Sunday, April 03, 2005

RawHyde Adventure Camp - Training Day 2

Slept pretty well last night. (Yesterday, I was concerned that my Americas Trip could turn hellish if I can’t get a good night’s sleep in a tent – and these were very comfortable tents!)

Up at 6:30. I had to go pee in the pasture with the cattle, since Jim’s septic system is overloaded. It seems that since the slide, the “pooper pumper” truck has been unable to make it into the ranch to empty the septic tank. It’s a major headache for Jim, though a minor inconvenience for his guests.

GeGe made an excellent frittata for breakfast, accompanied by platters of fresh fruit. Tired, and a bit sore from yesterday’s workout, I again felt apprehension. “What’s in store for us today?”

After breakfast, we began gently, with a “slow race” out in the corral. Lining up on one side of the compound, we raced to the opposite end, the fastest person losing. This requires the careful combination of balance, slipping the clutch and very gentle braking. I think I even won the race in my group!

We then had a series of “races” around the corral, where Jim had laid out a little course that included a number of very tight turns. During this exercise, Gary and Boyd took falls on their 1200GSs, banging up the bikes a bit. Witnessing these spills increased my own fear of a fall, but I tried to remain focused on the task at hand.

We moved into the nearby oak woodlands, where Jim had created another course, this a trail that meandered through the trees, often circling around individual trees in a hairpin-like turn. The trail was off-camber in places, again good practice on slowly maneuvering in tight spaces and shifting weight to maintain balance.

By today, an interesting transformation was taking place. The group was becoming a team. Shouts of encouragement, praise and congratulations were frequently heard. We began supporting one another, eager to see everyone succeed.

Today, I learned to get out of the "Aerostich" suit quickly when I wasn’t riding. This helped keep my body temperature down and outlook a bit fresher. But I was growing to like this suit! It was so easy to get into and out of.

Jim led us up near a microwave tower high on the property. He was going to teach us how to go down a steep hill, then how to climb it again. The hill we were going down was deeply-rutted by heavy rains. But there were narrow flat ridges on the sides which could be ridden, if you remain on them. “Don’t look at the ruts!” Otherwise, you were certain to end up in them.

I had difficulty, but never felt too out-of-control. Climbing the hill was a little different. Study the hill, pick your path, then hit the throttle and “don’t take your eyes off the summit.” Faltering on the uphill would almost certainly lead to a fall.

After each run up and down this hill, we would follow a path leading through a wooded area that provided practice in many of the techniques we had been learning. There were a few more spills, but so far I was staying up. It was even starting to be fun!

One obstacle in this area was a small hill that had a steep 6- to 8-foot bank on its backside, at a 60-degree or greater angle. I went over in my mind what would be necessary: lean back as far as possible while still gripping the handlebars (kind of like a bronco-rider). Then I took the chance, over the top and down. It was exhilarating! I’m increasingly impressed with the motorcycle. It will do amazing things.

It was a gorgeous afternoon, up in the wind and weather along this ridge.

One last exercise on top would be to ride through sand. For this, Jim had created a sand pit, perhaps fifty yards long. The technique was to approach with plenty of throttle, shifting our weight back fully while in the standing position, but holding on loosely, so that the handlebars could wander if necessary. I watched as Anne took a soft tumble in the sand ahead of me. It was spooky, but manageable. Again, the GS seemed to handle this stuff pretty well.

Returned to the house for lunch. Ravioli, garlic bread, and the best chocolate chip cookies!

Back on the mountain later, we got to play on the “bumps” once again. Though I was able to finally negotiate them, I was never comfortable. Not as tired today. I had learned to recognize my body tensing unnecessarily, wasting energy.

Late in the day, Kari asked if I wanted to try climbing another steep slope leading from the corral. Yesterday, I had seen Kari and Daryl taking on this daunting slope, but never imagined I would try it. But now I was thinking “what the hell. Fear has talked me out of so many things, I have to ignore it.” And I was growing very confident of the bike’s ability to handle this. It is more likely the rider who will falter.

It certainly helped that I had witnessed others successfully climb the hill. So I gave it the gas, leaned forward above the handlebars, and with eyes fixed on the top, held on until I cleared the slope and rolled out onto the road above. “No problem!”

Soon, a number of us were taking turns making the run. After three or four successful attacks, I convinced myself “I can do this!” That was enough for today.

Dinner this evening included an amazing pork loin. The wine, “Goats du Rhoam” (a parody of the French “Cotes du Rhone” wine appellation.) It’s a South African red wine made in the style of the more famous Rhone wines.

Jim presented us with personalized “RawHyde Adventure Camp” certificates. Each of us was given a nickname which appeared on our certificates. My nickname: “Wine Guy”. The trials now behind us had created a warm camaraderie. Around the campfire later, we shared stories. (Well, some shared stories, while others, like me, did more listening.)

Daryl was growing pretty uninhibited and boisterous. Ken was quiet, nursing his shoulder. He had taken a hard fall today. Though a real stoic, I could tell he was in pain. An outdoorsman, and former rock climber, over the years, his body has been thrashed. He retired earlier than most, and I could see him reading in his tent. I think it was The Bible.

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