During the third week of July 2021 I turned 60 years old. When asked by my wife Judy how I’d like to celebrate this event, I answered, “Race Chris’s bike at Laguna with Carry…and drive there in the El Camino with stops to visit Mom.”
Driving an old truck to race an old bike with old friends and hang out with my old mom—a perfect birthday week for someone who loves vintage life. Judy rolled her eyes and said, “Have fun.” No roll-up windows, manual locks, and carburetors for her, but she knew it was a dream of mine to drive a vintage truck to an American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA) vintage race, and she knows how much Chris Carr (AHRMA Chris Carr, not dirt-track Chris Carr) meant to me. She also understands my love of racing, especially on anything built by HyperCycle’s Carry Andrew.
My mom would turn 85 the day after I turned 60. My El Camino is 54 years old. Chris Carr let me ride his 40-year-old GPz550 for the last five years. Carry Andrew, age 68, would bring Chris’ freshly rebuilt bike and his own 1977 Z1 Superbike up from Southern California’s San Fernando Valley and we would continue our 30-year friendship with some more racing. It was a vintage birthday and one of my best.
The words “seize the day” are brought to life in the AHRMA paddock. Yes, there are young racers and modern bikes enjoying their lives, but I’m talking about us geezers on the old stuff! For a dozen weekends a year we gather to celebrate the youthful exuberance of flying around tracks on motorcycles, untethered from the mirror that shows age lines with our gray hair and expanding foreheads with nothing to worry about except grid positions and perhaps the location of the nearest bathroom. We line up and give it hell, but it’s a respectful hell and nobody actually cares too much where they finish as long as they’re in the hunt—and perhaps whether or not they beat their buddy. Working on the old crap is just about as much fun as racing it.
And I met my good friend, Chris Carr, at AHRMA. We became fast friends about 10 years ago, hanging with each other at races and other motorcycle events. Chris rode everything—and he rode all the time, winning seven AHRMA championships on his GPz550 and performing other feats of derring-do, like riding from Alaska to Florida on a Sportster. He owned a handful of Motorcycle Safety Foundation locations in Georgia, and we shared a passion for riding instruction. When his cancer hit, we doubled our time together, events that included COTA for the Grand Prix as guests of friend Don Cook, Las Vegas for IMS, and the 2019 Barber AHRMA finals. He never wanted to talk about his cancer but it was bad and it took him away at the age of 61. I wrote about it here.
The drive from southern Colorado to northern California for the weekend of racing was done with Chris on my mind. This was his kind of a trip, with no timelines and as little freeway driving as possible. I thought of him a great deal because his enjoyment of AHRMA’s people and machines matched mine; we both appreciated how blessed we were.
On Saturday morning’s first practice I rolled out wishing he was at Laguna; as I zipped up the hill to the Corkscrew my face shield was full of a perfect blue sky above the black asphalt and red/white curbing. It was magical, and I felt Chris with me on his white 550. It put tears in my eyes. That happened a lot this trip, it happens a lot in my motorcycle life. He was special and I was honored to have him as my friend. Thank you to Chris’ wife Sowatha for allowing Carry and me to continue to prep and race Chris’ bike; it’s in good hands, much loved and appreciated by us and all who see it being campaigned.
Pictures Tell the Story
There’s a place for you here at AHRMA. Not just as a rider, but as a sidecar driver or monkey, a builder, crew member, AHRMA employee or volunteer, spectator, bike-show participant, swap-meet participant, or story-telling expert. Also, don’t forget that most AHRMA national rounds feature motocross and dirt-track as well—Laguna did. Additionally, most AHRMA roadracing rounds feature the Academy of Racing that allows students to race that very weekend if they do well in class. AHRMA brings happiness to a lot of us, those like-minded people pursuing joy on two wheels at any age. A weekend in this paddock focuses us on all that is right in life: Great people involved in an all-encompassing passion.