Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Season of Reflection

The 2017 race season did not go as planned.  Racing is like that sometimes.  After finishing 2nd overall in 2016, the assumption was that there was nowhere to go but up.  Competition is a cruel mistress and her designs often differ greatly from ours.

The first race, back in March, set a tone for the rest of the year, taken out first lap by a rider in another class.  Then there was the disqualification for accidentally bumping a rider coming through timing and scoring.  That sucked.  Followed by three stupid mechanicals, one occurring with a huge race lead just minutes from the checkered flag.  Stupid.  Accused and accosted by sensitive souls who did not like my riding "style", one certainly could not help feeling besieged and beset on all sides.

Twenty years ago I would have lost my fucking mind in frustration, and while I may have considered it in 2017, I did not.  Hare scrambles are long races, anywhere between two and three hours.  The easiest thing to do is burn yourself out in the first twenty minutes.  A seven month race season is the same way.  Both become about energy conservation, going like a bat out of hell, but always saving a little meatloaf for later.  Chip it away and build it up.  And then it still doesn't go your way.

At final tally, I ended up third overall, good enough to see me ranked as a "B" rider by the AMA.  Things will change for 2018, becoming once again a goldfish in the mighty big sea.  What am I going to do about it?  Chip it away.  Build it up.  Watch.  And learn.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

RIP Racer

"Grieve not that I die young.  
 Is it not well to pass away ere life has lost its brightness?"
 -Lady Flora Hastings

Kurt Kesler shined bright and died young at the age of 51, leaving behind a wife and two small children.  For his family now, nothing will ever be the same.  My heart goes out to them.

I knew Kurt, as so many of us did, through roadracing with WERA.  You learn a lot about a man, when you race against him.  Especially as it comes down to the final few races of a season with a national championship on the line.  The two of us were neck and neck for the V5 title in 2015, less than a handful of points between.  He wanted it badly.  So did I.  We went at it hammer and tongs, neither giving an inch.  I didn't worry about racing closely with him, even though given the slightest opportunity Kurt would shut the door on you, but he always did it gently.  I trusted him, quite often, with my life.  He never let me down.  A rider, a competitor, a sportsman and a gentleman to the core, off and on the track.   

Kurt did not win the V5 championship that year.  It came down to the final race at the Grand National Finals in Leeds, Alabama, where I beat him by one position and just three points.  But in the end, Kurt won in ways I never did.  He took more enjoyment and gave more back to racing than most of us ever could.  He garnered a respect and admiration, a love, from his fellow competitors and officials identical to that of Moto GP Champion Nicky Hayden (also lost too soon this year).  If Nicky was the ambassador on a national stage for our sport of motorcycle racing, then Kurt Kesler was the Southeast regional statesman for it.  The mere mention of his name in any paddock in the South and racers will tell you tales of Kurt's humor, the willingness to take new racers under his wing, lend parts, tools, his own motorcycles and aid without a second thought.  Beginning racing is a daunting, overwhelming experience, if not for the man's patience and guidance, many a greenhorn might have quit in frustration.  He was a mentor, a rival, a role model.  And a friend.

The greatness of a man dies not with him, but is scattered like tiny seeds among all those he touched.  We have but to till the earth and tend the soil so the greatness should flourish and not die.  It becomes the duty of the living, of those who would remember.  Let us remember.

-Kris Larrivee

(Kurt's Hat Road Atlanta Raceway photo above by Craig "Huey" Stewart) 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Grief's Alchemy: Ashes To Ashes, Dust To Dust, Iron To Gold

Part IV The Hard Way

October 1, 2017

Rural Retreat, VA

Round 12 Virginia Championship Hare Scrambles Series "Iron Mountain GP"

Languishing on the start line, trying not to think about the last few days or the exhaustion creeping its way in to my bones and soul.  Crashed hard at speed in practice yesterday.  Was a good wake up call that I need to pay the fuck attention to what I'm doing.  Today promises lots of dust, mud, rocks, sphincter clenching ascents and descents fit for a billy goat.

And pain.

I just wish it wasn't starting so early.  A 1000 foot long drag race through a poorly mowed field until the first turn.  Engine screaming in 4th gear, brain screaming, begging for common sense.  Ignore it.  Jockeying and jostling into fifth place.  Trying to get my head into go mode.  A steep downhill with an undercut banking at the end puts me on my ass right quick and I wonder if it's going to be one of those races.  Don't think like that, get up and ride the fucking thing, stop whining.

There's a lot of self-wrought pressure weighing down the day.  Some dream of a fitting tribute to Phil, sending him off with a race win, holding that trophy high overhead, wondering if somewhere in the cosmos a little sliver of his soul might see it.  The good always leave us before we are ready, before we've gleaned all their wisdom.  It is then up to us to figure the rest out.  What a bitch.  Shrug off doubt and lassitude and third rate philosophy.  There is work to be done.

Wheedle my way to third place.  Pete Jenkins in second, Jason Miller somewhere out there in front, enjoying the life of the blessed.  I push Pete, but don't do anything stupid.  He catches a downhill rut funny and gets tossed like a bad salad.  Slow just enough to ask if he's OK.  Getting the nod, I carry on, trying to bring the golden calf to slaughter.  Gonna be five laps of this dusty, rocky, hilly hell.  Still got three to go.  With Pete behind, gunning all the time, amped on adrenaline after falling down.

Course deteriorates, ruts lengthen and deepen, air full of fine silt waiting to clog noses and lungs while dropping visibility to zero at the worst moment.  Carrying on at speed like this requires a very good memory to know what's coming next, as well as stupidity.  Body beaten into submission acquiesces, loosening up, performing more like a 40 something than an 80 something.  There is much more ahead.  Guys are stuck all over various dry hills, turning their motorcycles into smoking trench-diggers, falling down.  It becomes a game of thread the needle through steaming bikes and tumbling bodies.  Every instant decision gains or loses.  The good ones pick up tenths of a second, the bad ones cost, big time.  Pun intended.

And somewhere in the dust, I come out ahead.  Scoring screen confirms it after lap four, flashing "P1" at me.  Sinking feeling follows elation.  Never saw Jason.  I can only assume the self-proclaimed "Holeshot King" is close behind, preparing a pounce, to take his rightful place and remind me of mine in this world.

Nothing.  Racing by the timing booth, green fields on one side, cement trout runs on the other, full of fish wondering what the hubbub was.  All the while waiting.  Up the hills, down the hills, sideways across them with rocks skittering, setting off a dozen smoke bombs to obscure.  Through ashen clouds that make Dune look like an island vacation.  Still waiting.  A negative corner anticipates the moment an orange and white KTM XC300 blurrily blows by my faded red heap to dash hopes.

But another part, an idea, begins to grow.  Conquest is at hand.  The will shall hold every nut and bolt on, keep the spark plug sparking, crank turning, engine running, the body will perform well the tasks necessary to ride this outdated pile.  And the mind, a clattery contraption that so often fails, is going to oversee all, and make it happen.  Fuck Jason, fuck Pete, fuck this course and fuck all the blasted bad luck I've had this season.  This one is mine.  And fuck the universe too, if it thinks it's going to take it from me.

There will be no failures this time, mechanical, mental or otherwise.  I'm going to win this race, not because I deserve it, not because it is a nice end to the story.  I'm going to win this race because I can.  And it's high time I proved it.

So I do.  Fifth and final lap ends with a cautious river crossing before the finish line taped off like a crime scene.  I am alone, running the gauntlet to a computer screen that will tell me if I've done it.  "P1" flashes as I roll through, not breathing.  Dust is surely to blame for my watering eyes as realization sets in.  There are no cheers, no pats on the back, just two officials who record the race number, sending me on my way.  The moment is austere and reflective.

No celebration emanates, rather slumping forward on the handlebars a little bit.  A great weight comes crashing down and is lifted off at the same time.  I might have briefly looked up in an unstained sky for something which may or may not have been there.  A moment of great loneliness descends and forces me to face it, stare it down.

Today is the best possible outcome: a victory.  The thing I work for like an idiot with obsessive devotion.  But I'd give it back, all the victories of twenty years racing back, for just a few more hours listening to my friend tell his stories.


Always graceful and mistake free...bloodthirsty spectators love a good crash.  I aim to please.

I know my fucking dignity is around here somewhere, I think it's in the gas tank...

No throng of cheering fans, not even a friend to greet me as I cross the line for the last time.

A dirty selfie, because when you are on your own, you gotta do everything yourself.



Friday, October 27, 2017

Gears of Loss Grind On To Mountains of Iron (Hard Way Part III)

After a church luncheon in celebration of Phil's life (where I ate too much homemade country food), I knew it was time to hit the road.  Even goodbyes have to end.  There was a race to be run.  Literally and figuratively.

Temps hovered just below 50 degrees.  I donned all the cold weather gear I had.  And hit it.  Hard.  Stopping only for gas and a slice of rancid Flying J pizza near Harrisburg, PA.  I briefly considered removing the seat and sitting on the frame rails as they would be more comfortable, but decided against.  Throttle nearly to the stops, my speeds were anything but legal.  I don't condone or recommend my actions and I'm not particularly proud of them, but sometimes man, you just got to go.  And go fast.

Arrive in Richmond at 2 am, enough time to sleep for three hours.  There is a van to be loaded, gear stowed and the five hour drive to Rural Retreat VA for Round 12 of the Virginia Championship Hare Scrambles Series, the Iron Mountain GP.

Tom Petty wrote: "I don't know, but I've been told, you never slow down you never grow old..."

Sure hope he was right.

No relevant pictures for this post, so here's a video of the start from Coyote Run. 2p, red GasGas

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Goodbye, Hard Way Part II

I said hello again to the Adirondack region of upstate New York specifically for the purpose of saying goodbye.  Otherwise there would have been no cause for going back.  It's the part of NY that everyone forgets exists, and despite great natural beauty, there is little else there in the way of economic opportunity, development, or forward thinking.  Fit for the Jerseyites to go drunken cavorting on their snowmobiles during the weekends, only to hightail it out on Sunday night.  Like many rural areas of the US it has been simply forgotten and left to its own devices.

Still, not a bad place to grow up, with plenty of land to go tear-assing around on dirtbikes and such, without too many cops or too much population density.  But it was the kind of locale you had to get the hell out of after high school, lest you become trapped in a hardscrabble existence going nowhere.  The small town trap.  It welcomed you in with open arms.  It called you back years hence.  And it always sought to hold you down.

Now I returned, always the prodigal, to lay to rest a true friend: Philip David Lee, born May 6,1937, died Sept. 13, 2017.  What follows is the speech I gave at his funeral:

Great men are often not remembered in the pages of history.  Their bank accounts are often not the stuff of legend.  News programs do not sing their praises.  That is because to be a truly “great” man requires something not easily defined, categorized or applauded in the myopic media world.  It requires a depth, a richness of character and integrity, the fearlessness to dream outside a narrow mainstream and labor quietly for the fruition of visions despite naysayers and conformists.  A desire to shape a small part of the world according to the calling of his own heart, rather than accepting things at face value.  And a willingness, always, to be wrong.  The steadfast courage to make mistakes and then gain wisdom from each in turn.  Never content just to do things his way, he strove to do things a better way.

That was Phil.  He possessed an uncanny ability to see solutions where others saw only problems.  In a disposable world, Phil fixed things that others deemed beyond repair.  In a world of pre-packaged fun, Phil created his own and showed us all it wasn’t who owned the latest, greatest (and most expensive) toys, but who had the most fun with what they had made.  Over the years his creations, motorcycles, trikes, snowmobiles and buggies all shared the unique flair and function that Phil was renowned for, each one of them built not bought.

Our more than twenty year friendship began when I purchased a motorcycle from Phil.  I was 23, and broke, with visions of motorcycle racing glory.  I didn’t have the meager asking sum of three-hundred seventy-five dollars for the old Suzuki in front of Phil’s house.  I had two-hundred, and promised to return with the rest as soon as possible, under one condition: Phil had to help me turn this street bike into a real track racer.  He looked at me like I was nuts when I told him I was going racing.  He didn’t believe me.

Two weeks later when I showed up with the rest of the money and promptly asked him to start hacking parts off the machine, he knew I was serious.  At first he tried to dissuade me, telling me to stay on the streets and off the racetrack, but I held him to his promise.  And that wonderful man more than delivered. 

Over the next ten years he developed a tame commuter machine into a thoroughbred race winner, not without bumps, bruises, and blowups (from the engine and occasionally me).  Quite often, I could be a real pain in the butt to Phil (and Lucy!), turning up with some impossible mechanical problem or another, some insane deadline to make the next race.  Instead of showing me the door or suggesting I figure it out on my own, Phil would give that knowing look and say “unload it and let me see.”  After which Lucy would always end up patiently feeding the both of us.

Our goal was to win a championship.  We came very close in 2007, but a crash and the resulting injuries prevented us from doing so.  It wasn’t until eight years later, in 2015, that I was finally able to win not one, but two national number one plates on machines I prepared using the methods Phil taught me.  Though he could not be there to hear it, I thanked him during every podium ceremony I was part of.  I still do.  Because without his knowledge and patience, none of it ever would have been possible.  Every time I pick up a wrench or encounter a conundrum, a part of Phil is there with me.  I try to think about how he would have done it, always looking for the better way.

In the end, the real measure of Phil’s life comes not in an accumulation of wealth, power or accolades, but in the wisdom and joy he helped to spread through his unique and marvelous way.  And the lives he forever changed for the better by doing so.  I am but one such life among many.

We lay to rest not only a son, a brother, a father, a husband, a teacher and a friend, but a visionary. 
A truly great man.

Kris Larrivee

A 25 motorcycle procession led the way for Phil's final ride.  A fitting tribute.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Week of the Weary, Hard Way Part I

It was going to be a daunting task, riding an unfaired street bike with 2x4 seat, tiny gas tank and growling exhaust 1400 miles in 2.5 days, round-trip from Richmond, VA to Lowville, NY and back, through the hell that is DC area traffic and the moving death walls of tractor trailers that infest I-81.  Immediately upon return, having to load my hare scrambles bike and gear into the van and driving 5 hours one way for a weekend of off-road racing.

Could have flown, but that would have been easy.  And comfortable.  But wouldn't have provided the excuse I needed to spend the airfare on a new front tire for the streetfightered 1999 Suzuki Bandit 1200 I would ride, along with a new tail bag and waterproof touring boots.  Not only was this trip going to pain me financially, but physically as well.  And I knew it.

So why?  Phil had died, after a several year long struggle with Lewy Body Dementia, a true son of a bitch of a disease.  I will get more into who "Phil" was in the second installment, but suffice it to say he was a best friend and a lifelong motorcyclist.  And genius.  It seemed only fitting to take a last ride for his memory, however back breaking and coccyx crumbling the affair might prove.  Not to mention the hypothermia from fall temperatures in the Adirondacks.

A motorcycle procession would ride from the funeral home in Lowville to his final resting place in Castorland.  There was no question I would be in attendance.  Somehow wheeling a bike out of a trailer for the event or borrowing one did not sit well with me.  This was the way it had to be done.  The way it would be done.  The hard way.  The only way I know.

I set out in the evening from Richmond on Tuesday, Sept. 26 and arrived at my brother's home in Forestport, NY at 9 am Wednesday morning, stiff and tired, with enough time to nap, shower and dress for the calling hours that afternoon, steeling myself for the emotionally taxing days to follow....

Prior to leaving Richmond, lack of a windshield or fairing meant I would be buffeted and blasted the whole trip.

A cabin.  In the Adirondacks.  A bit cliche maybe, but beautiful nonetheless.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Bad Rap

I've always thought of myself as a serious, but sportsmanlike and fair competitor and have striven to maintain that image.  My racing career began in stock cars on short track asphalt ovals where bumping, banging and straight up plowing into each other was acceptable and encouraged, and the lesson was soon learned that not everyone cared to be thought of as "clean".

Graduating from competition on 4 wheels to two wheeled roadracing was eyeopening.  Passes were things of beauty, racers respectful and concerned with how others reacted to their moves on track.  Sure things could get heated on rare occasions, but these instances were almost always handled with tact and dignity.  It was truly a gentlemen's sport, for the most part.

Transitioning to hare scrambles racing in 2016 I found it to be a little more rough and tumble than the roadracing world.  Passes were closer, there was more "rubbing" from the other competitors, but nothing I felt was dirty or overly aggressive.  It is racing and it is well known that the only place the guy behind you wants to be is in front of you, plain and simple.  The only thing in question is what he is willing to do to get there.  What are you willing to do?

I'm willing to do what it takes, within the confines of safety and reason, willing to use any and all means at my disposal.  Winning is paramount, but not more paramount than going to work in one piece on Monday morning.  That said, short of taking each other out, a little heavy petting amongst fellow riders is a perfectly acceptable thing.  Close the door to make a pass?  Sure, just leave a little bit of room to spare.  Capitalize on another rider's mistakes, exploit his weaknesses?  Hell yes.  Ride over a fallen machine to get by?  Of course.  All the normal cut and thrust of woods racing.  And still perfectly clean and fair.

So you can imagine my surprise when, upon returning to the pits at the completion of the VCHSS Peninsula Classic hare scrambles race (where I finished 3rd) a rider in my class approached me, still in full gear, red-faced, chubby and sweating and began screaming and cursing at me for being a "dirty racer" and "banging bars on the start" (video review of the start reveals we were nowhere near each other).  He also informed me that everyone else in my class was "sick of me" and that he was going to file a complaint with the officials.  Taken aback, I hesitated while pondering a proper response.  Initial visceral instinct may have been to knock him on his loud mouth ass, but obviously that was a no no.  I truly had no idea what incident during the race he was referring to, or what I had done to make him so terribly upset that it seemed he might cry.  There were families and children all around us exposed to his foul mouthed tirade and posturing.  In hindsight, what he really wanted to do was make a scene, and he certainly did that, in front of a nice sized audience.  Had he approached like a man instead of a petulant child looking for attention, we could have discussed his issue and possibly come to an understanding.  Rather, he preferred to make some noise and threaten to go tell mom.  That's his prerogative, but throwing a tantrum in front of a bunch of random people and calling someone names certainly never helped anything.

I've thought long about my response to this incident.  I considered letting it slide and going on about my life.  It's a rather small annoyance in the long run, but an annoyance nonetheless, one that could have negative repercussions in the small racing community in which I find myself.  Some answer is necessary.  I've neglected to name names or post competition numbers, in case the offended offender should decide to sack up and hash this out.

So, after careful deliberation, my response to those who deem my racing "unfair" and wish to whine about it is best summed up in a picture:

Trying to rise above the bullshit started by sensitive snowflakes....apparently the "P" in P class stands for prima donna.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Photo Coyote

Great shots of a race lost due to throttle cable failure.  A cable only three months old.  And with that season's dreams of a championship come crashing down.  Nothing to do now but scramble for points.  And fight for second....grrrr.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Chickens Counted Coyote Consumed

Coyote Run race, Rural Retreat, VA.  3 miles to go, big lead.  Unstoppable.  Bike is amazing, I am amazing.  This is my day.  Yank the throttle again, the same as I have been for 1.5 hours.

Nothing.  Bike stalls.  Dreams die.  Quick.  Cable gone, so is the win.  Season swirls around the bowl, waiting to go down.  Hell.

This is a prime example of what not to do before you cross the finish line.  My demeanor was much changed after the throttle cable broke.

Saturday, August 19, 2017


All I want for Christmas.....

Seriously, is it too much to ask?

Friday, August 18, 2017


I race motorcycles because it is the only time life moves at the appropriate speed.

Photos courtesy Maria Roberts

Saturday, July 1, 2017

This Dog's Day

"Survival is the speed of the day." - Me, prior to the race..

Roots, rocks, deep ruts and just enough mud to make everything greasy.  Just the way I like it.  The harder, more technical, more painful, the better.  And to top it all off, four laps instead of the usual three.  Even better.

Off the start I'm about sixth.  This is not going to cut it.  Make a move early going into the woods, winding up third.  Take an alternate line discovered on the pre-ride into second place.  Miller on his 2017 KTM XC300 peels off into the distance.  It's too early for anything other than to not screw up.  Trying to give serious chase now will only put me on the ground.  I force myself to breathe, slow down and focus.

There's ruts everywhere full of drying mud, even in the fast field sections.  That's the scary part, jamming through those areas in 4th or 5th gear knowing that to cross rut at those speeds would send you on a wonderful flight ending in an abrupt face to face with the earth.  Heart is in throat a few times during those moments, but manage to keep it upright.  I'm tired at the end of the first lap and my right hand has pulled that falling asleep bullshit it usually does.  I shake it out every opportunity just to get some blood flowing.

Second and third laps, ease off a bit to save some energy for the end.  There has been no sign of Miller in front or Jenkins, who is most likely behind in third.  Just got to grind it out and keep from making mistakes.  The end of the third lap, a glimpse of orange and white.  Can it be?  Sure enough a few seconds ahead is Miller.  I've caught him. Brain switches gears, many things change in that moment, plans, strategies, attitude.  A decision is made.  I am going to win this damn race.

Miller proves faster over the smooth, quick sections, where the lightweight and tremendous power of the XC300 outpaces my aging Gas Gas, but in the rough stuff I catch him every time.  It turns into a game of cat and mouse.  Several times he seems gone for good, only to re-appear ahead of me fighting with a root or rocks.  Calm is the key here.  No stupid go-for-broke moves.  He makes a mistake and a window opens.  I jump right through and pass.  Coming to a faster field section, surely he will try something.  But nothing.  Back to the woods, slick red clay, off camber right hand turn to a decent sized uphill crowned with roots, slippery.  Slowing way down I hear a voice behind me, "Ohhh shit!!!!".

Something hits the back of my bike and we nearly go down.  Miller has just slid into the back of me.  I stay upright.  He does not.  Make a break now.  Almost ready to count those unhatched chickens, but as the fourth and final lap begins, I can feel and hear him stalking.  He's remounted after taking himself out and caught me.  One tiny error in a creek crossing gives him all the chance he needs and that's it.  Gone.  Watch him disappear up the long hill climb with my dreams of a win.  But all the fight is not out of this dog just yet.  There's miles to go before this thing is done.  And all those rocks and ruts.

Deep breath and relax.  Hit the rough section and sure enough, there he is.  Wait.  Patience.  Follow.  Doing lots of other things as well, but I'm not willing to reveal all my racecraft here, so you can just imagine.  Suffice it to say every part of this brain is lit up and working overtime.  Finally, I get what I want when, under pressure and trying to be faster, he breaks traction on a root bundle and goes off course.  Now.  Every ounce of energy for the final push.  Three miles to go.  Across the rutted field so fast you want to puke.  The only thing that matters now is the win.  If I can't have it, I would rather fucking crash than accept second place.  Death or glory.  Now.

Risking a look back there is nothing but empty field.  Two miles to go.  Still nothing.  One mile, still alone.  The finish line is in sight.  Fully expect a KTM two stroke to drop on me from the heavens at any moment and crush my dreams, cringing, can't breathe.  Past the scoring computer, it flashes: #2p P1.  I've just won this race.  By thirty seconds.

Every dog has its day.  Today was mine.          

This certainly doesn't look like a race winning move here, (not sure what I've just screwed up).

Top of the box, the only place to be...

What it's all for...a $1 Mason jar with a sticker on it.....worth every damn bump and bruise.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Hunker Down At Hillbilly

I arrived in Rural Retreat for the fifth race of the VCHSS season, the Hillbilly Hare Scramble Friday afternoon June 16.  No sooner did I get set up then the rain came in, turning the freshly mowed field into a slippery mudfest.  My mind had been heavy with lots of things coming into this, now add worry about getting the 2 wheel drive van stuck in the damn mud.  Try not to think about it and focus on the race.  So much of performance depends on mindset, and the ability to adapt when shit gets squirrely.  I sat under my canopy and watched Mother Nature's turmoil.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not pessimistic to expect things to go wrong and prepare for them.  It is simply wise.

Shot of the unsettled weather over the Gas Gas, it would be manic like this all weekend

Ominous clouds roll in.  Yes that is my ghetto AC unit hanging out of my ghetto van.  It works.

If I have to watch Will change the pilot jet on his KDX one more time, I'll scream.  Here he is checking tire pressure.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Hillbilly Hoedown

It's always fun spending time with like-minded lunatics, even for one with misanthropic tendencies such as me.  It's part of the reason why I have spent so much time at racetracks all over the Eastern US and Canada for the better part of twenty years.

Racing people just get it.  Pavement or dirt track, enduro or motocross, doesn't matter.  You'll never hear them say, 'Gosh that's dangerous, you're going to kill yourself' or 'Aren't you too old for that sort of thing?'.  Instead they are the first ones to help you get out there and make it happen.  And lend a hand (or parts, tools, even $$) when things, as they are wont to do, go wrong.

This is exactly what happened when, the evening before the VCHSS round at Hillbilly, Justin, a rider fairly new to hare scrambles, barely over-tightened the bolt on his KTM's Magura clutch master cylinder splitting the perch.  Will, myself and Justin's friend Clint all jumped in to help with our best interpretation of a field repair for the problem.  Jerry rig, cob job, whatever you want to call it, this is what our four minds were able to come up with (and you know what, it worked and Justin pulled out a fourth place finish on Sunday!):

Three hose clamps and two zip ties and the four of us had something better than that retarded Magura design...

Electric tape for safety and one more zip tie, because you can never have too many zip ties......

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Push Before the Break...

Two hare scrambles left before mid-summer's break, the Hillbilly Hare Scramble in Rural Retreat, VA and Harleywood in Bristol, VA.  They are the farthest in distance, a 4 hour and 5 hour drive, respectively.  I placed second in both for 2016.   These were two of my favorite events.  The hilly, slick and technical terrain seems to suit my riding style, or at least that's what I like to tell myself.

It will be slightly more difficult this year, as these will be on back to back weekends, without the usual week off in between.  Coming back late on Sunday night only to have to leave the next Friday means as little stuff as possible will be unpacked.  It's always risky too, because if you break something on Sunday, there is almost no time to get it shipped before the next race.  Which is why I try to have at least two of everything on hand.  People sometimes laugh at the crates full of spares I drag back and forth to the track, but their contents has saved my weekend on more than one occasion.

With four races in the books for 2017, I am currently sitting third in points for my division.  Which is OK, but not really where you want to be.  Jason and Pete seem to be in a holding pattern of finishing 1/2, which leaves me fighting for the leftovers.  My mind is feverishly working on ways to break that cycle.  Besides, it's a long season, ten weekends left until we wrap it up at the end of October.

A lot can happen in that time.  And I'm sure it will.....

2016 Harleywood, still on the KDX

2016 Hillbilly Hare Scramble, my first race on the 2004 Gas Gas EC300

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


"Goin' down to Louisiana to get me a mojo hand
 I'm gonna have all you women under my command
 Got my mojo workin'...."  -Preston Foster

Confidence is a tremendous asset.  Especially when racing.  Without it a man is simply going through the motions.  For a racer, going through the motions adds even more risk into an already dodgy proposition.

The universe, like a pack of wild dogs, can smell doubt and fear and responds just as viciously.  A few crashes, a couple of bad finishes or DNFs can start one on a downward spiral that slays the ego.  After two decades of racing motorcycles in various disciplines, I have been there once or twice.  It's a hell of an easy hole to get into and a hell of a hard one to get out of.  The only thing that has ever worked for me was getting back to basics, discovering the joy in riding again.  Practice, repetition, finding a way out of your own head and into the soul of the machine.

Whatever it takes.  Get your mojo workin'.........

Rider to my left stuck on a log and out of mojo.  I hopped over it, still chasing my own....  

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Seeker

"I asked Bobby Dylan, I asked the Beatles, I asked Timothy Leary, but he couldn't help me either...they call me the seeker.." -The Who

I've often said that much of the very limited wisdom I have gained in this life, has come on two wheels.  In school the only teachers that ever inspired me were those with dazzling dogma who held a twelve pound sledgehammer behind their back to ensure the lesson went heeded.  Motorcycles are like that, amazing tools of self betterment that sometimes provide expensive and often painful reminders of what we should know or need to if we wish to survive and improve.

And it never ends, there's always more to be learned.  So keep riding.

Keep seeking.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

An Apology To My Podium Peers

One of these things is not like the other......

I will be the first to admit that I am an asshole, and this instance will probably prove no different, but when it was suggested to me by a fellow competitor (who shall remain nameless) that I might want to put my riding gear back on because it would look better in the podium photos, I very nearly laughed.  The race had been done for over an hour, the Virginia summer sun blazed down with temperatures at 90, I was showered and smelling pretty and was now expected to put my dirty, sweaty gear back on all to convey the proper image for someone else's Facegore, Twittergram and Instachat?  Ha!

So, I am here now, hat in hand, to offer my sincerest apologies to any of my fellow competitors whose photos I might have ruined through my lack of proper attire.  Perhaps if I ever get my priorities straight, I will be standing at the top of the box instead of the bottom of it.

Regrettably Yours,

Kris Larrivee VCHSS #2p    

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

No Kamikaze

"In the ten years that I've known you, you've gone into everything you do full bore Kamikaze style, regardless of the consequences." -Jim Parry

My friend said those words to me yesterday and at first they seemed a compliment.  Who doesn't want to be thought of as the type of man to hurl himself into the fray with a passionate fervor, disregarding danger?  Upon further reflection one realizes that this is no compliment, but rather a somewhat scathing comment about what could be considered a personality flaw.  A tragic flaw that has had lasting deleterious effects on personal, professional and play life.  After a while those effects add up to a cost that can be felt.  One that weighs.  Maybe that's what they mean by maturity.....

Three 8 mile laps through the woods, 1.5 hours as fast as you dare on a marked course full of roots, tight trees, off camber up and downhills, and small jumps.  The 4th round of the VCHSS season at Spring Grove, VA, has just begun, and the suicide pilots are wailing their way through the woods.  I am fifth off the start as we tear around the grass track section of the course, before the tighter stuff, soon losing sight of Pete Jenkins and Jason Miller, my thorns in the side for 2017.  That leaves me to battle with the rest of the mid-packers.  These cut and thrust skirmishes tend to slow down both riders, while those with clear trail ahead clear off.  Tight woods make passing difficult, but at the end of the first lap I've worked my way up to 3rd.  I know without a doubt who the first and second place riders are, somewhere out there, mocking my efforts.

A bobble on the 2nd lap sees me stall the bike, but not crash.  In the few seconds it takes to re-start, 4th place comes screaming by.  Now the red mist rises.  Up to this moment, it's been hold back, avoid mistakes and crashes.  Fuck it, there is no way I'm about to be robbed of at least the final step on that podium.  It's why you race, otherwise stay home and go play-riding.  Head down, chase on, after #26p like a heat seeking missile.  Twenty minutes of hard pursuit at the end of the second lap and finally he's caught.  But as always the pass is another issue entirely.

This is when it happens.  The tiny mental shift that will soon make all the difference.  Normally I would get as aggressive as necessary, find a way by and tear off after Pete and Jason in a vain attempt to make up time.  I think about it for a moment.  Hide nor hair of the leaders has been seen by me since the start.  The chances are very good that their lead is insurmountable no matter what I do.  A risky pass now, at the beginning of the third lap means I might have to fend 26p off for another 8 miles while getting no closer to first and second.  A painstaking decision is made to follow him, look for mistakes and capitalize on them, knowing, painfully, that this all but assures the best I can do is 3rd.

Four miles into the final lap, an opening appears as we make a quick burst across a field, heading for more single track.  It's a left turn into the woods, I'm on the outside, my front wheel just past his at the turn in point.  Going to have to lean on him pretty hard to get this done, without taking either of us out.  I don't let up.  He does.

Finishing out the last lap and the race in third place, I wonder about new tricks and old dogs.  I wonder if some Kamikazes live to die another day.....

Alone.  Dodging trees and the temptation of old habits....

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Rocky Road To Spring Grove

Sunday, June 4, 2017 Spring Grove VA, VCHSS Round #4


This acronym was spotted on the number-plate of a bike at the races this weekend.  When queried the owner said that it stood for "Never Simple and Never Easy".  He went on to explain how he and his buddies were not mechanics, but had slowly been learning to fix their motorcycles over the last few years, making numerous mistakes along the way, yet always trying to progress.

I thought of my own road in racing, which was very similar.  I learned by watching, listening, asking questions, scouring the internet and trying to cherry pick accurate information, and by screwing up.  Repeatedly.  I still am.  For every challenge conquered three more spring up, for every bit of information gleaned, two more are forgotten.

Seven days prior to this event had me looking at my Gas Gas EC300 lying on it's side underwater in a huge puddle, (more like small lake) that had attempted to swallow it.  I'd underestimated the depth of this inland sea, hit a log submerged in its murky depths and gone down like the Edmund Fitzgerald, face first into a stinking bath of muddy water.  Miserably soaked to the core, but the real problem was an engine full of h2o.  After flipping the machine over with the plug out and kicking, most of it seemed to have been expelled from the innards and the bike re-fired.  It ran for about 3 minutes before the crank seized solid, a delayed victim I am sure, of the drowning.  Leaving me to push this dead albatross 1/2 a mile through the muddy woods in full gear in the VA summer heat and humidity.  I made it, after three heart attacks and two aneurysms.

It's been a long time since I had an all night wrenching thrash-fest on a bike, but it was necessary with only six days before the race.  The motor was stripped, good parts salvaged, and slowly, over the course of about 21 hours, the machine started to come together again.  Things fought me every step of the way.  Without going into great detail, suffice it to say this was no simple rebuild.  Finally, with bloody knuckles and cramping hands, the motor sprang to life again.  There was a transmission leak and the clutch wouldn't disengage, but the seized crank was no longer a problem.

Fast forward to June 4, back on the starting line with the "pre-race pukies" going on in my guts.  Once the wheels move it will be fine, but waiting on that damn flagman sure is hell.  Finally his elbow drops slightly and I see the green barely twitch.  My leg reacts, prodding the kickstart in one smooth motion.  Engine lights and we are off.

It still isn't getting any simpler.  Or easier.  But there's no where else I'd rather be......

Fifth off the line, new red plastics.  2p or not to pee?

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Patience of Speed

Now.  We want everything now.  And we live in a time, a society, a marketplace, that aims to provide all of it faster than our muddled minds can muster the desire.  Food, entertainment, sex, goods and services, an entire smorgasbord within our greedy little grasps at the drop of a hat.  But the inconvenient truth, the pink elephant bursting the seams of the room and blocking the door, is that the things which are worth having, doing, or being are never instant, or easy.  I learned the hard way, over many years, that going fast on a motorcycle is one of those things.  At least for us human beings without much talent.

Seeking speed is like playing tag with an 800 pound grizzly bear.  You've got to come up on the behemoth really slow, from behind, hoping he doesn't catch a whiff of you.  Quietly creeping ever towards the unpredictable and vicious goal knowing that one false footstep, the snap of a twig, will bring a world of hurt down on you.  And the real scary part is, however good you become, that grizzly is still going to get you sometimes and hand down a serious drubbing.  All to remind you once again:    

Going fast is a slow thing.

Barber Motorsports Park on my hybrid EX500, chasing and running away from the grizzly at the same time.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Purpose and Distraction

Distraction.  Our lives teem with it.  It oozes out of every crack and crevice, threatening to slip us up and devour our time.  Tweets, Facebook posts, Snapchats, Instagrams and a myriad of other disturbances I am too old, too uncool, too out of the loop to even be aware of at this point.  These trifles all have one thread in common, they are big on instant gratification, emotion, flash and noise, but very limited in meaning.  Just because things come at us quickly and in an apparent grand fashion, should not imply they are worth our time.

On the surface, a motorcycle can certainly appear to be one of these.  Shiny, loud, fast, appealing to the visceral.  Riding one also, a mere twist of the wrist supplies enough thrust to make your sphincter clench and stretch your arms, instant gratification indeed.

But it is the machine's deeper ability to help us find things we didn't even know where there, that separates it from the other time drains.  Some realize this through travelling on two wheels, seeing what they have not seen from the best view on the road, others through the trials of competition and yet others through wrenching, repairing and creating in the metal that is motorcycles.  And those in the know, know that it is not distraction.  It is not hobby.

It is purpose.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Them's the Brakes....

I came into the third round of the Virginia Championship Hare Scrambles Series more relaxed than the previous two rounds.  After being center-punched and taken out by competitors and losing finishing positions due to executive decisions I found myself in an all around frustrated state of mind.  A weekend of play riding and camping in Sandy Level, VA helped to turn that around.

May 7, we are back in Martinsville, VA for the Blue Ridge race, which I won last year.  The hilly, muddy terrain suits my riding style and confidence is high.

The ground trembles as the bikes thunder off the start.  I get off the line in a decent sixth spot.  I hang back, waiting for the body and bike to warm before putting my head down.  No mistakes today.

About ten minutes in, it's time to go.  Making it up to fourth, behind Pete Jenkins, who currently leads in points.  We swap positions a few times, finally I get ahead and pull a small lead.  It's going to be a good day.

Fate has other things in store.  Starting a long descent on a muddy, rocky hill, pushing down on the rear brake suddenly yields no results.  I try again, figuring there is mud on the rotor.  Nothing.  Two more minutes of this shit and it's getting worse.  Pete comes by, as well as another rider.  Coming to a creek crossing, I dismount to figure out what the hell is going on.  A quick look a the rear brake slave cylinder reveals the issue.  One of the two bolts holding it in place has snapped, allowing the slave to rotate whenever the lever is depressed, preventing any brake action at all.  My mind races to possible fixes.  There are limited tools in the my bag, a couple of zip ties, no bolts and nothing to extract the broken one.  By the time I am able to affect any sort of jerry-rig repair, the hope of a respectable finish will be gone.  It is either quit, or soldier on.  There is no quit for me.

If you've never ridden a dirt bike with no rear brake, let me assure you it is quite an eye opening experience.  While the front brake supplies most of the stopping power for a motorcycle, in the dirt a rear brake is crucial setting up for turns, balance, and keeping the rear wheel from attempting to pass the front on slippery downhills.  In short, it is quite a necessary item, and on the hills of Blue Ridge, even more so.

My pace slows considerably, but I'm still mowing down saplings, unable to get the bike under control on downhills, falling off two or three times.  Eventually I find a rhythm, turtle-like as it is.  It starts to be somewhat fun, trying to do this without a rear brake.  That is until the third and final lap, when the front brake, heated up and grabby from all the use, decides to bite a little harder than intended on a descent and promptly launches me over the handlebars.  The landing is on a pile of rocks, and despite body armor, still manage to get the wind knocked heavily out of me.  Laying there, looking up at the sky, gasping for breath as pain sets in, I decide I'm done.  I've had enough.  Want to have a good cry and then go home.

A cold voice inside my head says, 'Get up you pussy.  Finish the damn race.'  There seems to be no choice but to heed this seemingly otherworldly command.  I remount and say a little prayer to any deity in the vicinity that the Gas Gas starts.  It does, allowing me to continue gingerly, tentatively.  Adrenaline gone, I try not to focus on the pain, but rather on not falling down again.  I finish that last lap, and the race, in seventh place, only five minutes behind the winner.  Not bad for no rear brakes and some bruised ribs.

I'm glad I listened to that voice.

Watching as my championship aspirations tear down the trail ahead of me.....

These downhills sure don't look like much in the pictures, but what a bitch with no rear brake!

Tired on the last lap after going ass over tea kettle.  Just want to finish....


Monday, May 22, 2017


Today the motorcycling world mourns the loss of one the great ambassadors of motorcycle sport, The Kentucky Kid, Nicky Hayden.

His accomplishments and impact on racing are being talked about throughout the international motorcycle community, along with an outpouring of grief.  I have few words to add to what has already been said but want to leave you with this quote in regards to Nicky from "Knotcher" found on the WERA Motorcycle Roadracing Forum:

"I'd rather be half the man, than all the racer."

Monday, May 8, 2017

Green With Envy

It's a funny thing when passion trumps logic.  Those rare moments that silence the naysayers and odds-makers, when a thing happens not because it is likely, but due to the sheer force of will and tenacity of the parties involved.

One of those moments happened this past weekend at Round #3 of the Virginia Championship Hare Scrambles Series in Martinsville, VA, when Will Nauta, of Gretna, VA won his first 30+ C class race.

Why is that rare you ask?  People win races all the time, no big deal.  Well it is kind of a big deal, because Will, only in his second season of hare scrambles racing, was riding a Kawasaki KDX200, a design so long in the tooth that even the manufacturer dropped it from their lineup over a decade ago.  A design with engine technology that was cutting edge way back in the early 1980s and suspension tech from even earlier.  A design that many racers look upon as quaint and outdated, a playbike, the kind of thing that could never win races in this modern day and age.

Only on Sunday, May 7, 2017, Will and his well fettled, self-tuned, but stone axe tech machine were a force to be reckoned with, taking the win after a last lap pass on the leader and winning the race with 20 seconds in hand, a small speck of well seasoned Green in a sea of Austrian Orange.

Congratulations to Will on his gritty win in the muds of Blue Ridge and for showing us all you don't need a $10k dirt-bike and a $50K toy-hauler to kick a little ass and have an obscene amount of fun....


Post-race, splattered with mud.  Note the conventional forks with dangerously low underhang. 
On top of the box! 

The spoils of war, Blue Ridge beer stein trophy.  Maybe the KTM number plate helped?