SEARLES - Growing up riding dirt bikes, Clay Scheibel was lucky. He had wide open spaces up, around and behind his parents farm outside of Searles. But many of his friends and other dirt bike enthusiasts around the area didn't. They had to travel miles to find a track to ride on.
"If you look at a map and look at where all of the motocross tracks are around Minnesota, in the southwest there is absolutely nothing," Scheibel says. "There are like four over by Rochester and there are about four within an hour of the cities. There were a couple of people that tried to get a track going down by Jackson but that fell through. Getting a place to ride in this area is tough. This area has been starving for it for years and years."
So Scheibel decided to fill that void with a 1 3/4 mile motocross track on the same land he grew up riding on and Moto River Raceway was born. But building a track was easier said than done.
Tyler Schmiesing, 13 of New Ulm, goes off two of the many jumps on Clay Scheibel’s 1 3/4 mile Moto course near Searles.
The intial idea to build came in 2001 but Scheibel didn't realize how much red tape it would take to get his dream off the ground.
"The day I decided to do this I went down to the court house and they gave me a long list of things that I had to do," he said. "There were conditional use permits, I had to talk to a lot officials there and work with plotting and zoning. Then it went to the county board to approve it. The thing is any time you go through that process, they want everything just the way you are going to do it."
He also had some oposition from the neighbors at first.
Some neighbors didn't like the location of where the raceway was to be built. They were concerned with the noise of the track and the traffic heading to the track. Everyone finally agreed on the current space on the back of his parents farm. The area is land-locked with the river running to the north and the only traffic comes up his parents driveway off of County Road 24. So he had to start the whole process over again but in the end, Scheibel couldn't be happier with the loacation.
"Over here, the neighbors have supported me 100 percent," he said. "It's gone great. They have all come done here and checked it out. There have been no complaints or anything. Here we are down in a valley and the noise really doesn't travel that much."
He finally broke ground on the current track Labor Day weekend 2005.
"It took about two years just to get everything situated and get everything lined up before I could break ground," Scheibel said. "The thing is, when you do something like this you have to do that. You have to play by their rules or one little thing could screw up the whole plan for you. So I just stayed pataient, took my time and tought I should just do everything right the first time."
The track is on his parents land and they have been very supportive of the venture as well.
"They have been really awesome with this," Scheibel said. "This was prime grazing land for my dad's cattle. He said, 'well let's give it a try and see what happens.' When you start something new like this it takes time to get the word out."
He has advertised and he has a Web site at www.motoriverraceway.com but the best way to get people to his track is by word-of-mouth from other riders.
"Lately it's been a lot of new people that have come out here to ride," Scheibel said. "I would say about 40 percent of the riders that showed up on Saturday, it was thier first time here. When someone new comes I had them a flier and say, 'spread the word.'"
The track features several curves, ramps, studders and whoops and cuts up and down a hill through trees. Some of the jumps were man made but there is a nice natural table top nearly half-way through the course and is one of the reasons Scheibel picked the spot for the track.
He had two excavaters work on the track. Richard Walter Excavating in Searles did a lot of track work with stump removal and the dirt work through the hills. Heiderscheidt's out of Sleepy Eye did the ramp work.
"Hederscheidt's have built some motocross tracks before," Scheibel said. "In Mankato, they redid the hill where they hold the hill climb. They do really good work and a lot of people have commented on how nice the ramps and jumps are."
A contractor by trade, Scheibel put in a lot of man-hours himself. He tilled up the land for the track and designed the layout of the track as well.
"I kind of staked it out and tilled it in," he said. "I had them come out do the jumps for me. I wasn't even here for that. They did it themselves and did a super job - it turned out perfect."
The track has full water supply to wet it down and keep the dust at a minumum thanks to an on-site pond and he can also pump water out of the river that runs to the north of the track.
The top speed on the track is only about 30-40 miles per hour. The key isn't speed, it's control.
"It's not a high-speed sport," Scheibel said. "It's more about clearing the obsitcles and cornering is a huge thing in motorcross. The better you do those things the better you will do."
Several sponsors have helped with the track including South Central Auto Sales, Vetter Sales and Service, Walters Excavating, Motor Sports Unlimited, Farysyn Contsruction, Mankato Harley- Davidson, D&M Custom Cycle, Star Cycle Yamaha, ARR Construction, Searls Bar and Grill and Boppers Skid Loader Service.
Now the track is complete but he does plan a few changes over the next couple of years.
"When you do something like this there is so much trial and error," Scheibel said. "You have to build it first, then get the bikes out there and see what improvements need to be made."
One thing he does plan for in the future is a pee-wee track because riders start out around four-years old and he wants a place for them to ride too. He is also planing for races and events down the road.
Moto River Raceway is open three days a week from April 1 to October 31, weather permitting, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. A track membership is $300 a year and $20 per day.
And all levels of riders are welcome on the track.
"One of the biggest comments I have gotten," Scheibel said, "is that this track is a great track for a beginer and a fun track for an expert rider too."