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Old 07-22-2012, 08:49 PM   #1936
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Janary 12, 2012

Desert Warrior Needs Springs.

Robby Gordon Finishes First But Is Disqualified

Nassar Al-Attiya Bows Out.


Some purists might argue that the South American Dakar is nothing like the original African Dakar. I would argue that the African fans could never be as passionate and excited as the fans here in South America. And certainly I don’t think any of the residents here in South America would kill anyone as they did in Africa in 2007 and therefore forcing the A.S.O., the Dakar organization, to move the race to Argentina and Chile and for 2012, the first time in Peru.


In Argentina they were everywhere. Fans lined the streets of cities, small towns and in the middle of the pampas, all of them honking horns, waving flags, thumbs up in the air, waving their arms in accelerated windmill moves as cars zoom by. If we had to stop, even for a short relief from the massive intake of water we’ve been drinking, it wouldn’t be long before someone would appear, usually thrusting a flag, photo, or a piece of paper and a pen hoping for an autograph.


“Foto, foto, foto, mister,” they’d plead, “please mister, foto, foto, foto.” For many South American residents, getting close to the Dakar convoy is like getting close to rock stars. It’s hard to imagine this passion in the United States. It just wouldn’t happen.


I wonder what the fans will do with all the photographs and video they take of cars just whisking by there homes or downtown areas. We saw many fans who perhaps didn’t own cameras, but that didn’t prevent them from capturing the action as they sat on the roadside with small tablet and laptop computers aimed at the road, obviously using built-in cameras to record the Dakar frenzy.


But off-road rally racing has been embedded in South American culture much in the way that baseball and football are in the United States. Now in Chile, we travel longer distances over barren desert, so the fans aren’t lining the streets as they did in Argentina, but as we roll through small fishing villages and larger towns they hover around intersections, stand on the medians and practically hang from the traffic lights.


Most just want to see and watch. Others are hoping for hats, t-shirts and stickers. We’ve been running low on stickers and didn’t bring many t-shirts, so sometimes one of us simply pulls the shirt off our back and hands it to a passionate follower. But it’s the hats that we weren’t prepared for—most of the fans point to their heads, or yell “gorra, gorra”.


“Foto, foto, foto, mister,” they’d plead, “please mister, foto, foto, foto.” For many South American residents, getting close to the Dakar convoy is like getting close to rock stars. It’s hard to imagine this passion in the United States. It just wouldn’t happen.

The Antofagasta to Iquique stage runs 565 km, of which only 9km is liaison. The course winds through several desetrt canyons, rocky river beds and miles of deep powdery silt, fondly referred to by competitors as “fesh-fesh”. This nasty baby powder like silt gets into air filters, turbochargers, wheel bearings and brakes and into the cabs of the driver and co-driver making for a messy and uncomfortable drive in temperatures pushing 110 degrees Fahrenheit. But the end of the stage brings them down a steep hill and onto the shores of the Pacific Ocean where a gentle breeze provided relief for the heat and an amazing sunset for the spirit.


Our Canadian teammate made it through the long stage and arrived into Iquique past dark, having struggled with some of the sand and dunes. The gnarly river beds and massive rocks had taken its toll on the suspension of our friend’s banana colored Desert Warrior. Many of the springs broke. So rather than enjoy the bivouac and explore and watch the other cars and techs do their work, Raff and Bill removed the shock and spring assemblies from all four wheels and helped Aldo racing, Yvan and Pavel secure them on the Aldo steed so tomorrow Dave and Patrick could make their start time in the morning.


The replacement suspension components for the Desert Warrior included a set of “not as good” Fox shocks and springs. But when the crew fitted them to Darkcyd’s Desert Warrior, they discovered the fit wasn’t right. The bushings or spacers needed to secure a proper fit were too small. While we are slated to pick up new brake pads in the morning, finding correctly sized bushings here in the middle of nowhere would be impossible.


It wouldn’t be impossible to make new bushings, however. We would need a machine shop. While the Darkcyd T-5 support vehicle and the T-4 and T-5 trucks from Rally Raid UK were well equipped, there was no lathe or other fabrication machines necessary. So in the spirit of Dakar, Bill and Robb confronted the techs at Robby Gordon Racing who allowed Bill to use their machine shop an in a few hours Bill had newly fabricated bushings custom fit to the new Fox shocks.


So even now, well into the race, part of the Darkcyd Desert Warrior is still in the race. In fact, a few days prior one of the other teams, McRae Racing, who are running specially built buggies that utilized the same engine as these Desert Warriors, a BMW 3.5L turbocharged diesel, were having problems with their ECM (electronic control module), again and in the spirit of Dakar, our team loaned our ECM so they could stay in the race.


While the scenery in Iquique is calming and the nearly full moon providing more light as the days are getting shorter the more we move north, life in the bivouac continues to test all those who continue to endure questionable conditions in the portable toilets, so much that Ben still can’t figure out how a human being can miss the toilet by so much, especially when sitting on it, having to witness excrement and feces on the toilet seat, splattered on the floor and the questionable diet seeing it sprayed on the walls. Certianly not a pretty picture but evidence begs the question is how can someone be so crude or disrespectful—not what I’d call in “the spirit of Dakar.”


As for racing, the name of the game here as we click off more and more kilometers, is attrition. We often see flatbed trucks with several wounded motorcycles riding north, large trucks with body parts missing and cars, buggies and SUV trucks damaged, wheels broken and more. By this point I’m sure more than 30% of those who started this race are no longer competing, perhaps more.


As of 9pm in Iquique after the 9th stage, only 106 motorcycles of the 185 that started had finished, 16 of the 33 quads and 65 of the 171 cars. On bikes, Despres finished the stage first by nearly 4 minutes ahead of Coma and thereby taking the lead from him.


Our fellow American team and who helped us with their machine shop, Robby Gordon finished first squeaking a minute and a half ahead of France’s Stepahne Peterhansel. Peterhansel still leads Robby overall by just under 6 minutes.


Perhaps the saddest news of the day for Dakar and the Robby Gordon Racing team is that Nassar al-Attiyah, last years Dakar winner, has withdrawn from the race. Yesterday’s technical problems with wheels and alternator belts, combined with more technical problems today put the Qatar-based Dakar legend too far behind and as such has opted out.


While sad to see Nassar go, the disturbing news running around the bivouac this evening is that the race officials have disqualified Robby Gordon from the race due to “observation of technical non-compliance on vehicle No., 303. The details are fuzzy at this point but word on the street is that Robby Gordon’s special built Hummer uses an automated system for deflation and inflation of its tires. Though I’m sure this system was fitted in the car at scrutineering and inspection, it’s unclear what doesn’t comply. Some have theorized that air from the tires is rerouted to the engine compartment when in deflation and therefore someone might believe this could contribute to increased performance. But that’s a far fetched theory and even more far fetched if the France officials are thinking on these lines.


It is odd that no sitting in 2nd place that the French officials have suddenly found compliance issues with Gordon’s car.


Gordon has filed an appeal and will still be allowed to continue to race. The final decision on winning order and Gordon’s issue will be decided after the appellate process is complete this Spring in Paris.


 









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Old 07-22-2012, 08:53 PM   #1937
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June 12, 2012

Eureka We've Made It To Arica — Knocking On Peru's Door.

After two grueling and extremely long stages the racers looked a little road weary as we weaved around the usual line up of vehicles awaiting their launch time. Today Robb opted out of driving the Desert Warrior to Arica in favor of his first true ride in the Magic Mushroom. The Iquique to Arica Stage (10) runs 377km beginning with a scenic sandy beach section and onward to more dunes and the inevitable silty “fesh-fesh”. For us on the liaison assistance route, we travel about 350km and this morning we’ll we’ve through the beach resort town of Iquique in search of Chile Express so we may retrieve the brake pads shipped from Santiago by our legendary fixer, Cristian.


After some weaving around the high-rise hotels, condos and wide meandering boardwalk including fitness equipment, sculptures and manicured foliage, for a second perhaps this could’ve been Hawaii or California, but just a few blocks off the ocean front we’re reminded once again that this is South America and we’re still in Chile.


After a week of eating canned foot, soggy and sweat cereal bars, greasy chips and more sweet cookies, we began to resent the meals.

We found the Chile Express after some negotiating and luckily found parking in front of its offices. Things couldn’t go smoother and with a flash of a passport and a signature we had brake pads in hands. Before I could get the key into the ignition, however, I was created by a good looking woman with a tender smiling face and a strange hand held electronic device. Her uniform wasn’t that of a cop but I soon realized she was parking enforcement. Asking for a handful of pesos, her portable printer spit out my receipt and we were on the way to Arica.


We climbed out of Iquique and headed east while watching paragliders with amazing precision and finesse float from thousands of feet above to the beaches below. The winding route took us through the Reserva Nacional Pampa del Tamarugal, an arid park known for its rock paintings and petroglyphs from civilizations lost long ago. Amazingly and like an oasis amidst this dry desert, we rolled through the remains of what was once a massive forest of tamarugo, a scrubby but tall plant that once blanked these lands.


After some time we cross the coastal range and cruise along the beach where the team regrouped for lunch grabbing shade under a bridge and lived our bivouac lifestyle here on the road. That is, each day before heading out on the liaison or on stage, each Dakar bivouac resident is given a bag lunch. For the first few days our team endured, if not enjoyed these lunches, but after a week of eating canned foot, soggy and sweat cereal bars, greasy chips and more sweet cookies, we began to resent the meals. Ben would growl and then howl like a cat, a pointing reference to the notion that we are eating cat food, a practical joke we feel played upon us by the French organization running Dakar. But arguably, it is food and we must sustain.


It was nearly twilight when we rolled into Arica and as customary during our Dakar cruise, we pulled into a local gas station for refilling. That’s when the madness and reality of our near rock stardom reared its head again. Hundreds of people crowded the pumps as race cars and support vehicles vied for its daily gulp of diesel. Thrusting papers, flags, photos and more into the cab of the Mushroom, I must have signed two dozen autographs before putting in the clutch and downshifting. One young girl asked me to sign her arm. While the woman gravitated around Robb and I in the front seat, Tara was greeted by a contingent of male fans, some needing the attention of a dentist. She was a bit nervous and hesitant to roll down her window, but other than bad breath and just a huge dose of curiosity, these fans are harmless. “Foto, foto, please mister, foot.” I wonder what are they going to do with all these photos. Will we be immortalized on some Chilean’s Facebook page, never to be tagged? It’s all good. It’s the spirit. And we’re living Dakar.


Before passing through town and setting up our nightly camp at the bivouac, we decided to try to secure some real food at a local supermarket, Hiper Leader, here in Arica. More like a massive Wal-Mart, Robb spotted a bicycle that only cost about 37,000. “We need this for the bivouac!” he declared. He sat on the bike and drove it from the toy section to the panderia—the bakery where we stocked up on bread. I thought Tara was going to blow her cool as her eyes cast disapproval on Robb’s in-store antics. She whisked away to find more “cosas” (things in spanish) to keep things clean, fresh — including a handful of squishy chewing gum.


I took the wheel of the bicycle and cruised over to the vegetables and cured meats. Wow! Just a a bit of cheese and wine and I’m sure the France will be jealous—touché to your cat food!


The bicycle certainly provided entertainment and made for cruising around the bivouac faster and easier. Why didn’t we think of this earlier? Oh? Wondering about that 37,000? That’s pesos. The bike was barely $70 and our plan is to give this to a young child who may have always dreamed of a bike, but could never afford on. The exchange would be made after we arrive in Lima later this week.


The race action saw Spanish Joan Barreda Bort win his first special stage of the 2012 Dakar by beating Coma and Despres by 1’32″ and 3’39″ respectively. But Coma was the star taking 2’07″ back from Despres and moving within just 21 seconds of the French leader.


Gordon was doing so well and leading the stage until just before the end he came off the course and damaged his vehicle and losing enough time that Peterhansel flew by, but not fast enough as Nani Roma showed the French just how fast the Spanish can be and whisked to a win over both Gordon and Peterhansel. But for Gordon his unfortunate circumstance cost him lots of time and now after 10 stages here in Arica he dropped the third place with some 20 minutes behind Peterhansel and just 46 seconds behind Roma.


It’s here in Arica that everybody in the bivouac must go through a special tent set up for customs, immigration and agricultural inspection for tomorrow’s crossing into Peru. Based on our experience in coming from Argentina into Chile, I’ve got to hand it to the Dakar A.S.O. organization for the swift and simple procedure for cleaning customs and taking care of the passport stamping and immigration minutuae — so much easier than I’ve ever experience in more than 50 overland border crossings. Good job!


 









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Old 07-22-2012, 08:54 PM   #1938
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Juanuary 12, 2012

Nail biting Dakar tension marks long wait in Arequipa

While the liaison or transit route for support vehicles and media was a whopping 400km, the competitors had much longer runs. The motorcyclists had perhaps one of their longest days to date at over 700km, whereas the cars and trucks had 598km and 552km respectively. Due to the length of the stage, A.S.O. set up a special service bivouac enroute just for bikers and quads, not their assistance vehicles. Only the bikers and quad riders could help each other.


The liaisons for everyone were short: a quick jaunt to Tacna where we were whisked through immigration and customs like I’d never seen before. If only I had this kinda of speed when traveling around the world on my bike, I’d perhaps would have been able to log more countries. In Peru the roads are narrower and the cost begins to get more rugged. Steep inclines and twitting corners and switchbacks made for a very long cruise to Arequipa. Chugging trucks and lorries created long lines of assistance vehicles and T-5′s, each trying to nose into the oncoming lane hoping for a straightaway just long enough to whir by the diesel spewing slugs.


Relief from the winding and climbing roads was provided by long stretches of straightaways blasting through the desert or along the coast. Our first view of real South American poverty provided a peak at the sobering reality and contrast with million dollar vehicles tearing up the desert while the unfortunate live in brittle shacks of cane and brush, often without roofs and always without running water or electricity.


Back in the Desert Warrior, Robb soon discovered the winding roads, climbs and descents took its toll on its clutch, at one point losing all resistance and not working at all. The front transfer case has been leaking since we nearly started this journey, something surmised by techs that could be a legacy issue from the accident in Baja and perhaps a slightly tweaked axle. We had to pull over roadside to address strange sounds and the clutch.


A quick refueling stop in Boca del Oro gave us a hint of what we could expect from the Peruvian fans. The lined the streets, waved flags, whistled and cheered as the cars and trucks rounded the traffic circles. Police in crisp well starched uniforms waved their arms and directed the racers to the correct route and the assistance vehicles to theirs. The rugged coast is marked by scraggily cliffs and volcanic rocks littered along the coastline. The precipitous cliffs, often dropping 300 feet or more into the pounding surf and rocks below made the drive more exciting. There are very few guard rails. After climbing out of another coastal valley we climbed to the summit to be greeted by a warm and dramatic site: the glorious Andes and its snowcapped volcanoes. We hadn’t seen them since the ride from Fiambala to Copiapó many days ago.


With the wind whipping and blowing the magic mushroom around we started to descend toward the coast. That’s when we spotted the bivouac, tucked into a little canyon and in the shadows of two grand volcanoes. We set up camp and waited word on our fellow Canadian teammate ALDO Racing as well as Darren Skilton. Today’s stage was long and marked by a section of dunes and many kilometers of that nasty silt “fesh-fesh”.


In the Bivouac we were treated to perhaps the best food of the Dakar trail to date. And the Peru hospitality tent treated those fortunate enough o have returned from the tough stage or were in assistance vehicles still awaiting the return of their teammates to a dose of culture and a token gift of a traditional “chullo” hat, hand woven of alpaca.


David and Patrick pulled into the bivouac just after nightfall in the banana colored Desert Warrior—they had been stuck because silt and powdery fesh-fesh had clogged the air filter. But there was no word from Skilton, his co-driver Skyler Gambrell or the whereabouts of his Revolution VI buggy. In their camp set up in the Arequipa bivouac, shared by McMillin Racing Team, who’d been out of the race since the second stage, tension permeated the group. When they finally got word from Darren, it wasn’t good news. Roaring through the dunes, they crested a large dune only to find a French press car stuck —with no flag, warning triangle or anything. Skilton lost momentum and then got stuck.


After several hours and with help from another assistance vehicle, the finally got back on track. But not for long. Soon they were stuck and choked in the silty beds of “fesh-fesh”. In the bivouac Robb struggled to no success to get ahold of Paul and our T-4 assistance vehicle which also had not showed up at the bivouac. The moon raised high in the sky, surf pounded on the rocks and beach nearby and after midnight barely half of the vehicles had made it back to the bivouac. And Darren was stuck in the ‘crap’.


It’s not uncommon for racers to finally abandon hope and leave their vehicles buried in sand. Cars and motorcycles burn up on stage. And parts fall off vehicles making them impossible to drive back to the bivouac. With only Skilton and Robby Gordon the only hope for an American finish to the 2012 Edition of The Dakar, the mood was melancholy at Skilton’s camp. AS the hours clicked on, our teams tried to get to sleep. Seems Darren and Skyler would be trying to get their own sleep deep in the desert.


On stage and in the heat of the night Skyler and Darren replaced the clutch, blew out the air filter of fesh-fesh and finally got back on track. They arrived at the bivouac the next morning just minutes before the last car to leave. With no time to service the vehicle or even take a bathroom break, Skilton entered the bivouac and made a “U” turn, submitted his time card to control and headed back out on course.


The rules in Dakar are clear. You can stay in the race, at risk of time penalty, as long as you show up for the next stage prior to the last car heading out. This is exactly what Darren did. Though he didn’t begin racing. He made another “U” turn and returned to the bivouac where our joint teams worked together to address the mechanical issues that plagued the buggy late last night. Though he lost time and was at risk of penalty, Darren and Skyler hopped back in the buggy and headed out toward Nasca for the 12th stage—without any sleep—or rest.


That’s Dakar. More endurance than anything else, we watched them leave, packed up camp and headed out on the coast.


 
















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Old 07-22-2012, 08:56 PM   #1939
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January 13, 2012

The Mystery of Nasca. The Madness of Dunes.

It’s a race to the finish. That is, who will finish.


With the partial results floating in, the German x-Raid team of Mini Coopers and BMW’s are still holding strong with Peterhansel’s nearly 4 minute jump on teammate Coma in Arequipa, the Frenchman sits 22 minutes ahead of his teammate and more than 2 hours ahead of Robby Gordon who has now slipped to 4th place due to problems with his suspension on the 10th stage.


But the motorcycle battle rages strong here at 2012 Dakar With Cyril Despres winning his 4th stage of this year’s rally and gaining even more time over Marc Coma. Despres now holds the magic number of 2 minutes and 22 seconds ahead of Coma.


With Robby Gordon, Darren Skilton and Ned Suesse the only American’s still competing in the Dakar 2012 Edition, our sights and vibes are set on these teams. Skilton’s team showed their raggedy and tired edge in the Bivouac in Nasca. They were out all night, had no sleep and had to jump right back into the race this morning. I’ve wandered the bivouac for days, and while I’ve seen Suesse on stage, I haven’t been able to find his camp in the bivouac. While I’m sure Gordon is upset about his current 5th place showing, and Darren and team are frustrated with the Revolution VI buggy and the problems that have plagued them, they are proving that the race isn’t always about winning, it’s about enduring—and finishing—ervery stage along the way.


But today it’s all about dunes. The motorcycles get a big of a break after their long stage yesterday, but the cars and trucks will have a total of 657km to run including 245km of special stage — most of this through dunes, some topping over a mile high. Our team and convoy of three vehicles continued our crusade up the coast toward Nasca, famous for the Nasca Lines (sometimes spelled Nazca) a series of ancient geoglyphs stretching for miles in the Desert that shares its name. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, the lines are made up of undress of geometric shapes and dozens of zoomorphic designs of animals including a monkey, llamas, condor and more. Discovered in 1927 by a Peruvian archaeologist, they are best seen from air, though they were discovered when the archaeologist was hiking nearby hills.


The Dakar Rally won’t be raging across these mysterious ancient lines, rather they’ll cruise along the cost and then topping those massive dunes. Since Dakar moved to South America four years ago, there have been nothing like these dunes seen by the competitors. Talking with many of the drivers who’d competed in both Africa and South America, it was unanimous that these dunes were closest to what the teams face in Africa — if not even bigger.


The section of massive dunes is continuous for more than 20 kilometers. To negotiate the dunes drivers must carefully perform the “Mauritanian swerve” in order to ascend, crest and descent without incident. The “curve” requires ascending the dunes at an angle and then navigating into an ever so slight decreasing radius, giving driver and co-driver alike a chance to read the opposite side of the dunes. The whipping winds cause these dunes to change in just a moment, so reading the dunes is the most important aspect to successfully navigating without getting stuck, rolling down them or end-overing a vehicle after cresting the opposite side.


We almost had a four-alarm fire when Tara declared an emergency when she discovered her coveted bag of make-up was missing

The route for Dakar changes every year, but the terrain has been fairly consistent. Those who have raced before are well familiar with Argentina and Chile. But this is Peru’s debut, and nobody knows what to expect. While cruising along the cost we passed through the tiny town Tanaka where locals have thrown up an ad-hoc sign stating “Dakar Afraid of Tanaka Dunes.” I decided to stop to learn more about this strategically placed sign that shared a view of the rugged coast and and endless sea of dunes.


It’s possible that A.S.O. considered Tanaka for a dune stage of Dakar, but opted for dunes closer to Nasca. The locals believe that Dakar chose, perhaps, easier and a shorter distance of dues more north. Perhaps feeling stilted or not having the opportunity to host the Dakar competitors, the locals have decided to make a statement. As we gazed out on the dunes, the shapes and windblown geometry reminded me of the Sussevlei dunes in Namibia in southwest Africa.


A rambunctious group of locals, several who’d already had a bit too much to drink this afternoon, were happy to see that we stopped, communicated and inquired. The usually cadre of photographs and autographs followed with a constant reminder that “Dakar is afraid of the Tanaka Dunes.” Harmless and passionate, we bid our friends farewell and cruised up the coast, all along flaking dunes or one type or another. A few hours south of the Bivouac we regrouped with our entire convoy and shared yet another box lunch of questionable “cat” food, chips and more. Peering over the cliff of our lunch spot we noticed a sole shack, a dog and man wandering about. Prime ocean front real-estate we all agreed. But I wondered if raging winter storms wreak havoc on the feeble shack. We waved and cheered and tried to egg the dog to climb the 200 foot cliff to greet us. Didn’t happen.


In the bivouac we had a bit of business to take care. First, Tara determined to make the most of the bivouac and to show up all the women who send in photographs to the editor of Glamour Magazine to share just where some women go with their Galmour Magazine. According to Sara, most contributions are lame and hardly interesting. How many women bring Glamour to Dakar? I can say that last week we almost had a four-alarm fire when Tara declared an emergency when she discovered her coveted bag of make-up had gone temporarily missing. It was an emergency and all hands had to focus on recovering the coveted bag. Turns out the bag wasn’t far at all and this was just a fire drill. But the Glamour Magazine? Always secure and we took advantage of a sunset photo opportunity here in Nasca to capture the essence of Dakar and the contrasting beauty of Glamour.


While we were shooting, I pulled out a bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc that our Chilean Fixer had left me for just such an occasion. We pulled the team together and celebrated the countdown to Lima and a sweet taste of a grassy Sauv Blanc.


It’s true. Just one more day and we’ll be making tracks to Lima. The crew, it seems, is ready. The race is winding down. Attrition continues to take its toll on more cars, bikes, trucks and quads. We share the road with trailers hauling broken, beaten and battered vehicles. Inside I wonder how many will be back to try again.


 
















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'05 F650GS Dakar

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Old 07-22-2012, 08:57 PM   #1940
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January 13, 2012

Dakar Dunes Up Close. Bistro Bivouac & Peruvian Rations.

I’m sure the last thing Raff and Bill wanted to do last night was to remove the transmission from the Desert Warrior. Sure, if we were still in the race and the clock was ticking, that’d be the norm. As spectators and assistance and mired in our ongoing challenges—remember, the T-5 Chevy 2500 has transmission problems of its own—but considering this would be the third time clutch issues with the Desert Warrior had to be addressed. Robb wondered if we were still in the race, would the clutch issues have hampered and caused further problems and prevent Darkcyd’s likely finish. But that’s just hypothesizing and a waste of mind space.


Fact is, when the Desert Warrior rests on solid ground in the USA, the clutch, brakes and differential issues will be a high priority. And not because the team is planning another race for the Desert Warrior, but because the techs need to get more comfortable and intimate with the vehicles idiosyncrasies. But for now, the Desert Warrior had to make it to Lima—preferably under its own power and not behind the battery and transmission challenged RAFFmobile Chevy 2500 T-5.


I combed the passenger compartment of the Desert Warrior and familiarized myself with the safety equipment and nearest exits, but there was no barf bag in the seat pocket. – Allan KarlWe’re just one day out of Lima. Today would be my last day to log some miles in the Desert Warrior. Though yesterday too many hours under the beating sun and a case of indigestion spurred by Bistro Bivouac, I was feeling a bit worn, tired and under the weather. The prospect of climbing into the passenger seat of a race car while in the driver seat sits a zealous and anxious and certainly frustrated race-car driver, I wondered how I’d fare. I combed the passenger compartment of the Desert Warrior and familiarized myself with the safety equipment and nearest exits, but there was no barf bag in the seat pocket. And the pilot had no initial support on how to adjust the five-point racing harness, but it was clear the prior co-driver was quite a bit larger than moi. After some adjusting and support from Raff, Robb and I took off.


It was the earliest departure time on record for the entire Dakar 2012 for the Darkcyd Racing Team. Why? We were anxious to get to a media/press viewing area so we could see the leaders race deeper on stage than we’d seen before. With GPS coordinates locked and a working yet still temperamental clutch, we set out about 6o kilometers to the turn off that would take us another 10-12 kms off road and along yet another set of dunes. As we raced through the sand the Desert Warrior competently squirreled and swerved in the sand. We climbed small dune-ettes and after about 20 minutes we spotted the viewing area. As we approached we could see a spewing trail of dust approaching us. It was Robby Gordon. The race had started.


At barely 8:30am the sun was already unbearable. Dressed in long sleeves and donning a special sun hat, I was loaded with camera gear. I fitted Robb with my spare “Buff” for sun resistance and we headed out to the dunes to watch Dakar action live and up close in the sand. Rather than explain the adrenalin and excitement from watching the race out in the dunes, check out the photos below for the up close action.


Due to our early start, we actually made our arrival to the Bivouac the earliest of our adventure. With the sun still high in the sky, and the dining hall not yet open, we were able to enjoy culture, appetizers and a taste of Pisco Sour in the host hospitality tent. Each country hosts a hospitality tent where, if you are early enough, Dakar bivouac dwellers can get a hint of what the host country offers from a culture, tourism and culinary perspective. Like the rest of our team, hough I’ve been on the road for about two weeks, I’d never made to a bivouac host tent. After today’s experience, I wish that I had.


For the most part, I feel that yesterday’s sun stroke was compounded by today’s dune dwelling photo session—rather than complain I just hydrated with liters of water and though I felt my appetite had escaped, the Peruvian stuffed potatoes, pork filled empanadas and rice with milk settled nicely. We were treated to music and dance from the locals and overall I could sprawl out on a somewhat comfy sofa that was sand free and under the shade of a massive tent. Yes, it feels we’re getting closer to Lima.


The Peruvian bathrooms in the past bivouacs have been perhaps the cleanest, as well. Several attendants rush to the door once you leave a porta-potty and they clean and sanitize the cozy cubicle before another enters. But unlike other bivouac portable potty boxes, the attendants here were committed to almost a Stalinesque-approach to rationing—toilet paper rationing.


The first time I retreated to porta-potty central in Arequipa, I opened a half-dozen doors only to find each void of toilet paper. After the fifth or sixth I barely heard this meek voice from across the yard, “papel? papel?” It didn’t register at first, but then it fell on me like thunder. I nodded, “si, papel, por favor.” She had a stash of pre-rolled toilet paper sheets, perhaps 10-12, and handed me my thin ration. Geeez, I wondered. I know the dining hall crew can be stingy on the good food nights, but 10 sheets of toilet paper after a dinner at Bistro Bivouac? I grabbed my ration and applied a conservative and sustainable approach to my toilet paper usage.


Back at camp I quickly learned that I wasn’t the only person in camp Darkcyd to have been rationed. I guess to gain a little, as the old marketing adage says, you’ve got to give up something. I know Tara gladly gave up the toilet paper rationing — because she always keeps a secret stash—and always a supply of the legendary Action Wipes — oversized and all natural towels for keeping clean and when the showers are just a little to scary — her savior and certainly a life savior for the rest of us as we brave the harsh conditions of Dakar the Desert and the Bivouac.


There are things to learn here in Peru and on the Dakar trail. Toilet paper strategy has been earmarked for future reference.



















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Old 07-22-2012, 08:59 PM   #1941
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Happy or Sad. Dakar Comes To An End. What's next?

For the first time on this nearly 10,000km journey, the Darkcyd Racing Team rose at near sunrise and calmly and collectively packed camp and headed out of the Pisco Bivouac before the last of the cars and the trucks. I’m sure many on the team would confess relief, excitement and express jubilee as the end of this long trip was just a few hundred kilometers away. However, I’m sure that most would hesitate to reveal a certain post-Dakar disappointment or depression settling in. To be sure, no one will miss Bivouac food, gnarly and questionable shower and toilet facilities, wind, biting sand and the roaring and revving of engines all night long. But we’re at the end.


The Dakar competitors still vying for a position on the podium have other things on their minds. For the bikes, I have to admit that it’s over. Despite my finger-crossing, wishing and positive thoughts going out to Marc Coma, Cyril Despres walked away with the #1 spot on the podium Troubles with Coma’s gearbox cost him yet another penalty, this time one-hour. Though I felt a little tingle today as Portuguese rider Helder Rodrigues riding on his Red Bull Yamaha grabbed the top spot on Stage 13 and beat Despres by just :47 seconds. So, maybe I just don’t prefer riders on KTMs, though I was rooting for Coma. By the time we rolled into Lima Despres had it locked in with Coma and Rodriques taking 2nd and 3rd positions accordingly.


While my allegiance to Coma for the bikes met with disappointment , I was more disappointed by the ending results for the cars. I know this is a French-run race and that the French have incredibly capable and professional motorcycle racers and car racers, when will an American walk away with the top spot on the podium for cars? Robby Gordon had set his team’s sites on #1 and #2 for 2012. But he too fell short. Before taking off yesterday morning Gordon was rather vocal that he’d take the (13th) stage away from the ‘sissy’ Minis. But he pushed too hard. After getting stuck in the sand and seeing Peterhansel pull away before he got out, he floored his special-built Hummer and drove it a bit too hard as he tried to talk Peterhansel, he hopped over a small dune and landed a tad cockeyed and flipped his Speed Energy Hummer and landed on the roof. The locals quickly got him on his way, but two flat tires cost him more time and he never caught the Mini’s.


On the podium we watched corks flying and champagne spewing. Flags waving and happy finishers grinning ear to ear. For those who made it this far, now was time for their glory.

But on the final stage, a short 29km run into Lima, Gordon showed once and for all who should be boss and he won the final stage by just 21 seconds ahead of Ricardo Leal Dos Santos, though not enough to make a dent in the standings. So by the time the he rolled into Lima, Gordon ended up with a respectable, but not desirable, 5th place overall position. He guaranteed the Mini’s and the crowd that he’ll be back.


Our Canadian teammate David Bensadoun driving the banana colored Desert Warrior became the first Canadian to ever complete a Dakar and took 40th place, though he was 30 hours behind the winner Stephane Peterhansel. And the only other Americans to finish the race behind Robby Gordon, Darren Skilton in a Revolution VI buggy and Ned Suesse, from Colorado Springs and riding a KTM motorcycle in his first attempt at Dakar finished 53rd overall.


When it comes to Dakar, finishing is winning. And though the Darkcyd Rally Racing Team’s Desert Warrior didn’t finish in the strict rules of the event, it made the journey and logged over 5,000 miles from Mar del Plata, Argentina to Lima, Peru. There was no cheering on the podium and the somber mood that hung over the team earlier in Argentina had dissipated by the time it was greeted with enormous fanfare staring some 100 miles south of Lima where Peruvian fans had lined the roadsides, crowded the overpasses and steps of bridges all the way to Lima. They whistled, the cheered, they raised there fists high and echoed excitement — excitement that lasted for hours as we rolled into Lima in classic celebrity fashion: with a siren blaring and lights chasing Police Escort.


Darkcyd Racing made it to Lima. Our mission was to get to know and reconnaissance the most grueling and difficult race on the planet. As I watched the faces of its teammates, I could see they all were happy to finish and that they all harbor a desire to come back.


The fans lining the bridges/overpasses was a site that can barely be described using words. It warmed our hearts and sparked our imagination. We’d never see anything like this in the United States.


On the podium we watched corks flying and champagne spewing. Flags waving and happy finishers grinning ear to ear.


For the Darkcyd Racing Team, the Bivouac behind them and traded for 5-star digs in upmarket Mira Flores. With a Starbucks walking distance and the golden arches glowing, it does seem we’ve come a long way. But rather than gravitate to an American safe haven, the team opted for the culinary creations of a traditional Peruvian restaurant, Pampas del Amacayaes, just a few blocks from our hotel.


There was still business in Lima, however. The T-5 support vehicle and the Desert Warrior were delivered to the docks at the shipping port near the Lima Airport. A bit of bureaucratic runaround made for just one more exciting South American adventure.


And then there’s the bicycle. Remember the bike Robb purchased in Arica? Well before taking the Desert Warrior to the port, an eager youngster, handicapped with just one hand, had been gawking and eyeing the race cars and support vehicles all morning while details for shipping were ironed out. Robb singled him out and before one more Lima Police Escort to the port, Robb handed the young boy the bicycle. Tears nearly fell from his eyes as he caressed the bike and expressed thanks. It makes all of us wonder and wish we all had bicycles to give the needy. For those things that sometimes seem meaningless or are taken for granted are so much appreciated and coveted here south of the border. Sometimes we fall victim to our own greed or desire for something just a little better. A dose of reality like watching the one handed boy glee and smile brings everything in perspective.


Dakar may be over. But much work needs to be done.



















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Old 07-22-2012, 09:02 PM   #1942
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March 7, 2012

Check out this video clip featuring Robb Rill and the Darkcyd Racing Team in South America for the Dakar 2012 edition. Shot and produced by the Dakar organization and features an interview with Robb prior to the start of the race. Good stuff.


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Old 07-12-2013, 01:41 PM   #1943
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A Gentle Nudge: Time To Update



doc-lonely-2013

What’s it take to get a new post here on my ADVrider trip report? While my local friends nudge me often, today I received a warm note and email from Rwanda. I met J. Marie while traveling through Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. He helped me sort out the paperwork and details required to visit the legendary Mountain Gorillas that make home in the northern jungles around the volcanos.

He expressed concern that not only had it been awhile since I posted, but that the WorldRider “Tracker” in the right sidebar was out of date. So thanks to J. Marie, I feel it’s time to a quick update and fix the tracker.

As many of your know, for the past three years I’ve been working on a new book. It’s been a project of passion and commitment. For two years I tried to convince traditional literary agents and publishers to take a chance on my book — which is a unique hybrid of a travel adventure memoir, photo book and cookbook. While many of these traditional publishing professionals responded well to my story, most tried to persuade me to abandon the complicated color “coffee table” style book I envisioned and stick to a more traditional book — black and white text with a color cover.

I didn’t want to compromise my vision and dream for a more interactive book that would better capture and share my experience traveling around the world. So I’ve decided to publish it myself. Though I am working with a traditional agent/publisher on the "story" of my travels and adventures. This will be released in 2014 or 2015. My passion, purpose and commitment is to do the book I've always wanted to write and publish. This comes first!

I happy to say that the book is nearly ready thanks to the help and support of so many. You know who you are and I’m grateful and appreciate each of you, thank you.

Sometime later this month I will launch a Kickstarter campaign to pre-sell copies of the book and to raise funds for printing, publicity and a book tour. If you are unfamiliar with Kickstarter, take a quick look at the site. It’s a crowdfunding website for creative projects.

The tricky part of Kickstarter is setting a goal for funding. That is, I will set a goal of minimum amount of funds that I must raise for my book. People will pledge and have an opportunity to pre-order copies of the book, prints, postcards and other “rewards,” non unlike a PBS fundraising campaign. Except with Kickstarter, if I don’t receive enough “pledges” to meet my funding goal, I will not receive any of the funds/pledges. I must meet my goal or the Kickstarter funding campaign fails.

It will be important for me to get the word out to as many people as possible so I can increase the chance of meeting my funding goal. That’s where I hope you can help: spread the word through email, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. I've got the page set up, will shoot the video next week and go live the week after. I hope. If you want to look at the private preview page for the campaign, shoot me an email and I'll send a link so you can learn more about the book and the campaign.

There will be a launch party, I hope on both the East and West Coasts, and this will be part of my campaign rewards.

I will share more information here and on my other websites as we get close to launching the campaign. I hope I can count on your support as we launch the book.

Once this book hits the "shelves" then maybe I can get away from the computer and back on my bike, which has been collecting more dust than miles these days!

Thank you.
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Old 09-14-2013, 05:27 PM   #1944
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Reflecting as I get ready to launch my book campaign.


Somehow I question the sincerity of the headline on this billboard, I took this photo in the summer of 2008.

What's happening to Syria? To the people of Syria.


My friends in Syria. I wonder. And I cry.


Why? Because Syria surprised me. Surprised me with thrilling and unexpected *joy—and filled me with wonder and curiosity.


That was then.


Though it seems like yesterday, it was about 4 years ago when I changed my plans, my route and my mind and ventured into Syria. What I thought would be a few day journey through the tiny and controversial country, turned into weeks of exploring back roads, medieval towns, historic mosques and of meeting people who went out of their way to introduce me to their country and whose hospitality, though not unusual to a world traveler, warmed my heart and opened my mind to, what I believed at the time, a world of Syrian possibilities. And opportunity.


*



*


My expectations back in 2008 were, at first, tempered, given the challenge and patience testing circumstances I endured at the border. I had no idea what to expect from or in Syria. It took me more than 24 hours of negotiating, commitment, confidence and a helluva lot of persistence at the border between Syria and Jordan, and though the rules were clear, they didn't seem like they'd yield to my tenacity and break them, somehow I convinced Syrian immigration and customs to let me and my motorcycle into Syria.


Yet before I could escape the dusty outpost where truck drivers argue, families gather and women, hiding behind burkas take more than a step away from me when I walk by, curiosity aroused, the chief of the border post invited me to enjoy tea and shared with me, on a map he scribbled with a stick into the earth between his feet, the sites I should not miss while visiting Syria.


I remember that chief inspector, with his silver hair, rough features yet how his kind eyes made me feel welcome and that all the effort at the border was worth it.



And I wonder. I remember the gas station owner who wouldn't let me pay for my gas and insisted I have tea and lunch inside the gas station. The man selling tamarind juice on the square in the new city in Aleppo. "You try, you try," he said over and over again. When my face puckered from the bitter taste, he offered me a sweeter and more approachable alternative. And I wonder. I remember the young boy who latched onto me as I explored the citadel in the old city and wandered through the maze of colorful and aromatic souks, of Aleppo. And I wonder.


I wonder what is happening to a country that I often refer to as one of my favorite of the more than 50 countries I've visited over the years. Just a few short years ago, Syria sucked me in, seduced, satisfied and teased me like playful lover — like no other. Yet I wonder. What's happened to Syria, my Syria; the Syria I remember, the friends.


In Aleppo at the modest restaurant where the staff sent me home with a bottle of Syrian wine and where I was asked to play a lute-like stringed instrument, the one that when I tried to make music just croaked, and that I'm sure grated on the ears and nerves of the other guests dining in the room. Yet they indulged me. And so my love affair with Syria, fresh at this time, barely a week, blossomed and was public.


Smitten and excited by the beauty and history of Aleppo, I opted out of travel to the historic dead cities of the east, only so I could be with the living, and the energy of the people of Aleppo—the people who, in so many ways, trusted me with the key to their city and offered sights, sounds and flavors. Though perhaps I didn't know it at the time, they did this willingly and with intent, I can only guess, to seduce me further.


I wonder. What's happened to Syria. My Syria. The Syria I remember.



Watching the reports from man-in-the-street video in Damascus and elsewhere, the horrific images of the effects of recent chemical weapon attacks, and the posturing of world powers on the global stage fills me we anger and despair.**The all-to-real destruction and humanitarian abuse of the war in Syria, thanks to modern technology and social media, leaves nothing for the imagination. In nearly real time we are at once shocked by what we see, yet we are numbed by the distance of our eyes to screens and the distance of the screens to the actual location where these atrocities are real. There's no way for us to completely understand not only the political posturing, but the suffering and the loss.


Most journalists have abandoned the city, save those that are provided a safe haven and used as political pawns such as Charlie Rose's recent chat with Al-Assad. Others are left to report from afar, with ears to the doors of Syria at the borders of Lebanon and Turkey.


For better or worse, people on both sides of the conflict, armed with video-capable cell phones capture the madness like no other conflict we've ever seen before. These are not the eyes or camera of journalists. So it's difficult to truly know or understand exactly what we're watching. But that doesn't matter. Because what we're seeing is brutal—regardless of who is to blame.


Today, we have word that Russia, with its questionable motives, has negotiated with Al-Assad a handover of chemical weapons. Time will tell if this is real and verifiable. But the other atrocities of the conflict will go on. Why must we settle for chemical weapons? It's likely that the US, and its allies will continue its pressure, and Russia will continue its efforts and the next act will come to the stage. The blood, no doubt, will continue to spill and the super powers and the UN will advance its own agendas while throwing caustic rhetoric at Al-Assad and each other. They will continue to ignore the burning buildings and bodies and, as such, the question fogging my mind will remain unanswered.


What's happening to Syria. My Syria, the Syria I remember. What happened to you, Syria? My Syria.


Hmmm. I also remember visiting Rwanda and Sudan before arriving in Syria.


What's happening?


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Old 09-27-2013, 11:57 PM   #1945
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Time To Get On The Road Again?!

Thanks for all of you who've followed my journies and adventures over the past several years. It keeps going.

I'm so excited to be finally at the end of a more than three year project that now soon to be behind me will give me the time to continue the journey.

Have you seen this:



Don't be shy nor quiet. I would love to hear from you!
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Old 09-29-2013, 10:50 AM   #1946
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Allan, best wishes on reaching your pledge goal and seeing your dream push it's way into reality.
There are some of us in Santa Barbara that are still waiting your return for that & . Just sayin'.
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Old 10-10-2013, 10:51 AM   #1947
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Just found your thread but I read the first few pages then skipped to the last few pages including Dakar 2012 photos. Good writing and find it entertaining. Noticed that you plan to release a self-published book so I think I will wait for your book instead of reading the whole thread. So subscribed to be notified when you release the book be it pre-released or released edition.

And speaking of publishing a book- I have a friend who wrote and published few books himself. We went to college together and were roommate at some point in college. When he learned of my plan to ride motorcycle around the world as a deaf rider, he asked me to consider writing a book but I am not sold on this. Here are few things that worry me at this time. First, who would really want to read the book about 'poor deaf biker riding a Harley round the world'? Second, my writing skill really suck-honestly! Third, if I was to publish the book, I would want to do it the same way you wanted your book done- plentiful of photos to go with your story which would be the best way to give your audience a better perspective or picture of how you are trying to tell your story. My friend offered to be a co-author for free with the condition that his name is credited on the book so that helped make it easier to consider. Am not still sold on the idea due to first reason. Anyway, I am definitely interested in your book if the price is right. Walter Colebatch's Sibersky Extreme cost about $80 and his writing style is just about the same as what we both want but $ is just too much for me.
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Old 10-10-2013, 06:16 PM   #1948
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Originally Posted by WhicheverAnyWayCan View Post
Just found your thread but I read the first few pages then skipped to the last few pages including Dakar 2012 photos. Good writing and find it entertaining. Noticed that you plan to release a self-published book so I think I will wait for your book instead of reading the whole thread. So subscribed to be notified when you release the book be it pre-released or released edition.

And speaking of publishing a book- I have a friend who wrote and published few books himself. We went to college together and were roommate at some point in college. When he learned of my plan to ride motorcycle around the world as a deaf rider, he asked me to consider writing a book but I am not sold on this. Here are few things that worry me at this time. First, who would really want to read the book about 'poor deaf biker riding a Harley round the world'? Second, my writing skill really suck-honestly! Third, if I was to publish the book, I would want to do it the same way you wanted your book done- plentiful of photos to go with your story which would be the best way to give your audience a better perspective or picture of how you are trying to tell your story. My friend offered to be a co-author for free with the condition that his name is credited on the book so that helped make it easier to consider. Am not still sold on the idea due to first reason. Anyway, I am definitely interested in your book if the price is right. Walter Colebatch's Sibersky Extreme cost about $80 and his writing style is just about the same as what we both want but $ is just too much for me.




The picture in Allan's last post is a link to different options for pledges for the book.


Personally I think there would be interest in your story. Your take on how traveling/communicating in other "worlds" would be of interest to me for sure. Going about getting it published as Allan is doing looks to take some of the big risk $ wise out of it and still leaves you in control of the project. JAT
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Old 10-21-2013, 01:52 PM   #1949
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Allan, best wishes on reaching your pledge goal and seeing your dream push it's way into reality.
There are some of us in Santa Barbara that are still waiting your return for that & . Just sayin'.
Thanks for your kind words, and for your pledges and for not only reading and watching here, but for sharing this story and helping this campaign reach its goal.

For some wacky reason, I'm not getting notifications to posts on my thread anymore, so I missed these and apologize for not following up sooner.

If you haven't seen where we are today, with just 24 hours to go, take a moment and check it out: http://worldri.de/r-kickstarter
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Old 10-21-2013, 01:58 PM   #1950
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Originally Posted by WhicheverAnyWayCan View Post
Just found your thread but I read the first few pages then skipped to the last few pages including Dakar 2012 photos. Good writing and find it entertaining. Noticed that you plan to release a self-published book so I think I will wait for your book instead of reading the whole thread. So subscribed to be notified when you release the book be it pre-released or released edition.

And speaking of publishing a book- I have a friend who wrote and published few books himself. We went to college together and were roommate at some point in college. When he learned of my plan to ride motorcycle around the world as a deaf rider, he asked me to consider writing a book but I am not sold on this. Here are few things that worry me at this time. First, who would really want to read the book about 'poor deaf biker riding a Harley round the world'? Second, my writing skill really suck-honestly! Third, if I was to publish the book, I would want to do it the same way you wanted your book done- plentiful of photos to go with your story which would be the best way to give your audience a better perspective or picture of how you are trying to tell your story. My friend offered to be a co-author for free with the condition that his name is credited on the book so that helped make it easier to consider. Am not still sold on the idea due to first reason. Anyway, I am definitely interested in your book if the price is right. Walter Colebatch's Sibersky Extreme cost about $80 and his writing style is just about the same as what we both want but $ is just too much for me.
Hey, first, and easy for me to say, don't diminish what you are doing. I've been there. And actually the impetus, among many, to doing a book that features photos and food, was because I thought the same, who wants to read about my travels around the world. Well, I can tell you that as I travled, and when dealing with frustration of internet, time and just needing to take time for myself and I left my blog or this thread unattended for a week or so, the worry letters and "angry" readers came alive — people read this because they are genuinely interested and if you can share something, new perspective and offer them a diversion into new worlds and situations, it is rewarding for them.

So write that book. There are editors that can help you craft your writing. But I think you're harder on yourself (and your writing) than you should be :) -- So think about it. Ping me here in a DM and I'll try to convince you further

If you still want a copy of FORKS, btw, there are just about 24 hours left to order on Kickstarter and it's as Treadless says $45 including shipping USA.

Thanks for your note and for reading.

Allan
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