I lug my bike into the van, load up a half ton of firewood on the roof, pack the cooler and I was off.
I drove up from San Diego on the 5. Pit stop at the Iron and Resin Garage on he way up, and 5 hours later I was in 1945.
As soon as I pulled into the campground it felt like a complete time warp. Everywhere you looked there was glorious natural patina. Not that new fashion patina, that patina you could smell. That "I've beaten the shit out of this thing for the last 50 years and it still runs like a top" patina. I love that smell.
I pulled into my parking spot at he Oilers CC/MC campsite. This was the first time I was meeting any of these guys. I got the introduction through a friend from art school back in New York. At first glance you'd think these guys were raw meat eating, shower boycotting savages. Which in their own right some could be at times, but they were the most welcoming, outgoing honest guys I've ever met. Engines were roaring, BBQs were ragging, beers were being passed around. We had a couple drinks, shared some dinner and laid to rest for the big day ahead. Race day.
We woke up in the morning soaking wet and huffing gas. It had rained all through the night and my lean-to tent, which I bungeed to my Triumph, was in the perfect spot for the gas fumes from my leaking bulb to flow straight in the tent and up my nostrils. The Oilers cooked up traditional New Jersey pork roll breakfast sandwiches for everyone at camp. They brought 6 pounds of pork roll with them. They tuned their bikes over breakfast and we were off to the beach.
We arrived to the drive on pit location in the heavy rain. The swell picked up overnight and through the overlying grey fog you could see 8-10ft peelers. It was hard to not put the camera away and paddle out, but how many times do you get to shoot an event like this!? The bikes and cars barged down the sand ramp into the pit staging location. Sand was flying everywhere. This one cat who later introduced himself as simply "Detroit" dumped his knucklehead coming into the pits, sucking sand into the carb and ending his race day. But he had the biggest smile I've seen on a guy. Everyone was all smiles. Until they hit the start line that is.
The community around the event couldn't have been more welcoming. But when they lined up, you could see it in the racers' eyes, that all friendships, new and old, were off until they reached the finish line. Most of the bikes were jockey shift, and speaking with the racers afterwards, they said you go full throttle, drop the clutch, and just pray you don't miss a shift. Missing a shift or slipping on one the slightest almost guarantees a loss. Because of the wet sand the racers were coming across the finish line at almost 80mph. They ran the race as long as possible with the rising tide and swell. When it was all over, all that was left was turned up sand and stories for a lifetime.
Words and photos by John O'Callaghan