The Blackwater – A Lesson To Be Learned (Part II)


            Last month we took a look at the history of the famous and eventually infamous Blackwater Hare Scrambles and Dual Sport events promoted by Dave Coombs’ Racer Productions. This month it’s a look at what was taken from us just for being motorcyclists. Support your sport. Don’t let this happen to your favorite meet be it street or dirt.

Even if the 1995 Blackwater 200 had been held, it would not have included the most challenging and dramatic section, the ten mile rocky stream bed to reach the most spectacular vista of any East Coast off-road event – the view from atop Cabin Mountain that had been a part of the Blackwater 100 Hare  Scrambles and the first two Blackwater 200 Dual Sport events. Citing possible damage to public lands, this area has been designated a Wilderness Area and all motorized vehicles are banned. Now, very few people will ever experience the majesty of these areas because of the physical demands in backpacking the necessary food, water and shelter to reach them.

The staff at Racer Productions didn’t want their dual sport friends deprived of this wonderfully scenic area that included Blackwater Falls, Canaan Valley, Fernow Experimental Forest and Otter Creek Wilderness Area. Nearby attractions are 4862′ Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia, and Seneca Rocks, a 900′ vertical formation. All are part of Monongahela National Forest. So after a two-year hiatus and much legal wrangling the event was rescheduled and held in 1997. This was when having an attorney in the family, Carrie Coombs-Russell, Dave’s daughter, came in real handy.

The 1997 event was 264 miles of mostly gravel roads. The length made up for the lack of challenging sections. Not deceiving anyone, Racer Productions advertised it as a beginner’s ride and it was good for a first-time-after-three-years event. These non-challenging events are a good way to introduce new riders to the sport so it wasn’t all downside.

Some grumblings were heard from the hardcore, “I want to pay to be punished”, masochists, but that was the twisted dirt mentality of some head-traumatized enduro riders talking.  New additions to the event included poker hand stops, more overlooks, Saturday dinner and Sunday lunch at the magnificent, 1930s CCC-built Blackwater Lodge, and a pre-ride celebrity golf tournament for sponsors. The Sunday evening mountain band made the event downright homey. A tribute to “Big Dave” who hung up his guitar to become an off-road event promoter. When questioned about that year’s lack of challenging single track, trail boss Jeff Russell said, “We worked with what we had”, meaning they worked with the public lands authorities allowed them to use. The Blackwater 200 limped along in its diluted form for a couple more years in 1998 and 1999, but it was never the same as the 1993-1994 events.

After 1999, Racer Productions’ attention was directed to developing the GNCC events that grew out of the Blackwater 100 into such a prestigious series that it became the premier AMA off-road racing series it is today. Still maintaining the original Blackwater 100 “closed circuit” national hare scrambles format  with its 3-hour plus one lap format (which Racer Productions’ Dave Coombs invented) it remains America’s toughest off-road race series all before anyone heard of the Extreme Enduro events that are now popular the world over.

What lessons can we learn from this tale?

That no event no matter how legendary will survive when costs, or hassles, exceed the benefits. How do we help ourselves? By countering the public’s image of off-highway motorcyclists rampaging through forests on narrow mountain roads. We need to police ourselves better against anti-social behavior and emphasize dual sport rides are touring, not racing, events. That goes for road rides too. According to District Forester James Knibbs, US Forest Service Resource Analyst, “Negative public feedback has been centered around the safety of other users sharing the road and the impact on the environment”.

The Blackwater 200 doesn’t exist anymore. Its demise was the result of efforts by radical environmentalists and paranoid politicians desperate to be re-elected, and the litigious lobbying groups of our society converging on a group of motorcyclists just because they didn’t like what off-road motorcyclists were doing legally. This realization should shock all of us into action and if it doesn’t, we will have only ourselves to blame.

Robert Miller


Snippets Of Motorcycling Lore

Some legends about strange things in motorcycling have gained credibility as true events. This one is still in controversy, but there is at least one recorded incident of such a thing; minus the tractor trailer.

A major two lane highway in Virginia was closed. A flatbed tractor trailer truck was on its side, half on the road, half off. Its cargo was strewn all over the highway. The driver who lost control was telling an incredible story to explain his misadventure. He claimed a headless motorcycle rider passed him and cut him off. Was he having visions of a certain horseman in Sleepy Hollow? Needless to say, no one believed him, at least until subsequent discoveries were made and his story was confirmed.

It seems a motorcyclist built up speed to pass the truck loaded with corrugated sheet metal. Just as he moved into the left lane, a piece of the sheet metal was lifted by the wind and blew off the flatbed. It hit him horizontally with such force that it decapitated the rider. The speed he had built up for passing gave his bike the momentum to keep going with no farther input from the rider. The truck driver was so shaken by the sight of a bleeding, headless, biker passing him that he lost control. When the bike slowed in front of the truck, the driver tried to avoid it and jack-knifed.

The truck driver’s story was believed only after the bike rider’s headless body was found some distance ahead of the wrecked truck.

(Al Karasa)

Driving to Distraction

I have noticed a growing trend among car drivers: An increasing percentage of them are glued to their smart phones. Actually, I think I can safely say, based on recent observations, that it is the rare driver who is not holding a phone to his or her ear. And even out of this group, most seem either to have a hands-free set or are rehearsing for American Idol. Or perhaps they are just talking back to the voices in their heads. In any case, they are moving their lips animatedly despite being the only one in the car. Of course, holding an actual smart phone is no guarantee of sanity, or of sane driving. A guy recently whizzed past me on the interstate, cut in front of me, then slowed down to 10 mph under the speed limit. When I pulled out to pass, he cut back in front of me, then changed the phone to his right hand so he could flip me the bird out the driver’s window. His phone conversation must have been awfully ugly to inspire such rude and dangerous driving. Someone should tell him that there are better ways to signal other drivers. For example, turn signals—they don’t even require interrupting his exciting phone call.

For a long time there were only two, easily identifiable segments of the population prone to having phones stuck in their ears: teenage girls and businesspeople. The former suffer from a condition known as Social Networking Disorder (SND)—simply put, they require continuous peer-to-peer contact to be able to continue to function. The latter suffer from what might be called Really Expect that Commission Disorder (REC’D)—the need to spend more and more time working to pay for all the gadgets they need to do more and more work in less and less time. Sufferers of both SND and REC’D are glued to their phones not just when driving—you will see them on the phone while sharing meals at restaurants, standing in line at the post office . . . even when they are gathering in large groups they are almost always cellular-connected individually, probably to people gathered in other large groups across town.

These days, though, it’s gone beyond SND and REC’D sufferers. Almost every vehicle on the road has a driver whose ability is impaired by smart-phone use. What has changed in the world that gives these people such a need to talk all the time? Don’t they run out of things to say? It is so vexing that I have tried to come up with a list of reasons.

Top Ten Reasons Why Drivers Talk on Smart Phones

  1. Driver has been killed by terrorists, and the person at the wheel is receiving long-distance instructions from his superior on how to operate it
  2. Driver does not speak English and is getting on-the-spot translations for road signs
  3. Driver is participating in a distance-learning Driver’s-Ed course
  4. Checking his or her dating-service voice-mail to see if there is any response to that personals ad
  5. Not actually talking to anyone; just pretending to have a life
  6. Receiving a “must-take” call from a telemarketer
  7. Ordering pizza
  8. Really grooving to that music while on-hold at the cable company’s customer service line
  9. Reporting in to his or her DWI probation officer

            And the top reason why drivers talk on smart phones:

  1. Checking credit-card balance to see if he or she can afford to buy gas

These are just a few. There must be many more, but I couldn’t think of them and write them down and still avoid being run over by a yakking driver at the same time—talk about multi-tasking!

Smart phones are not inherently evil and neither are car drivers (well, not for the most part, that is), but mix them together with traffic and you have a true axis of evil. Driving a vehicle requires active attention to the ever-changing conditions of the road and traffic. So, if you know people who think the smart phone is as important as the steering wheel, tell them that unless they want to be the known as the Taliban of the Turnpike—hang up the phone and drive! Oh, and by the way, also remind them that if they think texting or e-mailing while driving is the ultimate multi-tasking extreme sport, I have two words for them: vehicular homicide. Be careful, folks, because despite all the smart phones out there, no one is likely to call 911 to help you if you have an accident. They’d have to hang up to do it.

Column copyright Bill Hufnagle 2020. Recipe reprinted with permission from “Biker Billy Cooks with Fire”, published by Whitehorse Press, Center Conway, New Hampshire copyright Bill Hufnagle 1995, 2004.

Bill Hufnagle
Biker Billy
Mobile:       (828) 658-8130
Snail mail:     Biker Billy Cooks With Fire
P.O. Box 1
Weaverville, NC 28787


Booking Along

Motorcycle books and Comics. Reviews and book looks too.

The definition of booking is to go fast: exit with deliberation, speed along.  To be Really booking.  Have everything organized and putting your books into order while making it happen is a great feat and is not an easy task. Once done you can book.  The concept of booking covers gathering books and knowledge so that one can go fast now and later.  Getting it all together, finishing the work and making your way on to the next book is a slang term used to indicate speed and completion. All the definitions revolve around books.  Looking and finding the information you need and having it available is important, and a necessity if you want to go beyond limited levels of knowledge.  Having a Collection of books is just the beginning of information gathering. I have a small “library”, but for the record, my book collection has many more pages to go, I’m still booking.

We Motorcyclists have tools, experience and a host of other ways to gather the necessary information to get out and ride.  Owning a Collection of motorcycle books and magazines helps with that end book. Books on motorcycles are everywhere. People pick them up as they go.   I will buy more as I go too. My small book collection has titles on varying subjects and some are books about motorcycles. I have a collection of magazines and dealer brochures too.  The selection of books on motorcycles in the world is truly great and they cover a wide variety of types and titles.

Of course books on motorcycles started with the invention of motorcycles and cycle books were written almost right away about the great adventure two wheeled transportation offers.  Books about cycles and how to take them apart and put them back together are there too along with a million other ways to look at cycles and the people who ride and have someplace to go.

Around the world in 1912.  Carl Sterns Clancy bought a brand new Henderson four and rode it around the world all 18,000 miles and wrote a journal about it.  Tom Swift was whizzing around on his cycle and there was even a Boy Scout motorcycling series in the early 20th century by George Harvey Ralphson 1879-1940. The Great War 1914-1918 pushed motorcycling into the main stream and really drove design development.

The Second World War forty’s saw a reduction in books in print about motorcycles for the general population.  After WW2 the English and Americans really held the forefront in cycling. Books and magazines really took off with rider stories until the Japanese started to grip the psyche of the population.  At the height of the Japanese invasion a well know book was published after countless rejections.   Zen and the art of motorcycling maintenance which is a title still know around the world and it is more than just a cycle book but one that helped define a generation.

Writers also put motorcycles into books comics and into the movies and a host of other places because motorcycles are dangerous, fast, adventurous and seen by many as sexy.  Everybody likes action.  Some of the action books have even been made into movies. On any Sunday, the movie with Steve McQueen rides like a book, and there is a book of McQueen’s cycles hot off the press now too. Akira is a great movie made from a book. See the movie and the wild cycles.

Books about motorcycles and their fans abound.  Adventure, brand titles, historic, vintage, the categories are infinite.  Picture books are great for ogling, some even fold out.  Adventure books can take you to imaginary places, travel books will take you to foreign places and tech books into the soul of your motocycle.  Maintenance books had an early start. Adventure books were close behind. Julie wood series is a prime example.  Brand titles: British Bikes, Kawasaki, The story of Ducati, and a very long list of other brand titles.  Harley Davidson Cycles. Books on cycle camping trips, some short and some long trips.  Travel trips.  Teens and KidsBooks – the  Flintstones Motorcycle Madness, the Mouse and Motorcycle series.  Inspiration for this article came from a friend who I asked what books he could relate to me about cycles. He said being a non motorcyclist, but have you heard of the Mouse and the Motorcycle series.  So I said ok.

Historic titles describe how bikes were long ago. Vintage cycles are immortalized in Vintage Picture books and
of course Engineering books will always get you back from you adventure trip.  Shop books, how to do it. Shop maintenance etc..  Zen and the to fix your life.   If your bikes not moving, neither is your life.  Yes your life will be going but in a different direction.  You will need books as a tool if not to level the table that holds your tools.

Where to get them. The Internet. Jumbles. Swap meets. Book stores, friends.  The motorcycle tab at the library is well worn and has a button now linking it to the web.
Some bikers can never book enough.
Are you booking?


Our Tools by Jack Applebaum

I carry a knife.  Few bikers would be surprised to know that.  Most of us carry one – not for insidious purposes – but because it is a very useful tool.  Knowing how to use it safely and keep it sharp and clean is, for some of us, a matter of pride.  As it turns out, a dull knife is a dangerous knife because the amount of force required to make it work can be unpredictable.  Sudden, unexpected movement with a dull blade can get you cut.

I am fortunate to know how to use tools.  My life experience tells me that I likely got that ability from my mother of Scottish descent (a Campbell).  I’m not a craftsman by any means, but I can fix basic things and keep a household intact.  I have also had the privilege of working with US Navy Seabees (I was not one) who deserve much credit for awaking in me this particular ability.

I’ve found that the biker culture tends to have a much greater percentage of tool savvy individuals either out of need, interest, or profession.  I admire a well-ordered tool kit that isn’t too big but has all that someone needs on the road and to get home.  The epitome of the small, efficient, and useful tool seems to be the multi-tool, be it a Leatherman, a Gerber, or one of the other offerings with a smaller market share.  Some of us old-school types stick with a Swiss Army Knife on our side and a Leatherman in the bag when riding.  I do have a variety of knives to match the occasion be it a long ride or the slightly more formal look at an end-of-year event.  I’m not a knife collector.  I’m more of a knife “accumulator” lacking the discipline and foresight to stay with a particular brand or style (although I do favor CRKT).

As I alluded to above, it isn’t just having the tool on you that matters but also knowing how to use it.  God’s Word is described as having multiple uses stating “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 New International Version).  Additionally, the Bible is compared to a blade when it states “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 New International Version)”

My tool kit includes a small Bible given the great potential it has to help fix life’s problems.  Consider carrying one and learning to use it.  With an eternal perspective, it can become THE tool to point you to Christ and to help you get home.

IHS,  Jack



My motorcycle has always been a solitary refuge from everything wrong with this world.

And given that that list has never been exactly been short, that refuge has been sought frequently, and repeated often.

Everything that might have been wrong with the world, though, simply fades into insignificance when compared with the past several weeks.

Since The Disease came, though, almost everything has changed.

We’ve all been forced from any kind of public life – work, food, shopping – now all needs to be done from at least six feet away from any other human being. The economic shocks created by a society that now can only function over videoconference has already caused a waterfall of business failures, layoffs, and retirement savings accounts that look like the smoking aftermath of The Battle of The Somme.

That ten days could change absolutely everything is something that the human mind probably has a healthy reason for being unable to imagine.  Such imaginings would leave one anxious, paralyzed, unable to move forward.

And yet here we are, anyway.

I’m blessed in that my day gig in Technology has always allowed me to work from home when I chose to. There’s a pretty substantial emotional difference between choosing to stay home, though, and being unable, forbidden to leave.

And though there’s probably no externally observable difference between two, after about four days or so, I was certifiably bats in the attic dog barking nuts.

I, personally, have problems with rules. More specifically, rules that aren’t well supported by objective facts.

I wasn’t supposed to leave my home without reason. I wasn’t supposed to be inside poorly ventilated spaces. I wasn’t supposed to share any transportation methods with other people. I wasn’t supposed to be within six feet of other people. I was supposed to be protected with a mask, gloves and suit.

A ride was definitely a reason. I’d be outside and on my bike by myself. Shoei full face with sealed visor, elkskin gauntlets, and Roadcrafter.

Check, check and check.

I went into my desk drawer and got the bike keys.

Given that this had the potential to be The Bike Ride at The End of The World, I wanted, no, I required a completely engaging, fully immersive experience.

You know. If this was going to be your last roll, you’d better make it a good one.

So if it needed to be vivid, there was no choice but my R90S. I needed to feel each combustion stroke of that old school boxer – I needed to bathe in each movement of the wheels on the pavement – to revel in each corner exit with the front tire clawing to climb into empty air.

Before even getting up to town it was already clear that I’d be on my own. The Jefferson Pike, which at this time in the afternoon would normally be awash with folks headed to the market, ferrying kids, or headed home from work, was basically empty.  Heading out Horine Road towards the Potomac did nothing to break the spooky, solitary mood.

I’ll admit that my childhood was filled with Post-Apocalyptic films about Guys That Through No Fault Of Their Own Found Themselves All Alone On The Earth. I saw all of those movies. They were all spooky.

US 15 South headed towards Virginia on a weekday afternoon and having it only contain a 45-year old motorcycle and me was in another universe of spooky.

Those were movies. This was real. If the world hadn’t exactly ended this sure looked a lot like it.

After crossing the Potomac into Loudoun County, I made the immediate right into Lovettsville Road – one of my favorite Snake Dances of a road – the follows the river West towards Brunswick.  After slicing through the first three fast corners, I hit the first straight where I normally roll on serious throttle.

But what I saw made me roll off and sit up.

I suppose the rear view of an F-18 looks a lot like this – a bright white triangle making up the tail steering surfaces of the aircraft. This one, though, was just that bright, but made of feathers.

Living in Central Maryland has many blessings – our healthy population of Bald Eagles is just one of them. They are plentiful – I’ve seen lots of them.

Normally though, the Baldies keep a pretty healthy and wary distance from roads and other places where humans and their noisy machinery might be found. They can be found in the treetops away from the roadway or wading down the streams visible from the bridges.

What the Bald Eagles normally don’t do was what this one was doing.  This eagle was cruising at an altitude of about 15 to 20 feet, and quite visibly following the double yellow line down the center of the road. We were coming to the end of the short chute – and both of us were setting our entry to lean into the next corner.

Brother Eagle, in short, was doing exactly what I was doing.

Since the humans seemed to have disappeared and ceded the territory, the Eagle was enjoying his new roads.

I did my best to lie back and enjoy the show. After two more nicely executed cornering lines, the Eagle finally noticed I was behind him, and peeled off right down the slope towards the river.

Clearly, if mankind were to simply disappear, the rest of our world and its environment would be just fine – we likely not be missed a bit.

The jury is still out on us, though.

Hope I get to see how it comes out.  I hope you all do too.

Rubber side down.


I’m Waving At You!

I’m waving at you! Not the casual, graceful, outstretch of the arm as we pass each other type of wave. It’s that YOU’RE-ONE-OF-THE-FIRST-RIDERS-I’VE-MET-ON-THE-ROAD-THIS-SEASON-AND-WE’RE-BOTH-SO-HAPPY-TO-BE-OUT-WE-LOOK-LIKE-WE’RE-ABOUT-TO-DRUNK-JOUST-EACH-OTHER kind of salute.

Because I’ve missed ya! I haven’t been writing much lately…well in this way. I’m taking a class on business writing and it’s so different than what I’m used to, it’s hard and taking up a lot of time. Add that to an already busy phase in life and THEN! Suddenly there’s an undercurrent of attention circling around a new virus that has the same name as a beer. They start referring to it as COVID-19 which I can’t seem to get right until someone points out that you can sing it to the Dexy’s Midnight Runners tune “Come on Eileen”. And that undercurrent of information swells to a daily drenching as you take in more stories and statistics and find out people are building toilet paper forts or something like that.

Before you know it, we find ourselves treading water in a dangerous global pandemic and life is completely different. In the grand scheme of things, so far I’m okay and feel very blessed for that. Everyone is facing some sort of struggle as we all try to stay safe from this virus. For me, the most difficult requirement is staying away from my dad. He lives in a senior/memory care facility that recently locked down in order to protect the residents. In-person visits are prohibited which can frustrate me to tears. He also loves to shoot pool and while I might have to remind him whether he has solids or stripes every turn, he’s still a good shot. We talk on the phone often, but I miss taking him out to play. How do I explain this change in our routine to someone who doesn’t fully understand? Hell I don’t really understand, I wake up each day feeling like I’m living a Stephen King story!

Still, I find myself counting my blessings even more than usual. Included in that count, is the ability to ride. Thank God it’s spring and warmer temps will become the norm! Feeling teary a few days ago, I took a break from stress and went for a quick scoot on the Heritage. By the time I was out of my neighborhood I could breathe easier, then once I hit fifth gear I felt every muscle release tension and relax. Not only did the ride lift my spirits, but it helped to see evidence that folks are still supporting each other through tough times. These days, regional restaurants have been forced to close for in-house dining, but can deliver or offer curbside pick up options. I rode past a local establishment that under normal conditions would be a fun stop for good food and a cold brew. It made me feel better to see they were still doing business as there were quite a few cars in the parking lot while customers waited on their to-go orders.

The more you look, the more you see these sorts of examples. When small businesses are hit with restrictions, their supporters find ways to lift them up. People are actively looking for more things to do to help each other. Efforts are underway to take care of the elderly, children, hospital workers, and truckers. I think this is going to continue. If this pandemic is a situation that is going to get worse before it gets better, I feel our positive reactions are going to increase and we’re all going to make it through this. Not only will we survive, but we’ll get to the other side even stronger.

In the meantime, remember to find ways to comfort yourself as well as others. Go for that ride, count your blessings, and find a way to lend a neighbor or a stranger a hand. We all know any road trip is full of highs and lows; this phase in our lives is the same.

Be as safe as you can be, and keep in touch along the way.