So Clay thought it would be a good idea for us to head down to the Overland Rally in Hollister, CA this October. We had some discussions, and figured it would be good to take one vehicle and the bike down there. Because the rally was several days, and mid-week, only 3 of us could make it. It would be Clay, Jeff D, and I. In getting all of the prep work together for the trip, a last minute decision was made to trailer the bike down.
Now, I’m not a huge fan of trailering the bike, but in this situation I was willing to make an exception. We are just burning up 1300 miles of highway in 2 days, without any dirt or fun stops, not my idea of fun. Plus, all of the added miles on the bike. That’s like half a set of tires, an oil change, extra fuel etc. Not to mention I would be dead tired, which would have been bad with what I was about to embark on..
We got to the Rally early Thursday afternoon, nothing really going on until about 5, so we got camp set up and met some of the other vendors like Ben Edmonson from Equip 1. Our wall tent, from Montana Canvas, ended up being a huge hit. Apparently they are not really popular in other states. Every cowboy and elk hunter in Montana has one where we are from. That night was mostly people showing up and getting to know one another. At this point I had little idea about what was lying ahead. All I knew was that somebody called “Rally Pan Am” was going to teach us how to ride motorcycle.
The next morning Jeff and I go together to try to find this motorcycle instructor. All of the sudden a pickup pulled up next to our tent and had a KTM in the back. I got all excited to see another bike, because I had only seen one other bike at the rally. It turns out it was our instructor Mike Krynock. For those of you who don’t know of Mike, he is an accomplished AMA superbike racer, Dakar finisher and Baja finisher. And it was him and 2 of us, for 2 days, yea…
Mike helped us make some adjustment to the levers, and ergos, and then we took off to the riding area while Clay did his 4×4 prep course taught by Scott Brady. As soon as we go there, Mike and I made a loop around the vintage mx course. First time I have ever been on a track on a motorcycle, it was a different experience. It was super loose and a different feel, I was pretty freaked out. Didn’t loose it, but was very cautious going around the track. Then we went off to an empty lot and worked on some drills. Panic stops, sliding the back end out and kicking rocks with it, and some other fun little drills. Mike let me use his KTM 690. It was pretty fun. My 800 is the only off-road bike I have ever spent any time on, so the 690 was like a little toy, what a blast!!
After that we headed to the TT track. It was a narrow race track with a little bit of everything. It has a nice lone climb into a banked uturn. Then down, a nice hill around a bend, up a steep short loose climb, back down. Through some nice tight turns, over a couple jumps, up a little switchback, and back a long sweeping turn to the start. It was a lot of fun. Got some confidence jumping on the 690, then tried it out on the 800. It didn’t do too bad as long as I went fast enough to make it to the landing.
After a couple hours there, we headed back to the rally area for some lunch. After lunch, Jeff and Clay went to the Land Nav course to by Gazelle Rally Racer Emily Miller. That meant I had Mike to myself for the afternoon, or did he have me?
That was the most fun I have ever had on a bike. Push push push. We went all over those Hollister hills. Mostly on the wide transit tracks, but they were really fun. After a while, Mike thought we should try out some single track, so we did. Man it was fun!!! Nice tight bends, ups downs and dodging trees, what a blast!!! Mike taught me a lot about steering with my feet which was a new concept for me, and made riding a lot easier. He also kept reminding me of my bad habits such as being too relaxed while riding.
After I got back, I was toast, so I grabbed some food from the Overland Gourmet guys Zach and Jonathan. I had no I idea you could eat that well while camping!! Then it was time for our Premier, the whole reason we came down here. We were all a little nervous of how everyone was going to react. We had lots of questions: Was it a good length? Was it actually funny, or did we just think we were funny? Did we have a professional product? Etc.. Well we shouldn’t have worried. We had a great turn out and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. We watched another presentation about the Rally de Gazelle afterword, and then hit the sack.
Day 2 was a lot of fun also, Jonathan from Overland Gourmet brought his 1200gs to the class, and also we found another bike for Jeff to use. Practiced on lots of different stuff and went back out to the TT track. Did some more drills, and then in the afternoon we hit up some more single track. Another day of abuse for the arms and legs…
When we returned to camp, Clay had some enchiladas waiting for us that he whipped up in the Dutch oven. Mmmm dutch oven… After that, we mingled with the rally patrons and other vendors, and then watch presentations from Beyond the Lane, and from Expoordition. Both were great presentations. While watching those we had a nice peach cobbler brewing in “dutchie”. Brought that up to the crowd after the show and let everybody dig in, needless to say, it was a hit. Again, muscles aching, we went to sleeeeep.
The next morning we had a competition!!! I love competitions!!! I rarely do well in them, but for some reason I just like them. I’m kind of an adrenalin junkie, and they get my blood pumping. It was a 4×4 challenge that involved navigation, vehicle prep, and off road skills. Clay was navigator for another participant named Anthony, whose better half was not able to make it, and then I was the navigator for Jeff. The first challenge was vehicle prep. The judges asked to see if we had some necessary trail items. They were; fire extinguisher, valve stems and cores, and first aid kit. We had the first aid kit, and valve stems and cores, but the fire extinguisher was back at camp. Strike 1.
The next challenge was figuring out our map / grip coordinates. The map we had didn’t have north pointing up, and the grid coordinates they gave us were not in a typical format. Not many people figured both of these out right away, including us. Eventually we made it to the destinations. We made it through the obstacle courses very easily with the cruiser, it just blasted right through them, no penalties for mistakes.
All said and done Anthony and Clay got first place, and Jeff and I got 5th. (there were about 14 teams) Then we Packed up camp and hit the Road. Got some In -N- Out on the way home, that was noteworthy. All in all, a great trip and a great Rally!!!
– Ryan Erickson