Monday, February 23, 2009

Final Stage...then a Red Eye HOME!

Waking up Sunday morning was exciting and a downer all at one time. I was ready to pack my duds one last time, get off a bike for a day or two and get home to see Susie and my pups. The has all gone by so fast. As Jamie who drives the "speaker car" up front announcing said at the is kind of like leaving summer camp!

Mt. Palamar was the story for the day....word had it that folks had been camping along an 8 mile stretch 2 days prior. I wasn't sure what to expect from the last day....thousands of photo's had been shot off the bike....what scenario had we possibly missed?

Apparently we had missed quite a bit...Doug must have had 10 shots of espresso as he worked my ass off in the peleton and roadside!
Back to the mountain...the crowds reminded me of watching the Tour on TV.....huge, in the road, dressed to thrill...dressed to kill....dressed to be arrested....I haven't seen so much skin since, well that is another story.

The decent was insane! We stayed at the top, shot the leaders and jumped in behind the main field and for 11 miles looked for an opportunity to overtake the field down the hill. Instead we were bangin' and rubbin' team cars as most of the ride down we were 3 abreast at 50 mph plus!
I have described this job as 5 hours in the saddle and 15 to 20 minutes the pucker factor redlines!

Doug wanted to follow the group down to 4 miles to go off a decent just to be sure everyone cleared the grade....especially the leaders. We passed in a wide spot and hauled into town to get to the finish line in time for him to set up for the finish. After our thank yous I motored over to the curb pulled off my helmet and sat there for a minute wondering if I was just that tired or did others feel like the day was a feeding frenzy. Come to find out...3 other photo drivers felt the same as me....earned their money for the day!

As Lance came across the line, 4 officers on bicycles and 2 police motors escorted him to his rig...his days of anonymity are over.

A great week...the longest race I have ever worked....a ton of experience gained...and ready to get off the moto and drive the Mini a few days!

Thank you for your interest and reading my happenings....check in from time to time as I will continue to update over the year. No Georgia this year...bummed about that....maybe it will come back...really loved that race!

Buellton to Santa Clarita...only 120 mile transfer!

The morning started early out of Buellton as we had to click off 120 to SC....90 for the race to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena...then another 120 to San Diego for the final stage!

We decided to go back through Solvang and do San Marcos pass over to Santa Barbara then down the coast into Santa Clarita. San Marcos pass is where Lance apparently does some training according to Walt...he has run into him a time or two on the climb while visiting Santa Barbara. We took the old road which was about an 8% grade with banked 180 turns...oh yeah...I was smilin'!

Last year the run into Pasadena was foggy and rainy...this year you could see for miles! The descent into town last forever and we actually did some work off the 60+ rolling down.

In and around the Rose Bowl Doug took several great scenic's of the group as they passed...worked out really nice.

A long time friend from Shelby, Frank Wilkins who now lives in the LA area came up to Pasadena to watch the finish. We arranged to meet down at Hermosa Beach for dinner with a friend of his to catch up and chill for a while over dinner. Frank selected a nice spot down by the pier and we had a great visit!

I still had 2 hours of travel time from there to San Diego....I did not have a clue where I was or needed to go...! I punched in my hotel and followed the prompts on the GPS...must have traveled 5 different roads including a nice toll road that shot me up by UC Irvine. Man what a view of LA at night looking back!
Rolled into the Courtyard around tired. One more stage to go...with the huge climb of Mt. Palamar...5200 elevation....roughly 16 miles up! Glad I had throttle!

TT Solvang

I must admit....the days got jammed and the internet was not so available the last few days, so I am writing this retrospectively...enjoy!

Yet another beautiful day brought us into Solvang for the same time trial course as in previous years. I don't know if it was the predictibility of the event or the Lance effect....but again the crowds for the TT were staggering!

We assembled with masses of CHP motors and local motorcyclist volunteering their efforts to perform lead outs....running 50 yards in front of each cyclist around the course. Each motor and car had the cyclist name on a sticker placed on the windshield to let the crowd know who was coming up.

Our duties started toward the end as we went out with Floyd Landis and shot some side on with him as we rotated with TV to capture his efforts. It was interesting to watch his methodical breathing as he rode...very calculated it seemed.

A short time later Doug clicked off images of the remaining cyclist in a very populated horseshoe bend just before the small climb while I sat roadside and did my usual public relational duties chatting with some really nice locals who had ridden mountain bike with Floyd years ago! we have done the past three years....chased Levi down the hill as the final rider to shoot him secure his third TT victory in Solvang! Comm 2 was very generous this year allowing us to get in with Levi and TV down inside to the last two turns before the finish. We were trying really hard to get a side on shot, but TV took every opportunity that existed for that footage. I felt like Earnhardt trying to get a peak inside as we both were competing for the same shot and at the same time not interfering with Levi's line or wind. We did go through the finish and like a flock of vultures....photogs surrounded Levi as he stopped inside the fence to take in his victory! I sat there and observed the feeding frenzy from 10 feet away...the crowd went nuts as you can imagine....and he was enjoying every minute!

Shortly after the photo frenzy, Doug got his gear off the bike and I made my way over to Buellton about 3 miles away for our overnight stay...time to do

Friday, February 20, 2009

Stage 5 Visalia to Paso Robles...long and straight

The boys needed a day of they got 135 miles of flat and straight with the exception of one small bump in the course.

We left Fresno this morning around 7 am headed to Visalia...traffic was not bad and the weather was fantastic! The crowds and promotion of this race have been seems the smaller the town, the larger the crowds.

I had a new photographer today from Getty as Doug wanted to give Christian some exposure to the moto and more access to the peleton. Christian had a great day and turned some straight flat land into some interesting images. The Sierra mountain range flanked our backsides for the early part of the stage, but then we moved into orchards and grape growing terrain.
We were on the highway and passed the memorial where James Dean died which I wanted to stop and get a picture, but at the time we were busy in the just didn't work out.
The temps were mostly in the mid-60's and not a cloud around.
We had a Blackhawk helicopter hang out with us most of the afternoon....that was different. At one point with about 20 miles to go I had a Columbia/HighRoad rider flat right in front of where I was standing....a lot of fast tire/wheel changing.

The photo bikes got blocked out late in the race by the officials due to the extreme road conditions and the descent. After we finally got around, there were 4 of us moving into Paso Robles rather expeditiously as we needed to drop off the shooters at start finish as well as beat the leaders in. The ride in today was well recieved by everyone in town...they seemed to enjoy the moto's coming in hot!

Tonight we walked downtown about a mile away and enjoyed Sushi....a place called was excellent! Now it is all I can do to hold my eyes I think I will sign in tomorrow from Solvang...where the time trial is located....till tomorrow

Stage 4....115 miles...5 KOM's...snow?

Finally after 3 full on days of pouring rain....the sun came out to play! Our morning started in Merced with tons of cycling fans lining the streets to get a glimpse of their favorite rider.
Check out Lance 4 back in the photo > >>

With 5 KOM's (King of the Mountain), as soon as we dropped out of one climb the sign read 5k to the next KOM! What a day....nice wide climbs and tight twisty descents....made for an interesting day on the moto. All went well for the day with us but several riders had to ride back in an ambulance after the challenge of the mountains took its toll.

No Camry's or mudholes for me, but the conditions on top of Crane Valley Rd the final KOM were cool and snow on the ground with lots of run-off on the road which made for cheek tightning cornering for most of the day.

The general feeling once we got to the hotel in Fresno for the night was...wiped out! We took the opportunity to unwind at the back of the sag van with a cold beer and share a few stories with each other...always a time of bonding and becoming better friends. Afterwards several groups split up to enjoy some of the local fare and wind down the day.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Toyota Camry's and Mud boggin...what a freakin' day!

Stage 3 started out a little different....sort of. Yeah, the rain was falling for the 3rd straight day, but uncharacteristically, Doug was late to the start and I had not heard from him. We were set for an 11:50 start to accomodate TV and the Star Spangled Banner was wrapping up....still no Doug? The riders had left and all the team cars and most of the caravan had gone when Doug showed up on the outside of the barrier! Long story, but it had to do with logistics and a set of keys to their vehicle.

After getting away from the start area, we were a good 2 miles out of the race envelope and the traffic in downtown San Jose was as you can imagine a little congested. All I could do was follow the race route via the GPS and be patient. As it routed us out of town we were headed for Sierra Rd....which 4 miles from the start...goes straight up for the 1st KOM.
The GPS had us turn left and then right to connect with the road up which threw us into a neat neighborhood. I got behind a Toyota Camry and my 4 way flashers were going. As I approached the rear of the car, he moved over to the right as a few other vehicles had done to let us go by....only this time his move to the right was a big swing to make a left turn as if he were pulling a trailer? No turn signal, I started to accelerate to move on and in an instant he turned left right into us! It was a surreal moment in slow-mo....I jammed the brake and tried to steer left but his turn and my forward momentum created the reminder of the law of physics....two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time....bam! The right side crash bar that protects the cylinder caught the left rear wheel well and the car drug us to the curb...and we braced ourselves against the car yelling obscenities at the situation. As we came to a stop I put my feet down and did a body check of myself and Doug...all was ok and we were still upright! The kid in the car was maybe 16 or 17 going to pick up his girlfriend for a fashion show....he was pretty upset at himself for the whole situation. It took almost an hour for the officer to come do a report and I allowed him to tell what happened first....and he was straight forward and honest about the situation. Neither one of us received a citation and we were off to catch the race which by this time had already gone over the first KOM and heading to the second.

I jumped on the interestate and followed closely the GPS to drop us on the route as close as we could anticipate. If I didn't have the GPS....we would still be out there wondering around! Finally caught up with the back of the caravan and got back inside the envelope...a mere 3 hours later! We went past the group and shot a little off the front then moved ahead to get a scenic. The rain was still coming down and we were in big farm land with water standing everywhere on the road.

A beautiful green field with a vast shot of the open farmland caught Doug's eye and I attempted to turn up a tractor access road....only to roll about 10 yards and just cake up in black mud! We pulled the moto back onto the road and I moved to the other side of the caked solid.
Doug came back to the bike after making the shot and it looked like he had moon shoes because they were so thick in mud. As we pulled back on the road mud begin to fly off the tires and I started weaving slightly back and forth to clear the tires out. I bent over rolling down the road to see if the tires were clearing and looked up and damn if I wasn't heading toward the left shoulder with more mud...too late, I ran off at about 30 mph....the bike started slipping and sliding and I knew I could not correct or the front end would wash out and down we would only other option was to continue straight....right into about 2.5 feet of water in a ditch! As I hit the ditch, a wall of muddy water wailed over the windshield and I finally got the bike to a stop...feet in the ditch up almost to my knees! We were laughing so hard we about fell over in the water! After manipulating the bike and employing many years of off road skills, I got the bike out of the ditch. Me and the bike were absolutely covered in mud....looked like I had been to the Cabbage Patch mud wrestling in Daytona!

We went back to the field...shot a few more and at this point there was only 15 miles to go. So we took off to the finish line to conclude a day of adventure on the moto.
I am grateful that no one got hurt and we didn't have too much equipment damage.

Tomorrow we have 5 KOM's that start at 2000 feet and climb to over 4000 feet! Should be a dandy...stayin' away from Camry's and mud puddles!

Over and out.....

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sausalito to Santa Cruz....Hail Yea!

This morning we loaded the luggage at 5:30 am....ready to roll out to Sausalito by 6. We were idling in the parking lot as everyone finished putting on rain gear and hooking up radios etc. when a fellow moto rolled up and said...James has a flat tire.....great I thought, just what I wanted to do at 6 in the morning....but as the profile says....that is what I do.
After finding a small piece of debris in the rear tire and making the repair, we got on the 101 and headed to S town. I have ridden many miles in my life but never have I ridden in rain that hard for that long a period of time!

We were scheduled to have a meeting at 7:15 and we got into town to stop for gas at 7:17. After a fill up, we went to the start and tried to find the meeting...wasn't in the usual place? Finally located everyone in Spinnaker's restuarant on the water...warm, dry....with complimentary coffee and bagels...nice! We were late but excused. The meeting detailed the treachery of the 2 KOM's for the day and our photographer assignments.

Back to the bikes to get ready to roll out, I found a fuse had blown from the previous day. Leon had an extra so I powered the GPS back up and was a happy man!
We rolled out ahead of the neutral start and positioned ourselves to shoot the front of the peleton going across the Golden Gate...Doug kidded with me that its going to be us and TV...I said yeah and 10 other photo freakin bikes! But you know what...we had it all to ourselves...everyone else went up on the hill and shot from the Golden Gate park.
So....those photo's you see from the front of the group going across....Doug got em!

The day continued as we made our way down the coast.....pouring rain...then the sun would come out....then rain again...whatcha gonna do. We hooked a left up Tunitas Creek Rd off Hwy 1 into some of the most beautiful Redwoods I have ever seen....look for some great photos of this in the mags coming up. Lots of tree debris going up and on the descent...the crowds were also very good.

Back down on the coast we pulled over to shoot a vast expance of ocean and green grass with grazing cattle. On the radio came news of a photo motor down with riders....but not just any rider.....Lance. I think this is one thing we fear the most is taking someone down, but the road and weather conditions were not in our favor. Apparently the moto got tangled in some mud wash and slid out and Lance was there. I am sure more will be posted on what happened later. I am good friends with the guy involved.... he is a great guy....a great moto driver....thank goodness he and his photographer are ok as well as Lance and the others involved.

After we got the news, not 2 minutes later another crash happened involving a Lexus of a spectator on the side of the road....not real clear what caused it but the Lexus got bent in the crash and bikes were all over the road! After that got sorted out the group got back together and things settled a bit.

The next KOM up Bonnie Dunes Rd. was tight and Levi got on the crank! We shot from the front and went up and over uneventful....except for the hail, and rain! I had so much hail on my lap and legs, it looked like slush at one point!

Into Santa Cruz, the crowds were huge and alive...and the sun came out which felt great!
Staying in San Jose tonight and getting ready to go out for dinner....

San Jose to Modesto tomorrow....the weather is looking up!

Thanks for tuning in.