By KYLE DOYLE - 08/17/06

They say the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Myself, I’ve never really considered eating an elephant, but the basic premise of the advice seems sound enough (though I can’t see an elephant being a very satisfying cuisine, endangered species laws notwithstanding.) These days I find myself living life “one bite at a time”; really, that’s the only way to do it when you have a busy life. Inevitably, all those bites eventually combine to form one big elephant, and you look back and realize just how much you can accomplish in a short period of time by focusing on small goals, one at a time, rather than nothing but the big picture.

Mark Hall hangin’ out in the R/T, Rantoul.

5.jpg – “Yours truly, credit to DW for the Rantoul shots, btw.”

Since the end of my last correspondence (see “Ping Pong”), I’ve continued my summer tradition of covering a whole bunch of miles in a fairly short period of time. Fortunately, a few of my July gigs would keep me close to home, even if only for a couple of days. Every year for the 4th of July, the HBR team participates (to one degree or another) in the Rantoul, IL parade and day-long activities event. Rantoul is only a couple miles from our shop, and is home to Mark, Tim, and myself. For the third year in a row, I had the pleasure of driving the Raminator R/T in the town’s impressive 4th of July parade. Threatening cumulous clouds held low over Rantoul the morning of the 4th, leaving us wondering if in fact there would be a parade at all, much less the two car crushes scheduled for later in the day. Around 9a.m., the organizers gave us the go-ahead to tire up, and fall in line for the parade. By the time the parade began rolling, the skies were already beginning to break, and the temperatures began to soar (along with the oppressive humidity). Patriotism seems to be a somewhat misused sentiment these days, if such a thing can be said or understood. Some people balk at the thought of wearing red, white, and blue, while others seem overly-enthusiastic to prove that they are patriots in every sense of the word. To me, patriotism isn’t spending money on decorations at Wal-Mart or merely wearing a “USA” t-shirt. For me, patriotism is having an understanding of what it has cost our country over the last 200+ years to afford us the freedoms we enjoy today. It is the ability to responsibly question authority in an effort to make our country better overall; it is the ability to not only overcome racial and ethnic differences within our country, but to understand those outside of our own. I suppose that if our country is the symbol of freedom and tolerance that our forefathers intended it to be, then showing tolerance and making use of our freedom is one of the best ways to truly show one’s patriotism. All these thoughts flowed through my mind as I slowly guided the R/T down the narrow corridors of enthusiastic parade-watchers, and I realized that I was neck deep in Americana, right then and there.

DW’s grandson Mikey riding with Amanda through the parade.


These folks who came to watch the parade were showing their patriotism, by making the conscious decision to share the day with their fellow man, and enjoy it. There are a lot of things a person can do with their day off, so it was encouraging to see such a diverse crowd come out to enjoy the festivities. From my lofty (and somewhat detached perch) in the R/T, I witnessed people of all walks of life coming together. Disabled veterans, volunteers, homemakers, and children of all ages; just about every ethnicity you can think of. With all the trouble boiling over in the world today, it was reassuring to know that that in at least one small American town, real patriotism was healthy. Naturally, monster trucks are a distinctly American creation, so in honor of that Mark Hall performed two car crushes in the afternoon, while I gave rides for a few hours in the performance area following the parade. Ticket sales for the rides were donated to the local Rantoul elementary schools, which only furthered the good feelings that the 4th had left me with.


A slightly different angle from my Hazelton crush, courtesy of the local Hazelton news station.

Diddo above.

Just prior to the 4th of July action, we had received word that the Bloomsburg Jamboree had been postponed to a date in August (it had originally been planned to occur the weekend following the 4th). While that would give Mark and Geremie a weekend off from racing, the second Raminator race truck was scheduled two appear at a two Dodge dealers in the east-central PA region that same weekend. Shelving my R/T driving duties for the weekend, I loaded up my driving gear (including my brand-spankin’-new SFI 3-2A/15 fire suit by Phoenix Custom Apparel), climbed aboard Unit #2 with Travis Howard, and hit the road for PA. A Thursday-only display in Mill Hall, PA at All-American C-J-D would start the weekend off for us. After the gig in Mill Hall, we borrowed a Jeep Liberty from the dealership to search out some dinner and hit the nearby Wal-Mart for some supplies. While out and about, I picked up a new DVD documentary entitled “Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey”. Being an avid rock/metal fan myself, and knowing that many of my readers are rockers themselves, I just figured I’d pass this little bit of info along to you, as it is definitely worth picking up.

After noticing some minor body damage I had done during my crush, I offered up the universal ‘whups’ sign.

The next day Travis and I found ourselves setting up in Hazelton, PA for a two day gig, a display on Friday and an early afternoon car crush on Saturday. A fairly busy day of people-meeting on Friday helped pass the time, and before I knew it on Saturday it was time to crush cars. Two local news stations had come out to do interviews with me Saturday, and then film the crush for their respective broadcasts. I’m not totally sure, but I think one of the stations actually broadcasted part of my crush live. See what a draw monster trucks are? When’s the last time a Nextel Cup display car got live TV time doing its thing? The crush went off without a hitch for the most part, the only real quirk being a bit of tire-induced damage to the left front fender. Travis and I were on the road by 4p.m. that evening, making tracks for home.


Our race schedule from January through early April is dominated by the Monster Nationals series, which runs primarily non-dirt events throughout the mid-west. For three consecutive years now, an intense rivalry between Mark Hall and Doug Noelke (Big Dawg) has grown to near legendary proportions. This rivalry has been fueled by the close confines and even closer competition between the trucks on the Monster Nationals circuit. As I mentioned above, the series runs primarily indoors on concrete, but for the final points race of the season, the series would move outdoors to the Richland County Fairgrounds in Mansfield, OH. That would be my next stop with the R/T, which I would be running at the show in addition to my duties as one of Mark’s crew members.

Mark Hall and Andy Hoffman striding towards ‘center stage’ for their championship interviews, Mansfield.

I gotta say, this year's Monster Nationals title has to be the hardest-fought of the four that we've won. It seemed like bad luck and bad parts failure struck us around each corner. I recall the feeling of excitement in Cleveland back in January that I felt as Mark Hall pulled to the line against (who else but) Doug Noelke in the first round. Mark had broken a transfer case during freestyle, and we managed to change it in about 30mins, between the end of his freestyle and the first rounds of racing. That meant we were thrashing on it between FS runs, during intermission while trying to keep Rammunition ready as well, during Transaurus in the dark, and during the jet jeep thing with stuff being blasted at us in the dark. I've never cussed that much in a five minute period of time, ever.
Anyways, we got Mark up to the starting line, a brand-new T-case installed in super-record time, only to watch the truck soar vertically past Big Dawg, land straight up and down on the rear axle, and destroy the lower 4-links, drive shaft, loops, sliders, U-joint shield, shocks, and axle housing, and our hopes of an easy week leading up to the Madison event.

4-time consecutive Monster Nationals champion Mark Hall.

I don't care what anyone says, the trucks on the MN tour run each other as hard as they safely can every weekend they meet. Why? Because they race each other all winter long, nearly every weekend. This constant clashing between teams fuels the fire of rivalry, to the point that John Force and Gary Scelzi would throw the towel in out of pure fear. We've had to change tires on the starting line, install new valve train parts between rounds, fix entire rear-ends between shows, re-weld frames in the parking lots of arenas, use countless rolls of duct tape to fix body damage, and eat cold pizza and BBQ more times than I care to remember. Why? Because if you want to win, you do what needs done. I love the furiousness of the competition, even though at times I'd rather be on the way back to the hotel instead of changing a pig.

The Big Dawg team has, in my mind, equaled, and possibly even surpassed, the high level of performance and consistency of Team Bigfoot. The relentless pressure that Doug has applied to us this winter has driven us to seek new answers to old questions (why'd that break??), and motivated us to work those late nights at the shop to ensure that our steeds are as ready as we can make them to contest for the win. At the Monster Nationals shows, you can't lay down at all during the show. No points are awarded for the wheelie and donut contests, but what are points when pride, ego, and fan approval are on the line? Every time rubber meets the floor at a MN show, everything that happened before that moment is forgotten; the teams live in the moment, striving to win each round as though the championship will be decided that very night, and rightfully it could be. We all fight for that one little victory.

Does the kicker who misses the field goal at the end of the game really lose the game for his team? Or was it the interception the QB threw before halftime that was returned for a touchdown? Perhaps it was the linemen that let the QB get pressured into throwing a poor pass. Point is, you win as a team and lose as a team, and your success on a cold winter night in Wisconsin in January directly affects your season's outcome on a hot, muggy day in Ohio several months later. Big Dawg didn't lose the championship in Mansfield, nor did Raminator win it in Mansfield. Mansfield was merely an extension of a months-long battle that has been raging since January. Championships are won or lost over the course of time, not in one crucial moment at one particular track. A bolt that wasn't tightened in Battle Creek could mean the difference between 1st and 2nd five months later. You win a championship one little victory at a time, but you must be willing to risk defeat in order to claim that prize.

Folks, I wish I could more accurately convey to you how proud I am that our team was able to win this title. Sure, the races weren't held in huge enormo-domes or at giant fairgrounds areas, but I liken the MN series to a boxing match held in a coat closet made of glass. You can beat up on your opponent all you want, but you can rest assured he is going to do the same to you. All the while, both of you have to be constantly alert of your confined surroundings; careful not to destroy the very arena that breeds your competition. The MN series isn't just about winning races or putting on a good show; it is about survival and sticking together, in their most basic forms. To win the MN title is a sign that you are not only winners, but survivors.


The end of the Mansfield weekend would find me enjoying a full week to get ready for our biggest small show if the year: the Champaign Monster Nationals at the Champaign County Fair. Physically, the show is a normal (small) fair show. On the grand scale of things (points, making sponsors happy, etc.), the show falls a little farther down the list than someplace like Indianapolis or Bloomsburg. However, when it comes to team pride, bragging rights, and the desire to win in front of a hometown crowd, the Champaign fair show is high on the list of races we must do well at.

Throwin’ on some tires, Champaign.

A very super-special thanks to Barb Wagner for making sure my right-rear tire didn’t venture off to the carnival midway unsupervised.

The day before the Champaign show, I had filled in for Geremie in Rammunition, performing a car crush in Greenville, IL. Geremie and Mat Dishman’s grandfather had passed away late in the week, much to the sadness of our entire team. In light of that, Tim and I took Rammunition to Greenville for the Dodge dealer gig. On the last hit during my crush, the front transfer case shaft twisted off upon landing, causing a bad driveline vibration that I felt immediately. I called it quits at that, knowing that Tim and I would have a late night ahead of us installing a new t-case so that the truck could race in Champaign the next day. At about 10:30p.m. Saturday night we called it quits, having done about 90% of the t-case replacement, which was quickly finished the next morning.

The Hall Bros. and Geremie Dishman making the most of a very hot Illinois afternoon, Champaign.

After a brief session of rides with the R/T during the pre-race pit party in the sweltering heat (though not as bad as last year!), it was time for the race to begin. It is no secret that our team has been terrifically successful over the last four and a half years, and it has become no small feather in a driver’s cap to take out Raminator or Rammunition. We know this, and we are proud that when someone beats us, they are very excited. However, for an “underdog”, there’s nothing like beating up on a giant in his own hometown. It’s kind of like taking John Force out in the first round in Pomona; it’s definitely something you wouldn’t be afraid of telling your buddies about. Anyways, Excaliber, Sudden Impact, and Nitemare would make up our opposition on-track for the Sunday evening event.


Mechanical problems plagued every truck at the show at one point or another, though the final round would come down to hometown drivers Geremie Dishman and Mark Hall, with Mark taking the win, much to the delight of the crowd. Our team has been undefeated at home since the winter of 2005 show at the Assembly Hall, which saw Dale Benear taking the win over Bigfoot. The ’05 fair show was a classic Bigfoot vs. Raminator match-up, with Mark taking the win. Mark would also take the win in the finals of the ’06 Assembly Hall event against teammate Dale Benear. Mark’s win at the fair show make our hometown streak four in a row, a streak that we certainly hope to continue.

DW – the man with the skills to pay the bills.

The Monday after the fair show, Darrell Wagner (the world famous DW everyone! *applause*) and I did a quick clean-up on the R/T, swapped some tires around, and set out (in a hurried manner) for Portland, OR. Not only is Portland home to the Trailblazers, beautiful scenery, and the intersection of the Columbia and Willamette rivers, but it is also the home of Freightliner LLC, makers of the world-famous Freightliner medium and heavy duty trucks, including the rigs that we use to drag our big ‘ole monster trucks all over the place. The Raminator R/T enjoyed some time in the air conditioned limelight in the main lobby of Freightliner’s headquarters building, before heading out to participate in the Employee Appreciation Event outside. To my knowledge, the R/T is the first MT ever to visit Freightliner’s headquarters, and one of only a select few vehicles to have ever graced the floors of the headquarters building’s lobby. After a long evening of rides, DW and I loaded up in a hurry, in an effort to get on the road as soon as possible.

Fun with the bubble mirror on the semi, Part II.

One of the many neat sights en-route to Portland.

American pride on a big scale in The Dalles, OR.

You see, the R/T was scheduled to be in Tomah, WI for a Saturday night Special Events Thunder Drags show. I’m not a math genius, but if you leave Portland, OR on Thursday at midnight and want to be in Wisconsin by Saturday at noon, your approximate rate of travel has to be somewhere in the neighborhood of, umm, lets see…carry the two, divide by seven…yep, you guessed it: haulin’ butt! DW and I shared driving duties, rotating every five hours or so to ensure logbook legality, and to keep from getting too tired while driving. A not-quite-home-cooked breakfast was inhaled in Coeur d’Alene, ID; lunch saw us “eating fresh” on the go somewhere between Butte and Bozeman, MT; and supper found us thinking outside the bun in a great big hurry in Gillette, WY. The rest of the drive from Gillette to Tomah reminds me of that old Beastie Boys song “No Sleep Til’ Brooklyn”. If you’ve heard the song, you know what I mean. (Nah nah…nah naaaaah…nah naaaahh naahhhh – think Bevis & Butthead here.)

The beautiful Columbia River Valley in Northern Oregon.

Important Historical Landmark Signs of the American West, First Edition; in stores now!

The R/T in Freightliner’s HQ building.

The R/T leaving the lobby, heading out to go give some rides.

At this point, you are probably wondering if we made it on time, huh? Well, I’d have to say that our team’s never-say-quit attitude resides in all of us, so when a challenge like this Portland to Tomah drive comes up, we look at it as a chance to shine. DW and I like to joke that we are “the Pro’s from Dover” (you’d have to see the movie M*A*S*H to get it), so we figured that if this long drive in a short period of time needed to be done, then we were just the two fellas to do it. Thankfully, we get along quite well, so we actually managed to make the whole trip pretty fun. So what became of our goal to reach Tomah by noon? Let’s just say that the back doors on the R/T hauler opened in Tomah at about 9:45a.m. on Saturday. You wouldn’t expect anything less from the Pro’s, would ya?


The Tomah event, despite temperatures usually only found in close proximity to volcanoes, went off without a hitch for us. Both grandstands were nearly packed to the brim with eager fans, the R/T was kept busy before and after the show, and the final round of racing saw a marquee match up with a pair of the best drivers our sport has to offer. Dan Runte in the Summit Bigfoot staged against Mark Hall in the Dodge Raminator, with nothing but pride and bragging rights on the line. Both trucks left the line at the same time, but it would be Hall dusting the big Ford at the finish line by about half a truck length.

Signs like these are not uncommon as you near Burlington, VT.

Crossing into Vermont from New York.

Beautiful weather was the forecast at the Champlain Valley Expo all weekend long.

The week following Tomah was a short one, leaving us only a couple of days to prepare Raminator and Rammunition for the most important 4-Wheel Jamboree yet: The 10th Annual Bond Auto Parts Vermont Jamboree, in Essex Junction, VT. With Predator having a substantial points lead on Raminator (4th place) and a couple hundred points over Rammunition (2nd place), we definitely had our work cut out for us. Since 2001, the HBR trucks have terrorized the Champlain Valley Expo, claiming all but one event win in five years (Dan Runte in Bigfoot, the only other winner). This year we knew that we’d have to open one hell of a Nor’easter if we were going to stay in contention for the title. My friends, I’m happy to report that the Empire struck back in Vermont. Mark Hall went on a tear Saturday, claiming both wins (one over Metallic Mayhem, the other over Rammunition), while Geremie Dishman kept himself in the hunt by defeating Predator on Sunday. Predator’s lead had been cut substantially, so I think you can safely say that Vermont is indeed Dodge Country.


One of the many fine Dodge Charger R/T show vehicles that graced the tarmac of National Trail Raceway during the Mopar Nats.

Mopars uber-impressive mobile Speed Shop exhibit.

Speaking of uber-impressive….definitely a 10 on the Drool-O-Meter.


So, with all of this behind me, it was time for a truly fun and relaxing gig to help ease the stress of a long summer. What event could this be, you ask? Why, none other than the 26th Annual Mopar Nationals, held at National Trail Raceway just outside of Columbus, OH. The largest all-Mopar event of its kind, nearly every thinkable kind of Dodge, Plymouth, Chrysler, Jeep, and AMC was on hand in one form or another, including the Raminator R/T and Mark Hall’s race Raminator. Aside from the MT attractions, the midway’s most popular attraction was the Dodge Challenger concept, which will be available to the motoring public in production form sometime within the next 12 to 24 months. The Mopar Speed Shop and DirectConnection rigs were also on hand, along with tons of other customizers, restorers, vendors, and product manufacturers. However, after two long days of ride-giving for me and a stellar car crush by Mark (which earned him a standing ovation from several thousand rabid Mopar fans), it was finally time to head home and catch a day off.

2006 would officially be the Year of the Barracuda. (last year’s car was the Plymouth Road Runner, etc. etc.)

Amazing how, in just a few weeks, you can travel (essentially) from coast to coast for large-scale gigs, bring the hometown crowd to their feet, clinch an emotional and hard-won championship, and defeat a major rival driven by a legendary driver, all the while soaking up some of our nation’s greatest scenic views in between events. For me, life is one great big war against the odds for success and happiness, and the only way to do well and win that war is to focus on each little battle as they come along, personal and professional, and try to win them. For me, each and every month is just one little victory.


Until next time.

- KD

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