June 26, 2005
In my somewhat limited hare scrambling in Indiana, for some odd reason I
often experience a “first” of one sort or another (although first place has
not been one of them). In my pre-LASIK days, I lost a contact lens at
Cayuga. Both times I competed at Kingman, the races were restarted
shortly after they began. And at the Culver hare scramble, one of the B
classes started on the front row. Some things might be different in
Indiana, but the sameness of Hoosier sand was all over the course.
The north-central Indiana sand factor was one I’d forgotten in the many
years that had passed since I’d ridden a very enjoyable Roselawn-style
enduro here. A set of Michelin S-12’s, firmly planted to the KX's rims since
moving to Chicagoland, were up to the task. I, on the other hand, wasn't
entirely comfortable with 95 degrees and dust rivaling a Missouri hare
scramble in July (read: Florence). After the race I heard mumblings about
the course being the most dangerous ever ridden by some, due to the
dust. Obviously those individuals have not spent much time in Missouri
during the summer.
The unpredictability of Indiana hare scrambles turned into familiarity on
the starting line. Most races held in extreme heat have one thing in
common: the amount of time spent waiting for the promoter to make his
way to the starting area is directly proportional to the temperature. The
girlfriend of the young guy lined up next to me felt the need to remind us
of the heat. “I’m hot,” she said over and over while dressed in short-shorts
and a “I spent $100 on a belly button piercing and I’ll be damned if I ain't
gonna show the whole friggin' world, biotch” shirt, this in front of 100 guys
covered head-to-toe in 20 pounds of riding gear, kind of like whining
about the heat at a 4th of July parade while the color guard passes in full
dress. Oh, to be 17 and a complete idiot.
Never have I seen so much dust at race east of the Mississippi. The start
was a grass track in an open field, straight ahead for a couple hundred
yards and then zig-zagging through a mowed path. If riding 35 mph in 3
feet of visibility doesn't scare the bejesus out of you, then you’re my hero.
A really stupid hero. Inside the woods, the dust didn't let up. It hung in the
air, clogging my lungs and painting my face a dark shade of peppercorn-
poop brown. I passed a few of the B riders that jumped out to better
starts, but each time was an effort. The course was made up of the tight,
twisty trails typical of Indiana. The only time I shifted into third gear was in
the dusty grass tracks.
The course was 8 or 9 miles long and took a little over 30 minutes to
complete a lap. In less dusty conditions the trails would have been
awesome, but today they were not awesome. All I did was try to survive for
what I thought was to be two hours. When I checked into the scoring
barrels the second time, one of the ladies said “One more lap!” Never had
three words meant so much. I wanted to stop and give her a hug. Instead,
I decided I would charge through the grass track with aggression, since I
was finally alone in a world of dustless pleasure. Then I realized I still had
seven miles to go and enough energy for about two. I backed off a bit and
concentrated on doing the nearly impossible – riding smart. One minor
crash later I decided I’d just ride to make it to the finish in one piece.
At the end of my third lap I passed through the barrels one last time and
spotted a kid with a garden hose. I pulled up to him and asked him to let
the water flow down my back. A half-hour earlier I’d thought that being told
I only had one more lap was the best feeling in the world. Now, the best
feeling was that cold water. When I reached down to grab the kick starter,
I could feel some intense heat coming off the radiators and engine. Back
at the truck, coolant was dribbling from the lower front of the engine. I’d
banged the pipe against a stump, which created a huge dent and pushed
the pipe against the radiator hose coming off the water pump. The heat of
the pipe melted a hole in the hose and out went the coolant. While the
engine didn’t show any telltale signs of overheating, it was probably
getting close. The shortened race may have saved the cylinder (the
piston got replaced after the race).
All I wanted to do after the race was jump into an air conditioned truck and
hit the road. Which I did, but not before burning my bare feet on the sand
and frying my ass on the tailgate. On the way home, several bank
thermometers showed 98 degrees. Now that’s hot.
July 3, 2005
5th of 7 in Vet A
There is dry, and then there is Casey in July after many weeks with hardly
a drop of rain. The 2005 version of the Cornstock 100 was its polar
opposite of last year’s inaugural hundred-miler. Mired in mud at the ’04
race, I managed only a few laps before my rear brakes gave out. This
year would be a battle with blinding dust on a course already chewed up
by the ATV race a day earlier.
The good part about racing at a motocross-centric venue is that they
usually know handle dust. Or at least some of it. The motocross track and
the pit area had been dampened by a large tractor-pulled water wagon.
Unfortunately, they neglected to water the trails. After signup, I took a
quick walk through the trails while the Junior class completed their race,
and a Florence-like fine powder had built up at the edge of every berm.
The dust kicked up by the Juniors just hung in the air, barely a breeze to
be found inside the woods.
Riding blind at high speeds is something the average non-riding person
would have a hard time appreciating. Actually, I don’t know anyone who
really appreciates it, because for the most part, it sucks. How much does
it suck, you ask? In the immortal words of one Wayne Campbell, it sucks
donkey. That bad, yes. The only time when it doesn't suck as much is
when you get the holeshot and make everyone behind you eat your dust.
But since “holeshot” and “Stichnoth” are uttered in the same breath about
as often as “Dick Cheney” and “Public Appearance”, I fully expected to
eat dust at the start of the Cornstock. And I didn't just eat it, I devoured it
like chicken wings on Hooters Air.
The Lincoln Trail woods have little of what I would call pure singletrack,
and none of it was used in the Cornstock. Not that it would have been
much better with more singletrack, as every dirt particle on the course
had already been loosened up by the ATV’s. Visibility in most places was
about five feet, just far enough to keep in sight the rear fender of the bike
ahead of me. Complicating the dusty conditions was a spongy front brake
that didn't serve me well as I tried to avoid rear-ending bikes that seemed
to appear out of nowhere.
The first lap was all about survival. I followed freight trains of bikes,
choked on dust, and could hardly tell where the trail was. Most of that lap
was reactive riding, just trying to hang on as unseen objects (and there
were many) tried to separate me from the KX. I made a few passes, then
dumped the bike and watched most of the guys pass me back. The lap
ended at the motocross track, watered a bit but hard as concrete in most
places. I was following two guys for a couple of miles before we entered
the track, got around one and then watched the other get sideways on a
small jump and take a nasty crash just before we reached the scoring
With as much dust as I inhaled on the first lap, I began to wonder how
long my air filter would last before hopelessly clogging with dirt. Before the
race I’d chatted with perennial fast guy Rick Kinkelaar, who mentioned
that he brought a spare filter. This thought did actually cross my mind the
morning of the race, yet I made a conscious decision to leave my freshly
oiled spare filter on the kitchen counter. Another dusty lap lay ahead,
although slightly less so as the bikes began to spread out. Wherever
there was a bike, a long trail of dust followed. I caught up to a few bikes
on the second lap and struggled each time to find a way around.
On the third lap I felt the irritating pain that is the beginning of a blister. I’d
forgotten to put on my PalmSavers and a blister was forming on my clutch
hand. I knew I needed to get those PalmSavers on my hands, so I
reluctantly pitted at the end of the lap. I’d hoped to do 4 or 5 laps before
pitting, but that wasn't going to happen. I filled up with gas, pulled on the
PalmSavers and headed back out for my fourth lap. By this time I was
catching lappers, most of who moved over quickly. Even so, I still had to
deal with their dust trails. As soon as I came upon the dust, I’d ride about
a quarter-mile before I could see a bike.
The next two laps were a blur of dust, although there was actually decent
visibility in a few spots. At the end of my 6th lap, three hours and 50 miles
into the race, I decided that lap 7 would be my last. I just wasn't in the
mood for a 6-hour ride. The KX is generally good for about 3 hours, then
it becomes a handful. The KTM probably would have been a better
choice, but even then I probably wouldn't have done all the laps I had
coming. As with the hot, dry Culver race the weekend before, I packed up
and headed for home with only two desires: a cold shower and a long
nap. Rick Kinkelaar used his spare air filter wisely and won the Vet A
class, while Jeremy Smith took the overall win.