Motocross is not for sissies, and it's definitely not something I thought existed outside of the television until I attended a Motokazie hare scramble race in Carver, Minnesota last Sunday where I learned how intense the sport can be in real life. My sister's boyfriend, Eric Hempel, placed 4th out of 24 in his class, and 10th overall, out of 120+ racers - he's been racing for two years and this was his best finish yet.
"I like the competition," Eric said. "Going fast, trying to beat everyone else around you - its exhilarating. The adrenaline rush is amazing."
I experienced a similar adrenaline rush when I was a toddler attempting to be intense in my garage. I used to watch motocross on ESPN, and one day after a garage sale, I headed outside, hopped on my tricycle and attempted to "do a jump" off of a plank propped up on a coffee table. There were several problems with my attempt, however - not only was I not wearing a helmet, I didn't have nearly enough speed as I reached the top of the ramp and when I yanked up on the handlebars to fly into midair, I flipped backward instead and punctured my skull on a tire spoke. Blood was everywhere, and I had to go to the hospital. Eric wiped out a couple of times Sunday, but still managed to pull off a fourth place finish.
"Think about what you woulda accomplished if you hadnt've wiped out all those times," Eric's brother Jim said after the race.
Luckily, no one had to go to the hospital after Sunday's Motokazie race in Carver, and that's because they take their sport seriously.
"I worry, of course - I don’t want him getting hurt," mom Lori Hempel said. "But he's careful and he knows what hes doing - he’s got the gear, and I like watching him. I’m glad he has a hobby he’s really interested in."
Eric loves the sport, and his friends insist he's a solid guy on and off the course.
"Eric's willing to help you out all the time, no matter what you do," Tyler Dubbin said. "He’s willing to do whatever it takes."
Dubbin raced spontaneously for the first time on Sunday, and finished in the top 10 of his class on friend Tony Kirk's bike. This spontaneity is a popular theme in Eric's group of friends, and Kirk insists it's one of Eric's best qualities.
"Eric's always up for anything - he never turns anything down," Kirk said. "He's good for a laugh, too."
When Eric's not camping and freestyling in the north woods of Minnesota, he's going to school, studying to be a lab technician, while wishing he was out on the course.
"My favorite memory is camping up north, riding dirtbikes and trail riding," Eric said. "It's the highlight of my life."
Here's a short video of the experience June 10 - it tells of the miraculous blessing it is to experience the great outdoors and the adrenaline that comes with racing a bike through the woods.
Illinois has its share of MotoX action as well, with Tri-county races as well as some other competitions in the north central Illinois area. I'll be sure to check them out, even if Eric's not racing. Who knows, maybe Minnesota can bring some action to Illinois someday!