July 1, 2001
St. Joe State Park
Park Hills, Missouri
5th of 16 in Open B
Three years ago, the annual March of Dimes hare scramble was my
first racing experience in Missouri.  Actually, up to that point I had
never ridden anyplace where a rock bigger than a baseball was
anything but a novelty.  Imagine my surprise.  After that day, I nearly
packed up my belongings and moved back to Kankakee, Illinois.  
Since then I've improved my rock-riding skills to the point where I can
somewhat tolerate the constant beating and the never-ending wonder
of how soon my tires will go flat from pinched tubes.  But that doesn't
mean I enjoy it.

Besides a rough course, the other sure things at the March of Dimes
race are heat (has never been below 90 degrees), blinding dust
kicked up by the powdery-white sand, and park rangers enforcing
rules to the letter of the law.  Ride too fast in the staging area, pay a
fine.  Drive your truck too fast coming in and out of the park, pay a
fine.  Take a leak in the bushes, pay an even bigger fine.  But hey, I'm
not complaining.  St. Joe State Park is a great place and we should
all feel fortunate to have it, so if that means following their rules then
it's an inconsequential price to pay.  This year the motorcycle club
was on probation because of last year's 100-mile grand prix, which
started late and finished even later (some guys rode for 6 hours!!).  
The in-town start was nixed, as were the 16-mile laps and a 100-mile
total course.  Just a standard 2-hour hare scramble, which was fine
with me.

The course was set up so riders could take a full practice lap or do a
shorter 3-mile loop.  I did the shorter loop that covered the most open,
sandy, dusty part of the course.  As it would turn out, this short loop
was not very representative of the entire 11-mile loop.  Most of the
course was 2nd and 3rd gear woods in nearly perfect condition,
thanks to a rain earlier in the week.

Matt and I lined up next to each other at the start, and at the first turn
I was running mid-pack with Pizza Man a couple spots ahead of me.  I
settled in on a decent pace and soon had one of the fast guys on my
tail, trying desperately to get around me.  After he ran over my foot
with his front wheel, I decided maybe it would be good to let him
pass.  A couple miles down the trail, I followed a bunch of riders
under some yellow tape and off the course and had to turn around.  
Somehow I discovered our error sooner than the rest of the group and
gained a few places getting back on the trail.  Pizza Man must have
been part of that group, because he was right behind me at the
scoring trailer.  In the fast sand, the big Pizza Thumper blew by me,
even though I could hardly see him in the dust (or figure out how the
hell he could see anything going that fast).  I finally caught up to him
just before the second check in the woods and got around as he
spun out going up a hill.  After that, I cruised for two more laps, fell
over once, got lapped by the top two "AA" riders, and finished my
race.

Even though the race was hot, I didn't lose much stamina and rode
solid the whole way.  A fully vented jersey is something I should have
tried years ago - major cooling, to the point that I never really felt hot
(tired and sore, however...jersey technology still needs some
improvement in that area).  Pizza Man finished one position behind
me, while Matt took 8th place.  Nothing better than beating your
friends and rivals, and coming home with a healthy bike and body.

July 15, 2001
Tebbetts, Missouri
3rd of 15 in Open B
In the past two years, Tebbetts has not been kind to me.  The race is
always held in July, the month that most of Missouri attempts to
recreate life on the surface of the sun.  Actually, that's pretty much
the whole summer.  But Tebbetts can be brutal not only for the heat,
but also for the fast, pounding course that combines open,
GNCC-type trails with lots of opportunities to get big air. Many of the
jumps are naturally occurring in the woods, which means a slight
miscalculation can give you an upfront and personal encounter with a
tree.

I vowed to make my third attempt at this race more successful than
my previous two tries, both 8th place finishes in the bottom third of my
class (
1999 race; 2000 race).  This year the weather decided to lend
its cooperation with sunny skies and slightly cooler temperatures.
Rain showers had passed through the area a few days before and the
course was in beautiful shape.  Matt and I talked to the property
owner before the race, and he mentioned that an adjoining landowner
was allowing the club to use 150 acres of woods on a trial basis this
year.  On the practice lap I was pleasantly surprised to see narrow,
virgin trails cut through the new acreage.  And the best part was that
this 2-3 mile section replaced the ridiculously narrow motocross track
in the woods.  Picture it: a 10-foot-wide track with doubles and a
tabletop thrown in.

At the start, PizzaMan lined up next to me with his big KTM 4-stroke
and jumped out ahead.  Funny how that electric starter works...the
two-strokes actually fire up more quickly, but once the thumper gets
going, it just digs in and powers its way to the front.  Matt also got a
good jump on me, and heading into the woods I assumed my familiar
position in the middle of the pack. Shortly into the first lap, PizzaMan
crashed ahead of me and I passed him, but then he caught up and
passed me in an open grass section.  He goes amazingly fast in the
wide-open stuff with the big Pizza Thumper.  About halfway into that
same lap, I saw Matt standing next to the trail with his bike on the
ground, a victim of a tree confrontation (I believe the tree won that
battle).  I continued on, slowly moving up in the pack and passing
PizzaMan in the new woods section after he dumped the bike,
shearing some teeth off his front sprocket.

The course was basically run in reverse from the last two years, and I
liked that layout much better.  Even so, the creek section in reverse
was just as long and rocky as ever.  Definitely a place to either make
up some time, or lose a lot of time.  The previous week's rains caused
a short section of the creek to rise wheel-high, but that didn't stop
guys from plowing through it in third gear.

I never did see Matt or PizzaMan during the rest of the race, but
based on past experience I figured one (or both) of them was close
behind.  Somewhere in the third lap, I was following a guy on a KTM
who appeared to be slower than me.  I readied myself for a pass,
taking a shorter route around a corner that involved hopping over a
small log that was almost parallel to the direction I was heading.  We
both exited the corner at the same place and banged bars, so I let
him go ahead.  He took off and I never saw him again.

At the scoring gate, I heard what sounded like Matt cheering me on
as I began my fourth and final lap.  I could only assume that his day
had ended early.  About halfway into the lap, my bike started
sounding strange, and then it suddenly became insanely loud.  
Imagine ten chain saws surrounding your head, all wound up and
ready to cut some serious wood.  A couple miles later I stopped to
check out what was going on and saw that the silencer tube had
broken off.  Guess that silencer really does help quiet things down,
because with the exhaust blowing straight out the pipe, I surely was
heard many miles away.  I think it was advantage in a couple of
ways.  The guys ahead of me got the crap scared out of them from
the noise and quickly moved out of my way, while the guys wanting to
pass had to keep their distance for fear of partial hearing loss.  Steve
Leivan, the overall winner, was the only brave soul who dared to pass
me during that time (Steve's quote after the race:  "Huh?"). When I
came through the final stretch before the finish, all eyes were on the
loudest bike in the land.

Matt told me I finished 5th or 6th, showed me his shattered rear
fender and red marks all over his body (from crash #3 on lap #1), so
we packed up and drove home.  That's the last time I trust him in
tracking my results - it was actually a 3rd place finish, and I could
have picked up a trophy.  But the feeling of finally conquering this
place was all the reward I needed.  And my ears are still ringing.
Park Hills, Missouri
Tebbetts, Missouri