March 20, 2005
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
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
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
When the race was over, it became painfully obvious that I miss Missouri
and the MHSC. Let me count the reasons:
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.