Songs have an almost magical way of transporting us back to another time. One song in particular makes me think of my dad…Joe Walsh’s, “Life’s Been Good to Me So Far.” Every time I hear it, I’m about eleven years old, very early in the morning, on the way to Escape Country. This song is playing on the radio. I know my mom and brother were there too, but when it comes to this song, my memory only conjures up my dad.
Escape Country is long gone. In the ‘70’s, Escape Country was a motorcycle riding park in Orange County, located about ten miles from Cook’s Corner. I’m pretty sure Dove Canyon is built mostly where Escape Country used to be.
“I have a mansion, forget the price
Ain’t never been there they tell me it’s nice”
My dad has a way of focusing on the task at hand, while having fun. In this case, his task was being the president of the Hilltoppers Motorcycle Club, and this was our annual Gran Prix race weekend at Escape Country. A series of 60-90 minute races with various motorcycle sizes and rider skill levels, ranging from mini-bikes to 500cc’s, and beginner to expert.
“My Maserati does 185
I lost my license now I don’t drive”
The president of the club has overall responsibility for the race, and works with everyone else in the club to create the best possible racing experience for the racers. On race days, one of my dad’s specific jobs was to line up each race at the start. I was amazed by the way my dad was able to keep everything straight. How did he know which bikes went where? It was always noisy, dusty, and confusing to me. And yet, he’d refer to a small piece of paper, look at the numbers on the bikes and immediately know where they were supposed to go. I remember he’d often carry a wooden stake to use as a pointer. He might as well have been an orchestra conductor in my eyes.
“I’m making records my fans they can’t wait
They write me letters tell me I’m great”
These were dead-engine, Le Mans-style starts. The bikes were on one side of the track, and the racers were lined-up on the other side. When my dad dropped the banner (which I helped raise and lower), the racers would run across the track, jump on their bikes, hope they started on the first kick, and, in a cloud of dust and rocks, they’d be racing down into the first turn.
“So I got me an office gold records on the wall
Just leave a message maybe I’ll call”
My dad took the time to watch about the first five minutes of each race, and then he was focused on preparing the start for the next race. This meant re-making the white lines to delineate the starting positions. I remember one of my jobs was to mark off the distance between the lines. I know now that he probably didn’t need my help, but at the time, I was a key part of the process.
“Lucky I’m sane after all I’ve been through
Everybody says I’m cool (He’s cool)”
Amazingly, my dad always seemed to wrap up the start-line preparations with fifteen to twenty minutes to spare before the next race was to start. This was enough time to jump on his bike and ride to various spots, checking-in with other members of the club to get a status from them. We didn’t have radios or cell phones back then, so communications happened the old fashioned way: face-to-face. He also had time to watch a bit more racing, and then back to the starting area to coordinate the newly arriving racers for the next race.
“I go to parties sometimes until four
It’s hard to leave when you can’t find the door”
My job during the down time? Riding over to the sign-up area on our Honda Trail 50 to get the piece of paper with numbers that he used as the basis for setting up the next race. Sometimes, while at sign-up, I’d get involved in helping the sign-up crew for a few minutes before returning to the starting area. Again, I was a key part of the process.
“They say I’m lazy but it takes all my time
Everybody says Oh yeah (Oh yeah)”
When the last race of the weekend ended, the work was far from over. Course markings, ribbons, barricades, banners, and everything else that we’d put up in preparation for the race had to be taken down. Most of the items would be reused in following years, so the put-away process was almost as important as the put-up process. I wanted nothing more than to help. I wanted to be like my dad. Doing anything other than working toward the goal of finishing the job never entered my mind. I was part of my dad’s team and that is all that mattered.
“It’s tough to handle this fortune and fame
Everybody’s so different I haven’t changed”
Thank you, Dad, for always making me a key part of the process. Thank you for always trusting me to be at your side. Thank you for always knowing I could do the things you asked of me. Thank you for having confidence in me, even if I wasn’t so sure. Thank you for making me a valuable part of your team.
“I keep on going, guess I’ll never know why
Life’s been good to me so far”
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.