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30 Dec 2006 - The Thrash on the Bikes Starts
Everyone gets up for breakfast but by 11:00 AM, the thrash is on. First we have to re-assemble the truck. Almost everything that has been attached to the outside of the truck had been removed in order to get the truck small enough to fit into the plane. The sand ladders, the generator, the top rails on the body, the platforms for the frame jacks all have to be found in the truck and put back in their proper place on the truck. [MORE...]
31 Dec 2006 - New Years Eve
The bikes are coming along. Chris' bike is just about done. We're down to mounting the spare brake lever, the spare shifter, the spare brake lever, the spare clutch lever, a spare tube, Chris' Leatherman and routing the power and data wiring for the GPS James' bike is still a work in progress. David and James still have a lot of work to do. [MORE...]
03 Jan 2007 - Registration and Scrutineering
In order to compete in the Dakar, you have to register and then you and your vehicle have to pass a technical inspection known as scrutineering. The point of the registration process is to make sure that you have all the necessary documents, approvals, permits, passes and information and that you have paid whatever money you owe the organization which in this case is the ASO. I probably should have put the money first in the previous sentence because without the organizers being satisfied that you have paid all that you owe, the rest of the process doesn't happen. [MORE...]
Spice and I arrived in Lisbon on Christmas Day. The trip was uneventful but the our arrival to the starting city of the 2007 Dakar was the beginning of what would become the most adventurous and emotional two weeks of my life.
The bike and race prep up to this point had gone about as smooth as could be expected given my situation and circumstances. My bike was as ready as I could make it and on a plane to France. My training wasn’t going to get any better only 10 days before the race so everything I had done up to that point I had to live with. I did manage to squeeze in a few runs along the boardwalk but that was mostly to calm the nerves. [MORE...]
We were up around 4 in the morning on raceday. The day was only around 500km in total with 117 of that a Special Stage. I don’t remember what I ate that morning but I am pretty sure it almost all came up. They only allow you into the parc ferme 30 minutes ahead of time so there isn’t much time to mess around. I said bye to Spice and got ready in the parc. The atmosphere in the parc was really tense... [MORE...]
Around 2:30 in the morning on Day 3 the first breakfast bell rang on the boat. I swear you would have thought it was a fire alarm with the speed the Hungarians jumped up. I thought for sure the whole boat was waking up for breakfast but it turns out we still had two and half hours. I wish I would have known this but they don’t tell you at the Intro To Dakar seminars. After they left I got my stuff together to greet the day and went up top for my requisite 6 cups of coffee daily. What a surprise when I entered the cafeteria and saw only me and the Hungarians. Oh well, I was up now... [MORE...]
The day started like every day I guess. It was dark leaving the bivouac and the first cautions of the day don’t take long to show their ugly head. One of main sources of transportation in northern Africa is the donkey and whatever it can tow behind it. Unfortunately the locals haven’t figured out a way to rig a headlight to them. Needless to say that made for some exciting riding until the sun popped up. Once it did pop up the morning chill gave way to a spectacular landscape. I had never seen anything like it. The sights alone were almost worth the hefty price of admission to the Dakar, almost... [MORE...]
My start time wasn’t until around 7 that morning so I actually had a little time to enjoy my coffee. Again, I really enjoyed the morning ritual of coffee and watching the bivouac come alive but today it was different. The sleeping pill did wonders for my night. Once I slipped into my blankets I don’t think I so much as rolled over until the troops were rousting about. I needed that. The sun had barely come up when I poked my head out. It was way too cold to actually get out of the blankets and walk to the coffee so I stayed wrapped up like it was Sunday morning at the house and shuffled over like Mr. Snuffaluffagus... [MORE...]
Day 6 was a drag. It started out crappy and finished even crappier but it did finish.
The sandstorm throughout the night made it nearly impossible to get any real rest. I liken the whole bivouac experience to trying to sleep while laying in the middle of a NASCAR pits. There are constantly generators running all night, motors running all night, cars, truck and bikes revving their motors to the rev-limiters, welders, grinders and all sorts of pit craziness. [MORE...]
Race day 7 was a big one. The liaison wasn’t going to have the same issues as the day before but the Special was the second longest of the rally at 542km. We didn’t have a particularly early start but that just meant we would be getting in closer to sunset the later we started. According to the roadbook info packet we received before the rally today’s stage started out with fast, mixed ground for 77km then 81km of off-piste camel grass then 100km of stony track then 40km of dunes and after that we are greeted with more mixed, stony tracks, more camel grass, another set of dunes and wrap it all up with a short gravel section. Reading the book it is hard to tell exactly how difficult the tracks are but at least you go in knowing a little about the day’s course [MORE...]
Stage 8 was another unassisted stage, a marathon stage as they call it, and deservedly so at 589km. For me it truly was a marathon stage, my longest of the rally.
The assistance vehicles had to get on the road early before any of the bikes left. That meant packing up the tent and airplane box before anything else. That by itself isn’t a huge deal but it broke the usual rhythm of the morning. I think I was still hovering around the 105th or 110th place area or close to it, so we got off around an hour after the fast guys. The liaison was mostly dirt that morning but still only 35km. It wound up and around and through a few villages that may as well have been on Mars. [MORE...]
Day 9 started a little rough. Getting to bed so late the previous day meant a short nights sleep at the beginning of a long week. One good thing that came out of sleeping in my gear was it shortened my time to get dressed in the morning. As usual I was up two hours early for breakfast but had some business to take care of first. The only other person up around me was Casey and he had the same thing on his mind. The bivouac was literally in the middle of a humongous dirt field that doubled as an airstrip the rest of the year. When I inquired about where the “Toilettes” were I was told they are 1km away and cost 5-Euro. Casey and I both decided to take matters into our own hands, so to speak. [MORE...]
Stage 11 wasn’t really a stage at all. I mean, it was a stage but it only consisted of a liaison to break up the otherwise ridiculously long liaison from Nema to Kayes. They had us down for 372km, 225-miles, but with the new schedule we would run 250km that day and the rest the following day. Everyone was looking forward to the little break. [MORE...]
According to the Handbook, “Expert skidders are going to have the times of their lives here! On these tracks over laterite, the aim of the game is all about controlling your machine.” Even in French I understood that. [MORE...]
I hardly slept all night. I tossed and turned and stared at the ceiling while the minutes ticked away into hours. I don’t know why I even tried. I was so excited about getting to the hotel and the end and seeing Spice that I forgot to slow down for a minute to enjoy it. I was really looking forward to getting out and to the start of the Special. The morning was damp and cool when we got out and everything covered in dew. There was a roadbook to put in for the Special but honestly we just had to follow the sand. I can’t describe the time at he hotel. Spice walked me out and we got the bike warmed up and ready just like I had done the past two weeks but today was different, it was the last day of the Dakar. Tomorrow the bikes would be loaded up on a boat and shipped to France. [MORE...]
More of Chris Jones' "Dakar Diaries" and photos to come...
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