FIRST ROW WITH JASON ELLIOTT: Quite a journey for Flynn in the desert
With a population of 988, the small city of Odessa, Washington is fairly quiet most weekends.
The only exception is that first weekend in April, when around 36,000 motorcycle enthusiasts come to town.
Then, as Tia Flynn of Coeur d’Alene describes it, it’s like a big family reunion.
ON SUNDAY, after a two-year hiatus, the Stumpjumpers Motorcycle Club Desert 100 took place, with riders of all ages competing in the 50th edition of the race.
For Flynn, it was his 20th appearance at the event.
“Sometimes you’ll have up to 1,000 runners at the start line,” Flynn said. “They say it’s the biggest race in the world. It’s a grueling race. The city of Odessa triples in size.
The event takes place on a ranch and riders can do two 50-mile laps or just one lap. Conditions can include anything from rolling hills to mud after leaving the ranch. The event has been canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19.
“Of all the years I’ve done it, it was by far the dustiest,” Flynn said. “I kept hitting rocks and it was pretty terrible.”
Even so, it’s the fun that keeps her coming back.
“A lot of the time it’s the friendships I made,” Flynn said. “There are people I only see at the event. Because I am a woman, they put us in the same basket as professionals and children, and everyone starts at the same time.
Now 57, Flynn knows she may not be at the event much longer.
“When I was younger I was finishing in the top five,” Flynn said. “This year I was 16th because I’m old and slow. But I had 16 finishes in a row, which was good for me. I had a year where I had a broken collarbone, and another where I tore my ACL 5 miles into the race, and had to do the last 45 miles with it like that. I think now I’m done.
FLYNN, an audiologist (hearing doctor), did at least 10 errands a year.
“I basically work now to buy bike parts,” Flynn said.
Although she doesn’t know if she will race again in Odessa, Flynn still enjoys competition.
“I always appreciate when you go out and fly through the desert,” Flynn said. “Everyone is going one way and that’s racing. It’s dangerous, but you know when something happens, someone will help you and make sure you get back to racing.
One thing she won’t miss are the challenging hills.
“There was a hill they hadn’t had in years,” Flynn said. “When I got there, and seeing about 60 people stranded, I just wondered where I was going. I really had to get out there and push and push, puff and puff. So I just asked myself, why am I doing this?
Because it’s fun, whatever your age.
Jason Elliott is a sports reporter for The Press. He can be reached by phone at 208-664-8176, Ext. 2020 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JECdAPress.