Topic: MMC Poker Run
Posted: 12/08/2003 10:07:11 PM
This was the Saturday after thanksgiving. First thing has to be said is that the Meriden Motorcycle Club puts on a kick-ass event over some A-class TST terrain, and its only $20, AND there's food and beer after the event. Damn, most parties aren't that good!
This ended up pretty long, so if your attention span is short (hey. HEY. eyes over here) skip to the bottom, I won't feel bad.
Saturday, I had a big decision to make. Not the one about whether to go or not, I'd already decided that the poker run at the Meriden Motorcycle club was not something I was going to miss, despite the 3/4 of an inch of rain that had only stopped falling sometime the night before. I was not going to miss this chance to ride the famed boneyard. I was not going to miss what will probably be Chris M's last east-coast ride. I was not going to miss a shot at a Dean sighting.
The decision was: Bomber Jacket or Aerostitch? It was only a little above 40F, so I went with the ‘stitch. I had about 10 miles to ride to the club, and I was worried about the ride back, probably wet, doubtlessly cold, probably bruised. I decided if the bike didn't come back in the back of a truck, I'd declare the ride a success. No decision on the boots required: I have one pair of workboots. Gloves? The finest work gloves available from Home Depot. Pants? Ripped jeans that have seen the Dam twice.
I heard the run would be six miles a lap, 5 laps total. I've stumbled through the area once or twice, wandering around the mountains in the area on the L, so I knew that there'd be wet rocks, wet logs, uphills with rock outcroppings, and plenty of water and mud. I knew 5 laps were not in my future, as my stamina is not built up enough, and though the L can tractor over almost anything, I'd not be getting into 2nd gear much. So my goal was 2 laps. 12 miles. Seemed pretty simple.
I rolled past the clubhouse and couldn't quite figure out the looks I was getting- I felt like a guy on a rice burner pulling into a biker-bar all alone. There were plenty of KTMs, a smattering of XRs, CRs, CRFs, WRFs, and… crap. Trials bikes. I say crap, because if there's enough of what Dean calls the ‘snotty stuff' back there to make it interesting for the trials guys, what's it gonna be like on my 350lb beast?
(pause in typing to watch the cripplefight scene. Didja know it's a blow-by-blow copy of the fight in ‘They Live'? cool flick. "I'm here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum".)
I find Chris M ()East Coast Spode) and the guy he rode in with, another XR400 rider. Intros. Chatting. I register. Head back to the bike. Snow flurries? Nope, as those around us prep for the race (yeah, just a non-competitive poker-run, riiiiight…) by doing calisthenics and chugging red-bull energy drinks, (I've got brownies and trail-mix. And no, they weren't special brownies) Chris is prepping with a little chain smoking and the wind is making snowflakes out of the ashes.
I eyeball a blue Chevy van pulling in, sure enough, Dean (met him thru Chris at the Thomaston Dam) looked outside this morning instead of just trusting the weenies on the weather-channel. We've got a regular crew going now, this should be pretty good. I'm a little nervous, mostly because I don't want people getting pissed because I'm blocking the trail, and a little because this is my first event ever.
We decide we'll start last row, since everyone's into the ‘poker-run' groove of just having a nice ride. Its going to be a dead-engine start, and I of course give this absolutely no thought at all. I have a magic button. Alas, Chris does not, and his XR400 sometimes chooses to be, well….. a bitch. (I know that someday I will be in the woods, at the bottom of a mudhole at the bottom of a valley, and my battery will go dead. I know this as I know that someday I will be just so much dust, but until either of those 2 events occurs, well, shit. I got a magic button! And that's why these rides with a few friends are so important.) I think Dean and the other XR400 took off after the XR didn't start after a few kicks, but I hung out until the beast fired. I followed Chris for a few hundred feet when it stalled again. This time, I just kept chugging.
People started getting snarled up on the very first rock outcropping, not a very imposing chunk of rock, but probably one guy stalled and blocked ‘the' line, so I chugged over some slightly rougher stuff off to the side and actually wound up *not* last for awhile. Some twisty stuff, some logs (amazing how many bikes seemed to just throw themselves on the logs, as though they were incredibly loyal buddies jumping on a grenade), around the back of the junkyard.
First real item of interest was a fallen tree blocking what otherwise would be a real easy run along a short ridge, but the tree killed all momentum and the mud was all up the little hill on the far side of the tree. A fair number of guys stuck here, apparently they had the belief that you can just start on a slick, muddy hill and somehow magically you'll move forwards instead of backwards. I probably sound a little conceited? Snobby? Snotty? Especially given what I was on, but I knew that with just a little runup it'd be no problem on the L. So I took my time, waited until all the horizontal bikes were dragged out of the way, went to the bottom, turned around, and just chugged up it on my DOT-approved tires.
A little further, next bottleneck. I was later to find out this one was skipped by Dean and Chris on the first lap because of the congestion, which was mostly cleared by the time I got there. I hope Dean caught it on his subsequent laps, because the way you came around a turn just before the hill meant you could have momentum, and no preplanned route, or you could stop and plan, but have no momentum. The latter was not the winning strategy- a few guys were trying to start mid-hill, and it just wasn't going to happen. A few of us were waiting for the hill to clear, and a fellow went up and we could see the upper half of his body above the ridge. He did pretty good, the front got a little high near the top, then suddenly the front wheel was pointed straight up. Hmmmm, small outcropping? The bike landed sideways on rock with a sickening crunch, and we all cringed. It was like when the pitcher gets hit in the ‘nads with a line drive, we all felt it.
Well, that made me next. I ran as deep as I could into the turn to give me the most time for looking, found a line that didn't look hideous and just chugged it. Some stairsteps, but easily handled by setting the throttle to ‘tractor'. Well, this hill deserved a little celebration so I gave a little toot on the horn. Not to rub it in, mind you, that a street-legal bike, with legal tires, with taillights and turn signals just chugged up the hill. Not at all. One subsequent lap I blew the line a little and had to take the steep part, but a little throttle control kept the front wheel from getting too high.
After that uphill, something magic happened. I was all alone. The mud, the logs, the rocks, they were all mine. I was stopping briefly after the real technical sections, my arms were pumping up and hadn't warmed to the task yet, so I'd stop, kill the engine, and I couldn't see or hear another soul. It was nice. Next section I very quickly realized was the rock garden. It wasn't too long, but the rocks were edged, not blunt, and promised trauma to those who fell, and the opportunity to be a permanent fixture to those who lost their nerve and stopped in the middle. I must say, there was one rock, next to a tree, fairly tall and sloped like some sick (but small) ramp, with some nasty stuff right after it. You could try to miss it, but you'd wedge in. You just knew it by looking at it that this was one of those spots that the safe looking way was the wrong way. On lap two, this area was decorated with a smattering of carbon-fiber skid plate. Never bring a knife to a gun-fight, and don't bring a carbon-fiber skidplate to the boneyard. The rocks are hungry, and they will bite.
Next up was a rocky uphill, a slimy rocky uphill, that on lap 2 was a nasty, slick, slimy, greasy, throw you into the trees uphill. The Pirelli MT21s are good on the wet rocks. Hell, they're great on the wet rocks. I just grabbed the bars, tried to stay somewhat over the seat, and let the pig pull me up through the crud like a Saint Bernard, but without the slobber.
I caught up with Dean after an unassuming little log-stream-rock outcropping crossing that gave the opportunity to watch more bikes protect their masters from the logs and I took my first serious break. I got my helmet off, and Dean reached for his. I believe my exact words were "Don't you DARE put that helmet back on yet". I think he ended up glad I insisted on a little company, because we got to see the leaders blast by on their second lap, and that was pretty cool. Hmmm, I was about halfway, they were halfway through their second lap, so they were about 3x faster than me. I can deal with that- I was having a blast!
Dean and I got rolling, next fun spot was a nasty downhill, rocky and muddy of course, more like skiing on my bike. Bottom of the hill, there was a pretty mellow stream crossing (mud to rob all momentum, though) followed by a small uphill with an integrated tight 90 degree right-hander. One fellow stuck on it, several waiting their turn to get stuck. Dean was having none of it. He just fired up the gas-gas woods weapon and cranked down the sloping edge of the rocky streambed aways, crossed the stream, and up the far bank. Well, it looked like an OK route, somewhat less abusive than the rock garden, but a fair bit wetter. Turned out to be a good route, but most of the guys waiting to cross decided they'd rather face the mucky uphill. Hell, you'd figure if they saw a streetbike do it, they'd figure it was easy.
Dean turned up the go-power a little after that so I didn't see him until about beer-o'clock back in the clubhouse. Right near the end, there was this tight little 90 degree+ up a small hill, going from an open area into some trees. Thankfully, I'd already had some practice getting my leg over the bars (tucking my throttle hand under my knee) for the really tight turns so on my worst time through there I just bounced off the trees a little. I finished my lap, shed the sweater and legs to the ‘stitch, got some more water, and started my second lap feeling pretty darn good. The arm pump had subsided, I was cooler, wasn't getting passed very often. About 2 miles in I found Chris looking like he'd just run a marathon. He'd been pinned for awhile, and kicking his mini-pig was taking all the oomph right out of him. Chris was out riding Thursday and Friday, both pretty intense sessions, and he was just used up. I hung with him, stopping and starting, used some wire to tie down the tire on a trials bike that had the rim spinning uselessly inside the flat tire, hammered down Chris's footpeg so the damn kickstarter would work, tried to help some guy with a KTM whose chain had wrapped around the front sprocket, and finished up lap 2 feeling pretty sprightly.
I reloaded on water, made sure Chris was within sight of the pit area, and headed out for a little more. I figured I'd made my goal of 2 laps, so I thought I'd go find some of the technical stuff for grins and maybe cut back. I really wanted to do that gnarly uphill again, short though it was. Well, I ended up doing a whole third lap, and was all over the place. Things got slicker on every lap, and shit, I was getting tired. Felt really good. I ended up passing some guy on a husky (I think it was, anyway) and he was behind me for most of my third lap. I assumed we were the last two out so I stopped once in awhile to make sure he was still coming. Saw an abandoned XR400 on that last lap, no sign of what the problem was.
Only one KTM guy tried to use me for a berm, but I heard him at the last moment. I think his bike was just too quiet so I never realized he was behind me, and he just took an opening when he saw it. Every other guy behind me I heard, either because it was a cloud-belching 2-smoke or because they gave a little rev to let me know they were there. It was nice to have most folks give a little ‘thanks' as they scooted by, very polite. Or maybe they're just used to stubborn back-markers that won't get the F out of the way.
High points were the rocks submerged under two feet of mud, the trees that clipped both bar ends at the same time (no, I don't have bark busters yet- they still scare me), the absolutely awesome rock garden that makes Thomaston Dam look like a McDonald's playplace, and the best quote of the day goes to the guy that flagged me over and asked if I was looking for the best way to get to I-91! I laughed my ass off on that one. The ride home was chilly, and uneventful except for someone in the wrong lane avoiding a garbage can blowing around in the wind. Aches and pains have been pretty minor, as well. All in all, an excellent ride.
It was good to ride with Chris and Dean again, even if it was only briefly. Good luck out west, Chris. Dean, perhaps I'll run into you up at the dam sometime.
I'm pretty darn proud (perhaps inordinately so) of the fact that I didn't biff, crash, fall over or wipe out once in those 18 miles of rock-slime, even given the fact that speed was not even on the priority list for me. I partially attribute it to the fact that if I do, I have more to pick up, so the negative feedback to wiping out has been worse than for those equipped with a woods-weapon. That, and I think I can get my feet off the pegs faster than any other human alive! The way I ride is rarely pretty, but it gets the job done. -Dave
Reply by RockyMtnSpode on 12/09/2003 7:55:44 PM
Geez, Dave. I just had the memory of that day suppressed into the subconscious corner of my mind and I had to go and read it again?! (shudder...) Thanks a lot, man
Reply by dave_cl on 12/09/2003 9:46:33 PM
You go out riding 3 days in a row and I'm supposed to feel sorry for you? You'da been OK if you had a magic button...
Reply by damone on 12/10/2003 08:26:26 AM
Dave, I've been waiting for the next installment. I love the beeping of the horn. That cracks me up. Sounds like a cool event. I bet you could ride your L wherever, whenever you want. Why did you say it is going to be your last east coast ride. You moving to Colorado or was the East Coast?
Reply by dave_cl on 12/11/2003 6:58:59 PM
EastCoastSpode's moving back out to CO, was my last chance to ride with him here on the right coast.
Reply by hilift on 12/12/2003 06:18:14 AM
Good write up Dave! Thanks for the imagery.
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