There are a handful of motorcycle events that stand like holy holidays on our calendar. Rockerbox 2016 is one of those events. Each year, on this hallowed weekend in early June, a small group of intrepid road racers gather at Road America, The National Park of Speed. No, this isn’t AMA Superbike or MotoAmerica with their factory race teams, massive support vehicles or flocks of umbrella girls. This is an AHRMA weekend, and has been since before adopting the Rockerbox label.
AHRMA stands for the American Historical Racing Motorcycle Association, and what it lacks in spectacle, it makes up for in soul. Made up almost entirely of enthusiast racers, if AHRMA were any more grass roots, they’d be racing lawnmowers instead of motorcycles. Road America is race number six in the ten race 2016 AHRMA season, which culminates at the Barber Vintage Festival, one of our other annual holy days.
Like many AHRMA racing weekends, the Road America event is shared with a festival. In this case, the Rockerbox Motofest; which features live music, a garage builder bike show, vendors, and a carnival atmosphere complete with food truck cuisine. Road America also has a zip line this year, which while I haven’t taken the ride myself, must afford a spectacular view of the racetrack.
While the bulk of the foot traffic comes in on Saturday for the festivities of Rockerbox 2016, the weekend is a longer affair for the racers and the rest of us in the paddock. The Motoworks Racing crew arrived on Thursday to get the paddock set up and be ready to go for Friday practice sessions. For us, Saturday’s Rockerbox festivities would be more like the half time show, because we were there to race. The day trippers who came in for the corn dogs and the stunt show would come and go, and we hope they had a great time, but everyone in the paddock knew the truth. This is our weekend.
Like all the AHRMA events fielded by Motoworks Racing, we pitted adjacent to our ChiVinMoto compatriots at Road America. Paul, Josh, our own Craig C. and other Chicago-based racers would head out to their respective races, often bringing back wins and podium finishes while Johnny Moto and Little Buddy waited waist deep in their racing leathers for their races to come. Team Motoworks Racing brought a trio of BMW R65 race bikes to Road America this year to compete in Vintage Superbike Lightweight and Vintage Superbike Middleweight. Yet the real race was always between Johnny “Moto” Scheff and Josh “Little Buddy” Saxe. On team orders, Johnny let Little Buddy take front position so that he could chase points. This was easy for Johnny to enforce, being as Little Buddy was also the faster rider almost all weekend long.
“I’m super stiff and riding like dog shit out there.” Johnny happily admitted throughout the weekend, despite consistently taking 6th and being far from last place. LB finished in 4th in Saturday’s Vintage Superbike Lightweight race, just shy of the podium. The points chase continues.
When the races end, it’s the time between the races that makes an AHRMA weekend like Rockerbox so much fun. It’s a great excuse to enjoy everything Road America has to offer. With the roar of motorcycle racing as our backdrop, we could roam the paddock and catch up with old friends. We could shop the vendors set up at the bottom of the hill, or enjoy the wide variety of carnival food at the top. Best of all though, one can hop on a motorcycle and roam around Road America’s incredible facility at will. There are at least a dozen good views of the track and on two wheels, getting to any of them was as easy as a leisurely ride across the grass.
In years past, most of us have camped out at Road America, which affords great facilities designed to handle a much larger number of campers than this modest weekend brings. This year though, Johnny made a key discovery: The Turn Three Lodge. Across the road from Road America, with a near pristine view of the track itself, stands a lovely house representing a wonderful idea. Rented through AirBnB, this is the house that gear heads built. It’s there to serve racing fans and give them not simply a close housing option for a racing weekend at Road America, but a space grounded in their love of motorsport. There were even old auto racing tires around the property, turned on their sides and being used for flower pots.
The Turn Three Lodge transformed our experience for this event in two key ways. First, it gave us shelter from Saturday’s 90º+ temperatures, which had us sweltering in the paddock and huddled under all the shade we could find. Nobody enjoys camping through that. More important than creature comfort though, was how the Lodge enabled us to get all of our pals together and enjoy the evening after a long, hot, fun day of racing. When the action on the track came to an end and the sun began to set, Turn Three Lodge became the place to be. Everyone was welcome. Food and beverages were plentiful and the company couldn’t be beat. As the day’s heat floated away, we toasted yet another great race weekend at Road America.
Don’t worry, we’ve already got the Lodge booked for several Rockerbox weekends to come. Will you be there next year? We hope so.