Sweet dune buggy
In addition to the jitterbug, Craig had another source of amusement in a makeshift dune buggy, which he traded for a dirt bike at age 13. "It was a VW 1600 engine and a steel rolling tube frame thing," Craig explains. "It had really bright lights on it, too."
His sweet dune buggy was used to climb nearby gravel and cinder pits. "We'd take it there and climb up and down the banks and catch jumps. We'd use the thing to go hunting, too, since it rode well on crappy roads," Craig adds. "It generally was a pleasure vehicle -- it provided a lot of pleasure. That thing was awesome."
It was so awesome, it was in the local parade. But the "painfully obvious" Anheuser-Busch keg that was the gas tank ran out of gas.
"It ran out gas because the float bowl was stuck open and all the fuel ran out," Craig says. "It was a gravity feed, and once the float bowl was open, the thing ran out of gas in the middle of the parade and we had to push it to the fire station."
The dune buggy had a "horrible" transmission to boot. "There was this weird linkage we built that connected to the VW transmission. The clutch wasn't even cable actuated, it was a pushrod deal," Craig notes. "I didn't know about heel and toeing then; it would've helped a lot if I had known about heel and toeing."
First car bought
Craig, who turned pro in 2000, started racing mountain bikes regionally at age 15. In 1997, as soon as he got his driver's license, he bought a used 1987 Ford Tempo with a five-speed manual tranny, for $600 from his uncle. "It was black, had some sweet black tinted windows," Craig says. The Tempo got him to his job washing dishes and busing tables at a restaurant, which provided money to buy bike parts.
The Tempo was instrumental in his fledgling racing career, transporting him to mountain-bike races, such as the Maine Sports Spring Run Off, the site of his first major win. The prize -- a Thule bike rack. "I had a sweet new rack for my sweet new bike, and I drove it to bike races all summer," Craig recalls.
"That car was the freedom of racing fast," Craig sighs, as if reflecting back proudly. "And my parents didn't have to drive me to races anymore, which they were psyched about."
Craig had it only for a year because the Tempo got rear-ended and totaled when he went skiing. The Tempo's studded snow tires could stop faster than the log truck behind him. "It meant we didn't get first tracks that day at the ski area. We were all fine, we were going 20 miles an hour and he was going 30." Craig then bought an automatic 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra from his grandmother.