Sand Blast Rally
On the morning of Thursday, March 2nd I packed up my bike and departed from my home on the eastern shore of Maryland. The ride down to Cheraw, SC was uneventful but I was burning through my knobbies faster than I anticipated causing my somewhat worn rear tire to turn into an extremely worn rear tire. I arrived at the campground in time to catch a stunning sunset before unpacking my things and making a run into town for signup. At signup I ran into my friends Steve and Amelia who offered me to pit with their crew, an offer which I took them up on.
After signing up and getting supplies I returned back to a cold campsite and prepared for bed. It was a cold night, dropping to freezing temperatures, but I was plenty warm and plenty grateful that I had opted to pick up a 30⁰F sleeping bag before I departed on my trip. The problem though, came when I had to leave my sleeping bag and put on all of my now frozen clothes. There is nothing like scavenging together pine cones to burn for warmth at 6 am.
I eventually warmed up enough to go into town and run through tech inspection before attending the novice competitor orientation. Following orientation I went back to the tent and prepared my roll chart for the race by cutting out the special stages then trimming and taping it all together.
Shakedown runs in the afternoon were followed up with parc exposé (fancy words for race car show) in the adjacent town of Chesterfield where the rally start would be held. After talking with other riders and getting some tacos for dinner I called it a night.
The morning of the race I woke up extra early to give myself time to warm up by the fire. Once warm, I made my way towards Chesterfield for the start only to arrive shivering; it was still near freezing at 6:45am. I warmed up with some coffee and a hot breakfast sandwich, set my watch to key time, and queued up taking my spot as the last motorcycle to start.
Starting 30 seconds behind Steve I followed him to the first special stage while getting better acquainted with using my roll chart. Doing some mental math I ensured that I checked in on the correct 30 second interval to avoid penalty and moved up to prepare for launch. With my nerves buzzing with anticipation I watched the timer countdown to my exact second to launch.
The timer hit zero and I took off blazing. Unthinking and overly anxious I did not heed the old adage of “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast”. Only several turns in and I was already getting the dreaded arm-pump. Barley able to hold it together, sliding through a chicane I ignored logic and accelerated into the next turn pitching rear slide sideways.
I had bitten off more than I could chew and I put myself into a drawn out lowside giving the viewers quite the spectacle. I picked up the bike and finished with a more sustainable pace, the arm pump now so bad that I could barely pull in the clutch at the finish.
Heeding my lesson in exceeding my limits, I relaxed and elected a more suitable pace for special stage 2. With my arm-pump subsided I was able to find my rhythm and increase speed throughout the day, though not without a few more mild crashes.
All in all I ended up finishing 8th of 13 for medium class, and 16th of 28 for all bikes. Steve’s video of the rally sums up the whole experience nicely, plus it has some sweet crash footage.
The end of the rally was in downtown Cheraw where NASA threw an excellent party with “free” food and beer for the competitors and volunteers. Trading war stories and tall tales of the day’s events seemed the perfect way to cap an exciting day of racing. Comradery runs high among the rally folks and many new friends were made.