March 16, 2008
Belleville, Illinois
2nd of 4 in +30A
Now that I’m 3 winters into my Chicago adventure, one thing is
certain: until I develop an affinity for sub-freezing riding conditions,
every Monday after the first race of the season I will feel like a guy
who just received his first prostate exam. Clever me, thinking a
bicycle trainer would raise my preseason fitness to an in-season level.
The
Belleville Enduro Team’s hare scramble proved there’s no
substitute for a good flogging on tight, twisty trails.

My last
trip here in 2005 bought an end to full-time riding in the St.
Louis area, as afterwards I packed my bags and my bikes and
headed to the Wintry City just after Jason Hawk out-dueled me for
the A-class win. Jason would once again join me for 2 hours of bar-
banging in the AMA District 17 hare scrambles series. Four of us
lined up on the third row of the starting grid for the +30A class, made
up of guys old enough to know better but dumb enough to throw
caution to the 55-degree wind and tear through the woods at speeds
never intended for fragile bones. Two rows of riders ahead of us
departed in 30-second intervals on the TT track, which is a flat, oval-
shaped dirt track with slightly banked turns bordered by a plywood
wall. I once attended a TT race at Belleville and concluded that the
hyper-modified motorcycles and ATV’s racing around a quarter-mile
flat track for 5 minutes at a time fell into the category of drag racing
and hill climbing in measuring bang for buck. The whole thing sure
seemed like overkill, but as the starting point of the hare scramble the
TT track worked very well.

For those who have read my 157 race reports leading up to this one,
there’s a common theme concerning dead-engine starts: I suck at’em.
But as they say, every dog has its day, and this one was mine. For
only the second time ever, I pulled the holeshot and led the +30A
class into the woods.

The BET course was in absolutely pristine condition, after a week or
so without much rainfall. I led our class of four through the
singletrack on south end of the property, across the concrete erosion
control structure on the southeast corner, then up and down the
rollercoaster trail that lines the eastern boundary of the club grounds.
Through here I caught up to David Brewster in the Open A class,
attempting to pass a slower rider. David made the pass and edged
himself out of sight while I tried to find a path around the same guy.
Meanwhile, whatever gap I’d put between the other three riders in my
class quickly disappeared.

Eventually I found a way around the slower Open A rider near the
first checkpoint on the northeast side of the property. Richard Bruce
was now riding on my back tire and would stay close throughout the
tight, twisting trails on the north half of the course. As with past BET
hare scrambles courses, a second checkpoint was placed along the
northwest corner of the property, followed by a high-speed run next
to the country road leading to the club’s entrance.

As we neared the end of the loop, I missed a turn leading down to a
levee across a small lake. Richard Bruce followed me, but as we
realized our mistake he turned back around more quickly. From
there, I’d never see him again. I checked into the scoring barrels in
2nd place and would hold that position throughout the rest of the
race.

On my second lap, a bottleneck had developed at the concrete
erosion control structure on the southeast side of the property. The
structure had an uneven surface patterned in the shape of an
inflatable floor of a Moonwalk ride at a county fair, which we crossed
at an off-camber angle. The trail leading up to it had just enough
moisture to dampen the concrete, causing rear tires to slide down the
slippery slope. I bullied my way past the riders waiting their turn and
found a higher, drier line across the concrete. Fifteen lappers, all
passed at once.

My third pass through the concrete structure took more maneuvering
past an even larger bottleneck backed all the way up to a high off-
camber singletrack trail leading to the far corner of the property.
While 20 or so riders idled in a long line, I edged my around them all
and found the same high line over the concrete. From there it was 6
more laps of dodging lapped riders. As second-place AA rider Lee
Lankutis would describe after the race, the lappers either helped
tremendously in moving over, or painfully hindered progress for lack
of alternative lines through the tight trails. For the most part the
lapped riders moved over quickly and sometimes to their own
detriment. I was helped more than hurt by lapped riders. In a tight
section on the north side of the course, a slower rider let me by at the
crest of one of the many mining-induced ridges, only to fall over onto
another rider who was also stopped on the top of the ridge. In
another spot in same area of the course, I followed three slower riders
for a few minutes, when suddenly they all flew past the same turn I'd
missed on the first lap. I passed without having to pass.

Somewhere near the halfway point in the race, I nearly ended my day
attempting a James “Bubba” Stewart launch over a medium-sized
jump atop a ridge. The trail was wide and the jump had two ATV
tracks through the center. On previous laps I’d jumped it in 4th gear
through the lower trajectory provided by the ATV tracks, but in trying
to make a pass on slower riders, I decided to use a line where the
ATV’s hadn't been. Two results came of this: 1) I jumped higher; and
2) I was much closer to the trees at the edge of the trail. The first part
was fun; the second part nearly knocked me off the bike. A tree limb
hung just low enough to whack me in the helmet, dizzy my aching
head and cause me to bite my lip. I stuck to the center line after that.

At the two-hour mark, the checkered flag came out and I took home
2nd place in +30A. Chris Graber took the overall win, while Rick
Kinkelaar won the Open A class. Longtime veteran Tanner England
took the top spot in the +40A class. David Brewster DNF'ed after
wrenching his back while crossing the concrete structure, and Jason
Hawk took 4th place in +30A. The well-attended race was one of the
best BET races I've participated in, thanks to an awesome course and
excellent riding conditions. I was sore for two days following the race,
but what else is new? Old muscles awake slowly….

March 30, 2008
Hooppole, Illinois
2nd of 10 in +30A
There’s a fine line between economy and stupidity, and I’m well on
my way to finding it. My newest motorcycle is in its third racing
season, my bike hauler is a 178,000-mile pickup truck with a
transmission destined to fail at any moment, and heck, even my
noggin protector has not so gracefully entered its fourth year of
saving what's left of my brain. Somehow, though, it always seems to
come together on race day. For round #2 of
WFO Promotion’s hare
scrambles series, economy and stupidity nearly combined for a class
win.

The Hooppole property makes for a great Spring venue, with plenty of
drainage-friendly sand mixed in with loamy soil. The course is split
between north and south sections of woods with two long sprints
across harvested fields to get there and back. The ATV’s were
already tearing through course when I arrived, so I took a peek inside
the north woods and saw a skinny dude with long, braided ponytails
flying down the trail. The ATV race ended as I hiked back to my truck,
where along the way I noticed the skinny ponytail guy removing…
her
helmet. It was Quad Girl, a/k/a Kim Muzzarelli, fourth place finisher in
the Quad B class.

For this race I wanted to show off the only new thing of any moto-
related sort that I bought in the off-season, a
Thor chest protector and
BRM Offroad number plate, but my fingers were cold while setting up
for the race – my body’s way of telling me to wear warm gear. So on
came the riding jacket, and the new chest protector became my little
special secret.  

Over 40 riders lined up in the A class row, in one of the most well-
attended WFO races I've seen. The starting line in loamy corn stalks
suited me well as I held the throttle wide open to a 55-gallon drum
marking the first turn. A dash to the woods followed, where after
minor jockeying for position I found myself somewhere around 10th in
a long line of aggressive riders. Near the end of the off-camber trails
where’d I’d spotted Quad Girl in the morning, the 4-stroke KTM of
Rick Kinkelaar showed up beside me as we exited the woods for the
first of two long fields requiring the speed which gives WFO
Promotions its name.

Rick blazed a trail ahead of me, full throttle at 75mph across a
choppy cornfield which tested the ability of our steering dampers to
prevent the sort of headshake that ejects riders into the ground.
Certain individuals might believe that attempting to hold straight a set
of handlebars determined to go their own way with the throttle held
wide open would constitute stupidity. Those individuals would be
correct.

After about a ¼ mile of this, I grabbed a handful of front brake to
make a right hand turn across a fence row that brought us to a
muddy drainage ditch. The shortest path was, naturally, the slimiest
and most risky, but Rick headed straight for it and so did I. A series of
wood pallets helped keep us out of the deep mud in the bottom of
the ditch, but the ATV’s had rearranged them just enough to kill the
momentum I needed to quickly launch the KX250 up the other side.
The rear tire found just enough traction to propel me over the top, but
neither Rick nor I gained anything for our efforts except more mud on
our motorcycles.

Now in the south part of the course, we blitzed through some GNCC-
style trails and into another open field. This one was both softer and
rougher than the previous field, which sounds funny until you think
about what something like
this does to soil. Choppy on top; spongy
underneath.

Next up was about 200 yards of new singletrack followed by an
overhanging 18-inch log that would whack me in the head every other
lap. The coolest little feature of the course came after that, a
v-
shaped cattle guard over a fence. The brave guy in front of me
launched his bike over the top sailed across the fence. I took a more
calculated (read: slow) approach and eased myself over the metal
bars. A nice section of singletrack followed, with plenty of tight trees,
roots and sand. Next was a return trip through soybean stubble as
fast as the KX250 would go, which then took us back to the scoring
barrels.  

A few laps into the race, around the same time I found a way around
#499 Shawn Minnaert, #420 Tim Ferrell inexplicably waved me on by.
From there I led the +30A class for several more laps. Each time I
passed through the scoring barrels, I dumped the clutch, coated the
scoring guys with a silty loam, and sped 300 yards to a beautiful 3rd
gear lefthander turn with the most perfect foot-high berm guiding us
back into the woods.

I've encountered a lot of interesting wildlife on race courses, but none
compared to the beast that nearly ran me over – twice. This animal
was a
tractor pulling a liquid manure spreader. Early in the race I had
to pass this massive machine along a fence row and beat it to a 180-
degree turn to reach the other side of the fence. The second
encounter came as it was lumbering its way through a gap in the
woods to another field. Just as I was about to launch myself over the
v-shaped cattle guard, the huge hunk of steel and rubber tires
appeared at the exact spot I would have landed. Disaster avoided –
barely.

On my final trip around the course, I tried to pass a lapper and lost
momentum up an off-camber hillside. The loose soil made traction
difficult from a dead stop. Tim Ferrell flew by while I let the rear tire
spin in the sand and from there I wouldn't get close enough to have a
shot at regaining the lead. Tim held on for the class win, followed by
me and Shawn Minnaert riding on a flat tire. Adam Bonneur took the
overall win, followed by perennial fast guy Phil Converse. Rick
Kinkelaar matched my 2nd place effort in the Open A class. In all,
over 200 bikes, quads and mini’s participated in another excellent
WFO event.
Belleville, Illinois
Hooppole, Illinois