The Story Behind the Photo | Hully Gully 1983

By Billy Rainford

As I was looking for some photos for Throwback Thursday this afternoon, I stumbled onto this one from Hully Gully in Ontario from way back in 1983. Yes, 1983.

I haven’t pestered any riders for one of these articles lately, so I figured I’d take the reins on this one, as Jeff and I prepare to head south on the I-75 for a couple rounds of Supercross — Atlanta and Daytona.

So, with out further ado (unless you want more ado?) let’s dissect what exactly was going on here…

Oh, man, where do I start with this one?!

As you can see by the lack of leaves on the trees, this was early springtime. No, there were no leaves yet on the branches, but I recall it was a really hot and humid day for April.

The track? Hully Gully in Varna, Ontario.

The year? 1983.

The class? 80B. Or, as my jacket from that year proudly displayed on its sleeve, “Schoolboy BOB.”

Hully Gully was notoriously horrible on rainy days — it wasn’t great on good days!. The clay became the sort of consistency that clung to everything and added a hundred pounds of it to you and your bike. It was absolutely brutal. But, guess what? We still headed over to the start line with smiles on our faces (I think it was uphill both ways).

It was a 2-gate-drop situation: 80A and 80B. We were the 2nd gate drop and off we went into the abyss of roost and frying clutch plates.

Don’t forget, this was the age of the 2-stroke so we were revving the absolute snot out of these things and hoping the bikes would make it to the end.

As the 20+2 moto progressed, it became very unclear what was going on or what position I was in. I was passing people and being passed without a clue as to what that meant in the overall standings of the class. It was hot, sweaty, muddy chaos.

As time wore on, I became fatigued and way too hot. Take a look at what I’m wearing. My parents thought it was a good idea to try and keep my gear clean and so I went the extra mile and covered up.

I’m wearing those old yellow rain pants that, yes, are 100% waterproof, but in no way allow any sweat or moisture to escape from the inside. Not only that, when they got covered in this type of mud, they had a tendency to get caught in moving parts on the bike. EVery moving part on the bike. Take a look, they’re all ripped and hanging off my legs.

Up top, I’m wearing a clear plastic jacket that breathes equally as poorly as the yellow pants on the bottom. It was a 30-degree Celsius day and I was slowly going into heat exhaustion.

I remember just struggling to make it lap after lap until I’d finally had enough. I was literally going to drop dead from the heat. I didn’t know what else to do so I stopped in the whoops down by the pond and gathered my thoughts.

I first took off my gloves, threw them to the side and took off my helmet. I hung it on the bars and unzipped my jacket. The goggles were already draped on over the clutch side.

I sat there for a few minutes until I decided I wasn’t going to drop dead, after all. I placed my helmet back over my head and spun off through the rest of the whoops and up the off-camber.

I think we’ve all been here. It is practically impossible to hold on to the grips in the hot, wet mud with no gloves on. I could barely get the bike moving.

On I went, through the S turn, over the roller, up and around the apple tree, over the double jump (without a wheel leaving the ground), out into the brutal “west end,” back under the tower and slowly over the finish line and the checkered flag. Done!

I rolled back to the pits where my buddy stood with both hands out as if to ask, “What the hell??!!”

I leaned the bike against the trailer and crashed in a lawn chair. My buddy was still upset when he asked what I thought I was doing stopping in the whoops for a break while leading a race???!!!

Leading? I was leading? Who knew…

We cleaned the bike up with one of those cans of water you pump to use and got ready for the second moto. Nope, it wasn’t canceled.

That moto, I also stopped in the whoops section. However, this time it was because I seized my bike. You want to talk about a pretty bad day at the races? That was one.

It’s funny how, after all these years, I can still remember the moment of introspection in the infamous Hully Gully whoops. If it had just been another “smooth” day, there’s no way I’d be here telling you this story about it. It’s only after a sufficient amount of time has passed that we’re able to look back fondly at what then was a bad day.

If anyone else out there rode there back then, I bet you can tell a very similar story to this.

Thanks for reading and remember to enjoy the bad days like the good days. They’ll become distant and fond memories one day, trust me.