May 20, 2007
Glasford Illinois
DNF
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 month.

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.
Glasford, Illinois
East Moline, Illinois