Minders that Matter

The untold saga of a rider's helper

For the last National of the year, NuTs’ Chief Pilot Cory Pincock decided he would ride the Championship class in order to benchmark what he needed to work on in order to ride competitively in the class next year.  Naturally he required a minder; no Champ rider should be without one.  When Cory called NuTs Corporate Headquarters with his request for a minder, I agreed to do it myself.  How hard could this minder thing be?

So, a few days before the Wyoming National, I grabbed a number plate and created the mandatory yellow plate with a big black “C” on it.  I figured the hard part was over now.

About 400 miles and a night in a Casper motel later, we’re ready to sign me on as Cory’s minder.  I plopped the obligatory check for $10 on the sign up table for one day of mindin’ (we were only going to be there for the Saturday event), and Phred Martinson thanked me (sort of) and asked for my AMA card.  AMA card?  I don’t have no AMA card.  I don’t need no STINKIN’ AMA card!!  Phred politely informed me that I did, indeed, need an AMA card to participate as Cory’s minder.  @#@%!  So I wrote another bad check to the WMTA and scurried off to prepare my self as any bad-A minder would do.

Let’s see.  It’s 9:05 (I synchronize my Timex with the official clock) and we’re not out until 10:40 or so. Plenty of time to sneak around the pits and scope out what the other minders are up to.  The first stop is the “big top” where the Gas Gas folks are hangin’.  Ahh, there’s Ahvala’s minder.  He’s zonked in a lawn chair.  He’s so out of it there’s a little puddle of drool on his snazzy shirt.  No help there.  Slip over to the Aaron pits.  Geoff’s minder has his headphones clamped on and he’s in the middle of a major air concert.  The dude is rockin’.  I watch for a while as he plays several helmets like a mondo drum set, then set sail for the pits of Ryon Bell.  Surely Ryon’s minder will have some serious goings-on.  Serious indeed!  There was some serious bench racing going on.  The whole crew was sitting in the shade sipping iced tea and telling the most incredible stories.  Having a 2nd degree black belt in BS (my lips are registered weapons with the FBI), I was tempted to dazzle them with some of my own true-life stories but instead headed over to where Ray Peters was hanging out.  Not surprisingly it was more of the same; those who weren’t snoozing were flappin’ gums with someone else or catching flies or something.

I chuckled quietly to myself thinking when these losers are pushing their rider’s bikes back to the pits, I’ll have Cory going strong.  Back at our pits, I quickly went to work.  I’ll need some tools, water, extra handlebars zip-tied to my bike, some of these parts, one of those, some Power Bars…

Soon Cory is ready to go out and warm up.  Top off the bikes with fuel, squirt a little chain lube, and check the tires.  Cory takes off and I grab the backpack of supplies, Camelback of water, and everything else I figured was necessary and hop on my bike to follow.  Thirty feet out of the pits I realize the suspension of the bike I’m riding is completely bottomed and my legs are starting to shake from standing up with this load I have on my back.  So I dismounted and started to empty the pack.  Out comes the 8 lb sledge hammer (I really hope I won’t need that), the bike stand, 3 cans of gear oil, a bucket of the Colonel’s Finger Lickin’ Chicken, a blanket, a 6 drawer tool chest, and a host of other essentials.  Now for the bike.  Off comes the spare fenders, the new chain and sprockets, the extra spokes, and the replacement 3rd gear.  The spare tires I had duct taped to my bike’s tires just weren’t working out either, so they came off too.  Dang.

So with my lightened load, Team NuTs heads out for section one.  But before we go, I grab 2 drumsticks and a wing from the Colonel and shove ‘em in my boot.  At section 1 I hop off the scooter and walk the section with Cory.  Piece of cake.  I shouldn’t have even got off the bike for this one.  Cory had the section 1 jitters and popped off a 2 or a 3; I can’t remember because I was busy playing with that one-blue-eyed-one-brown-eyed Siberian Husky that was hangin’ out there.  He kept sniffing my boots for some reason.  Off to section 2.

We pull up to section 2 and Aye Crumba!  Look at that 6 foot wall he’s gotta go up.  We studied  the section and I gave Cory all the necessary pointers (I had my diploma from Tommi Avahla’s College of Trials and therefore considered myself and expert in the field).  That done, I retired to my bike, pulled a drumstick out of my boot, capped off a 20oz. Mt. Dew, and prepared to enjoy Cory’s ride.  Just before Cory was going to ride, Tommi’s minder told me it would probably be a good idea to spot him on the big wall.  Okay.  So I polished off the drumstick, handed the bone to the Husky, and mounted the wall.  As I expected, Cory negotiate the wall with a minimum of trouble.  Good thing, too, ‘cause with all that Finger Lickin’ grease on my hands if I’d have had to grab that bike it would have squirted out of my hands like a wet bar of soap.

After about 3 or 4 more sections of that kind of abuse I was ready for a break.  As I was sitting there wolfing down Power Bars, fruit, water, and more Mt. Dew, wishing I was on a beach somewhere, Ryon’s minder sidled up to me and informed me that the supplies he carried were for his rider.  Hmm.  So that was what Cory wanted every time he called me over.  I thought he was just looking for inspiration so I’d just wave and yell “You da man, Holmes! Kick this section’s butt!”.

Three quarters of the way through the first loop I’m ready to pass out.  I’d been running to the top of this rock, jumping off that one, fetching water, checking tire pressures, unwrapping Power Bars, and packing a load of crap with me that made me feel like I had a 747 strapped on my back.  And somewhere along the loop something had hit my watch and stopped the countdown timer I had so carefully set.  I had no stinkin’ idea how much time we’d burned off.

At the end of the first loop I ditched the backpack and pried that infernal set of spare handlebars off my bike with a tire iron.  Mike and Kara (our crack pit-crew) offered me sustenance, but I waved them off and headed for the creek.  I would have drowned there that day had Cory not come by later and dragged me by my feet to my bike.  He said something about “2 more loops”.  After a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth Cory got me on the bike and we headed out.  I headed straight to section 2 while he rode section 1.

At section 2 Cory spotted me while I crawled to the top of the 6 ft wall, which had magically grown to 8 ft.  Fortunately for Cory, he was starting to loosen up a little and had no problems with the really big stuff.  Midway through the second loop I decided I’d had enough and looked for a trail back to the pits.  The loop passed through a large meadow and I could see the pits, so I bolted.  I would have made it too, except Cory was riding behind me for some reason.  He must’ve sensed dissention and before I made 10 meters toward the pits he was on me.  Now I know what it’s like to be on the wrong end of a steer-wrestling contest.  By the time we hit section 15 on loop 2, I was a waste product.  I could barely lift my leg to get up on those cement spools.  Good thing the section officials made minders wear helmets while spotting riders on top of that big cement block – I passed out 3 times getting up there and probably would have split my melon wide open were it not for the helmet.

Luckily our pits were adjacent to section 15, and our pit crew was able to drag me to the EZ-up, revive me, gas up the bikes, and send us off for loop 3.  Loop 3 was pretty much a blur.  I remember whining like a kid being forced to take a bath, and somewhere around section 4 or 5 Geoff Aaron’s minder was wiping the tears from my face with a hanky.  That was all I could remember until we arrived at section 15 for the last time.  When I came to, I was draped like a saddlebag over the gas tank of Cory’s Montesa.  As we pulled to a stop, he grabbed my collar and whipped be off the bike.  He threw me into a fireman’s carry and hauled me to the top of the cement block and poured me there.

I recall yelling a dutiful “You go, boy!” before blacking out from exhaustion for the final time that day.  Lying on my back on top of that big cement block, I raised a weary fist in triumph.