There’s the kind of dream vacation you think about for years, cutting out pictures of pink beaches and pinning them on your bulletin board, sighing, One of these days…
And then there’s the other kind of dream vacation. As in, Never in a million years would I have dreamed anyone could talk me into this.
Well, gentlemen (and ladies): Start your engines. This last weekend my sweetie and I flew more than halfway across the country to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a place I’ve never in my life thought about for more than four consecutive seconds. Why?
MotoGP is motorcycle racing. The GP stands for Grand Prix. The riders compete against each other at races all over the world for the annual MotoGP championship. (Three days at Indianapolis, and those are pretty much all the hard facts I know.)
My sweetie was concerned that before the weekend was half over, I’d liquefy into a festering puddle of boredom. (Like the two women we saw sleeping in chairs underneath the stands, behind the Indy Dog vendor.) But this is the thing about that other kind of dream vacation: discovering stuff you never knew existed. The T-shirts alone are another whole subculture. Lots of black, lots of old English font, lots and lots of skulls. The T-shirts supplied information…
Hell yes it’s fast
Those who dance are considered insane
by those who cannot hear the music
Ride it like you stole it
…and often, a powerful simplicity:
Your bike sucks
And then there are the brolly girls. Brolly girls hold umbrellas over the riders so that they don’t get hot/rained on/otherwise inconvenienced. Here’s a brolly girl practicing:
If you’re imagining four men to every woman at MotoGP (including the brolly girls), you’re about spot-on.
But if you’re also picturing bad mullets, chrome studs, and leather fringe, a la a Harley Davidson rally...nope. If Harley Davidson is the pit bull, MotoGP is the greyhound. Sleek. Stripped down. MotoGP isn’t about chrome. It’s about speed, baby.
Sunday—Race Day—dawns. After nodding off during the qualifying runs and practice laps the day before, I’m taking no chances. My satchel is crammed with a netbook computer, two novels, a magazine, and a newspaper crossword.
The thing is, I’ve never understood motor races. Horse races, yes. Horse racing is spirit and muscle and power and skill and immeasurable, limitless heart. In comparison, motor races always seemed so…well, mechanical. And loud. And endlessly repetitive, with all that going around and around and around. Yawn.
But it turns out that a motorcycle flashing past at nearly two hundred mph is…well, it’s like this:
I got the crossword partly done. And then I couldn't help it. The motorcycles hooked me in.
Three laps into the race. The cyclist in the lead, a Spaniard named Dani Pedrosa, crashes his bike. Long skid over the grass, but he gets up. Whew. Then he gets back on the bike and rejoins the race. From the lead he's now dead last, by an enormous margin.
A few laps later, the next guy in the lead, Valentino Rossi, also crashes. Also rejoins the race, but his bike is too damaged, and he drops out for good.
That leaves one rider, Jorge Lorenzo, waaaay in front. Unless he crashes, too, it’s now a race for second place.
Bikes flash past. Zoom. Zoom. Last of all, Dani Pedrosa on his orange Honda Repsol. He’s by himself on the track, the rest of the field literally a mile ahead, but he’s flying. He has no hope of finishing anything but last, he’s already crashed once, and yet he’s not letting up one iota. Even a rank amateur like me can tell.
The field comes around again. A mile back, Dani Pedrosa. I squint. Look at the field. Then back at Dani. “You know," I say, "I think Pedrosa is catching up.”
“No way,” says my sweetheart. Another lap. “Damn, you’re right," he says. "He is catching up.”
Now we’re not watching the battle for second. Everyone's watching the battle for last. Every time Pedrosa flies past—gaining, always gaining—the crowd cheers. When he catches the rider in front of him and passes, the stands erupt in roars. I’m whooping right along with them.
Twenty-eight laps. The checkered flag comes down. Jorge Lorenzo wins. Good on ya, Jorge.
And Dani Pedrosa? Tenth, in a field of fifteen. Crashed his bike, ended up more than a mile back from the field, and still passed five other riders.
Yeah. That’s heart. From this out-of-left-field vacation, I found a new hero. And something to remember the next time things get tough.
No matter what, keep on flying.
I ought to put that on a T-shirt.
For some of the action, click here...I tried to embed it, but MotoGP won't let me. But it's a great video. And if you're dying to find out about engines and highsides and lowsides and what all the flags mean...then this is for you.
Many, many thanks to my brother, who invited us out for the MotoGP, and to all their family for putting us up... especially my nephew Michael, who bunked with his brother Ryan so we could have his room. You guys are the best!