Author Topic: Uncle's Desert Challenge 2014  (Read 98 times)

Rusty Shovel

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Uncle's Desert Challenge 2014
« on: March 26, 2014, 11:13:14 pm »
There was a pretty good turnout for the Desert Challenge, about 70 riders showed up for the event.  It was a motley association of bikes.  DRZ400's, WR250R's, and EXC's were the most common dual sports.  I saw a couple Huskys, a smattering of converted CRF's and WRF's.  There even some die-hard KLR riders, God bless 'em.

My favorite bike there was an old XL125.  Some bikes were just done right.

The rider meeting was short and informal.  Folks were in no rush to leave the buffet breakfast provided by the event.  Many folks went back to their hotel to grab some extra gear; it was cooler in the morning than many anticipated.  I wore an old jacket, a Klim jersey, a pair of Klim Mojave pants, and a well-used daypack.  I carried the usual assortment of tools, tubes, and spare water.

I had trucked the bike to Big Bend with Patrick "TenFootGlass." Patrick rode his tastefully modified EXC530.  We met Logan, a buddy of a person to whom I'd sold my old WR250R.  The three of us set out without fanfare.

Our bikes are still so pretty.

But that would quickly change:

The River Road along the Rio Grande began sending shots over the bow.  Little pits of sand and loose stone that wanted to lead us astray.

Some trails seemed firm, right up to the point where they weren't.

At about the one-hour mark, Patrick was leading the pack down into a dry arroyo.  His front tire ping-ponged off a couple baseball sized rocks before burying itself in the powdery silt.  He went head over handlebars and landed not too far ahead of his bike.

When I saw Pat on the ground holding his arm, I thought for sure we were done.  But Pat's tougher than that.  He was dizzy (from the adrenaline dump) and his shoulder hurt (from his one-point landing), and his elbow was bleeding.  But after a short break and a few gulps of water, he was ready to go.

It was, I think, the first time Patrick mentioned that his fan didn't seem to be running.  Mine and Logan's were running like gangbusters.  We should've done more that shrug--but that's hindsight for you.

I wasn't much later that I had a spill of my own.  I was climbing a hill that required a bit of clutch work.  At the top was a pool of sandy rock.  I gunned it to get the front tire lighter, but instead my whole rear end whipped out and I went down in a heap.  Bruised hip and ego.  Lorna (my bike) had sustained some damage to her foot shifter.

Notice how it's scrapping the magnesium off my cover.  It ran sloppy like that until we caught up with a bunch of regulars.

They all had opinions, but the simplest suggestion was the best; the shifter has simply come loose.  One Official KTM star key later, I was back on the road.

I was fairly happy with a successful trailside "repair."  So I felt like an old salty when we arrived at the nameless gas station that had two pumps and one grade: "GAS."  I figured one tank couldn't do too much harm.  The gas station sandwich, however, threatened me all sorts of harm.  In the end, that stale bread with mayonaiseless slimy meat was a meal fit for a king.  But was couldn't dally long, We'd somehow managed to burn through 6 hours!

Patrick was eager to go!

The afternoon portion of the ride was less technical than the morning had been.  Which is good because it was getting hot and we were pretty worn out at this point.  Logan, who was clearly in the best shape amongst us, kept wanting to zip ahead--he alway came back though, I appreciate a safety-minded crew.

Because our pace slowed, we got more pictures like this:

Isn't that pretty?

This is the last picture I took while my bike operated normally (see how peacefully I smile).

Not long after this photo, on Ole Mine Road (I think), we passed several EMT's who are working on a hurt rider.  I decided then and there that I was gonna slow it down.  I was getting too tired to take silly chances.  As it turns out, going below your normal speed is dangerous.  While cresting a mild hill, my front tire twisted off a small rock and put me hard on the ground.  I'd kicked my peg with my shin, but I was alright.  Lorna, however, had dented her clutch cover to the degree that I could hear it eating away the inside of the case.  Bummer.

I spend the next several minutes in 1st gear.  After a few tries I got it into it's upper gears, but clearly something bad had happened. 

Despite my hobbled bike, we were making fairly good time.  We muddled through a section of baby talk sand that was exhausting before reaching a stretch of road.  After 200 miles of rugged country, the road was a blessing.  I was going 95 just for the sheer ease of it.  When I reached the next turn, however, no one showed for several minutes.  I started driving back and was intercepted by Logan, who explained that Patrick's bike had completely seized up while going 70mph down the highway.

Here's his 70" skid mark.  It's a miracle he didn't drop it or get rear-ended.

Anyway, so Patrick's done.  Another group comes up behind us and I ask if Logan can join them.  Logan was really hesitant, but in the end I told him I'd be pissed if he didn't finish the race for all of us.

I rode back to the hotel via the freeway, picked up the truck, picked up Patrick and his dead bike, drove him back to the hotel, then went back out and finished the course on my own.

Now, I know going it alone isn't the wisest.  But as much as I love company, I sometimes crave solitude.

No more eating dust; just me and a dirty road.  I loved it.

I finished the challenge and can't wait to do it again next year.  As long as I have proper case protection!
2014 KTM 690 Enduro R

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Alabama Adventurer

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Re: Uncle's Desert Challenge 2014
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2014, 08:39:39 pm »
Nice images Rusty; thanks for sharing!