Dirt Bike Enduro Racing – Red River Enduro 2008
I am writing this blog to tell a tale and document how truly foolish we can be sometimes when we do not wish to admit that although our mind wants us to think we are still “young at heart” our body is right there to hammer back into us that no, you really are not.
I grew up in Michigan and received my first dirt bike at the age of 14. I have been a motorcycle enthusiast ever since. Ever since our first trip to Northern Michigan to ride the trails, I have been hooked. Of course once you know my personality, you will soon understand that once I discover something I love, I dive in feet first. So, I instantly had to have all of the “gear” associated with dirt bike riding. Blue jeans, hunting boots and a recycled motorcycle helmet would just not do. Oh no, I had to look just like my new idols from team Honda, David Bailey and Rick Johnson. I spent all my hard earned money on a new full face helmet (yes it was very hot, but hey I looked good!), riding boots, riding pants and team Honda shirts.
Now that I looked the part, I was ready. I bought every dirt bike magazine possible and learned everything there was to know about the sport. Then I saw it, I begged my father to let me do it, it became my holy grail quest of all time. The ENDURO race. More specifically the 6-DAYS OF MICHIGAN. One of the most challenging enduro races there is out there. I was never allowed to even think of entering this and eventually it faded from my mind. As I grew up, went to college and then moved away from home, I began to ride less and less as I left my dirt bike in Michigan and moved to Texas.
Fast forward to 2007 now close to 20 years later, I have my dirt bike once again. After working on it and getting it running, I have the 1982 Honda CR250R up and running like a champ. Of course my mom thought it would be a good idea to provide me with all of my old gear, needless to say none of it fit! So of course I have a new outfit! So now my challenge is to find out where to ride this thing. So my search began for local places to ride.
Since the movie the “bucket list” came out, everyone seems to be making a bucket list of their own, mostly things they would like to do and probably never will and some that you can get to before you kick the bucket. So while looking for a place to ride in North Texas, I came across the “Red River Enduro Race”. I immediately added it to the list, of course I was doing this! This of course led to endless ridicule from my family and friends, telling me I was too old, I will kill myself, my bike won’t make it. I was determined to prove them all wrong. So I started to practice near my house on some trails and hill climbs.
Move forward to now, the date is November 9, 2008. I was like a kid on Christmas Eve, not able to sleep at night in anticipation of the big race. I knew this was going to be a good day, the date itself was positive, since my favorite number is 9 and that was the date! So I get up at 5:30am and drive to the Red River Cycle Park for registration and the 7am rider meeting. First off, we could not have asked for better weather, although a bit crisp in the morning, it was 42 degrees at the time of the meeting.
Upon arrival, as I enter the park, I have to sign some waivers and promise not to sue if I get hurt. As I am doing so, the guy asks me if I am entering the “vintage class”? and the group of them start laughing (again the butt of jokes) but he reassures me that 1982 was a great year for the CR. All I can think is great, now I am being compared to how wine is judged!
So I registered and received my number – 67E. That means I was in the 67th group to leave. Another great omen, 67 was my investigator number and badge number when I was a PI, E my middle initial, the Gods are smiling on me now!
And so the race begins. The first 10-miles are considered the “warm-up” to get in the groove of things. We start off and I am pumped, just like old times. There are 5-of us in a row that starts, so one guy takes off and the other is with his son and tells me to go first. I get a fast start, but the first guy is totally out of site he is hauling. I have to keep reminding myself, stay calm, just a warm up no rush no points yet. Not even into the 3rd turn, I stall. Crap! So I pull over and everyone else goes by, I immediately start kicking the hell out of the bike to get it started, but you know when you are rushing and you temporarily stop thinking and panic…yeah that is me right now. So I finally get started and the next group (68) is now on my butt and passing me. Good grief, what do I have to do! I slowly get into a grove, I am working the bike, down shifting and breaking, tight curves, open fields, I look up and I see two riders from my group (67). YES! I am Rick Johnson again in my own mind, just like in the woods of Michigan again, talking to myself, calming myself down…reeling them in!
One turn at a time, I am slowly catching them. Oh yeah, and group (69) just passed me. My heart is racing I am getting pumped up (could it also be the mug of coffee or the 2-Full throttle energy drinks that I had before the race?) then I stall again. Many more expletives are spewing from my mouth like some nasty sailor you often hear about. Group (70) just passed me. Yes that is right, I have not passed a soul yet! Kick, kick, Kick, Breath, Breath, breath, Kick, kick, kick…off and running. As I come around the corner, whoa, rider is down, now that is funny, I just passed group (68). Not more than 2-minutes later, group (68) pass me again. But I can see my boys ahead and I am gaining again! Hey I just passed group (69) another rider fell, and I am thinking, how did he do that? Nothing here to cause that he must really suck! Ha Ha I am passing you suckers! Group (71) just passed me. Almost two minutes later group (69) passes me.
So I end up stalling about three more times and I finally do catch up with the two members of my group (67) and we finish the warm-up all together. All in all, groups (68, 69, 70, 71) all passed me during this stage. Not too bad for me and my vintage bike. That was actually a lot harder that I thought it was going to be. There were very few whoop-to-do and jumps, mostly all tight turns, up and down hills, through the woods and all sand. Yes the dreaded sand, the hardest surface to ride on. Not to mention that most of the trail looked like it was just cut a day or two prior! Several of the tight turns and trails were heavily rutted and if you didn’t hit the trail where you tire was to go, you would be screwed. I am very proud of myself at this point, no falls, and the bike is actually running pretty good. While we are waiting to go again, the other guys in my line obviously have done this before, they have mileage trackers (digital) on their handle bars and mileage cheat sheet dials that look like rolodexes. So he leans over and tells me, “know is when the fun begins, it going to be balls to the wall from here on out” and I am thinking…what? That was pretty much BTTW for me already!
No worries, I have the kinks worked out, they are not going to get away from me this time, no stalling out, going to keep in a gear lower than needed. And we are on it! The start is going good. We have 8.5 minutes to get to the next check point without getting a penalty. I am staying right behind the 12 yr old and his dad, because they are on my pace! Then the road drops about 20 feet, the boy is down and his dad is almost over his handle bars trying to stop and I am sliding with all breaks on and I am starting to go over my handle bars, they finally get out of the but the time I get to the bottom. But guess what, you guessed it, I stalled that SOB! And to make matters worse as I was stopping, my front tire did the infamous slide out and the bike fell over (I was not moving and this does not count as a fall!) I pick the bike up and kick it (yeah that’s right, I am on 1-kick starts now!) and I am off, in no time I am caught up to my group, this is some very tight crap we are in, start and stop every two feet. I can’t believe this crap we are going through. Then the next group is on my butt. All I can hear is that damn loud KTM motor behind me. Now I know what my mom felt like when I was behind her. I can hear him yelling at me, and I am like thinking to myself, “dude, where do you want me to go, I am trying to get out of your way.” And the more he yells, I faster I try to go and that is not a good thing, because that is how you crash. Well we get bottle necked in the wicked sand and tight turn canyon and the guy yells again and I look at him and he is pointing to the rear tire. I look down and yes…I am broke. The rear arm that attaches to the rear break is dragging on the ground, which explains why it was so hard to stop going down that hill!
I pull over and now I am just plain mad and depressed at the same time. What an idiot I am, I brought tools and some supplies, but they are back in the truck. I am lost in the middle of the woods and parts are dragging. I can’t fix this now, I wonder if I can make it to the next check point, no I better not try, I could hurt something. And the way this is going, not having a rear break will not do well for me. So I let about 6 groups go by and I limp up the trail and to add insult to injury, one of the idiots here try to pass me where there is no passing and he falls down, yes I ran into him! I did not fall but I looked at him and shook my head. If he had said anything to me, I definitely would have gone psycho ninja on his butt as I was not in the mood for idiots. Obviously he was not at the rider meeting when they said not to pass on the right; because us slow riders were instructed to get over the right and let people pass. So I laughed at him and then just drove on by as he couldn’t get his bike started! Served him right!
I made it back to camp after the nice officials told me how to take the service roads there and my group had already made the first check point and were gassing up. I was very disappointed that my very first encounter with the mythic enduro race ended up the way that it did. I was pretty much mad and pouting the rest of the day. So I loaded up and went home.
I discovered a couple of things for the next time I do this, oh yeah, I need redemption, you can’t cross it off the bucket list if you don’t finish. I cannot handle a DNF. I need friends to go with me, so that I have a group and I need to take parts. Hey I get to buy more stuff now (accessories). I also have to say that with this experience I have now decided that the 2-stroke engine is defiantly for motocross and I need a 4-stroke dirt bike to compete in the next enduro. EBay here I come!