July 25, 2010
Glasford, Illinois
3rd of 5 in Vet A
In Illinois, our rock-free soil is something to behold. Give us relatively
dry conditions and certain trail riders would rank it somewhere
between bacon-wrapped pork chops and a lingerie surprise from your
lady. Wet soil is more like Brussels sprouts and shopping for window
treatments. What we had at the Glasford round of the AMA District 17
Hare Scrambles series was a leather recliner in front of a large screen
HDTV on a Saturday afternoon during college football season. All
things considered, a pretty good afternoon.

Glasford could have been even worse than Brussels sprouts, after
torrential downpours covered most of Northern Illinois the previous
week. As luck would have it, the greater Glasford area avoided the
worst of the rains. I on the other hand did not avoid what has become
a bad habit of late: tardy departures. I had only about 30 minutes to
spare when I arrived, based on the advertised starting time. After
making a run for the signup table, I came across WFO main man Ron
Whipple, who advised that the start time would be delayed for about a
half-hour. Perfect. He also mentioned the lack of rain and fine trail
conditions, which was a surprise. During the drive from Dakota, I'd
had to take a detour around Pearl City, which was engulfed in
floodwaters. My alternate route had a stretch of water covering
Highway 78, although shallow enough that
Big Bird had no issues
with it. So the northwest quadrant of Illinois was as wet as it had been
since anyone could remember, but Glasford was fairly dry. Luck was
on my side...or so I thought.

The starting area for the race was moved to the east edge of the
property, away from its usual spot near a graveyard of junked farm
equipment. Trucks and trailers were packed into an area just smaller
than the space needed for all the vehicles. This new staging area
created a small problem: I couldn't find the starting line. As it became
clear that the race was about to begin, I rode aimlessly through the
maze of aisles between bike haulers, trying to find anyone on a full-
sized motorcycle who seemed to know where to go. Eventually I
located the starting line on the north edge of the staging area, where
most of the bikes had already assumed their positions in the various
rows. In the front line was a miraculously recovered Jeff Snedecor,
back on the bike after wrenching his knee at the Roselawn Enduro
three months earlier. He too was lucky: his knee damage was
considerably less than expected.

Stan Redell's shotgun blast, the highlight of any
WFO hare scramble
start, caught me napping. At the first turn I was in the middle of the
pack, which included our Vet A class and the Senior A class. While
jockeying for position in the early stage of the race, it occurred to me
that I'd have only one more year to bang bars with the 30-somethings
before moving into the ranks of the Seniors. And to think, those guys
seemed so old to me when I began racing as a 22-year-old.

Inside the woods, the trails were, indeed, in pretty good shape for
racing. In earlier years, the course had seemed narrow and less than
ideal for passing, but today it felt a little more spacious. After a few
bobbles by other riders, I was running near the front of the pack as
we raced through the first half of the course. The trails were laid out
very similarly to last year and included a steep, slippery uphill, and a
scary off-camber downhill. The soil was moist where shaded and dry
where in direct contact with the sun.

In the second half of the course was a nasty creek crossing that is
part of every race here. Its short distance from the gravel entry road
always makes for an excellent spectator location, and today the usual
gathering was on hand to see the winning and losing line choices.
And there were many. The crossing area was located in a grassy
pasture, so the riders could spread out over about 100 yards. I took a
safe line well removed from the arrows and navigated my way across
the muddy stream.

On the second lap, my fortunes changed a bit. After running with the
leaders, I found myself stuck in a rut that seemed like it had to have
been made from a walk-behind trenching machine. How could any
bikes have ever squeezed through its depths? My seat was poking
out about 3 inches higher than the ground beside the rut. How this
happened, I don't know. I was just riding along, minding my own
business, trying to find a quicker way around the rider in front of me.
And here I was, hopelessly stuck. Or was I? An interesting thought
came to mind: what if I flipped over the bike backwards? I certainly did
not have the strength to lift the bike out of the rut. Flipping it
backwards would leave the bike upside down, but maybe outside the
confines of the impossibly deep rut. So this I did, and the bike ended
up in a slightly better place. I flipped it over one more time and found
myself with an upright bike, completely removed from the rut. Wow,
that was easy. If only it hadn't taken me 5 minutes to figure it out.

My next mistake was back at that nasty creek crossing by the gravel
road. My line choice on the first lap was deepened by the tires of
many riders, and I couldn't force the 250XC up the opposite side.
Help came quickly though, and I was on my way after a few tugs on
the front forks.

The next few laps came quickly and uneventfully. On my next pass
through the low area where I’d found the impossibly deep rut, I took a
wide line around it and was shocked to see a wooden bridge. It kept
me high and dry, and I would use it every lap from then on. I also
found a decent line through the nasty creek crossing that worked well
every time. But after a couple more laps and a few congratulatory
words of self-affirmation for solving the two toughest problems on the
course, the race leaders lapped me within about 45 minutes of the
start. And the two Vet A frontrunners were long gone. Pat McClure
would go on to win our class and Oscar Rodriguez finished in the
runner-up position. With fewer mistakes, I might have been fighting
for the class win, but a 3rd place trophy was fine enough. Less rain in
Glasford made this a lucky day all around.
August 15, 2010
Roselawn, Indiana
7th of 8 in Vet A
The record shall reflect that at the 43rd running of the annual
Summer Bummer Enduro, my bike came back cleaner than when the
day began. It’s true. Having said that, however, I must confess that
my KTM 250XC was not in the most pristine of conditions to begin
with, but the sandy terrain common to the Roselawn, Indiana region
was somewhat like a sandblasting machine in the way it polished a
lingering layer of dirt off my seat. So this year’s event was especially
suitable for those who prefer not to wash their motorcycles after a
race. The sandy loam that makes up the course was dry but not
dusty, and devoid of mud holes and creek crossings and other forms
of dirtiness. Five hours after the start, my bike looked spectacular.

The ‘Bummer was another 2-day enduro this year, with the Saturday
race consisting of a closed-course event in and around the
Sun Aura
club, an organization having little to do with dirt biking. I chose to race
Sunday only, which meant, as it always does, that the Saturday
racers sticking around for both days would get first dibs on the best
rows for Sunday. I was relegated to a relatively early minute #7, which
meant the trails would be a little thick with only 6 rows leaving ahead
of me. Sharing my row were a trio of B riders which included Joliet
native Bob Brooks, as well as Brent Pierce and Brad Evans. Our race
began with a road section, followed by about 55 miles of singletrack
and more road sections. Below are some of the highlights (and
lowlights) of the day:

  • All checks that should have been zeroed were zeroed. In one
    section near the middle of the course, following a reset, I did my
    usual routine of entering the section about 10 seconds early,
    figuring I could scrub enough time if a “don’t-you-dare” check was
    right around the next corner. When the check appeared about a
    quarter-mile later, the check crew had their hands on the “8” card,
    ready to flip it over. According to them, I was only a second or two
    from arriving a minute late. Jeff Snedecor and I would debate this
    check placement later, but I was pretty sure they had their clocks
    off by a minute.
  • The trails were well marked, but that didn't prevent a couple of
    scouting missions to relocate the arrows. As usual, a later row
    would have been beneficial.
  • Everything I expected from past Summer Bummer’s was there,
    except for that old house we used to get to ride through. One of my
    favorite areas is an overgrown ditch with high banks on each side,
    with the trail carved (literally) through a mile-long thicket that you
    couldn't otherwise walk through.
  • My steering damper tower decided to come loose in the second
    half of the course. I've tried 3 or 4 of these in the past, with similar
    results. I will, however, give Enduro Engineering some props for
    making it the longest before a tack weld became the final solution.
  • The 250XC proved itself, once again, as the weapon of choice for
    the Roselawn trails. The super soft Enduro Engineering seat
    made for a much more enjoyable ride than the spring enduro
    here. The stiffer suspension tackled the sand whoops with a little
    more confidence and the motocross-style gear spacing was right
    on.

The final section, as usual, was a 11-mile sprint through the trails
around the staging area. The entrance to these “nudie woods” was a
known control, so we could line up near the check crew with no
penalty for being early. The club members asked how I was feeling
and unlike Jeff Snedecor, who admitted earlier that he’d had enough
and really preferred not to ride the final 11 miles, I proclaimed that my
RAGBRAI legs were still in good shape and I would be leaving
nothing on the trail. For most of that loop, this was true. I was only
partly distracted as the trail took me close to the Sun Aura club
grounds. “Eyes ahead,” I thought to myself. Despite my display of
[over]confidence with the scoring crew, I was running on reserve
energy at that point and didn't need any diversions. The trails were
alternately fast and flowing, tight and slow, loamy and soft.

The inevitable distraction came at the observation check near the
midpoint of this final section, a lone topless lady helping out the
check crew. With such warm conditions, I expected more but was not
disappointed to see less. The twists and turns continued and I was
feeling good…a little too confident, maybe. On the northeast side of
the section, I found myself in a tightly cut thicket of whatever it is that
grows here, with my front wheel on the wrong side of a log lying
diagonally across the trail. In normal woods, I would have simply
pulled forward, squared the bike alongside the log, and hopped over.
But in these woods, I couldn't see more than 15 feet through the
undergrowth and there were no other options than to back up the
bike and try again. That was a no-go, however, because I was
blocking the trail. After spending a minute or two heaving the back
end of the bike over the log, I’d used up the last of my energy
reserves. I’d lost my mojo, so it seemed. But after a few minutes
catching my breath and feeling the 8-mph breeze that was about all I
could muster in these woods, I gained back some speed. Near the
end of the course was a small dirt track where I finally caught up to a
guy on the row ahead of me who’d passed by while I was stuck on
the log.

With my race over, I was beat. Jeff Snedecor limped home several
minutes later with a facial expression that said exactly what I was
feeling at that point. Once again, the Hill & Gully riders tested our
strength and stamina. Mr. Kawasaki, Jeff Fredette, smoked everyone
on the course with a ridiculous 5-minute gap over Cody Mastin.
Rockton’s very own Ryan Moss rounded out the podium. My results
were less than stellar, but only two points separated the bottom half
of the Vet A guys. Even so, I had a great time in a place we are
fortunate to have access to year after year.
Glasford, Illinois
Roselawn, Indiana