I’ve come to the conclusion that my newly built Yamaha WR250 is a single-track trail weapon. I raced the Sandlapper Enduro in early March, the Sawmill Hare Scramble later that month, and the Hardwick Creek event on April 13th.
A group of us made the commitment to race the Sandlapper National Enduro down near Columbia, South Carolina three months ago. We’d been to that race back in 2011 and made the (nearly fatal) mistake of getting on row 87. It was a miserable experience, but Bo, the Sheriff, and I survived the whole ordeal. The sand whoops would swallow a bike and stumps were everywhere.
But hey . . . we had a plan for 2014!! Get on an early row and maybe there wouldn’t be a bunch of sand whoops. So, on sign up evening I made it all happen and got Earl, Bo, David, and Sam on the same row. Jesse called just 5 minutes after I’d signed us up and said he wanted to go too. I quickly got back on the site and requested the row in front of us. I had requested row 7 and 6 for Jesse but we ended up with 4 and Jesse was placed on row 62. Oh well . . . it was not for lack of effort on my part.
Once again, the weather promised to be great compared to the Bluegrass State and whole crew was looking forward to the trek down South. However, just like the last enduro, Jesse was unable to attend due to work-related commitments. So, the week before the race Mr. Kyle Miller gave me a call and I laid the offer right in his lap. “Do you want to go the National Enduro next week Wildman?” . . . first there was a bit of a pause . . . then a fairly positive “Yes” emerged. He was on the hook to ride in Jesse’s spot. Could Jesse Smith (alias) obtain another Vet B Class win??
Onward! Everyone was excited. David and Sam really liked the Black Coal Enduro last year and Bo was anxious to head south for some warm weather riding. I knew that Kyle would keep things interesting for us and Earl was glad to not be going it alone! It is good when things are good!
We all left at different times on Saturday and Earl was the first to arrive at the venue. My truckload showed up about 30 minutes later. David and Sam were running behind and didn’t make it to the course, but at the end of the day we all sat down for dinner together at the Applebee’s is Lexington, South Carolina in front of our hotel. It is always good when a group can sit down together for a meal. Good conversation about the day ahead!
The next day began early but it worked out well and we arrived at the race with just a little over an hour before our 9:04 key time. I don’t like being rushed but overall, everything I “needed” was ready to go. Kyle helped with sandwiches for lunch and our gear as he had almost an hour to wait after we took off. The group headed for the line and Kyle tagged along to grab a couple photos. Shown (left to right) below are Bo, David, KYWR, and Sam on the line for the first test.
I’d ridden in South Carolina once before, but that was up at the Big Buck GNCC where they actually have some soil. That was not the case down around Salley, South Carolina where “sand” was the predominant soil type and “pines” are the most abundant tree. This made for an interesting riding experience for someone from Kentucky.
The weekend started to fall apart even before we left as two of our riding pals had to back out at the last minute. One due to sickness, the other due to his better judgement. Both made the right decision, but it was hard at the time.
With two guys out, the number of “known” folks on our line was down to three eager racers. Marty, Bo, and me were really looking forward to the Enduro and the weather forecast was just awesome compared to what was going on in old Kentucky. Upper 60’s on Saturday and low 80’s on Sunday with clear skies to top it all off!
We arrived around 4 or so on Saturday and got registration behind us and then walked around to check out the Pro pits. All the regulars were present and everyone was trying to put their best foot forward with their bikes and rigs. The KTM rig was especially large and lavish . . . remember the Shane Watts article? With that all behind us, we headed back to the hotel for some rest and some food.
We arrived in plenty time on Sunday morning and got everything ready at a leisurely pace. Didn’t have to hurry at all as most everything was ready to go. I don’t like having to rush at all on race day, it just ruins it all for me.
We met our two new row partners at the beginning of the first test. One guy was quite wide and portly and was riding a four-stroke Husky. The other racer was 47 and grew up in Pikeville, but now lived in Tennessee. He was the sleeper on the line as he was riding a newer model YZ125 two-stroke.
The first test was really cool and it started to give me an idea of what was going to follow. Can you say SAND and lots of it mixed up with some pine roots. This section must have been mostly new as it was not totally eaten up, but it was more than obvious where the course went.
The pecking order seemed to be set by the end of the first test. Marty had to move over and let the guy on the YZ125 by and neither Bo nor I could keep the wide guy on the Husky in sight. Bo came by me flying in the first open section and I could only keep him in sight for a mile or so. Regardless, I got to the start of the 2nd test in plenty of time.
The second test was a combination of some new stuff mixed up with some trail that had been ridden before making for some really chopped up surfaces. This section had some tight scrub and sandy fire road type portions. I was making fairly good time, but the deep sand in the straights was whooping up badly and I just can’t hit that stuff too fast.
When I got to the start of the 3rd test, Bo said I only had a few minutes . . . I think it was about 5 or so. This gave me some time to rest and regain composure before the next test. Both Bo and Marty seemed to be having a good time.
A few minutes later we were off into even more tight trail that was whooped out and eat up. There were many sections where you’d just have to come to a complete stop and wiggle your bars through the trees. I like tight trail, but some of this was a bit overboard! Each change in direction also entailed a big pile of sand followed by a deep rut. The brakes were dragging the sand into a pile before the corner and then a big deep rut would develop on the exit where people gassed it ahead down the trail. People need to ride more smoothly like me and the trail would not work up like that.
At the end of test 3 we came out near the truck but neither Bo nor Marty were around. I circled around one big row of parking and didn’t see them so I went back to gas up and get something to eat. Bo came up in about 4 minutes or so but without Marty. He couldn’t find him. I gassed up quickly and we each ate 1/2 of a peanut butter sandwich and drank a bunch of water and such. We then headed back into an insanely tight transfer section just come out at the beginning of Test 4.
We found Marty there but he had not eaten or filled up with gas so he was a bit worried about making it through the next two tests. Test 4 was really tight once again and some of the trail had been ridden before. There was some raised wooden bridges in this Test and a bunch of that stuff where you had to come to a complete stop and wiggle.
Towards the end of the Test there was a raised wooden bridge and people were all backed up on it just sitting still. I rode around as many as I could and saw carnage ahead in some deep muddy ruts. Where the heck did the MUD come from!! Regardless, it was there and no one was really moving. Sitting still was costing me time, but there was really nothing to do but wait. When I got closer some guys on the right were all tangled up in the vegetation and a big rut and a guy on the right was laying over to the center with a small line between his bike and a little tree. I rode across the ruts (perpendicular) and then shot up between his tires and the tree. Glad to get that behind me.
Shortly afterwards the test ended and there was a nice restful transfer section along a fireroad. It was good to catch my breath but I knew I was late for sure. Upon arriving at the test I saw Marty sitting beside his bike. He was out of gas and Bo had gone back to the truck to get him a splash.
I went on up to the start and noted I was almost 10 minutes late so they waved me through. By this point I was really tired and was starting to ride quite stupidly . . . you know, bouncing off of things and just not having the precision to pull something off between two tight trees. This started to cost me lots of time and energy. At about mile 50, my legs started cramping. This helped me make a decision that I’m still Ok with . . . I was NOT going to ride the last 19.4 mile test . . . it just wasn’t going to happen. Test 5 ended back at the truck and that’s where I was headed! There were some open and flowing trails through the pine forest towards the end of this test that were really cool and fun to ride.
In the end, it was all good! None of us got hurt or broke anything and we each had a good time. We’ll definitely be back for another one down this way!
I carried a GPS during the event and had it track the course. See the image below to get a good idea of how much ground we covered. If you want the tracks for your GPS or Google Earth let me know.
See you on the trail!