Fire sprang up inches from my already much abused crotch. Well then, today is looking up already!
I’d initially missed the piddling dribble of fuel leaking around a cracked cap on my gas can as I fueled in the grey haze of early morning. Ever sharp-eyed, I took notice of it just as the stream sizzled against the hot header pipe.
A frantic string of well-crafted curses, a moment of panic, and I threw the bike to the ground, kicking sand on the flames and quickly averting tragedy. No one in camp even stirred.
Moments later, I kicked the 450 back to life and roared off into the endless sands, fighting the loss of depth perception and contrast in the gloom, pinned in 3rd gear to climb the big dune we call the Mountain of Madness. Two hundred meters up, I found the top and the red pre-dawn glow of a sun ready to burn through the layer of dust hanging over the desert. From a bike on fire to a sky on fire, in the space of a few moments. Alone, I took in the silence and watched the red orb climb through the haze.
As our friend Mark Twain observed, I’m not dead–just radio silent on the blog side for a bit. Life is busy, and with the efforts required to keep three kids and their bikes in racing form along with my own, trials and travails at work and off-road, I just haven’t had time. Wordpress is a decent interface, but it’s not the simplest and it certainly isn’t as easy as simply uploading a handful of pictures at the push of a button from my smart phone. Formatting, uploading, and all that take some time, and I have a hard time doing it half-assed and just slapping a bunch of muck up here.
So, the one-year anniversary of unibrawler.com came and a week ago, and as I prepared to renew my domain name and WordPress access, it occured to me that I should probably make some use of my money. Well, here we have it.
The past year: a blur of Baja Rally, a shattered collarbone and subsequent hardware upgrade, the Desert 100, multi-week training trips for work, the kids entering their first season of the NMA Offroad Series, I raced the Rocky Mountain Rally and the Virginia City GP on the 950SE, we rebuilt every kid-bike in the garage (two Honda CR85s and two KTM 105s) from the crank up, and I ended up taking an extended overseas job that will keep me away from home and the family until the end of summer 2018. Meanwhile, the kids are still racing and I’ve been getting out as much as possible to shred the dunes, having set aside my stable of KTMs for a 2010 Honda CRF450R. Life is imperfect, but we’re making a go of it.
The next year or so? Many goals and ideas.
- Spend zero weekends sitting in my apartment doing nothing. Get out every single weekend. This is a unique opportunity, so I’ve got to make the best of it. Already, I’ve hit dunes and camped in a couple of places and linked up with a crew of dirtbike-riding expats. This bodes well for my sanity!
- Race in some event here in the Middle East. I have an invite to co-drive (navigate) a friend’s 2018 Can-Am X3 UTV. in the Abu Dhabi Challenge in March. Not sure how realistic that is, but I intend to try!
- Support the kids in their endeavors. Small races are easy, but their next big event is a Youth Team entry at the Starvation Ridge 24-hour race in October 2017. I don’t think they fully understand what they’re getting into, but I doubt it would stop them if they did. That’s the spirit! I’m excited to see how they cope with this one. The Desert 100 is one thing. Deep mud in the cold, wet dark is something else entirely. Stay tuned.
- Figure out this blogging thing. Make it look good. Begin to understand online content as a business. Look hard at what to do in 2020 when I’m finally retired and can move on to “what I love.” Whatever that is. How do I make a decent living on motorcycles?
- Continue to prep and research the big ride-the-world trips that I have vaguely planned for each kid between their junior and senior years of high school. A month of riding one a different continent should do wonders for their world view!
- Continue to inspire, cajole, motivate, harass, and love the kids who really create a great excuse for me to be a kid as well. If you haven’t seen it, they were recently featured in Revzilla’s Common Tread. I thought that was pretty badass and humbling at the same time. They’re the toughest little crew I know, and they amaze me at every turn…even though I want to strangle them half the time when three strong-willed children are all fighting each other over how something should be done.
- Laugh a lot.
As we near the 9th of July RCMC Dual Sport Ride in Capitol State Forest’s Middle Waddell Creek Campground, here are some thoughts on beginner dual sport navigation. You don’t have to be a Garmin genius for this to work. If you have a smartphone, you’re in business! Just be sure to run it in airplane mode and turn the display off between uses so you conserve battery. Might be nice to keep a small external power pack in a pocket with a charging cable just in case. My mounting recommendation is a RAM X-Grip mount on the handlebars and your phone in a good case like Otterbox or Lifeproof.
- The easiest solution is to use Avenza PDF Maps app. It’s available on both iOS and Android. Follow the directions on this web page from DNR and you’ll be navigating on their own purpose-built map in a matter of minutes. You can save your tracks but won’t be able to navigate turn-by-turn, only see that you’re on track.
- I’m a huge fan of OSMAnd, which started on Android and is now on iOS as well. You can get it free and download the Washington mapsheet and be in business. The paid version adds contour/topo with a plug-in and is the best $10 I’ve spent on navigation. You can also save your tracks and run them turn-by-turn later. It’s a very comprehensive app and can be intimidating, but it’s extremely functional. (Sorry, can’t talk to the iOS version because I’m not an apple guy)
- Rever is a possibility that a lot of people like. I’ve had a half dozen recorded rides lost and have washed my hands of it, but others seem to have good luck with it. Just don’t attempt to save while in airplane mode or out of range–it seems to fail 50% of the time.
- Apple guys rave about Gaia. I think it’s $20. Money well spent!
Good god, why is it so difficult to actually run a blog? Hosting pics is what really sucks the life out of me. The problem is I can get something uploaded on FB or IG in seconds, whereas it takes significant time and effort to do it here. Hence…I lost interest for a bit. Well, it’ll soon be time for some updates. And perhaps some functionality.
Good news is, someone from Nigeria follows me. Hopefully I’ll get an opportunity to help a Prince there to retrieve some of his funds, with big payoff later in return for a small investment in time and money today!
Otherwise, the kids are riding like crazy, I have a big dual sport ride coming up this weekend, it’s summer, and life is good!
“I hit so hard, I peed my pants! Good thing it’s raining, huh?”
On 17SEP16, we headed out to Gifford Pinchot National Forest for another attempt at Blue Lake. We tried earlier in the season, but it was too early and there were just too many blow-downs. We spent all day getting probably 8 miles of riding in, constantly stopping to drag the bikes over fallen trees. Not much fun.
My kids are tougher than most. I expect most parents would say that. That’s sort of a requirement, right? My kids are better than your kids. Still, I doubt most parents take their kids out in 50-degree rain for the better part of 8 hours to ride dirtbikes on 37 miles of gnarly trails. When you have a 9-year old who can wrestle a Honda XR100 all day, through multiple crashes, pissing rain, on rough terrain requiring full concentration, and he stays generally positive and still has gas in the proverbial tank…that’s a tough little dude. All three of them are.
It’s sort of the norm for us though. I just never really think about it until we hang out with other people who are blown away at how hard these guys can work. Sure, they’re a pain in the ass around the house because they’re constantly in each other’s faces, but it’s awesome to see them put out work and come together as a team when the occasion calls for it. I can’t get them to clean the back yard without it turning into Lord of the Flies, but often, I’ll come around a corner to find a kid wadded up under a bike and another one already dismounted and working to pick the bike up. The crap-talking will have already begun as well.
I’ll come around a corner to find a kid wadded up under a bike and another one already dismounted and working to pick the bike up. The crap-talking will have already begun as well. Hey Nate, what’re you doing underneath The Blanket [your bike] again? Taking another nap? Hmmm?
In preparation, the kids spent Thursday and Friday afternoon going over their bikes. Nate got his hand-guards re-installed, and tires and oil were checked. Of course, Friday night as we went to load the bikes, Lex found she had a flat front tire. Aaagh! Pulled the tire and there, big as life, was a split next to the valve stem. Nope, not patchable. It’s 7pm and we leave to ride at 5am. Dammit! Just goes to show, it doesn’t matter when or how you prep. This tube previously had problems leaking around the fitting there (had to crank down the inner clamping nut), and now it tore. She’s not a hardcore rider and doesn’t go around at low pressure potentially spinning the tire on the rim, so what the hell? While she once had to ride it flat for a couple miles due to the leak at the inner clamp, I looked closely and saw no damage at the time. Guess I’m done with STI extreme heavy duty (3mm) tubes. Luckily, I hardly ever throw anything away (witness my rack of take-off tires), so we found the original standard tube under the workbench and stuffed it back in there. Good to go!
Of course, it rained the whole 100 miles down, and with the tetris-truck fully loaded with 4 bikes, the interstate presents a constant battle not to hydroplane in the water-filled troughs worn by the big trucks. We met up with the bros down in Randall, then headed to the staging area. By the time we unloaded, we were plenty wet. I don’t even bother with rain gear on rides like that, as we’re generally working so hard, we end up soaked no matter what.
Last time out, we ran into some crazy woman camping (probably living) in her ratty little truck in the middle of the trail just a half mile from here we started. She got pissed at the noise when we rode by a couple times searching for a particular trail, then started throwing things at the kids. Probably best I only learned of that from the kids 20 minutes later when we stopped, because there would have been violence.
So, no crazy lady and no encounters with blown down trees in the first five minutes. Well, that’s certainly an improvement! Trails were amazing! Without running into dozens of blow-downs, it sure is nice to just ride. We surveyed the destruction of NF-23 where it was washed out early this spring. Can’t help but wonder how much that will cost to repair, because the damage is massive. The Cispus River now bend through where the road was, and the road was already sandwiched between the riverbed and a cliff.
We climbed into the rain and clouds, popping out at one point for a photo of the river valley below and the clouds with the mountain backdrop across the way. I’m continually impressed at the amazing scenery you can find just an hour or two away from the house in the Pacific Northwest!
Jeff and Robbie and Todd would leap-frog ahead, riding at their pace (which is faster than even mine), and the kids and I would eventually catch up. I felt bad about the overall pace, but if had been bad enough, they would have agreed to split up and meet again somewhere else. The trail up to Blue Lake was steep and muddy, with alternating rocky sections and greasy mud smeared on some of the creek crossing concrete forms. Nate, ever-challenged by dead start uphills on his CR85R managed to get frustrated while stuck at the bottom of one and absolutely looped his bike. Just as I was hopping off my bike to survey the scene, Todd showed up after doubling back to see if we needed help. As he came around the bend, he saw Carl trying to tug a bike up from the rocks in the stream bed. A couple steps later, he realized there was another kid squashed under the bike and hollering. Pure comedy! A couple of kicks and a bit of pushing, and Nate escaped the creek and rode on to crash somewhere else.
Carl, other than stalling once, managed to clean that section. It always amazes me to watch him crush a bit of terrain like this, only to crash on something simple–especially downhill. I think part of it is that he’s lazy with the clutch. Admittedly, the clutch pull on the XR100 is brutally shitty, but he just won’t pull it in. So, he ends up rocketing up anything uphill! Probably doesn’t hurt that he has a 19″ front tire while Lex and Nate are on 17″ fronts.
Once at the top, we paused for a few photos. Even with low-hanging clouds obscuring the view, Blue Lake is gorgeous. The campsite even has a sandy beach! Thoroughly soaked anyway, we waded out ankle deep for a picture to prematurely celebrate victory. After all, we were less than halfway done with the route.
Robbie changed his rear brake, Jeff demonstrated the world’s most expensive Austrian goggle-dryer while the kids wolfed down a power bar, and we departed.
The trail again offered some serious uphills, but other than a few fits and starts, the kids rolled on through. We approached a comparatively open area (some of the trail was single-track not much wider than a front tire–excellent!) and I observed an excellent place to show off for the kids. Uh oh… Dad absolutely launched himself off a small rise and came down in an enormous puddle, sending a tidal wave of muddy water of Lex and Carl. I’ll bet the video would have been awesome! Woops. Sorry I’m not sorry guys.
Otherwise, the biggest highlight for the return trip was Carl awarding his bike earning a new nickname. Nate’s is “The Blanket” because it often covers him like one. Carl’s had been “The Tractor” because, for better or for worse, it just doesn’t want to stall. This time, as we cruised a fairly simple trail headed back to the truck, we encountered a series of those draws where the trail basically hairpins into a low-lying water channel and back out. The first couple were fine, and Lex and Nate quickly disappeared while Carl plodded along, weary but unwilling (and certainly unable) to quit. We rounded one without difficulty, but the next included a bit of a downhill approach–clutchless Carl’s kryptonite. As I neared it, trailing by a minute or so, I remember a sense of relief that I couldn’t see him. I assumed he must have successfully negotiated it. This relief was quickly dashed as I reached the turn-in and spied a tangled up mess of boy and machine about 20ft down the embankment in the undergrowth to the left.
As I virtually threw down my bike and lept off the embankment, much hollering and yelling was on-going, and I had to shout at the top of my lungs in Angry-Dad voice for Carl to shut up and tell me what was wrong. On first inspection, I could have sworng his leg would be spiral-fractured, because it was twisted in a way that would cripple an adult. His right foot was jammed between the chain and the swingarm tightly, he’d twisted nearly all the way around, and gravity was dragging him down, making the snare nearly impossible to escape. Once I figured out that he could move fingers and toes and wasn’t in danger of a spinal injury (he was wearing his neck donut!), I had to pick him up, turn him around, and then loosen the buckles on his boot to pull it out. Wow! He remarked, “Good thing those trees were there, or I never would have stopped!”
Next came about 10 minutes of cursing and scrambling, smashing all the small saplings and roots which conspired to hold or drag us down the hillside. Of course the rope recovery kit rides in Nate’s pack, and Nate was nowhere to be found. Ironically, I could see the road just 75m below us, but that way would have required Hurculean effort to drag the bike. Sitting down to drink water for a moment, I realized we could push/pull/drag the bike forward a few inches at a time until we reached the rocks of the water course, then manhandle it relatively easily back up that way with nothing reaching out and grabbing us and no loose 70 degree slope to contend with. Sure enough, 10 minutes later, Carl was back on the bike no worse for wear and had just rounded the bend out of site when Todd showed up to see what was taking so long. I just shrugged and pointed, but I imagine the thrashed up brush and hillside combined with skid marks heading out into space painted the picture pretty well.
Carl’s bike’s new name is Spaceman Spiff.
We quickly caught the rest of the group and woke up Nate, who’d fallen asleep on his bike. We paralleled NF-23 on the trail until confronted by a massive washout that destroyed the trail by essentially sloughing the entire hillside off. The power of water here is truly incredible to behold. I would not want to be nearby to see this happen, but I’m certainly fascinated by what the experience must feel like. I imagine it would make a person feel mighty small.
Speaking of small, the kids all made it back to the truck. We ran the last 5 miles at our own pace, with Lex and Nate stopping at the major trail intersections as we’ve practiced over and over again. I played leapfrog with Carl and nearly launched myself off the hillside as I came around the corner to discover two tracks…and chose poorly. The higher track was full of rocks and shelves, but the lower track was crumbling. I’d have been OK had I not stalled on the way out, but at that point, my rear tire started pointing the course out. I quickly dismounted, set the bike over, and dragged it up to the higher area. *phew*
At the truck, teamwork (with a lot of Dad prodding) carried the day, and the bikes got loaded while I enjoyed a frosty beverage with the rest of the adults. The Tetris theme got hummed for a bit as we demonstrated the “proper” way to load a KTM 450 XCW, Honda CR85R, Yamaha TTR-125, and Honda XR100R into the back of a Nissan Frontier. Yeah, definitely time for a new truck.
37 miles, Gifford Pinchot trails 270, 271, 272, two spectacular crashes, one set of handguards fallen off, one broken clutch lever (switched on the spot in under 10 minutes), and rain that never stopped. As usual, the kids pulled through and rose to the occasion as we rode probably the hardest 37 miles they’ve ever done, due to a combo of rain, mud, and exposed climbing and descending. I’m proud of the 3-ring circus for working hard, and I look forward to another awesome winter season of riding.
OPERATIONS ORDER FOR OPERATION WABDR BLITZ 16
- Situation. Given the terrain of the 575-mile WABDR (Washington Backcountry Discovery Route), two skilled dual-sport riders with questionable judgment and unquestionable motivation, weather of unknown quality, mechanical challenges resulting from both wear and rider error, legal restraints on hooliganism, and a 24-hour constraint over the 9/11 weekend with limited to no enroute support.
- Mission. Brian and Chet form TF WABDR to conduct approach march along the entirety of the WABDR from north to south starting NLT 101000SEP16 and finishing NLT 111000SEP16 in order to promote awareness and funding for the Motorcycle Relief Project (MRP).
Expanded purpose: Raise awareness of the MRP mission to support Veterans with PTSD by furnishing them with no-cost / low-cost adventure bike tour opportunities which help them to revisit that sense of camaraderie and shared purpose so deeply ingrained in those who have served in the American military profession.
– Prep bikes for a non-stop ride of over 24 hours
– Conduct route reconnaissance for sustainment planning
– Procure sick stickers
– Ride like heroes
Endstate. Both riders and bikes of TF WABDR safe and postured for follow-on missions, WABDR ride completed by at least one rider to standard (no unauthorized or unnecessary deviations from the plotted routes codified at http://www.backcountrydiscoveryroutes.com/WABDR), epic write-up completed, awe inspired.
3b. Concept of the operation:
After arrival at the start point via truck, TF WABDR will complete this operation by means of a moto-mounted blitz/raid movement from north to south across the entire WABDR. Decisive to this operation is the preparation of bikes and riders for the punishment of continuous 24-hour operation. This will be decisive because pushing non-functional bikes in the dark in the mountains sucks and will take too long. Critical to this operation is the sourcing of fuel for both riders and bikes along the route, maintaining an operational pace of over 27mph, and hasty correction or repair of any adverse mechanical or medical situations.
Decisive Operation: TF WABDR conducts rapid movement across the entire length of the WABDR to inspire awe and crush all nay-sayers and to build capability for the MRP
Shaping operation 1: Chet and Richard arrive safely the day prior with truck full of bikes and gear, then stay at cabin in Okanagans and drink copious amounts of beer while heckling Brian who is still at work.
Shaping operation 2: Chet and Jeromy and Brad, and Keith conduct IO in the form of social media engagement to build further awareness and interest in this venture
Shaping operation 3: SunJa and kids pile in the soccer assault vehicle after Brian’s mandatory-fun function for work concludes at approx 092130SEP, then drive all damned night to the cabin, arriving by 0330 in order to place Brian at the right place at the right time in the right uniform for the decisive operation
Shaping operation 4: Richard drives truck and trailer from the Okanagans cabin to the finish in Carson, WA, definitely not getting a flat and destroying a trailer rim at 0730 on a Sunday morning out in the boonies, in order to retrieve riders and RTB.
3c. Tactical Risk: We will assume risk in rapid overnight movement and rider fatigue. This risk is mitigated by a combination of caffeine, outrageous motivation, hard living, being too stupid to quit, and skilled operation.
4a. Administration. CASEVAC will be conducted via cell, SPOT, or Delorme notification to the bro-network, depending on location. Any emergency of life/limb/eyesight will dictate pressing the emergency button on either transponder or dialing 911 to initiate MEDEVAC, in addition to the bro-network notification. Downed rider will receive buddy-aid from his buddy.
4b. Logistics. CL I chow is self-provided and carried or procured enroute. Riders are responsible for determining necessary caloric and caffeine intake to conduct sustained endurance operations. CL II clothing and equipment is self-procured and includes (but is not limited to) mandatory mission Personal Protective Equipment. CL III fuel is also self-procured by riders, with re-supply to occur at built up areas such as Conconully, Chelan, Wenatchee, Ellensburg, and Packwood along the route. CL IV construction materials and CL V pyro/ammo are sadly unneeded. CL VI personal demand and comfort items are self-procured (including but not limited to bubble gum, batteries, and Sena 10C camera/comms devices). CL VIII medical supplies are self-procured and include but are not limited to CAT-T tourniquets, SAM splints, Israeli bandages, and Preparation H for inevitable butthurt, especially from those whose tender feelings are hurt by our not riding the WABDR in accordance with their fragile feelings and desires. CL IX repair parts are self-procured as well and include chain links, tubes, quik-steel, safety wire, zip ties, and hose clamps.
- Command and signal.
5a. Signal. PACE between riders: Primary – verbal, Alternate – hand and arm signals to include middle fingers after traveling to the slower rider’s location, Contingency – cell, Emergency – SPOT/Delorme. SOP for maintaining contact will be observed. Lead rider waits at all major intersections requiring a turn but bypasses small side routes obviously not intended.
5b. Command. No one is in charge here. It’s every man for himself. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, MASS HYSTERIA.
What are your questions? OK, get to work.
Y’all ever time yourselves changing tires? Think I set a new record last night!
Yup, as a first, tire change time last night was more than I had sobriety for. Axle seized in spacer (not my fault, first time I’ve had this front wheel off). Pound it out with a socket drift (18mm 1/2″ drive deep Craftsman is about right!). Axle threads munged up and end cap punctured. Order new. Bearings look like shit. Pound them out. Pound them out a lot.Apply torch. Pound the living shit out of them some more. Pull them out in pieces. Weep at the ordeal and curse super-bling lightweight hub for possibly being not-quite-to-standard. Order new bearings. Tire off in 5min and that’s my kids working the levers. Tube is trashed. Search for new one in shop. None. Add to axle and bearing order since I’ll be waiting.
Elapsed time, 4.5hrs. Still have to press in new bearings, see if the spacer is the problem, slap on new tire, etc. All told, I think this tire change will run about a week or so. New record!
Can anyone top it?
My boss finds it astounding that I can poke a finger into whatever fluid is leaking from his HMMWV and tell by taste whether it’s diesel, brake fluid, coolant, gear oil, ATF, etc.
I never really thought that was weird.
So said the esteemed Eminem. It’s game-on time! Lots of updates, and the enormity of the task before me is rather daunting, now that I’m home again and on the home stretch. Time to start eating this elephant one bite at a time.
Home late last night after a month away on the job, training Citizen Soldiers prior to deployment to faraway paradises. Damn it feels good! Speaking of paradise, it’s 61F and partly sunny here in Tacoma, which soundly beats the entire month of weather at Fort Hood (Killeen), TX where we saw everything from 104F and high humidity to lashing thunderstorms and constant rain, deep mud, and soul-sucking wet boots. This is literally the first comfortable morning I’ve had this month!
Baja prep continues. The bike is up at Cyclops Adventure Sports for some final wiring. The stock wiring harness for the 950SE is outrageously complex (seriously, WTF, KTM?) and pulling the mask off to install the Extreme LEDs left an exposed rat’s next the size of a small loaf of bread to deal with. The timing sucks, as the Cyclops boys are busy, but we’ll git’er done. I can’t say enough positive things about Cyclops, as Darryl, Sandra, Greg, Bobby, and the rest of the crew have been enormously helpful in helping me with the best lights in the biz, setup, riding philosophy, and just being a great part of the riding family.
Robbie of 21″ Front (dude, I’m still figuring out this web thing, but will get you up on a sponsor page…once I get a sponsor page set up!) had his brother stop by the house with one of the sets of Tractionator Enduro H/T tires he hooked me up with. I’ll get those on the 950 rims and do the wheel and swing-arm bearings at the same time, then test ride before the big gig.
Jay Joo of Sena kicked in an outrageous package of gear (same deal brother, I’ll get that sponsor page up ASAP now that I’m home on a personal computer!) and I have to figure out what’s what and how I want to set it all up. There are so many options, I don’t know where to start!
First big test of everything assembled will be at the Backcountry Discovery Routes for Motorcycle Relief Project marathon ride (BDRs4MRP) in just two short weeks from now on 10-11 September, where we’ll hammer down a straight-through ride of the 575-mile Washington Backcountry Discovery Route in under 24 hours to raise funds for and awareness of the Motorcycle Relief Project, which takes Veterans suffering the effects of PTS (I don’t use the term PTSD because it’s thrown around too much and poorly understood) and puts them on adventure bike rides to help them regain that sometimes lost sense of camaraderie and purpose that makes military service so special. Tom Larsen is living the dream there helping our brother and sister Veterans and I hope to work at similar purposes when my active duty time is over in just a few more short years. You’re a good man, Tom.
Motorcycle Relief Project, headed by Tom Larsen
Backcountry Discovery Routes marathon ride for Motorcycle Relief Project
OK, with this update typed, it’s time to hit the garage! Where to begin…well, the 300 needs a new inner clutch cover gasket so I can rip with the kiddos before school begins. That’s as good a place as any.