We now have the t-shirts to prove it: CariocaGirl and I survived Dirtwise this weekend. Shane Watts came to Wrentham, MA for the weekend to teach us as much we could absorb about dirt riding in two very full days. We were there with 15 other students (including Ritalin Boy and Chacifer). The weather was dry and not too hot and the site was pastoral, but dusty. The curriculum included practice runs on a single track through woods, over rocks, roots and logs. Most of our time was spent in drills out in the fields that focused on specific skills. Big thanks to CariocaGirl for making the effort to take these photos. Opening ceremonies on Saturday morning. For each exercise, Shane told us what we need to do, then showed us with a demo, then we did it (or tried our best), then reviewed it afterward. Shane's explanations were thorough and insightful. And he always gave us opportunities to ask questions. Lining up for the drag racing exercise (hard acceleration and braking). Dragging was an exhilarating drill. This Wrentham venue was a pleasant site to train. Slow racing - last one to the finish wins. I could ride slower during the practice session than in the race - performance anxiety. Shane demos flat cornering. Shane's demos were outstanding. He usually would start off slow so we could see what he was doing and then gradually crank up the speed. Our turn. Oval track exercise - putting acceleration, braking and cornering together into a fluid sequence. Easier said than done! Shane shows us how to grind - or how to knock some knobs off your tires - or how to mill lumber the hard way. Our turn. Shane shows us cornering in ruts. He is a virtuoso. Our turn. Andy roosts the tailgater with a plume of dust. Shane prepares us for the wheelie drills with more excellent demos. Our turn to act like hooligans. My clutch fingers were screaming before we were done. We even had a couple of spectators that wandered over to watch. Gratuitous wheelies these are not. One application is log jumping. Shane explained that the proper way is to pop the front wheel and bring it down on top of the log. Then he demoed exactly that with his usual precision. After seeing the demo I was trying to keep an open mind, but I didn't really see myself doing this. Though with some pointers from Shane, it actually happened. Oh what a feeling! (But better than a ride in a Toyota.) The finale was watching Shane demonstrate how to tear through the woods. We felt it through our feet as his wheels thumped against the rocks and roots as he raced by. Awesome. In addition to a collage of bruises and aches/pains everywhere, we came away with dust powdered all over us, vivid scenes that played back in our dreams for the next few nights, and some excellent new skills that we will put to use right away. It was great meeting everyone. See you on the trail!