Our annual Adventure doesn't let us down.
Every February since 2002, my buddies and I have loaded up everyone's motocross bikes, all the gear for a week of camping in the Imperial Sand Dunes and what ever else may happen to get tossed into the truck and trailer and then I head West. This is our annual get away from Winter in Ohio, worries, problems and go out to play trip. It's a total stress reliever for everyone and we look forward to the next one as soon as we get home from the previous one. These trips are usually great adventures and we enjoy ourselves to no limit. The time has come and February's rolled around again. We're heading out.
Last weekend we all gathered and loaded up. Seven motocross bikes, gear for seven people, the 10Dez race car, one of the Gen IV cars and a ridiculous amount of fire wood were stuffed into the truck and trailer. The time for the trip was upon us.
Every time I leave my house on a trip, I look forward to another Adventure. Why do I say Adventure? Because if I don't, it can be a trip; not always a good trip either. By putting the label of "Adventure" upon a trip, well then the attitude about the trip takes on a different perspective. It's a perspective that's open to what ever may come down the trail during the Adventure. This Adventure, while only three days into it, has not disappointed. Trip wise, well, let's just say it's not been the best.
Saturday morning I actually rolled out of Milford early. Usually when ever I start my westward trek I never manage to get out of the driveway until at least 9:00 a.m. No matter how hard I try to pack everything the night before, have all the stuff that goes into the truck the morning of the leave ready and work to get a good early start, it always fails and I leave after 9:00 a.m. Don't know why it is, but it is what it is and I have come to accept it. For some strange reason I was able to get out the door and on the road by 7:50 a.m. Wow an hour early. This probably should have been a big red flag to me.
My Saturday drive across the first four states went quite well. Indiana was frozen. All the little ponds and creeks were frozen over and they had a grayish green cast to them with a light snow cover in the places where the wind pushed it to the banks. The grass in the median and on the shoulders, peaking up through a thin snowy blanket, was brown and dead looking. The sky alternated between times of sunny patches and heavy overcast. Illinois (pronounced ill-i-nwa) was even more desolate and cold looking. The snow was more prominent and thicker. As I got to the Mississippi river and began to cross into Missouri, the temperatures started to rise a bit and I was starting to see areas that were beginning to melt. The skies were still pretty gray and boring. Not far into Missouri the clouds broke, the snow was gone and it was starting to be a pleasant day. Evening across Oklahoma was pretty good. I made it sixty miles from the Texas-Oklahoma border before it was time to get horizontal and bed down for the night. I left the truck idling for the night to keep my little world warm.
I got up nice and early on Sunday. It's still dark and it's windy. I have a little less than a quarter of a tank of fuel and about 120 miles to get to Amarillo. I can always get at least 650 miles out of a tank, so a little math says that I'm good and will have no problems making the next fuel stop. (quick note - the fuel gauge on this truck has a mind of it's own. I don't believe it most of the time, so I work off of the odometer for the most part.)
As I get closer to Amarillo, I've noticed that the fuel gauge is bottomed out. Hmmm... That dropped quickly. Weird. It made me a little nervous, but ah, all is good. I roll into Amarillo and pull into the first truck stop to fill up. I get in line and wait my turn. 10 minutes later I get to pull up to the pump, park the truck and go in to discover "Oh, we don't take Visa for the truck fueling. But we do take it at the regular pumps - pull around to the RV fill." She tells me she'll just hold my Visa card and turn on the pumps when I get to them.
Isn't Visa supposed to be "Everywhere you want to be" or something like that?
I go back to the truck, pull out of the truck lot and start to pull into the RV line. Some dude pulling a boat snakes my spot. Great! Another 10 minute wait, this time sitting in the middle of the street in the left turn lane. The guy leaves, I pull up to the pumps and turn them on. Nothing. Off, wait, On. Nothing. "Hey, aren't you supposed to start these things when I get here?" I think to myself. So by now I'm a tad frustrated. It's cold, windy, I don't like walking half a block to the store three more times and I don't feel like waiting on regular automotive size pumps to fill my truck. (two fifty gallon tanks take FOREVER to fill on small flow pumps) I walk up to the store, ask for my card back, get it, get back to the truck and pull out of the lot. There's a Pilot Truck Stop just a mile down the road. They have truck pumps and they take Visa.
I pull out of the drive and start down the access road and the truck says "kapooha".
"k-ha k-ha kapoopppahhhahapphaaaa" says the truck. Uh Oh! I know that sound and it's not good. I have just run out of fuel! Toss the tranny into neutral and listen to the engine cough it's last time. I'm now nothing more than a 25,000 lb. soap box derby ride. Fortunately it's a downhill grade; well, if you can consider any of the land around Amarillo "hilly". I roll to a stop right where the highway exit ramp and the access road come together. The exit to the Pilot comes out right here too. I guess if I was going to die, this was about as good as any other than at the pump.
I throw on my flip-flops (my preferred shoe for all seasons) climb out of the truck and head the direction the trucks are coming from. First thing I notice is that I can't see the Pilot. Not good. It ends up being about 1/3rd of a mile off the ramp. I have to hobble across a bunch of concrete and by the time I get to the store, my left calf is trying to knot up and my right leg's just plain pissed off. I wander inside and find a seat looking like an idiot, I'm sure. After a few minutes I get back up and start trying to find a jug for fuel. Nope, nothing I can see. I go to the counter and ask if they have any only to be told nope, we don't carry those.
How about a loaner? I explained that I was dead in the water around the corner. She asked a couple people. Nope, we don't have anything like that.
Okay, so it looks like it's going to go down like this: Hobble back to the truck, grab a couple of my buddies GASOLINE containers, hobble/stagger back to the pump, fill up the containers, crawl back to the truck and fight with getting it primed and started.
Then I saw it - My Savior!
There between a couple of the truck pumps was a golf cart pulling a trash wagon and a kid that looked to be about 20 changing out the garbage bags. He had keys to the cart. I'd found my ride!
I headed his direction and asked if he'd help out. He agreed! I hopped in started to explain a bit more what was going on. He just said "No problem, You got money?" (in retrospect, I think the kid was worried that I was going to ask HIM for money) I said I had a couple bucks and we headed off to the truck.
We got to the truck, he started changing out one of the trash cans out at the end of the drive (made me feel a little better knowing he actually did have a reason to come this far out) and I grabbed a couple of five gallon fuel jugs. He finished up his can and we drove back to the pumps. I fed the Visa to the pump, got 30 bucks worth of diesel and we headed back to the truck. I thanked him, handed him a twenty (well worth the avoidance of another walking session), which just blew him away, (why I make the in retrospect comment above - hey, the kid's out busting his butt changing nasty garbage cans at $6.50/hour, why not help him out a bit - he helped me.) he thanked me and he headed off to another garbage can changing.
I gathered up my supplies needed and started working on getting the truck running again. After about 20 minutes of fight, the engine lit up and I was moving again. I headed straight to the pumps and got in line. I don't know what was up on Sunday morning, but all the fuel stations were slammed. It was a 10 to 20 minute wait just to get to the pump. I finally get to one, get out, go stand in line (another 10 minutes) and discover that my Visa card's acting funky. "Sorry, it's not accepting the card, it comes back as an out of range error. We don't know what that means. You need to call Visa."
WHAT? You gotta be kidding me! I take the card, hobble back to the truck, pull out of line and call Visa. I do have to thank the woman trucker that was parked next to me - she heard me babbling to myself about not being able to fill up at the moment and she offered to let me fill some off here pump. She said that she'd seen me on the side of the road earlier and wanted to know if I had enough fuel. I told her thanks and that I'd get it figured out.
Visa informs me that there was a charge of 30 bucks at Pilot and then there was an attempted charge of $0.00 that was kicked out. The woman said that she'd reset things (what ever that means?) and that I should try again. Okay, so off around the block I go again and back in line. Three trucks ahead of me this time. I finally get to the pump, walk up to the counter, stand in line again and the same thing happens with the card - out of range error. This time the clerk grabs her manager. He tells me that the system's set up to pre-authorize 500 bucks and I tell him that I'd talked to the Visa people and that the last one went through as zero dollars, so it kicks out of the system - you can't charge nothing. He decides to go ahead and authorize the pump as a cash sale. Good - I can get fuel, but damn that card better work! I don't have 300 bucks on me.
Back to the truck and time to fill. I get $296.00 dollars worth of diesel in it, pull forward and head back to the counter and get in line. I also get smart and get Visa on the line as I'm waiting. About the same time I get someone on the line and explain what's going on, it's my turn at the counter, the girl behind it swipes the card and it works just fine. WHEW! I don't know what the story was, but man it was a pain. I'm back on the road after an hour and a half have been wasted. See how it works? I should have left at 9:20 on Saturday morning like usual.
It's WINDY. I'm driving pretty much into a serious head wind and now I'm starting to get into elevation changes. The truck will hold 65mph on some straights, falls down to the mid 50's on up hills and will hit the magic 75 on some of the longer down hills. All the trucks on the road play the game of pass and be passed in these sort of conditions. One may have his cruise set slower, but have the hp to get up the hill better, while the next may slow down on the uphill, but will go flying by at the end of the down hills. It's actually pretty cool working with the hills and the other truck drivers out there getting passes set up and helping each other out get around traffic. I am keeping a close eye on my fuel gauge too.
I start figuring out mileage and take into consideration the wind and the load that I've been seeing and decide that I need to get fuel before I get to 600 miles on the trip meter. The truck holds 100 gallons and I never get less than 6.5 mpg (usually on this same leg of the trip always windy and uphill) so that should be 650 miles at worst case. I go though Gallup, NM and decide that I should have no problems getting to Holbrook or Winslow, AZ. About the time I get across the New Mexico/Arizona border, I'm starting to get concerned. The needle on the fuel tank's suddenly taken a dive and it makes me nervous. Surely I didn't use THAT much fuel, did I? Nah, no way. I start paying attention to the signs showing the distance to Holbrook and I'm watching for ANY truck stop. Ah, there one is! I can see a Conoco sign in the distance. I'm on a down hill in the passing lane making my move on a truck. Suddenly I start loosing ground. No way, this can't be happening! I only have 550 on the trip odo.
Sure enough, the tach drops to zero and the steering gets hard. I throw it in neutral and start my long coast. I got really lucky too, as it was all down hill. I finally roll to a stop right at the beginning of an exit ramp and there's a nice, neatly kept little trailer park (there are three trailers and a house there) just across the fence line. I have about a half mile walk around to the park, though. I can also see the Conoco about a mile and a half up the road at the next exit. The sun is starting to set. (of course!)
I'd already done that walking crap earlier today. It's now dark, windy (easy 20 mph constant), cold and nasty. Screw this, I'm driving. I have Gen IV #2 in the trailer behind the truck. I unload the car, grab my now diesel covered fuel jugs and a tie down and secure them to the car. Time to go! I drive to the trailer park and to see if anyone's around.
I head up to the house "Hello? Anyone here?"
A nice little man comes out and asks if he can help. I tell him what's going on and he says no problem "I do this all the time." He drives me up to the Conoco, I get 10 gallons of diesel and he takes me back to the truck. I tell him I'll come back to the Trailer Park to get my car after I get the truck off the side of the road. He helps me get through the fence and heads off to his house.
Once again I find myself in the front end of the truck filling fuel filters, priming the pump and spraying WD-40 into the throat of the intake. The truck seems very reluctant to start. More WD, more cranking, check the filters again for prime, more WD, more cranking and finally the truck comes to life. As I'm putting the air filter back on, I notice that there's a fluid spewing out from under the engine. This doesn't look good. I feel that I need to get off the road as a priority, though, so I get in the truck, drive on down the ramp and go to the Trailer Park to get my car. I leave the truck running and get the Gen IV car loaded back into the trailer. I thank the nice little trailer park guy again and head on down the road to the Conoco. I have about a mile and a half to go to get to the station.
The truck's acting weird. No power, no response. Something's not right. Still, I only have about a mile to go now - I'll get the thing filled up and then figure out what's going on. So I thought.
About half a mile from the exit ramp, the truck dies again. I can't believe it! Grab neutral and start the roll 'till I stop maneuver again. I have to give myself a pat on the back for consistency - three times today - right to the end of the ramp. Tada! I'm about a half mile from the station. I'm not walking it nor am I pulling out the car this time. There's something wrong and I'm going to find out what it is first and get help. I know this is more than I can deal with at the moment.
I pull out the paperwork on the truck and find the Sterling 24 hour service line. I tell the guy what's going on and he says "Sounds like a fuel injection line" and also gives me the phone numbers to three truck repair services and a towing service. I start making calls and the first guy says he can be out in about two hours. He knows the problem as soon as I tell him it's a Mercedes engine. The second guy says that he'll be able to get there in the morning - he's also aware of fuel line problem (must be fairly common on this particular engine). The third number doesn't answer and I decide to call the tow truck to have them get me off the road, up to the pumps so I can fill (God I hope!) and then out of the way until the repair people show. As I'm making this call, someone knocks on the passenger window and scares the living crap out of me. It's one of AZ's State Boys.
I climb out of the truck and go around to the passenger side of the truck out of the wind to talk to the trooper. I slip on the edge of the road/gravel and proceed to land flat on my ass in front of the guy. Great way to say hello, eh?
He grabs my arm to help me back up "Are you all right?"
"Yea, just a little more pissed off now than I was a couple seconds ago, though." He laughed and said it was fine and he understood.
He says that he'd been by earlier and had seen the truck sitting on the side of the road with the flashers on. He was coming back by again and decided to check on me this time. He suddenly made one of those "huh?" faces and asked "Weren't you at the other exit a while back?" I told him that I was and how I'd made it this far and that I was on the phone with the towing service when he scared me and that help was already on the way. He said he'd be back by again and if I wasn't moved by then, he'd see if all was good. I thanked him for the help - the guy was very nice.
I climbed into my sleeping bag and tucked down to stay warm. It was cold, windy and starting to snow.
The wrecker showed up in about thirty minutes. I was pretty happy to see him. He threw a chain on the front of the truck and pulled me up the exit ramp and on into the fuel pumps. A guy in an old brown pickup truck pulls up along side as I'm getting out of the truck. The repair guy's shown up just in time! I fill the truck up and go back in to pay - the Visa WORKS!!! The tow truck guy pulls me out into the parking lot, gets his money (ouch) and the repair guy starts to check things and see what he can do.
"Yup, just as I thought; Injector line's busted." I hear from the engine bay. He works for a couple minutes and asks me to crank the engine over. I do and fuel spews everywhere. He messes around a little more and asks me to crank it. Fuel spews again. He says that he might be able to to put a temp line on it, but doesn't think it will work. About 10 minutes later he says "Crank it", I do, fuel spews and he says "Nope, you're going to need a replacement." He gives me a bill (not bad!) and is off. I'm dead in the water at the Hopi Travel Plaza on I-40 West at exit 296. It's cold, the snow's coming down and it's windy as Hell. Fortunately I have a generator and a full 100 gallons of fuel to run the thing on. Looks like I'll bed down for the night.
I wake up about 8:00 a.m. Strangely enough I had a really good night's sleep! The parking lot is about four inches deep in snow, the wind's dropped and it's about 35 inside the main section of the truck. I had taken the heater up into the sleeper area with me for the night - stayed nice and comfy that way. My phone rings about 8:30 (just when I was told the guy would call) and I'm informed that the mechanic's on the way. I should see him about 9:30 to 10:00. Cool. Right on time the guy shows up. He messes around under the hood and then informs me that "Hey, you have the latest updated line and I don't. We have to see if they have one in Flagstaff. Off he goes into the snowy world. I get a phone call "They have the piece. I'm waiting on our boss, he's coming through Flag and will stop and get it."
That was about 11:00. At 11:30 I got another call - "The boss has it and we're waiting on him to make it here from Flag. The road's a mess and nobody's going very quickly. They got 14" of snow in Flag last night. We'll see you in a couple hours."
1:00 local time and here I sit writing of my tale thus far. I have to do something to keep me occupied. Hopefully the rest of this adventure will turn out well. I sure hope so.
2:00 and what do you know, there's a guy under the hood of the truck. Cool!!!
After getting the Gray Gal fired up, he showed me what had gone wrong - a simple little 3" long loop of thick metal tubing had cracked. It's about as easy of a part to replace as imaginable too. Remove two bolts holding on the forced air feeding to the injection system. Remove three quarter turn fasteners holding on a cover plate and there sit the six injectors with the little lines screwed on. A 17 mm wrench is all that's required to replace the pieces. The repair guy handed me a second piece "Now you know what to do and how to do it on the next one." Fine by me, I'm back in business!
The snow got worse as I headed towards Flagstaff. About 40 miles or so from Flag, the snow was completely gone. Go figure - they said there was 14" on the ground. How's that possible? Ah, 22 miles from Flag and someone's turned on the Snow Machine! There's snow everywhere and the closer I get to Flag, the deeper it is. Fortunately the road's clear. Once I turned onto I-17 south, the weather turned ugly again. Fortunately just for a little while. I had to deal with slush on the road for about five miles. No big deal at all. I finally made it to Phoenix about 6:30 p.m. Ah, to be out of the truck.
Well, round one is over and I'm home in Phoenix. Friday everyone shows up and the Dunes '08 trip starts it's first round for my buddies and round two for me. I wonder how it's going to go?
My buddies show up on Friday afternoon as planned. We're still waiting on Chris to arrive later in the day. He's coming in from Tennessee. The plan is to hit the grocery store, get loaded and ready and then work on getting to the dunes. When we think it's time, Dave and Greg get in the Jeep with Larry and the three of them head off to the airport to pick up Chris. Ben and Brian and I wait for about forty five minutes and then get in the truck and head out. We plan on meeting at a truck stop on the west side of Phoenix. Chris's plane ends up being about thirty minutes late, so we sat at the truck stop while the other three did the Airport Shark Circle for half an hour. Chris's plane finally lands, the guys pick him up and finally meet us at the truck stop. We grab a bite and head on out. THE DUNES ARE NEXT!
Once again, the adventure is fine, the trip is not quite what we planned. Ah, planning's overrated anyhow.
Up until Saturday night, all was good, but we had a couple visitors on Saturday night that made the weekend an "adventure". They were nice enough, but not the type of visitors any of us wanted. I have another nice little yellow piece of paper to hang on the wall of my shop now too. Damn.
We set up camp at Gordon's Well about a quarter of a mile from the entrance to Camping Flats and about two hundred yards east of the canal. Being that we were there for the weekend before President's Day weekend, the dunes were pretty quiet. There weren't but a couple dozen campers over the weekend around us. In general, you could say the place was pretty much deserted compared to what it was going to be like the coming weekend.
Saturday night I decided to go out and test the lights on the 10Dez and the light bar's ability to be moved up and down to aim the lights while moving. It's pretty cool how well it works too. At about 40 there's a bit of an issue, though. The the four 10" lights make a pretty good air dam and they tend to roll the light bar back and point up towards the sky all by themselves. I'm going to have to find a stronger actuator or some way to help the actuator (maybe a second one? - not sure yet). When it first happened I was a bit surprised. Hey, why are they starting to point up? - re-aim them, and they'd move up again. Hmmm.... this could make for some distracting driving and a sore thumb.
Anyhow, while testing the light bar I discovered something else too: Did you know that if you come ripping off the dune ridge, down across the camping flats and then back up on the whoops along the canal it makes Mr. Friendly unhappy to the tune of 75 bucks? I was staying at least 50' from any camp (there were about 10 camps out there in the middle of the week) and I was making an effort to avoid any camp, but I guess Mr. Ranger didn't see it that way. Okay, maybe I did get within 50' of the one camp by the canal... I got nailed for going over 15 mph within 50' of a camper. The fine was only 50 bucks - which sucked enough, but the automatic 25 dollar processing fee added on??? Ouch.
Then, did you know that glass containers are not allowed at the dunes? I didn't. Neither did any of my buddies at the camp. I managed to bring Mr. Friendly with me to camp - I had no idea I was being chased until I stopped the car and saw the blue and red lights reflecting off the side of the truck.
Ossifer #1 started out by informing me the basics; why he pulled me over, what was I doing, where's my I.D., etc.. Then he asked "Have you had anything to drink today?" and then made some comment about the fact that my buddies were not going to like me because I managed to bring the Ossifers to the camp and they saw, of all things, BEER IN BOTTLES! OH MY GOD!!! At that point Ossifer #2 proceeded to wander into camp (I hear we dodged another bullet by having a covered grill - whew!) and our one buddy Larry stepped up and took the fall for the glass containers. His ticket also cost 50, plus the automatic 25 processing fee.
At this point Ossifer #1 then asked me again if I'd had anything to drink. I replied that I had done one shot of Jagermeister (yak!) about an hour and a half prior. He then asked me to take the dreaded sobriety test. "Follow my finger w/o twisting your head." Man, that was a pain - he'd move his finger waaaay past where I could see. I kept my head still and did his little dance with him and he declared me to be just fine and sober. DUH!!! I would not have been out if I had any feelings of that nasty crap left. I do NOT drive unless I'm stone sober.
He filled out his little yellow ticket/envelope thingy, handed it to me and told me that I should probably just sit back in camp and enjoy the evening. Okay by me.
Ossifer #2 finished his stuff with Larry, took about 8 or 9 COLD Bud Lites (interestingly enough he left the three cases of warm ones in the trailer...) and the two of them headed off into the desert night. For the record, I had one beer the entire week and it was out of a can. I really don't care for the taste at all.
I had a good time finally getting some time in on my 10Dez. I put a few miles on it - it's really hard to say how many out in the dunes, but I'm guessing 50 or so? The car has a lot of potential, but first I have to get the engine fixed. That subject will be covered in a little bit.
Monday was a new experience for all of us except Dave. Dave lived in California a while back, so he's been through it before. We got to experience an earthquake! Now that was COOL!!! I was sitting in my chair about a foot from the trailer. Anytime someone steps into the trailer it rocks and some of the tie-downs that hang on the walls will beat against the sides. Clack, clack, clack. Suddenly the trailer started jingling, but nobody had stepped into it. It felt like my chair was moving with the trailer too. I couldn't figure out why the trailer was hitting my chair, or how for that matter, as I wasn't leaning against it. Then it hit me "Hey, the ground's moving!" We all sat/stood there looking at each other and the ground like a bunch of idiots and when it finally sunk in what it was we were all like a bunch of school kids. "Do it again! Do it again!" It did a couple more times later in the day - I missed the big one that hit at night.
Here's some info on the first quake that we felt:
Monday, February 11, 2008 at 10:29:33 AM local time at epicenter
Location: 32.16N 115.46W
Depth: 10 kilometers
Region: BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO
Distances: 55 km (35 miles) S of Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico
70 km (45 miles) S of El Centro, California
One cool thing that we did every night was Movie Time. The side of the my truck is a light gray and makes a perfect screen. Add a cheapo computer projection unit to a laptop that plays DVDs and tada instant BIG SCREEN! It's probably 8 feet high and close to 15 feet wide. Last year we tried this setup, but we didn't have any worth while sound. This time I got smart and brought the speakers and subwoofer from my shop sound setup. It was quite comical watching people in the camping area come by after dark. You'd hear a vehicle go by, slow down and/or stop for a moment and then cruise off. We had one guy in a Rhino that pretty much just parked his butt right outside of camp and proceeded to watch Rambo IV with us. Blazing Saddles is required entertainment during the Dune Week also.
During the days that we were at Gordon's Well, everyone either tried the Stadium Lite or the 10Dez. The 10Dez, unfortunately became a victim of an idiot's wire harness and work. It was extremely rich, going through fuel like no tomorrow and eventually it ended up loosing a cylinder due to fouling. We tried to diagnose and trouble shoot the system, but alas, it was a loosing battle. I was bummed. At least I got to have some fun in it and everyone else got a taste of what a desert car can do. Dave and Larry went out once and were gone for quite a while. I do believe they were enjoying themselves - and they didn't bring the cops back to camp. Good for them!
We enjoyed our stay at Gordon's Well. It didn't let anyone down from an adventure point of view:
Ben enjoyed his new CR-450F (he was on a YZF-250 last year) and not being The Rookie.
Dave The Rookie was introduced to the dunes and proceeded to discover that the sand will eat you quickly if you're not in tune with it
Chris got his dune groove and was cruising through them on his old XR-400 like a pro.
Greg didn't crash.
Larry did a couple of times, one of them quite spectacularly.
Brian stayed upright and never went down.
I finally threw a leg over a motocross bike after six and a half months off. I never crashed, but I did fall over three times. My right leg was just not quite up to the challenge of playing kick stand. Slow down, stop, stick right leg out, fall over. I felt like I was in the old Laugh In skit where Artie Johnson would fall over on his tricycle.(how many of you remember this?)
We felt an earth quake or two.
Talked to The Law, and in general had our typical good time.
Tuesday afternoon we packed up our camp, headed off to Yuma for restocking of supplies, a shower (individually!) a search for some Honda parts and the invasion of a restaurant; The Golden Corral put a hurt on all of us.
After cleaning up, resupplying and stuffing our faces to the point of misery (I ate at least two plates of boiled cabbage - yea, I'm a good buddy to my buddies - especially Ben and Chris, who were sleeping in the van. We headed out of Yuma and towards Glamis. It was time to go to the big dunes and watch the crowd come in over the weekend.
Unfortunately I got a call from my buddy Jay in Phoenix on Wednesday morning: "Hey, you're getting ready to be nailed by some pretty severe winds." Great... He was right. They started easy about half way through the day and began to pick up to a constant hard blow. We threw up a tarp between the end of the trailer and the front of the truck. It helped a lot, but there's just no escaping it when it's blowing as hard as it was. Everyone moved their tents up against the trailer and we all tucked in to avoid as much of the blowing crap as possible. As the sun went down, the wind would drop off, but it never let up. On the plus side, as campers came in and filled up the parking area, they helped disturb and break the wind, so by Thursday evening, the constant blow was tolerable.
When we pulled into the parking area, there was a really cool little track that sat in one of the areas near the loop at Gecko. The Stadium Lite was going to get a bit of use. The course was a blast. We all took turns running through the course, each of us coming back to camp with an ear to ear grin on our faces.
59 seconds, 3.35MB
1:08 minutes, 6.22MB
Ripping around a little track at camp
My view of the track
Sometime during our setup, Greg came across G.I. Joe in the sand. Joe and Greg became fast friends and the two of them had a good time out in the sand.
We all got ready and then headed on out to the dunes. It was time to go play in the big stuff. We headed to Osborne Overlook. The guys on bikes, me in the Stadium Lite. (I drove the Lite most of the time - my leg only allowed me 3.0 hours (according to the hour meter) of bike time. Osborne was a blast. I got a bunch of video on the way out, some from the inside of the car on a large jump.
We did did have one incident on Wednesday. It ended up lasting all day for me, but that's fine, I owed Greg.
Dave, Chris and I decided to stay at camp. The rest of the crew hopped on the bikes and headed for the Glamis Store. Sometime not long before they got to the store, Greg discovered what I'm told is a ten to twelve foot drop off. He didn't go over the bars, but in fighting the bike he managed to sprain his lower back pretty badly. They got back after a couple hours and Greg went off into his tent to see if he could sleep it off.
While the guys were gone, I was having a blast in the Stadium Lite. I get a total pleasure from running down in the flats, ripping down a trail that I don't know as hard and fast as I can, all while trying to be ready for the next corner, bump, creosote tree or what ever may be in the way. It's that desert racer mentality in me. GO FAST, GO HARD and try not to screw up. I probably played for close to an hour and then on the way back to camp I discovered that the road that leads into the Gecko Campground, where we were staying, had a nice approach on one side and a nice landing on the other. Ben had already planted the seed in my pea brain: "I want to jump a highway." He's seen one of the old Crusty Demons videos where the guys are jumping the main highway at the edge of the dunes. These guys go HUGE, I, on the other hand, didn't. It was actually quite funny - long easy approach, hit the lip, pop over the road, land on the downside. I was only getting about a foot of air, but I was clearing the road. I went back to tell Ben about it.
By the time I got back to camp, the guys were back and I told Ben about the highway jump. He got pretty excited about it until he saw this amazingly plain jump. Still, he decided that he was going to do it also. He made half a dozen passes and then came to a stop.
Ever want to jump a road? Ben did! (so did I).
After Ben had done his Road Raging, I told him that he needed to drop down into the desert area between the access road and the canal where I'd been running earlier. He turned towards the canal and that was the last I saw of him. I was in the Jeep (took it to the road to get the video because it was way too far to walk with my dorked leg) and decided that I'd go watch him run around among the bushes. I couldn't have been two minutes behind him either. When I got to the edge of the road, there was no sign of Ben. No dust, no little car running down in the sticks - nada. Hmm, I wonder where he went? I drove up and down the edge of the road for about a mile in each direction. Surely he hadn't made it down to the canal, screwed up went into the drink, did he? I found a set of tracks leading down to the canal - it's easy to follow the Stadium Lite, as one tire is mounted backwards and the pattern in the sand is quite obvious. They went down the twisty trail and right up to the edge of the canal. But no Ben in the canal. It turns out that the tracks were MY tracks from earlier... WTF? Where is he? I head back to camp to see if he's there. About thirty minutes later, here comes Ben. "Whoa! I've been lost!" Yea, no kidding! Turns out that when he crossed the road he didn't head into the bushes. He turned left at the first sand road and went on down to the Road Runner camp ground. Once he got there he realized that he wasn't where he was supposed to be. He eventually got back w/o a scratch, grinning away. All was good.
While Ben is out lost in the dunes, Greg comes out of his tent, all crippled over and obviously in great pain. Watching him try to climb into the van was painful. I asked him about his back and he said it was not good. Being that Chris is a nurse and that he broke his back a few years ago (unfortunately I was there to witness this), I figured that a little talk between the two of them would be good. It was obvious that Greg needed to go to the E.R., but he wasn't very hip about it. The talk with Chris changed his mind. I said that I'd be more than happy to take Greg to the hospital, as he was there for me last August when I shattered my leg. While this is going on, Brian was filling the Stadium Lite's fuel tank back up and was planning on taking a little ride before dinner. We talked about how the sun was heading over the horizon, but the car had it's lower lights on and he'd be fine. He didn't plan on being out very long, anyhow.
Brian took off in the Lite and Greg and I proceeded to get ready for the hour plus drive into Yuma. It took us probably twenty to thirty minutes to get settle in the Jeep and head out. Brian had been gone about the same amount of time. As we left the dunes, the sun set and darkness settled over the camp. About twenty minutes into our drive my cell phone rings. It's Brian. "Hey, I'm LOST! Do you know where the Choya Ranger Station is?" I wasn't sure, but I thought it was the station at the entrance to the camp grounds of Gecko and Road Runner. I asked him about what he saw and we got him on track. I also called Larry to let him know that Brian was okay. Larry was becoming a bit worried about Brian being gone during dark, so he hopped on the CRF 450X that Dave was riding (it has lights) and started cruising through the dunes looking for Brian. I got lucky and happened to call Larry just as he stopped at the crest of a dune to look for Brian. The two of them made it back to camp not long after that, from what I'm told.
The Yuma E.R. Experience
Okay, it's Wednesday night - the hospital can't be that bad, right? E.R. facilities only get crowded during the weekend, right? Yea, sure...
We get to the hospital and the place is packed. I snag a wheel chair for Greg and help him get into it. The wheel chairs that they have at the Yuma Hospital are like none I've ever seen. The chair and frame are pretty much like a regular wheel chair, but the wheels are different. All four of them are only about five inches in diameter. The rear wheels have a cogged gear on the inside of each of them. On the back of the chair is a lever like you find on a lawn mower. Squeeze the lever, it releases a bar that locks the rear wheels - it falls into the teeth of the wheel when you let go of the bar. Oh, this is going to be FUN! Greg can't turn around and touch the lever, much less squeeze it and try to move the chair. There are no large wheels to move the chair with anyhow, so he's pretty much at my mercy and I'm an ornery S.O.B.
I roll Greg up to the first counter. He gives them all his info and they say "Head down the hall way to the window on the left. They'll check you into the E.R. there." We head on down the hall way and I stop him right in the middle of it all. There were at least twenty people in the vicinity and I just parked his ugly mug right in the middle of it all - and then walked off to find a bathroom! When I come back he's looking pretty pitiful and is in a lot of pain. They called him right as I showed up, so I push him into the wing so he can get admitted into the E.R. Of course, I park him right up against the counter. The nurses behind the counter take his info and tell him to go into another room. I park him in the room, away from the window to the hall way, facing the back of the room - sort of in a corner. He mumbles something about not being able to see and I just told him that I was thinking about going to get some food in my belly. It had been a long time since lunch. Greg pretty much jumped on it and insisted that I go grab a bite. I was nice and spun him around so he could see and then headed on out of the hospital and found a Denny's.
About an hour later I was back at the hospital. I went right into the area where Greg was and he was gone. They'd come to evaluate him and get him in line for x-rays. The doctor had also given him a couple of pain killers and they had kicked in quite well. Greg's sitting there in his chair, sort of hunched over with a very glassy look in his eyes in a little hall way that had probably ten people in it, along with half a dozen kids. He seemed quite happy to see me. "You have to get me out of here."
"Sorry, we can't go yet - you still need X-rays and to have the doc look everything over."
"Okay." Greg was very complacent. He went on to tell me a little about the first part of the check up and how they didn't think things were hurt too terribly badly.
While we waited, the kids were running around and getting under EVERYONE's skin. Finally a fairly large, very butch looking blonde female security guard walked up and informed the crowd that only the kids that were there for something needed to be there. One woman threw a fit, a couple grabbed their kids and went on their merry way. The room lightened up a bit and there was a bit more room. I was having fun listening to the nurses tell people about their meds, what to expect, what to do and such - you know, the E.R. talk they all give. I sat there under my breath making comments just loud enough for the nurse to hear. "They're not listening."
"That one has no clue what you're saying."
"Oooh, those are good pain killers."
The nurse would flash me a half laughing, but trying to keep it together look. She was very cool about it.
While we were waiting, along came Goth Chick. This girl was probably twentyish, 300 lbs, extremely Goth and "in miserable pain". She was there for a fix. It was plain and simple, she was jonesing for a bump of pain killer. She would talk to anyone that glanced her direction. She headed over towards us and started telling us her tail of woe. Something about a foot infection, how the pain meds they gave her didn't help, how a shot of morphine would do the trick, yada, yada, yada. I squeezed the little handle on the back of the wheel chair and turned Greg towards her so she had his undying (albeit totally stoned) attention and then mumbled something about needing to find the rest room again. He gave me this look like "Oh, do not do this to me!" Yea, no problem! I wandered off to see what I could see.
I had two things happen to me in this E.R. that were unusual from my point of view. First was that I was NOT the one waiting to see the doctor. That was pretty weird. I didn't need to see anyone! Woo Hoo! The second thing I noticed was that since I was limping from my shattered leg, nobody asked me a thing or said a word to me. I looked just like the rest of the patients there, so I pretty much had the ability to wander around unnoticed. I checked out the lounges, the food areas, the center desk stuff, the computer screens (neat system - each room is an icon on the screen with all the info right there. Just touch the room and the status of the patient popped right up. It also kept track of how long each person was there.) and anything else I could.
When I got back to Greg, Goth Chick was still telling him all about her pains and problems. He looked up at me with this glassy eyed "Oh please save me!" look. I turned him away from her and proceeded to chat with him about what was going on - we pretty much had to just ignore Goth Chick. I heard her latch on to the next victim. We also watched a woman come in on a stretcher. She wasn't in good shape. Very obviously in great pain (unlike Goth Chick), moaning and begging to be helped. They wheeled her into the room right in front of us. I don't know what they gave her, but in the matter of about a minute she went from pain to relaxing and in another five minutes or so the poor woman was rattling the windows, snoring. I was glad to see her at peace as she really needed it.
They finally came and grabbed Greg for X-rays and just after he left, the butch security guard came into the E.R. as a patient! Seems that there was a very large woman that has some mental stability issues up in the E.R. entry. From what I heard (and was told later - hey, I'm not afraid to ask, I was bored and it was something to do.) the security guard asked this woman to leave the premises, as she was done. The woman blew a gasket and wandered off. Apparently she wandered off to go grab a suit case sized purse, came back up behind the security guard and laid the guard out cold with one hard blow to the back of the head with the beast of a bag.
It just so happened that I managed to wander past the room the security guard was in while the doctor was talking to her about the incident. Let me tell you, the doctor was one pissed off dude! "You may as well find another job starting tomorrow if you're not going to press charges! This woman has a history of violence and you're a God Damned SECURITY GUARD! You better look long and hard at the situation and do the right thing! We've tossed her out multiple times and I'm tired of it! This hospital gets all the dregs of life sent down to it and I'm tired of dealing with the ones that aren't going to come here for help! She needs a reality check of a night behind bars in a paper suit." Like I said, he was pissed off. I wandered back to the area that Greg had been waiting in just in time to find him being rolled back up from X-ray.
We sat there for another hour and finally the doctor came up to Greg and informed him that nothing was broken. He had sprained his lower back. He was given a prescription for pain killers and a muscle relaxer. The charge nurse actually thanked me for making the night entertaining as we left. We got out of the hospital about midnight and headed to an all night pharmacy. We gave the pharmacist the scripts, went over to McDonalds for some food for Greg and then went back to the pharmacy to pick up the stuff. The pharmacist was either Korean or Chinese and very hard to understand. He was saying something about don't take these together or wait a bit between taking them or something. I don't know. I do know that Greg downed one of the muscle relaxers before we got out of the parking lot.
About an hour and a half later we were back in camp. Greg climbed out of the Jeep and went to his tent and I went into the truck and climbed into my bed. It was right at 2:00 a.m. Ah, another adventure come to end.
Our friend Scott, from L.A. and his family came in on Thursday. His wife Beth and their two children in tow. It was good to see them again. Great people and Beth is one hell of a cook. She's into the Pampered Chef stuff and we all benefited from it quite nicely. Scott's the one that broke my collarbone last year with his little query of "So what bone do you plan on breaking next?" ("My collarbone, you asshole!" - my reply as he came up on me laying in the sand). Scott rides an old Honda TRX-250R quad (the thing runs beautifully), so Brian and I schemed up a little "present" for Scott. A pair of stickers placed on the tank made the point. While I was gassing the Stadium Lite I suddenly heard him laughing his butt off and when I finally looked over at him, there he sat on his quad, pointing at the tank and grinning ear to ear.
Thursday and Friday were pretty much just fun. We rode, I drove around in the Stadium Lite and we played around in the C-4. The C-4 is a four passenger duning machine. It's similar to a Yamaha Rhino, but it's oh so much more! My buddy Jay made the thing. It's like driving a Cadillac in the dunes. On Thursday I decided to wander around a bit in it. I'd come back from a bike ride, didn't feel like sitting in camp and knew that the guys were out on the bikes. I figured I'd go try to get some video of them cruising around. Nope, not gonna happen. I got two ridges away from camp and proceeded to get stuck behind one large dune face. Weird - the machine's pulling to the right seriously, but the wheels aren't turning. I could back it up, but I couldn't go far and as soon as I put it in forward, it would just fight and stick. Damn. So, I walked. I headed up the dune face and as I crested the wind just about blew me back down. I made it over the ridge and about a hundred yards or so from me was a green Jeep Wrangler. The thing looked very nice too. It was tastefully raised, had nice wheels and tires and there was a guy video taping the Jeep as it went around a little sand ridge. I walked up and asked if they could help me out. Turns out these guys had never been to the dunes! They had no clue what to do, how to drive or how to help. They piled into the Jeep and drove up to the top of the ridge. The driver stepped out and began what had to have been a ten minute survey of the stuck C-4. I finally got his attention and he came back to where I was huddled behind the small grass tuft, trying to stay out of the wind. So much for the Tuesday shower. "Uh, I don't think we can get to it. That's in a bad place."
"No problem" I told them. I had them drive me back to camp so I could figure out what I was going to have to do. This is when I discovered that these guys had no clue what to do in the sand. (I am not bashing on them - we all started out at the same place - the first time.) I had to explain how to crest the dune, where to point the Jeep and don't you know, once I got the guy to follow my instructions and trust me, we drove right over the ridges and back to camp. Amazing, eh? Ben, Brian and Larry hopped in on the C-4 rescue at this point. We let the air in my Jeep's tires out down to about 10 psi. We threw tools, a jack and what ever else we thought might be needed to get the C-4 working again. I was able to take my bone stock Jeep Grand Cherokee right up over the ridge and to the point where the C-4 sat stuck in the sand. Hmmm...
While we worked on getting the C-4 unstuck with the jack, I believe it was Larry that found the problem. The right rear cv joint had come out of the transmission. That explains the right turn problem. The rear end was pushing from one side. We got the machine unstuck, stuck the CV back in the tranny and Larry and Brian hopped in and headed off back to camp. Ben and I gathered up the stuff, jumped into the Jeep and we duned back to camp. No problemo!
Friday night was very interesting. Let's just say Greg on Drugs is a hoot!
We were all sitting around the camp fire telling tales and lies. Greg's taken at least one pain killer, one muscle relaxer and has proceeded to start pounding beer. (in cans, of course, as we're not allowed to have glass bottles in camp.)
Now last year Greg entertained us by imbibing WAY too much (which is fine - he's among good friends and everyone needs to let totally loose on occasion - hey, we're on vacation!) and getting focused on burning a particular piece of wood (it was Ben's stick). Greg then finally grabbed the stick and threw it in the fire. After he threw the stick into the fire, I asked him why he'd done it. He said it needed to be burned up. I told him it was Ben's stick. Greg got very embarrassed and actually sent himself to bed. We all watched this go down with amazement. Greg sent himself to his room!
So, Greg's working on the beer again. We're trying to head him off too. As stories are being told, Greg's sitting there throwing out random thoughts and comments (some from out in left field). Sometime during this Ben and Brian decide that they're going to go wander around camp and check out the thousands of people in the dunes. Greg gets up, heads to the cooler, weaving away, grabs another beer and comes back to his chair. Chris walks over to him "Hey, since you're already taking pain killers, you might want to lay off the suds." It was funny as Hell. Greg first gives Chris this look like "And just who are you to tell me that I've had enough?" Chris sees this and changes tactics a tad trying to get him to slow instead of quit. Greg makes this funny face again and then you could see the neurons fire "Ah, I'll tell him what he WANTS to hear." Greg became complacent and said "Yea, okay, I've had enough, I'll stop for the evening." As soon as Chris walked away, Greg gave him this look of "Yea, right."
Another thirty minutes or so later, Greg's back to being in on his conversation with us. Ben and Brian show back up for beer reserves and then they're headed back out wandering around the area. I make comment that I'm thinking I'll try hobbling around with them. Chris informs me that if I try to leave and leave him alone with Greg, that I'll be meeting up with Ben's fire stick. I decided to sit back down. Greg gets up and goes for another beer during this conversation I'm having with Chris, Ben and Brian. I see him sit back down with another sudsy one and figure I'll take a stab at it.
"Hey Greg, you're there, buddy. You've had enough and probably need to lay off anymore beer drinking."
I got the same funny look and speech that Chris did.
A little while later Dave stands up saying that he's going to go get a bottle of water. Greg pipes up "Bring me another cold one!" Dave says no problem and heads off towards the coolers. Chris gets up and runs over to Dave to inform him that Greg needs to be cut off. Dave comes back and tells Greg "We're all out." Greg looks a tad distraught and then says "Okay, if it's gone it's gone." Whew. He's done.
Greg is sitting at about 12 o'clock in relation to the fire. Chris, Dave, Larry and I are over in the 7 - 8 o'clock area. The wind was whipping over Greg and towards the fire and the smoke was tending to come at us. We'd sort of congregated out of the way of the smoke and sort of beside/behind the fire pile. Greg is silently sitting in his chair, hunched over pressing his finger tips together until his palms touched then pulling his hands apart. He'd then move his hands to his knees, point his open palms upwards (looked like he was holding a baseball in his finger tips) and hold the position for a couple seconds. It was sort of Zen like or Yoga like. He must have done this for ten minutes or so. He was quiet and we were keeping to ourselves.
Out of the darkness on the other side of the fire I suddenly hear Greg call my name.
Now, have you ever seen Joe Cocker sing? They guy wrinkles up, looks like he's having some sort of spasm, makes a hideous face and jerks around like he's wrenching in pain. Greg was suddenly channeling Joe Cocker.
He's sort of sitting in his chair, but leaning forward towards the fire with his right arm bent, but pointing my direction. He's extremely passionate about this movement and the following words: "When you start to drift left"
"When you're in the dunes and you start to drift left"
He's channeling Joe Cocker even more now.
"When you're in the dunes and you start to drift left.... GO WITH IT! Flow with it! When you're jumping and you drift left, just drift, just go left, just drift and go left. Flow with it, go left, just let it go. Don't fight it, just drift left."
"Uh, Yea! Sure Greg! Drift with it."
"YES DRIFT WITH IT! Do you remember last year? We were RIGHT HERE! We were jumping RIGHT HERE!" Greg is pointing out into the darkness away from camp. Mind you, we were not at this section of the dunes last year. We stayed at Gordon's Well.
"Sure, I remember, why?"
"After you crashed. After you broke your collarbone, you were taking pictures of us jumping RIGHT THERE. It was so cool too. You were using you left arm only to take the pictures. (he's still all Joe Cocker) And, and, and you were taking pictures and all the pictures were just showing up on the left side of the camera! It was so cool! I don't know how you did it, but you were taking left hand pictures and they were all showing up on the left side of the camera!"
We were all laughing to the point of tears. I know I was flat out crying it was so funny. I wish I'd had it on video, but that would have been mean.
I have no idea where Greg was at this moment, but he was happy, so all was good. We all agreed with him and he got quiet again.
A little while later Greg stands up and wobbles sort of towards the fire. We all made sure that he didn't bail into it. He announced that the was going to bed and wandered off into his tent. We all had a good laugh about what we'd witnessed. Little did we know it wasn't over.
About thirty minutes or so after Greg's decided to go to bed we hear the zipper on his tent start moving. Of course we all turn to see what's up and out comes Greg, wearing just a white long sleeve undershirt and pair of dark blue filters (underwear). He announces that he needs to use the facilities and staggers out of the tent. Greg then proceeds to work his way towards my truck, climb in, turn on the interior lights and disappear into the back of the van. None of us have a clue what he's up to. He stays in the truck for a couple of minutes, comes out of the back, gets to the bottom step and starts fishing for the light switch. After about ten to fifteen seconds of pawing up and down the wall he announces "Hey, there's something wrong with the lights. They won't turn off." He steps out of the truck and proceeds to get lost in the wind blocking tarp between the front of the truck and the back of the trailer. The fight was on. The wind was blowing the tarp against him and he was pushing back, trying to get it to hold still or something. He stood there doing this for a few seconds and finally managed to get free. He wandered to the back of the truck and into the darkness for another couple of minutes.
Finally he comes back towards us and the camp fire. He's weaving pretty severely too. He gets up next to the fire wood pile and then decides that he needs to go between the chairs circling the fire and the fire itself. There's maybe two feet of room and he needs at least three feet to maneuver. I tell him that he needs to go around the other side of the fire. He stops, looks out into the darkness (where we were jumping and taking left hand pictures?) and announces "I can't go that way, I'll get lost!" Greg then proceeds to wobble his way between the chairs and fire, with the rest of us watching and helping keep him out of the burning wood. He makes it to his tent and that was the end of his Friday night.
The next morning he came crawling out of the tent and we all asked him how he felt.
"Fine. A little groggy, but fine."
Amazing! Then again, I think he only had three of four beers, so the hang over option wasn't really there. I'm guessing the silliness came from the muscle relaxers. We asked him about the night before and Greg doesn't recall a thing.
Saturday morning was beautiful. The wind had stopped, the camp grounds were packed with people and the dunes were beautiful. Too bad we had to leave! We packed up and by noon or so, we were headed back towards Phoenix.
All in all the 2008 Dune Trip was a total success. We had a blast, we experienced many adventures and other than Greg, who's is fine now, nobody had anything bad happen. I can't wait until next year!
Just for fun: A little dune running from my point of view in the Stadium Lite.