Just a little add on on the front as I leave for MOngolia tonight: In case they let us use them here's the SPOT link: SPOT tracker And here's the organizer route info: stage descriptions you can check the organizer website for updates too: SSER Chasing Rally dreams Where does it all begin? Where do our dreams come from? I’m not sure how mine started, but I sure do have them, maybe it was when I bought my new bike, June 2006? It was the first bike I’d had since 1998 and the first offroad bike I’d ever owned. Offroad roaming adventures were whispering in my ear: my best buddy’s influence talking from as early as ’97 when he bought his BMW F650 and talk of the Trans Labrador Highway? The single random episode of Long Way Round I happened across on TV in ’05? Almost 6 months after I bought my 640 Adventure I joined ridetherock.com where I met some interesting folks and went for my first real offroad ride to Shoal Bay, this one was an eye opener for sure, all rocky and loose with plenty of water for variety. I almost made it back up without a tipover from kicking myself into neutral on a tricky section, but that’s what it’s all about. To my girlfriend’s dismay I soon found myself on the forum all the time chatting about this and that and I distinctly remember Geoff commenting that I could be the first Newfoundlander to enter the Dakar. “No way,” says I, “I don’t have those kinds of skills.” But memories of seeing rallies on TV as a kid, wide eyed asking my dad what it was, all came back to me; I didn’t know what I was seeing then, but it made sense now. Then came Adventure Rider and a whole new world of like minded lunatics with stories upon stories of riding in exotic places and of course the bloody Dakar always lurking there in the background. But we all need distractions and daydreams to occupy our minds from time to time don’t we? Hanging out on the asylum, a guy I knew many years ago in Jasper found me and invited me to check out an Adrider dualsport rally, the CroMag campout in Maine. The Trans Labrador Highway trip I was supposed to go on with Chief got waylaid the year before by work so I figured this was the perfect opportunity to check that out on my “rally” bike. Labrador was fun, but I barely took any photos ‘cause I was having a hoot jamming down the road as fast as was comfortable watching the trail of dust spin off behind me, feeling like I was in my own personal rally through the middle of nowhere. I was having the time of my life right up until I got a ticket for 41 km/h over the speed limit, good for 4 demerit points on my license, probably a hike on my insurance not to mention the fine. I was pretty bummed for days after that. Then there was the rally, it was a lot of fun and I spent plenty of time jawing with folks who’ve done big adventures I can only imagine. That trip included a day riding a track in Quebec on a 640E with super moto wheels and a turn on my friend’s Ducati too. Well and truly hooked on two wheels now. Hmmm… Pretty soon I found myself checking out old Dakar pics and stories which led to me finding out that only 5 Canadians had ever finished the ultimate offroad event since 1979. So I started looking for Canadians planning to race the 2008 edition, the search led me to Tod Davidson and his TD2Dakar efforts. A toodle through his blog convinced me to get in touch and offer him a little bit of cash I had sitting in a box. We had fun chatting about his bike that was being built for him and all of the other million details he was working on to get there. I was living vicariously through his planning and preparation and was watching everything I could find. Just a couple of weeks before the start I heard Tod had crashed hard in the desert and had to withdraw from the rally due to a punctured lung, only to be hit a second time by the cancellation of the 2008 Dakar on New Year’s Eve, the day before the start. I can only imagine what a blow that was to everyone that had made the Herculean effort to get there. Time marched on as it always does and I was still riding when I could between my work away and hanging out with my girlfriend. I think it was about a year later that Tod replied to one of the sporadic messages I sent him on advrider.com and he told me about what he went through after the crash that prevented him from flying to Lisbon to the Dakar startline. It was a heartrending story that included over a year of preparation and six digits of financial commitment that ended with a simple crash in the desert and another year of heartache. Then Dakar ’09 started and I was watching the highlights every night after work 300km’s offshore Newfoundland on an oilrig, I was livid when I missed a couple of stages due to the radio operator putting hockey on the available channel instead, they even had the same game on 2 channels one night! But by then I was addicted wasn’t I? In my wanderings on advrider.com I stumbled on a thread where Bob Bergman’s story was posted; this was his account of riding the Dakar in ’05 where he became the 5th Canadian to finish the grueling event. That story really struck me and Bob’s narrative seemed to soak into me; as he recounted every stage my imagination had me right there in the desert too. Half of it scared the crap out of me, half of it wanted me to be there. Some time later while writing an article for Dan and CanadianMotorCyleRider.ca he told me about his conversations with Lawrence Hacking, who happens to be the first Canadian to ever finish the Dakar in 2001, and the review of his new book about it called “To Dakar and Back”. It had just released so I ran to grab a copy at my local bookseller. Now I’d immersed myself in two detailed Dakar accounts and looked at other rally ride reports and little ideas started tapping their way into my consciousness. Now what? It didn’t take long for me to get Lawrence’s email address from Dan, and for me to ask one simple question: “do you have any suggestions for a starting point for someone contemplating the Dakar in a 3 to 5 year plan?” I was amazed at how quickly he got back to me with a definitive answer; “enter a rally, try the Mongolia Rally, it’s the cheapest and easiest of the big rallies.” As our conversation continued Lawrence was very generous with his time and knowledge including the email address for Teru Sugawara and his rally support services. If you read my last article you know that I had no idea of the Sugawara family legacy in the Dakar at the time. I was putting in all of the legwork to get there for the 2009 edition until a few months out when my better half reminded me of house renovations and a small dualsport rally I was hosting at my house for the first time that summer too. So I cancelled my plans and went with my girl Sue for a week long tour on the bike to see AC/DC in Moncton, New Brunswick and camp by the beach on Prince Edward Island for a few days too, so at least I got out for one decent ride. My rally exposure took another turn in October when I wound up in Tokyo for a couple of weeks working for Cirque du Soleil. I emailed Teru to see if he wanted to meet; Mongolia was still in my plans. Here I was riding in Teru’s car, a total neophyte with absolutely no idea that he and his dad were the HINO rally truck factory team. Yoshi has the world record for the most Dakar’s entered at 27 and the most consecutive finishes at 20. For me that day was almost as awe inspiring as being on a start line would have been! Have Rally will Travel The day I spent with them led me to write another article for Dan about my experience and to go on a new hunt for Canadians planning to run the 2010 edition. By December I was offshore working again and following a few threads on advrider where I got onto Patrick Trahan’s Dakar 2010 thread and saw his post pretty much begging for new donations to get him over one of his last hurdles: buying his plane ticket to Buenos Aires. He put up his phone number, so I gave him a call and told him I could drum up a little cash if he thought it would be any help? I also posted the details on ridetherock.com to encourage more of our members to help out; I know all of the Honda Powerhouse dealers on the island got on board too. I got Susan to mail him a couple of stickers of my logo in hopes he’d put them on his bike, not that I felt my contribution was worth that kind of space but you don’t know until you try? Then there was the Riff Raff: Rally PanAm’s informal band of fans who buy into their Dakar bids supporting privateer Jonah Street; I had already talked to Charlie Rauseo a few times about a “tourist” seat in one of their trucks to get a front row seat of the circus. This year I stepped up to help Jonah out and bought in at the Riff Raff Extreme level and have the stylish Klim jacket to prove it, not to mention getting my name on the arse end of Jonah’s bike. Then Patrick sent me pictures of his bike and there was my logo! I bought a t-shirt from Rick Hatswell too, he was headed down with Don Hatton from BC. Now I had a little ownership with 3 entries, Yaaay! The fun really began with the runup to the start of the 2010 race. I joined in the antics of the discussion thread on advrider and remained glued to my computer everyday for the next 2 weeks flipping between the thread where people from all over the world were giving up to the minute details about the riders we were following, including 7 Canadians who started, the Dakar site with it’s tracking features, among others like RallyRaidio.com for interviews with riders. When the stages finished, the highlights were quickly available for download on a variety of sites. I didn’t miss much in that 2 weeks except the full day I spent flying away on vacation. It was easy to catch up as I was waking up at 5am anyway which gave me a few hours before my girlfriend dragged her jetlagged ass out of bed. In two weeks that single thread generated over 7000 posts which really was a fun ride from start to finish, especially the days over a few pints in my favourite pub. Let me backtrack a little to before the start of El Dakaro 2010, even though Mongolia is supposed to be comparatively easy, I knew I needed to go the next step: start getting in shape, start riding more and learning more. I’d been through the Rally Management Services website any number of times starting with Tod’s bike build and had seen their rally school listed so I got in touch with Charlie again to get dates for the next one. I know, Patrick said not to waste my money on such things but it sounded like a good option to me. As for getting in shape I started to focus on gym time when I was offshore, not a huge gym but it served the purpose and beat hanging out in my cubicle of a room Back on the beach, as it’s referred to when you go home from the rigs, I went to a local gym that a friend of mine is part owner of and got them to draw up a workout program for me in hopes of fitness helping to make up for my lack of desert and sand riding skills. I was up to training 7 days a week alternating with gym and either exercise bikes offshore or my road bike on my girl's old windtrainer at home. My program had 4 onshore days and 4 offshore days to keep me interested. What was missing? A bike? One of those little ideas came creeping to the front and in January I sent a message to Tod to see if he still had his 525 sitting in his basement? Was he interested in selling it? It took a little while for him to get back to me and I tried to wait patiently for an answer. While this was going I also met with my banker and finance guy multiple times getting some dosh lined up for house renovations. When he did finally answer my PM he gave me a yes, not only for the bike but also all of his spare tires, mousse’s, original plastics and anything else still tucked away in boxes. Well now my brain was on overdrive as I tried to imagine what I’d be able to drum up to pay for it. Sigh. All of this preparation brought us up to our vacation where my girlfriend used a conference as an excuse to check out Maui. We were disappointed with the hospitality and looking forward to getting home by the end but it also brought an opportunity for me to stop in Toronto for a couple of nights to check out the bike with my own two eyes. Tod being the really nice guy he is invited me to stay the night and with a flight change my girl had a 5 hour layover there too. We both went up to his house and over a few beers we went to the basement for a look see and I liked what I saw, as I knew I would. Basically it’s a brand new KTM 525Rally built by Rally Management Services for the 2008 Dakar and only ever ridden for 3 days! It had gone to Lisbon for the start and sat lonely with no rider until it came home; two years later it was still sitting lonely and unridden in his basement collecting dust. Maybe it was time for Tod to close the door on that episode of his life? Back upstairs Tod named a price that I could hardly believe, wow. I guess it was partially his way of saying thanks to me for my little contribution to his rally dreams, and the satidsfaction of seeing the bike being ridden the way it was designed to? He told me I was one of only 2 people who contacted him to offer a donation, sad that it’s damned near impossible for privateers to find sponsorship money for the Dakar in North America despite being the largest motorsports event in the world. Anyway, Sue looked at me and she knew I was going to go for it, there was no way I could pass it up. So I drove her back to the airport for her flight before spending the rest of the night drinking beer and swapping stories while inside my head I was hopping up and down like a jumping bean. One more night in Toronto for a meeting with a group of individuals planning a little project before I too flew home. I flew back to Newfoundland and had all of 2.5 hours at home before I was back at the heliport flying offshore again for 3 weeks. Work a 12 hour shift, then in the gym right after supper, seven days a week. I was still pestering Charlie by email for dates for the school, late March or early April was still all the response I was getting. Not to worry, there were plenty of other details to work on: Mongolia in August for one, the Skibum Soiree on Labour Day weekend for two. You remember, that eight day rally that sent me down this road in the first place? Lawrence’s connections got me in touch with Byambaa Gantulga, the owner of KTM Tours Mongolia to see about support and rental bikes so I was talking to both of them and then Mike Shirley joined as well. He owns a gym in Reno and had been the title sponsor for Rally PanAm 2010, he’s also driven one of their trucks for them for the last 2 Dakars. Yeah, tell me he doesn’t have any fun? Lawrence had met him in South America when he was tagging along the Dakar after he had to withdraw his race truck. All the logistics of shipping bikes versus rentals plus the myriad of other little details I was trying to find and figure out. And so on, and so on, and so on. Finally home again and first up was a trip to the bank to get a bank draft, then it was out to see Keith Windsor at the Toy Box to make sure my Leatt neck brace and new Arai moto helmet were ordered. I told my banker I was putting the renovations on hold–indefinitely. Now I was truly committed, I fired the draft into the mail and waited impatiently for Tod to mail the ownership and bill of sale to me. He sent the tracking number so I could see when it arrived, this got really funny one night when we had some friends over and were drinking a fair bit. For some odd reason I got on the computer to look and see where it was; the way I was reading the screen I thought Tod had mailed it back to himself, oh shit. Now my well lubricated paranoia jumped in and I gave him a call. He sounded a little confused so we both looked at our computers to compare. Well, I’m the idiot in this story and he proved it by showing me that it was still in transit and I was reading the whole tracking thing backwards. Whew! Just a little reminder of things not to do while drinking. It did finally arrive and I rushed off to DMV to register the bike to me. Yay All right, now we’re cooking with gas. Just days before work was sending me away again I flew back up to Toronto to help him pack up the bike and the other odds and sods. I got in early and figured I had some time to do a little running around the city before going up to Tod’s in the afternoon. I gave a friend on my flight a ride downtown then kept going east to visit my sister at work; boy was she surprised to see me walk in. Then I meandered back over to Mississauga to stop in at the shop where my 640 came from and where the 525 came from, Dave Grummet at Parker Bros Powersports is a very knowledgeable and helpful guy to know and he answered a few more of my questions. From there I went to find a liquor store and a bite of lunch. I stopped at a strip mall across from Sherway Gardens where I saw an Italian Restaurant right next to the liquor store. Perfect. After picking up some beer and a bottle of yummy Bison Grass infused Polish Vodka I wandered in for a bite of lunch. The wall of Scotch was immediately noticeable, holy shit! The bartender informed me that they boast the largest Scotch collection in the world and their wine selection boasts the Wine Spectator “Grand” rating which is top shelf too, at something like 5000 choices. Reading the menu I found the “Italian Stallion”, equine tenderloin carpaccio. I don’t think I’ve ever seen horse on a menu anywhere I’ve eaten so I ordered it, just because. Not bad, definitely a more gamey flavour than beef, but tasty with the oh so stinky Tete de Moine cheese as garnish. Worth trying if you ever run across it. This was my day and dammit I was going to enjoy it! With my detours behind me I headed on up the road to Tod’s enjoying the bright, warm sunny day. Trevor Wideman from Kurtz trucking was going to do an awesome favour and drive to Tod’s to pick up the bike, turns out it was going to be that evening instead of the next morning as we had originally planned. When I got to Tod’s we jumped right in to opening a cold beer and getting all the bits ready to go. All we had to do was separate the stuff that was going in a box with the bike including the body armour, clothes and MX boots I’d brought with me, and a spare set of Michelin Desert with mousses’ shod wheels. That done we gave the two stacks of spare Deserts and 3rd rear wheel the plastic wrap treatment for flying home with me. The rest of the spare plastics fit in my big suitcase and I wrapped up the spare chain, petcock and shock spring to take as a second carry-on. When Becky got home we amused ourselves with more stories, more beer, and email; then I took them out to dinner at the nearby chop house. That steak was good eating! I flew back home again the next morning to get ready for another hitch of work. It was good to hang out with Tod some more, and I have to say my thanks again for giving me a leg up and helping me chase these rally dreams.