The internet has made the world smaller and yet somehow a lot less personal, as most of us spend more time with friends online than actually in person. Well, thank God for dirt bikes then, because the weekend of March 11, 2018, I got to finally meet up with FAHQ club members Chris Bohnyak and Rob Brown (who many of you may know as “Moto Fro”) as we suited up for the ECEA’s opening round of the enduro series, The Greenbriar. I’ve known these guys for a while now, but until yesterday, had never actually met them in person.
It’s been a while since I had a day out with riding buddies. Racing, riding, practicing, I’m usually solo, as most of the guys I used to ride with have moved on. That’s why it was cool for me to be bringing up the rear in our three-truck convoy headed down the Garden State Parkway. We were flying by all the lazy Sunday morning drivers as we hauled ass to try and make it on time to the enduro. I was looking at the two trucks up ahead, each one with a bike tied down and a race gas can nozzle poking up, and I was flashing a big smile because, for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t just watching other guys go off to ride as I drove to some other Parkway destination.
I had pre-registered with another friend of mine, Mike, and we were given row 30; Rob and Chris decided to sign up the day of the race and were back on row 138. I joked to Rob and Chris before I left for the start that, even though I was bummed we wouldn’t be on the same line together, they’d probably catch up to me on the trail anyway. You’ll see why I eventually stopped thinking that was funny soon enough.
"... Greenbriar had it all for the most part. Some sand, some dark loamy dirt, some muck, and some hard-packed stuff too. Mostly just good sandy/mixed soil, sliced with the rubber knives of some 600 men and women hell-bent on having a great time ..."
When most people think of NJ and off-road riding, they immediately think of sand. Sand whoops, and pines with bark-tattoos gashed in 3.5' ft high from the ghost of Kevin Bennett's back wheel. At least that’s how FAHQ’s Jerry Bernardo describes his vision of riding in Dirty Jersey. But the only tattoos I saw that day were the ones donated to me by those same pines, exacting their revenge on my flesh, seemingly at will. Hell, if it means I’m sharing in some great NJ racing heritage, I’ll take the free ink.
But Greenbriar had it all for the most part. Some sand, some dark loamy dirt, some muck, and some hard-packed stuff too. Mostly just good sandy/mixed soil, sliced with the rubber knives of some 600 men and women hell-bent on having a great time as they kicked off the ECEA’s Enduro season. The course was a mixture of flowy loamy turns, trees, and some extremely tight single-track. And when I say tight, I mean “I don’t care how fast you are, you have to stop to fit your bars through some of these trees” tight. It was some really fun, challenging terrain that kept you on your toes but also kept you smiling.
It took me about 30 minutes or so to warm up and get my hands to stop going numb. Once I did, I was able to relax and find my flow, and I started to make up a little bit of time that I lost. At least, that is what I thought would happen. Between faster riders needing to get by, and all those trees that wanted to get up close and personal, I could never manage to get myself into one steady rhythm. Trying to find my flow was like trying to get Flo herself to make it over to my table without a “Kiss my grits!” thrown at me. Guess I shouldn’t expect all that much of myself if I don’t ride or train between races, eh?
As I bounced around from tree to tree, tearing bits of plastic off the bike and chunks of flesh from my arms, I called Jesus Christ more times than I can remember. Finally, someone picked up. It was a female voice, and she said, clear as day, “Jesus is busy drinking Red Bulls and watching old footage of Erzberg. He wanted me to relay this message: ‘tell that bitch to reach down and find his sac, jiggle it until his two pea-sized balls descend, and then get back on the throttle and stop being a pussy.’”
There’s nothing like getting some tough love from the man above to get you motivated or to make you feel like a 12-year-old girl. I’m still not sure which effect it had on me. But the visual of J.C. tossing back the blue and silver can and cheering on Jonny Walker was enough to get my right wrist twitching again.
Do you enjoy the woods? Does the sound of the wind in the trees make you smile? Hearing the creaking of the pines as they sway in the breeze, the rustling of the leaves, the sounds of rider after rider blitzing past you as you watch them in vain? If you do, come riding with me sometime and I’ll introduce you to the Jersey Devil. He, like me, loves to sit on his butt and watch other people have all the fun.
Long story short—I ran out of gas. I have a 3.2-gallon tank on my bike, and still, I ran out of gas. The first gas stop was only about 3 miles ahead of where I died, but all I could do was sit there and wait for a sweep rider to bail me out. As I sat there, thankful for squeezing that PB&J into my drink system pouch, I watched 125’s zoom by with smaller tanks than mine. Then I’d glance over at my lifeless bike and sigh.
How the f&^k did I run out of gas with that giant tank?
As I sat and watched the bikes fly by I knew my day was done, at least in hoping for a real finish. 40s, 50s, 60s, up into the lower 100s, rows of other riders slowly but surely made their way by me. A sweep rider who had found me and left to get gas had finally, thankfully, returned. I was hoping that I’d be able to cheer on my FAHQ boys as they came by, but the bike kicked to life before that could happen, and the sweeper helped me get to the gas stop. Thanks again to the guy on the Husky for the much-needed help.
Once at the stop, I found Chris and Rob and decided to just hang with them for the rest of the day (well, as much as I could actually “hang” with Moto Fro and Chris B). My official race day was done. I’d well houred-out by now, so all that was in it for me was to pretend it was a Hare Scramble and bomb to the finish. We wrapped up our gas stop and headed back to the trail to rejoin the race.
By the time I caught up with Rob, I was already gassed. My hands were tight and sore, and my head was in a fog, so catching Moto Fro on the trail had absolutely nothing to do with my woods prowess. Sadly, he was parked on the side of the trail looming over his front wheel. His caliper bolt came loose on his front brakes, and he was trying to figure out how to get it back in. I had some tools with me so we did what we could to get it back together. There was enough damage done to the caliper itself that it wouldn’t seat and allow him to get the bolts to start threading.
"There was an old ad back in the day for the Honda 50 Moped that said, 'You meet the nicest people on a Honda.' Well, there were no Hondas in the group of people I was riding with, but I did wind up meeting a group of great guys."
We tried Zip-ties just to hold it in place so that we could finish out the section, but that lasted all of 30 seconds. Nobody wants to ride these trails with a dangling front caliper, so Rob decided to call it a day and head for home. Being #fahqamily, I decided to just stick with him to make sure he was able to get back to his truck without any more problems. We found some fire roads and blacktop and made our way back to the finish.
There was an old ad back in the day for the Honda 50 Moped that said, “You meet the nicest people on a Honda.” Well, there were no Hondas in the group of people I was riding with, but I did wind up meeting a group of great guys. In fact, in a strange turn of events, one of the guys on the line with Chris and Rob looked at me during that gas stop and said: “you look familiar, do you live in Toms River?” It turns out our daughters go to the same dance school and are in most of their classes together. He recognized me just from the little bit of my mug that was peering through my helmet. So I guess, “You meet the nicest people on a dirt bike,” would suffice.
My first official ride with the FAHQ boys is complete. It was a great day altogether. I didn’t get the kind of finish I was hoping for, but I did cross the finish line, which in itself is a step in the right direction after Moonshine 2017. But one question remains to be answered: How the hell did I run out of gas? Well, obviously I have a leak somewhere that I just couldn’t spot, so it really isn’t much of a head-scratcher to try and figure that one out.
So I suppose the REAL question remaining is; do you think Jesus likes grits?
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