When the Summer Bummer approached, I was a bit unsure whether
or not my sore neck would be in any shape for riding four hours in
sand whoops, so I tested it and my Gas Gas at
Fox Valley Offroad
two days before the enduro. The Gas Gas was itself recovering from
the abuse I’d put it through at the April enduro at Roselawn, where
the engine seized approximately 1200 feet from the start. The test at
Fox Valley confirmed that both bike and body were ready to go.

Now that most enduro events allow various forms of pre-registry, a
little advanced planning can usually get a person a reserved starting
position. This can be the difference between clearing brush for the
rest of the field, plowing through bike-swallowing ruts left by
hundreds of earlier riders, or flowing through a well-defined trail that
hasn't been overly violated by racers seeking eternal glory in the form
of a commemorative plaque. Advanced planning for me was the
previously mentioned ride at Fox Valley, followed by washing the mud
off my Gas Gas. There would be no pre-registry for me.

Instead, I was assigned the latest possible row available when I
arrived: 5. At some enduros, this is not an unreasonable position. The
Leadbelt Enduro near Park Hills, Missouri is an example, with its
mature woodlands and generously spaced trees that make course
navigation nearly trouble-free. The Summer Bummer, on the other
hand, is no such race. Roselawn trails can be more like tunnels of
prickly brush, meaning the first 20 or 30 riders on the course often
have a completely different experience than everyone else. A handful
of guys had actually chosen the very first row, which proved they
were either Roselawn first-timers or they enjoyed that scratchy feeling
you get after a shirtless sprint through a mature field of corn. Most of
the trails in the spring and summer events here are only used for the
enduros, which means by August of any given year the woods are
fully engulfed in bushes, thickets, and the kind of brush that
generally requires some form of hand-cutting in order to be rideable
with a motorcycle.

At signup, I did not intend to register as
John Greenview, but the
signup crew decided that would be my new alias. It was no Harvey
Mushman, but I went along with it.  My wonderful
Watchdog enduro
computer
once again made setting up the route sheet a breeze, with
its electronics and gadgetry, buttons and wires, numbers and
symbols. I would not be surprised if somewhere inside its techno-
awesomeness, it conjugates verbs.

Ten minutes before my scheduled departure time, I warmed up the
Gasser’s engine and lined up near the starting area. Next to me on
row 5 was enduro newbie Brian Scheulin, riding a Honda motocross
bike. He quizzed me about the odds of the Hill & Gully Riders
sending him home because of his lack of a headlight and taillight, but
I assured Brian that the club usually leaves it up to the rider to decide
how illegal he wants to be while riding down the connector roads
linking up the various woods sections. Even though the club’s intent
is for all motorcycles to appear street legal, there wasn't a single bike
on the road capable of passing a DOT inspection. As expected, Brian
was sent down the road without incident.

After a couple miles of pavement, the route took us into the woods,
where I blazed the trail for Brian. He was riding the Senior B class
without timekeeping equipment and eager to learn the art of enduro
mathematics, but with a 24-mph speed average, this first section only
required raw speed - something Brian was well accustomed to from
his hare scrambles experience. My Gas Gas, on the other hand, was
positively unaccustomed to a guy with a habit of dragging the rear
brake. In tight woods, I like to skid the rear wheel around tight turns to
help out with steering, and my right boot was resting comfortably on
the rear brake pedal pretty much constantly. After 5 minutes of this,
the brake fluid was sufficiently boiled and the rear brake was useless.
I had a front brake, nothing more, but was respectably late by 3
minutes at the next checkpoint.

The Hill & Gully Riders had earlier indicated that there would be no
need for “expensive enduro equipment” since the format would be
check-in/check-out. This means, generally, that upon entering a
section of woods (usually following a stretch of country road), a
checkpoint is placed just out of sight from the entry point. When the
trails in that section of woods near an end, another checkpoint is
placed just before the exit. At the start of each section of woods, the
club posted a mileage marker and a corresponding time. A rider
without an odometer would enter the woods when the posted time
matched up with his watch. In theory, the club was correct in saying
that no computer (or odometer) was necessary, but it sure was nice to
have the Watchdog.

Brian Scheulin followed me into the first two woods sections, both
times dropping two more points than me at the “check-out”
checkpoints. At the third woods section, Brian thought,
why don’t I just
leave two minutes earlier
? He proposed this to me and I cautioned
that he might arrive a couple minutes early to the ”check-in”
checkpoint. But alas, Brian could not resist, pointing his Honda
straight into the woods while I waited. Turns out his gamble paid off.
The next checkpoint was placed well down the trail and Brian zeroed
it (I dropped a point). Clearly, Brian had this enduro thing figured out.

The fourth section of woods took us to the mid-race gas stop, but not
before challenging my wits and patience. Each Roselawn enduro has
a special section referred to as Miller’s, which is a large, sandy tract of
woods with many whoops and acres of scrub brush. It’s usually the
longest continuous all-woods section outside of the Sun Aura nudie
club property around the staging area. Somewhere inside Miller’s, I
caught up to two guys on my row who were attempting to navigate
arrows that appeared to follow no established trail, or at least no trail
that had been used for a long time. The length of this section allowed
us to pass just about everyone in the 4 rows ahead of us, and
eventually we became the first riders passing through these woods.
Through a series of bobbles and hang-ups by the other two riders, I
eventually took over the lead. I wasn't overly excited to be clearing the
trail for everyone else, since the brush was so thick that I couldn't see
more than about 10 feet in front of me, but someone had to do it.

If the Hill & Gully Riders did any pre-riding of this section, it was
hardly evident. Near the end, we approached a log lying across the
trail, raised about two feet off the ground. The terrain was uneven and
the brush was too thick to see what lie beneath, so we had no choice
but to team up and take turns lifting our bikes over the log. Another
100 yards later, we found an uprooted tree blocking what may have
been the intended route (who could tell?), and my Gas Gas began
spitting coolant as I walked the bike around the obstacle. On the
other side of the uprooted tree was another series of fallen logs lying
a couple feet off the trail. By now the three of us had reached
maximum frustration. We rode blindly through the brush toward lower
ground, which took us about 30 feet to the side of the marked trail
and roughly adjacent to a cornfield. Near the cornfield we saw bikes
screaming by, heading towards arrows that directed them back inside
the woods.

Now here’s where it all got a bit confusing. We’d been following
arrows that appeared to be within 30 feet of another set of arrows.
Both sets of arrows were identical. Did the club decide to abandon
the Moose Run style of trail we’d just encountered, in favor of a more
ridable route next to a cornfield? Did we somehow miss this detour?
Possibly, but we’ll never know for sure. What I do know for sure is
that if everyone was supposed to ride that ridiculous section of trail,
half the C riders would have houred out right there.

As it were, I dropped 19 points at the next checkpoint. To add to the
confusion, it appeared that I’d missed a check. A couple other guys
riding through that same mess of logs also noticed they had a blank
space on their scorecards for Check #7. I guessed we had strayed
into a section that wasn't meant to be ridden, and there had been a
checkpoint within the rerouted trail. We compared notes at the gas
stop, with the general conclusion that we were now participating in a
trail ride. Missed checks = misfortune.

After a brief gas fuel-up at the site of the April enduro staging area, I
headed down a gravel road to the next section of woods. Brian
Scheulin caught up to me on the road and asked how much time we
had. My Watchdog computer was flashing “15”, so I told him we were
running 15 seconds ahead of schedule (when numbers aren't
flashing, the Watchdog is telling me I’m behind schedule). He darted
into the woods to get a slight head start, while I scrubbed some
speed on the singletrack. The Watchdog still flashed “15”, so I slowed
again. The display still didn't change, even when I came to a
complete stop – it should have been flashing lower numbers as I got
myself back on schedule. Then it occurred to me: I was 15
minutes
early. When running 10 or minutes early, the Watchdog flashes only
two digits (no display of seconds), which meant I’d sent Brian into the
woods just a bit early. Okay,
very early. I sat alongside the trail for
another 10 minutes before riders began arriving, all the while
contemplating how I’d explain to Brian why he’d dropped more points
in that section than most scientific calculators can add up.

But once again, Brian got lucky. The next checkpoint was quite a
ways inside the woods, and somehow he arrived one minute
late. I
dropped two points at that same check and finished the section 11
minutes behind schedule. Another short section of woods followed,
and then we cruised down country roads back to the staging area.

The final section was routed in and around the Sun Aura property,
which was also the site of a closed-course enduro held the day
before. I’d heard reports of muddy ditches and bottlenecks at the
Saturday race, as well as rumors of certain shirtless and pants-less
spectators inside the woods. The muddy ditches had been rerouted,
but a large group of Sun Aura club members came out for a second
day of spectating. The collection of saggy body parts was gathered
near a fence adjacent to some sand whoops, where I attempted a fast
getaway and nearly t-boned a tree in the process.

These woods were some of the tightest of the day, and they seemed
endless. At about 9 miles into the 11-mile section, the Gas Gas began
acting like it had had enough for the day. It was overheating rapidly. I
poured water from my Camelbak on the radiators and the engine, in
hopes that I could limp to the finish, but the engine still struggled.
Another inspection revealed a loose radiator hose at the cylinder
head. Gas Gas, in an attempt to reinvent the hose clamp, had used a
clip style of clamp, rather than a standard screw-type clamp. I
couldn't re-clamp the hose, but by some miracle I had an
appropriately sized hose clamp in my fanny pack. Even more
fortunate, the staging area appeared just a few turns later. I jumped
off the trail and refilled the radiators, then headed back into the
woods to finish the race.

Just after the final checkpoint was a watery pit used for some sort of
mud drag events. We were to cross the pit twice and then give up our
scorecards. The spectators who lined the edge of the mud got an
extra surprise when I dumped the clutch to cross the pit a second
time. With that, my race was over. The time I’d spent fixing my
radiator hose was more than enough to put me well back in the
finishing order, so I packed up and headed for home. The 2008
Summer Bummer had benefited from some of the best trail conditions
I've seen in many years, and despite my bike and navigation issues, I
left satisfied.

Follow-up Note:
Turns out I didn't miss a check after all. The check crew at checkpoint
#7 apparently didn't get the score written on my card. But I still
finished in last place.

August 24, 2008
Aledo, Illinois
1st of 2 in +30A
Every so often diversity trumps proximity. I took a look at the racing
schedule for the Sunday of August 24th and saw two reasonable
racing alternatives. The first was a short drive over to
Fox Valley
Offroad’s
hare scramble, and the other possibility was Bill Gusse’s
hare scramble near Aledo, Illinois. Fox Valley was half the distance,
but in looking for something new, I pointed my tired old pickup truck
westward. Two hundred miles later, I pulled into the staging area for
Round #12 of Mr. Gusse’s 16-race MXC series.

With Fox Valley pulling away a few would-be MXC racers, the rider
turnout was a bit light, but race conditions were excellent. The course
was split on either side of Pope Creek, with two crossings taking
riders back and forth. A small motocross course was situated near the
middle of each lap, just a short walk from the starting area. I walked
the course on the near side of the creek and saw only one potential
bottleneck in the form of a muddy gully. Most of the trails were
designed for both bikes and ATV’s, but despite their width being
sufficient for, as Mr. Gusse observed over his PA system, “cars with
handlebars”, they twisted and turned enough that I’d rarely upshift
beyond 3rd gear. I could have spent that hour actually
riding the
course, since Mr. Gusse allowed a practice lap in the morning, but
instead I watched others navigate the tight trails.

The A classes lined the front row of the starting area, where I picked a
spot between fast guy Adam Bonneur and Cody Wilson, who was
finding his way back into hare scrambles racing after a several-year
absence. When the green flag waved, the KX250’s engine fired
quickly and I found myself in the middle of the pack at the first turn.
The initial half mile of the course was mostly grass, which didn't bode
well for Dave Stickel on a borrowed KTM. He slid to the ground
around a slightly off-camber corner and took Adam Bonneur with him.
Both would remount quickly, and both would pass me after we
crossed the creek. Dave was polite enough in requesting that I get out
of his way, calling me by name and mentioning that he needed to get
going, that I moved over right then and there.

I took my time navigating the first lap, which helped put just about
everyone on my row ahead of me by the time I arrived at the
motocross track, where I was even slower. Linking up the various
portions of woods were short stretches of open fields where the
throttle could be opened as wide as I dared. I was a little hesitant to
go heavy on the gas, since I was riding without a steering damper for
the first time in more than 3 years. The last time I did that, I ended up
with a concussion and about 15 minutes permanently erased from my
memory. The KX’s steering damper had been sheered off the month
before while trail riding in Michigan, courtesy of a tree and an
awkward (but minor) collision. Five miles down the trail, riding partner
Matt Sellers noted that my damper was no longer attached to my bar
clamp. It was gone, forever, after 9 years of saving my ass about
1,000 times.

August in Illinois is the peak of the season for all sorts of tall weeds
that shorten lines of sight and make for surprises around just about
every corner. I could have blamed my initial slowness on that alone,
or arm pump, or my readjustment to the KX250. Not since the
Michigan trail ride had I swung a leg over the green bike. I had,
however, spent a few hours on the Gas Gas at the Summer Bummer
Enduro two weeks prior. The difference in those bikes is almost like
switching from a four cycle thumper to a two-stroke. Near the end of
the second lap, I was gradually adapting myself to the explosiveness
of the KX250, but the fastest of the B riders were catching me quickly.

First to pass was #382 Dustin Stambaugh in the Open B class. Next
up was #217 Jake Swanson on a YZ125 in the Lite B class. Both
would eventually win their respective classes. As I got myself more
comfortable with the KX250 and the course, I gained back some
ground on Jake Swanson and eventually re-passed him in the second
half of the race.

One of the highlights of the course was a wide uphill that had been
cleared of all vegetation. This hill was preceded by the motocross
track, which allowed for a fast approach. In fourth gear at the top, I
sailed over the crest of the hill before retreating back into the woods.

As the laps accumulated, I kept myself ahead of the only other
competitor in the +30A class, Darin Housenga, and brought home the
first place trophy. Overall winner Adam Bonneur shook off his early
crash and rode to victory. Although Dave Stickel didn't win the race
following his courteous request to pass me on the first lap, he did
claim a personal victory of sorts. After the race I spotted him
wandering the pits with two CDI’s from his lifeless RMZ450 (hence the
borrowed KTM on race day). He’d found a racer with an RMZ450 just
like his, successfully tested the CDI’s in that bike, and proclaimed that
when your local dealer blames a comatose bike on a bad CDI and
subsequently suggests that the new replacement CDI you just
bought is also faulty, then it may be time to find a new dealer. For
Dave Stickel, it was good as a win.
Roselawn, Indiana
A
ledo, Illinois
August 10, 2008
Summer Bummer Enduro
13th of 13 in Vet A
Roselawn, Indiana
The six weeks leading up to the annual Summer
Bummer Enduro at Roselawn, Indiana was filled with
things that I should not have been doing. After my
headfirst dive into the peat bogs of Morrison, Illinois on
Independence Day weekend, I was in no shape for
anything but lying flat on my back, preferably in the
warm sand of North Avenue Beach. Instead, I drove to
Cadillac, Michigan four days later and attempted to ride
the surrounding dirt bike trails with Matt Sellers, where
my pace was approximately that of an Olympic
racewalker. One week later, I participated in a 7-day,
470-mile bicycle ride across Iowa. I wasn't exactly taking
it easy.