Picture it: Southern California. The mid-1990s. A young Art Dog is in special ed classes because he can’t read, he can barely write, he has low mechanical skills, and no ability to think critically. Yet, all he wants in life is English classes that allow for creative writing. How could this be? If you picked up on my reference to one of my all-time favorite sitcoms, The Golden Girls, then we can be friends. If not, well. Life goes on. And, now, here we are, many moons later. The year is 2021 (or 2022 depending on when this gets posted), and I have since learned how to read and write, though, my reading skills and comprehension is very slow. Yet, I never found that creative writing class my younger self once yearned for. Or, did I?
If you follow us on the Instagram and, by us, I mean vurbmoto, you have probably noticed that around May or June of 2021, our Instagram captions have, at times, really gotten out of hand. And, by out of hand, I mean really long captions that make absolutely no sense to the creative content of the post. Many have asked why? Many have asked who? Many have asked how? And, some have asked for it to stop. The bad news is for those asking for it to stop, until the day I am fired from vurbmoto, the captions will stay put. BUT, if you’re one of those dumb idiots that likes to go start petitions to have things and people removed or fired because they hurt your subjective feelings, I would suggest going to change.org where you can petition to have me fired from vurbmoto because you hate the Instagram captions so much. If you do that, you’re stupid. But, I also applaud your passion to make a change in something you believe hinders your everyday quality of life. For that, I will send you an autographed vurbmoto five panel hat with a long caption on the brim of the hat. Written by me. Hand sown by the man who never speaks to me: Wes Williams.
If you’ve haven’t already figured out, it is I, the one the other hot dogs call, Art Dog, that writes those asinine Instagram captions. By Art Dog, I mean me: Kyle Cowling. Also the one that makes dirt bike videos you either really hate or really love. So this whole vurbmoto Instagram caption thing really tracks well with my polarizing record amongst viewers of anything I do. So, there you go. The mystery revealed. The curtain bulled back. You now know who the Wizzard of Oz is. You are welcome. So, now that we have that bull shit out of the way and you have started your petition to have me removed from Instagram office, let’s dive into the how and why, shall we?
I have joked about the stifling inditement of the public school system and it’s inability to provide me with a creative writing course. And, with every joke there is a hint of truth within it. And, within that joke, there is no hint of truth. It is flat out, 100%, the truth. I am not hinting. I am telling you. The public school system, on many levels, failed me. However, it didn’t fail me as much as “home school” in motocross fails every delusional up-and-coming Ryan Villopoto wannabe. For better or worse, my sense of humor has always been deeply rooted in the vein of very sarcastic and dry humor. So, often, when I explain to people that I spent my entire academic career in special ed classes, they think I am joking. Seriously, people, I am NOT joking. I only ever had two classes that were considered general ed or “full classes.” That was P.E. and my electives, which were theater arts and photography. From Kindergarten to my senior year in high school, I was in special ed classrooms because of the aforementioned at the beginning of this article. I could not read or write, my mechanical skills did not exist and my critical thinking and comprehension was painfully slow. So, I often laugh at the fact that I would eventually end up as the associate editor and photo editor to, at the time, the biggest motocross publication in the world, TransWorld Motocross Magazine. Over there, my nickname was not Art Dog. I was affectionately known by everyone and called by everyone: Elmo. A story for another day.
I was an incredibly slow learner. Today, as I write this, I am still an incredibly slow learner. It is, at times deeply embarrassing. I mask it with my sarcastic and dry humor and the keen ability to make fun of myself and laugh at myself. But, the reality is, I struggle to learn and comprehend and, at times, I have a very difficult time speaking and articulating my thoughts out loud and clearly. Because of these disabilities, my curriculum was pretty much locked in stone from day one. The only thing I did know was that I had a creative muscle in me that wanted to be exercised. However, at the time, I had no idea what that was or what it meant. I just knew that I really enjoyed drawing and writing stories (once I learned enough to write words and form a complete sentence). Throughout my academic career, I would constantly ask our English teachers for a lesson plan in creative writing or a lesson plan in poetry. I found that writing words to form a story was truly fascinating for me. I could create worlds and characters and control their environments however I see fit. The irony is now understanding that, through my therapy sessions, it was a way for me to have control when I felt like I had no control of my own life because of extenuating circumstances. Fun, eh? Unfortunately, the teachers never provided the lesson plans I would ask for. In high school, I recall there being a creative writing class, but you were only allowed access to this class if you completed the highest level of English offered. And, because I was in special ed classes, I would have no chance of even attempting to complete a general ed English class, thus allowing me to fail before I could ever start.
Nonetheless, I would spend my time in class ignoring what the teachers would teach and, instead, write short stories in my note books, I would write random poems, or song lyrics. I used to write out all of the song lyrics to certain songs I really liked so I could learn the format of how you are suppose to write lyrics (verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus 2x) and also to help me memorize the lyrics to the songs so I could sing along. By the time I was a junior in high school, I wanted to be photojournalist. However, my school wouldn’t offer me a journalism class because of what I mentioned earlier about English. Thankfully, I was able to land in my photography class with a teacher who actually gave a shit. He shaped me into who I am today behind the camera. How I compose my moving images today is 100% based on everything he taught me from 2003 to 2005. We even had some photo essay projects and photojournalism projects that I loved and really believed I thrived in. He was, without question, the only teacher I ever had that believed in me and pushed me to be better behind the camera. At that time, I was not the standout photographer in our class, and it always pissed me off. I knew how good I could be and I treated it like racing. “How do I figure out how to beat this person and compose a better photograph so that I can get my photograph posted on the wall of our classroom?” It took me until my last semester of high school to get a photo I captured posted on the wall of our classroom, but it finally happened! And, what I do know for a fact is that I am the only one from my photography class to pursue it outside of the classroom and turn it into a professional career. For that, I am proud of myself. Now, let’s jump to 2008…
2008, I land my job at TWMX as an associate editor and photo editor, writing feature stories, product reviews, captions, bike test articles, and more. I was finally able to do three things I loved at once: ride my dirt bike, take photographs, and write stories. However, at 21 years old, it was intimidating. I barely survived high school, and I had no college education. Oh, and my writing and grammar skills needed to technically develop. A lot. Thankfully, I was able to learn a lot about finding my voice as a writer, how to take command and have an authoritative voice while writing, and more. I owe so much of that to Donn “Swap” Maeda who was our editor-and-chief and Chris Kinman who was the other associate editor that majored in English. Those two helped me work through those struggles and find my voice as a writer… All shit I wanted to learn in school, but they would not teach me. So, anyways, how does all of this tie into these weird, long-winded vurbmoto Instagram captions? This is how…
Back in May or June of 2021, Brandon Carter and I were at Fox Raceway for the Loretta Lynn’s Regional Qualifier shooting with Jeff Emig for his series called Fro @ 50. When Fro wasn’t on the track, I would cruise out and shoot the A and B classes for some raw posts and Instagram stories. For whatever the reason, while posting Instagram stories, I started writing really weird captions to accompany the story and, one of which I tagged Christiana Aguilera. I did this more so because it made me laugh and felt a little bit punk rock. I mean punk rock in the sense that I just didn’t give a shit what people thought. I had kinda wanted it to make people uncomfortable because it wasn’t the normal, “Jett Reynolds is on rails today!” Wow. What an insightful and impactful caption. Way to think out of the box. So, for whatever reason, the numbers on those Instagram stories went through the roof. Then, a day or two later I made a physical post featuring Jett Reynolds, Levi Kitchen, and somebody else. The caption was simple. It read, “School maybe out for summer, but the drama class is still going strong.” Again, views and comments through the roof. Without thinking much of it, I just kept going with the captions. The crew at vurbmoto loved it, which caught me off guard. Quick frankly, I figured I’d be told to knock it off because we don’t want to ruffle any feathers. But, it was quite the opposite. Instead, it turned into allowing me to literally write whatever popped into my head. And, what is funny to me, is that these captions take me all of three minutes (at most) to write. There is never a theme or story that I have preplanned. I literally just start writing and whatever comes out of my head is what comes out of my head. It’s pure, on the spot, improvisation. If it makes me laugh, that’s all that matters.
Going back to what I said about the public school system, in certain ways failing me, vurbmoto has unintentionally allowed me to harness those creative writing urges I had 20 years ago. It’s allowed me a complete sense of creative freedom to say what I want, how I want, and when I want without anybody telling me that I am wrong. Our world is a bit ugly and hostile these days and, I believe these captions help lighten the mood. Are they stupid? Yes. But, in a world full of hate and horse shit tribalism, these captions allow me to help bring a bit of a curve ball to the otherwise fragile state of our planet that, I believe we desperately need more of. It also allows for me to engage with our followers in the comment section in a genuine way, too. I’ve always thought it was cool when riders, musicians, artists, actors, etc respond to those that comment on their posts. So, with my weird ass captions, it allows people to reply with questions about what in the hell is wrong with us and for me to engage in that opportunity. Mostly, the comments are very positive. But, like in politics, you have that fringe minority that is small yet obnoxiously loud. I enjoy those comments, because it allows me to intentionally write wildly long replies that mean absolutely nothing other then to waste that persons time. Some think they are wasting my time, but they fail to realize that I actually get paid money to write those captions and those replies. It’s part of my monthly salary, so I will happily spend my entire day writing replies to people who despise my captions. Also, if you let a caption ruin your day enough to leave a negative comment, I would argue it is probably you that needs to look in the mirror. I’ve been looking in the mirror long enough to know that I have issues.
Lastly, a reason these captions bring me joy is that it separates us from our competitors. I can assure you, our competitors would never allow themselves to write the captions I come up with and post them. They would never allow this. EVER. My point is, you can follow the other websites where you can read the same boring, redundant caption as always. Or, you can wander over to the vurbmoto Instagram account and see what the hell kind of random, bull shit story I have come up with that has nothing to do with the video clip of Jo Shimoda ripping a lap at Fox Raceway. This business was built on the idea of being different from the rest. A unique bag of creativity that presents you content in ways the others cannot do because of their rigid ways and sometimes lack for forward-thinking. I am not saying that vurbmoto is Elon Musk trying to reshape the world as we know it, but I would argue vurbmoto has the guts to do precisely what we want, how we want, and do it unapologetically. It’s a way to keep us from becoming a rigid dinosaur within a sport that, at times, has no desire to truly progress forward. And, it has allowed me a true sense of creative freedom in my writings to be the person that I truly am: A little bit of an odd duck. As David Goggins once said, “Be uncommon amongst the uncommon.”