The Longest Ride

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15 JANUARY 2005 – THE LONGEST RIDE

Tambacounda – Dakar (569 kms)

Liaison 108 kms
Special 225 kms
Liaison 236 kms

Note – Click here for the CMG Dakar Glossary (just in case you don’t understand some of the terminology used).

This was it – hopefully tonight I would be in Dakar. Both Sharon and my mom had flown in for the finish and were probably already there by now. The Special was a very short 225 kms – all I had to do was ride a total of 569 kms and it would all be over.

I got to sleep-in this morning as I didn’t have to be on the bike until quarter to seven, so I got up at a leisurely 5:30 am. This would be the last time I would have to pack up so I just threw everything into the airplane box in a big mess.

Bob is O+. The bike was being lights negative.Photo: Sharon McCrindle

As I was pulling down my tent a local came by asking if he could have it as a ‘cadeau’ since I wasn’t going to need it anymore. I did my best to explain to him I still needed it once I got home and offered him a dirty old “Vegas to Reno” t-shirt instead, which he instantly turned down. So much for the old saying ”beggars can’t be choosers”.

I fired up the bike and turned on the lights, only to discover that they didn’t work. It was still completely dark out and I was going to be riding on public roads for the first while. I couldn’t figure out where the problem was and as my start time approached I headed over to the CP start in the darkness.

Charlie Rauseo was waiting to start the road section when I rode up, I quickly explained my predicament and he agreed to let me ride along side him to share his lights. I started 2 minutes ahead of him and pulled over and waited for him after I went through the CP. It was still pretty hairy riding through Tamba as there was a fair bit of traffic on the roads by this time and I was virtually invisible to them.

All I wanted to do was nurse the bike to the finish – little problems like the lights were a sign that the bike was getting tired and eventually a bigger, more terminal problem might arise. I had now also run out of tires and was using whatever I had left. I had done the entire rally on two front mousse and three rears; the ones in the front were so beaten that they felt like I was riding on tubes with about 5 pounds of air in them. They would be great for a run up the beach the next day in Dakar, but in this situation the tires were overheating on the pavement, forcing me to cruise along at 90 kph.

LAST LEG LEAKAGE

The end is in sight.Photo: Maindru Photo

The Special started out on a firm 2-track with huge dusty holes in it. It was only 220 kms and I knew that I would be at the end in about three hours – nothing by Dakar standards. All I had to do was concentrate and the end would come soon enough.

This is easier said than done, but I knew that once I got to the end of this stage the Rally was pretty much in the bag; a few hours later and I would be in a comfortable hotel room with Sharon at my side. Sure, there was the run around the Pink lake, but that was nothing more than a victory parade.

It wasn’t long before I caught riders ahead, but as usual, getting by them was tricky in the dust. I was extra careful today, but with the end in sight all I could think about was the finish.

It was the longest 220 kms I have ever ridden. I would count down in my head, “only 100 kms to go”, “only 80 kms to go”, “I’ll be there in under an hour.” Finally, after what felt like a lifetime of riding I emerged onto a brand new road that was very wide and fast, and cruised through the last 20 kms at over 100 kph.

As I rolled into the CP, the entire check crew were applauding along with tourists and crews that had come out to see the final moments. I was relieved, I was happy, you couldn’t get the smile of my face; but it wasn’t long before I began to think about the road section that still lay ahead.

Sometimes a split in a rad hose can cause some real chaos …Photo: Maindru Photo

It seemed as though I was always tricking myself into thinking “once I get here, it’ll be over.” But that was never the case; there was always something else to do. This little game that helped make it less overwhelming also made it a little less gratifying, because you never reached the end.

Partway through the final liaison I pulled over for some water to drink and noticed some fluid sitting in the skid plate. Radiator coolant! I couldn’t believe it – only 150 kms of pavement to Dakar and I had a coolant leak, and to top it off it was roasting hot out!

This rally would be torture all the way to the end. The Dakar just didn’t give up!

There was a small split in one of the hoses but the rad still had most of its fluid. I topped it back up with the water I had just gotten out to drink and set off again – stopping every few minutes to check the fluid level. I topped it up whenever I passed a gas station, finally realizing that it wasn’t going to fatal and would make it to Dakar.

The traffic in Dakar was the worst I’ve ever encountered – and I’ve ridden bikes in some pretty crazy places like Thailand, India and Ghana – but for some reason, Dakar drivers were the worst. The place was a complete gridlock. I finally resorted to riding up sidewalks, through ditches – whatever it took, as my patience had now completely run out.

DAKAR

It was all too much for some.Photo: Maindru Photo

I was now counting down the mileage to the end like the countdown of a shuttle launch. Five, four, three, two, one….

Meridian hotel!

The entrance to the hotel and CP was lined with family, friends and crew awaiting their pilots. Everyone was waving and clapping as I rode up to hand back my Time Card and receive my final road book, “Dakar to Dakar”.

The check crew patted me on the back and congratulated me as I scanned the crowd for my wife. I put the bike back into gear and rode ahead waving back at everyone, and then suddenly I picked her out of the crowd.

I rolled to a stop in front of her and she put her arms around me before I had a chance to the kill the engine.

Sharon and my mom snuck me into their room at the Club Med and I was welcomed by a bed with clean sheets, a shower and all you could eat buffet. I just lay on the bed – still in my riding gear – as they begged me to get the stinky gear off and throw it out onto the balcony.

Bob & bike – We’re not sure which one looks more beaten up.Photo: Sharon McCrindle

All I wanted was food, I ate anything they had: oranges they had from lunch, Powerbars, and snacks from the airplane. I tried to have a nap but they both said I smelled too bad and to have a shower first. When I finally summoned the energy to get my gear off, it was immediately quarantined onto the porch.

I didn’t recognize myself when I looked in the mirror – I had lost so much weight and my eyes were completely sunken from the lack of sleep. I was in the shower forever, I just stood there letting the warm water run over me.

If the Dakar had taught me anything, it had given me a renewed appreciation for the little things we enjoy everyday; like a shower and clean bed, and I couldn’t wait to be at home lying on the couch watching TV with the dog. But most of all it made me appreciate my family and how important they were to me, I had spent the last year neglecting them and dreaming of the Dakar, but once I was here I dreamed of being back home with them.

Next day

Back to main diary index

Dakar related Links:

Official Dakar website – Daily updates of the 2006 Rally.

Maindru Photo (who graciously supplied us with pictures) – Check out their daily update of pics from the 2006 Dakar.

Eurosport – Dakar 2006 coverage.

Total Motorsport – Latest news from a Dakar sponsor.

Adventure Rider website forum on racing – Lots of Dakar threads going on.

ODSC website – Read all about how Bob prepped his KTM 660.

Thanks:

Bob would like to thank the following people for helping make his Dakar adventure possible:

Jim, Colin, Richard and the crew at Cycle Improvements.
Michel, Paul and Jocelyn at Kimpex.
Guy, Patrick, Bill and Mario from KTM Canada.
Digby and the ODSC posse.
Lawrence Hacking.
The Harden off-road crew.
Everyone on the U.S. Red Bull KTM team.
And of course Sharon McCrindle.

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