The Trail Of The Jack Pines

Muehlenbeck Wins Second National Endurance Title

By Eldon Ronnins, Photography by Unknown

From the August 1939 issue of Motorcyclist Magazine

The accompanying yarn gives an outsider’s impression of the Jack Pines run. Eldon Robbins is assistant editor of the Michigan Educational Journal. He arranged to ride over parts of the course as a sidecar passenger with Oscar Lenz who has several times been the winner of the famous run. In giving this account of the run Mr. Robbins not only indicates its interest to a layman but at the same time indicates how tough it was for the actual contestants.-Ed.

Among all events which pit men and machines against the barriers of nature, the Jack Pine run is “tops.” You don’t actually have to ride the run yourself to prove this. Just follow it along on side roads, ducking in when you can to watch the boys come through. You’ll see plenty-enough to make you marvel at the stamina of the machines and the pluck and skill of the lads who pilot them.

Did we say “lads”? Pardon us, Mrs. Earl Robinson of Detroit. It should have been “lads and lassy.” For Mrs. Robinson rode the Jack Pine run we followed, and she rode it right well. Good enough to win fifth place in the event in which she competed.

When Mother Nature was sculpturing what are now the cut-over pine lands of Northern Michigan, she must have had her mind on other matters. Or, perhaps she foresaw the Jack Pine run. In any event, she strewed her materials about in a most careless way.

The hills, for instance, are sandy and so steep that no self respecting deer would be caught climbing one. Not, that is, unless some scarlet coated hunter was pouring lead at him from a high powered rifle.

And the bogs and marshes which are in many of the valleys are really something for the books. This is Paul Bunyan country and they say Babe, the big blue ox, made these swamps and pot holes. Every place she plumped down her dainty hoof, they’ll tell you, she left a hole which became a lake which filled up with vegetation and is now a marsh.

But don’t you believe ‘em. It may be Paul Bunyan country, but Babe never made those swamps. Babe never had a hand in anything so ornery as these Northern Michigan swamps. If anyone is to blame for them, it’s the wicked Side-Hill Moodies and they left the long-billed mosquitoes to watch over them.

I’ve a hunch that the shade of Old Paul Bunyan is on hand for every Jack Pine run. It’s the sort of thing he’d revel in. To see those little fellows on their bikes roaring and tearing away at the big hills-and getting over them too, by golly! That’s what would tickle Old Paul.

If they’d had Jack Pine runs when Paul was lumbering off this country, you can bet your bottom dollar that he’d have entered a team of riders. And what’s more, Bunyan’s Bounders or Paul’s Pluggers, or whatever they might have been called. would have given a good account of themselves in the run or they would have answered to The Old Lumberjack.

Oscar Lenz, veteran Jack Pine rider who headed the party that laid out the course of the run, says that Mother Nature was really lavish in making things tough for motorcycle riders in Northern Michigan. He doesn’t say it in exactly that fashion, but you get the general idea.

After breezing along on pavement in Oscar’s sidecar for forty miles with the morning sun warming your back and the cock pheasants crowing and strutting about in the dew laden fields of corn, the first taste of the rougher stuff of the run is somewhat of a shock.

Oscar decided that we would sort of “duck in” to the run for a few minutes to catch some pictures of the boys navigating a trout stream just beyond the drowsy little Michigan town of Six Lakes.

By Eldon Ronnins
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