May 14, 2006
5th of 6 in 250A
Between April 29th and May 14th, I drove 1,400 miles and spent $291 on
gas. I was in my faithful red pickup truck, now 166,000 miles into its 10-
year life, for 22 hours. But let me tell you, it was some of the best time and
money I've ever spent: ten hours on the bikes and two of the most
memorable races ever.
The Kahoka course is a crapshoot, really. Any amount of rain beforehand
will challenge even the most able mud specialists. Summer races can be
hot and the course choppy from years of racing on the property. Then
there’s the motocross track, cursed by many and loved by a few, thanks to
generous portions of sand and mulch imported from other parts of the
Midwest. But on this day, the gods smiled on Kahoka and brought the best
track conditions I've ever seen at this venue.
Once again, Mike Burkhart's place would play host to both a National Hare
Scramble and a stop on the Missouri Hare Scrambles Championship
(MHSC) series. For the third Sunday in a row, the state of Missouri
welcomed a national off-road motorcycle event. The earlier two Sundays
had challenged the fastest, toughest racers in the U.S. with brutally wet
conditions at both the Leadbelt National Enduro and the "Showtime"
Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) race in the southwestern part of
the state. By all appearances, the attendance (or lack thereof) of national-
caliber riders at the Mulekicker Hare Scramble suggested that they’d had
enough. Robbie Jenks, Nathan Kanney and a handful of others made the
trip; everyone else went home.
I signed up for 250A, not because I have any aspirations of actually being
competitive with anyone in that class, but more so because it puts me on
the second row. In front of me was perennial MHSC champ Steve Leivan;
a few riders to the inside of him was Jenks and Kanney. Joining me on the
second row was #149 Ryan Rohleder, who has found some amazing
speed in 2005. I wouldn't see much of Ryan during the race, but as was
evident throughout the race, some of the “little” guys I’d known in the
Junior class when I was an MHSC regular were now racing with the big
boys – and flying past most of them.
Scoring equipment problems delayed the start by about 20 minutes. Two
jerseys were fine during the race but sorely inadequate while sitting idly
on the bike in 50-degree temperatures. Steve Leivan asked me how
things were going in Chicago; through chattering teeth I replied “I’m cold.”
Eventually Tom Eidam raced to the starting area in full riding gear, gave
Mike Burkhart the thumbs up and lined himself up on the Senior class row.
We readied ourselves for the start under a stern warning that we’d better
stop at the scoring trailer and yell our numbers loudly, because the
transponder apparatus and the scoring computer weren't getting along.
With that, the entire group of non-MHSC regulars turned to riders on their
left and asked, “What’s my number?”
My start was typically mediocre, although I was ahead of at least a few
riders on my row. After some jockeying for position, I settled in just ahead
of #130 Jim Roberts on perhaps the quietest KTM 2-stroke I've ever
heard. At times, his bike was nearly inaudible behind me. We both took a
detour in the pine tree section of the course but found our way back on
the trail. Shortly after, I tried a minor shortcut around a corner, which put
me in front of a deep gully. A few feet down from the gully was the
intended path, which was much shallower. Jim stuck to the course and
passed me while I fumbled my way back to the marked trail.
#15 Todd Corwin caught me in that first lap and set a good pace for Jim
and I. We stuck together, trading positions a couple times but Todd
gained back his lead at the end of the first lap, followed by me and then
Jim, just a few seconds behind. Lurking behind us was #84 Nick Crawford,
less than 30 seconds back. On the second lap, Jim passed me on the
motocross track and then I lost some time extricating myself from a mud
hole. The combination of a gully, a tree root, and a blue Yamaha rear
fender were impeding my progress. Tossing aside the fender and pushing
with my still-painful jammed thumb, I made it past the mud hole and spent
the next couple of minutes searching for some level of riding skill.
On Lap 3, Jim and I stuck together while #444 Shane Martin on a CR500
joined us from the Open B row. On the loamy motocross track, Shane was
untouchable with the power of the big 500. Through a long section of
continuous gully, I followed Jim on consecutive laps, each time trying
alternate lines but discovering on a subsequent lap, riding solo through
here, that Jim’s lines were the easiest (and fastest). I also discovered that
through the fast, rough, grassy, sections my sore thumb hurt – bad. To
hold on and accelerate, I had let off and upshift. Turns out upshifting
without the clutch makes it a whole lot easier to go faster and grasp both
handlebars firmly with each hand. Twelve years of racing, and you learn
something every time.
Fast guys came around to lap me near the end of the 7th lap. First
Robbie Jenks, then Nate Kanney, then Jordan Brandt. At this time I was
debating whether or not to stop for gas on the next lap. My watch was
flopping around the handlebars, useless for telling time. I figured one
more lap and from what I could see of the digital display, I would be well
over 2.5 hours into the race by the time I finished. My gas jug was next to
Jordan Brant’s and Dan Melvin’s pit area, which worked out well because
their pit guy was on hand to help me fill up my tank. What would have
taken 90 seconds (no quick fill system for me) was cut in half with his help.
“A liter will get one more lap,” he said. This guy knows his metric system, I
thought. And he was probably right – all I needed was a splash, because it
was unlikely Jenks and Kanney would get another lap after passing me
earlier. My 8th lap would be my last.
Turns out the guy actually said “The leaders will get one more lap.” So
much for the metric system. About the time I figured this out, I heard a
screaming 2-stroke behind me, approaching fast. Another AA rider? Not
so, just #215 Keifer Rosier on his YZ125, waving an inspired fist on his
way by and having the time of his young life. Watch out, pro class.
Keifer, along with parents Joe and Kim, were chatting at the finish line with
a rear fender-less Ryan Rohleder and Shane Martin on his CR500. I
thanked Ryan for donating his fender to the mud hole (extra traction) and
packed up my tired body for a long drive home. Every hour in the truck,
every mile, totally worth it.
May 21st, 2006
4th of 9 in Vet A
Moving back to Illinois has given me the chance to revisit some of the
racing venues where I began my early days of futility on a dirt bike. In
1995 I nearly won my first trophy here and almost broke my first bones in
a head-on collision with a tree. Times have changed in the decade that’s
passed since my last visit to the farm just off Stone School Road. I’m old
and tired, the color of my motorcycle has changed, and legendary hare
scrambles promoter Dan “Link” Lingenfelter was hosting his final race in
Illinois. After 20 years of promoting in District 17, Link has moved to
Missouri. His races have been legendary. At Canton, Illinois in 1996,
during a nasty, rainy mud race and I blew up the engine of my new Suzuki
RMX250. Link never cuts short a hare scramble.
Perfect weather and course conditions graced Link’s D-17 finale. While
scoping out the starting area, I ran into #408 Jeff Snedecor, who I’d ridden
with years ago at a couple of Naked City enduros. We reminisced about
our last race there, where I started 10 minutes late because that’s how
long it takes to discover a rag in the airbox, and Jeff burned a check by 15
The start of the race was in typical D-17 fashion, where long lines of bikes
form across a small number or rows, guys look around nervously,
wondering how 40 bikes will successfully converge into a 10-foot gap in
the trees, and eventually the promoters separate the bikes into more
manageable rows. Such was the case on this day, where the Vet A class
received its own row just behind the fastest of the A classes. Link made
his last appearance with a shotgun, fired it into the air and we all dashed
towards the woods. Jeff and I both started badly, but I was able to jam my
bike between him and a tree and force my way in front of him. Both of us
were near the back of the pack.
The trails were narrow enough to make passing difficult, but I finally made
my way by several riders in two different sections. One was a fast, wide
path next to a fence, where mud holes interrupted a series of smooth
jumps. The mud was firm and easy to get through, but most guys slowed
down to navigate the dips. Each dip had 3 line choices, and most guys
were pointing their bikes straight down the middle. I chose the left line at
one mud hole and rubbed my way past a guy in 3rd gear. In another
section, two 16-inch logs had been placed across an off-camber trail.
Naturally, a guy was hung up there on the first lap, when all the bikes were
basically running along as a freight train. I moved to a higher side of the
hill and hopped over the logs, all the time hoping I wouldn't find any
unpleasant surprises in the weeds. I passed a couple more guys there.
But, in traditional Stichnoth fashion, I gave back all those places on
subsequent laps. One part of the course had us ride parallel to a ravine,
drop down into a low spot and cross a gully. The first time through, I took
the longer, easier route through the gully but noticed a shorter option. I
took that line on the next lap, bobbled just a bit and watched a couple
guys I’d passed earlier get around. All the while, Jeff was right behind me.
Jeff finally passed me a couple laps later when the lapped traffic showed
up. While trying to get around a guy, I rubbed his back tire and lost my
balance. By the time I was back on the bike, Jeff and #401 Bill Heitman
were ahead of me, along with #445 Clint Pherigo. Bill and Clint and I
traded places for most of the race, until Bill gradually began to pull away.
Early in the race, the course was re-routed around the worst mud hole, a
small creek crossing and popular spectator spot near the staging area.
The best part of the re-route, other than the fact that we didn't have to
cross a nasty mud hole, was a beautiful 3rd gear jump over what
appeared to be some sort of man-made levee. The KX and I flew over it
and landed smoothly each time.
I led Clint through the re-routed section the first time through, and then he
passed me. At the end of lap 6, Jeff made a pit stop for gas. Unbeknownst
to me, I was ahead of him to start the 7th lap. I quickly found out where
Jeff was, when he screamed through the woods behind me and didn't
waste any time flying by. I couldn't match his pace.
On my 8th and final lap, I saw Jeff again, just after the mud hole re-route. I
was closing in, ready to try for a pass as the fast, wide section
approached, but then he pulled over and let me by. After the race, Jeff
would reveal that he’d hit the proverbial wall at that point and had nothing
left. I kept on pushing and eventually found Clint’s back tire. He rode
smooth and didn't offer any passing opportunities, so I finished just behind
him in 4th place.
Jeremy A. Smith (not to be confused with Jeremy L. Smith) took the
overall, followed by Rick Kinkelaar. The Vet A class winner was #437 Matt
Unland and second place went to Bill Heitman. Clint Pherigo finished just
ahead of me in 3rd, while Jeff took home 5th place. After the race we all
signed a large banner in honor of Link's Last Race, and the kids (and
maybe an adult or two) ate cake. Link, you will be missed.