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What I and my full rigid 29er singlespeed did at the Vision Quest 2005

By Keith Eckstein, Trails Director for the Warrior's Society
Photos by Lynn Acosta

The wake up call came at 4:00 AM, the ensuing sounds of morning routines beginning fractured the night's stillness beyond recall. A bit of foreshadowing in the choice of the word 'fractured', but more on that later...

At least the group of us who crashed inside the rec building at O'Neill had a toasty warm night's rest. The price for this privilege was to help our Queen of the Breakfast, Patty Taylor (McLaughlin) set up the food and drink for the late registration. Many hands make light work and in just a few minutes the cofee was brewed, baked goods diplayed, OJ presented and the Registration table readied.

Next task was the loading of bike and riders, trucks for the former and school buses for the latter. Still in inky darkness as we headed up Live Oak Canyon road, I saw many faces from past VQ's. Seated next to me was Derek from Big Bear, and he and I caught each other up on our lives. By the time we pulled into the starting line full daylight was upon us.

Bob Haislett at the start Typical weather, about mid-forties. It was quite a scene and I always feel glad and proud to be a pert of it. Many of the best that our sport has to offer were there, and I feel honored to be among them. We finally were let off about 6:40 and what a relief to get the thing underway.

The unexpected muddy condition of the Black Star road in the canyon bottom slowed the pace and sucked more energy out of the riders than usual. I was feeling not too badly by Beek's and the Main Divide. The trip across the spine of the Santa Ana's was pretty uneventful, encountering many of my friends along the way: Darn Maxwell and his daughter Lacey at the Golf Ball near Beek's, Jady Enomoto, Steve Timm, Calvin Mulder on a fixed gear (he slowed down long enough for a minute of conversation before motoring away).

The Silverado Motorway was a welcome sight, it was here that I saw Barbara Dodge on her attempt at the Counting Coup. I almost ate it one the second rocky section near the top, but by the grace of God pulled out of the rut unscathed. I can say that I passed Rudy (another guy on a fixed gear). Never mind that he was on the side of the trail fixing a flat tire!

The bottom of the Motorway, another welcome sight. Was reassured to find that the blood sugar at this point was right in range at 150. I downed a banana, some cytomax, a Clif Bar and some water, then back on the bike for the 16-mile climb to the top of Santiago Peak.

Mike Caffrey and I pedaled together up Maple Springs for a long time. Mike has his own story to tell, but the gist of it is that he sheared off his chainring bolts and (get this), zip tied his chainrings together to get down the Motorway! Some good soul at the aid station actually gave Mike the chainrings from his own bike, enabling Mike to continue his Quest. Are mountain bikers great people or what? Well, about the time we hit the spring for which the road is named, Miike inexorably pulled away. Another buddy of mine Steve Nudge pulled in alongside and we yakked like women all the way up to the top of the mountain. On the way, we passed Derek, which would happen several times that day.

Just before the turn off to the Upper Holy Jim, I pinch flatted on the back tire. During the tube change about 10 riders came by. My former team mate from last year's 24-Hour Temecula race Melissa Fletcher joined Steve and I as we pulled in to the Upper HOLY JIM trail. What a joy that downhill!! I really hit my rhythm and the flow of the trail was almost better than sex.

Keith at Maple Springs Remember the bit of foreshadowing in the beginning of this story? On the lower switchbacks, within sight of the support staff at the bottom of the trail, is a tree stump protruding from the mountain. Keith's right hand smacked that thing right square on the pinkie knuckle and sent him tumbling down the hill. Great entertainment for all the support staff. At the time I felt no pain, so I picked myself back up and rode down to the aid station.

Tom Sherman complimented my form, chastised me for cutting a switchback, and inquired if I was good to go. God Bless Tom! I didn't know it then, but that knuckle was broken.

All I could see was the downhill on HOLY JIM and so off I went. We had a bit of a traffic jamb in the beginning, but the gentleman was kind enough to accommodate two of us, myself and a young woman in letting us by. Of course, being a gentleman myself, I deferred to the lady and her full suspension rig, when she asked could I get out of the way. She was tearing it up in great style, but I managed to stay with her (which surprised me). But her lack of knowledge of the trail showed when she plowed right past the first switchback. As I went by her I inquired how many times she'd been on this trail. "This is my first time!" came back the reply. Evidently the switchbacks gave her some pause, as I lost sight of her from that point. She made it to the aid station about ten minutes after I did.

The time was 12:10 so I was in good shape for the 1:00 PM cut off time at the bottom of West Horsethief. Blood sugar check again, 90. Not too bad. More cytomax, banana and a Clif Bar. A glass of water and off for the last push. I was still feeling pretty good, especially for all the lack of preparation due to all the rainy weekends we've had this year. In years past I've walked almost half the Trabuco Creek section, but I managed to ride the majority of it this time. Steve Nudge waiting for at the bottom of West Horsethief. I was very surprised to hear from the support staff there that I had made the cut off by one minute!

The 2-mile hike up WT was grinding, but putting one foot in front of the other will get you to anywhere. After passing Derek again on the walk up, he passed me right back at the aid station. "It's all gravy from here", I thought, as I started out again. But it was not to be. Just 1/8-mile from the top of Trabuco, my chain breaks. Well, there goes my shot of finishing in under 8 hours (my original goal). But, I have a chain tool and spare links, so no problem. Oh wait, I have only links for 8-speed drive train! No singlespeed links to be found! As Hans would say, "Idiot!" I was contemplating going sans chain and coasting, skateboard-kicking my way out.

Yet another good soul stopped to help, telling me that Erik Williams was just around the corner and he may have a spare singlespeed link or two. God Bless Erik!

So now, drivetrain in place, let's enjoy the Trabuco singletrack! But this was not to be, either. The quick release on the rear wheel was living up to it's name. Every 20 or 30 pedal strokes, the thing would slip and the rear tire would slam into the chain stay. I cranked the thing so tight I had to use my wrench as a pry bar to release it. Yet, it would not hold the wheel in the frame. From top of Trabuco to the finish line I stopped no fewer than 15 times due to this issue. So I can officially claim DFL for 2005. As Dave would say, I had the most fun, as I was out there the longest.

-Keith "Keeps His Word" Eckstein

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