The Imperial Sand Dunes a.k.a. Glamis
In just over a year, I've managed to make four trips out to the Imperial Sand Dunes in the south eastern corner of California. Pretty much anyone that's ridden a motocross bike for any descent period of time has heard of these legendary dunes. Usually they are referred to as "Glamis". As it turns out, Glamis is actually a small town south of the Chocolate Mountains and on the north western side of the dunes. It's near one of the five or so camping areas in the dunes where people gather, so that particular camp site is also known as 'Glamis'.
I've been fortunate. Each time I've gone to the dunes, I've either been with the crew from ATV Racing or with one of the guys from ATV. They've been going to the dunes for upwards of twenty years and know them inside and out. It's pretty nice having them as guides.
While staying in Phoenix during the 2000 Stadium Racing Series, I discovered that ATV had plans to go out to the dunes for the weekend. This was a working weekend for ATV. They were testing a couple new cars; a killer 600cc twin cylinder snowmobile powered Pilot that was just AWESOME and a new Canadian car known as a Drakart. No doubt about it, I wanted to go. I got them to order a paddle tire for me, mounted it up and was ready to rock and roll. We left after work on Friday night (January 21, 2000).
The Imperial Sand Dunes are just amazing. (the picture just does them NO justice) Out in the middle of the Southern California Desert you suddenly come across this vast landscape of sand dunes. Not just a few piles of sand, but MILES of HUGE sand dunes. Now, I've been in the sand before, but I've NEVER seen ANYTHING like this place! We stayed at the Glamis camping area. It's an RV campground where everyone sets up just off the highway on the desert floor at the foot of the dunes. Naturally, pulling my trailer I promptly got stuck in the sand trying to get off the highway and to the camp area! Cha-Ching, twenty five bucks later, I'm unstuck and parking in the camp. Nobody bothered to tell me what the camping arrangements was going to be so I ended up sleeping in an RV with a guy named Phil. Phil had tagged along with the ATV crew playing and working on his sand drag car; a Mongoose chassis with an 1100 cc Suzuki engine. I sure felt lucky that I keep a blanket and pillow in my van (Motel Dodge), because if I hadn't had that stuff, I would have frozen at night! (I now keep a sleeping bag in the van, er "Motel Dodge" too.)
When we got up on Saturday morning, I think that Jay and Neil were a bit tentative about me riding on a bike in the dunes with them in their cars. Both of the cars they were in are capable of 90+ mph and were able to go UP the face of ANY dune we could find. Some of the dunes out there are over 250 feet high and Jay was clocked on a radar gun running over 60 mph going up the face of a dune called Oldsmobile Hill in the twin powered Pilot. They didn't know that I used to live on South Padre Island in Texas and rode on the beach all the time. I had a BLAST. I was able to stick right beside them anywhere we went and I would even pass them if the opportunity opened up. I'd always drop back after making the pass, though, because I didn't have a clue where I was!
My new (at the time - only had it about a month) YZF 426 with a paddle tire was just plain amazing. Even in the really deep soft sand all I had to do was twist the throttle and the front end would come up out of the sand and skim along on top of it. Running in the huge bowls was killer. If the bowl was big enough, and if I was running fast enough, I could lay the bike down so that it was horizontal. It was pretty wild, because if I stayed in this attitude long enough, my perception of 'up' would get tilted over and it was like riding in a loop. There wasn't anything that I couldn't go up or down. Once again, my new YZF amazed me. Two days of extremely hard play were had and I was hooked on riding in the dunes.
I also got to play in both the 600 twin Pilot and the Drakart during the day. The Pilot was just amazing. It had so much more power than my full race 500cc setup, and being that it was stretched six inches and had the full ATV Long Travel suspension, it handled and worked better than any small car that I'd ever been in. I was blown away with it. I then got in the Drakart. The acceleration, which was quicker than the 600 Pilot, the brakes and the ease of steering were quite impressive, but the vibration (extremely high), the ride and the general feel of the Drakart were just not to my liking. Two rides in it were enough to say "I don't like it."
We stayed at the dunes for the weekend and during one of the trips out into the dunes I was introduced to China Wall. We had worked our way pretty deep into the dunes and the farther in we got, the larger the dunes were. We came to the top of one dune and as I looked over, I was blown away. I'd never seen anything made of sand this tall. Nor could I believe how steep sand could be stacked! The ride down the face was intense. You have to stay on the throttle to keep the front end from sinking into the sand, but the idea of accelerating was SCARY! I worked my way down and then turned and shot back up. A few more times up and down and it was time to head on out. Somewhere along the line I got separated from the main group, but I remembered that Jay had told me that if I got lost to find certain land marks and then follow them back to camp. I had a blast working through the dunes back to the sand road that leads back to camp.
One other thing that was neat to see was the Pilot gathering that had been arranged for the weekend. I don't recall how many Pilots were present - I think it was over 30, but don't hold me to that number, but there were enough of them to spell the word "PILOT" on the face of Oldsmobile Hill. The crowd that had gathered at the bottom of the hill seemed pretty impressed with it too.
The second time I went to the dunes (sometime around April, 2000) I joined the ATV crew again on another working weekend and this time we stayed at Buttercup. It's located about 15 miles west of Yuma, Arizona on I-8. This is the trip where I had the, uh, pleasure(?) of meeting Alain Fricker of Drakart Fame.
We started out by arriving at the Gecko/Road Runner camping area on Friday night. It's in the same vicinity as the Glamis camp ground. We were supposed to meet Alain there but couldn't find him. We went to sleep in the motorhome, got up the next morning, I promptly crashed my r/c helicopter (just lost radio contact and watched it take a 50 foot plunge into the sand), found out that Alain was at Buttercup, packed up and headed on over to the Buttercup campground. We met Dottie and Paul (from ATV) there too.
Anyhow, Buttercup is nothing like the Glamis area. The dunes are quite a bit smaller and the area is confined by I-8 to the north and Mexico to the south. Mexico is only 3/4's of a mile from I-8 in one area just to the west of the Buttercup camp ground. There is one hill called "Competition Hill", some pretty good bowls to ride in and the "Sand Highway" that leads around to Comp Hill is a lot of fun too. It's a nice place, but the vastness of the dunes north of I-8 just isn't there. Still, I had a killer time flying down the Sand Highway on the YZF and pretty much just ripped around in the dunes.
We finally met up with Alain and his two mechanics. Neil, Jay and Alain started working on the Drakarts. I would follow them when they went out to the dunes from camp, but they would go out, do a couple test runs on Competition Hill, head back to camp and work on them some more. This got a bit boring, but I made the best of it and would disappear into the dunes, try to get lost and then find my way back. Fortunately I never managed to get too far out. The border between the US and Mexico was decently well marked, all you had to do was look for Border Patrol Vehicles and their tracks. Stay to the north of the tracks and there was no problem.
A little history here...
Alain Fricker, the maker of the Drakart, had approached ATV Racing about being the West Coast Distributor for his new off road car. It is about the same size as a Pilot, but with a lot more horse power and a different design. Seems that there were some teething problems with the Drakart and Alain wanted ATV to help out in getting the car set up so that it was a viable dune car. The original Drakart that ATV received went through some MAJOR suspension modifications and upgrades. (First time I went with them to the dunes, they were testing the suspension stuff.) This was the weekend that ATV had arranged to meet Alain, his crew and some more Drakarts to see how they could help him with his cars. Now, Alain didn't like me already - well, make that he didn't like "Dat Moskito Man" (must say this with a very heavy French accent) as he called me. I had made a comment about the shocks off the first Drakart that ATV had. They suffered from very severe stiction and were extremely harsh through the stroke. A quick change of the piston seal brought them to life, but all he could focus on was that I had said that before the seal was changed, they were the worst shock I'd ever seen. No skin off my nose, I was just making a comment - and also saying that it was a very fixable problem, but the seed of dislike had been planted. Neil told me a little later that Alain had asked him all kinds of questions about "Dat Moskito Man".
Alain was interesting. At first, he wanted nothing to do with me. He didn't know that I was "Dat Moskito Man", just as Richard, as I'd been introduced. He almost seemed a touch annoyed that I was there. Sort of a "What's this guy doing here with you ATV guys?" attitude. As the day progressed he realized that I had a bit of knowledge about the workings of a stadium car and he began to talk to me. I think the fact that Neil and Jay would ask my opinion every now and then about the problems that they were chasing may have helped a bit in Alain's attitude towards me, but I'm just guessing here. Saturday night, I cooked steak dinner for everyone including Alain and his two mechanics (which I think he was starving - they ate EVERY BITE, shared another steak between them and then proceeded to eat anything else that they could get hold of) and he was actually quite pleasant to me by this time.
There was one incident during the day. I decided to try the Drakart one more time. It was still pretty much the way I remembered, except the ride was a lot better due to the suspension mods that ATV had done. The problem was that it wouldn't turn one direction very well. I took it back to camp and mentioned this and we discovered that the nose of the car was bent in. It had pushed the steering rack up and over and would not allow full steering in one direction. Alain immediately accused me of crashing the car. I held my ground, said that there was no way that I had done it, and if I had, I would have told them I did. After a couple rounds of twenty questions, one of his mechanics finally fessed up and said that he'd plowed the base of a dune just before I got in the car.
The next day, after a good morning ride, I was sitting on top of the motorhome, taking pictures and watching Jay, Neil, Alain and his mechanics working on a Drakart. I mentioned to Jay that I wish I had my car there. Alain looked up at me and asked "You have a Pilot?"
"No, I have the Moskito."
I still think that if he would have had a gun handy that I would have been bailing off the top of the motorhome as he squeezed off shots. It was amazing. The change in his attitude towards me was a total turn around. He instantly went from "You have a car?" to "I want to kill you!" attitude. He spent the rest of the day acting as if I was totally invisible. I found it quite amusing. (:
The weekend was topped off by a nice temporary stay at the border patrol check point on I-8.
We pulled up to the check station. Neil driving the motorhome, Jay sitting between the front seats, me riding shotgun and Jay's two year old daughter bouncing around in the back of the RV.
"Where you guys coming from?" asked Border Patrol Agent (like it wasn't obvious? A motorhome pulling a trailer with two sand cars, a quad and a bike, camping gear, grill, tools, fuel and other dune weekend stuff all over it?)
"The Dunes" Neil said.
"This your motorhome?"
"No, it's a rental."
"You have the paperwork?" asked the Agent.
"Yea, just a minute." Neil went back to the closet and dug around. He then dug through the glove box. "I can't find it. My secretary had to leave early and she must have the paper work with her. She's the one that rented it for the shop".
"All right. You guys want to pull it over there then?" The Agent pointed off to the left in the parking area of the check point. This was something that none of us ever dreamed of happening.
The agent walked over to the RV and then started asking questions. "You boys have anything you want to tell me?"
We were pretty much at a loss. "No."
"Mind if I come in and take a look around?"
"Uh, sure. I guess so." Neil replied.
The Agent opened the side door, looked around and then asked if we would get out of the RV.
This is when I got really nervous. I grew up ten miles from Mexico in South Texas. I knew what he was doing - he was looking for drugs. I've seen what they can do to a vehicle while searching for drugs. They'll strip it to the frame and then leave it there for the owner to put back together if nothing is found. Here we were, Neil, Jay, Jay's two year old daughter and myself, standing in 100+ degree heat wondering what the hell was going on! He climbed back inside, stood at the door way, looked around and came back out.
"You boys have anything you want to tell me?" he asked again. "You'd best come clean now instead of letting me find anything." He then went on to say "I'm not worried about 'recreational use stuff' - but if you have anything I suggest you let me know now." He said this a couple more times, stressing that if we had anything 'recreational' that it would just be thrown away and we would be let go. It was now obvious that he was looking for the 'big score'.
We continued to answer his questions and he finally asked if he could go back in again - and bring in a drug dog.
"Sure, go ahead." Neil told him.
He called for a dog, had it sit outside the RV and then he climbed back in and searched around for about ten minutes. We could see him moving every cushion, going through every drawer and closet. He finally walked back out and started talking to Neil and then Jay. He had yet to say word one to me. When he started questioning Neil and Jay, he pulled pull one of them aside and away from the rest of us. When he got to Jay, Jay asked me if I would hold his daughter. I said sure. It was hot, we'd been standing in the sun for close to 15 minutes and the intensity of the situation was getting overbearing. I finally walked over to the agent and asked if I could get Jay's daughter out of the heat and back in the RV.
"Sure! No problem. Go ahead and start it back up and get it cooled off."
I was amazed at his reply!
He talked to Neil for a couple more minutes and then told us to have a nice day. Needless to say, that's got to be one of the most uncomfortable situations I've EVER been in. Fortunately for us, we had nothing to worry about, but the way that Border Patrol Agent dealt with us was pretty damn scary!
All we can figure is that there must have been some sort of tip that the Border Patrol was working on. We must have fallen into the profile of what they were expecting - Motorhome coming from the dunes with at least a couple guys in it. Don't truly know, don't care - but boy, what an experience!
My third trip to the dunes was on Saturday, February 17, 2001. The original plan was that ATV was going to go out for some test work on the new Tazcar and also just cut loose and relax a bit. I'd been working on the Gecko for three weeks straight and was really looking forward to spending some quality dune time with it, but things didn't work out so the Gecko and the ATV shop crew didn't go. Instead, Jay and I loaded up my YZF and the shop's 400 EX quad and about three in the afternoon we headed west. (Boy was I glad to see that the border patrol check point was closed for the weekend!)
We stopped in Yuma for supplies, found some wooden pallets to make a fire with and promptly forgot to fill the fuel jugs up. This time we were headed for the Ogilby camp ground. Ogilby is Jay's favorite and I understand why. It's pretty isolated from the main camping areas. It sits on the desert floor about a half mile from the lower dunes. It's set in the small trees next to a radio relay tower and very quiet. There were only two other camps set up and by the time we got there, it was beginning to get dark. We unloaded, suited up and headed out into the sunset and the dunes.
For Christmas, my wife had given me a Garmin GPS unit. It's a small hand held unit that can give a wealth of information. Average speed, maximum speed, latitude and longitude location down to about 10 feet or so, altitude, time duration of movement, a tracking log that stores and maps out the route traveled - all sorts of stuff. Pretty neat little gadget. I set up a cross bar pad that held the GPS unit right in the middle of the bars. All the buttons and the display were right there in plain sight. It was a perfect navigation piece for a vast dune landscape.
Headlights on (I have a lighting coil on my bike), sun setting, GPS tracking and off into the dunes we went, Jay on the 400 EX and me on my YZF. Jay had it pretty easy. The quad doesn't suffer from soft sand. It pretty much just floats on over anything the sand puts forth. A bike is a lot different. The front end is quite often the subject of the dreaded "sand grab". Hitting a soft spot can be a slight bog and slow you down a bit, a descent grab that can give you a serious case of arm stress as you brace against the sudden braking forces and then there's the dreaded disappearing front soft spot. This is the bad one. Sand that has been freshly blown over the back side of a dune has air pockets in it and the front end will just sink all the way to the fender. You come over the ridge of a dune, hit the air pocket and then get launched into a superman flying position over the bars. A good one (as if going over the bars is ever good) results in a nice close look at either the front fender or the number plate, feet over head and if you're lucky, you land standing in front of the bike. A bad one includes a lot more air time and a face plant into the sand. Being that I hadn't been in the sand for close to six months, it was dark and the dunes were fresh, I suffered from no less than half a dozen "launches" on our ride. Good thing for me that the sand is also a pretty soft landing pad!
We worked our way from the desert floor, which averages about 180 feet above sea level (asl), up into the dunes. We headed towards an area known as 'Patton'. These are some of the largest dunes in the area. Stopping at the top of each new ridge we would check the height of the dunes. The tallest spot we found was 450 feet asl. A drop down the face of the dune to the desert floor, we stopped at 190 feet asl. There it was, a 260 foot tall dune! At night, there's no way to get a feeling for how high you are. You're limited to the range of site of the head lights and the front fender really shadows the light just in front of the bike. As you go over the edge of a dune, it's like dropping into total darkness until you get fully on the face of the dune. Then you can sort of see the base of the dune, but your concentration is pretty much focused about fifty feet or so ahead of the bike. It's a total rush every time you go down a dune.
Jay and I worked our way over to 'Highway Hill', went along the north side of I-8 until we were pretty much across from Buttercup and then headed back towards Ogilby. One nice thing about Ogilby is that the radio tower has a large flashing red light on top of it so it acts like a beacon. Find the light and head home. Working our way back, we stuck to some of the smaller dunes and were able to make some really good time. A check on the GPS and we'd gone just over thirty miles, averaging right at twenty miles an hour. Not too bad considering it was a night ride!
We got back to camp, sprinkled a bit of gasoline on one of the wooden pallets and started our cooking fire. Punch a couple holes in the top of our food cans, set them on the edge of the burning pallet and ta-da dinner was served. We were joined by a small desert mouse that had a liking for little gold fish crackers. I caught movement out of the left side of my vision just behind Jay.
"Hey, what's that moving over there behind you?"
"What did you see???" - there was a bit of worry to his voice.
"Dunno, just some movement behind you."
Out came our little friend and I pretty much lost it and started laughing uncontrollably. Jay's concern of the "big bad creature in the dark" was nothing more than a fuzzy little brown mouse with a long furry tail. It didn't seem terribly concerned about us at all and went about scavenging around our little camp site. I tossed a fish cracker in it's direction and it grabbed it and ran triumphantly back to the base of a small bush. We went over with a flash light and check it out. It had a burrow that went about eighteen inches into the ground and then went off both left and right from the entrance tunnel. It put the cracker down and came back out. Jay tossed it another cracker and it did the same thing. We probably threw a dozen fish to it before the fire died down. We crawled into 'Motel Dodge and went to bed.
The following day Jay and I got in another ride using up the remaining fuel that we had with us. We did a quick load up and headed towards Pair-A-Dice (a small shop/bar/restaurant about ten miles west of Buttercup) to see if we could get some fuel. They don't sell gasoline, but I was able to pick up a needed flag for my bike. We then headed back towards Yuma and found a place that sold gas. We filled up the bike and quad, filled up the fuel jugs and went back to Ogilby. By the time we got back, it was close to noon.
We did two more rides that day, following the same path, more or less, that we'd traveled the night before. We got back to the 260 foot high dune and it was amazing to look down in the day time. It's a LONG way down! We worked our way over a couple more of the larger dunes and across the valleys that separated the dunes having a blast. I only managed one good superman flight during the day, but the smaller dunes were definitely softer than they were the night before. I was able to figure out the pattern of where the soft sand was on each dune in relation to the edge and shape of each dune. It was pretty cool being able to read them that well. After a hard night ride and three hard day rides we were spent and headed back to Phoenix. An absolutely great time was had.
My last time to the dunes was just a couple weekends ago.
After spending February in Phoenix working on the Gecko circumstances demanded that I fly home, leaving my van and bike at Jay's house. I wasn't sure how soon I was going to be able to get back out to Phoenix. I figured that it would be at least six weeks, but everything worked out and I was able to fly back two weeks later; Thursday, March 15. ATV had plans to head to Buttercup on Friday the 16th, spend the weekend and possibly even part of Monday out in the dunes working two new Tazcars; a 600 twin and an 800 twin. The timing for me going back was perfect.
The two Tazcars weren't quite done and I spend Friday helping get them ready for the weekend. We had anywhere from eight to eleven people working on both cars through out the day. We'd been at ATV since about 7:00 a.m. and about 9:30 p.m. that night I gave in and headed back to Jay's house to get a shower and go to bed. I figured that we would just wait to head out the next morning. Just as I was getting ready to go to sleep, Jay showed up and said that the Tazcars were done and that we were all meeting at Neil's around 11:30 and then we would caravan on to the dunes. Mind you, the trip from Phoenix to the dunes is about four hours and I was still on Cincinnati time, which is two hours ahead of Phoenix time, so to me, we were leaving on a four hour trip at what was close to two in the morning to me. I was thinking that we were crazy. We got to Neil's about midnight and nobody was there. Jay and I decided that we would just head on to Buttercup and meet everyone there. I took the wheel and put the pedal to the floor (I discovered that my cruise control only holds up to 85). About twenty miles from Yuma I gave in, pulled over had Jay take over and set up my bed in the back of Motel Dodge I think I was asleep before Jay even got the van back in drive! I woke up a bit later as the van went flying around a long right hand corner - I'd been rolled over on my side during the turn and ended up with my face against the front wheel of my bike! (Thanks, Jay!). I went right back to sleep. I found out later that it was about 4:00 a.m. and the corner was the exit ramp from I-8 to the Buttercup camp ground. I sort of remember sitting up and looking out the back windows of Motel Dodge and realizing that we were at the dunes.
Somewhere along the line we'd managed to pass everyone else, probably as we left Phoenix. Neil, Barb, Taylor, Jeremy and Korn were in the RV pulling a trailer with the 800 triple Tazcar, a YZ 250, a 400 EX and a golf cart in it. Dottie & Paul were in their truck pulling a trailer with the 600 and 800 twin Tazcars on it, and Don and Jen in their truck with a golf cart in it and a sand rail on a trailer behind it. They arrived sometime around six in the morning. I woke up around eight, got out and started wandering around. Jay, Taylor, Korn, Dottie and Paul were all sleeping outside in sleeping bags and there was nobody else in sight. The camp ground was quite full and people other people were starting to mill about and start heading out into the dunes. It wasn't long before everyone in our camp started waking up and moving around. I was ready to head out and play - even with only about four hours of sleep.
After being at Ogilby just a couple weeks before and then being back at Buttercup for the weekend, I was a bit bummed about the location, but group of people and the number of toys to play in was fantastic! Taylor was on the other bike and he and I had a blast raging through the dunes together. It's pretty killer to ride with someone else that can run in the dunes well. In fact, I had a hard time keeping up with him sometimes. Taylor is an expert motocross racer and desert racer, so I was the slow one when I was with him!
The crew pulled out the Tazcars and I finally got to see one run. All I can say is AWESOME!!! These things absolutely rip! Following a Tazcar required full concentration and even then any off camber turn that I had to do on the bike was instant loss of distance between me and the car. The car would just hang it's rear end out about eighteen inches and slide on through the corner. As long as who ever was driving a Taz kept a descent pace, I was all right, but the second they decided to start pushing, I would quickly fade and the distance between us would grow. Our two expert motocrossers, Taylor and Jeremy, were able to follow the Tazs better than most, but still, when Neil unleashed the triple, nobody could stick with him. It was by far the fastest, best handling machine in the dunes, bar none.
My first ride in a Taz was in the 600. I'm not sure which impressed me more, the ability of the car or Neil's driving and his ability to read the dunes. He's been duning for so long that he can read the ridges, edges, shapes and forms that the dunes have so well it's amazing. It's like he's one with the sand. He asked me if I wanted the fun ride or the scary ride Naturally, I said scary, so he decided to push it a bit. I was flat amazed at what the car could do. We launched off of the tops of dunes, blasted full throttle up and down Competition Hill, running close to seventy down the face of the hill and through the whoops at the bottom of it. The car just soaked up anything we could toss at it. I was having so much fun and have such faith in Neil's driving ability that he never did manage to scare me.
Flight time in a Taz is great. The car launches extremely well and flight attitude is very easily controlled with the throttle. Want to land nose down on a down slope? Just ease off on the pedal as you leave the jump. Want to land with the nose high on a flat landing area? Burp the throttle as you leave the jump and it will carry it's attitude right on to the point of landing. Perfect balance. Landings are soaked up and we only bottomed the car off of the most extreme jumps. In fact, I launched the car off of one dune that we had been jumping from and put the car about fifteen feet in the air. (didn't mean to hit it quite that hard...) I got back on the throttle just before the car touched back down and it just soaked up the landing like it was nothing. The overall ride of the 600 was a touch harsh, but it was on shocks that had a guess at setup. The valving was close, but had room for improvement. Still, if I'd not had a ride in the 800 triple (the orange car you've seen in the ATV site), I wouldn't have realized what a really good ride the car is capable of. Even with the valving of the 600 off a bit, the performance was stellar.
One funny thing we saw, that really put the Tazcar's performance in perspective, was when Neil was giving a guy a ride in the 800 triple. Neil was giving him the scary ride, really putting the car through it's paces, and we suddenly notice that a guy in a four seat, high horsepower Sand Limo (prolly a $60,000 ride!) was starting to tail him. The guy in the Sand Limo was able to stick with Neil on the high speed sections and through the whoops, but when it came to jumping and turning, forget it. The Sand Limo had a tendency to over launch and then couldn't get set up for the next turn or jump in time and the guy would have to stand on the brakes, gather the car up and then try to catch back up with Neil. If he didn't launch the car off the jumps very well, he would have problems and loose his speed and rhythm through the dunes. Neil, on the other hand, could just launch, land, set up and roost from point to point.
Anyhow, concerning the Tazcars - let's just say I've never seen anything with four wheels work so extremely well. I can't wait to get in my desert version - yea, you read it right. I had no intention of even considering a Taz. Heck I have the Moskito and the Gecko, but after spending the weekend riding in all three, the 600, 800 and 800 triple, I've got an 800 twin on order. It should just flat haul ass! So, anyone interested in purchasing the Gecko?
Okay, now where was I??? Must be sometime on Saturday afternoon...
We spent all day pretty much burning up fuel. Lots of dune rides, lots of fun and I only managed to drop the YZF one time. I did have one pretty interesting series of rides. With the GPS mounted to the handlebars, I was able to keep track of the distance that I had traveled, the average speed and the maximum speed too. I decided to see just how fast the YZF really is. Most people think that motocross bikes top out close to 90 mph (heck I did). Yea, right... I just recently saw an article in either 'Dirt Bike' or 'Motocross Action' about top speed. Believe it or not, with stock gearing, most of them top out about 72 to 75 with stock gearing. I found a fairly flat section down in the valley in front of Comp Hill and set about trying to scare myself. The YZF's set up with the paddle tire and one more tooth than stock gave me a first run of about 62. Hmmm... Pretty darn fast (and a bit scary) over the rough stuff and the engine wasn't near revving out. I wandered around a bit and found a section that was a bit smoother and had less trees to dodge. Ready, aim, pull the trigger and here we go. The area was a lot more conducive to a high speed run, but still, hitting the small bumps and dodging a few trees made it interesting. Still didn't hit the rev limiter. A quick check and I'd hit 67.2. One more time, the other way now. Turn the throttle, bump up through five gears, hang on really tight and try to get as low as possible without interfering with the bike as it goes over the bumps and there it was: 69.3 mph. Still didn't hit the rev limiter, but the front wheel is WAY out of balance, the wind pressure is amazing and, to be honest, the entire ride was just plain scary! I'm guessing that I still had a couple more mph, as I never did hit the rev limiter (and the bike has one that works very well).
After dinner, we waited for the sun to head West and disappear behind the horizon. After that, it was time for night rides! We roosted through the dunes, rode in Tazcars and then finally retired to just cruising around the dunes in golf carts. Four people to a cart, point up a dune and see who could make it to the top! Now, if anyone ever said I'd have fun in a golf car at the dunes, I would have laughed in their face. Boy was I wrong! It was a total blast. (then again, I'm sure that the beer helped.) One really cool thing was to watch the other vehicles in the dunes. You'd hear an engine, see a flash of light, and then you'd see a car go on by. Jen was out in her buggy with Jeremy in a Taz, following. (Jeremy spent more time in a Taz over the weekend than anyone else.) Jen finally decided to head back towards camp and Jeremy decided to let it rip. Now, Jeremy's one of these people that can pretty much drive the wheels off of anything. He's an expert quad racer, expert motocrosser and he's able to put it all together behind the wheel of a car too. While sitting at the top of one of the higher dunes in Don's golf car - we (Jay, Taylor, Don and myself) were the champions for that particular run - we watched Jeremy absolutely rip through the dunes at night! It took him about five minutes to cover about three miles. We could hear the engine and just get a glimpse of the lights as he would crest one bowl and drop into the next one. Just awesome!
Sometime around midnight it was time to climb back into Motel Dodge and get some shut eye. A killer day of riding had come and gone. It was perfect.
Sunday morning started about 9:00. I got some much needed sleep and felt great. Today, I was going to attempt the video camera stuff.
Just before coming out to Phoenix this time, I found one of those little "bullet cameras" on the internet. Just plug it into the camcorder, hit record and see what happens. I mounted the camera on the visor of my helmet, ran the cord down my back and into my camelback. Instead of the drinking bladder, I put the camcorder in it. I figured it was pretty safe. It's padded quite well, stays put and doesn't interfere with my riding at all.
Turn on the camcorder, put it in the camelback, put it on my back, put on my helmet, start the bike and let the first video begin. I made a quick loop through the dunes. Down Sand highway, up Comp Hill and then back to camp through the dunes. I came back with about eight minutes of video. It was a lot better than I expected! I'm amazed at how much I move my head around, looking at things! I had the aim just about right - a little high, but god enough to see what was going on. The sensation of speed was there and when I jumped the bike, the picture got really steady. Pretty cool! I adjusted the camera down a bit and headed back out to the dunes in search of the Tazcars.
I ran the highway again, up and down Comp Hill a couple times and then found Taz tracks. I found them after about five minutes and then started to follow them. They decided to put the hammer down and I had a hell of a time keeping up with them! We ran the dunes for about ten minutes, came off the top of Comp Hill and there Jay, in the 600 split away from Neil in the 800 Triple. I tried to follow Neil back across the whoops of Sand Highway, but there's no way I could stay with him. I'm figuring that he was probably running close to 85 and I was maybe hitting 60. (judging by my speed runs of the previous day) When I got back to camp, Neil's passenger was getting out and Neil told me to keep the camera running and hop in. We got another ten minutes or so of video from the inside of the car. It was a blast. - one side note: I have a tendency to get motion sickness pretty easily. I never did in the Taz's, but managed to make Taylor a touch green while he was riding with me. When I got back home and tried to watch the videos on a large screen TV, I got sick! Guess the video's pretty darn realistic!
After playing with the camera, Taylor and I decided to ride the bikes over to Pair-of-Dice, (The little store that I purchased the flag from the trip before) play on the north side of I-8 for a bit and then head back and meet some of the crew for lunch at the store. It was about a 12 mile ride to the store. We followed I-8 running in the small dunes and through the trees and such. Once we crossed the highway, we headed out towards the bigger dunes.
Taylor and I stuck to the smaller stuff for the trip towards the big dunes. We were ripping along in fourth and fifth gear. About six or seven miles into the ride, I looked over and Taylor was about two hundred feet to my left. Seemed good to me. About ten seconds later, I caught something out of the corner of my eye... I glanced over to my left and "OH NO!!!" Taylor was headed straight towards me and about twenty feet from me! I nailed the throttle hoping to get clear and was expecting to hear the nasty sound of our helmets slamming together. Then it came. He hit me right behind my left foot. My bike stepped the back end out to the right about two feet. It whipped back the opposite way, once again about two feet. I pinned the throttle trying to get it to straighten up and just as it started to get back under me the rear wheel caught a small plant in the sand. The bike went into a nasty high side and spit me off over the bars. As I began my airborne travel, I managed to plant my left foot in the sand and then launch again. I flipped over in the air and all I could think about was "DON'T LAND ON THE COLLARBONE!" I tucked my head landed on my left shoulder, rolled over towards my right butt cheek and finished it all off standing on both feet! A quick check and I realized that I was alive! I had come away unscathed except for a nice mark on my stomach where the handlebar had tagged me. I never felt it. I ran back to where we'd hit each other and discovered that Taylor had walked away from the crash too. The YZF was laying on it's side, still running at idle. I pulled in the clutch, picked it up and shut it down. A quick check and we both discovered that our bikes were in fourth gear. We hit each other probably running somewhere around 45!
After the crash, we headed on into the larger dunes, ran a few huge bowls and then headed back to Pair-Of-Dice for lunch. We then cruised along with the others back to camp. The rest of the day was spent taking it easy and playing in the dunes. We got in a few more night rides and golf cart trips and then called it a day.
Monday morning we took one more long dune trip - everyone together. I decided to give the 400 EX a try and what a fun dune machine! This was only the third time I've ever been on a quad, but I adapted pretty quickly and before long, Jeremy (on my bike), Taylor and I were tagging right along behind Neil in the triple. We raged through the dunes for about an hour and headed back to camp.
It was time to head back to Phoenix. We left the dunes about noon and got home about four. Another excellent adventure was had by all. I can't wait to get back out to them!
A tentative Western Trip is planned for February of 2002. I'll be taking all my buddies bikes out west and then everyone will fly out to Phoenix after I get there. We'll do a Friday morning desert ride, get the bikes ready for the sand and head to the Dunes Friday night. Saturday and Sunday will be spent tearing up the sand and then everyone will fly home on Monday. Should be a great time! (click ->here<- for the 2002 Team Spode Desert Trip)Return Home