Parts Unlimited OMA Series MAXXIS ‘Penn State XC’
By Alan Westerfield #7
Planning and Execution; those are two vital elements of my racing program that have been absent. Unfortunately, my buddy Vendor decided not to make this one, citing something about how mud smears his eye-shadow, leaving me no choice but to persuade Mac to go along for the ride. For the price of a corn chip, my prized Mississippi leg hound will go anywhere. Preparations for this trip accounted for nearly any racing scenario that could possibly surface. Trying to eliminate traveling difficulties is what this journey was all about. In an effort to avoid another late night dinner at ‘Ronnie’s Roadside Roach pit’, I cooked heaps of spaghetti and stored it for my pre-race meal. Everything was set. I would wake at six on Saturday morning, do three more hours of work and would be on the road by nine. Predictably, I overslept until nine. By one, the van was loaded, clean, and every detail was meticulously combed over.
Shortly into my journey, a brake caliper stuck, overheating the pads and sending a foul cloud from the van’s undercarriage. Back at the shop, discovered a diesel fuel leak along with a tire that was nearly hot enough to ignite.
Plan B involved abandoning my pile and using my jeep and trailer. It was a rig that reminded me of an elephant pushing a peanut. Nevertheless, I was on the road by two-thirty. A little past midnight, I arrived at the race site starved, confused, and completely exhausted. Thankfully, I had a hot meal to look forward to so I immediately began unloading my full size microwave and generator. The spaghetti made and strange plop as it hit my plate, concerning me. Apparently, when you put the hot carb loaded treat into a Tupperware container and chill, it bonds and becomes? a cube. I have a positive attitude and McGyver intuition so I promptly cut a bowl into the cube to serve as a sauce reservoir, and hoped no one was still awake to ask, ‘What’s for dinner?’ Things only became more complicated when I realized I was missing a mattress and the back of the Jeep is only 5’6- I am 6’1. A few hours of restless tossing and turning were soon drowned-out by mini-bikes at the crack of dawn. Ahhhh, the life of a racer.
The parade lap left me utterly speechless. The track was the best of the season. It promised to be challenging, technical, and quite diverse. The uphill start did not play to my advantage on the small four stroke as I found myself near the back of the pack. The first major obstacle changed the pecking order. It was a creek followed by a snotty, rutted, rooty hill-climb. I was reminded of an old Blackwater video and the Hwy 93 river crossing. Our version was equipped with ‘mud fleas’ (spectators who help drag riders and bikes up the incline) and everything just like in the legendary Blackwater race. I took an alternate line, cleaned the section, and passed several riders. The tough track suited my style and I attacked the terrain. Towards the end of the first lap, Justin Williamson was knocking on the door. Being the good neighbor I am, I pulled aside. It had only been one lap and I was spent faster than a 10 year-old’s allowance at a candy store. I was still in a respectable position and found my speed to be adequate to stay there.
Maybe I am just a diamond in the rough, but I think we all know that no matter how much you polish a dirt clod-you can’t make it shine. Trying to stay with J-Dub reminded me of my first kiss. I wanted it to last longer so I could learn something, but she was too strong, and J-dub is too fast. I had to switch to energy conservation mode shortly thereafter. Bill’s theory of two hours plus a lap can often be manipulated to accommodate his general mood of the day. I was hoping to find a white flag at the end of lap 4 but it didn’t wave. I overheard Bill tell Monty before the race, ‘Don’t throw the white flag until the sun sets into the fork of the tallest hickory on the western hill!’ He followed that up with an AARRGG and a laugh that reminded me of a pirate. On the final and sixth lap, my attention deficit disorder started to kick in, causing my brain to play leapfrog with all of my jumbled thoughts. It was only 2 miles from the finish that I came upon my little buddy – Derek Spangler. Derek is a 200A dominator and has the desire to twist the throttle grip to the max. He had wiped out on the fastest section of the track. Fellow rider Matt Crouch was hovering above the kid trying to figure out what was going on when I stopped to check things out. Derek’s eyes were glassy and he was singing ‘You Are My Sunshine’ to Matt. This was my cue to go get help so I turned up the wick to the finish. It turned out that Derek was just beat up pretty bad but nothing too serious. The charismatic youngster is sure to have a bright future ahead of him in what ever he chooses. Derek is 16 so I often speak to him about the dangers of following the teenage smells of perfume and bubble gum that have been the demise of many young racers and men. He has not yet fallen into the lure of fancy rims, side-ways hats, subwoofers, and big ole pants. He chooses instead to focus on racing and being himself. No doubt about it, he’s ‘A Great American.’ Good day.
Side note: ‘Great American’ is a new compliment I will be using on a regular basis.
Ok, so what would 1105 miles of boredom be with out a great new song?
‘THE PENN STATE JINGLE’
Now I’ve been there,
The hills are steep,
If you don’t like that,
We’re gonna race,
Come try it out,