Noise, Big Tires, and Burning Eyes

(March 2007)

I hate billboards.  I lived in Richmond, Virginia for a few years and I swear the sun never rose before 10:30 for all the ugly things.  And I’ve never made a purchase after having been shouted at by one either.  Until now.

I have just returned from The Southern Thunder Monster Truck Rollout.

You know how a bad date is almost as good as a great date for the bit of bitching you get to do afterwards?  Ladies and gentlemen, hold on to your hats.  If it weren’t for beer and chocolate, I’d be relating this tale via séance.  So, thank you Anheuser-Busch and M&M/Mars.  What?  Did you possibly imagine I meant good beer and fine chocolate? Guess again.  But desperate times and all…

I did get to ride in one of these idiot machines.  At seven bucks, it was a massive rip-off, but still the highlight of the afternoon.

I’ll have to confess at the outset that I have no idea what just happened.  I don’t speak stadium reverb, but I’m pretty sure the announcer said, “I tell y’all whut!” a few times.  You’ve no choice but to raise an eyebrow and let a Keanu-like “whoa” slip past your lips the first time one of these leviathans crests the line of junkyard castoffs.  The first time.  Only the first time.  Honestly, if you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen it.  But they just keep taking turns, driving up to the line and popping ear-splitting wheelies over these crushed cars again and again.

I liked the donuts, though.  That was cool, because some of the trucks dance around on two wheels.  Apparently, the steering column controls the front tires (each nearly as tall as I am) and the rear wheels are on a toggle switch that the driver fiddles with in his other hand.  I think they all have three hands a piece, that being only one of their obvious mutations.  The ability to drive while comatose is another one.  I’ve never seen such a bunch of bored, lethargic, bowlegged goofballs in my life.  Maybe they were just hung-over.  I certainly would be if that were my job.  I’m weighing the merits of a booze-binge just to settle my nerves tonight.

The machines themselves are simply a strange thing to do.  I’m not sure how it ever occurred to anyone to jack a standard production pick up truck so high you have to climb the suspension to crawl into the cab, then modify it to something more suited to a Saturday morning cartoon than real life. One of the trucks, named Samson, had muscle-bound, fiberglass arms.  That’s just weird.  But the effects are impressive.  Fifteen hundred horsepower screaming in anticipation of bucking over a ramp of packed dirt and scrap metal will set your innards quivering and your own fight-or-flight impulse chasing its irrational tail up and down your spine.  It’ll also rattle the building from foundation to rafters, sending a shower of asbestos and paint flakes swirling around until you’re pretty sure you’re caught in a snowglobe on Satan’s knick-knack shelf.

The smell is interesting too.  They burn primarily racing alcohol which ends up reeking like incense.  I think it’s mildly intoxicating, because I assure you, Bud Light is not.  The hippy smoke wafting through the air was distinctly at odds with all the John Deere ball caps.  I’m still very confused.

There are other things, too.  There are Confederate flags and Jolly Rogers for sale.  They have earplugs, thanks be.  They have ATV races, but half the field was wearing red and black, so I really don’t know who won. They ran one race, then brought the trucks back for a few thousand skips over the flattened family sedans, and then ran a second ATV event.  I’m thinking all the over-21 ATV jockeys had three or four shots of Jagermeister in the interim and the juniors huffed some glue, because the second go round had much crashing and spinning and forgetting which way to go and ended up in a fist fight.  They were still all wearing red and black, so I don’t know who won the brawl either.

They had fire, er… dancers.  Well that’s what they called them anyway.  They looked more like a bunch of doped out Emo freaks woozing around, trying to earn their bus fare to Black Rock. But, it’s not everyday you see a guy on stilts with a flaming whip – though, to be true, he was no Indiana Jones.  I’m practically Catwoman with my dishtowel compared to this drowsy chap.  The girls with the flaming hoola hoops were something and it was a giggle to watch them get their heads and hips ‘put out’ by the extinguisher-towel-boy at the end.  I think they should do that off stage, as it takes all the magic out of wondering if they walk about in conflagration all the time.

If you can’t tell, I’m glad I went.  And if you get the chance, don’t say no, but don’t say I didn’t warn you either.  It was a hoot and I’m now sure, without a doubt, that the appeal of Monster Truck Rallies is beyond me.  But you never know until you try.


Author: jamiemason

Wrote THE HIDDEN THINGS, MONDAY'S LIE, and also THREE GRAVES FULL (Simon & Schuster's Gallery Books.) Might write something else if I'm not careful.

One thought on “Noise, Big Tires, and Burning Eyes”

  1. Hah! I’ve never had the slightest urge to attend one of these “events.” I figure they’re for white-trash hillbillies who are closely genetically connected. Their common heritage is likely what keeps them interested in the same fascinating things like Monster Truck Rallies, drinking Coors Light, and shooting guns in the backyard. I love your “inside” reporting. Even still, I doubt I’ll be heading down to the racetrack any time soon. Favorite line: “you’re pretty sure you’re caught in a snowglobe on Satan’s knick-knack shelf.” How do you do it????

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