2015 Race Reports
Morrison, Illinois
Moose Run
October 25, 2015
Pity the fool who parks his dirt bike for 6 months, then decides the Moose Run is the perfect event to jump back
into the saddle. That fool would be me, and the Moose Run seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, it’s a
relatively short drive from my home, and the Morrison, Illinois area has much to offer a dirt biker. But as my off-
road kin are well aware, the Moose Run is the mother of all challenges for any dirt biker, at least in these parts.
So what could possibly go wrong?

Let me tell you, in no particular order of importance:

  1. Bill and Monty Gusse, operators of the Off-road Motorcycle Association (“OMA”), know the minds of dirt
    bikers. They build what at first seems a relatively benign course filled mostly with open fields and
    pastures, coupled with short sections of tight, log infested woods. Gradually, the woods sections increase
    in frequency, until you find yourself whacking trees with your hand guards for long periods of time,
    carefully navigating twisting trails which are rarely touched by direct sunlight. Think you found a better
    way around a huge log? Good luck. You’ll probably find two more huge logs while circumnavigating the
    first huge log. Feeling good about crossing that creek with 6 deep ruts as your sole options? Don’t
    bother. There will be more creeks to cross, with even deeper ruts.
  2. If you need to dump an old car, a dead refrigerator, or a fresh corpse where it will never again be seen,
    the land of the Moose Run is just that place. When the trail drops down into a deep ravine, consider
    yourself committed. You won’t get out until the Gusse’s decide they’re ready to let you out. And even
    then, that usually depends on where nature provides an exit suitable for a dirt bike. If you get stuck down
    there, pray for a kind racer to lend a hand, or dig in for a long day.
  3. From the air, it’s hard to imagine that a 50-mile loop could be made on land that stretches no further than
    about 7 miles to the north and west of the Bike Barn staging area. That’s where the first half of the course
    is a case study in deception. Those wide-open cornfields were just a path to places where our spirits
    would soon be crushed.
  4. There's a reason they call it Rock Creek. Since I wasn't fast enough to complete the full 100 miles, I only
    had to cross it three times, the last of which my silencer sounded as if it were attached to a trombone
    mute. This meant the creek depth was nearing that critically high level where the engine might cut out
    altogether and leave me standing crotch-high in cold water. Somehow the engine continued to chug
    through the swift current and slippery rocks.
  5. If you make a mistake, odds are you'll have many witnesses. Fortunately for me, most of my mistakes
    occurred in remote areas of wooded trail sections, but a number of difficult obstacles were surrounded by
    throngs of spectators. Both of the Rock Creek crossings were crowded with onlookers, as was "The Log",
    where a large crowd stood by and hoped for carnage. I did manage to entertain a few of them just after
    the log (which I scaled without incident) by performing a perfect 360 around a slippery turn. Sure, I could
    have just let the bike fall over, but I needed the style points.
  6. When it comes to course mileage, trust but verify. Or just don't trust and maybe show up in time for the
    riders meeting. The course had been advertised as 40 miles long, which is about the limit for my KTM's
    fuel capacity. I thought about hauling fuel to the gas stop, but using no scientific process whatsoever, said
    "Nah, I'll be fine." And I was, for about 49 miles. Turns out the course was closer to 50 miles, and on the
    first lap the main fuel ran out within sight of the Bike Barn. Reserve fuel got me back to the staging area
    (thank you KTM), where I took a long break between laps.
  7. If you're out of shape for riding, the Moose is no place to be a hero. With one lap completed, I seriously
    considered calling it a day. But after fueling my bike and chomping down a couple of energy bars, I
    actually believed I had the stamina to complete a 2nd lap. This proved a bit optimistic as I churned
    through the peat bogs and ATV trails which made up the first 30 minutes of the lap. My gut felt like I'd
    been sucker punched by Rhonda Rousey and my right testicle was still sore from a tank-slapper on the
    first lap. But after several miles of corn and soybean fields, my body loosened up. And it needed to.
    Wherever I crossed a small creek or gully, at least 5 or 6 deep ruts greeted my KTM. Creativity was about
    as essential as fearlessness.
  8. Spectators are guided by a code of silence. Ask them for clues about the best lines through the worst of
    the Moose Run obstacles, and you'll generally be met with a collective shrug. Near a road bridge
    somewhere in the middle of the course, I paused to evalaute what appeared to be a nearly impossible
    creek crossing, and caught the eye of a man perched on top of the steep bank on the opposite side. My
    "Well, now what?" gesture was answered by a "Figure it out for yourself" arm signal. Shortly after this
    section, another impossibly chewed-up creek crossing was surrounded by a number of youngsters,
    including one who began to offer me advice before his adult parent and/or supervisor ordered him to shut
    up. Those people wanted to be entertained, and damned if they would let their kids screw it up.
  9. Any hidden gremlins in your bike will make themselves known at the Moose.  It's sort of a Murphy's Law
    for off-road racers: Anything that can go wrong will do so at the Moose Run. My steering damper adjuster
    knob decided to lock itself into a stiff position, which may have been troublesome if I had been riding with
    any level of speed. Over the past 15 years and two Scotts dampers, never had I encountered a problem...
    until the Moose Run.
  10. If you've sat on the couch for 6 months and decide to ride the Moose Run, don't bother going to work the
    next day. I believe the Gusse's are quietly sponsored by the makers of Advil, so support the OMA and
    stock up in advance.

So there you have it. After 4.5 hours of off-road pleasure, I was sent home early when I arrived at "The Log"
area for the second time on the second lap. Based on the
video evidence from my twin #407 bike owned by
Matt Ellermets, my race was probably shortened by about an hour. Which was fine with me, for in that last hour
would have been a series of nasty creek crossings where I'd buried my bike on the first lap. I felt happy to make
it as far as I was allowed to, glad the course was fairly dry, and fortunate I wasn't the rider pulled over by local
police on the road ride back to the Bike Barn. This year the Gusse's continued their streak of 40 consecutive
years running this event, and we can only hope they do 40 more.
Above: See that guy waaaay in the back on the right, standing up on the pegs? Yeah, that's
me, watching fast guys like #24 Ryan Moss out in front.
Upper Right: Just after the first crossing of Rock Creek. At this point, I was just glad to make
it through there with my wheels vertical.
Below: Matt "Pinkie" Ellermets leads a group down into Rock Creek. His 4.5-hr race was
documented on video and
uploaded to YouTube. I hung with the group below for several miles
until they gradually pulled away and out of sight. We traded positions now and then, and I am
visible in Matt's video a couple of times after the 1:30 mark.
Lower Right: Somewhere near "The Log", I looked ahead to see what the Gusse's had in
store.