Michael Parrotte is like a Bach fugue LP played at 78 rpm. Everything is very ordered, there are two or three themes all running at once; but for all its brilliance, the whole production is running at least twice as fast as it ought to be.
There's nothing surprising about that, Parrotte is into motorcycle road racing, a sport for madmen (and madwomen) who want to know how fast they can take a two-wheeler down a winding ribbon of asphalt once all the variables of cops, traffic and wildlife are cleared out.
Parrotte and his racing compadres are the backbone of "the world's largest, most disorganized road-racing team," according to charter member Dave Wald. The Maryland Racing Team sprang into being one day in Savannah when race marshals saw a line of: Maryland vans waiting to head home after a weekend of racing.
"Team Maryland now waiting for a lull in racing activity to cross the track," the P.A. boomed. And so it came to be.
Parrotte wasn't there that day. He picked up his membership the way all newcomers do. "You have to have a sticker. Either you can ask for one or we'll offer you one. But all the members have to have a sticker," explained Wald. "Here," he added, "you want a sticker?"
From the clutter of his van he emerged with a pair of 1 1/2 by 3-inch crack'n peel labels, sure enough. "These are the last two. We'll have to close membership for a while, You got here just in time." Welcome to the club, Team Marylanders are forever getting places just in time, and sometimes not quite.
Parrotte was in his standard 18-year-old hyperactive state on a recent weekend when the racers convened at the 2 1/2-mile track in Summit Point, W. Va., for Western/Eastern Roadracers' Association regional racing.
Parrotte had his leathers, his Agostini model AGV full-face helmet, his camping gear and food. The stereo system in the van was in perfect shape, his spare parts and tools were ready.
The only thing missing was a bike. Well, it was there, but it wasn't ready. A regular story for Parotte, for whom years of interest in and attempts at cycle racing had produced only one complete five-lap race. His racer is a 350cc Yamaha street bike, cut down but not drastically changed for road racing. He bought it from an insurance company for $125. "They said it was totaled. What idiots."
The Parrotte party arrived at Summit Point just as dusk was settling Friday night. All he needed to do before morning race time was take the engine out of the frame, disasssemble it down to the crankshaft, crack the engine cases and install a new oil seal, reassemble it and put it back in the frame and safety-wire all the appropriate nuts and bolts. A shop would probably take two weeks and charge his more than he had paid for the bike.
So at 8 o'clock he started. For five hours this man-child stayed in a frenzied whirlwing, ripping at wires, nuts and bolts, gears, fuel lines, bearings and seals.
At 1 a.m. he was all done, but for finding a tiny Woodruff key that got lost in the damp grass. He climbed into his sack in the van, munching a piece of cold Col. Sanders chicken - "If you get up before me, make sure and wake me up."
No need: At 7 a.m. he was back at work, and at 10, when practice started, he was almost ready. He got in one practice session: The bike stopped dead after the first lap.
More muttering and manipulating put things back in order, and an hour later Parrotte was on the grid for the second real race of his life. The flag came down and the bikes roared off - all but his.
"I thought they were starting us in waves. I'm sitting there waiting for him to wave us [the second wave] off, and all these bikes are taking off around me. What an idiot."
Anyway, all things being unequal, Michael Parrotte did just fine. He finished somewhere in the middle, he rode as if he knew what he was doing, and when he screeched to a halt in front of the van 10 minutes later: he was a man at peace with the world.
Team Maryland's next adventure is at Summit Point again, Oct. 22 and 23. Head on up and you'll meet Fabulously Fast Forrest Kerns and Crazy Joan Forrestell, the queen of Team Maryland. "She sets her points with a hammer and a chisel," said charter member Wald.
And if Gregg Cassidy the printer runs off some more stickers, you can become a member.