Monday, February 17, 2003


Girl Wonder and I flew down to California last week to enjoy some of their rain. We don't get enough of our own fucking sopping wetness here in Seattle. And LA offered some of the best east-coast like rain I've seen
since, well, the east coast. The purpose of our trip was to go dirt biking somewhere warm. Actually, the real purpose was to learn how to do it without getting killed, and to get a break in the weather. Both things
happened, despite the soggy start.

I've been riding street bikes a long time. About 30 years in fact. And I've never had a get-off. On Wednesday that changed. I did crash -- or rather, I fell. It was no big deal. I was following Gary LaPlante and I watched him go completely side-ways on a patch of saturated clay the size of a Karmen Ghia. A half-second later I too went sideways. He recovered, but I didn't. Do I feel like I failed? No freakin' way. Gary is a trials champion and former motocross racer. I'm just a 40 year old guy whose been on a dirt bike a handful of times over the last quarter century. Anyway, this dump actually gave me some confidence that I can survive a get off. I've come a long way from a few years ago when my back was so messed up from
a motorcycle accident that I couldn't even bend over to tie my shoes. Yes, my back survived this fall.

Girl Wonder got her own instructor, a great rider named Cheryl. I had to share Gary
LaPlante with 2 older gentlemen. One was a 50-something and the other was 65 going on osteo-implosion. A few times I thought we were going to have to revive him or else use him as a small hill to jump over. He was due for a hip replacement, bionic knees and a heart transplant.

After a full day of survival exercises, or put another way, everything you've been doing wrong because you are a street-rider, I got my dirt wings. Gary suggested that the other two guys join the girls to practice some more while he and I went trail riding. Very cool. This is the kind of terrain you just don't get to see in Washington:

Girl Wonder also had a dirt epiphany. She has only ridden a dirt bike once before, but absolutely kicked ass -- and after working with Cheryl for two days, she was jumping, sliding and climbing her way all over Gary's training area on his 300 acre ranch. See

After Paul, the younger of the older dudes, spent an hour or so shaking off his fear and working on the drills we had learned before, he joined Gary and me on a trail ride. Earlier that day he had been scared shitless as we climbed to a spot about 3000 feet high. In particular, he was too scared to descend from that spot down a very steep hill speckled with boulders and other assorted hazards. Gary rode his bike down for him the first time, but now he was ready to try it himself. He made it by riding down with the motor off, using the clutch as an additional brake Man, I've never seen an old guy look so accomplished in my whole life. After that he stuck like glue to us as we traversed the various trails.

If you really want to see some incredible riding, then try to stay on Gary's tail. This guy can ride a wheelie for several thousand feet of the most twisted trail, jumping and swerving (still on one wheel, mind you) and
exhibiting more control than I've ever seen from a guy in his mid-forties. Not even Jesus could ride a two-stroke better than this mortal. Sure, I may be easily impressed, but I think the guy's record speaks for itself.

Bottom line is that if you're a novice dirt biker and you want to add volumes to your skill set, Gary LaPlante's Motoventures ( in Southern California is a great investment. My girlfriend had so much fun that she has been hinting at getting a dirt bike so she can "practice" her lessons.