Tuesday, November 27, 2012
DNF, or Did Not Finish. That was my 1st LAB2V. I am, of course, disappointed, but really it was as gentle of a DNF as I could possibly have.
Day 1 went well enough. I had a flat on my front tire after only about 40 miles in. With the Tubeliss, this just meant I lost 15 minutes while I plugged the hole and stripped off several layers of clothing as the temperature was already starting to climb. I took it pretty easy all day, knowing that I had 280 miles to do the next morning. Had one dismount late in the day. No biggie, I was getting kinda lazy and didn't really notice how deep the sand berm was on the side of the trail. I dropped off some rocks and let the bike drift into the sand and out went the front tire from under me. Got to Barstow with plenty of daylight to spare. All said, 215 miles, 62.7 max speed, 7h 8m moving time, 9h 39m overall time, and 30.1mph average speed. Not too shabby considering half the route had a 30mph speed limit due to it being a desert tortoise habitat area.
Speaking of that speed limit. I seriously felt like I was the only one actually adhering to it. Both days I'd be cruising along at 30 and I'd have bike after bike go flying past me. I honestly felt like I should be wearing a traffic cone on my head given what a hazard I was at that speed. Pissed me off too. I'd really like to do this ride with my kid in 14 years, and with all these yahoo's ignoring BLM requirements for this ride, I just don't know how they'll keep granting us access. I kept thinking; its a flat, wide open dirt road, and 499 other riders participating in this event are just as "skilled" to ride it at 45. The only reason I'm not is because the event organizers specifically told us that breaking this speed limit is the #1 way we're going to lose our permits next year. Best of all, without fail I'd catch up and pass every single person that blew by me when they stopped for a break and I didn't. 5 minutes later I'd be choking on their dust again as they flew passed me - still in the tortoise area. Dumb.
Anyway day 2 started off decent enough. Very dusty and sandy as we rode from 1 sand wash to another. Everything was fine and we finally got out of tortoise territory (and out of the sand washes yay!) when I had a massive blowout on my front tire. Pulled over to find a 3/4" gash in my tire. Well. Shit. On. Me. I considered my options. The tubeliss was useless. I could try to plug the hole with multiple plugs but knew I wouldn't be able to maintain any sort of pressure for very long. I could try a tube, but honestly with a hole that big I knew that the tube wouldn't last long. I had just dropped out of the mountains and was only a mile or so from the 40 freeway so running a tube was likely to just get me further from rescue before it failed. I was bummed but I called my support crew back home and told them to come get me. I'd try to do what repairs I could and see if I could get the 38 miles back to Barstow via the road.
Several plugs later I had a tire that actually held air better than expected. It leaked like a sieve until about 7psi but then it slowed to a rate that actually allowed several miles between inflation stops. I limped along like that down to Route 66 and took that back into Barstow. Once there, I pulled into the nearest dealership and bought a new tire and got it all installed while waiting for the wife to show up with the truck. My hope at this point was to try to drive to Sandy Valley and rejoin the ride before sweep pulled out of there at 3pm. She arrived, we loaded up and hit the road as fast as we dared. Unfortunately, at 3pm we were still some 30 miles from Sandy Valley. Damn. Not wanting to risk being stuck out in the desert at night and with no support, I decided that my day was done and I'd do the safe thing and just finish the trip to Vegas in the truck. It wasn't an easy drive.
So yeah, I am disappoint. But to be fair, there were several lucky aspects to my breakdown. For starters, I didn't crash when it blew out. Also the bike was repaired and ready to finish the ride the same day, and would have if we were 40 minutes faster. Also, if you're going to break down on a ride like that, you have to consider yourself pretty lucky when it happens so close to a major paved road. My support team came through for me. Not just my wife who drove out to get me but my parents who took my kid so that we didn't have to attempt all of this with a 2 year old in tow.
So yeah I'm thankful that it happened like it did, but still wish it hadn't happened at all. Next year I'm hoping that the offspring will be old enough that my wife can drive the truck out to Barstow on day 1, thereby being in the area if I have an issue. Plan A is to have things like spare tires on hand in the truck. Plan B is to just have another bike ready to go, and I'll just swap my rider number onto that and keep going if there's an issue with bike #1. Either way, I hope the 30th annual LAB2V is my first one to finish.