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ABA VOLUNTEER NATIONALS 2000
Memphis, TN
by Grant Hansen

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Six in the morning, Friday. That's when my flight was scheduled to leave. I was traveling with Bill "Nuclear" Hayden and Antonio "Flipper" Bellavista. [Note: Bill and Antonio both have numerous nicknames (Bill: Pink Pussycat Racing, Ragin', Booze Bros; Antonio: T-bone, Dirty Racing Inc., Bolognio), but for the purpose of this particular story, the previous ones mentioned will fit them best.) Bill arrived at my house Thursday night and I told Antonio not to show up any earlier than 3:30 AM because I would be sleeping. Well, at 2:45 my doorbell rang and there he was, still feeling the vibes from the nightclub he had just left.

After some grub at the diner, the three of us headed to Newark airport and headed to Memphis. We quickly got our rental car and went straight to the arena. The ABA put together a pretty good indoor track and it was just about hardening up. Antonio was in serious need of sleep (as were we all) but I had to make one more trip to the airport to pick up "Mr. Spanky" Jeff Miller. So Antonio and Bill snored away while I took a little ride.

I have traveled with Bill before, so I know his snoring can be pretty disturbing. But good Lord! I think Antonio kept every guest at the Best Inns awake. I made a wise investment in ear plugs and wrapped my pillow tightly around my head, but I was still able to feel the vibrations.

We headed back to the track for Friday night's race action. Antonio sat out, and Bill and I decided to test out the track even though we haven't ridden much this winter. First moto: I get involved in a three-man crash, but escape without harm. First moto: Bill crashed harder than anyone I have ever seen through the rhythm section. He bruised his ribs and back and broke two fingers in the process. Not only that, he left a permanent impression of his face in the Memphis dirt (see picture and click to enlarge). His hand swelled up like a bullfrog in heat and he was pretty much done for the weekend. He tried to race, but didn't have much in him. On Saturday Antonio wiped out while trying to take out his competitor (what else is new) and suffered a bruised heel. He continued to race (even though he could barely walk), but his steam was lost as well.

I found it strange that this was a GT-sponsored event and that they only had one rider present; however, it seemed to be the right rider. Andy Contes doubled on Saturday and was looking really strong. He took a hard fall in one of his laps that kept him from competing on Sunday, but he continued his hot start for the year.

Saturday night is buffet night at the nationals, so I was getting anxious to go out. After all, all I had eaten that day was four Chick-Fil-A sandwiches! We had dropped Antonio off at the hotel so that he could soak his foot in the hot tub while we watched the mains. When we got back to our room, there he was lying on the bed, relaxed, with an empty 40 of Bud in hand. Nine out of ten doctors recommended it! While waiting to meet up with Jeff and Mallie Dein, Antonio looks me cross in the eyes and says, "I'm drunk." I said, "A 40 might do that to you." He said, "That and a couple of pain killers." So Antonio was good to go.

It was freezing outside. But thanks to "Nuclear" we had to drive all the way to the buffet with the windows down. We hadn't even eaten yet! The buffet was decent. I did most of my damage at the dessert cart. Poor Jeff Dein was rejected at the ice cream machine when it ran out of softy. There were definitely some professional buffet masters present that night. "All-you-can-eat all-of-the-time!"

The car ride back to the hotel was cold again (Thanks Bill) but we had a great time at Antonio's expense. Poor dude, in his mental and physical state he was defenseless against our abuse, which made it all the better. But just watching him walk with his pathetic limp made his fall so worth it.

Bill and Jeff both had to check in with their masters, er, significant others. Bill's wife Diane told Bill to stop being a wuss and to suck it up and race Sunday. So he did. Jeff's girlfriend's line was busy. At 11 o'clock? No doubt talking to some dude and making plans for while Jeff was away heh heh.

Sunday morning rolled around and we rolled out of bed. Our room stank!! I couldn't bear it. I'd take the dirt-ridden air of an enclosed arena any day. Matt Pohlkamp was the big man in the Pro class on Sunday. He seemed quiet all weekend but he put the points together for the victory. Other riders who rode really well were Charles Townsend and Robert MacPherson. And even though their results didn't show it, Kevin Tomko, Jason Donnell, and Randy Stumpfhauser rode exceptionally well. With about 220 motos, Sunday was long, and although it wasn't an unusually difficult track, I did see more crashes at this national than any other.

The first straight of the track was difficult and soft. But after that, the surface was hard and you could gain a ton of speed, so judging what gear to run wasn't very easy. A small gear would get you out of the gate quickly, but then you'd suffer through the first sweeping turn. On the other hand, a bigger gear would compromise your first straight but come in handy through the rest of the track.

One thing I'll say about Memphis: The people there are a lot nicer than they are in New Jersey. Even at the fast food joints we were greeted with smiles, unlike being spit on in New Jersey for asking for a burger without the special sauce.

We had a couple hours to kill at the airport. Bill's hand was swelling pretty bad and Antonio's limp was increasingly hilarious. As Bill and I were checking our bags, he noted, "Damn, this thing just keeps getting bigger and bigger." Boy, that must have sounded strange to the airline attendant who didn't know what the hell he was referring to! Think before you speak, Bill! Here's another fine example of Bill's loose tongue. We were buying some Elvis memorabilia from a lady who was pushing 400 pounds. Bill was, for some reason, trying to make small talk with the woman and said how someone he works with think he's Elvis. When the woman asked if he danced like him, Bill exclaimed, "Oh God no! He's 250 pounds! He can't be jumping around like that, he's huge!" I stood there, mortified, wondering if Bill had known what the hell he said and who the hell he had said it to.

Cheers. Man oh man did I need a beer. I was just going to get your standard 12 oz draft until Bill challenged me to drink the 33 oz stein. Bring it on! Antonio was trying to be smart and ordered a small beer and Bill ordered a small gin and tonic. But wait! Cheers has a special that if two people order beers, the liquor order is upgraded to a large for free. Bill was happy. Jeff seemed content with his Shirley Temple. I drank my beer and felt relaxed. Bill ordered another gin and tonic and Antonio decided not to push it any more because he was still on pain killers. Four shots later each and Bill and Antonio were lit! And I was feeling pretty good myself.

The plane ride was interested. I saved a young lady from having to sit next to Antonio, but that put him next to Bill. They were asked a couple times to keep it quiet while I laughed my ass off. About 20 minutes later they passed out and Northwest was able to do its job.

Overall, the weekend was fun. None of my crew did jack on the track, but it was worth the trip. The ABA did a good job in running this national and their trend of good indoor tracks in continuing. I'm not sure what national I'm hitting next, but you'll be sure to have a full report!


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