It’s hot, loud and dirty. My boyfriend and I are sitting on the hard, filthy bleachers, right in front of the “No Alcohol in the Pit” sign, as people pass toting Coronas and Heinekens. There’s a big mix of people, serious riders donning dirt bike pants and tattoos, curious bystanders like me, all wide eyes and cute, little kids and big kids alike riding around the track on their bikes.
It’s mid-August, and we’re at the Maui Motorcycle Association Track in Pu’unene for a night of dirt bike and quad races. The track is covered in small hills, which the bikes fly over. As the dirt flies harder and higher, everyone in the bleachers stands up in excitement.
I don’t remember which race, but there was a point between the fourth and fifth lap when my toes begin to tingle and I began standing with the rest of the crowd. Grasping my boyfriend’s arm, I began pulling and asking questions like “Does the engine control the back or front wheel?” (he said that wasn’t a stupid question) and “If they make high jumps, do they make more points?” (that apparently was a stupid question because racers don’t compete for points, but for the fastest time).
When the night was over, I was filthy, half deaf and stinky. I didn’t know who won or lost or the difference between a two stroke, four stroke, Kawasaki or Honda. But I did know that I had to start dirt biking as soon as possible.
A few days later, I confronted my boyfriend. “Honey, remember how you said that if we went to the dirt bike races that we could do whatever I want next weekend?” I asked.
His face looked grimly prepared.E“Yeah?”
“Well, I want you to teach me how to dirt bike,” I said.
His face lit up for a second, but then grew serious. “Do you really want to do this?”
I heard this question again and again through the week until he finally relented and I wound up straddling a bike in the cane field behind my parent’s house. My boyfriend’s mouth was moving quickly, explaining the brakes (there’s two of them), the clutch, the gears, the throttle (which I like to call “The Gas”) and what would happen to me and the bike if I didn’t do it right (fall on my ass, my face, etc.). I tried to take it all in but it was just so much.
When he was done he looked at me. “Do you really want to do this?” he asked for the 415th time.
I gave my sweaty men’s helmet a big nod. So he pulled the throttle and began once again telling me the importance of everything he’d just said.
I took the reins. Oh boy, I thought. I have to feel the clutch pull, then I release it, then I go.
I felt the clutch pull, released it, then listened as the engine died.
My boyfriend started it again. This time it worked and I was off. I felt my foot lift off the ground. I’m going, I thought. Look at how fast I’m going!
Suddenly, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. It was my boyfriend, jogging next to me. Yeah, jogging. So much for going fast.
Suddenly I realized that a turn was coming up, but by this point the excitement had caused me to forget how to slow down. Next thing I knew my bike was stalled. E
And so it went, him starting my bike and me riding a bit more each time before stalling it out. Until, that is, a group of dirtbikers came flying past me, shirtless and packing their friends. My bike and I fell hard. Not even taking the time to dust myself off, I bent down to pick up the bike. Oh Loooooord , it was heavy.
But I didn’t care. I was elated that I was okay, the bike was okay and I could go again. By this time, I’d graduated to the point that my boyfriend followed me in the truck, occasionally telling me when to shift and to keep going until I couldn’t go anymore.
So I did. I raced through the cane fields, up and down hills, through narrow roads, which scratched the truck and finally back to the house.
At the end of the day I had a sore back, a parched throat and a desperate need for a manicure.EBut I also couldn’t wait to do it again. MTW