As many of you know, I’ve been planning on doing some beyond century Rides for 2007. I was on the Forums section of BikeJournal.com and got an invite from “Homey”, Aka Bernie Barge, from Paso Robles, to be a part of his support crew for the 508.
His partner, Nicole Honda, was from San Mateo. The support was Jae Honda (Nicole’s husband), and Dennis Salguero from Pasadena.
On the 508, team use totems instead of numbers. Once you are assigned one. You have it for life. Bernie and Nicole had both done the race solo, as teams Basenji and Golden Dragon, so our totem was Golden Drasenji, Half Dragon and half puppy. I got to the Hotel in Valencia on Friday night. We had a “real” team meeting (vs. a couple of conference calls) and found out Bernie had pulled his hamstring playing softball. We then adjourned to our rooms and slept.
Saturday morning, I helped Jae get the Support van ready. He had customized a one-ton van for the race (helps to be married to a mechanic). He also had me drive it, so I could get comfortable with the beast.
Stage 1: Valencia to California City 82 miles
We started at 9:00. Nicole was the first rider off. We drove 24 miles and waited for Nicole to show up. I was the “feeder”. I was mixing drinks (Bernie use Perpetum, Sustained Energy, and Hammer Gel. Try Gatorade mixed with Cytomax, and Big dollop of GU thrown in. Yes, in the bottle) We would leap frog her, get out, cheer her on, asked if she needed anything and pass out what she asked for last time. We went up past the Willow Springs raceway, and past the Airplane Graveyard at Mojave, and arrived at the first stop. Time 5:06(keep in mind, the clock runs in these events, even if you are stopped) 16.4 mph average.
Stage 2 California City to Trona 70.25 miles
Bernie had decided to lower his saddle to help his hamstring. This backfired, as he got a saddle sore, and didn’t help the muscle pull. I was now driving the van. We went though Johannesburg and Randsburg. About 10 miles from Trona, we had to switch to follow mode as the Sun started to set. We drove behind Bernie, and He used the van lights to see. There was a loudspeaker on the front of the van, which we used to play music to keep the riders from falling asleep. Trona even has a bike Path! Time 4:40 Average 14.but Bernie claims it was 12. He normally does the stage at 22. We stopped and put gas in the Van, and got ready for the night. Dennis wanted some Red Bull, but the store only had Rock Star.
Stage 3 Trona to Furnace Creek 99 miles
I was back mixing stuff and rifling through the coolers. When I wasn’t busy. I tried to sleep. During the night, we handed stuff out the Van’s window. The stage climbs from 1600 feet to 2800, and then descends to 1500 feet before going over Townes Pass (4956). Nicole was going strong, and was dropping riders left and right. We started seeing a lot of the Solo riders here (they left 2 hours before us). We then went down into Death Valley and stopped at Furnace Creek at 3AM. The whole time, we would occasionally stop and massage Bernie. Time 5 hours 30 minutes average 18 mph.
Stage 4 Furnace Creek to Shoshone 74 miles.
We decided to have Nicole ride this stage, even though we were not sure if it was permitted by the rules. We were going to get clarification, but the officials at Furnace creek were not sure, and we had no cell service to call Twenty-nine Palms. I was the navigator. I sat in the front passenger seat, and Jae would poke me to wake me up when Nicole needed something. Nicole had almost DNF’ed at last year 508 with knee problems, so we stopped and massaged her knees several times) Right before the ascent of Jubilee (1285) and Salsberry (3315) passes (6am), We stopped. I got to sleep in the bed. I woke shortly before Nicole summited. She was having problems with the crosswinds on the descent. We arrived at the next rest stop in Shoshone in the morning. We had run out of Rock Star during the night, and the store had none. It was also Bernie’s time to ride. Still had no cell service.
Time 7 hours speed 10mph. It was late, but we had no choice but to get Bernie ready to ride, and we need to make that Nicole was still able to go.
Stage 5 Shoshone to Baker 56 miles
I was the Navigator again. Bernie was doing considerably better. This stage is almost all down hill. He did have to stop and throw up. We leapfrogged him at first, but after his stomach problems. We went back into follow mode. Baker has bike paths, too! At the time station, I ran across the road to restock the groceries. More Sprites, more lunchmeat and condiments, more Red Bull, and we were ready to go. We got the Ok for our strategy, provided Bernie would ride the last two stages. Time 3 hour 15 minutes average speed 17 mph
Stage 6 Baker to Kelso 56 miles.
This stage featured a 20-mile false flat with 2500 feet of gain followed by a 1500 feet descent. The main problem here was the Moonscape like pavement. I was the Navigator, as Dennis drove and Jae got Bernie ready. time 2 hours 45 minutes average 20 mph.
Stage 7 Kelso to Amboy 33 miles.
I was driving again. We followed Bernie up a 12-mile – 2000 feet climb, and down a 50 mph descent. The traffic picked up. All Riders who make to Amboy get a lei. I got a can of Pineapple Juice. Time 2 hours 30 minutes. Speed 13.2mph
Stage 8 Amboy to Twenty-nine Palms 56 miles
Per our agreement with Chris Kostman, the organizer, Bernie rode the final stage. I was 6:00 when we left Amboy, and the highway was surprisingly busy. I was driving again. Bernie had to ride up Sheephole Mountain (1500 feet in ten miles) in the dark. The plan was to swap drivers on the descent, as it is harder to drive the van close enough on the curves, but not to drive over the rider. Bernie was feeling very good at the summit, and wanted to push on. At 10 miles from the hotel, He bonked. We stopped and got him going again, and swapped drivers. At 11:30 we finally arrived! We had pizza and champagne, and piled in to one motel room at 1:00. I got to go to the Bathroom without finding a large bush first! Nicole was smarter than moi and wore a large skirt (Maybe our Great-Great Grandmothers were right with their Fashion sense) Time 5 hours 20 minutes. Speed 11.8
Monday morning. we watched the final riders arrive. Among them was Emily O’Brien, who rode the entire event solo on a fixed Gear! On our way to breakfast with the other teams, we saw several riders sprinting to beat the 7AM deadline for official finishers. We all talked about what we would be doing a year from now before heading home.
Would I do it again? You bet! I had been an official at an Ultra race before, but this my first time working as a crew. Who knows, maybe next year, Team Thunder Chicken could be showing up at best Western parking lot at 6:50 am on Monday….