By Steve Beaver Born, crew for Jeff Bubba Shrimp Stephens, 1998 solo finisher
I was honored to be on the "all totem" crew for Bubba Shrimp Jeff Stephens in this year's FC 508. While Bubba knew that this course does not favor a guy with the build of a pro football linebacker, he was nevertheless determined to finish this race, one I consider the most difficult outside of RAAM itself. So he assembled the crew of crews, Terry "Tree Slug" Zmrhal, Charlie "Lizard" Liskey, and me, Steve "Beaver" Born. All of us have finished this race before and had lots of experience with crewing so we knew we were ready. As usual, Chris Kostman puts on a fantastic, well organized race. The 508 always has lots of energy surrounding it, especially at the prerace banquet. In a classy move, Chris dedicated this year's race to a class guy, Lee Mitchell who echoed the sentiments of just about everyone there when he stated that all his friends ride bikes. It's great to see all my ultra cycling friends every year at the 508; this year was no exception.
I had convinced Bubba to go slower than he felt he should go at the the start. For the most part, trying to stay with the speed freaks, mountain goats, and first day heroes early on only leads to disaster later on. "When you get to Townes Pass, you shouldn't feel totally wasted," I told him. And so Bubba took off riding well within himself. The first long climb up San Francisquito Cyn Rd. is a lot longer and steeper than you'd expect. Even though it was so very early in the race I knew Bubba would be able to finish when I saw how comfortable and controlled he was riding. Bubba knows how to pace himself and isn't wound up with ego problems. He knows his strengths and limitations and rides accordingly. Our biggest concern was keeping him fed and hydrated. Even though I have crewed on four FC 508's and five RAAMs, I had never had to figure out how much to feed a guy that weighed 220+ lbs.
Our plan was to have him drink a lighter carbohydrate drink through the hotter parts of the day, supplemented with encapsulated electrolytes and additional sodium, while trying to get him to eat some solid food as well. Jeff's prebagged "Rocket Fuel" would be the bulk of his liquid nutrition and for the most part it worked out well. It's a combination of E-CAPS Sustained Energy and Met-RX. We used the E-CAPS product Endurolytes and a sodium product called Suceed to help maintain his electrolyte balance. Whenever he feel a little nauseous saltine crackers worked well to keep his stomach settled.
Things went great up until the long J'Burg/Randsburg climb that seems to go on forever. It was perhaps the hottest part of the day (although the temps for the desert were amazingly tolerable) and he had tried to drink a Vanilla Ensure Plus. Yuck! That didn't sit well so we opted to cut back on his food consumption and concentrate on the hydration. We tried and suceeded to keep him at or above 400 calories an hour as well as a consistent supply of electrolytes including 1000 mgs or more of sodium per hour. I have found that it's not as important on the first part of the race, especially in the heat of the day, to concentrate on food intake. Much more important is staying hydrated and keeping enough electrolytes in so that cramping doesn't become a problem. Of course we still had to feed him but we made that a priority later on in the race.
Consistency pays off eventually, and it showed as Bubba started passing people who had perhaps gone out too hard or weren't paying attention to staying hydrated. Having an experienced crew definitely helps and I'd like to think we were on top of taking care of our rider at all times. While there were times he started showing signs of cramping, not once did he succumb to it.
Mid to late afternoon we reached the 2nd time station in the town of Trona, a real dump. Somehow though, this year, there wasn't the typical stench of sulfur in the air. It was actually a beautiful afternoon. Finally 5:30 PM arrived which meant we could do direct support and blast some tunes over the loudspeakers to help keep him going. No one will ever accuse me of having bland music available and Bubba's race was no exception. Let's just say we were loud, proud, large, and in charge when it came time to bust out the music. Over the Trona bumb and into Panamint Valley we flew. Funny thing was that when we hit that dreaded section of pavement before Panamint Valley Rd, the one where some people switch to a mountain bike, Bubba just laughed and told us that in Michigan, this would be a great piece of road. Now of course the sky is getting dark and I've been building to a pitch of craziness (all in the name of encouraging and supporting my rider) that cannot be controlled any longer. All during the day I had been pumping Bubba full of encouraging words in my own "slightly profane" way. (Hey, I'm not that way all the time, but get me on a crew and I start getting hardcore). Anyway, it's time for the Kinison tapes to be played, a ritual first started by me in RAAM '91. Man, if you couldn't hear Sam's tasteless jokes and screams for dozens of miles you were either way off the front or way off the back. Now Charlie, Terry, and I are in a full blown testosterone's-a-flowin' groove. We're loud and we've got a definite attitude happening. It's all fun, but underlying all the craziness is the professionalism of an experienced crew. Soon enough, the climb up Townes Pass is in front of us.
After saying hi to Seana, Pat, Chris, his girlfriend Linzi, and race officials Marie Handrahan and Jaime Gale, we start up the pass. Bubba's now riding Charlie's Kestrel that has a lot more climb friendly gears available. What a cool sight to see strings of support vehicles following their riders up this monstrous pass, their flashing red rear lights indicating where they were on the climb. I told Bubba not to be concerned about how many riders were on the pass ahead of us but to consider each of them our next "victim." He seemed to like that idea. Bubba was great, climbing the mountain well within himself, never getting passed, and never once giving in to the temptation to stop and take a breather. I took the opportunity to play one of my famous tapes that basically will strip the paint off the support vehicle. Man, did that sound so awesome bouncing off the canyon walls! Slowly but surely Bubba is cruising up the hill, mile after steep mile passing consistently. It seemed that with every mile that he passed, Jeff would grow more and more confident, even passing a few riders. You keep hearing about how tough Townes Pass is and for the most part it's accurate. To be able to get over this major obstacle in the race, that comes almost exactly 200 miles into the race, is most gratifying and a definite relief.
Nearing the top, Anne Snail Darter Schneider, looking strong and fit, passes us and stops at the same turnout we do to put on a jacket or more warm clothing. We do the same, our stop is short, and Bubba starts down the pass in the dark of night. Terry is doing a masterful job of keeping a proper distance behind Jeff in order to light his path. Still, it's a white knuckle ride as our rider is reaching speeds of 55 mph. On the backside of Townes Pass there are several dips in the road where the rider will momentarily lose the light from the vehicle. While we had warned Bubba about this before the race, he knows that this is where he is going to make up ground on the others so he throws caution to the wind and is literally flying. I, for one, am glad when the road flattens out and his speed mellows out.
It seems to take forever to get to the next time station at Furnace Creek, but it's not because Bubba's riding slow. It's just that this is such a long stretch of road, you can see Furnace Creek way off in the distance, and it seems to be true, what is said about distances appearing closer than they really are in the desert. We've had to turn off the loud speakers from the top of Townes Pass until a couple miles after we make the turn to Badwater because we are in the quiet zone of a National Park so all you can hear is the sound of bike and van wheels making their way alone towards the time station. It's kind of eerie actually. When we arrive at Furnace Creek and have checked into the time station we note that there are quite a few riders there, some that were quite a bit ahead of us at earlier time stations. Some riders, it seems, have gone out a bit too hard and are now trying to recuperate before heading into the mega long stretch of road through Badwater that leads to two difficult climbs, Jubilee and Salsbury. Our strategy of "ride to survive" is paying off as Bubba shows no signs of real fatigue and, while probably tired (he's ridden well over 200 tough miles), is anxious to get going. And we do. Terry gets a chance to get some well earned rest and now I take the wheel once again. What could be better? I'm in the driver's seat, I've got an assortment of kick ass tapes all lined up, the PA readily available, my finger on the button, and ready to raise hell. The right turn is made, two miles pass, and once again the music is blasting and I'm cranking out my own special brand of motivation to Bubba. Bring on those next two passes dammit! We're ready!!
When we last heard from our heroes...(sorry, always wanted to say that). Anyway, in the black of night Bubba and his all totem crew of wildmen are barreling down the road towards Badwater, eventually hoping to arrive at the base of Jubilee Pass strong and ready to tackle what I consider the two most important passes in the race, Jubilee and Salsberry. Bubba's nicknamed the van the S.S. Bubbster, although we've grown fond of calling it the Animal House. This stretch of road from the Furnace Creek Time Station to the base of Jubilee is about 46 miles long, but it feels twice that distance. It just feels as though one is smack in the veritable "middle of nowhere," probably because we are. The road surface isn't terribly good a lot of the time as it wraps around the steep cliffs on our left and the dry lake bed (or whatever it is) on our right. I know from past experiences that this part of the course requires lots of motivation from the crew and/or loud music. Every time I do the Death Valley Double and the one time I did the 508 I remember just hating this section. So Terry, Charlie, and I kick it into high gear. We're loud, crude, and obnoxious. OK, I'm all those things magnified; the other guys are substantially less. But we're all in a raucous mood and it transfers to our rider who is cruising steadily through this section of the course. We are passing a rider or two as well so that helps keep Bubba motivated. And of course, every time that happens, or is about to happen, I bust out on the PA with a slew of lewd and crude remarks, nothing meant to offend (I make sure the other rider never can hear what I'm saying), but more in fun and all in the name of keeping our rider motivated. When we catch a rider, or when one catches us, we're all very supportive of his/her effort; we're all out here together in a way and we all encourage each other. Still, it's fun to trash talk everyone as well, again all in fun and with no offense intended but just to spur on our rider. And damn if I don't give good trash talk!
The great thing about this part of the ride in that you can really gauge where riders are, either in front or behind you. The road curves around so much that you can easily look behind you and see the lights of the other riders' vehicles. When you get to the top of the curve you can see the red flashing tailights of the riders' vans in front of you. This is what keeps most riders motivated, knowing that they're not the only ones out here. And Bubba is doing great. He's not getting passed and he's making good progress. It's just that this section of road is sooooooooo long!
Finally, we get to the base of Jubilee. The last couple miles before the base are uphill which always messes with your head. Bubba asks if we're on the climb and I respond that no, we're climbing to get to the climb. He doesn't comment but I get the feeling he's getting sick of this seemingly all uphill race. And the bad thing is, the two upcoming climbs can really take the legs out of you. As we make the left curve at the base of Jubilee, Bubba passes the second place woman rider, Nancy Devil Ray Dankenbring. She's been riding great as we've seen her occasionally throughout the race, but now it looks as though she's stopping for a long rest break. A couple miles up the climb and we are all alone, no one's in sight behind us. Go Bubba!
I've always felt these two passes to be the crux of the race even though they are nowhere near the hardest. The reason is that Jubilee is about five miles long and climbs about 1500 feet. There's a nothing downhill before you get to the next climb, the longer (about ten miles) and steeper (summit at 3315 feet) Salsberry Pass. The climb doesn't seem to be that hard that you'd need to be in such a small gear but you are, all the way. They're two of the more deceptive climbs and the trick is to just get comfy, sit tight, relax, find your pace, and work your way up. If you haven't done this part of the course before you're going to be real disappointed with the negligible downhill that separates the two passes. It's less than a mile and the next thing you know, you're going uphill again! That sucks! These two climbs can really demoralize a rider. We're going to make sure it doesn't for ours.
Somewhere along the line, I extract myself from behind the wheel and crawl in the back to catch some ZZZZZZ's. By the time I wake up (probably from a loud "hooty hoo!" from Charlie) the sky is getting light, that magical time between night and dawn. And it is incredibly beautiful outside. I can't miss this. I've never been on this part of the course at dawn and it's just spectacular as the soft light starts to reveal the scenery surrounding us. Charlie and I switch places so I'm now in the passenger's seat. The Slug is showing almost zero effects of no sleep and is more coherent than both of us combined. He's doing a great job of driving. As the day becomes lighter, I find the tape Bubba thought would be good for dawn and pop it into the deck. And it's indeed a good selection. Miles Davis. Ahhhhhh. Sounding so fine on this early, early Sunday morning. As Bubba makes his way up Salsberry Pass, the music is definitely affecting him in a positive way. He hasn't once requested to stop for sleep and he knows he's made the right decision. After that tape is finished I dig out a tape I made for such an occasion, The Natural Soundtrack (which is also ABC's soundtrack for their RAAM '84 coverage). It's giving all of us the chills I think. You can't help but be moved by this music if you've seen the '84 video. When that's finished, the day is definitely happening, becoming brighter every minute. Before Jeff reaches the summit I play the audio portion of RAAM '86 that I recorded off the video. There's a part, right in the beginning, where Jim Lampley says, "In the small world of ultra endurance sports, the Race Across America...is the most difficult, the most extreme, the most primal of all these events." I rewind the tape several times to hear that phrase repeated over and over. Bubba acknowledges it as well and pumps his fist into the air. He's not in RAAM, but he's in what I consider the toughest race aside from RAAM and he's doing it, and doing it well. This is difficult, extreme, and primal as well, no doubt about it. Near the summit, the slight figure of the Devil Ray glides past us. It's interesting to note the difference between the two riders. Nancy can't weight more than 110 lbs while the Bubbster's around 215-220. When he reaches the summit, he stops to add a jacket for the descent, knowing he's banged out a difficult part of the course. On to Shoshone!
The downhill into Shoshone is kind of a letdown. It's not a screaming fast long downhill. In fact, there's a section where it flattens out and rises gradually before continuing the descent. I think at this point, you just stop arguing about the injustice of the lay of the land and just accept it and move on. We make the right turn at the only stop sign we've seen in a million miles and head to TS #4 at the General Store. When we get there, we check Jeff in with the time station official, give him food and water, and let him take off on his own while we resupply the van with food, water, and ice. At the time station we find out that a few riders have DNF'd including Cassie Llama Lowe from Australia. She's a strong rider and was leading the women's division fairly comfortably until she got sick or dehydrated or both on Townes Pass. We're sorry to hear that she's out of the race and hope that we're able to keep our rider fed and hydrated enough that he won't suffer the same problems. So far so good and we race out of there to catch up with him. The Devil Ray has also checked into the time station but is staying there for a spell so Bubba's now ahead of her.
The reality of the 508 is that the section from Shoshone to Baker, about 55-58 miles, is perhaps the worst part of the course. I am very happy I was able to make it through this section at night. It's not very scenic and for the most part it's all uphill, kind of the thing you'd rather not have to look at while you're doing it. Bubba's doing great though. He's totally coherent and showing no signs of sleep deprivation. I think it's the combination of his mental toughness and the fact that we're keeping him fed very consistently. Of course, when you're going up the climbs of Jubilee and Salsberry, especially in the early morning hours, food probably doesn't sound good and is not easily consumed. So we've got to make up a bit of a calorie deficit. And I found the perfect thing in Shoshone. It's a monster size sweet roll, one you need two hands for, one that's so big they don't even list the calories or grams of fat and sugar on it, and perfect for our rider. As we pull up next to him I ask him if he's been a good Bubba to which he replies something to the effect of "what the hell are you talking about"? I continue by saying, "we only give these to riders who don't take bullsh*t breaks" (unnecessary stops), and wave that bad boy in front of him. Of course he agrees and as I hand it to him I figure we've more than made up for the calorie deficit. I smile contentedly as though I've made the major score.
We're leapfrogging now and as the day gets warmer, we're relying less on solid food and more on making sure Jeff's electrolyte needs are taken care of. Every hour he's consuming adequate amounts of water, carb drink, and encapsulated electrolytes and sodium. At the summit of Ibex Pass, we see one of Anne Snail Darter Schneider's support vehicles. Lucky girl, she's got Lee Mitchell as crew chief so there's a definite advantage there. We haven't seen Anne since the top of Townes but apparently she's just cruising along, making good progress and having a good time. I talk to one of her crew members, Susan Gishi, who I've ridden with several times (and Anne as well) and I tell her to pass on my encouragements to Anne. She's riding stronger and better than I've ever seen her and I want her to know how proud I am of her.
As the day continues to warm up Jeff gets into a nice groove and is making good progress towards Baker and Time Station #5. During this time the Devil Ray repasses us and is moving down the road at a steady pace. Soon, she's made quite a bit of distance on us. She's riding a bit erratically though and after awhile we pull up next to her and ask her if she's OK, if she's alert, etc. She responds that she is, but has been pulling out into the middle of the road while looking over her shoulder for her crew. Soon enough her crew is right there with her again, they seem to be doing a great job taking care of her, and for the next several miles Jeff and her leapfrog back and forth. As we near Baker, Steve Scorpion Winfrey, who we haven't seen at all, just blazes by us. He's a friend of Charlie's and is making up a lot of ground that he lost while stopping to recuperate from being a bit sick. Charlie asks that we pull up next to him and when we do he offers encouragement to Steve but warns him that there's still a lot of work left in the race and to pace himself. Wise words indeed.
The world's largest thermometer rises above us so we know we're in Baker. It reads 77 degrees, which, at around 1:00 PM is unbelievable. It seems to be substantially warmer but perhaps not. The weather this year has been spectacular. As Bubba is checked into the time station I run the van over to get gas, water, and ice. As Bubba starts up the lower part of the infamous Kelbaker Grade, we rejoin him. The Devil Ray and Scorpion are ahead of us and no longer in sight. Jeff knows that this climb, although rarely over 2-3% grade, goes on for over 20 miles. Yuck. Still, he is showing no signs of being overly fatigued and is moving along nicely. Snail Darter passes us then pulls over next to her van. We pass her and soon we're no longer in her sight. Jeff comments that this climb isn't actually that bad. There's some sections where you can definitely use the big ring and he does, picking up speed and seemingly picking up confidence as well.
At the summit he's ready to bust that downhill and he does. Jeff is flying towards Kelso and has got to be picking up ground on others. He doesn't stop for more than a minute in Kelso and when he's ready to go again, he walks his bike over the sets of railroad tracks before beginning the tough 12+ mile climb up Granite Pass. He's alone now and as the day starts edging towards dusk, I notice him glancing a lot over to the side of the road and beyond. The light, or what remains of it, is probably making things look a lot different. Having gone without sleep for nearly 36 hours is definitely a factor as well. If he is hallucinating however, he never mentions it. He's not wavering and is riding solid. Still, the climb appears to be taking a bit of a toll on him, so it's time to crank up the tunes again. That seems to help as he gets closer and closer to the summit. When he gets there, it's getting quite chilly and he stops to put on another jersey and a jacket. We take to opportunity to force feed him extra calories because we know it's a long way downhill and handing him food or water bottles would be difficult at best. We also realize that it's easy and understandable for a rider to dawdle during these stops. Jeff's been so good at minimizing his time off the bike and we don't want to lessen our efficiency at on keeping him on the bike. Charlie and Terry get him going quickly. I assume driving responsibilities and Jeff starts motoring towards the Time Station in Amboy. By now it's gotten dark so we've made sure his bike lights have fresh batteries in them. I angle the van around the corners on this long and fast downhill so that his vision of the road is as good as it can be. Onward to Amboy.
"Man, I have a lot more respect for Muffy after doing this hill!," Bubba tells us at the Amboy time station, which isn't really in Amboy anymore (it was moved away from the town). We all know what he means as all of us were on Muffy's 1997 RAAM crew. That year she and the other racers rode this hill going the other direction which meant a looooooong uphill climb. However, although Jeff's been cruising down this hill at a very fast pace, his feet are hurting so bad, and the road surface hasn't been all that great, that it hasn't been a completely fun experience.
We make the right turn onto the National Trails Highway and the road surface deteriorates even more. Plus there's quite a bit of traffic heading into Amboy (why?). Amboy. Now there's a sprawling metropolis. We enter and exit the town without fanfare and make the left turn onto Amboy Rd. It's close to 9:00 or 10:00 PM, I've lost track and am more interested in making sure Bubba's ready for the last serious climb of the race, the Sheepholes. He's been steady the whole race and although he hasn't slept for over 36 hours, still seems to be quite with it and acknowledges our requests to eat and drink. There's a point in the race when it feels like you're over the hump and can definitely "smell the barn." Once we get to the top of this climb, we'll be there.
As we progress toward the base of the climb, the road being flat for the time being, we notice that Snail Darter's vehicles are now making the turn. Anne however appears to be stopping briefly. She's ridden a great race so far and is on her way to setting a new female master's record. After 13 or so miles the ten-mile climb begins, and it's a lot harder than it looks. To make things a little easier for Bubba we put the tape he's requested in the player and turn the volume way up. It's a great blues tape, one with a whole lot of attitude and the sounds of Lightning Hopkins fills the air. "Damn Bubba, this makes me want to shoot up," I say over the PA in an attempt to make Jeff laugh. And we on the crew, Terry, Charlie, and I, although being in the van over 36 hours now, are still whooping and hollering like a bunch of escaped convicts. I've been on a lot of support crews but I've never had as much fun as on this one. These guys are great and we've had too much fun and at the same time have been completely dedicated to our rider and his needs. But this last climb is mega hard. It seems to go on forever and, at least to me and my memory of riding it, it has nothing but false summits; hardly the thing you want after 470+ miles.
As Bubba grinds up the climb, a rejuvenated Anne Snail Darter Schneider cruises by, receiving the shouts of encouragement from us in the S.S. Bubbster. She's found another gear, so to speak, and glides up the hill almost effortlessly. Bubba, while certainly not struggling, in fact riding quite well, is definitely at a disadvantage due to his size and build. Still, he continues his assault on this long, long climb never once complaining or getting uptight. After awhile though I am finding it hard to keep my eyes open, don't want to drive feeling like this, and have to switch places with Terry for awhile. I slip into the back of the van and doze off.
When I awake, I have no clue where I am or what's going on. It seems like I've been asleep for a long time when if fact it hasn't been too long at all. Bubba has stopped at the summit to put some extra clothes on for the descent. Terry tells me that Jeff hasn't been eating or drinking too much and asks if I could "encourage" him a bit. I jump out of the van with food and drink in hand. "Bubba, what's up man? How you doing," I ask. His reply is quiet and a little drawled, definitely showing the signs of fatigue. He explains that he's been tripping out a little, basically just staring at and concentrating on the white line while trying to make his way to the summit. "Man, you've done so great and this is the last major climb of the race. You've got this bad boy wooped now," I continue. All three of us on the crew are out there, taking care of our rider, giving him the emotional strength he needs. Terry and Charlie are working some of the kinks out of his legs while I'm helping him with a jacket and forcing him to eat and drink. Even at this late hour, I'm trash talking and being somewhat crude, just because I know it'll make Jeff laugh or at least smile and know that we're all here for him, all the way to Twentynine Palms and the finish. It seems to be working as he snaps back into the reality of the race and the fact that a major goal he's set is very close to being realized. "Let's go," he says. With that we find ourselves blasting down the hill into the Wonder Valley.
At the bottom on the hill, the road curves to the right and the 28 miles to the finish lie ahead. Problem is, it's a gradual uphill and for most riders, it's perhaps the worst part of the race. Certainly it's the longest 28 miles you've ever ridden. I remember when I did the race, I tried so hard not to look at my bike computer because I knew that it would only disappoint me. I couldn't bring myself to taking it off the bike but every time I checked my mileage, I found myself asking why it was still so damn far to the finish. I can only wonder what's going on in Bubba's head as he is now well into this last stretch of road. Each of us on the crew has finished this race and I start wondering what thoughts are going through the minds of my two friends here in the van. Did they feel the same frustration I did, and that Jeff probably is now? I can't really remember but I think each of us is so absorbed in our thoughts that it is dead silent in the van. We're also in a quiet zone so we can't play any music for our rider. He too is left alone with his thoughts.
The good thing about riding this section at this time of night is that we don't have to worry about traffic. There's not much of a shoulder, if any, and by this time in the race, many riders have a difficult time maintaining a straight line. Having traffic whizzing by would only make things more difficult. We're plenty tired in the van and we know Bubba is as well, so we're thankful for this small bit of good fortune. We pass Time Staion #7 at the Fire Station. This time station is there only for penalizd rideers to serve their penalty time. We've been good boys on this trip, wild and crude perhaps, but good nonetheless, so we don't have to stop. Finally, we make the left turn onto Utah Trail and head into Twentynine Palms.
After two miles, the turn onto 29 Palms Hwy is made and with less than 4 miles to go, Jeff I'm sure is anxious to get off his bike. We're anxious to extract ourselves from the van as well. Up ahead, as the final miles roll underneath his wheels, a race official's vehicle proceeds ahead of us, rear lights flashing, guiding us on this last final stretch. Just before the finish, in a typical bit of 508 cruelty, one last climb has to be negotiated. Kind of a nasty little one at that. Jeff works his way up and over the climb and I yell out to him to look for the Best Western on the left. We can already see it and want him to see it and know that he's seconds away from completing this race. Fortunately there's no traffic as Jeff veers in front of us into the left hand turn lane. He makes the turn, takes a few more pedal strokes, takes one last right turn into the hotel parking lot, and breaches the finish line banner. Yahoo! Jeff Bubba Shrimp Stephens has conquered the desert and has finished the Furnace Creek 508!!
Needless to say, we're all very proud of his effort and know that we have all worked well as a team. It's 2:00 AM Monday morning. Jeff has achieved his goal in 43 hours and we're all very happy with his ride and his effort. We think he is as well. After taking lots of pictures and chatting with Chris Kostman and the others that have gathered to watch Jeff finish, we make our way towards our hotel suite.
While we're cleaning out the van and getting things ready for our departure later that morning, Bubba heads into the room, takes a well deserved shower, finds his bed, and falls asleep within 30 seconds, the sweet thoughts of a successful race surely in his mind. We on the crew aren't far behind. Good night! ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!
I want to thank Jeff for having us on his crew this year. We all had a great time and were proud to be a part of his effort. I think having an experienced crew was a definite asset to his success and I want to thank my two good friends for putting up with my antics and joining in as well. We made sure that while we kept the atmosphere wild and fun, we never strayed from our responsibilities to our rider. I told both Terry and Charlie at the end of the race that in my mind, the sign of a good, cohesive crew is that they put the rider first, before any of their own needs, and that they are still friends when it's all over. Certainly when you spend nearly two days cooped up in a van, there's plenty of opportunities for tensions to materialize. That never happened (although Charlie always liked to engage us in "colorful" debates!) and I can honestly say that both Terry and Charlie are not only excellent ultra cyclists, but superb crew members as well. Charlie has more patience than anyone I know and always seemed to know how to make Jeff relax. Terry did an overall incredible job, especially driving. He drove the support vehicle more than both Charlie and I combined and had more stamina than either of us. Terry had the unenviable job of doing direct support going down Townes Pass at night at 55 mph. Not even a flinch. Any rider would be more than lucky to have either of these two on his/her crew. I'm glad I got to be a part of Bubba's crew with these two. A great time for sure with good friends. Thanks you guys!
Thanks also to Chris Kostman who always puts on an excellent race and to the officials and volunteers who help make it go so smoothly. Thanks to the other riders and crews for the encouragements offered whenever we saw each other. Being a part of this race is special indeed and I'm looking forward to riding or crewing it next year.