Moto Mania, the totally-free, anything-goes dirt track event in Owatonna, MN was back for its second year “The Big Deuce” on June 25, 2016. Like last year, I headed down Friday night to help Dan Raleigh set up, grab dinner, and get a few laps in before the crowd showed up on Saturday.
This year, I drove down to the track so that I could trailer my Sportster (blasphemy, I know) and throw my freshly modified 1976 Honda Z50 named “Evil Monkey” in the back of the car. I ended up spending way more track time on the mini-bike than my Sporty but I was glad to have both with me. The car gave me more space for a cooler and a big tent and I brought my radio controlled van with me too. Last year, I just rode my Sporty down with only a few things bungeed to the back.
Dan made a couple of changes this year. For starters, Kegforge Customs brought a homemade water truck to help keep the dust down. They brought a ton of awesome bikes too including an insane 3-wheeler. Speaking of kegs, Modist Brewing supplied a few kegs of free craft beer, which was incredible. Likely due to Josh’s crash last year, Dan also had an EMT on site all day just in case. Lots of generous sponsors donated items that were raffled off throughout the day. The little changes were all for the better while the bulk of what made the first Moto Mania great was left alone; free admission, free camping, unlimited use of the track, no rules, no organized races, etc.
Like last year, there was a wide variety of bikes and a few 4-wheeled vehicles on the track, often simultaneously. The more inappropriate the vehicle, the more fun it was to watch. After buying my first mini-bike earlier this year, I was happy to see so many other mini-bikes on the track.
Unlike last year, dust complaints kept shutting the track down. I thought it was less dusty than last year but I think someone in town was having a wedding and apparently a little rain on your wedding day is good luck but a thick filthy dust cloud emanating from the local dirt track isn’t. The Kegforge water truck tried to keep the dust down but it was just too hot and windy. Dan did a nice job trying to explain what was going on and tried to balance the local complaints against the desire of everyone there to rip around the track.
He eventually had no choice but to call for a bigger water truck. As you might imagine, the water output from the big red professional truck was much higher than the homemade version. Everyone was eager to get back out on the track and were riding around while the truck was making its rounds. Some sections of the track got pretty muddy but people kept riding.
It wasn’t long before the bikes stopped going around and I assumed the track was shut down for dust again. I started to make my way over to the opposite corner of the track and saw a crowd of people. There was an accident. I didn’t see it happen, so I can’t say what caused it, but the guy who crashed was my friend Andy. It was scary. He was knocked out for a while and had to be taken away in an ambulance. He ended up with a broken collar bone but was thankfully fine otherwise.
With Andy’s crash, the mood became somber and the track was shut down for the day. Shortly after, there was a big argument (I'll spare you the details) that made the vibe much worse. On top of all that, the wind had picked up throughout the day and there was a threat of severe storms too. For me, it was all too much. I packed up and headed home. I’m not proud of it. I wish I could say that I was one of the many who stayed, those who kept going and maintained a positive attitude in the face of the few negative things that went on (it was still a great day overall). I’m usually a very positive person. Hell, I spent most of the day riding around the track on my monkey bike while wearing a banana costume! When I spoke to Dan afterwards, he said he wished he could have left when I did too. Clearly, a few things went bad… but the day did get better. On the bright side, the severe weather missed Owatonna and the rain never hit. From what I hear, lots of people stayed all night to party and positivity won out after all.
For me, Moto Mania 2 was a blast until it wasn’t. Remember, it’s “Moto Mania” so no one, including me, should be surprised that it fully delivered on both the “Moto” and the “Mania”. After the emotional roller coaster of the Big Deuce, will there be a Moto Mania 3??? I don’t know, but follow @1stthursday to find out!
Article and photographs by Brian at Gophers and Cheese / @gophersandcheese