An early start saw an immediate change in the scenery. It became far more swamp like; the heat rose to around 95 degrees and the humidity was at least 110 percent (probably more!!). Sweating became the norm and we all drank like maniacs to stop dehydration. Wishing for water was one thing, but when we finally got it, it wasn't exactly what we'd been wishing for! As we had initially feared all that rain had taken its toll on the state of the trails and tracks. Mud became the order of the day and plenty of it! Riding a bike through slippery/sticky mud is no fun in that heat, and boy did we suffer. We had to keep the speeds up to get our daily 250 miles done in daylight and the riding became quite exciting....
We were too busy congratulating ourselves on our excellent riding to take any notice of the bridge out sign. Sad really. When we got to the building site/bridge we had ridden a long way down a track that we really didn't want to have to reverse. Amazingly the bridge was almost fixed, the only part we couldn't ride was the four foot high concrete wall to get us up on to the flat concrete top and exit ramp. Even more amazing was the quantity of building materials left around the site, and the lack of workmen. Clearly there was a simple solution to the problem
If we had sweated before, we certainly sweated more during the construction of our mk1 bridge jump ramp. 4 pieces of heavy 12ft planking, two ft/sq rolled steel joists, a mallet, some old rotting wood, and 3 litres of sweat saw it complete. The ramp was slimy and steep, I got to go first and after a brief period of 'air time' touched down on the new bridge and squeezed passed a large crane at the other end. Jon jumped next, followed by Stef. We were now 1 hour behind schedule, and suffering from heat exhaustion and mosquito bites.
I think we were all secretly quite pleased with ourselves, and when the next 'bridge out' sign came along we quite fancied our chances. Sadly a quick appraisal of the site told us that this fix was clearly going to be beyond a few hand tools and some sweat. The bridge was well and truly absent. However, there were workmen , a dam, and a massive American size CATERPILLAR with a huge fat driver smoking an equally fat cigar. The bridge when finished was going to cross a ditch 40ft across and 30ft deep, and there were steep tracks down to the centre of the ditch for the CATERPILLAR to sit in a mud bath and dig out holes for concrete piles.
After initial consultation it was Jon who had a few words with the driver and negotiated to have the far bank and part of the road removed to create a series of ramps for us to ride up. The problems were now based purely around our riding ability and the consistency of the mud, it was knee deep gloop.
If we wanted to save time we had little choice but to have a go. The far bank was so steep that the driver used the bucket of the digger to pull himself up so that the machine didn't topple over. It was spectacular to watch his driving (well he looked impressive to me anyway), and after 10 minutes of puffing away on his cigar had created a series of hideously steep and messy looking mud ramps.
To cut a long story short Jon was fine, Stef looked like a moto x star as he shot up the other side of the bank on his back wheel! I bogged down, got within 2ft of the top and slowly slipped 20ft backwards and collapsed under the bike. I blame it on the wrong choice of caterpillar track (both Stef and Jon used the other side), but then I would!!. I silently vowed that next time it wouldn't be me.
My next attempt was far more successful and we were soon moving along at a good pace. That evening we arrived at our motel exhausted, but within our 12 hour time limit. Jon's first day of navigation had gone well and our bikes were mud caked but running sweetly. Once in our room our first act was to turn on the air conditioning unit and spread mud everywhere. The days near misses told us that the future was likely to be muddy, sweaty, and wet.
Oddly our motel for the night was no ordinary inconspicuous building. We marvelled at how a 400 acre casino site could exist in such a dry and desolate place. Water fountains spouted everywhere and huge tarmac expanses held car parking for thousands. It seems that state gambling laws create some strange business ventures and as we were right on the border of a non-gambling state the casino was doing great business!!
I gambled 25 cents that night, smug in the knowledge that if everybody else won 125 percent of their stake like I did, the casino would collapse. (Obviously I then spent my $1.50 on food, but you can't have everything!)