Day 2 part 3

Day 2 part 3

The bike pushed safely out of the way I take off my gear, catch my breath and realize how hot it is and no it´s not a dry heat. The sun is high overhead with nothing but prickly sage brush type plants around, shade is minimal. I take off my gear; try to get the bike to turn over, still nothing. Realizing I could be here a while I decide to create some shade for myself. The sun is coming from the left side of the road and there is about a two foot shelf down to the road surface. I clear some old limbs away and dig a hole in the embankment under a live bush. No real leaves or anything but the maze of twigs offer some cover. The plan is now to wait it out, hope the bike cools down, someone comes along with some oil and maybe I can get it going again.
An hour goes by and only two bikes roll by. I decide to give the bike a try. It actually cranks over now but won´t start. I crawl back in my hole and try to take a nap, conserving as much energy as possible. While laying there the thought of my rally ending here really starts to sink in. I begin to think how foolish I was thinking I could put together a rally bike and compete with all the teams who have big budgets with fully R&D´ed bikes. But I also remembered passing a number of bikes including factory KTM 450 Rally Replica´s with mechanical issues on the first day and even earlier today. I still had plenty of time to ponder the amount of money I have spent chasing different forms of racing over the years. I was beginning to believe it´s time to give this all up. I was also bothered by the horrible failure of a part I designed but settled for an adaptation of the mounting points. No one’s fault but my own.

It´s now has been two hours with a few more bikes and an occasional quad. I stop all the quads asking if they have oil, no luck. I remembered the course split four kilometres back and there were groups of spectators there, I thought someone had to have some oil. I start walking back and after about a k and a half another quad rolls up, he has a quart of oil and is willing to part with it. I ask him for a ride back to my bike. He was a little reluctant at first as he said he had over heating issues but finally obliged. Back at the bike with no funnel, I lay the bike on its side on the ground to pour the oil in. Most of the oil makes it in but now gas is pouring out the rear tank. The pin hole leak had vibrated to a full on crack. Bike now has oil but still won’t start. I crawl back into my shade hole.

Partialy asleep I hear this loud noise coming my way and isn´t a quad or a bike, by the time I get up I see a Kamaz truck barrelling straight on by only a few feet away. I thought the cars and trucks where taking the alternate route 4k back. Guess not. The dust storm these trucks produce is ridiculous. I needed to find a new shade spot much further off the roadside. Tried starting the bike again, still nothing, then dug another hole about twenty yards off the road. I could see my bike but no one was going to see me if they rode by. I didn’t’ want someone stopping unnecessarily but I wasn´t going through another dusting like that again. A few more trucks blew by. I decided to give the bike another go. The starter cranked and cranked and there was actually a pop or two. It´s actually igniting now, I´m thinking this thing may fire. I try again and bike cranks over coming to life. I quickly put my gear on hop on the bike and away I go. It’s been about three hours at this stop, sometime close to 5:45.

I´m rolling again, feeling good though awfully thirsty. I still have energy water mix in the hydration pack but plain cold water would be great right about now. I´m making my way slowly and more trucks are coming by. I need to practically come to a stop the dust is so bad. I come down a hill to make a turn in a river bed. There are hundreds of spectators. I pull over asking for oil. No one understood me but I guess I´m good a charades. A few people come running with jugs of oil and many offering water. Unfortunately all I see are used soda bottles filled with water, I´m not that desperate yet. Leaving the bike running I top the bike off with oil and get underway again. Running down this wide river wash I looking over my shoulder the whole time as more big trucks were coming. The wash narrowed up and there started to be small streams and puddles. I was happy to hit every puddle and stream I could as the cooling effect was good for me and the bike. I spot a vehicle with Dakar numbers on it so I stop and ask if they have water and oil. They give me two bottles of water; I drink one and stuff the other in my pack. Hot water does not quench thirst. The guy didn´t have any motor oil but offered a quart of tranny oil. By now any thick liquid would work. I stuff it in the pack and continue on. Exiting the wash I make my way up an extremely deep loose sand road with crazy ruts to find a car stuck in the trail. I have to jump out of the rut into the deep loose stuff and the motor bogs down dying again. I´ve now made it 234 k´s. A local helps me push the bike out of the way and again I look for shade. I asked the stuck car crew if they had any oil, they did not but offered some water. By now I wasn’t passing up any bottled water. I topped the engine off with some tranny fluid. It took probably forty five minutes before the engine fired again but when it did I quickly hit the road again.

The road was dug deep into the ground with a steep shoulder ranging two to four feet above the road. The track continues to get worse as it was deep sand chewed up by the big trucks. I made it probably another 15 k before coming across an organization vehicle. I stopped asked for water and oil. They asked why I wouldn´t turn the bike off I explained and showed the repair site. They asked if I was done. I said not till the motor give up. They gave me a bottle of water and I was gone again. The road continued on in the same fashion but now with lots of ups and downs. This would have been great to ride had I had a good bike to ride and it had been five hours earlier. I slowly made my way trying to stay out of the big trucks way. Not easy since the road had such a large shelf to climb each time a truck came by. I definitely didn´t not want to stall it climbing out of the road bed. I run parallel to the road for a few k´s as the trucks kept coming. I made it to a crazy whooped out section. The surface was more hard packed but big woops. All the trucks that passed me were now crawling through this and I slowly made my way past most of them.

I came to another security vehicle around 260k. By now I was physically beat and getting a little dehydrated. I had been drinking water like crazy but it wasn´t doing much. They crew gave me water, this time I took the time to put some nuuns in it and let them dissolve before drinking. I laid down in the shade of their truck trying to keep the dust of the trucks roaring by out of my eyes drinking water. One of the crew offered me a granola bar, I tried eating it but it turned to a saw dust paste in my mouth all the while my bike idling in the background. About ten minutes later I dumped the rest of the tranny fluid and was back on the bike under way. It was about three k to the dunes of deep sand ruts.

I approached the first small dune and there where cars and trucks strewn all over. I made my way up only to have to change direction near the top to avoid dropping into a deep bowl with even more vehicles stuck. As I neared the top once again the bike died. Locals helped push the bike a little further up and out of the way. A security crew asked if I was ok and if I could continue. I said I wasn´t sure but I wasn´t done trying yet. Another rescue crew came to me asking for gas for another rider stuck in the dunes. I said sorry I only had enough to make it myself plus there were plenty of locals around, somebody had to have gas. About a half hour later the bike fired again. I switched to clear goggles as the sun was setting.

I made it this far, now at 263 k, I had to try. I knew 6k of dunes was going to be tough but I was going for it. I headed past the large bowl where all the trucks and cars where having issues crested a large dune, hit the first of many waypoint and headed toward the next. I hit that marker and looked at the direction the gps was pointing. I noticed the safety vehicle that had asked for gas up ahead. I knew they knew where they were going. I followed in their direction, once again avoiding a group of stuck trucks. This lead to a short but steep climb, turns out it was too much for the motor to take. It bogged again and just wouldn´t re fire. I made it about 1.5 k´s into the dunes. I was willing to let it cool again and give it another go. Darkness was coming though. I set off the sentinel which sends a loud audible signal to any vehicle within 500 meters. I climbed about ten yards to the top of the dune. I could see cars and trucks all over the place making their way through the dunes.

I watched and helped direct trucks through the section I was at until one truck coming from the other direction ignored me waving them off nearly running me over crashing over the top of the dune headed straight for my bike. They stopped and barely made it past my bike. As it was now getting dark I pulled out my strobe light and put it at the top of the dune directly above where I was hoping it would let trucks know someone was stuck there. Bike still wouldn´t start and the traffic died down so I decided to rest a little bit before attempting again. I dug a comfortable hole in the sand a few feet to the side of my bike, put some ear plugs in as the sentinel beeping was crazy loud and laid down for a nap. I woke to a loud roar of a truck plowing only a few feet from my bike straight for the strobe beacon I set up. Had I been on the other side of the bike I would have been run over. I guess that strobe worked more like a light attracting bugs than a warning beacon because every vehicle after that headed straight for it. I wanted to move my bike but it just wasn´t budging in the deep sand. Several more trucks tried the same lane, one having to back down several times. The second attempt they backed down over the front tire of my bike. As they got closer I tried to get them to help push the bike back out of the way. They had no interest in helping. Finally the truck slid further back with the front wheel rolling on top of the wheel of my bike. The truck door was up against my bike and one of them getting out wasn’t going to happen unless it was the driver. I was now pissed; I started beating on the side of their truck yelling at them. They may not have understood English but they knew the situation. I was able to dig the front tire out and drag the bike back enough for them to back up. The passenger gestured for me to chill a offered me some water. I took their water but he knew what they did wasn´t cool.

Again I tried starting the bike, no luck it was now 9:30 pm. I decided to push the green button and let the ASO know what was up. They called back, I informed them it didn´t look good but I was trying. They said whatever I do don´t leave the bike, they would call back shortly to see if I made progress. I played with the bike some more, still no luck. I was able to drag the bike a little further down the dune out of the lane the trucks where creating. I moved my strobe to the bike itself, dug another wedge in the sand. This time I used my head lamp on strobe so I would also be seen in case the reflective striping on my riding gear didn´t show up. I laid down again trying to get some rest. More trucks were coming and going. Around 10:30 the ASO called back, the bike still wouldn´t start. I knew even if I got it started I probably would have to deal with this again before getting out of the dunes. Knowing there was at least 1.5 hour liaison after the dunes, getting back to the bivouac in time for an engine swap was highly unlikely. I didn´t want to drag the team down. It was time.

The ASO said they didn´t know when but someone would be there, hopefully before dawn. I laid back down disappointed it was over but felt I gave it an honest try. I made it 264.5 k, almost 100k with no water and leaking oil, only 30 from the finish of the special. I slept some and watched the lights of trucks and buggies make their way through the dunes. Finally the night became still and I slept a little till the truck showed up at about 1:45. It was the same crew That tried to bum some gas from me. I told them I had to try. They said they were impressed I got this far in the dunes. They figured I bee with in a 100 meters of where they last saw me.

It took about two hours to get from to the bivouac. The dropped me off at the food tent. I ate a little and went looking for our camp. I found the camp looked for a tent but they were all taken. Ned woke up and said he was worried. I told him I was having such a good time today and I was sorry for being a downer the night before then briefly what happened to the bike and let him go back to bed. I looked around again in the tents, there were all occupied. The ground looked good, so I curled up and crashed.

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8 responses to “Day 2 part 3

  • Chris Wheeler (@chrisjw99)

    Bill, that’s an amazing story of determination despite overwhelming odds. We were all waiting for news into the early hours on ADV so it’s great to hear what happened from the horses mouth. I’m sorry about the outcome but you can be justifiably proud of putting in a monumental effort. Thanks so much for posting this and best wishes, Chris W.

  • Cathy Conger

    Wow! I have so much respect for you Bill. I had no idea what being in the Dakar really required – what kind of conditions and pressure you’d be under. I’m so glad you tried and did your best. Still the experience of a lifetime!

    Your write-ups have been great – I have really enjoyed reading them. And thanks for opening up this bit of the world to me – it’s fun following Tales from the Bivouac and the other ADV forums.

    way to hang in there. Enjoy the rest of your time in SA.

  • John Douglas (Finbarr on ADV Rider)

    Hi Bill,
    I’ve been quietly following your progress on ADV and was really sad to see you knocked out so early. I sat at my keyboard with many others on ADV doing the F5 thing hoping for news.

    A phenomenal effort to get as far as you did after the bike was damaged. You have an elegant and easy to read style of writing that made following your story quite compelling. I hope you will gather your energies and complete the Dakar next year.

    With much respect,
    John.

  • Craig Conger

    Good stuff Billy Great write up about your experience. Need to start prepping for ’13 and this time I will come down!

  • Rob McKenzie

    Bill,
    You’re awesome man! An unbelievable effort on your part. Sorry it was cut short though. You have to know now that you’ve got the talent to compete with these bigger teams. With what you’ve learned this year you will be a force to be dealt with next year. There will be a next year right? Can’t wait to get the details when you get back to the states.

  • JF

    Wow no one, and I mean absolutely no one, can say you did not give everything you had to make it through that situation. That story embodies the the true spirit of the Dakar, endurance, and perseverance. I know it is hard to have your journey end so early but the good news is you are uninjured, healthy, and can look to the day when you take on the next big challenge. I certainly hope you back to Dakar 2013 so we can follow you to the finish.

  • boney on ADVRider

    Thanks for making the effort to write this up… It gives a much more realistic idea of what the competitors go through, especially the thoughts and feelings as the events unfold.

  • BicyclePhil from advrider

    Bill,
    Thanks for the write up. I hope you get back down there and give it another go.

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