On the weekend of April 5 – 6, 2014 Stumpjumpers Motorcycle Club will host the 44th annual Desert 100 race and dual sport weekend event in Odessa, Washington. With the new event title of “Kenda Stumpjumpers Desert 100” one can be assured the race will be more exciting than ever!
With a LeMans style start stretching as far as half mile long with bikes lined up handle bar to handle bar. 1000 plus racers run to their bikes with the sound of the cannon all vying for the top position through the 20’ wide course entrance almost a mile away across the most rugged unforgiving terrain any desert can put out, and that’s just the start! With a racing heritage almost as long as the Baja 1000 this event attracts both local and national pros such as Ricky Russell, David Kamo, and Bobby Prochnau.
Kenda Tire’s Gus Niewenhous: “Racing with the top Pro’s will always be part of what drives Kenda, but supporting the grass roots events that people look forward to all year long is a major priority as well because those events support the whole industry. The family-oriented culture of the D100 is something special and we want to encourage the passion that draws these folks to come participate year after year as a continuing tradition with their friends and family”.
Over the race weekend the Stumpjumpers Motorcycle Club and volunteers put on a family poker run, ironman poker run, dual sport ride, a kids race for racers 12 and under and of course the 100 mile desert race. Out of the 5,500 attendees, almost 4,000 of them participate in a motorcycle event over the weekend. The race is held on a 10,000 plus acre cattle ranch and includes every kind of terrain and obstacle a racer could encounter. Participants come from all over the country every year to prove something; some to win, some to beat their buddy, and others to finish. This race is all about bragging rights!
Last year we were fortunate enough to be invited out the Desert 100. I really thought I knew what to expect, but as we made our way through the winding farm roads to Odessa, Washington….I knew that we were in for a new and incredible adventure. Here is our story – Chris Nazarenus and Andy DeVol.
We made the turns and more turns through the farmland of Eastern Washington, to find more and more farmland. When we finally arrived at the main town nearest the race action, we were greeted by one stop sign, a local ice cream shop and one other diner. No stop light, no large convenience stores – just a quaint little town on the edge of farm lands. We had arrived in Odessa, Washington. One motel, La Collage, which is known by the locals as “Ed’s place”. The town of Odessa has only two events each year, the Desert 100 and the Deutschesfest. The locals rely on these two influxes of “city folk” to infuse new money into the economy and make new fans of the area.
It was honestly a very interesting step back in time where cell phones and internet service was fleeting at best. I think I was able to log on one time the entire weekend…for a total of about 1 minute. Needless to say, I was out of my comfort zone and tried to focus on an experience that would well, make me realize why My Life at Speed exists in the first place. The Desert 100 is EXACTLY what Greg Tracy envisioned when we discussed what our site would be. It was not about who won, but the characters of why we do what we do….just for that time after the race to say, “that was one hell of a good time.”
Our Initial Reaction
We drove the 8 miles from our sleepy little metropolis of Odessa, WA, to crest a hill and find a sea of RV’s, tents, motorcycles and families who had come from all over the country to partake in a weekend of dust, family and adventure – Desert 100 style.
If you were to try to put into words what exactly “Desert 100 style” would be, well I would tell you that it was the most friendly group of folks I have encountered in quite some time. Families had camped out, kids were playing, the family dog was guarding the campgrounds or more likely, clamouring for the hot dog that had fallen from one of the kiddos buns and it was clear that the Desert 100 was about friends who meet once a year comparing notes on how to be faster this year and telling tall tales from years past.
Although the Desert 100 is a race…and a race that attracts some of the best racers in the country, it became very clear that the Desert 100 is a family tradition focused more on the friendships and bonds made by an annual track to get to the desert, than the racing itself. Of course there are egos involved 🙂 and winning clearly is important…but bragging rights might have a step up on the award. We were hooked. We were now part of “the family”.
I honestly was taken back by the sheer number of motorcycles, RV’s and people that filled the farmlands. When we started to set up our vendor tents for Dumonde Tech, ASV and My Life at Speed, I had to kick the cow patties out of the way to get set up. Everywhere you looked were tents, dust, motorcycles and people.
Of course, in Desert 100 fashion, exploration quickly led us to the beer garden and hunger led us to the food court – which led to the BEST curley fries, perfectly paired with a beer from Odessa local brewery, Rocky Coulee Brewing Company. Even the way the fries were prepared was awesome!! Here is the little girl with a HUGE drill equipped with a specialty bit made to make, you guessed it – curley fries. The foodie in me was happy and my thirst quenched. Ahhh…life doesn’t get much better!!
Since it was Friday and there was a Poker Run on Saturday but no real racing until Sunday, I was trying to figure out everything that I was seeing. So, we sold some stuff, talked to a bunch of people and just enjoyed the event. I knew that each day would prove to be better than the one before, as we got closer to the racing action on Sunday.
The way the Desert 100 is set up, is that Saturday is an easy day where kids, riders…any rider who just want to have fun can partake in a Poker Run. A poker run is defined as: an organized event where participants, usually using motorcycles, must visit five to seven checkpoints, drawing a playing card at each one. The object is to have the best poker hand at the end of the run. The event has a time limit, however the participants are not timed—winning is purely a matter of chance.
The Desert 100 poker run is exactly as defined. Riders can either try to beat their own best times as they gather their cards at the checkpoints or simply run the course at their own pace. The terrain is difficult, but not impossible to navigate for even a younger or newer rider. What became very clear is that everyone was having a blast and when they returned the beer flowed, the stories flowed and a good time was had by all.
In fact, we were told that the Desert 100 poker run has more riders than the race which would happen on Sunday (the next day). The poker runs were a way for all to compete but not be in the crazy mayhem of the main event. Again, family, fun focused events are the culture of the Desert 100. Awesome to see!!
Sunday – Race Day
Okay race fans, I can say that with all the preparation and conversations about what I heard about the LeMans style start of the 40 year old Desert 100, I honestly could not prepare for what I would witness. The dust of days earlier had turned into slick mud after rain had hit the farmlands or “race course” late on Saturday through Sunday. Now, thousands of motorcycles were heading down two dirt roads which would converge into one…and they were muddy and slick.
The riders would calmly (yeah right) head about two miles out into the desert….and wait. Wait for the coveted “BOOM” of the canon which would signal the official start of the race.
As a newbie, I asked if you would be able to hear the “BOOM” of the canon here in the vendor village as we waited for the riders to race back towards us. A resounding, “yes” you will have no question that the canon has been fired and the start of the race is on. They were right – it was LOUD!
Here is a video of riders heading down the road to the start of the race. Yes, I know that the video keeps going…and going…and going….just as the riders did as they passed me to get to the start. Crazy!
The crowd lined up against a makeshift barrier out of the race line but close enough to witness the action as the riders raced back towards us. Up at the top of the hill behind the vendor area there is a cattle gate maybe 12 feet wide. From the start area, riders had to race back to us and pass through the coveted gate. We patiently waited for the BOOM of the canon that would signal the start.
Far-off, out “there” in the desert landscape of Western Washington, you could see little specs of color as the motorcycle racers prepared for the start. It truly was a LeMans start. Motorcycles were parked and riders had to go to another hill and once they heard the canon fire they would run, jump on and start their motorcycles.
As in any race, the “hole shot” was important but the terrain could quickly come back to “bite you” and many of the riders who had a great start, were quickly in a heap as they raced back towards the vendor village area. Even the couple of miles back to the cattle gate we saw riders tumble and launch and completely crash as they navigated rocks, gullies and other riders for position.
The racers would ride 100 miles of muddy, rocky, slick terrain just to finish. There is no big awards or cash prizes. They riders race just mere bragging rights. This is the Desert 100!!
As I waited for the start, I took a picture of these two sisters and their father was them with his arm in a sling, bandaged from shoulder to waist. I asked him what happened.
He said, “well I have always raced in the main event, but took my girls on the poker run yesterday. I did a stupid maneuver, tipped over at low speed and broke my collar bone.” His girls continued to tell me what a great time they had as they grinned from ear to ear. They told me they come every year to race the poker run with their dad. The girls ran off giggling as they waited for the start, of course with motorcycle helmets on, as a statement to everyone that they are racers too.
He had to chime in, “yah, it was great time but I don’t dare go back and say that I broke my collar bone in the poker run as my buddies will call me a pu$$y” he said with a big smile!
I think that statement almost sums up my entire weekend – definitely a family affair, a time to see friends year after year and most definitely – a racing event not for pu$$ies.
The Desert 100 is a tradition that is now part of our annual My Life at Speed coverage. Although virgins in the desert, we are fast learners. Especially with the help of Stumpjumpers Motorcycle Club! Thank you so much for the adventure!
Here are a few of our favorite shots of the start, followed by some of favorites of the racers on race day. Enjoy!
Special thanks to:
Jason Kaber, who is one of the nicest people and best vendor organizers you could ever meet. I look forward to working with Jason on many more events in the future. Stumpjumpers and The Desert 100 is really lucky to have someone as dedicated, awesome to the vendors as Jason. He is the best!
But I know that although Jason was the one I worked with, there are many, many volunteers who work year-round to get ready for such a big event. To Michael Decker, Pete Wisner and all prevision race chairman for the sacrifice and commitment they put into this race to make it what it is today. The Chairman position is fueled only by passion and love for the sport. Thank you!
“Whitey” and his wonderful daughter Nicole who we spent an evening telling stories and just hanging out. Whitey, you are so fun and such a great dad. Terrific to see a father so invested in his daughter’s future. She is a special one – so smart! I feel grateful for the time we all spent together. Thank you!
About the Stumpjumpers Motorcycle Club. Based in Lynnwood, Washington, the SJMC has provided family events for the off-road motorcycle community since 1967 and has hosted the Desert 100 for 44 years. The Desert 100 event is held in Odessa, Washington with over 5,000 attendees and 3,500 riders.
About Kenda Tire: Since 1962, Kenda has operated under the core values of Honesty, Innovation, Quality, and Customer Service. Today, Kenda is one of the world’s leading tire manufactures for automotive, motorcycle, ATV, bicycle, wheel chair, golf car, lawn care equipment, trailer, skid loader and agricultural vehicles. With factories all over the world, Kenda is able to provide quality products to suit a wide variety of applications. For more information, please visit kendatire.com
Even more interesting, since the racers were so far out, is that you could see the big puff of smoke shoot into the air before you heard the boom. Wild!