Dirtbike Camp

Kevin Andersonís Dirtbike Camp

Author: Evan "Crash" Arkush
Streetbike Instructor
San Francisco, Ca.

Re-printed from Citybike magazine, Sept. 2007

After my recent amazing experiences enduro riding in Asia I was thoroughly hooked and couldn’t wait for my next dirt biking opportunity. Then in May 2007 I saw a posting on (good ol’) Craigslist for dirt riding lessons so I decided to check it out. I exchanged some emails with Kevin Anderson who runs the show and I tried to stir up interest among my riding friends. Initially several of my buddies had eager replies but as things often go, when it came to puttin’ the dinero where the boca is I got zero commitments. So after Kevin’s good follow-up I said ‘fuck it’ and went alone. The “camp” (really an old cow farm), located in Orland, CA is about a 3-hr. ride northeast of San Francisco depending on traffic and whether you’re on two wheels or four to get there. Either way, once you get past all the crap-tastic weekend traffic on 80E through Vacaville it’s a straight shot another hundred miles or so along country highway; the median is lined with the most beautiful large bushes, and this time of year they are in full bloom with pink, blue, purple and red flowers.

I guess the only drawback to that part of the journey was having to keep the face shield of my helmet down since at an average speed of a buck o’ three the bugs really kinda sting when they smack into your forehead.

So I get to the farm around quarter past five on a Friday afternoon. In Orland it’s about 85 degrees and I can’t wait to strip out of my leathers. I see this guy in a straw hat driving around a pasture-turned-dirt track in a big diesel pickup so I wave out to him.

The man pulls in, introduces himself and immediately jokes that I look like Mel Gibson in the Road Warrior. I guess he wasn’t expecting me to show up on my street bike. Kevin is a shorter guy, about 5’7” or so. Wearing no shirt, the first thing that struck me about him is that at 50 years old he’s really quite muscular. His personality, matching his body is much like a high school kid; tons of energy in a small package, a few parts goofball, perpetually excited, and thoroughly fanatical about his hobby.

I parked my big bore sport bike in the adjacent barn next to three 125 and 150cc mini bikes which we would be riding during the weekend.  Then I finally got to peel off my road riding gear and hastily dug my shorts out of the tank bag. I walked across the open field to find Kevin attempting to partially dam up a run-off creek near his track in order to get a pool of water to draw from with his gasoline-powered pump. I tossed him a bunch of big rocks, we got the thing rigged and a short time later I found myself helping to water down a small pasture that we later used as a flat track.

Kevin has great enthusiasm for this endeavor and it was kind of funny to observe how obsessed he was about using his recently-installed pump system.  I noted the sparkle in his eyes as he contemplated future improvements to the track, and I couldn’t help but be excited too. Through whatever circumstances this guy finds himself the owner of a small farm out in “Cow Country, CA” and he decides to sink a couple thousand bucks and many back-breaking hours converting about 5 acres of it into a pretty gnarly motocross track. (his wife gets the rest for her horse riding pleasure)

On that first evening Kevin took me into “town” and we stopped at a road-side Mexican joint. We placed our orders; I was drinking Corona and he got a blended margarita on tap -yep, on tap- then we walked outside to breath in the sweet smelling night air.

Through our conversations Kevin made it clear he was elated that I had made the trek out there, and he was kind of bummed at others’ flakiness. Apparently a couple other guys bailed on him that weekend. Kevin is really hoping to make back the money he has thus far invested into the place -and more (can’t say I blame him) as he has plans for further improvements. Many more water spigots must be added if we are to get the back part of the track properly doused!

Back on the farm we polished off a couple bottles of cheap red before finally crashing out around midnight-thirty. Since I was Kevin’s only guest that weekend he let me stay in the upper bunk of his camper. A very gracious host, he even paid for my meal that at the restaurant since I had helped out with the watering duties earlier.

I woke up the next morning around nine, surprisingly without a hangover. It must’ve already reached 80 degrees by that time. I threw on my shorts, downed a bottle of iced coffee and joined Kevin out on the track for …you guessed it, watering! He had already been up and on the task for a couple hours by then.

Eventually it came time to do what I went out there to do. I was pretty fired up as I donned the dirt riding gear. Kevin gave me the slightly taller Honda CRF150 and he rode the “scrapper”; a re-built Yamaha 125.  We did some loops around the flat track to begin. After not riding off-road since Thailand four months earlier it took me awhile to feel comfy again in the saddle. I dumped the bike a few times and when we pulled in for a break Kevin said to me pretty flatly, “man, you can’t turn for shit.”  Uh, thanks.

But many other real tips did follow and I attempted to make the necessary corrections.

After some more loops on the flat track we jumped over to it’s big brother, a pretty technical maze of jumps, turns, banks and berms, some with mud for added fun! I took a couple more nice dives, mostly low-sides when the front end slipped out (Kevin kept getting on me to keep more of my weight up front) but some of the times I lost it were coming down off jumps that just dropped off into the netherworld or barreling around corners where I simply got behind the bike’s momentum too much.

It was goddamn hot out there and every time I dumped it I lost that much more steam in the 85+ degree weather. It became a tall task to pick up the bike, small as it was, get it turned over with the kick start which often took several tries, and regain my momentum. I was sweating like a fat line cook at a greasy spoon and I had to pull the goggles off my face immediately after each wipe-out in order to not over-heat as I stood out there jumping on the kicker lever. But giving credit where it’s due, I saved it a whole lot more times than I lost it and by the end of the weekend that ratio improved further.

In fact, by the end of the second afternoon my riding posture was a lot better and my success climbed at a similar rate. Needless to say the fun factor followed accordingly.

I’ve been riding the roads for a decade but off-road for less than a year. It’s a totally different, yet equally thrilling experience which I am elated to have discovered. Plus, the lessons you learn on the dirt absolutely cross over to the road and will surely make you an all-around better motorcyclist.

Kevin Anderson’s clear and patient hands-on instruction along with his gregarious “country boy” style has no doubt exponentially propelled me along the path to becoming a much improved rider. This is in many ways a culmination of his life’s practice. The love he’s put into the sport over so much time comes shining through.

Kevin is authentic. He is enthusiastic. He has many years of riding and racing under his belt; knowledge which he’s happy to impart to you. He is also pretty fortunate to have that parcel of land to play on, and I get the sense that his decision to turn it into a dirt track is the same one he would have made at age 15. I hope he is successful enough with the riding lessons to be able to maintain this playground for many more years…partially for selfish reasons.

See you soon, Kev!