If you came here from Part 3 – Practice Week 1, you’re up to speed on how this story has evolved. If not, I suggest you start at Part 1 – Background. When we left our heroes, they had gotten the bike on course at the Isle of Man, having overcome many personal injury and shipping obstacles, and then spectacularly blown the engine just short of meeting the qualification requirements for the race.
The insanity of the next 48 hours is best summed up by a simple chronology. I swear, I haven’t embellished, I didn’t need to. You just can’t make this shit up. Except as noted, all times are UK time (8 hours ahead of us).
Sunday 8/24 (my time, PDT)
3:22am – Perhaps you remember, we had a little earthquake here in Northern California. Epicenter in American Canyon, about 20 miles from my house (as the crow flies).
3:28am – Text exchange:
Me: “Earthquake! Don’t know size yet. We’re fine.”
Him: “Where would be good.” (Wade lives in San Francisco, and his wife was at home…)
Me: “6.0 American Canyon. All FB posts so far have been North Bay folks.”
Him: “Well you have totally scared Wade and me. IOM bites us, but Mother Nature is out to get you. Please try to have things sorted out before we get home ;-)”
7:30am – Text exchange:
Him: “Please check on eBay.uk, seller Pete Stansfield, GSXR engine, 350 GBP.”
Me: “Found it, but it’s in North Yorkshire. Don’t know how you could possibly get it in time.”
Him: “Call him and let him know it’s for a Manx rider who needs it now. Just trying. People all over are trying.”
I email and call the guy (Pete) – he (and all of the UK) are on holiday until Tuesday, no way to transport the motor, he won’t be home until Monday. Looking bleak.
Pete emails me back and says he’d be available Monday after 2pm if Rich can figure out a way to get there. Side note: I’m amused by Pete’s concern that he’s “clear on the other side of the country” from Liverpool. So I googled it – 120 miles, roughly the distance from my house to Placerville. Couldn’t stop chuckling about that, it’s definitely all about perspective.
Rich and I figured out that he could fly to Liverpool, rent a car, drive to the “other side of the country”, pick up the engine, drive back, and take it back to the island on the ferry (presumably on a hand-truck, which they brought with them). All in a day’s work.
I let Pete know that’s what we’re going to do. He further adjusts his timeframe and says he’ll be available after noon.
Monday 8/25 (UK time)
12:01am – Rich confirmed he has reservations for the flight, the rental car, and the return ferry.
5:30am – Rich and Kenny (a new friend/helper from Team USA) leave for the airport
7:00am – Flight from Isle of Man to Liverpool
8:00am – Rental car procured, R&K are on their way to Malton (east of York)
10:00am – R&K arrive at Pete’s house (2 hours early), whereupon they inspect the engine and execute the transaction. And because they are hours ahead of schedule to catch the return ferry, they accept a gracious offer from Pete and his wife to join them for a lovely country breakfast prior to their return to Liverpool. Here are the two of them at Pete’s shop, ready to load the engine – nothing scary about that greasy lump of steel…
11:00am – Engine loaded in the rental car, R&K headed back to Liverpool. All systems go!
3:30pm – Officious twit at the ferry won’t let them take the engine as carry-on (on the hand truck), and it’s too heavy for the baggage conveyor. Please note that this twit was not much more than a ticket-taker; the baggage loaders (most of whom were women) were more than happy to cooperate and help load the lump of steel, but they couldn’t take the risk of being turned in by the twit (who wasn’t a superior, but WAS a known dickhead). The ferry is full, so they can’t bring the rental car. Last option seems to be to make friends with someone parked in the car-loading queue and convince (bribe?) them to load the engine in their vehicle. Highly illegal of course, but what other choice do they have?
5:00pm – Rental car somehow made it on the ferry as Standby. R&K will have to figure out how to get it back to the mainland another time. (Most Expensive Hand Truck, Ever!!!)
8:22pm – Confirmation from Rich that they (Rich, Kenny, the rental car with the engine) are all loaded up on the ferry and ready to go.
8:30pm – Scheduled departure time
9:23pm – Text from Rich: “Ferry has broken down, engine trouble.” Really? We haven’t had enough engine trouble already?
10:14pm – Text from Rich: “Paging for a doctor/nurse because someone on the ferry has collapsed”. OMG, when is this going to stop?
Tuesday 8/26 (UK time)
12:51am – After sitting on the broken ferry for over 4 hours waiting for news/instructions, they have now been offloaded and are driving 70 miles to another port (Heysham) where a different ferry awaits them. Not a fresh empty ferry, but an equally full ferry that had been held awaiting these new passengers and vehicles.
2:30am – Text from Rich: “Loaded on the new boat, wall to wall people and vehicles.”
3:05am – Boat finally sails, due to arrive at 6:20am. Now I’m watching CNN, hoping not to learn of a tragic overloaded ferry accident in the Irish Sea.
6:30am – The precious engine has arrived on shore, 8 hours after its intended arrival. Meanwhile, back on the island, Wade and a pick-up crew of Team USA mechanics had been busily uninstalling the broken motor from the bike and preparing it for the replacement. Rich handed off the eBay motor to the transplant team and promptly went to sleep for a few hours.
Pete somehow got this great photo of Wade waiting with the gutted frame. Note he’s being a good boy with his broken foot elevated.
12:00pm – Rich wakes up, but can’t get to the pits to help or monitor status until the current race is over because it’s on the other side of the course and there’s no crossing. There is some good news, however: because of Monday’s postponements for weather, the schedule has been shifted and compressed. The result is that their practice today is canceled (they wouldn’t have made it anyway), so now they don’t have to feel bad about missing it.
11:30pm – text from Rich (yes, nearly 12 hours later…) – “It lives again!” Woo hoo!!!
Facebook Post 8/26 (my time, after I knew the bike was running):
“Grand adventures cannot happen without great challenges. I guess it wasn’t enough that in the prior 6 months, both Rich (bike owner/builder) and his friend Wade (veteran IOM racer) were taken out in separate motorcycle crashes. The events of the last 10 days have increased the degree of difficulty exponentially (and they aren’t even remotely out of the woods yet), spawning two new definitions of “bucket list trip”:
— a trip so filled with drama and hurdles and setbacks and stress that you’ll be lucky if you don’t kick the BUCKET before it’s over.
— a trip so important, with a growing team of supporters so dedicated and tenacious and unflappable, that it’s worth throwing BUCKETS of cash at it just to keep the dream alive.
Trust me, I WILL blog about this in great detail when it’s over, with input from Rich when he gets home. Whenever that might be, because there’s another ice volcano in Iceland that is threatening to blow with the potential to ground all trans-Atlantic flights again (remember 2010?). Until then, I’ll be keeping a relatively low profile to avoid jinxing this trip even more.”
Yeah, I guess the accidents and the UPS nightmare and the engine blowing and the Napa Valley earthquake weren’t quite enough. Iceland had to add some volcanic ash into the mix.
Next up: Part 5, Final Race Prep