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WEEKEND IN A DITCH

June 23, 2009
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      Dirt is therapeutic. Indoor people don’t understand, but dirt riders have a need for dirt. We ride in it, play in it, roll in it and it makes everything else in life better. I spent the entire weekend in a ditch in Devore, and I loved every minute of it. It was my Father’s day gift. Jenny understands my need for dirt. Well, more accurately, she tolerates it.
      I help Glen Helen with its off-road races. Specifically, I team up with Gary Jones and the two of us design cross-country race courses for the six-, 12- and 24-hour motorcycle races as well as the six-hour quad race. We try to get as long a course as possible out of Glen Helen Raceway’s two motocross tracks and the nearby facilities that sometimes cooperate. Those can include Glen Helen Regional Park, the Hyundai Pavilion and the San Bernardino Sheriff’s EVOC training center. For next weekend‘s 12-hour, though, I have to stay mostly within the racetrack’s land. It’s very rugged terrain, mostly vertical around the racetrack basin, and I‘ve already used most of the easy stuff. If I want to give the racers something new, I have to do a lot of dirt time. I‘m okay with that.
      So this weekend I spent hours in a Honda Big Red marking the course and trying to create new sections. The existing stuff was easy, but Gary and I became obsessed on one ditch. It had so much brush growing out of it that we couldn’t even walk through on foot at first. But if we could clear a path it would make a great piece of race track–imagine a narrow section of jungle in the middle of a desert cross-country course. The ditch was fed by a natural spring so even in the middle of a drought it had water. It just bubbled out of the ground, ran along the ditch and then disappeared again, back underground. Cutting a path through it became our mission. And we didn’t have to worry about environmental issues–it had to be done anyway for proper drainage, otherwise a newly constructed road nearby would eventually be jeopardized.
      We rented a little Bobcat Skid Steer which helped clear some of the wider sections until it broke an oil line. Then Big Red was drafted as a brush crusher. I would get back and take a good run at a section of saplings with the machine in four-wheel dif lock, and then ram it home. Big Red would actually climb the brush somewhat before it would all bend over with a chorus of snapping and breaking sounds. Therapy. That worked for a while, but eventually we had to go on foot. We hacked out a little path with a machete, then went in with a chain saw. Big Red was used to hall out the trimmings by rope. Mark Tilley and Ron Haase both pitched in, and by the end of the weekend, we had a legitimate trail. It was a little slice of Costa Rica right in the middle of Southern California.
      But here’s the problem. The bottom is so soft and mushy that it can’t handle much traffic. The 12-hour is for motorcycles only, but the section is so narrow that if one bike gets stuck, the whole race comes to a stop. At this point we still plan to use the section. But if it doesn’t work, we have an alternate route planned out–the road. Boring.
      I came home covered in dirt and mud. I had rashes of poison oak already breaking the skin on my wrists and under my arms. I had been stung by a wasp and narrowly missed stepping on two snakes. I was happy. I consider it one of my best father’s days ever.–Ron

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