Team Blog Entry
Aaron's love of bikes came genuine from his dad's love of them. Jerry never raced but he rode bikes and loved going to High Point to watch GNCC and motocross. Aaron, Jerry, and a friend would often take-off for the day then reflect on what they saw.
When Aaron came to me and said he wanted a dirtbike I couldn't understand why. We already had a 3-wheeler and some 4-wheelers at home which were ridden often. Besides, if you have a bike with four wheels why would you want less underneath you? Well, regardless, the bike hunt was on and auto trading magazines were everywhere. Their Saturday trips in the truck would eventually bring a used bike back home. Every once in awhile they'd leave with one used bike and return with another.
Aaron learned to ride in our front and backyard. With shovel and wheelbarrow in hand, he started digging to make a jump. He used a large wooden ramp that unloaded the bike for one of his jumps. Still, I really wasn't sure what was going on, it was a language only he and his dad understood. I would ask now and then "What are you doing?" and, of course, my heart would be in my throat as he crested that wooden ramp.
The boys also spent time at Greg Barnhart's looking at gear, getting parts, and finding out where the next few races were. Oh dear, they were on their way. They took a few trips out to the Black Water 100 to camp and experience that event. Camping out at High Point though, that was the ultimate trip. The next obvious step was actually participating in an event and that's just what Aaron did...
At his first race Aaron signed-up in the 125C class. (His first couple bikes had been 80's but Aaron had long legs and needed something bigger.) His first season was a selective one but going to some of the tracks that they'd heard about meant driving all over the place. They would leave very early in the morning and return late in the evening... Dusty, tanned, with lots to talk about. Such excitement about jumping, the whoop section, uphill doubles, and crashes. Oh yes, crashes, aches and pains. Then there was the bike and its broken/worn out parts. All of which had to be replaced before the next race. Aaron realized early on that, in order to win, he and his bike had to be in top-form. The bike needed more power and he needed more practice... From a mother's perspective I still didn't totally understand what was going on but I was finally getting familiar with the new terminology ;) The names of other riders were also becoming quite familiar. The name Henry came up all of the time. Henry helped Jerry and Aaron down at the gate. Aaron had fouled a plug and this real nice person (Henry) helped out. Jerry never forgot a plug and wrench again and our friendship with Henry still grows. Have I mentioned numbers? Oh, the numbers. More numbers than names... #6, #810, #39, #513, #217, #476, #21, #366, #111, #22, #289, #65, #20, #141, #417, #537, #363, #646, etc. Who needed names? Just, "Did you see the great save that ### made?"... We all knew who they were talking about.
Soon it was time for Mom to get involved... The boys invited me to a race and that's all it took, I was hooked. They were stuck with me from that moment on. I told Aaron that I would not change anything he and his dad were doing. I'd do only what they wanted me to. I did not want to interfere with their day together. I had my place and I loved it.
Sometimes I think Aaron would have preferred leaving me at home but he needed me and he was glad that I was there. The sites, sounds, smells, and wonderful people plus being with my son doing something that he loved was awesome. Unfortunately, for the first two seasons, we only had room for three so Aaron's sisters stayed home. Poor Aaron had to bear the brunt of my talking all the way to the track (especially after my first cup of coffee). That is, until he got his CD-player and kinda tuned me out. But coming home there was lots of talking about how he felt, how he rode, and all of the other riders and races. He would just spill out so many wonderful thoughts, I loved it!
Aaron loved racing a lot and always looked forward to the next event. In the beginning he only raced one class, 125C (Novice), but a few seasons later he was competing in both the 125B and College Boy classes. Aaron had his good motos and his bad motos but he always prepared himself to do better than his previous race. At times he was disappointed with his riding but always eager to get back out there and try again. It just seemed that no matter how hard he tried he would still end-up somewhere around tenth place. Of course we would tell him "Look at the class of riders that you're racing with, the top five are awesome". Stull, Gerth, Bradley, Shuckhart, and Panucci were just a few of the fast guys in his class at the time. But, no matter what, Aaron was always focused on improving his results at the next race.
When it was time for Aaron's race, Jerry would go down to the starting gate with him and I would videotape everything using one very large Panasonic camera. Jerry also took pictures of Aaron in practice and during his motos whenever possible. What's funny is we only saw Aaron out there on the track... We couldn't tell you about other things that happened during his race for we only saw our Aaron. My heart really pounded when he was racing but I would talk to him as I taped, telling him... "It's okay Buddy, only one lap to go". Of course, many times, when he crashed the video camera would drop and record dirt and grass (Oops!). Is he getting up, not getting up? Paramedics, ambulances, hospitals, broken collarbone, bruised kidneys, etc. PAIN -> RECOVERY. Loss of confidence and starting over again. Of course, injuries are part of racing and something we just had to accept.
Overshadowing those few dark moments at the track are all of the wonderful memories we have of Aaron and his friends. Aaron was a very quiet person, not one to be loud or pushy, and being bashful meant it took time for him to open-up to strangers. Down on the gate, however, he would speak to the rider next to him. If that rider was responsive he would talk but he didn't care for riders if they were full of themselves. After the races, back in the pits, is where some of the greatest conversations with his fellow riders took place. It was a joy listening to every word the boys would say. They'd discuss certain jumps and how to take them, what they were going to do next moto, and where they hoped to place. It was wonderful.
On our way home from the track we'd usually stop for ice cream or something to eat. When we got home we'd unload the truck, get inside, and watch the video of Aaron's race. Some of the videos I shot were good but others were, well, not so good. I was forever apologizing to him for my "amateur" camera work. Aaron had such a style of his own, I could easily pick him out everywhere but coming off the gate. I'd get so excited that I would lose him in the camera and have to ask the girls where he was. Once I found him again it was just Aaron and I riding together. During the week, Aaron would use the tapes to critique his riding and to study certain tracks prior to racing them. I have so many tapes of Aaron, I just can't watch them yet.
One of Aaron's dreams was to have his own practice track at his Grandfather's farm. The large hay fields had natural hills that were perfect for motocross. Thankfully, Aaron realized that dream two years before he left us. He had a neighbor friend bring a bulldozer over and the track was carved out. Jumps and turns all dug in, then a whoop section that was started and finished with a shovel. Aaron also wanted a figure "8" to practice his cornering so that was added too. Aaron really put a lot of time and sweat into his track but it was extremely tough to groom. And, unfortunately, the 1940's Ford tractor was no help at all. We had to use a quad with four adults on it to drag that heavy set of disks around. Once the track was ready Aaron's friends would come over and practice with him, he did not like riding alone.
Today, Aaron's track is still being used by his friends. It is as he would have wanted it to be. A used tractor works the dirt and helps keep the jumps up (it has #98 on the bucket lift). Aaron's track has to be one of the best and most beautiful in the area. He was so proud of it and we are keeping it going with the assistance of his friends. They help us disk, blade, brush clean, weed whack, and mow. Each of them has an open invitation to ride Aaron's track. For when they are there Aaron's there riding with them and I know they think of him too. When you boys come to ride it just fills us with joy, it's a tribute to Aaron, and we look forward to your visits.
In 2001 we introduced the fist annual "In Memory of Aaron Award". This award, which is handed-out at the end of the District-5 PA State Championship Series, is presented to the 125B rider that reminds us most of Aaron... His riding style, finishing positions, and overall attitude (both on and off the track). A rider that Aaron would have been pleased to be racing with and, of course, wanting to be ahead of. In that first year we had two such riders and they were so close in all aspects that we decided to give an award to both of them. The first rider, Daniel McAdoo, reminds me so much of Aaron. From his determined on-track efforts to his leg length on that YZ, right down to eating watermelon after a race and so many other things I won't get into here... The second rider, Matt Ritchey, had Aaron's quiet side. That I saw. All of the sudden he was there... Riders wondering, "Where did you come from?". Frequently going down, Aaron did that a lot too, but always getting back up and moving forward. This season we are again looking for our rider(s) in the 125B class. It's a class we love but watch with heavy hearts although it fills us with such good emotions when all those great riders come off the line. I can see Aaron right there with them.
Our many thanks go out to all of the wonderful people that have supported us in our time of loss. AMA District-5 members, what caring folks you are. The many #98 stickers that we see on riders that we don't know, thank you for remembering our Aaron.
Posted by LMX98 on 01.12.07 @ 12:00 AM ET | Top of Page