March 20, 2005
Belleville, Illinois
2nd of 2 in A class
The words “Belleville” and “Dust” are uttered in the same breath about
as often as “Dubya” and “Eloquence”, but on this day the rare
combination of dry weather and a B.E.T. hare scramble came
together like The Cream and Barry Bonds’ knees. Matt swung by my
house and took us to the race site by way of the Shrine of Our Lady
of the Snows, a Belleville-area attraction advertised many, many miles
away on oft-traveled interstate highways in Missouri. It’s not exactly
Ruby Falls or the Wall Drug but was moderately impressive from my
windshield view.

At the club grounds were a few familiar faces, including Joe and
Kiefer Rosier and the Osia brothers. Cape Girardeau native Jason
Hawk also showed up to race with me in the A class on his big KTM
thumper. First on the starting line with me was Jason and AA rider
Jeff Graber on a Honda four-stroke. A few minutes before the start,
Jeff had challenged local teen-phenom Justin Hanna, a few rows
behind us, to “catch me if you can.” Later in the race I would see the
results of that challenge.

When the flag dropped, Jason took the holeshot as we slowed for the
first turn from a rapid sprint through a grass field. I followed closely
for about half a minute, watching Jason blast around the dry corners.
In past B.E.T. races involving mud, I’d usually been able to pull away
from him, but not today. Jeff took an inside route up a tricky hill and
took off in pursuit of Jason. The pair promptly left me in their dust.

A relatively short 3.5-mile course made for quick lap times. Much of
that distance was in the north half of the club property, which is the
heart of the uneven strip-mined ground. Rhythm is hard to find in
such tight, twisty trails. Short bursts of speed were quickly followed
by hard braking and rapid directional changes. One hard right-hand
turn came at the bottom of a short drop, which I missed on both of the
first two laps. Because of the tightness of the trail at this spot, I’d ride
up the trail and  then double back to get on the course again. The
second time I did this, I met Kiefer Rosier as I rejoined the trail. While
following me for a short time, Kiefer demonstrated why his Junior
class career is rapidly coming to an end.

About 30 minutes into the race I could finally make out Jason Hawk’s
KTM in the distance. A sore hand slowed his pace, and a slight arrow
misread allowed me to pass. A few minutes later I biffed a small jump
strategically placed at a curve in the trail, then watched Jason pass
me as I restarted the bike. I followed him for another lap or so, then
made a couple of my own arrow misreads. About 10 minutes later I
caught up to Jason once more and passed him with an alternate
route through the course’s lone mud hole. But this time Jason stuck
with me like cow parts on a rendering truck. We battled for about five
laps or so, me in front and Jason gnawing at my rear tire. During his
pursuit, Jeff Graber lapped both of us. A few minutes he appeared to
pass us again, except it was Justin Hanna on a similar bike. While he
didn't catch Jeff, he did catch the A class.

With about 10 minutes remaining, Jason’s motocross skills paid off as
he charged into an uphill jump a little faster than me. He sailed on
ahead to the scoring barrels. I managed to stay close for another lap,
but then my steering damper bolts decided to come loose again. I
stopped at the truck to tighten them, then finished the lap and the
race.

Perfect conditions at Belleville are indeed unusual, and I was happy
to have a fun ride on what may be the last time I ever race at the B.E.
T. club. Two weeks later I would be a resident of Chicagoland,
pondering a steady diet of mud and short hare scrambles courses. To
Missouri and the St. Louis area, you've been good to me.

May 15, 2005
Colona, Illinois
3rd of 8 in 30+ A
As most of my regular readers know by now, in April I packed up and
moved to the Chicago area to pursue my lifelong dream of 2 ½ minute
stoplights. My nearly two-month absence from in-season racing was
the longest stretch since the
KTM Transmission Debacle of 2002. On
the race schedule this day was Colona, a two-hour drive from my
apartment “home” (as promoted by every single apartment property
management company in the western suburbs, a misnomer if there
ever was one),  so I decided I must do some serious riding before the
big Leadbelt Enduro the following Sunday.

Although I can’t say I've completely formed all my opinions about this
new adventure in Chicagoland, this I know for sure: Moving sucks. An
earlier attempt at post-move racing ended before it could begin, when
a steering damper-less KX and I parted ways in a plowed-up cornfield
behind my parents’ house, one day before the Roselawn, Indiana
spring enduro. The resulting crash had left me with a minor
concussion and a new respect for the “Magic Gold Box” (the Naked
City enduro will have to wait until August). And while we’re discussing
concussions, if you are a dirt biker and suddenly find yourself
wandering aimlessly, trying to figure out why you are where you are
and how you got there, remember this: It was the dirt bike, stupid.

The Colona race was part of the District 17 hare scrambles series,
whose schedule requires a detailed road map and a scientific
calculator for computing the number of events that are possible to
attend (D-17 official motto: We Will Race You to Death or
Thereabout). This race was also the third in a 9-event Western Illinois
hare scramble mini-series organized by WFO Promotions.

When the race was over, it became painfully obvious that I miss
Missouri and the MHSC. Let me count the reasons:

  1. Everything costs more. This fact was made clear upon arriving in
    the Chicago area, where gas costs more, rents are higher, some
    roads cost money to drive on, and home buying can induce acute
    cases of sticker shock.  It also extends to hare scrambles racing.
    Illinois is the land of $7 gate fees, required District 17
    memberships, and the AMA getting a cut of the action (the cost of
    which appears to be passed along to racers). I handed over $52 to
    the nice lady at the signup trailer, $20 of which was 2005 District
    17 dues. The most tangible benefit of that $20 will be a
    newspaper arriving in my mailbox each month during the racing
    season, mostly containing stories of various motocross events
    throughout the upper Midwest.
  2. District 17 loves the parade lap. Picture it: 100 or more riders line
    up behind a guy in an orange vest and take off behind him in the
    woods, all at the same time. There is one advantage to this. You
    will identify, and become part of, every single bottleneck on the
    course. The first one appeared at the exit of a brief pass down the
    center of a creek. Somewhere up ahead was a steep, curvy trail
    with tree roots helpfully exposed by the morning ATV race. About
    30 riders sat impatiently ahead of me in the creek, boots filling
    with cold water, while a couple of guys struggled up the hill.
  3. Bottomless ruts are everywhere. I found one on the parade lap,
    just deep enough to halt my momentum. It’s a sickening feeling,
    like driving to five Jewel-Osco’s and seven Dominick’s and finding
    not a single box of frosting-less cinnamon Pop Tarts.
  4. Three-mile hare scramble courses are the norm. I did 10 laps,
    finishing just behind overall winner Jeff Fredette as he lapped me
    for a second time and ended the 1 hour, 45-minute race.
  5. Cleaning the bike takes a long, long time. Just like in the days of
    my St. Louis apartment, I washed the bike on my patio. By the
    time I was done, the patio was covered with about an inch of mud.

The course had one very tricky spot close enough to the staging area
that provided much entertainment for spectators. For the more
adventurous riders, the trail dropped about 10 feet straight down into
a small creek (an alternate, longer “wuss route” was also available).
At the bottom was a muddy 90-degree right turn, then another 100
feet straight down the center of the creek. The exit from the creek was
a deeply rutted affair with plenty of opportunity for spectator
entertainment. Thankfully, a number of guys were on hand to keep
the bike flow steady.

About 90 minutes into the race, approaching a relatively steep and
tricky ravine, a young guy on a 100cc bike decided that the middle of
a narrow, off-camber trail would be a good spot to take a breather.
Parked off to the side of the trail was one of his friends, who he
greeted with a friendly hello. Meanwhile, I was stuck behind this guy,
trying to find a way around. I inched my way past him but lost my
balance and dumped the bike on the side of the trail, handlebars on
the low side of the slope. The young guy seemed completely un-
phased by this and continued conversing with his friend in the middle
of the trail. While I struggled to upright my KX, a group of riders
approached, some of who suggested in not-so-polite terms that the
guy move his bike off the trail. He responded with a spirited “F--- you!”
Ah, kids…so cute you want to strangle them.

Near the end of my last lap, Jeff Fredette sped by on his ultra-quiet
KX250F. My stamina level was dangerously low at that point and I
was glad to see the checkered flag at the scoring barrels. With a sore
knee and a KX weighing 30 pounds more than it did at the start of the
day, I packed up and drove home, tired but satisfied.
Belleville, Illinois
Colona, Illinois