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Featured 12/27a

"Busco Bullet"

Part 1

by: Don Amber

     My first ride on a snowmobile must have taken place in the late 60’s when an employee invited me to ride his 4 cycle Arctic Cat. He had it so that he didn’t have to walk to his ice fishing holes on Blue Lake. I really don’t remember being impressed........

     It was 1970 or 1971 when I really caught the bug and added a Scorpion dealership to my Chevrolet dealership. We spent many a night and weekends riding sleds because the Indiana winter was longer and contained a lot of snow, something that disappeared in the 80’s and didn’t reappear until 2007.

     The local Polaris dealer held an open house in 1971. At his open house he showed a movie (Forrest Tucker was the narrator) about a race from Winnipeg, Manitoba to St. Paul, Minnesota. I immediately became intrigued and made an almost immediate decision that I would participate in that race. It was evident from the start that to have any success at all in the I-500, a rider really needed to be on a Polaris or Arctic Cat. I decided on Polaris since the local dealer was as excited about the project as I was. Our goal was to participate in the 1973 I-500.

     It was decided that our sponsor would be the “Town of Churubusco (Indiana)”. We even held a contest to name our sled. The winning name was “Busco Bullet”. As I recall, the winner didn’t receive anything for her efforts. It was also decided that any winnings would go to the local food bank which was in it’s infancy. Today, the food bank serves over 500 folks weekly in our small community.

      So, in January of 1973, we set out for Winnipeg and the start of the annual I-500. We were clueless but an adventurous foursome. We were given a new motorhome to use by the Franklin RV company but didn’t realize that the heating systems of the 70’s RV’s was less than reliable. We spent most of the time bundled up inside the motor home.

     We arrived at Winnipeg, checked in the sled and in the process I met a fellow racer who actually was a radio personality from a station in Fargo, ND. While he was participating, he also was doing his radio thing with remote reports as the race went on. He became intrigued with our efforts and followed us closely. We would not have been considered a “finisher” had it not been for his efforts. At the end of the first day’s running our suspension was “shot”. No big deal I figured. I walked up the the Polaris support semi and asked if I could purchase a new suspension. The man in the trailer asked me where I was from. I told him Indiana and he suggested that I load up my sled and go back to Indiana. I’m not sure if I was more mad or humiliated but either way I started back to our RV to tell the crew that we were done. Along the way I met my radio friend who asked how I was doing. I shared my story about the event at the Polaris trailer. He said that we will go back to the trailer and have a visit with them. Upon arrival at the trailer, he indicated that he’d like to interview someone from Polaris and of course they were quite willing to do so until they learned that the subject was about how I was treated. A few minutes later I was walking away with a new suspension that I was “allowed” to purchase for $125.00 (and I was happy to do so).

    The 1973 race ended abruptly at Alex that year when freezing fog kept us from finishing the run to St. Paul. Stan Hayes was declared the winner and I finished somewhere around 70th. As a finisher we received a check for $107.00 which was promptly turned over to our local food bank upon our arrival back in Churubusco. We arrived in town somewhere around 1 AM to a large crowd gathered to greet our return.

     1974 was a bummer! Again I rode a Polaris. For 1974, the St. Paul Winter Carnival officials wanted the start of the race instead of the finish. (or Winnipeg officials wanted the finish, I don’t remember which it was). The weather in St. Paul was mild with a real lack of snow. After 125 miles of snowless conditions, my track exploded leaving me along side the road and out of the race on the first day. It was a long, quiet trip back to Indiana.

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