VEGAS OR BUST!
It has been a whirlwind seven days here in the TRAIL ZONE, which has included a memorable quick trip to the USA to take part in the epic LA B 2 V dual-sport ride in California and Nevada.
To give the annual ride its full name, the Los Angeles Barstow to Vegas ride is held on the Thanksgiving weekend each year and is a spin-off event from the famed Barstow to Vegas desert race of the 1970s which would regularly see fields of up to 3,000 riders hammering through the deserts east of LA in one of the biggest races on the American calendar.
In the 1980s the event struck troubles with conservationists and government agencies that tried to get the race shut down in an effort to protect the desert tortoises that inhabit the high desert regions between LA and Vegas.
This is the era when the Phantom Duck of the Desert protest ride was born and riders rallied together to keep the desert areas open to dirt bikes. The LA Barstow to Vegas ride was created and in the two decades since it has grown to be 'the' dual-sport ride of the year on the west coast of the USA.
I've always wanted to ride the LA B 2 V and this year the planets aligned for me to be able to do it. Qantas had cheap seats on offer, the ride slotted in the week after the annual Sydney Motorcycle Show at Homebush and TRAIL ZONE issue #27 had just been shipped off to the printers -- so I was outta here!
Landing at LAX Thursday week ago, my good mate Big Rich Gold collected me from the airport and we headed straight off to a Thanksgiving dinner complete with roast turkeys and pumpkin pies ... buurrrppp!
The next morning before dawn we were up and out and off to Palmdale for the start of the two-day LA B 2 V event.
At the staging area at Palmdale Super Cycles, I got some idea of the scope of the event, as 375-plus entries lined up, aboard everything from KTM EXCs and Honda CRF-Xs right through to BMW HP2s and Kato 990s. We'd all be following a route chart (or GPS download) of the almost 500 mile course for the two days.
Our little posse included Big Rich, Big Steve, Mike, Mark, JD, Tony and myself and we were up and into it and on the road just after 6.30am.
And the fun and games started almost immediately.
At the turn-off to the first dirt section just 5.5 miles into the ride, Big Rich noticed his speedo cable had busted -- doh!
Then just after the first gas station some 50 miles into the ride, Mike was leading our pack when he fumbled at slow speed while checking his route sheet and fell down and promptly busted his right wrist -- double-doh!
It took us a while but we got things sorted and doubled Mike back to the gas station and got his bike back there as well, where he was able to salvage a lift in a pick-up for him and his bike across to the overnight stop in Barstow.
While all this was going on, Rich and Mark had wandered off the course just a little and at that exact same time one of the mount bolts on the right footpeg of Rich's XR650R let go and left him with nothing to stand on -- triple-doh!
Rich and Mark snuck out of the desert and onto a nearby highway to leap-frog the course to the lunch stop at Ridgecrest, while myself, Tony and JD played catch-up.
By the time we got to the lunch stop on day one, Rich had already bolted off down the highway to Barstow to try and find a workshop to attend to his busted peg mount, while Mark, Tony, JD and I got back on track and settled into the afternoon course.
Of course we were running way late after our morning faux pas moments, so by the time the sun began to set (4.30pm!), we still had 30 miles of trail to go.
Now, trying to read a roll chart holder in the dark, while navigating a gnarly sandy wash lined by joshua trees and pucker bushes in the middle of the desert is no fun at all, so we instantly started looking for short-cuts -- and luckily found one that steered us out of the boonies and onto a highway into Barstow.
By the time we rolled into the Days Inn motel car park, Mike was being loaded into his wife's mini van for the trip back to LA and an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon.
The rest of us wiped the dust off and then headed to a local Italian restaurant for dinner before hitting the hay and stacking the ZZZs in preparation for another early start on day two.
Woken early by the dulcet tones of Big Rich's intestinal alarm clock (!), we were up and out and on the road by 6.05am the next morning, with a massive 275 miles on the agenda for the day.
Everything was going swimmingly and there was even a breeze in the air to help blow the dust off the trail as the hordes of riders headed for Vegas.
We were punching along comfortably and I was out in front getting set to stop for photos and following a KTM rider along a cruisy jeep track when he hit a patch of rocks and threw one out from his rear wheel and straight under my front wheel. I saw it coming but faster than you could say 'Danny Green's right hook' I was down on the deck and slamming into the ground on my right side.
It hurt right away, with my right ankle taking the brunt of the hit, but I could get up quick, dust myself off and fire up the big XR650R and get mobile again. The ankle and my right knee were tender, but I plugged on to the next reset point, where I found Rich and Tony and we waited for the rest of the boys to catch up.
It was another 30 or 40 miles out of the desert to the first gas stop of the day, where I called on the well stocked pharmacies carried by Big Steve and JD to get a few painkillers into me as I planned to ride out the next 35 mile section to reach the I-15 freeway near Baker, where our truck driver Tom would be waiting for us on his way to Vegas.
I set off ahead of the rest of the boys, and just kept going all the way to the truck. Strangely though, only Mark went past me, which was somewhat odd. I had backed off the pace to rest my ankle and knee and thought they would all catch me soon enough. But they didn't.
It turns out our pack got split and as Mark blazed on ahead, the rest of the boys stopped and waited for him at the next reset, thinking Mark was coming behind them. That's a quadruple-doh!
Big Rich even started to panic a little, and double-backed along the course looking for Mark, to no avail, of course.
In the meantime JD copped a flat front on his KTM 525EXC, so that chewed up more time getting repaired.
Eventually Tony got a signal on his cell phone and managed to call Tom, who told him that Mark was at the truck with me ... so they could all keep going knowing Mark was OK.
By the time they all emerged out to the I-15 to meet us, it was lunchtime and we were running way late for the lunch stop at Sandy Valley, which was still a good 60 miles or more away.
With my knee and ankle fast swelling up to the size of balloons, I was out and loaded my bike on the trailer, and as it turns out the boys did the same in an effort to high-tail it via the road to the afternoon section leading into Las Vegas.
Alas, the dirt bike gods were against us and a freak sleet storm, traffic and fading light combined to bring the ride to a very premature end -- doh!
That night, while the rest of our crew joined the massive throng of finishers at the post-ride banquet award downstairs at the Orleans Hotel Casino in Vegas, I was confined to bed-rest upstairs in my room with my knee and ankle wrapped in ice packs and chewing on some Vicodin pills (that stuff is good!).
It wasn't quite the finish I had hoped for in my first taste of the LA B 2 V, but hey, there's always next year!
-- Clubby, www.trailzone.com.au