By: Alan Westerfield #7

David Stickel (30 A Class) took the holeshot $100.

Braaaaaahhhhaaahhhaaa!! The little Yamaha screeched at top of her lungs, her
RPM’s so high no dog in nine miles could stand the pain. She threatened to send an intake valve hurling through the cam cover, explode through a tank of fuel, and end its journey with an injury that would surely save the world from future Little Alan offspring. Regardless of the outcome, I held my ground and twisted the throttle so hard I’m sure I stretched an extra inch of slack in the cable. My rear was vel-croed to the back of the fender as I kept my head tucked below bars, using the ‘T’ in Renthal as a crosshair to focus on my line. The foot tall corn stalks passed by at an astonishing rate, while the bike wiggled slightly but never tumbled. My blood type converted to Prego and you couldn’t get a greased needle in my derriere. Momentarily, I am Johnny Campbell racing Baja- sort of. Post race GPS readings determined the little Thumper YZ290F with a tooth larger front sprocket would reach a max speed of 80.2 MPH just before bouncing off the rev limiter. All of this chaos was in the first few miles of round 9 of the OMA series appropriately named ‘THE RACE.’

One tree base log was not enough; another was added into the track. Alan takes the bull by the horns.

Why is it called ‘The Race’? This event is at the top of the food chain; a superior competition by any standards. This is ‘The Race’ that promoter Gusse spends weeks preparing for. During this time, phones do not get answered, bathing is overlooked, meals are skipped, even going to the bathroom and sleeping drops near the bottom of the priority list. Cutting and preparing a fresh 35-mile loop is a momentous task that is not for the faint of heart. When asked why he would spend a half-day cutting a rider shaped pattern through a log jam/brush-pile, Lead Dog replied, ‘Because I can!’ Lets just say the Morrison area chain saw shops consider Bill a very important customer.

Alan?s ready to tell his story.

‘The Race’ started off in a mad dash around a large, soft, loamy field. It was every man for himself as all of the ‘A’ classes battled tooth and nail with the Pro class trying to establish an early rank. I found myself somewhere in the middle of painful dirt clods and a black cloud of soil. The insanity did not stop on the motocross track as I continued pursuing the leaders. I was quite impressed with the top end performance of Sally, as she gave up very little to the other machines. I had never really held a bike completely wide open for such a long period of time before but found it necessary to reel in some of the other riders. About 2 miles in J-rat pulled up beside me bouncing off his own rev limiter with the consistency of a midget basketball game. His RMZ450 appeared to have approximately 2MPH more speed on top. JJ was laughing at me and it ticked me off. Reaching the first wooded section, I worked my way into fourth position but the leaders were already out of site. My woods speed satisfied me until we reached the next field section a few miles later. I may have ridden the timber sections like a seasoned Pro, but quickly turned into Helen Keller. It was a beautiful day with plenty of sunshine, which forced me to play squint-eyes. I couldn’t see the markings going through the massive farm fields.
My disorientation quickly disgusted me as I became antsy and started riding in circles looking for the arrows. Finally, Lead Dog and first mate Monty came riding up pointing me in the correct direction. I recaptured my 4th place position and held steady. On the first 35-mile loop, I got lost 4 times- all in cornfields that have a sight distance of two miles. I blame this on an early childhood battle with a touch of Dyslexia. I finally figured out how to write my name starting with the ‘A’ instead of the ‘N’ by the age of 6 but could still suffer symptoms. Lead Dog thinks I need my eyes checked.

Lap 2? Mullins out front by minutes, Jason and JJ battle for 2nd. Jeremy Thomas (Jason?s father) always at the track for 100% Jason support.

It is not possible to get lost in the Timber sections of this race, which is where the majority of the event took place. The Northern Illinois woodlands give a new meaning to ‘tight woods’ racing. The growth is so thick you can’t get off the trail- and you would be a maniac if you wanted too. Prehistoric trees have produced logs with a larger diameter than a Volkswagon beetle. Lap 2 found me to be very lonesome, and my speed seemed to fade. I switched to energy conservation mode during the first half of the lap, making sure I had something left at the end in case a ‘racing situation’ happens to arise. Rhythm eluded me through the wood lots. Vegetation is so thick that every 10 ft section of trail either produces a log or a turn. Trails like these make me content to have 6 ft outriggers for legs. The only draw back to long legs is that my riding pants fit like knickers, or as we say in KY ‘kneeknockers.’ My boots always seem to fill with twigs, mud, and even fairly sizeable sticks. If a campfire is needed on the side of the trail, I always have available kindling.

There was one section of the track that was absolutely dreadful. The pathway was through some sort of wrist-sized saplings that were relentless, and they call them “The Willows”. The only bike suitable for this area would be a Z-50 with 12′ wide handlebars- and then it would be faster to put it on your back and run through. By using the steering stops and holding your tongue just right, you could just manage to squeeze and adult sized machine through. An undesirable section of ‘potting soil’ whoops waited on me towards the end of the first loop. What is disguised as a section of harmless rolling black peat is actually a quicksand deathtrap.

Hitting the middle soft section almost always ends with a trip over the bars while your machine serves as an upright monument to on coming riders. I gave myself plenty of time to assess the area before dropping a wheel. It paid off, as I was now only a half-mile from the finish.

A very satisfied feeling engulfed my body. The sense of accomplishment from conquering Mother Nature’s obstacle course cannot be imitated. The most important quality a person can possess when faced with adverse conditions like these is ‘grit’. Grit is a mouth full of sand- swallowed whole. Grit is giving a full on head-butt to professional cage fighter after he has already broken your arms and legs. Grit is? marriage, and coming home one day to find ‘Sally’ and all your old trophy’s in a yard sale because the kitchen would look so pretty with new cabinets. (OK so that’s not grit- its stupid, and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.) My end result was a 4th place finish and another great memory.
The finale to the 2006 OMA series was spectacular. Big thanks to all those involved in putting this course together. Bigger thanks to the land- owners who make long distance races like this possible- you are loved. If you have never been to Bills’ Bike Barn, I would highly recommend trying one of these events. It’s a unique experience and one heck of a good trail ride; just remember to pack your grit.

Till next year,
Alan Westerfield


Mullins takes the lead from Jason here, in which he would in 40 feet hand it back over to Jason after lodging his bike in the willow trees.

JJ wraps up 3rd at “The Race” and 3 OMA Championships.

JJ thanking Gusse for that wonderful day, O, and that Parts Unlimited $10,000.