Monday, May 9, 2016

Out of the Mud, Into History

The few moments of elation passing through scoring are soon replaced by the daunting reality that, although I have survived the first lap, there is at least one more to go.  Conditions are deteriorating rapidly, the marked trail is nearly impassable.  Stuck and exhausted riders litter the trail, a damp feeling of dejection fills the air.  The splattered faces of casualties are twisted in scowls of grotesque pain and hopelessness.  I cannot stop to comfort them, I must press on.

The grim fact remains that to crash into the sludge now might end this.  I simply do not know if I would have the energy to pick the bike up again.  I've only been down three times, but it took most of what I had to get going again.  The chill of morning is gone and now we sweat, some guys are wearing full vinyl rain suits, but I knew better.

Despite the exhaustion, it is absolutely crucial to focus and pick the right lines.  A foot deep rut runs for what seems the entire course.  It is draining to ride in it, and harder to try to ride beside it.  The radiators, expansion chamber and entire motor are completely packed with mud.  I have faith in Kawasaki Heavy Industries finest, but all mechanical things have their limits.  The tone of the motor is off and I fear a cooked KDX.  It is a constant wrestling match to keep the thing on two wheels and moving forward.  My hope begins to waver, and for a second I think about quitting.

I come upon a young lady half-way up an off-camber hill, blocking the only possible line.  She is stuck on a tree root, which is now smoking because she has spun the rear tire so much.  Looking back with tears in her eyes, I can't help but feel a little pity, but to assist her now would mean my bike sliding back down the hill and the end of my race.  Since it is only her spirit that is wounded, I choose the less chivalrous path, trying to help with verbal instruction, none of which works.  The KDX hisses in its impatience and steams a little.  I need to move.  Now.

I begin to go around, on my left is a valley that would probably require a helicopter to pull me out of.  Moving so slowly, making my way, the rear spins and starts to slide towards the valley of death.  Letting go of the bars, I hug a small tree for everything I am worth.  Using the tree to pull me and the motorcycle back up onto the path, spending the last ounce of energy.  The bike will have to do the work from here. Motor and heart lugging, dreading the next challenge.

It arrives soon after.  The final hill before scoring.  The marked course is unusable.  There are nearly fifty immobile riders dotting the hillside and stuck in the marsh at the bottom.  An eerie and nauseous feeling that whatever decision I make here will decide the outcome of my race rises from a pit in my stomach.  There will only be one shot at this, no do-overs, no retakes.  Have to get it right.

To many people it's just a stupid race on a stupid motorcycle with a bunch of stupid idiots too dumb to come out of the rain, so how do I explain that in those final minutes ascending that goddamn hill became the only thing in my life?  There was literally nothing else.  No before, no after, no work on Monday or boss to answer to.  There was just me.  And a big friggin' hill in my way that had taken out better riders on better equipment.

I ride around for about 5 minutes looking for a viable route, ending up on top of a ridge across from the hill.  Every possible path has me riding down the valley into a marshy quagmire and then trying to climb this mini Everest.  Time is running out.  I choose a simple, straight line and gain as much velocity as I dare, knowing I will either make it across the marsh or go over the handlebars trying.

The front wheel dives into the soft muck and dirty water splashes my face, but the bike makes it through and we begin the climb, slipping clutch, ass back on the seat, bouncing for traction.  Rocks, roots send me careening this way and that, legs flailing.  Halfway, 3/4, nearly to the top, a rider being assisted by a bystander.  I scream for them to move.  I can't stop.  Catching the rider's bars nearly sends me sliding, but I manage to save it.  I'm up.  There are dozens of spectators in mudboots and ponchos cheering.  I pull into the checkpoint and the official tells me what I want to hear.  "We're done."

I've just won my first hare scrambles.  On a 1989 KDX200.

Did the engineers have this in mind when they designed a simple 2 stroke playbike?

There is an expansion chamber there somewhere.

Rotor slots filled.

How can you not love a machine that can handle this kind of abuse?

Remind me how this is fun?

What it's all for.  $3 worth of plastic.


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