We find out what it takes to host a national-level offroad race in this interview with the Dirt Inc. Motorcycle Club out of Caldwell, Idaho.
As racers it's not often that we think about the work and details required to put on a single race. We show up, race our dirt bike, load up and go home. Meanwhile, long after we’ve left and driven home a group of hard working volunteers work tirelessly to take down the same course they worked long and hard for months leading up to the event to assemble. The sheer number of man hours that goes into any given event is way more than any of us can likely comprehend. With this in mind, we thought we’d dig into exactly what goes into a single national-level offroad race; in this case, the Murphy, Idaho round of the National Hare & Hound Series, hosted by Dirt Inc. Motorcycle Club out of Caldwell, Idaho and its President “Wild” Bill Walsh.
~ ~ ~ ~
First off, a big thank you for all the work your crew puts into this event. Can you give us a little background into Dirt Inc.? How long has the club been around and how was it founded?
Dirt Inc. was founded in 1975 putting on local S.I.D.R.A. [Southwestern Idaho Desert Racing Association] races, and then Bill Walsh started racing the Bar to Sun Valley Grand Prix. The AMA Hare and Hound was started in 1985 and Dirt Inc. was involved putting on its first National event at Rabbit Creek in 1986. Dan Smith ruled the desert at the time and was the first winner of the Rabbit Creek 100.
How many events like this has the club helped put on over the years? Is it just the Hare & Hound event that you help with? Or are there other events as well?
2016 will be Dirt Inc.’s 20th National Hare and Hound but the club started with Local S.I.D.R.A. races. We have put on an estimated 100 events since 1987 when Bill came into the picture. We have hosted the National Hare scramble and a West Coast National Hare Scramble as well as 12 Harvey Olberding memorial hare scrambles in Emmett, Idaho over the years. Dirt Inc. is also a leader in NON competitive events as well. We host benefit events to raise money for attorney fees, Owyhee County [Southwest Idaho], Search & Rescue, S.I.D.R.A. injured riders fund, the Grandview ambulance, and sending Brian Brown to the ISDE. These are usually in the form of a poker run and chili feed.
Another big part of what we do is clean up the land we use. We have a lot of club trash pickup days. We picked up 7,000 lb. of trash at Little Gem Cycle park in Emmett, Idaho, and a have a 40-yard dumpster dropped off at the Rabbit Creek trail head that we can easily fill in a day each year. You wouldn’t believe the things we clean up out there. A skinned camper, sofas, fridges—you name it, we have picked it up.
We are a group that wants to be the best example to other offroad enthusiasts. We do maintenance work on the trails, thanks to our four wheeler and rake that Birds of Prey Motorsports donated to the club. We groom trails and sand washes, and do rehab projects for the BLM and Owyhee County.
It seems like Dirt Inc. is a group of passionate offroad enthusiasts that does this for the love of the sport. Would you say that’s the case?
Absolutely, we are all out here because we really love the sport of offroad desert racing. We are greatly interested in keeping this great sport alive, it takes a lot of love and dedication.
Who actually comes up with the master plan for the event course? as well as where the main pit area and bomb run take place? Is it a group decision where everyone gets together and suggests ideas and it just goes from there?
The course layout has always come from our president Bill Walsh. He spends hours out here in the desert finding new places for the race to go through. He is the brain behind all of this, and we all chime in with our ideas.
The bomb run has to be on State land in order for us to do a mass start. We have three different locations we like to use and we rotate them when the weather cooperates with us. We like to let the land rehab for a couple of years, and we spend time out raking and seeding so it will grow back. This year we have a start location that we have not used before because the weather hasn’t permitted us to go in there. This year looks to be the year for it. The start is going to be one you don’t want to miss. When we decide which area of state land we will use for the year our Bomb run is planned out with Bill and Doug Pill. Doug is in charge of setting up the entire bomb run as well as where loop one and two will come in and out of pit row and keeping things flowing around scoring and pits during the race.
Take us through the lead-up to the Murphy event. How many months before the event does the Dirt Inc. team go out and begin laying out the course?
Bill is out there the weekend after the race with ideas flowing for the next year’s course. He calls it his “sickness”. If you can’t get ahold of Bill your best bet is he is out plotting race course for the next race. So really it never ends. When there isn’t too much snow on the ground we are out there in the first weeks of February with the GPS linking stuff together and getting a map ready to turn into the BLM. We start marking course about six weeks before the event. We have a good group of people and we leapfrog through the desert tying pink ribbon up. Then comes the lath. We pack lots of lath around and set up for danger and arrows. When that is all done we get our course captains and their crew lined up with their sections. We break it up into 15 miles for each and they are in charge of that section during race day and ghost riding the morning of the event to make sure everything is as it should be for our racers.
"... we are all out here having fun together. The days are long out here but you know when you get back the fire will be raging and the music gets going."
So basically for a few months before the event, weather permitting, the Dirt Inc. crew are out in the desert each weekend camping and laying out course?
Exactly, we move around to different areas for those few weekends and work on different sections leading up to the event. It takes time to do 100 miles of marking at the level Dirt Inc. Requires of itself. During the week there are emails and phone calls flying back and forth. We are getting the flyer ready and working with Erek [Kudla] from NHHA to post information. We are ordering Porta potties and getting insurance from the AMA, having trophies and shirts made and working with our amazing sponsors so we can give back to the riders who travel all this way to race. It can be like a full time job in its own, but we have a great group of people here that make it happen.
We understand that another part of what Dirt, Inc. does is to make sure the course obtains approval from the BLM. What exactly does that entail?
Dirt Inc. works with the BLM's local district recreation staff closely on the race course. The course is mostly on federal BLM managed lands. The starting area is on State of Idaho lands managed by the Idaho Department of Lands. Course planning starts a year in advance of the race date with club members riding various routes and piecing together a course. Once a course is established it is ridden and a GPS track is recorded along with way points of check points, emergency gas areas, etc. This track is submitted along with a Special Use Permit to the BLM and State for approval. The club is often asked to make route corrections and adjustments. Club members work closely with BLM and State personnel to ensure all issues are resolved prior to the event. Once the event is over and the course is cleaned up a follow-up meeting is generally held to review any issues and address how to resolve them and handle them better at future events.
Sounds like a lot of work, but at the same time it seems like you also try and make it fun by camping out together, hanging out around a campfire, grilling together and such. No matter what, it’s also about having a good time, right?
Yeah, we are all out here having fun together. The days are long out here but you know when you get back the fire will be raging and the music gets going. We eat club dinners and have a few beers and get up to do it all over again the next day. We are always trying hard to have too much fun! We are known for having big bonfires at our events so come by and hang out with us. There is always a good story and laughs to be had.
Is there any one surprising thing that maybe racers don’t know that goes into making a Hare & Hound course?
They may not know out here in Idaho just how hard it is to put on one of these races. We have to be extremely careful with how hard we are on the land. If you are racing and we have an arrow they need to be turning onto the course at the arrow not 50 feet before it. Cutting course like that can be very costly for us. The BLM assesses the course after our races and if they feel like we destroyed the land we can lose our permits to put on the races. We try really hard to do it right and be friendly to the ground we get to use.
The course is laid out, the pit area and directions to the event are clearly marked, and the start and bomb run are dialed and ready. At that point is the event handed off to the promoters of the National Hare & Hound Series? Or do you also help put on the event itself?
We are still all in at this point, everything from Course Captains, Sweep Crew, and our sign-up and finish ladies are out here all day starting at 6:30AM. We put together groups for the check points, E-gas, road crossings. We get help from other clubs and friends and make it happen all day long. The race may be over when the sweep rider comes through with the last rider, but our course captains will be out there taking ribbon down in the 15 mile sections. It’s a very long day but it’s the most rewarding feeling. The NHHA scores the event, and they have been great at reviving the sport.
This event is really a two day event with Saturday being all about the youth riders. We set up two different courses for the Youth and Peewee race too. We try our best to make it feel just like Sunday for the big bikes, and after that event is over we have the pros come by and have burgers with the kids and sign posters.
Once the event is over, your work begins again but in reverse, where this time you have to take down all of the course marking that you worked months to put up. How long does it take to tear down the course?
We try and get as much ribbon pulled when the last sweep rider comes through your section and says your section is closed. At that point each Course Captain will start pulling the ribbon and lath from their sections. The next few weekends consist of us camping and making sure we picked it all up. We will go back around the course a few times with rakes and seed and try and get the land to look like it did or better than before race day. If the BLM needs us to go out and fix things we are out doing that also. It’s amazing how six weeks of work can come down in a few days.
Well, we sure are thankful for all the hard work the Dirt Inc. team puts in to making this event such a success. Even with all the work you put in it must be a real sense of accomplishment and pride to know that you help make the event happen?
It really is. The night before the race when everything is set to go is an amazing feeling. It’s an anticipation we have worked towards for weeks.
We really want to thank everyone who has ever helped as a Dirt Inc. volunteer; we are very blessed to have all your help and hard work over the years.
"The race may be over when the sweep rider comes through with the last rider, but our course captains will be out there taking ribbon down in the 15 mile sections. It’s a very long day but it’s the most rewarding feeling."
Thank you so much for telling us the Dirt Inc. story. Any last words or fun stories you’d like to share?
If you are a participant of this great sport join a local club. They all need more help. Pay it back. Lastly, try and break the fun barrier.
Dirt Inc.: facebook.com/dirtincracing