PART 4 – ALBERTA BOUND
|All the important testing had been completed.|
Words by Nick Smirniw
It’s February of 1998 and Team FLD has run out of time. The Yamaha B-Whiz has been ridden on several frozen lakes, every team member has had at least 5 minutes on board and all that’s left is to get out to Fairview Alberta and race the thing around Hay lake for 24 hours …
Oh, did you miss part 3? No worries, click here.
With the radio spitting out retro tunes beside me, I sit here at the computer. One hand is on the keyboard, the other cradling a bottle of inspiration in a very Hemmingway-esque pose.
For the past six weeks, we have been working hard to prepare for this 24 hour endurance event. The training itself has been quite rigorous, involving daytime and nighttime tests, dismantling and re-assembling the Yamaha CW50 scooter, and most appropriately, sleep deprivation.
This past weekend was the last time our scooter will see the light of day until it’s uncrated in Fairview, Alberta the weekend of February 20th. All that was left for Team Frozen Lake Dogs was to get out west.
Our flight to Edmonton left at 7:15 pm. Somehow we all made it to the airport on time and together – including Marc and Malcolm who were there to film the whole experience.
|9 km long and most of it under water …|
Chaos greeted us in Edmonton when Mr. Blonde (who had flown out earlier that day and was supposed to meet us there) was MIA. Blonde finally showed up, and at 10:00 pm we left for Fairview and a seven hour drive through the night.
We finally arrived at Fairview College at 5:00 am and proceeded to try to stuff 8 of us into 3 rooms with 2 beds each. For those of you that can’t do math, that doesn’t work (8 bodies and 6 beds).
I volunteered to sleep on the floor of the student lounge only to be awoken at 7:30 am by a dozen French-Canadian Harley mechanics as dey were getting ready for deir morning ‘arley classes.
THE DAY BEFORE RACE DAY
|Prepped and ready to go.|
Even at 7:30 in the morning, the temperature was almost disappointingly warm. By mid-afternoon, it had warmed up to about 278 Kelvin (refer to Numb Bum article 1 for conversions) and there was water covering most of the previously prepared track. By now we were getting a little concerned – we came 3,500 kms to race ON a frozen lake, not THROUGH one!
Anyway, weather concerns aside, Friday was generally uneventful. We met CMG-West correspondent Doug Bolton as well as Cathy Srayko and Brad Chorney for the first time in person, and then set them all to work.
Half the team took care of all the physical and mechanical stuff like uncrating and building a scooter from a pile of bits (including the attaching of a slow-moving-vehicle sign to the rear), and the other half went off to deal with admin stuff like trying to raise some more money for the $750 entry fee …
We didn’t all come together again until Friday night at the local bar, which we had chosen after a quick survey of which of the three bars in town we were least likely to get our asses kicked and least likely to play Country and Western music ad nauseam.
This ended up with several pitchers of bad draught beer, some impromptu arm wrestling and a visit to the liquor store – conveniently located within the bar itself. Things went pretty much downhill after that …
THE DAY OF RACE DAY
|The Evil Monkey.|
Saturday morning dawned with cloudy skies and, predictably, cloudier heads. After a healing greasy breakfast, we went for an audience with the local Fairview holy man … well, monkey.
The Evil Monkey (although at this point we didn’t actually know that the monkey was evil at this time) lived in a cage in the local IGA and for a mere 25 cents would offer words of wisdom and a comforting joke followed by the laugh of Satan himself.
“I’m going to tell you a joke … hahahahhahahaahaaaahhahaha”, said the Evil Monkey as he shat out a plastic capsule. Lo and behold it was a guardian angel “to guide us through night and day”. Could there be a more perfect offering for our 24 hour ice racing team from this seemingly wise (and non-evil) monkey?
We got back to the shop at 11:00 and realized that we were now a mere 1 hour from race time. Looking around, we quickly realized that we weren’t quite ready for the race. We had to organize the bike, organize the vehicles, organize ourselves and get to the lake … which was a 20 minute drive away.
Chaos ensued, the guardian angel was affixed to the bike and we hightailed it to the track.
We finally made it track side with only 3 minutes to spare (one of the film guys, Malcolm, covered our late asses by attending the pre race riders meeting on our behalf). In those three minutes, we got the bike through the tech inspection, got me into my leathers and electric clothing, and lined both of us up at the back of the starting grid.
Since we missed the rider’s meeting and had not yet spoken to Malcolm, I had no idea what was going on and had no time to ask, because the moment I got there, the green flag dropped and I pinned the throttle ….
Mr. White (Nick Smirniw)
THE BIG RACE
|Mr. White hails to the cheering crowd before tucking into race mode.|
For this part, we’re mixing two reports together. As per usual, Mr. White (Nick) will be filling us in on how his race went, but there’ll also be interjections from myself (Editor Cabot/’arris) on my experience. To differentiate them, I’ll slap my stuff in italics.
12 NOON TO 6 PM
The crowd was supportive – or maybe they were confused, but either way they laughed and cheered me on as I got smoked by everybody else once the flag dropped. After a quick acknowledgment to the cheering fans, it was time to put my head down and get racing. Or not, either position seemed to garner the same top speed …
The first lap was a dream. All of the other bikes were long gone, the track was clean and clear and the new Holiday Racing Screws were giving more traction than we could ever desire.
Half way into lap two I was feeling ridiculously warm from Gerbing’s clothing and was singing Stan Rogers songs in my helmet. Then I got lapped. Man, these guys are fast!
|Waiting for your bike to come around past the pits can be nerve-wrecking … especially when they’ve been more than the expected 20 minutes!|
Then, at the beginning of lap three, things started to get squirrelly. It was only 12:25 pm and our fears had already been realized – the rear tire had gone flat!
Having just passed the 1 km marker, I decided not to try the next 8 on a bad tire. Seeing that the only instructions given to me prior to the race were ‘don’t go backwards on the track’ I somehow managed to persuade some of those crazy french mechanics to carry the scooter through the snow to the service road and I ran back to the pits with it.
In went the first can of fix-a-flat and out went Rob ….
Seeing Nick come in with a flat was my worst fear realized. Just a few minutes before I’d thought that that we’d done it. So much to do in so little time results in failure more often than not. We couldn’t fail now. Even if the bike blew up, we got here and we got on the track. Success was ours.
But the sight of the rear tire gone flat pissed all over my grandiose thoughts. Now it felt that all those weeks of work, all the distance traveled could be for naught. Still, this was only the start of the race. We had a little under 24 hours to go and the can of fix-o-flat seemed to be doing its job. I should get out there!
|WTF were we thinking?|
It’s interesting going down pit lane flat out, yet still be under the low speed limit imposed for safety. In what seemed like minutes I finally arrived at the entry to the track. A quick look to my left to check for no real motorcycles coming down the home straight and I was in. Then as I let out a deep breath and my visor fogged up completely – I couldn’t see a thing.
Visor up and boy, this hurts the eyes. I remember talking to a past participant who said that some guy had left his visor up and frozen his eyeball to his eyelid! I could feel the water from my eyes start to freeze and spent the rest of the lap looking left, right, up, down and all around, trying desperately to stop any eye/lid freezing action.
After 20 visually stimulating minutes the lap was done and it was over to Dougie to do the honours.
Dougie never came back.
We got reports that he was at the other end of the track and was pushing the bike. When we finally got a sighting it was time to get the rescue snowmobile and sled and go get the poor bastard.
|Flat tires full of studs make an effective grinder – lightened swingarm shown is courtesy of Dougie.|
The tire had gone flat and then popped off the rim, lightening the swingarm with flailing studs. This is terminal as you can spin the rear wheel as much as you want, the tire ain’t gonna spin with it.
There was no choice except to rethink the whole rear tire set up. Brad, who worked at the college, suggested we remove the wheel and take it back to the college workshop to fix it once and for all. Although this would mean serious down time, if it fixed the problem it was worth it.
An unnamed college source seemed obsessed with Pamela Anderson and persuaded us to try filling the inner tube with 7 tubes of silicone bathtub caulking. Four hours later and we now had the best looking and feeling tubes in the race, but the question still was, were they going to work?
Mr. White (Nick Smirniw)