March 12, 2000
Steelville, Missouri
3rd of 8 in Open B class
Driving to this race reminded me of last year's first race in Cuba,
Illinois.  Matt Sellers and I had driven up together, and the farther
north we drove, the more snow was on the ground.  The drive to
Steelville was similar except that there was three times as much
snow.  The day before, winter's last blessing of the season had left us
with 3 or 4 inches.  Naturally, I wasn't too excited to start out the
racing season pushing my bike more than I actually rode it (like
Cuba).  But two key differences would make this race much more
enjoyable.  First, the snow was rapidly melting and would be pretty
much gone by the end of the day.  And second, Missouri's natural
splendor includes more rocks than most quarries, so the mud was
only axle-deep instead of handlebar-deep like Illinois.

I had ridden several times since January, thanks to the mildest winter
I'd ever experienced.  Physically, I felt good enough to go at least 10
or 15 minutes without panting like a dog in heat.  As I pulled up to the
starting line, I noticed some familiar bikes and riders, particularly the
guy on the Honda XR who wears the "Pizza Man" jersey (he beat me
in Kahoka last year).  I also noticed my front brake caliper bolts were
just about ready to fall out.  Apparently the threadlock wore off, so
there I sat trying to decide if I had enough time to go back to the truck
and tighten the bolts.  Since our Open B class was on the 5th row
and they start each row a minute apart, I figured I had at least 4
minutes, so I dashed back to the truck and grabbed a wrench.  
Losing the front brake during the race could have been a painful
disaster.

So the race started, and I entered the first turn in 4th place.  The guy
next to me had a brand new Y2K KTM 300EXC, and he crashed in a
whooped-out creek bed shortly after the first turn.  One down, three
to go.  The course was extremely muddy for a Missouri race, and with
just one lap complete the goggles came off.  After that it was a
constant battle to keep mud out of my eyes.  I felt like I was riding
pretty good, but based on previous experience, that didn't mean
much except all the other guys were probably riding better.  The
second lap was slower because the course was torn up, but by then
my forearms were finally warmed up and pain-free.  At the main
checkpoint after the second lap, the scorer told me there was one
more lap to go.  I caught my second wind and started riding harder.  
Little did I know that after the first lap I was in second place, but on
the second lap I lost a place and gave up a full minute on the guy
who passed me.  On the third lap I nearly caught up to the second
place guy but came up 18 seconds short.  Still, it was my best finish
ever in a Missouri race.  My goal before the season was to win a
trophy at a truly rocky Missouri race (i.e. anywhere outside of
Kahoka).  In my first race of 2000, I met that goal.

March 19, 2000
Belleville, Illinois
4th of 5 in Open B
Ah, a return to the scene of last year's dizzying experience.  Thanks
to steady rain the prior two days, the course was almost too slippery
to walk.  I walked it anyway, and as I passed the infamous hill that
knocked me out last year, I thought of taking another look.  But I
decided to let it remain a memory, since the hill was not part of this
year's course.  The promoters scrapped the motorcycle course
altogether and had us all ride the ATV course.  Even in the mud I
could tell it would be a very fast course.

Matt had called in the morning and decided not to race because of
the mud, that wimp.  He might have been smarter than me, though.  
The race got off to a bad start when my engine refused to run.  I
kicked, swore a little, kicked harder, swore harder, watched row after
row pass by, and after 5 minutes or so it finally fired up.  My friends
Curtis and Resmi watched the whole embarrassing ordeal.  By this
time the trailriders had already left.  It didn't take long to catch them,
but when I did it was at a muddy section that was causing them all
problems.  I was able to squeeze through without much delay, thanks
in part to using some of them (bikes and body parts) as traction, but I
had a lot of time to make up.  The laps were very short and had
sections that were WFO in 5th gear.  It was kind of cool to be keeping
up with the highway traffic that bordered a long, fast trail section for
nearly a mile.  After 3 or 4 laps I noticed that my front tire felt like it
was losing air.  I kept going anyway, but after 1½ hours it gave out
completely.  Luckily I was very close to the staging area and simply
turned around and rode the 100 yards back to my truck.  I called it a
day, since putting in a new tube would have taken too much time to
be worthwhile.  Curtis and Resmi had braved the cool weather to
watch me, and just like last year they didn't get to see me finish.   

March 26, 2000
Wesphalia, Missouri
6th of 12 in Open B
Another typical Missouri hare scramble.  Rocky and fast.  Conditions
were just about perfect, though, with sunshine and fairly mild
temperatures.  Matt and I both raced the Open B class.  I got off to a
decent start and rode pretty well, then got hooked up with a guy
trying to pass me and fell down.  Matt passed me there, but I got by
him again within a few minutes.  I was comfortably in a top-5 position
for 1½ hours and then, inexplicably, I ran out of gas.  Over the next
month this would happen a couple more times and I would struggle to
figure out what the problem was.  Between getting the bike started
again and leaving the course to get gas, I lost about 3-4 minutes.  I
did one more lap, riding like hell (it was actually my fastest lap by
about 2 minutes), but finished in 6th place behind Matt, who ended
only 21 seconds ahead of me.  Had I not run out of gas, I would have
finished fourth and brought home another trophy.  Matt got bragging
rights and I had to listen to him all the way home.
Steelville, Missouri
Belleville, Illinois
Westphalia, Missouri