I turned off my alarm clock before its scheduled time to startle me out of a deep sleep at 3:00 AM. At 3:05 AM, my older brother, Andy, softly knocked on my bedroom door. “Pete. You up? Time to go.”
By 3:30, we were in the van and embarking on a five-hour trip from our home in northern Connecticut to New Berlin, NY – home of the toughest damn motocross track in the world – Unadilla. We, along with tens of thousands of other motocross enthusiasts were making our annual pilgrimage to the United States Grand Prix.
As the sun rose and illuminated the gently rolling green hills of the countryside and the on-the-go breakfast of donuts and coffee gave us energy, I broke the silence. “Looks like the weather is going to cooperate. Should be a great day.”
Andy replied, “Is there ever a bad day at Unadilla?”
“Good point. I didn’t sleep a wink last night. It’s like Christmas day, in July. This is going to be a great birthday weekend!”
It was the weekend of July 13 and 14 of 1985. I would turn 16 years old on the 15th.
After we passed “security”, we found a suitable camping spot and blended in with our fellow pilgrims. Although we parked on the lower part of the hill, we were not considered “Hill People.” That title belonged to a few, distinguished, and proud group of crazy sons-of bitches! They were relatively harmless but freaking just not right. Alcohol will do that. I saw my first pair of flashed-boobs at Unadilla as a pre-teen. ‘Nuff said about the Hill People, for now.
On our walk down the hill, toward the track, we passed the Sound Around truck.
“Andy, check it out. They are back again. I wonder if they will broadcast the Live Aid concert?”
“That’d be cool. They brought wood too. I wonder what ‘sacrifices’ will be made at the bonfire tonight. You know we are going to see some lunatics!”
“I can’t wait.”
Next stop: get a program. Gracing the cover, was 1984’s winner and perhaps my favorite rider at the time, Ron Lechien. The Universe just keep giving me presents.
Having been a veteran pilgrim of Unadilla as a pre-teen and teenager, my detailed memory of specific years, racers, results, and events is extremely “rusty” as I am now 51 years old.
For example, I had to search the Internet to learn that Johnny O’Mara won in 1985. I forgot Ron Lechien won in ’84. I forgot Live Aid was in 1985. While I may have forgotten the details, I will never forget the FEELINGS of being a pilgrim of Una-fuckin-dilla!
The Internet is a great resource to plug in the holes of my memory. This community is a way for like-minded individuals to reconnect with fellow pilgrims. We are a tribe of enthusiasts. The disagreements and discussions over the names of Gravity Cavity, Screw U, the Wall, etc. are not important in the grand scheme of it all.
Those DETAILS don’t matter. How did you FEEL being on “the other side”? How did you FEEL watching a Bronco full of drunk passengers successfully make it across the frog pond? How did you FEEL drinking a beer with your older brother, watching Team Couch Burners do their thing at the bonfire, with Live Aid playing, and seeing another pair of hooters, knowing that ‘mom would not approve of any of this!’?
For me, reflecting on those two days, I experienced yearly with Andy, were blissful. We watched our favorite riders, from different walks of life, from different countries with one common side effect goal: please the audience.
At the ’87 Mx des Nations, we even had the rain and mud. It was our freaking Woodstock, and we were a part of the movement; we were motocross pilgrims. Rather than Max Yasgur, we had Ward Robinson to thank for letting us destroy his farm!
From what I’ve learned, Unadilla has been victimized by corporate greed and commercialism. Perhaps, the entire motocross industry has become a disingenuous marketing campaign. I don’t know; I’ve been “out of the loop” for 30 years now, but I’m happy to reminisce.
Thank you AMA District #3 Motocross, Alumni for letting me be a kid again!
Peace, Love, Music, & Motocross,