I love how life works. Whenever I’m going through something tough, it seems someone is sent in from the sidelines to remind me …
A) life is not fair (my dad also enjoys reminding me of this fact) and
B) life is not so bad. Not even kinda.
I enjoy a good reality check every once in a while (or every day, what the heck?).
No need to go into details, but due to some pretty awful back problems, I spent most of my summer confined to my couch, walking with a cane, and doing very few of the things I love to do—like not sitting on my couch or walking with a cane. Then I met Matt Bigos, a former motocross racer and mechanic who was paralyzed in a car crash (Travis Pastrana was driving the car) in June 2003. In November, Matt will race his first Ironman in Panama City, Fla., in November. Doctors told Matt he’d never walk again. So he decided to run. I originally reported on the accident for EXPN.com four years ago and finally met Matt on my last trip to San Diego, the first trip I took after I lost the cane at the end of July. Sure snapped me back to reality. I’m writing about Matt’s journey in an upcoming issue of Men’s Fitness.
Then, today, I met Ricky James. No, not that Rick James. This one. I’ve been following Ricky’s story for a while, and was excited to have the chance to finally meet him in person. Also a former motocross racer, Ricky was paralyzed in a race two and a half years ago, when he was 16. Ricky is what doctors call a “complete” paraplegic, which means until science catches up with spinal cord injuries, he will spend the duration of his life in a wheelchair.
Except for when he’s riding his dirt bike, driving a monster truck, racing trucks and jumping freestyle ramps.
Ricky is certainly not the first rider in motocross to be paralyzed (not even the first in his hometown of Murrieta, Calif., the mecca of moto) while racing. But he was the first to say, Okay, I’m paralyzed. So what? Doesn’t mean I can’t stop riding. And amazingly, he hasn’t. In July, he became the first paraplegic to race the Baja 500 and a couple weeks before my visit, he attempted the first backflips of his life into Ronnie Renner’s foam pit. He says he had no interest in freestyle before the accident. Now he’s interested in everything.
I drove to the James’ home planning to spend a couple hours getting to know Ricky and his parents, take a few pictures of the bike he and his dad modified to allow him to ride, and then head back to LA in time to beat the traffic. Six hours later, I left not because I wanted to, but because I was late for an event I was attending that night (the 35th Annual Surfer Poll Awards in Anaheim).
I hope to tell Ricky’s story in the magazine sometime soon. It’s a damn good one.