"General" Sipes brightens a local fan's day

By Chad Hobbs

In last week’s edition, I wrote an article about the community stepping up to help Tiffany Gibbs after the terrible wreck she was involved in. While at her parents’ house for that interview about a deck and wheelchair ramp that were being built, I couldn’t help but notice her son, Bryson, riding his dirt bike.

 As a journalist, the goal is to report the news; not become part of it. Working for a small hometown paper offers unique situations sometimes, however, and this was one of those instances. I arrived home that evening, and after covering the adult side of the story, the father in me couldn’t stop thinking about what Bryson and his five year old sister, Ella, had been through, being separated from their mother for almost a month, as she recovered in the hospital.

 Bryson’s grandmother, Cindy Cheek, confirmed for me that he was a bigger fan of motocross than I realized and had been riding for ten years since he was two. With that knowledge in hand, I knew exactly who I needed to call to add a little sunshine to this young man’s day – enter Ryan Sipes.

Ryan Sipes is a Flaherty native that has made a career of professional dirt bike racing. After years of racing on the motocross and supercross circuits, Sipes has been racing for Red Bull for the last couple years. Professional riders do not cross disciplines in offroad racing. Flat trackers stay on flat tracks, supercross riders stay on supercross tracks; crossover just doesn’t happen. Last year, Sipes decided to do the unheard of in professional racing when he took on a schedule that tackled eight different racing disciplines on eight different style bikes to become professional racing’s first generalist in a world full of specialists, hence the nickname, General Sipes. Not to mention, he had already done the unthinkable when he became the first American ever to win the ISDE, one of the oldest races out there, predating World War I.

After being pitched the idea, Sipes, without pause, said I’m in. So, this past Wednesday, he loaded up his Red Bull flat track bike, and headed to Brandenburg to meet one of his fans. It turned out that Bryson had been begging his mother to meet Sipes for quite some time. The smile on his face, as he talked with one of his racing heroes, said it all.

It turned out that little Ella had a spark ignited from the meeting as well. She zoomed around the yard on her pink, electric bike, showing off her skills, while Sipes talked with Bryson and his family. Ryan Sipes is not just a world-class athlete, but a world-class individual to boot. An hour quickly flew by, as he talked with them, gave tips and suggestions on everything from gear to advice on one of Bryson’s old bikes that wasn’t running anymore, and just listened to Tiffany tell the story of everything she had been through over the past month. After showing off his bike skills to one of his racing heros, Bryson received the best news of all; an invitation to ride with Sipes on his own personal track.

For a family that has been through so much and a mother who still has a long road to recovery ahead of her, their smiles in that moment were worth even more than the heartfelt thank you’s they gave out so freely that day. I guess the moral of this story, at least for me, is this: the most rewarding moments in life don’t always require huge effort or investment, but they always originate from the heart.

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