June 2, 2002
Marshfield, Missouri
15th of 22 in Open B
The Marshfield round of the MHSC is a gem in the middle of the
roughest rock region of Missouri, the southwest part of the state near
Springfield.  As the crow would fly with a mild hangover, the
Marshfield course is about halfway in between Lebanon and
Chadwick, both remembered for past poundings of bike and body.  
While not totally free of the rocks I've come to expect south of the
Missouri River, this course did contain enough narrow singletrack for
me to forget, for very, very brief moments, that I was still riding in
someone else's Motherland.

Aside from a few mud holes and a couple hundred thousand little red
ticks roaming the parking area, I liked what I saw before the race.  Not
that I mind sharing my blood with thirsty critters, but I'd rather have
preserved all my bodily fluids for the race (note to self: next time pack
the Deep Woods Off).  The course was in fine shape with no major
obstacles other than a huge terrace leading into the woods after a
fast section of open pasture. Approaching it in 5th gear WFO, would
have been a nice jump for Pastrana but not for a slow-reacting spode
like yours truly.  On the practice lap I followed PizzaMan for awhile,
until he decided to park himself at the bottom of a water-filled gully.
As much as I tried (very little, actually), I couldn't resist my temptation
to blast through the gully and spray him with muddy water. Hey, just
trying to keep you cool, buddy.

At the start of the race, I charged off the line fairly well, but shared the
same fate as Matt, who eloquently described after the race, "I got off
to a good start, but everyone else just passed me."  I fought through
the middle of the pack and passed 3 or 4 riders before settling in
behind a train of guys led by none other than PizzaMan himself.  Kurt
was riding about as well as I've ever seen him, and despite a few
attempts, I was unable to get around him before the end of the first
lap.  More of the same on lap 2, but PizzaMan finally let me by and I
continued my charge.  Somewhere near the end of that lap, a tiny,
jagged rock worked its way down my boot and became jammed on
the top of my right foot.  I kicked, twisted, and stomped, but could not
get the rock to move.  To understand my pain, go into your garage,
take off your shoes and socks, put down your bike's kickstand, let it
rest upon your 4th metatarsal (ride dirt bikes long enough and you,
too, will come to know all of the bones in your feet), and have a friend
sit on the bike.  Feel good?

On lap 3, rock still jammed in my boot, my front end suddenly
became virtually uncontrollable, the victim of a pinch flat.  Apparently
a Michelin S12 with 16 psi and an extra layer of old tube isn't enough
to conquer the rocks.  The official results show that I finished 15th,
although a scoring error put me ahead of Matt and possibly one other
rider in our class.  Not that it mattered...Matt still retained bragging
rights for the race.  Congrats to Steve Leivan, who returned to his
winning ways by capturing his first overall win of the year.

June 16, 2002
St. Joe State Park
Park Hills, Missouri
3rd of 14 in Open B
I have never ridden so fast, for so long, during a motorcycle race.  
And I have never seen so many other people ride so fast, for so long.  
The course was advertised as 13.5 miles long, and my lap times were
around 35 minutes. For me, that's fast. Before the race I warned my
Arkansas neighbors that the practice loop (made up of the first 5
miles of the course) was probably not representative of all that St. Joe
had to offer. Although I was correct, it wasn't because of the
rock-beating I expected in the second half of the course.  Instead, we
were pleasantly surprised by a couple miles of brand new trail, lots of
wide-open sand, and about as few rocks as I've ever seen at one of
these races. Overall, the course was outstanding.

While the weather was remarkably balmy upon arrival, the dust was
already kicking up during the pee-wee race.  My 300EXC had
apparently got wind of its imminent departure from the Stichnoth
garage and punished me by refusing to start up for the practice lap
(note to readers: the bike is for sale).  Fortunately, she didn't make
me suffer for too long - after a quick throttle cable adjustment, the
problem was solved.  The practice lap went off without a hitch and the
gods smiled on Flat River by dropping 5 minutes worth of rain just
before the race began.  The promoters wasted no time in starting the
AA's, and two minutes later my race began with a dust-free run
through the sand track.

My start was typically unimpressive, as the big 4-strokes powered
their way through the sand ahead of me.  The wide trail narrowed to a
small opening in the trees, where my new tinted goggle lens turned
day into dusk. My eyes adjusted in time for a steep uphill, followed by
an equally steep downhill where I stalled the engine while trying to
get past a rider having trouble with the descent.  Dwayne Parish got
by me there, but I got back around him with a block pass that was
way too aggressive so early in the race.  But the train of riders that I
had followed during the first lap at Marshfield was still fresh in my
mind, and I was determined to lead, not follow.

But follow I did, as I gradually caught up to the class leaders. Once
we finished the first 5 miles, the rest of the course we were seeing for
the first time.  We spent a mile or two blasting through sand whoops
at warp speed before settling back into the woods.  A new section of
"virgin" trails was laid out for our enjoyment, and the old concrete
structure was again made part of the course. A few fast, rocky
sections made me cringe each time my front tire took a hard impact,
but my new Bridgestone's held up just fine for the whole race.  The
best part was riding across a levee, perfectly flat, straight, and wide
open for a half-mile or so.  The big 4-strokes were surely going 90
mph or more through that section.  As the freaky, future serial killer
kid from the Mazda commercials would say, "Zoom, zoom." [I have a
recurring dream where that little monster drives over to my house in a
Protégé and appears behind every door I open, whispering those
words with the same evil, boyish grin seen on TV's all over the world.  
Then I duct-tape his mouth shut and he never speaks again. It is a
beautiful dream.]

Lap two was more of the same, with me in second place, about 30
seconds behind the leader, at the scoring trailer.  My lap times slowed
a bit after that, probably because I had the crap scared out of me
from a near-crash in the 5th gear sand whoops on lap 2. I settled into
3rd place on laps 3 and 4, and that's where I finished.  Brandon
Forrester took the overall win, with 4 other riders less than one minute
behind.
Marshfield, Missouri
Park Hills, Missouri