Four times a year, personal injury lawyer Tom Schaefer locks his office in Suwanee, Ga., loads his truck and heads north for a weekend that could not contrast more with a relaxing getaway in the Georgia mountains.
Schaefer, 47, races motorcycles -- at up to three times the legal speed on metro Atlanta highways. He has established 119 land-speed records in the various divisions for cycle classifications and engine size.
Schaefer's trips lead to a one-mile racing layout in Wilmington, Ohio, on a former World War II airstrip. One by one, riders test their skills and courage, and few have been as committed or accomplished as Schaefer, who raced four different bikes for a while.
He won four Motorcycle Points Championships in successive years with an organization called the East Coast Timing Association at another strip in Maxton, N.C., where he officially reached 206.391 mph.
Schaefer, a single man who estimates he has logged a quarter-million miles on motorcycles, is all too aware of the vehicle's dangers on two fronts. He serves as the attorney for casual riders involved in mishaps. And three racers whom he considered friends died in accidents while pursuing their passion.
You first hopped aboard a motorcycle at the age of 8. Was there a mini Hells Angels club?
My parents have a farm up in Missouri, where I grew up. We had a couple of horses. My dad was getting a little frustrated chasing them down on 160 acres of land so we could ride them. He asked if I wanted to ride a motorcycle. He said, "At least I won't have to go chase it down. It will be right where I left it." Oddly enough, my parents still have that motorcycle they got me, in the basement of their house.
What is the attraction of riding motorcycles at high speed?
I do it because I love it. It's exciting, an adrenaline rush like no other.
You are not just competing against people that day, but against people in history. Your records are there until somebody else is faster.
What was your most frightening experience?
It was my final run in Maxton that got me in the 200-mph club. I was blown off my line by a crosswind just before the one-mile marker. I couldn't get the bike turned for the dogleg to go into the long shutdown area. I wouldn't say I was in a panic, but I was extremely concerned about what was going to happen. I drove the motorcycle to the [outside] of the cones onto a rough, bumpy patch. Once I got to that area, I was able to slow the bike down. I remember looking down, and I could see just past my left leg into the open field a foot away.