Thursday, January 8, 2009

Stage 6 - Baker to Kelso

THE ORIGIN OF PEOPLE (Death Valley, California. Shoshoni)
Part 6 - They went into the house to sleep. Coyote made advances to the woman he had pursued. He was frustrated . . . In the morning, Coyote went out and got a hard stick. It was a kind of hard sage brush. He hid it by the house . . . The next morning, Coyote hunted mountain sheep. He killed a small one and took the bone from its neck. He put the neck bone by the house in the same place he had hidden the stick. . . . He made successful advances that night . . .

Just after three in the afternoon we pulled into the Baker time station. My feet were sore and the Thrasher crew was frazzled. Our first priority was to scan the town for an auto parts store that might have anything that could help us out of our lighting dilemma. The suggestion that Baker was a possible place to find electrical assistance turned out to be overly optimistic. After we made a few forays into local businesses it became painfully obvious that we were in deep trouble.

Frustrated and tired, hungry and divided, the Thrasher crew made sandwiches and took care of personal details while I pleaded with the attending 508 race official to contact Chris Kostman to see if there was any way to salvage my race.

During that process I, and one of my crew, proceeded to troubleshoot our electrical problem. We discovered that we could make the lights work; but we could not get the lights to work and meet the letter of the rules. We really needed to get a direct ruling from Chris before we could continue.

A Thrasher crewman suggested that I should ride towards Kelso while he tried to get things sorted out. But until we got an official ruling on our predicament there was no way that I was leaving the presence of a race official. Also, there was no way that I was going to leave a lighting rewire job in anyone’s hands but my own. This 508 was my dream; and at this critical point I was not leaving it in anyone’s hands but my own.

While team after team passed us as we stalled in Baker, we hastily tore apart our wiring. As I band aided it back together with sweat and electrical tape, we finally got the official ruling from Chris. At around five in the afternoon we were approved to continue the race with a minor rule variance.

After two hours of stress and uncertainty I got back on the bike. With the Thrasher crew right behind me I pedaled across Baker Boulevard and up to the beginning of the 20 mile Kelbaker Grade.

Running through the heart of the Mojave National Preserve the Kelbaker Road is not much of a road at all. The surface looks like an evil comedian made a half baked attempt to smooth out the desert floor and then just poured some tar on top of the rocky mess that he created.

After more than three hundred and fifty miles on the bike the Kelbaker Road pounded an indelible memory into my every nerve ending. The slow endless climb wore on through the evening and into the night; in the darkness I never got to see the lava fields and the cinder cones that frame the route.

The long ascent eventually summits at a pass with no name. That wide gap between the Kelso Mountains and the Marl Mountains introduces you to a dangerous high speed descent to Kelso. With endless areas of broken pavement, the road jars its way across multiple cattle guards and over countless pot holes.

The constant pounding on that downhill section really took its toll on me. Eventually every single bump felt like a ball peen hammer strike; my already sore feet absorbed strike after excruciating strike. Halfway down the ten mile torture chamber I struggled to a stop. I hunched over my bike and cried; the pain was beyond anything that I had ever endured.

By the time that we made it to Kelso my feet and my brain were numb.

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