Remember all those variables I've been reminding you about, those million of things that could happen on a 3,000 mile, two-racer, three-vehicle, nine-crew, 14-state odyssey? Oh my how they're happening.
Our first 24 hours saw logistical problems, mechanical problems, very little cell phone reception, computer connectivity problems and some seriously wicked motion sickness. And that's just the crew. Woo hoo, we're having some fun now!
Luckily, our racers, Richard and Charlie (the reason we're all out here in the first place) have been able to rise above all that, stay relatively calm and keep getting on and off the bike, over and over. Miraculously, thanks to Crew Chief Jim Karlovec and the experienced crew members among us, we have managed to have a vehicle and a bike there every time the guys needed an exchange. And the rookies among us are gaining valuable experience every minute, so as the guys get more exhausted, hopefully, we'll know more how to take care of them.
The racers were delighted with a favorable tailwind on their first day of riding, and another miracle, the desert heat was about 30-degrees cooler than it was when the solo men came through a couple of days ago. (So instead of riding, say, straight through hell, it was more like getting blown out of the barrel of a giant blow dryer.)
The guys are averaging 18.94 mph through five time stations, which is faster than anticipated and, even though it's still very early, ahead of record pace. They are riding steady and strong, despite all the crew worked through during the first full day.
Our adventures started when we discovered almost right away that our RV had limited electricity. The outlets, for which we have innumerable needs, (just a few of those needs - really, this is just a few - are shown here ...)
did not work. No amount of fiddling with the fuses or GFI helped. In turn, our RV water is on that same system, so that did not work either. No showers for the guys last night. (Seriously, you have no idea how important water and electricity are in an RV, even if you think you do.) The computer wasn't able to connect. Cell phones were rendered useless by the incredibly spotty coverage - can you hear me NOW? - and coordinating nighttime racer exchanges were difficult at best. Before the nighttime exchanges even got rolling good, Jim had to make a major crew change decision when a variety of factors conspired to strike me down with a truly wicked case of motion sickness. (Being a fair and objective scribe, I feel I must reveal all.)
This particular event last night, precipitated by riding sideways in a moving vehicle while reading, was bad for a number of reasons:
1. We could not stop, as our earlier mechanical issues had already put us behind schedule to meeet the racers and we had to make it there before nighttime hours took effect.
2. These back roads in the middle of Nowhere, CA are surely the long and winding kind, and gaining elevation while in a hurry in a motor home on that sort of road just doesn't make for good soup.
3. It's difficult to throw up repeatedly in a garbage can when holding said garbage can while sliding around on the floor of a motor home while ... well, see #2.
Anyway, the point is, as crew chief, Jim had to figure out what to do, pronto. The problem is that I was nowhere near his first priority, because he had to make it to the exchange in time for the guys to keep riding, we had to get there safely but quickly, and the racer's night needs had to be met by someone other than me, because I was clearly unable to even wipe my own face. (I have to say, though, that I'm proud to have taken one for the team by not only trying to hit a moving target while throwing up, but also while gamely managing to clean up vomit from a motor home with no running water (I will forevermore have a horrible association with Clorox Disinfecting Wipes) all while still sliding around the floor dry heaving, holding my trash can and grabbing anything available with my free hand while Jim roared around those curves.
Somewhere in the middle of all that, I think I remembered that I was, um, on vacation.
To make an already too long story somewhat shorter, I'll move on. Jim orchestrated a crew change so that I could clean up a tad in a motel room while he and Lary Stokes (my RV crewmates) worked with Ken Runyan, who moved from the Follow vehicle to take my place. The guys originally in the Chase vehicle (and who thought they might be getting some sleep) got in the Follow instead while the Follow crew and I took the motel beds for a couple of hours before the former Chase crew (now the Follow) came back for some shut-eye. If it all sounds complicated and horribly hard to follow, that's because I've simplified it for you here. It's not simple at all, even when all goes right, as I guess it almost never does at RAAM. That's why people do it - you really never have an idea what might happen on your way across.
Speaking of taking one for the team, Lary hasn't slept in 32 hours and counting at this point. The rest of us have either had a few hours' motel time or at least a short nap in the RV. But Lary, what a dude. He's getting a motel tonight.
That is ... if all goes as planned.
Lary Stokes ... what a guy