May 14, 2006
Kahoka, Missouri
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. I wouldn't see much of Ryan
during the race, but as was evident throughout, 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
Glasford, Illinois
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 minutes.

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.
Kahoka, Missouri
Glasford, Illinois