i heart ocAs you’ve already know, we {heart} OC in a big, pink, puffy heart kinda way. But we know we aren’t the only ones. So, we’re asking our readers to tell us (& you) why they {heart} Orange County. Maybe it’s a specific attraction or restaurant. Perhaps is just the laid back way of life. Or, maybe it’s all about the Dole Whip on a hot, sunny day. Whatever it is, we want to know, & we figured we’d bring you along for the ride while we explore Orange County, California thru the eyes of our readers

i heart ocMeet Marisa. She likes Star Wars, although you can  blame her “kid” for that. Her “kid”? He’s cool. He’s 8. He rides BMX freestyle and races. & She’s fairly certain people are nice to me just so they can hang out with him, that’s how cool he is. Together they have a rescue MinPin mix puppy, Boba Fett, who is just as cool. She originally come from the Midwest, used to live in the UK and has an unhealthy obsession with squeezy Marmite and Indy Britpop. She likes good beer, pizza and gadgets. & You can usually find me with my nose buried in my iPhone. Particularly in awkward situations.

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BMX Orange County

What I heart about OC is a big pile of dirt. Ok, it isn’t just any pile. It’s the “World Famous” Orange Y BMX track, the number-one track in the US since 1977.

 

My son, now 8, started riding there within a month of getting his training wheels off. He’s  learned the ropes, won huge trophies, made friends, had birthday parties, trained with world champions, gone to summer camp and, yes, even got a concussion on that patch of dirt at the 55 Freeway and Chapman. He’s spent most Friday nights, Sunday evenings and plenty of Wednesday nights there for the past three years.bmx orange countyTo us, “Friday Night Lights,” means race night at the track, checking the moto board to see who’s racing who and, for me, sipping an MPS (“Miss Pat’s Special,” a mix of coffee, hot chocolate, caramel and marshmallows) from the snack shack.

Some of my most memorable moments with my son have taken place on this dirt pile. Life lessons, big victories, disappointing defeats and everything in between happens here for all sorts of families here three nights a week.

It’s kind of ironic that I spend so much time around the biking world, given that I didn’t really learn to ride until junior high. I was far too busy with ballet and gymnastics and girly things like that.

But my boy is just as comfortable on two wheels as two feet — if not moreso. His dad first took him to Orange Y about a month after he got the training wheels off the shiny, red Electra beach cruiser I had got him for his birthday. From that moment, he began taking the beach cruiser off curbs and little jumps. I quickly realized he was not longed for such a sedate bike.

bmx tracks in californiaI’d driven past the Orange Y BMX track dozens of times. I never really thought much of it until I saw my little 5-year-old, in a rented motocross-style helmet, ride around the track on a tiny BMX-style bike from a big-box retailer. But, the first time I went there, I was overwhelmed. There were all kinds of people, little to grownup, total beginner to top athlete, 3 to 50 years old (maybe older), wearing colorful motocross gear with funky-looking bikes. Luckily, folks are friendly and glad to help out a newbie.

You need a membership to ride at tracks sanctioned by the American Bicycle Assoc. (ABA), now known as USA BMX. But the sport is all about introducing kids to the sport, so they make it pretty easy. In fact, their motto is “Be That Kid.” You can start out with a one-day trial membership, and practice costs $7. They even rent full-face helmets at the track.

Parents can bring their children to ride the track at practice on race nights: Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. They even have a half-hour of practice for riders 10 & under, before they let the big riders on the track. As long as they have a helmet, long sleeves and pants and a bike that fulfills the requirements (no kickstands or pegs), and can ride without training wheels, they can ride the dirt track.

I’ve seen kids as young as 3 riding at the track. And racing.

bmx tracks in californiaThe track isn’t that long. Most riders can finish it in under one minute. Sure, it has some big hills. The littlest kids sometimes have to push their bikes to the top of some if they lose momentum. But there’s always a friendly helper to give them an extra shove, encouraging word or upright them when they fall.

But once they learn how to stand up and pedal, once they make it around the track all on their own, then the real fun begins.

Racing is split up by age and skill categories. Beginners race beginners in the novice category. The 5 & under novice class, where my son started his BMX career, always has the most riders, and the most enthusiastic parents on the sidelines.

“Pedalpedalpedal!!!” they shout at the kids, as if they’ll forget what to do if not reminded.

Every rider gets a trophy at their first race. Then, when they finish top-three for the first time, they get an even bigger trophy.

bmx bike tracksIf you’re looking to pick up a cheap bike or gear, there are usually people selling both at the track. If not, Bike Alley, just across Chapman from the track, has all the BMX race stuff you’ll need. And Ruben, who runs the track, also owns Bike Alley. He’s always happy to help out new riders pick out the right gear.

Even if racing isn’t your thing, there’s not much better than a birthday party here. It’s no-frills — basically, you get use of the track for a couple hours and bring your own food — but tired-out kids caked in dirt often make for the most satisfied party guests.

If racing is your thing, or if you’re just curious about the BMX world, make sure you come to the State Finals, Sunday, September 11 this year. The track will be packed with families from all over Southern California for the last big local race of the year. This race determines their state rankings for the end of the year. It’s a huge deal for all involved, especially those kids who get to ride the next year with a top-10 state number plate on their bike.

bmx orange countyYes, your kid could “Be That Kid.”

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So there you have. Marisa {hearts} a big pile of dirt. Get to know Marisa even more on her blog & you can follow her on Twitter.

xoxo, K

p.s. interested in contributing & telling us why YOU {heart} OC? Just send us an email: justspotted@gmail.com