By Mike Garrison
Disclaimer: This article is titled "A Moment with Mike", and therefore is written by me (Mike). While you are reading this on LiveRC.com, this is not necessarily the views or opinions of LiveRC, but rather the opinions of Mike (me). Thank you for reading, and enjoy...or not, if your opinions don't agree with mine/me/Mike.
Following a list of recent events, many people have reached out to me in regards to tracks and their wheelchair accessibility, ramps, platforms on the drivers stands, safety codes, etc. I covered the topic of wheelchair accessibility in a Moment with Mike back in 2013 [CLICK HERE to read], however, I think its time we circle back around to re-discuss a few other things as well.
The entire reason I am involved in R/C car racing the way I am today is due to a paralyzing motocross crash in 2006. Since that time I have wheeled my way through the pits, drivers stands, and announcer booths of R/C tracks all around the nation. Some have a $150,000 drivers stand that is easier and safer to wheel up and down and race from than wheeling through the local Wal-Mart parking lot. Others I’ve found myself 20ft high up strapped to the front of a fork lift, propped in the bucket of a Bobcat, or carried up and down steep stairways by the buffest racers in town to announce the A-Mains. While the drivers stands, scoring towers, and racetracks are all very different, do you know what they all have in common? They all allow me to race my R/C car. They all allow anyone and everyone to race their R/C car.
(One of the many "risks" involved to race my R/C car at the 2008 IFMAR Worlds - Photo courtesy of NeoBuggy.net)
More and more tracks are coming under fire for not being ADA compliant, or following the same building specs, codes, and regulations that are expected of $4,000,000 hotel chains. As someone who can only move and function 25% of my body, requires assistance and a wheelchair on a daily basis, hasn’t walked a step or stood on a drivers stand in over 11 years, and is actually affected by ADA compliance and these codes more than most - I call straight up B.S. on it all.
In a perfect world every sidewalk would be crack free, every wheelchair would be equipped with hovercraft mode to skate over gravel, every R/C car would flip itself back over when you wreck, and every R/C facility would have hundreds of thousands of dollars to make sure every square inch of their facility is built to suit me. This is real life, it’s not a perfect world, and that’s what makes it great. A perfect world would be boring, and as they say, "there would be no good if there were no bad."
R/C car racing is my passion, it is my home away from home, it is all my friends, and it is my second family. The fact that places to race, enjoy time with my friends, and have pure fun are being taken away because someone who spotted a wire too low, pointed out structures built with the intention to hold fourteen R/C drivers are not up to military grade specs, or who walked up the wheelchair ramp declared it too steep and ends not only my fun, but an entire communities fun, is absolutely ridiculous and downright petty.
R/C car racing is a sport that anyone, absolutely anyone, can be involved in. Unless there is no longer a place to race, then NO ONE can be involved. There are plenty of places around the country that aren't up to code, the ramp is "too steep", or maybe don't even have a ramp. Some of those places are R/C tracks, others are places like the local fast food hamburger place up the street in which has the world's greatest double cheeseburger with bacon but absolutely no ramp and the most narrow doorways I've ever seen - too narrow for most cheeseburger eating people to walk through, let alone me roll through. Am I going to report the place because I can't fit through the door to get my cheeseburger? Absolutely not. Instead I'll work around it, because although its not perfect, with a little help I can still get that cheeseburger, and that cheeseburger is so good I can't imagine this world without out - and neither can hundreds of other locals who have thoroughly enjoyed it for years and years.
I've spoke to the owner of the cheeseburger shop, explained I can't survive without his cheeseburgers, and together we've made a VIP delivery service to the front row parking spot for those like me to enjoy that burger without ever getting out of my car. Every R/C track I have contacted directly to see if it was possible for me to race from my wheelchair has gone to great lengths to make it happen. One way or another, I am usually racing, and if not, it certainly wasn't from a lack of trying by the track. Do I plan to report these people who are giving my friends and family a place to race because I personally may not be able to race that weekend, or have to dangle like a spider monkey from a home made contraption to do so? Absolutely not. I'm doing what I love, and I could care less how I or anyone else does it, just as long as we get to do it!
The latest incident of a track being closed is not the first, last, nor is it the only incident I am referring to today. It happens more often than most realize, and I've seen too many tracks go because of it. All I am asking is that before anyone else shuts another track down by taking durastic measures, take into account if your concern is really affecting you, the feelings and concerns of those that it really does affect, the reason behind your actions (evaluate if it is anger or genuine concern that you have), and talk to the track owners first.
You only live once, and I have personally never felt in any sort of danger at any R/C track (not even during some of the most desperate measures I've taken to race), if you love something enough you'll do anything for it - even if that means wheeling up the steepest ADA unapproved ramp, or ducking under the deadliest of dangling speaker wires. While I may be ignorant for "putting myself at risk" to race my R/C car, I love what I do, and I'll risk almost anything to do it and not think twice. If you don't love it, don't ruin it for those who do, just leave it and find something else that you do love.
My family was once huddled in a room with a hospital pastor and told to say their goodbyes, as I wasn't going to live for more than an hour after crashing my dirt bike. That was over 96,360 hours ago, and since then I have done a lot of risky things in my life - including race a dirt bike again. Am I the smartest when it comes to safety? Probably not, but then again, the stories I will tell my grandkids are a going to be a hell of a lot more entertaining than just handing them a list of R/C tracks I shut down.