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.