Hey Pat, I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to say more than a few words to each other at the recent I-500. We were both crazy-busy (as always). No biggie, because I knew we’d have a chance to catch up later this winter.
Since I have a moment now, I wanted to express my gratitude. After all, it seems like I’m constantly putting-off conversations with friends for “later,” when I have more time. There’s always another time to tell the people we care about, what we think, right?
The first thing I wanted to say is congratulations on yet another stellar I-500. You and the USCC crew continue to improve that amazing weekend, and you’ve brought it back to its rightful place as a pillar of the snowmobile racing season.
I know you took some flak for ending the race after two days, but never-mind those complaints. When I saw you in your pickup earlier that Sunday morning, the cell phone glued to your ear to hear reports of the blowing snow in Goodridge, the stress was like a heavy blanket draped over your body. I was glad not to be in your shoes. Your decision was based on safety and care for the racers. As long as those remain your guiding principles, you will continually make the right choices.
At some point during the weekend I had a flashback to the 1990s, when you were a cross-country racer instead of a race-organizer. I wondered to myself if you missed getting out on the course and pounding the ditches? How much simpler your life would be if you could just show up and race, rather than creating the race for everyone else.
And for some reason, while driving home from the I-500, I remembered a scene I’d witnessed a couple years ago at Haydays.
It happened in the USCC booth where, like always, lots of people were coming and going and asking questions, creating the chaos that defines that day. You were being pulled in a hundred different directions.
I’m sure you were running on three hours of sleep; you’d already heard a thousand suggestions about what you “should do to make the circuit better;” you were anxious to promote the circuit to potential sponsors, and you undoubtedly wanted to steal a few moments to yourself to check out the swap meet.
And in the middle of that chaos, your son Adam needed help with something that an outsider might have deemed inconsequential.
Instead of saying you’d help him later, when you had more time, you paused the dozen or so “official” duties of the moment and gave Adam the attention he wanted. I remember watching both of you laugh at a private joke you’d shared, and that classic Pat-Mach-smile you flashed at as the laughter faded. It was a beautiful, peaceful moment amidst whirlwind of responsibilities that would have otherwise carried you away.
You’ve sacrificed hundreds, maybe thousands, of hours of family time in order to make USCC happen, yet it was clear to me that day who – and what – was truly most important in your life. That exchange has inspired me to pause my own responsibilities in order to give my son a moment of undivided attention when he needs it. Thanks for showing me that lesson.
I recognize how important and integral your family is with USCC. I see your wife Lisa working registration, you mom managing the clothing sales and your dad helping with the computers and logistics. Your family is clearly your foundation, and the foundation of USCC “family.”
The last thing I want to mention for now is about USCC and what you’ve created.
As I watch you nurture and grow the circtuit, I’m forever grateful for what you and the crew have built.
Ten years ago, when the powers that shape the success of snowmobile racing had turned their attention and resources away from cross-country, the future looked bleak. The focus, hype and sponsorship were gone.
It seemed as if the lights were turned off, leaving a dark, uncertain future for cross-country racing.
But rather than curse the darkness like I and others so often do, you stood up, looked around, and lit a candle.
You recruited a cadre of like-minded friends, roughed-out some modest goals, convinced a few small towns to host some events, and started a cross-country racing circuit.
How you found the time and gumption to do this while juggling a young child, other sporting interests and a full-time job with the bank, is beyond my comprehension.
I’m ashamed to admit that I would never have headed down that path in the first place, because it’s so much easier to let someone else do it. Thankfully you’re not like most of us.
The circuit stayed off the national radar those first few years. While the glitz and glamour were attached to 53-foot semis and television exposure, USCC provided grassroots cross-country events in towns like Minto, Grafton and Ada, for average folks with two-place trailers and a passion for pounding a lonely ditchline.
Every USCC crew member I’ve had contact with over the years, has been excellent. These guys and gals are as passionate and professional as could be. Great people!
Over the years you and your crew of like-minded friends continually built upon the foundation, expanding the number and quality of races. Now your premier event – the Red Lake I-500 – once again attracts the strong racer and media participation that had mostly disappeared a decade ago.
And though USCC now sees some 53-foot trailers and factory racers, you’ve never lost sight of the everyday-rider, who competes for the experience with their paycheck, rather than for a paycheck.
Indeed, while no participant has gotten financially-rich from USCC during the past decade, everyone connected to this circuit has collected a wealth of experience that’s far more valuable than money.
For every night spent in a shop or garage prepping a snowmobile;
For every racer who has felt the electric anticipation of a USCC starting line;
For every crew member who has proudly filled a gas tank or held a pit-poncho;
For every spectator who has ignored a speed-limit to chase riders barreling down a whooped-out ditchline;
For every satisfaction of crossing a finish line;
For every conversation shared among family/friends as they drove home from a race weekend;
And for every dream-come-true…our lives have been enriched beyond measure.
All because of you, Pat.
I’ll see you soon.
P.S. I’ve included a few photos of you.