July 29, 2001
Knob Noster, Missouri
3rd of 19 in Open B
Knob Noster...the name alone made me want to see what this place
was all about.  The bottom half of the MHSC schedule adds some
mileage to my rapidly aging Sonoma, with several races held on the
left side of the state during this hot, sticky stretch of the series.  
Earlier in the week I had put the original torpedo-sized silencer back
on, noticing that the sub-frame mounting holes didn't line up very
well.  A few healthy blows to the sub-frame with a sledgehammer
helped line up the holes, but one of the frame welds cracked a bit.  
Oops.  KaTooMer maintenance at its best.

The staging area was an open field with fresh hay windrowed into
straight lines across a quarter-mile square.  Knob Noster had received
some rain over the weekend, causing a quagmire near the field
entrance.  As with Lebanon in February, a John Deere tractor was on
hand to pull out the less fortunate racers with no four-wheel-drive.  At
the end of the day, the hay looked about as fresh as a rendering
plant in August (a little agribusiness humor for the 3 people in the
world who will actually understand that).  With one push of the 4WD
button, the truck squished through a rutted waterway and I found a
prime spot in front of the Pizza Man entourage.  The Pizza
Mini-Thumper, an XR250 from the mid-1990's, was resurrected for
Knob Noster as a replacement for a Shake's Team racer with a
broken bike (okay, it's not really a team, just a bunch of guys who
always pit together, but it sounds cool).

The usual 150% humidity, typical for Missouri in July, kept the sweat
flowing like melted butter as I took a quick look at the course around
the staging area.  I came back to the truck with two important
questions: a) Where's the rocks, and b) Will the water level in the
creek suck down my bike like <
insert crude Monica Lewinsky
metaphor here
>.  At least I had the new Michelin S-12 rear tire...still
hanging on the wall in my garage.  Doh!!  Guess the half-used
Bridgestone would have to work.

I took a practice lap and found the first potential bottleneck about a
mile into the course.  Fast-girl (and MHSC
hottie) Amanda Lappe had
already discovered a tough way up the steep bank of a small stream.  
I parked the KTM and went back to help clear out some alternate
routes, and Pizza Man came up from behind and pointed to the best
line.  That guy is just so darned helpful.  If I asked him nicely to let
me pass during a race, he'd probably think about it for a couple
seconds before roosting me with the Pizza Thumper.  Anyway, the
first big creek crossing was deep but passable, and when the course
took us back across the same creek a few miles down the trail, I
followed a group of riders who did not notice the arrows directly
across the creek on the opposite bank.  The lead rider on a Kawasaki
charged upstream into flowing water that was nearly as high as his
seat.  He bobbled in the rocky creek bottom and dumped his bike,
completely submerging it.  Like a fool I followed the group into the
deep, black rush of water, except I successfully walked the bike
through and stopped on a sand bar, looked around, and saw not a
single arrow or evidence of other bikes that had taken the same path.  
Gee, Einstein, think you're still on the course?  After a quick scan
downstream, I saw some colored ribbon on the opposite bank where
we should have crossed.  So I walked the bike back through the deep
stuff, gave my condolences to the Kawasaki rider, and finished the
practice lap.

Back at the truck, I dumped a quart of water from each boot, put them
back on with a duct tape seal around the tops, and headed for the
starting line.  When the 15-second board dropped, I took two kicks to
start the bike and found myself at the back of a 19-rider pack.  Some
aggressive passing got me to mid-pack within half a lap, and soon I
found myself in a familiar spot behind Pizza Man.  When he went
down in some ruts, I got around and continued my charge.  Since no
ATV's were racing this course, some of the trails were very narrow and
passing was a challenge.  But after one lap I had moved up to 4th
place and held that spot throughout most of the race.  Another guy in
my class, Marty Smith, kept trading places with me, and at each pass
through the main check he was ahead of me but still within striking
distance.

The course reminded me of Illinois, with tight trails sometimes carved
out with a farm-type mower or cut with a machete.  The club did a
great job of re-routing the bottlenecks, and it was only on the third lap
that I ever had a problem getting through any of the tough sections.  
One time I tried to aggressively cut around a rider hung up on a
small, slippery hill.  I didn't make it either, but got up easily on the
second try.  On a similar hill a bit further down the trail, I got hung up
with a downed rider who decided to pick up his bike at the same
instant I was attempting to pass.

On the 4th and final lap, I passed Marty again and rode strong until
he got around me at the final stretch.  During these passes and
re-passes, I wasn't completely sure he was in my class, but when he
got around me in that last mile of the course, I didn't care.  I was
going to beat him to the scoring trailer.  Most of the final mile was
riding through the center of a small creek that offered few
opportunities for passing.  We would ride in the creek for a short
stretch, come out, then go back in again, over and over.  I tailed Marty
to a spot where we dropped back down into the creek, and he rode
past the first entrance to another drop-down that had developed as
an alternate route.  I decided that the only chance I had at passing
him was to take the first drop-down and charge through the water,
hopefully carrying enough momentum to beat him to where he was
dropping into the creek.  I put the bike in second gear and went
wide-open into water about 2 feet deep.  Water splashed into my face
as if I was standing under a waterfall, but I just barely edged out
Marty and held my position to the finish.

The two regular fast guys in our class took first and second place, but
I held on to 3rd place by 4 seconds over Marty (the 5th place guy was
less than a minute behind) and solidified my 3rd place spot in series
points.  Again, I dumped a quart of water from each boot.  I felt an
intense sadness upon realizing that duct tape had failed me.  But
then I admired my hard-fought trophy and the pain was slightly less
intense.  But I will never look at duct tape the same, ever.

August 12, 2001
Polo, Missouri
12th of 15 in Open B
Pain is my friend.

Or so I tell myself each time I make an annual visit to my friendly
physician, usually on a Monday following a bad race.  The good
doctor is always kind enough to skip the I-told-you-so posture and
focus on curing my ailments.  This time it was the right shoulder in
pain and I was certain my collarbone was broken or my shoulder
separated (or both).  But Dr. Joe produced two X-rays showing no
breakage, just a healthy bruise (click on photo above for a larger
image of my strange collar bones).  KaTooMer dodges another one --
here's how it all started....

Matt and I made the long drive to one of the few MHSC races north of
I-70, which usually means less rocks and tighter trails.  We parked by
Lars Valin and his gang, right next to twin porta-pee-holes and under
a nice shade tree.  Shade good, smell of hot feces bad.  We wasted
no time getting setup for the practice lap and quickly discovered very
tight trails (for Missouri), a moderate amount of rocks, plenty of logs
across the trail, some dust, and a few interesting rock ledge
drop-offs.  One section had optional routes of  "Easy" and "Hard."  
Feeling up to a challenge, I chose the deceivingly "Hard" trail and
soon found out why: a two-foot rock ledge as the trail curved its way
downhill.  I bravely launched myself off the ledge, and just as I had
nearly recovered from the landing, a foot-high log appeared out of
nowhere.  A panic wheelie got me over the log and ahead of Matt,
who took the "Easy" route.  So I gained about half a second in
exchange for risking life and limb and personal encounters with trees.
The rest of the course was a series of woods sections linked by open
pasture areas.  Pretty good course, but the start would be critical
because passing appeared nearly impossible in the woods.

I lined up next to PizzaMan and explained to him the many benefits of
applying duct tape to 53% (and rising) of the surface area of my
motorcycle.  I could sense his incomprehension, but one day he will
understand, probably late one night at Shake's, after one of his
sorority-girl employees forgets to put the lid on the tomato sauce, and
in the dark, as he is leaving for home after a long day of cheese
application and pepperoni layout design theory (elaborate concentric
circles or simplistic intersecting lines? Oh, the possibilities...), while
reaching past the olives, onions, and camshaft bearings to the broken
muffler from his XR250 where he hides the car keys from the Mizzou
frat boys who initiate pledges by tying them the his tomato-shaped
delivery truck and joyriding through campus, he knocks the open jar
of sauce to the floor, slips on the sweet, red pizza-nectar, slams his
head against a leftover cylinder from the 1955 Cushman scooter he
took apart "just for kicks" back in the days when engine tear-downs
and pizza preparation often occurred side-by-side in pizza joints
across America, and as he sees his world spinning wildly, appearing
above will be the image of a three-headed John Stichnoth offering
duct tape of all shapes, sizes, and colors, proclaiming "
It's all about
the duct tape, man
."  Yes, then it will become crystal clear.

But I digress.

On the start, I lofted the front end high in the air, slipped into the
woods about mid-pack, and proceeded to ride as horribly as I am
capable.  Every third tree on that course has an imprint of the
KaTooMer barkbusters.  Each time I tried a creative line to pass in the
woods, a couple of guys would get around me.  I managed to drop
the bike in a section of willow trees that had been cleared
approximately handlebar-wide, holding up another rider while I
dragged my bike out of his way.  By this time Matt and PizzaMan were
long gone and I tried to regroup.  About two-thirds into the lap, I came
upon a guy on a Yamaha with a severely flat rear tire that was
halfway off the rim.  In an open section of pasture I began to pass him
on the left, but then he moved to the left, thinking I was passing on
the right.  Charging ahead in third gear, I moved farther to the left and
off the beaten path.  I immediately found myself in the shallow part of
a gully that became deeper and nastier by the inch.  At the exact
instant I thought, "Doh!! This not good!!" the bike went into a series of
contortions and promptly sent me flying forward through the air.  As
they say, it's not the fall, but the landing that hurts.  And the landing
was about 20 feet ahead of the bike on rough turf.  I whacked my
head very hard and saw the world spinning around me while trying
my best to remain conscious.  After regaining my senses, I felt sharp
pains in my left shoulder and knee and was convinced I had broken
my collarbone or done some other damage to my shoulder.  
Somehow I got the bike upright, painfully restarted the engine and
decided to complete the lap and at least get scored for the race.

One ice pack and a quart of Gatorade later, Matt finished his race and
we headed for home.  Matt had a decent race, finishing 5th in Open
B.  The shoulder will be sore for awhile, and the next MHSC round at
Sedalia will have to wait until next year.
Knob Noster, Missouri
Polo, Missouri