2008-10-25~26 Tom's Annual GAG Ride Report

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2008-10-25~26 Tom's Annual GAG Ride Report

Postby Tawmass » Sun Oct 26, 2008 10:38 pm

(All photos are mine unless otherwise noted)
I’m not sure how many years I’ve had my GAG (Great Annual Gifford) Ride, but this year topped all the others! It consisted of broken cases, multiple fuel outages, getting lost at night, hunters from heaven, stolen dog, mischievous mice, trail fires, no lights, broken bridges, fouled plugs, lethal switchbacks, duct tape and headlamps, copious amounts of fear, freezing cold night, poor headlights, search & rescue, getting in at 1:30am, premix as motor oil, tequila, saber-toothed-fender-eating douglas fir, loopouts, stunning scenery/weather, good times and no injuries.

Other than that, it was uneventful. :D Read on for the gory details.

This is an annual, invite-only, no-wimps ride that I host every year. It’s a splendid excuse to ride hard with good friends and party with like-minded individuals. One thing missing from this year’s assault was my bud Dan Hatcher. He had family obligations to attend to, so he had his priorities in check, as family always comes first. It always seems to be a challenge to get a good group of competent riders that keep their machines tuned and adjusted well for this type of area, especially since I always lean to going on the gnarlier trails. My thoughts are that, if you’re not bulldogging your scoot once in awhile, then the trail isn’t tough enough.

I showed up Friday night at the Lower Falls Campground around 10:30pm or so. On my way up, my close bud Frank called and said he’d be there, although it would be late, since he had just flown in from Palm Springs. Cool. I figured my bud Matt would already be there, but tooling around the campground loops, there was nobody. WTF? I figured my Bend connection, Matt, would’ve been there way before me. It turned out that there was yet one more loop I hadn’t taken and sure enough, that’s where they laid claim to camping. Matt brought two of his friends Duane and Jesse, who I’d never met before. Duane was on a Honda 250X and Jesse was sporting a Yamaha WR250. Lucky for Matt he brought is most awesome of pooches, a three-legged wonder dog I dubbed “Tripod”. I love that biscuit burner and will steal her some day! We all of course did the usual bench racing and lying into the wee hours, and got freaked out at the little forest mice that would occasionally dart back and forth along the night ground. Frank finally pulled in around 2am and settled in for the night.

Saturday – Day One
The next morning I woke up around 6:30am and started hand drawing track logs based off what the USFS maps show, to download to my GPS. This would at least get us close to the right trails I figured. Turns out that was a very smart thing on my part for a change. Around 8am Joe and Brad showed up all amped out on coffee and excited. We had a total of seven antsy riders: Duane, Matt, Jesse, Frank, Joe, Brad and yours truly. After milling around, we finally got all the kittens herded together and started off into the trails after 10am. I still had my track log of the same area from last year’s rainy ride, so I took a cool loop that was not used much. We stopped after the first tight trail section and waited for all seven riders to show up. There was a small delay, then Duane showed up with the other riders in tow and his front fender was broken completely off. Now I’ve seen a lot of busted fenders and I’ve even spanked a few myself, but I’ve never seen one completely ejected from the bike, both front and back pieces. So that was the start of the ribbings for the day. I realized about that time that I forgot to fill up my water bag – argh.

The guilty parties.
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Then we continued on towards the summit and started to make our way over to Juniper Ridge and Jumbo Peak. The fall colors were emblazoned upon the landscape and were almost a surreal kaleidoscope of colors for our eyes to feast upon! We encountered a few other riders along the way. It’s always great to visit with other riders, but I had a head-on accident in the 80’s that left me with knee surgery, so I’m always filled with angst when leading. I of course had everyone pose for the obligatory Kodak Moment in front of Jumbo Peak. From Jumbo Peak we descended down the north side on the first encounter of gnarly switchbacks. I was planning on coming back via Langille Ridge, but the clock was running short, plus a few riders had reservations about the dangerous switchbacks.

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Hey, I even got into the photos for a change! (Joe Fuller photo)
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We had to use rope to lower our bikes over this edge - just kidding! These were three guys we met out on the trail - twice.
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A shrine to someone along the trail. The name appeared to be Bryan Evans.
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Duane was a good man to take his nerfed fender back out of the forest! We hate litterbugs.
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The Fall colors were beautimous!
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Some other riders we encountered, and a few have even been to our Black Dog Ride!
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God's Country, and the Fallen Angels!
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Duane at Jumbo Peak.
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Jumbo Peak - a spectacular vista with ugly faces!
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Descending down the other side.
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We dropped down into a small valley and that’s when I heard Jesse yelling down to us that he was done, since he had a slow tip over and broke his WR engine case on a rock. This was not a good place to get towed out from – we were in a big bowl.

It was time to resort to Plan B. We put all our heads together for a solution to the problem at hand. Fortunately Jesse had brought some JB Weld epoxy type goo, so the only choice was to clean off the case, rough up the edges, then glop on the epoxy and cross our legs that it would hold. Oh, and the sun was already behind the rock precipice above us, so it was starting to get cold. On a positive note, we all got to see a mountain goat up on one of the rocks. Jesse fired up the ailing WR and we waited for oil to ooze out of the oil check line to the cylinder head. We waited some more – still nothing, so he killed the motor and checked the oil level – nothing. Now what? The ONLY spare oil that any of us had was the two two-stroke guys, Matt and Brad. They had each brought little containers of premix oil and we deduced that, hey, premix oil lubricates main bearings in a two-stroke motor, so it should be okay in a four-stroke mill, right? After pouring both containers in, there was finally oil showing on the dipstick. Plus, Jesse’s epoxy job looked like it was holding and not leaking – woohoo!

Epoxy to the rescue - complete with Polish, five-day condoms! Jesse shows his approval of the high-dollar oil. But choosers can't be beggars!
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Hey, it's getting cold and dark! (Jesse Katz photo)
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Continuing on through the incredible Fall colors, while the sun sets.
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So we tip toed out of that section, continued north and I checked the map for the shortest/easiest way back to camp. That entailed taking the main, gravel Road #29 southward (between Juniper and Langille) and connecting back into Trail #1.

About four miles down the gravel road, Brad’s big KX ran out of petrol. No problem, Matt’s KTM still has a bit to spare, so the siphoning ensued, and we continued up the road again. I’m watching Brad’s thirsty KX and he’s doing everything right – coasting down hills and just riding in the torque of the powerband. Cough, he ran out again, and the Chinese Fire Drill started all over again.

Some serious blow jobs.
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Jesse cleaning out his siphon hose by spinning it in a circle emulating David & Goliath.
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Now the sun had set and it was the twilight zone – quite literally. Damn, Matt and Brad have no lights, but if they can just keep sipping petrol, they can be sandwiched between the other bikes that do have lights and we could make it. That’s when I realized that we had this one, gnarly, root-infested hill to climb and there was no way around it. I soldiered up the first section no problem, but most everyone behind got stuck and had a Helluva time, so I dismounted and helped roll everyone up that piece. I even took a turn on the big KX. I used to race one, so it was déjà vu all over again, but it did fine. By this time Brad was as whipped as pumpkin pie topping, so he swapped bikes with Joe. I remembered coming down the big hill earlier in the day and saying to myself, “Self, I sure hope we don’t have to go back up that nasty thing.” Unfortunately we had to go up. I remembered seeing a line on one side that appeared better, so I started up the climb on that trail, with Joe and the big, smokey KX on my heels. Hell’s fire, I only got up about 20 before my back wheel dropped into some roots and stopped me cold. This in turn stopped poor Joe and the blind KX in its tracks also, immediately behind me. It took me a few tries, but I finally got going again and worked my way to the summit of the gnarliest part. Then it was time to go help everyone else, and help they all needed. There were roots with one and two-foot drop offs on the lower side. Picture this: it’s now completely dark, there are a few headlights pointing at the trees and the Big Dipper, motors blazing in a smokey cloud, people swearing like drunken sailors and tires spinning on roots like a chainsaw. Crazy!

I was hoping and praying that we could get to the summit and start descending, so we continued on the narrow, mountain-goat trails, and that’s when it happened - I heard on the radio that both two strokes ran out of gas within about ¼ mile of each other.

Time for Plan B. Here they waited. (Jesse Katz photo)
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And waited... (Jesse Katz photos)
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(Matt Hockin photo)
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Dammit. Now time for Plan C. I made the executive decision to leave Jesse with Matt, and Joe with Brad. Frank, Duane and I would find the best way back to camp and return with premix for the KTM and KX and the world would be right again. It was now about 9pm and no moon. We’re talking nothing but stars out, and darkness. We made sure Joe had one of the three radios I brought along, and Frank and I had the other two. Then Frank, Duane and I continued on the trail, turned left and came to a gravel road. We followed it down and it intersected with Road #93. Frank and I double checked our GPS readings and I thought I had the best way back, but as a group it was decided to just stay on the main road #93, since it would probably lead us back to Road #90 and back to camp. Into the darkness we rode. All I had was a low-beam light and it was scary easy to overdrive it. Duane just had one beam on his 250X and Frank had the big light on his Beta 450.

Frank checking his GPS. Brrrrr it's cold!
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That’s when my 450X went on reserve.

We descended down, down, down the road and I would routinely see where the GPS waypoint arrow was pointing for camp and it wasn’t good. This road kept taking us AWAY from where we needed. Then Duane’s 250X went on reserve. We went for miles and miles in freezing cold darkness and it was inevitable that Duane and I were about ready to completely run out of gas at anytime. I stopped and noticed there was a shortcut road that went from #93 to #90 and we took that. The road got rough in spots and was peppered with potholes, then Duane got nervous and suggested let’s go back to the main road. I convinced him that the GPS showed this road going through and it should only be about three or four miles to #90, so we continued. And that’s when we saw the hunters from heaven. They had a massive campsite consisting of a huge fire pit, with wood surrounding the fire drying out, a massive tarp over the top and all manner of hunting supplies everywhere. These guys were set! I walked up, introduced myself and asked if we could beg, borrow, buy or steal enough gas to get to camp. These gentlemen were so kind! They allowed us to get a good dose of gas, and refused to take any of my money, which I was MORE than happy to pay high dollar for. We practically had to pull Duane from their fire, it was so cold out. And I was so cold that I forgot to get their picture - dang!

We continued up the road, crossed the river and finally got on #90. Then Duane scared the heck out of me when he suddenly started yelling and driving over at me! I then realized it was just that he was so elated to see this road that he just wanted to high five me! It was yet another icy-cold ride back to camp that must have been at least eight miles, but we finally arrived – yes! We all immediately went to our respective trailers, I turned on my trailer’s heater and that’s when I noticed that a damn forest mouse had snuck inside my trailer and eaten a package of instant cocoa. Great, now I got a damn rodent hitchhiking in my Skank Trailer like it’s a party RV! Duane says that his knees are killing him (he’s had surgery on both of them) and requested to stay if possible, so I told him to build up a big fire and have plenty of hot food for everyone whenever we get back. He also informed me that Matt’s wonder dog, Tripod, was missing – not good news. Then Frank and I found some one-gallon water jugs, filled them up with premix, loaded up some survival sandwiches, flashlights, LED lights and duct tape. We topped off our bikes and headed back off on what appeared to be a considerably closer route back to our stranded compadres. Now it’s after midnight. Wow, was it cold heading back out again, but we had to go, as our buds were depending on us. While we were heading back out, I remembered that Matt was showing off his new fire-starting tool, so I knew they at least had the capabilities of making a fire – good.

About the time we got off the road and hit the trail, I thought I’d see if I could radio Joe. Sure enough, Joe answered and said they all were doing just fine and each had fires burning. That was very comforting to hear! Frank and I continued on at a snail’s pace, due to my girly headlight beam, but at least it was something.

When we finally arrived, there were some happy, smiling faces, as they figured they were probably going to have to spend the night out there. I was just hoping we didn’t drive up and see them all spooning to stay warm – yikes! Frank and I separated to each empty bike, topped them off, stomped out the fires, herded everyone up and started our way back to camp.

An elated Jesse realizes he doesn't have to snuggle all night with Matt. Here I am, to save the day! (Jesse Katz photo)
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Wiring up some makeshift lights.
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Joe and Matt must’ve had quite the Braille experiences using those minimal flashlights. At one point, poor Brad looped out Joe’s Honda in spectacular fashion, but he was okay.

Matt riding by Braille. (Jesse Katz photo). Brad using Braille also.
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When we FINALLY rolled back into camp, it was after 1am, and Duane thankfully had a very hot fire burning and had hot chili and taco fixings draped across the picnic table for everyone. Oh, and there was of course some liquid anti-freeze (rum and tequila) too! And Duane had found Matt’s chow hound, Tripod! Evidently Tripod was tangled up in her rope and some people came by and took off with her. Duane went searching and calling around the campground and snagged her back - weird. Man, that chili tasted sooooo good! We all just hung around the fire, warmed up, and marveled at all the obstacles we encountered for the day and how lucky we were that it all worked out! Then Joe and Brad packed up and headed out around 3:30am and we all hit the hay. Frank originally was going to head to the Goldendale 24-Hour GP Race to help out, but I was sure grateful that he was there with us to help out – thanks Frunk!

Joe and Brad.
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Duane and Jesse.
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Matt and Frank.
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The warm campfire - finally. (Jesse Katz photo)
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Part of the tasty chow. (Jesse Katz photo)
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Tripod, the wonder dog, was found!
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Last edited by Tawmass on Thu Oct 30, 2008 3:40 pm, edited 15 times in total.
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Postby Tawmass » Tue Oct 28, 2008 11:10 pm

Sunday – Day Two
Sunday also came early, since I didn’t sleep well due to getting leg cramps in the middle of the night. First one leg would cramp up and I’d have to elevate it into the air, then the other leg would do the same and I must’ve looked like a sorority girl at a frat party! Man, those cramps hurt! They were probably caused by not enough water. About 8:30am Mike showed up and, since I was just tossing and turning, I got up and made coffee. I explained to Mike the compilation of situations that happened the day prior and not to expect much excitement for Sunday’s ride. So he and I had coffee and solved many world problems for what seemed like an hour or two, then the others started milling around. Turned out that Frank had the sorority-girl cramps too! I drummed up a shorter and (what looked to be) easier route for the day’s ride – just a 30~40 mile trail ride. Jesse changed the funky premix oil in his motor with the good stuff and still, there were no leaks. Cool. Frank was cracking me up calling our debacle on the day prior, "A Three-Hour Tour" just like Gilligan's Island! :lol:

Frunk was hoping to ride his snowbike, but no such luck. He chose not to partake in "The Three-Hour Tour" on Sunday. :)
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We took off at almost the crack of noon, just the four of us: Matt, Jesse, Mike and I. It was yet another stellar day! The trails were killer and Mike was impressed with how cool the trails are at GPNF (his first time). I even remembered to fire up the helmet cam and started off with turning the camera backwards and filming Mike. After awhile, we came to an intersection of my proposed route and headed up towards Badger Peak, and it was Matt’s turn for filming. The trails started to become narrower and narrower. Did I mention that this was my first time on this trail too?

Mike all rarin' to go! And more stellar scenery.
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Time for a break. Let's walk up and check out the trail ahead.
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Then we came to a few sections that bring out the best of vertigo – you know, where you have to ride your bike around a cornice ledge and your bars scrape the rock and it’s a drop off on the other side. The trail slowly progressed to more challenging scenarios and the switchbacks became the same. Finally I stopped and needed to take a break. It turned out that the others were getting kind of freaked also. It was time to put away the helmet cam. I thought I’d hoof it up the trail to see what was next, as we were right on top of a jagged peak.

That’s when I saw the first really scary switchback. The problem wasn’t that the switchback was that bad, but if you fell over – sayonara baby! The GPNF map labels this section as Shark Rock and Kirk Rock. We decided to help each other as a team through this switchback and the following one after it, then to the summit. Again, these switchbacks aren’t that difficult, just intimidating – hey, we’re mortal! We slowly made our way through those sections with only a couple minor stressor moments, but otherwise fine. I was sure wishing I was on a lighter bike, like Mike’s 200 KTM. About this time I was again patting myself on the back for hand drawing in all the GPNF map trails. Even though they weren’t exact, they were at least close. And why is it that the USFS maps of the trails are so vague? Odd.

The trail got narrower.
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Me and my faithfull Honda steed went right up, as did Mike. (Jesse Katz photos)
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Now it got unnerving!
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Yes, that's a looooong damn drop over the edge! (Jesse Katz photo)
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It's all about teamwork! My part was taking the photo. :D
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At the top of the switchbacks - teamwork! Time to drop down the other side.
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After those peaks we continued on into the unknown on trails that were shown on the map. We turned left on what we hoped was 80A and really enjoyed this section! It then came to a road, we got lost, found more evidence of the trail, then found the trail again and it descended down, down into the bowels of the mountain edge, where there had been an immense amount of trail work (Thanks Tom S.! I will be back to help out next year.)

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And then we came to the bridge – or what was left of it.

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I remembered coming to the same bridge last year on my GAG Ride and it was pristine. But the past winter must have given it a bad dose of Ma Nature. It was split down the middle and unusable. Then I saw a plank across the water. Clearly others had encountered the same scenario and used some of the bridge’s planks to make a mini bridge. So we once again teamed up and got my bike off the trail, over the rocks, across the plank, then up the pile of rocks on the other side. Mike and Jesse did the same and Matt was last. He rolled out onto the plank and promptly fouled his plug – right there on the plank. Ugh. So we all teamed up and pushed his bike across the water and proceeded to change his plug. What’s up with the KTM’s having to remove the gas tank to change a stinking plug? After over an hour, the plug was changed, the KTM fired up, got cleaned out and we were off again.

I make the first run at it. (Jesse Katz photos)
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Then Mike and Jesse.
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Then Matt, but he was foiled by a fouled plug - on the plank! Time to push, then change the plug.
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Coming up out of the ravine, a few people got stuck, but managed to eventually get through. Listening to Matt’s profuse swearing echoing through the canyon was incredible! The rest of the ride back was uneventful and a blast – what a change! Well okay, Jesse did a lipskid over the bank, but he and his ride was fine. There you have it, another year and another GAG Ride into the chapters of the web. The main thing was that nobody was hurt or injured and everyone had a great time and much more memories than they expected or bargained for!

Guess I’ll have to do it again next year.
-Tom
PS: "Hey Tom, where's the dang helmet-cam video?" you ask? Give me another day or so to finish it up, and I'll post it here.

And check out the killer pix that Duane took of Lower Falls!
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Last edited by Tawmass on Wed Oct 29, 2008 10:28 am, edited 5 times in total.
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Postby Tawmass » Tue Oct 28, 2008 11:53 pm

You don't stop riding because you grow old, you grow old because you stop riding.

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Postby Ride » Wed Oct 29, 2008 9:56 am

Crap Tom, thanks for the invite!!!! I know / have ridden with almost all those people, know Gifford like the back of my hand, have a big tank and flashlight and knew Jake was up there. Your loss :>)

Looks like fun. I was at the 24hr and had a blast as well.

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Postby Tawmass » Wed Oct 29, 2008 10:07 am

Kelly,
Hey wait, you sure you didn't get the invite? I thought I forwarded to you after our HR rip? If not, my bad and yes, you shoulda gone. However I am quite sure the 24-Hour GP rocked too!
-Tom
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the 'That Guy' report

Postby bstrue » Wed Oct 29, 2008 10:22 am

No fool like an old fool: my first trip to Gifford Pinchot.

I got talked into this ride. I made up lots of excuses, legitimate ones: wrong bike, will I have enough fuel, I've never ridden it on a trail, I barely weigh enough to kick it over, etc.--but mainly, I didn't want to be that guy. I got lots of assurance everything would be okay, and allowed myself to be talked into it.
Got up at 4:30 Saturday, on the road at 5:30, at the campground by around 8:15. Sky clearing nicely, ground damp but not wet--nice. After much futzing around, we take off just after 10. Hit the trail and it's beautiful: soft dirt, awesome traction, it's like a park in there. But that KX500 is bouncing around like two people on different pogo-sticks, and despite the smooth trail I'm hanging on for dear life.
By mile 12 my left hand and forearm are nearly to damage point. I think Tom saw the sweat pouring off me and decided to adjust my suspension. At another stop, we also raised the forks--all of these tweaks helped a great deal, but my arms were already worn out from fighting that green bastard and recovery of any reasonable sort wasn't forthcoming.
But the scenery was spectacular. The pictures couldn't possibly do it justice (see Tom's pictures). Just beautiful. And the trails, although often perched on the edge of nothing, and a few sections with snow on them, were in amazing shape, and some of the best single-track I've ever seen in forest country. The temperature was cool, the air clear, and I don’t think conditions could've been any better.
Following new and groovy dude Jesse down a hill with some serious switch-backs, I see him do a slow drop on his right side. No big deal. Catching up to him, I look down and see something shiny on a patch of mud. I look up and spot streams of oil coming from underneath his bike. Turns out a rock poked a hole in his oil filter cover. We coast down the hill, and Jesse fixes it with JB-Weld (see Tom's pictures), and did a hell of a job, too. We replaced his lost oil with a couple containers of 2-stroke oil we were packing.
On a whim (late, in other words) I check the fuel in the KX. Seems like about a third of a tank left, and we're a LONG way from anywhere. And the sun is setting. And we're in a deep bowl in the mountains. Rode out of there, but wasn't long before I ran out of gas. Cool dude also, Matt, gave up some of the fuel in his KTM300 with the help of Jesse's surgical tubing and "blow through your hands" technique (see Tom's pictures). We went a little further, hit some gravel road, and the KX ran out of fuel once again. Matt gave up some more gas.
Almost dark, we're fighting our way up a root-tangled section. I finally hit a point where I couldn't start the KX, so Tom took over and got it up one part, then Joe took the bike from there and I rode his 450X--which, I have to say, felt like a bicycle with a motor after being on the 500 all day. Awesome. Everyone struggled with the hill, except for Tom and Frank, of course.
We get through the worst of that, and the KX runs out of fuel once more. About the same time, Matt's bike runs out of fuel. Joe's bike is on reserve. I'm out of water, too. So there we are, about 7PM, in the pitch black, no moon, on the steep side of a mountain, in the cold. Tom and Frank and Duane decide to head back and get fuel, etc.
Bored and becoming chilled, we built a fire right on the trail. Helped a whole lot. Tom and Frank showed up at either 10:15 or 11:15, Joe and I can't seem to recall exactly which hour it was. They had fuel, some beers, lights to put on helmets and bikes for the KX and KTM, even sandwiches for us. Unbelievable. And they'd had a hell of an adventure just getting out and back to us.
So we take off again. Even on Joe's bike, my muscles were so hammered I didn't think I'd be able to hold the bike up, let alone keep it from diving off a cliff. And the stock lights were just above useless--way better than the KX and KTM, of course... I rode in first gear all the way to the road--no idea how many miles that was--I think Joe has the breakdown of the mileage. Then, incredibly, we hit an alternately paved and gravelled road. Fifth gear all the way--but it kept going and going and going. About the time I could no longer move my lips from the cold and my hands felt like I'd have to break them off the bars, we went even more miles.
At long last, camp! 1:30AM! Duane had a pot of beans ready for us, a fire, beer and harder stuff. Joe and I were intent on leaving, so loaded up and headed out--after a couple bowls of beans, however--best beans I've ever eaten. Got home at 4:30 and asleep at 5, a mere 24.5 hours after I'd awakened the previous morning. I don't think I've ever been so relieved in my life--despite being that guy in spades… Met some cool dudes--thanks again to Jesse and Matt; and was the recipient of a hell of an impressive rescue--thanks Tom and Frank. Joe taking over the KX saved my ass, too. And am certain I won't be riding that bike in the woods ever again...

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Postby Ride » Wed Oct 29, 2008 10:33 am

Tawmass wrote:Kelly,
Hey wait, you sure you didn't get the invite? I thought I forwarded to you after our HR rip? If not, my bad and yes, you shoulda gone. However I am quite sure the 24-Hour GP rocked too!
-Tom


You probably did but with my Alzheimers every day is a new day. :D

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Postby Tawmass » Wed Oct 29, 2008 10:38 am

Nice report, Brad! How's that Popeye clutch arm? :wink:
-Tom

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Postby bstrue » Wed Oct 29, 2008 12:36 pm

I was able to make a fist with it by yesterday, so I'll call that a full recovery. Now to put the fire out in my thighs... -uh, not what it reads like...

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Postby Tawmass » Wed Oct 29, 2008 10:32 pm

I finally compiled my helmet-cam video of Mike and Matt. Click the image below to check it out.
-Tom


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