Day 2 part 2
I pull up to CP1, hand the official my time card expecting to have it stamped with a time so I know my exit time. He just took it and waved me on. I tried to communicate with him, wondering how would I know my exit time. If he understood me he wasn´t letting on and just rattled something in French. I knew it was a fifteen minute neutralization so I immediately took a look at my watch noting the time then pushed my bike up in the gas line.
Getting off the bike I noticed my right ankle and boot covered in oil, concerned I looked the bike over. I could tell it was coming from the airbox. I checked the oil level and it was right where it should be. If the oil is over filled and the bike is run hard for a long period it will spit it out into the airbox. This explains the loosing of rpm and clearing up earlier. I remember hearing the bike start twice during the night and didn´t think it ran long enough to get a proper read on oil level. I can´t fault anyone though as it is not an easy system to check the first time. It found the level it needed and was running clean again.
With the bike in line I grabbed a few waters trying to make the most of the time. Bike was now getting fuel and there still didn´t seem to be anyone letting us know when it was time to go. With the bike done and out of the way I sat in the shade for a moment drinking a bottle of water and noticed guys I passed are now lining up to go. It hadn’t even been ten minutes yet. But I didn´t want to get stuck in the same peoples dust and if they were letting them go I should try too. Geared up and moving forward a piece of barbed wire I didn´t see gets tangled up in my front wheel. I jump off the bike quickly and with the help of an official I get it untangled. As I´m getting back on my bike I notice gas is leaking. I check the center cap as it is lower than the other tanks and will leak with full tanks if not tight. No leak there. Looking closer I notice the rear tank is leaking at a corner seam in a bend. Not good but not terrible at the moment as long as the bike doesn´t flame up. Even if I lose the entire gallon above the crack I still have enough to get to the finish.
I roll up to the starter and he gives me the nod, off I go. It still had not been fifteen minutes since pulling into the CP. Time for another note to self: gas and go as quickly as possible at future CP´s. If it is an opportunity to make up or loose time I didn´t want it to work against me. I´m now assuming they must just add fifteen minutes to everyone’s times. I guess at the front they must hold the riders for fifteen minutes but where I was there was no rhyme or reason as to how and when we were released. I wanted this clarified. If there was a true fifteen minute break I wanted it to personally refuel with water and a snack.
I´m rolling again and it´s more of the same for another 15 kilometers, fast with some winding sections and a few sharp turns. I am quickly catching riders again and making my way cleanly buy this time fighting significantly less dust. Still sticking to my game plan, I´m riding at a pace I am comfortable with and can sustain all day.
I climb a gentle rise with good speed and begin to slow down as the terrain gets rockier and there appears to be a bend in the road ahead. Plenty of locals around cheering and waving to slow down, I double check the road book, see nothing noteworthy but decide to heed there warning anyway. Good thing, around the bend was a serious drop off. Really surprised there wasn´t a noted caution considering how fast the approach speed was and the terrain just dropped off. There were no visual clues, to the left there was a small mound and to the right is was level with the road. I adjusted my speed made the turn and reminded myself not to take chances, ride the terrain and enjoy the ride.
This road descended from here and was considerably rockier, though nothing tricky. The road made its way along the back side of the mound mentioned earlier. I was making my way through a right hand turn, nothing to sharp or fast, bike leaning in with me standing over it. Three quarters of the way through the turn as I´m picking up the throttle the front tire glances off a small rock. With the bike leaned the forks really didn´t compress and absorb the jounce but instead deflected the front to the left making the bike want to lean over even more to the right. Instinct to pick up the throttle a little more to stand up the bike kicked in. It wouldn´t take much and I´m pretty good with throttle control but unfortunately the rocky surface didn´t provide any grip, the rear slid and the bike low sided perpendicular to the trail. Not the clean ride I wanted but not a big deal as this was at a relatively slow speed. Pick the bike up and off I go. So I thought…
I picked the bike up and the skid plate is lying on the ground underneath it. Didn´t think much of it till I looked closer and noticed the top of the tank where the mounts where welded was ripped open. The welds were intacted but the top plate was ripped open like a beer can and was covered with water and oil. I´m now wondering why oil¿ A quick glance at the engine revealed a shattered water pump and a hole in the side cover the size of a quarter. I´m thinking I´m done. A few riders pass by, I wave them to continue on. James Embro comes by shortly, he stops, I ask him to pass on a message when he gets to the bivouac that I have a hole in the case, no water pump but I´m going to try to make it in. He continues on. Knowing I´ll be here a while I push the green button on the Irritrac signalling a mechanical problem. While I´m working on it someone from the organization calls to check on the problem, says ok and reminds me to push the green button when I´m moving again.
A quick note about the Irritrac system and the buttons. This is a GPS based tracking system with a sat phone built in. There is a green, red and blue button, each has a purpose and generates a different response from the ASO. The blue button is just a general phone line, push it and they will call you back, no priority. Green button signals a mechanical. We were told to push it if we knew we would be stopped for any period of time and told to push it again once we were moving again. I was surprised when someone called back after I pushed the green button. The red is for medical assistance for you or another rider. This will get an immediate response. We were told repeatedly in the system class at no time will pushing any button on the system put you out of the race.
I´m evaluating the situation and deciding what my options are. A smashed water pump housing with no way to plug it up so getting water in the system was out of the question. Not looking very optimistic. The case has a gaping hole. How am I going to cover that up and seal it¿ Again things not looking to good. Most of the oil is still in the engine so I decide if I can plug the hole, keep the oil in it and baby the engine maybe I can make it to the end. I have a nice size oil cooler on it so maybe this will work. Knowing I have a serious dune section to cross I kind of know this is a long shot but I have to go for it or I´m done here. Keep in mind I had a good pace going earlier and if I could get through the dunes I expected I could still get in before dark, plenty of time for an engine swap.
The repair consisted of a using an epoxy compound I had around the edges. Then using the foil lid and the mixing cup the epoxy came in to plug the hole with a rock jammed in the back side to keep everything in place. I used duck taped stretched over the rock from the clutch line to the frame in a few different directions then placed a small piece of cardboard over the rock and then created a web of zip ties to snug everything up. This might not plug the hole but it sure was going to slow the leak.
While working on the bike I heard something that sounded different than a bike rounding the bend. Here comes the first of the cars, a Mini, a small truck and then Robby Gordon. After about thirty minute repairing the bike I was on my way again. This took place at kilometer 174 of the special.
I made my way easily along the trail, passing cheering people encouraging me to go, go, go. I felt like a schlep just putzing along and hoped they notice the spider web of zip ties and the smashed water pump legitimizing my slow pace. The track ran us into a wash that would have been fun to rip through but I kept the pace and rpms down. I didn´t want to put any unnecessary heat in the engine. Making my way out of the river wash at marker 2oo k the route seperates here from the cars and bikes, we go straight and the go left. A little relieved I don´t have to keep an eye over my shoulder for cars flying by I keep moving on. I round a bend go down a dip and the motor starts dragging heavily bringing the bike do a halt. It won´t turn over, nothing, I´m done, motor seized. At least I tried I thought. I was in a bad spot on the outside of the exit of a turn in a dip so I pushed the bike about fifty yards up the road high enough it would be seen from approaching side of the blind dip. It´s now after two o´clock and getting in before dark let alone getting in at all isn´t looking so good.