So tickets have just been purchased for the AFT race in Port Royal Pennsylvania that is coming up this weekend. For those keeping track this will be our third race in three weekends and fourth race in the last five. Those races have taken place in two different provinces as well as two different states. Add in the two road racing weekends that I have attended since the end of May, and it almost starts to seem like I (we) have some kind of sickness. If you look at the last eight weekends, I have been at racing events for six of them, and there is no end in sight as just over a week from now I will be in the booth at Flamboro Downs which just happens to be one of my favourite tracks in Canada. Now out of those six events I have been working at four of them, but there is a good chance that even if I wasn’t working I would have found an excuse to be there anyway. I guess you could say that after two summers of crap, Kim and I are doing our best to make up for lost time.
This past weekend we were in Trois-Rivieres for the second round of the Flat Track Canada national series. Along with a beautiful track, Quebec has other things to offer including poutine, cheap beer, and, well, the racing wasn’t half bad either. Of course the trip to Quebec felt a little Armageddonish for some as a Rogers glitch had many people without any kind of cell service or social media of any kind (welcome to 1989), and travelling to Quebec became a bit challenging as you were unable to use debit anywhere. Much like a few decades ago cash was king, and thanks to my wife being one of the lucky ones who was actually able to grab money from a bank machine, we took out a few hundred dollars and we were off. Now normally we (my wife) are much better planners but I think I failed us on this trip. After sharing an Airbnb with Jenny Caskie and Sarah Gamm on Friday night, my hopes of us finding a place to stay on Saturday night didn’t quite work out. Thus after driving for a couple of hours after the race I pulled the red rocket into a Walmart parking lot and was surprised to find a premium space right beside a tree. Although not the most comfortable sleeping arrangement we have had on the road, we did manage to get a few hours of shut eye before continuing our journey the next day.
I should point out that the racing in Quebec was amazing in all classes, and despite all the pre-race focus being on visiting AFT front runner Brandon Robinson and his beautiful FTR 750, Robinson would have to settle for second on this night after Quebec speedster Dave Pouliot had an incredible ride to the front.
Just one week earlier, and on July 4th weekend, we had taken the drive to Weedsport New York to take in our first AFT race in nearly three years. As excited as we were just to be back at an AFT event, this one was special because it would be the first time we got to see our good friend Hunter Bauer taking part in an AFT race other than when we have watched live streaming.
Arriving at the track quite early, we took in some sights at the track before meeting up with Scottie Deubler and sharing some stories about life in the announcer’s booth. Shortly after parting ways with Scottie, we met up with NKR Canada team owner Niki Kendall and before we knew it we had pit passes in our hands. Spending a race night in the pits is just an amazing experience. Of course we did this with my son for fourteen years but never at the AFT level so this one was a bit different. Also, after going a few years without this experience, the sights, smells, and sounds, all seemed just a little more robust.
Wanting to earn my keep in exchange for the pit passes that were provided, I quickly offered my services to the NKR team if they were in a bind and needed help with something. Once qualifying started it wasn’t long before I was put to work as Bob and Mike were quite busy trying to find that magical combination that would gain Hunter some speed. While Bob and Mike worked on suspension and gearing, I was given the key role of scuffing tires (I said scuffing not fluffing), and the ultra- important job of, “Here, hold this”. All of our (their) hard work paid off as Hunter had an incredible race and proudly put NKR and Canada up on the podium after an amazing charge from the back of the pack. We were so amped to be part of the celebration and I couldn’t be happier for the whole team. As a bonus, Kim left the track with a months supply of Mission chips so I think we are set for a while. Although she didn’t seem impressed with the water view room I got us in Rochester (ok it was a drainage ditch), I’m sure in hindsight it now seems much more impressive than a Walmart parking lot.
So once again this weekend we will put thousands of kilometers on the red rocket in pursuit of some racing action. Although the drive is sometimes a pain, let me tell you the juice is always worth the squeeze. Reflecting on spending the July fourth weekend in America while checking out some racing action, it was really like every movie I have ever seen about small town America. American flags were everywhere and I’m pretty sure I saw Abe Lincoln trimming some hedges just outside Barker New York. When we were eating lunch in Weedsport we even saw a Sherriff’s Deputy handing out fake badges to kids wearing American Flag crocs. How small town America is that? I just know that somewhere just around the corner I was missing out on a pie eating contest.
- From Todd Vallee