Rambling On with Bolt-On

by Jared Bolton

When ol’ Spanky launched Dirt Buzz last year, I told him I’d be glad to write some cool stuff for the site. Well, between spending what little bit of an off-season there is swamped with random work, turns out I never did… Until now. Which seems odd because now we’re in the middle of race season for the GNCCs and now I’m finding the time, or should I say, motivation to do so. Whatever, I’m doing it now, so lay off man.

For those of you who don’t know who I am, I’m Jared Bolton. More affectionately known as “Bolt-On” and I do things and stuff. I was involved with that weird OffroadJunkies.com site with Rob Mitchell and that fast racer-goofball-turned-hipster-turned-bicycle guy, Charkie Huegel. Those guys letting me write random stuff on that website helped to put my name out there and in late 2010 I landed a gig filming the GNCC races with RacerTV, which over the past six years has transformed from me showing up to film some dirt bikes and quads, to me riding around stapling arrows on trees, to me now being the “GNCC Series Administrator,” and at the events myself and former pro racer Ryan Echols are the new Assistant Trail Bosses. So in a nutshell, I do a lot of stuff. Ok, I’m done with that because most of you probably skimmed through that saying, “yeah, yeah, yeah, I don’t care, get to the story.”

That brings me to what I want to get out in my first contribution to this fine online publication. This job; it ain’t easy. If you’re like me, every year you make it to as many races as possible. These days, I’m required to do so but even in my slightly younger days I still made it out to some sort of race just about every single weekend except for some select holidays. We, as racers, show up, sign-up, race, have fun, go home, repeat. Oh yeah, throw in the fact that many of us get online and voice opinions about how much fun we DIDN’T have. If you ever see someone actually post about how great a race was, someone did something right because humans in general would rather post about how it was too dry, too wet, too fast, too slow, too hot, too cold, too much single track, needed more single track, shouldn’t have had a motocross track, there was a motocross track there; why didn’t it get used? The list goes on.

Photo: Beth Latham

Photo: Beth Latham

What most of us never realize is how many man-hours a dedicated group of people just put into that event. For a typical GNCC event, I make it to the track on Monday afternoon before the race and we spend until just around dark riding around and coming up with a few ideas. Tuesday we’ll typically be back at the track by 8am and work until dark spot-arrowing the track, making adjustments and more while Jeff Russell and others are painstakingly figuring out where the start, finish and pro pit areas will go and how they will be laid out.

Wednesday the tough work begins with extra hands on the track beginning to bring the course markings together. Literally thousands of arrows, thousands of feet of track tape, thousands of stakes and thousands of feet of banners all go up in a matter of just three days with a dedicated group of less than 20 people making the brunt of the work happen. Throw in the fact that you also have to make the time to piece together a Youth ATV track, Youth Bike track, and depending on what’s being raced that weekend, you also need a 50cc Micro, or UTV and Single Seat track. All of this while also trying to cater to big bike riders ranging from beginning, first-time racers to the top professional factory racers.

We do get the opportunity to change the courses a little bit for the 1PM Pro races but by and far, the majority of it has to be able to accommodate a huge number of riders. This means if there’s any sort of doubt in your mind about an obstacle on the course when laying it out, you better think long and hard what possibilities there are when 700 riders on the course at one time. It’s not easy.

Physically, there’s nothing easy about it either. Riders get stuck, break down and as with any sport, injuries happen. There’s times when there are multiple riders stuck in a bottleneck, multiple riders broken down, while at the same time someone is in need of some sort of medical assistance. At times it can feel like the whole world is crashing down around you while you’re trying to keep the race running smoothly. It feels as if nothing is going right but you suck it up, push forward and do your absolute best to remedy the issues. I always tell myself, “for every one thing that goes wrong, there’s 500 other things that went right.”

Oh and for those who may not realize this, there’s plenty of times where machines seem to break down at the absolute worst place possible. More than once I’ve heard a tow called in, found the broken down rider and have not had a good way to get them back. One of the most challenging is the Snowshoe GNCC. More than once I’ve found riders in a spot where it’s been incredibly difficult to get them out. Last year I towed a train of two riders out of the woods while my quad was continually overheating and going into limp mode. That doesn’t really work so well when you’re trying to pull two riders on two quads uphill in the mud.

I once also towed a Women’s quad racer about two miles in the wrong direction because I couldn’t ride the track backwards to get her out. We eventually made it to paved road, but when we got there I realized that I was almost back to the complete bottom of Snowshoe Mountain, so I had to tow her up about five miles of paved road to get back to the pit area. Good times!

Typically things begin to go pretty smoothly when the 1PM races are underway and it’s nice to take the time to sit back and watch some of the best professional racers in the world make their way around something you had a hand in creating. Of course, once that checkered flag flies it’s back to work! We have to get all those thousands of arrows, thousands of feet of tape, and everything else cleaned back up.

After a long weekend of racing, it’s right back to the track at 8am Monday to clean it all up, pack up and head off to the next adventure. Oh, and we don’t just pull down arrows and leave. There’s two Sweco trail dozers and one Cat Skid Steer that clean up the woods, the field sections, etc. and many places also require grass seed to be replanted as well. Actually, I tend to rather enjoy that part sometimes. You know how some people really enjoy a menial task such as sweeping their floors? Sort of like that time to yourself to clean things up and just enjoy some quiet time? That’s Monday seeding for me. Just riding around on the quad with the seeder strapped to the back, flinging what will eventually grow to be pretty, green grass… Until next year when we tear it up again… Then plant it again… Then tear it up again… The cycle is never-ending.

So next time you go to a race, take the time to say thanks to those involved. Everyone who is there working is putting in long hours to make sure that you have a great time and I feel like not many folks get the credit they deserve.

Photo: Ken Hill

Photo: Ken Hill