beginning.


*All photos in this post are courtesy of Joan Beth Smith unless otherwise noted.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Save the Cruisers!

This past weekend we ventured to Indiana so the boys could race in the NBL Hoosier Nationals in Evansville. We were all itching to go, not having raced a national since before the formation of USA BMX. I won't lie. After months of taking advantage of the NBL's fuzzy math, it was painful to pay entry fees for two boys racing two bikes for two days. It occurred to me after registration that I was not offered a discount for cruiser. I seem to recall, back in the pre-Aragon days, that cruiser, with 20" registration, was half price.

After handing all my money over to Erma, it didn't surprise me one bit to see cruisers with "for sale" signs lined up along every fence.

Wyatt prefers his cruiser to his 20"
Photo credit: Susanne Dube
It was exciting at the beginning of the season to see the flourish of new cruisers. William had been on a cruiser for a while, but we decided to get one for Wyatt too. Why not? Racing's free! At every race, cruiser motos were stacked-- nearly always having semis, and sometimes quarters.

We were mildly disappointed, but not surprised Saturday when William's 10 cruiser moto was mixed with 11-12. I don't know anyone who wants to drive 10 hours for a mixed class, but William kept his chin up and hoped for the best.

William did his best to keep up with the 11x and 12x in cruiser, resulting in a good sandwiching between the older riders in the first two motos. Not wanting to take a needless risk before his 10x main, William took it easy in the third round of cruiser.

After the dust settled on William's win in 10x, his mind turned to cruiser.  Looking thoughtful he said, "I can get second-- I know I can." When the gate dropped, he gave it everything he had, carving through the first turn in a solid second. With the 11x breathing down his neck, William stayed strong on the cranks. His bike control wasn't quite ready for his speed, and he began to slip on the last straight. It was so close at the line, we couldn't tell if he had finished second or third.

I met William at the finish, asking him where he placed. He shook his head, "I'm not exactly sure." He went on to explain how he had been given the 2nd place chip. His 11x opponent pleaded with him-- "My dad will kill me if I come in behind a 10x!" William, not wanting to be responsible for this poor kid's demise, swapped chips. When final results were posted Monday, we discovered that William did in fact finish second. I hope that poor kid is still alive.

All of this drama could have been avoided if significant discounts had been given for cruiser registration.  Kids love cruiser. It's another opportunity to get on the track. It also gives challengers like Wyatt an opportunity to race experts and see where they stand.

As plans are made for the 2012 season, I hope drastically reduced fees are implemented for cruisers, to encourage riders to fill these motos once again.