August 26, 2001
Sedalia, Missouri
My first work experience
Sometimes I'm not a very forward thinker. On Saturday morning prior
to the event, I was still nursing a sore shoulder and was in no
condition to race, instead planning to spend a lazy Sunday as the
Matt Sellers Chief Executive Head of Mechanical, Nutritional and
Gastro-Intestinal Functions at the Sedalia hare scramble.  My duties
were to include tool arrangement, beef jerky selection, and providing
adequate supplies for Matt's customary pre-race port-a-potty
visitation. But then a thought occurred...why not work the race and
get Work Average points for this round of the series?  For most of the
day I exchanged messages with the race promoter, and finally talked
to him via cell phone at 9:00 on Saturday night.  He said no problem,
just show up at 7:30 on Sunday morning and work both races.  Doing
the math in my head, I figured I would have to leave at about 4:15
a.m. to arrive on time.  Oh boy....

The adrenaline rush of the 4:00 a.m. wakeup lasted approximately 23
seconds.  I threw on some clothes, brushed my teeth, shoved five
Mountain Dew's into my 6-pack cooler, asked myself why the hell this
sport means so much to me, and pulled out of the garage at 4:18
a.m.  Two Dew's and 3 hours later I arrived at the race site and
reported for duty.  My first job was to help back up the computer
scores by writing down the numbers of the ATV riders as they passed
by the scoring trailer.  The shady spot I picked out beside the trailer
provided what I thought was a safe vantage point to yell out the
numbers to the guy on my left who was recording them on paper.  
The scoring lane had been marked with multi-colored ribbon that
directed riders through a 90-degree turn just before the scoring
trailer.  As the race wore on and the riders tired, guys began edging
closer and closer to the 5-foot metal posts that were used to hold up
the ribbon.  With time running out, one exhausted rider slammed his
left wheel into the post I was standing next to, and had the post not
been there, he would have taken me for a ride.

For the motorcycle race I was placed at the first checkpoint about one
mile into the course.  Two other guys were on hand to help check the
riders, along with one of the sweep riders who on the first lap stood in
the creek and directed the bikes into the ribbon-marked area where
we were set up.  To get to the check, the riders had to cross
foot-deep water, ride over about 30 feet of a flat, slippery rock ledge,
and then climb up the 10-foot creek bank.  After conquering that
obstacle, they encountered our checkpoint, where they were to shout
out their rider numbers as they negotiated the 180-degree cattle-like
chute where we were stationed.  At that point I would scribble on
paper their numbers in order of passing, again and again throughout
the race.  About 170 riders entered the event, so I was very busy for
the 2+ hours of racing.

On the first lap we could hear the Pro riders flying down the creek
bed and prepared ourselves for 15 seconds of hell broken loose as
they charged up the creek bank.  I found a new appreciation for the
volunteers who man the checkpoints at these races.  Imagine 15-20
riders launching themselves up the bank, one behind the other in a
train of aggression, shouting out numbers, deafening engines, wheels
kicking up dirt and mud, and me straining to read a small number
printed on each person's helmet.  The most challenging were the C
and Beginner classes, which were large and closely spaced on the
first lap.  With more and more riders crossing the creek, the bank
became damp and very slick, causing some bottlenecks as the less
experienced riders struggled up the greasy slope.  On their own, all of
the riders were capable of climbing the bank, but while following
each, small mistakes led to fallen bikes and traffic problems.  
Fortunately there were no injuries from the mishaps, but a few people
put themselves into precarious positions.  One guy on a CR80 fell
over just after ascending the creek bank and killed the engine.  While
the little racer struggled to right the bike and restart the engine, I
walked over to suggest that he turn off the fuel and get the flooded
carb cleaned out.  At the last moment I held back from offering this
advice, making use of the four recreational years of my life that some
would describe as "college," and concluded that a "little guy" with a
mustache was probably not a Junior class racer in need of guidance.  
A regular Stephen Hawking, that's me.

In the Pro class, Aaron Shaw led most of the way, followed by
Brandon Forrester as the lead group passed through our check on
their 5th and final lap.  After trailing in third position for nearly all of
the race, Steve Leivan closed the gap and passed both guys on the
last lap for the overall win.  As the defending MHSC champion,
Steve's number was pretty easy to hear as he shouted "ONE!" each
time he passed by.  Steve showed off a solid racing strategy at
Sedalia, riding a steady (some would say "insanely fast"), controlled
pace and keeping in sight of the leaders while saving just enough
juice on the last lap to make some moves and win the race.  I
thoroughly enjoyed working the Sedalia race and want to thank
George, Allen, David (the promoter), and Richard for getting me
where I needed to be and showing me how it's done.  It was fun to
see Matt, PizzaMan, and Lars pass by and give them some
encouraging words.  For anyone who has raced but never worked an
event, I would highly recommend it.

September 16, 2001
St. Joe State Park
Park Hills, Missouri
2nd of 18 in Open B
After a long 5-week hiatus, I was ready to get back into the racing
scene. What better way to test out my still-recovering shoulder than to
compete in a 3-hour National hare scramble.  As we used to say back
on the farm, that's like stuffin' the pig through the python.  Or
something like that.  I'm not sure how that relates to what I was just
talking about, but it sounded kind of cool.  Anyway, I had ridden at St.
Joe the weekend before and felt minimal pain (with the help of a large
dose of Ibuprofen, the Wonder Drug), or at least not enough cause
any tree-smacking distractions.  I had also been training on the
mountain bike, so I felt ready to get back on the motorcycle and
resume torturing my body.

Matt and I drove down to Flat River in the big Dodge and pitted next
to the sand track.  St. Joe is a punishing place to ride because
speeds are higher and the rocks are plentiful and come in all shapes
and sizes.  If the trail is fresh and rock-free on the first lap, you can be
sure that on the next lap it will break down into a choppy, rutted rock
garden, causing relentless pounding on all body parts, high potential
for pinch flats, and even higher potential for expression of colorful
metaphors.  When conditions are dry, as they were on this day, you
can throw in some blinding dust.  The only thing missing was
temperatures in the 90's, and come to think of it, this was the first
hare scramble I had ever raced at Flat River without scorching heat.  
With no practice lap for this race, Matt and I hung out at the truck and
leisurely took our time getting ready (although I did rush to beat him
to the porta-potty, used up the last of the T.P., and quietly giggled
while he searched for anything in the truck remotely suitable as a
substitute).

For the National race, the 250 B and Open B classes were combined
on row 6 of the starting area.  Matt and I lined up next to Andy
Mueller, a regular in the Open B class, and watched as a guy in the
Pro class went down in the first corner and got run over by guys
following blindly in the dust (he didn't get up).  After a couple minute
delay for the promoters to move the first corner away from the injured
rider, the next rows began taking off.  Our row consisted of 29 guys,
all aiming for the same corner about 100 yards off the starting line.
When the 15-second board dropped, my bike fired up on the first kick
but with all the noise of 29 engines starting at the same time, I
couldn't quite tell if my engine was running.  After half a second I
could feel the familiar, hand-numbing motor vibration emerging from
my KTM, but my slight hesitation before dumping the clutch was just
enough to set me back in the pack amidst a cloud of dust.  The first
mile was open sand, and at times I was riding completely blind,
occasionally catching a glimpse of a rider ahead of me and staying
within the general course of direction. The dust settled a bit at the
entrance to the woods, where the trail followed a recognizable path
from the hare scramble earlier this year.  The riders ahead of me were
still kicking up enough dust to make it hard to see the smaller details
of the trail, including some very sharp-edged rocks that I hit hard in
third gear.  I could feel the front rim make direct contact with a
particularly nasty, square-edged, softball-sized rock and was sure the
tube would be pinched.  But the flat tire I expected never came, and I
continued my charge.

The goal in any dusty race is to find clean air, which means getting
ahead of the person in front of you.  Easier said than done, especially
when you can't see much of the trail while in their dust.  But midway
into the first lap the field spread out and I found my rhythm. The
promoters put in a cool section that took us under a 4-lane highway
bridge, and then eventually we crossed under a culvert to get back to
the other side of the highway [Editor's note:  O.K., it wasn't actually a
bridge we went under, as Matt was quick to point out.  Just some
strange old relic that used to be part of the lead mine. But is sure
looked like a bridge...].  Also included for our pleasure was a
punishing rock garden, borrowed from the Leadbelt Enduro last May.  
The final 3-4 miles was a fast section down a power line trail that was
a roller coaster on the ground.

The first of the 16-mile laps took me about 45 minutes to complete,
which suggested I would get 4 laps and would pit once near the end
of lap 2.  About halfway into the first lap I ran straight into a tree, but
somehow kept the bike upright and didn't lose much time.  In the
second lap I tried to launch myself over some tree roots lying
diagonally across the trail but got out of control and hit another tree
very solidly.  I dropped the bike but it kept running, so I remounted
and continued riding without losing much time.  After that, I decided
that I would not run into any more trees.  When pitted near the end of
my second lap, I could see that Matt had not stopped yet to gas, so I
figured I was ahead of him.

The laps seemed to go by fast, even though they were long and were
getting rougher each time.  At the end of lap 3, Shane Watts passed
me just as I exited the long power line section.  Because the area in
which he lapped me was very open, his pass was much less
impressive than it was earlier in the year at Kahoka.  But the guy does
ride fast.  On lap 4 the other pro riders caught up to me in the nasty
rock garden.  With their fancy foam tubes, they flew through that
section without a single thought of pinch flats.  Past the halfway point
in the final lap, Steve Leivan was the first MHSC regular to lap me. By
that time my lower back was starting to ache, and I was glad to finally
come to the power line section for the last time.  I finished the lap at
the 3:17 mark, tired but not as sore as expected.  Matt followed about
15 minutes later.  We were both so tired that we decided not to wait
for the results to be posted and headed for home.  The next day
when PizzaMan told me I finished second, I was pretty happy.  But
when the results were posted on the internet, I discovered that a few
Open B regulars in the MHSC series had ridden in the Open A class
and had finished ahead of me, so in terms of series points, I had
finished 5th.  Even so, I now have 11 solid scores to count for the
MHSC series, which will hopefully be good enough to maintain my
3rd place standing.

As I write this, the weather is turning cooler, the season is winding
down, and I am a week away from closing on a house.  I've been an
apartment dweller for over 8 years and will finally have a 2-car garage
in which to begin building my dream shop.  PizzaMan already has me
drooling over his real-life fantasy shop at Pizza Headquarters near
Columbia, Missouri.  The wheels are turning in my head....
Sedalia, Missouri
Park Hills, MIssouri