1999 Race Reports
March 14, 1999
Cuba, Illinois
5th of 10 in Big B class
This was the first race on the schedule for 1999 and I was anxious to try
out my new KTM 300EXC under race conditions.  It's a long drive up to
Cuba; over 3 hours northwest of St. Louis.  I went with my riding buddy,
Matt  Sellers, who I had met earlier in the year at St. Joe State Park in
Missouri.  He rides the same kind of bike, only it's a few years older.  As
we drove north, we started noticing some snow on the ground.  Not a
good  sign.  If we had been smart, we would have turned the truck around
right then.  Cuba was a cool 40 degrees  and windy, so standing around
before the race was uncomfortable at best.  The setup area was in the
middle of an open field with no shelter at all.  Matt and I looked over the
starting area and walked a short way down  the trail, and shivered back to
the truck.  There appeared to be a little traction, but after the race I
wound have  to say the key words here were little (as in none) and there
(as in somewhere other than where I am currently spinning my back tire).  
In some places the ground was still frozen.  Back in '96 I raced several
times on  frozen ground and it was pure torture.  Guys end up pushing,
pulling, dragging, tugging, kicking, and  especially cursing their bikes up
all but the smallest hills.

When the race started, I found out just how lousy my stock Bridgestone
tires were in the slick stuff.  The front end just went wherever it felt like,
and the rear spun way too much.  Of course, no tire would have helped
me  get through all that snot with ease, but the Bridgestone's were
designed for hard-packed terrain.  Bad, bad tires!  A couple of the hills
were barely passable in the first few laps, and downright impossible near
the end.  Fortunately the race was shortened to 1.5 hours (they're usually
2 hrs.), which was still about an hour too long.  I pretty sure that I pushed
the bike at least as much as I rode it.  The course itself was only a couple
miles long but it took forever to get around.  On the last lap, I was tired
and just didn't have the energy to push the bike up one of the last hills.  I
took a slight shortcut, which is a no-no, but then I spent about 15 minutes
struggling up another hill on an "alternate route" (i.e. waaaay off the
marked course).  O.K., I flat-out cheated.  But cheating can always be
justified when you feel like you're breathing the last air of your life, so I
blamed it on the sadistic promoters who should have cancelled the
darned race to begin with.

While I pushed the bike up the last hill, it seemed to be overheating, which
tends to happen when you're averaging 5mph in the woods and the
engine is revving to the moon.  I finished my lap, saw the checkered flag,
and then collapsed at the truck.  Matt was already there, ready to go
home.  I'm sure he wished he hadn't come.  Our bikes were a solid shade
of black Illinois mud.  We stuck around to see the results, and my 5th
place was good enough for a trophy.  I didn't deserve it because I cut the
course, but sure as hell earned it.  Matt finished in the middle of the C
class.  It was a long ride home.

Damage report: Big gash in the seat cover from dragging the bike down a
hill for a second attempt at conquering.

March 21, 1999
Belleville, Illinois
7th of 12 in Open B
This day turned out to be a great day for racing.  I had never seen such a
huge turnout for this type of event.  I walked the course beforehand with a
guy named Jeff Smith, who was parked next to me.  Later on throughout
the year I would run into Jeff at various races.  The club grounds where
the race was held is an old strip mine, so there were lots of short, steep
hills.  My friends Curtis and Resmi, along with their friend Sue from
Indianapolis and Curtis' brother Mark came out to watch.  Matt raced the
C class (novice), but because of the large number of riders, they ran the
C class and Trailriders (beginners) in a separate race after ours was
done.  I had a decent start but got hung up in a bottleneck on the first
lap.  After that, I rode a good race for awhile.  The tight woods suit my
riding style, so I was riding well and feeling good.  At one point I took a
shortcut up a hill and cut off a faster rider and he started yelling at me.  
Apparently Curtis and company were nearby and saw the whole thing, but
I didn't notice them, and barely remembered the guy yelling at me until
they reminded me of it.  When I'm racing I tend to tune out most of the
noise except that of the engine, the smack of my body hitting trees, and of
course the voices in my head telling me to ignore the pain and get my
slow ass moving faster.  Resmi took some pictures of me racing and gave
them to me later.  So far those are the only photos I have of my racing
exploits.

In the last half-hour of the race, I suddenly found myself on the ground
feeling woozy and with a headache, not knowing or remembering why I
was lying next to the trail with my bike on its side several yards away.  
Apparently I crashed going down a steep hill and hit my head pretty hard,
knocking myself out.  For a minute or two I couldn't see straight, but then
my senses kicked in and I realized that I couldn't see right because one of
my contact lenses was gone.  Some club members eventually found me
and helped get me on my feet and off the trail.  One of the guys drove me
in his jeep back to the ambulance, where the EMT's checked me out and
suggested I go to a hospital (I didn't).  I figured as long as I could
remember my name and still walk, I probably wasn't hurt too bad.  Curtis
and the gang were amazed at my story and appearance afterwards.  My
face was scratched up, my right eye was turning black and blue, my
tongue was bloody from where I bit off a chunk of it, and my elbow was so
sore that I couldn't push the bike up the ramp and into the truck.  They all
still talk about how much fun they had watching the race that day.  Even
with the crash I finished mid-pack but probably could have finished in the
top 5 if I had completed the race.  Check out these
pictures.

Damage Report:  Bent handlebars and triple clamps; helmet cracked (it
did its job...rest in peace, old friend).

April 11, 1999
Steelville, MO
13th of 24 in Open B
Another great day for racing...perfect weather and trail conditions.  Matt
and I both raced the Open B class, so I figured it would be a good test to
see how close our riding skills really were.  We had ridden a few times
down at St. Joe State Park, and he seemed to be very close to my speed,
but possibly just a bit faster in the rocks.  This race was the first in the
Missouri Hare Scrambles Series, and the turnout was large.  Way bigger
than any of the D-17 (Illinois) hare scrambles I ever raced.  On the
pre-run (almost every Missouri race allows riders to take a practice lap
before the race begins) I noticed some play in the steering head,
apparently because I didn't get it tightened down enough when I replaced
the triple clamps after the Belleville debacle.  After a quick adjustment I
was ready to go.

The start of the race was almost a disaster when a rider on my right side
somehow got hooked up on me.  I'm not sure how he did it because he
was just out of my sight, but I think our handlebars got tangled.  His bike
kept pulling me to the right, and then suddenly we got separated.  I
glanced behind me, and I'll never forget the vision of the poor guy's
motorcycle doing cartwheels.  That easily could have been me.  Needless
to say his day was done, and I hope he didn't get hurt too badly.  Those
starts can be tricky when 25 guys are all gunning for the same corner.  I
caught up to Matt after a minute or two and then passed him while he
slowed down and pulled to the side for some reason.  The rest of the race
was fairly uneventful...just a typical rocky Missouri race.  There was a
tricky off-camber section (basically riding parallel to the contour of a hill)
in a place with a natural spring making it wet and slippery.  In another
place the promoter strategically routed the trail through a manure
pile...nice touch.  The laps were about 12 miles long, so I was able to do
three in 2 hours, and was about 90 seconds short of getting in a fourth
lap.  In a hare scramble, you get to keep doing laps until the time expires,
so if I had been 90 seconds faster then I would have completed 4 laps
(and probably run out of gas near the end).  The Missouri series uses an
electronic scoring system.  It's pretty cool...they stick a bar code to your
helmet and scan it as you stop at the main gate.  The race results are put
on the Internet, so I was able to see all the lap times.  Pretty slick.

Matt ended up having a problem with his front fender. All the bolts fell out,
so it was just flopping around, which is why he was slowing down as I
passed him.  He went back to his truck to fix it and lost a lot of time, but
still got in three laps. When I got home, I was very disappointed to see the
rear brake rotor totally warped beyond repair.  A rock must have wedged
its way between the rotor and the spokes.  My disappointment turned to
disgust after taking off the rotor and finding a piece of the hub broken
off.  Many $$'s....

Damage Report:  Bent rear brake rotor and cracked rear hub.
Cuba, Illinois
Belleville, Illinois
Steelville, Missouri