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Category Archives: Total Failure

Marble Creek trip

Click on it. This is an awesome picture.

Click on it. This is an awesome picture.

It was the Wednesday before 4th of July weekend when a coworker asked how I planned to spend the “3 day weekend”. Until that moment, I had no idea we were gonna be closed. Even better, I already had Thursday afternoon off. This was a golden opportunity to strike out into the unknown.

I’ve always wanted to bikepack Marble Creek, and now I had the opportunity. The ozarktrail.com website lists Marble Creek trail as “lightly used”… so hopefully I’d find some solitude. I loaded my gear, pointed the truck South and started ticking through the mental list of things I may have forgotten.

Food…check.

Whiskey…check.

Printed maps and Compass: Wow, I can’t believe I forgot those….but I’m not turning around for that shit.

2-3 hours later, when I drove across the Marble Creek bridge entering the campground, I knew this was gonna be a good time.

Looking down from the bridge.

Looking down from the bridge.

The Ozark Trail (OT) Trailhead is across the street from the campground, so that gave me a relatively safe place to stash my truck. Normally I try to stealth-stash or hide my beautiful 2006 Chevy Colorado, but on this day I stayed legal…paid my money and left the truck. If the moss growing on the collection area was any indication, I didnt need to worry about a ton of people peeking in the windows. There was a warning posted about bears being in the area. Guess I better take the pepper spray..

wpid-20150703_101408.jpg

Thanks to some bikehacks I learned on pedalingnowhere.com, my bike was loaded out with 90% of the weight spread across the handlebars and a rear seatbag. I had a few things in a backpack, but I was really only taking it along as a security blanket, “just in case.” I’ll go into my bike setup in a future post when I’ve got it completely ironed out, but for now let’s just say I’ve ‘almost’ got it figured out.

The trailhead was easy to find, and a hiker was coming out of the trail just as I was going in. Hopefully that meant there wouldn’t be any spiderwebs for a few miles. Awesome.

The planned route can be seen at this link and below. Basically, I was gonna ride about 9-10 miles to a glade overlooking Crane Lake. Once there, I’d set up camp and watch the sunset with my good friend Jim Beam. It seemed like a pretty straight-forward plan at the time.

Entering the trailhead, it was obvious that basically noone uses this trail. It definitely had a “Cedar Creek” feel to it, if you know what I mean.

**When it's so shitty you have to stop and take a photo**

**When it’s so shitty you have to stop and take a photo**

About 30 feet into the trail, I began a long hike-a-bike which was an absolute beast. I thought it would never end, and pushing that heavy-ass bikpeacking rig was no picnic. There was a lot of loose rock and downed trees, but I was hopeful the conditions would improve as I got further into the ride.

It didnt take long to figure out this was going to be a hard-earned ride to see the sunset. I was never on the bike for more than a minute or 2 before I’d be lugging it over another woodpile or downed tree or some kind of bullshit. It was exhausting. The layout of the trail looked like it would be a blast to ride if it werent for all the litter.

One more reason to appreciate our more well-groomed trails at home

One more reason to appreciate our more well-groomed trails at home

But even with all the extra work, there’s something I love about being on a neglected trail. The thought that maybe noone else has been there for months or years, and it could be just as long before anyone is there again. After all, who would actually want to ride through this shit?

Don't we all love the sting of thorns in our skin???

Don’t we all love the sting of thorns in our skin???

Eventually I got to a gravel crossing with enough cell signal to check the map on my phone. Signal was shitty so I took some screenshots and went on my way. The trail just never got better, and it was really kicking my ass. For such a short ride, this was one for the ages.

Good spot to chill

Good spot to chill

Finally, FINALLY, I came to the next road crossing. By the map, I was only about 3 miles from the glade. I was definitely going to miss sunset, but whatever. The “trail” became a fire road and suddenly I could ride. A short climb lead to a long, magical downhill and I was loving it. It felt good to finally be covering some ground. I began to notice the absence of OT trail markers, but like a fool I rode on. The fire road turned into a chunky, rutted-out shitbag of an atv trail. By now I was fairly certain I’d gone the wrong way, but just kept riding anyway, somehow convincing myself that the trail I was on would intersect the OT. So stupid.

Sweet, sweet stupidity

Sweet, sweet stupidity

At the very bottom, I popped out onto a nicely groomed gravel road. Crane Lake was to the West, so I turned right. By now it was completely dark, and I was almost out of reasons to give a single shit about seeing Crane Lake. A little while down the road, I ran into a MASSIVE pile of trees and brush covering the road, making it impassable.

It's almost like someone did this on purpose

It’s almost like someone did this on purpose

I shoved my way through the treeline next to the road, (which sucked) and went around it. Coming out of the other side, I looked up and saw this:

Son of a bitch

Son of a bitch

Well shit…what now? The road turned past the gate and looked to be going North. I rolled the dice and followed it. Surely there was a trail crossing somewhere, right?

The road dropped down into what seemed like a flood zone of some kind. It dawned on me this was probably the overflow stream for Crane Lake. Everywhere I rode, there was between 3-6 inces of water over the road. Luckily it was solid underneath. The realization that I was lost and “deep in the shit” began to take hold. Then the road started climbing. And climbing and f*cking climbing, until I saw this:

If a man screams and throws a temper tantrum while alone in the woods...did it ever really happen?

If a man screams and throws a temper tantrum while alone in the woods…did it ever really happen?

**BTW, that’s a photo of a gate when it’s barely illuminated by a dying headlamp**

There comes a time when a man has to admit he’s failed. I mulled over my options and decided to go back to the first gate. The road  had seemed flat there, and it was dry…which was the opposite of what I had to ride  through *again* to get there.

I may have felt a little bit defeated, but that quickly faded as I set up camp. The beauty of bikepacking is the absence of urgency. Everything you need is strapped to your bike, so you can eat or sleep anytime you want. It was July and I’m obese, so I’d sweated through every piece of clothing on my body. It wasn’t hard to rig up a clothesline and hang my stuff., and I figured it didnt really matter if I was sitting around naked while cooking dinner…given the fact that I was completely lost in the middle of nowhere.

After the food was gone, I noticed a small amount of hot water left in the stove. Realizing I’d be a fool to waste it, I put it in a cup, dumped a Gu pack in there and topped it off with some Jim Beam. I’m not gonna say it was delicious, but it wasnt terrible either.

Then I crawled in the tent and spent the rest of the night trying to sleep.. with a knife in one hand and pepper spray in the other…suddenly convinced that every sound I heard was an approaching bear.

I made a point of waking up early since there was no telling how far off-course I’d gotten. The morning was vibrant and I felt pretty good. Standing bare-assed looking at my laundry line, I noticed something peculiar in the tree above.

I feel like I should write an apology letter but I dont know where to send it.

I feel like I should write an apology letter but I dont know where to send it.

Somewhere in southern missouri, there’s a guy with a game-camera on a remote gravel road. And now he’s got pictures of my fat naked ass setting up a tent and eating rehydrated sweet & sour pork. All I can say is I’m sorry and I didn’t know.

Heading out, I pushed back up the steep atv trail I’d descended the night before. It was a real bitch to be honest, and I’d become disenchanted with the shitty trails of Marble Creek. One highlight was arriving at the spot where I’d made my massive navigational blunder the night before:

Note the trail marker behind the bike. I didnt see it in the dark and stayed on the fire road.

Note the trail marker behind the bike. I didnt see it in the dark and stayed on the fire road.

But now I was on a hilltop and Google was with me once again. Google maps showed a *road* going North that wasn’t too far away. I went for it…and rode past it up a giant hill. Doubling back, I found the “road” which was clearly not a road, but a thorn infested corridor of pain through the weeds.

This was actually a really pretty spot. There was a lake to the right.

This was actually a really pretty spot. There was a lake to the right.

The alleged road was super sketchy and paved with grass and fallen rees. Google maps was clearly wrong. One might say that Google was really starting to piss me off with all its broken promises. I followed along, trying to follow the most northward path along the non-existent road.

This part was particularly challenging, but I was grateful it was mostly down hill:

Google maps is a dick

Google maps is a dick

Eventually I came to creek crossing.

Directly behind the creek was a mud bluff and a tall barb-wire fence. By then, I was moderate-to-severely pissed off. Looking back now, it was a really epic trip. But in that moment,  I was just really annoyed with Google and their shitty “road” maps.

I guess Google maps would call this a "wet bridge". Bastards.

I guess Google maps would call this a “wet bridge”. Bastards.

The old GT's been getting a lot of time in the water this year. **Note the taped-on bottle cage.**

The old GT’s been getting a lot of time in the water this year. **Note the taped-on bottle cage.**

Eventually I decided that bushwacking boldly was my only option. Fences were jumped, and I may have trespassed a bit but I can’t be sure. After all, according to Google I was on the road.

When I finally made it back to the road, a bald eagle flew right over the road ahead of me. Totally badass.

 

Making my way into the campground, I had to stop for a “holy shit I made it” photo:

So close

So close

 

Back at the campground, it was time for my victory celebration. I found a nice spot along the creek and slid right into the water. After all the struggle from the “trails” and “roads,” the cold spring water felt amazing.

 

 

I’ll admit that during this ride, there was a significant amount of time that I just wasn’t enjoying myself. But now that I look back on all of it, (and all the shit I’m leaving out of this post), I realize this was a true adventure. I’ll definitely do this trip again. I hope to  see that sunset, but I don’t know if it’ll match the joy I felt sitting in that cold water after such a hard overnighter.

 

Oh, and fuck you Google maps.

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Legs Catching Fire – The Thunder Games Part 2

***Editor’s Note: To get caught up (and to see Bob in a Gold Speedo) you should read this first. This race report was written by Luke with comments added by Bob in Green and by Kage in Blue. ***

When we last left you, the Tributes from District 69 (AKA Team Virtus) had just completed the rappel and Bob had just worn the Gold Speedo, making good on his bet. We were all blown away by his incredible sexiness and had a great time giving his tiny penis nicknames like “gumdrop” and “Christmas light”.

For the record, the creekwater was super cold.

With laughter in our hearts and the image of Goldmember-Bob permanently etched into our minds, we left the rappel. Bob had paid off his bet in a big way, but for some reason he still wore the Gold Speedo. Why? Because he looked so damn good in it, that’s why!

Mostly, I did that because it was so tight I didn’t think I’d be able to dislodge it from my ass.

We made our way to the bike drop, but with a little less than half a mile to go, Bob had to change out of the Speedo. Some serious chafing issues forced him to strip down and put some real shorts on.

We made it to the Bike TA shortly ahead of WTFAR/TR, but they beat us out of there on the bikes. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: We need to work on our transition times. We changed out of our wet clothes, and no, we didn’t go back to our cabin or hide behind a tree. If the Capitol wanted a show, we were going to give it to them. So we just dropped trou and changed clothes (of course Kage went to hide behind something since she is the only female on our team and has at least a modicum of modesty… for now anyway).

Bike Transition Area at Thunder Rolls

Kage all changed and ready to go.

Leg 2 – Biking

Then we hopped on our bikes and started out on the gravel road leading out of Camp Benson. Something was wrong, though. Our legs felt dead. None of us had anything in our legs. We thought maybe we just needed to spin them out a bit, but even after 10 or 15 minutes, they weren’t coming back. It became clear that the Head Gamemaker, Gerry Voelliger, had planned this. He forced us into the river on foot, leading to the destruction of our hip flexors and quads from coasteering through the water. Well played, Gerry… Well played.

Night Biking at Thunder Rolls AR

Biking into the dark, waiting for the sun to come up.

The first biking leg was only 11 miles or so, mostly on gravel. Our legs never cooperated, and we lost a bit of time here. But we had a lot of racing still ahead of us. The sun had just come up and the sky began to brighten as we rolled into the second transition area (TA) a little after 6:00 AM. It was here where we first met our friend Chad and his beautiful family. They are amazing volunteers – as are all of the volunteers involved with High Profile Adventure Racing.

Unfortunately, my waterproof map case was uh… Not so waterproof. Here’s a little tip for all you out there: MAKE SURE YOUR MAP CASE IS INDEED WATERPROOF! Apparently, my map case had a couple of tiny, imperceptible holes in it. The maps were soaked, and all of the highlighting we had done was gone. Fortunately, the maps for the next section were nice and dry inside Bob’s map case. We laid the maps out to dry at the TA as we headed out on foot for the next orienteering leg.

Wet maps at an adventure race

Wet maps are no fun. Fo realz. (Photo Credit: Maw Maw)

Leg 2 – Orienteering

It seems like the first Checkpoint (CP) of an orienteering leg always gives us problems. After a small hiccup, we managed to find it, and then we started reeling them in one after another with no problems. We really focused on staying in contact with the map and not wasting time. Before we knew it, we had gotten the first 17 CP’s without any major issues. We were gaining momentum and confidence. Sure there were lots of thorns and stinging nettles (what race created by Gerry Voelliger doesn’t?). But overall things were going very well for us… For now.

Orienteering at The Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

Cruising along as we are nailing the orienteering section.

When things go well, viewers of the Thunder Games get bored. So Head Gamemaker Gerry decided to spice things up. We were bushwhacking through some thick undergrowth, I in the lead followed by Kage and then Bob, when I heard Kage say, “Ow!” She followed this with, “Ow… Ow, ow!” I assumed she got caught in some thorns. But then the “Ow’s” grew in both frequency and urgency. Before I could turn around to see what was happening, I heard Bob yell (and it will forever be replayed in my mind in super slow-motion):

“BEEEEEES! RUN! RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUN!!!”

I took off in a sprint with Kage right on my heels. Unsure of where Bob was, we just kept running – ripping through the brush as we tried to escape the nasty insects which we later figured out were actually yellow jackets. After what felt like a 4-mile sprint (although it was probably only a couple hundred yards), we stopped, panting and confused. Kage let out another, “Ow!” So we ran a little bit more. We had narrowly escaped the killer swarm, but a few yellow jackets had remained on Kage’s socks and on my long pants. My pants were apparently baggy enough that no stingers could reach me. ***NOTE: Pack and WEAR long pants on any and all orienteering sections at a Gerry-Voelliger-Directed Race.***

I remember noticing a spot on the ground devoid of leaves, and wondering if it was some kind of deer-sign. Then I saw that it was boiling with pissed off, winged insects. Then came the stings, the yelling, and that’s when I tore ass running the other way. I was really lucky to only be stung once on the face, as I was running with my eyes closed and hands over my face. The stings on my arms hurt too, but the one on my face was legit.

We swatted off the last few stragglers as Bob came out of nowhere to join us. We had to assess the damage. Bob took a few stings to the arms and one on his bearded chin. Kage only took between 20 and 50 stings (no exaggeration – there were too many to get an accurate count). I, however, got the worst of it. As I ran from the yellow jackets, I suffered a half-inch scratch on my hand from the stupid thorns. It really hurt. All I could do was hope it wouldn’t get infected. I tried to stay strong for my team, though, so I kept quiet about it.

Now if you’ve never been stung by a yellow jacket (let alone 20 or more of them), then let me tell you this: It hurts badly and it burns like flames blazing from the depths of hell – kind of like my scratch did. As bad as my scratch was, I guess I have to admit that it wasn’t as bad as Bob and especially Kage had it. We kind of stood there, stunned, sweating, and out of breath. I can’t even imagine the pain they were feeling.

It hurt sooo much.

Yellow Jackets suck at the Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

Kate wanted to cry but didn’t, and Bob didn’t want to cry but did.

As you, dear reader, may or may not know, I am an idiot. Sometimes I say things without thinking, and oftentimes those things come out at the worst possible time and everyone stares at me in awkward silence. This, fortunately, was not one of those times. I said something like, “Hey… If those would have been Tracker Jackers, you guys would be hallucinating right now. And then you’d probably die.”
Like I said, I’m an idiot. And this was a really dumb thing to say, but it seemed to distract Bob and Kage from the pain, and we all actually L’dOL about it.

It was hilarious and probably the difference between crying and not crying.

I already knew that women are tougher than men (watching my wife give birth to 4 children and deal with 4 kidney stones while pregnant proved this to me), and seeing Kage deal with her pain only confirmed this fact. I still haven’t ever heard her complain about anything, even through all of this. And since Kage was being so tough, Bob had to be tough too. And since they were both being tough, I had to be tough and keep quiet about my thorn scratch.

Thanks to that whole “Kate never complains” (semi-undeserved) reputation, I felt like I really couldn’t complain. It’s actually a pretty brilliant strategy on Bob and Luke’s part to avoid listening to me whine all the time. That said, I did a lot of whimpering on the inside and definitely let it rattle me. Not fear-wise, but I don’t know…I was pretty shattered.

So we decided to just keep going even though my two teammates must have been dealing with, in medical terms, a crap-ton of pain. You would think that after unleashing a swarm of yellow jackets on us, the Head Gamemaker would give us a break with some easy navigation over flat, brush-free terrain. Well, you’d be wrong.

A Checkpoing on steep terrain at the Thunder Rolls AR

As steep as this looks, photos never do justice to just how gnarly the terrain is out there.

CP 19 was located on a powerline, and we found it easily. But we now faced yet another problem: A missing passport. Bob had been in charge of the passport all day, and up until now he’d done a great job of securing the passport in the same pocket after punching it at each CP. When he reached for the passport this time, however, it wasn’t there. He searched all of this pockets. No luck. He searched his pack. Nothing. We all searched our pockets and packs. Nada.

After 15 – 20 minutes of panic, Bob found the elusive passport tucked away deep in a different pocket. Finding that little baby was a HUGE relief, and we were ready to head to the next CP. We decided to follow the powerline as far as we could to the next CP. We had to go up and down some ridiculously steep terrain in the blazing sun, and it was anything but easy.

Losing the passport is absolutely terrifying.

Very steep powerline at the thunder rolls AR

Once again, photos don’t show how steep it truly was.

The stings were still burning, although my scratch was feeling better. We were simply baking in the sun, and we were all running low on water. Fortunately, the next CP was at a campground where we figured we could fill up with water, relax for a bit, use a real toilet, and cool off. And that’s just what we did.

Taking a break at the Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

Taking a much-needed break. Not all of the “hitch-hikers” on my pants.

With her legs still on fire, Kage ran cold water over her wounds. It seemed to help ease the pain a little bit. We filled up with water, ate some food, and rested for a bit. What started as a short break quickly turned into an hour. Eventually, we decided to move on from our sweet, sweet refuge.

There was a woman camping there who brought us cold drinks, too. I wasn’t impressed with my first taste of coconut water, but it was really nice of her.

Trekking while adventure racing

Hiking along with smiles on our faces and songs in our hearts.

The next several CP’s came and went pretty quickly and easily. The yellow jackets may have slowed us down a bit, but we were still going and still having fun. Gerry Voelliger never disappoints. He seems to design the best course with some of the most challenging and unique locations for CP’s. Case in point:

One of the many awesome CP's at Thunder Rolls.

One of the many awesome CP’s at Thunder Rolls.

It wasn’t long before we found ourselves at the Ascending portion of the race. And this was no short, little ascent. This was a HUGE! We knew Kate had been pretty worried about ascending, but I never thought it would be that big of a deal. That is until I saw the cliff.

Ascending at The Thunder Rolls Adventure Race

You can’t even see the top of this!

I had tried ascending the previous day at the practice wall and managed ok, though I was exhausted by the time I hit the top. It went well enough that I felt cautiously optimistic…until I looked up…and up…the cliff we were about to ascend.

As if the coasteering, biking, orienteering, and yellow jacket attack wasn’t enough, we were now faced with this monster of a cliff. We could almost hear Head Gamemaker Gerry Voelliger laughing his ass off back at the Capitol.

Will the Tributes from District 69 surrender and admit defeat? Will they summon the strength and honor needed to make it up the cliff? Will Bob wear the Gold Speedo again? Will Luke’s scratch become infected? Will there be any more killer swarms? Stay tuned to find out.

Follies at Ray’s Indoor MTB Park

It might take me awhile to express how amazing our weekend at Ray’s Indoor MTB Park truly was.  Even when I get around to writing about it, I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to describe just how much fun we had – kidnapping Bob, the laughs, the road trip, the jokes, the great food, the laughs, the new nicknames, the laughs, and of course the riding.  It was a weekend by which all other weekends will be measured, and in measuring, all other weekends will pale in comparison.

In the meantime, however, here is a video of some of our “outtakes” from Ray’s.  Just remember, this video doesn’t even compare to how it really was, but you can tell we had a blast… even when we were screwing up (which we did A LOT!).  Enjoy…

 

As you can see, there were no videos of Kage crashing her bike.  That’s because her skills are far superior to ours… Or it’s because she is a crash ninja and only crashed when no one was there to witness it.  You decide.

I’d like to thank my teammates for joining the celebration of Bob’s upcoming wedding.  It couldn’t have happened without you guys.

And I’d like to tell Bob that we really do love you, man.  Seriously.  Good luck in your new life.  Please don’t forget us.  We’ll never forget you… And we’ll never forget this weekend.

Speedo Vote for The Thunder Rolls

So we need your help in a bad way. For those of you that have been living under a rock for the last few months, you may not be aware of “The Speedo Bet.” You see, I bet Bob that he could not eat 23 or more donuts at the Tour de Donut. Well, Bob only ate 18 donuts and he barfed, so I won the bet. Now the time has come for Bob to make good on that bet.

This weekend at The Thunder Rolls 24-Hour Adventure Race, Bob will have to wear a Speedo Bikini, and nothing but a Speedo Bikini, for one entire leg of the race (in addition to socks, shoes, backpack, etc.) Well, I finally got around to ordering Bob’s Speedo, and here it is:

Bob Jenkins Speedo

Now and forevermore, Bob shall be known as Goldmember

Simple, classic, understated, and yet so stunning. Don’t you think? I almost ordered him a thong, but then I realized that Kage and I were going to have to see him in this thing up-close and personal. So I opted for a traditional Speedo.

Anyway, I have not decided when Bob will wear the Speedo, and that’s where you come in. Please take just a moment to fill out the poll below. Your vote counts, so don’t be shy. And leave a comment with some words of encouragement for Bob.

This is serious business. Do you want Bob to bare most of his flesh while trekking through thorns, poison ivy, and stinging nettle? Or do you want him in nothing but a Speedo while biking over bumpy, gravel roads and thus destroying his taint? Or are you going to be nice and have him wear the Speedo at night on the paddling leg of the race where he will be mostly hidden by the canoe and life jacket?

The choice is yours. Choose wisely.

And be sure to check us out on Facebook and Twitter as we’ll be sure to post some photos and updates throughout the race this weekend.

The Hammons-Jenkins Express Rides Again at the Berryman 12 Hour Adventure Race

 

This year’s Berryman was a race I’d looked forward to for a long time. Berryman seems to bring people from all over, and it sure is nice to see all of our dirt-loving friends in one place. Kage, (formerly referred to here as Kate),  and her brother Jim were gonna be there for their first 12-hour race. Jim & Wendy Davis, The “Lederhosens” and the Wahoo crew were gonna be there too,  just to name a few. Casey flew in from New York to do the 36 hour race with Luke, and I partnered with Travis Hammons to do the 12. Adam was probably at home masturbating. To each his own.

I was first to arrive at Bass River Resort, and made short order of getting the camping spot closest to the Start/Finish line. There were going to be a lot of friends at this race, and I really wanted to be there when everyone finished.  I’ve only recently begun learning the intricacies of tarp-hanging. In an effort to redeem my previous failures, I went for something elaborate.

Who's laughing now, Anchorman?

It wasn’t long before Travis showed up and we started drinking beer getting our gear in order for the next day. It felt really good to be at a race early enough to be ready and relaxed.

 This is probably a no-brainer for everyone else, but I recently started marking my drybags so I know what the hell is in them.  It helps a lot at gear checks and prevents last minute panic-attacks when I think I’ve forgotten something.

                       

I’ll have to admit, I felt very well prepared. Travis and I really hadn’t discussed which of us would be navigating, but I’m pretty sure we both thought it would be the other guy. Everything was ready to go, all we had to do was suit up the next morning. The only thing left to do was plot some points and drink a few carbs.

"Dude, we're totally gonna own this shit tomorrow. " -"Hell yeah, pass those chips"

Since Luke and Casey were running behind, we helped get their bikes ready for the race-start. I actually had to go get their passport since they were running so far behind, but I’m sure you already read about that in their report. Well wishes were exchanged and we prepared to send the “Alpha Squad” on their merry way. Somehow, a fist-bump was caught on film:

Noelle Amick, photo-bomb extraordinaire .

 Travis & I were pretty jealous to not be doing the 36 at this point, but we were still pretty pumped for tomorrow’s race.  We had one or two more rounds of PBR carbs and headed off to bed. It sure was nice to be sleeping next to Travis’ tent while he coughed, wheezed and hacked up snot all night. There was a shower or two throughout the evening, and I couldn’t help but wonder how far Luke and Casey would make it before they realized their clue sheet was still at the campsite.

The morning came quick, but we were up and ready to go with time to spare. We even had time for a pre-race photo.

Still just a bit too damn confident

I think we were both feeling pretty strong at the beginning of the race. We started out in a massive pack of riders on a fairly hilly stretch of gravel. The stream of red tail-lights was pretty awesome. Every now and then someone would get too close to the shoulder of the road and wipe out, so that was entertaining. It was a bit difficult to get decent photos with all the people around, but I did alright.

I think the other racers really appreciated the camera flashes

Despite a series of horrible coughing fits, Travis and I somehow managed to weave our way through the crowd and pass a few teams. It was a bit comical how easily some of the 4-person teams were getting separated. Racers lined the road waiting for their teammates. We got to a place in the road where it was pretty obvious that most people were turning into the woods for CP 1.

The trail was muddy as shit, so we decided to drop the bikes, make the 100 yard dash to the CP and come back. Along the short trek to the CP, we leap-frogged a team with one person who rather rudely informed us that this was a bike leg and we needed to be on our bikes. We just kinda brushed it off, I mean it’s not like we had some sort of strategic advantage from having to walk right? And after all, we were only trying to prevent riding our bikes through this:

Yeah, this is a pretty poor photo, but you can see that it's a muddy road,right?

So anyway, as we’re once again leap-frogging this same team, Captain Dingaling pipes up and decides he’s gonna lay down the law about “this is a bike leg”. He and Travis exchanged a few heated words and we all parted ways. I’ve decided not to elaborate on this incident as it seems only fair to assume he was the only douchebag of the group. As I said before, we had clearly not put ourselves in any sort of advantageous position by walking.

On with the race. By now we had figured out that the muddy road we were trying to avoid wasn’t even the right road. So, nav error # 1 was already in the books. By the time we got CP #1  and made it back to the bikes, we were…near the back of the pack.

Whatever.

I guess this was right about the time Travis threw up once or twice. He said the mapcase choking him and asked if I’d take over nav duties. (It seemed like a good idea at the time). From what I can recall, the gravel went on for a few more miles and we found our way onto the Berryman trail. I had only ridden Berryman once before, so I’m very unfamiliar with the trail-system. We both felt pretty good on the singletrack, and it wasn’t long before we were catching a few people and passing them. We were very close to CP 2 when we ran into Kage and Jim.

You kinda have to look for her, but she's back there.

 Travis and I were having a pretty good time flossing the singletrack, and I have to say that I was feeling way too confident. We came to the bottom of  a descent and saw the artesian well, (natural spring). Neither of us needed water, so we didn’t stop. I saw some trail in front of me, assumed it was the Berryman, and off we went. I never realized there were like 3 other trails that all converged at the Artesian well. 

Completely unaware of this enormous mistake, we rode ahead thinking we were still on the Berryman. There were LOTS of other people going the same way, so we stupidly assumed we were going the right way.

The "Berryman" Trail was no longer fun at this point.

Bear in mind, I had no idea there was ever an option to take a different trail. We were on the Berryman and that was that. The trail didn’t match the map for shit, so I could only assume that the trail was improperly marked on the map. Trail conditions had gone from awesome to shitty in a hurry, and we were now doing lots of hike-a-bike.  We both felt like the trail was going the wrong way, but had no clue where we ever could have gone wrong.

Well, there’s a ton of bike tracks, so I guess we’re going the right way”  I was so stupid. 

I’ve heard Luke talk about what he calls “bending the map.” This is when you falsely convince yourself you’re going the right way. At this point, I was bending the map into positions that would make Gumby scream.  I promised Travis that at the top of the next hill we’d see a gravel road and there would be trail on the other side. Lo and behold..we came to a gravel road. Only problem was, there was no trail on the other side.

Travis keeps his cool while I look for a trail that isn't there.

There was no denying it now…we were butt lost. Neither of us wanted to go back the way we came, so we elected to follow the gravel road southward. In doing so, we would either come to an intersection that’d be on the map, or we would eventually run into the highway. The gravel road was mostly downhill, and that always means one thing…you’re going the wrong way.

Lost, but not giving up.

When we got to the bottom of the hill, there were several other teams there standing around looking pretty unhappy. After a bit of discussion, we knew exactly where we were… and the news was not good. Somehow, we had found our way to a place known as the Four Points. I’m too embarrassed to post a picture of the map, you wouldnt believe how far off course we  were.

 I felt like I’d just been kicked in the nuts. The fact that so many others had made the same mistake did absolutely nothing to make me feel like any less of a moron. There was no coming back from this. Clearing the course would not happen. This was a catastrophic failure.

Other lost folks at the Four Points.

We had to get back on course, but there were differing opinions on how to do it. Going back the way we came was not an option, but it was the only “legal” way to get back. Any other route would involve a certain amount of tresspassing and the prospect of dodging gunfire.

We asked a landowner for permission to cross his field…..

…He said no.

So…..we tresspassed. I mean to say we tresspassed our asses off.  We just wanted to get back on the course, finish in last-place and eat some porksteaks. Go ahead and judge us if you want.

At least we got a cool photo

I realize it’s completely wrong to feel this way, but this section of the race was actually my favorite. We bike-whacked through some serious shit out there, sped through open fields, and capped it all off by carrying our bikes up a super-steep muddy climb. This was the most serious orienteering I had ever done and I was juiced. There was no trail to follow and no footprints to cloud my judgement, it was just us and the map. We slashed our way through vines, thorns and trees as we worked our way toward a fire-road I could only hope still existed.

"Uh, hi sweetie...I just wanted to call and say I love you....and I'm lost in the middle of nowhere."

The terrain was horrible, but we were making progress. Thorns and vines grabbed at every part of us and tangled in our bikes, making this a  particularly exhausting effort. Along the way, we had a quick conversation that went like this:

Travis: “I frickin hate you”. 

Me: “What?”

Travis: “Nothing man, I really like racing with you.”

Me: “Oh, I could’ve sworn you said you hated me”

Travis: *silence*

Yup, we were making some memories out there.

After what seemed like an eternity of bike-whacking, we finally came to the fire-road we were looking for and it lead us back to the Berryman Trail. I can’t even describe the relief I felt when we got back on that trail. I was so happy, in fact, that I decided to take a picture of myself.

*witty caption here*

About .08 seconds after that picture was taken, I hit a rock and flew off my bike into the woods. That put an end to my photo-taking while riding the Berryman, but I did manage to get a decent action shot of Travis later in the day:

It felt so good to be back on the REAL Berryman trail.

I’m a bit ashamed to admit it, but I don’t remember very much of the race after this point. I think we were both so tired and defeated that we just did what we had to do to get across the finish line. I can recall that the remainder of the bike-leg was a torture-fest and that the paddle was alot of fun.

I also remember that I left our maps on the beach when we shoved off in the canoe. By the time I realized this colossal mistake, we were far enough downstream that turning back was out of the question. Travis was calling me “Bobby Let-down” once about every 15 minutes, and  Iwasn’t arguing one bit. When we reached the canoe takeout, (with no maps), our only option was to walk in the ditch next to the highway until we found the Bass River Resort entrance, then hike/jog our way to the finish. Travis pushed through a lot of knee pain in those final miles, but we eventually made our way across the finish line. 

All of a sudden, things were looking up.

Baked potatoes and beer were consumed until the world was right, then we fired up the grill and looked for Kage and Jim. They finished a while after we did, and I had a GREAT time spraying them with champagne as they crossed the finish line. Sadly, I have no photographs of this.

This will easily take first place as my greatest navigational blunder-fest, but I count the experience as a solid victory. I learned a lot of hard lessons out there and made some SERIOUS mistakes I’ll never make again, (like following other people’s tracks).  I think we packed about as much failure into one race as is humanly possible, but at the end of the day we were laughing about it and already talking about getting some redemption next year.

I thing the sport is called adventure racing  because the adventure should always come before the race. I think Travis would agree that we had one hell of an adventure out there. Maybe next time we’ll race too….maybe not:)

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