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
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
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.
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