You can get from Golden Valley to Belle Plaine in under an hour, if MnDOT hasn’t decided to shut down Hwy. 169. And in the middle of summer, if a beat-up sportswriter can see the promise of a column with that much travel time, point him south.
There was one minor problem in the middle of July 2007: The visiting reporter had minimal knowledge of the activity for which he would be conducting an interview.
Motorcycles or dirt bikes. The 450cc class or 250cc class.
The secret of success in these situations is to announce immediately that you will be asking naive questions, which is what I did when arriving at the home of Troy and Michelle Dungey, in the countryside near Belle Plaine.
The reason for the visit was Ryan, the middle of the Dungeys’ three sons. Ryan had turned 17 in December and already was a contender in the 250 class of the AMA Motocross (outdoor racing).
Ryan and his brothers, Jade, then 18, and Blake, 12, and a friend, Spencer Daly, were preparing to demolish a large pot of Michelle’s spaghetti. Ryan was doing so shirtless, not so much to beat the July heat but to allow some natural healing for the area where a patch of skin had been ripped off his lower back.
“That comes from the Michigan track, too,’’ Ryan said. “It has healed real well.’’
Dungey had been third in the 250 class standings entering an early July event at RedBud MX in Buchanan, Mich.
“I got sideways going over a jump in practice and remember thinking, ‘This isn’t going to be good,’ ’’ he said. “I went over the top and banged my head. Next thing, I was in an ambulance and hollering, ‘I don’t belong here. I’m supposed to be on the track.’
“I’m told I was very loud and my language wasn’t too good.’’
He was knocked out for two minutes. It was a concussion. He wanted to race. Concussion paranoia wasn’t then what it is now. But his parents traveled to all the races and said, “No chance,’’ as did the Makita Suzuki team for which he was racing.
There was an off week after RedBud, so Ryan was home for a few days, and then off to the event at Unadilla Valley in New Berlin, N.Y.
Ricky Carmichael was the 450 class rider and extremely influential with Team Makita. Ricky had watched Dungey’s tryout in California a year earlier, and recommended that Suzuki sign the then-16-year-old.
“I want to be the next big guy in this sport,’’ Dungey said that day in July 2007. “In a few years, I would like to fill Ricky’s shoes and to be looked at as one of the best guys who ever has done this sport.’’
Carmichael was such a legend that even I had heard of him.
The thought was: Really nice young man, Ryan Dungey, but some kid raised in Minnesota — where you’re lucky if the bike will even start for 42 percent of the year (that’s five months) — is going to be one of the best there ever was in big-time motocross and supercross racing?
On Tuesday, that nice young man announced his retirement from racing. He wasn’t giving up his dream.
“I’ve lived my dream,’’ Ryan Dungey said in a conversation Wednesday. “I’m ready for a new chapter in life.’’
Dungey clinched his fourth AMA Supercross 450cc championship in a rowdy race at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. It also was his third title in a row, putting him in exclusive company with Jeremy McGrath, Ryan Villopoto and, yes, Carmichael.
He also has three 450 class titles (2010, 2012 and 2015) and a 250 cc (2009) in motocross. He had 10 wins in 11 races as a big-bike rookie in 2010. And his second title in 2012 came with a new team — Red Bull KTM — for which he will continue in a nonracing role.
I did discover one not-so-minor oversight from the interview with Dungey in the summer of 2007. The family had moved to Belle Plaine in 2005 and he said: “I’ve gone racing and I’m home-schooled, so I don’t know anyone my age here.’’
Ryan failed to mention Lindsay Siegle, the waitress he had met in a stop at a local cafe, Annie’s, a few weeks earlier, and he had mustered the courage to ask for a date, and they now have been married for three years, and they are hopeful this “new chapter’’ will include babies, who will be required to crawl before they race.
Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. firstname.lastname@example.org