“Get in the van!” A phrase made famous by Henry Rollins. If you’re not familiar with Henry Rollins, here is a little insight: he is a punk rock, insane genius. He actually wrote a book called Get in the Van. However, at this moment the statement is not directed towards Henry Rollins, but me. The concept is more or less the same, but add excessive profanity and you’ve sparked the engaging fire in one particular motorcycle racer.
On any given Saturday, this monstrous death trap could be housing up to two steeds. Not the kind that you feed hay, but the kind that is fueled by gas, grit, and hopefully glory. The van, better known as “White Lightning”, is packed to the hilt with motorcycles, racing gear, a Border Collie named Baja, a maniac driver, and quite possibly a cooler of beer. The image of this white horror is one that might prompt uneasy thoughts in parents with small children; but I assure you there is no candy.
I am always astounded at how fast this mobile storage unit gets loaded and ready to go when there is knowledge of a race. The races are plentiful and come in different styles: anywhere from motocross to enduro, but most importantly flat-track racing. The van is always equipped for such events to ensure a great spot at the pits. You can usually find several sets of tie downs and a ramp for loading. There are motorcycle stands aplenty. I would like to say that there are spare tires, but the cheapskate owner hasn’t bought any in years. The gods of racing are definitely on his side. He will usually have a sponsor’s flag or flyer of some sort. An old rusted toolbox with a kaleidoscope of stickers can always be found with its drawers opened and extremely overstuffed with tools. Hopefully, someday, I can find the time to sew a few curtains because there is no modesty when the racer is caught changing into gear.
Take a look at the driver. He’s about 6’3 or 6’4. This is usually unheard of for a horse jockey, which is equivalent to what a motorcycle racer is. Until recently, his barbarian face was covered with enough hair to make a sweater. In fact, his nickname of late has been “Cookie Monster”. Sadly to say, the weather got warm and the evil beard was obstructing the fastener on his helmet. Apparently, this discouraged all hopes of riding in costume dressed like a Sesame Street character. His hair is long and unruly, not 80’s hairband long, but in dire need of a haircut. He has enough scars to scare a plastic surgeon. One in particular looks like a slug that choked on a hotdog. His arms have been sparingly tattooed with racing paraphernalia. One tattoo in particular reads, “whooped out racing” with a stick figure jumping a motorcycle.
This closet on wheels incidentally houses all kinds of the motorcycle gear. You don’t actually have to see the gear to know its presence. The putrid odor of sweat and dirt is evident as soon as one of the doors is opened. There is an enormous bag that carries a helmet, riding boots, padded shorts, knee and elbow pads, gloves, a sponsored team racing jersey, and duct tape. The duct tape actually has one use in particular and that is to apply to the nipples of the rider to prevent chaffing. Watching the removal of the tape is torturous.
There is one seat located in the rear. This specific saddle is stuffed with bedding essentials. The beauty of a van is that you can make a hotel wherever you want. The driver constantly states, “because in a van, you can!” On the seat usually lies a brown sleeping bag that reeks of vomit and dog feces. There was an unfortunate mishap will racing the Baja 1000. Also, you might find a few discolored pillows, a sheet with vibrant orange butterflies, and a fuzzy blanket with Bambi on it.
Behind the captain’s chair is an old milk crate. Inside the crate would appear to be Pandora’s box, yet the driver knows where everything is. In fact, he can reach behind his seat, while operating the van and pull out a snack at any moment. The box contains the life force of the racer. There is a jar of peanut butter, which I have been told is not for the pleasure of Baja, the Border Collie. There is usually a Cup of Noodles. There may be a Cliff bar or a sports gel. Don’t forget a vintage percolator that can be plugged into the cigarette lighter. Oddly enough, there is no coffee, but a can of some foo foo French Latte mix. Other things that may be in the box include: Emergen-C, a few cans of tuna, and maybe some chili beans to add to the aroma of the racing gear.
Between the seats there is an Army surplus ammo box, which contains the most spontaneous collection of tapes; the kind that play music. The van is too old to have a CD player and forget the idea of an iPod hookup. Most of the tapes are secondhand. Some were found in an alleyway. The driver recently acquired my parent’s collection of “prime” country. If your not accustomed, it was in the 1990’s and the popular artists were George Strait and Travis Tritt. The artists that conjure this creepy van roller’s mantra are surprisingly low-key. Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, The Grateful Dead, Tom Waits, Neil Young are among the top, but the most vital are the mixed tapes.
Don’t judge “White Lightening” to harshly, only a few years ago it was quite luxurious. There are built in iceboxes that never get used. Instead, you may find a fairly nice cooler with wheels and a handle. The top has cup holders and a nice place to sit a sandwich. Usually, if I am present it replaces the tapes in the center of the two front seats for easy access. Sitting behind the cooler with the upmost patience, the dog waits for a crumb or a chance to perch for a better view.
The most intriguing sight is the artwork. While far from being the Sistine Chapel, the canvas speaks an undying love for anarchy and motorcycle racing. Instead of a typical Hula Girl, the dash has a Buddha with a dirt bike glued to its praising hands. There is abundance of stickers with themes from Obama, to racing sponsors, and labels from breakfast burritos. There is one with a ratty-looking dog commanding to “get this bitch sideways”. There are warnings that ungodly things will happen if you so much as lay a finger on this van. The spare tire cover has a fading, painted picture of a mountain man, wearing a red flannel shirt, who is perched on a rock with a fishing pole.