Wednesday, October 16, 2002
I’ve been asked by several people to write about my LOE ride this year. To understand the ride you must understand the chaos of my life. My chaotic life is best understood by it’s ingredients. Second marriage, combined 4 kids, one set of grand parents, and a dog. Highly demanding mid tech wreck two household geekdom home. A weekend away for a little ride around New Mexico was something I could really get into. Then at Gerlach this respectable fellow mentions that I should really ride with my spousal and most excellent navigator. Why sure what a great idea.
Grandpa and Grandma were ok with watching twins while Sydney and I rode the rally (COOL!).
We arrange a month of child custody schedules so (my) step kids go to bio dad for the LOE weekend.
Grandpa and Grandma mention that they would really like to go, and can they follow in the Rover with twins.
I get extra tickets to the banquet, upgrade the ride to two up, and apologize massively to Jeff Foster.
Upgrade room at the hotel.
I have to work on the Friday morning before the LOE. Riding the bike down is not an option (have to be on con-calls and available for support). Rent trailer.
Thursday before rally step son comes home sick with flu. I’ve already been sick for two days. Nothing serious just tired. Whine. Whine. Grovel. Whine.
Friday morning up early. Customer site blows up. Customer site fixed. Out late, and making time with bike in trailer. Still tired. 8 hours sleep in last three days. Don’t forget to take dog to kennel.
Friday night feeling good… Getting in the groove. Riders meeting… Excellent routes.
For some darn reason I can’t fall asleep with my twins in the room with me….
Saturday morning I’m feeling good. Let’s ride. Ooops missed breakfast. Oh well.
To those that look at my life and compare to theirs before saying “Damn that ain’t bad”. I pity you.
The story begins.
I’m laying in bed with my spouse snuggled up tight, and I roll over and pull her close. Realizing at that point and time that her butt is probably one of the coldest items on the face of the earth. Women’s posteriors require no refrigeration. With the alarm going off I do the only thing any sane man would do and kick her out of bed. “Take a shower” and call me when you’re done I tell her.
With showers done we walk out to the prepped bike. Routes for the rest of the day ready. The prepacked bike and us move on out to the starting line. I pop a couple of Altoids to wake up (a box dies during the day). We are told if anybody rides out of the parking lot in less than a sedate pace they will be DQ’d. I offer to ride a wheelie with one of my twin boys perched on the headlight. The rally masters have no humor. Besides shaft bikes can’t wheelie.
Out onto the highway clicking along at the speed limit we gather our first bonus of balloons. Out on to the highway again we are on our way to Santa Fe. And, I find I’m nodding. Pop a couple Altoids, and chomp down some jerky on the road. I missed breakfast and figure my blood sugar is out of whack. I do more miles than this before 7 AM five days of the week. Grab some easy bonuses. I’m getting in the groove. Miles start that weird flow. We grab the Santa Fe ski area. The world is getting smooth. On our way out to Espanola I’m nodding again. Hard. I stop drink some water. Walk around a little. No good. I need some food. We eat a quick breakfast, and Sydney is worried. We’ve done some long distance riding together, and I’ve never had the fatigue factor kick in like this even on multi day rallies. The flow of miles is gone. Not to be seen for the rest of the day. We’re still having fun, and keep on going.
We look for a bonus that we can’t find. Ride all over some great country. When we stop looking for the bonus fifteen minutes later I have the nods again. Fatigue is something I don’t play around with. I slow down. Pop some more Altoids. Eat some jerky and chew some gum. I get a mini rush back and we make some time. Every 30 minutes or so I get the nods, and I push through. Singing, yelling, designing mathematical problems, bouncing story ideas of Sydney. Sydney pounding on my back cussing me out. I’ve got the nods again.
We collect another bonus and the required outposts. Hmm. Highway 20 over to Angel Fire. Looks like a shortcut. Let’s go. Now I have to mention that the road was my idea, and my navigator bless her heart said “Aye, Aye, Captain.” Well shit she should have disagreed. It was fine for about four miles then it turned to dirt. I could have turned around. It said 20 miles to Angel Fire. I kept on it. I’ve ridden the big K12 on dirt. It will do it. This particular road would probably classify as moderate versus fire road. Large deep dips filled with brick sized rocks. We did it. Open range and all, but wait there is more.
Coming around a corner on this secluded dirt road I met something that took some time to figure out. A semi truck. Then another. Then another. Then I counted 6 semi trucks with cattle cars. Maybe a dozen real life cowboys riding horses driving cattle into portable pens across the road, and out of the brush. A real life round up. The trucks were blocking the road so one of the cowboys moved a semi, and another waiting in his truck moved. We were on our way. I don’t know why in the middle of nowhere these guys would look at us like were strange. Aerostich suits, lights, big touring bike, and going like stink. Well about 20 mph.
Further on down the road we saw numerous forest rats (deer). Then as we were climbing down toward civilization negotiating switchback we came across something strange. A “LARGE” dog standing in the road. I popped off a picture since he was so big. Unfortunately the picture isn’t tight enough to identify the creature. Cause when we got closer we realized that we had seen this huge dog before. In the ZOO. It was a wolf. Big as day, and just as grand. Shiny clean coat. And, a collar. Sydney and I discussed it, and figure it was one of those hybrids. Houses nearby. No fear of us. Either that or he was trying to figure out what would taste good first.
On the way out to Questa the nods hit hard again. Waiting in line at a construction zone I pop more Altoids. Note to self. Buy Callard and Bowser stock cause it sounds neat. All day long I’ve fought being tired. I’ve also fought being cold. Nothing I do will let me get warm. I just feel bone chilled cold through the day. Returning out of Questa we stop at the Saint James Hotel. At first we were going to keep going to Raton and finish our loop, but sitting me down Sydney says you’re done. And, I was. To tired to go on we had dinner in the hotel, and then we decided. I’ve always told her nothing else matters but getting home safe. Getting back on the bike I told her if I got the nods I was going to stop at the nearest intersection and take a nap. She agreed and three hours later we returned to the rally hotel. I didn’t have the nods once on the way to the hotel. Missed an outpost and our rally was done.
In fighting fatigue I have several methods. I chew Altoids. I’ll drink a V8 juice. Usually I keep something like a Red Bull in the saddlebag just in case. I wasn’t ready to ride. Fatigue is a combination of factors, and I wasn’t ready to engage in a long ride. 500 plus miles later Sydney and I returned to the hotel. That was the best place for us.
When I got back I heard it time and again. Finisher this, and Finisher that. While riding even in the worst parts of fatigue Sydney and I had fun. But failure sucks. Returning to the hotel somebody mentioned being first place couples division but “You’ve got to finish to win”. That was a refrain that we heard many times. After getting back to the hotel I took Ira Agins out to dinner as a thank you for such a supreme rally. Even though I had eaten earlier I was starved. My enthusiasm was dampened by the thought running through the back of my mind “You’ve got to finish to win.”
Sunday morning I had a good nights sleep. Restless fatigue ridden sleep, but a good nights sleep. I finally was warming up. I put the bike back in the trailer. I packed the truck up. While the rest of the family scurried about the room I went out and sat on the tailgate of my truck. Should I go to the banquet? Maybe I should give up rally riding? The chances that I could have ended up hurting myself, or worse hurting Sydney ran through my mind. The risk and reward issues ran through my mind like heavy stones rolling across me. No reward I contemplated would be worth the risk of losing my wife. I have goals to see my children grow up and spawn their own squealing brats. I’ve done a couple recorded saddle sores, and bunches of long days undocumented. Ever weary of being a mile pig. I figure I have nothing to prove.
We went to the banquet. I’m not a fearful person. Standing up proudly and being gracious when I’ve failed my objective so miserably is the only the thing to do. When Ira was asked about couples class by some kind person in the crowd he said, “You’ve got to finish to win.” Truer words were never spoken. To fail for such a mundane reason in front of a group of people I really respect was not something I enjoyed. To fail and not even finish a rally put on by a good friend Ira Agins was embarrassing and terrible. It leaves me with more questions than answers. In some cases life is just a trip, and when you think you have a handle on it the route changes.
There are questions. Why didn’t I manage fatigue better? Should I have even left the parking lot? Do I have the right to endanger my kids future by engaging in risky activities? What if I slipped and fell in the shower?
I stopped before I felt I was risking life and limb. Fatigue is not an on and off thing. Fatigue is not a cumulative effect relationship. Fatigue is more like a river flowing in a general course with no coherent direction up close, and only a general flow when viewed as a total picture. I meandered on the edge of rapids, and pulled my self along in the slow eddies of the current. I know I made mistakes. I’ve come to grips with the quite obvious fact for some reason I sabotaged my own ride. Sydney bless her heart pointed out many times things that I was doing differently from my ride preparations in the past. I know where the root cause of my failure was. It was me.
Now some real basic stuff due to the political controversies circulating on the list.
To those that read this and see my decision impairment and obvious need for help. Fuck you. I rode my ride. I talked constantly with my navigator, and she is the only person capable of making the determination beyond me if I was riding outside the envelope. She and I picked a time to stop when we could still get home with little or no increased risk. If that were not the case we would have stopped somewhere else sooner.
To those who read this and see that I quit while I was still ahead, and realize that I made good judgment and rode the ride I was destined for that day I say thank you.
To any rally master who reads this and doesn’t want me in their rally please email me and I will be sure and not attend or ask.
Finally for those that think long distance riding is in general outside the envelope please take note. I ride 216 miles round trip every work day between April and October through extreme Denver metro traffic. Any weather. That’s every work day. In between the in-bound and out-bound trip I do my 8 or 12 and hit the gate. So, don’t inflict your limitations on me. I’ve enough of my own.
Finally those that read what I write will notice some very specific differences in this essay. I normally write for an audience of 12 long distance riders and share with the rest of you. Today I was writing to an audience of 5. I hope they and you understand.