of a special kind of Midwest race where field lanes and ditches were
more common than woods. A Hare & Hound for Illinois, if you will,
where big-bore bikes rule and 125’s would stay at home. Little did I
know, there is such a race in the Midwest and it is called, simply, The
Mr. Bill Gusse brings us this event each year in October as part of his
OMA National series. I’d never attempted The Race but had heard
rumors it was alternately tight and slow and open and fast. I’d been
told some of the same trails would be used from the Moose Run back
in June. This was all true. What I hadn't heard was each of the two
loops would be 35 miles in length. This same 70 miles had taken me
5 hours to finish at the Moose Run, which meant one thing.
I didn't bring enough fuel.
The gas jug felt a bit light on Sunday morning when I threw it in the
back of the truck, but I figured 2 gallons in the jug and 3 in the bike
would be good enough for 5 hours, which was all I could handle at
the Moose Run anyway. Problem was, upon closer inspection I
actually had only about a gallon in the jug. Four lousy gallons. I could
see it, me stranded in some random cornfield 10 miles from the
staging area. Now it looked like I’d be begging for gas from some
random stranger, which would not be Doug from Hampshire, parked
next to me on a KX500 with a huge, bulbous gas tank and no need
for extra fuel. He had absolutely nothing in the back of his truck
except the 100 mph super-two-stroke. Ryan Moss seemed relatively
unconcerned before the race, with his 5 gallons of gas and all. I, on
the other hand, was nervous but ultimately reached a calculated, well
thought-out conclusion: ride until the gas was gone.
The starting line looked like a real hare & hound, or at least the first
row, made up of the Pro riders and the A classes. Mr. Gusse lined us
up in a harvested bean field next to the staging area, where we were
pointed towards a grain wagon about a quarter-mile out in the field.
Two more wagons were placed in the field, each another quarter-mile
apart. We were to ride around each wagon and then enter the
motocross track. Whoever could hold the throttle open the longest,
brake the latest and gear his bike the highest would win a cash prize
for being the first to enter the track.
That would not be me.
Mr. Gusse very much wanted to start The Race at 12:00 sharp but we
racers are so used to tardy starts that, as usual, we took our time in
readying ourselves and our bikes. Most guys casually rolled into their
respective starting lines by the time the signal was given to shut off
engines, but many weren't paying attention. I never did get a chance
to restart my bike in the minute or so leading up to the flag drop,
since I was actually attempting to help out the poor guy trying to get
everyone to hit their friggin' kill switches and let the race start in
silence. By the time the flag was ready to drop, my KX250 had sat
silent for several minutes and it didn't start on the first kick. Or the
second. Or the third. Most of the front row was well on its way to the
first grain wagon by the time I was moving. The field was a bit dusty
by the time I arrived at the motocross track, where several guys had
already crashed in the soft, wet peat the Morrison area is famous for. I
survived the short pass through the track and from there it was a flat
out, wide open adrenaline rush through 2 miles of corn field. The only
time we slowed before entering woods was a road crossing.
The first stretch of woods turned out to be just a small buffer between
the cornfield we had been in and the cornfield we were headed for.
Another mile, another field. At some point we did actually find some
woods that looked very similar to the old Moose Run course. I made it
to the first mud hole just in time for the 30 guys ahead of me to dig a
handful of bike-swallowing ruts. Naturally, I found one. Rather than
the soft peat I’d just spent the previous four miles trying to float
across, I was stuck in good old Illinois black clay. I could tell right
away that the only chance I had at escaping was either from the help
of one or more very strong men, or by digging my way out. Nobody
was stopping and, honestly, no passing rider appeared strong
enough to squat-thrust my KX250 out of its rut, so I kept digging. And
digging some more. Finally, after every single rider on the course
passed by, there remained only me and two other guys, both lodged
in various states of despair. The three of us began the process of
extricating each bike, one at a time. The easiest was the Husky, which
really only needed a good push over a log. My KX250 was next, and it
was also relatively painless to lift out of its rut after I’d dug out some
of the muck.
The Honda 4-stroke was another matter entirely.
Here is another reason I will only own one of those machines when
the federal government tells me I have to: they are like 2-wheeled
snowmobiles. In normal conditions, they’ll get you through a lot of
stuff you never imagined, and in bad conditions they will bury
themselves to the point that you often consider cutting your losses
and just leaving them there. If not for the unwritten rule of racing,
where you must help those who help you, I would have left the guy
stranded in the mud. The three of us tugged a few times but the
Honda would not budge. Thus began the hand shoveling of black
clay. Eventually we pulled away enough mud to lift the back end out
of the seat-deep rut and lay the bike on its side.
Exhausted as I was, now at least I wasn't dead last. The Honda guy
took some time to get started, while I remounted and caught up to the
Husky guy. From there I raced alone for about 10 minutes and then
began finding a stray rider now and then. Eventually I caught up to
Doug from Hampshire on his KX500. He had told me his mighty KX
would do 100 mph and he was surely correct. I passed him in the
woods and he blew by me in the fields while I was at full throttle and
he was barely making his bike do any real work. Some fields were
perfectly flat; others were hilly enough to test the limits of farmability.
Every hill had a little surprise at its crest – sometimes the beaten path
abruptly changed direction and other times I found myself heading for
grassy waterway crossings and wondered what I’d find in them at 70
Aside from the usual smattering of downed trees inside the woods,
Mr. Gusse set up two obscenely large logs at spectator points
mapped out on the race flyer. The first log brought on the same
reaction as many Moose Run obstacles: You Cannot Be Serious.
Such was my first thought upon observing a 3-foot diameter log lying
nearly parallel to the trail. Yellow ribbon limited my options to a quick
90-degree turn and an even quicker lofting of the front wheel as high
as I could get it. All of this had to happen in about half a second.
Somehow it did, and once the front wheel cleared the top of the log,
the bike teetered on its skid plate. From there, gravity took care of the
rest and I was on my way.
The second huge log was about the same as the first, but this time
we had two options. Most guys went far to the left, where the
approach was the same quick 90-degree turn as the first log. A
shorter, more direct route over the log had a second log sitting high
off the ground about a foot beyond the main log. It didn't look like
much fun. I took the left route and once again turned sharply,
dumped the clutch to lift the front wheel above the log and let gravity
help me across.
After 2 hours of tight woods and WFO sprints through fields, I arrived
back at the main checkpoint. The girls handling the scoring told me to
go left, but I pointed myself straight at my pickup truck and filled up
with the last of my gas. Even with wasting 15 minutes in the mud
hole, I’d finished the first lap well ahead of my expectations. Fuel
would not be a problem, so I headed back to the checkpoint. Either I
misinterpreted what the ladies had told me or they were just
confused, because a left turn took me back into the bean field where
we’d blasted around the grain wagons. Halfway through the field I
figured out nobody else was doing what I was doing and I probably
looked like an idiot screaming across the field and around the grain
wagons. I found my way back to the motocross track, where I should
have been to start the second loop.
I finished the second loop more quickly than the first, even after
factoring out the 15-minute mud extravaganza on the first lap. Other
than funny noises coming from under my KX, the bike did as fine as it
could with as much exclusive use of the carburetor’s main jet. Nothing
I've ever ridden, not even Tebbetts, Missouri, was so fast for so many
miles. The mud hole gave me no problems on the second pass, nor
did either of the monstrous logs. In only 90 minutes I was back at the
main checkpoint, my race completed.
Another long test by Mr. Gusse, another survival.of a special kind of
Midwest race where field lanes and ditches were more common than
woods. A Hare & Hound for Illinois, if you will, where big-bore bikes
rule and 125’s would stay at home. Little did I know, there is such a
race in the Midwest and it is called, simply, The Race.
White City, Illinois
The Thanksgiving story as told by my drunk Grandpa, November
22, 1967... A long time ago way before the formation of the group
"Deep Purple", the Lord and some of his pilgrim buddies came to
America on a moving van and three ships, The Mayflower, The
Pinta, and the Edmond Fitzgerald. They landed in America, met a
bunch of Indians, and they all ate corn and played touch football.
The Lord got sandwiched on a square out pattern and was
knocked unconscious. He woke up an hour later and seen his
shadow and the Indians knew they were in for a long winter. The
pilgrims then gave thanks for their new land and made a sign and
hung it on Plymouth rock. It simply said "No Queers". After that,
they all ate turkey and told Pollock jokes. The End. After that
story my grandpa stumbled out the door into the street where he
was broadsided and killed by a big rig. There's no point to this
story other than I just thought I'd share some of the hell I went
through as a kid.
Larry the Cable Guy
November 26, 2006
Toys for Tots charity race
10th of 17 in B class
White City, Illinois
Every year, the Cahokia Creek Dirt Riders (CCDR) follow up our
nation’s annual day of giving thanks for the modern miracle called
gastric bypass by hosting a charity race for the benefit of the Toys for
Tots foundation. CCDR custom for this event is to collect new toys
from each racer and turn them over to the Hearts United Association
in nearby Litchfield. Down at the farm, I’d picked up the perfect toy
from a store called Big R, which is not just a place where you can buy
hydraulic fluid for your tractor and hackamores for your horse, it’s also
got farm toys. And not just the cheesy Walmart stuff where they put
steel tanks on Case-IH ADX3380 air seeders when everyone knows
they come with poly (duh). I picked up a 1:32 scale Steiger STX with a
sweet blade on the front and almost bought second one for myself.
Two days later I sucked in my bloated gut and drove three hours
White City. The old crew was already there – Rocket on his new
CRF250, Henderson, Yarnell, Goforth, Brewster, and Jeff Smith with
a fancy new digital camera. Matt showed up with his new 300XC-W,
hardly ridden even before his 2-month sabbatical, courtesy of a
broken leg. Parked next to us was myspace.com buddy Kevin Hicklin
and on the other side of the CCDR property was another myspace
guy, Todd Darr, proving I am no longer the oldest dude on the
website commonly referred to as Timewaster of the New Millennium.
Word in the pits was a 7.8-mile loop and from the looks of the trail, it
was going to be sweet. Matt and I were teaming up in the B class,
alternating laps for three hours or until his barely-healed bones would
let him. The Ironman class was the most populous, with 26 guys
including Rocket, choosing to ride the entire race solo. In all, more
than 200 riders showed up to support Toys for Tots.
For all of 2006 I have neglected to give my sponsor due credit for its
efforts in supporting my racing season, so here goes: My Twin Air
Kawasaki KX250 burst off the starting line towards the right side of
the entry into the woods. We were pointed at the highway bridge
where the other side of the CCDR property is accessed. Clearly my
superior Twin Air equipped airbox was the reason for my top-5
position in the woods, where a new section ran us through something
original: the center of a dry, sandy creek bed. One guy tried to drop
down into the creek early and cut me off, but I would have none of it.
The creek’s exit was diagonally up the side of the right bank, where a
rut was forming rapidly. Each time up the creek bank I’d kick my right
leg high to avoid losing it altogether.
The traditional crossing of Cahokia Creek at the back end of the
property came next. Already the opposite bank was a slimy mess.
From there was an off-camber section with a low-hanging log that on
the next lap would knock me nearly senseless. The key was staying
low on the hillside, which I did 3 out of 4 times. Two of the 4 guys
ahead of me were now out of sight, and the other two were holding
me up. Unbeknownst to me, David Brewster was just behind me and
we would follow the two riders for a couple more miles.
Near the southwest corner of the property, one of the lead riders
mishandled a pair of narrowly spaced trees, which gave me a chance
to blaze a new trail on the left before the second guy could make his
way around. From there I rode alone for another couple miles until a
pair of fast riders caught up. I figured it might be guys in the Ironman
class, so I pulled over to let them pass. Naturally, it was two guys in
my own class, including Brewster who was keying off the other fast
guy. Eventually the two separated and I either rode faster or Brewster
slowed. After disappearing for several miles, I caught him near the
end of the lap in some tricky off-camber trails near the main highway.
One minor bobble in that section was all Brewster needed to pull
I dodged a sure crash in sand whoops leading up to the eastside pits
when my handguard clipped a tree and my left hand detached from
the handlebars. It was a crowd pleaser for the spectators but not so
good for my time-tested Shift jersey. The jersey had been a $15
clearance buy from a mountain biking catalog and outlasted any other
I've ever owned. But with one sleeve nearly ripped in half, it was time
to put down the jersey.
Matt took over while I changed goggles and traded jerseys. Kevin
Hicklin finished his lap a few minutes later and we chatted to pass the
time. Matt’s lap times were about 25 minutes the whole day, which
proved he was fully healed. Kevin’s number plate was slightly
rearranged from an early encounter with a tree, ruining his holeshot
shortly after it began. The routine would continue throughout the
afternoon – ride a lap, trade places with Matt, wait a few minutes for
Kevin, talk for awhile and then head out to the trade-off area to await
my turn to ride again.
About halfway through, ambulances showed up and then a helicopter
landed in the field inside the property. A rider named Dave had
crashed along a small creek and broken his leg. On my third lap we
were stopped while a group of guys carried him out on a flatboard.
About that time I thought back to an earlier declaration that I’d gone
the whole 2006 season without a doctor’s visit. I backed off the throttle
My fourth lap was my last and most interesting, as I followed a fast
guy on a Husky the whole way. Word in the pits was the creek
crossing on the other side of the highway was getting nasty, so much
that Kevin Hicklin saw his front fender disappear in the murky water
for a short time. Luckily for me, the fast Husky guy showed me the
easy way across, just a little further upstream. Near the end of the
lap, in the same off-camber section where I’d bobbled in earlier laps,
the Husky guy made a mistake and I shoved my way past.
I finished just after the 3-hour mark, four laps for me and three for
Matt. As always, the CCDR club put on a great race and fun was had
by all except the guy who got a helicopter ride. And best of all, we
made a busload of kids very happy in December.
|The 1997 version of "The
Race" was chronicled by the
Associated Press, as
published in the Kankakee (IL)
Daily Journal in January 1998.
Click on the images below to
view the complete article.
October 29, 2006
6th of 8 in +30A
In the world of off-road racing, Mr.
October I am not. On any Sunday in any
month named October, I’m most likely to
be found on a different kind of off-road
machine. Fall means harvest time in
Illinois and most weekends are passed
amidst the rush to bring in a crop and not
break any of Dad’s farm equipment. In
years past I spent days on end dreaming