Thrills and Spills – Dirt Quake USA 2016 Review

Capt Thor Dirt Quake USA 2016

See See’s Capt. Thor leads the charge aboard USS Newton during the Dirt Quake parade lap.

Portland’s P-funkiness jumped the Columbia River and invaded its neighbor to the north as Castle Rock, Washington, was overrun by riders with big bushy ‘fros and polyester shirts unbuttoned to navels, the motley crew doing their quarter-mile disco dance on mini-choppers and tracked-out Sportsters. “Danger” Ehren in his electric-blue do didn’t disappoint as he barreled up Castle Rock’s TT Jump and launched himself in the air on his Harley, the Jackass star’s antics a perfect fit for Dirt Quake USA 2016. Nobody’s jump was flashier than Jimmy Hill’s no-hander as “Hillsack” earned top honors in the “Style” contest off the Rock’s TT berm. Friday night a fearless few did “Danger” worthy dashes on their motorcycles through the bonfire under a blazing moon, cheers for the most outlandish echoing through the campground.

And though the Dirt Quake circus was a carousel of fun, come race time, when the flag dropped, things got real. Clutch levers were dumped and mad dashes were made for that first corner, Dirt Quakers coming out of Turn 2 four-wide at times. Friends in the pits, foes on the track, watching Cory Rushford of Team Rusty Butcher battle Suicide Machine Co.’s Shaun Guardado elbow-to-elbow in a heat race proved that once the flag dropped, friendships went out the window. This scenario was repeated in the Hooligan Main as Rushford diced with the Speed Merchant’s Chris Wiggins all the way to the finish line, Wiggins holding on for the win by a hair. Shaun G can tell you how real the racing was. After a hard-fought victory in the Hooligan “B” Class final, he also came home with a “mild concussion, whip lash and broken ankle” after a digger in the Main final but added in his Instagram post that he “can’t wait to go back.” While the premise of Dirt Quake is fun, the caliber of racing stepped up a notch this year.

Rubbin id Racing Dirt Quake 2016

If you think Cory (24) and Shaun (66) don’t want to win, think again. Rubbin’ is racing!

It looked like the mother ship had landed when a spacegirl circled on a Scout and Captain Thor set out on the USS Newton ATC. We were impressed by the big guy on his spoked-down, whitewall-wearing Harley Springer scraping floorboards on the clay, tassels to the wind, battling bikes half his size and holding his own. Chopper riders threw fishtails to the wind, grabbed ram’s horns in both hands, and attacked the track with abandon, lapping faster than you’d think rakes like theirs would allow.

While races were the main attraction, sideshows like a “Style” contest off the TT hump, the first-ever Dirt Quake Bike Show, and helter-skelter mini-bike races in and out of the pavilion west of the track stoked the flames. Campfires dotted Castle Rock nightly and Audios Amigos and Moondrake added audio tracks to the powder keg. Trades, barters, and buys took place on vendor’s row along the perimeter of the track. The buzz of bikes lapping the campground was constant, somehow a Seattle Cossack even finding its way into the mix.

Spacegirl Dirt Quake USA 2016

Dirt Quake to Space Girl, prepare to blast off!

We overhead one Quaker say “this is how races used to be.” And that’s part of the beauty of Dirt Quake. It has that “back-in-the-day” feel and an organic atmosphere you don’t often find these days. It’s a Pacific Northwest drum circle of hammering V-Twins and thumping exhausts around a dirt oval in the forests of Washington, a funky beat of bikes and bro’s in the backwoods. Hosts See See, Sideburn, and Harley’ve got “a real type of thing going down, gettin’ down” at Castle Rock.