Bill Warner had courage and drive

Bill Warner had courage and drive

Here is a story about a man I never heard of. He died trying to set a record for traveling fast on a motorcycle. Bill Warner holds the record of 311.9 miles per hour that was reached within 1.5 miles of road. His next challenge was to hit over 300 mph on just one mile of road. He was up to 285mph and then veered and crashed and died.

I was especially moved that this brave athlete not only rode these high-powered motorcycles, but that he engineered them too. Oversaw the unique manufacturing of engine parts. The article says that these vehicles were modified commercial cycles from a normal showroom, rather than uniquely built contraptions that guys put millions of dollars into to make them go faster. Bill obviously had tremendous drive and passion and courage.

I have a different point of view. When I am up to 60 on the road on my little Honda XR600R, with its 43 horsepower engine, I start getting squirmy. I know emergency room doctors who tell me about all the vegetables-for-life who rode fast bikes and crashed. Bill’s bike was goosed to 1200 hp…pretty powerful, huh?

Now what impressed me the most is that he wanted to set a record for an achievement I never heard of, wouldn’t have known existed (if he hadn’t died), and can’t feel has any importance at all. OK you do it in 1.5 miles…great. Now you go for 300mph in one mile. I really don’t care, can’t appreciate it, and am sure it is not worth risking your life for…for what? to have your name in a record book that almost no one knows about!

Am I being too honest? Do I sound insensitive? I apologize. I recognize it was important to Bill and others in his team and community. Just not to me. It’s not like winning a major sport like Wimbledon or a race like the Kentucky Derby or even jumping out of a balloon higher than 19 miles. This was not covered on national or international TV. I hope there are youtube videos of other fast runs. But Bill HAD to do this. And he died trying.

How many other records are there waiting to be broken? That are important to challengers who would almost die to be at the top of the list? Recently Nathan’s Famous promoted its annual hot dog eating contest (since 1916) to see who could eat the most hot dogs in 10 minutes. A million people watch the event on ESPN TV. Joey Chestnut won for the seventh year in a row and set a world record of 69 hot dogs and buns. I understand his quest for fame.

But did you know that 13-year-old Noah Akers died in a 2010 hot dog eating contest? Choked to death.

Anyway I get the need to stand out. I seek some kind of specialness myself, even if people never know about my achievements. But I don’t plan to risk my life doing it…jumping out of planes in the army felt safer than driving a car. It was a risk worth taking, even though the week before I was at parachute school, many other jumpers died during their training.

Are we all a bit crazy? Maybe…but here is an excerpt from the Bill Warner story above:

Mr. Warner did not consider going more than 300 m.p.h. on a motorcycle especially unnerving. “It was very calm,” he told The Bangor Daily News, referring to his record-setting event (on 1.5 miles of road) in 2011.

Braking proved more challenging.

“The bike was bouncing, hopping, skipping and sliding,” he said. “It was a little scary.”

His record remains unbroken.

“I will be very frank about this,” Mr. Kelly said. “No one will touch Bill’s record in our lifetimes.”