Jumps that Scared Us | The Apple Tree Double
By Billy Rainford
As I sit here in the DMX World HQ office chair after shovelling some of the heaviest snow of the season, I began looking through a few more old photos from the family album and stumbled onto a few shots that brought something back to me like a recurring nightmare – “The Apple Tree Double Jump” at Hully Gully.
I may not even have another instalment in this so-called series of articles, but I thought I’d at least have a look back at this jump that seemed to cause so much stir back in the day.
If you raced motocross in Southwestern Ontario back in the 1980’s you, undoubtedly raced at Hully Gully a bunch of times. If you fall into this category, you remember the track like the back of your hand, including that dreaded jump that often gave you fits, not to mention injuries.
I remember when they widened it up before one of our weekly Hully Gully Houseleague races. We pulled into the track on a late Thursday afternoon and found a parking spot to set up our pits. While my mom and dad did all the heavy lifting, I grabbed my bicycle to go have a look at the track.
As I neared the gate to cross the track by the first turn and onto the infield, a friend met me in a bit of a panic on their way back to their truck. “Kevin crashed on the double and cut his knee really badly!” they blurted out.
Back then, we were just getting started in the sport and a few of us were drawn to “borrowing” some of the long volleyball kneepads that were handed out like candy during elementary gym class. It was all we had at the time and we felt the extra length would be good enough for racing.
Of course, we were wrong!
Kevin had come up short and managed to get his knee caught on the footpeg and tear it to bits right through the gym class safety gear he so proudly wore over his jeans and above his work boots.
The thing was a mess. You could see the massive skin flap through the big tear in his jeans. It wasn’t so much painful as it was bloody, and it bled a lot!
“OK, see you later, Kev. Shitty that happened to you, but I have to go get ready to race…” or words along those lines. You know how it goes when it’s race day.
I was a little faster than he was at the time and so I didn’t think much about it…until I approached the “First Apple Tree.” It’s funny that as I type those words the old feelings creep up and I’m instantly brought back to that one, 8-second section of one of the many tracks we raced on over the years.
As I made the left turn and got ready to drop back down and approach the lip of the jump, I froze. I grabbed a handful of front brake and all of my back break and skidded off the the right side of the jump and into the muck and long grass. Shit, it was in my head.
One thing that I don’t miss about racing are those times when there’s an obstacle on a track that you really don’t want to do. You think about it for almost half a lap as it inevitably comes around again…and again.
Whenever I talk to a younger rider at a race these days and a scary jump comes up, I always tell them to either do it or don’t even think about it because it will ruin your day. It falls into the “Do as I say not as I do” area of my limited advice, but I stand by it.
I needed someone to tell me those exact words back on that day because that jump that looks so small in hindsight was in my head for the entire practice session – I rolled it every time.
Now, let me put this out there right away, in the 80 class in 1983 I was a bit of a big fish, but the pond was small. However, I enjoyed being “the fast guy” at a race, no matter how small it was. And along with this self-bestowed title came a certain amount of pressure to jump these kind of things. I felt I had to do it.
So, when the gate dropped for the 8-rider (it may have even been fewer) 80cc A class moto, I was determined to go for it. Don’t think, just do.
As I came off the apple tree jump (and almost high-sided like I always seemed to do) I put my right elbow up to the sky, clicked 3rd gear, dropped off and went for it as I led the pack on the first lap.
I over-jumped that thing by so much I almost broke my plastic Vendremini boots in half at the soles. “A little too much…” I told myself.
Lap after lap, I zeroed in on the perfect landing, and it turned out it really wasn’t hard at all.
I remember this jump would change quite often. I also remember it caused quite a bit of damage to quite a few riders over the years. And when you look at it now, it seems like such an insignificant little double jump.
As the years went on and insurance premiums went through the roof, the gang at Hully Gully were forced to try and make the sport as safe as they could. The middle was filled in and the infamous Apple Tree Double became The Apple Tree Tabletop. It just didn’t have the same ring to it and it certainly wasn’t as death-defying as the original always seemed to be.
So, next time you’re at a track and there’s a jump you’re not too sure about doing but are feeling pressured to do, do like I said, do it or don’t do it, just don’t be anywhere in the middle!
Anyone remember the huge downhill double at Baja Acres…….