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April 1999

Merf's Big Stupid Adventure...


Having grown restless within my local circuit the last few years, I decided to try something a little different this year and race a few National Enduros instead of concentrating on the local circuit. That meant the first race of the year for me was Salinas Ramblers MC, Coalinga National in Coalinga California.

I discussed my plan with one of my riding buddies, Rex McKinney, and he quickly decided that this sounded like a plan. The plan for this race involved leaving Rex's house in Denver CO at 5:30 AM. I got to Rex's house around 11:30 the night before and we enjoyed a few malted beverages before retiring around 12:30. Rex put it very nicely when he said "There's only one 4:45AM and it's UGLY"

We left Denver at 5:30 AM. While driving through Breckenridge, and stopping to get gas, it was -17F. Man, it's hard to get motivated to race in that kind of temperature. The drive out was pretty unremarkable except for two areas of interest. Shortly after leaving Green River UT, we came into the San Rafeal Swell. MAN! That has to be one of the most beautiful stretches of interstate highway in the US. Not too long after leaving that area, we crossed in to a short corner of Arizona, in an area called Virgin River Canyon, I think. This 12-mile stretch was almost as beautiful as the SRS. Immediately after leaving that area, we were in Nevada. After that canyon, and being thrust into an area where there's nothing but Sagebrush and prime rabbitat we decided that "Nevada" must be a pioneer word for "Butt ugly but a good place to build a gambling mecca" We trekked on. We had initially planned on driving straight through to Coalinga and worrying about a place to sleep upon arrival, but better sense somehow found a home on board and coerced us into spending the night in beautiful downtown Barstow. Around 6:30 the next morning we awoke, showered, and began the pancake search. After a nice pancake an coffee breakfast, we drove the remaining distance to Coalinga.

We checked into the motel and made the 45-minute drive to the race site up a very nice valley. We found the race site, signed up and asked where the jetting area was, only to be told we had to drive another 5 miles down the road to the Clear Creek OHV area. Sigh. Being the good guys, we made the trek and got jetted without much trouble. Upon our return we found many riders jetting in the camping area. Sigh. Oh well, we prepped, fiddled, taped, and otherwise kept ourselves busy until the 6PM riders meeting. The meeting came and went without much additional info so we made the return trek to the motel in the dark.

We wanted to be at the site by 7:15 or so, so doing the math revealed that we needed to get up around 4:45, again. Sigh. We awoke, did the pancake search again, this time in full gear (good thing there aren't many people eating breakfast at 5AM) and set out once again for the race site. We made it there by around 7:15 as planned, but it was COLD! I sat in the truck for 30 or so minutes trying to keep warm and fell asleep in the drivers seat. I awoke with a start realizing that I still needed to mount my computer, fill the camelback, find my boots, etc. I'm a slow starter in the morning so this was a major problem for me. I only had about 30 minutes before we started. I managed to make it to the start about 7 minutes early.

8:39 rolled around and we were off! The first part of the race was pretty easy fire road, and changed to 18MPH shortly after the 3.0-mile check. Figuring I could do 18 in just about anything out west, I left the mile check at the top of my minute. About 20 feet later I was rudely introduced to a manzanita infested, rock strewn, eastern facing valley. Man it was hard to see with the bright morning sun shining right in my face. I was caught completely off guard by the section and carded a very nice 7 at the next check. I also noticed that my normally failsafe Pacemaker had decided to turn itself off. Great, I'm 1 check into a race

I've just driven 1100 miles to and my computer is dead. Beautiful! About this time I was having all these bizarre thoughts and daydreams of 100 miles of what I'd just come through and started thinking about it

being a long day. It turned out to be a perfect mix of challenging trail and easy sections. The newly found power coming from the reduction in altitude was welcome and very handy in the velcro-like soil. We rolled into first gas, and I promptly dumped 2.5 gallons into my 3.0 gallon tank. A buddy on our minute has the exact same bike but with the stock 2.2 gallon tank. It was also his first enduro. I was sure Scott was out of gas when he came rolling into the break, and announced that he'd fallen more in those 40 miles than the previous 10 years. He'd tweaked his knee as well and said he was done. As he tried to start his bike, he realized it was out of gas! Talk about close calls. I removed my dead computer, placed it in the trailer and waited for Rex to signal the departure time. As we left 1st gas we crossed Clear Creek (?) and scrambled up a rocky hill climb that was littered with stuck bikes. I got stuck once, and was barely able to restart without going back to the bottom. As we crested the hill, I knew I was behind and proceeded to try to make up some time. About a mile later, I came over a small hill and there was a check, with the clock on the right side. As I rode in I noted the clock said 8:32:xx 32? What th.. 32?! No way. I leaned over and watched in disbelief as the worker marked 8:32 on my card. I'd just burned a check by 7 minutes. End of game. Out of contention. Damn. DAMN! I didn't find out until the end of the race what had happened, but it didn't matter at that point, I was screwed. I decided to just motor on out and try to finish in case the course became extremely brutal and everyone except me DNF'd. No dice. It was just more of the same fun stuff for the next 40 miles. I finished my day with a score of 72. The class winner carded a 42. Take away my "stupid" 32 points and I finish with 40. Sigh. Such is racing.

Congratulations to the SRMC for a great event and I hope to return next year! My friend who ran his first enduro claims it was the most fun he's had on his bike in years and says it won't be his last either.

Scott is an avid MX'er by the way.

Next up in my quest this year is the Forest Hills qualifier in Forest Hills Louisiana on March 27-28. I'm going to attempt to race both days at this event, so stay tuned for more carnage. I've never done back to back races so this is sure to be entertaining.


Ken "Merfman" Murphy

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