September 7, 2003
Smithville Lake, Missouri
4th of 17 in Vet
It's a long, long drive to the best trails Missouri has to offer. Smithville
Lake is 'da bomb, it's all 'dat, the shizzle in the hiznet. Or something.
To get there from St. Louis, hop on I-70, go west for about 3 hours
and turn right. That's pretty much it, 275 miles later. Sure, it's an early
morning and a long day, but the rewards are sweet. Singletrack, and
lots of it, mostly free of rocks. No ATV's. And this year, perfect
weather with very little dust.

Clay County Parks & Recreation was again generous enough to
provide a portion of its 7,200-acre Smithville Lake property for Round
13 of the Missouri Hare Scrambles Championship. The course used
the same portion of those acres as last year, which had been a
completely new Smithville course. In 2002 I worked this race, so the
2003 event was my first time riding these awesome trails. During the
rider's meeting, Tom Eidam gave us a refresher course on trail
courtesy, which was the standard "If you hear a screaming engine
behind you, get the hell out of the way" coupled with "Expect to hear
various colorful metaphors and insults to 'yo mama if you choose not
to get out of the way."

The Smithville course was around 8.5 miles of mostly singletrack and
a long grass track that I actually enjoyed riding. The grass track was
near the staging area, providing some good viewing for spectators.  
Despite the relatively narrow trails, the practice lap revealed
numerous, yet relatively inconspicuous, spots to pass and be passed
in the woods. The course began and finished at the grass track, with
the final mile or so winding in and out of a waterway, through a
narrow creek bed, and out into the open for a half mile of moto-like
sprinting to the finish. Once again I brought my insanely comfortable
lazy chair, and after the practice lap kicked up my feet, sipped a
Breeze iced tea, and contemplated the gorgeous morning. In this part
of the world we get about 10 days of such fine weather each year,
and what better way to enjoy it than outdoors on a dirt bike.

For the first time in forever, the Vet class lined up on the third row,
just behind the A and AA riders. The first corner was at the edge of
the open field, and when the board dropped for the start of our race, I
was about mid-pack entering the tree-lined turn. Matt Weis jumped
out ahead and set an extremely fast pace. Soon after, I could hear
#76 Gary Mittelberg behind me, searching for a place to pass. He
finally found it at one of those inconspicuous corner-shortening
opportunities that I had noticed in the practice lap but didn't see in
time to use. I followed Gary for a couple more miles until I found a
quicker way around a slow curve. I was feeling pretty good about
passing Gary for about a minute. The trail curved around a large
fallen tree, which normally would have been easy to hop over, but it
was lying nearly parallel to the trail. Most riders (including me) were
taking the long way around, but Gary hopped over the log with little
effort and easily beat me around the corner. I trailed him until the
grass track, where he inexplicably let me by (a flat tire ended Gary's
day). Steve Crews got around me in the grass track and took off to
pursue Matt Weis.

The next two laps went by quickly as I tried to work my way through
the pack. Some of the B riders in the rows behind me had closed the
gap around the halfway point of the race, including #128 Zach Bryant
on his high-revving RM125 and #30 Adam Ashcroft in the 250B class.
Adam and a group of fast guys got around me shortly after the
downed tree where Gary Mittelberg had earlier passed by. I had killed
the engine just before that spot and Adam, following closely, told me
to get out of the way. The nerve!  I did get out of the way,
unintentionally, when I tried to take a higher line on an off-camber trail
and misjudged the gap between two trees. Even with 30-inch-wide
handlebars, a 28" gap is just a little too narrow to manage without
slowing to a crawl. The Ashcroft freight train left me standing.

And now, a brief message to the 29 riders who were faster than me at
Smithville Lake: When I give you an opportunity to pass, please take
it. Please don't follow me as I take the wide route around a corner.
Please don't smack my rear tire when I pull over. And finally, please
refrain from running over my foot as you pass by in frustration,
expletives spewing from dusty lips. If you do these things, I might get
angry. Very angry. Enough for a green monster to emerge....yes, that
race-ready KX250 in the stable next to the tame orange beast. It's
coming. It's sooooo coming to a race near you.

I finished up by letting #454 Mark Green pass by in the grass track.
He was restarting his bike when I had passed him near the end, and I
could swear he had been lined up in the A class. No reason to slow
him down, I thought, and I let off just enough for him to get around.
My fault, and it may have cost me third place. Oh well. The race was
thoroughly fun and I only smacked my still-tender ankle one time.
Matt Weis took home the win in the Vet class, followed closely by
Steve Crews. The overall win went to #4 Holeshot King Doug Stone.
Congrats to Adam Ashcroft on his first-ever top-20 overall finish, and
Tyler Ruckdeschell on his first-ever Junior class win!!

September 21, 2003
Eugene, Missouri
8th of 10 in Vet
Ever have one of those days where for no particular reason you notice
some random image or event and later realize that the random image
or event was a predictor of things to come? Maybe that only happens
to some people after a 5-hour Saturday morning Beverly Hills 90210
marathon on FX. Not that I would know because I've never done that
(couldn't make it past 4 hours). But it happened on the day of the
Eugene round of the Missouri Hare Scrambles Championship and it
was weird. Very weird.

Image #1: driving west on I-70, passing and being passed by a
hundred cars and trucks, and of all those vehicles, of all those
Missouri license plates with the familiar three digits followed by a
space and then three letters, I noticed the one that ended with the
letters "DNF".

Image #2: riding my KTM to the starting area to begin my practice lap,
while a small group of cattle were quickly getting the message that
they needed to find another place to graze, one young bull couldn't
contain himself and mounted up on an unsuspecting cow.

What do those images mean? If it isn't already clear after you read
about my day at Eugene, I'll spell it out later. As far as the racing was
concerned, the conditions could not have been more perfect. The
morning was warm but not hot, the trails slightly damp but not slick.
Pleasant temperatures and perfect trail conditions made for a
seriously enjoyable ride. The long creek section that challenged us
last year was run in reverse, meaning we were riding downstream
instead of fighting the current. The rains during the week had filled
the creek with fresh, flowing water that was just a bit too deep for
comfort in a couple of spots. Like the prior year, the bottom was either
slick rock ledges or jagged-edged stones and boulders. I walked this
section prior to the practice lap and saw no good way to get through
other than straight down the beaten path, which was not so much
beaten as it was a main line with some of the bigger rocks pushed to
either side. The pit area was adjacent to the first half of the creek
section, providing what was sure to be an entertaining afternoon for
the spectators.

The rest of the course was a good mix between fast ATV and new
singletrack, much like the opening round at Lebanon. I hooked up
with K-Ruck #94 for awhile and finished the practice lap by myself.
After starting on the 3rd row at Smithville, it was now our turn to head
to the back of the pack, somewhere around 8 rows behind the AA
class. The Vet class starting line was abuzz with the sight of #35
Robbie Jo Reed, making a rare appearance after winning the first two
rounds earlier in March. On either side of me was #76 Gary Mittelberg
and #81 Matt Weis, along with #442 Steve Crews, #237 Elston Moore,
and K-Ruck in the mix.

My start was typically average, and I battled with Elston to the first
turn. The initial quarter mile was through the second half of the creek
section. At the exit of the creek was a slippery bank, followed by a
steep off-camber hill. I passed K-Ruck there and settled in with a train
of riders. Gary Mittelberg and K-Ruck soon caught up to me, with
Gary making his pass via an alternate path through a rock ledge.
Gary is one of the smartest guys on the trail when it comes to finding
ways around slower riders. Using a tired old corporate cliché, he
thinks outside the box. After Gary's pass, K-Ruck got around me and I
followed him through the end of the first lap.

On lap 2, Kevin put some distance on me in the creek section and I
never saw him again. I tried to keep up an aggressive pace and felt
like I was riding well, but Kevin and Gary were pulling away. I caught
up to Robbie Jo Reed, who turned a fast initial lap but was fading on
the second lap. As usual, I had no idea what place I was in when I
started my third lap, but it didn't matter. At the beginning of the creek
section, I fell over in the deepest part of the creek. I almost kept the
bike upright enough to prevent water from entering the airbox, but
slipped on the slick rock bottom and dropped the bike completely into
the water. My day was done. With help from spectators, I pushed the
bike up the creek bank and called it a day. It really is surprising how
much water can get inside the engine is such a short time. It had
been about 10 years since I had last flooded a dirt bike, but the
draining routine was fresh in my mind. After ridding the bike of water,
I had a notion to go out and enjoy another lap but decided to pack up
and go home.

To translate the abovementioned images, I didn't finish (DNF), got
screwed (unsuspecting cow) in the creek, but had a heck of a good
time (young bull). K-Ruck took the Vet class win, followed closely by
Elston who put on a late charge. Steve Crews locked up the series
with a 3rd place finish. The overall win went once again to Steve
Leivan, who battled young gun Caleb Wohletz the entire race.
Smithville Lake, MO
Eugene, Missouri