Back in May this year, FD and I made a trip to Nebraska to visit family over a long weekend. The older I get, the harder the trip seems to be for me. When I first moved to Oklahoma, we made the trip up north two to three times a year. Now we struggle to make it once a year. By the time we load up our three Japanese Chin, and make room to transport a load of goodies or some family heirloom I am ready to pass on to a niece or nephew, it takes a couple of hours to pack our vehicle and get going. Once on the road, it is an eight-hour drive for most, but FD manages to pull it off in seven. Do not ask me how he manages that. All I will give you as a hint is his nickname: Leadfoot.
And speaking of leadfoot, on this particular trip up north, FD managed to get a little too much “foot” action in. We stayed with my sister, Juli, and her family. Normally, we just camp out at her house while everyone stops by to visit us. But we had planned this trip for a specific weekend in order to take in some important events. This was no trip about sitting around the house, relaxing and eating some of Juli’s scrumptious meals. This trip would have us behaving more like tourists. So, Thursday morning we loaded up the truck and headed north.
For a couple of years, Juli had begged us to come for Barn Festival in Hastings, Nebraska. This trip was actually planned around the spring dates when the Barn Festival would be going on. Friday morning we got up early to see Em and Sid off for school, and Chris off to work. After Chris and the kids made their respective ways to school and work, Juli, FD and I hit the road, driving a little over an hour away to Hastings. We spent hours walking outside in vast areas around and in various barns, shopping for hand-crafted items of all sorts. Around lunchtime, all three of us left with our arms full of home decor, exterior decor, and canned goodies. Famished, we headed back into Hastings to grab a bite to eat at a local bar and grill. Then, as fate would have it, we spied a couple of antique stores on our way out of the bar. At one, FD found an old table and chairs that would look perfect in his hunting cabin. Before leaving Hastings for good, we made yet another stop at a medical supply store where Juli looked for scrubs for work, and where I found a pair of muted-green scrub pants I could wear for photography jaunts into the woodlands. What a find, since I had been searching for something lightweight, yet comfortable for my nature photography! Soon Juli’s SUV was filled to the brim with our purchases!
Tired as we all were, we still had Em’s softball game to attend that evening. Always looking for a good photo event, I toted the camera along, managing some great shots of Em pitching. And somehow, over the course of the evening, I managed to ruin my shorts, having sat on some kind of black, tarry substance. Great… Just great. This was one of my favorite pairs of shorts!
Saturday, we had set aside for family to come visit if they could make it, and family came and went throughout the day. My sister Lisa, organized a “wild asparagus” hunt out in the country. FD and Em took off with that group, while the others stayed behind to visit. Later, I noticed FD was playing a rousing game of basketball with Em and Sid. Sometimes that man seems forever young and full of energy. However, after a while, FD came inside complaining about his feet. He realized (much too late), that he had given his feet a real beating on the cement slab while playing basketball. “Young” old FD was in pain.
Come Sunday morning, Chris, Sid and Chris’s dad were up early, packing the truck and loading up the cargo trailer to drive 105 miles north to attend a motocross race Sid would be competing in that day. FD, who was still in pain with his feet, opted to stay home and, if he could manage it, would take Em to a birthday party at a nearby town. Juli and I packed the car with drinks and food items to throw on the grill later that day at the motocross. While getting ready, I lamented too long about what to wear. Last night at Em’s softball game, I had ruined the shorts I planned to wear, so I opted to wear the green scrub pants I purchased on Friday. To finish off my ensemble, I also donned my brand new Keen athletic shoes. In this getup, I looked like a motocross photographer for sure!
As I loaded my purse and camera in the car, I noticed one of Juli’s many cats in the back seat of the car, and it looked to be after the hot dog buns! Sure enough, that little rascal had ripped into a package of buns and completely ruined them. I chased the cat away and brought the buns inside. Juli was furious! Now we would not have enough buns for the hot dogs. Already, we were running behind schedule and I could tell Juli was becoming stressed. We would not have time to shop for more hot dog buns. We would just have to do without.
Juli and I had a nice visit on the long drive through the beautiful rolling hills of north central Nebraska. Clouds were building to the west, but there had not been rain in the forecast. Maybe it would be a nice, cloudy day, providing excellent lighting for photographing the event. I had never attended a motocross race and I was anxious to document the event for Sid.
In keeping with the theme of theme of the day, started by the fiasco of the cat and the hot dog buns, Juli and I got lost trying to find the motocross track. Finally, we had to call Chris for directions. We were close, but had just not gone quite far enough. Soon, I could see the dust hanging in the air, and there was no missing the “BRAAAAP!” sound of dirt bike engines emanating from the dust clouds. As we arrived, Juli quickly located the pit where Chris, his dad and Sid were set up. I immediately noticed that the friends next to them had quite an elaborate setup, including a nice enclosed trailer and a four-wheeler to get them around the track. Looking around, it was apparent this was not the status quo, as some people came with a simple setup – an old truck pulling a bike or two on an open utility trailer. Still others had diesel pushers or fancy RV’s, pulling giant enclosed cargo trailers. The bike riders were just as diverse, coming in all ages, both male and female. I understood from the get-go that this was a whole different world I was about to experience. The lingo was different too, and though Juli was good to explain what some term meant or what some thing was called, my mind was a blur. Suddenly, I felt like an oddball. I was completely out of my element. So, I hid behind my camera… and I just kept shooting – everything!
Before the races started, Juli indicated we needed to move to a better focal point so I could get some great shots without being in the way. I soon discovered a person could walk virtually anywhere, but needed to be sure to stay out of the way of the oncoming bikes. Since Sid’s race would not start for a little while yet, it gave me time to practice with my camera and get my timing right. Still, nothing could have prepared me for the drop of the first gate. The simultaneous “BRAAAAP!” of all the engines sounded like a bazillion bumble bees coming down the track! Suddenly, I felt energy coming from everywhere! From the vibration of the bikes passing by, to the screaming crowd, to a lone mother nearby yelling encouragement to her child who was battling for position in the race, to the claps of thunder in the distance! My smile was so big, I thought my face would break! I remember telling Juli I was so excited I could bust! What was it about the atmosphere here that energized me so?
From my vantage point, I managed a few good shots of Sid during his first race. A few sprinkles of rain were falling by now, but not heavy enough for me to worry about my camera. Besides, I only seemed to notice all the colors flashing by and feeling energized by the continual “BRAAAAP!” noise as I moved my camera to follow Sid’s bike around the track. When Sid’s race finished, Juli and I walked to a couple of other spots, trying to get just the right angles to capture shots of other riders as they raced around the track. It was during the pee wee class that, suddenly, I no longer felt the adrenaline of excitement and energy coursing through my body, but rather the intense horror of imminent danger! Almost in front of me, a small tyke had been catapulted off his seat and over his handlebars, landing face first in the dirt, while his body flipped over his head! Seeing this, Juli noted that, in a mere instant, my face went from elation to a look of extreme horror! Thankfully, protective gear kept the boy from breaking his neck. Now I had a better understanding about all of the precautions taken for safety in this sport. And I also noted that both emergency personnel, and any nearby onlookers, were always ready to move into action to help when accidents occurred. There were a lot of good people here, and they generally cared about each other. Throughout the day, unfortunately, there were still a few bad accidents. Always though, when the races started back up, I was giddy with excitement!
Before long, it became apparent that the darkening skies were not going to hold the rain back for long, and that big rain was coming. About this time, Chris showed up to warn us we needed to head back to the pits, as the officials were shutting the track down until the rain passed. Hearing this, Juli hopped on the back of Chris’s bike, and I was directed to hop on the back rack of the neighbor’s four-wheeler. The back of the four-wheeler did not offer much for me to hold onto. I was only able to anchor myself with my right arm, as my camera was protectively tucked under my left arm and I had next to nothing to sit on. As we navigated back to the pit, I kept sliding… and my right arm was screaming in agony! What if I fell off, I wondered in terror? Well, I resolved, I just couldn’t – and that was all there was to it! After all, Sid would never forgive me for embarrassing him by falling off the back of the four-wheeler! Thinking of this, I remembered well, how embarrassing adult parents and family could be to a kid at that age. Somehow I managed to hold on, praying the whole ride back to the pits that I would not fall off and make a fool of myself! Back at the enclosed trailer, we all huddled inside, wondering when the rain would let up, and if the races would resume.
When the rain finally did let up, Chris offered to take me on his dirt bike to some other locations I had not yet managed to get to. As we maneuvered near the track, it was apparent the competitors racing now were no amateurs. These guys were fearless and skilled. It was here that I managed some of my best shots, catching these guys flying high off the ramps. And, since the track was now very wet, mud was flying (called a roost!), providing an opportunity for some really awesome shots. I was absolutely enthralled with the skill and daring these guys projected and could almost feel the thrill of flying through the air like that myself! It was at that moment I knew that, if I were young again… I would be that girl!
Just then, the rain began to come down again, snapping me out of my daydream of flying through the air on my own dirt bike. After this latest, short period of rain, the mud became slick and thick. I looked at my brand new Keen shoes that I had paid over $100 for – they were completely covered in the slick muck. Normally, I would have been just sick about ruining a brand new pair of shoes but, today, I was not at all upset. With the rain over, Juli and I trudged out to the track again, crossing it and nearly slipping and falling several times while doing so. I had never walked on such slick muck in my life! We did, however, manage to make our way across in time to watch one more race of the pee wee class, which ended up being a complete pileup. Little kids on little bikes were being literally engulfed by the mud. Bike motors were dying and not re-starting. Kids quickly became tired fighting the mud, and many soon give up. Some kids just cried, while parents yelled. Fortunately, the officials soon called it a day. And while we were packing up to leave, the rain poured once again for good measure. Mother Nature had certainly won this round!
As I look over the photographs from that weekend, my favorites are most definitely from the motocross, and I feel the adrenaline every time I look at them! In fact, I can still close my eyes and remember the exhilaration I felt. I can hear the “BRAAAAP!” of the dirt bikes and smell the scent of wet earth mingled with a hint of exhaust fumes. I imagine the freedom of flying through the air and maneuvering a successful landing, biting tires into the earth. Yes, I would be daring and fearless like this. I would be that girl!
By the way… I saved my shoes. They cleaned up just like brand new. Ya gotta love Keens!
And, if you are curious about how Juli’s family got interested in motocross, you can visit Juli’s blog: Groovy Love, Scrubs, and Chimichangas.
© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…