Bill Hanf, Kennewick, WA
I participated in Furnace Creek 508 for nine straight years as either a rider or crew member for Team Chinook. I was initially talked into doing this ride by David Fischer, who is responsible for recruiting all of the Team Chinook riders over the years. I remember talking to my team members near the end of my first ride and everyone but Dave (who was finishing his 2nd ride) agreed that nobody in their right mind would do this ride more than once. We laugh about that now and compare the 508 experience to childbirth. A week or two after the ride we forget the pain and discomfort and start planning for the next year. We all feel fortunate that we have the physical capability and financial where-with-all to do this ride year after year and we are thankful that Chris Kostman has allowed us to keep returning. After all of these years I'm sure that we've become major contributors to Chris' retirement fund. Three Team Chinook riders are now in the 508 Hall of Fame (David Fischer, myself, and Diane Strycula). Through 2008, these three riders were the only people in the Hall of Fame not residing in California. The male and female solo winners in 2008 were also from the great state of Washington. We'll have to see if another state other than California can do as well in future years. Yes, this is a challenge.
Here are few things I've learned when riding or crewing for a 508 team:
- It's relatively expensive to participate when you live outside of California.
- The ride is an unforgettable experience and a challenge worth repeating.
- Solid foods and sugary electrolyte drinks do a poor job fueling the body and preventing bowel and muscle cramps. HAMMER Nutrition products including Endurolytes, Perpetuem, and Recoverite work very well and I would have had a lot less discomfort if I had used them on all of my 508 rides.
- Southern California is not always warm and dry.
- Some of the worst road surfaces in the country can be found in the Mojave Desert.
- It can be very windy and dusty in the Mojave Desert.
- A Mojave Desert jackrabbit can jump high enough to hit a bike rider in the chest.
- High winds in Death Valley National Park at night can blow thousands of scorpions onto the road.
- A rider at night can outrun his/her support vehicle, and its headlights, when descending Towne Pass.
- The flashing lights of the support vehicles on Towne Pass and in Death Valley look surreal in the middle of the night.
- There are Mountain sheep in the middle of the Mojave Desert.
- People choose to live in the ugliest, hottest, driest, and most desolate and isolated locations imaginable.
- Temperatures during the ride can range from 45 degrees F (Townes Pass) to 106 degrees F (Baker).
- The ride is a lot more tiring when the air conditioning in the support vehicle fails, or is nonexistent.
- The old ride format of teams changing riders at any time was more difficult and tiring, but faster, than the new format of changing riders only at time stations.
- In my opinion, when riding as a four-person team, rider D has the most difficult rides, rider A has the next most difficult rides, rider C has the 2nd easiest rides, and rider B has the easiest rides.
- A cold wet towel on the head and neck is a lifesaver when temperatures approach or exceed 100 degrees F.
- Caffeine is your friend.
- One 24 oz. bottle of fluid faithfully consumed each hour when riding will keep you hydrated.
- The post-ride breakfast is enjoyable and is worth attending.