by Gary Charpentier
Sunday, April 17th, 2005. I awoke in a cold sweat this morning, knowing that my deadline loomed tomorrow and I had nothing to write. Backroads Diary is a strange creature that way… rather than just rant about anything motorcycle-related that happens to be bouncing around in my head, I am required to actually GO places and DO things! But due to a computer crash and various other issues, I haven’t taken any notable trips of late and my reservoir of profound experiences has dried up. What to do?
Well, I picked up my copy of our last issue and turned to the Calendar page to see if there was anything happening today. Yesterday, of course, the Spring Flood Run was basically flooded, with a day-long rainstorm that kept all but the most (fool-) hardy riders at home and indoors. Today, however, the forecast was for sunny and warm and the MMM Calendar said there were two AMA Motocross events scheduled in the state. One of these was up in Little Falls, quite a trek for a day trip. The other was at the Midway Motocross facility near Kellogg, Minnesota; only about 90 miles from home. Definitely do-able.
Now I’ve never been to a motocross event since I much prefer to participate in motorsports rather than spectate and I knew that racing motocross would probably fracture every remaining unbroken bone in my body. That’s not to mention the fact that I’m not in Marine-caliber condition anymore. Family life has allowed me to, shall we say, relax a bit. So it was with some trepidation that I decided on the spur-of-the-moment to ride down to Midway Motocross to experience this event from the sidelines. I packed Frogwing with camera equipment and my mini-recorder and set out to cover this thing like a pro.
The ride down along Highway 52 was pleasant, with a warm breeze blowing up from the South and a bit of haze left in the air from the wet weather yesterday. You know it’s Spring when every mile brings a couple of new bug splats on the visor. I like this Southern departure because it seems like no time at all and I’m in the wide-open farm country. Frogwing and I settled into an easy rhythm and the tarmac spooled quickly by under our wheels. Sixty-some miles later, we arrived at Oronoco, where we turned left on County Road 12. We stayed with that, past where it turned into Highway 247, all the way to Plainview. There, we took a left at the 4-way stop on Highway 42 and found Midway Motocross just over 6 miles down the road. You can’t miss it, because there is an old yeller Yamaha MX bike lashed to a telephone pole at the entrance.
Pulling up to the gate, I showed my press credentials and was directed to the scoring shack where I met Cindy Stamschror, one of the owners. Cindy was terribly busy, with races already in progress, but she did her best to explain the rules to my novice self.
After I signed a waiver, she handed me a blaze orange vest should I be foolish enough to wander out onto the racetrack in an attempt to shoot spectacular photos for this humble rag of ours. However, I found that the spectating areas were quite adequate for photography, and there was no need to risk having knobby tracks permanently branded into my lily-white hide. I contented myself with using a fencepost as a makeshift monopod, and set up at one of the smaller table-top jumps to catch the bikes in mid-air. This worked reasonably well and after capturing about a dozen “yumpers”, I decided to put away the camera and go watch from a different vantage point.
It was at this point that they flagged away the “Super Mini” race for bikes 85 – 105cc, and riders 12 – 15 years old. This was a big grid. They charged into turn one with abandon, as youth knows no fear, and it was soon quite apparent that one rider was going to run away from them all. Number 122 was a Suzuki RM85L with a young man named Randy Dibartolo at the helm. After clearing the first few turns, Randy checked out and appeared to be in his own race against the track and the clock. Occasionally, at the apogee of one of his insane jumps, he would pause to survey the rest of the track and verify his ridiculous lead. On the backside of this track is a table-top jump at least 90 feet long. I watched this 14 year-old prodigy fly his bike the entire length of this plateau, lap after lap, like it was nothing. Now, there were a couple other riders in this vast grid who did the same trick occasionally, but none with the consistency of #122.
After the race, which he won by about a quarter-mile ahead of second place, I went looking for Mr. Dibartolo. What I found was a young man who was soft-spoken, respectful, and rather bashful about being interviewed. Here’s a transcript:
MMM: OK, I’m here with Randy Dibartolo, winner of the Super Mini heat race. Randy, I’ve got to ask… How long have you been doing this?
Randy: This is my 11th year.
MMM: Any championships under your belt yet?
Randy: I’ve won the State of Minnesota, District 23 for 5 years now. I won 2 classes last year. I broke my foot in the middle of the year, but I still won both classes. I got 9th in the first moto at Lorretta Lynn’s, it’s a big race down in Tennessee, but my bike broke for the second moto, so I didn’t really get to finish there.
MMM: So you were 9th in a national at Lorretta Lynn’s. That means that there are kids your age out there who are even faster than you are?
MMM: That’s… amazing.
Randy: That’s like the U.S. Nationals, the fastest… the top 40 kids in the nation come there to ride and you have to qualify two times to get there and it’s pretty tough.
MMM: Well, alright. From what I saw, I just have to ask; are you thinking about trying to do this as a career?
Randy: I’m hoping I can.
MMM: Well, I’ll be watching for you on television, and telling everybody I knew you when…
There were so many classes and heats, way more than a single guy can cover in an afternoon. The paddock was a sea of mega-buck motorhomes and brand-new dirtbikes. These people are serious! There was more money per cubic foot here than at any amateur road-racing paddock I’ve ever seen. Racers range from age 4 all the way up to the 50+ veterans. The girls are well-represented, especially in the junior classes. This is truly a family sport, where everybody has a vital function to perform. But from the looks of things, you can’t do it on the cheap. Motocross requires total commitment from the entire family if you are going to do it right. When that happens, it is truly a thing of beauty.