2001 Race Reports
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.  
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