By Tracey “Gypsy” Kohman
It was no surprise to me that my first trip to a ski resort would have absolutely nothing to do with skiing. Kenny Buongiorno, the man behind Appalachian Moto-Jam and producer of the race we planned to attend, had a contagious excitement; I found myself counting down the days! In the meantime, I had to prepare to be able to stand in the cold for a very long time… time for a winter coat, gloves, hat, boots… make reservations at the hotel…
We drove out the night before and met up with Kenny at Dutch’s Tavern in Rockhill, NY. We were there for a bit before he showed up. The place was small, but very full. It was small-town charm, with a pool table, a dart board, about seven tables where patrons could enjoy a meal, and a band was making their way in to set up. We had a bite to eat and spoke with a couple who were sitting at the bar next to us, who were also here for the event. They were first timers who didn’t know what to expect, but nonetheless were very excited to get started. When Kenny arrived, he said that they had been at the venue preparing all day… Having done this event for the last four years, he pretty much knew what to expect. Approximately ninety riders, twenty classes, some coming from as far away as Ohio. He was hoping that the snow had time to harden; he was talking about how they had to postpone the event because of the “good weather” two weeks before. As it was, they had to make the snow, and freshly made snow needed time to be usable.
The next day when we arrived at the resort, we drove through deep potholes, then slushed through snow and mud to a parking spot. Around us there were riders of all ages, riding bikes, ATV, and dirt bikes, kicking up mud everywhere. I turned to look at the mountain that would be the setting for the hill climb in March, and at that moment it was filled with people skiing. However, when the hill climb takes place, there would be no skiers.
It was time Pat and I made our way up the mountain to the lodge where tables had been organized for registering for the event, choosing a class, buying shirts. Behind the tables was Charlene, known affectionately as “Mama Dukes,” kept everything running smoothly. Kenny tells me she is the one who makes it happen, keeping everything and everyone under control. Without her, Kevin Maloney (Tri-State MC circuit) as well as the rest of his crew, none of this is even possible.
The crowd gathered as Kenny, along with his crew, shuffled all the participants out to the back patio of the lodge to discuss what to expect as well as go over safety. He made sure to let everyone know that the snow was pretty soft, because due to the unusually warm weather, the resort made the snow …all of it …and it wasn’t quite the consistency they wanted. Everyone agreed, they would forgo a practice lap to preserve the snow.
As for the race itself, two riders race at a time. When they reach the finish line, they will move over to a designated spot to wait until they are given the signal to go back to the start line. Eventually they would eliminate all but two riders per class, and then would come the final race in each class.
From the finish line and mid-point, I was able to see a lot of the action, which consisted of a lot of bikes going down and getting stuck in the snow. Several riders whose bikes kept getting stuck would have to pull the bike back to an upright position to try again. It was still soft ; the heavier bikes were at a definite disadvantage. This did nothing to dampen morale and took nothing away from the fun that was happening.
This event is promoted mostly by word of mouth from a small community. It has become a winter tradition in Rock Hill, NY. Rock Hill is a small but busy hamlet at the foothills of the Catskills. It’s a popular vacation spot for not just bikers and skiers, but also for swimming, bicycling, boating and running.
Just about the time they were taking a break between races, we decided to go to our truck to warm up a bit. There was a lot going on around us, people coming and going, bikes lining up, parking lot still filling up; I couldn’t feel my toes anymore! We wanted to hurry up and get to where we could warm up and get back before the next race started.
There was still so much to see just walking back to the truck! Pat and I were talking about the races coming up, how cold it was (26°F), etc., when he stepped in a puddle only to find out it was deeper than the top of his boot! And that was how our day ended; his poor foot was an ice-cube by the time we got back to the truck. I think he won’t be as trusting of those muddy puddles next time!
The next event is the hill climb at Holiday Mountain, a 1,500 foot ski mountain; I have my sights set on it, now just hope those boots dry up!