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DezTaz - The NEW Desert Racer.

With the Gecko problems and some seat time in a Tazcar I started brain storming.

What if we cleaned up the Gecko, got rid of it and then modified a Tazcar to race in the desert?

I started talking to Neil and he already had plans for just such a vehicle. The timing was perfect, I was going to have the desert version guinea pig. It was promptly dubbed 'The DezTaz'.

ATV Racing's Tazcar was primarily designed as an off road vehicle specializing in Dune running, but it's overall design lends to running in the harsh desert environment with just a few minor changes. To make the DezTaz race worthy, a few extras were then added to the off road running gear.

This includes roll cage bracing, switching tires and rims from the sand setup to 15" bead locks w/Good Year Run Flat Wranglers, larger radiator, full belly skid plate, rear chassis/brake rotor skid plates, nerf bars, front bumper, full body work and hood, a roof wing, the addition of bypass shocks on the rear, a higher output alternator, radio equipment and some other 'factory' adaptations. (front bypass shocks are possibly in the works later)

During the "Big Boy's Toys" exhibit in Phoenix, the directors of the Whiplash> and SCORE off road racing series both got a chance to check out the Tazcars and both of them said that it would be race legal. We were in for Desert Racing! There were two classes that the car would qualify to run: Class 1-2 Unlimited (pro class) and then Sportsman Unlimited (amateur).

I head out to Phoenix next Thursday (Aug. 9, 2001) for a weekend of testing out at Paul & Dottie's and then we'll enter the DezTaz in the Whiplash 'Snowflake 250' over Labor Day weekend.

I'll have full testing reports and more pictures here soon. I'll also have a full write up on my very first desert race too. I can't wait!

The First Ride

The Dez Taz at Paul'sTesting the DezTaz this weekend was excellent!

I found Neil on Thursday night, went out for dinner and then we headed to ATV Racing so I could look my new car over. I'd been in three other Tazcars, but none of them looked anything like this. The pictures that I had didn't do it justice! Sitting beside the 600 twin sand car, this thing looked wicked. It sits about 4 inches higher than a sand version, it's a touch narrower (tires) and the bumper makes it appear that it can tackle anything shy of a Saguaro Cactus. I was stoked!

Friday morning found me at ATV Racing's doorstep at opening time. I was ready to work on my car and get it ready. I spent the day wiring in the EGT, putting the seats and belts in, doing small 'busy' things. One more day's worth of work and it would be ready to run. I did manage to screw up one thing....

We got the radiator installed and I filled it up. I asked John, "Where's the anti-freeze?" He pointed to a gallon bottle under his bench. I picked it up, opened the cap and started pouring. "Hmm, brown fluid - never seen this color before - yellow, green, blue, red, but not brown. And it smells kinda weird too." I finished off the jug and threw it in the trash can. Picked up the one beside where the first one was and finished topping off the radiator. This time, the fluid was green. That's strange....

Jay came down on Saturday with me and with the help of the ATV Racing crew, we started the car up at 1:15. It was awesome!

We ran it for a few minutes to let it heat up, verify that the fan would come on and that it did it at 200F, checked the fluid level and someone says "Hey, this stuff's brown!"

"Yeah, I noticed that yesterday - even made a comment to John about it." I grabbed the bottle to show them. There it was, right on the side of the bottle - DOT 3 Brake Fluid!!!! We drained and flushed the cooling system very well. Neil chimed in first "That's the last time we let a customer work on his own car!"

In my own defense, I must say that:
A) I've never seen brake fluid in a container like that - always been in quart or smaller jugs.
B) The only thing that I've ever seen in that type of gallon bottle is anti-freeze
C) I don't screw up like this at home, because I know where I put the stuff I'm looking for. Not "Hey, where's the anti-freeze" to get a reply of "under there" along with a quick point to the bottom shelf of a work bench that has about 50 bottles of different shapes, sizes, colors and labels. Still, I am the one that screwed up. Trust me, I heard about it all weekend from everyone at ATV Racing! (deservedly so)

We ran a few laps around the building and knew that we were going to have to do some clutch work and lean it out, but due to circumstances beyond our control, the testing was put off until Sunday morning. That's okay, everyone was pretty tired.

We all met out at Paul's at 7:00 a.m. (yeah right! Jay and I were only 15 minutes late - John & Jeremy were HOURS late) and started testing the car. As expected, there were a couple teething problems - mainly getting the jetting and clutches set up, but once we got close, look out! This thing rips and we're still down about 700 rpm on the motor. All that it should take is one step lighter clutch weight arms and the engine rpm should sit right where we want it; in the middle of the power band.

Begin Launch SequenceWe ran the car up to the middle of the afternoon and called it quits. It was awesome. It eats small trees like they're candy - but the tops of the trees end up in the car right now - we need body work! (so I got a bit wide coming out of a right hander) The bypass shocks work great. The overall damping is a bit stiff in the rear, but a quick valve change (Neil & Jay are going to do it this Sunday) will bring it right in. It slides really well and you can drift the rear end with the throttle at will. Tap the brakes to get the rear end free, stand on the gas to get the rear end sliding and point the front end where you want it to go. It's hard to explain how well it works, but in a Pilot - even a well set up long travel, you still feel every bump and edge and get a fairly rough ride - this thing just floats over them. When you slide an LT Pilot, there's always this nervousness in the chassis and you keep expecting that one little ridge to be the one that puts you on your lid. But this thing just weight transfers, picks up the inside front about 6" and slides like it's on a smooth surface. It never did anything to scare me. The feed back thru the wheel is excellent too. We were worried that it was going to need a larger diameter wheel, this one will work fine.

Monday, I worked on the brakes (finding the little aluminum pieces in the master cylinder), flushed the radiator again (just because), checked over the car and went out on a mission - to return with lighter clutch lever arms. When I got to the shop I had been sent to, I have to say, seeing at least 30 snow mobiles and literally thousands of parts for them in Phoenix kinda blew me away - turns out this guy used to have the largest volume snow mobile dealership in the country - in PHOENIX!!! He handed me a set of clutch lever arms, a driven clutch spring and told me some tuning info. Impressive... in Phoenix...

We did the clutch tuning and WOW!!! Earlier, the car would chirp the tires, but that was about it. Now - Now it's SMOKING the tires for 15 yards!!! Stand on the go pedal, the engine would hit 8300 and you could hear the Goodyears start to spin on the pavement. The back end would step out about two feet and you'd start the launch. At about the 40 foot mark the tires would really start to grab and it would sit you back in the seat even harder. Tag the brakes, turn right, stomp the gas and light the tires up and leave the parking lot fully crossed up. In a block and a half it was running 73 miles an hour! When we get the extra 700 rpm out the thing should hit 80 in a little over a block. We're just below the peak of the power band and probably down 15 to 20 hp! Lighter clutch lever arms on on order as I type this. Neil and I decided to test the car on Tuesday morning before I headed back to Cincy.

We met at ATV Racing at 5:30 a.m. (ouch), loaded up the car, hooked up with Paul and headed to the desert just north of Phoenix. Ten minutes later we were unloaded and running through the rocks. The clutching was killer! Neil drove, I watched the gauges and held the video camera.

Hey, you got a flat!Anyone have some air?This thing just amazes me more and more! The new clutching was close to perfect. We flew around the trails. The front end felt really good - this was a very rocky area - and it just soaked up the hits, the rear end was a bit more harsh feeling than out at Paul's, but still, it was tolerable. We ran around the area a while and then it happened. Neil drove a bit wide to avoid a rock on my side of the car and had a well hidden one jump out of the grass and bite the front left rim. I heard that "Poinkffff" sound and knew that we had a dead tire. The rim was bent back about 3" also. We were only going about 10 to 15 miles an hour, but the reason it happened so easily is that the tire only had 10 pounds of air in it. The ground at Paul's is soft, so we ran the tires low to get good hook up. Out here, there is no such thing as good hook up and you run the tires with at least 25 psi if not more. - for the record, the rear tire with 20 psi went right over the same rock without a problem.

Doink!!!Neil was pretty stressed about doinking a rim, but I looked at it as part of the testing process. "What will it do with a flat?" Neil looked at me, grinned and stomped on the gas. First pass through the whoops was about 55 mph! Second time through was closer to 60. It would appear that a flat front tire doesn't cause too much concern. We ran a couple times around the trail, through the whoops and headed out for a few speed runs.

77 mph speed run - with a FLAT front left!First pass: 65 mph. We turn around - 73 mph. The only worry was the telephone poles. We make another run - I notice that we've caught up to a car on I-17 (the area we were testing in is just off of it) and are now passing it pretty quickly - 77 mph! We returned with one more 76 mph run, went to the trailer and loaded up. With the lighter clutch lever arms and air in all four tires, we figure the car will run just about 90 mph - and it's stable as can be!

The crew at ATV Racing Racing is working on the body work, nerf bars and a couple other small things, and then prepping it for the Snowflake 150 in two weeks. I'll head back out the Wednesday before the race, we'll test some Wednesday night and then prep it on Thursday. We'll head up to Aripine on Friday and we'll get to do some more testing. The race is on Saturday (I think). I'll update when I know more!

Flyby #1

Flyby #2

Flyby #3

Flyby #4

Flyby #5

To follow my racing, please click here for everything or here for the Snowflake Race.

Testing Time

With the loss of the fuel tank and the inability to finish the race, we decided to spend the week fixing and testing the car.

The fuel tank was fixed. The seam that had split was welded back together and then a cap was welded over the seam. This spread the load over a larger area eliminating the stress on the welded panels. (it was decided immediately that this would be a temporary fix, a thicker, stronger tank was already in the works) We put the tank back in, check the car over and planned a Wednesday night test session in the Pima/Dynamite area of Phoenix. This happens to be the area that Neil and his friend Mike were in when they were struck by lightning two years ago. Mike didn't make it, Neil spent a couple days in the hospital. Ironically, due to some weird circumstances, Neil wasn't able to make the test session. Jay, Taylor (on his YZ250) and I headed out. We unloaded the car about 9:00 p.m. and started out to see if we could complete the forty mile loop.

We made it about five or six miles down the trail and stopped to check everything out. I'm glad we did, too. Taylor came over with his flashlight and discovered that the tank had started a very small leak on one of the vertical welds. Time to head back. We did get a good feeling for the suspension, though, so even with the short time in the seat the learning curve was on it's way up. Also, the 15" steering wheel (up from the 12" wheel used in the race) made a HUGE difference in ease to drive and amount of input required to steer the car (which was very light already). We were also able to start evaluating the suspension settings of the car. There were a lot of whoop sections and while the front end seemed to be spot on, the rear end was a bit harsh and had a tendency to buck a bit. Time for some shock work.

By Thursday afternoon, we had a new tank in our hands. It was twice as thick as the previous tank, the area where the tank was welded together was now an overlapped setup, we had a new internal baffle installed and the way it was assembled was completely different than the previous tank's design. It's a very stout, tough unit now. We also played with rear shock settings a bit, changing the internal valving a touch and changing the springs too. Up to this point, we'd never been able to bottom the rear of the car. The bypass setup would not allow for the suspension to use the last three inches of travel and we had to get the suspension working right.

By the time we got the tank welded up and the changes done to the car, it was late on Thursday, so the plans for a test that night had to be scrapped. No big deal. I still had a few small detail things to go over. On Friday the tank was finished up and installed, the shocks were done and we also did a bit of clutch work. I was ready for another test session.

This time Neil was able to join Jay, Taylor and myself. Taylor and Neil were on bikes, Jay and I were ripping along behind them. All I can say is that it was a killer time!!! We saw everything from slow (first gear for the bikes) uphill rocky climbs, wide open runs thru the wash (small canyon with 50' high granite walls), whoops - lots of whoops, drop aways, wash crossings, rocks, trees - pretty much everything other than the daytime heat that the desert can throw at you. The car made the loop flawlessly and we learned a lot more about what it is capable of. Still, the rear end was harsh, but we were headed in the correct direction.

I also was impressed with how easy it is to drive with good lighting. There is a pair of 5" Pro-Comp pencil beam lights up on the front roof line and then there's a pair of 5" Pro-Comp flood lights just under the hood in the nose of the car. After a bit of tweaking the direction the lights pointed, I discovered that if we got in any of Neil or Taylor's dust, all I had to do was turn off the pencil beams. The floods gave a broad enough light pattern that cut under the dust making visibility very good. As soon as the dust would clear, bump the beam switch and run on.

One other cool thing was to lift the throttle a tad. The front end would dip just enough that the pencil beams would light up the trail at the right distance to make adjustments in direction and such. It worked great for corners and around bushes. Dip the nose, realize the trail goes left, stick the throttle to the floor. Get thru the corner, dip the nose, realize the trail opens up to WFO and let 'er rip. The only place that the lights could play tricks on you was in the whoops. I had to stay on top of it and hope that I cleared the majority of the deep ditches that cross the trail. We bottomed out the car (at least the front end, the rear wouldn't bottom - yet) crossing one and considering how fast we were traveling, I figure that the cut in the wash had to be at least 4 to 5 feet wide and a couple feet deep. The car cleared it with a solid thump, but it was a very solid thump.

We finished the loop, packed up and headed home for the evening. I got to bed, very happily, about 2:30 a.m..

A Shocking Time

Test FacilityAfter such a successful night run, we decided to take a look at the car and see exactly how the suspension was working. We knew that the rear end was still a bit harsh, so off to ATV Racing's Secret Test Facility we went.

Whoops. Lots of whoops. Lots and lots of whoops. Like the entire road along the fence line was whoops. Not the kind of whoops you find at a motocross track. Oh no. Not the same even spacing, not the same size, shape or height, not even close. These are, as Neil put it, 'Desert Whoops'. Nasty ridges in the road that can vary from six inches deep to three feet deep. There is no rhythm in them and they may not even be the same from side to side. You'll run across a washboard section of them that's about a foot deep and fifty yards long and then they'll change to three or four, two foot deep, punishers. This is then followed by a smooth spot on one side and an eighteen incher on the other side of the car - oh, then here's a three footer followed by two foot wash board. The entire time the car is being pitched and bounced relentlessly. It's not pretty.

Because I was still feeling the results of celebrating Neil's b-day party the night before, I 'nominated' Jay as first test run pilot. Johnny rode shotgun. They pulled out of the pits and headed down the road. On the first flyby Jay was probably running 35 or so. The front of the car looked pretty good, but the rear was bucking and bouncing. Same for the second pass. They came in and we went to work.

The front end was using all it's available travel thru the stuff. Fifteen inches of suspension movement gobbled it right up. The rear end was another story. There was still close to three inches of shock shaft travel to be used. The car was not bottoming the rear end. The rebound damping was deemed too high so Johnny backed out the adjusters on the bypass shocks and he and Jay headed out again.

This time the back of the car looked a lot better. The pitching attitude of the chassis was almost gone and the engine held a more even song. Still, it was bucking a bit more than we wanted. Back to the pits. The rear shocks were still not bottoming out, but they were closer. It was decided to lighten the compression and give the springs five turns of preload.

Now it was my turn behind the wheel. Johnny still riding shotgun. What a huge difference! In fact, the difference was so much better and the car went so much faster thru the stuff that I actually scared myself. I felt like I was going WAY to fast for the terrain. I pulled over and told John that I'd just scared myself and he started laughing saying that I hadn't scared him yet! I decided to give it another rip back up the road and kept the throttle buried. WOW!!!! This thing hauls thru this stuff!!! We made a few more passes and came back to the pits. We were now bottoming the shocks and the ride was incredibly smooth, considering.

One last change - a touch more preload in the front end. Three turns. It blows me away that such a small change can make such a huge difference. The nose now danced across the tops of the whoops - almost like a bike carrying a wheelie across them and the attitude of the car was more nose up, which is a good thing. I could now actually feel the the rear end maintaining contact with all but the largest of bumps. Pretty cool! We started the day running thru the test session in the 35 mph range. We left the session running 50+.

I'm absolutely amazed with my new car!

Heading West for the Second Time in Four Weeks...

Well, not a lot to report - yet. I know, I know, it's been a while since I've updated this page, but then again, the Deztaz has been in Phoenix and I've been here in Ohio - kind of hard to report much when I haven't done anything with the car! - then again, I've been plenty busy...

To bring this never ending tale up to speed, let me first tell you about my new van. Yes, Motel Dodge has been semi-retired. You see, the Dez is a bit too big for my trailer and, well, I got tired of sleeping on the floor. I got crazy and decided it was time to upgrade. Hey, why not? Only seems logical to me. From the Moskito to the Taz, so from Motel Dodge to The Big Blue Beast! My kids named it - quite well, I must say. :) The Beast is a Ford (yes, after years and years of saying I'd NEVER own another Ford, I now have one parked in my driveway) E-450 van chassis with the Power Stroke Diesel and an 18 foot box on it. I must say that I'm EXTREMELY impressed with the truck too. It's six weeks old and has 6,000+ miles on it already!

I've been considering a box van for about a year now and last May, I decided to go ahead and order one. It was a two part thing. First, I had to figure out what chassis to use - pretty much a no-brainer. Ford is the ONLY one making a chassis and power train worth a crap. The second part was a bit more tricky and took a lot of research. Who and where was I going to get the box from? Turns out that a local Ford truck dealer (Tri-State Sterling - talk to Rick Binne) had just the answer I needed. They work with a company named Supreme. And I must say the name is SPOT ON. The build and quality of the box is second to none! I can't express how helpful and willing to work with me on the customization of the box they were. I had already drawn up plans for the box, and they made it just like I wanted. - PERFECT!

It's an 18 foot long box, 8 feet wide, 7 feet high inside. There are storage boxes along both sides and a 6000 watt diesel generator (that wakes the world when you start it) built right in. The back 12 feet are for the car and the front 6 feet are for me, complete with an attic space above the drivers area for nap time. Ah... A real mattress with sheets, a pillow and all the comforts of home. Beats a sleeping bag on top of that egg crate stuff and waking up under the YZF.

I got the van in mid October - that gave me about 10 days to get it 'road worthy' for my first venture out west. I pretty much went into hermit mode and spent 12 to 14 hours a day working on it, getting the 120 volt system, generator, water tanks, tool boxes and cabinets and all sorts of other stuff installed. I just wanted to get the basics in, the rest would come along as time allowed. I finished what had to be done the night before I left. Whew!

During the ten days of thrashing to get it ready, I put about 150 miles on it. I still didn't have any real highway time under my belt and didn't know what to expect from the truck. You know, you get to understand a vehicle after you've been in it a while - well it was all still quite new to me when I headed west.

When I got the van, it had 628 miles on the odometer. The chassis had been driven from Cincinnati to Goshen, IN (where just about EVERY trailer is made), to Supreme's factory. From there it was driven to Lexington, KY - the final assembly and customization plant for Supreme. When it was done, it was driven back here to Cincy. Where am I going with this? Let me tell you...

The van has a 55 gallon fuel tank. Yes, 55 gallons - it hurts the pocket book to fill up and takes forever. So, I get the van with 628 miles and a full tank of fuel (thank you Tri-State Sterling!). I don't have any idea if the tank's been filled before or what sort of mileage to expect, but I figured that 600 miles from 55 gallons seems reasonable - especially since the first third were without the box on it. As I leave for Phoenix (via Texas and a motocross race) I have about 3/4's of a tank and the odometer's reading about 775. No need to top off, I should be able to go at least to 1100 miles. On down the road I go. I'm amazed. Pulling my trailer I can set the cruise control on 75 and it just hums on down the road. This is great! Oh, going up hills, the truck does loose speed and some of the bigger hills will kick it out of cruise, but I can live with that. I look at the fuel gauge - 1/2 tank and 300 miles on the trip odometer. Cool! I'll get close to 600 miles from a tank - this is awesome - so I thought.

Take a look at this. It's my Street Pilot GPS. I turn it on when ever I'm on the highway. It keeps log of distance traveled (middle), (left to right, top then bottom rows) Driving Average Speed, Overall Average Speed, Maximum Speed, Driving Time, Stopped Time, Total Time. How's that for a Maximum Speed? No, I've not doctored the picture either. She shimmies above 250...

About 90 minutes later I look down at the gauge. What? It's almost empty? Hmmm... I'll wait for the little yellow light to come on. Needle works its way down to the top of the "E" on the gauge. No little light. Hmmm... Guess I'll start looking for a station. I see an exit - Bowling Green, KY.

Up a hill and cough. Cruise control kicks off... I step on the go pedal and cough, cough - it wasn't the cruise. I'd RUN OUT OF FUEL on my very first tank!!! I've only run out of fuel in a car once in my life. (no bike comments from the peanut gallery) Drop the tranny into neutral and coast to a stop just past the "Exit 1 Mile" sign, right beside the Fruit of the Loom factory. Trip odometer reads 404.0 miles. Drats. Time to walk.

In reality, I couldn't have run out at a better place - well, it could have died at the station, but at least I was in walking distance of civilization and not out in the boonies. First thing was to find a Ford dealer. I figured that I was going to have problems. It's Friday afternoon about 5:00 and I've always heard that you NEVER run a diesel out of fuel. It takes a mechanic to get it going again because you have to bleed the air out of the fuel lines. Please let there be a Ford dealer near! Luck was on my side. As I got to the exit there it was - a Ford dealer! Woo Hoo!
I walk up to the service bay - "I have a problem. 2001 Power Stroke and I've just run out of fuel. Am I screwed? Do I have to have a mechanic bleed the system?"
"Nope! The new ones are self bleeding. You'll just have to crank on it a while."
Wow - did I get lucky or what? Next - "Any chance I can get some help? I need to borrow a fuel can, get some diesel and then hopefully get a ride back to the truck."
"Sure. Here's a jug, the Chevron's just a block that way and the courtesy shuttle will be here in about 30 minutes. It will take you to your truck." I figure I may as well kill a bit of time getting fuel so I take the jug and head to Chevron.

When I get to the Chevron, there's a guy filling up an F-250 diesel. I decide to ask him about his fuel gauge. He tells me that his gauge acts exactly the same way and he'd run out of fuel once before also. Stays on full for ever and then basically falls off the cliff. He said that he'd talked to the dealership about it and that there was some module that needed to be changed or recalibrated, but they wanted a couple hundred bucks to do his (guess it was out of warranty). I tell him what happened to me and decide to see if I can talk him into giving me a ride. What the heck? I sure wasn't looking forward to carrying 6 gallons of diesel back to the dealership and then waiting on some shuttle. "Hey, what are the chances I can talk you into giving me a ride back to the Fruit of the Loom factory? It's where my truck is."
"Sure! That's where I'm headed! I'm the grounds keeper and have to go back and pick up some stuff." Like I said, amazing, I couldn't have gotten any more lucky. He took me right to my truck. I emptied the fuel jug into the tank, hopped in and started cranking. Sputter, cough, hack, die. Sputter, cough, cough, hack, sputter and then it lit. Very rough, but at least two cylinders were running on their own. It cleared out and I made it on to the station. I filled up, returned the fuel jug to the Ford dealership and then headed on towards Texas. What a great way to start my trip!

The rest of my driving experience was pretty much uneventful. I met my brother south of San Antonio on Saturday, did a motocross race with him and the rest of the Texas division of Team Spode on Sunday, headed to my mom's place that evening and then headed on to Phoenix Monday morning. (Made it to Phoenix Monday Night) I now start looking for a fuel station when the gauge gets to 1/4 and fully loaded I'm getting 8 to 11 mpg depending on head or tail winds and how hilly it is - which is as good or better than Motel Dodge gets.

So, where does this all fit with the DezTaz? The whole idea of this trip was to head out to Phoenix, pick up the Taz, go to the Imperial Dunes for the weekend and tear them up with it, then head to the sand dunes of Little Sahara (LS) in Waynoka, OK and meet up with a bunch of my Pilot Buddies and rip around LS with them.

Unfortunately, the Taz developed an ignition problem out in the Imperial Dunes. It was a blast while it worked, but on Saturday the problem slowly got worse and we finally had to abandon the idea of playing in it anymore. Fortunately Jay and I both had bikes to ride so we made the best of it. On Sunday Jay and I got back to Phoenix, I dropped him off, got cleaned up and then headed on to LS - which is an absolutely awesome place to ride. Played there with my Pilot Buddies for a couple more days and then, after a trip of 5,000 miles, made it home.

At least someone had fun in the DezTaz at Little Sahara

I leave for Phoenix again in two days. I'm taking the Taz back to ATV Racing, we'll find the ignition problem and then we're all headed down into Mexico for the Whiplash Point to Point Desert Race. I'll update again after the race!

To follow my racing, please click here for everything or here for the Point to Point Race

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 Racing 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 Racing 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, Pissboy, Larry & Me - Pinzgower behind us.The rest of my Team Spode buddies, Brian, Pissboy, 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 from 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 Chollo cactus, a.k.a. the Jumping Cactus or the Teddy Bear Cactus - no matter what you call them, they're WICKED little balls of thorns. 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 said that they loved it.

Break Time.  (l to r) Tom, Steve, Brian, Arden, Neil, Larry & PissboyGetting ready for loading and the DunesWe headed back to my house, had lunch and then Steve, Pissboy 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.

Pissboy 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 Pissboy'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??? Pissboy 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 Racing 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 (Pissboy 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 Racing 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 Racing) 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 Racing. Personally, I'm thinking "Crash Test Dummy" fits better. If it's gonna break, guess who's gonna find out - yeah, 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. (yeah, yeah, 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 Racing 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 Dez, 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, yeah, 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 Racing. 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 Racing 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 (yeah, 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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