Well, as some of you know, I recently traveled up to Colorado with some of my fellow CMRA troublemakers with the intent to race the Pike's Peak International Hill Climb. I didn't expect it to be easy by any means, but I had no idea how much of a challenge it would actually turn out to be.
I should start off by saying that without Tom Anderson and Mark Niemi, I wouldn't have ever even HEARD of the hill climb, much less garnered any interest in racing it. I ended up with my Aprilia SXV450 almost by accident, and while it was about as reliable as a condom made out of tissue paper, when it did
manage to run it sure was a hoot to ride.
The race was initially slated for the first week of July, with a weekend of open practice for a select few bikes and cars taking place in mid-June. Luckily, my pal Mark Niemi gave me an early heads-up about the practice weekend (which wasn't highly advertised), and I was able to be one of the select few riders who got to get a few runs in before the actual race week - this would turn out to be absolutely crucial, as I would get almost NO practice time during race week.
Following a hectic and problem-filled season of half-assedly racing at CMRA events, with the intent to get all the Priller's issues sorted out prior to heading to Colorado (ha!), I ended up grenading my motor just a few short weeks before the practice weekend. Luckily, Phil and Ryan Warren at SixThreeCycles in Dallas came through with a spare 450 motor that he just happened to have laying around, and I managed to get the motor stuffed in the bike in time to make a few laps during the last session of a Fastline Motorcycle School trackday at Mercedes-Benz Sugarland Road Course / Motor Sports Ranch Houston on the Sunday before I was to leave for Colorado - huge thanks to Tim Tucker for allowing me to show up at the end of the day and get on the track. The practice weekend on the mountain went without any major mishaps, and although the temptation was high to get out there and try and go fast, I concentrated on learning the course and getting comfortable rather than trying to set any records - which, realistically, was PROBABLY not a whole heck of a lot faster than if I had been. I made some good progress, and headed back to Texas confident that I'd be ready for race week.
Once the initial race week rolled around, wildfires in the Waldo Canyon area of Colorado (right around the corner from Pike's Peak) caused the race to be postponed, and we began scrambling to adjust to the new date. August 12th was announced as the new date, and luckily it fell on a week(end) that myself and my crew of miscreants were able to attend. Jesse Davis, Ryan Warren, Dustin Sperry, and myself set forth from the Six Three Cycles hangar on the evening of Friday, August 3rd (which also happened to be my 26th birthday) for an adventure that we would never forget.
Upon arriving in Colorado, we began getting adjusted to the altitude. The thin air and cool climate was quite a change from the 110+ temperatures and sauna-esque humidity that we'd been experiencing in Texas, and we welcomed the atmosphere with open arms. Our hotel was located right at the base of Pike's Peak, and while it lacked cellphone reception (well, for all of us except JD and his Jesus-phone), it had a hot tub and was exceptionally awesome in just about every aspect. Tech inspection wasn't until Tuesday, so we had a few days to get into trouble prior to having to act 'official', and did we ever.
I wasted no time convincing the crew to head to what we'll refer to here as a 'Venue of Lesser Morals', and proceeded to do exactly what I do in those types of places - get blackout drunk, harass the...er...'waitresses', and let everyone with me know how much of a jackass I am. Ultimately I ended up abandoning everyone at the hotel, informing them that they could 'ride their f****** motards back to Texas for all I care', and disappeared to not-even-I-know-where, only to return the next morning with tail-between-legs and what some circles would refer to as a 'hangover to end all hangovers'. Luckily, the fellas have known me for long enough to know that I'm an idiot, and didn't take any of my shenanigans seriously.
I've really, really, really, REALLY gotta stop drinking.
Anyways, I spent most of Monday recovering and apologizing, and we got ready to carry on with what we originally came there for - to conquer Pike's Peak. Tech inspection breezed by without so much as a hiccup, with the exception of forgetting my leathers at the hotel room. Those of you who know me know that this is practically unheard of, as I'd NEVER take off and forget my leathers. Really. I wouldn't. Wednesday showed up early, and we were set up in the middle of the mountain at Glen Cove for the first day of practice in the middle section.
Dustin got the bike unloaded and started up as I wandered off to find a rabbit to check on, and the morning seemed to be going smoothly - smoothly until it was time to actually get on the bike and ride. To my horror, and to the dismay of my pit crew, the bike decided it didn't want to start. We found a stick to poke at it with, and although we spent a good half hour hopping around, hooting, and poking at it with a stick, the Pezzo di Merda refused to fire. The downside to running three different sections of practice on a mountain that has only one way up or down is just that - there's only one way up or down. Since we were unable to do anything productive with the bike, and since (being the genius that I am) I'd opted to leave my electrical testing equipment back at the hotel, we were dead in the water. We hiked down the mountain a bit and watched some of the cars practice on the bottom section, and once that was said and done we hiked back up to Glen Cove to drag my beaten steed back down to the hotel. A few quick tests pointed to a failed fuel pump, and with a few quick phone calls I had another one on the way. Unfortunately though, it wouldn't arrive until the following afternoon, meaning I would miss out on the second day of practice, which would see the bikes running the top section of the mountain from Devil's Playground up to the Summit. Luckily, we'd come (relatively) prepared, and quickly prepped Jesse's 450, complete with vintage 1996 Alan Tan Rain Tires, for me to practice on. We hit the hot tub and then got to bed early, ready to give the mountain another shot the next morning.
3am rolled around sooner than expected, as it always seems to do, and we headed up the Pike's Peak Toll Road for what we hoped would be a day of successful practice without any bike issues. What we didn't count on, however, was not having enough diesel in my Dodge to make it up the mountain and back down. Driving up the Peak is not nearly as easy as you'd think, and it's actually pretty tough on a vehicle to creep up and then crawl back down - the Park Rangers at the bottom recommend at least a half tank of fuel due to the more-than-average load put on a car or truck's engine needed to make it up and down the super-steep incline. I had just over a quarter of a tank, and my Lie-O-Meter informed me that I had approximately 98 miles left until empty....which, by Crystal Reservoir turned to 60; by Glen Cove turned to 40; and by Devil's Playground turned to 'You're almost out of diesel. Stop driving, dummy.' We frantically scourged the pits for someone with a jug of diesel, but since diesel motorcycles aren't currently the rage here in the states, no one had anything to offer. Oh well, we'll deal with that later, let's get the bike going.
I've always felt uncomfortable and sketchy riding someone else's bike, and this cold, crummy Thursday was no exception. I wasted no time throwing down the absolute slowest practice time of the day, and on my second session up the course managed to lose the front and topple over.
Fun fact, prior to just now Jesse didn't know that I crashed his bike. Sorry buddy! Betcha can't even tell
I collected myself and the bike and finished the run, and after being persuaded by Craig Gleason (who would go on to qualify on pole and finish 4th, setting some of the fastest 450 times of the week) to quit being a b*tch and keep practicing, made a few more incident-free trips up to the Summit. The rest of the morning went off without any more incidents, and with Jesse behind the wheel of my truck managed to coast down the mountain and sputter into a fuel station trouble-free. We continued on into Denver to collect the necessary parts to get the Priller back up and running, and upon getting back to the hotel and installing the new fuel pump she fired right up and ran like a champ. Whew! Crisis averted!