Cajun Classic Enduro / Fun in the Sun in Louisiana
A great ride report from Jim - Wudsracer on rec.motorcycles.dirt
After loading and fueling the truck on Friday, I got up and headed South on Saturday morning. 20 minutes later I crosss the AR/LA state line and set the cruise control on 55. I really enjoy books on tape when I'm driving to the races.
2.5 hours later, I stop at Reggie Berry's house. He lives about 8 miles south of Breezy Hills. We loaded his bike on the three rail trailer and head towards Forest Hills, some 50 minutes to the southwest of Reggie's.
The woods down our way are turning all shades fresh green, and the spring flowers and flowering dogwood trees just highlight the colors more. This is the prettiest time of the year for me in the deep south.
Reggie showed me a route which bypassed Alexandria, and lickity-split (in no time) we were turning off highway 165 onto hwy 112, and soon started seeing the trail snaking through the woods on both sides of the road. It looked pretty dusty out there, and the road in was very dusty. Was this a sign of things to come?
At the gate, there was a nice fellow who gave us a rundown of campground rules, parking lot traffic routes, and directions to the sign-up, sound test, gas stop, and public hygenic facilities. He was friendly and courteous as he welcomed us to the campground and thanked us for taking part in their event. It was nice to get all the information right when we needed it. Kudos to the Acadiana Dirt
Opie found us and helped unloaded the bikes. He said that they were holding our entries because I had requested the last row, and they didn't know how many rows there were going to be.
The "Row Chart" already showed 65 full rows of 5 riders, and riders on rows up to 73. I saw that 69 was open and figured it was a "sign". I told the man, "69 will be fine." Reggie wanted to put "Team 69" on our number plates, but I told him
I was already on Team LAGNAF and invited him to join. When I explained the acronym, he grinned and shook his head "yes".
For years, I rode the early rows in the enduros. If it is bad, the ruts and bogs are not quite as bad. The trail is not always bedded in well, and sometimes the pine straw was still slick on the ground, but I generally had positive experiences with early rows.
Then, about 10 years ago, some of the clubs started letting the early rows finish taking out the last of the saw briars and a lot of the small green limbed face slappers. That sucked!
So, I started riding further back in the pack. For the last 6 or 7 years, I've been riding with the Arkansas Dirt Riders. They like to get between row 15 and 20. (in our regional events, a circuit member who pre-enters may request a starting row.)
Row 15 to 20 is excellent strategy, competition-wise. The trail is well marked and alternate lines around obstacles are starting to form. However, row 15 to 20 is a very busy part of the racing pack. One biff or stall, and a bunch of riders are going to start coming up quick. (Jahelka and Neathery usually ride around row 20.)
My strategy for riding on one of the last rows was to minimize traffic congestion and dust. Reggie is just starting back competing after last year's neck injury and this was Opie's first enduro. I wanted them to have a great day of Enduro Riding.
I think it worked. Neither dust or congestion were a problem on the trail, and both Reggie and Opie were grinning when I last saw them.. *end of note*
We warmed the engines and eased over to the sound test area. My '99 GG 274, Reggie's '96 CR274, and Opie's new CRF450R all passed the spark arrester and noise test with ease. (We are good, law abiding dirtbiking citizens.)
We then reloaded the bikes and rode around the campground, looking for some riders who were waiting for tires and such that I had brought for them. Eventually, we ended up spending time with Lloyd Loux, and Tom Franklin, my fellow Ark Dirt Rider club members, and Joe DeLoach and John Boreing (Clay's dad), the two people in the crowd who live the closest to me. (only 35 miles away in Magnolia, AR.) Lots of good people to visit with at the enduros. I like it.
Opie, Reggie and I left the campground and, after a small side trip so Reggie could show me where the three tittie bars are located (forfuture reference), we went to a Chinese buffet for supper and conversation. Opie and I sat across the table from Reggie, so he could read our lips between bites. I think "after meal" table conversations are easier on him. He's a damn good sport about it, though.
After consuming mass quantities, Opie headed for what turned out to be an "eventual" hotel room and Reggie and I headed back to his house to put our numbers and enduro charts on the bikes.
Sunday morning, Reggie and I get to the race site about 7:30. Since we weren't leaving the start line until 9:09, we had plenty of time.
I've never seen so many people at the Camp Clebourne campground; not even at the many National Enduros that have been held there. The group was massive. We were lucky in the parking lot. I got a spot close to the entrance, less than 150 feet from the gas stop.
Unloading, I saw a lot of people from the last three weeks of BJEC events, and a lot of folks that I hadn't seen since last year. Several rmders were there. I saw Liz and Dave (from TX) right after parking on Sunday morning. A little bit later, Louis Ponder came by and told me
that Scot Sheppard was with him and they were riding "Row 00".
I saw fellow Arkansas Dirt Riders, Tom Franklin and Lloyd Loux, and wished them well before the race. Breezy Hills Enduro Club members Gene Stelly, Chris Blanco, and Rick Lutke were riding together. (Chris is going to ride with Reggie and me at the upcoming Great Piney Woods Enduro at Fort Polk, some 25 miles further west on hwy 112. (March 18 http://www.dirtrider.net/sera/documents/LTRflier2004.pdf) Rick was the only casuality that I heard from the race. He broke his pelvis in a high gear get-off in a sand bed collision with another bike. Get well soon Rick.
BHEC club member Raymond Hogan (Moto Squirrels creator) was also there, and was riding on row 68, right in front of us. That was great! Ramond is a really good guy, and is going very fast on his new CRF250X.
As I said earlier, after visiting with everyone and getting suited up, we made the start with 5 minutes to spare.
helmet to let other riders know he can't hear them, but I don't think many riders know or understand about the orange sticker.
Our minute came up and the starter said, "Go!" I waited for the other two riders on our row to take off and Reggie and Opie to start, then Reggie took off and we were on the trail. It was sandy and loamy, and pretty wide to start with. Berms were kicked up in most of the turns, and the bike was begging to be turned loose.
I took it easy and started wroking into a smooth rythm. Sometimes it takes longer than others. I had been listening to Rockabilly musician Sleepy LaBeef on the way to the race that morning, so my internal song was juking a bit. Hey, I was grinning big. Friends, dirtbikes, and great riding conditions are hard to beat.
I had been sort of dreading the sand whoops. (They aren't deep, compared to a lot that I've seen, but they get sort of wild at speed, in close with the trees.) Combined with the deadfall trees and lots of naked roots, Forest Hills can be a demanding enduro course.
Well, after the struggle of the John Zink Enduro, and riding the fast but very rough mountain race course at the White Rock Enduro, the Cajun Classic (Forest Hills, Louisiana) was almost like heaven. My tires bit into the ground like hungry tigers. There was just enough moisture to keep the dust down. Once I got into the "GasGas Rythm" of giving it the gas BEFORE shifting my weight to make a turn, it was "PLAYTIME!"
I even started using the whoops to jump the logs, and if the root mass were too large to take at speed, I would just run my front wheel up on the tree trunk where the roots come out and jump the whole mess.
The weather was warm; about 80 F, with humidity in the 85% range, but the wind blowing through my Sahara jersey did a good job of keeping me cool.
Opie got to see me roll around in the sand at least once.
The first 4.7 miles was "free time", so we could ride without worrying about burning any checks. Opie seemed to be doing okay, so I picked up the pace a bit.
As the trail got tighter, I caught up with a couple of bikes. As I was looking for a place to get around, I saw that the rider in front was Reggie. The rider behind him was trying to pass, even yelling and revving his motor, but not letting Reggie see him. (Since the big 4-strokes have been quieted down, Reggie just can't "hear" any bikes behind him anymore.) I yelled to the fellow trying to pass, "He's deaf! You gotta let him see you." The rider got close enough that
Reggie could see him, who moved over at the first opportunity. I got a wicked grin, and zoomed by also. I just couldn't help myself. Reggie hates it when I pass him.
I rolled into the first couple of checks right on time. Not long after the first reset, the speed average went up to 24 mph and stayed there for 20 miles. We were zooming between the trees. Sweet Baby was eating up the trail. She was built for this. Torquey and smooth power was right there waiting on me to twist the grip.
Although my bike and Reggie's "96 CR250R have had the same cylinder modification, and are running the same piston kit, the modification had different effects on our bikes. Where mine stayed smooth, but just got stronger, Reggie's CR also got stronger, but it also developed more hit. His CR is just as strong, but not nearly as controllable. It was a double handfull in the really tight woods.
The trails got tighter and tighter. I found a good rythm and kicked it up another notch. We soon came to the long reset. I was ready for it. All that Gatoraid I drank before the race was begging to be freed. As I got my gear arranged and ready to ride again, I waited on Opie to arrive at the eset. It got time for our row to leaveand still no Opie. I told Reggie to take off, and visited with some BJEC friends till Opie made it in. He came in grinning, and said he was okay. He
looked okay, so we took off.
Since we were a bit behind our minute, I wicked it up a bit. I managed to start picking off some of the riders ahead of us, one at a time. It was fun.
As the trail got down to really tight woods, I started catching up with more and more riders. These were what some riders called "first gear sections". Some of the same fellows who were really cutting up in the more open stuff seemed to lose their focus when the tree gaps got more narrow than their bars.
It was as though they would quit looking further down the trail, and instead, focus on the trees that they were hitting, forgetting to gas it to keep up their momentum. I was passing one of these fellows at what seemed like every three or four minutes. It was a blast.
I started easing up behind someone struggling with the super tight woods, dog 'em until they pulled over, and then disappearing before there very eyes (as they kept struggling with the trees.)
They just couldn't see that even the tightest woods have a rythm of sorts. If you can find it, keep your focus ahead of where you are, time your actions properly, and be aggressive with the throttle, the tight woods are no problem.
After what seemed like only 15 minutes of riding, I came out of the woods at the gas stop and the long reset. I filled my bike and sat in the shade to wait on Opie and Reggie.
It sure was hot without the wind cooling me off. The longer I sat there, the hotter I got. I went over to the truck (150 feet away) and refilled my camelbak.
After 24 minutes, Reggie and Opie came riding into the gas stop. Both were grinning. I took one look at them and could see that they had had a great time, but their fun meters were pegged.
I tried to give Reggie some $hit about going back out, and he just saluted me the "rmd way". I said, "Let's call it a day, and go have some lunch." That got smiles.
That was the end of our race.
We had big time fun.
We quit while we were still grinning.
We were still grinning when we left the race, and later, when we parted company.
I think I got Opie hooked.
We had a blast.
Since I quit when I did, I didn't even try to cramp on the way home.
That was way cool. (not getting leg cramps.)
Since we left before they scored everyone, I am pretty ignorant of the scores. I know that Tom Franklin and Chris Blanco did well in their classes. I also think that Scot and Louis did well in the scoring. From what I saw of Raymond Hogan, he was doing a good job and should have scored well. The scores should be on the net within a few days. www.TSCEC.org - www.blackjackenduro.com, and www.dirtrider.net/sera
I probably spoke with 10 people today who were at the race and didn't see me. There were just so many people there that it was hard to find anyone.
If Fort Polk has good weather, it will be very similar. It's only 25 miles to the west, and the terrain is identical. April 18 http://www.dirtrider.net/sera/documents/LTRflier2004.pdf
Now, if I could just talk Jerry Puckett into coming down and riding that one with Reggie, Chris, and me.