From just past Pratt, KS ... Charlie just got off the bike after a 4.5-hour pull. He such a gentle-spirited, sweet-natured guy, but I'll tell you what, on a bike, the man's an animal. He's asleep now, hoping to grab a couple of hours. Richard is back out, we're back in daytime rules, and all seems somewhat routine for now. (Understand that things are never quite what we'd generally think of as routine, exactly.)
Last night was somewhat intense. A slight navigational snafu put us back a while, but it also showed us a great display of sportsmanship from our E-Hub friends. The route in Plains, KS is very tricky, there's a sneaky turn in there and in the dark, it eluded us for a second. The RV had successfully navigated it (albeit with some difficulty) and was waiting a few miles down the road to make an exchange with Charlie and the Follow vehicle. We passed the E-Hubbers' RV when we went past the time station, so we knew they were in the neighborhood, too.
We saw a racer and vehicle behind us take a wrong turn, but because it's impossible to make out clearly who is who in the middle of a dark night in Kansas, we weren't sure if it was our Follow. From our exchange point on the side of the road, I made phone contact with our Follow and was trying to establish if they and Charlie were off-course. During that phone conversation, the E-Hub racer and Follow approached us.
As they got closer, an E-Hub crew member rolled down the window of their van and yelled, "Are you 205? Are you 205?" (that's our team number), and they pulled off the road. (Remember that during nighttime hours, the racer cannot move ahead unaccompanied, so this required their racer to actually stop for this conversation.)
"You're off course!" she said, genuinely concerned. "Your Follow went the wrong way!" This confirmed my suspicions, and since I was on the phone with our Follow at the time, I was able to help relay the information that they were indeed off course and that they needed to backtrack, find the correct course and have Charlie start from there. When I hung up, I thanked the E-Hub crew. This is definitely something they did not have to do. They could have driven right on by, secretly delighting that we were off-course. But I think they are enjoying the great race that has shaped up between us as much as we are.
"Hvala lepa," I said, throwing out some of the little Slovenian I know. "Screcno pot." (Thank you very much. Good luck/safe trip.) She looked startled to hear her own language, but her "Oh!" and big smile showed she was clearly delighted. "Prosim," she said, smiling. (You're welcome.)
Their racer got back in the saddle and they drove away. As they did, we could hear her say over the loudspeaker to her racer: "They are really nice people, ne?"
This is what RAAM is all about. Everybody out here understands that, even though there are some intense rivalries happening, we really are all in this together. We are hoping that everyone out here makes it to Annapolis. Personally, I think the E-Hubbers are such great sportsmen (& women) that they want the rivalry to be as fair as possible. Both teams are enjoying the sport of this.
The end result of the night is that the RV crew put Richard and his bike into the RV and we drove back on the course to find Charlie and the Follow. We did, and we put Richard on the bike at the point of the course where Charlie left it, and our race resumed. The Follow crew re-reported our time station information and called race officials to report that we had left the course but had backtracked and re-resumed at that point.
Race officials reported, "all good," and we were back on our way.
This sort of thing (going off course) happens frequently during RAAM, and with the complexity of the course, it's truly a miracle that it doesn't happen more. The bottom line is, it's just a hiccup and we're done with it now. We're still riding our own race, we're still about eight hours ahead of the record we're trying to set, and this morning, just after Pratt, we crossed the halfway point in the race, knowing that despite our little snag, we are slowly gaining on the E-hubbers again.
This is awesome!!