But sometimes, things change. Again Scott Haraldson (the Loretta Lynnís Campground landmark I picked out in an enormous crowd in
in the picture. Scott had quit racing even earlier than I did the first time, but had recently bought a bike, and was out riding it occasionally.
When he told me how much the bike cost, I was a bit shocked. I hadn't bought a new bike since 1984, so I missed the whole Yen exchange rate
problem that happened later that decade. I still thought he was being irrational for riding again, but for the first time in a long time,
I gave some thought to the idea of getting a motorcycle.
After a few months, I was giving serious consideration to getting a bike again. I told my wife that I was thinking about getting a motorcycle.
Much to my surprise, she encouraged me to get a race bike again. She wanted to see me race. Even though I tried to warn her about how much it
would take me away from the house, she said she was OK with it.
The internal deliberations ended quickly after that conversation. I had a garage now, my job paid pretty well, I had a reliable truck, all things
I never had when I was racing. The topper was my wife giving me the green light to race. I was much older, but I was in decent shape and didn't
have any serious injuries or ailments to deal with. It just didn't make any sense anymore not to have a motorcycle.
I looked through the online classifieds and found a few that were in my price range. My price range was kind of low, so most of the bikes were
old. Even though this bike was the oldest one that I looked at, it had the fewest hours. It had probably been ridden a total of less than 10
hours (it still had the stock tire) and didn't look like it had been crashed. It felt strangely awkward loading the bike into my truck. It
wasn't only my riding skills that were rusty.
And with that near-crash while loading the bike, the Vet Era began.
Not having ridden for a long time, I wasn't quite sure what it was going to feel like. The first place I rode was a gravel pit close to the
Renaissance Fairgrounds (As of 1998) that Scott knew about. The gravelly sand was loose enough that you couldn't coast. You had to keep your
speed up. I would have rather started on something hard pack and smooth, just to get used to the
basics again, but that was not to be. I was able to keep up enough
speed to not fall over in the corners (barely in some of them), but the bike felt foreign to me. What used to feel so comfortable to me now
felt very unnatural.
My near total loss of motorcycle handling ability aside, the bike felt really fast and it handled well. Even though this bike was 9 years old at
the time, it was the newest bike I had ever ridden. By the third time I rode it, my riding was starting to feel a bit more normal, but I still
didnít feel that I was riding in control enough to try racing. As it turned out, the third time I rode the bike was the last time that year.
My abrupt end in 98 and very late start in 99 was mostly due to a rental property which turned into a time and money consuming nightmare.
Iím sure that Iíll write tales about that place someday (Editor Ė Not yet, 15 years later), but for the purposes of this story, the important
part is that it was sold early in the summer of 99, which finally gave me a chance to do frivolous things like riding a dirt bike and looking
We bought the land that spring, but I hadn't been up there with the bike until a few months later. I ended up riding quite a bit once I got
going. The land is mostly a grassy meadow. After the grass was cut, I marked out a track with stakes. The ground is hard black dirt, with
endless layers of rocks a few feet down. No matter how many times the farmerís kids picked rocks over the decades, new ones would get pushed
up every spring.
Nothing quite says "classy" quite like a 70s-era camper, a dog run, and a dirt bike on a five-gallon paint can.
After riding there and a few other places, I was feeling quite a bit better about my riding. I knew that in a race, I'd at least look
like I belonged out there, but I was kind of afraid of the big jumps at the race tracks. Late that summer, I decided to try the Cambridge
fair race. There were a lot of jumps there, but none were really huge air. I figured the Vet class would have about 10 or so guys, which
is what I wanted for my first race back. It went OK. I rode alright around most of the track, but the stadium whoops just had me baffled.
Every time I tried to go faster through them, I felt like I was going to crash, yet, nearly everyone was passing or pulling away from me
in that part. I ended up finishing in front of one other person who didn't crash, so with my lowered standards, I considered it a success.
The Age classes were a big enticement to start racing again. As the years went on, "not wanting to race against crazy teenagers" was a
strong disincentive to race, but the Vet classes removed that hurtle. That was the perception anyway. I would later witness many examples
of guys "old enough to know better" doing some pretty sketchy stuff.
Later that fall, I decided to race at Grantsburg in Vet C. It was a District 23 track, but the fall race was not a D23 points paying race.
I had been primarily practicing at my land since the last race. I had ridden a few times in gravel pit sand, but quickly realized, the
first few seconds of practice actually, that the deep, cruel sand of Grantsburg was not like anything that I had ridden in since I started
It was everything I could do not to fall down in every tight corner. I mainly stayed up by liberally abusing the clutch. I knew the ruts
would be deeper and the whoops much bigger come the race and I wasn't sure I could make it around the track without crashing, let alone
at a competitive pace. With the Straight Arrow's long practice sessions, I pulled off well before practice was over, the first time I could
ever remember doing that.
The tounge is not quite hanging out of the helmet, but it's only the third lap.
Grantsburg,WI October 1999 Photo by Dick Bielke
When the gate dropped for the first race, I got a great jump, and suddenly Iím only seeing one person in my peripheral vision. I went into the
first turn in second place. Unfortunately, the person with the holeshot is someone I would later become friends with, but at the time was the
DTPT, "that damn thumper with the paddle tire". If just negotiating the thick sand wasn't difficult enough for me, I was now trying to stay
away from chest crushing roost.
My wife didnít make it to the Cambridge SX race, so she was here to watch me for the first time. My dad was there also. He hadn't been to a race
since the early 80s at the latest. Steph was really getting into it. I could hear her yelling when I rode by.
My good start, and enthusiastic fans notwithstanding, I was still really struggling in the sand. I managed to still be in
third after the first lap, but then they steadily went by. By the start of the fourth lap, I was so tired, I didn't know if I could make it
another lap without encountering an "Iíve fallen and I can't get up." situation.
In the second moto, I got about a mid-pack start and ended up in about the same finishing position. This time, I actually passed one person
who was not on the ground. It was Dan Frasson, or that day, DTPT. He had fallen several times after another good (for him, bad for all following
riders) start. By the time I got to him, he was done tuckered out.
The next spring, I didnít get much riding in, and then raced at Cambridge a few times in Vet C. I was around mid-pack. I was still getting
good starts. That 89 seemed to have as much peak power as any of the new bikes. I was starting to get to a point where I thought a newer
bike would help me out. At first, it was such an adjustment just getting used to riding again that the bike was more than good enough,
but as I started to get some of my skills back, I started longing for more bottom end, plusher suspension, and the better ergonomics that
the new ones had.
In about mid-summer, I traded it in for my next bike. I didn't think to even ask if they would take it for a trade-in, because it was so old,
but the salesman offered about what I was hoping to sell it for, so, with much regret later, I rolled the bike into the show room and rolled
the next one out. No longer would people confuse me with a shorter, much older, radically slower, Minnesota-born, different-gear-wearing,
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The (poorly kept) Secret Grass Track. Many laps were run around this track with this bike and the next one.
Revised September 2017