The front wheel of the bike crashes against the eroded river bank, the rocks and sand crumble under impact and within a second I’m buried under the bike. The screeching noise of titanium, rocks and metal tells me that my prosthetic leg is involved. I take a big breath in as I hit the ground. Soft landing on river sand – thank you! As I lay under the bike I realize that my prosthesis is jammed between the bike frame and a large rock – sh*t, I yell in my helmet, what the hell am I doing here, this is insanity. I can’t get my leg out as the front part is stuck in a 90 degree angle between the frame and the rock. I struggle for a minute, wiggle my entire body, sweat pours into my eyes as I realize there’s no way I can slide under the bike. I rest my head down, take another big breath and look at the grand clear blue skies above – I stopped fighting.
I signed up for a weekend of Rally navigation skills with RMS (Rally Management Services from California). This weekend was my testing ground to see if I can ride a rally bike for long hours over technical terrain while navigating at the same time. To be honest I wasn't sure how I would cope with it and how my leg would react to the constant weight bearing, vibrations, heat and desert conditions. At that point I knew that if I can’t finish this weekend in one piece and walking it will indicate that I have a serious problem and perhaps my dream to race Dakar was too big. Did I bite off more than I can chew? Well, this weekend will show me where I am.
“Relax man”, I tell myself, this is part of it all, look at where you are – in the middle of nowhere in the Nevada desert, surrounded by majestic mountains, endless wadies and magnificent weird shaped Joshua trees. I love the desert, it feels like a second home to me.
I have never navigated with a roadbook. This is a unique navigation method used in rally raids and a skill I had to master in order to participate and do well in desert rally racing so once again the purpose of this weekend was to see if I can get a hang of it and learn how to use it and try not to get lost or make too many mistakes.
OK now what… I try to push the bike with my good leg but I don’t have enough room to move it. Plan B – reach out to the air valve on my socket (the part that joins the residual limb to the prosthesis) and disconnect my leg all together. Yes it worked! I was able to leave my stuck prosthesis under the bike and wiggle my way around. Now I can hoped on one leg, move the bike, get my stuck leg unstuck, put it on, lift the bike and off I go! Sometimes it’s good to have detachable body parts :-)
Navigation with a roadbook is an amazing challenge – you have to engage your brain, body and bike all at the same time and all the time. As soon as you lose concentration you either make a navigation mistake and get lost or crash the bike. It takes lots of practice to ride fast while reading and interpreting a roadbook and for me just to get my head around doing it all at once was challenging enough, so I took it easy, stopped at junctions to verify compass heading and correct mileage and just enjoy the process.
Next week I will share with you additional experiences I had over this weekend including the heartbreaking situation where I was out in the desert while my sweet 10 years old daughter ended up in emergency and how I learned to value what life has to offer on a day to day basis.
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see you soon
Your ever well wisher