The northern shore of scenic Lake Miltona was the site of the 2008 Leaf Valley Speed Rally. Participants from Eastern Minnesota were lulled into a sense of complacency when they awoke to balmy temperatures in the teens above zero and light breezes from the southwest. On the way to the venue, the true nature of Saturday's weather became readily apparent. Blizzard conditions turned idyllic Douglas County into a windcarved whiteout normally associated with the polar regions, and raceteams were forced to exit I94 at the Alexandria exit to avoid a freeway closure that stretched all the way to Fargo, ND. Even I, your humble reporter, aimlessly wandered the backroads between Garfield and Leaf Valley searching the desolate landscape in vain. The combination of no directions to the track, and true whiteout conditions almost led me to wish for one of those stupid TV screens people have in their cars that tell them where to turn. Whether it was Providence, or a faint whiff of race fuel carried on the snarling wind, I'll never know; but I eventually arrived at the event.
The sight that awaited me was not conducive to holding an event on a lake, but I spotted PJH Racing's trailer nonetheless.
Sturdy Minnesotans, usually unruffled by any weather, were huddled a bit against the biting wind, and event coordinators were struggling with the problems presented by the uncooperative conditions. I knew it was getting cold out when I only spotted a few stupid kids wearing hooded sweatshirts without hats or gloves. On a normal cold day, the place would have been teaming with them!
When I finally emerged from my pickup in my full arctic attire, Riley was already in the staging area preparing for a run. His first run of the day resulted in a missed time due to the wind. He later admitted that losing that run was for the better, since he'd been forced to let off the throttle. As his mighty Polaris 800 lifted its skis skyward, a particularly brutal wind gust carried his sled sideways, resulting in a poor run. I noticed that Riley had sufficient help at the line carrying the vital stand, so I prepared to document his first timed run on video. I had even called Riley prior to the race, making sure that he had enough qualified "stand carriers" for the day. I did not want to, once again, incur Madcow's wrath by failing to provide proper assistance at the line! Below is the result of Riley's first successfully timed run of the day.
After watching Riley attain a speed on the good side of 120 mph, I proceeded to wander around and enjoy the spectacle known as a speed rally. There were vintage sleds, four wheelers, dirt bikes, tiny kids on 120's, stock sleds, and poor souls in the non-traction class helplessly spinning their tracks on the polished ice. A large canvas tent, labeled "FOOd" in duct tape, attracted quite a few customers who needed a break from the cold, but to most hardy race fans, the smell of 2-stroke smoke and the whine of well-tuned exhaust was enough incentive to keep them out in the elements.
What I didn't see was any of the long, low-slung, mysterious vehicles that remained in their trailers, or stayed wrapped up in their covers. At that point in the day, Riley was the only person to have broken the 120 MPH mark. With $500 at stake for the fastest time of the day, he would have preferred to keep it that way! He readily admitted that he hoped nobody else even unloaded their trailers. That scenario looked more and more possible as the wind continued to make everything difficult. The haybales that protected the timing equipment were actually blowing across the track, making timing impossible, and racing somewhat dangerous. Since my feet were chilly, I decided to walk down to the finish line and see what was going on down there. I arrived in time to catch Riley's second run on video as he passed through the speed traps.
After watching a bunch of stock sleds take their runs I ventured over to one of the trailers parked by the speed traps. These fellows had arranged their enclosed trailers as a windbreak to protect the timing equipment from the blizzard. I decided it was time for a little protection for me, so I stepped inside and introduced myself. There was beer and heat inside, so everyone involved was pretty cheerful. We swapped tales about snowmobiling and I got to see three of those mysterious low-slung machines up close. It turns out they were mod chassis sleds, and nobody was too anxious to be the first one to take a run with one of them. Eventually the owner of the Leaf Valley Merchantile showed up in the trailer, and it got to be a pretty crowded party. After a few more beers, and some big talking, the Merc's owner decided that he was ready to be the first mod chassis out on the lake that day. He prepared his Fireball Racing sled and took a successful run over 130 MPH. That was all it took. Soon a flood of mod chassis sleds hit the ice, and Riley's hopes of taking home the $500 for top speed of the day withered. Here's a video of one of the mod chassis sleds taking his run:
Although the $500 prize was unattainable for PJH Racing, Riley did achieve a milestone in his next run. He hit 125.9 MPH in 1,000 feet which was a personal best. Here's that historic run:
As the temperature plummeted, the winds abated somewhat, and the big dogs really came out to play. There was a full-bodied sled that hit 133 MPH, and the open mods were cranking out runs between 150 and 155 MPH. These performances paled in comparison to what happened next. A tremor was felt in the ice as a monster began to move. I'd seen a glimpse of a frightful beast with monstrous chrome pipes sticking out at every angle. But shrouded in secrecy within the Anderson Racing trailer, I was unable to count those pipes. When the monster finally emerged, I gasped in awe as I counted SIX massive exhaust pipes to match the SIX cylinders poking out of the bowels of the beast. It's name was uttered in hushed tones as the sun glinted off of it's glittering hood. "MODZILLA" was the name the crowd whispered, and anyone else's hopes for the $500 prize were crushed.
With a previous best speed of 192.9 MPH, Modzilla was not going to leave the top prize on the table. A crowd gathered as the monster roared to life:
The suspense built as Modzilla warmed up at the line:
Riley covers his ears in the foreground as Modzilla roars:
Although Jordan Anderson, Modzilla's pilot, must surely have balls that clank; he didn't feel that it was necessary to unleash the beast's full potential. Despite the fact he left 32 MPH on the table, Anderson still stoked the crowd with 160.59 MPH.
Overall, it was a pretty fun day out on the ice of Lake Miltona. Riley keeps improving on his speed, which is good to see, and Modzilla pretty much blew my mind. I really thought I had a chance to turn some heads with my modded 1990 Indy 400 until Modzilla showed up. I guess I'll have to wait for the exclusive PJH Racing Speed Runs to unveil my contender.