Moto man

| February 01, 2006

The more primitive the road, the better for this trucker.

Imagine a trucker who just loves a road full of hairpins, S-bends and high-speed curves, sudden drops and ridiculously steep inclines, narrow bridges at the end of fast, tight downhill turns – all taken at high speed with lots of wheel spinning, sliding, flying dirt and mud.

Not me, you say?

Select 1 Transport driver Kurt DeWitt loves it so much he’s turning his back yard into just such a road – a race track. DeWitt, a lifelong motocross fanatic, plans a course that will challenge the best two-wheel riders around Urbana, Ohio., but will also let his racing children, Sarah, 5, and Noah, 1 1/2, enjoy the ride.

DeWitt, 42, and his younger brother David began racing motocross motorcycles when they were youngsters. Their father got them into the sport.

“He’d always been around motorcycles,” DeWitt says. “I got into it really young. I remember everything I wore as a kid had to have something to do with a motorcycle on it. Dad and Mom and my brother and me would all load up and go to races. It was a family thing. It took so much of our time during the week – practicing, working on the bikes – and racing on weekends, it kept us boys out of trouble.”

DeWitt did well, rising through the ranks to race at a semi-pro level before leaving the competitive side of the sport. “But my little brother was better at it than me; he won state titles. He still races.”

Motocross riders race on closed dirt tracks anywhere from a 1/2 mile to 2 miles long and from 16 feet to 40 feet wide. The courses are irregular, with both left and right hand turns, and jumps and other problems that force riders into gear changes and tactical decisions. Supercross is a version of the sport that can fill covered stadiums with 60,000-plus people, who watch pros throw their bikes into spectacular racing and jumping.

“Supercross,” says DeWitt admiringly, “now those guys are crazy.”

DeWitt still loves to ride. “When I come home after two or three weeks on the road, I go right into the garage, put on my stuff and go riding.”

DeWitt even worked as a motorcycle mechanic for several years. But motorcycle mechanic work was seasonal and didn’t pay as much as he wanted. So he turned to trucking.

DeWitt hauls high-end new and exotic cars, Select 1 Transport’s specialty, usually from the Midwest to California and Arizona and back again in a Kenworth T600 with a 120-inch sleeper. Most of his cars are destined for the test track as auto makers try to get their new models ready for the market. DeWitt is an eight-year Select 1 veteran, a job he started after a decade with United Van Lines hauling household goods.

Hot cars are his profession, but motocross is still his passion. And DeWitt is training a new generation in the love of motocross. He bought his son Noah a 50cc bike. He figures by the time the boy is 3 he’ll be riding it around the track in the back yard. In the meantime, Noah knows his toys – it has to be a motorcycle figure of some sort. DeWitt’s daughter Sarah is a girl who knows her own mind. She opted for a four-wheeler rather than two. Wife Mindi, DeWitt says, likes to ride but prefers to take care of the bruises and Band-Aid side of the sport.

The new track will wind around and across about 10 of DeWitt’s 17 acres of “back yard” and be about 1.5 miles long.

“I started building it, and we were racing on it last year. But it was pretty flat. I didn’t have enough dirt for good jumps and other features I needed to build,” DeWitt says. “But now I have a neighbor across the street that is digging a pond, and I have plenty of dirt. Pro jumps are almost straight up, and you’ll see the Supercross guys on TV get enough height to clear two or three jumps at a time. But you can get yourself in all sorts of trouble if you try to clear that many jumps and don’t have enough distance. My brother wants to see more pro-style jumps, but I want to make sure the kids can use it as well as us. We’ll work something out.”

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