August 13, 2006
Geneseo, Illinois
2nd of 8 in +30 A
An odd theme is emerging in the District 17 hare scrambles series:
livestock. Two weeks prior was Wardy's Fox Valley Off-Road, situated
behind a Tyson chicken farm. Today’s race, a WFO event, was on the
site of a hog farm. Personally, I’ll take the hogs over the chickens on
the stink-o-meter and chicken over hogs on the tasty-o-meter. But for
racing, all livestock is equal.

The staging area was a Missouri-sized hayfield near the historic
Hennepin Canal, where I chose a parking space approximately 3,000
feet from the signup tent. On the long walk I paused to chat with Rick
Kinkelaar, still chasing points in the D-17 overall standings. With a
new clutch slave unit for his KTM, Rick was back in action and ready
to challenge all comers.

As with previous WFO races, all the A classes lined up on the front
row. I was back to my usual reaction time when the gun fired and
sprinted to the first turn in mid-pack. Will Heitman and Ron Peterson
were both ahead of me as we rounded a couple turns before the
woods. Once inside, we blasted through some ATV trails, flew down
the center of a soybean field, hopped over a few logs, and finally
came to one of two creek crossings. The creek was not particularly
wide or deep, but the opposing creek bank had given many riders fits
on the practice lap. Most guys hadn't been aware of a metal bridge
across the creek, a few feet down the trail and out of sight where the
bottleneck had been. Made out of a ramp for loading pigs into trucks,
if ridden carefully the bridge could take away much of the effort of
spinning and cursing one’s way up the opposite bank. Now, everyone
took the easy way across.

After the bridge was a series of singletrack trails and high speed
fields, then back to the area around the hog farm. One minor crash
put me another 20 or so seconds behind Will and Ron, who had
distanced themselves in the chaos that is the beginning of every hare
scramble. My next opportunity for stupidity came on the second lap.
At the metal bridge over the creek, my front tire slid off the side.
Dumb luck kept the bike on the bridge, only because my left fork tube
was resting on the edge. A quick jerk of the handlebars got the tire
back on the bridge and me back on track.

Near the end of the second lap I finally caught up to Ron and Will,
who were checking into the scoring barrels. Just like Fox Valley, we
raced in formation until I cut off a corner and passed Ron. Leading up
to the metal bridge, course workers inexplicably pointed Will straight
into the creek, and he obliged. Why? I had no idea but gambled that I
could make it across using the bridge, and indeed I did, edging out
Will and taking over the lead in our class. From there, Will rode my
back tire until we reached a bottleneck at a tricky series of logs. While
waiting our turns, Will passed the time by nudging my back tire, again
and again. It didn't help – we were at the mercy of course workers
lifting bikes over logs.

When my turn came up, I hopped over the three logs without any
assistance. Apparently Will wasn't as successful. After the log
bottleneck, I couldn't hear his Yamaha thumper behind me. I
hammered through the wide open sections and picked my way
through the tight trees, hoping to keep out of sight from Will. But luck
intervened, the bad kind, at a whooped-out sand section. A lapped
rider ahead of me was looking a bit dangerous while climbing a small
hill, rear wheel swapping back and forth. I moved to the left to pass,
then he drifted left. My front tire ground against his rear tire once,
twice, and a third time before I lost my balance and fell in the sand. If
he hadn't slowed, all would have been fine, but luck has a funny way
of changing things. Will and Ron both passed me.

Eventually I caught up to Ron but never could get within 30 seconds
of Will. From that point on, we were running absolutely identical lap
times. Three times in a row, I could see him in the exact same spot
ahead of me on the other side of a gully, and I do mean the
exact
same spot
. Try as I might, I wasn't gaining any ground and was not
helped by a lapper who went out of his way to let by a guy ahead of
me, but refused to take all of 1.5 seconds to let me by. Will probably
gained another 15 seconds in the minutes I begged and pleaded with
the guy to let me pass.

The laps clicked by quickly, and a glance at my watch showed I was
on my final lap. Once again, I could see Will the same distance ahead
of me and settled in for a 2nd place finish. On the back side of the
hog barns, in a wide open section next to a small motocross course, I
climbed a sandy, whooped-out hill and was shocked to see a downed
rider directly in my path. I had just downshifted from 4th to 3rd gear,
plenty fast enough for severe pain in a collision. The impact was
harsh, but somehow I jumped away in time to keep from crunching
bones against the guy’s KDX. He apologized, over and over, and I
shrugged it off. No harm was done to either of us, so I hopped back
on my bike and finished just behind +40A winner Joe French.

Back at my truck, it became apparent that my pipe had taken most of
the impact of my last-lap collision. The pipe was toast, but the day
was otherwise a good one. Dan Burgard took the overall win, lapping
me in the process, as he did in winning at Hooppole in June.

August 27, 2006
Wedron, Illinois
2nd of 7 in +30A
Racing a new motorcycle in its inaugural season is a joy for many
reasons, none less pleasurable than the limited amount of prep time
needed to ready the bike for competition. Other than the routine air
filter cleanings and oil changes and chain adjustments, for most part
it’s gas-n-go. Unless, that is, you borrow various parts from an older
motorcycle and slap them on your new bike. Such has been the case
with my ’04 KX250, which completed its 9th race two weeks prior at
Geneseo. Most of its components were still tight and within
tolerances, except for those swapped from the ’03 KX250, now retired
and looking for a new home. Both wheels were taken from the ’03
bike, along with the handlebars, triple clamps, handguards, silencer,
large capacity gas tank, Hebo clutch…the list goes on. While
everything native to the ’04 bike was working just fine, the swapped
components gave the bike the flavor of a well-used (read: abused)
motorcycle. And as slow as I am at bike maintenance, Saturday
mornings before races are still reserved for my home away from
home, the 10x20 storage unit in the Chicago suburbs where my toys
and tools live.

Such was the case for my second trip to Wardy's
Fox Valley Off Road
hare scramble. The pipe I’d smashed in a collision at Geneseo had
been replaced by a new FMF Fatty in the ultra-wannabe-MX “factory”
style. Those folks at FMF are smart. They pull a bunch of pipes off
the assembly line prior to the nickel plating process and tack weld an
oval, stamped metal piece that reads "FMF”. The unfinished look is
reminiscent of pipes on factory motocrossers back in the day when
the upper echelon of professional racers preferred two strokes to four;
thus the name “Factory” for this line of pipes. With this, FMF can sell
aspiring motocross racers a pipe that would seem to be made with
less effort than the ultra-shiny (and much prettier) nickel-plated
version, for about $20 more than the regular Fatty. Motocross racers
will gladly pay this premium because they are morons. Actually, I am
being overly harsh and I do apologize. Motocrossers are often very
helpful in my quest for cheap, as their preference for whatever RC
and Bubba are doing this month has led to a fire sale of all things 2-
stroke, including FMF’s Factory Fatty pipe which I picked up new on
eBay last year for $71 delivered to my door.

As for the racing, this time at Fox Valley the temperature was 20
degrees cooler and the dirt was wet from rains during the week. The
rocky creek was again part of the course, run basically in reverse of
the July race. My start was average as usual and I managed to
fall
over just past the first
turn, then waited patiently while #640 Tim
Perkins stalled his Husky at the bottom of every hill. The downhills
were a bit tricky, some with 90-degree turns at the bottoms. On later
laps, just about all the red and yellow tape around the sharp corners
would be torn off as riders slid past the boundaries.

My fancy new FMF pipe brought some extra life to the KX’s engine
while I tried to keep up with #401 Will Heitman and #416 Bruce
Richard on the first lap. Just behind me was #408 Jeff Snedecor, who
passed me on the second lap. He was out of sight in no time until a
fall in the creek later in the race. And speaking of the creek, I must
say I rode that thing like Tuff Hedeman on
Bodacious at Long Beach
in ’93. The proverbial  8 seconds, I owned it, every rock, tree root and
muddy rut. I made more passes than Bill Clinton at an unwed mother’
s convention. The creek was
mine.

An hour into the race I finally caught up to Will, and due to Jeff
Snedecor’s fall in the creek, briefly took over the lead in our class. But
Jeff caught up quickly, passed me like I was standing still and I never
saw him for the rest of the race. In the final lap and a half, Jeff put a
35-second gap on me. The whole time, however, I thought I was no
better than 3rd place, based on the scoring display. As it turned out,
the scoring display was wrong. Jeff took the win, with me in 2nd and
Will in 3rd. Rick Kinkelaar bounced back from bike problems the
previous two races and won the AA class, while Trey Verado in the
Little A class took the overall win.
Geneseo, Illinois
Wedron, Illinois