This is the stuff dreams are
made of right here, except its actually a reality--driving Bigfoot. As I said at the start
of the other page, this is a life long dream of mine and I know of many other people
around country or the world for that matter. This day was a 15 year culmination of my
obsession with monster trucks and Bigfoot.
After the first race on Saturday, I made my way first back to the hauler area of the race trucks to let some people know that I was going over to the Bigfoot area to await my turn as well as gather up a camera crew. That camera crew consisting of Brenda Noelke and few of friends of the Noelke's to help with pictures and video.
Upon arriving at the driving area, I went over to the Bigfoot hauler and told Mr. Jim Kramer who I was and that I was signed up to drive. I got up in the hauler and he crossed my name off the list and had me sign away on a release form. At this same time, another guy had shown up a little before and was already suited up to drive before me. Turned out I needed that firesuit he had on as we seemed to be the same size. Alan Hartsock came into the hauler and talked to us briefly on the basics of what was going to happen out in the track area. The three of us then headed out into the driving area to get the low down on the "course" and what Alan wanted us to do as he would be the man next to us in the cab.
That would be me in the old skool Bigfoot TNT shirt that I snagged of eBay a week before this show for a mere $4!
The area for the driving would be a be roped off part of the parking lot with some cones set up for rear steering practice, lots of open room for speed, and of course, THE CARS! 5 cars total but the first two were setup so the truck would hit the trunks first just like in the old days. The next three were in line the normal way door-to-door. With the 5 cars setup that way, the actual jump seemed more like 7 cars. Alan pointed out to us how the two first cars did not crush the way they had expected as the rear seats in the cars remained very intact and turned into a steep ramp for Bigfoot to launch off of. Bigfoot crew had wanted the rear seats to flatten down so the truck would not go as high but would jump farther instead. No complaints here! Alan told us how much he would be controlling inside the truck and that would mainly be the brakes and occasionally the rear steer to help us get lined up for the cars how he wanted. While driving, I would get two laps of driving around the big loop and in between the cones and then two hits on the cars before bringing the truck back.
After Alan was through, I headed back over to where my camera crew was and noticed Jason Witte had showed up just in time to see me run next. A good crowd of at least 60 people where standing by watching. The other guy's run went off without a hitch so I was up!
I gave some last minute instructions to the camera crew and went over to the hauler to get suited up. In the process of that, Alan had gotten out and come over and was talking with some fans while I was talking to Chris, the Bigfoot crewman on the scene. I told him how back in Lima 2000 the roles with me and Alan were reversed as I was the one riding as he kicked the crap out of me and had me going all over the place. Chris found that hysterical that this was now sort of a revenge and went over to tell Alan. Alan's face kind of went blank and he yelled "Kramer, you're takin' this one!" I was busting a gut laughing and told Alan he wasn't getting out of this.
Me climbing into the passenger side of Bigfoot 8 in Lima 2000
And this time, the driver's side!
I was all ready to go and
headed out to the truck.
A ladder was used to help the climb up to the window to get in truck and I seemed to have much better luck getting in than I did in Lima...nearly got stuck then! I plopped down into the seat and proceeded to put on the helmet, gloves, and neck brace and lay out all the harness straps so someone could lock me in place as I had no idea how they all went. I was all set as Alan climbed in with a big grin on his face. I'm sure he took pleasure in making sure my straps were extra tight as well. After I was all buckled in, Alan went over the gear shifting, more on the brakes, rear steer toggle switch, as well as the ignition switches. I didn't want to get out on the track and then screw up so I was all ears. I told Alan I was ready and he said "Let's go!" so I fired up Bigfoot and Kramer tested the RII. I re-fired the truck and took the beast out of park and went to hit the throttle down easy like Alan said and tried not to make the truck rock up and down. Well I did basically the opposite the first time and it took me a little bit to get the truck moving at a constant speed. I passed up the cones the first time and cruised around the back stretch and completely forgot to shift into 2nd gear. Alan just tapped the shifter and I said "doh!" and shifted up.
I picked up some more speed heading around the back of the turn and down the front side towards the crowd. I tried to keep some slight speed up as I made the turn towards the cones. I hit the rear steer to the right and made it around the first cone, but I didn't get it recentered and turned to the left in time and I smashed the heck out of the 2nd cone...oh well! I motored around the back and then had to utilize the rear steer again to make the very tight turn into the front of the cars. From this point Alan took control of the brake and brought Bigfoot to a stop about 10 feet from the cars.
From my view out the window and at the left tire, I thought we were lined up ok but Alan said we were too far to the right so I had to shift to Reverse and let the truck roll back again so I could line it up better. On this attempt to line up, Alan and I got our signals mixed up as he wanted me to go one way and I was turning the other and it doesn't help when there's a bunch of noise from the engine drowning out the voices. But after a few seconds everything was good and we were ready for the cars. Alan gave me last second instructions on hitting the cars. He would lift off the brake and let the truck roll towards the cars. When he said "HIT IT!" I was to stand on it for all it was worth.
Alan asked if I was ready and I said "yes!" and he said ok! and lifted off the brake, we rolled forward and he yelled "HIT IT!" and I put the gas to the floor and we went.......no where!
Bigfoot hit the cars with a thud and the front tires spinning like crazy as we rolled to a stop just passed the first two cars. At that moment I was about to throw up as I knew this was not a good situation and was having flashbacks to Lima when I nearly didn't get to ride because of breakage on the truck.
Alan wasn't sure what was wrong and I kind of started freaking out like it was something that I had done that caused the truck to break. I sat patiently in the cab as Bob Chandler, Jim Kramer, and Chris swarmed the truck trying to figure out what happened to the rear end. Word came that it was something in the axle but we still needed to get off these cars somehow. Alan told me to fire the truck up, put it in drive, and just see if the truck would roll off. I did that and we didn't move much so he told me to give it some gas and I did and he said "yeah, keep going." so I kept my foot on the throttle just enough to send some car parts flying and to get us off the stack. I crawled the truck over to the back of the hauler and parked it. All of the crew immediately went to work on examining the truck while I sat in the cab and really really didn't want to get out and thinking about what just happened. Chris brought the ladder over and I slowly made my way out of the cab. I stood at the back of the truck as Alan and Kramer jacked the truck up and started spinning the wheels to see what was wrong. I don't remember what Alan said when I asked him what the outlook was but it was basically along the lines of either it'll be fixable today or not. He asked if I was going to around Sunday and I said I hadn't planned on it but if I needed to I would, I didn't come this far to be denied. Alan said to check back in about hour and see what the progress was. I got out of the fire suit and went out into the crowd of people that was left and I instantly got mobbed with questions about what happened. I was definitely not in the mood for that and I just helped Brenda gather up the cameras and started the long walk to the haulers.
It took me a little while but I finally could smile and laugh at what had happened. I took pleasure in telling the story to anyone who wanted to know and that included basically everyone. Word of mouth spread quickly as, and I am dead serious here, I became known as "the kid who broke Bigfoot." Little kids pointed me out to their parents and said "thats him!" and could be heard asking: "Mom, I think that's the kid that broke Bigfoot." Time went quickly as I never even had a chance to sit down with running back and forth from pit to pit and having to tell the story 600 times. An hour passed before I had known it and I decided to start the walk back towards the driving area to see what was the scoop.
When I got there, lots of people were still standing watching the crew work on the truck. I noticed the truck was off the jack and hoped that was a good sign. I found Chris sitting by Bob Chandler's RV and I asked him what they found out. He said that they had it almost done and within 20 minutes, Bigfoot would run again! I was elated and went over to the truck where I got more "that's him" looks from people. I yelled over to Kramer and he said "It looks good!" which if Kramer says its good to go, that's the only opinion that matters to me. Bob Chandler then walked over to me with a big piece of metal in his hands and said "Here, a souvenir for you." It was the broken off part of the Rack N Pinion shaft that caused the rear axle to not move. For being about as big as a Bigfoot Muscle Machine truck, it was one heavy piece. Bob showed me how the teeth of the gears were all stripped out and that it sheared off from the axle. I thanked him for it and told him I was going to run back and get my camera crew and then be ready to go.
I turned the 10 minute walk to the haulers into a 2 minute sprint with a 10 pound piece of metal in my hand. I arrived at the haulers totally out of breath and managed to tell Brenda the truck was ready. She said alright and all of us began the walk back. When we got over to the Bigfoot area, the truck had been moved back away from the hauler and was parked awaiting my turn...or not! Another guy was already suited up to go! The Bigfoot crew didn't think I would be back that fast and thought they could get another turn in before mine. I was a bit upset by that seeing as how I was in it last and of course thinking to myself that "great, now this guy will have the truck break on him and I'll totally be screwed." But instead I kept my cool about the situation, went and put a brand new fire suit on and went back out by the camera crew as we all crossed our fingers that the truck would hold up. The run went off fine and I breathed a big sigh of relief as they parked the truck and Kramer pointed to me to come on over.
I flew up the ladder and dropped into the seat and had all the gear on in less than a minute as this had become routine by now. Alan latched me back in place and for the 2nd time I was set to go. Alan said that since I already knew the workings and what to do, that we'd just take one lap around on the pavement then head to the cars.
I fired up Bigfoot and we were off! Much better start this time as I managed to keep the truck moving at a good constant pace around the track. I circled around and brought the truck down the flat stretch pretty fast and turned to start around the circle again.
I really kept the speed up this time around the back stretch and slowed the truck down entering the sharp turn towards the cars. Alan helped out on the rear steer to make sure I was lined up straight this time. He explained again what to do and said that when he lifts off the brake to slowly ease into the throttle and when he said hit it to HIT IT! I said I was ready and he said "let's go!" The truck moved forward and I pushed the throttle down slowly as we rolled faster towards the cars. Alan yelled HIT IT! and I put the throttle to the floor and we're goin' up!
Same jump from two different cameras
The front tires shot towards the sky and the back tire stayed on the cars as I stood a nice wheelstand up and over the first 2-3 cars and landed the front tires hard into the end of the stack. I was loved it but wanted more and the look on my face showed it as I passed by the crowd. I was even starting to show off as I drove Bigfoot around the circle with an arm hanging out the window.
I blasted around the blacktop and towards the cars once again. As I approached the turn Alan must of had some confidence in me (which he should! :-) because he said "If you're lined up I won't stop you, just keep the speed up and hit 'em!" That was music to my ears! I headed towards the cars and made sure to keep to the right more and waited for Alan to stop me...he didn't! I charged towards the cars and he yelled for me to hit it and I mashed the big Ford motor and got some major league air!
**See the Video Here!**
I sailed across nearly all
the cars getting all 4 tires in the air and landed the front tires right smack on the 5th
car and bounced off perfectly. I had a big grin on my face and hung my arm out window
again as I cruised Bigfoot back around the outside pavement one more time. As I came up in
front of the crowd for the last time, Alan decided to have a little fun with me and
started throwing the rear steer in different directions and I started freaking out like
"what'd I break now!!?" He was having a good laugh as I shut the truck off in
front of everybody. Alan commented on my good driving and said that the last jump was
probably the smoothest of the day. I took my sweet time getting out of the truck seeing as
how I didn't really want to get out. But I finally unstraped and climbed on down. I
went into the hauler to take the firesuit off and in came Jim Kramer.
He told me good job which just was icing on the cake after this experience. Having the man that I idolized for years as a kid and still do to this day come up to me and say "good job" at something he is a master of is just incredible and something that I probably never imagined would happen. Kramer also told me how I left my foot in it all the way over instead of feathering the throttle in the air like Alan told me. Initially I thought I had taken my foot off in the midst of all it but I was wrong. He told me that if I ever got the have a truck of my own or ended up driving later on in life that keeping the throttle down in the air can do drivetrain and engine damage as well as keep the tires spinning fast if landing on the cars and possibly shooting debris off. Jim was very serious in giving me these tips and I made the mistake of sluffing off what he was saying for some reason and I kind of got a big head about myself. I did thank him for what he told me and hopped out of the trailor.
I went over to my camera crew and picked up the bags and seeing as how the day had flew by it was nearly 6:00 and time for the second show of monster truck racing. I took my cameras and headed with Kaedon, who and come down from the stands at the end of my run, up to the seats while Brenda went back to the Big Dawg hauler.
So after all that craziness and running around and broken parts, I finally got to drive Bigfoot and fulfill a dream. If the Bigfoot driving experience does come to a 4-Wheel Jamboree near you, I highly advise you to dig deep into your wallet and hop aboard Bigfoot for the ride of your life.
Big, huge, monsterous thanks go to Brenda Noelke for shooting some awesome pictures, as well as to everyone that helped me out with the camera crew. If you made it through that long read, thank you for your time and for stopping by MidwestMonsters once again.