In May 1985, the Lane family of Sykesville spent an ordinary day shopping for shrubs -- little knowing that day would help plan their weekends for the next five years.
It was on that day that John and Pat Lane's oldest son, Matthew, now 9, noticed a couple of youths across the street from the nursery racing what he and his mother thought were motorcycles. It turned out to be a bicycle motocross track.
"The following week, Matt raced a neighbor at the Howard County BMX track and he has been racing ever since," Pat said.
Since then, Matthew's sister Melissa, 11, and his younger brother Michael, 5, have joined in the fun. And just about every Sunday from March to December the entire family can be found at Columbia BMX Super Track.
Their parents also are involved in the sport. John is team manager for the United Painter Contractors' BMX team, which the children race for, and Pat helps out with registration at Columbia and is in charge of getting the kids to their correct gates to start the race.
"It seems they've been here with us a long time," said Kenny Allen, track operator at Columbia. "Mr. Lane works on the track and manages a team, while Mrs. Lane helps with sign-ups. They are really super people and have helped out a lot."
"It's a family sport," Pat said, "The majority of the children are under 16, so the parents have to drive them."
"It has kept us together practically every weekend, and it's something we all enjoy and look forward to," her husband said. "It's not only a sporting event but also has social aspects in that we've met some great people.
"It's also an opportunity for the kids to learn responsibility, racing for a team and striving to do the best they can," he added.
A bicycle motocross race is somewhat similar to motorcycle racing, except that racers use pedal power. The racers, a maximum of eight and minimum of three per heat, start from an elevated gate fitted with a light that blinks from red to green to give the go signal.
Racers negotiate the dirt track's series of banked turns and jumps before crossing the finish line.
It usually takes younger entrants, like Michael, about a minute to finish a race. Older racers usually finish in the 40- to 50-second range.
Matthew, a fourth-grader at Eldersburg Elementary, is the state 9-year-old champion after winning the class in September at Columbia.
"Matt is a super-competitive racer. I've enjoyed watching him climb the ranks over the years," Allen said.
Along with racing at Columbia, the Lanes also race at Friendship Park BMX in Anne Arundel County and have traveled to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Tennessee and Illinois to compete in national events, which Matt enjoys most.
"I like traveling to the different places, I get to make a lot of new friends," he said.
Melissa, a sixth-grader at Sykesville Middle School, has been racing since September of last year.
"She is the social racer of the family," her mother said. "We will see her on the track racing and talking to her friend (Naomi Moore of Elkridge in Howard County, who Melissa often competes against)."
"I like riding my bike," Melissa said, "I also met Naomi, who I've known for two years now, at the track."
Michael entered kindergarten this year at Eldersburg Elementary. He began riding a bike when he was 3, but it wasn't until July that he raced competitively.
"We were at Clark Summit BMX track (near Scranton) in Pennsylvania this July and he told us he wanted to race. At first we didn't believe him, but he did race and finished third," Pat said.
One week later, Michael won his first race at Columbia.
"I like getting firsts!" declared Michael, who since has added three first-place finishes.
Over the years, the Lane family has accumulated quite a number of trophies -- which they have no more room for.
"I take certificates now which I can use to buy bike parts because we've run out of room for trophies," Matthew said.
"Recently we've donated 73 trophies to Friendship Park, and we still have 40 or so left at home," Pat added.
Matthew and Melissa also enjoy playing soccer and basketball, and this is the first year Michael has played soccer (he will also begin playing basketball soon).
But the highlight of most weekends for the Lane family takes place at the BMX track.
"After the long season, we all sit around in January, and I think everyone is secretly saying to themselves, 'Gosh, I wish it was April and we could race this weekend,' " John said.