Moto man

| February 01, 2006

DeWitt is planning to build a bridge on the track that joins two high mounds. He, David and expert friends will arrive at it running full speed, turn into it and jump. Their wheels won’t touch the bridge but fly over it, land on the other side, and then they’ll make a hard turn and ride back under the bridge. But the kids will be able to roll over the bridge at their own chosen speed.

While a motocross bike won’t fit into his trailer, a racing bicycle will. DeWitt got into the sport when he was working on motorcycles as a way to keep in shape. “In winter I’d go down to Florida and race,” he says. “I got to be pretty good at it.”

Now he brings along his racing bike on every run and finds time to ride it for at least a few hours each week.

“I pretty much know every area I’m going to stop at. A lot of truckstops are out in the country, and there’s a country road running by and I’ll use those,” he says. “It seems like when you drive for a living, the first thing to go is your legs. Riding not only helps me stay fit, it helps me keep leg strength.”

The DeWitt Equipment
Safety is a prime concern for Kurt DeWitt. When he (or any of his family) rides, he wears a chest protector, helmet, goggles, gloves and racing pants, and as a concession to age, knee braces. Over the years, he says, knees can get torn up in this sport by hitting the ground or taking the punishment from hitting ruts and holes or being a pivot when you have to put your foot on the ground.

DeWitt’s main machine is a Yamaha YZ 450F (one of the greats in the sport), but he also rides a Yamaha YZ 125 (another hot machine). He also has a Yamaha PW50, a bike used to get beginners into the sport. He bought it for his brother’s son, but it came back when the boy outgrew it. Also in the stable is a Yamaha YFM 50, a four-wheeler to accommodate Sarah’s talents, and a Yamaha TTR, a smaller dirt bike.

DeWitt owns two racing bicycles. A Cannondale with an aluminum frame goes with him on the road in his trailer because it is a good, but relatively inexpensive racing bicycle. At home he keeps a high-end Lotus SLX for the roads around Urbana.

A Magic Carpet Made of Steel
Cross-country truckers roll over famous rails

Cross-country truckers constantly roll over some of the most famous railroad tracks in the country, steel rails that carry the train that rolls through the heartland of American music, places where the blues, jazz and rock and roll were born and began to grow. If you roll all 48, you’ll constantly run back and forth over (or maybe under) the tracks that carry perhaps the most storied American train that’s still running. She’s the City of New Orleans, the legendary train celebrated into a hit song by writer Steve Goodman and singer Arlo Guthrie, and run up the charts a second time by Willie Nelson.

Music also gave us other favorite trains you might imagine out your windshield as you cross their steel road. Out in California you might run along beside the train that Johnny Cash so famously cites in “Folsom Prison Blues,” the one that “keeps on rolling” down to San Antonio. In the south you might have to wait at a crossing that once let the “Orange Blossom Special” roar by. In the Midwest there are the lines that once carried the famous “Rock Island Line” trains, and in the Midwest and the East you might hear the ghost whistle of Roy Acuff’s “Wabash Cannonball.”

Unlike most of these other favorites, the City of New Orleans still runs, recently getting back into New Orleans after having to stop short when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Delta. Arlo Guthrie and some of his musician friends actually rode the train (Guthrie’s first time) in December, performing at stops along the way as a fundraiser for New Orleans’ musicians who lost instruments, homes and jobs in Katrina.

The train runs more than 900 miles between New Orleans and Chicago. Before Amtrak’s formation in 1971, the train was operated by the Illinois Central Railroad, later the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad, along basically the same route. The original train ran only during the day, operating with just coaches and a club car starting in 1947. It was a cheaper version of a luxury train that ran through the night, the Panama Limited, which began service in 1911 and was so named because it connected to steamships that began running from New Orleans to Panama in that year.

The original City of New Orleans stopped running in 1971, but in 1981 Amtrak changed the Panama Limited’s name to City of New Orleans because of the song’s massive popularity. Today the run takes about 19 hours.

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