It was great to see a full parking lot, bikes everywhere, people laughing and yukking it up. I took the opportunity to share the story of our upcoming ride with a captive audience: the registration line. I briefed them and then asked each one to give their email address and an estimate of how many miles they think we’ll pedal on our journey. They all seemed to have wisdom for us: From Rich Farside: “I think you’ll make a ¼ mile” and From Big Lenny Hicks: “You know it’s all uphill after you leave Florida, right?” I’ll SEE both of you at the Grands! And then there was a guy who said, “it’s all mental. It’s not about your weight, your size, your training. It’s what you have in your head when you’re riding.” I think he’s right.
Although it’s only been a year since I’d been to EHT track, I had to do a double take when I saw a brand new building with INDOOR bathrooms, a storage room and a new concession stand. If you’re going to be at a track all day, a BMX mom really appreciates an indoor bathroom with sinks, too! Especially when it’s cold out! Nice job, EHT!
Once the gate started dropping (they had an issue with the piston evidently), riders took to the track, volunteers staged, verified and scored the races. There were 78 motos, (plus a few A,B,C,D, motos inserted between the #s) and the track opted to switch to a 2 moto transfer system with daylight waning.
I was asked to score the second round and the main event. After the semis, the motos were being printed in the office and a gentleman came up to the office. Although I was standing about 10 feet away, I could see there was some kind of issue and heard some of the Howell, NJ track staff asking where his son was. Soon a young boy of about 10 with sparkling blue eyes, came up to the race officials and explained what his father was saying and then in sign language told his father what the race officials had said.
Jose Laza is a BMX racer with a hearing impairment that doesn’t usually stop him from performing as well as any of the other riders in his class. He is a regular at the Howell track and they have embraced him as a member of their community, making sure he gets what he needs in order to participate in the sport. The Corner Marshalls all use highly visible flags to indicate an issue on the track, instead of just the standard clipboard. In addition to shouting out to riders when they are coming up on a down rider, they also give a visual cue by waving the flags. They also don’t put the responsibility on his young son of informing Jose when his moto is coming up, they work together to be sure Jose is informed. In fact, since he missed his semi (and ultimately his main) at the Jack Frost, one race official asked if he was returning on Sunday for the Bob Warnicke Scholarship race and he nodded that he was. The official guaranteed him that he would write the racer’s motos on the palm of his hand and hold the race if he wasn’t in the gate. I was glad to see that some effort was being made to avoid the same mistake.
The sport of BMX is an excellent choice for most special needs members of our community. The BMX family is the most accepting and accommodating group I have ever been involved with. They don’t make excuses or quote liability issues or just plain ignore you. They embrace you, they make changes, they make you at home doing what you love. All that said, we, as a community, need to be prepared to fulfill the desire to do that. We need to communicate with riders and find out what they need. Adding flags to the Corner officials’ positions is an easy fix and probably benefitted more than just one hearing impaired rider. Having a visual cue, when you are wearing a helmet that covers your ears, during a large (and loud) race is a help to most any rider. A simple electronic display with the moto # of the current riders on the track would be helpful, too.
I’ve been emailing Gary Aragon, the NBL CEO, about involving Special Needs members of our community in our arrivals at the 25 tracks we plan to visit during our 4+ month ride ahead. We are still working on details but I hope to be able to share what the plan is in the blogs ahead. Stay tuned.