We have supported the Appalachian Moto Jam for the past couple years but never found the opportunity to present itself to make it out to one, until now. Taking Friday to jam out east, I found myself on route 86 almost the entire way. Bored with the road and stuck in the truck, I eagerly awaited the exit for Monticello, impatiently. With NF blaring in my ears and feeling the colors of the fall rip though my eyes, my GPS finally yelled at me in a British accent to take the exit. Have you ever been to Monticello, NY before? The answer is probably no and its probably a good thing. This small town that looks like it stopped dead in it's tracks in the early 80's is home to this incredible racing series. I shit you not, there were at least seven liquor stores on the road off of the exit. As I made my way to East Broadway St. I turned left when the the right turn seemed a little more inviting. Run down buildings and old logos of stores like Rite Aid and Pizza Hut gave me the stuck in time vibe and you could tell no one really gave a damn what was happening to it all. Oh and there were more liquor stores as I made my way to the motel I was staying at. A town that was forgotten, filled with drunks and run down buildings, it felt a bit depressing.
After checking into my 3 star motel that should have been ranked more like a half star. Can you give a half star? I made my way to Holiday Mountain Ski resort where the races were to take place the following two days. Conveniently my motel was only 2 miles from the resort and all I had to do was take East Broadway St. east straight down. Pulling into the resort I immediately saw a Lowbrow Customs banner which made me smile because I had no clue where I was. At the gate I was greeted by the nicest people who made me sign my life away. Basically it was a waiver that stated I wouldn't sue them if I got injured or killed. Once signed I got my access wristband to the mountain for the weekend. As I drove farther into the resort I noticed a Shovelhead and immediately stopped my truck to say hi to a few guys that looked like they were camping. They were super nice and pointed up the hill towards the lodge, where I would eventually find Kenny Buongiorno (the master mind of it all), Matt Rush, and Jacole Galperin that help organize the event.
As I walked up to a blue bus I was greeted immediately with the biggest smiles. Matt was working on a crazy looking tracker Shovel and we caught up for awhile. Eventually the conversation turned into "lets see this thing rip!" and Matt took off around the TT course and up the mountain. The smell of race gas was in the air and it got me pretty excited for what was to come. The rest of the night was pretty chill, other than the fact I almost died. This dude named Clayton had this gnarly looking panel truck that he basically built with all new components and a new engine but left the shell looking haggard and awesome. We were drinking beer by a fire down the hill, away from the lodge when Clayton asked, "Mikey wanna check out what's going on at the lodge? Jump in the back, there's a lawn chair you can sit on." Not really thinking about it I jumped in and sat on this lawn chair in the middle of this beat up panel truck. Clayton and Kyle jumped in front and as I checked a text message on my phone, Clayton put the pedal to the metal and took off. I've never ended up in the back of someones truck so fast in my entire life. The beer I had in my hand was crushed from my grip and some how I managed not to spill any of it on my phone. Clayton stopped furiously and looked back laughing "Oh man, I forgot you were back there!" Kyle and him continued to laugh. As I put the sketchy lawn chair back up and sat down again the back doors opened up and then I realized I was inches from flying out of the back of this haggard automobile of death. Always keeping it sketchy.
Saturday - The Hill Climb
I woke up super early Saturday morning to get some breakfast at this tiny greasy spoon diner called Miss Monticello Diner which was super cheap and really good for looking like it was about to fall apart inside and out. I scarfed down my food and jammed back to the ski resort excited, I didn't want to miss a moment. As I arrived there were a handful more trailers in the pit area and guys were unloading Sportsters, dirt bikes, and other vintage models. Looking around I noticed everyone seemed really laid back, smiling and enjoying their mornings stress free. In the distance I noticed some kids were doing burn outs in the mud and practicing there skills on a few of the other courses that were dug out at the resort. It felt like a mecca for dirt biking..
As 11:00am hit, I noticed Kyle was riding around letting everyone know there was a riders meeting at the lodge where they would go over the hill climb rules. I ventured my way up to the lodge and listened in for a little while. I've never experienced anything like this so I wanted to learn as much as I could about what was going on. There was going to be two events held throughout the day. One event was drag racing between two riders at a time, they would race to the middle of the hill in a their class. This was a one and done, if you lost you were out, if you won you moved on to race the next winner. Only one could prevail and take 1st place in each class. The second event was "King of The Mountain" which everyone in their class would line up at the same time and jam up the entire mountain. It doesn't look that steep in the photos but at the very top it looked very intimidating in person.
From 1pm to 5pm the day became a blur of intense racing. I've been really trying to immerse myself into the moments happening in front of me lately. Being present in what is happening and not focusing on capturing the moment but letting the moment be captured. I found myself cheering for old and new friends and getting super into the drag racing. I also made the mistake of getting a little to close to one of the backboards while a four wheeler took off and it shot dirt and mud all over me. I had to pick mud and dirt out of my hair, beard and hoodie for about 5 minutes but I wasn't even mad, it was part of the experience and it felt good to be right in the heart of it. One of the coolest things about this whole race was knowing there aren't very many safety standards or rules. Run what you brung, wear a helmet and ride with in your own means, thats about it. Yes there was a competitive nature to the races but guys and girls were just racing for bragging rights not arguing or fighting about who was better then the next. The atmosphere of it all just resonated with me as great time where you could enjoy a Saturday of racing with great people and have a ton of fun.
As the day came closer to the end, the last of the "King of The Mountain" climbs started to get sketchy. I watched three different dudes eat the grassy mountain hard. One dude wrecked so hard he didn't even move after he rolled a few times landing on his back. I found out later he hit his head on a huge rock and it knocked him unconscious. When he came to he said he had a really bad headache, so most likely he had a concussion. And that kids is why you always wear a helmet! The final part of the "King of The Mountain" was a timed race trial for the pros. One at a time they would race on the right side of the mountain which was rockiest and had the most steep parts. A few made it to the top and most dropped their bikes or wrecked trying to get to the top. Dark clouds hovered over the event most of the day but not until the very end did it actually turn into rain. I was in the middle of the mountain taking photos as the rain started to fall. I covered my cameras with my hoody and ventured down the hill slowly while I laughed to myself about what a great day I had just witnessed.
Sunday - TT Racing
I ended up hanging with my good friends Josh Kohn, Tim Vanderbas, Dan Desoucey and a few others Saturday night for a bit. Knowing there was still more racing to take place on Sunday I knew if was going to stay up late and party with everyone nothing good would have come of it. Boy, was I ever right. As I pulled into the resort Sunday morning around 9am, I noticed it was a complete ghost town of trailers and tents, there was no one in site. Investigating further I noticed what looked like a real rager had gone down. There was mud splattered everywhere, a burnt chair in the middle of the fire pit and a few pit bikes covered in grass and mud in the distance. A cooler was sitting in the middle of the TT track with what looked like a rope tied to it and filled with muddy beers. My imagination started to run wild with what chaos could have been going down after I had left. And then out of nowhere Tim comes stomping out of the woods like an angry, hibernating, hungover bear and goes, "Man, you missed out" laughing. I got the whole lowdown on how their night went and all I could do was laugh to myself and think about what a smart decision it was to go to bed early.
The temperature was a nice 50 or so degrees all weekend until Sunday. I woke up to a crisp 30 degrees and it didn't warm up the entire day. There was even a few snow flakes falling which I wasn't too stoked on. As the morning came closer to noon, people started rolling out of their tents and trailers and the practice runs started on the TT course. This wasn't your normal flat track course. Turn one started you on a down hill descent that hit into large whoop in the middle of the straight away. You then had to put the brakes on hard for a very tight turn two which was in very loose dirt. Turn two then bent off into an up hill climb that goes into turn three which gave riders two options, slow down and cut in close on the inside corner or continue fast and take the bank wall on the outside to the finish line. It was a very weird triangle track that threw riders off a bit and made things very interesting, especially on turn two.
These races were set by classes and everyone in their class raced at the same time. Some classes only had two racers and others had five or more. A lot of the hill climb racers went home Saturday night because of the cold temperatures but the ones who stayed made the best of it. Yes it is racing and it is competitive but it didn't feel like it at all. Everyone had huge smiles on their faces and were just having a good time. I think that was one of my favorite parts about the whole weekend, people were just having real fun.
Not knowing what to expect and immersing myself into every minute of this past weekend made me a new life long fan of this style of racing. I encourage more people to attend and race at this event. Anyone can register and anyone can give it a try. The people that were there welcomed me with open arms and I couldn't have asked for a better time. The Appalachian Moto Jam happens multiple times a year and if you can make it out to one I promise it's a ton of fun. Maybe just stay away from the town of Monticello and the Motels... There's camping options and other hotels east of the mountain that I heard are way better in the area. Also the entire weekend everyone kept telling me I needed to come back to the snow hill climbs because they are epic. January 12th, 2019 is the next Appalachian Moto Jam and it's gonna be snowy, so you might just see myself and some of the other Lowbrow guys out there, maybe even racing... we will see. Untill then, thanks for the memories Appalachian Moto Jam!
Photos and Words by: Mikey Revolt