Archive for the ‘The Journey’ Category

I never posted a report back on my “training” ride with Glenn “just over the next hill” Foley last week. One word : Awesome.

Not awesome in small letters as gets bandied about by rugby players in a post match interview, but real Awesome. The kind that makes you quiver in your socks & grin like a schoolboy.

For a while I thought Glenn was just trying to kill me and sell the Polaris to defray search and recovery costs I incurred last year.  We popped Delores in low range and crawled up what I’m pretty sure were vertical dam walls. He must have had some kind of anti gravity device.  Yes, it was that impressive.

Up, down and sideways, plus through a sludgy river (three times) and it was all brilliant.  We did get stuck right at the end climbing out of a culvert but Obi Wan Kenobi showed me how to reverse back in and jam it at full speed to launch out the other side.

Outstanding. I won’t try anything crazy (or crazier than normal) on Q4Q but it’s fantastic to know if we get into a sticky situation, my Rzr can probably handle it just fine.  Booyah.

This time next week we will be at the half way point of the down run. I can’t believe it is almost upon us already.  So much preparation has been done but there’s still a huge amount outstanding.

Garth put on the Q4Q signage on my grey VW Transporter today, you definitely won’t miss us out on the road.  It looks great, thanks to Garth & his team.  We even have a whole bunch of stickers left over and will hand them out to the Nerds on Quads guys or random people who look like they need some happy branding added to their vehicles.

I’m still trying to figure out so many things for the trip – one is syncing my intercoms with each other, my phone and my MP3 player all at once.  Hopefully I can get it all working this weekend.

Glenn, who produces Dirt & Trail magazine and runs Quads4Quads is going to take me on a ride to teach me a few things about off road riding.  Although we managed ok last year, I can’t wait to listen to advice and learn how to ride Delores a little more safely and hopefully add some fun to the mix.

I think it will be a great time to try out the interphone intercom headsets.  I might just take the action cam as well and try get some footage too.

After the last minute rush to get ready for the ride of a lifetime, this year has been far more sedate and civilized.  Jeremy and I went for a test ride last weekend with Garth (aka the Red Baron), his family and Flip and Johan. After offloading at Dirt Bronco and being told we can’t use their track that day, we rode through some hectic dust amongst the mine dumps of the West Rand.  It turned out to be a huge amount of fun and felt amazing to be back behind the wheel for the first time since the valentine day ride back in Feb.

The Final Leg

Posted: November 24, 2010 in The Journey

Things were looking bad. We were late. The panicky first leg had put our nerves on edge and taken a lot of strain on Phil. When we arrived at the rest stop I rushed around trying to manage the situation and get us ready to go again. I’m surprised Andre and Brendon didn’t give me a smack in the face the way I was going, but we managed to get Phil some shade to rest and pull together for the final leg.

We emptied every drop of petrol we could find into the Polaris, which got us up to a half tank. The journey was much shorter than the previous leg, but it would be close. If we got lost again we could easily run out of fuel. We were also feeling the pressure of the other riders – they weren’t able to finish until we arrived at Carnival City. The tradition is that they wait for all riders, and Phil already had a spot booked at the front of the crowd to lead the pack over the finish line with the other disabled riders.

We regrouped, calmed down and considered our situation. We had driven the route before, so it shouldn’t be difficult. The rest of the pack could sit there till sundown if need be, finishing the journey was the most important thing. Cowboy insisted we leave quickly, but we took it slower. Better to finish last than not finish.

Strapped in, with a bucket of cold water dumped over his head, Phil drove the Polaris out and followed Cowboy and Brendon in the Rhino on the last leg of the race. Paul followed us on his bike, ready to help us in case of disaster. We immediately calmed down when we saw familiar landmarks, and noticed that we were easily overcoming obstacles that had challenged us last week. We both laughed at how we had previously struggled with such trivial parts of the course.

Over a steep hill, we were back on dirt roads, pushing the quads as hard as we could to make up time. We followed closely, sometimes driving into the dust cloud behind the Rhino instead of waiting. This was almost the end of our race.

Brendon, Paul and Cowboy examine the dead RhinoSuddenly, metres ahead, we heard a loud bang. The Polaris was still going about 50 kilometres per hour when out of the dust cloud we saw the Rhino braking hard, almost at a standstill already, right in our path. Phil turned hard to the right. Brendon and Cowboy were leaping from the Rhino, and Cowboy ran in front of the Polaris as we swerved. We just missed hitting the Rhino, and Cowboy barely made it out of our path as we braked hard and came to a stop a few metres in front to the Rhino.

Cowboy pulled off his helmet and threw it at a nearby wire fence, running up behind it and kicking it. He was fuming mad, like the fuming engine of the Rhino. The Rhino had died for good and no amount of mechanical wizardry would start it again. A hole about the size of a CD had blown in the side of the engine. Brendon and Cowboy had barely escaped without burns.

There was no choice, we had to carry on. Phil and I left Paul, Brendon and Cowboy to deal with the broken Rhino while we pushed ahead, trying to make up time and finish. They weren’t far from the rest stop, so help could come and get them.

We followed the trail, comfortable that we could make it because we’d driven the track before, until suddenly it changed direction. The up run was different from the down run, and the course deviated. So much for knowing where we were going.

Slowly but surely we made progress. We entered a sparsely wooded area with lots of markers conflicting with each other, and took a few wrong turns before finding the track again. Shortly after that we hit a steep hill which ended at a river, with a lot of riders on the other side egging us on.

One of the many water features in the final legWe drove through the river. Water sloshed in over the sides and covered our feet. It was a highlight of the journey, and seeing a crowd of riders on the top of the hill ahead meant we weren’t lost, we weren’t late. We could still make it.

Shortly after the river crossing we reached familiar territory as the route rejoined the one we’d taken a week earlier. Our spirits were up, and we laughed with relief every time we spotted familiar markers. We were certain we could make it now. Phil started estimating how far it was from the end, but we were still aware that our petrol tank wasn’t as full as it should have been. It was approaching empty, but Glen assured us (when we passed him) that we had enough to make it.

At a junction shortly after crossing a railway, we spotted a bike rider and pulled over to ask him how far it was to go. He pointed at the horizon, and sure enough, we could see the familiar “big top” shape of our destination. With a sudden burst of energy we drove onward toward Carnival City.

But it wouldn’t be true to form for us to easily make it to the finish line. Maybe it was the relief of seeing the end in sight, but we missed a marker and took a wrong turn. We saw a cloud of dust in the distance, assumed we were on the right path and pushed ahead. After a few turns the cloud had dissipated and we were lost in the tracks just outside of our final destination.

Just a small detourWe tried a few paths, but they all ended in dead ends. We were so close that we could see the highway that passed by Carnival City just ahead. There was no way we were going to spend half an hour back tracking to find the route. With all our fuel almost gone we pushed off the path making a direct line for the highway. We went over steep terrain that would have stopped us a few days earlier. We reached the highway and we knew we were almost done.

But before we drove into Carnival City, we remembered that the entire pack of riders was waiting across the road. Driving down the highway, using hands to signal turning, we turned and met the head of the pack. Word went through the crowd that we were here, and we were conveniently at the front where we were supposed to be. Getting lost right at the end was a fitting way to finish our journey which had been marred so early on by a navigation error.

With a signal from the organisers we revved our engines and drove ahead to the traffic lights. Across the intersection we could see hundreds of people crowded around the finish line, clapping and cheering. The sound of a hundred engines enveloped us. We were there, we had finished. The marshals stopped the traffic and we led the pack into Carnival City. We finished Quads for Quads!

The End of the Road

Knee Jerk Reaction

Posted: October 25, 2010 in The Journey, The Nerds

Here is the reason why we added foam to the dashboard.  Not feeling pain is overrated.

The chef at Buther Boys started to drool

Day Four: First Leg

Posted: October 14, 2010 in The Journey

It was hard to imagine that the final day of the journey was here. Life had become a strange routine of early morning activity packing things up, putting petrol into various things and strapping things to other things so they didn’t fall off when we hit a few bumpy things along the way. Now at the end of the day, we would be going home and sleeping in our own beds. A welcome thought after travelling so far, but also sad.

The first leg would be our tough leg today. Reports had told us we would see much of the same terrain as we had in the second leg yesterday. This time however we had the advantage of driving through the morning before the heat became unbearable. We wanted to leave as early as possible to make sure we could make the rest stops in good time. But the organisers threw a spanner into that plan.

The previous evening, while everyone was gathered around an array of braais cooking supper, Glen warned us that nobody could leave before 8am. Not just a recommendation, but an order, because the Standerton council would fine every Quad seen on the streets before that time. It was a Sunday morning, and church-going folk would probably be upset with the roar of engines drowning out their praise and worship. On the down run, Standerton fined the Quads for Quads race R20,000 for breaking this rule.

The unforeseen consequence of not being able to drive the quad early was that we couldn’t refuel before Phil got in (without doing a few trips with jerry cans). We filled the Polaris from our jerry can, and with petrol remaining in the can we decided that making good time on the leg would be better than taking the time to stop and refuel. After all we had Brendon and Cowboy following in the Rhino (which had been patched up and resurrected the night before) with extra fuel.

We left in good spirits, knowing that we only had to worry about the first leg. The second would be going over familiar territory, because the previous week Phil and I had done the first leg of the down run as a test of the Polaris and Phil’s skill and stamina. From Fortuna resort (the first rest stop) we would be fine.

We weren’t getting lost today, and we followed the Rhino closely. We left Standerton and hit the same dirt roads that had punished us the day before. We pushed on, making decent time. The journey itself was rather uneventful, and the landscape was bare and uninteresting.

About two hours into the trip, Phil noticed that the fuel gauge was lower than it was supposed to be. Compared to what we had seen on previous legs, we seemed to be burning more fuel than expected. When we stopped to take a break, we emptied our jerry can into the tank, leaving us with whatever was in the Polaris to get us to the rest stop. We were also slowing down, and noticed that most of the pack had passed us.

The kilometres fell away behind us, and the fuel gauge slowly crept towards empty. The landscape changed from dusty roads to grassy hills that we drove through and over. A few winding tracks through burnt grass confused us, but we followed the markers diligently when the Rhino went ahead of us. On straight roads the more powerful Polaris could easily keep up with the Rhino, but when we hit winding tracks Cowboy’s driving left us in the dust and there was still a chance we could take a wrong turn.

When our fuel gauge hit the final bar, we pushed as hard as possible to get to the Rhino and ask for more fuel. When we caught them, Cowboy told us that there was hardly any distance to go, and we would make it. Phil was agitated, knowing what running out would mean, but we trusted Cowboy’s experience and pushed onwards. This wasn’t the time to sit in the sun and argue.

Shortly after that we stopped on a hill where a fellow rider had broken down. Cowboy jumped out and tried to assist, and by the time Phil and I got there he was already setting up a tow rope to tow the Quad to the rest stop. We didn’t know how long they would take, and how slow their pace would be towing another rider, and so we decided to go on ahead without the Rhino for the rest of the leg.

By now we were panicking a bit. Almost out of fuel, with our backup navigator and reserve tank now on a hill behind us, we had to make it to the stop. If we got lost, we would run out of fuel and not make it. Not knowing how far it was, we couldn’t say we would make it without running out of fuel anyway. But we went slowly and followed the markers.

Every rise over a hill we expected to see the rest stop, but it was always another track to the next hill. We should already have been at the rest stop, and text messages from Andre confirmed we were late and they weren’t sure where we were. Every minute that passed we became more concerned about whether we would make it. But the markers were there, we hadn’t lost our way.

Finally we saw big signs pointing us to Fortuna, but halfway along the road which we expected to take us straight there, the marker pointed us off the road into the wilderness. Phil wanted to ignore the marker and push ahead, but after a bit of discussion on our options, we agreed that ignoring a marker would be the worst thing we could do in this situation. We left the road, and drove through ten minutes of technical off road driving.

By now we couldn’t think about our predicament. I was concentrating full time on spotting markers, gesturing vigorously whenever I saw one to point the way. Phil followed the road and my directions, trying to keep calm. After the detour, we arrived back on the same road we had left just a minute ago. If we had known we could have avoided the technical section, but at least we were out and the rests stop was minutes away.

We drove into Fortuna resort on fumes. Even the resort itself thwarted us, and we drove up a few wrong turns until we found our backup guys sitting under a gazebo, along with Cowboy and Brendon who had skipped the technical section and got there before us. We were flustered and upset, but we were there. We were alone.

Every other rider had left already.