Thursday, 23 September 2010

Day 21: Bishop, CA - Larrington Towers

I have no idea whether there will be Free Internets at the airport, but I'll just create this post to remind myself to finish off this year's tale...

OK, we haz teh Intarwebs here.  Hurrah!  By my standards a leisurely start from Bishop, though I was still on the road before eight.  A familiar run up US-395 before turning left up Tioga Pass and into Yosemite National Park.  Here are some of the mountains which live nearby:

Note SNO on said mountains
Being a National Park, Yosemite is full of idiots going "Oooh!  Look!  A mountain!" while driving under the influence of teh Stupidz.  This goes doubly so for the person in the motorhome coming in the opposite direction, who seemed to want two-thirds of my lane as well as all his own, the cockwomble.  Yosemite is quite good to look at if you have the time, but I didn't, so here is a picture of a bit of it:

Tuolumne Meadows, or something like that
Top down after Yosemite, as it had warmed up quite nicely and it's downhill all the way, including an amazing bit of CA-120, about which I had totally forgotten, unless I didn't go that way in the first place.  Out of the woods and down into the flatlands.  It's strange suddenly to see cultivated land.  And finally onto the freeway system, with its pass-either-side brand of anarchy specially designed to confuse the fuck out of innocent tourists.

And so to the airport.  The Hertz Man charges me extra because the car is full of dust, and more because someone else threw up a stone whih chipped the windscreen.  Then the BA check-in says stuff like "the flight is very full and we'll give you lots of money if you stay overnight and fly tomorrow instead" before ominously attaching a big orange label with "STANDBY" on it to THE LUGGAGE.  If I and The Luggage to not arrive in Londonton at the same time, and should I not get the World Traveller Plus seat for which I paid extra seven months ago, there will be ructions, mayhem and police cars.

That's all for now, but stay tuned for next year's exciting episode, otherwise known as "Project 10,000".  Unless Larrington Towers and burned down, fallen over and sunk into the swamp, or been towed away by the council or something... 

Curious thing seen on the road: a convoy of no fewer than nine first generation Ford Thunderbirds.

Day 20: Flagstaff, AZ - Bishop, CA

Cor, wot a contrast, eh?  Wall to wall unbroken sunshine, though with Flagstaff being the best part of seven thousand feet up it was a touch on the nippy side this morning.  And to get out of Flagstaff you have to climb even higher, hence it was zero degrees, hence the top stayed up.  You need a truly volcanic heater, and preferably heated seats too, if you want the lid down in thos conditions, and I'm afraid the V8 Noise Maker just doesn't cut it in this regard.

The first few miles out of Flagstaff are most pleasant as the altitude means that there are trees.  Start descending, though and it's back to desert.  A tedious run on I-40 (once I'd found it; the signposters of Flagstaff need to pull their fingers out in this regard) to Kingman.  A tedious run up US-93 to the Hoover Dam.

A word or two about the Hoover Dam.  It was built in the 1930s by a Bad Man, at the behest of President Roosevelt - the pinko one, not the one who hunted bears - and generates a metric fuckton of electricity and holds back a lot of water.  This has enable Las Vegas to transform itself from a small, sleazy oasis in the Nevada desert into a big sleazy oasis in the Nevada desert.

A The Hoover Dam, in 2004
 And where, moreover, the sky is brown.  Now in the last few years, $GOVERNMENT has apparently become obsessed with the idea that the Hoover Dam is a target for terrorists, as opposed to tourists, though perhaps it's all a ghastly mistake caused by ex-"President" George W Twig's habit of pronouncing both words exactly the same.  I don't know what they expect Osama's lads to do with it - it's fucking huge and would require an entire fleet of heavy bombers to blow up. Remember how many five-ton bombs it took to breach the Möhne dam?  Not that the US Gubbinsment would know, as there were only a couple of US citizens involved, until the Hollywood remake comes out, natch.

Anyway, just downstream of the dam They have built a new bridge, yclept the Mike O'Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.  Mr O'Callaghan was a former Governor of Nevada, and need not concern us further.  Mr Tillman was a professional "footballer" in the NFL until shortly after 9/11, when he forsook a multi-million dollar contract and joined the US Army.  In 2004 he was killed in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan, a fact which the US military took great pains to cover up.  So in other words, you have a bridge named for a victim of the Wa on Terror slap next door to what is apparently a prime terrorist target.  Who says the Americans don't do irony, eh?

Back to the trip.  A downright horrible crossing of Las Vegas.  A tedious run up NV-160 to Pahrump, which sounds like a vulgar noise and probably explains why cast members of CSI are "working a case in Pahrump" when the actor is on holibobs or something.  A slightly less tedious run down to DETH Valley Junction and thence into DETH Valley itself.  Back in the old days the entrances to DETH Valley were manned by jolly types with big hats, but ruthless spending cuts have seen them replaced by a Machine.  I approach the Machine, press the right buttons and feed it twenty dollars, in return for which it gave me fuck-all.  I let the German lads next in the queue have a go; it declined to accept the existence of their credit card.  So we buggered off, them without paying and me having paid but being unable to prove it.

In DETH Valley.  A bit of a contrast to yesterday.
I've been to DETH Valley a couple of times before, but those were in October and the place was deserted apart from Mercedes-Benz test drivers getting paranoid at the sight of a camera.  Today the major attractions were swarming with people, so I made my excuses and left.  As a place to drive through, DETH Valley is rather tedious and, at 99 degrees Fahrenheit, a touch warm too.  I finally escape onto US-95, head north a bit and turn left at what used to be the Cottontail Ranch (yes, a brothel), onto one of the daftest Daft Wee Roads anywhere in the world.

An abandoned knocking shop, yesterday
 This is the fifth time I've driven along here, but the first time from the Nevada end.  And if you didn't know what was ahead, at first you'd be a bit disappointed as it's generic Minor Road Across The Desert.  Until you cross the state line into California at Oasis, where the road does three things:

  1. Turns left, and
  2. Changes its name to CA-168, and
  3. Goes mental
There are actually three mental bits.  The first crosses some bunch of mountains, and then gives you a nice long straight to recover and overtake the motorhome you've just caught up.  The second climbs to Westgard Summit, atop which the lunacy abates briefly, before the final bonkers bit takes you down the other side to Big Pine in the Owens Valley.  It absolutely requires the V8 Noise Maker to be put into Sport mode and then to use the flappy paddles to change gear.  When you drop it into first in a narrow canyon, it sounds like a re-enactment of the bombing of Dresden.  It is fun, and I shall be back to play on it again.

Curious thing seen on the road: the coppers letting loads of Real Villains past their checkpoint in order to stop and search Me.  Bastards.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Day 19: Grand Junction, CO - Flagstaff, AZ

One cannot visit Colorado, no matter how briefly, without climbing a mountain or two.  Or, in my case, four; one of which was new (I did the others in 2003).  First was Grand Mesa Summit, at 10,839 feet or quite alot of metres.  Next the highest of the whole trip, the Red Mountain Pass at 11,018 feet.  And finally the closely linked Molas and Coal Bank Passes - 10,910 and 10,640 feet respectively.  Unlike the other three, the Red Mountain was beset by road works, which must have endeared it no end to the two blokes in Competition Cobras - equipped with only the flimsiest of canvas tops - who were waiting patiently in line to descend into Ouray.  Here you can see how bored it is possible to get while waiting at road works:




The camera is obviously clever enough to make conditions look brighter than they really are.

Anyway, the rain continued all the way down to Durango, where I bought some boxer shorts.  Turning west from Durango, one eventually runs out of the mountains and into the desert, only this time with red soil instead of the light brown muck found elsewhere.  This, you see, is where the red sandstone is to be found, in the shape of both cliffs and standalone big lumps; the most famous of the latter being those found in Monument Valley, a few miles to the north of the dismally-surfaced US-161.  This is what Monument Valley looks like from the side you have to pay to look at, when it is not raining:




From US-161 you only get to see the back, and that from a considerable distance.  You also pass the Four Corners Monument, which is where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona meet.  I have seen a photo of four New Toylanders having lunch together in four different states,but that was a while ago and now the Navajo is using the place to get back at the White Man by charging an entrance fee.

Anyway, Arizona is supposed to be hot and sunny.  This is why I was met by some of the heaviest rain I've encountered anywhere, with the possible exception of Friedrichshafen in 2003.  People were actually stopping by the roadside to let it pass over, although there were the inevitable asshats who neglected either to slow down, switch on their lights, or both.  Here is what sunny Arizona looks like shortly before unleashing one of a Several of deluges:




This picture was taken at 65 mph and again fails to show the full nastiness of the approaching weather, not to mention the accompanying multiple bolts of lightning.

The rain went away for a bit, and it even began to get warm; however a glance over to the west shewed more dirty black clouds, so the top stayed up.  And a good thing too, as it began to chuck it down again on the final run down into Flagstaff.  If it does this again tomorrow, I'm going home.  Oh, wait... 

Curious thing seen on the road: while the aforementioned Cobras would normally be the high spot of most petrolhead's day, the collection of four pre-WW2 Alfa Romeos was Even Better.  All were being driven con brio, and one was a Monza.  A Monza was sold at auction earlier this year for the thick end of seven million US dollars and here was someone thrashing one across Colorado.  In the rain.  Yay!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Day 18: Cedar City, UT - Grand Junction, CO

Today, I are mostly been looking at Rocks.  The southwest portion of Utah is well provided with Rocks, in all shapes, sizes, colours and propensities to detach themselves from the cliffs just around the corner, that they might sweep valuable parts off the underside of one's motor-car.  Most of today's route has been covered before at least once, though the early part diverted off the Daft Wee Road that is UT-14 in order to visit Cedar Breaks National Monument.  I don't know what the obsession is with cedars hereabouts, since there's nothing around resembling the cedar trees I know and love; the ones which make really tasty pencils.  I got stuck behind a truck on the way up, but you don't argue with a man towing an industrial-strength wood-chipper.  Not if you've seen Fargo, that is.  Anyway, here is what you see when you get there:


Good, innit?

Down the hill again to Panguitch before leaving all the tourist traffic heading for Bryce Canyon behind as UT-12 goes completely bonkers.  At one point it runs along a ridge scarcely any wider than the road itself, but you'll have to take my word for this as there's nowhere to stop.  Onto UT-24 through Capitol Reef National Park, at which point the motor-car starts pleading with me to check its oil level.  Great, you mechanical bozo, why couldn't you do this when I wasn't forty miles from the nearest "gas" station, eh?  Common sense wins over thrashing it until it melts before phoning Hertz in accusatory tones, and at Hanksville the level is checked, and found wanting.  Hanksville consists of four "gas" stations and a motel, so at least oil is available; the V8 Noise Machine swallows half a US gallon and pronounces itself satiated.

Right here onto UT-95 and a first encounter with the Mighty Colorado River.  Or rather a River which was Mighty before the White Man came along and, er, stop me if you've heard this one before.  This bit of no-longer-mighty river is named, without a hint of irony, Lake Powell, after John Wesley Harding Powell, whose expedition of 1869 made the first descent of the Green and Colorado rivers.  I rather suspect he'd have been appalled at the titanic environmental fuck-up that is much of the Colorado system today.  Anyway, here is some of Lake Powell:


The light grey bit in the middle is a boat launching ramp, so that's OK then.

Then left up US-191 to Moab.  The White Man has not buggered the river up here, which makes for a nice change.  And the town centre looks quite pleasant, even if the outskirts consist mainly of motels, "gas" stations and mountain bike hire shops.

Helpful advices: if you are heading north from Moab with a view to taking I-70 to the east, ignore the TwatNav, as it will try to send you up US-191.  Instead turn right onto UT-128, avoid the cyclists and prepare to have your mind melted by the narrow red rock canyon through which the road and the Mighty Colorado pass.


This is one of the less spectacular bits.  Finally the road swings away from the river and instead of rocks you get the sort of high plains scrubby grass prairie type stuff which runs north all the way to Montana and quite possibly parts beyond.  Seventy millions years ago this area was popular with dinosaurs; today it is mainly full of GBFO Kenworth rigs doing 80 mph uphill.  A few miles along I-70 brings one back in contact with the Mighty Colorado, and thus to Grand Junction, which has a population of 53,662 and was the childhood home of the improbable sounding Dalton Trumbo, the Hollywood scriptwriter and alleged ComSymp.

I'm still operating on Pacific time, so it's an hour later than my watch says.

(Heads for fridge for further helping of Sam Adams)

Curious thing seen on the road: dead skunks.  Lots of dead skunks.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Day 17: Battle Mountain, NV - Cedar City, UT

A brief summary of the physical geography of northern Nevada: there are wide shallow valleys - such as that of the Reese river south of Battle Mountain - separated by mountains.  The valleys run from south to north.  Thus, when you are travelling from north to south the roads are long and straight and flat.  When you are travelling from west to east. the roads are also long and straight and flat, unless said road happens to be crossing the mountains.  In this case there will be Corners.  The flora consists mainly of the same pale green and yellow scrub which fills most of the landscape from Canada to Mexico, with a few trees on the passes over the mountains, and the odd bit of cultivation where there is water.  This is all you need to know.  Here is a typical piece of scenery:


This differs only from anywhere else in this part of the world in that:

  1. It is actually the end of the WHPSC course, and
  2. There is an alien spacecraft in the top left of the picture
Near here lives Georgi Georgiev's new best friend, Boris.  Boris is a Cat Spider.


Boris is smack in the middle of the photo.

As mentioned above, water is an important resource hereabouts, and owning a piece of land does not necessarily confer the rights to any water found thereupon.  I am told that this is something not easily understood by City Types, and thus when a local rancher died and left the property to a relative in California, he promptly shut off the taps.  Two other ranches rely on this supply for their cattle, hence there is a good old-fashioned Wild West water dispute brewing in the Battle Mountain area.  Meanwhile, the unfortunate cows are forced to come down to the gravel depot we use as the staging area in order to get a drink, as enough leaks out of the tank there to quench their collective thirst.  They'd rather be higher up the mountains where it's cooler.

That is about all there is to say about today, except that the TwatNav gave me a slightly unexpected route, so I didn't get to pass the famous Black Mailbox again.

The Black Mailbox in 2005.  Yes, I do realise that it's white, thank you...
Curious thing seen on the road: nothing, except possibly a local copper who followed me into town this evening, clearly dying to nick me but unable to thanks to the miracle of cruise control.  Out-of-state plates mean you're allowed to be a bit uncertain about where exactly you want to turn right, too.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Day 16: Battle Mountain, NV

"Why"", I hear you ask, "is Mr Larrington still in Battle Mountain?"  The answer, Constant Reader, lies in the fact that most people bugger off first thing on Sunday morning.  However, someone has to do the final tidying-up and one of those someones is me.  As it was going to take at least four hours to finish everything, I elected to stay a further night rather than pack everything in a mad rush and drive a Several of hundreds of miles in a coma.

So while Kim Nelson and I took easily portable Stuffs back to the "store" - a container parked behind the Civic Center, Chris and Mike went to take down the forty-nine sheets of plywood we'd tied to the guard rails on the bridge at the course.  Loading them onto Kim's trailer was simplified by the unexpected arrival for Team Eivie - Damjan, Joze and Scott Wilson - plus a keen local named Matt.  Then Kim had to go home to fetch the BIG trailer, so we sat around in the sun playing noughts and crosses and waving to the various members of the Arrow Hawk team as they went past on their way from the Mill Creek campground to Idaho and Parts Beyond.

Load the "grandstands" onto the BIG trailer, return same to the school sports field, back out to the course to collect the eighteen straw bales we used this year.  Last year there were a hundred and fifty, which required a small army and three trips with a Big Rig to set up, so this can readily be seen to be a great improvement.  As we return, Matt is apparently tidying up the desert, on his hands and knees.  That way, laddie, lies madness.  Finally we drop the bales off back at Kim's house and go our separate ways.  I was planning on going back to bed, but the housekeeping ladies hadn't been round yet, so I decided to catch up on Doing Things with Photos, Reading Things on Teh Intarwebz and cursing this keyboard when it fails to do as I think it's been told.

Anyway, they're here now, so I can pop out to the boozarium, buy BEER and then have a nice lie down.  This is probably all youse is gonna get from today, so be patient and there will be more, with added Scenery, in twenty-eight (approximately) hours time.  Also the wind is getting up and it's growing cloudy to the south and it sort-of looks like rain.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Day 15: Battle Mountain, NV

For the final time the Usual Suspects - Mike Sova, Chris Broome, your author, John Jackstone, Jonathan Woolrich, Mark Mueller, Brad Teubner, Preston Seu, Rob Hitchcock and doubtless one or two others I've neglected to notice - drag themselves down to the lobby, there to mainline coffee and pass caustic comments on the morning Fox "News" TV show.  The stupid, it burns...

Out to the course, set up and get busy.  Larry has the bottom part of his fairing attached and makes the only run I've ever seen in which the rider has been chatting to his chase crew while still riding.  Mike makes a much better run in Chuck Norus and decides to have a go over the full course.

Some good times, some bad winds and yet more mechanical problems for the Arrow Hawk, of which I shall apprise you when I've actually laid eyes on the results.  In the meantime, and for your pleasure and edumaction, here is a photograph of a shattered Thomas after failing by the smallest of margins to qualify for a 70 mph hat:



He had been asleep, but woke up before I could fetch my camera chiz.

Something was slipping in the depths of the Arrow Hawk's Rohloff; fortunately Hans van Vugt is an Expert and he is able to fettle it in time for the evening runs.  Mike Mowett exceeds 57 mph on his first and last run on the full course; Amanda Chu does a 55, which is why she got a 50 mph hat later in the evening.  No, I don't understand it either.  Thomas van Schaik does a 69.99, and sore is he vexed.

Back to base camp to try to catch up on missing shut-eye, drink BEER, etc.  And to take photos of Things.

Eivie III.  Note height of bystanders' knees.

Arrow Hawk.  Builder Don Schroeder back left; riders James Schroeder, Kara Snyder and Tiffany Underwood (front right).  No, not all at the same time...

Thomas van Schaik, gooning.
And then out to the course for the final runs of the year.  And yet again the wind wouldn't co-operate.  Barbara wouldhave set a new record with her 76.4, but the wind was over the limit.  Damjan got a new personal best, but it wasn't enough to wrest the European record back into the hands of a Bloke.  And then we'd had enough, so we had a party instead.

L-R: Eric Ware, Whittney Metcalf, Thomas and his Magic Hat, Larry Lem
Mike Sova and John Jackstone with medals.  The event might still have happened without John, but we'd have needed at least three extra people.
Clowns of '10: Jan-Marcel van Dijkman, Larry Lem and Thomas van Schaik.  David Verbroekken pretends he's not there.
And then home?  No, then packing up Stuffs to return to Eureka on the morrow, and creaking and groaning and being unable to move any faster than a heavily-drugged sloth.  And bed.  Crash! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Curious thing seen on the road: George Leone, Whittney Metcalf and Ivan from Team Primal sprinting to catch a brakeless Eric Ware. And they succeeded too.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Day 14: Battle Mountain, NV

Here is a Lovely story.  Last night Tiffany and Mike Underwood - whom I have erroneously called "Mark" these two years past - were awakened by a scratching noise, sounding as though it was coming from inside their trailer (this being what we BRITONS would call a "caravan").  Fearlessly, Tiff sent Mike out to investigate with a torch.  Fearfully, Mike determined that the noise came from a small skunk trapped in the rubbish bin outside.  Fearlessly, he was the equipped with a broom.  Open door, push bin over from safe distance, slam door shut.  What japes the Wild West can throw up, eh?

And so to the Friday morning runs.  Mike Mowett had earlier blown his rear tyre and had no spare.  And his bike uses the less common 451 variety of "twenty inch" tyre.  O noes!  Larry decided to run totally unfaired and actually qualified faster than, er, some others.  Jay had another run to see whether he had sorted his chain management issues.

He hadn't.

A fiercely determined Whittney tried again to run Miner Details with the full fairing in place, but both attempts were unsuccessful.  And so to the full course.  Amanda and Victor both made good runs in the Ace, though Amanda's wind was Bad and Victor's time got lost as the timing team have been having Issues with their printer.  Thomas fell over at launch and decided to call it a day; Jay snapped the weld conjoining his bottom bracket and the rest of his bike, so it was left to Eric to save the day with a 69+ run.  Sadly with  Bad Wind.

Back to base for results, a mercifully truncated IHPVA members' meeting and Todd describing how he became the first person in the history of all things evvah to achieve sustained flight - 19.3 seconds - in a human-powered ornithopter.  Utterly mind-blowing...

Loafing, BEER, recording video messages for Alice, watching Thomas repairing his morning's work and the drag races which I did not attend due to laziness.


More Stuffs either later this evening or tomorrow depending on food, BEER and.  And things.

Mike Mowett won the drags from John Pocock, Scott Wilson and Whittney Metcalf.  And my shoulder feels as though it's been knifecrimed, and if my feet swell up any further, one of two things could happen:
  1. The straps of my Intrepid Sandals will no longer be sufficiently lengthy, or
  2. They will explode like overcooked sausages
Neither is desirable, so I will rest them in cold water and then go to bed.  Watch for further updates at this spot in twelve hours time.

Sam Whittingham being our Guru, when he said we'd run too late on Thursday night, foolishly we believed him, and thus traipsed out to the course in a howling gale.  Sort of.  Fortunately no-one had seen fit to inform our flaggers - the people whose job it is to stabnd at the roadside and enforce the road closure - so we ended up back on the usual schedule.  The wind refused to co-operate, though, and only four riders chose to run.  Dan and Damjan both got times, though the wind was well in excess of the permitted maximum, but the first two runs rapidly descended into farce.  James was intending to run the Arrow Hawk up to ~ 55 mph to test that everything was in order after the afternoon's extensive repairs, but Barclay was going for a time as the Henry boys had to leave prior to the end of the event.  Now James likes to ramp up his speed steadily, while Barclay cruises before sprinting hard at the end.

You can probably guess what's going to happen here.

Yep, James overtakes due to his mistaken notion that Barclay has a problem.  James is in the measured 200 when Barclay enters the traps and re-passes.  Mayhem.  Police cars.

Photo shamelessly stolen from Jeff Wills
With the weather like that, there's not much to do except hope things go better on the morrow...  Also it was difficult to keep the 'vette on the road during the sweep before the second evening session, as Amanda Chu's legs are very distracting. 

Curious thing seen on the road: that ^^^^

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Day 13: Battle Mountain, NV

Wha-hey, I'm catching up...

No power cuts and a distinct improvement in radio performance, at least along the short course.  Whittney tried running Miner Details with the top of the fairing attached, and didn't.  Mike Mowett did get his Norus down the short course eventually, but it would appear to need some fettling to get it close to the 58 mph it achieved in the hands of Rob Wood back in 2003.


On the long course, both Kara Snyder and Dan Zolyniak made it down OK; Jay's chain came off, obliging him to coast through the traps from a kilometre out and in the morning's last run Thomas did 69.9 mph for a new personal best.  He is this: happy.  When Tiffany did her run in the Arrow Hawk, however, she apparently hit one of the gouges in the road at the two-mile marker, which threw something out of whack and made the machine vibrate so badly she couldn't focus on the video screen.  Hence it was parked.  James Schroeder had a go, and reported the same symptoms.  With the machine already having blown a tyre last night when James was running at 58 mph, it appears that luck has deserted them for now.

If anyone has lost this:


would they please let me know.  Mike Sova reckons it fell off my motor-car, but we had a look at the V8 Noise-Maker:


and nothing is obviously missing, and the thing still goes OK.  The good news is that Damjan should have a legal helmet in time for tomorrow evening's run; his mate Joze and John Jackstone have just got off the blower to the shop.  Now I am going to see whether I can do anything about that stupid seat belt...

No, I can't.  Scott Wilson is the latest person to do 175 mph without a belt, and I have three firm bookings for tomorrow.  I should start charging for this.

Evening news will have to wait, for two reasons.  Firstly, this chair is doing untold damage to my right shoulder.  Secondly, Jeff Wills came into town this afternoon, bearing Free BEER, courtesy of Full Sail Brewing of Hood River, OR.  Their IPA is 6.0% ABV, and very nice.  Hic.  In the interim, here is what some rotter, or rotters, possibly of the Tall Dutch persuasion, has done to Mike Mowett's bike:


Ooo-err!  The wind speed went up as the sun went down, which is this: unusual.  More usual for this week was the Bad Luck Virus which, for the fourth time in as many runs, chose to infect the Arrow Hawk again.  James was running at 58 mph with two miles to go when "something broke" in the inaccessible areas inside the fairing.  He coasted through at 44.  Another good run for Todd in the Ace, with a legal 63+.  Another 63 for Barclay and another 70 for Ron.  In the second session Jan-Marcel topped 70 with legal wind; everyone else had Bad Wind and speeds were, by the stellar standards of the group, unexceptional. 

Curious thing found on the road: it's got to be that black plastic thing up there ^^^^.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Day 12: Battle Mountain, NV

After a bit of a BLEAN day yesterday and, indeed, an unspectacular morning, Barbara Buatois of France edged out her own Ladies' World, and European outright, records, to about 75.6 mph in perfect conditions tonight.  Eric Ware in The Wedge improved on his best performance from last year with at 71 and some change.  Ron Layman in Primal 2 joined the 70 mph club.  But that's all you're getting for now, because while it's not that late, I am absolutely knackered and would like to switch the light off before midnight.  Although if you're interested, the Notorious Henry Brothers, "Upright" Mike Mowett, Reno Bill and Tom Nowak are all here, and my motor-car's passenger seat belt has jammed, in spite of which Kara and Tiffany both wanted to be wafted down the course in peace and tranquility at > 175 mph.

Bis morgen...

Right, back from Thursday morning's runs, so let's have a few more details on yesterday.  There I was, guzzling my morning coffee, when the power went out right across town.  This caused various alarums and excursions, but only for five minutes or so, and then it was out to the course again for the morning period of backache.

Both Jay and Barclay Henry got their machines down the qualifying course OK.  Barclay is still running the head-first-and-backwards Backslider; Jay has a new machine, the Stellar Jay.  The latter is a good deal shorter than his previous mount, in a bid to make it less sensitive to crosswinds.  Whittney Metcalf finally got the Miner Details to stay upright through the timing traps, but subsequently decked it and added a new graze to her already impressive collection.

On returning to town it was time to take machines and people over to the Civic Center for a free lunch and a visit from a metric fuckton of third graders.  The biggest hit of the show was probably the kids queueing up to drag race on foot, using Robert Barnett's pukka starting tree.  Some people old enough to know better had a go too, which resulted in Paul Gracey going head-first into the wall at the far side of the room, and Thomas and Jan-Marcel cheating by lying on the floor and setting off all the sensors at the same time...  Other highlights included fedding the Tinies into the Backslider, which is accessed through a panel in its floor.  We had to check there wasn't one still inside when we packed up.


Various people also tried each other's bikes for size:

Kara Snyder tries Barbara's Varna
After which all the standing up made me hurt.  My feet hurt, my back hurt in two different places. my arms ached and my hips were creaking, so I went back to bed, and the rest you know about.

Curious thing seen on the road: a two-metre tall Dutchman kicking himself for having put the brakes on at the start of the traps instead of at the end.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Day 11: Battle Mountain, NV

My feet hurt.  The tops of my feet hurt because they got roasted while sailing last weekend.  The bottoms hurt because I have been standing up for far too long while wearing my new Intrepid Sandals.  The strap on my old Intrepid Sandals broke, y'see, so I bought some new ones.  And some assclown of a designer has put an insert in the sole right under one's heels.  This, on close scrutiny, claims to be a "ShocPad", which i suppose is intended to Do Something when one is walking.  However, it merely causes Pain when one is standing still.

I digress.  Only Ron Layman in Team Leone's improved Primal 2 needed to qualify this morning as Toronto Dan still has the Dreaded Lurgi.  We were then able to run a Several of machines over the full course, though not without a few problems due to miscommunication.  The radios used to speak to peeps at various points of the course used, in the Old Times, to be absolutely shite.  But then out of the west came a Nice Man from the local radio club, and he did cause to be placed atop Mount Lewis, the highest mountain hereabouts, a repeater device.  And Lo! it became possible to talk over the entire length of the course.  Until this year, when we couldn't.  Jonathan rang up the Nice Man, and thus discovered that the repeater was no longer working, because the local pikeys had stolen it.  Cock.  Nice Man is attempting to get something temporary rigged up for us.  Highlight of the session was Tiffany Underwood, keen to improve on last year's 48.something.  She went well over 50 mph, but alas the wind was too strong.

And her helmet was on back to front.  Her mother was happy, though, because I gave her a lift in the course car, at about 177 mph.  You've probably seen enough photos of my Chevy, so here instead is Robert Barnett's:


It's been completely rebuilt over the past couple of years and now features a hand-made nine-sided stainless steel steering wheel, but you'll have to take my word for this as the tinted windows made it almost impossible to get a satisfactory photo.

OK, I should have finished yesterday's entry this afternoon, but instead elected to go to sleep for a couple of hours.  Nothing much to report though,save that the wind was being arsey again and the revelation the Damjan's European record has had to be thrown out as his helmet was self-made and thus not approved,and thus invalidating the event's insewerants chiz.  And the radios sucked donkey balls again.  Jonathn has been in tough with a Nice Man called Steve, though, and as I type the are still out in the desert attempting, at least temporarily, to undo the work of the pikeys.

Jan-Marcel van Dijken and Thomas van Schaik are clear favourites in the 2010 Class Clown Competition.  It's bad enough that the buggers speak fluent English, never mind that there are able to crack good jokes in it at the rate of roughly one every fifteen seconds.

Curious thing seen on the road: no fewer than four coyotes.

Day 10: Battle Mountain, NV

It's now actually about midday Tuesday, but we didn't get back from dinner until 22:30 last night and had to get up again at half past dark.  Sorry.

Monday morning means qualifying runs for one and all, which can drag on a bit when you've got two bikes each with three riders and another team which consists of one fairing, two chassis and three riders.  And doubly so when under the steely gaze of Randy, the local top banana from the Nevada Department of Transportation, hereinafter referred to as NDOT.  Fortunately everything ran pretty smoothly once Randy had made us move the road closure signs back another 200 metres chiz.  Smoothly, that is, apart from for Larry Lem, who says:

The Cyclops is a bit of a disaster. With full fairing and crash panels, at launch and through 20 mph, the steering shakes like a bad shopping cart wheel[...] Frame flex, cg, steering geometry, and weight of the fairing not sufficiently tied to the frame and steering area seem to be the culprits.

Oh.  Miner Details, the bike from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, also has assorted problems, but these do appear to be fixable.

Restyling courtesy of Whittney...
Afternoon.  Wind.  Bah!  Only Eric Ware in the Wedge and Amanda Chu in Ace - from the University of Toronto - ran in the first session.  Eric saw a high of over 70 mph on his on-board GPS, which was pretty impressive considering the conditions.  As is frequently the case the wind died down somewhat towards sunset and we managed to run six machines in the second session.  As is usual, Sam Whittingham was fastest, but the big news was a new European Record for Slovenia's Damjan Zabovnik in the brand new and impossibly tiny Eivie III which, like its predecessors he rides on his back, head-first and seeing out via a mirror.  He clocked 77 mph plus same change, with a legal wind speed.  But... he decided to leave his braking until after the bridge in the slowing-down zone and, when he did put on the anchors, lost control and went down and off the road.  Damjan is unhurt; I haven't seen the bike yet but imagine it'll be a bit untidy.  Honourable mention to Todd Reichert in the Ace; he went over 60 mph on his first run over the full course.

The local Highway Patrol are being very active in town at the moment.  There were no fewer than three of them lurking within a couple of hundred yards last night, and Chris Broome was duly stopped for having a blown headlight bulb.  We came back to the motel the back way, just in case...

Curious thing seen on the road: I was going to say "Damjan, rotating furiously on his side" but apparently this is fairly normal as he's got the most hours of any member of the NV-305 Flying Club.  So it was probably the patch job which NDOT carried out earlier in the day on some of the nastier gouge marks which have appeared in the road since last year.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Day 9: Battle Mountain, NV

Italian GP not available as online streaming video anywhere I looked chiz, but Forza Ferrari and yar boo sucks to Lewis Hamilton, the silly.  Although the wrong Ferrari won.  Again.

Sunday in BM involves a certain amount of lifting of Heavy Things, including plywood, straw, big warning signs, smaller distance signs, sandbags, Larry Lem's new bike, etc. etc.  This year's best-kept secret was finally let out of the bag when Jonathan Woolrich turned up unexpected by anyone save moi.  And there was great rejoicing.  Earlier I had had to bite my tongue when Kim Nelson, from the Chamber of Commerce, had been in e-mail contact with Jonathan, but he couldn't make it this year and she sure hoped he would in 2011.  Here is a picture of the by-now-traditional Sunday er, tradition, viz. Larry Lem fettling his latest creation:

Also starring L-R on benches: Julius Makuch, Han van Vugt, Georgi Georgiev, plus the back of Mike Sova and Ellen van Vugt's leg.
Curious thing seen on the road: a cow.  The cattle are supposed to be on the opposite side of the fence from the road. so if it's still there tomorrow morning, there will be a roping contest.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Day 8: Rock Springs, WY - Battle Mountain, NV

Another early start and, while it was finally sunny, it was also below freezing.  Top stays up, I'm afraid.  While I could have blasted straight down I-80 to Battle Mountain, my attention had been drawn to a scenic detour, so off the freeway at Evanston, WY, fill up the tank and head south down WY-150, which soon turns into UT-150 on account of the state line getting in the way.  Here is a particularly compelling piece of scenery:

A mountain, yesterday
This is Bald Mountain, so-called because it has no hair.  Or something.  It is reached via the imaginatively named Bald Mountain Pass, and here be a couple of photos which prove I'm not making it up:


Not a brilliant road compared with some on this trip, but more interesting than a busy interstate.

Which is rejoined on the way into Salt Lake City, and which boasts both the most confusing route around its epicentre and some of the least edifying driving I've witnessed anywhere, with the possible exception of Belgium.  Lane discipline is clearly something which is regarded as optional.  Once I've finally carved my way through the melée and out the other side, there is a hundred miles of unrequited tedium to the Nevada state line.  As is customary, I paid a courtesy visit to the Bonneville Salt Flats.


Here was also parked a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, albeit one disguised as a Dodge to save on Chicken Tax, with a rather distinctive number plate.  "No" I thought, "it must be a coincidence", got back in the motor-car and prepared to take my leave.  A quick glance in the mirror showed, however, that it was not a coincidence but rather Ellen and Hans van Vugt, driving Garrie Hill's van.  The opportunity was too good to miss:

Ellen & fairing at Bonneville

With the photographic niceties dispensed with, we made our separate ways to BM - by now I had the top down and speeds of over 75 mph result in your head falling off - and arrived at about 4 pm.  Because I am an acting stand-in assistant deputy vice-Organisator this year, it was a relief to note that my fellow Organisators Chirs Broome and Mike Sova were also here in one piece.  Vaguely Organisatorial Things have now been done, dinner scoffed and the Babbage-Engines updated with today's entry.  I shall leave things for now, as I may just get up at Stupid O'Clock to watch the Italian GP.  Alsonso on pole, Massa third, Forza Ferrari!

Curious thing seen on the road: a large flock of sheep being herded by three dudes on horseback and a rather lazy sheepdog.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Day 7: Bozeman, MT - Rock Springs, WY

First, some statistics from yesterday:

  • Number of daft magpies sent prematurely to Magpie Heaven: 1.  I know that roadkill was jolly yummy, but you do need to keep an eye out for big noisy yellow things.
  • Number of daft women sent prematurely to Daft Woman Heaven: 0.  Close, though.  Dear lady, if you are to cross the road without looking out for big noisy yellow things, at least do so somewhere other than just around a blind left-hander, or else you'll miss The Rapture.
And so to Friday.  Google Maps said it was 600 miles from Bozeman direct to Battle Mountain, so I opted to renew the acquaintance of an old friend and hopefully make the odd new one too.  The old friend being the Beartooth Highway between Red Lodge and Cooke City, over which I went last year.  On leaving Bozeman, yes, you guessed right, it was raining.  However it had cleared by the time I left I-90 for MT-78, which is far more fun than the approach to Red Lodge from Laurel, to the extent that I actually contemplated having the top down. A twinge of apprehension about conditions at the top of the pass made me decide otherwise, and a good thing too.  Here is what the top of the Beartooth looked like last year:


Here is what is looked like today:


with the added pleasure of a temperature of about -4.  I soon came to realise why SNO tyres are narrow, but the motor-car's Electronik Brane made sure that I didn't get Killed to DETH falling off the road, and nor did the slightly scared couple in the Nissan Altima who were waiting near the top for some sucker to guide them through the worst bit.

Once safely back out of the clouds and SNO it was left onto WY-296, aka the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway, follows the route taken by Chief Joseph as he led the Nez Perce Indians out of Yellowstone National Park and into Montana in 1877 during their attempt to flee the U.S. Cavalry and escape into Canada.  It is a Splendid Thing, but given its name, I can't help but feel that calling the highest point on the road "Dead Indian Summit" is just a tad insensitive.

Briefly back onto vaguely familiar ground into Cody.  Exxon, if your stupid "gas" pump will not even get to the stage of interrogating my credit card, well, it was your loss and Shell's gain.  South now over the high plains to Thermopolis and a splendidly scenic run down the Wind River canyon.  Natch at the other end the White Man has built another dam.  Then south-west on WY-28, which is good going up and unimaginably tedious after crossing the Continental Divide at South Pass.  US-191 down into Rock Springs isn't much better, but at least when I had to slow down because some berk had pulled out of a junction in front of me, I resisted the temptation to blast past at 100 mph.  Good thing, really, as the berk in question was also the sheriff.

Curious thing seen on the road: a bloke in a dirty brown Saturn who, when dropped because my overtaking, cornering and hill-climbing ability far exceeds that of his crummy little Vectra knockoff, would eventually catch back up - and bear in mind that I've got the cruise control set to 70 mph - and then doesn't even try to overtake.  I was beginning to think I had a stalker.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Day 6: Ontario, OR - Bozeman, MT

I'd better make this quick as I'm running on flatteries tonight.  This is because some genius not only put all the power sockets in the room at waist level - meaning my US/UK adaptor will fall out of the wall immediately on insertion - but has also put them behind the TV.  Genius.  Also the motor-car's keyless transmitter fob thingy keeps scrambling my room key's brane.



The observant among you may notice that today's route is the same as day 5 from last year, only in reverse.  This is because there are some excellent roads on the way, or rather there would have been had it not rained.  For.  The.  Whole.  Bloody.  Day.  It's still raining now, too.  Still, the run through the woods and meadows of the Salmon River valley was worth the price of admission even if Seven Miles Hill wasn't.  Seven Mile Hill climbs from White Bird to Grangeville, was completed in 1975 and replaced the multi-hairpinned White Bird Grade, bits of which are still visible.  Though not very visible today, as half the ascent was in cloud thick enough that seeing the end of the bonnet was a squint.




Shortly after filling up at Grangeville, though, one encounters this sign:





which is enough to send spasms of joy through my every pore, tempered with the knowledge that while I was taking the photo, a GBFO lorry went through.  Fortunately said lorry was collecting some construction equipment and was already out of the way when I arrived; thus the entire 99 miles up to the top of Lolo pass required overtaking a mere seven other vehicles.


A brief bit of I-90 around Missoula was followed by the back route to Anaconda, where the chimney is still alive and well.  Then back on the 90 for a further short stretch around Butte - birthplace of Evel Knievel, rubbish stuntman fans - before recrossing the Continental Divide over Pipestone Pass.  At which point I could no longer be arsed with retracing last year's route and jumped back on the freeway for the last fifty-odd miles to Bozeman, where I remembered the location of the liquor store.  I hope in the name of $DEITY that the weather picks up tomorrow, because this is making me rather cross.



Curious thing seen on the road: it has to be the four trucks each hauling the blade of a wind turbine as, although that red car lurking in someone's front yard near Riggins looked like a Renault 16, I find it hard to believe that one survives to this day in rural Idaho.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Day 5: Lakeview, OR - Ontario, OR

A game of two halves, Brian, except for the weather, which was uniformly cold, wet and BLEANNo roof-down motoring for Mr L today chiz.  Part the first ran from Lakeview to Prineville via bend, and was dull except for the bits of US-97 which are surfaced with cheese.  This has allowed passing lorries to carve bloody great ruts into them, which in turn means that Flash 'arry in his fat-tyred sports car has to hang on for grim death just to keep the bugger pointing in a straight line.  So instead I shall talk about Hair,for reasons which will become apparent when you, Constant Reader, reach the bottom of this post.

There are two types of hair which work in a convertible, viz. short hair and hair long enough to be tied back.  Mine is neither.  Therefore it either whips about my face, to the detriment of forward vision, or else has to be stuffed under a hat.  I have a fine IHPVA bucket hat, but wearing this at the wheel of a Corvette would make me look a right knobber.  I also have a Cat Diesel Power baseball cap, but my hair still sticks outs at odd angles and makes me look like Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon 2 or, put another way, a right knobber.  I am thus forced to conclude that, far from feeling sorry for Dr Hook's Lucy Jordan, one should be relieved.  Because if she had ridden to Paris in a sports car with the warm wind in her hair, she'd have arrived looking like the wreck of the Hesperus.


Part 2 the second of today's run was altogether more fun.  US-26 is entertaining, OR-245 is a fully-fledged Daft Wee Road, as is OR-86 and its continuation into Idaho, where the speed limit on roads such as US-95 is 10 mph higher than it is in Oregon, where the Safety Nazis live.  The fun was a bit spoiled when the "Range" display on the motor-car's dashboard stopped telling me I could do another 80 miles and starting muttering about "Low Fuel", the electronic git.  However some restraint with the right foot allowed me to reach Baker City on fumes.  Following which there was a Deluge of Biblical proportions.  And a corner which, in his state of Being-a-Bozo, Mr Larrington attempted to take at least 10 mph faster than conditions would permit.  Big slide.  Wooo!  Scare-eeee!  Note to self: you are not The Stig.

OR-86 leads into the depths of Hells Canyon.  Here is a view of what it shouldn't look like,
but does, because the White Man came along and buggered things up by building Hells Canyon Dam some way downstream.  Also here is Oxbow Dam, which was another means by which the White Man buggered things up royally:

Anyhow, I am now in Ontario, of which there are a Several outside Canada.  I am fed and watered and in need of a kip, because this corner of Oregon runs on Mountain time instead of Pacific, and I am not going to get it, because there is a crying baby next door.  Bah!

Curious thing seen on the road: Bret Michaels'1 tour buses:

They're parked outside the Super 8 across the road.

1 - former front-man of 80's hair-metal bozos Poison, that's who...

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Days 0-4: Larrington Towers - Lakeview, OR

Firstly, Constant Reader, apologies for the lack of updates so far this trip; this has been caused by lack of Internets, sleep or both.  Anyway, I am here in Lakeview, which is near, er, (consults road atlas) Goose Lake, which is, er, (consults Wikipedia) a large alkaline glacial lake located in the Goose Lake Valley on the Oregon-California border.  Anyway, to the start.


Friday September 3rd was much the same as Friday September 4th last year, except that I didn't get to choose the seat I wanted, because BA's on-line check-in system, no doubt programmed by gits, made me spend ages entering my passport details, which BA already know.  Did I mention that they're gits?


Much the same could be said about September 4th this year, i.e. Terminal 5 is still a great echoing barn full of desperate people sitting on the floor which, in the unlikely event of his ever witnessing the scene, would doubtless make Lord Bloody Rogers' head explode.  And I flew to San Francisco this time, and instead of a polished performance by National Car Rentals we had a farcical ceremony courtesy of Hertz.


You'd think that when you make a booking in February, and the car you reserved is no longer availble, their Babbage-Engine would, well, Do Something.  Like, oh, I don't know, tell you.  Clearly more Rise of the Gits in the programming stakes, innit.  After much faff they were able to set me up with a Corvette convertible, and off I duly trot to stall 124.  There it is, all yellow, and shiny, and completely lacking in the vital not-a-key required for the Performance of Useful Work.  Such as opening the boot, and switching on the engine, and things.  Stomp off, collar Hertz lackey.  She cannot find the missing not-a-key, which has no doubt wandered off in some menial's pocket, but instead offers me a different car.  Without the TwatNav for which I have paid.


I am this: cross.


She disappears again and returns an age later, having located a third car, this one with the TwatNav, for which I have paid.  It is parked opposite the non-functional one, exactly where I'd told her it was twenty-five minutes earlier.  At last.


Incredibly, The Luggage fits in the boot and I tell the TwatNav to find me the quickest route to my friend Ariane's place in Alameda.  I probably should have listened, but the Bay Bridge is much more fun than the San Mateo-Hayward.  Doubly incredibly I arrive at almost exactly the time I said I would.  There is BEER, and subsequently a trip for food in Oakland, accompanied by Ariane's friend Maria, who is Argentinian and fit. 


Curious thing seen on the road: me. 


Apropos which, I am hungry now, so will continue this drivel after I have found Nice Things to put in my mouth...


Safeway to the rescue!


On Sunday September 5th it is time for me to be scared, as Ariane is taking me sailing.  In my worldview, boats should have engines, and fridges full of cold BEER, and other luxuries.  Ariane, on the other hand, is of the yottie persuasion.  There are two sorts of yatchs; the three hundred foot motorised ones which cost more than a guided missile destroyer and are owned by people called Khashoggi and Abramovich, and those with sails.  Ariane's is one of the latter. 
A yot, yesterday
Actually two of the latter, but as one can only sail one at once,we're going out on the smaller of the two, which is twenty-three feet long.  A yahct is basically a life support system for a colony of ropes, but calling them "the rope which performs function X" would remove the air of mystique, so they all have odd names.


Anyway, I was supposed to be terrified, but wasn't, even when we came under attack from Somali pirates.  Packing up a yacht even after the shortest excursion takes about four hours and makes one thirst for BEER.  So we went to Petaluma Ytahc Club, which was full of Alamedan boaty types, some of whom had even sailed there, and ate and drank and were merry. 


Curious thing seen on the road: a Morris Minor.  


On Monday September 6th I took my leave and headed north to Eureka, there to visit my friends Al'n'Alice.  Al'n'Alice have been Organisators-In-Chief of the Battle Mountain event for a Several of years, but alas Alice was recently damaged in a bizarre gardening accident which saw her fall from a great height and damage a foot and a back.  The X-rays are spectacular, but I jump ahead.  One can get from the Bay Area to Eureka by heading straight up US-101, but that would be dull, so I took a minor detour on some Daft Wee Roads. 
A device for turning petrol into noise
A Corvette makes a noise like the Battle of the Somme when it goes over 3500 rpm, but on the other hand the presence of four howitzer-sized exhaust pipes immediately below the boot means that your shampoo, shower gel, whisky etc. take an age to cool down afterwards.


But anyway.  I did not linger chez Al'n'Alice,as the poor lass is in a very sorry state, but instead put up at the Humboldt Bay Inn, and meant to get an early night, and didn't.


Curious thing seen on the road: a 1950 "Bullet-Nose" Studebaker. 


And so to today or,for those of you reading in BRITAIN, yesterday.  Al had recommended taking CA-299 from Arcata to Redding, and he was right except for the roadworks which prevented me from having a scrap with a briskly-drive MINI.  Probably just as well, as I'd have lost.  I once got duffed up on eighty miles of winding Colorado back road by a non-local in what was essentially a Vauxhall Astra while in that forty-valve six-speed 4WD masterpiece the Audi S4.


The other half of CA-299 is mostly rather dull, I'm afraid, and DJ Random is being anything but..


Curious thing seen on the road: a huge Peterbilt truck, in bright pink!