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Author Topic: Off to the Races!  (Read 1111 times)

Offline Bajakirch

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Off to the Races!
« on: June 05, 2014, 09:58:18 PM »
A couple of years back, my motorcycling spawned spawned a parallel interest -- motorcycle racing. I began watching MotoGP and AMA racing on TV. When those seasons ended, I turned to the Internet for recorded streaming of World Superbike and British Superbike.

When I learned that the AMA roadracing series was coming to Road America last year, I got intrigued. RA is only about 2 hours from my home and my parents live nearby. I made my first trip to a professional motorcycle race weekend last May and had a great time. I did it alone, and I camped at a nearby campground.

I had such a good time last year that, when I learned the series was coming back again this year it was a foregone conclusion that I would go. As an added bonus, Subway restaurants of WI and Upper Michigan, a race sponsor, were once again running a promotion that offered a free day-pass for every $35 spent at one of their restaurants. With Subway being the only fast food in my small town and a teenager in the house, spending $70 at Subway over a couple of months was pre-ordained. I collected my receipts and, after a bit of hassle finding the vouchers I needed to send in with my receipts, I sent away for my freebies.

About a week before the races, my passes showed up.

Tickets to Paradise?

This year my accommodations were a bit different. My parents, Arizona snowbirds for the last 4 years, returned just a couple of weeks back. I hadn't seen them in months so I accepted their offer of a comfy bed for Friday and Saturday nights. They live about 50 miles northeast of the track, but I considered the extra driving worth it.

On Friday I slid out of work a couple hours early. Trying to make it up before dark, I kept to the slab. The ride was uneventful and I rolled in just at dusk. After securing my bike in the garage and dropping my stuff in the guest room, I spent the rest of the night drinking beer and catching up with Mom & Dad.

Saturday morning I was up by 6:30. I grabbed a quick breakfast, showered and was on my way by 8:00. My intention was to get to the track by 9-ish and catch some of the last qualifying races.

I should mention a side note about where I was staying. My parents both grew up in the Manitowoc/Two Rivers area of Wisconsin. Both communities are on the western shore of Lake Michigan, about an hour north of Milwaukee. Manitowoc is the larger of the two cities, with about 33,000 residents, with Two Rivers about 7 miles to the north along the lakeshore. I lived in TR for a couple of years when I was really young, then we moved away. My grandparents lived (and died) in TR, and my siblings and I often spend as much as a month in the summers visiting them. When my dad retired, they weighed where they wanted to spend their final years and determined that, with family and friends still in the M/TR area, that's where they wanted to be. So they sold their house in Marinette, WI, and moved 'back home'.

I mention all of this back-story because it helps explain why I love this area so much. I had great times in this area as a kid, and coming back -- even in my 40s -- still evokes wonderful memories. Even with my parents now living here, I still don't get back as often as I'd like to.

Following my GPS-inspired route out of TR, I saw something that forced me to stop just a few minutes into my ride:

Ye olde fishin' hole.

This is a public fishing dock located on the West Twin River just outside of Two Rivers (yeah, you figured out how they came up with the name). While the dock is different, it's the same spot my grandfather brought me to to fish as a kid.

I rolled into Road America around 9:30 and parked the bike in a location I knew from last year.

You are my rock. No, the back.

I stowed my gear, grabbed my backpack with a few supplies and made my way out to the track. I'd arrived just as the Supersport qualifying session was getting going.

Starting my tour at the starting line.

I walked through the North Paddock area inside the track. This is where a lot of spectators park their motorcycles, and where some vendors set up their displays. I found myself lured in to the EBR tent. Located only about an hour away in East Troy, WI, and with several bikes in the races, EBR had a nice presence at the track.

Buell motorcycles, past and present tense.

I'm not a sportbike guy, but there's no denying it -- that new 1190RX is dead-sexy! Doesn't look like the most comfortable seat to tour on, though.

Around 10:15 I wandered over to the ticket office. Last year, I took part in what's called 'A Salute to Cycles' on Sunday. In short, you pay $25 to ride around the track during the lunch break. I paid my money and they told me to be in the meet-up area at 10:30.

A worthy pace car.

So here's how it works:
A) There will be a pace car at the front, middle and rear of the bikes. There is no passing of the pace cars.
B) Speed limit is 40 mph.
C) There is no passing of other bikes in the corners.
D) Hooligans will be black-flagged.
E) Enough shenanigans and the ride gets cut short.
I suspect that they're a little loose on the speed limit, because there was more than 1 occasion where I was able to hit triple digits on the straightaway. In the end, we ended up doing around 6 laps on the 4-mile course.

With the track ride over I again parked the bike and made my way to the pits for the fan-walk. This is where most of the riders set up to sign autographs for the fans. It's not hard to see who the most popular riders are.

Fan walk? More like fan stand.

The longest line by far was for Larry Pegram. Larry who, you ask? Larry's a veteran rider who will occasionally podium, but more often ends up in 6th, 7th or 8th place. Why is he more popular than, say, former champion Josh Hayes or hot up-and-comer Cam Beubier? Why, because, Larry was smart enough to get himself a TV show.

Next, lunch.

Better late than never when it comes to food porn.

Naturally, a bona fide Wisconsin brat was on the menu. And the arguable epicenter of brat-dom, Sheboygan, WI, is just 10 miles away.

At 1:00, the races began. AMA currently runs 4 roadracing classes:
Vance & Hines Harley Davidson - pretty much identical HD XR1200 bikes designed for new riders to show their skills
Supersport  - 600cc street bikes with minor modifications for the track
Daytona Sportbike - 600cc production bikes modified from their street-going roots
Superbike - heavily modified 1000cc production bikes
As I understand it the 2 600cc classes will be combined for 2015.

Since this is a ride report and not a race report, I'll avoid the spoilers and let people find their own results information online. But here are some random race shots from Saturday:

Supersport Race 1, Turn 1

Daytona Sportbike Race 1, Turn 5

Superbike Race 1, Turn 14

Superbike Race 1, Uphill stretch to the finish line, beginning 180 mph wheelie

The track races ended around 4:00. While there was still activity going on at the track -- V&H HD qualifying, supermoto races in the evening -- I chose to head out after the Superbike race.

On my way back to my parents' house, I altered my route a bit so I could ride through Manitowoc. One of the cooler things the city has to offer is the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, complete with a fully functioning WWII submarine.

Das boot.

The museum offers a pretty cool program where youth organizations are allowed to spend the night on the sub. My sons' Boy Scout troop took advantage of this a few years ago and it was a blast. They bring the kids in around 7:00 p.m. after the museum closes for the day. Then volunteers, usually retired Navy personnel, lead the groups on a guided tour of the submarine. When it's over, everyone gets to sleep in one of the berths on the sub. Mine was in the forward torpedo room.

While I was checking out the sub, I noticed another interesting vessel.

Ferry nice.

This is the S.S. Badger, one of only 2 car ferries on Lake Michigan. In the summer, the Badger makes 2 crossings daily between Manitowoc and Luddington, MI. The trip across takes about 4 hours; you can almost get there faster by driving/riding. But the Badger allows a more leisurely trip, and avoids the nightmare that is Chicago congestion.

As I took my photo, I was treated to the sound of the car ferry's horn and, within seconds, it began heading out of port. I drove a few miles down the road and caught a shot of it heading out to sea (lake?).

Bon voyage!

I made the 7 mile trip along Hwy 42 from Manitowoc to Two Rivers and rolled into my parents' place around 5:30. Within moments, Dad had the bourbon steaks cooking on the grill and we enjoyed a great dinner.

The next day I was up at 6:30 again for Day 2 at the track. By around 8:30 I had packed up the bike, hugged and thanked Mom & Dad for their hospitality and rode off. But before leaving town, I had a couple of stops to make.

For generations, Hamilton Industries has been the hulking landmark that towered over downtown TR. They shut the plant down a few years ago. The company holds interest for me because, first, my grandfather worked there for decades before his retirement. And, when my dad got out of the Army, his first 'real-world' job was at Hamilton. So I was a little sad to hear from my parents that they were tearing the old place down, despite its slightly eye-sore status.

Demo ride.

I understand the hope is for a developer to turn the riverfront property into high-end condos where people from Chicago and Milwaukee can park their lake-going yachts. I'm not sure I'd call that progress.

Just a few blocks away was the house that my grandparents owned from their marriage in the 1920s almost until their deaths in the 1990s.

Childhood memories abound.

As mentioned, I spent a LOT of time at this house as a kid. I've always felt it was the perfect place to be at that age. See this?

That's Lake Michigan, 3 houses down. Left of the shot is the largest city park in TR, which included acres of wooded trails, ball diamonds, playgrounds and an enormous (to us at the time) rock structure built by the CCC crews in the 1930s. We called it 'Rock City'. With a rock bridge, a 'dungeon' and even a concrete bunker, it was the source of countless hours of fun and games. When I was young, Rock City was in the middle of a thick forest. In later years, Dutch Elm Disease decimated the woods and it was out in the open. It always seemed less exciting that way. I was glad to see, on this trip, that the trees are growing up again around it, and it's no longer visible from the road.

So...enough nostalgia. Back to the races!

On Sunday I pulled into the main entrance so I could stop at the ticket office for another shot at the track ride. Saturday's ride was as fun as I'd remembered and I wanted to do it again.

I parked the bike in the ticket office lot and couldn't miss this:

Now THAT'S a welcome.

The track ride was earlier on Sunday, and had fewer riders. But it was still fun, as I did my best to keep up with some younger guys on supermotos and sport bikes.

Soon, lunch rolled around again. Today, a pork 'tenderette'.

Where exactly on a pig is the tenderette?

I ended up waiting almost 10 minutes for my pork sandwich, so they gave it to me for free. Based on the taste, I think I overpaid.

After I choked down the sandwich, the races were ready to begin. First up on Sunday was the V&H HD race. Regardless of my feelings for The Motor Company and its products, I have to say that these bike sounded pretty awesome. No mistaking them for a road racing sport bike, that's for sure.

Walking over to my vantage point for the race, I saw an interview in progress:

Right:  Former champion Josh Hayes; Center:  KTM rider Chris Fillmore

More race shots:

Vance & Hines Harley Davidson Race, Turn 5

Selfie, Daytona Sportbike Race 2, Turn 5 (from up on the hill)

Superbike Race 2, Turn 3

The races were supposed to be over by 4:00. But some red flags in the Supersport race ended up delaying this by over an hour. Then with around 6 laps to go in the Superbike race, some rain showed up and caused a red flag. All the teams were allowed to head into the pits for 10 minutes. The race officials, looking at the weather radar, declared it a 'wet' race, meaning teams had the choice of putting rain tires on their bikes. Unfortunately, at the end of the red flag, the rain hadn't arrived. And a 200hp race bike will chew through a rain tire in about 2 laps on a dry track. So virtually all teams kept their riders on slicks. 2 laps from the end, the rain came. And when there's rain on the ground you do NOT want to be on a race bike with slicks. And then the skies opened up; I'm talking full on downpour, track-wide. After the 3rd rider went down in standing water, the officials called the race with 1 lap to go. Even today, there's a lot of grumbling about the officials' decision not to call the race sooner. I'll leave that to other parties to hash out.

So, with races over and a break in the rain, I donned my riding gear and took off for the 2.5-hour trip home. With many scattered T-storms between me and home, I took it as an opportunity to see how one of my rain-gear set-ups worked. With temperatures in the 80s all weekend, I chose to bring my mesh jacket and pants on this trip. For rain, I had some FirstGear rain pants I picked up on for $10. My Sliders mesh jacket came with a 'weather' liner, so I really didn't know how water-resistant it was. I soon found out.

About 20 miles into the trip home, the rain returned with a vengeance. For most of the next 2 hours I rode through everything from mild rain showers to holy-crap-I-might-wanna-pull-over deluges. It's not the sort of weather I would have expected the mesh jacket's liner to be suitable for. But I have to admit, it did pretty well. I had a little leaking around my neck, something I've already thought about previously and am planning to get a waterproof neck gaiter for. My mid-section got wet, but I can't blame the jacket for that. After a stop for dinner (sorry, no food porn on that one), I improperly layered the pants and jacket...basically, I didn't make sure the liner's waist was on top of the pants. So all that water that hit the front of the jacket ran down and dripped onto my shirt. My bad.

20 minutes from home, the rain got so bad I finally did have to pull over when I found myself riding through standing water. I hid out under a gas station overhang while the worst of the storm passed. I saw more than one cager look at me in my dripping gear and shake their head in befuddlement.

I ended up rolling into my garage around 8:30 at night. I pretty much dropped all my wet gear on the floor to be hung up with proper care later; it ended up taking 2 days to fully dry everything out.

This was another great trip and, if the folks at AMA Pro Road Racing see fit to come back to Road America next year, I'll be there if I can. The Concours once again showed why it's such a popular sport touring bike. I still find it hard to believe this is a bike I purchased for well under $3000.

Finally, a request for support of AMA Pro Road Racing. The series is going through some tough times and there's a lot of criticism of the folks that run things. But the bottom line is that there are a lot of people out there (riders, crews, team owners, sponsors) that are working extremely hard to keep professional motorcycle racing going in the U.S. If you can get to a track for the races, great. If not, check out or YouTube to watch the races. The more spectators, the greater the chance to increase venues and improve the series overall.

Get on your bikes and ride!

Online DesignFlaw06

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Re: Off to the Races!
« Reply #1 on: June 06, 2014, 07:15:08 AM »
Looks like you had a great trip. My experience with motorcycle racing is watching the Daytona 200 live about 6 years ago. Interesting to watch, but the real excitement comes in the last few laps. I suppose I've also been to a couple of motorcycle drag races. My cousin is related by marriage to Larry "Spiderman" McBridge, who holds several drag racing records. At one point, he was the fastest man on 2 wheels. Don't know if that's still true, but I do know he was the first man to get into the 5's.

I see you've noticed the SS Badger. That ferry can hold quite a bit more than the one from Madison to Muskegon. The Badger will take semis across even. We took the Badger a couple of times when we were kids. The EPA has been trying for years to shut that ferry down. The Badger is one of the few vessels that I know of that runs on coal and it dumps the ash into Lake Michigan. They keep finding ways to extend service, but I think eventually it will either have to convert to some other method of propulsion or be shut down. The former may be too expensive to justify, which would be a huge loss to both cities.

Thanks for sharing!

Offline Bajakirch

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Re: Off to the Races!
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2014, 07:23:47 AM »
Uh...I think you mean "Milwaukee to Muskegon". It'd be a hell of a ferry that could make it from land-locked Madison.  poke1

It's funny you mention the EPA controversy regarding the Badger. I actually included a discussion of that in my ride report, but I had to edit it down because it was too long. That bit was left on the cutting room floor. As you can tell from the length of my reports, self-editing is not my strong suit.

The latest I heard is that they've set a plan to convert the Badger to natural gas. If/when it happens, they'll go from being the dirtiest ship on the Great Lakes to the cleanest.
Get on your bikes and ride!

Offline Hog Dog

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Re: Off to the Races!
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2014, 07:51:17 PM »
 Great report Baja.  I've watched a bit of racing on tv but it just doesn't thrill me.  I would like to see some in person though as the sounds and sights would probably be quite a show.  Took a tour of a WW2 sub once and was quite impressed.  Your grandparents old neighborhood sounds like paradise for a kid.
Lucky Lindy's evil twin

Online home4sale2

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Re: Off to the Races!
« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2014, 09:15:29 PM »
You lost me when I saw a brat with ketchup on it.  Kidding aside, great report.  I would like to do a Lake Michigan tour next year, should be a great stop along the way.

Offline Bajakirch

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Re: Off to the Races!
« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2014, 07:10:05 AM »
So much ketchup hate!  hapdude2

In my defense, they didn't have the brown sauce that goes so much better with brats.

Other than a short stint watching Indy cars back in the 80s, I've never been a race fan at all. But motorcycling has proved to be a slippery slope. In an effort to learn more about better cornering, I started out watching some MotoGP, and AMA Pro Road Racing (back when AMA could be found on TV). That hooked me enough to seek out World Superbike and British Superbike online. Around the same time, a new work friend got me into Formula 1 and that spurred additional interest in Indy Car.

Now SOQS complains that she can't watch any TV on the weekends because my TiVo is jammed up recording all the racing.

Even though I enjoy watching the racing on TV -- at least you get to see most of the track action -- I've found going to the track to be a totally different experience. The sound alone is impressive. Then there's wandering through the pits, walking feet away from guys you've been watching on TV. And the umbrella girls  drooler1

If anyone has a track in close proximity, I encourage giving a race day/night a try.
Get on your bikes and ride!

Offline aycaramba

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Re: Off to the Races!
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2014, 07:14:40 AM »

Sounds like a great trip--except for that riding through torrential rains part.  I studied your commentary on Manitowoc/TR for factual inaccuracies, and found none, so I'll give it my stamp of approval.   hapdude2   Actually, it was cool to see some of that stuff.  certainly brings back good memories.

Maybe next year I'll get to those races.  It does look cool.

Offline Dan

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Re: Off to the Races!
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2014, 07:19:37 PM »
Nice report, baja.  I missed my chance for a bike race when I was down in Daytona  a few years ago.  I could hear the buzz of the motors but didn't get a ticket, wished I did.  I've taken the other ferry, the Lake Express, from Milwaukee to Muskegon, that one only takes a little over two hours and it's very comfortable.


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