The boys convinced me to ride along to their Harescrambles event, held in Hill City (not far from Grand Rapids). The event was held at Quadna resort, a place that used to be a premier ski stop and must have been nice at one time. Now, it is a shadow of it's former self-needing some repair and a good coat of paint, and some new carpet and linen in it's lodge rooms. While the ski hill has been shut down for years, they still have a nice campground, and a good looking golf course.
Once a year, they hold this event there, and people travel from all over to compete. We arrived around dinnertime on Saturday night, walked up the rickety stairs to the dusty bar and grill on the top floor, and the guys got registered for Sunday's races. We then drove down the road a piece, and had a bite to eat at Zorbaz (where all of the s's on the menu have been replaced with z's-so you order Zpaghetti with a Zide Zalad...unless you order a taco, then it isn't quite so annoying.) We even caught a gorgeous rainbow on the way home, which we took to be a good sign for the next day's event.
After a restless night spent on mattresses that should have been replaced several years ago, we awoke to a sunny, cool morning and headed in to Hill City to eat at the one cafe. A good breakfast in our bellies, we headed back to the resort so Charlie could get suited up for his 9 am race. Both mom and dad provided pre-race advice. While Mike's focused on the techinical aspects, mine was about staying safe (read-PLEASE DON'T BREAK ANY BONES) and having fun.
A harescramble is a mix of an enduro, and a motocross. It's a shotgun start (literally) and once the gun goes off, you start up your bike, and head up the hill. Providing your bike will start. Charlie got off just fine, and he was on his way. The first part of the race was enduro, winding through the hills on a single trail. Then they headed out into the open, over a jump, and through the checkpoint, to head back into the forest again.
It was an hour long race, and Charlie was wiped out, and even had dirt in his teeth. But he finished! And survived intact.
There is always an organization there, selling food, and this event offered freshly grilled brats or burgers, and amazing homemade potato salad. There was even beer or bloody maries, if you were so inclined, but I didn't see many people partaking of that option.
Next up was Mike, he raced for nearly 3 hours, his course obviously much longer and more arduous than Charlie's. I even got to be pit girl, and replenish the water in his camelback. Thanks to Bob Maki, for trecking into the woods to take these great shots of him! Mike is the unofficial club photographer, and while he gets lots of shots of everyone else, there aren't a lot of pictures of him riding, so it is great to have these.
Speaking of good people, what a wonderful sport this is! It is really a family activity, and everyone helps each other out. Unlike the rivalry often seen at other sporting events (ever listened to an over-the-top hockey mom, or football dad?) here you will find dad's and mom's helping out any kid who needs it. Or feeding single guys who don't have wives to take care of them. Sue's son Tim is just an unbelievable rider, always finishing at or near the top, and Deb travels nearly every weekend with her husband and two sons, who race, and her daughter. As I mentioned last week, they are really good dirt bike moms!
Whether families are jump starting vehicles, sharing dirt bike parts or tips on how to stay cool during a race, it's a feeling of 'we're all in this together'. While I still don't understand the appeal of the physical race (it is unbelievably grueling!) the rest of it is so...wholesome. That is really the only word I can think of to describe the atmosphere that permeates throughout the whole event.
As the sun drew farther to the horizon, dusty and tired guys shuffled off to the chalet to see the results of their endeavors, while mom's packed up campers and gathered windburned, happy children into back seats. Hearty waves and shouts of "drive safely" echoed through the emptying dirt lot, as the trucks and campers and trailers made their way home.