It has been awhile since I’ve done a race report so I thought I’d dust off the computer keys and give this a go.
This year’s event came with great anticipation. Not sure exactly why, but the excited feelings beforehand reminded me of the years long ago when this was THE BIG EVENT, not to be missed and looked forward to for many months before hand.
Borrowed Ken’s enclosed 6x10 trailer and it helped greatly in hauling the bikes and providing a nice shelter out of the wind and cold. Erik came along and it was a great time for him, too.
Headed out early Friday morning, couldn’t sleep much the previous two nights before and anxious to get on the road. Phone rang at about 8:30am and it was Will. He decided to come along after all but he was 2+ hours behind me and he’d have to bring his own rig.
Erik and I arrived at the race site outside of Odessa around Noon and found an open spot next to the Turners. The weather was cool and overcast. We unloaded and before heading for the play riding area I told Erik, “please be careful. There are lots of people out here riding around with their heads screwed on backwards, don’t be one of them.” Off we went.
We took a few laps around the 3 mile loop they had through the desert. Erik did really good, still getting used to the clutch and complained about the rocks at first. I explained this was the desert and there are lots of rocks, so learn not to hit them.
It started to rain and get really cold so we headed for the trailer. After it stopped raining we went back out and putted around camp. I saw that the sign up was open for tomorrow’s events so we went and signed up for the Dual Sport Poker Run. Erik started off with a Jack and I got a Queen. Erik drew a 6 for Uncle Will who still hadn’t arrived yet.
We packed up and headed for the hotel in Ritzville where we’d be staying at night. Ritzville is about 30 miles east of Odessa. At the hotel, Erik immediately changed gear and headed for the swimming pool. I followed along, but had “accidentally” forgotten my swim trunks. About then my phone rang and it was Will, he had arrived.
While Erik was still enjoying the pool, Will and I made some modifications to his bike to get it “Dual-Sport” ready. Installing some fold down mirrors, a taillight, borrowing my license plate and also installing my big fuel tank. Everything was done in no time and it was back up to the room to warm up. Dinner that night was at Perkins and it was busy, filled with travelers and desert racers alike.
SATURDAY DUAL-SPORT POKER RUN and MINI’s RACE
Saturday morning woke up to a crystal clear day and 29 degrees! Brrr. Dang. Had to get up really early since the rider’s meeting was at 6:30 am. Arrived on site about 6:15 and had a hard time finding a place to park. This place was packed. Finally got a spot to wedge my rig with trailer along with Will’s truck and trailer. Unloaded and my big 950 groaned to life in the cold morning air. Will’s battery wasn’t having anything to do with the cold morning so he had to kick start his bike. Made it to the rider’s meeting at about 6:45 and were ready to go. Erik would ride on the back of the 950 for the Dual Sport ride.
The first loop was the 23-mile Family Poker Run loop and in hind-sight, I should have let Erik ride his XR80 on this instead of on the back of the 950. But he was a real trooper and the going was slow, especially over the bumps. But the 950 was a trail worthy steed. Climbing up the rocky and silty hills. I commented to Will that this bike has plenty of two things: “weight and power!” We did come to one especially difficult rocky uphill I remembered from the race 2 years ago. Erik got off and walked up the hill while I powered up the ledge.
We finished the first 23 miles in about 2 hours and Erik had had enough of riding on the back of the 950 and wanted to go ride his bike. So, I got him going on his XR80 and Will and I took off on the next loop of the DS course. This would be mostly farm roads with a couple of trail sections. Very easy going, saw some interesting farm scenery. The two trail options were really cool. I was surprised at how well the 950 was able to negotiate the dirt. With the slightly used Dunlop 909RR DOT knobbies, they hooked up really well and I could lay the bike over in the corners with confidence. I smacked a rock with the front wheel and stopped to see if there was any damage. Luckily no.
Met up with some NW racing legends also on their 950’s. Alan Deyo and Brent Richardson. Alan has been to the ISDE event (motorcycle Olympics) many years and Brent won the Desert 100 in 1988.
At the end of the middle loop it was getting close to time for Erik’s race so Will and I called it a day with about 85 miles on the bikes. Found Erik and he was excited to show me his new trick—JUMPS! He went sailing over some jumps other kids were playing on and I couldn’t believe it. Wow! He said it was so much fun.
We got Erik all signed up and gave his bike a pre-race check. His chain needed adjusting along with some lube. I asked if he needed gas and he said, “no I don’t think so..” It was almost bone dry and I had just filled it up yesterday. So we topped it off. I asked him if he wanted his Camel-Back drinking system and he said no. He was too anxious to sit around so he went riding some more.
His rider’s meeting came and we headed off. Erik was entered in the 9-12 yr class and they would race first around a 3 mile course for about 45 minutes. Erik lined up for the dead-engine desert-style start with about 120 other riders on the line. I wished him luck and told him it will be very dusty so don’t do anything silly.
The horn blasted and Erik kicked his bike to life. I looked through my zoom lense and could see him pop the clutch as his front wheel came off the ground. “Take it easy, son.” And in a matter of seconds, the dust was so thick I couldn’t see a thing. I was so worried knowing that Erik was in the middle of this huge dust storm trying to ride his bike.
After about 10 minutes, here came Erik around to the check point. Looking good. Way to go Erik!! And off he went for another lap. He would complete 4 laps without any crashes or other problems. He saw a few crashes from other riders and even stopped to check on one kid who said he couldn’t feel his arm. He went to the next check and told the workers a kid was hurt. Good job, Erik.
At the finish chute, Erik was so tired. He could barely hold his bike upright and complained he was very thirsty. Well, next time I’m sure he’ll remember his Camel-Back. After getting scored the announcer stuck a microphone inside his helmet and asked, “how was it?” Erik responded, “that was awesome!” Right on.
Erik collected his coveted Finisher T-shirt and we headed back to the trailer. He was so tired and sore, he took off his boots and jacket and then climbed into the truck. We loaded up and headed out for Ritzville.
Erik went swimming again and then we were all sound asleep by 8:00pm.
SUNDAY DESERT 100 RACE
Sunday morning it was a bit warmer and overcast, but no rain. A perfect day. Will decided to head for home so Erik and I traveled back to the race site and found a spot to park near the kid’s play area where Erik would be able to ride all day. I got unloaded, got Erik off and riding and then made my own race preparations. The goal for today would be to not only finish, but to take it very easy, have a good time, with no crashes nor any other physical problems.
There were close to 800 entries this year. A ton of bikes and riders. The starting line was very long and massive. After a canon shot, we would run 30 yards to our bikes then take off across the virgin desert to a place between to large flag poles about 3 miles away. I could see the flag poles off in the distance, they looked like toothpicks.
I normally let it all hang out at the start. Running to my bike, starting and then blasting off with a blazing pace to the flags. But I know what this leads to, staying competitive for the remainder of the race. I wasn’t going to do that this time. Instead I stood there with my goggles off my helmet as the cannon went off. The riders around me sprinted to their bikes, while I strolled. Climbed aboard, started the bike, fastened my goggles and then took off. It was comical, but a rider 6 bikes over from me crashed in the first 20 yards of the race! Hah!
I took it painfully easy the first 3 miles to the flags. I saw bikes and riders sprawled out all over the place after hitting patches of rocks or ditches or thick sage brush. That’s desert racing, you never know what obstacles are lurking around. I made it to the flags way in the back of the pack, the dust was getting thick but not too bad. I rode conservatively, mostly standing up on the pegs and passed a few riders here and there, but not getting too crazy.
Saw a few riders off to the side with already broken bikes or bodies, their day was over. I just concentrated on staying loose and picking good lines that didn’t stress the bike or body.
I was on my game for picking good lines. I came to a potential bottleneck area up a nasty rocky hill. I remembered it from 2 years ago and before leading up to the canyon where the trail was, I cut off way before it and rode clean up a rock pile to the top of the hill and back onto the trail. What took me 20 seconds was taking other riders 12 minutes or more. I passed about 50 riders in this spot alone. Then another spot was a nasty downhill down a rocky ledge. Instead of waiting in line like everyone else, I got off my bike and bulldogged it down a set of boulders the side of basketballs down onto the trail. That was pretty nervous but I wasn’t about to sit around waiting for the rest of the riders.
Then another section was a nasty hill climb up a silted mess. Bikes were getting stuck and riders were being buried in silt. I took another line up the hill well before the silt mess and up and over I went. Again, getting around a bunch of riders with little or no exertion and on my way.
Each lap was 53 miles and I came into the pits at about noon (race started at 9:30). I gassed up, got something to eat, Erik stopped by and said he was having fun. Told him I was doing well and should finish about 2:30 or so. Off I went.
About 3 miles out of camp I see a downed rider in the middle of the trail. He’d had a bad get off. He said he thought his shoulder was broken. I saw that he was a team rider and had just started off on his portion of the race. I told him his partner was going to be pissed that he cracked himself up. I pushed his bike off to the side of the trail and helped him settle himself down and went off to the next check to let a course worker know.
The dust during the 2nd loop seemed to be a bit worse than the first. Don’t know why, maybe the course was drying out. I had a close call, getting my right foot peeled back by a rock I didn’t see. It could have been very bad if not for my Alpinestar Tech 6 boots. They have saved my bacon numerous times. It did hurt badly and I stopped to take a break. Luckily the pain went away rather than build up and start throbbing.
I passed what seemed like a hundred riders. That was fun (rather than getting passed). I could settle into a comfortable pace and riding position (up on the pegs, arms loose, knees slightly bent and chin over the handle bars) and just cruise and still pick off riders. I could clearly see where all of my racing experience has helped me ride smart. Picking lines and identifying trouble spots long before I ever get there enabled me to avoid bottlenecks and other spots that would have caused me extra effort and exertion.
I started getting sore and tired around 80 miles but then got my 2nd wind at 90 and the last 15 miles just ticked on by. At the end I felt really good and could have gone further. NO BLISTERS!! That is a first at this event. Had a great time.
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