By Mike Garrison
There are a lot of various aspects in R/C in which I have had the opportunity to experience, but one that I had not personally experienced until this past week was the track building side of R/C. Growing up I have always loved dirt, I idolized the local motocross track owners, and wanted to someday grow up to be just like them. I have built several motocross tracks over the years, and did the skid loader work for one indoor R/C track a few years back, but had never fully engulfed myself in a start to finish off-road R/C track rebuild.
With one thing leading to another, I received a last-minute call from a friend to see if my wife and I would be interested in rebuilding our local outdoor off-road track. The trouble was, it was a Monday afternoon with racing set to take place on Wednesday, and there was a lot of work to do to get things fixed up and ready – especially for someone like myself who is still slightly clueless as to where to begin or what to do.
The track provided all the equipment, a general layout idea was put in place, and we went to work just before sunset on Monday night. I ran the track loader while my wife Britani shoveled, raked, and pulled pipe. At 2:00am Tuesday morning, we decided it was time for breakfast, a quick nap before our day jobs, and then we’d be back at it again Tuesday afternoon/evening. All-in-all the track took a total of 13-14 hours to rebuild, some creative thinking to get me on/off and in/out of the lawn tractor and skid loader, and what seemed like 10,000 nails and 400 miles of piping for Britani to hammer in place.
Is it the greatest track of all-time? Not even close. Am I a professional track builder with mad skills? Quite the opposite. Am I making this post simply to show appreciation for the often overlooked and underappreciated demanding work and dedication that track builders put in time and time again for us to have a track to race on? 110% you bet I am.
After this past week I have built one complete R/C track from start to finish. I have put in less hours than any real track builder, my wife did 99.9% of the demanding work, and yet I am still sore just thinking about it.
As a racer, I have always been right there with the rest of the crowd to voice my opinion when a track is boring, a layout doesn’t flow, the jumps aren’t right, etc. Little did I realize the amount of work and effort that goes into making such a “terrible” track layout. I got lucky (pure luck, and I will admit that) that the track we built was not a major “Wow, that’s awesome” by any means, but it also wasn’t terrible – therefore the complaints were minimal (despite the fact very few have driven on it due to rain).
Track builders around the country hear more about what they should do, what they should’ve done, how the track would be better if [fill in the blank], and so on. The one thing I don't think many of them hear is a simple, “Thank you.”
Our local racers and the track crew were very thankful, and showed sincere appreciation for our efforts, but it made me realize that I personally have not thanked track builders enough over the years. As a racer, the track layout goes one way when I leave the track on Saturday night, and goes a whole new way when I come back on Wednesday. I guess I just assumed there was a magic button somewhere behind the hobby shop counter that you pushed to install a new track layout, and never really gave much thought to it. I didn’t see the strenuous work with my own two eyes, therefore it seemed hard to imagine how hard “moving a little dirt around” could actually be.
“I have seen the light”, as they say, not to mention I felt it and I am still feeling it. I’ve done .0008% of the work any other R/C track builder has done, it’s a week later at 8:00am in the morning, and I’ve already maxed out on the amount of Advil and Icy Hot one should have in a single day still trying to recover.
Stepping back to look at it, TRUE track builders are some of the most creative, imaginative, prepared, strategic, determined, and straight up hard-working individuals in R/C. Next time you are at the track, whether you like the layout, hate the layout, think the lanes are too narrow or too wide, jumps are too big or too small, take a moment to remember that regardless of the outcome there was a lot of hard work with good intentions put into it.
Whether you are an occassional volunteer track builder, a regular local track builder, or have a full-fledged professional career as a travelling track builder – your hard work and efforts may sometimes have gone unnoticed, but not anymore. I speak for the entire R/C racing community in saying, “Mr. or Mrs. Track Builder – you are one gnarly dude/dudess, and we THANK YOU for all that you do.”