Friends in the modern chopper-sphere know I wear my Florida pride on my greasy sleeve like a badge of honor. The Huck Finn childhood I enjoyed during my adolescence informs every aspect of my adult life to this day; camping, swimming, mud-slinging in sippy holes—Florida has them in spades, and I love them all. Ardent citizens of the Sunshine State are proud of the white-trash fun that bubbles from their home’s swampy hollows, perhaps none more so than BMX pro and third-generation Florida redneck Ora Jones III—Trey to friends and a quarter million fans on Instagram and Facebook. When Trey and our mutual friend and fellow Florida cracker John Paul Rogers—another dinosaur from BMX’s golden age—invited me to scout a venue for a possible motorcycle and BMX hoedown in central Florida, I jumped at the chance.
The Central Florida Motorsports Park in Astatula, Florida, is 30 miles north of Disney World, but from a cultural perspective, it might as well be on Mars. A cynic might call the place a post-apocalyptic shit show, and he would be right. On the facility’s 110 acres there’s something for everyone: a quarter-mile dirt track, three groomed courses for motocross and UTVs, a cement burnout pad for Tokyo drifters and enough full-service and primitive camping spaces for 4,000 fans and friends. Situated in the middle of all this mayhem is the jewel in CFMP’s crown: a half-million square foot pit of enough mud and misery to make Grave Digger shit in his driving suit. What mad scientist would cook up such a toxic stew? CFMP’s proprietor is a guy name Jeff. In addition to the motorsports park, Jeff owns the Race Car Diner—Astatula’s only restaurant—and a fab shop that builds monster truck chassis for 100 grand a pop. Big fish in a little pond? Jeff is a whale in a slop jar.
FOR A GOOD TIME, BUILD IT YOURSELF
A 20-plus year vet in the pro trenches once told me, “If you can earn a living in BMX, you can do ANYTHING.” Pressed for an opinion on that matter I might guess paying the bills as a custom motorcycle builder is the only profession less lucrative and more competitive. My point is, BMXers and motorcycle customizers have a lot in common. The best ones have big ideas, like to do things with their hands, and don’t mind getting dirty. At the ripe old age of 25—remember, he makes a living on “a kid’s bike”—Trey Jones has ridden for the coolest hard-core BMX brands, hit the hottest spots, clocked the sickest clips on YouTube and built an army of loyal fans on social media. Not a bad way to put bread on the table.
After living the life most BMXers only dream of, Trey grew tired of the status quo. An event like Floriduh Swampfest, Trey reckoned, might shake up the scene in a way that benefits everyone: bike companies, bike riders and fans of good old-fashioned fun. In exchange for doing 100% of the heavy lifting, Trey got help from Biltwell, GT Bikes, S&M BMX, Fit Bike Co., Sparky’s BMX and Subrosa Bikes to finance ramp building and importing rich red clay for prime trails. For Biltwell’s stake in the game I promised Trey I’d run a dirt track race for any chopper freaks who might ride in to watch his wild hair grow. After nearly two months of hard labor—building a ramp park with busted pallets isn’t easy—Trey and Jeff opened the gates at CFMP for the Floriduh Swampfest in early February. When the sun set on day two, 2,200 bike riders from as far away as Vancouver, BC, Japan and Great Britain paid 25 bucks per head for two days of free camping, unlimited riding, BYOB drinking and filthy good times.
WHERE YOU AT, CHOPPERAZZI?
For all the advanced hype we threw at it, the size of the chopper crowd at the Swampfest was weak. I understand not everyone on a custom motorcycle cut his two-wheeled teeth on a BMX bike as I did, but still, the ties that bind these similar sub-cultures together are stronger and more obvious than people might think. As mentioned earlier, BMXers—like their grown-up biker brethren—are DIY by nature, and love doing shit with their hands. The skill and bravery required to ride a BMX bike at a respectable level is off the charts—just ask motorcycle builder and vintage MX racer Chris Moeller. Chopper freaks with a little BMX under their fingernails might recognize the name; Mad Dog is an OG dirt jumper and the owner of S&M Bikes, the undisputed king of American-made BMX iron. I’ve been swimming in the deep end of the chopper pool for thirteen years, and I’ve yet to meet a motorcycle enthusiast under the age of 50 who didn’t run an S&M Pitch Fork on his BMX bike back in the day. Few men on two wheels motorized or otherwise are more fearless and self-made than Chris Moeller. I was stoked when Chris flew all the way from SoCal and borrowed a clapped-out Yamaha TW200 to race the Biltwell Circle Jerk. Was it worth it? Mad Dog’s smile tells the tale.
Thanks to my BMX bros John Paul Rogers and Ronnie Bonner for inviting Biltwell and me to join the fun. Thanks to the dozen or so bike riders and minibikers who showed up Saturday to bang elbows on the banana-shaped dirt track CFMP Jeff helped me build for the festivities. And of course, thanks to Trey Jones for hosting an amazing weekend of two-wheeled tomfoolery. Stay tuned to this feed for more news on future Swampfests—I’m sure this event will be a keeper. – McGoo