Friday, December 6, 2013

30th Annual LA Barstow to Vegas

     So this is my dad 5 days after LAB2V.  Yeah ouch.  6 broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a busted clavicle - most broken on both sides for a grand total of 11 fractures.  How'd it happen?  I'll get to that. 

     This was a good year for the 30th LAB2V.  Rain a couple days before and a light drizzle on day 1 left us with almost no dust for nearly 400 miles.

Sign-in on day 1 had the same problem as last year in that they have the tables setup inside a motorcycle shop.  While I can appreciate that this is nice for keeping the staff warm, the end result is that 15 people are cozy and 500 guys dressed for riding in 37 degrees with chance of showers are sweating their butts off.  I stayed wet from that all day.

Day 1 riding was nice.  We followed a similar route as last year out of town, but that's where the similarities ended.  It was a short day at only 140 miles, with some really nice views and a lot of very deep sand washes.  Even with the rain it was pretty tough going through some parts.  Dad dropped it a few times in the sand but made we made it to Barstow early all the same.

Day 2 had a nicer start since we just lined up at the check in gate on our bikes and rode through as soon as they opened the ride.  

A longer trek on the road meant that by the time we hit the dirt the herd of bikes was already starting to thin out.  We made great time, and hit a long section of powerline road and we were just smoking along at about 45mph.  I was getting a bit tired and thought about pulling over for a break several times figuring my dad could use a break as well.  Wish I had.

Every 1/2 mile or so on the powerline road we'd hit a section of sand.  So long as you stayed in the wheel ruts it was fine, but if you hit the center hump or shoulder it was DEEP.  Well my dad managed to clip into that center hump and went down HARD.  I saw him in my mirror as he tumbled.  2 riders stopped to help him up and I pulled his bike off the road while he sat on a hillside trying to catch his breath.  His bars were bent badly but the bike was still ride-able.  A glance at the GPS showed that we were pretty much screwed for getting to a paved road.  Either 38 miles ahead to Baker or about 30 miles back the way we came (and into opposing traffic).  Dad said he felt okay and he wanted to keep going and ride it off.  A couple miles later, despite going much slower, he hit sand and went down again, this time hurting his leg.  

We limped along at a very slow pace until we hit Baker and fueled up.  He was still up for continuing on, but once he saw how deep the sand was on the trail out of Baker we decided to take a 25 mile detour on the freeway to skip that section.  When we hit our exit and got off the freeway we stopped to stretch our legs at a gas station.  He was hurting really bad at this point.  The freeway ride had allowed him time to hold still and everything tightened up.  It was hard for him to throw in the towel, but we decided that it was for the best and phoned the wives in the chase vehicle.  He was content to stay there and wait for them while I continued on.

I really thought I was behind at this point so I tore into the trails, averaging about 55mph the whole way to the lunch stop.  

It wasn't until lunch in Sandy Valley and talking to other riders that I realized I was pretty close to the front of the pack.  This was nice as it allowed me to take the longer and more scenic route to Red Rock Canyon.  Once again, I attacked the trail and made great time.  

Red Rock is always revered as the best part of LAB2V so I couldn't wait to try it.  I hit the trail and had easy terrain for the first several miles until I came upon a group of about 10 bikes waiting in line.  Supposedly somebody had crashed and we were waiting to get through.  I waited a few minutes until it was my turn and cruised around a bend.  Up ahead lay a very rocky and fairly challenging but small hill.  Littered throughout were riders that clearly were in over their heads.  One guy on an adventure bike seemed to be having the most trouble and causing the majority of the traffic up the easy/preferred trail so I parked my bike and took his bike up for him.  Once he was out of the way however, the very next guy behind him and the rider behind that guy both tipped over and the traffic jam was no better.  The line had already grown by half a dozen more riders so I figured if I wanted to get through, better to just go and let people figure out for themselves that they needed to turn back.  I picked an ugly line through huge boulders and made it without incident.

Unfortunately the traffic didn't stop there.  Just a couple turns ahead and I hit another traffic jam.  This time the snow that dotted the canyon had frozen to ice on the trail and nobody could get traction.  I aired down my tires and plowed forward along the side of the trail avoiding all the stuck riders.  A guy tipped over in front of me on the last bit of hill so I had to dismount and run the bike up the rest.  Another hill, much steeper and icier than the last greeted me - once again it was blocked by riders waiting their turns.  I had no choice but to sit about 20 minutes until enough room opened up that I could squeeze by.  I chose to run my bike up, and made it easily, managing to dodge several downed riders and some guy snapping pictures from the middle of the trail.  

Another hill loomed ahead, this time I wiped out myself about midway up.  I'd been at this for well over an hour at this point and was getting quite tired.  It seemed like every hill was worse than the last and I was seriously ready to throw in the towel.  When I managed to get my bike pointed uphill again I ran it a bit, only to have 2 guys tip over in front of me completely blocking the trail.  I was done.  I had no idea how many more hills like this we had to go and at this rate I'd be lucky to make Vegas by 3am.  I turned my bike around and headed down, cautioning others as to the terrain ahead as I went.

It took awhile to weed through the traffic and was infinitely more challenging than it had been going up since not only were the preferred routes blocked, but also several alternatives.  The only route was down the stuff that nobody wanted to try to ride up.  My clutch hand was shaking by the time I made it to the rocky hill where I'd helped the adventure bike up. 

I was disappointed, but not so much as a week later when I watched a YouTube video somebody had posted of their ride through the canyon.  Turns out the hill I turned around on was the last one, and the sailing was smooth from then on.  I was 150' away from completing Red Rock.  Next year...

The alternate route was boring.  Nothing but a paved mountain road down into Vegas.  I phoned my wife at the finish line so she could get ready with the camera, and rolled in to be greeted by my new best friends.  

Mom and dad were there, my dad hurting but not complaining.  In fact, one of the 1st things he asked me as I was stuffing Thanksgiving leftovers down my face was how the terrain was after we split.  When I told him he was remorseful, saying he probably could have made it then. 

It wasn't until we were home on Monday and he was still hurting that he decided to go to the ER and we found out the damage.  Once I heard the tally and thinking back to how disappointed he was for not finishing, all I could think of was:

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