I only slept for an hour or so before I woke up shivering. My emergency blanket had been ripped to shreds by a sandstorm. I looked around and saw everyone comfortably tucked up under what were obviously far superior quality emergency blankets. Canadian Tire would be getting a letter when I got home!
The Ulysses XB12X is something of a departure for the dogmatic, Harley Davidson-derived sportbike manufacturer, leaving the sportbike world and entering that of the dual-sport. Buell claim that the Ulysses is more than capable of handling the likes of gravel and fire roads, and yes, even jumps!
From the moment I saw the route when it was first published in November, I knew this was going to be the day. Traditionally the organizers plan a few very difficult days, just before the rest day, to separate the men from the boys. By tonight, I would know whether I was a man or a boy!
It was pitch dark when I left Smara, and started a liaison that would take us through Morocco to the Mauritanian border, where the day’s special would begin.
Although I had four hours to sleep I only managed to sleep for two – I just couldn’t relax. I was too wound up about all the little details I needed to take care of. I staggered through breakfast like a zombie, and wondered what I had gotten myself into. We hadn’t even arrived in Africa yet and I felt like I was already starting to fall apart …
There was no special today, just a very long ride on the highway. In preparation, I had a set of road tires mounted on the bike just for today.
Today’s events started with a riders’ meeting, which was a who’s who of rallying, with Alfie Cox, Fabrizio Meoni, Shlesser and of course, me. I meet the Rauseo boys (Charlie and Dave) – two American brothers who were also attempting the Rally on bikes that they had rented through Rallye-Raid UK.
Okay, I’m going to be honest here. Before October of this year I didn’t know much at all about the Dakar Rally other than it was a two week rally from somewhere in Europe to somewhere in Africa. Trucks, cars and motorcycles all entered, lots of people didn’t finish, some of them even died.
Most people’s first recollection of the Catskills is as the location of Ripp Van Winkle’s famous snooze, but the roads through here are nothing to yawn about. With scenery to rival the Adirondacks to the north, and a web of county roads reminiscent of the Pennsylvania network to the west, this area is a “must do” destination for the sport-touring enthusiast.
It’s become a bit of a custom at CMG. Every year, when the leaves are turning and the temperatures dropping, we give the motorcycle season a grand send-off with a grand tour. It’s a good excuse to let loose, explore some roads and slap in a last comparo test before the snow hits.