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

The AMA has just published its 2020 National Dual Sport calendar and that’s always a good thing. I’m a huge proponent of dual sport riding. It can really improve your street riding skills and the fringe benefit is that it’s a lot of fun! Having national dual sport rides isn’t some right. You and your fellow riders have to fight for them. Enthusiasts just like yourselves volunteer their time and expertise working to ensure these events continue to exist. It doesn’t happen by itself. You can do it too.

            As this early tale compiled from articles authored between 1994 (the infancy of dual sporting and dual sport events in America)  and 1999 (the last Blackwater 200) tells, having a national dual sport series was a battle. So support your sport by joining national rights organizations and your state and local clubs, because what happened to the Blackwater 200 Dual Sport and the Blackwater 100 Hare Scrambles may just happen to your favorite event.

Well, they finally did it (1995). Big Brother has succeeded in halting a legal dual sport event and it was none other than the infamous Blackwater 200 Dual Sport. The original event, the Blackwater 100 Hare Scrambles, which spawned the toughest off-road race series in America – the GNCC, attracted tens of thousands of onlookers and several hundred participants to the quiet West Virginia town of Davis for a few days of dirt riding and a lot of revelry. Everyone knew it couldn’t last.

         Patterned after the Blackwater 100 Hare Scrambles, the Blackwater 200 Dual Sport was a-challenging, three-hundred-mile, low-key, two-day event, but it didn’t have the environmental problems of the Blackwater 100. The dual sport’s halt wasn’t caused by crowds of spectators (there weren’t any) or the rowdy actions of the participants (average age- 42 years). So how was it ended? By an environmental lobby bent on litigating legal motorcycle events into oblivion..

The Blackwater 100 had tens of thousands of partiers and a couple of hundred riders, that overwhelmed the facilities in the small town of Davis, West Virginia. Rowdy spectators, who camped wherever and whenever they could, and nature calling, accomplished what video-wielding, helicopter-riding news reporters couldn’t – end forever a legendary, and legal, race and the dual sport event would be next.

The Blackwater 100 was known regionally and nationally as an almost impossible to finish race and it was also known globally among hard core off-road riders. Back then, riders from all over the country wanted to say they’d finished a Blackwater. It was like having a medal. Today, riders from all over the world come to America to compete in the GNCC races that spawned from the Blackwater 100. They want that same medal.

Dave Coombs, RIP, of Racer Productions, the Blackwater organizer, saw what was coming and in 1993 he made plans to have both a Blackwater 100 Hare Scrambles and the Blackwater 200 Dual Sport. This new event was designed to be routed on public lands and roadways where, with the proper permits, the event should have been guaranteed a long future, but it wasn’t to be.

Just as it was building its own reputation as a challenging event, the 1994 Dual Sport was tainted by a shotgun-wielding local who objected to a few hundred dual sports legally crossing near his back forty. Then in 1995, permits for the event were repeatedly delayed. Large scale support at that time may have saved it, but that never materialized. WVDNR approval came too late and despite Racer Productions’ efforts, there didn’t seem to be enough time to organize the event. The final straw was the Sierra Club filing a last-minute federal injunction, like the Friday afternoon before the event. The same tactic was used to cancel the 1996 event too even though both were scheduled as part of the AMA/Suzuki National Dual Sport Trail Ride Series.

Next month – the decline of the Blackwater 200 and what they took from us.

Spring Fever

March has arrived at last, signaling the end of winter.  Along with the annual celebration that is Daytona Bike Week, it also heralds the beginning of serious riding and touring season.  For as long as I have ridden, I’ve been a year-round rider, but winter is always a catch-as-can season.  Sometimes I can ride every week, sometimes only once a month, and there have been winters in memory with two consecutive months of totally inclement weather.  While I no longer have to worry about that since moving south, I can remember, and that memory still makes me break out with Spring Fever every year, just like when I was trapped in snow country.

I find it funny how one becomes programmed to respond to subtle changes in the seasons, often without really noticing.  Usually sometime in February I will be out and about, running an errand or heading to a favorite restaurant, and I will notice the first sign of impending Spring Fever.  This comes in realizing that it is not dark yet—the subtle but delightful recognition that the sun is up a few minutes later than last week.  This awareness stays with me for a few wonderful days before it is blasted away by the next cold snap, but it always sets Spring Fever in motion.  Like being infected with the flu, it only needs a little time to incubate.

And incubate it will, starting with the planning and execution of the yearly pilgrimage to Daytona. This almost-pagan ritual of sun-and-fun worship, this refutation of Old Man Winter, along with a liberal dose of riding, sand, suntan lotion, and the de rigueur bikini-clad beauties reflected in motorcycle chrome, marks the full outbreak of Spring Fever.  Simply put, it is on, so accept it.

Often for me that acceptance takes the form of almost daily rides.  By late March or early April, most of America has traded snow-removal tools for gardening gear, dry sinuses and winter coats for spring allergies and shirtsleeves.  The salt is gone from the roads and vehicles, to be replaced by the first bug splats of the year.  It is a good time to be alive.  But as a rider, it is still time to be wary of the last gasps of winter.

As the sun soars ever higher into the sky, bringing the temperatures up with it, almost every afternoon is a fine time to ride.  This may encourage us to ride to work, yet mornings can still find winter lurking in spots that, by the nature of the terrain, are a few weeks behind the season change, holding black ice or even snow in the higher elevations for the inattentive rider.  But if you know your riding area well and stay aware, it is a great time to ride and a fine cure for the Fever.

For me, though, day rides are not a complete cure; that only comes with the first long weekend tour of the season.  Truly, this is the only sure cure for the Fever.  I discovered this miracle cure many years ago, and while I sure wish I had patented it, it is free for all to use, if you use it wisely.  I remember one adventurous spring when I had the Fever real bad.  I did the only thing a biker could do—I packed the bike with all the transitional season gear and spent the week getting ready.  Having been on a tight work schedule, I needed some loose time, unfettered by places I had to be.  This had to be one of those trips where I let the front wheel take me where it would, back roads all the way, turning only in directions that looked like fun riding.

After an early start, I was able to cover several hundred miles.  At the end of my first day in the saddle, I was tired but refreshed.  I selected a roadside chain motel with a restaurant across the parking lot, and after a hearty meal I settled in for a great night’s sleep.  I awoke the next morning ready and roaring to ride.  As I drew back the curtain to check on the bike—a morning road ritual—I found to my surprise and horror that the whole world was white!  There were several feet of snow on everything, including my bike.  Old Man Winter had surely been lurking in wait for me.  I spent the next two days right there, waiting for the local roads to clear so I could head home.  Seems I had overlooked one thing about the spring season: don’t wander into snow country without a weather radio.  Less than a hundred miles in another direction and I would have awoken to a pretty spring morning.  Well, lesson learned.  But snow aside; I did cure the Fever!

Machine Gun Pie

When you bike into this pie, You’ll hear the rat tat tat of machine gun fire, which sounds just like a straight-piped Hog racing up an alley.  It is a favorite of mine when I want something Italian but not pasta.  This recipe is a variation on a classic ratatouille baked into a pie that will make veggie lover’s pizzas look anemic.

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes

1/2 cup boiling water

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 medium-size onion, cut into matchsticks

4 canned chipotle peppers packed in adobo sauce, minced

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1 medium-size eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 medium-size zucchini, trimmed, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1-inch slices

3 cups small brown mushrooms, cut in half

1 medium-size yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch squares

One 29-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, quartered, with their juice

2 tablespoons dried parsley

2 tablespoons dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 box piecrust mix, prepared for two 9-inch deep-dish pies

4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

  1. Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a small heatproof bowl and cover with the boiling water.  Allow to cool to room temperature. Remove the tomatoes from the water, reserving the liquid.  Coarsely chop the tomatoes and return to the liquid.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat.  Add the onion and chipotles, stir well to coat with oil, and cook, stirring, until the onions begin to brown, 5 to 7 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic, eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, and bell pepper, and cook, stirring a few times, until the vegetables are just tender, 5 to 7 minutes.  Raise the heat to high, add the sun-dried tomatoes with their liquid, the peeled tomatoes, parsley, basil, oregano, salt, and black pepper, and cook, stirring a few times, until the sauce just thickens, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Divide the filling between the two piecrusts.  Cover the top of each evenly with the mozzarella.  Bake until the cheese and crusts are golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Makes two 9-inch pies

Column copyright Bill Hufnagle 2020.  Recipe reprinted with permission from “BIKER BILLY’S HOG WILD ON A HARLEY COOKBOOK”, published by Harvard Common Press, Boston copyright Bill Hufnagle 2003.


Bill Hufnagle
Biker Billy

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

The Whispering Wind

Finding your Zen as a motorcycle rider is an option we all have.   Being closer to God while riding is something some people say that makes riding worthwhile. To be with the wind, the road and the Great Spirit is everything.  Having religion along is like the old sayings, God is in the fox hole too, and God is my copilot.  To others God has nothing to do with it. When all the different biker believers arrive at the same tavern the differences can be rightfully engaged.

The outwardly show of inner beliefs can set groups apart and can bring together ideas that might be new to other riders. Colors can show where you are from and what interests are in the mix. Wearing your colors whether it’s for the women riders of the mid Atlantic or the HOG group from Beirut can be great for starting up a conversation. Where is Beirut? Is that in Pennsyltucky where the bologna comes from?  Virginia Beach bike days colors can lead right into a conversation about Daytona and other cycle gatherings.  Have you been to Sturgis near the black hills of North Dakota, etc.?   Wearing distinctive wear that keeps you in line with the association, might set you apart from the group not wearing colors and this is always open for discussion.  Those without colors are incognito spies.

I read a story about the Harley Owners Group of Beirut and their trip to a nearby border and when looking across they were fired upon by some soldiers on the other side and then a UN tank drove in between the group’s to keep the peace.  The mods and the rockers had their differences too. The sharks and jets found their way.  Colors can at times can be great and other times not so great.   Tolerance is a wonderful experience as the most recent Super Bowl fans can appreciate.  We all choose what we are going to do with our colors.

Riding a similar motorcycle can put riders into religious classes too. The dirt bikers “religious” group as well as the Virago group or the Ducati bunch all have their religion.  Everybody carries some kind of belief that they will not be run over by a bear or something larger along the way.  It doesn’t always happen that way and I know, I say my Hail Mary’s often when I ride.   Thoughts and prayers are only so good in heavy traffic.

Our Privilege, responsibility and rights give everybody the option to ride and wear their hearts on their sleeve to share their love of faith.  Ducati, Sikh, Christian, Hebrew, Muslim, or dirt bike riders, and even the one per centers are always searching for something.  Obedience to Religious ideals and rider cycle appreciation can be indexed or we can be isolationists.  Linked to life satisfaction, tolerance of differences can make rides smoother. A California friend who is now a retired rider put it this way. “I’m the Ducati Zen woman substituting meditation for a bike.” Finding the right lean makes riding with the wind easier.

Greenspan and Human Nature

Alan Greenspan, former Chair of the Federal Reserve of the United States, made an interesting comment, in negative but realistic terms, regarding human nature while talking with the BBC. “It’s human nature, unless somebody can find a way to change human nature, we will have more crises and none of them will look like this because no two crises have anything in common, except human nature,”

His comments were focused in the financial realm, of course, but we know that they apply to virtually every aspect of our lives.

One of those qualities of human nature that concerned Greenspan, that tendency to assume that all will continue to be well if it’s been well in the past, applies even to riding.  Just because the last one hundred miles have been a beautiful ride doesn’t mean a deer isn’t waiting for you around the next turn.  Deer are beautiful creatures to me but not in the middle of the road.  So, we remain alert and watchful – we hope.  If we remain complacent based on the past (as our base human nature would have us do), we may fail to react to a problem if and when we have the opportunity to do so.

I’m sure you know where I’m going with this.  It doesn’t take a famous economist to tell us that human nature creates problems and crises.  Locksmiths, policemen, and lawyers can do that.  You and I can do that.  Personally, I’ve made a good living as a security professional thanks to some of the negative aspects of human nature.

Even in hard times, contending with human nature has been, for me, a growth industry in the security related sector.  However, Jesus Christ will put security professionals all out of business eventually.  Jesus does offer the change to our human nature as sought by Alan Greenspan, but Jesus lets us choose that change instead of having it forced upon us.

We can choose to succumb to our human nature with all the associated problems it will bring both now and in eternity, or we can let Jesus be Lord of our life, overcome those problems as we experience them, and find an eternal peace.