Thoughts on Washougal.

July 26, 2002

     There are a number of things that I want to remember about the National race at Washougal in 2002. It’s my first trip to a Nationals race, and I’m really impressed. The big hassle was getting in. They searched every vehicle for alcohol, weapons, or ‘contraband’. In my case, they searched pretty thoroughly. They found my speed loader with two sets of 6 .44 magnum cartridges and freaked out a little bit. I told them that the weapon was at home, and I had forgotten that the rounds were in the RV. They accepted that, and searched the rest of the rig. They also found my hunting knife in the bike trailer and made me check it as well. The guys in front of me in line had 13 bikes stuffed into a trailer. When the security guys told them to unload it, they just laughed. “You unload it!!”, they said. After a brief consultation on the ever present security radio, they closed the doors again and sent them through; no search at all! After I got safely into the campground I went through my rig to see what else was in there that they might have missed. I found 4 boxes of 12 gauge shotgun shells (#4 buckshot), a 50 round box of .45 ACP ball ammunition, a magazine with 6 rounds of .45 ACP, and my Star PD .45 automatic pistol.

Home Sweet Camp

What a waste of time?! Not really. The campground is virtually silent by 10:00 PM. It’s never really noisy except for the bike engines. There aren’t any drunken goons out howling at the moon at 02:00 AM, thinking that THIS time it’s funny and clever. It’s the nicest family atmosphere that I have ever experienced at a motorcycle race. A nice example of that is the whoops section. After the races the whoops have been hammered into a pretty smooth surface on the racing lines. Last night when I walked over there I found 40 or 50 kids on bicycles going through the whoops. They were all over the place, but keeping in order so that the fast kids could double and do tricks. Even the 6 year olds got their turn, though, just like everybody else. They have a great look of determination rolling down the finish line jump into the whoops. The announcer actually apologized when he asked the kids to move to the other end of the section so that the tractor could prep the track.

The Trash Collection System; Morning and Evening. Nice!

That reminds me, the PA system actually works; you can hear the announcements, even during a race. It probably works because it doesn’t have to: Washougal has it’s own radio station, 88.1 on your FM dial. At the T-shirt trailer they have tiny FM radios with ear-bugs for $10. The sound quality is just about perfect. There are no pit bikes allowed. You have to wear the stupid wristbands on your wrist. I set mine loose and can slip out of it. Don’t tell anybody.

The track is thoroughly prepped every day. The Huffmans own the park, Mxers deluxe. You can certainly tell that the people who own the track love the sport. The guys that water the track have mostly been doing it for 15 or 20 years. They water the track all day. During practice, during the races, after the races… you get the idea. They never make mud, and they never get the riders wet. The track is just awesome, and not by accident. Wednesday night when I walked the track, I found two inches of sawdust on many of the sections. Before the racing, the track had been worked and the sawdust was mixed into the soil. Awesome.

Open Pro Class (Not Really)
They are prepping the start while the Racing is underway.

Another point: They announce every day of the amateur races that ‘little league’ parents will not be tolerated. There will be no profanity or grabbing of any kid motocrossers by their parents. The new AMA rules regarding the yellow flags are also in force; no jumping and no passing from the first yellow flag to the incident. More cool stuff. The riders meeting is also on the radio, so you don’t miss a thing. Gate pick for your first moto is by a draw system, second moto is by your first moto results. You cannot goof with the dirt in front of your gate. Behind the gate is Ok, in front is off limits. I’ll be watching the pro’s to see how that might work. They just announced again that the Teller Machine is operational up by the control tower. Cool. Also, no bicycles are allowing in the infield. Anywhere else is Ok. Everyone is asked to stand, and the men are asked to remove their hats, for the national anthem. More Cool stuff. The people here are very friendly, everyone seems to have a minute to chat. Moreover, they have that gift of making you feel that they are looking forward to it!

The first race is underway. For the start, they played ‘Welcome to the Jungle’. They announcer cuts in after the start of the song and says “Welcome to the Jungle, baby, Moto one is underway!”.

They are calling for the watering guys, as the sun has come out. I’ve not seen a bit of dust from the track all weekend. Someone just stepped off hard enough that the tower guy was calling for the medical guys. A few seconds later he’s saying ‘oh, never mind. He’s back on the bike and back in the race!’. A lot of guys are falling pretty hard. Most are trying real hard because it’s a special thing to win at the Nationals. Ryan Huffman is really showing off, he’s winning his second moto. He’s riding the A class’s.

There is a climbing wall here, it’s a fiberglass deal with the little climbing bumps on it. Must be 30 feet tall, goes on a trailer and rotates 90 degrees on hydraulics to go straight up and down. $5 gets you on the wall, too bad Amber isn’t here.

Last moto is on right now, Friday, it’s about 5 PM. Track is ‘officially rough’, according to one of the industry riders. (guys from magazines and vendors. Broc Glover was actually riding and I didn’t even know it.) No worries, they will prep the track this afternoon/evening and it will be pretty nice tomorrow morning. So if the timing is about the same tomorrow my motos would be at 09:00 and at 13:00. I’m really blessed to have the first race; coolest temperatures and smoothest track. I’ll need them both.

                         Cameron Steele                 The Other 'Bubba', from the 'Crusty' Videos

Bummer. No bicycles in the whoops tonight. I wonder what brought that on? Update: somebody got hurt, somebody was a jerk about it, so everybody pays. The announcer was really apologizing for chasing the kids off of the whoops, and he did say ‘tonight’, not ‘until further notice’.
I wanted to capture something I noticed today: while I was acting the ‘vulture’ at the whoops with my camera, I was right on the edge of the track. When guys exited the whoops, they came right by me at a distance of 2 to 22 feet. I noticed, as I stood there waiting for a crash to photograph, that many of the guys were smiling. Some had the determined look, some just looked tired, but many of them had a big smile pasted on their face. It’s things like that that remind us of why we started riding in the first place; It’s so darn much fun! I’m going to try to keep that in mind in the morning when I line up with 39 other maniacs…
I’ll also keep in mind the young man who biffed right in front of me, whose day and fun both ended on the dirt about 10 yards from the finish line. The checkers were waving, and I think he just relaxed about 100 feet too soon. The third from the last whoop is a nasty kicker, and he flipped over it. Ouch. He was down hard, no thought of getting himself and his bike the extra 10 feet to finish the moto. He walked away, but it was about 10 minutes later. Then there was the guy Thursday who, when he braked for the first turn, apparently locked the front wheel. Without touching anyone or anything, he endo’ed. Weird. A lot of guys falling this week. I’m thinking over the ones I saw… I think, maybe 10? 3 or 4 serious ones, the rest normal biffs. These banked turns, there are a bunch of ‘bowl turns’ that have an outer wall about 5 to 6 feet tall. Guys get into them hot, expect to drift, and when it doesn’t happen due to the bank they highside. It ain’t pretty. The one I was close to, the spectators got together and hoisted the rider and then his bike up the bank. Tough stuff.


Saturday the Medic guys were asking the racers to chill out a little bit. They said that they had been working their butts off, lots of crashes and injurys. One guy broke his hip, I guess several had broken extremities. I had a little orange card that came in my envelope; it says ‘rider entry form’. I found out it’s a contingency card; all they told me was that I had to take it to the white trailer the day I raced, before I raced. That involves about a mile and a half walk after practice and before they call the first moto to the line. I threw mine away.

Look, I'm riding just like Ricky!

Practice was pretty amazing. After waiting some time for everyone to get going, only about half the guys had gone, so I went ahead. The track was incredibly smooth, it had been worked and disked just about everywhere. I did two laps, then pulled off to save energy.

The radio system makes it pretty easy to keep track of stuff. I had plenty of warning when my races came along. I got down to the staging area and picked my stick. I got #11, and used it to go to the far outside gate. My intentions were to wait at the gate, let everyone go, and then go out and ride my race. I was talking to the guy next to me and he said that he had tried that in the 30+ class earlier in the week, and that he ended up sitting there with about 10 other guys. Well, we agreed that we would still try it.

Someone else's start...
When it came time to go, I fired up the big KTM (with the little button) and went through the motions that you do before a start. I got up on the bike, the guy went into the starter box, the gate dropped and I took off like a shot. Halfway through first gear I thought ‘wait a minute!!!’ and lifted. I watched the pack stuff into the first turn from a safe distance, then followed along. 4 Yellow flags on the first lap, maybe 4 more during the race.
A guy on a Yamaha 4-stroke stalled his motor in a hairpin right in front of me. He had just gone from outside to inside and blocked my passing move. (I don’t think he knew I was coming) When he stopped, I turned to jump out of the berm and go on by, but it was a little too close: my front axle hit his rear tire. It almost knocked him over, and I was stopped and kind of stuck. I had to jump over the bike so I could lean it away from his so I could take off again.
I finished 27th of 45, better than I thought I would do. I actually passed a guy or two. And I did it using lines I learned watching the fast guys on TV. The whoops had been worked, they were deeper and more steep than the previous time I rode the track. I decided to take a ‘bye’ on the whoops thing; I rolled ‘em. Well, I jumped a couple of ‘em passing a guy that I thought was blocking me a little, but mostly I rolled ‘em.

"Look, I found a bike just laying around..."

Second race; I’m napping in the RV when I realize that the guy on the radio is calling the race before mine… they are already on the track! I bolt up quick and ride over there. The race guy is handing out sticks for the moto after mine. He is cool; he glances at my number plate, sees the race # sticker, and says “747, go on in.”. I do, and find that my buddy on the Honda has taken my far outside gate. The one next to it is open, so I park there. I tell him how I took off in the first moto. He says it’s just instinct. We talk about how slow we’re gonna go and how much fun we’re gonna have. When the guy walks into the starter box, I turn around on my bike and look backwards, away from the gate. The gate drops, everybody takes off, and I turn back around. I look to my left and there is my buddy, grinning. We nod to each other and away we go. That right there was probably the highlight of my race experience at Washougal! That was FUN! I passed about 10 guys that were down pretty hard, but then on the 3rd and 4th lap I couldn’t see anybody. Front or back, there was nobody there. It was a little weird, but kinda nice. Sort of like a private practice session. I rode fast on the parts I liked, and slow on the scary parts. I rolled the whoops again, I just didn’t have the strength to get back on the bike and rock. Didn’t matter, no-one was going to catch me. I finished 29th of 45. 29th overall. It seems that my buddy on the Honda finished 29/27, while I finished 27/29. Hey, if I’d known that; well, I would have ridden exactly the same. I had fun, more fun than the guys in the first turn pileup, more fun than that guy who couldn’t get out from under the bikes… you get the idea.

"Hey, Cool, I found one too!"

Saturday afternoon. I’m feeling pretty good for having just raced. Dad and I walk the infield to see the Pro Practice. First they unleash the big numbers guys, all the people who are outside the top 20. They’re fast, and they’re professionals. I was really impressed. In one of the tight sections three guys came into a hairpin turn at the same time. There was solid contact, and I expected some of them to fall, but the smooth and instant corrections on all of the participants parts prevented any significant loss of time, much less someone falling off! At a fast sweeper one of the first guys out had the rear kick out. He never let off, never took his feet off the pegs, and went about 50 yards with the back end stuck out enough that he had to be bouncing off of the steering stops! And these are the slow guys.

After the first practice they had the first ‘mixed’ practice: top 20 125’s and 250’s, for a total of 40 riders. These guys don’t ride the same track that everyone else does. I don’t fully understand how they change it, but it’s not the same track. The ‘Hillsboro Whoops’ are a long, fast, shallow whoop section. Most guys wheely through them, more or less. Ryan Huffman created quite a stir when he would quad into them. The top 20 guys were either quading in and quading out, or just ignoring them altogether. Speed through the section went from say, 45 MPH for Huffman to 60+ for Cooper and Dowd and the guys. It just doesn’t look right, even though it’s happening right in front of your eyes.

There are stadium style whoops down the last straightaway to the finish line jump. These are the ones the kids were riding their bikes through. They are deep, steep, and long, probably 14 or 16 of them. I was going one-sies, if I was on my game I would have been doubling the first 4 pair and banging my way out from there. RC goes over them as though it was a washboard road out in the desert. Unbelievable. His bike doesn’t even seem to move around. Generally speaking, you just have to go and see it to believe it. And it’s worth the trip!

Sunday morning; Pit passes are impossible. I wanted to go get passes for Dad and I. There was a line that was 5 wide and a quarter of a mile long. The announcer says you can only buy one pit pass; I couldn’t pick up Dads even if I could stand waiting in the line. There were some folks who had waited in line since 05:30, only to be told that they had to get into a different line to get pit passes.

After watching the first 125 race and the first 250 race, I decided to pack it in. The guys were flying, but it’s hard to see anything. If there is a decent jump, the crowd is 5 deep at the fence. The pix will tell the story, it was quite the mob scene. After going back to the RV to get a soda and relax, my quads were really starting to burn from Saturdays race. That’s when I made the decision to go ahead and leave. The pits/camping areas were emptying out pretty fast when I took off, more than half of the camps had gone when I left. It’ll be on ESPN next week, and I’ll check it out then.

In conclusion, it was a great vacation. I was up there from Wednesday through Sunday PM. I missed the traffic by leaving early, and I saw the guys I wanted to see. There were 1500 amateur racers, and there were 22,000 spectators at the facility on Sunday. In my class they gave out 11 trophys, 25% of a 45 man class. Next year I’ll keep the same schedule, I’ll weigh less than 185, and I’ll trophy. At least, that’s the plan.

Harry ‘Moto’

125 Action

125 First Race Start

First Lap

Bubba chasing down Brock

Trying to move in

The dirt flys too

More Jame Stewart

250 action



Guy Cooper

A Legend rides again

John Dowd pulls a Roll-Off

Dowd chases Roncada