Monday, January 5, 2009

Stage 5 - Shoshone to Baker

THE ORIGIN OF PEOPLE (Death Valley, California. Shoshoni)
Part 5 - The women started to cook the ducks. They ate the ducks; both women ate. Coyote was singing. He made a hole in the house and watched the women. After eating the meat, the women disposed of the bones. . . . Both of them did this.

If it can go wrong, it will go wrong. The 508 is an extreme event undertaken in extreme conditions and circumstances; if there is a weak link, it will break. Unfortunately for me and the Thrasher crew there were two weak links that both had serious potential to end my 508.

The moment that I got off the bike at the Shoshone time station my wife ran up to me and spilled the news that there was a Thrasher crew member that was creating hardship for the team. The weak crewman was a longtime friend who had a selfish attitude and a hidden agenda that posed a real problem for the other crew members. My wife Desiree and my other crewman Rob had provided incredible support all along the course; In fact without that support there is no way that I would have survived this far.

During that drama we also discovered that the flashing amber lights had stopped working. I neglected to bring a spare set of lights and now there was a real possibility that we would have to DNF. Since Shoshone is little more than a gas station deli stop we made a decision to ride to the next time station to see if the town of Baker had the necessary electrical repair facilities.

Just a few miles south of Shoshone the cruise through Greenwater Valley gives way to an easy climb to Ibex Pass. Ibex Pass is just a brief gap between a set of three small ranges: Ibex Hills, Sperry Hills, and Saddle Peak Hills. While it hardly seemed worthy of being called a pass, we stopped for a photo-op anyways.

After Ibex Pass, I raced back down into the extreme south end of Death Valley. The wind was at my back and I couldn’t help but notice the Dumont Dunes just ahead and to the east. The dunes were littered with RV’s, ATV’s and motorcycles. The scene, back-dropped against the pure natural contour of pale living sand, was like something out of The Road Warrior. (Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior [1981] - In the post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland, a cynical drifter [Mel Gibson] agrees to help a small, gasoline rich, community escape the Humongous; a band of bandits led by Lord Humongous.)

The road out of the southernmost tip of Death Valley climbs slightly into what looks like a natural exit from Hell. The obvious gap in the Salt Spring Hills draws the curtain closed on Death Valley National Park and opens the way into the beautiful desert landscape of the Silurian Valley.

The grade is unnoticeably uphill and runs mostly straight south towards Baker. The mid afternoon the Humongous’ migration had begun in earnest. Loud fifth-wheel pulling diesel monsters howled around us again and again. Lord Humongous himself, riding a growling monster, belched out a gray-water spray of disrespect as he jammed his way back into the lane right in front of me. I was Mad Max for just a moment.

That incident made me lose focus and the excruciating pain in my feet and toes made me pull over for a roadside foot massage next to a dry lake. The Thrasher crew had a good laugh about the whole thing and I got back on the bike.

We rolled into time station 5 with a defective set of lights and a divided crew; not the formula for success that I had laid out thirty three hours ago.

No comments: