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Salt Fever Comes Easy
A Family Affair
Lee Omer was hot on the heels of a dream when he traveled from his home in Harrisburg, South Dakota, to the flat, white, barren stretch of earth known as the Bonneville Salt Flats. Hidden away in the remote reaches of Utah, the flats were known as the fastest place on earth. The year was 2006, and he was bound for the Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials.
Lee brought his offering to the gods of the salt - a motorcycle built in his garage. It was made to do one thing - go fast. Lee’s sons, Jason and Chad Omer, acted as his pit crew. While he didn’t set a land speed record, he did catch salt fever.
Lee wasn’t the only victim of this mysterious malady; his son Jason caught it too. After acting as his father’s pit crew in 2006, Jason immediately went home to Bellingham, Washington and began building his own Bonneville bike. It was a ’69 Honda CB350 with a custom frame and a small supercharger.
Racing for the first time in 2007, Jason set a national record on that bike at 97 miles per hour. This record still stands today. Jason raced the CB350 until 2009, setting one more record on it at 107 mph. In 2010, Jason tackled his second custom Bonneville creation, which he ran successfully from 2010-2012, setting a record at 147mph and a third bike in 2013 at 180 miles per hour.
It Wasn’t Magic
As a boy, Jason recalls his father constantly tinkering with some kind of machine. Jason recalls many afternoons spent in the garage, handing Lee wrenches. He watched closely as he dropped a transmission out of a car and worked on motorcycles. According to Jason, those hours in the garage were formative to his interest in mechanics.
“I knew bikes weren’t magic. I knew that if someone else built it, I could take it apart. That epiphany opened my eyes to the fact that I can build my own bikes. Because of that I’m a self- taught mechanic and builder,” said Jason.
Judith Omer recalls her son having a natural affinity for customization from a young age.
“As a boy, Jason always lined up his cars and toys in a row and took many things apart. Obviously he’s just a mechanic in his soul,” said Judith.
Last of the Grassroots Racing
Since his first trip down the historic race course, Jason has formed a race team, Sodium Distortion. Clever name aside; these guys are the real deal. They build bikes that go fast and have the land speed world records to prove it.
“It’s the last of the grassroots racing. Nearly all of these bikes are built in a guy’s garage by the man that races it. You don’t do it for the money. All you get is a little timing slip telling you how fast you went and your name in the record books if you’re lucky,” said Lee.
Yes, the Sodium Distortion racers are speed demons, but they’re also men with tremendous heart. Each year they give away advice, gear, parts, and their most precious resource; time, to newcomers who need help navigating the tricky rules of Bonneville. In 2012, Sodium Distortion won the Spirit award. This accolade is given to the team who shows the most heart during speed week.
“We vowed to help anybody that came to us. There’s a lot of little unknown rules in the rule book that would prevent you from racing,” said Jason. “Nobody can do it alone. To go there and be successful is difficult. It takes a team effort. Every year we let people know they have access to our experience and knowledge.”
Out of Nothing
These talented racers have inked their names in the record books. Now another opportunity has arisen. Jason and Sodium Distortion teammate, Bill Woods, and brothers Carl and Mark Bjorklund, of Super Rat, are the stars of the upcoming feature film, Out of Nothing.
The film began accidentally. Director and cinematographer, Chad DeRosa, needed to test some new camera equipment. Mark and Carl Bjorklund’s shop was the perfect place to shoot some test footage. According to DeRosa, the Bjorklunds had a natural charisma about them in front of the camera. He decided to follow Sodium Distortion to the salt flats and film
DeRosa began filming on the salt in August of 2011, returning for more in 2012. He showed the footage to producers Andrew Lahmann, (Owner, P-51 Pictures) and Ryan Stiles, (Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Two and a Half Men) in January of 2013. DeRosa had captured over eighty hours of footage and looked to Lahmann for assistance in finishing the film. Lahmann and Stiles saw potential in the project and brought in their team to manage p
“What I saw was a story less about motorcycles and more about human beings working really hard to follow their dreams,” said Lahmann. “Being around them is inspiring. You can’t help but be affected by their optimism and drive. The language of passion is universal.”
“There’s so many parallels between the characters in the film and how the film was made. The film was made out of nothing with the same kind of passion,” said DeRosa.
The Sodium Distortion team had no idea if anyone would see the footage or if a film would emerge from their hard work. Still, they believed in DeRosa’a ability to tell a story. They also understood his need to follow his passion.
“I was really doing it for Chad. Like I want to race bikes, he wanted to make a film. But no one knew when we were filming if anything would ever happen with it. We were doing it as friends and doing it for each other,” said Jason.
“The movie is about normal people doing outrageous things. Those people were able to tell our story because it’s their story too,” said Jason. “They’re aspiring filmmakers like I’m an aspiring bike builder.”
Taking It International
The film has been an incredible success. DeRosa, Lahman, and Stiles have taken Out of Nothing to film festivals around the world. Audience reaction has been outstanding, and the film is taking home a host of awards and accolades.
Out of Nothing has been picked up for distribution in the United Kingdom and the United States. A major TV network has purchased the rights to the film for three years, and a similar bidding war is happening in Australia. The P-51 Pictures team is working extremely hard to make sure as many people have access to the film as possible.
Return to the Salt
The film is an international sensation, but the attention is certainly not going to Jason’s head. He’s still working full time as an electrician, feeding his wife’s horses and spending every spare moment in his shop. His project - a new bike for the 2015 Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials.
“As of right now, I see myself racing for several more years. I’m in my forties now, which isn’t old, but your body starts getting more tired,” said Jason. “If I ever do something different, the first thing that comes to mind is racing cars at Bonneville.”
Spend time talking about the film with Jason, and you’ll notice his life hasn’t changed much since the premier. He credits the project as a “great time and a privilege to be a part of it all.” It was surely a lot of fun. Yet, he took part in the film because he was already doing extraordinary things when no cameras were rolling. He was smashing world records before film festivals and world premieres came along. The film truly was made out of nothing; no desire for fame or glory, only talented people following their passion and telling a great story.
“I’m proud enough about what I do that I’m not self-conscience about people seeing it. I don’t want anything out of it, I don’t need anything out of it,” said Jason.
“Whatever it is about that place, I’m going back for sure.”
For more information on Out of Nothing, visit www.outofnothingmovie.com. Look for the film to be officially released in the coming months. For additional information and updates please visit, www.facebook.com/OutOfNothingFilm. TMM