Tuesday, June 10, 2014

NORRA Mexican 1000--Part 2(b)

So we left the team and I on a beach in Bahia de Los Angeles on the East Coast of the Baja peninsula the morning after our first race day that ended in a broken tierod and upper control arm after 95 miles.

Not reaching our "hotel" and bedding down till after 2AM and feeling utterly exhausted, we knew we would be in no condition to begin racing that following morning and so we decided to take the day's first stage (136 miles in length) off and try and recoup ourselves physically and mentally to tackle the event's longest stage of 175 miles in the afternoon/evening.  It was already apparent that we were woefully underprepared in terms of our chase/recovery vehicle, scheduling, spare parts, mental reserves, etc.  Our goal now had changed from finishing the entire event to merely trying to finish a single stage each day, using the morning hours when we should have been racing to make sure both our vehicle and ourselves were as prepared as we could make them.

So while the other teams had gotten out on the race course, we sat down with our maps and tried to plan out where we could refuel the vehicle during the stage and grabbed some food and water from what seemed to be the only store in town.  Now Bay of LA is not exactly a bustling metropolis.  If you want to make a call you should probly have a satellite phone as cell service is non-existent.  There are no banks, no ATMs and no locations (either gas or otherwise) that take credit cards for payment.  Not good for a group of guys who were running low on Pesos and had a full day of travel to somehow get through.  The single grocery store in town filled us up on bottled water and snacks for the day and look!  Low and behold, behind the counter was what looked like a little swipe machine!  Too bad the woman at the counter had never used it before as the device was brand new to the store.  She fumbled through the transaction, I signed a piece of paper and we left.

Sitting at a table discussing our plans a few blocks away, our conversation is interrupted 20 minutes or so later by the counter worker arriving in a fast moving SUV.  She jumps out and runs over to me saying something in Spanish.  After some minimal translation I understand that what I signed at the store was actually a rejection receipt and not a confirmation and she and the store's male owner were under the belief that I had been attempting to "steal" the $30 worth of supplies we had taken.  I agree to return to the store and settle up using a different card and the more knowledgeable male swipes me through correctly this time.

On the move again we head out of town in separate vehicles.  Myself and Elliott in the chase van and Tim and Paul in the race truck.  Just the transit to get to the start of the second stage of the day is an adventure.  Massive construction zones, road stoppages for cliff blasting, and beautiful ocean views all pass before we get near the start in San Ignacio.  Along the way we realize that there is no physical way for us to service the race truck at any point on the 175 mile stage.  There is simply no road that the van can traverse that will reach the race course.  If we had started out as the chase team about a half a day ahead of the racers we could have transited around the Southern end of the course and approached it from Western side where better roads were present but at this point, time did not give us that option.

So plans change on the fly and as 175 miles is outside of what I considered the range of the vehicle under stage rally conditions...so what to do??  Well, we do the only thing we can think of...we ratchet strap two five gallon race jugs into the bed of the truck and wish Tim and Paul well (after a delay at the San Ignacio gas station when they experience a power loss for a period of about a half hour...).  We express to the drivers on this day that they are on their own, without a net.  We're out of or never had significant spare parts, we'll be out of contact with them, night is falling while they are out there and due to our late start, there likely won't be many peoples behind them coming along--other than that, go out there and have fun!

Elliott and I have a great time wandering our way down Route 1, marveling at the near suicidal downhill, canyon carving it does into Mulege, disgusted by the oceanside landfill blowing its refuse in a constant stream of plastic bags into the ocean, loving the incredible roadside tacos (again) and stunned by the ancient volcanic landscapes and endless unpopulated valleys.  We arrive at the end of the 175 mile stage and park.  The only thing we can do now is wait and hope our boys come out the other end.  The sun is gone and we can see the lights of each vehicle from miles away as they approach the finish.

After a wait of about a half hour I return to the race truck to make my first attempt at communicating with Tim/Paul by radio.  I am stunned when on my first attempt I get a response from Tim saying they are only a few miles from the finish!  Truly after my disaster the previous day I had little hope that the truck would finish the longest stage of the event.  But there they are a few minutes later, crossing the stage finish.  At 175 miles it was longer than any FULL stage rally even in the States and they had done it non-stop, unsupported over some incredible terrain.  They had passed a number of vehicles on stage at speed yet taken their time, stopping for some 15 minutes to perform a driver change so that each individual would get some time behind the wheel.  They had taken incredible care of their equipment, babying it through the rocks and ruts.  We are all rightfully proud of this run--but its late...again.

We transit into Loreto finding that because of our late start time and generally slow speed of our vehicle that while we finished, the daily party was already over, the food and drinks all gone, most of the racers retired to their rooms.  The team sits for a moment, grabs a drink and then moves to our room, once again not bedded down till after 1AM.


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