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the Moskito & The Deztaz

(3/10/02) 1000cc of Power can only be described with one word: WOOD!

When I got out west this time, (early February, 2002 in The Big Blue Beast (BBB) with my dog, cat and 6 motocross bikes inside it, one strapped to it's back bumper, a Jeep Grand Cherokee with another motocross bike on it's bumper on a U-Haul trailer and all the riding gear for my Team Spode buddies that were flying out to experience the desert and the dunes) the Dez was about 90% done with it's new 1000cc heart transplant.

Ready for the trip to Phoenix A Sea of Blue - and that darn CR500 Strapped On - Hope it stays!

After being in Phoenix for about a week, the car was ready to roll. (I had a lot of other stuff that I had to attend to, so it took a few days longer than I expected.) The motor was in, the radiator had be relocated and pipes were being fitted. It still needed to get some stuff done like redoing the wire harness and making a new dash board, but that was stuff that I wanted to do, not have ATV do. These two upgrades went hand in hand, as I wanted to move all the switches and the fuse panel up to the dash, along with moving the EGT over in front of the steering wheel and making a couple other modifications that cleaned up the layout of the car and made it safer for knees in case of a crash.

Two days of wire harness work - wow, what a job! I was able to get rid of about 30% of the wire in the harness, make it a bit more bullet proof, have more control over some of the circuits and drastically simplified. Just what could be needed in a race.

Sitting in the garage, ready for testingWe got the transplant finished, the carbs jetted and the clutches set up. I filled up the radiator (with coolant, this time...) and turned the key. Brrrrrup. Brrrup. Brrrooom! Running Car! I hopped in and blipped the throttle: Instant response - wow! NO vibration either - wow! I slipped it into gear and rolled out into the parking lot. A quick stab at the throttle and the back of the car squatted down but it didn't move forward much, at first. Instead, the tires just started howling and blue smoke started showing up. Suddenly it hooked up and I was being launched towards the entrance to ATV's shop. My oh my! This was NOT the same car! WOO HOO! Testing in the desert was going to be a blast.

Test AreaOne of my Team Spode buddies, Steve, arrived a couple days before the rest of the group and as the sun went down, we loaded the Dez in the BBB and then he and I went out to the Desert Testing Area north of the Happy Valley exit off of I-17 for a little "session".

I made three mistakes....
First, even though I'd been out on the bike in this area quite a bit over the past week, it had always been in the daytime.
Second, the car was SO MUCH FASTER than a bike, that my perception of the area where I was (remember, it's now dark) was a bit "off".
Third, I'd not been in the car with the new engine yet and it was COMPLETELY different than the last time I'd driven it with the sick 800. I was gonna have to learn a bit of throttle control - and night time wasn't the right time to do this.

More of the Test AreaAnother viewSteve and I went ripping around the front section of the mountain, turned west and out into a wide flat area that funnels down into a wash crossing. This thing was now brutally quick! I could spin the tires at will at any speed. So far so good - I think it may have been a bit much for Steve - he'd never been in the Dez. (what a way to be broken in - at night in a car that was way too fast for the particular circumstances) We came flying up to the wash crossing, I slowed, made the crossing and got back on the throttle. Here's where things went a bit awry... The trail turns to the left - I turned to the left, but, uh, well, not quite enough - it LOOKED like the trail went "just off to the left" but in reality it went "fairly hard to the left". Thinking I was in the correct spot, I'd already put the throttle pedal to the floor and we were probably running 65 or so and then I suddenly start seeing rocks - LOTS AND LOTS OF BIG ROCKS! I missed the trail that went through the rocks and was now hurling OVER them. Before I had a chance to slow down, it hit one. I never saw the big mean rim eater - Steve said later that he saw it about 15 feet out in front of us, just before it fed. There was suddenly a nasty thump and and the passenger's side of the car was thrown about two feet high. We came down in the middle of more rocks and the rear skid plate bounced off another that was about the size of a watermelon. I got the Dez slowed down and knew that I'd taken out the rear right wheel. I didn't know the extent of the damage yet, but there was definitely no air in it anymore. Drats. We headed back to the BBB.

We got back to the truck and took a look. Tire was still okay (these Goodyear Wranglers are TOUGH!), but the rim was in deep trouble. I'd dinged both front and rear rims on the inside, bending the re-enforcing ring on the front one in about and inch (it still was holding air), put a nasty flat spot on the lower tube of the trailing arm and then there was the rear rim... It was bent badly. The re-enforcing rim was bent in about three inches and the rim was bent in two spots. There was also a large bubble that had been punched into the flat section of the rim's body. Still, the tire was okay - amazing. Yes, I'd screwed it up - and done a good job of it; I'd totaled the rim.

Okay, so I had a minor setback due to bad judgment and inexperience with what was basically a new car. It happens! (I'm pretty used to stupid setbacks - go read ANYTHING about the Moskito!)

The following weekend was AWESOME! It had been planned for months and I'd been looking forward to spoiling the guys with riding like they'd never seen before. They'd heard me talk about riding out west for a long time now and were ready to see what I'd been telling them about.

(L to R) Tom, Andy, Larry & Me - Pinzgower behind us.The rest of my Team Spode buddies, Brian, Andy, Tom and Larry came out on Thursday. Steve and I had the chance to mess with the rest of the group when we picked them up from the airport. The place where Jay works, Desert Dog Hummer Tours, in Fountain Hills, happens to have some military troop transport vehicles called Pinzgowers. These things are a riot. They only go about 65, have full time 6 wheel drive (all independent), and are wild to drive. The plan was to pick them up and then head off into the desert, explaining that this was the sort of vehicle needed to get to the house - hey, they guys had no idea what to expect, especially with Steve and Me...

Not a good thing to get stuck in! (or by)Andy, left, & Brian - Steve and I were on the Good Side of the cage. We picked them up - they were all blown away - and headed out into the desert. We ran around in the dirt a while, stopped for some photo ops and Steve and Brian quickly discovered Choyo cactus. Fortunately only with their shoes. We headed back to Fountain Hills, dropped off the Pinzgower, picked up the BBB and headed back to my house. The plan worked perfectly.

We got in our desert ride on Friday. We headed to the Test Area, unloaded the BBB, met up with Neil and cruised off into the great beyond. We met up with Arden and he played tour guide. The ride was killer. The only bad part was the dust - we had to spread out pretty far and there wasn't a lot of wind to clear it out. Still everyone they loved it.

Break Time.  (l to r) Tom, Steve, Brian, Arden, Neil, Larry & AndyGetting ready for loading and the DunesWe headed back to my house, had lunch and then Steve, Andy and I prepped for the dunes. Larry, Brian and Tom went back out for another ride, meeting up with Arden again. Thanks Arden! They had a blast and got in about four more hours of riding. When they got back, we prepped their bikes and loaded up the BBB and the trailer that Jay borrowed for us. Jay joined in the festivities and joined us for the ride from Phoenix to the Buttercup campground on Friday evening. We arrived about 10:00 p.m. It was perfect, they could see the silhouette of the dunes, but couldn't really see how big or how vast the Imperial dunes are. We kicked back, relaxed and got ready for the next morning.

The Wiltsenator Arden finds a couple Choyo - OUCH!!!!!!!!!! The BBB unloading for the ride.
Larry having fun Tom, Brian & Larry (l to r) Brian, Larry and Mr. Cactus
Trail Time! Rocky top? More Rocks.

Larry got me on film just as I picked up the YZF.  Darn!As the sun woke us up, the guys were impressed. They'd never seen anything like it! (you really have to make the effort to go out there if you are any sort of off road vehicle or bike rider - it's WELL worth the trip). We got ready and started heading out into the area right around the campground so the guys could get their "sand legs". I immediately found a soft spot (of course, right in view of the camp) and went over the bars - couldn't have been on the bike more than 45 seconds. Ah, it's good to be back in the sand. (:

Pair Of DiceWe all got ready for our outing and headed off down the road that parallels I-8, heading for Gordon's Well to get some breakfast at Pair-of-Dice, the local eatery/social hang out/parts place on this side of the Imperial Dunes. After breakfast we headed out into the bigger dunes with Jay as our guide. What a blast. It was great. We ripped up and down the faces, railed the bowls and had a generally great time. A couple of the guys had a bit of problem getting used to the fact that you have to be ON the gas in some situations where your mind says "slow down!" but by the end of the ride, they had it figured out. Stall a 426 a couple times and you figure it out pretty quick - Throttle GOOD, kicking stalled YZF Bad. We decided it was time to head back, expecting Andy's CR500 to be the gas limiting fuel pig, but in the end, it turned out that Larry's 93 YZ250 was the thirsty bike and he ended up running out of fuel just as we got back to the Gordon's Well camping area. We were able to buy a couple gallons from a group that was camping in the area and we headed back to Buttercup. It was time for a bit of relaxation and time for the Dez to come out of the BBB.

How's this for a bowl??? Andy ripping up a wall Who wants a motocross bike? - and who is that guy?
The BBB, borrowed trailer and time to unload We're all smiling - trust me! Let's park here and wait, okay?

I unloaded the Dez and said that I was gonna head out for a quick solo trip. Brian walked over and said "I know that you'll probably want to take Jay out for the first run, but can I be next?". I told him as soon as I came back, he'd be the first passenger. I wanted to get a feeling for the car (yes, the Wednesday night desert attempt taught me a little) by myself. As I started to leave, the ATV crew showed up at camp. Johnny saw the empty seat and wanted to hop in. Told him that he'd get in after Brian. I buckled in and headed out.

There really is only one word to describe the car - AWESOME. Part of the reason that I originally decided on the 800 twin was from riding in the original Tazcar with Neil. It was an 800 triple and the motor unloaded like a 125 MX bike. You pointed the car in the direction you wanted it to go, pulled the trigger and then held on. It was brutal in the power delivery - point and squirt. Not the 1000 triple. Torque - loads of torque and then it would rev out, but the delivery was smooth and predictable. This thing was amazing. I went over to Competition Hill and played around. I could roll to the bottom of the hill, drop the hammer and the car would just accelerate up the hill. Or, I could launch from the starting point where everyone else does and it would just smoke through the whoops and then scream up the hill. There wasn't anything that it wouldn't go up and the power was perfect. I blasted down the sand highway, ran through some of the dunes between the hill and the campground and then headed back to the camp. I was totally impressed.

Brian and Me strapping in for a rip in the dunes.I got back to camp and called Brian over. "Come on!" I took him out and showed him a bit of what the car was capable of. We got back wearing grins from ear to ear. This thing is sweet! I gave a couple more rides (Andy decided pretty early that he was ready to go back), I came across the guys in the dunes, and followed them back to camp. It was time for lunch and time to relax a bit. I filled my belly with food and the Dez with fuel, sat back and smiled. Life was great!

It must have been about 1:00 or so. Everyone was sitting in the shade, bellies full, stories being traded, the whole scene was great. Then I had a realization. There sat my car, I was rested and full - and I was gonna be able to sneak out away in the Dez by myself. The time had come. I was comfortable with the car and now it was time to really see what it would do. I quietly slid in, buckled up and started the car. I was going off for a rage in the dunes by myself.

First things first. Let's see what this thing does down Sand Highway. Sand Highway is a more packed section that leads from the Buttercup campground back to Competition Hill. It has two main sections - one is whoops, lots of whoops. The Dez just floats over them. WFO and they just disappear. After the whoops is a series of five or six small rises that drop off on the back side. They get larger as you get closer to the Hill. I was timid at first, but by the time I hit the last one, I was launching the Dez off them looking forward to the next one. This thing ROCKS! Now it was time to attack the hill. I'd sit there and wait on the guys on the 250's to race up the hill and I'd join in on the fun. It eats 250's up the hill for lunch. But going up the hill wasn't the fun stuff (well, okay, yes it was fun, but...) it was JUMPING off the ledge at the top of the hill that was really fun. Each time I would hit the little flat lip, I'd stick the throttle a bit harder. At first, the car would just catch a bit of air, land and then I'd blast down to the bottom, go through the whoops and then hit the brakes before I would get into the traffic area. Each time I'd make the jump, I'd go a bit farther. Then I realized that this was a spot that I could just launch off of. What a killer feeling. The wheels would leave the ground, holding the chassis in a fairly horizontal attitude, it would rotate to the left about 20 degrees and then catch the air under the belly pan. I was floating the car about sixty to seventy feet down the face of the hill. It would touch down, I'd stick the throttle and then blast through the whoops at the bottom of the hill. If traffic was clear, I'd just keep it pegged and launch off the ridge at the bottom of the hill and fly out into the flats - probably 70 to 80 feet. The car would land, I'd turn around and head back up the hill. Once again, depending on the traffic in the area (I was being EXTREMELY CAREFUL, as the last thing I wanted to do was squash someone) I'd either just drive up to the ridge and wait on someone that wanted to race or I'd just jump into the whoops and fly back up the hill. I'd take my little "eagles nest view" at the top of the dune above the ledge and wait until it was clear for another flyby. I have to admit, it was pretty cool being able to draw a crowd that quickly. One other advantage of the point that I'd stop at the top of the hill on was that I could see where I'd landed on the previous launch out into the flats, so I was able to give myself a point to beat. Yes, I was having too much fun. After a dozen or so circuits, I decided to go off out into the dunes and see what sort of trouble I could get into. I found it too. (:

It just so happened that there were three other Tazcars there (beside the two that ATV had brought out). I stopped on one of the larger crests and saw Pat, leading the train in his 800 twin, Phil and his son in a 1000 triple and Tom and Gary (from ATV) in an 800 twin. Pat was moving fast (he's one hell of a good dune driver) with Phil right in tow. Tom was running a bit slower and more cautiously, but staying with the group none the less. I dropped in behind Tom. Nope, this wasn't gonna last long, too slow. I made a nice setup, railed under Tom and Gary and then started trying to hunt down Phil. Phil and I were just about equal. Him having a passenger and me with all the extra weight of the desert running gear. I could set him up, but every time I'd try to make the pass, he'd stomp the throttle (Phil's VERY aggressive) and I'd end up with a face full of sand. (Mental note - wear the helmet with the Parker Pumper - not the motocross setup!) I'd get a better drive or a better line, but getting roosted by a 1000cc triple HURTS! Phil was also nowhere near as aggressive on jumps as I am and I kept having to shut down to keep from landing on him. The last thing I wanted to do was tangle with another car. This went on for a good 20 minutes and when we finally came to a stop, Gary said that the show was fantastic. I sure was having fun! I did have one little incident that made me say "Uh Oh" - there was a nice little uphill jump. Pat hit it pretty hard, but Phil backed off. I wanted to see just how much air I could get, but when Phil slowed, I had to hit the brakes pretty hard. I thought that I was gonna play lawn dart, but the front bumper just landed flat against the face of the dune, the back end settled in and the suspension soaked it up like it was just another walk in the park. Whew.

I decided it was time to go rage the dunes solo again, so I left the crew and headed off into the wild. I went back and played on the hill a bit more, ran through the dunes and finally headed back to camp. Come to find out, I'd been gone three hours. Doesn't look like I'll be needing a bigger fuel tank for racing after all!

Jay preparing to give rides.Jay and the guys took turns in the car for the rest of the day and I was completely satisfied with the way the Dez was working. I couldn't wait to get it back into the desert now that I had some seat time with the new setup.

We headed home on Sunday morning and I took the guys to the airport on Sunday afternoon. A killer time was had by all and next year's trip is already in the planning stage. More days of riding in the desert and more days of riding in the dunes. Trying to get everything done between Thursday afternoon and Sunday morning was a bit rushed, but well worth it. The Team Spode guys also all decided that the Dez was probably the most awesome ride that they'd ever experienced - and now they all want one. Personally, I think that would be great! Five more Deztaz's out racing, each with an aggressive motocrosser behind the wheel. The world would never be the same. (:

Oh, there was one thing I saw on that Saturday afternoon that still has me scratching my head wondering "Just what the heck was that?" As I was sitting at the top of Competition Hill, watching the people mill about at the bottom of the hill, racing up the hill and generally just enjoying the whole scene, a guy on a Banshee pulls up in front of me. No big deal, I'm back away from the edge about 30 to 40 feet. I notice that he's wearing a helmet, but no shirt. Once again, not a big deal, as you see people without shirts quite a bit. But then he stood up. Man, I DID NOT need to see that! The only thing this guy's wearing is his helmet, boots and a purple G-string! Yes, you read that correctly - the only clothing this guy's wearing is a PURPLE G-STRING and his butt cheeks are out for the world to see! (I'm awfully glad I didn't see him coming UP the hill) It's one of those things that catches you off guard, makes you do a double take and then say "Oh man, I didn't need to see that!" Then again, I'm one that gets a kick from the crazy things in life so I had to laugh.

Is This Considered an Honorary Title?

It's been decided that I'm pretty much the Long Term Tazcar Test Pilot for ATV. Personally, I'm thinking "Crash Test Dummy" fits better. If it's gonna break, guess who's gonna find out - yea, me. Case in point: Gee, I wonder how much abuse the upper front shock mounts can handle? Oh, I don't know about 20 launches off the bottom of Competition Hill. Why? You see, my car's suspension is set up on the soft side - for the desert stuff - out in the dunes you want a stiffer setup because the sand absorbs a lot of the energy of the landing. A softly suspended (desert) bike can be a handful in the sand (sorry Steve) while one set up more for motocross stays up on top of the sand better. So, jumping the Dez in such an extreme manor did full chassis testing. The rear end was perfect - well, close to it. Running the shorter profile paddle tires, the back end of the car bottoms out on the ground before the shocks bottom out. (there's about 3" of clearance when bottoming out with the desert tires.) The bypass shocks come in just before it hits, so it's all right. Up front it's a different story. The chassis just barely touches as the shocks bottom out, but the front tires flex quite a bit, so it can be a bit of a harsh touchdown if you don't land just perfectly. Just because I was "honing my flying skills" doesn't mean that every landing was perfect. There were two in particular that went WHAP and I saw a nice cloud of sand suddenly appear in front of me as I hit. I'm guessing that it was one of these that did the deed. I'd taken the upper shock mounts and, due to the angle of the shocks, and the angles of the mounts, pushed them back about an inch and in about half an inch - this means that they were probably flexed close to two inches. The hood told the story too. You could see where the mounts had been pushed into it. There are a pair of braces (one on each mount) that come in from the front of the mount and go perpendicular to the chassis. One (passenger's side) had been slightly bent for a while, it was done when Jay and I hit a Witch's Eye last December. When you looked down the brace, it had a slight bow in it. The other one was now bowed also. Time for a change in bracing. I cut the bent stuff out and then we started looking at the direction the forces went into the chassis. When all was said and done, we decided to add another pair of braces that took the force and directed it into the main chassis cross brace that the dash board sits on. (yea, yea, I know - pix would help a lot here. One day I'll get them). So, we've learned something new. Either don't jump the car as far/hard or just make sure you have the right bracing and shock settings in for such extreme stuff. Now don't go saying that the Tazcar's weak up front or that it's a bad design that's not fair. Remember, my car weighs at least two hundred pounds more than any of the other Tazcars (Jerry Seaver weighed his 800 twin, full of fuel and ready to play - came in at 1,003 lbs.), and you also have to remember who was behind the wheel - me. I get really large pelotes when I'm strapped in with my 6-point (oh thank you!) harness. Put a pair of handlebars in my hands and I'm CHICKEN compared to what I'll do with a cage around me. Anyhow, it all gets put under the "Testing" heading and in the end will help ATV make an awesome vehicle even better.

Since I'm on the subject of testing, let me tell you that all testing does not end up with bent parts and broken pieces. Quite the contrary. I finally got to take the Dez out to the realm it was built for. Back to the area that I'm finally getting familiar with (north of Happy Valley, just off I-17) - and in the daytime this time. Just me, the car a lot of scared ground squirrels and a nice sunny day.

As I stated earlier, the Dez is QUICK - and pretty fast too. I've seen just under 80, but with the current clutching, once it gets up to about 75, the motor doesn't have to pull anymore (has me thinking that we might want to try the 9:1 tranny instead of the 10:1 that's in it) and it almost feels like it wants to over rev. I'm a little scared of scattering the motor by over revving it, so there's no need to find out if it's going to. Besides, 80's really fast through the creosote bushes and cactus. Instead, I concentrated on seeing how well it was going to work in the tight, twisty trails now that I could drive the back end with the throttle.

Oh so fine! IF, yea, I know, if, could have, would have, gonna - they are all speculative, but IF we'd had this motor in the car during the Mexico race, there's no question in my mind that IF everything else had gone like it did, I would have ended up in the top five, NO PROBLEM - and I would have just walked away from the rest of my class. In fact, I discovered that it takes quite a bit of throttle control to keep the back end behind the front end. The low end and torque that the engine has is just perfect for the car. Breaking the rear end free, at any speed just took a quick stab on the throttle pedal. This suits my driving style perfectly too. Come flying up on a corner, tag the brakes (brake bias about 70% to the rear), set the car up for the corner and stomp on the go pedal. It would slide into the corner, squat and then lurch out. This was neat! I had to be really careful of not getting into the corner too hot, but fortunately, the brakes work really well. The only odd behavior that the Dez shows, and it only shows up every now and then, is that the car wants to push at the slower speeds. I'm beginning to think that it's due to not being quite abrupt enough with the brake pedal and not getting the weight transfer happening quickly enough and I'm not getting the front end traction I need. I haven't been able to put my finger on it exactly quite yet, because it just suddenly seems to happen, but when I go back and think about it, it's usually in a "soft" corner that I've just sort of plodded through. I'll get the hang of it soon enough, and it really doesn't happen that often, so no big deal.

I got out into the area that I was now beginning to know quite well (made it past the rock garden without incident) and started railing down the trails that are wide enough for the car - man this is great! I wish I'd had the upper side panels on, as the creosote and mesquite trees had a thing about whapping me in the arm, but I survived. I only had two things that made me go "oh!" and the first one was kind of funny.

I'm running about 35 or so through a series of small switch backs (oh, look, there goes another ground squirrel running for its life). Hard on the gas, hard on the brakes, toss the car into the corner, steer through the corner, back on the gas. I tossed it into a right hander and as I pulled on the wheel, I suddenly felt a sharp stab in the back of my right elbow.
"What the?"
I looked down and discovered that I'd picked up a passenger. There in the edge of the passenger's seat sat an ear from a cactus. The little guy was about the size of my thumb, but covered in 2" long spines. I now had one of these spines sticking out of the back of my elbow. Drats. Ouch, ouch, pull, tug, damn thing has a hook on the end of it. I get it loose from my arm and toss it out. "No passengers allowed!"

My other "incident" was a bit more serious, but with no bad results. I'd found a fast section that had three wash crossings. I recognized the first two, as I'd been through them on the bike earlier this week. They were all about ten feet wide and about two to three feet deep. I crossed the last one, opened the car up and came to a small rise. I slowed down as I went over the rise and discover that I've found a killer little launching pad - from either direction. I go on down the trail a couple miles, decide to turn around and come back. I get to the launch and hit it running, I'm guessing about 60 or so. Perfect. I think "That was fun!" So, I turn around and hit it again. I probably jumped back and forth over it five or six times and after the last time I just kept the throttle down and sped away. Well, remember that I said there was a wash crossing? I'm glad that I'm learning what to look for... It jumped out in front of me suddenly, but I was able to get the Dez slowed down in time. If I had hit it, it probably would have hurt pretty badly, but I don't thing it would have been nasty enough that I would have needed to have help getting the car home. Once again, Whew! (or is that Crash Test Dummy again???) (:

Yes, it IS a Title of Distinction - but I really didn't want it.

Well, call it another first for the Tazcar, but not for me. Hopefully, it will be the last time. Though I kind of doubt it.

One week after the Team Spode invasion of the dunes, I found myself back out at Gordon's Well with ATV. The ASA was having a dune cleanup and we went out to help. This was going to end up being quite and intense weekend. We had seven Tazcars there: Five 800 twins - Dottie's, Pat's Tom's, Bellah's and Jerry's along with Neil's and my 1000 triples. The only bad sign of the weekend was the wind - 30 to 35 mph constant with gusts up to close to 50. I'd learned last weekend that I wanted my full face helmet with the parker pumper, so that wasn't going to be that much of a problem, but I sure do wish I had the upper side panels on. The sand stung my arms. Anyhow, four of us got in the our cars and headed out into the dunes. They were very soft, very peaky and the drop offs were pretty sudden. The wind had made the dunes pretty treacherous.

We all went out and ran around for a while. One car had a bit of problems, so as everyone else went back to work on the car, I stayed out and played around. I found a group of quads jumping a ridge that had a nice rounded drop away on the back side. I think they thought I was crazy, but I was able to match them for height and distance no problem. I was also testing the new front shock bracing - which passed with flying colors, thank you!

Then came that fateful trip...
I decided that I wanted to go on back out and play around while the crew worked on one of the cars that was going through a shake down. I hopped in and headed out towards Patton Valley and the big dunes. It was a blast. I ran in some of the monster bowls, followed a couple groups of quads and bikes and in general was having a blast. I'd been out about an hour and decided it was time to head back and see what the crew was doing. I was running along a fairly flat ridge and could see where it dropped off. I approached the drop off at about a 45 degree angle - it was to my left. As I dropped the left front over the edge, I could see that the ridge made a sudden turn and as I dropped over the edge, I tagged the brakes - that was a major mistake. The car weight transfers extremely well and the drop off was only about six feet high, I was done. The bumper buried into the sand, the car stood up on it's nose for a split second and then dumped over onto the roof. It then did one last little flop and I was now hanging by my harness, the car sitting on the driver's side wheels. Yup, I'd done it, I was the first person to put a Tazcar on it's lid. Great. If I'd stayed on the gas - heck if I'd just not hit the brakes, I would have just driven right on down the little drop off, probably bottomed out fairly hard and then kept on duning. But no! I had to go and endo the Dez. Crap!

So there I was tucked away in a little ridge where nobody could see me, laying on the side. It wasn't until I got out and started checking it all out that I discovered that I'd also managed to wipe out the front right tie rod and rim. I've gone over the crash time and time again and for the life of me, I can NOT figure out how I tore up the right front. I dropped in from the left, it stuck the nose and ended up on the left side. How did I get the right front? I still can not figure it out.

After about ten minutes of digging, pushing and grunting, I go the Dez back on the wheels, but with the right front just dangling in the breeze and the nose up against the face of the dune the only way I could go was backwards. As soon as the rear wheels started to move, they just dug. Now I was stuck! I dug for about thirty more minutes and then finally was able to flag down a group of quads. They came over and helped me get the car back up on top of the sand and then turned it around. The whole time they were asking questions, saying how "bad" it looked and wanted to know how it worked.

I was hoping that if I could get the car moving that it would stay up on top of the sand and that I'd be able to work it back to the smaller dunes. It didn't work. I went about 20 feet and it got stuck again. Fortunately, the quad guys had a guy in a small sand rail with them. He hooked up to the front of the Dez and pulled me up to the next ridge. About that same time, the ATV crew came by. I heard one of the quad guys say something about "Man, check this out - there's a whole bunch of these cool cars here!". I thanked them for the help and they all cruised on. I was saved - so I though.

If we could have pulled off the damaged right front wheel, I may have been able to drive out. Problem was that even though I had a 19mm wrench, I couldn't get it inside the rim to get the lug nuts off. The tire was flat, full of sand and pretty much was acting like an anchor. We decide to see if we could counterbalance the Dez and get it up the next ridge. Ricky and Neil took position right beside me, hanging on the nerf bar. As we hit face of the ridge we wanted to get the car on, I hit the throttle, it stood up and then proceeded to catapult Neil off. The last thing I saw of Neil was his butt and his feet over the top of his butt flying away from the side of the car. He did a perfect lawn dart about fifteen feet down into the side of the dune. Ricky on the other hand got it a bit worse. When the car did its bounce, Ricky's foot slipped off the nerf bar and his leg got caught under the paddle tire. I thought that we'd broken his leg! Fortunately it just gave him a bit of road rash and I still owe him a new pair of pants.

So here we sit on top of the dune, Ricky's leg paddle beaten, Neil with a head full of sand and a Tazcar that's not going any place. Oh, and don't forget, the wind's blowing nice and steady 30 to 35. It was finally decided that they'd leave me there (I figured permanently - wouldn't have blamed them either), go back, pull a tire and tie rod from one of the other Tazcars, come back put it back on the Dez and then I'd drive on back to camp. Off went the three Tazcars, leaving me in the windy dunes. I was extremely stressed. I'd hurt Ricky, broken my car and the fact that I was sick and running a fever (yea, I should have stayed home, but it was a dune trip!) was just too much. I just dug a hole by the front wheel, using it as a wind break, put my helmet on and sat down. I was beat.

After about an hour, (and waiving off four or five groups of duners, telling them that I was all right) the wind picked up and I had to get up or get buried. I got the tie rod off the car, and got everything ready for the new stuff that was going to arrive soon (I hoped).

Right on cue, here came the crew with the needed parts (and a coat!!! - the sun was starting to set and the temps were dropping quickly. I had was a short sleeve shirt and was FREEZING). We got the Dez back together and started to head back to camp - but no, it couldn't be that easy - oh no. When they parked Dottie's car, it was pointing up hill. Gary stepped on the throttle and it started to get stuck. He put it in reverse, got the car back on top the sand and then when he put it in forward, nothing happened. The shaft that goes into the transmission and does the forward/neutral/reverse selection snapped off! (this is the second time that one of these has broken - it's not getting hardened correctly and is ending up brittle. Dan Roberto of RPM is aware of the problem and working on it. So far this is the only problem that has been seen with the RPM tranny.) My car was able to go back, but now we had another dead Tazcar in the same spot! This was just not a good day.

It all worked out in the end. Neil hooked the tow rope up to the downed Taz and the 1000 triple showed it's stuff. Neil was able to pull the other Taz right back to camp with no problems at all. It had no problem pulling the car right up the face of a couple fairly large dunes and never missed a beat! The 1000 trip's really showing what a great power plant it is.

When we got back to camp, I loaded the Dez back into the BBB, pulled off the borrowed parts and proceeded to crawl into a quiet spot and sulk. I was feeling like crap, I'd broken the Dez, I wanted to go home, but I had to wait and take a trailer with a Taz and a quad back to Phoenix, and Taylor had ridden out to the dunes with me too, so I had to wait. I was there for the duration. Damn. I had some dinner and went to bed very dejected and upset.

We knew it was supposed to get cold that night, so I started the BBB and let it idle all night. Taylor set up his bedroll on the floor of the BBB and I crawled up into the sleeping booth. We slept great! It was nice and warm. In fact, about half way through the night, Taylor had to get up and turn the heat down! The next morning, there was ICE in the water buckets, so it had been cold.

It's amazing what a descent night's sleep can do. I felt much better, but I still had a broken car. First things first. I had to get it rolling again. I found the wadded rim and started taking a good look at it. Neil came over and took a look.
"That thing's toast. We'll take it back to the shop, cut the bead lock off and get a new rim set up."
"Nope, I can fix it."
Gary chimed in "No way, that rim's junk."
"Nah, I've done this before. We have any of those pieces of lumber still around?"
Off came the bead lock, I remove the tire and empty about twenty pounds of sand. Next came "hammer time".

It took about thirty minutes, but with the help of two hammers and some wood I beat the rim back into a round shape. It had been wadded pretty badly in two spots where it was pushed up against the a-arms of the Dez during my endo (still can't figure out how I killed THAT side) so it took a lot more work than than the last rim (not mine) I fixed, but once again, I prevailed. I put the tire back on, bolted the bead lock on and pumped it full of air. Almost perfect! I had about 1/8" inch of run out - more than acceptable. Especially considering that I started out with two dents that were about 2" deep. Next was the tie rod. I needed a couple heims - one right hand thread, one left hand. This might be a bit tougher...

I hopped in a golf cart and headed over to 'Pair Of Dice', the local eatery/hangout/parts store. To my amazement, they carried heims! Unfortunately, they were out of left hand 1/2x1/2 heims. They usually had them, but they were out. Drats. I took a right hand, just in case, but still, I figured I was done. I got back to the camp and Neil was busy robbing parts off the Taz with the broken tranny. They wanted to try the rear tires on another Taz. I decided it was worth a shot
"Neil, any chance I can steal the tie rod off this car?"
"Sure, let's get the tires changed, push it in the trailer and you can use one."
What luck! I was gonna get to play again! We did the tire change, pushed the car into the trailer, I took the tie rod and put it on the Dez. I was back in business.

Still feeling a bit sick and running a low fever, I decided it was best to just follow the other cars for the day. I had a good time playing around, but I was feeling pretty timid. We took a nice ride through the dunes, headed back and packed up. I put the Dez back in the BBB, pull off the tie rod and put it back on the parts car. We packed up and head for home.

If I had any idea that the weekend was going to go that way, well, I would have skipped it. Then again, I have to sit back and look at it from the point of view that it really is just another adventure. It really did end up being all right, but I think that being sick probably took most of my normal "see the brighter side of things" view away. Who knows. I'm always looking forward to the next adventure, I just hope that it's better! My next trip out west will probably be for one of the up and coming Whiplash races. As soon as it happens, I'll be back to update.

Have a great one!

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3/11/02