Back in 2007, during my initial visit, I made this photo (above) of a rider falling off his quad as he reared it up into a wheelie position! (By the way, this is what the dirt track side of the road looked like back then, with I95 in the background.) I remember that day quite vividly. As the rider fell off, the quad continued on down the road, falling back on all four wheels, and … continued down the road headed straight for my car (which was parked on the side of the road)! As I started running toward my car, the rider got up and ran after his quad (which was maybe going about ten mph). He passed me and jumped up onto the moving vehicle, dropped into the driver’s seat, and retook control. I was shocked. Talk about goon riders. These guys were in it for the show, pulling all kinds of tricks for the crowd.
|Crowd gathered to race and observe in 2011|
– "Racing In The Street,” Bruce Springsteen“When the strip shuts down we run 'em in the street
From the fire roads to the interstate
Some guys they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece,
Some guys come home from work and wash up,
And go racin' in the street.”
In addition to the paved road racing, the Motocross, quad, and dirt bike crowd had their own trails, jumps, and gullies to tear up. In the photo below, you can see the bare dirt behind the cars – this was the riding area. Now, in 2015, that area is overgrown with weeds and separated from the paved road by a steel guardrail. Near one of the bends in the road is a sign post decorated as a memorial, a symbol of urban mourning.
"For all the shut down strangers and hot rod angels,
Rumbling through this promised land …"
– "Racing In The Street," Bruce Springsteen
There is a color photograph, among other things, attached to the memorial pole. Stuffed animals, a broken guitar, and beer bottles are heaped at it's base in the weeds; a small guitar amplifier is attached to the top of the pole. He must have been a musician as well as a daredevil cyclist. The photo shows a young man on his motorcycle, with dates written below the image. The casual onlooker might simply assume that someone died in an automobile accident here.
"I want to blow 'em all out of their seats
Calling out around the world, we're going racin' in the street.”– "Racing In The Street," Bruce Springsteen
The date on the photo indicates that Tom (no last name written) was born in 1989 and died in 2013, at 23 years of age. The last time I had witnessed the street racing here was in 2011. In the four years since I’d been here, a few things have changed. Tom died, and maybe as a result of that, the authorities decided to put an end to the fun. Concrete road barriers were placed alongside the airport side of the roadway to keep cars from parking there, and spectators from climbing the hill. The guardrail was installed to barricade the dirt trail area on the opposite side of the road. In the photo below, you can see the overgrown area that was the dirt track. The signs beyond the road racing stretch of Fort Mifflin Road indicate that the land on the dirt track side of the road is owned by the Philadelphia Water Department. This area is home to their "water pollution control plant," a waste treatment facility - an area totally uninhabitable because of the smell.
|Truly, "Darkness on the Edge of Town"|
In his dirge-like 1978 song, "Racing in the Street," Bruce Springsteen sings: