Third Crossing

By Jerry Wildermuth, Team Whippet, three time team finisher (written after the 1997 race)

While the memories (physical as well as mental) are fresh, I wanted to put them down on paper. Team Whippet had two "rookies" to whom all this was new. They both are fine cyclists, yet I knew from past experiences there would be much more added to their experiences after the FC 508.

As each rider, solo or team, has a goal, we had ours. It was Time we were to chase, that elusive and mysterious frame of reference all competitors have met. As it turned out, Time had us make some adjustments, but all was not lost. Chris Kostman has made sure that each 508er has No Doubts as to their sense of accomplishment and feelings of victory at the finish. That finishing tape we break, his personal congratulations, and people like Seana Hogan at the finish line allow each solo rider and team rider into the elite cadre of Furnce Creek 508 finisher family. Thank you.

Now back to the course. I remember discussing with a couple of crew members the courage and passion for adventure that must have pushed the early Southern California settlers through much of the area we rode. I saw not only myself, but all the race entrants, in that light. I believe we had it easier, but those same qualities that made the early travelers cross the desert are what, I believe, motivated every rider in the 508.

It seemed this year the weather conditions were very nice; not too cold and not too windy. Seana Hogan did say that a tailwind would have helped her, but for Team Whippet, we liked what we had. Those conditions allowed me to look around more this time.

The first day moved from day into evening further along in the miles compared to last year, due to the earlier start. That was wonderful. Desert sunsets are peaceful and beautiful. By the time full evening was upon us, we were climbing into Death Valley. Yes, Townes Pass is steep and long and the Heavens were pressing upon us—I could not find an inch of sky without stars. Whether one believes in God or not did not matter out there; I felt privileged to be there.

As night was pushed ever so gently back to the West, we began Sunday morning. Most people were sleeping somewhere on this continent. We were tired, but celebrating the end of a long night of constant motion and the beginning of a new day. This was the day we would finish the race. Well past the halfway point, more behind than in front. Those were our feelings that Sunday morning. I vividly remember each person, crew as well as rider, looking around at the mountains of the desert. The early light softened their texture and colored them with hues of color that changed moment by moment as the sun cleared the eastern horizon and full daylight was upon us. Many people don't realize the desert has mountains, but those that ride the 508 do!!! Pure quiet prevailed for a few fleeting moments more. My soul and spirit were awash in those few moments even in the midst of the race. At that moment, I promised myself to come back without a bicycle, sit and partake of that scene which has been going on for millions of years.

There are not enough words to describe all that transpires in this trek across the desert and up and down mountains. One must experience this event many times over. If you are like me, you will find yourself looking forward to next year. I will be there, the Lord willing, for something new will be waiting for me and anyone else that decides to participate.

I want to thank Chris Kostman and remind him of his promise to NEVER stop putting this race on. Thank you, God, for watching over all of the riders, crews, officials and bringing all of us home safely. The crew for Team Whippet, Dan, Roger, Bob and Bob and Larry were like the skeleton of a body, holding everything together. Thank you for everything.