A quick recap of my trip to Laguna Seca.
(and how I became a cornerworker)
The quotes are taken from twitter posts made along the trip.
Drinking and riding.
Given the heat, this proved essential equipment. Arizona has closed most of their rest stops in an effort to save money. This meant that there were very, very few places to stop and my plan to get off the bike every 45-60 minutes was thwarted.
First stop. All is good. Some minor issues but in good spirits still. Bike says it is 108 on the road but that is easy still
"Long stretch, nowhere to stop. Heat check: totally fine. Seat check: I do not have an Ironbutt doing okay though."
"Half way. Much less pleasant now. In fact, not pleasant at all. Way too hot. Just 1 more hour til temp starts to drop."
"I survived the crucible - 118 on the slab and that was the easy part. It's all gravy from here: under 100 and it feels great."
At this point, I had just made it through the pass into Palm Springs. In addition to the heat, the wind was gusting and throwing the bike around a lot. Trying to keep in my lane was a real challenge. Then about halfway through the pass, someone started losing scrap metal bits on the road. Trying to avoid them while dealing with the wind was exhausting. Dealing with the heat, the garbage and the wind required absolute concentration which made dealing with the heat that much harder. Once I was through, it felt like I had won, like I had survived a challenge. Everything else had to be easier from here.
"My dumbass dropped my camelback spout on my exhaust. Now it don't work and it [leaks]"
"Finally, something to look at."
Up to this point, there had been nothing but desert landscape, which is pretty but monotonous.
"She's going to sleep well tonight. "
Made day 1. 10 hours and 586 miles. I am sore.
"Hmm...cheap motel pool or not to cheap motel pool. Seems like it would feel really good right now."
"My [bike] is still [here]. I guess cops showing up twice last night warded off any thieves."
I know how to pick a motel. In addition to the cops, this was parked across the street:
It says "Kern County Mass Casualty Module”.
And then there was this:
"Boy can I pick a motel. Woken up by not a hammer, not a drill but a hammer drill next room."
The next day I got back on the road. Thought I was lost trying to get to I-5 but apparently I wasn’t since it just appeared in front of me.
"Too many bugs on interstate 5. I need windshield wipers."
"Almost there. Weather is perfect. Finally got to stretch the legs on the bike and some twisties for me."
"Nearly there. Perfect racing weather."
I made it. Met up with motomania then ran into DucCat900 totally by chance.
I'm here. The track looks fantastic. Just got drafted into cornerworking.
Mick was able to wrangle some media passes which got us into the media center where I got to actually meet Nicky Hayden. It is very cool actually getting to see a rider in person and not surrounded by fans.
Behind the media center RLH showed up and after a quick conversation with NH, we could hear him talking with someone from his team about the fact that his leathers weren’t there yet. He was assured they would arrive before FP1 but I don’t think anyone looked completely confident.
After running around trying to get in touch with DucCat900 to get the camping equipment she was loaning me, I got invited to dinner with Mick and some friends. We had a really nice time and it was good to eat a real meal. Mick’s friends are both really good people and had some great stories.
To get the camping gear to me, DucCat had to actually come to my camp and bring it to me. She is an angel.
When she called to try to figure out how to meet up, she asked were I was. I realized I had no idea so I started looking around. Then I realized that I was standing in turn 11. I didn’t even realize that I was on the damn track.
While standing around in the heat, I noticed this:
You can’t really see but that is Edwards being forced to stand in his leathers in the sun while they took publicity pictures. Really makes you want to be a MotoGP rider.
I recognized it as Edwards by the whole body gesticulation that made him look sort of like a monkey.
I was assigned to turn 2. My phone was dying so I couldn’t get a picture but looking into turn 1 you couldn’t help but feel you were staring down the barrel of the gun.
The mornings are always foggy
"So foggy you can't see from one corner to the next."
But then it turned into a beautiful day
Working turn 2 is a bit crazy. There weren’t a lot of bike crashes but a lot of very near misses. So many times, we were convinced Danny Eslick was going to back it in right into the gravel. He looked great, just a little out of control. However, the most exciting thing to happen was actually a “safety car” crash. One of the safety cars was doing VIP laps which normally means a break for cornerworkers. As we sat there the car crested turn 1 and as he hit the brakes to set up for T2 the brakes failed. The car went straight into the gravel trap at speed. The scary part was that as he headed toward the tire wall, the car wasn’t shedding any speed. Panic started to set in as he approached the wall and once he hit it, I was positive we had injuries. Fortunately, the car came to a stop right in front of (and nearly hitting) theambulance stationed at the corner. My team sort of paused for a minute as we had been trained to deal with bikes down and had no idea how to respond to a car. Those of us with fire bottles realized that at the very least we needed to be ready to respond to fire and took off toward the car. As we got there the other guy with the extinguisher ran to the open window and asked the driver if he was okay. When he got an affirmative, he asked the same of the passenger who was also fine. He then asked the VIP passenger “Well, did you have a good ride?”
I was working with several guys from Canada some of whom were helicopter mechanics. Their ride was about the same distance as mine but I think they packed better.
Had a good time talking with everyone and the guy working flags gave me the chance to work them for a while. I know the FIM and AMA flags but understanding the procedures and what actually happens over the radios was really interesting. This is one of those experiences that made the trip worthwhile. There is so much more I want to understand.
I was moved to turn 10 which is far less interesting that T2 but I think it gave me a better perspective on what the riders were doing. Getting a good view of lean angle into T10 then the acceleration and braking points provided some really interesting information when viewed alongside the superbike races: these guys really are exceptional in how consistent they are. The really astounding thing was when setting up for a pass or when being passed, the riders had to compensate in some way to maintain their markers and yet they were able to. Being a bass player, I found myself listening for the timing of each rider and when something changed, the fast guys always ended on the same beat they always do whereas, the slower guys might not and when someone seriously missed a beat and didn’t get back on, they were usually in the gravel at T11.
Also interesting but not surprising, was that you could tell the different factories apart and after listening for a while, you could tell the satellites from the factories.
Sunday – Race Day
"Imagine standing in the back of one of those going flat out down the corkscrew."
These are the trucks used to pick up downed bikes. They are also used to get the cornerworkers to their corners. The drivers are insane and the trucks corner far better than you might think. When fully loaded, the drivers made a point of going all out while everyone in back held onto anything they could find. I was pretty certain that we were going to die.
"Ready for some crashes."
Yep, that’s me. This is Day 5 without a shower and with no more than 5 hours of sleep. The past two nights I slept without the airmatress I had because I was too tired to set it up. I slept fine.
"Delays. Fog ain't lifting."
This was taken as the AMA warm-ups were supposed to start. The AMA warm-ups ended up being cancelled but the fog lifted in time for MotoGP warm-ups.
"Here we go!"
MotoGP bikes are really, really loud.
The Ride Home.
Now, I am really sore. The 3 days of standing didn’t seem to relieve my sore ass. Since I was leaving at night I didn’t make it too far and ended up at a really crappy and really over-priced motel and eating a really terrible pizza. I won’t be visiting Gonzalez, CA again.
The next night I made it to Indio which was the last place I expected to be able to find a good place to stay before hitting the desert. The motel was much better and much cheaper except the pillows were a bit like two sheets of tissue inside of pillow cases. Even with two of them stacked up it was like not having pillow at all.
As I was leaving I noticed this in my non-smoking room:
"I have no idea what this is supposed to mean."
One of the more interesting and useless places you might stop when crossing the desert is Desert Center
"Desert Center, Ca. The Cafe and Post Office are the only things in business. Silver car is out of gas."
Next to the café there is a rusty train car but there are no train tracks.
Despite being directly in the middle of two towns and a good distance from either, there is no gas here. Or anything really. There is a guy in town who will bring you gas at an outrageous price and some people have no choice but to pay it. The waitress has his number in her cellphone.
One of the two gas stations in Desert Center The other didn’t even have pumps anymore):\
And finally, the last view I had on the trip:
This is most of what I saw the whole ride.
I made it home a couple hours after hitting Desert Center. As I got into town, I could no longer sit on the bike. I had to stop just 6 miles from home to get off that seat for a minute.
I made it home though. The only mechanical issue I had was an intermittent seep sensor failure that screwed up my speedo and odometer. An annoyance but I knew it would be before I set out.