This summer, one of my friends, Lisa Niner lived one of her bucket list items and I was able to get a glimpse of American Flat Tracking from behind the scenes.
I'm going to backtrack just a few years to set the story. The Thanksgiving after Tommy died, Lisa invited me to a BCTRA (Baltimore County Trail Riders Association) riding event. She had everything I needed, including a motorcycle, as I had not been on a motorcycle since I was a teenager. Though I didn't know it at the time, that was where the seed for my cross country trip for Tommy was planted.
She and my little brother, with our families and BCTRA, grew up riding motorcycles together. My brother raced motocross, 9R raced flat track. There were no girls classes back then. She raced with the boys, and she won, a lot. Enough to earn a number 1 plate, which now has a home at "The Broom Factory" in Baltimore. There is a photo somewhere of my uncle Taylor presenting her with that plate, but I'll be damned if I can find it.
9R had always dreamed of racing professionally, the money/time wasn't there.
This year, 40 plus years later, the opportunity arose for her to be on the pit crew of a National Flat Track team. She thought seriously about it and committed to a summer of traveling around the country with Dan Bromley #62 and Henderson Racing. It wasn't always easy, driving forever for rain outs, missed family get togethers, missed riding weekends, blown engines, not a lot of sleep. But the good times, the good racing, the memories of being a part of something special - It was indeed worth every single sacrifice she made, because as magical as dreams are, they are usually not easy.
As she showed me around the pits, I had to smile, she was in her element. I understood, finally, the allure. You think you know your friend, pretty damn well. Then you are allowed to see a glimpse of their dream, and you realize you really didn't know them. Then all at once, you have been honored/allowed to share a part of it, and you realize you have always known them, you just weren't paying attention. I met a man who shared a story with us. I jotted his name down, but I am embarrassed to admit that I lost the note. He said he had waited 35 years to share this story. He raced with Lisa. She always beat him. Then, his last race before boot camp, he beat her. He admitted that as he was on the bus headed to boot camp, all he could think about was that he finally beat her. Incredible story - one that needs more attention. Mom would have handled it much better. I should have videoed it. I did get a photo.
That was in July. I followed AFT and #62 religiously after that. Even downloaded the AFT app. and live streamed the races on my phone. The last race of the season was supposed to be on October 8th in Charlotte, NC. 9R didn't travel with the crew this time, she drove herself so that she could come straight to the farm for a family gathering. Jay and Ary would both be in town at the same time. Unfortunately, the weather in NC didn't cooperate and the race was postponed a day. We did not expect to see her. However, this was 9R. She pulled into our driveway the morning after the race with trophy in hand. I'm sure team Bromley knew exactly what it meant to her. The photos say it all.
May the dreams we all have come true - it takes commitment, work, money, and probably most importantly - family support and belief in us. But before they can believe in us, we must believe in ourselves.