Thursday, September 3, 2009
Death Valley Angel-2009 Vegas to Reno Offroad Race
In the sport of offroad racing, one can never have too many eyes watching over you. A little divine intervention never hurts either. The Jason Wade, Expert quad team is not immune to the gremlins that can occur miles from civilization. Before the race started we were experiencing logistical difficulties. The Funmover from Team Christys racing was having fuel pick up issues and we were working on that. The Christy`s team is our competition, but we are good friends and we help each other whenever and wherever we can. Once we got Craig`s crew moving from Las Vegas, we hit the road for the one and a half hour ride to Beatty, the start of this years Vegas to Reno-The Long Way. This is Best in the Desert` s, Casey Folks 1000 mile, 3 day, odyssey through the Nevada desert. Craig`s crew, Jason Wade, Aaron Ard and I were caravaning up highway 95 trading jokes and barbs over the high powered FM radios. Eric Pealstrom, our other rider, and chase crew called in saying they were having transmission issues with his truck and were turning around heading back to Las Vegas. Details soon followed that the transmission was slipping. I knew this was not good news, and we were probably losing that truck for this race. The question was, how do we consolidate all the gear and get Eric back into the race? Jason and I did not plan on doing this race with two riders. Eric called back a few minutes later and said the truck was terminal. He was going to park it at a Ford Dealership in North Las Vegas that he saw on the way out of town and stay at the hotel/casino across the street and for Jason and I to plan day one without him. We stopped with Craig to pick up all the spare parts, tires and other gear. My brother Martin Choquette and his buddy Dennis Milner were already in Beatty at the hotel. Thanks to Chris and Patty Blais from factory KTM who really helped us out in the overnight accommodations area. They were relaxing for the next 3 days. Dennis Milner is a veteran of offroad racing and drives a Class 8 for Beny Canela and is a former class 7 Score Class Champion. Needless to say we have some desert knowledge on our crew.
It was very hard to leave Eric in town. Something just didn't feel right but we had to get through day 1. We had another crew member coming into help for day 2 and 3 and we thought we could send him to pick up Eric and Juan when he arrived. We could then go back to our original plan for days 2 and 3. We ultimately ended up in Beatty and packed in for the night. We met up with my crew and Jason stayed with Craig. The start would come very early. Jason was to take the bike in the morning. We put our spare parts in our respective trucks since we now had 2 chase vehicles instead of 3. The Toyota Tundra of Dennis`s was packed!
We woke up at 4:40 am. Thats what us quad teams have to do! A quick cup of coffee, change into my riding gear and off we were to pit 2. Aaron would take Jason to the start and do the visual at pit 1. We made it to pit 2 before the sun came up and found the KTM pit with Chris and Patty. We knew they would be long gone by the time we would come through and we doubled up at the pit area. Nice to be able to chat with friends we hadnt seen in a long time.
Jason came in to pit 2 in 3rd place. We started in 5th. He did well off the start. He passed the Christy bike and another bike. I think it was the Reid Rutherford bike. There was a quad about 45 seconds to one minute ahead of me when I hopped on. I chased him to the 25mph hill climb all the while passing a lot of dirtbikes. I wasn't sure how far the number 416 quad of Craig Christy was behind me. I looked back a few times but didn't see anyone. The switchbacks on this 25mph were quite tricky. I understand why BITD made it a 25mph zone. I caught this quad going up the hill in the switchbacks. I was not sure if it was legal to pass so I tucked in behind him right on his tail. We came to a stop check at the top of the hill where the "resume race speed" sign came into view and I pushed it hard to pass. The rider let me by which was very sportsman like. I appreciate it. If I had the number I would mention it but I didn't see it. Think it was a blue YFZ. I later found out from Craig Christy that he was on my butt! I never saw him but I knew he couldn't be too far behind . I made it to pit 3 without any issues and had a fun ride. Jason took the bike from there. Craig came in right after our rider change. We charged to pit 4. Doug Bergtroms team was about 9 minutes ahead at this point, sailing in clear air. It seems they didn't have to contend with a whole lot of bikes. My whole ride was in somebody's dust. I enjoyed every minute of it. Waiting at pit 4 near Silverpeak, I saw the lead quads come through. Intercepted radio communication from Dave Scott, they were leading by 3 minutes when Jeremy Sanchez had a little mishap and that relinquished the lead to Greg Stuart on the Scat-Trac Yama-Honda 650 with Wayne Matlock not far behind on the Honda 700. Doug Bergstrom came in so I knew were not far behind. like clockwork Jason came in about 11 minutes behind. A quick once over and the Duncan Honda was off chasing Doug's dust. This bike is a dream to ride. Dave Scott built the bike initially and it works beautifully. You have to watch yourself as you can get over-confident riding it!
Leaving Pit 4 after a quick pit with no problems, the course was fast, very fast. Skirting across a dry lake in a full tuck trying to gain every ounce of speed I could get from the 450r. High speed racing requires minimal mistakes and you must take advantage of every avenue to carry speed. High speed corners requires not scrubbing speed entering or exiting the corner. Tie all that together and small mistakes turn into lost time over the course of a couple hundred miles. In order to catch Doug would mean little to no mistakes. I had been through this area before during the Nevada 1000 in 2005. I was familiar with parts of the course although we were racing the opposite direction. A new portion was extremely tasking. It was a going through a wash, not a road, that had rocks all over it. You had to be careful not to hit any of the rocks too hard. Not sure if I was gaining or losing time to the lead atv. I made it to pit 5 and expected to get off the bike and Jason would take over. I was informed to continue on to pit 6 for the rider change. A splash of gas from Dennis and my brother with the IMS quickfill, I upshifted the Honda 450r heading due east towards Coaldale.I was tired and miffed about the unexpected change in plans. My job now was to get this bike to Jason at Coaldale. Between pits 5 and 6 it was extremly fast. I overshot a corner and hit an embedded rock bursting one of the TireBalls. The jolt went right through me. One of those that you dont miss and you know the left front Maxxis tire will be flat soon! The Tireballs held up! I kept right on going and Jason took over at pit 6 to 8. His ride was quite uneventful and he later said that was the roughest part of the race for him. We were still about 11 minutes or so behind the leaders so we didn't gain or lose anything. The #437 team ran a good smart race and didn't give us an inch. We had to work every mile. Hats off to them for a well managed day one. We finished 14 minutes behind in Tonopah.
We coordinated entering the work area via cell phone. Once our team was set up, I entered the work area where we looked the bike over and serviced it. The JB Wade racing Honda 450r came through day 1 relatively unscathed. The only problem was a blown Tireball on the left from Maxxis tire. We elected not to change it. We put the bike up for the night. Tired and hungry our team set off to locate our hotel. Situated in the center of Tonopah, we all showered up, loaded the trucks with fuel and we were set for day 2. Hungry, we met Chris an Patty Blais at a Mexican restaurant and had an awesome dinner. Good food, good conversation and good friends, what a way to end a good day of racing! This is where the Death Valley angel showed up. Some would say it was hot as hell in Death Valley! It was quite hot but our guardian angel was about to arrive. Eric Pealstrom and Juan were still stuck in Las Vegas. Our other chase crew and vehical was enroute from Reno and due to arrive in Tonopah at 8pm. Rusty Cronshey was supposed to get into Reno from Austin Tx at 1030am that day. He booked the wrong flight time which was going to put him in at 10pm instead of 10am. He flew stand by and made it in at 330pm. Things happen for a reason. His rental car was given away, small SUV, so all they had was a Dodge Ram quad cab for the same price as his small SUV. What a blessing in disguise this was.
Eric sent us a text message stating that he found a ride to Tonopah and was on his way. I found out that someone posted our plight on the AMA District 37 message board. Kanes Mom (Kim) was the internet Angel for us. She happens to be a member of D37`s Rovers club and so does Eric Pealstrom. Message reads, "Eric Pealstrom is stuck in Vegas. His tranny went out and he needs to get to tonapah. Do you know anyone that can drive him? No racing for him today. Could not get to the rider change location." Shortly, a response came through from Kawasaki Guy on the message board. Message reads, "HEY-1-xxx-xxx-xxxx. DON EISENHAUER. im in henderson. if he's trually fct, call me. will hook it up." Next thing we know Eric is in Don`s truck on his way to Tonopah! The Death Valley angel. Here is the truly amazing part of this. We did not know Mr. Eisenhauer from Adam. This man blindly offered to help us, a quad team, a bunch of strangers. I am still humbled by Don`s selfless generosity. Tonopah is not just around the corner. Its a 3 1/2 hour ride each way! Eric and Juan showed up around 10:30pm and we got them their hotel. I thanked Don and I was really at a loss for words. Still am! This is what attracted me to offroad racing some 25 years ago. Everybody helps each other. No other sport have I seen this kind of willingness to go above and beyond to help out your fellow human being who might just be your competition. It doesn't matter, people help each other. I have seen this time and time again so its not just a fluke. It really gives you a very good feeling. Don Eisenhauer, thank you, for helping us out and you really are our "Death Valley angel".