Valley Forge Trail Riders: The Early Years
VFTR was chartered with the AMA in 1972, the first year it also become a member club of the ECEA. Jim Moore and friends (Val Shukaitis, Dick Place, Lloyd Clemmer, Nat Emery and others) were the charter members.The first meetings were held at Jim's home in Worcester, Montgomery Co., they then began meeting at the Audubon Inn.
Why form a club? Well, at that time (early 70's) Enduros were starting to take off in popularity, fueled by the success of Huskys and Pentons at the high end...and the new Japanese Enduro bikes such as the Yamaha DT-1, CT-1, etc. at the lower priced end. In fact, the ECEA clubs began doing a controlled distribution of Enduro entry blanks to ECEA club members. Some were setting 300 rider limits and if you did not belong to an ECEA club you were not guaranteed of getting an entry.
At the same time, a group of riders from Delaware and Chester counties (Ross Watson, Gordon Fluke, Charlie Sinkler, Peter Wright and others) also looked to charter a similar club. Ross Watson called the AMA to charter the Valley Forge Enduro Riders. The Charter clerk at the AMA noticed the similar club name and mentioned that to Ross. Ross said never mind...got in contact with Jim...and at the next meeting the 2 groups merged together.
As today, each ECEA club was obligated to either put on an Enduro, or to provide significant assistance in putting on another ECEA club's Enduro. In 1973 VFTR met this obligation by assisting RORR with their Enduro, back when it started in Port Clinton and featured a crossing of the Little Schuylkill River. However, the decision was made to put on our own event for 1974...but being a club based in suburban Philadelphia...where? We needed a lot of ground and minimal land owners.
Someone mentioned that there was good riding (although quite illegal) at the Indiantown Gap Military Reservation (IGMR) north of Lebanon. In the fall of 1973, Jim and some others made the first presentation to the IGMR base Commander, followed by a number of jacket and tie presentations that a number of us participated in. The good news was we got the approval for May of 1974. The bad news was…we were now on the ECEA schedule for a 100 mile Enduro…in a riding area that NONE of us was familiar with!
We were provided with quadrant maps of IGMR, and permission to do our “recon” work during the winter. At each visit, we were required to first check in with the Range Control office. IGMR was an active National Guard training base with active small arms ranges and an artillery “impact area” that was strictly off limits to us...for obvious reasons! During the winter of 73/74 we spent many weekends up at IGMR, at first simply using the quadrant maps to “decontrol” the area…just to find out what trails, jeep roads, tank roads, etc were there. Then in the spring we pieced together the course layout with 100 true ground miles, which ran from Manada Gap in the west, across Indiantown Gap, up to Swatara Gap in the east. The starting/camping area was in a large field behind a small Church on Rte 443 that was named the Moonshine Church…which became the name of our Enduro. A number of us were familiar with the perpetual trophies that had become trademarks of some of the most prestigious Enduros: The Jack- Pine Cowbell…the Corduroy Log…and the Sandy Lane Wagon Wheel…so we decided the Moonshine Jug would be our perpetual trophy also…handed down from winner to winner of the soon-to-be equally prestigious Moonshine Enduro!
There were a number of unique features to our events at IGMR. Perhaps most infamous was our Moonshine Mudhole. There were a couple of versions of this knee deep mud-trap, usually on a section of tank trail, but one year just 100 feet from the starting line! We also ran the course through “Riot City”. This was a full scale mock up of an urban street, complete with false-front building facades similar to a movie set. This was used for National Guard urban riot training! We also had the Enchanted Forest, Dead Dog Trail, and the 15 mile long Second Mtn jeep trail.
It was a great spot to host an Enduro, but it did come with complications. In 1975, our second year, with probably 400 entries filling up the campground on Saturday morning, we were called to an urgent meeting at the Commander’s office. With the imminent falling of Saigon, IGMR was being quickly mobilized as a refugee support center. We would have to cancel the Enduro and depart immediately! We stated our case that 400 taxpaying citizens from 12 states were either here or enroute…and pleaded for mercy! Which we got, along with orders to have all of the campground vacated by noon on Monday. We dodged that bullet, but were not so lucky in 1980 when Jimmy Carter decided to accept the refugees from Cuba that Castro created when he cleaned out his prisons in the Mariel boat lift. And the Enduro was cancelled. We returned to IGMR for another year or two…but decided it was time to relocate. We struck up an alliance with the Lehigh Valley Dirt Riders…led by Tom Napier and Fred Najork. LVDR had been putting on the Rock Run Enduro out of Barnesville for a number of years, including a National in 1977, but their club membership was dwindling. They had the land and VFTR had the staff…so we joined together for the Moon-Rock Enduro. Shortly after (1984), we moved a second time to our 30+ year home in Brandonville and resumed the name of the Moonshine Enduro.
Those of us that worked on the first generation of Moonshine Enduros at IGMR certainly remember them fondly. -RC