I’ve been home from the trip for a little over a week and I’m still so totally stoked on it. First off let’s talk about the race. Racing in the desert is fun. It is super-fast and the course is built for speed. The course was low on technical challenge and featured only one descent that lasted about a minute. It was definitely a course that made me realize the importance of the road miles I’ve been missing over the winter. There was maybe 25 seconds of coasting the whole lap. That said it was a blast and everyone from East Tennessee had fun despite missing simple things, like trees and the color green, by the end of the trip.
TVB Race managed a sixth place finish out of 23 teams. Not bad for a first attempt at a 24 hour race. Overall the race was pretty stressful for us but I think we all enjoyed that aspect. Waking up in the middle of the night to take a lap, the fear of over sleeping, am I actually going to hit a cactus? took its toll. The other TVB Race teams, Yohimbe Tribe of the Durty South and Wrasslin’ Hillbillies, had admirable finishes as well. Everyone agreed that the race was great. After all, most everyone that made the trip loves to stay up all night anyway.
Everyone’s gear worked great. I think that we only had one flat the whole race out of 15 people. We did have a pre-lap flat but the punctual Kevin of Kona Bikes helped our racer out in great haste. Those of us that tested the Michelin Wild Race’r tires were pleased enough. I had a great time installing them at the last minute.
Thanks to Kona mechanic, Dave, and the guys from Fair Wheel Bicycles for the air compressor usage.
The tires went on the rims with some effort but inflated and sealed really easily once on. Everyone was running NoTubes rims and sealant. The tires are probably not the best for the hard pack desert trails of the race. However, I’ve ridden them a few times back here on the softer dirt, roots and rocks and they’ve proven to be great. They really have good cornering knobs and seem to be really solid tires. We were running the 29×2.1 in 60tpi version and these have stout sidewalls that seem like they would be difficult to cut. I would recommend them as an excellent choice for a multi-condition tire. Thanks again to Michelin for helping our trip in this old land yacht.
About the car, well it made it. We kicked it down the road all the way back to East TN and it was a great damn trip. The open road, coffee/cappuccino suicides at gas stations rule. We drove that old yacht 28 straight hours from Pecos, TX to Knoxville, TN. We stopped for gas, coffee, ice cream and for breakfast (biscuits and gravy) at the famous Loveless Café outside of Nashville. We even smuggled a six year old through a border checkpoint. This, by the way, was easy enough since the agent was distracted by the awesome car and mountain bikes on the rear rack.
The car needed a ton of work along the way. Sometimes every hour. At first the alignment was so far out it shredded a set of tires up front in about a thousand miles. There is a great sound bite of Chris from Kona saying, “I don’t wanna die” after listening to the tires squeal like crazy back and forth down the road!
We hotwired windows inside after a breaker blew somewhere in front of the firewall so we could get some ventilation. The wipers don’t work on account of the power steering not working since they run off of the same hydraulic pump. Rain-X rules, by the way. The same power steering pump is mounted straight to the crankshaft and that seems to be leaking oil but since there is so much oil all over the engine and just generally under the hood it’s hard to tell exactly where it’s coming from. We would need to put oil in the car every time we got gas, which was frequently. However, everyone on board had the right attitude and after a few stops we all knew what to do. The driver would go inside and get coffee; someone else would pump the gas all while someone else would check the oil and the coolant. We became a smoothly operating machine around a not so smoothly operating machine. It was fun, you know.
One of the best parts of the trip was the looks we’d get from drivers passing by. Some folks totally got it and some not so much. Our best passer by was a young woman on the Golden Gate Bridge. Eric was sitting out the back window filming the Lincoln’s crossing of the famous span. This young lady rolled her window down, yells to Eric, “WELCOME TO SAN FRANCISCO!” across the highway traffic sounds and then she blew him series of kisses! How great is that memory? Welcome to San Francisco indeed.
A really great feature of the car is the suicide doors. It’s cool having to coordinate leaving the back seat with the person in the front seat. It also looks super cool and genuinely makes getting in and out more fun. The Lincoln even has a little light on the dash, which still works, telling you when a rear door is ajar. It’s pretty amazing that this small safety feature is still function and maybe we should have heeded its warning better at first. At one point Chris was leaning against the door trying to take a little nap and the door just swung open, on the interstate! He almost fell out and really scared all of us! Luckily all Kona employees are super quick and agile and Chris was able to save himself a ninja roll down the highway.
Jack, our mechanic and photographer, pulled off some really great wrenching the whole trip. One of the best repairs he made was to the steering linkage. The rubber piece that dampens vibration and takes the load off the bolts that hold the linkage assembly together had dry rotted over the years and totally disintegrated. Surprise! So, steering the car involved about 120 degrees of play and a terrifying knock as the assembly floated between the bolts. Jack managed to make this repair in the middle of the campground using a log as a vice. It was very involved and big thanks to Dave, Kona mechanic, for the hack saw and socket set. Jack got everything back together and the steering went from literally deadly to 80% perfect in an afternoon.
So much good happened that the bad stuff didn’t even matter. That’s where this trip gets a little bit philosophical. This trip was a great success not so much because of stellar planning but rather because of a “we cannot fail, problems offer solutions” kind of attitude. This trip didn’t take a ton of money. It didn’t take a brand new Sprinter van and $20,000. All it took was waking up each day knowing that we couldn’t fail. It’s not because we’re cocky, it’s because we realize that life is life and it’s there for experiencing. We were challenged. There were moments where that damn car seemed so dangerous that we questioned what we were doing. A little help from an alignment shop with the right attitude bailed us out. Kicking that 47 year old, 3 ton hunk of beautiful junk down the road, racing a race we’d never of thought to do otherwise proved to be an experience of a lifetime. I can’t wait until the next TVB Race adventure. Kona knows this; Michelin knows what’s up. Let’s have fun. Opportunity knocks so just be sure you fill your life with premium.
Also, the car made it into the campsite just fine despite a few discouraging words. It can go anywhere as far as I’m concerned.