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13 Days in Monterey

How I came to spend 13 days at Laguna.

I rode this on my XR100 with a camera around my neck.

It started with being asked to cover some off-road racing at the AHRMA Motofest, and ended with an epic dinner, with some "camping", trackside photography, an engagement photoshoot, and riding mixed in.

While it was officially an AHRMA event down on the road course, you wouldn't have guessed it by the vast amount of AFM staff on hand. With Barb, the AFM tech staff, the registration crew, timing and scoring, and many of the regular turn-workers on hand, it should have been called AFMHRMA. I would add in the regular AFM Photography crew, but Koi was out there as a worker and I spent much of my time up the hill taking some of the best pics AHRMA riders have never seen. Seriously, I had only 15 people look at the photos from the dirt area at the time of writing this, and I know at least two of them were employed by the AHRMA magazine.

Because registration was moving in on Wednesday, I got there Wednesday, and we had to wait for Champ School to vacate before we could set up shop. I saw Nick Ienatsch who usually races AHRMA, (he didn't this time) and asked if he was going to stick around for the next few days. Before I could say anything, he asked, "Did anyone talk to you about taking photos?"

"When", I replied.

"TODAY!" he exclaimed.

I went on to explain that had someone reached out, I would have been there, as I was going to be hanging around for almost two weeks, and I had to wait for them to leave to move in as it was. A few more hours wouldn't have hurt me.

Anyway, that's how I got asked to be the West Coast photographer for Champ School.

Once we got settled in, I did the math on what I spent on gas to get to Laguna and compared that to what it would cost to just get a camp site for the four days after AHRMA. Spoiler alert, it was cheaper to live at the track. So I did.

I had to be back at Laguna the Thursday after AHRMA to cover for another photographer, and then back for the weekend to cover Fun Track Dayz.

Let's skip ahead to that part, since as the name alludes to, was the fun bit..

I normally don't ride at the events that I cover, what with motorcycles being dangerous or whatever. I want to make sure that I am in tip-top shape as a photographer, and available to help Koi sell pics.

Koi was riding every other session with me, he took this pic

But this is Laguna Seca, and a freshly paved Laguna Seca at that. Factor in that Kramer was on hand with some demo bikes, SoSo Cycles had their BMW 310 "Double R", and I had an offer to take the latest Ninja 400RR out, and well, I rode 7 sessions over the weekend. No photos of anything other than the Kramer as Koi was on track with me.

Those 7 sessions would not have been possible without Fun Track Dayz, and I can't thank them enough for finding space for me on a sold out Laguna weekend.

Not me, but this is the 310RR. Picture it going faster for full effect.

With the exception of one A-group stint on the Kramer and one B-group run on the Ninja 400RR, I lived my moto-life being a C-group hero on the SoSo Cycles BMW 310. I passed more people on the brakes into turn 2 and turn 8 than I ever have in the rest of the days combined at Laguna Seca. For those not in the know, the 313cc, 33.5ish horsepower single cylinder motor is tasked with propelling the 350 pound bike (with 200 pounds of me on it) up to a 94MPH indicated top speed until just beyond the 3-board approaching turn 2 before I force the single 300mm front disc to slow me to an appropriate speed to make the corner. It is as fun as it sounds, by the way.

If 33HP seems like a misprint, trust me, it isn't, although there were a handful of people on shiny Yamaha R1's, Ducati V4's and Aprilia RSV4's that wish it was. There is no greater feeling than getting your proverbial doors blown off on the exit of 11 and then obliterating people on the brakes, only to never see them again...with 160-170 less horsepower. This bike will make its way into my garage at some point, mark my words.

Hey Max, didn't you say something about an engagement shoot? Why yes I did.

The kneepuck was a nice touch.

I got notified about 8 hours before the photoshoot that my services were needed, and under the guise of inspecting where the car was on fire/me needing to investigate a new angle for the corkscrew, a small group of us hiked up the hill. The bride-to-be had no idea, and once she figured out what was happening, she said yes.

So how do I cap off one of the best weekends at the track that I have ever had?

Extend it for two more days, duh.

As it turned out, Z2 was filing into the paddock as FTDz was leaving, and they had an opening for me to ride on Tuesday. Since Feel Like A Pro owed me some time on one of their bikes, It would be silly to not hang around for another day or two.

I didn't have any obligations on Monday, so my plan was to hang around with Aliki from VNM Sport, and wander the paddock. In my wandering I bumped in to an up-and-coming actor named Keanu Reeves, and had a brief chat about what he thought of the new track surface. It was just a normal rider to rider chat, but I walked away with a bit more of a smile than he did. Keanu obviously didn't recognize my regionally famous self.

I'm on the left.

The next morning my wife, having learned about my conversation, asked me to grab a pic with him. I replied to her that I was not going to go back over to where he was as he was just trying to ride his motorcycle, but if, for some reason he came up to me, I would show him her text message request.

As I hit send on my reply, Keanu walked up to the VNM sport booth, and after apologizing for being "that guy" I showed him my wife's request.

I would like the record to show that the rumors of Keanu being a very nice guy are 100% accurate. On the of chance that he stumbles across this, thank you again. You are a perfect representative of the motorcycle community, and I hope you had as epic of a weekend as I did.

Oh yeah, I rode on Tuesday, on a Ninja 400, and repeated my braking zone dominance as I sandbagged another C-group. I also got to ride with my long time friend and the person who introduced me to my wife, Nancy. And by ride with, I waved at her as I rode by her as we both went through turn one.

PC: Dito from Got Blue Milk

So thanks again to Keanu, Z2, FLAP, Kramer, AHRMA, and especially to the Fun Track Dayz crew and instructors for an epic 13 day weekend at the track.

On my way home I stopped by the best German restaurant I have ever been to, including in Germany: Stammtisch, located in Seaside. Much like the first time I was there about 6 years ago, I didn't have a reservation, and they were booked up. And just like 6 years ago, without a reservation Edwin (who runs the place with his wife and chef Claudia) found a place for me with the understanding that I had to eat and run. As I was finishing my dinner, I looked up and noticed a familiar face. It turned out that one of the reservations was for Chris and Frank from Pirelli, and their guests. I was invited to have my dessert over there, and managed to hang around until the place closed, the nightcap I didn't know I needed for my time in Monterey.

Edwin is the blurry one.

For the TL/DR crowd: 13 days, 4 bikes, 1 movie star, hundreds of memories.


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