The Making of 'Pioneers of Minnesota Motocross'
Based on excerpts from My Life as a Motorcycle List

If I was still writing in the book's established pattern of over-the-top exaggeration, I'd state that:

The wild success of the first book combined with the debut of the reborn resulted in record demand for Minnesota Motocross History. The publishing arm of MX Bob Industries went into high gear.

For just this last chapter, I will be relatively serious. This is the Origin Story of Pioneers of Minnesota Motocross.

Due to circumstances that many of us were dealing with in 2020, I was in my house nearly 24 hours a day. While still out of work, the idea for writing a long article about Donny Schmit was first conceived. I started the research on the article in the autumn of 2020. It became apparent early that this would be a very long article and was better delivered as a book.

Before I started writing the first draft, I had a few thoughts about my approach. The existing articles about Donny generally repeated the same (sometimes inaccurate) information and often left the reader with unanswered questions. I also never liked that most of the articles focused on his early passing. The titles would include words such as death or tragedy. I wanted to focus on his incredible life. Another common theme was this idea that not being signed by a US factory team in 1989 and 1990 provided the extra motivation needed to propel him to great success. I always thought that was an oversimplistic, if not flawed, narrative. There is so much more to his story.

I strived to present a detailed story of his life and career while avoiding conjecture or psychoanalysis. I used his own quotes and thoughts from people close to him extensively. The book goes race by race during his professional career, first in the US, then the GPs. Since I was at every Millville National race that Donny competed in (1987 - 1995) those races get first-hand reports.

After a month of research, which included watching old races on YouTube (great work if you can get it) I compiled my notes and wrote the first draft of the section about Schmit. I added the section about Benolkin next, starting with what I wrote in 2007. The five-page article contained a few inaccuracies and was incomplete, especially when compared to the longer and more detailed story of Schmit. After cleaning up and expanding the Benolkin story, the first draft of the book was done.

Towards the end of the 2020, I thought I was almost ready to publish the book when I was contacted by Randy Nagel. He told me about a star of early Minnesota Motocross named Rick Heiseke. He had raced professionally in Florida several years before Benolkin. Being easily led astray by topics I find interesting, I researched this period quite thoroughly, creating new pages on my website and adding a Prequel to the book.

Between that digression and my return to full-time employment, progress of the book slowed considerably in 2021. When I was not doing research for the 1970s Pros topic, I was revising the section on Schmit and adding Benolkin stories. The slow pace was frustrating at times, but the book turned out much better because of this year of seasoning.

Strongly motivated to get it published, I pushed hard in 2022 to complete the final editing. There were also many publishing tasks to do. I needed to take time off from my day job to get them all done. In May 2022, about twenty months after I started, the book was published in Kindle and Paperback formats.

The front cover featured an excellent photo of Benolkin, but I continued looking for one of Schmit. After a long and sometimes comical search (I did not take the picture, I thought you did) a quality image was finally secured. The Hardcover came out in September with a photo of Schmit on the front cover and one of Benolkin on the back. I was able to include both riders, a classic best of both worlds outcome.

In the end, I wrote the book I wanted to write, to a market that did not exist, with no specific timetable for completion. If I had to pitch that to a publisher, the book would have had no chance. I'm grateful that technology has removed the traditional print gatekeepers, but being the editor and publisher is much more work. The hardest part was marketing and advertising. All those years of making fun of those folks came back to haunt me. I know there are people that would be interested in the book if they heard about it, but I am still figuring out how to accomplish that.


I was able to find many valuable resources online while doing the research for this book, but it was the recollections of people close to the riders, and sometimes the riders themselves, that helped bring the stories to life.

Fox Racing and Donny's longtime partner, Carrie, created a web page for Donny that contained many thoughts about his character, as well as some great personal stories. The web page disappeared in the early 2000s. I was able to rescue the contents and have hosted it on ever since. I have not changed a word of what was originally written. I give full credit to those individuals wherever their writing may appear.

Tom Benolkin gave me some great insights about his own career as well as thoughts about Tom Severson and other Minnesota riders who gave the pros a shot during the 1970s and early 80s.

Dave Schmit provided a lot of good information about Donny's early years, and his life away from the track.

Steve Matthes hosted a podcast about Donny Schmit in 2017. The longer anecdotes from that podcast are credited to the person who told them.

Rick Heiseke had quite a storehouse of photos, contacts, and memories about his own career and of the early days of District 23 Motocross. I enjoyed getting to know him as he shared that information.

Randy Nagel of Pro-Vue, who has been around District 23 from the start, was extremely helpful in all things 1970s onward. There are several portions of the book that would not be in here at all if it wasn't for Randy filling in the many gaps in my pre-1978 District 23 knowledge. He either knew the answer, often in detail, or connected me with someone who would know.

Bob Rathcamp, Scott Cripps, Jon Severson, Mike Quinn, and Curt Winecke also helped answer my questions about the 1970s. Gary Gengel, Steve Harris, and Bryan Peterson provided valuable information about this time period from their on-the-track perspective.

The details of the District 23 Origin Story were all courtesy of Dick Bielke, much to my surprise. He's been my father-in-law for over 25 years, we've had a lot of motorcycle related conversations, but somehow it never came up that he was one of the Founding Fathers of District 23. No sir. That wouldn't be Minnesotan at all to call attention to yourself like that.

A huge thanks to Davey Coombs for securing the use of photo from the Moto Verte Archives. It's an honor to have the work of Pat Boulland on the cover of this book (Kindle and Hardcover formats).