MR Interviews Alice Sexton!
Interviewed by Michael McCook #41
2008 Tomahawk MX Park
Waiting out the rain with Alex Moroz
MR: It’s great to have the opportunity for the MR readership to get to know you. Tell us how you got started in motorcycling?
Alice: I was living in Washington DC surviving as a freelance graphic artist back in the days of cut-and-paste. I did a lot of poster work for the local under-ground progressive radio station and I’d often have to run downtown and get last minute art supplies. I’d end up wasting an hour trying to find a place to park. My rust-bucket car died and I remembered seeing all of these “Motorcycle Only” spaces that were pretty much empty across the street from the art store. Thinking that it would be an easy way to get around the city, I went out to Coleman Powersports in Arlington, VA to look at… what? I had no idea.
I figured I’d go have a look around and see what motorcycles looked like up close. Note that I am only 5’1” and about 110 lbs. Most of the bikes were way too big for me. I looked at the big red Honda scooters and the small cruiser clones. Neither interested me. I asked the salesman didn’t he just have a bicycle with a motor in it? He smiled…saying he might have just the thing down in the basement.
We waded through a sea of bikes and he brought me to a little blue Honda CM200 way back in the corner. The DC police rode these bikes and this was a leftover from their order. $700.00 and it was mine. I could mostly touch the ground, but still the bike had these swoopy handlebars, swan neck, I later learned. No problem the salesman took me upstairs and showed me a straight MX type of bar. I said yes to that, and then I said, “What about falling over?” Again no problem, he showed me these huge crash bars. OK, I’ll take those too. Next he said I needed a helmet. Ok. Done. I wrote a check, took my helmet and the salesman said he’d call me when the mods were done. Yikes.
2008 Barber Vintage Festival
Vintage Superbike Middleweight
A week later I went to pick up my new motorcycle. I asked, “How do I get it home?” “Most guys get the hang of it in the parking lot here and then ride it home,” he said. All right. In a short few minutes I was wobbling around the parking lot and an hour later, after going around the block a few times, I knew there was no way I was going out in DC traffic. I took the Metro home and found a friend to drive it back to my apartment for me.
Realizing that I needed a mentor, I started noticing these motorcycle courier guys whipping all over town on yellow bikes. Later I learned they were BMW/5 s. Those couriers were nuts! We’d ride down to the 9:30 Club and half of them would be pulling wheelies while the other half were standing on their seats ‘surfing’ down the street. Those were wild and crazy times.
I put 3,000 miles on the little Honda CM200 in 3 months, sold it for what I’d paid, and bought a Moto Guzzi V50. Before I bought the V50 I took the MSF advanced course, as they said I had too many miles to take the beginner course. It was pretty funny, really. This military guy was our instructor. I don’t think he liked my punk rock hair or the fact that I was the only female in the group, not to mention I was on this little Honda. Anyway, I passed and that was the goal. All told, I could probably write a pretty funny book on learning to ride the WRONG way.
Since many of the DC motorcycle couriers raced at Summit Point, I spent quite a few weekends there helping out. When we weren’t at the races we’d go weekend camping. Mind you, this was back in the days when most riders only had one bike and made do. We rode fire roads that turned into goat trails, laying our bikes over on their sides to scrape the mud out from under the fender and then keep going deep into the woods, up and over the low mountains until we had a camping spot where one couldn’t hear cars or people.
Many years later I remember riding with a friend who was new to the area, so I was showing him around the secret places out near the Blue Ridge mountains in Virginia. He had a new dual-sport bike; I was on an old 650 Ducati (which is now my husband’s championship winning AHRMA racer). We were screaming down some back roads and later he was laughing saying, “You didn’t even slow down when the road turned to dirt, and then mud and then a trail!” Well- it ain’t a ride unless you ride some dirt and cross a few streams now is it?
MR: When did you first hear of AHRMA?
2005 Willow Springs Motorcycle Club
Getting passed by husband Ed Milich
Alice: By this time I had sold the V50 and was riding a 1977 Moto Guzzi Lemans 850. Guzzis fit my short inseam, and once I replaced the clip-ons with a Eurobar, all was good. Getting hooked-up with the Moto Guzzi club introduced me the guys who were racing AMA Pro-Twins. I ended up tagging along as driver, pit-crew and go-fer to races in Daytona, Mid-Ohio and the likes. I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I was next to Doug Polen, Kevin Schwantz, Scott Russell and Freddy Spencer in the pits! The down side was seeing Jimmy Adamo get killed.
A few of the same guys who raced WERA at Summit and AMA Pro-Twins also had started racing with a new group, AHRMA. My first experience with AHRMA was at Summit Point seeing the pits lined with the entire fleet of Mr. Barber’s fabulous vintage bikes! After that I went to AHRMA races up and down the east coast Daytona, Roebling, Talladega, Summit, Louden, loving every minute of it. As a kid, my Dad was a mechanic and raced powerboats at the club level, so I learned to enjoy the club-racing scene at a very early age. Going to AHRMA and WERA Vintage events fit right in with how I grew up. My one friend Mike Tiberio summed it up as this, “It’s like going to a family barbeque where you go out and risk your life for 20 minutes before the cookout.”
2008 Bonneville Vintage GP, Miller Motorsports Park. First graduating class of Doug Pole AHRMA New Riders School
MR: When did you start in racing?
Alice: In 1995 I got creamed by a left turning Buick, which totaled the Guzzi and left me with a compound fractured wrist. After nine months of physical therapy I regained 85% use of my left wrist. So I went looking for a bike with a hydraulic clutch. Bill and Nancy Dietz sold me Nancy’s 650 Cagiva, which is pretty much a 650 Ducati Pantah with a funny name. My physical therapist told me I could not ride a motorcycle, I said, “Watch me,” and headed for Daytona Bike Week. I wasn’t going to miss the AHRMA races, that’s for darn sure.
After the accident, riding on the street really frightened me; my hands shook at every intersection. My racing friends said I should get my license and come out to the track where it’s safer. Right. My brother and I pitched in together and bought an EX500. He took the MARRC (Mid-Atlantic Road Race Club) school first and then the next month it was my turn. We both passed although he’s a lot faster than me. After trying to race one or two weekends, I found it was just too much for me to do alone. Wrench on the bike, get it to the track, race, heck I couldn’t even get the bike in and out of the truck by myself. It just was too much work to be fun. So back to track days and being pit crew for other racers.
Seven years later I am married and living in Southern California. I convinced my husband to get his race license with WSMC (Willow Springs Motorcycle Club) just so I could get back into hanging out at the track! He turned my street bike into his race bike and started doing really well. With my husband Ed as mechanic, racing became doable for me. He set me up with a matching Ducati 650 and a Moto Guzzi V50 as well. For the last 2 years I’ve raced Vintage Superbike Lightweight and Middleweight with AHRMA. This year I raced Daytona for the first time. Wow, that banking is bumpy.
While working for AHRMA, I went out of my way to get more involved with the off-road disciplines. I took an MX class at Lake Elsinore, after which I drove myself home sitting on a 5lb. bag of ice. Don’t ask. This year I rode VMX at Tomahawk in West Virginia, thanks to Steve Marpes for lending me his little yellow Yamaha. I also got to take the Mick Andrews trials class at Sandia. I probably did worse at this than anything I’ve ever tried, but at least I didn’t fall over! Thanks here to Jim and Sylvia Crain for the loan of the pretty little Ossa trials bike.
MR: At what point did you get involved with AHRMA?
Alice: I was offered the job of AHRMA Communications Director in fall of 2006 when Matt Benson put in his resignation. At the time I was Brand Promotions Director for Advanstar Communications who put on the Cycle World International Motorcycle Shows. AHRMA needed Matt’s replacement immediately and I was unable to leave Advanstar without giving sufficient notice so the job was handed over to Peggy Cozart. Matt Benson was kept on the AHRMA on the payroll for all of 2007 to help Peggy. Even so, after only one year, Peggy handed in her resignation. By then my position at Advanstar had ended, and I was able to accept the AHRMA Communications Director job starting in December of 2007.
2008 Barber Vintage Festival, Sidecar passenger on John Landstrom’s BMW
MR: What made you decide to run for Trustee?
Alice: Honestly? Sitting through board meetings and seeing how AHRMA business is currently conducted clenches the deal for me. There is a wealth of wisdom on AHRMA’s board, and almost every Board member has AHRMA’s best interest at heart, but it is truly time to move into the 21st century. We currently have two board members who refuse to use a computer unless absolutely required. Another submits his barely legible agenda items scribbled on a yellow legal pad. Our Treasurer questioned on-line registration and other common business tools because he truly believes that no one uses the internet.
When told that the old membership data base software was incompatible with the new operating systems another Trustee explained to me that memory should be no problem since the office had new computers and he knew his computer had lots of memory because it was large in size. Another Trustee brings four pages of typed complaints about everything from cost of office supplies to individual member’s race entry refunds, and proceeds to read them aloud. One Trustee tried to discredit the ED by sending a registered letter to her home office when he knew the entire staff was at Mid-Ohio. Some Trustees’ wives and family members currently perform confidential AHRMA Trustee business. And that’s just the minor stuff. The Team Obsolete lawsuit should have indicated to everyone in AHRMA that our leadership is faulty.
Half of the Board currently believes everything that happens is a conspiracy to take over AHRMA, destroy AHRMA, or harm AHRMA and that they personally are the only ones who have the good of AHRMA in mind. This constant defensive stance is tiring and overshadows each and every decision. Unless we rid ourselves of this pervasive negative, suspicious and defensive attitude I wouldn’t be surprised to see AHRMA involved in another lawsuit.
This behavior has existed in the shadows for entirely too long. My campaign has attempted to bring all of these issues into the light of day so that members can decide for themselves whether such behavior is acceptable or not. As you may expect, surfacing such information has not endeared me to some of the vested interests within AHRMA, particularly with the people who have entangled us in lawsuits (plural- AHRMA sued Team Obsolete over the BEARS name before they ever sued us) and similar destructive behaviors. Getting this all out in the open, though, is the best way to avoid future lawsuits and throw off the chains that restrict our organization’s growth.
2008 Bonneville Vintage GP, Miller Motorsports Park. Modern sidecar class, passenger on John Thomas Wood’s Suzuki
MR: What gaps in AHRMA leadership do you hope to fill by being elected?
Alice: Obviously, one person alone is not going to be able to affect any change. The Board needs to come together and start looking for positive attitudes and solutions that will ensure AHRMA’s future success. One of the biggest things I hope to offer if elected to the Board is my experience and contacts in the motorcycling industry, media and marketing. When I asked the Board who does marketing for AHRMA, the answer I got was, “Oh, we had this one guy, but he died.” When I wondered why the current chairman of AHRMA’s marketing committee wouldn’t return my emails, I was told that he was appointed to that position by the board members as a joke and not to send him anything. What Board takes marketing as a joke?
Even with the economy in the toilet there are many sponsorship and advertising opportunities out there that AHRMA has not been able to land. One reason is the outward image AHRMA projects. Regardless of his merits, the re-election of our current Treasurer is a disaster from a marketing point of view. There is no clear voice broadcasting AHRMA’s attributes and no solid marketing plan for future development. AHRMA is the premier vintage racing association and we need to start acting like leaders in the vintage community. Taking the first step in this direction will go along way to improving AHRMA’s image and allow us to take advantage of the “new and improved, no more lawsuit” AHRMA.
2008 Bonneville Vintage GP, Miller Motorsports Park. Getting lessons
from the master, Doug Polen
MR: What challenges do you see in front of AHRMA both short and long term? And how can they be solved?
Alice: Short-term challenges:
Update AHRMA business practices. Focus on branding and marketing to promote AHRMA as a leader in the vintage racing community. The solutions here are quite simple, but they require discipline and good execution. The Board also needs to stop using AHRMA funds to hire out reports such as the one that our Treasurer’s daughter just finished on the membership database. Everyone knew that the old software was not compatible with the new operating system, so why did our Treasurer spend over $2000 to prove it? We have a wealth of experience and knowledge in our AHRMA membership- accountants, engineers, computer techs and other disciplines that we should tap into.
Cultivating a vibrant volunteer base. Volunteers get very little support and the burnout rate is a big problem. In some cases, volunteers should be compensated for their efforts-and compensation does not have to be monetary. There are plenty of suggestions floating around out there, let’s take a look and see what can be done. Again let’s use the knowledge and business experience of our members to benefit the organization.
1994 AHRMA Louden International Speedway, my Moto Guzzi and motojournalist Michael D. Green’s Ducati
Defining an over-arching AHRMA mission statement and future goals. Without a firm mission and goals, how do you plan for the future? Based on the mission and goals, develop a business plan to reach those goals. In business there are benchmarks that are clearly defined so that everyone knows the plan. Once plans and goals are in place then success needs to be tracked. What worked? What didn’t? Are we in-line with our projections?
We need to unify our off-road regions. I think the AHRMA board has displayed a lack of leadership, egotism, and poor listening skills in addressing regional concerns. Trustees should pay attention to overlapping scheduling so that members don’t have to pick one event or another. Trustees should also be respectful of volunteers as they are simply the lifeblood of this organization. Some of our regions are frustrated to the point that they are splintering off from AHRMA and forming their own organizations. Trustees should put their egos and self-interest aside and work harder to unify our off-road regions.
Restructuring Board of Trustees. The AHRMA Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws were established years ago. The organization has since grown so that many of the original concepts should be updated to better reflect AHRMA’s growth and to lay groundwork for the future. One way to bring fresh ideas and new business relationships to the organization would be to impose Board member term limits. Another solution might be to open the country to three regions rather than just two and have each racing discipline represented in the voting with 2 off-road, one road race and one dirt track representative from each of the 3 regions. Again, one person won’t have all of the answers. AHRMA’s Board should be more open to new business ideas and more innovative ways to ensure the success of the organization.
1996 Daytona Bike Week. 650 Ducati
MR: In Closing please give us your final comments and thank you for your passion!
Alice: I am honored to be running for AHRMA Trustee. I have only the best intentions for AHRMA. Based on my past experience as Communications Director, I must admit to checking my mailbox everyday for a letter from our new AHRMA ED notifying me that the Board has yanked my membership just like they have in the past with others who have dared to call them out. Article II, Membership, Section 4 c) of our current By Laws states: “The Board of Trustees, at its sole discretion, may terminate, suspend or choose not to renew any membership at any time, with or without cause, if the Board shall deem such action to be in the best interest of the Association. The Executive Director shall immediately notify a member in writing of the action of the Board of Trustees.”
I also have heard from a reliable source, that if I am elected, certain Board members will immediately begin proceedings for my removal based on Article IV, Trustees, Section 9, G of the AHRMA By Laws: “Removal from Board: The Board of Trustees may, at any regular or special meeting, by the affirmative vote of at least nine (9) Trustees, remove a Trustee from office for the violation of any Association rule or any other cause, including, but not limited to, physical or mental incapacity to serve, conflict of interest, conviction of a felony or behavior detrimental to the Association or deemed to be against the Association’s best interests.” Hopefully, I’m wrong about this. I’m not quite sure why some of those AHRMA board members are afraid of a 5’1”, 50 year-old female racer. That stance certainly doesn’t reflect very well on AHRMA’s current leadership.