For those who haven't heard of it, the Dan Rouit Flat Track Museum is truly an epic effort of an homage to Flat Track Racing history. I would say "American Flat Track History," but the truth is, they even got their hands on some British grass track bikes and other Japanese variants of speedway racing history. They have them on display alongside all of the others. Since Fresno is only a couple hours drive (or a day's ride if you take the scenic route) I decided to take my dad and the boyfriend on a little road trip to quell my hankerin' for a little mini-adventure. We would have taken the bikes, but dad hasn't been in the best of health lately and I was a little leery of asking him to take the bike out (which he would have because he is quite adamant when it comes to things like this). I didn't want him to miss out on something that he likely had quite a stake in when he was younger, so off we went. Piled in my little tracker, gnoshing on drive through and rocking out to various rock jams.
I really didn't know what to expect since, I'll confess, I didn't even know the place was in existence. And that includes the various conversations I've had with the infamous flat tracking pro, Digger Helm over the years during my pit stops into our local dive bar. Still, we made it there in ample time to catch a healthy group of people who rode in on a variety of bikes to celebrate the "open house." I guess, normally the place is only open by appointment, or during select hours.
It's an unassuming kind of place situated in the heart of a quiet residential street near Gettysburg Avenue. You walk in the door and there's a room with memorabilia and recorded flat track races playing on a large screen TV. Everyone is talking bikes... everyone is honoring bikes, and immediately you feel like you've walked into a bbq after a good day's riding. But then you get to the next room, and your heart skips a beat. Bikes line the walls; pictures, posters, old racing flyers, pieces of memorabilia, steel shoes, all of it glistening (and some of it rusty) under a humble row of fluorescent lights. It all comes together beautifully.
I'll admit that my eyes welled up a little when I walked into the room. Its a difficult feeling to explain. Its one of those moments where you stand in a room invigorated by the experiences of icons, heroes, and people who have taken a passion that you identify with and went into it full bore, etching moments in the space-time continuum that will likely never be erased. This kind of shit isn't done by the faint of heart and you can feel the spirit and taste the dirt the instant you walk into the room. You might even feel a few sympathy pains in your ankles and ribs as you imagine the trial and consequence of developing the skills that make a successful racer stand out from the rest. When you add to it that the only soundtrack that resonates through the place is the sound of the guys who were there swappin' race stories, it makes your soul smile a little bit.
It was all there... even samples of dirt from different tracks.
I easily spent a couple of hours there... walking through and then walking through again. It was a lot to take in, like an interactive encyclopedia of racing that doesn't quite make it in its entirety onto the record books. As much as it may have been one man's obsession, it was also a collaborative effort of many in the racing world, including Digger Helm, and Melissa Paris, who each had items provided for display. But the list didn't stop there, not by a long shot and the inventory spoke for itself and of the people who participated in making it what it was. Bikes from practically every manufacturer, each with their own histories or representing the history of their fleet in the world of flat tracking, many of them situated as-is in "race form."
After a while of meandering through the place. My pops settled into a chair outside. He was quiet, which isn't entirely out of character for him. But his demeanor was a little different. "How ya doin' dad?" I asked as I plopped down next to him.
He sighed... "Oh, I dunno... a lot of names in there I haven't heard or seen in a long time." It was noticeable that I hadn't just taken my dad on the average road trip. I had taken him back in time to the days when he and his buddies all huddled around bikes and finagled modifications in the garage well into the hours of the night... back before ECU tuning, and traction control. At a particular moment, as I sat with him, the words of a man that I had overheard earlier whilst admiring the collection resonated through my mind and it was somethin' to the effect of:
And there I was, ya know, my buddy lives back east and I was goin' to visit him and he was tellin' me they were gonna be doin' races. I said, "can I bring my race bike?" And he said "sure can," so I did. And when I got out there to the races I asked 'em what class I should race in and the guy says to me "it don't matter... we're all runnin' in the same class out here... everybody's just here to race."
This museum was one of many that exist across the united states. If you haven't put one of these places on your ride route, I highly recommend making it a point to do so. You can find more information on where to find these places by visiting this link: http://www.vft.org/vftmuseums.html.
To see more pictures from our trip, visit my photo site here: https://theapexdream.smugmug.com/In-the-World