Story and photos Karel Kramer
Randy Hawkins grew up in a small town in South Carolina called Travelers Rest. Even without his multiple national enduro championships, Hawkins would be well-known in the area thanks to his successful family and their various enterprises and industries. He can’t go anywhere in town without being greeted by name. The up-side of regional fame for a dirt rider is that you know folks with enough really gnarly land to make great trail loops. And you have friends with houses where you can park, leave all your stuff and ride right to trails. Oh, and you can play on the MX track if you want.
In South Carolina the mountainous areas can be extremely steep and rugged. In fact, if there aren’t houses or farms/ranches on land, it means the terrain is vomit-while-you-hike steep. In fact, dirt alone wouldn’t stand as vertical as this terrain is. But, luckily for dirt riders who love challenging trails, SC mountains have a supporting skeleton of slippery rocks and a helpful web of roots to hold the soil. Both the roots and the rocks are mere inches below the surface of the virgin dirt, but they litter the surface of the existing trails. Did I mention the rain all week?
I enjoy the challenge of woods trail riding, even though I couldn’t possibly feel more like a fish out of water than I do in the slippery woods. Actually, I have been on these trails once before for the Yamaha WR250F introduction. But that ride was loaded with regular guys and sprinkled with heroes. On this ride regular guys were limited to me. Everybody else was young, fit and unnaturally fast. Great, instead of being the slow guy on the ride, I’ll be the glacially sloooowwww guy.
The riding was great, the young guys were amazing to ride with and to watch. See, the kids may be pro off-road racers, but when they are play riding, the search is for cool trails and big jumps. Thad Duvall is a mad leaper, and he finds a natural tabletop – a fifth-gear leap on a YZ450! Watching the jumps and the impromptu contests on hills, trails and cliff climbs was a ball, and the area was completely, insanely gorgeous – even the parts that were trying to abuse me.
Once the fun part was over, it was time for Am-Pro and company to get back to work. By the time we got back to the farm, Barry hawk was back from PA, and hooking his trailer to his motorhome. Thad Duvall was readying his gear and prepping for Sunday’s race. Hawkin’s long-time racing sidekick Dale Stegal was already at the Big Buck setting up the team rig. Jason Raines was already on the road to Louisiana for the rescheduled national enduro, and the Rekluse rig was heading down the same highway. By dinner time the farm was back to just the Hawkins family, and Randy was already switching gears mentally. Tomorrow he’ll be racing his car at a local Nascar track. The next morning he’ll be back to the team manager hat.