So this year I am riding for 2 days from Vancouver to Seattle to raise money to fight Cancer. I think we all know someone afflicted with the disease and a cure will be found. Donate generously and we can beat this thing.
Click here to access my personal Ride page to donate. I appreciate all donations in any denomination. Also I will post sexy photos of me in riding gear after the race when I am discustong and sweaty!! Can’t wait.
It’s been a long time since my last post so I would like to update my Rally progress.
This weekend (April 15-17) I am attending another rally school with Charlie Rauseo and team Rally Pan AM in the Nevada desert and dunes. It should be a blast as I haven’t ridden off road since my unexpected departure from the 2010 Dakar rally. You see it has been a very busy past year.
On March 11, 2010 my daughter Madeleine Blair Hatswell was born. She was around at the time of Dakar but was in Mommy’s belly at the start line. I’m sure she heard the thunder of my rally bike go by as I crossed the podium. Bonnie is doing well and little Cooper has been very excited to have a new toy in the house!
Now a year has passed and Madeleine is already 1 year old. Time to get back to riding! I completely dismantled the Dakar Bike and rebuilt it to really learn about the mechanical intricacies of the machine. Probably should have done that before the race though… I found that the wires to my cooling fan were pulled apart so I didn’t have any additional cooling. Not that I am making excuses for not completing the Dakar but a simple wire pulled out was causing my bike to overheat and boil over. I wonder if I would have made it through the 3rd stage…
So now this weekend April 15- 17 I am getting together with the team and a bunch of new riders to practice navigation and long Dakar rally type routes to get ready for the next rally. What rally you say?
I am booking time for the 2011 Rally du Maroc in southern Morocco. This is the race that ended for me after 2 days with a broken leg and a helicopter ride in 2009, 8 weeks before the start of the 2010 Dakar rally. I feel I must complete this race before I look to go back to the Dakar. With a good start to the year in Nevada with the team I feel that I should be ready for a solid second to last in Morocco!
Stay tuned for more updates leading up to the Morocco rally. It is held in the end of October 2011 in Zagora Morocco.
Here is the link to my Flickr account. Take a look, there are over 1500 pics of the lead up to the most expensive and exhausting day of my life…
We have put all our photos on Flickr (okay, most of them since once of our camera’s is still in Argentina with the team). The missing pictures may take awhile to make them on but they will be great as they are the ones taken on the race course! Enjoy … these pictures include a lot of the year plus of preparation … click here for Dakar pictures
What an adventure.
I never believed that an event could be so difficult to accomplish. There has never been anything in my life that I didn’t believe that I could achieve and this one kicked the ^%$# out of me.
As you have been reading I have planned this Dakar since 2007 and have done everything that I could to prepare for what to expect. I scoured the internet for information, I read a few of the only books available on the subject, I bought a KTM bike and rode as much as I could, I even flew to San Francisco to meet Charlie Rauseo of Rally Pan Am to make sure I could see in person what was involved. In 2009 I trained in 2 of Rally Pan Am’s desert and navigation sessions in California, and I rode the 2009 Shamrock rally in Morocco that saw me end early with a broken leg. Any of my spare time during the year was spent visualizing how to get through each stage and the sand and dunes that were to come. I may have even taken a moment or two during work hours to get things organized like the sponsors, graphics and T-shirts. I was ready.
Day 1, Liason only:
What an Amazing experience, it is something that you could not imagine in your wildest dreams unless you were here. It is such an accomplishment to get to the start line that I think if the bike broke rolling out of the gate I would have still been happy. The feeling from the bike when you are riding through close to 1 Million people is euphoric.
We set off from La Rural and rode to the Obelisk in the centre of Buenos Aires. There was a podium set up so that every competitor could roll across for a photo and an announcement of his/her nationality. People from all over Argentina where there to honor us as we started the race, we were treated like movie stars. The first day was a liason stage only and we rode over 350KMs of highway that where lined with spectators the entire route. At times the crowds on the highway onramps were so tightly woven that I had to push through them like the riders in the tour de France.
Day 2, stage 1:
My start time was set for 5:18am. Of course I didn’t hear my $10 alarm watch so I slept until 5AM when Charlie woke me up, crap. I had 18 minutes to get ready and go, so I threw on my gear and raced for the start line. I was 4 minutes late for the laison but once I passed the line I knew that I had enough time to get to the start of the stage so I returned to the camp and ate a quick breakfast before setting out.
What I didn’t hear was that there was a change to the starting area and that we were required to advance our Roadbook maps 52KM into the special. I arrived just as my start time was ready. My battery had died on route because my charging system wasn’t working so I had to kick start my bike and go. I rode for 71 Kms before stopping someone to find out that the Roadbook didn’t make any sense. That’s when I was informed to move my Roadbook forward. After that the day went smoothly and I ended up finishing with zero crashes in 4th to last place. It was a good day.
Day 3, stage 2:
I couldn’t sleep in the morning so I actually was up 1.5 hours before I had to set out on the day. This gave me plenty of time to have breakfast, gear up and go. We rode the liason in rainy conditions but at least it wasn’t freezing cold. My Battery died again on route to the start, apparently the charging system gremlins got me again. It is such a pain in the behind to try and kick start a big tall Dakar bike every time you stop. I was getting worn down.
The race started and looked for a moment that it would clear up. Not a chance. It became very rainy and foggy and the visibility in some areas was zero through the goggles. I had to stop and get tissues from the locals so I could see again but then by the time I kick started the bike I had fogged up the goggles again… I fell 2 times early on because some of the track was a greasy clay and water mix. Before you could say Shazzam I was son the ground wondering what happened. Luckily there were always a bunch of locals there to help me pick up my bike. Kick start again, fog the goggle and go.
Most of the day was actually good with better visibility down the valleys and less rain so I began to pick up my pace and start passing a few bikes. I was feeling good. Then Shazzam, down again near the end of the stage but this time I put my bad leg out to stabilize the fall and I could feel the left leg ligaments stretching, ouch. I had pulled something and it didn’t feel good so I took a break at the side of the road and let the pain go down. After a few minutes I could feel that I could walk so I soldiered on to the finish. I had moved up about 10 places!
Day 4, Stage 3:
Today felt really good. Overnight my mechanic extraordinaire, Sid from the UK, had fixed my charging system for good. I also had blown my fork seals the day before and caused an oil leak near the sprocket; he had fixed it all and the bike was finally perfect. We set off again for a long liason road section and at the gas stop I moved my shifter up a notch, because of my bad knee and swollen ankle I needed the space.
It was sunny and not too hot in the morning so this felt like my best chance to have a great day so far. The stage was set for only 187Kms so that we could get back to camp early and prepare for the very early start the next day to Chile.
I started the race at 9:45am down a very dusty and soft sandy wash, I thought to my self that the bike felt very heavy right away as I rode it, it would not go where I was pushing it but it would try to follow the tracks from the previous bikes and then dig in and drop. Only about 5Kms in I had dropped the bike a few times and had to pick it up and restart, at least my electric starter was finally working. I realized not long after that I had never ridden in conditions like this and that is why I could not control the bike.
In North America there is sand but nothing like this, here they call it Fesh-Fesh and it is like riding in icing sugar a foot deep. Every attempt to get the bike on top resulted in the front wheel digging in and the bike dropping with me usually going over the bars. Then the whole process of picking it up and restarting would be repeated over and over. By noon the temperature was hovering at the 50 degree mark!! and I was exhausted.
I had been riding for just over 2 hours but had only travelled 20Kms. By this time the lead cars and massive trucks were starting to pass and it was getting really frightening. I was in a deep valley with only enough space for a car and every time I would hear the warning sentinel I would need to drag my bike into the side grass and wait and then try and start again without falling on the track for the next car or truck. Keep in mind that a Kamaz truck had killed a spectator a few days before so I wasn’t in the mood to be crushed.
I rode until 3PM and the first checkpoint at KM 71 and had pretty much decided that I was done. 5 hours of riding had only gotten me to KM 71 so how was I going to finish the next 110Kms before dark? Andrew Scott, an Aussie from my team, was there also, he decided to press on.
I waited at the Checkpoint for Half an hour and drank at least 3 liters of water while I contemplated what to do. Your mind gets clouded to the severity of heat exhaustion and the danger waiting for anyone caught in the desert with minimal water when you are thinking about the amount of time, money and effort that you put in to get to this point. So I pressed on.
I managed to ride for 7 more Kms into the softest dunes I had ever ridden on. I met Garry from Australia on the way and he was also having a terrible day. He had fallen earlier and torn up his knee badly and was contemplating the end also, you could see the anguish in his eyes and the sadness of knowing the journey will be over. I wished him good luck and moved on.
About two Kms later I had dropped my bike another 10 times and had had it stuck at the top, bottom and middle of every dune I crossed. I knew I was done. I saw the road in the distance and set on back to the Camp in Fimballa and to the end of my rally. It is nice how goggles hide the tears…
Dirk Kessler from my team had also twisted his knee on the stage and I met him on the way back, he was out also. Somehow he rode 30kms to the checkpoint with his bike pump duct taped to his leg as a splint. What a trooper. Andrew Scott made it back to the end of the stage, 18 hours after starting, at 4Am. I didn’t get to say goodbye because he was still sleeping when I left but after all of the effort he put out the organization could not let him continue.
3 out of our 5 bikes on Rally Pan Am were out in 1 day. This is a testament to the difficulty of the Dakar. The next day I was able to get a ride to La Rioja for a flight back to Buenos Aires with and Ex-pat Keith and two Turkish ladies who were heading home. Bonnie and Cooper where still there and I missed them so much, it seemed like a lifetime since I had seen them last even though it was only 4 days. Charlie made sure that the organization would take my bike back to the shipping containers and I said my goodbyes. It was time to leave this place that I had dreamed of for so long and that I had been part of for such a short moment in time.
In all I believe that I did everything I set out to accomplish except get the finisher trophy on January 17th. I was able to organize the right team with the most experience and have the time of my life while doing it. I met some of the most amazing people from around the world and saw the most amazing kindness and teamwork between people of all races and creeds. The fact the in the middle of nowhere, in 50 degree heat, a local Argentinean will give you his only supply of water shows the spirit of the Dakar touches everyone that it passes to the soul.
Everyone relax … Rick is fine … but what has been labeled one of the toughest days in Dakar history took its toll on Rick and he made the extremely tough decision that it just wasn’t safe for him to continue. He had just worked too hard to go a very short distance. If any of you were in the same boat I was in today you were sick with worry as it had been far too long between CP1 and the 117km check in …
He has a couple of minor injuries but otherwise he is fine … extremely disappointed … but fine. I am more proud of him for making the right (the very tough) decision than I would have been if he finished.
Thank you ALL for your ongoing support! We are working to get Rick home on the plane with Cooper and I on Wednesday or somehow have us all come home together. It will be nice to see my husband again as these four days have been the longest four days of my life.
Today I woke up to pouring rain and considering how Cooper and I have been handling the heat … I was pleased … Yesterday, Rick road in this rain and he said it was pretty messy! He is still having problems with his battery and puts a lot of energy into jump starting his bike. He was pretty worn out last night. He also had a couple of falls and has a sore left knee … same leg as the broken leg. It’s to be expected that it will be a little weaker than his other leg. He also had his GPS go down (which he has to have in case of emergency) so he spent time last night getting it fixed. Poor guy, he really was tired when I talked to him.
Today is a big day! Not so much for the distance, the total is just around 400km with the day ending exactly at the end of the special but it’s the first day in the dunes with a section around 30km. I guess that is why they call today the white pit! But they are keeping the day ¨short¨and tomorrow they cross the border to Chile as high as around 4,000m …. brrrrrr!
There are more pictures on http://www.flickr.com/photos/bonnieandrick
As for tracking … http://tracking.dakar.com/ASO/index_us.html … he has yet to start the special when I am writing this today.
Thanks again for all the comments and emails, I shared them all last night with Rick and they really make him feel good! OLN should have started airing their program yesterday so be sure to check it out. Last year it was half an hour per day so they mostly just highlight the pros but you never know!