Just about everything at the Red Bull Indy MotoGP was new for me. I was riding on the new Piaggio MP3, I was going to an international MotoGP event for the first time, I'd be meeting up with my new colleagues at Piaggio and Aprilia, and I'd be rooming and riding with my son and his step-dad [an old riding buddy of mine]. I can tell you that everything about the weekend, from the ride to the racing to the company and conversation exceeded my expectations.
THURSDAY, August 27. The ride begins.
Being on a new ride, and not really knowing what it would be like to be traveling on a 400cc, three-wheeled scooter, I decided to give myself two days to cover the 200 miles or so from home to Indy. Turns out that the scooter was so comfortable that it was completely unnecessary.
I was amazed at how much luggage capacity there was on the MP3. I had packed my small MotoFIZZ bag, but almost didn't need it. The underseat storage on the Piaggio could have held nearly everything I needed to carry.
FRIDAY, August 28. The track ride.
The first highlight of the weekend was getting to ride a lap on the actual Indy MotoGP course. I've run the track, of course, during the Indy Mini Half Marathon. It was exciting enough just to be on the same ground as racing legends like AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti.
I also got to drive my old Firebird around the track. Talk about cool. Getting up on the banking, pushing the pedal down the main straight, slowing for turn one; awesome.
But riding the Indy MotoGP road course was better than any of that. Feeling the tightness of the curves, knowing that the GP riders would be going more than twice as fast as I was going made the hair on my arms stand up. The MP3 was perfect because I could hold my camera with one hand and work the throttle with the other.
SATURDAY, August 29. Practice, Qualifying, and Barbeque.
We spent most of the day Saturday wandering around the manufacturers exhibits and down in the pits. Being nuts and bolts guys we all wanted to see inside the garages. There's a calm but intense energy that I've only experienced in motor racing. There's so much to do and only so much time to do it that there's no extra time for lots of drama.
Saturday night we went to the Aprilia barbeque and then to the Indy Mile, a flat-track race. There's no way to describe what it looks, feels, and smells like at flat-track races. These riders - who come by the stands at well over 100 miles and hour and THEN slide through the corners - are simpy amazing. The racing went on until nearly midnight.
SUNDAY, August 30. Race Day.
With Pat's connections [him being a VP and all] we were able to get pit passes. For a bona fide gear head like me this is as good as it gets. The bike in the photo set the record fastest lap AND Simoncelli road it to victory in the 250 GP race. Watching them prep the bikes, watching the calm precision, the focus, is one of my favorite things to do. We had exceptional access because of Pat and we made good use of it.
MONDAY, August 31, The Ride Home.
The ride home is almost never as much fun as the ride there. After a perfect weekend of bikes and buddies it's hard to face heading into the wind of everything waiting for us. I decided, in part because it was SO cold and, in part, because I wasn't in any hurry, to take the smallest roads that I could find on the way back.
It wasn't enough just to be on two-lane roads. I wanted to be on the roads that we off the two-lanes. I wanted to take the roads that lead from one little town to the next. The roads that only the people who need to go between those two towns ever take.
I found what I was after and the Piaggio was the perfect companion. I'd run it at 75 MPH on the interstate on Friday, so I knew it was capable of that speed, but both of us were happier at 55 MPH cruising past corn fields and creeping through the small towns. At that speed I was able to soak up the geography and culture of central Indiana and Illinois. It's less than 200 miles from the house, but it is light-years away from where I live.
So, it was a magic weekend; one that will be hard to duplicate. And that may be the point. Nothing can ever truly be repeated. Even an annual event is altered by our own aging, our shifts in perspective, and the deepening of our experience.
I wouldn't want it any other way.