Friday, December 30, 2016

The Seven Stages Of Hare Scrambles

People often ask me what it's like to race hare scrambles.  I always tell them it exactly mirrors the Seven stages of Grief:

1. Shock:  Damn, how did all these other guys get past me?  How are they so fucking fast?

2. Denial:  I am not this slow.  Those fuckers are cheating.  They cut the course.  They have better tires.  Better suspension.  Better lives.

3. Anger:  I fucking hate this shit.  This bike sucks.  Piece of shit.  Waste my damn weekend bouncing off of trees and getting used as a berm by horny, adrenaline addled teenagers.

4. Bargaining:  If I can just pass this guy, I will take it easy for the rest of the race.  I will mow the lawn next weekend, I promise.  One more rear tire to get me through the season.

5. Guilt:  I wish I had loctited those sprocket nuts.  Why did I skip those days at the gym?  I'm sorry I ate the whole pizza.  I'm sorry I just ran you and your shiny KTM over.  I'm sorry I spent my savings on another dirt bike.

6. Depression: So tired and sweaty, just want to die.  This is so hard, whole body hurts.  Too fucking old for this bullshit.  I'm going to crash again, I just know it.  I want my mommy.

7. Acceptance:  I am slow.  I will always be slow.  Dirt bikes hurt.  They will always hurt.  I will do this again as soon as possible.  I will never learn.

Judging by the look of disdain on the face of the young girl in the tye-dyed shirt, she can hear me crying......

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Eye Serene

"And now I see, with eye serene, the very pulse of the machine." -Wordsworth

Life has its ups and downs.  Sometimes the downs seem to stretch out long between the ups.  That's where riding comes in, at least for me.  Since the age of 15, whatever disappointments existence dishes out, they have all been easier pills to swallow with the aid of motorcycles.

Riding provides the opportunity to get outside of your own head.  To exist in a single moment which leads to the next and then the next, away, at least temporarily, from the moments that led you there in the first place.  It requires interaction with the present, a funneling of focus into here and now, not there and then or where and maybes.  Piloting a motorcycle quickly and with any skill, such as in racing, requires honing to a pinpoint accuracy.  These two-wheeled machines, by design, cannot carry much baggage.

There are those who would call this escapism.  But the mind is a funny thing.  When engaging in those activities that require our undivided attention, the ones that fulfill us, that have meaning, we can find a calm place, the "eye serene", leaving our subconscious to deal with the storm raging about.  And it will.  I return from a ride not to find unpleasant things have disappeared, but maybe shrunken to a less cumbersome size and things so tightly knotted prior, have begun to work themselves out.

So when the hard days come, as they are wont to do, you know where to find me.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Don't Tread On Me (Rattlesnake Part III)

Sunday, October 9, 2016 10:45 AM

Race day arrives and it's already been a long weekend, with rain and driving and wind and cold, not to mention getting lost in the woods.  My plan is to relax, and survive.  I expect it to be muddy and slick after Friday/Saturday's deluge, and with four laps plus one mile scheduled to run over the nearly 10 mile course, exhausting.

The "live" engine start means no worrying about tiring yourself kicking a machine that all of a sudden refuses to start while competitors roost into the distance.  I have no intention of leading the race during the first lap or two.

That plan gets chucked out the window when the green flag flies.  No one wants to lead the race.  Everyone is pussyfooting around.  I finally thought, 'fuck it', shifted to third and took the lead by the second turn in the infield.  The mulch section offers surprisingly good traction, as does the dirt track oval.  A four foot drop off followed by a slippery hairpin turn has us heading towards the woods.  Wide open.  Fast.  The bike is kicking and bucking like a rodeo bull that just had his balls prodded.

The grass track section is more of a slick mud track now, some of the jumps are intimidating, either you go full on balls out to make the landing ramps on the other side, or come up short, knocking your teeth out landing flat.  I mostly end up doing the latter, holding my questionably welded footpeg bracket on through sheer force of will.  Briefly looking back, I realize that I have pulled quite a gap on the field.  My heart starts pumping.  Delusions of grandeur.  This is it.  This is my race.  I'm a hero...

Five seconds later I catch a rut and fall down on a slimy switchback turn.  The twenty or so seconds I spend fucking around getting the bike upright and running means the entire field passes me.  Last place.  Now I'm a zero.

Head down and back to work.  The one advantage I possess is knowledge of the entire course, having unintentionally walked it yesterday.  I know how fast it is, more like a GNCC than a tight woods Virginia hare scramble.  I cut through the riders in my class again, and finish the first lap in second place, elated, fully intending to win.

The second full lap ends and I come across in first.  It's a hard position to be in with half the race remaining.  I need to conserve energy to finish, but unwilling to give up the lead to do so.  I focus on running a pace where I will not crash.  Fast where you can go fast, slow where you have to go slow.  Sit down and relax when possible.  The plan works reasonably well until the third lap where slight  brain fade at a creek crossing has me down on the ground.  Nothing major, but just enough for Juan Jaramillo and another rider to get by.  Now third.  Things are getting hairier.  There are traffic jams of slower riders stuck in muddy ruts ahead of us.  I catch first and second place.  I could make an aggressive move here and jam into Juan, but opt for the more sportsmanlike approach and wait for a break in the gaggle of machines.  Juan sees a hole and goes.  So do I, pulling my muddy goggles down so as to see.  I pass him and several stuck riders.  Shortly after he passes me again.  I do not want a battle.  I want first place, can see him.  I pass and gap Juan, then pass the first place rider, going as fast as I dare.  No challenges.  Chance a look back.  No one there.  Time gained.  I get that queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.  There are likely less than ten minutes left on the last lap.  The race is mine to lose.  I can taste the win.  Finally.

Five minutes later is a hill climb of mud and rocks laid bare by the hundred or so machines that have traversed it several times.  A young rider on a 125cc two-stroke Kawasaki is stuck mid-hill, spinning his wheel desperately on a rock face, going nowhere.  A course marshal is on his left side, tugging at the bike.  The only line is on the right.  No problem, I have momentum on my side.

Suddenly another marshal steps out of the trees and into my line.  I'm screaming for him to move.  He doesn't hear above the racket.  I try to aim between him and the stuck rider, somehow managing to get his rear fender hopelessly jammed  between my front fender, forks and wheel.  I'm livid, screaming for the marshal to get his bike off me, yelling that I can make the hill, whereas the other rider obviously will not.  Unaided, I get my bike unstuck and go sliding around for the left line, while sliding backwards.  I am suddenly t-boned by another bike.  Juan.  Dammit.  He's caught me.  And now rammed me.  I'm willing to forgive the first hit.  But when he backs up and takes another run into me, I'm ready to fight. Son of a bitch is trying to knock me down.  At this point I will tackle him in the middle of this goddamn hill and roll to the bottom just so he doesn't get by me.  My previous gentlemanly conduct in regards to him has come back to bite me on the ass.  After he hits me the second time, I look him in the eyes and shout over the two-stroke din, "You let me get up this fucking hill."  His eyes widen and he knows I mean business.  I am in no mood to be fucked with.  He has already won the damn championship, so he stands nothing to gain with these shenanigans.  He concedes and I ascend the hill.  With all of our lovemaking, the eventual race winner, Jeff Hackett, has passed us both.  I chase, but do not have enough time to catch him.  Juan never makes another attempt.  He settles for third and I settle for the bitter taste of second place, three seconds ahead of him.

It was a decent run, but this late in the season, even in the 40+C Class, decent just won't cut it anymore.


Faster!  They are coming!!!

That log looks like it wants to eat my wheel.

So jump over it.
Ugly mug, post race.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Even The Snake Fears The Storm (Rattlesnake Part II)

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The rain continues all night and into the morning.  Hard.  I wake and find my nice hard-packed parking area at the bottom of the hill has turned into a muddy morass.  My two-wheel drive van with skinny street tires will be forever stuck if I don't move quickly.  I forage for sticks and branches to shove under the wheels and make a semi-dramatic mudslinging escape 150 feet up the hill.  Now I have to drag all my crap up there as well.  In the still pouring rain.  Ah, the joys of racing.  In a gesture of welcome goodwill, one of the VCHSS officials notices my plight and offers to back his pick-up down into the quicksand so I don't have to carry everything up the hill.  There are plenty of good people left out there, and lots of them ride dirtbikes.

The Saturday pre-run has been cancelled due to the weather.  Races go on rain or shine, but organizers feel there is no need to destroy a course for a practice session, makes perfect sense.  That leaves me lots of spare time, as the race is not until Sunday.  I opt to walk some of the 9 mile course.

The start is in the infield of the 1/2 mile dirt track of Wythe Raceway, and leads into a mulched section full of switchbacks and turns that finally dumps you out onto the sprint car oval.  This will be a sixth gear wide open affair, then foot down into the banked turn, still hard on the gas if your balls are big enough.  From there into the woods and "grass track" section, which is wide, muddy and has plenty of jumps, then comes the woods section, lots of hill climbs, mud, creek crossings and rocks.  Fields and grassy hills as well.  This course has everything.  And it's all crazy fast.  I head back to the pits thinking that this is going to be one hell of a race.

In a funny/scary/ridiculous aside, about 4 PM went to walk more of the course.  The rain stopped but it turned cold and windy.  Figuring not to be gone long, I did not take my cell phone, a jacket or any water.  45 minutes later I was hopelessly lost, with the sun going down, stuck on a muddy uphill that was nearly impossible to climb on foot.  How can you be lost you ask?  The course is clearly marked dummy!  True, the problem with following the arrows was that I had no idea how far was left to walk until the end and it was getting dark and colder rapidly.  I cut off through uncharted woods and began going around in circles.  I could hear no sounds of humanity.  A twinge of panic ran through me.  After wasting plenty of energy scrambling up and down these slick hills already, a sick fear grew inside that I might spend the night in the woods.  Or die of exposure and become some dipshit of a statistic.  "Virginia Man Dies 50 Feet From Safety" or something similar would read the headline.  Finally, as the last light of day faded I found a gravel road.  And a really creepy abandoned church complete with even creepier cemetery.  Needless to say I hoofed it as fast as my raw feet would carry me and made it back to the track.  Lesson learned.  


Wythe Raceway.  Note the painted white lines that demarcate the start area.  The yellow painted tires mark the infield course.

Obstacle section and jump before timing and scoring booth.

There is nothing like the beauty of nature to fill one's soul

Home on the range?

Mr. Grouch's country home.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Road To Rattlesnake (Part I)

Friday, October 7th 2016 

I left work early to return to Rural Retreat, VA, for the penultimate round of the Virginia Championship Hare Scrambles Series, known as "Rattlesnake".  A hurricane was marching its way up the East Coast, promising plenty of rain and high wind for the entire seaboard.  There was a pre-run of the course scheduled for Saturday afternoon, but I had another, ulterior motive for arriving as early as I could...

Languishing in a garage only two hours from the race track in Hickory NC, was a 2006 Gas Gas EC300, nearly identical to my 2004 model.  The price was in the ballpark, and I desperately needed a parts bike.  I wanted the peace of mind that I wouldn't miss a race because I didn't have a part in time.  Emails exchanged, appointment made, there was nothing to do now but drive.  And drive.  Through the driving rain.

An invisible sun began to sink as I unloaded and set up camp at Wythe Raceway.  I headed back on to I-81 just as the rain started bucketing down.  2.5 hours later in the pitch dark, rain still pouring, I arrived at a suburban home.  The owner and I spoke for over an hour, exchanging war stories and tall tales.  I kicked the tires, but he and I both knew, I was going home with this thing one way or the other.  The only item left was the numbers.  This particular EC looks decent, but the wary eye sees the tell tale signs of a hard life.  Chain and sprockets shot, wheel bearings toast, shock in desperate need of a rebuild, footpeg bracket broken and re-welded on the same side as mine (disappointing), the only reason the front forks are not leaking is apparently because there is no oil in them.  Suspension linkage bolts are loose, with the nut falling off of one, exhaust pipe nearly flattened.  Rear sub-frame is a cobbled on Kawasaki unit, rear fender is cracked.  Yup, all the hallmarks of an 11 year-old dirt bike that has suffered at the hands of someone who didn't care.  But it seems to run reasonably well and there are plenty of good, serviceable parts, like a new Brembo clutch master cylinder and aftermarket powervalve cover among others.

We negotiate, I pay too much, load the Gasser and head back into the monsoon.

High and dry loaded in the back of the van, newest member of the fleet, 2006 Gas Gas EC300

Monday, November 7, 2016


Someone asked me the other day what my vices were.  I had to stop and think about it then, and I am still thinking about it now.  I don't subscribe to the most common ones.  The discussion turned to my (as Hunter Thompson put it)  "affinity for speed".  Apparently, in some circles, speed is thought of as a vice.  And those who seek it are called "adrenaline junkies".  I was not aware the depths of my depravity. defines vice as "an immoral or evil habit or practice" also "a fault, defect or shortcoming".

That definition and the moniker "adrenaline junkie" seem so far away from my concept of speed I felt the need to dedicate this post to it.  So what then, separates the desire to go fast from womanizing? Boozing? Overeating?  Smoking? Chasing the dragon?  Why do some of us, myself  included, look at it as more of a holy crusade than a damning iniquity?  What follows is what I was able to come up with.

Speed, for true adherents, is not an addiction, but a quest, something not taken lightly or entered into on a whim.  In and of itself not an inherent death sentence or destroyer of morals or character.  Quite the opposite. While there are risks, the rewards far outweigh them.

It calls upon us to become the best versions of ourselves we can imagine, to prepare, to train, to plan.  To constantly rise above arbitrary limits set by others, as well as our own.  It fosters study, knowledge, creativity and self-reflection, instead of dulling the senses and mind.  It is a skill and an art that must be finely honed.  One which suffers no "faults", "defects" or "shortcomings".  Rather than covering those things up, it only spotlights them and insists on resolution.

No one questions the sprinter when they seek to be the fastest, or the swimmer or the bicyclist.  Why should it be any different then, for the motorcycle racer?  Can it kill you?  Sure, but many more people die in bed every year.  Perhaps sleeping is a vice?

In the end, a true vice limits your capabilities, your potential and ultimately takes away from the quality of your life.  Speed and racing in general offer tremendous possibilities for exactly the opposite.

Never slow down.  

Debauching myself with a bit of knee dragging at Road Atlanta 2015

Friday, November 4, 2016

Pay The Iron Price

Iron Mountain GP VCHSS Round 13 September 25, 2016

Rural Retreat again.  I love coming out here, if only to escape the godawful heat and humidity of central VA.  After five years my thick Yankee blood is still trying to acclimate.  The terrain, hilly, rocky, with plenty of water crossings and mud also suits my riding style.  Only it has been dry.  Lack of rain has turned the entire course, aside from the creek, into a mountainous dust bowl.

Dave and I ride two laps in Saturday practice, struggling with the hugely steep off-camber sections that threaten to throw the unskilled unceremoniously down the mountain.  We both survive by taking it very slowly, now with the knowledge that  our work is cut out for us on Sunday.

Dust. Everywhere dust.  The race begins and the clouds grow.  Off the start into a dry uphill that the early rows have already dug down to rock and root.  I get bumped into a slower middle line as four riders take the preferred left one.  Which works out in my favor because someone screws it up on the left side and nearly takes everybody out.  Crest of the hill I am in third.  Ok, I can work with this.  I intend on winning this race.  No mistakes.  Make time by not losing it.  Keep your head.

These mantras work very well for the first half of the lap.  I'm not blazing the course, but I'm also not falling down or making too many terrible mistakes.  Through the creek and the muddy ruts, about a 1/4 mile, which consists of the only moisture over the entire track.  The rest is parched, and visibility is shit.

The first bottleneck nearly ends my race.  What a clusterfuck.   An off camber, extremely dry uphill single-track with apparently only one passable route.  Somebody gets stuck, loses their head and starts digging trenches with an adrenaline fueled throttle hand.  People go around and start falling sideways down the hill, catching themselves on trees and thorny vines to stay upright.  There are bikes and bodies scattered around the steeply sloped battlefield.  I am stuck with riders in front and behind.  The kid in front is managing to hurl dusty clods at my face while the bastard behind me keeps ramming my rear wheel as if it's going to get me moving any quicker.  Like the assholes who sit there beeping their horns in a traffic jam that is clearly not going anywhere.

I finally get around the kid, who now has the root he is stuck on burning from the friction.  Most of his knobbies are chunked and piled behind him.  I don't get far, about six feet on and there are more riders stuck, fallen and just generally in the damn way.  The guy behind me goes uphill to find another path.  I follow him.  So does everyone else.  Soon we are all jammed up in a tangle of vines, saplings, stumps and weeds, walled in by piles of knocked down trees that are too large to get over, wasting precious energy in a vain attempt to make forward progress.  People are yelling, dirt flying, bikes moving in every direction.  Bloody chaos.  I can't find a way and realize I have to go back if I ever want to move ahead.  It's a crushing blow.  I've already lost five minutes and it looks like more now.  I head back to the marked trail, get by some stalled riders, eventually threading through the impasse, anger on the rise.  I'm doing my best to keep a clear head, but this little disaster is shredding my last nerve.  I ride mad, making mistakes, bouncing off of trees in an effort to make up lost time, losing more in the process.  I manage, however, not to crash.  That is, until I target fixate myself into a 3" sapling that tweaks the forks and my left shoulder.  Up again, straighten bike and body as best as possible and move along.

We come to the Christmas tree farm section, grassy, hilly, bumpy and high speed if you can manage to miss the hidden pot holes.  Racing down one hill and up another like a giant roller-coaster of dust.  The rhythm comes at long last, let's start riding like somebody who has done this before.  Maybe I can salvage something here.  Anger now translates to speed picking off stragglers mid-hill, top and bottom as well.  Out of the tree farm and into a small field before a steep uphill.  There is a ditch jump here that I remember from practice.  Nothing too bad.  Hit it in third gear, moving.  The bike launches, rider and machine land perfectly....

And the left freakin' footpeg bracket lets go.  Peg drops 90 degrees, foot slides off the peg, fall on the gas tank, ensuring that I will never have children or possibly urinate properly again and proceed to run over my left foot with the rear wheel.  My initial thought is that my foot slipped from the peg, but looking down I can see it hanging on by a thread.  I wonder for a minute if it can be ridden like this, shifting and having nothing to stand on, for another hour and a half.  Remembering vividly the off-camber section, my gut knows.  There is no way.  Even with an heroic attempt it would be weeks before they found my carcass at the bottom of a ravine, buried under 250 pounds of Spanish pork.

I finish the remaining portion of the lap, make timing and scoring and continue back to the pits on the ride of shame, trying to ignore the swelling in ankle and the bruising of spirit.  My race is over.

It never gets any easier.

Once through the creek was all I got.  Both feet still firmly in place.  Both footpegs still attached.

The aftermath. Lieutenant Dan, you only got one peg!

Instead of making fun of guys in shop class, I should have learned to weld.  Would have come in a lot handier than those damn AP English courses......

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Powerless At Peninsula

September 11, 2016 Spring Grove, VA 

Round 12 Virginia Championship Hare Scrambles Series

The season is starting to turn into one big blur.  Having driven all over the state for my first year of hare scrambles racing, which is proving to be more grueling than I thought.  I am really struggling with the coastal VA races.  Maybe it's the heat or the generally dry and dusty courses, but my riding suffers and so do the results.  Or maybe it's just the lack of some good mud and slick rocks.  I never considered myself a specialist, but I do seem to do much better under those conditions.

Whatever the reason, I found myself once again in Spring Grove, VA.  And it's hot.  I walked a few miles of the course and have a good idea what to expect.  I get a good start and wind up behind the first place rider.  It's a battle of two different riding styles.  He sits down almost the entire time, whereas I stand nearly all the time.  His style seems to prove better as he pulls away on the second lap and I get passed and bumped into third.  Things turn from mildly annoying to worse as I get lost in a huge dust cloud at the end of the second lap, which nearly has me barreling headlong into a tree.  Things go from worse to shit as we come back into the woods on the third lap.  I can see a teenage girl down on her hands and knees beside her bike.  She appears to be in pain, so I stop to see if she's ok.

I immediately get rear-ended and knocked down by some adrenaline addled schmuck who keeps going.  The girl is up and ok, but another rider runs over her bike.  And mine.  Several riders in my class go by and it's like a kick in the nuts.  I remount, only to find the front end slightly tweaked.  No time to fuck with it now.  I continue and catch up to the other P riders.  I go to make a pass and drop the front wheel in a hole ringed with tree roots, which wrenches the bars from my hands and puts me down on the ground.  Nice shot to the ribs and my left arm/hand, still injured from Coyote Run, goes numb again.  Fuck me.

Up again, take three seconds to straighten the wheel as best as possible.  At least the bike starts first kick.  All this fiddle-fucking has exhausted me.  I work as hard as I can as fast as I can and finish a disappointing, dusty, dismal race in what I assume is like 7th place.  When I check the results later I find it was actually a 4th.  For an off day, not as off as I thought.  Two weeks until the Iron Mountain GP, Rural Retreat VA.  Time to get a win.

Third off the start, just visible to the left of the two pumpkins

You can just make out my helmet and white shoulder pads behind 8p.

The woods are lovely dark and deep, now where the hell did the 1st place guy go?

The look of consternation before getting a KTM suppository.

Watching in frustration as a podium finish slips through my sweaty, dirty grasp

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Running The Coyote

VCHSS Round 11 Coyote Run, Rural Retreat, VA 9/4/16

Rural Retreat is beautiful country as I found in my first trip there back in June for The Hillbilly Hare Scramble.  I am looking forward to returning for the Coyote Run event, with my new gear and outlook on racing. There is a Saturday practice from 1-3 pm as well, which makes the 4 hour drive all the more worth it.  I arrive Friday evening, the weather is cool, perfect, no need for AC.

My trainer recommended running only one lap on Saturday, to learn the course and then help conserve energy for the race.  This is counter-intuitive to everything I've believed regarding practice, which is get as much as you can, whenever you can, but the physical nature of off-road racing means my body will not have enough time to recover if I put it through its paces the day before.  I reluctantly agree and pull off after riding one lap, watching Juan and other P riders pass by as I head to the pits, when what I really want to do is chase them down and see what they've got.

The course is typical VCHSS hare scrambles fare: single track with big hill climbs, a long run through a creek, mud and ruts, off camber downhills, tight sections dodging saplings, rocks and even a few jumps to keep us on our toes.  I point out to a buddy that the start has us immediately heading into the slippery creek and mention that some idiot is going to go flying in there, crash and take a bunch of people out.  Someday I will learn to keep my mouth shut.

Start time comes and goes Sunday morning.  There is a delay as a rider from the early morning race is backboarded.  The medics have him strapped to the back of an ATV and run him right through the starting grid as it is the fastest way out.  The 150 or so of us move out of the way and try not to stare too long at the grim reminder of what happens when it all goes wrong (rider was ok, thankfully).

An hour late the race begins.  The 15 guys in my class start heading for the narrow creek like a pack of Energizer bunnies on meth.  I am in fifth as we hit the water.  Just as we start leaving the creek, the first place guy falls, taking out two other riders.  I start making a move around him as he is lifting his bike, which he promptly shoves into me.  I fall over, taking a nasty shot to my left arm which momentarily dislocates my thumb and leaves my hand completely numb.  Thumb re-located, I expend a lot of energy and time picking the bike up out of the water and get my gloves soaking wet.  I hate wet gloves.  Well this is a wonderful start.
Left hand numb, angrier than a wet hen....

Now in last place I make my way out of the creek and up a huge, dusty hill, looking like a Shake N Bake chicken.  I'm pissed and making stupid mistakes, losing my head again.  A nasty root jars the handlebars from my hands and snaps me out of my temper tantrum.  I finally relax and begin slicing through the stragglers.  Rhythm found, things start coming together and the first lap ends in 4th place.  Just starting to feel my left hand again.

Things progress, momentum builds and I believe I must be gaining on the top three.  Sure enough there is Juan in front of me.  I make a pass and put my head down, now in third.  Bottleneck.  Three riders stuck on a tight singletrack section, for no apparent reason.  I wait for about three seconds and lose my cool.  There is a medium sized log blocking a line to my right.  No problem, I can jump that.  But it really helps if you know what's on the other side.  More logs.  Completely unprepared for that, I fall over.  The bottleneck clears.  And so does Juan.  I can feel the steam rising again, I'm about to blow a head gasket.  A little bit of patience saves a lot of time, some day I will grow up and learn that.  Apparently not today.  2nd lap ends, still 4th.

Yes Virginia, Spanish pigs can fly.

Finally I am able to channel the anger into useful energy and hit the zone.  I pass Juan for the last time and wonder if I can catch the leaders.  It feels like I am really moving and a check of the lap times later reveals I cut nearly two minutes off between my second and third lap.  I am happy, but it begs the question, why am I not that fast all the time?  I never catch the leaders, who finish just over two minutes ahead, about the amount of time I spent fucking around in the creek at the start and trying to jump over logs I shouldn't have.  Live and learn, I hope.

Last lap, 3rd would have to do for today.


Friday, October 14, 2016

Changes Part III of III: Man

We arrive at the third and most difficult area to affect true change.  It's easy to buy a new bike, slap on a new set of tires, drop thousands to have the most powerful motor your retirement can buy, but when we ask ourselves what is truly holding us down, we may not like the answer, as it stares back in the mirror.

For me, the true brilliance of this hare scrambles racing thing is that so much is dependent on the rider, the machine becomes secondary.  I already proved this by running a 1989 KDX200 competitively against brand new machines.  This is less true in roadracing, where horsepower and outright speed and the almighty cubic dollar still have a firm hand in the outcome.  But in the woods, it is he who does not fall down, he who does not make mistakes and he who can endure the rigors of two hours bouncing from tree to tree that triumphs.  A great equalizer.

Physically and mentally, I needed to figure out where my problems were.

I consulted with a physical trainer regarding my exercise, nutrition and hydration regimen.  I train a lot, five days a week, cardio, swimming, weight, flexibility, balance training and sneak a midweek ride in on the dirt bike.  On the weekends I ride between six to eight hours over Saturday and Sunday, trying to focus on all types of terrain and riding.

The trainer recommended some tweaks and changes, new exercises as well.  The most notable change was to mid-race hydration.  I had been using nothing but water in my pack during the course of a race.  News to me was that over a two hour event an athlete not only needs fluids, but electrolytes and complex carbohydrates as well.  I concocted a home brew of all the above and tested it over a weekend of riding with good results.  I also began incorporating "active rest" into my training schedule, actually giving my 42 year old body time to recover from the string of abuses I persisted in putting it through.  Have to be smarter than an 18 year old if you are going to continue acting like one.

That left the mind.  As far as I am aware, there is no psychologist for motorcycle racers, at least not one that works for free, so it was up to me to plumb my own depths and figure out what wire had been knocked loose.  The season began with a very relaxed attitude, enjoying riding and learning the nuances of off-road racing.  Somewhere along the line it turned into a serious competition.  The fun was gone.  It became about getting faster, all the time faster.  Pressure mounted into stress, into mistakes and into frustration, into the vicious circle of self-defeat that many racers experience.  A return to the halcyon early weeks of the season was needed, a return to fun.

Easier said than done.  After experiencing success on the track, the only desire is for more of the same.  Any human standing on the podium above you is an insult, an affront, a glaring neon monument to your failure, an enemy, a usurper, a target.  Common sense, training and technique are the first casualties in the heat of battle.  As well as breathing, we often simply forget to breathe.

I made up my mind to relax, try not to force everything, letting things work themselves out over the course of a race.  That's not easy to force yourself to do, but it was going to be necessary.  Will it work?  Only time will tell....

Always trying to find my way through the dust, literally and figuratively.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Changes Part II of III: The Machine

It is a terrible feeling, being on the starting line, green flag waving, motors screaming, bikes moving, clumps of dirt being thrown in your general direction, as you stand, frozen in place, furiously kicking a motorcycle that refuses to start.  It was worse than getting my pants yanked down in front of class in the 6th grade.....

Such was my experience at the last race.  Never again.  Previously purchased a brand new carb for the Gas Gas from RB designs, complete with his divider plate and idle circuitry mods.  Ron at RB sent the new Keihin with spare jets.  There were a few teething issues and in our conversations he recommended I go up one size on the pilot jet.  I did not listen to him, figuring the bike's reluctance to start was just the nature of a big bore 2 stroke.  I was wrong.  Upping the pilot one size from 42 to 45 made all the difference.  What can I say, I'm an idiot.  Lesson learned kiddies, listen to those who know more than you do.

One tiny piece of brass means the difference between a worn out leg and a running motorcycle.

The other problem with starting was the worn out aftermarket kickstart lever.  It was wobbly and loose and placed your foot at an angle that was extremely conducive to boot slippage.  When things got wet, nearly impossible to get a solid kick. Very frustrating.  I wasn't willing to spend $100 on another aftermarket lever that sucked, so I found a good used stock lever on the Gas Gas site for less than $50 shipped.  What a difference.

Some people don't like the stock lever (shown above) but I prefer it.

The combination of the pilot jet and the kickstart lever turned the 2004 Gas Gas EC300 from a reluctant pig into a first kick starter, making life so much easier and allowing me to save my energy for what really mattered: racing.

Next: Part III of Changes: The Man

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Changes Part I of III

Many racers are resistant to change, sometimes out of superstition or fear or just pigheadedness.  I am as guilty as the next.  But I would like to think that enough years competing in different competitive disciplines (stock cars, motorcycle road-racing and off-road hare scrambles) has taught me to recognize when something flat out isn't working.  My previous post regarding the VCHSS round at Sandy Bottom read here showed me there were a few things amiss in my racing program.  I could continue to struggle, wasting more energy and time until I quit in frustration or got hurt, or worse, hurt someone else.

Racing is all about time, whether you are on or off the track, there is none to waste.  Three areas requiring immediate attention were easily identifiable.  This post will deal with the first: Gear.

Simply put, the gear I was wearing, while quality stuff, was simply not designed for the hot/humid weather we were now encountering in Virginia.  I needed something with venting, lots of it.  Good kit ain't cheap, and the 600 or so bucks a helmet, pants and armor/jersey combo were going to cost would sting for a working class dolt racing on a dental-floss budget mid-season with a Christmas bonus too far off to spend.  Unless I was going to hibernate in the central air until October, it was going to be necessary.  It truly was not a matter of comfort, but of safety.

So I did my research, scoured the internet for reviews and best prices and here is what I came up with (let me be clear that I do not give a rat's ass about color, I was after function, not fashion.  I also do not endorse or receive any discounts from the retailers or manufacturers mentioned, but I have had good experiences with them.).

Helmet: Klim F4 Legacy.  Purchased from Dennis Kirk via Ebay $269.99 with free shipping.  The F4 is purported to be the best vented helmet made and Klim's gear has always been synonymous with quality, so this seemed like a no-brainer.   The medium fit my head (7 1/4) well, but I did have to go with the 30mm cheek pads to get the tight but not uncomfortable fit I like.  The venting has no equal, as other reviews have stated you can literally see your scalp through the ports in the top, while still having the ECE rating.  My only complaint, or caution, is that if you ride in areas with low-hanging branches and vines that require ducking under, be careful, they will rip the plastic air scoops right off the top of the helmet (see pictures).  There is nothing like smashing up your shit on the first ride.

Klim F4 Helmet

Pants: Klim Mojave In The Boot Pants.  Like the F4 helmet, Klim's Mojave pants have the reputation for being the best vented off-road pant available.  I was surprised at how thick the material felt in combination with the liner, I guess if it was any lighter or thinner it would shred itself at the mere mention of rocks and thorns.  There is plenty of mesh in the waist and below the knees.  The pants fit true at a size 32 waist, with some adjustability via velcro straps on the side.  Well made and definitely cooler than the non-vented MSR pants I was wearing.  Purchased via Ebay seller lytleracinggroup for $169.99 shipped.

Klim Mojave Pant

Ballistic Jersey:  Fox Titan Sport Jacket.  I am a firm believer in armor.  Lots of armor, and padding.  The older I get, the more of it I wear.  I crash a lot, and there is no better feeling than jumping up after a get-off unbruised other than ego.  I was wearing the EVS ballistic jersey, but they only come in black and the venting is not great.  The Fox Titan was getting good reviews so I tried it for $149.95 with free shipping from Motorcycle Superstore.  The venting is much better, the armpit area is actually open, so if you do not wear a shirt underneath, you can really get some air over your body, there is an added benefit of being able to use your body odor to distract the guys following you.  Like all of these ballistic jerseys/vests, the material that the pads are sewn to is very vulnerable to tears.  My first ride saw an errant branch tear into the area just above the shoulder pads, break out the Shoe Goo and sewing needle.  Wearing a motocross jersey over the jacket should help with this, but I am all about less layers in the summer.

Fox Titan Sport Jacket

   The first ride in the new kit is a hot and humid late afternoon practice in the woods.  The new gear vents much better than my other stuff, as long as there is some air-flow.  Stop or get stuck for any length of time and before you know it you are overheating, and barring an air-conditioned suit or moving to Alaska, there is nothing to be done about that.  As time progresses I will give my long term impressions of the gear, but right now, there is another race to get ready for!  Look for "Changes" part II coming soon, where I discuss the changes made to my Gas Gas EC300 to withstand the rigors of hare scrambles racing.

New gear in action, being chased by another damn pumpkin.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Bottomed Out In Sandy

Sandy Bottom Hare Scramble. Round 10 of the VCHSS series.  August 21, 2016, Penhook, VA.

Six weeks away from racing.  Been riding every weekend, despite the sweltering VA heat and humidity.  I feel good.  I feel prepared.  I could not have been more wrong.

The heat beats down on the riders as the sun gets higher in the sky, the humidity wraps itself around you like a wet hug from your least favorite, most sweaty obese aunt.  As usual I am the idiot in the all black protective gear, soaking up the warmth like a blast furnace sponge.  Won't be so bad once we get moving...

If I ever fucking get moving.  The green flag drops and I kick the Gas Gas EC300 over hard.  Nothing happens.  I'd been practicing this and it lit every time first try.  Second kick and still nothing.  The other riders are beginning to tear away in a cloud of dust and soon I am alone.  Kicking frantically with no success.  Yeah, I'm that fucking guy today.  I don't know what's worse, the exhaustion or embarrassment.

 Seconds turn into a minute and the officials are trying to move me from the line so they can start the next wave.  Finally the piece of shit lights and I am gone with a first and second gear wheelie that lasts nearly the length of the field.  It's the longest wheelie I have ever done and I couldn't repeat it if I tried.

I remind myself to save some energy for the 3 laps of this 8.5 mile technical single-track course, but I have to catch the other bozos in my class.  After 35 minutes of bouncing and bounding through the woods, picking off stragglers, dodging guys stuck on hillclimbs, I reach timing and scoring.  From last to 5th.  Ok, that's good.  Two laps to go, but damn I am already tired and dripping with perspiration.  Pants are soaked, goggle foam is soaked and leaking on to my face and I am pretty sure my brain is simmering like spaghetti sauce in my helmet, even my boots feel squishy and we haven't had any water crossings.  I must have leaked half of myself out by now.

Another long lap, the second one lasts 34 minutes, but this time I have rabbits to chase, finally able to see 4th, 3rd and 2nd place.  A quick line change on a rocky, rutted and rooty uphill puts me into the 4th spot, but he isn't willing to give it up so easily.  We trade positions and mistakes for the next ten minutes.  I am exhausted.  My head doesn't feel quite right.  Ignore it.  Keep going.

I catch a glimpse of yellow fender and know I've caught the third place Suzuki rider.  I give chase, catching him just as the woods end and the field section begins.  The right-hander opens up and I make my move, shifting to third while still leaned over in the corner, drifting out to the small berm, inching by the Suzuki, drifting....inching.....

Crashing.  I tuck the front as the bike decides it doesn't want to catch the small berm, but would rather sail over it and throw me down to the ground for my insolence.  The crash is jarring and it hurts, but most of my body seems intact.  It takes three kicks to get started again, all with my left leg because the right one is useless.  I remount, but my brain is telling me I am done.  This is the beginning of the third lap and my descent into Hell.

I never see 3rd place again.  In fact, I seem to be seeing less and less as my eyesight narrows into tunnel vision.  Things are also occasionally getting blurry.  Pulling a tear-off does not help.  Removing the goggles doesn't either.  I shove the drink tube in my mouth and suck it all down.  Someone is tightening a giant rubber band around my chest.  My arms are noodles.  I can't stand up.  It's all I can do to keep the bike upright and remember to shift.  There is no strength remaining.  What scary feeling when your body starts shutting down and you know it.  My last rational thought is to get off the damn course and strip naked.  Like most rational and sensible suggestions in my life, it's ignored.  I'm an idiot and I know it.

Somehow I finish the race.  4th.  I've got a pretty good case of heat exhaustion and dehydration, despite all my preparations and training to the contrary.  I'm embarrassed to say that I made the wrong decision to continue.  Risking not only my safety, but potentially (had there been anyone around) other riders' as well.  I don't feel tough, or like I accomplished anything.  Nothing more than getting lucky.  And you can only push your luck so many times until it bites you.  Lesson learned.

I've often said that racing is a lot like life.  Today proves no different.  No matter how well prepared, how good you feel, how much of a badass you think you are, you can very easily get your ass kicked.  I sure did.

This is the only photo of a race I would rather forget.  Slightly ironic is the fact that that is a KDX200 right behind me.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sometimes It Pays To Stay Home

I didn't make the race last weekend.  Primary race bike (Gas Gas EC300) blew both fork seals in practice two days before, had no luck finding seals locally.  The back-up bike (KDX 200) needed a few things to be ready.  To top it all off the front brakes on the van locked up on the way to practice, with smoke rolling out as I tried to get off the highway.  They finally released and everything seemed normal for the remainder of the drive.  Normally I would have chanced the 4.5 hour trip to the track.

But my heart just wasn't in it.  I've spent many a late night toiling into wee hours with swollen hands and bloody knuckles to make it to a race.  Loading the van at 3 am, sleeping for an hour and then driving 10.  Gone searching all over god's creation to locate the part desperately needed to compete.  Paid exorbitant overnight shipping rates to get stuff on time that never seems to come on time.  Written myself list after list so as not to forget important things, but always missing one or two.

Last week, I had simply had enough.  Daily life frustrations have been piling up for the last few months and I was not willing to deal with the stress of slamming together a half-ass race weekend on top of it.  Been there, done that, so many friggin' times.  So for the first time in years of racing that I wasn't injured or dead broke, I bagged it.  I didn't go.  Because I just didn't feel like it.

A great racer once told me: "If your head isn't 100% in it, get the fuck off the motorcycle, because you are going to get hurt."  My head wasn't there, and I didn't think I could get it there in time.

So I stayed home and went play riding for five hours on the KDX and had a blast.  I don't know if it was a mature decision or just being a pussy.  I don't care.  I feel OK about it.

And you can bet your ass I'll be at the next race.

Hello old friend.  Let's play.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

If You Don't Have Anything Good To Say........

Why is it that non-motorcyclists and ex-motorcyclists continually feel the need to walk up to current riders and proceed to describe the most horrible thing they have ever heard about happening to someone on a bike?  For example, here is a scenario likely to happen as you are strapping your helmet on curbside:

"Hi there.  I don't know you, in fact I know nothing about you other than the fact that you ride a motorcycle, which somehow offends my delicate flower sensibilities.  Instead of merrily going about my life, I thought I would tell you about my second cousin's next door neighbor, who in 1979, lost his left leg and right testicle in a bloody motorcycle crash that left him able to speak only in Three Dog Night song lyrics for 32 years and blind in his right eye."

Seriously?  How about this one:

"I used to ride, but one day I grabbed the front brake and went over the handlebars, knocked out all my teeth.  My wife wouldn't let me ride after that because she got sick of having to put my dinner in the blender."


"My grandson died riding one of those crotch missiles.  You know how dangerous those things are?  You're going to get yourself killed.  Have you got a light?"

Should I start walking up to people in their cars and tell them about a car accident I saw on the news where a mother and her three children burned to a crisp in a fiery wreck on the highway?

Or should I knock on your doors in the morning while you are doing your hair and remind you that at least 4 people a year die in hair dryer related accidents?

Stand there in the hallway outside of the operating room as you go in for your face lift and show you pictures of staph infections?

Maybe I will come up to you fat asses in line at McDonald's and tell you about my morbidly obese uncle that ate nothing but 1/4 pounders whose heart one day decided to up strangle him?  How would that go over?

The truth of the matter is, we are all going to end up a statistic of some sort or another, and frankly I don't give a rat's ass which kind of statistic your narrow little mind thinks I will become.  Let me go about my day in peace, put down the goddamn cell phone, pay attention to your shitty driving, and keep your yap shut.

How far underwater do I have to get for you people to leave me alone?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Dog Days

Been slacking, no racing until August.  Here's a picture I found.  Cynical?  Maybe.  True?  Hell yes.  Enjoy!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

From Dead Last To Almost Fast (HillBilly Hare Scramble Part II)

I'm not last for long.  As we come to the woods section of the course I pass five riders.  Great, that leaves only eight guys in front who have quite a head start.  I know the slick, rocky hell that we are all about to descend into.  This is scheduled to run five laps, but I have a feeling it will be more like four once the track deteriorates into a rutted mess.

If there is one thing I've learned in the eight hare scrambles I've raced prior to this one, it's that trying to go fast will get you into trouble quick.  Instead, I make myself relax and focus on riding well, not making mistakes and not falling down.  So many times some hot shoe with a fire under his ass hoots and hollers by, then goes sailing down the trail and bounces off a tree at the next corner.  I've also learned to stop being nice.  In the woods the law of nature rules and he who can make his own way waits for no one.  I no longer queue behind stopped riders hoping for them to find a path, I am coming through.

I pass two or three more competitors in my class on the second lap and find myself behind 39p, Juan, my arch nemesis.  I can see he is trying hard, too hard in fact for the conditions.  I let him wear himself out.  We exit the forest back into the grass track section.  Time to see if this 300 has any legs.  I am all over Juan for the first couple of turns.  It feels like roadracing to me, 6th gear pinned, bike headshaking as we hit braking bumps.  Finally I've had enough, run a tighter line into a second gear left hander and blast out of it, wheel aloft, passing Juan.  It's a satisfying moment, but I stifle my joy, because this is usually when I fuck up and crash.  It doesn't happen, in fact I pull out a decent gap and never see him again.  The digital scoreboard tells me I am in 4th place at the end of the lap.  Gaining, but 4th still sucks.

Into the dark of the forest again, back to the suffering and pounding at the hands of these damn rocks.  I stall once or twice, but the Gasser lights quickly.  I have not crashed yet.  Taking my time, picking my lines, going fast where I can and slow where I need to, all the while telling myself to breathe, sitting down on smoother sections to save energy.  I take no chances and force my mind to stay sharp, avoiding stupid mistakes.  Steady, solid, try to light the world on fire and you will only burn yourself.  Next lap I am up into 3rd, scoreboard says 2nd is ten seconds ahead.  This is more like it.  Time to catch him.

And catch him I do.  It's a KTM rider who is going blisteringly fast, but keeps falling down.  I unintentionally smack his bike as I go by, taking his handlebar in the left radiator.  He falls on the side of the course, I continue, and in trying to put some distance on him, make a dumb error and fall.  Nothing major, my left hand is quick on the clutch to keep the Iberian Enchantress from stalling, but it gives him just the opening he needs to get by.  And he his off again, like a pumpkin rocket from hell.  Then he really is off again, bouncing into a small tree and landing his bike directly in the singletrack.  He is trying to lift it up, blocking the only line.  I have a choice to make.  I can either stop and wait for him to remount, or I can go over.

I opt to go over.  I loft the front end slightly, just bouncing it off his rear wheel, and then proceed to ride over the entirety of his bike, from stern to stem, noticing briefly the really trick looking expansion chamber on the KTM.  I feel bad for about three seconds.  If you are going to lay that thing down in front of me, I am going to treat it like trail debris, no matter how shiny.  I would expect no less from my competitors, which is why my bike looks like it was pulled from a dumpster.  This ain't no beauty contest, and remember, "Rubbin' is racin'."  The tactic seems to have worked, because I don't see him again.  But there is a new wrinkle.

The earlier tussle with his handlebars has damaged the filler neck on the left radiator and the cap is no longer sealing.  Coolant is puking from the cap and I have another decision to make.  I can relinquish and give up this second place finish, or we can find out just how tough the Spaniards build these things.  After my aggressive hop over the KTM, my blood is boiling along with my coolant.  Screw it, I've got a few weeks off after this race, I will rebuild it if necessary.  It smokes from the antifreeze hitting the scalding pipe, tone of the motor changes.  Keep going until it quits, then push it.  Must finish.  The Gas Gas loses power and starts to idle funny, getting hotter, but it finishes the race in one albeit overheated piece.

I never catch 1st place and finish in second about a minute down.  I am duly impressed with the machine's performance.  I look forward to many more races with the EC300, but let's start winning, shall we?

Gas Gas making a splash splash.


Friday, July 1, 2016

Work Your Ass On The Gas (Hillbilly Part 1)

The Hillbilly Hare Scramble, Rural Retreat VA, Round 8 VCHSS Series

June 26, 2016 10:45 AM

This will be my first race on the 2004 Gas Gas EC300 purchased from Craigslist.  I've spent the last two weeks preparing and riding the bike, trying to sort jetting and suspension, both of which are an abysmal mess.  The previous owner has a high altitude jet kit installed, which means it's lean throughout the rev range. Changing jets is no easy task.  The airbox boot rubber has hardened, which makes it nearly impossible to pry the carb out or get it back in.  The shape of the gas tank means you can't simply rotate the carb in the boots without removing it.  You can't remove the tank without removing the radiator shrouds.  You can't remove the shrouds without removing the seat.  Are you getting the picture?

Three sizes up on the pilot, a clip position change and two main jet sizes bring the beast somewhat into line, but not perfect.  Unbeknownst to me, Rural Retreat is at an elevation of 2500 feet, well above the sea level testing area where I am doing my jetting.  Oh well, at least it won't be so lean!

There was a two hour "pre-ride" of the course on Saturday, which showed me just how bad the suspension is set up.  Actually the rear Ohlins is not bad, but the front Marzocchis are a disaster.  I spend much of the day spinning clickers.  A tire pressure adjustment helps tremendously as well.

It's like a tale of two courses.  One a rocky hell-hole trail with slick mud and treacherous off-cambers strewn with small boulders that just beg to smash pipes, cases and bones.  The other is a fast grass track with a couple of spots where we are hitting 6th gear pinned.  I make a mental note to be sure and rest up on this section, because the other is exhausting.

The bike is a bitch to start hot.  Cold it lights in two kicks, but warm the engine and the story changes.  Usually I can get it in about five, but I know if I stall during the race, this will exhaust me.  I think it's a combination of jetting that is still off, a gargantuan piston and the compression that comes with it, a weird angle on the kickstarter, boots that seem to always hang up on the footpegs, and a right leg which has atrophied from only kicking over KDX200s for the last few years.  The dead engine start at the beginning of the race has me worried.

In the end, it's my own nerves that get the best of me.  When the flag flies I give it a furious kick and immediately start to give it another.  The second kick is met with absolutely no resistance, just a horrendous grinding sound.  It takes about three seconds for my febrile brain to suss out what is going on.  The engine is already running.  Son of a bitch...

You see that rider to the left of your screen, way in the back?  Yeah, the one in dead last?  That's me!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Days of Future Gassed

It's funny how life nudges us into changes.  As a hardcore roadrace competitor I naturally assumed it was where I would stay, that is, until I was "nudged" into buying a dirt bike to kill time on during the winter and a whole new world opened up for me.  Within 18 months of buying that KDX200 I was competing in off-road hare scrambles and now have numerous top 5 finishes including one win in my first season off-road.

The last few years I have tried to pay more attention to those little nudges, and for the most part they have paid off.  Before I knew it, both road race bikes were sold, my focus now entirely on the dirt.  I don't make changes like this lightly, and it was hard to see my championship winning racers head off to new homes, but at some point it is possible to own too many motorcycles.  My limit seems to be about six, any more than that they don't get used and it becomes tedious trying to maintain them all.

So imagine my surprise when another small push occurred while I was purchasing a KDX parts bike.  The owner happened to mention he had another dirt bike for sale, which was in his basement, and would I like to see it?  Of course I would.

The machine was a Spanish 2004 Gas Gas Enduro Cross (EC) 300.  300cc, Two stroke, liquid cooled, six speed, carbureted single cylinder, Ohlins rear shock, Marzocchi USD forks.  Well known in trials circles, Gas Gas has been making a name for itself the last fifteen years or so building enduro bikes as well.  

This particular Spanish princess is in decent nick, the usual scuffs and scrapes one would expect from a 13 year old dirt bike, but nothing terrible.  I like my belles with scars and stories to tell...  The owner's asking price is nearly within a poor working schmuck's grasp such as mine at $1,500.  No I didn't have it in the bank right then, but I thought I knew how to get my hands on it, using mostly legal means.  I tossed and turned for nearly a week, visions of that Iberian enchantress in my head.  I researched the bike thoroughly, knew of its strengths and weaknesses, read every internet post regarding it.  I had to have her.  I sold everything I could get my hands on, including my soul, which wasn't worth much to begin with.

When I arrived with cash in hand, there would be no negotiating.  The owner felt he had undervalued the machine at his asking price.  I tried every tactic I could, but he refused to budge even $50.  In the end I paid him full freight such was the allure of the gal from Girona.  Would she be worth it?  Only time will tell....

From this....

To this....

To this.....two wheels certainly keep life interesting.