“What is it?” I ask with appropriate disinterest, pushing the glasses higher up my 12 year-old nose. “A motorized tricycle?”
“Noooo,” my best friend, Ron Honsaker replies with appropriate condescension. “It’s called a Honda ATC 250. It hauls ass.”
“Show me!” I respond, with indignance to match his disdain.
He does. It does. Then he generously lets me ride it.
Okay, so it’s not the typical “I’ve been riding dirt bikes since I was 5” genesis story. There’s no glorious history of youth championships, nor club championships as an adult, or a career cut short by some accident not of my own making.
I can be quietly smug, however, for having won the Baja 1000 almost every weekend during 7th and 8th grade. Somehow someway, I survived almost two years of riding that 60 Minutes-certified deathtrap ATC around Billy’s backyard dirt track, a long-kept secret my mother is learning as she reads this.
That Honda was the first motorized vehicle I ever operated. Hauled ass in it. Launched it off jumps. Leaned it on two wheels, wheelied it. Helmets? Parental supervision? Hah. How dangerous could it actually be if a skinny four-eyed 7th grade twerp like me could learn to ride it, and keep riding it for a couple of years while avoiding serious injury, paralysis, or death.
After eighth grade, my buddy went to a different high school, we drifted apart, and my riding ‘career’ was put on hold for about ten years.
But my imagination wasn’t. It was captured the same year I said goodbye to the ATC, when I learned about some insane race, on the other side of the world…. that somehow, completely inexplicably…
Covered two continents.