Tony Archer considers himself a motocross addict. The 20-year old Waldorf native has been traveling coast to coast nearly year-round, carting himself, friends and sometimes his family, along with hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of equipment' from track to track, for the past 12 years competing in dirt biking events.
No expense has ever been too great. Archer lives for the rush he gets from spinning his wheels in the dirt.
"I get withdrawals if I'm not able to ride," Archer said. "There's nothing else like it."
Archer will be chasing his next high in an Amsoil Arenacross event this weekend in Baltimore. It will be the third stop on a 12-city tour that ends with the crowning of a champion.
Archer is second in the Eastern Regional Arenacross Lites class, two points behind the leader, Steve Roman. Although Archer has yet to earn any points in Amsoil Arenacross' premier class this season, it is still early. If he qualifies for the final heat at this weekend's event, he earns another chance to get onto the leader board.
Archer's passion for dirt biking began when he was 8.
"I was always real interested in motocross when I was younger," Archer said. "I had always wanted to ride a dirt bike."
His first dirt bike arrived Christmas Day in 2000 when his father, Bill Archer, surprised him and his brother with a pair of four-stroke Honda XRs.
From that point on, Archer was hooked. By the time he reached the ninth grade, he was competing in races across the country. Desperate to make a serious run in the sport and become a professional, Archer chose to be home-schooled.
In 2010, when he had accumulated enough points toward his pro card and reached the minimum age of 17, Archer officially became a professional Amsoil Arenacross rider.
To become successful in motocross and reach the pro level requires two things: skill and money — and lots of both.
"The ratio is probably about 80-20" in favor of skill, said Chad Wages, 26, Archer's career-long friend and arenacross teammate. "But you have to have both."
In arenacross, where the tracks are smaller than in outdoor motocross, the banks are tighter, and the dips and hills are more frequent. To tackle the course takes precision handling, focus and keen racing instincts, skills developed only through years on a bike.
"Mentality is a huge part of this sport," Archer said. "If you're not mentally right, you're not going to go out there and hang it out."
A strong, resilient state of mind is key in improving one's skills on the dirt and standing on the leader board, a trait Archer's peers say is his strongest asset.
"He's pretty fearless," Wages said. "He's wide open out there. Nothing scares him."
During Archer's career, he has suffered numerous injuries. In addition to plenty of scrapes and sprains, he has fractured bones in his right leg and elbow and both his wrists, and has twice broken his collarbone. He also estimates he has suffered about a dozen concussions.
"That's the price you pay in this sport," said Wages, who more than a year ago fractured his right foot in 40 places.
And just as steep as the physical toll is the sport's monetary cost. Since he started, Archer estimates he has spent millions of dollars to stay competitive. What hasn't been paid for out of pocket by Archer and his family has been financed by his longtime sponsor, Traders Seafood Steak & Ale in Chesapeake Beach.
Archer says he's lucky to break even most seasons, which run from January to mid-August and cost him at least $40,000.
Though Archer is an independently sponsored rider, he hopes to change that someday. With some success at the pro level, Archer aims to draw interest from a major arenacross sponsor, an opportunity that could open doors for his pro career.
"I don't really have a backup plan," Archer said. "I want to do this for as long as I can. Getting a big sponsor would definitely let me do that, but it's pretty tough."