The Race Of Gentlemen Pismo Beach Edition
Article And Photos Twila Knight
Originally Published In The February 2017 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
I knew of The Race Of Gentlemen only as an East Coast event. Rumors had been heard of it coming to our side of the country. My husband and I had discussed how in the world we were going to get to New Jersey to be a part of this intriguing event. At Born-Free 8, photographing the pre-party Adam Raizin spotted us among the crowds. Adam is a die-hard fan of all things Vintage, and has become a welcome sight at Born Free. He begins to tell us about TROG West in October, and how we NEED to be there. You could feel the mental highfive between my hubby and me from a mile away. Fast forward to October. The weather turns ugly, the clouds didn’t want to part. We live about 200 miles south east of Pismo Beach, the weather being so wet we decided to drive up, which meant room for our kiddos. Well, 2 out of 3 went at least. Waking up in the hotel Saturday morning to steady drizzle and a world seemingly set in black and white we became skeptic. The gates were set to open at 10 am that morning… Pushed to 11 because of the tide. I kept an eye on the press emails while sharing some breakfast with the fam. Finally, they called opening time at 1pm, with our check in at noon. Off we went. More grey, more rain.
As we walked up, we saw the racers crowded behind the gates leading to the ocean lined track. Spectators crowded the entry gates. I truly didn’t expect the sheer volume of people. Sometime around 2:00pm the tide graced us with some leeway and the racers scrambled into place along the beach. The best description I can offer comes from Grant Peterson, co-founder of Born-Free. “ M o t h e r Nature had her own plans that w e e k e n d . After staging on higher ground Saturday morning, we all waited anxiously just hoping to race. The top lot where we waited turned out to be an impromptu collection of early model motorcycles and hot rods. Hell, if that’s all Mother Nature allowed us, it still would have been a fun day. Just as we were beginning to worry the race may not happen at all, thanks to the high surf and storm surge, someone yelled out ‘OK, let’s go!’ We all fired up our machines and headed down towards the sand. For those that weren’t careful, or were steady on the gas, it was a bit tricky getting into the pits. That wet, downhill slope featured a lovely loose sand trap at the bottom. That could have been an event on its own, watching the participants get through this madness”.
As a photographer, the fog and rain only complimented the muted colors of the vehicles and clothing that filled the atmosphere that day. Like an old black and white movie that was brought in for hand coloring. I know the racers, press and staff were made to wear period correct clothing and colors, but the spectators were just as fully involved in setting the scene. We all watched as these aweinspiring machines rooster tailed off the starting line time after time. What we couldn’t see was what was going through the minds of the racers themselves. Again, I turn to Grant for that. “The weather had really thrown a curve ball to the crowd, the participants, and of course the staff putting the event on. We all did our best, did all we could to actually race that day, even if it was just for a few hours. In the end, we got to race almost a full day on Saturday! For those of us on the beach the weather didn’t even matter at this point, the bikes were running great, the hot rods were having fun and everybody was giving it their all. Although everybody that day was very friendly on the track, and there were lifelong friendships being made, it is still a very serious competitive race. These guys and gals want to win! There is a lot of bench racing that goes on for months prior, and everyone is excited to see how their machines will perform out there. I personally built a whole new bike just to race, and spent the last three weeks burning the candle at both ends to get it together. I was tired, anxious, relieved, but happy just to have made it.”
Adam Raizin was another racer. He traveled all the way from Florida to race in TROG West. Adam first attended The Race Of Gentlemen back in June of 2016 on the east coast, and had an awesome time. He says he knew then and there that he HAD to be a participant in TROG West at Pismo Beach that coming October. He did just that, racing his 1927 Ford Model T Roadster down that sandy track. After race day, he was having breakfast with Mel, the founder of TROG who suggested to him that next time he bring a Harley. “That is definitely my plan for next year.” As said so perfectly by Adam, “The camaraderie of the racers and the venue that the Oilers put together (which is no small feat, with or without Mother Nature getting her skirt in a whirlwind) was nothing short of amazing! The Race Of Gentlemen should be at the top of everyone’s list. As a driver in Pismo…. The event was a live changer”. Adding to the abrupt end of the weekend, Grant says “Of course we would have loved to race on Sunday and actually fulfilled the brackets to see who truly was the fastest, but we were still very happy to have been able to race at all. Before the end of the weekend we were all making plans for the next East Coast TROG to pick up where we left off. Remember even the worst day of racing is still better than the best day at work!” Unfortunately, Mother Nature did win half of the battle. The bonfire party had to be cancelled that evening, and the tides were set to be even higher with a constant rain the following day. The races ended with only one day of events, but left us all with the desire of more years to come.