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 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.
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
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
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 mph.
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
Another long test by Mr. Gusse, another survival.
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
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 away again.
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
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 a bit.
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.