For more than three decades, the “Motocross Mom” had a dual love affair.
It is now broken in half. Gale Webb, whom Mammoth Motocross organizer Laurey Carlson characterized as “the face of the Motocross,” lost her beloved husband Jim just three weeks ago.
But Webb is here for this year’s event because her love affair with Mammoth still goes on.
“Someday I will join Jim and we will be up here together.
“This is motocross heaven, and when Jim went away and Laurey said you need to come up here, I thought, this is the closest place to heaven, where Jim is right now, and some day I will be back up here, enjoying Jim again.”
It has been a difficult week for the 67-year-old Webb, who in her middle years raced three times a week in her native Southern California, spreading the gospel of the Mammoth Motocross.
She never tires of telling stories of the day she fell from the sky during a skydiving event, the main chute still tucked in, and somehow surviving a crash straight into the Oklahoma ground.
The crash left her with practically every bone in her body broken. Her head was scrambled in the accident and her speech was limited.
“After the accident, doctors were telling me to forget sports, that I probably was never going to have children.” That no doubt would surprise her son Mike and her grandson Austin.
“Everything was negative,” she said, “so I found myself literally running away from different areas, trying to find my life. I found Jim. We found each other.”
They also found a profession. For 30 years she found a voice as a motivational speaker for kids, with Jim in constant support.
She styled herself as the “Motocross Mom,” and it stuck.
It was during her recovery – the skydiving accident happened when she was just 20 years old – that she discovered motocross racing, off-road bicycling races and skateboarding. All of them belonged to the SoCal sports culture.
But she said when she and Jim arrived in Mammoth 26 years ago, a big chunk changed.
Suddenly there was skiing in the sports mix, then snowboarding.
Her skiing was under the tutelage of Dave McCoy, who recognized her disabilities and tried to help as best he could.
As what happens to so many people when they see Mammoth for the first time, the couple’s first look at the track sealed the deal.
“When I came to Mammoth, my husband and I drove onto the road into the track, and we couldn’t we believe we were driving into the forest.”
“I said, ‘Jim there can’t be a race track out here.’ I only knew ones in the desert or wherever, and all of a sudden we saw it.
“We got out of our car and both sat there and I literally cried. Oh my God!
“This was after the skydiving accident. Everything I saw and felt I appreciated, and just the fact that I was going to be able to race in the forest, that’s where it started.”
This year, as she begins to build up from her emotional wounds, she said Mammoth seems to be a tonic of sorts.
“I never knew I would love it as much as I do now.
“The first couple days this week were really hard.
“You name it, every lookout, everything. He’d ride up on the gondola with me to watch me snowboard.
“Everything I did in Mammoth was Jim and me.”
Now there is no Jim.
Only Mammoth. So far, so good.