May 20, 2007
With a little tender loving care, off-road motorcycles are surprisingly
reliable. However, if my KX250 were my kid, I’d be in jail for child abuse.
Round 4 of WFO Promotions’ hare scramble series was yet another
example of bike mistreatment, this time leading to a shortened race.
The Glasford hare scramble was again part of the District 17 hare
scrambles series, but the familiar face of Dan Lingenfelter was noticeably
absent. Dan’s D-17 promoting days ended a year earlier with a move to
Missouri and an invitation to ride the vast trail network he now enjoys.
Ron Whipple’s WFO series took over the Glasford venue in 2007 with a 6-
mile layout through the hills and ravines of Central Illinois. The practice
lap revealed a similar course as last year, with plenty of tight singletrack,
off-camber trails and some fast, choppy open sections.
I’d walked a portion of the woods after signing up, and wherever the sun
reached the ground, the dirt was dry and dusty. The faster ATV trails that
I’d used to make passes at last year’s race were choked with dust on the
practice lap. When the line of +30 and +40 A riders blasted off in the
direction of a large hay bale in the starting field, I found out very quickly
how hard it would be to pass. I got around Ron Peterson with an alternate
route down a ravine, then rode alone for a few miles to a tricky gully,
about three feet deep and twice as wide. Riding down into it was a less-
than-satisfying experience for Paul Mitzelfelt, who was struggling to find
his way out of it while I took a wide path to a shallower part.
From there, I came upon four guys from my starting row, riding in a
formation often called “Freight Train”, but what I commonly refer to as
“Slow”. However, one thing the “elder” riders in the A classes do well is
ride without making mistakes. The only way to get around was to make a
ballsy pass in the dust, which had the potential for severe pain, or find a
creative alternate line inside the woods. But there weren't any alternate
lines, at least not the kind that gets you past 4 guys riding incrementally
slower than your ideal pace. Thus, it was a moderate pace we all fell into
for the remainder of the first lap and all of the second lap.
Meanwhile, #401 Will Heitman had caught up after a poor start and was
now riding Caboose in the Freight Train. I tried everything within a
reasonable measure of safety to get around the KDX ahead of me, while
Will did all he could to pass me. Neither of us were successful. I finally
took a chance near the end of the second lap with another attempt to
pass the KDX in the dust, but I rubbed his rear tire with my front tire and it
turned into a graceful slide-out on green grass. Somehow Will avoided
running me over from behind.
I lost only one spot after pulling in the clutch and keeping the engine
running, but afterwards I noticed a sluggish feeling in the front end. When
I pulled over to see if I’d flattened my front tire (I hadn't), a few more
riders got around. I stuck with Will for about half of the third lap until he
jumped the narrow gully and I wussed out. By then, it was apparent that
something was catching on something else every time I turned right. I
stopped again and saw that the pipe had rotated itself counterclockwise,
causing the small end to raise enough to catch on the front fender. It was
annoying and just plain uncomfortable, especially when you’re trying to
chase down the perennial lead dog in the +30 A class. No workee for me,
so I finished out the lap and called it a day.
Will Heitman ended up taking the win in the +30 A class, followed by Clint
Pherigo and Paul Mitzelfelt. Trey Verardo took the overall win, followed by
Dan Janus and Mr. Enduro himself, Jeff Fredette.
May 27, 2007
East Moline, Illinois
1st of 4 in +30A
The 2007 version of Memorial Day Weekend was one of those glorious
weather events when the Midwest weather gods gather for their own little
celebration, not unlike millions of backyard barbeques across the USA.
The sun shone like a neighbor’s freshly tanned daughter home from
college for the summer, humidity was kept out of sight like that crazy
uncle you’d rather nobody knew about, and a splash of rain on Saturday
was like sand thrown on a burger-induced grease fire. In Illinois we get
about 5 weekends like this in any given year, and there is no better way
to spend this kind of Sunday afternoon than on two wheels and in the dirt.
For the first time since my Missouri racing days, I had a partner for the
trip to East Moline. Warrenville native Tony Smith joined me with his
KDX200, battling in the +40B class. When I first saw Tony’s glorious
house-sized garage, my eyes misted almost as much as when The
Terminator admitted he was an obsolete design. At the race site, we took
a stroll through the ATV trails near the staging area and found
moderately damp dirt anywhere the sun couldn't reach the ground. The
woods were also filled with Tarzan-like vines, some hanging at the perfect
level to snag unsuspecting handlebars. What we didn't see while walking
would become quickly evident on the parade lap: the tightest singletrack I’
d ridden since the final section of the Sand Goblin Enduro the previous
By the time Tony and I readied ourselves to navigate the parade lap, the
main group of riders had already left. Catching up came quickly, at the
first of what would become a series of bottlenecks inside the off-camber
and log-strewn trails. I eventually worked my way around a relatively short
course and back to the staging area, where I sat for about 15 minutes
waiting for all the riders to make it back.
The 3-day holiday weekend thinned out attendance somewhat, but a
small, solid group of fast guys were on hand to compete in the +30A
class. Will Heitman and #499 Shawn Minnaert were lined up nearby, as
well as Steve Fabrizios to fill out a 4-man class. Will and Shawn jumped
out ahead at the start and pulled away through the grass track. I finally
caught up where the trails narrowed and a rider had fallen just after a
minor mud hole. We took turns using various parts of his bike as traction
to spin our way up a slick hill. If it is possible to tiptoe through the woods
on a dirt bike, we did just that through a tricky, narrow side-hill trail where
the penalty for a mistake was a slow, tiring push back up a hill. Will
eventually pulled away and disappeared out of sight.
The short course and slow pace through tight trail sections made lapped
traffic a regular challenge after only a few laps. I try to be nice, I really do,
but that drag racing thing some of the slower guys want to do in the grass
tracks sets me off like the time I found out natural male enhancement was
a Craftsman #3 screwdriver and a roll of duct tape. By this time I was
finding my groove and riding well, eventually catching back up to Will
when he got stuck behind a slower rider. While we both attempted to pass
a lapper, I took a bad line through some small trees and fell over. Will left
me with my boot wedged under the engine case and Senior A rider #60
Jim Wancket also passed by. By the end of the lap I’d caught up to Jim
and began an epic battle to pass him. After nearly 2 full laps of cat-and-
mouse, I finally squeezed by on the grass track, which is nothing short of
a miracle considering my lack of skills having anything to do with
motocross and flat-out speed.
Within the next lap I reined in Shawn Minnaert and began another lengthy
pursuit. As with Jim Wancket, Shawn rode with a consistence suggesting
the only way I would get around was to either harden up and try a risky
pass in the grass track or look for a shortcut. On the first lap I chased
Shawn, he took a slightly wider path around the left side of a tree in an
off-camber section, rather than a more direct route on the right side of
the tree. I thought he might have been taking the longer way in trying to
get around a lapper more quickly, but when he repeated this line on a
subsequent lap, I cut to the right side of the tree and made a clean pass.
At this point I was on my 8th lap and, based on my overall time checking
into that lap, figured I’d do 9 laps to complete the race. Only one pro rider
had lapped me so far, the insanely fast Jason Thomas on his #3 Yamaha.
Jason has a bit of a Shane Watts style, where his riding makes you wait
for what will surely be a yard-sale crash, but it doesn't happen and he
zips ahead and out of sight. With as many laps as I’d ridden, the course
was becoming very familiar and I felt like I was turning my fastest lap times
of the day. But as I’ve learned many times before, confidence kills. Or at
least scares your sphincter straight every once in awhile. On a moderate
climb up a small hill, the trail rose and then fell a foot or two before
continuing its path to the top. The small drop looked like a perfect place
to grab some air and have some fun. Grabbed some air, indeed - a bit
too much air. One of those vines I’d seen while walking the course
reached out and yanked on my handlebars. In a technical sense the KX
and I both landed at the same moment, but my body was lying flat on the
seat like a bad impression of a Superman Seat Grab, except without the
seat grab part. The bike and I continued on two wheels into a mess of
trees and brush, somehow avoiding contact with anything solid, even
though the gaps in the trees were no more than three feet apart. After
recovering from this dose of confidence buzz-kill, I was still in front of
Shawn Minnaert and unaware that I’d also passed Will Heitman after he
hung himself up in brambles.
Nine laps in, I thought my race was over, but the sinister scorekeepers
told me to keep riding. By this time I’d run out of water, thanks to the bite
valve of my Camelbak falling off about midway through the race. Even
though I’d had the common sense to grab the hose and blow the water
back into the bladder, every so often I’d feel that cold, wet crotch
sensation that means you've either woken up after peeing the bed, or
cool water was rapidly siphoning the Camelbak dry. I rode a
conservatively aggressive the final lap and finished with my first class win
of the season and the most oversized trophy I've ever been awarded.
Shawn also got around Will while he was hung up in the woods to take
home second place. Tony Smith won the 7th place trophy in the +40B
class and a beach ball as a door prize. Another glorious Sunday, thanks
to the weather gods.
East Moline, Illinois