by Douglas Hackney
There I was tooling across the Hackney homestead farm on the DR350SP. My Daughter, Amber, was nipping at my heels on the XR80. The sky was blue. The air was warm. A nice breeze blew out of the south.
“What a way to enjoy Labor Day,” I was thinking as we wound through the prairie grass that was higher than our heads. After nearly ten years of no crops, the land had quickly returned to a more primordial state. It was relatively flat, but it had plenty of mounds and bumps, high grass waving in the breeze and scores of birds flying loudly off hither and yon in a vain attempt to attract us away from their nests.
We were wandering across the south 40, a part of the farm I hadn’t explored in at least 20 years. We had cut across the high ditch from the road, romped up the bank and blasted out onto the hill overlooking the west end of the Moore’s farm. We’d been surveying the northern section of the farm for a crossing over the main north/south creek, but we had been unable or unwilling to try one.
Although only a small waterway of about two feet in width that was sometimes impossible to see through the thick grass, the stream had managed to cut a channel about twelve feet deep and about fifteen feet wide. I had found one spot earlier in the day with my son, Adam, where you could jump off the west bank, land flat on the bottom of the creek twelve feet below, pop the front wheel up and over the water channel and climb up the east bank that had partially collapsed during a spring flood some time in the past. At least that’s what Malcolm Smith, Charlie Holcolm, Tom McAlister, Conrad Brooks or any of the other stratosphere-level dirt riders would have done. Facing the prospect of a Technicolor gravity-accelerated face plant in front of my son, I worked up as much sage wisdom as possible and said gravely, “We’ll have to go around on the road; there’s no way across.”
I returned with Amber for further exploration, and we were pushing out the envelope of trails into the heretofore unridden southern reaches. As I rode south, parallel to the main creek, I was probing for the draw that ran west to east, draining this field into the creek. I knew it was here somewhere, probably just up ahead. I was thinking, “You know, I haven’t been out here in so long I can’t really remember if it was just a draw or if it was a…woooooaaaaaa.”
Amber said later, “All I saw was this white helmet just disappear.”
My next thought was, “Jeez, this muddy creek water doesn’t taste that bad.” I quickly followed this with an inventory of body parts and major bodily functions. My first mission was to get out from under the bike and the water, since I hadn’t managed to “Costnerize” myself some gills just for the occasion. Fortunately I was not pinned, or this would have been a really short story with a very dramatic ending.
I managed to wiggle out, pop my head out of the water and get my legs out from under the bike. After the water drained from my ears, I heard a lovely “putt…putt…putt…” Isn’t it amazing how your mind works at times like this? I was thinking how my friend, Avery Innis, is an incredible guy. He can even build a DR that runs while upside-down and with the airbox submerged. Next, I had a short debate with myself about whether dry sump lubrication systems worked even when inverted. I quickly nominated my brother, Jeff, to flip his Sofatail™ over, put it up on the bars and the seat (just like a Sting Ray), and see if it lubes okay. This all happened in milliseconds (as the scientists tell us it does), because the bike was still “putt…putt…putting” along, and the rear wheel was lazily weaving the grass through the spokes into a rough green carpet.
I was just beginning to wonder how I would get to the kill switch that was in the mud with the rest of the bars, when the bike finally putted its last putt. This prevented me from frenetically digging for the switch in a vain attempt to save the motor.
“Dad? Dad? Are you all right?”
I saw the high grass move a little, and out poked a white helmet and Oakley goggles filled with eyes as big as the lenses. Now, how “all right” can you feel covered in mud , standing next to an inverted bike and looking twelve feet up at your formerly respectful daughter?
“Yeah, I’m okay.” I replied sheepishly.
So far the score read:
WHEELS TO THE SKY DR350SP: 1
FORMERLY VIEWED AS GUY COOPER FATHER: 1
MUD-COVERED 1994 RIDGE RUNNER 500 JERSEY: 1
PERCEIVED WAYS OUT OF PREDICAMENT: 0
I managed to flip the bike back over by applying my shoulder to the seat and sliding the side of the bike along the nearly vertical bank while the front wheel stayed firmly locked in its new found home, the creek bed. I then fought my way through the nearly impenetrable interlocked grass and brush looking for a likely spot to get back up. About 30 feet west, I found a place where the bank had collapsed to the point where it wasn’t vertical. I wallowed back down to the bike and began the process of getting it started.
I gave it a few kicks at full throttle with the decomp lever in to clean it out. Then, I gave it a few kicks at closed throttle. No luck. Whoops. I had forgotten the bike was still hot. I gave it one quarter throttle, and a few wonderfully easy auto-decomped kicks later, “putt…putt…putt…” Amazing!
I proceeded to push/drag/heave/ride it the thirty feet to my escape route, but the rear Metzler was moving rapidly to China. Where were all the “Dig a hole”-Parry-Sound-Sportbike-Rally-guys when I really was digging a hole?
By the time I got to my destination, I was wasted. It gets pretty hot and humid at the bottom of an Iowa stream with the sun beating down on you and the humidity at about 95%. The nice breeze was about 20 feet straight up. I took a couple swigs from the enduro jug. The water was 90 degrees, but it was wet and a lot less abrasive than the stuff from the creek.
I made a few attempts to get the front of the bike up the first two-foot embankment and quickly realized it wasn’t going to happen…at least not when I had my cousin and my son back at the house with nothing to do but rescue me. I fought my way up the bank and back to Amber feeling as if all I needed was a machete to be ready for the Amazon. I got her bike turned around and sent her on a mission of mercy to the house with instructions to fetch help.
While I waited, I made another feeble attempt to get the bike up the bank, but with no traction, no momentum, and fading strength, it was a hopeless case. A few minutes later, Scott’s Suburban came over the hill. No troop of cavalry ever looked better parting prairie grass. Primarily due to Scott’s pushing, we quickly got the bike over the three or four jumps up the bank.
Although I managed to get back to the farm and even give rides to the little kids around the lawn, I postponed further exploration and inversion tests. Now, if I can only figure out a way to mount a winch…