The History of SAER: In the Beginning

In 1969, the AMA District 23 Amateur Riders Motor Cycle Association (ARMCA) is formed. The Norsemen MC put on a Two Day, 300 mile enduro through the Nemadji State Forest, starting at the Pickerel Lake Campground. Apparently it went as far south as Duxbury, and as far north as Holyoke, with only one official gas stop at Cloverton. Several major rivers were crossed, and noted as good spectator spots. The first Nemadji Enduro was won by Jim Partridge.

Straight Arrow Enduro Rider Notes from the 1970s, by Don Youngdahl

I think the club was formed in 1970 or 71, possibly earlier. Charter members I’m fairly sure of were Willard Larson, Barney Larson, Charlie Forrest, Mike Carson, Greg Carson, and Ron Olson. Others who were there when I joined in 1972, who may have been charter members, were Carlton Chellberg, Ken Beckman, and Cliff Helgeson. Later additions were Henry Yount, Bob Peterson, Dwight Muth, John Lapp, and Bob Younglove.

Other than the obvious need to form a club to help to practice their niche sport, I never heard of anything more specific than that on the club founding. On reflection, I think the impetus may have come from Willard Larson, who I think put on the first 2 Nickerson enduros with minimum or possibly no help from the Norsemen. Ever if there was strong Norsemen support, it’s logical that they would tell Willard “We’ve got one event at Mora, that’s enough”.

Mike Larson’s take on the Straight Arrow formation is that was a time of rapid growth in dirt biking and enduro riding. Realizing that enduro was a niche sport 100% reliant on rider responsibility to make events happen, riders naturally formed clubs to promote that agenda. It is interesting to note that the first (and only?) Twin Cities non-competitive trail riding club wasn’t formed until the late 1980s, almost 20 years later.

Incidentally, I think Willard laid out and conducted the first Nickerson Enduro with no advance notice to the DNR or any authorities. Just nailed up arrows, no chain sawing or trail clearing, no bridges, pure old school. As an aside here, I’ll remind younger riders that our enduros in the early 70’s had no special tests, and no resets except the official gas stop(s). Endurance was a more important component of a top rider’s skill set in those bygone days.

Another funny enduro story. Before the first or maybe second enduro, Nickerson locals got word that a group of motorcyclists would be up there, and were bracing for an influx of rowdy Hell’s Angels types. Charley & I were up there for cabin work, and Clarence Beise, the Nickerson Tavern owner, said he was deputized for the occasion, and showed me the baseball bat he had handy, just in case. He didn’t quite believe me when I pointed at Charley and said “He’s one of the rowdies you’re expecting”. His wife worked in the fire tower, and when I took my son up there for a visit, she tried to persuade me to tell the motorcyclists not to come up there! A few years later, when I was talking to a young local lady & her husband at the bar, she said “That event is the most interesting thing that happens all year in this place.”

The club’s first national enduro was in 1973, and I believe that was the first enduro in Minnesota to use flip cards. That was also when we introduced the score display system that utilized movable strips which allowed the scorers to move the strips around according to current placement as results got posted immediately after each rider finished. That system enabled extremely fast posting of results for those pre-electronic days. One rider from Illinois, who took his time getting back from his motel, was flabbergasted to find the riders gone, scoring stuff all packed away, with the crew just finishing our trash pickup.

The legendary Dick Burleson won that first national at Backus, zeroing the entire course. Next year we got word that Burleson wasn’t coming because the course was too easy, and Husky was sending his understudy, Bob Popiel. Needless to say, that didn’t set well with the layout crew. When layout was complete, the layout co-leader vehemently informed me that NOBODY could zero one particular section he laid out. Well, Popiel zeroed that section, although he didn’t zero the whole event.

A film about the 1974 Backus National Enduro, “Running Hard”, was made by Terry Jacobs.

No history of the Straight Arrows is complete without the story of the the Nemadji Enduro. The first year was a 2-day in 1969, and the Straight Arrows took it over in ’71 or ’72. For the first few years it started at the Pickerel Lake campground in the Nemadji. That venue proved too small, so we moved to Oak Lake Campground west of Nickerson for 1 year in ’74 or ’75, then to Birch Knoll Retreat campground near Holyoke for several years. For folks who haven’t been there, that was a pretty little place, with ideal geography from a course layout standpoint. In the counter clockwise direction, it was about a mile of township road at the beginning of the ride, and less than half mile of township road at the end. We reversed the course direction every year. After several years there, the event moved to the Net River Campground in Holyoke, and then up the hill to the Holyoke City Park. When the Holyoke town hall was condemned, and the road to Holyoke was closed for reconstruction, the event was moved to Duquette.

Another interesting aspect of the Nemadji enduro is the succession of clubs that held the sanction over the years. First the Norsemen, then the Straight Arrows. When the Straight Arrows could no longer do three enduros per year (late ‘70s), they dropped Nemadji & kept Grantsburg and Backus. I didn’t want to give up on the Nemadji, so I worked out a deal with the Norsemen where I did the layout and checkpoints, and they did the rest. After two or three years, the Norsemen stepped aside for Tim Ziermann and the Lake Country Riders. After two years, it went back to the Norsemen for two or three years, with me continuing in my behind-the-scenes role. By then, the Straight Arrows were down to zero or one enduro, so they stepped back in, and have done it ever since.