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“Your bike is ready.”

I got a call today about 3 hours after dropping off my 2008 BMW R1200GS Adventure at Eurotek in OKC for some recall and extended warranty work. When I saw the my caller ID I assumed they were calling with some type of question about maintenance.

“Did I hear you right? My bike is ready? Are you sure you have the right person? I just dropped it off.”

“Yep, we got it all done. You can stop by any time and pick it up.”

“I haven’t even left town yet. I will be right over.”

I thought I must have been in a time warp or something. Same day service from a motorcycle dealer? I quickly looked out the window of my truck to make sure there wasn’t a sun spot, or make sure Aston Kutcher wasn’t around to Punk me.

You see, I am used to the service at BMW of OKC from many years ago. I bought my first GS there in 2002 and by 2003 I learned that one doesn’t take one’s bike to the BMW store if you wanted to ride it anytime in the next two months. Instead I learned to work on my bikes myself so that I could actually get some riding time in during the summer. I learned to do tire changes, oil changes, valve adjustments, all the routine maintenance items. If not my bike would be gone for a month or two during riding season, even if I called well ahead of time, scheduled an appointment, brought the bike in the day I said I would bring it in – it would still sit at the BMW shop for 4 weeks before they even looked at it.

Finally a BMW dealer in OKC that provides outstanding service and does what they say they will do. Refreshing.
Finally a BMW dealer in OKC that provides outstanding service and does what they say they will do. Refreshing.

I had been putting off getting this recall and extended warranty work done on my R1200GS because I figured my bike would disappear into the maw of the bike shop and I wouldn’t see it again until months later. I finally broke down and called the new BMW dealer in OKC, Eurotek – now a BMW, Ducati, and Triumph dealer in OKC.

“Hey, I got a 2008 BMW R1200GSA that has some recall work needed. Can you guys do that for me?”

“What is your VIN number.” I gave them that info.

“We don’t have all the parts in but we will order the parts and give you call when they get in and schedule the work.”

Yea, yea I thought. SURE you will give me a call. I made a mental note to call Eurotek back in a couple of weeks to see if they got the parts in. Nobody calls you back like they say they will, right?

Lo and behold, I got a call two days later. “We have your parts in. When would you like to bring your bike in?”

“Huh? My name is James Pratt. Are you sure you are calling the correct number? I don’t own a Ferrari or Bentley.”

“Yes sir. This is Eurotek. You have a BMW R1200GS Adventure right?”

Yep, they had the correct person. We scheduled a time for the following week and I brought it in exactly when we agreed. Dropped my bike off on a cold, wet, rainy February day. I trailered the bike to the shop because I figured I would need to drop it off and then pick it up a few weeks later when it was done. I loaded up my Aprilia 280 Climber observed trials bike beside the big GS and after dropping off my Beemer, I drove on down to Tombo Racing to have my racer/bike builder friend Jimmy Cook weld up the aluminum frame. Afterwards I hung around and chatted with owner Tommy Bolton, loaded up my Aprilia, ran another errand in Midwest City, and as I was leaving MWC for home in Edmond I got the call from Eurotek – “your bike is ready.”

Tombo Racing's Jimmy Cook welding the aluminum frame on my Aprilia 280 Climber observed trials motorcycle.
Tombo Racing’s Jimmy Cook welding the aluminum frame on my Aprilia 280 Climber observed trials motorcycle.

I just knew two planets had slammed together, or one of these Oklahoma earthquakes had rattled someone’s brain, or maybe my friend and adventure rider guru Bill Dragoo was pulling my leg. Sure enough, I drove back over to Eurotek and there was my GS, all ready to go and running like a top. They replaced the fuel pump, fuel gage strip, did some adjustment on the clutch cable, and replaced some type of flange in the rear hub assembly. All at no cost to me, paid for my BMW Motorrad.

Dang. Double dang. These guys did what they said they would do. What a novel concept!

I normally don’t write a post about a motorcycle shop, but I normally don’t get unbelievable service like this either. People actually call me back? Exceed my expectations? Communicate clearly and do what they say they are going to do? Is this an alternate dimension?

If you are looking for a BMW, Ducati or Triumph, man, you will have to look far and wide to find a better dealer than Eurotek OKC. I am very, very pleasantly surprised that we have an A#1 top notch BMW dealer in OKC now. It is about time.

A Duc in the rain. This Ducati Diablo was sitting outside on a cold, rainy February day. Poor Duc.
A Duc in the rain. This Ducati Diablo was sitting outside on a cold, rainy February day. Poor Duc.

Adventurer Bill Dragoo will be teaching a two day class in Lexington, OK on how to ride big dual sport bikes off-road. Slotted for April 21-22 2015, this class will focus on helping aspiring adventure riders learn to manage big, heavy dual sport motorcycles over rough terrain safely and efficiently.

Bill Dragoo launching out of  deep sand at the 2008 BMW GS Trophy competition in Spartanburg, SC.
Bill Dragoo launching out of deep sand at the 2008 BMW GS Trophy competition in Spartanburg, SC.

Skill training will include but not be limited to:

Balance and control
Proper body position
Proper use of brakes where traction is marginal
Skid turns
Obstacle Crossing
Tight turns
Hill Fail Turnaround
Towing
Trailside Emergency Including Flat Repair (time permitting)
Negotiating Deep Sand
Sand Extraction
Group Ride Trail Etiquette
Riding Gear Selection (What works and what to avoid)

Bill is an experienced off-road racer and rider. He won the 2009 Adventure Rider Challenge in California, was runner-up on the BMW GS Trophy Team in 2008, and was a member of the BMW GS Trophy Team in 2010, where he competed in South Africa against teams from all over the world. Bill has ridden dual sport motorcycles in far off places such as Africa, South America, the American southwest, and many other places. Bill is an MSF advanced rider instructor and teaches beginning and advanced street riding courses in Oklahoma City.

If you always wanted to ride your big dual sport off-road but was nervous on how to handle such a challenge, or you just want to sharpen your existing off-road skills and learn a few tricks on riding big bikes off-road, this class is for you.

Cost is $235 for the two day class and will be held at Sundog Trails ORV area in Lexington.

Listen to the podcast to hear Bill talk about what is needed for the class and the skills that will be learned during the class.

This story originally appeared in our December 2007 issue.

I am visiting with the easygoing, 6’4” world enduro champion between races at the Maxxis EnduroCross at Guthrie’s Lazy E Arena in early October. “There are so many logs. You have to get them all right. One mistake and it’s over.” Knight goes on to say that the course changes with every lap, which I surmise makes it nearly impossible to establish the kind of flow motorcycle racers count on to help pull their lap times down.

Endurocross riders line up at the start of the race at Lazy E Arena in Guthrie.
Endurocross riders line up at the start of the race at Lazy E Arena in Guthrie.

Compared to the much longer, extreme events like Austria’s Erzberg Enduro, touted as the toughest one-day race in the world (which incidentally he won in 2005 and 2006), or Knight’s favorite, the Red Bull Last Man Standing race, EnduroCross is a brief, all-out effort that takes no prisoners. Kinda like a street fight vs. a 10K run over a field of boulders. Tonight, David would show us perfection. Motivated by victory, King Arthur himself couldn’t have produced a more formidable champion to compete on this battlefield of debris. After winning at Denver last month, David is now the only rider with a shot at Motorcycle Mechanics Institute’s (MMI) $50,000 prize to any man who can win all three of the Maxxis EnduroCross events. With the bo-nus, winning all three would net the overall winner about $75,000. Not a bad payday for riding your dirt bike. The fi nal race will be in Las Vegas, November 17th.

Endurocross riders brave a variety of elements such as water crossings and rocks on a man-made track.
Endurocross riders brave a variety of elements such as water crossings and rocks on a man-made track.

He’s right about the little things it takes to win. EnduroCross is a cruel mixture of logs, head-high concrete culverts, limestone rip-rap strategically stacked to do the most damage, giant earth-mover tires, wet logs, deep water pits followed by diagonally placed logs… and more logs. A forest of telephone poles gave up their lives to build tonight’s track at the Lazy E Arena. This one differs from most other heads-up race courses in that only a small percentage of the general riding populace, even on their best day, could complete a single lap. And take a look at the range of bikes used to negotiate this heap of man-made trouble. Two-stroke 250’s race side-by-side against big-bore four-strokes, and trials bikes give up nothing to their fire-breathing cousins. Last month in Denver, Keith Wineland, who is currently fifth in the National Observed Trials standings and now third in the 2007 Maxxis EnduroCross, set the fastest single hot-lap time of 48.3 seconds, 0.7 seconds faster than Knight’s best of 49 fl at, and he did it on a Montesa! In fact, 60 per cent of the top five and half of the top 10 fastest hot laps were set on the skinny bikes with no seat! One of the secret weapons of these savvy warriors is to use trials tires on their MX and enduro bikes. The general consensus is that their sticky smear-ability trumps knobs on the rocks and wet log crossings, much like the gooey shoes climbers use to scale sheer rock faces. Where else can you run a trials bike against machines that would, in any other contest, blow you away before they hit third gear? But it takes a string of fast laps to win, and when the dust finally settled, tonight would be Knight’s night.

David Knight leads at the Lazy E Endurocross.
David Knight leads at the Lazy E Endurocross.

Big names like Guy Cooper, Ty Davis, Daman Huffman (Currently #2 behind Knight), Mike Lafferty, John Dowd and the up-and-coming youngster, Nick Brozovich, who won the last chance qualifi er and sits in the fourth spot for this series, would all take their best shots at Knight. The records of these men and their peers in Grand National Cross Country Racing Series (GNCC), World Off Road Championship Series (WORCS), Supercross and Enduro events prove them all capable of pulling off the win and ruining Knight’s chance at the $50,000 bonus prize.

Man’s inhumanity to man comes to mind as I consider the potential carnage in a race deliberately designed to compress the worst challenges of outdoor enduro racing into an area the size of a skating rink. As the evening wears on, some of the riders begin to show signs of abuse from the wrenching and bashing dealt by these obstacles, but nobody willingly gives up. Machinery breaks, as do bones now and then, but the spirit and conditioning of these seemingly bionic men keep them going over stuff I would recommend you never try at home.

Once the qualifying heat races are finished and the final players are through the gates, it is David Knight on his trials-shod KTM 450 in the lead with fellow KTM rider David Pearson (2007 AMA National Hare and Hound champion) challenging his position for the first few laps. But as I said earlier, tonight would be Knight’s night. The Knighter made it look easy as he did what he came here to do. Plying his trade like a heavyweight boxer, he pulverized the course and the competition into submission with his smooth, relentless style. But in Las Vegas, the boys will be back for another shot. If the stars line up just right, I hope to be there too, watching the action from the sidelines, where it’s safe.

Bill Dragoo interviews David Knight. Photo by Susan Dragoo.
Bill Dragoo interviews David Knight. Photo by Susan Dragoo.

This story was originally published in the March 2007 edition of Ride Oklahoma.

Last October, I saw a posting on the “Ride Oklahoma” forum about a bunch of guys who wanted to have one last hurrah down in Big Bend country before Old Man Winter put the kibosh on riding. Today is the culmination of several subsequent discussions along those lines. Four guys, all hovering around that half-century birthday mark and just too stubborn to heed the weather forecast, decided to ignore what little judgment they may have cumulatively possessed and press on, regardless.

Bill Dragoo on his KLX-250 in Big Bend National Park after a rare rain. The bentonite clay turned into sticky cement as it dried.
Bill Dragoo on his KLX-250 in Big Bend National Park after a rare rain. The bentonite clay turned into sticky cement as it dried.

We leave Gary Miller’s house in Edmond late in the day, and drive all night. Gary and I share windshield duty, while David Hemphill and Rodney Copeland,(Z-Rod, to his friends), doze in the back. After battling our way through snow flurries, suicidal deer and jackrabbits, we arrive in Terlingua at 8:30 a.m., anything but refreshed.

After a night spent in the freezing desert unprepared for the cold, Gary Miller scratched out a message on his frozen KLR seat.
After a night spent in the freezing desert unprepared for the cold, Gary Miller scratched out a message on his frozen KLR seat.

We meet up with a group of fellow dualsporters from Tulsa at the local Fina station, grocery and diner. Their motorcycles are parked outside, ready for action. They are all riding 650’s; a KLR, a DR, and two brand new XR’s.
Dressed in multiple layers of foul-weather riding gear, they look well prepared to tackle whatever waits beyond those ragged peaks.

While we unload, our friends from T-Town make one foray into the wilds of Big Bend country. They return a few hours later, their enthusiasm for exploring thoroughly dampened. After discovering what happens to this place when it rains, they decide to hole up in their cabin, play cards and make up stories about their exploits on the Mexican border.

The mud and clay clogs up the front and rear wheels as it begins to dry. It is very hard to remove and caused clutch damage on two motorcycles.
The mud and clay clogs up the front and rear wheels as it begins to dry. It is very hard to remove and caused clutch damage on two motorcycles.

We are warned about the impassable roads by the silver-haired proprietor of the Chisos Mining Company, where we’ve rented a small, pink cabin. We brush off her counsel as fear-mongering, believing that we are far too experienced to cower to a little mud. She has lived in Terlingua for 38 years, but what does she know about riding motorcycles in the desert? Quite a lot, as it turns out. Historically, when a local says the roads are “bad,” that usually means they are rough, gnarly or awfully twisty and hilly. Bad for pick-ups and campers. Great for me and my bike. She provides us with a crude map on which she has marked the danger-zone with green highlighter. I later recommend marking these roads in red or decorating them with black diamonds and perhaps the Jolly Roger. Before we head out, we try to coax our friends from Tulsa out of their shelter, but they chain themselves to the plumbing fixtures and threaten to blow the place up with us inside if we don’t go away and leave them alone. We go on without them, scoffing at their waning adventure spirit.

The hotel/motel/convenience store in Terlingua, Texas where the Okies stayed before venturing into Big Bend National Park.
The hotel/motel/convenience store in Terlingua, Texas where the Okies stayed before venturing into Big Bend National Park.

Wind chill is only a factor for the brief road portion of our ride. We warm up fast once we get down to the business of scrambling over loose rocks, pebbles and occasional mud crossings as our route takes us deep into the Chisos Mountains. The rougher the roads, the better the scenery, a combination enticing enough to lure us a bit too far into the forbidden zone.

The bentonite clay turned to cement as it dried, clogging up wheels and burning out clutches in two motorcycles.
The bentonite clay turned to cement as it dried, clogging up wheels and burning out clutches in two motorcycles.

Sparse civilization gives way to nothingness.

Our troupe presses on, deeper into this magnificent desert wilderness, drawn by our sense of adventure and the security of digital breadcrumbs recorded by mounted GPS’s. There’s no easy exit if things go bad.

Trouble rears its ugly head when David and I decide it would be manly to test our skills against a steep hill coated in a sticky layer of Bentonite clay.

Bentonite is a mineral used for everything from drilling mud to intestinal cleansing. It’s also used to seal underground homes water-tight. We learn that it will seal a knobby tire to a swingarm in about a hundred feet. Our bikes bog down in the gluey muck collected on our tires, chains, and fenders. We each collect at least 100 pounds of this gravel-impregnated compound packed into every crevice in as many seconds.

We stumble upon a long, rock-bottomed reservoir and splash some of the mud off our fenders and tires, then continue deeper into the desert.

Multiple falls happened in the slippery mud at Big Bend. The area experiences infrequent rains.
Multiple falls happened in the slippery mud at Big Bend. The area experiences infrequent rains.

As the day wears on, we become more complacent. Mud stretches get longer and the hills grow steeper. It’s the classic “Boiling A Frog” syndrome. We’re almost “done” before we realize how much trouble we’re in.

Suddenly, Gary’s KLR spits the bit and grinds to a halt. We spend 15 minutes digging what feels like day-old concrete and rocks from his rear tire and swingarm, using finger-sized twigs. Z-Rod’s fork boots look like over-torqued candy canes, twisted and torn from extruding a thousand cubic-feet of warm peanut taffy through his forks.

We take the hint and decide to backtrack while it’s still daylight. By now, we’re all showing signs of fatigue from fighting our overburdened bikes through the mud and we’re ready to find the easiest way out of here. Too late.

On the way down, Gary’s bike clogs up again and the clutch…won’t.

David and Z-Rod release a barrage of colorful exclamations emphasizing their disbelief. Gary proves his point by demonstrating that his bike will idle happily in first gear, with the clutch engaged. This is never good.

Gary Miller nurses a makeshift fire that he and Bill Dragoo built to survive an unexpected night in the desert. The fire is built out of mesquite twigs.
Gary Miller nurses a makeshift fire that he and Bill Dragoo built to survive an unexpected night in the desert. The fire is built out of mesquite twigs.

Gary and I start collecting mesquite, the only firewood we can find, while David and Z-Rod go for help.

We joke about how our friends might abandon us out here, grab a burger and fetch us the next morning after a cold beer and a good night’s sleep. Our laughter dwindles to nervous chuckling, and then fades to silence as we watch the day come to an end. Warmth, hope and thoughts of sleeping in a bed die with it. South Texas is enjoying their worst winter weather in a long time and we’re about to experience it first hand.

It’s quiet out here. Distant coyotes strike up a chorus, adding a forlorn air to our predicament.

More rain or snow tonight and we’re in serious trouble.

It’s time to start the fire, but everything is wet. I’m not in a mood to take chances, so while Gary fusses with a Boy Scout one-matcher, I go for the sure thing and dip a mesquite stick into my gas tank. We detonate a small “Indian fire” to conserve our meager fuel supply and manage to keep our fingers and toes free of frostbite.

Gary Miller carried a "space blanket" and wrapped up in it to survive the frigid temperatures. He claims it didn't help all that much.
Gary Miller carried a “space blanket” and wrapped up in it to survive the frigid temperatures. He claims it didn’t help all that much.

Sleeping on the cold ground is a problem. Gary produces an emergency, “Space Blanket” bag, folded to the size of a small Kleenex package.

“Hey, Bill. I’ll share my sleeping bag with you.” Gary bravely offers.

“Oh boy. Our situation is definitely getting worse.” I tell him with waning wit. “We’ve gone from sleeping in a pink cabin to sharing a tin-foil sleeping bag.”

Humor is where you find it when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere and hypothermia lurks behind every mesquite bush. But I appreciate the gesture all the same.

Gary’s first attempt to sleep results in a fitful, futile few minutes of thrashing around until his heavy Sidi boots blow through the bottom of the bag. The cold ground sucks heat from his body faster than we can gather fuel and feed the fire.

We finally manage to harvest a few tufts of non-prickly grass and make a thick bed to insulate us from the ground. Gary settles into his nest and manages to catch a few winks while I feed the fire.

Orion’s Belt makes its way across the southern sky toward its own bed below the horizon. The Big Dipper climbs up from the mountain tops to the east, slowly circling the North Star, and satellites move like white chiggers across a dark velvet blanket. The whole display is punctuated irregularly by shooting stars. It occurs to me that this is a show well worth the price of admission. I say as much to Gary, interrupting his slumber. With a tired voice, finally snug in a suitable bed, he agrees.

We take turns feeding the fire and dozing, until the eastern sky starts to glow with the first signs of morning.

Dawn greets us with an awesome display of ice-covered desert foliage, clear skies and, when the sun finally peeks over the horizon, warmth! The temperature is up to 31 degrees within an hour of sunrise, bringing with it renewed hope for rescue.

We feed the fire for another hour or so before deciding to take matters into our own hands and get out of here. We can’t imagine what’s happened to our friends, but clearly, their efforts to get help aren’t going too well. We stash Gary’s gear in the bushes and lock his forks right where the bike is parked. Pushing it with all that mud packed into every moving part would take more energy than we can muster on a bad night’s sleep.

We scramble to the top of a nearby hill and make plans to leave, two-up, on my KLX. Just before we mount the bike, I hear a motorcycle in the distance. Then the sound fades away as quickly as it came. We shrug it off. Must have been our imaginations. We’re getting accustomed to the idea that we’ll have to be our own saviors if there is any saving to be done.

With Gary driving, I assume the passenger position and we work the maze of washes and dead end roads, back toward civilization.

After 15 miles and about an hour perched on a postage stamp-sized piece of foam, we ride past the office of the Chisos Mining Company. As we pull in, we spot our friend Z-Rod, standing by his bike like he’s been waiting for us all morning. We motor on up to our cabin where David walks out to greet us. Why aren’t they looking for help or better yet, why hadn’t they already come to fetch us by now? Had we just been left there to die, or what?

The glaring absence of David’s bike is our first clue. They quickly explain that they’ve been back less than an hour themselves. They were in the process of calling around to find someone with a truck capable of negotiating the mud and hauling our sorry butts out of there.

It turns out that David’s DRZ 400 suffered a similar fate to Gary’s KLR 650.

The mud claimed his clutch about five miles from where we’d camped. They’d had their own adventure, only they were lucky enough to find a partially constructed cabin for shelter. It was them, on Z-Rod’s bike that we’d heard shortly before we started our own trek back. At least we weren’t hallucinating.

Everybody has a good laugh and gets down to the task of finding someone who’ll risk thrashing their vehicle for the sake of retrieving our defunct machinery.

We get lucky and discover that a couple I met on a trip to Terlingua 16 years earlier, fetch and tow stuck vehicles for a living. Steve and Debbie Calvert are what my grandmother would call “a sight for sore eyes” when they drive up in a lifted, camouflaged Ford diesel van and a fourwheel- drive Bronco with a winch. They promise to get us out for a reasonable fee or they won’t charge us for trying. How could we say no?

Trouble-in-Terlingua-1The next day we retrace our route on borrowed motorcycles that haven’t suffered the abuse ours have, and find the roads in better condition after two days of drying. The retrieval is relatively uneventful
with our well prepared local citizens and enough muscle to hoist a 450-pound, mudcaked Kawasaki into the back of a van.

With two of our four bikes out of commission and the other two looking like they’d lost a chocolate pie food fight; we call an end to any further exploration of Big Bend country at its worst. Nobody complains though. We’ve shaken out our winter wiggles and had an adventure we can tell our kids about.

Oklahoma sure looks good when we cross that ol’ Red River. Next time a Texas woman tells me where I should and shouldn’t ride, I’ll listen. And the next time a bunch of guys post something on Ride Oklahoma about a winter ride down south, I’m going to pay more attention to the weather man.

Originally published in the August 2007 print edition of Ride Oklahoma.

Bill Dragoo on his Harley Davidson at Hallett track day.
Bill Dragoo on his Harley Davidson at Hallett track day.
SPARKS! If it were dark, there would be enough sparks spraying from my footpegs to give Halley’s Comet a complex. But it’s not dark. In fact, the sun is peeking through the clouds and that 45% chance of rain Gary England threatened is looking less likely by the minute. Turn 11 looms ahead as I throw the mighty Black Dyna Sport sideways like Gary Nixon on the oval mile at San Jose. Or so I imagine.

It’s track day at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit in Northeast Oklahoma. I’d love to say that the pungent smell of racing fuel and rubber stung my nostrils and all that, but in fact, I was just over braking a bit, slewing the bike sideways enough to compensate for its less- than sporty lean angle. I push the abused Superglide to the point it protests by boiling its brake fluid to a non-productive gas in the rear caliper. Denying me any semblance of a working backstopper is the only defense the bike can muster against its overzealous pilot, bent on self destruction… or at least on serious embarrassment.

Hallett is well known to Porsche Club of America, Corvette Club, Sports Car Club of America, Competition Motorsports, CMRA, and the hard-core superbike racers who frequent its 1.8 miles of asphalt hairpin curves. It is less well known to the rank-and-file amateur motorcyclists like me who choose two-wheel locomotion for their transportation or sport. But today, thanks to a cooperative effort between Ride Oklahoma Magazine and the Stephens family, Hallett’s owners, about 40 motorcyclists will stretch their comfort zones and improve their bike handling skills. As Paul Kuna, one of the HART (Hallett Advanced Racer Training) instructors told our mixed group, “This is a great place to learn. There are no cars or trucks and the most likely penalty for a misjudged curve is a trip through a field of four-inch deep mud. And if you want to go fast, you’ve come to the right place.

Track Day at Hallett is more than just a time to push your limits. It is a day for riders of all levels to practice skills that just might save their lives out in the real world where attentiveness, hard braking, swerves and high speed maneuvering are our sword and shield. At worst, it’s a heck of a lot of fun. Ride Oklahoma Magazine’s publisher, James Pratt, came up with the idea of inviting non-racer types out to the race venue because, other than the very-mild-by comparison, Motorcycle Safety Foundation and OSU’s rider’s education courses, there was no place for motorcyclists to go to take their riding to the next level.

Connie, her husband Mike, and sons Scott and Shayne have managed Hallett for the past 18 years. The Stephens family bought the race-park seven years ago from Anatoly Artunoff, the builder. Since then, they have seen good times and bad, all the while providing a place for speed junkies to get their wiggles out. Some of those speed junkies just happen to be skilled instructors as well. Paul Kuna and Marvin Stewart, our wiry and wise senior mentors; Trevor Meredith, young and dapper; Aaron Lowe, who I might mention is a Road King-riding highway patrol officer; and Amanda Cornelius, a wild-eyed woman who rides like the wind. All are here to help us become better and safer riders.

The day began at 8:30 a.m. with Paul familiarizing us with various flag signals, track layout, safety rules, and tips on techniques to get us off on the right foot. Next, we broke up into smaller groups, each led by an instructor. We made half a dozen laps to familiarize ourselves with the track.

Back for another class session to answer any questions and, before we know it, it’s time to break for lunch. Barbara Dressler and her crew at the Finish Line Café have it down when it comes to feeding a bunch of hungry motorheads en masse. We sit down to some great, fresh cooked grub and refuel our bellies for an intense afternoon on the track.

The women are turned loose right after lunch. The instructors mingle among the riders, sometimes singling one out to drop in behind for a brief one-on-one lesson. They signal the need to re-position a toe, move around on the saddle,or maybe take a different line.
After the women, the guys roll out for their turn. Any women wanting to join the men can do so at their discretion and a few choose to mix it up. So goes our day until the final few track sessions when we are free to more or less race against one another unmolested by our eagle eyed mentors. By the time the shadows grow long, most riders have gained enough confidence and familiarity with their bikes and the course that they can be left to scream around the track unescorted at a pretty good clip.

With my rear brake faded to oblivion, I welcome the offer of our publisher to make a few hot laps on his wife’s CBR 600. I just thought I was going fast on the Harley. This lightweight filly can really eat up the track! As the tachometer sweeps upwards of 14,000 rpm, an unfamiliar sound tears into the ears of this old V-Twin jock-ey. Kay’s bike sounds like a bumble bee on crack
compared to the deep roar of the two-into-one Thunderheader on the Harley. The lessons and techniques Paul tried to embed in our brains this morning are beginning to bear fruit. I realize what he meant when he said to “body steer” the bike the first time I try to twist those tiny bars and turn this ballistic missile.

“Hang your cheek off the saddle and press the inside foot hard against the peg!” Paul’s words echo through the voluminous cavity where my brain resides.

Voila! It works! The bike carves like a teenage snowboarder in fresh powder!

I’m pressing about as hard as I can through Turn Five when suddenly a girl rides past me on a yellow bike, looks me square in the eyes and pats her rear fender with her free hand.

“How’d she do that?” I’m thinking. I mean, seriously. I’m pushing my envelope to the limit and she just passed me looking backwards! I take the bait and fall in behind Amanda . Afterfollowing her a few laps, I’m starting to feel right at home on the little CBR.

Now, thoroughly overconfident, I feel ready to take on the KTM 950 Adventurer that’s been tearing up the track all day. I lurk in the pits until he pops out of Turn 11 and when he zooms past I pin the throttle to the wood. The little CBR rips out of the pits like a bolt from a Roman crossbow. This bike is fast. Very fast, I realize, as I top the hill at 100 miles per hour, with the front wheel floating a foot above terra firma. I enter Turn One hot and the rear tire skips as I scramble to overtake Carl on the KTM. He carves a perfect, swooping line, wheelies at the exit and disappears around turn three while I try to spool four tiny, 150 cc pistons back up above 10,000 rpm where they can make enough power to get me back into the game. Carl isn’t making this easy. I mimic his lines as best I can and manage to keep him in sight, although I have the sense that he is playing a little cat and mouse.

After a few more laps, Carl throws up a hand and steers his KTM into the pits for a pow-wow. He makes a few suggestions and compliments my speed, graciously omitting any mention of my rather unorthodox riding style. We punch the bikes into gear and start slamming turns again before the tires cool off. Things go much better now, after his impromptu riding lesson.

Part of me wants to keep on riding as we end the day’s final session. The other parts tell me they’ve had enough. Those are the parts I listen to, happy that I trailered the Harley to the track instead of riding the two hours from Norman like I thought about doing last night. “Did you have fun?” A smiling Connie asks me as I say my goodbyes.

“Oh yeah. And I learned a bunch too.”

“Most people do,” she smiles with the wisdom of someone who has watched countless motorcyclists leave this place sweaty and tired, but with a confidence they might never have earned by just riding on the street.

“I’ll be back,” I tell her, as I turn and walk toward my waiting truck, my Harley strapped snugly on the trailer behind.

Hallett Motor Racing Circuit is located just south of the Cimarron Turnpike (Exit 48) on Highway 99. They offer track days 25 times during the racing season, and anyone can come and play. You will need to make sure your bike passes tech, having reasonably good tires, no oil leaks, good brakes, and you must remove or tape all lights and reflectors.

Helmet, gloves, boots and full leathers are required. Cost is $100, and well worth the investment when you consider the value of knowing how your bike, and you, will react in situations you may not easily duplicate on the street.

A Hallett instructor gives a few riding tips to a class of novice riders.
A Hallett instructor gives a few riding tips to a class of novice riders.
Classroom instruction inside the Hallett tower teaches riders the rules of the track.
Classroom instruction inside the Hallett tower teaches riders the rules of the track.
A female racer works on her bike at Hallett.
A female racer works on her bike at Hallett.
Motorcycles lined up to enter the track at Hallett during motorcycle lapping day.
Motorcycles lined up to enter the track at Hallett during motorcycle lapping day.
Motorcycles lined up to enter the track at Hallett during motorcycle lapping day.
Motorcycles lined up to enter the track at Hallett during motorcycle lapping day.
A Ducati laps at Hallett.
A Ducati laps at Hallett.