All around is darkness, illuminated only by brief bolts of lightning forking in the distance. The lightning bears no sound against the hum of the engine of our big rig as it cruises along the straight, flat highway through the Kansas prairie. The Pro Motocross season has ended, and our only destination now is home. Normally at this point in the journey, I would feel light with elation, carefree. But tonight there is a heaviness in my heart, a weight that hasn’t quit its nagging since we left Unadilla a few weeks ago, where a terrible crash left Jessy Nelson in an intensive care unit of Cooperstown, NY.
Four years ago we were pretty new to the motocross scene. After our first season representing Lucas Oil at the Pro Motocross series, we started showing up to some California amateur events for the Road to Mammoth series, promoting our small business, mylucasoil.com. At the time we had only our Dodge truck and little “My Lucas Oil” branded toy hauler that we borrowed from a friend. We posted up trackside and started trudging around the track putting up our banners and flags.
I thought it was pretty cool when I heard that local pro Jessy Nelson was at the race. The fans and riders alike couldn’t help be a little star-struck that Troy Lee Designs / Lucas Oil / Honda rider Nelson was in their midst. Later, he would pull effortless holeshots against the fastest amateurs on the west coast, and continue to win races even after he gave his competition head starts.
The night before racing kicked off we were rummaging through our little fridge trying to figure out dinner when there was a knock on our door. We opened it and Jessy was standing there in the dark. He said, with a wave of his hand, “Hey, you guys hungry? Come on over to our camp. My mom made dinner. Plenty of food.”
Jessy’s mom served up stuffed mushrooms and bowls of fresh fruit for appetizers. Steaks and glasses of wine in plastic cups came next. She chatted easily, as if we’d all been friends for years. Jessy’s dad was more soft-spoken, his tone as calm as the sea, talking about the traditions of Mammoth Motocross, a favorite race for their family as Jessy had come up through the ranks.
Now they came out for these local races for the fun of it, and I came to realize they had a natural habit of looking after moto “orphans” like Jason and me. They were always quick to stop by and say hello or to extend an invite to their camp. Just weeks ago, Jessy's dad had showed up on our motorhome doorstep to check out my growing baby bump and ask about my pregnancy.
And Jessy, always smiling, always stoked to have another day on a dirt bike, had become a friend over the years. Though the riders and sponsors often inhabit a different space at the track, we were always there watching his races, cheering him on in his victories, chasing him around with our cameras, and claiming him as our favorite rider even after Troy Lee Designs went factory and changed oil sponsors. Jessy's relentless perseverance even in the face of obstacles and injuries, as well as his consistent humility and good nature, were always a reminder of why we love this sport.
Here in the dark these memories drift through my mind like dark clouds. I recognize the true nature of this despair is in its helplessness. Somewhere out there in the night, Jessy is wondering what his future holds, if he will regain feeling in his legs, if he will walk again. And all over this country, people who have cheered him on, and been entertained by him, and loved him, are helpless to influence his fate.
So I sit down to write, because it's really all I've got. To tell a small piece of his story, of how he has touched our lives, in the hopes that we all might offer up the only thing we CAN contribute, beyond our thoughts and our prayers, and that is our financial support. Because at the very least, with all the turmoil they're already facing, Jessy's family has enough to worry about besides the medical bills that will only continue to grow as he begins the rehabilitation process. If that's what we can do, then let's get down to it.
Please take five minutes of your time to contribute to the Road 2 Recovery fund in Jessy's name, and just as important, please share in any way you can. You can also purchase a limited edition 24x36" high quality print created by French designer Guillaume from Troy Lee Designs (pictured above). All proceeds from the Jessy Nelson benefit poster go towards Jessy's recovery.
Rachel & Jason Witt