Check To Check In The Endurance National Championship

By Old Jack Piner, Photography by Unknown

They rolled in, the faithful, the hopeful, in singles, doubles and in droves from all corners of the country. Washington, Toronto, New Orleans, Calgary, New York City, Cleveland, Milwaukee and points between. By Friday activities were in full swing-tuning motors, changing gearing, checking equipment and spares-yea, you guessed it, the 1935 National Jack Pine was on. Part of the thrill of this contest is the excitement in preparing for it. It is the show-off of what progress the alley engineers have made and a style show of what first-class Jack Pine equipment will wear this season. A new timer that guarantees a 1000 point return, foot boards that laugh at rocks and stumps, hand-guards that brush away the brush, sidecars with rear entrance for a quick exit and gumbo guards are almost standard on all outfits. You would be surprised how this has developed in the last few years and just goes to show the keen interest that many of the boys have taken in this run. Riders kept coming in right up to starting time. It does our old heart good to see the old faces show up again each year, and then to see the new blood coming in too for their first taste of Jack Pine. It really makes us feel our efforts are worth while.

Everybody signed up and ready for the drawing for position by 10 o’clock Saturday night. No trading of numbers this year-you ride the number you draw-and like it. “A” riders take even and “B” take odd. You give a cheer if you draw low and a sigh if you pull a high one, but what’s the difference ? Only some of the boys like to gang-up. Anyway, high numbers can sleep longer in the morning. We all get our route cards, machine numbers, maps and the souvenir cow-bell and then hit the hay for a few hours’ sleep. What a break the “A” riders get this year! The “B’s” must check out a n hour earlier-first man 5:30. Slower schedule, you know, the first half day so that at the noon control we all check in rotation and are on equal terms from then on. Good idea, as it brings everybody in at the night control in order.

All out bright and early Sunday morning and it looks like a swell day and we like this, remembering the rain from last year. Hopes run high and all are anxious to be on their way. All the “B’s” are gone now and Ted Konecny of Saginaw, the first of the “A’s” is up there ready to check out and start trailing the “B” gang. Our lady entries, we have two this year, are given a big hand as they roll up to the starting line. Katherine Terry is up from Ottawa, Ill., for her first try and Dorothy Robinson of Saginaw was up last year and is considered an old-timer. She has to ride “A” this year. Where are all these male “cream-puffs” that are always crying about the Jack Pine being too tough? Right now we are even considering a ladies’ class for next year and will try and arrange to have the girls let you softies enter their class.

Who is this old duffer struggling with a side-hack coming up to the start? Certainly he is not going to ride the run. Well, he has a number anyway and is lining up. Say- let’s do this old buzzard a favor and tell him what it’s all about. But wait, where have I seen that old map before? Why, it’s “Hap” Jameson! Yea, “Hap” himself! He snuck in during the night, wearing a disguise and now after riding a swivel chair for 20 years he goes childish and wants to ride the “Jack Pine” again! Yes, I said “again.” You know “Hap” rode the first run ever held in Michigan that really started these Jack Pines. That was away back in 1914 and he says the trail was twenty times worse then, and on that first run, only one man got back, and it wasn’t “Hap.” He claims some of these early Jack Piners never did get out of the woods and their ghosts still roam the brush and sand plains up there and ride down many a would-be champion to defeat. And will they be laying for “Hap” this trip! I don’t expect to see him again. Anyway he has about the last number so he won’t get in anybody’s way so we will let him have his fun. Who is this tall, good looking passenger trying to fold himself into the sidecar? “Hap” says, “Meet the Brazil Nut, Bill Laming, from Brazil, South America.” I guess this must be some kind of a record for long distance entries. They made a good pair and had the time of their lives.

We slide out of town, with someone to direct us at all the turns so there is no chance to get lost and once out on the highway the markers are picked up and then it is easy to follow the route. We pick up gravel road a few miles out and then, right around a well-hidden corner, just 10 miles out, comes the first secret. We have never had a secret so soon, before. But we all feel better the ice is broken and we get down to business. Down through Ashley and North Bradley and nothing much happens.

We are getting up in the Jack Pine country now and can expect most anything and sure enough here it is-a thickly wooded swamp section, twisting brush-covered trail, full of holes and almost closed in with brush. No chance to make your schedule and more time lost when you’re down. Sidecar ahead and no chance to go around. Another solo pulls up and soon half a dozen are following. A break in the trail and sidehack lets us go by and now there is a scramble to make up time. Fine chance! We are coming into a clearing again and another secret check and not one rider on time. Well, this is no picnic! What do you expect? Now out on a long stretch of deep sand but it is straight and we are all taking chances trying to make up time. There goes Ray Wanless in a loop and doing about fifty. He hit a washout. Front end out of line, but shakes the sand out of his ears and is on his way again. Noon check, Gladwin, next, and we eat and rest for an hour. Some late here but can start out on time again.

Refueled, man and motor, checked out and on the trail again. Winding sand trail and hills into Alger, the next known check. Now some fair country road and then back into the trail again. Sand and more sand! Then a red and white flag around a bend and another one of those so-and-so secret checkers. A lot of good scores took another tumble here and also at the next known check, Hale, which was hard to make on time. Now into the night control and, wait-not so fast-what’s that bunch of machines up ahead? Probably a bad spill! Hell no, just another secret! That’s all they can give us in one day so we turn it on and make it into Van Ettan Lake, the night control, with a few minutes to spare.

What a relief to pile off and park the bike for the night! But it was not quite as easy as that. We must adjust chains, tighten and replace a nut or two and see that the old iron is in the best possible shape for the take-off again next morning. That done let’s look around a bit at this new night control. A swell big lake side lodge and we sleep and eat all under the same roof! It has turned chilly and the heat feels good. There is a nice big lobby with easy chairs and everybody hanging around in groups chewing the fat about what happened to them out on the trail, waiting for the call to eat and here it comes. A dive and rush for the dining room! The food was good but they will have to learn how to feed a bunch of hungry riders that have been out all day fighting sand trails, on and off a bucking gas buggy. A few short talks and the presentation of the “Chambermaid’s Trophy” to “Hap” Jameson and his passenger, Bill Laming. This is given each year to the rider coming the farthest from doing what he was supposed to do and they won without a struggle. “Hap” gave some highlights on his former Jack Pine experience and had them all feeling fine before sending them to bed. And did they hit the hay! The hotel was filled right up even to the floor in the lobby and ten minutes was all that was necessary and it was as quiet as a hospital. What a spectacle-a hundred motorcycle riders in the same hotel and sleeping-believe it or not!

First man out at six a.m., and on the way back. Only dropped nine riders at the end of the first day, so a good gang checks out for the second day. A little cool the first thing out but another swell day! What a thrill to ride these winding trails through this Jack Pine country in the early morning! It is almost worth the aches and pains you will feel for days after the run. We are right up in the woods, so we have no good roads to limber- up on. Soon get the hang of it again and are all set. We come busting out of the woods, and into a check, but it’s only an emergency check so that’s not so bad. South Branch O.K. and right back into the trail again. A lot of bad sand trail and then a marker that says (left), but there’s not even a trail here. It must be right-we see tracks and the brush is beat down. A right marker now and we see what it is all about. A firebreak or lane-just plowed ground up and down hill to keep forest fires from spreading. It was a mess-solos and sidecars all over the place-pushing, shoving, helping each other but getting no place. Right here is where you heard the customary, “What do they expect us to ride?”-”Man killer!” “Never again will they get me on a run like this.” They finally get through and it is soon all forgotten. A secret after this, as we all expected, and a lot of scores are beginning to look really bad, but you got to knock them down somehow. On into West Branch and then the long jump of 51 miles into Harrison.

This is beginning to feel like a long morning but Clare, the noon control, is next and road ahead looks pretty good. We are rolling along on good going and over a hill pops a secret. Why put a check here? But it served its purpose and cut down some more scores. Into Clare and an hour to eat but no rest. Too much checking-up to do on the bike and this comes first. Here comes Dorothy Robinson and she is late, but worse than that the sidecar tire is gone and she has driven in 20 miles on the rim and now the wheel is ready to fold-up. Too darned bad! She brought her outfit all through all the bad stuff and had a good score and now she is forced out. Time to check out again and the schedule is now stepped up to 30 m.p.h. Plenty of tough going to make your schedule and many didn’t make it either. Remus, Crystal and Pewamo pass in order and now only the home check left. This should be easy now but another secret on good going and then Lansing. A great crowd is on hand in front of the Capitol and everybody seems glad to see the riders back. Everybody wants to know how you came out, who won, but we will have to wait for that.

E.C. Smith was on hand at the finish and he and his board of strategy go into hiding with the control checking sheets and it is the wee small hours of the morning when we get the results. Some are surprised and others disappointed, but all agree to be back next year and try again. “Anyway, we had a swell time,” is the general comment and I am telling you we did.

We were glad to have a good entry from Cleveland this year for the first time and “Simmy” himself came down to see his charges do their stuff. He also has a bet to pay off. Jim Willson took back the Jack Pine Jug.

Washington, D.C., also came down for the first time and did not go back empty-handed either. Red Paulsen did a swell job of riding and won Class “B” solo, and only one point behind the champion.

Katherine Terry, the young lady from Ottawa, Ill., deserves a lot of credit for leaving the run to take an injured rider into town.

Bruce Walters club team, from Peoria, Ill., had to do some fancy riding to capture the club team prize.

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By Old Jack Piner
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