Motocross is one of those high-spirited sports that makes the old feel young again, and the young feel old ... well, grown up.
On Monday evening, the first night of the Jefferson City Jaycees Cole County Fair, the featured event was a motocross race. In preparation for the event, organizers scurried around while riders trickled in to the fairgrounds.
The grounds were sun-bleached and dusty, but 11-year-old Tylor Marshall and 8-year-old Claudia Robbins didn't mind.
The two contestants planned to win big Monday night.
"I'm pretty fearless," Marshall said, noting that one time he crashed his four-wheeler during a race, flipping the ATV over an earthen berm and crash landing.
With red, fluffy hair like a sheep's woolly coat, Marshall said the key to winning is to put out "the holeshot," which in motocross lingo means being the first rider to escape away from the starting gate and the pack. He said next the goal is to pass anybody in his way and finish the five laps as soon as possible.
"I just go fast and do the best I can," he said. "You just keep a straight path and avoid flipping over. You just keep on punching that throttle ... wide open!"
On her 50cc four-wheeler - a Cobra - Robbins takes a similar fearless approach to the sport.
"I've been racing since I was 5 years old," she said. "I love to go fast. It's pretty much my life goal. My goal is to get the holeshot and try not to do anything stupid. Normally if I do get the holeshot, I usually win the race."
In her white-and-pink four-wheeler, Robbins is a speed demon in pink sequins.
"One time, my back tire was inside the fender of" another rider, she said. "The flaggers pulled us out. She ended up in front of me - it made me so mad - but I ended up winning."
I asked Robbins if she had anyone she idolized in the sport.
Marshall interjected: "I'm, like, her idol..."
To which she replied, jokingly: "No!"
The two agreed that later in the evening they planned on visiting the carnival rides. Marshall was keen on the roller coaster; Robbins' favorite is the bumper cars.
For the two friends - who regularly compete in motocross events around Mid-Missouri - the day at the fair is just another summer day.
Motocross is a sport that appeals to participant of all ages.
That same day, 52-year-old Derek Collier of Fulton was getting ready to participate, too.
"My wife tells me: "Look around. You're the oldest guy...'" he joked.
Collier said when he was a kid in the mid-1970s, he would sneak off to the races behind his parents' backs. One day, they showed up, and he thought he was in big trouble. Instead, his parents realized the sport wasn't the "bloodbath" they feared and allowed him to participate.
He described motocross as an athletic sport that requires intense levels of mental strength and physical stamina from the pros who compete. He noted the sport was originally popular in Europe before it was exported to Southern California. Eventually, it caught on across America.
For Collier, motocross is a good way to spend time with his 19-year-old son, Dustin Collier.
Derek rides a 1980 Honda CR 250; Dustin competes with a Suzuki RM 250. The latter bike is faster than the former, but Derek said the vintage racer is a hoot and a conversation piece.
"I've wanted one since I was 17," he said.
The two see it as more of a casual hobby than an obsessive interest.
"It's a father-and-son sport for us," Derek Collier explained. "And it's been my ministry to the kids in the neighborhood ... I've taught them all to ride.
"It does keep me young."