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Vegas To Reno 2010 Race Report
Vegas To Reno 2010 Race Report E-mail
Written by shawn   



Like most harebrained or ill advised ideas, this one started out as a ‘wouldn’t it be cool if…’ email exchange between myself, Brian and Ray. Little did we know at the time, but on the order of 8 months or so later, we would actually be in the middle of competing in the Vegas To Reno race. Accompanied by my dad, we embarked on a motorcycling adventure like no other we had ever experienced. Here is the story, at least what I can recall.


Is it me, or is the universe against us?

We had been planning this adventure for several months, and in doing so, wanted to be sure the bike (and riders) were ready to go. Brian and Ray had not previously ridden an XR650R so we traveled up to the Dayton area to run some of the sections from previous year’s races. On the way there, the trailer somehow came off the tow ball going up the Donner Summit. So starts our usage of our ‘9 race lives’. The safety chains did their job and we were soon back on the way. The mystery of where the hitch lock went is still yet unsolved. A spare master lock stepped in and performed admirably.
We got to Dayton around 2pm on a Friday and Brian and Ray geared up to head out. I had programmed the GPS with tracks to help them stay on course and we planned on meeting up at the hwy 95 road crossing right before the Weeks pit area. This would give the guys a good 60 mile ride to trade off riding the bike and get warmed up. Our goal was to get all the way down to Hawthorne and then ride back in the dark. Funny thing about goals, you don’t always reach them…
I motored over to the road crossing and waited, and waited and waited. Did I miss them? WTF is going on? Hope they are OK…. I hadn’t gotten a SPOT message so they must still be alive…
Right around sundown I spotted dust way off in the distance and was able to raise them on the radio. Arriving at the truck, the HID headlight on the race bike was not working. That wasn’t the biggest issue though, somehow they had gotten off into an area with no trail and tons of rocks, making progress slow and painful. After a good ribbing about their navigation and gps reading skills, I tried to troubleshoot the lighting issue but we ended up going with our backup light running on the AC system. We weren’t going to get to Hawthorne so our adjusted goal was to ride over to the Top Gun pit area and call it a night.
I geared up and took off with Brian and ended up having a really fun time as the trail went from slightly chopped up to a wide dirt road in fairly good repair. We arrived at Top Gun around midnight, loaded the bikes, grabbed some food and crashed out at the no tell motel 6 in Fallon.
Saturday morning at 0800 we were up, packed and on our way back to Top Gun. We were going to again try to get to Hawthorne and back in time to be home for dinner. Ray and I took off on the lightly rocky trail that gave way to rolling, sandy whoops. As we rode through the sand, I thought the rear wheel was spinning up and was trying to control it by modulating the throttle. At about the 10mile mark we came to an intersection and stopped to have a drink and check the gps and map. After a quick break, we fired the bikes up and I discovered that the clutch on the XR was gone. No amount of adjustment would help and thankfully we had mobile coverage so we rang Brian to come rescue us. Ray rode his bike back to our jumping off point and guided Brian to my location. We packed it up and made the slow ride out of the desert.
We made it to the paved road and set our sights for home. Right outside of Fallon the trailer stats feeling funny again. Pulling into a filling station we discover that one of the tires is going flat. The can of fix-a-flat Brian used on it was no help so we jacked it up, pulled the tire and went into Fallon insearch of a replacement. The friendly folks at Les Schwab fixed us up and once more, we were on the way.
After that adventure, I made sure to outfit the trailer with TWO spares, we were going to pull it over 1300 miles over the course of the race and the last thing we needed was a $50 tire putting a cramp in our considerable style.
I got the bike fixed up and Brian and Ray took it for another test run at our local riding area, Cow Mtn. I was glad to hear that it passed with flying colors. Ray gave the bike an expert detailing, changed the oil installed a brand new chain and our race numbers and we were ready to go!

Wednesday Aug 18 – Travel Day

A funny thing happened on the way to Las Vegas

We left Sonoma County at 0800 on Weds the 18th for the 600 mile trip to Las Vegas. The trip out was one of those long I-5 runs where you end up discussing all manner of things: the merits of different 80s metal bands (we agreed that Iron Maiden was awesome, though I was disappointed that Brian didn’t share my enthusiasm for early Motley Crue), race strategy, tall tales, and various other road trip ramblings.
Somewhere north of the hwy 58 cutoff over to Bakersfield we felt a thump followed by a loud noise. Brian announced that the bike had decided to ghost ride and we quickly pulled from the slow lane to the shoulder. The sight that greeted us was one of utter amazement and honestly, luck. The right side tie down had broken and as a result, the bike was on its side, hanging off the trailer with both wheels still on the trailer. The left side handguard (cyrca pro bend) was ground down to a knife edge and the handlebar end was also suitably ground. There was some slight abrasion to the racelight frame and the quick adjust knob was gone, the gps hard mount was also pretty banged up, but looked salvageable, that was it! Our saving grace turned out to be the U-lock holding the front wheel to the trailer, without it the bike would have certainly been flattened by one of the many big rigs following us.

We got the bike back up on the trailer, doubled up on tie owns and continued on, stopping at the Bakersfield CycleGear to pick up a new set of bars and grips. We arrived at the Santa Fe Station in Vegas just after dark, checked in to the hotel and got to work on swapping out the bars and damaged handguard so we could be ready for tech the following day.
After conferring with the overly friendly security guy on where to park, we pulled into a small, walled lot containing a bunch of nice rigs and race vehicles. The Vildosola crew had their truck up on stands and were all over/under/on top of the truck, working away. It was really cool to have such an up close view of the truck without all the body panels. As we were gawking, Ray struck up a conversation with one of the crew members and thanks to his fluent Spanish, we heard some amusing bits of pit gossip and found out that they were replacing the transmission in the truck as they had put a whopping 80 miles on it during time trials and wanted to have a fresh one installed for the race.
Returning to our humble setup, we finished installing the new bars, muscled the gps mount back into a useable shape, adjusted the chain and looked over the bike for what seems like the millionth time before grabbing a bite to eat and calling it a night.

Thursday Aug 19 – Tech/Contingency

Up bright and early we were getting ready to drive over to the Aliente Station and were greeted by a dead battery in the truck. Brian had left the plug-in cooler running overnight and it had drained the system. Thankfully, our new friends on the Vildosola team came through with a full setup of generator and battery charger to get us on our way. Helping carry the equipment back to their rig, my dad yells, ‘look, I’m crewing for a trophy truck team’, and people wonder why I'm such a dork… The line for registration stretched out the door and down the hall but  moved relatively quick and we had our wristbands, shirts and final entry packet in hand and were on our way to tech.

Tech for bikes and quads was thankfully separate from vehicle tech and the line was short. After making sure we had all the requisite items checked off the tech inspector asked if we would be interested in participating in the PassAlert test. Knowing that we were most certainly going to be caught by the lead vehicles, we enthusiastically said yes. The system is basically a transceiver that allows you to notify, or be notified by similarly equipped vehicles within 300ft that faster traffic was following via a transmit button and indicated by a bank of LED lights. The whole thing was about the size of a DVD case and probably twice as thick. The IRC crew gave us a quick tutorial and we mounted it to the handlebars in what looked like the most favorable viewing position.

We checked in with BajaPits to get our stickers and roamed the contingency and staging areas checking out all the race vehicles, it was quite a spectacle to say the least.
The 5pm riders meeting came quicker than expected and was standing room only. Due to the recent accident at the MDR California 200, Casey wanted everyone to be on their toes and fully aware of the new safety procedures that were being implemented.
With the meeting adjourned, it was time to make final adjustments, pack the coolers, gas the truck, bike and fuel cans, eat dinner and try to get some sleep. It was still 10pm before I was in bed with the lights out, pre-race excitement running high.

Friday Aug 20 – Race Day!

Start – RM 0

The alarm sounded at the ungodly hour of 0245 and we were on the road at 0300 for the 100 mile drive up to the start in Beatty. Thankfully the ride was uneventful, we arrived to find the staging lot starting to buzz with bikes warming up and heading to stage for the start. The first pros left the line at 0545 and it took another hour for us to move up. We met the 753 team, friendly folks from ADVRider.com who were racing in our class. After a little amusement as the RedBull arch fell over due to its generator running out of gas and the starting light going on the fritz, Ray moved into position, shook Casey’s hand and got the green flag at around 0645. We walked back past the rest of the bike, quad and UTV entries queuing up in the staging line and drove the short 12 miles up to Pit 1 at RM 33

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Pit 1 – RM 33

Pit 1 was small and crowded so we took a spot back up off the main race/pit area. Ray made great time and arrived around 0710, and after a quick splash of gas I jumped on the bike and headed out.
I couldn't believe I was really racing the V2R! The first couple miles meandered through a wash and emptied out on to a dusty but fairly flat and straight valley floor. This is what I had been waiting for, the opportunity to open the bike up and make some time.
Less than 5 miles out of pit 1 the bike started acting like it was running out of fuel. Several scenarios ran through my mind the two primary ones being that some crap got in the carb or the air filter was clogged. Frustrated, I pulled off the course, verified that the petcock was actually on and then gave the side of the carb a couple love taps. Thankfully the bike fired back up and I took off. But it wasn’t so sweet, less than a mile later the same thing happened. What the hell? Same drill with the carb and again, it fired back up only to give me another mile or so of run time. Now I’m getting worried that something is really wrong in the carb. I pulled the side panel to look at the filter, which wasn’t bad at all. I was in a lull between passing bikes so I fired the bike up again w/o the filter in place. It ran just fine so I buttoned it back up and moved on. A couple miles later, same story. Now I’m getting pissed. All this planning and prep and I can’t even make it 50 miles… Thinking there is a big glob of crap in the carb and not wanting to open it up out in the dust I figured it was best to limp to pit 2 where I could get some help from the baja pits folks. A couple more fits and starts and I started doubting my ability to even make it there with my patience and sanity intact. By now I had been passed by every bike, quad and utv and was feeling pretty down. That is until I looked at the fuel cap vent hose and noticed that it was twisted and kinked from being recapped in a hurry back at pit 1. Untwisting it vented the tank and I was off, throttle pegged and pissed at being held up by something so basic and not seeing it sooner. I started catching quads and UTVs and cruised through pit 2 on my way to the next planned stop at pit 3.
Lesson learned: always check the vent hose after refueling!
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Pit 2- RM 58

The course wound up through some foothills that provided my first taste of the rocks we’d continue to encounter through the rest of the day. This is where I saw the first bikes and UTVs stopped on the side of the course for repairs or recovery. I was thinking of how crappy it would be to have to sit out the whole field waiting for recovery. Little did I know how we would all become intimately familiar with that feeling in a short period of time. Coming down out of the foothills I could see a long straight path leading right to pit 3 at RM 99, about 10 miles away. I don’t think I’ve ever covered that much ground off road in such a short amount of time. My heart was in my throat as I held the throttle wide open and looked farther and farther ahead. The big XR danced around on the sand but kept building speed to that point where your adrenaline really starts pumping, this is what I signed up for!

Pit 3 – RM 99

I rolled into pit 3 exhilarated at finishing my first leg of the race, but bummed that it took me 2 hours to cover the 66 miles, no thanks to the kinked vent line. I even managed to stall the bike coming through the pit entrance and the older gent working the stop flag laughed and said, “where is your electric start?” Thankfully the bike fired back up and I was on my way to hand off to Brian who was quickly back out of the pit at 0915.
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Pit 4 – RM159

We drove up to pit 4 where ray would take over again and were concerned that vehicle teams were already setting up shop as the first vehicles left the line back in beatty at 0930. We were hoping to stay ahead of them by a bigger margin of time and distance, but you play the hand you are dealt, and we were dealt another one here.
Ray happened to check his phone and saw a message from Brian. He said that the rear axle had backed out and that he was fixing it, though he would need a new rear wheel. I grabbed one of the spares and warned the Baja Pits team that we needed to do a possible wheel change/fuel and rider swap. Brian arrived and even though the rear wheel looked ok, we swapped it anyway out of concern for the bearing and seal on one side, which looked damaged. Aside from some cosmetic damage from the chain coming off and the brake disk abrading on the shark fin, the only other visible damage was where the brake disk sheared through the brake pad pin and then tried to slice through the rear caliper. Luckily the rear brake still provided some stopping power (they aren’t that great to begin with) so we didn’t mess with it.
The Baja Pits guys were great in helping us get everything swapped and back together, especially getting that rear axle cranked down securely!
Lesson learned: safety wire!
Ray was on the bike and back out at 1120.

Pit 5 – RM 191.7

Our original strategy had us skipping pit 5 and meeting Ray at pit 6. However we heard a garbled transmission on the radio that sounded like Ray right after we passed pit 5. We couldn’t raise him on the radio or phone so we called home to check on the SPOT tracker progress.  After waiting several minutes, his track did not update so we headed back to pit 5. As we arrived, I saw a bike drop a stuck stub with the pit captain. As we feared, it was Ray’s stub. He was barely 4 miles out of the pit at RM 186 with a flat that had come off the rim and tangled itself up in the rim and chain. He was dead in the water.
We were getting garbled transmissions from him on the radio and I found some high ground to try and establish better comms. In between getting stepped on by sheep ranchers, we were able to talk. I told him to cut the rear tire off and rim ride it in. Unfortunately he didn’t have wire cutters that were up to the job. My next suggestion was to remove the wheel, muscle the tire off, remount the wheel and hobble in to the pit. This is where we found out that he didn’t have a wrench big enough for the axle. BITD does not allow chase crews on the course so our only hope was the charity of other racers as we sat and watched the clock slowly tick towards the 3:45 closing time for this pit. If the bike did not get into the pit by then, our race was over.
We happened to have parked next to UTV team 1910 that was broken down behind Ray’s current position. They were trying to jury rig a fix to a broken a-arm bolt and were in good contact with their pit crew via radio. Their crew radioed them to drop a big crescent wrench with Ray if they got going. With that glimmer of hope, we prepped our third spare rear and figured out a new pit strategy since we didn’t know what impact sitting in the sun for 3+ hours would have on Ray. Then we settled in to wait with the UTV team, trading stories and watching the parade of trucks and buggies start rolling through along with their entourage of helicopters.
The radio crackled and the UTV crew announced that they were on the way, slowly, but moving. Suddenly our glimmer of hope turned into a light at the end of the tunnel, but time was ticking away and we were getting more anxious with every passing minute.
A while later the UTV radioed in again that they had reached Ray. The next thing we heard made us all laugh, ‘the highway groover is on the way’. My dad went to wait up by the pit entrance and I geared up while Brian readied the tools.
Our UTV friends rolled in and commenced repairs, and soon after, Ray hobbled into the pit with the remnants of the rear tire tangled around the rim. He had just made it before the pit closing time, we were still in the action! We got the bike on the stand and like a nascar team, (ok, maybe I’m embellishing a little) pulled the battered remnants of the wheel off and replaced it with a fresh one. We also swapped air filters and installed the racelight since I was on the bike until pit 8 at RM 281 and as we had already seen, a lot can happen in between pits and we didn’t want to be left out in the dark.
The bike was moving again at 345.
Lesson learned: verify the contents of everyone’s tool packs and be sure to carry big zip ties to secure a flat tire to the rim.

Pit 6 – RM 219

After leaving pit 5, the course opened up, making for some was great high speed fun, I felt like I was even making up some time. I hit a few sandy spots, but nothing too bad. Then, within about 10 miles to pit 6 I ran into an energy draining vortex filled with rocks. I just couldn’t do anything right here, it was like every rock was conspiring against me to block my path or pull the bike to the ground. I managed what must have been some pretty spectacular saves though I wasn’t able to catch every one and had to pick up the bike several times.
I began passing more disabled or under repair vehicles as I moved along at a pace much slower than I would have liked. One of those vehicles was the 1500 (SCORE Class 1) car of Bilek Racing. The crew was already in their street clothes, hanging out filming racers as they came by. They were waving a water bottle at me and I stopped to oblige their hospitality. Ok, I used it as an excuse to stop, I was getting pretty beat up. I got off the course and killed the bike to catch a breather. The co-driver did an awesome job giving me a pep talk while I gulped down the water and stretched out my arms and legs. They told me their torque converter had gone out and the boss had jumped in the helicopter. After taking a leak and watching several trucks go by, the co-driver kindly fired up my bike and I was back on my way. I only had about 5 miles to cover until the next pit and at a time like this, the mile markers seem to pass by excruciatingly slow.
Thankfully the trail opened up and entering pit 6 I was flagged into the Baja Pits location by my dad and Brian, who weren’t supposed to be there. They had decided to stop and make sure everything was ok and told me the original strategy was back on, Ray was recharged and wanted to make up some time, all I needed to do was get the bike to pit 8 for the hand off. I was out of there at 430
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Pit 7 - RM 263

The ride between pits 6 and 7 was another mix of flat out, rocks and sand/silt. Overall it wasn’t too bad and I was even starting to catch some vehicles. I was getting really close to a 1600 car and almost got close enough to pass when the course started snaking back into the foothills. At RM 237 the car blasted the berm in a silty right hairpin turn, it went up on the two outside wheels, giving me a dramatic view of the undercarriage before it flopped back down, throwing up even more dust to obscure my view. I had to slow way down to negotiate the turn and as I exited, a siren sounded from the rear, now where the hell did that buggy come from? I pulled right over and let them pass, continuing on when I could see again.
Around RM 255, out in the middle of BFE, I passed some folks who had set up a tarp over their UTV and were having some beverages while watching the race go by. One of the ‘ladies’ in the group must have been feeling the effects of those beverages as she gave me a booty flash as I rode by. I gave her the thumbs up for effort and continued on my way, laughing about the absurdity of it all.
I made it to pit 7 and was greeted by a group of cheering folks as I rode in, whoever you were, thanks for the morale booster! I took on fuel and a cold water from Baja Pits and got back on course.

Pit 8 – RM 281

There was a nice silty/sandy left hand turn at the exit of pit 7, as fate would have it, I dumped the bike right in the middle of the turn, digging my left side completely into the ground. Great, the buggy I was hoping to pass earlier had been pitted and was just getting ready to leave. I righted the bike and thankfully it fired up, allowing me to move out of the way and clear the sand that now filled my glove and helmet.
The rest of the run out to pit 8 was pretty uneventful and at that time, I was glad it was only 18 miles away. I handed the bike off at 6pm to Ray at pit 8 and we moved up to pit 9 to wait.

Pit 9 – RM307

Ray made it safely to pit 9 where we gassed up the bike and Brian jumped on. I decided to have a look at the air filter and to my surprise/horror, the filter had moved and was only partially covering the airbox opening, we had no idea how long the bike had been sucking dust, or what damage had been done. We installed a fresh filter and checked the motor oil, it needed quite a bit of topping off, indicating that the dust ingestion had done some damage to the rings. The bike still felt strong, but didn’t have as much compression when kick starting so we sent Brian on his way at 6:45.
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Pit 10 – RM 335

We made it to pit 10 as the sun was setting and I geared up for my short leg. There was a gentle breeze blowing through and I was optimistic that I’d be able to take off while it was still fairly light out. Unfortunately I was wrong on both cases.
Brian arrived and I was back on course at 7:50.

Pit 11 – RM348

If you look at the path between RM 335 to 346 it looks fairly straight, when you are on the ground though, its nothing but silt, silt and more silt. I’ve experienced this stuff on a small scale before, but nothing like this. All I had seen, read and heard was true so I won’t belabor the joy of plowing through it… Combine the silt with the fact that it was now officially dark, the breeze disappeared as soon as I left the pits and that there was faster passing traffic, my progress was labored at best. Through this section I officially entered the ‘passed by a truck at night in the silt’ club. Fortunately I had plenty of advance warning as it felt like the sun was rising directly behind me with the amount of light the truck was putting out. I got way off the course and waited what seemed like forever for the dust to settle. This scenario played out several more times as various different vehicles caught up to me or I just needed a break from fighting the silt. I even managed to drop the bike in a corner as a Jeepspeed competitor approached. They were on their game though and safely navigated around me. I was beginning to feel like this was going to go on forever when the course started getting more solid and I was able to finally accelerate, relax and breathe.

Pit 12 – RM370

The ride from pit 11 to 12 was fairly fast and a welcome change from the silt hell I just went through. Climbing through the hills the temp dropped and trees appeared out of the dark, all in all this was a refreshing change that boosted my spirits.
I dropped down into pit 12 and handed the bike off to Ray, who was back on the way at 9:15.
I walked over to the BITD volunteers to say thanks for being there and they told me that there was nothing but silt between here and pit 13. I hoped Ray was sufficiently rested to tackle that nasty stuff…

Pit 13 – RM 389

Leaving pit 12 entailed driving through a silt bed and as our luck would have it, a 2wd van towing a trailer in to the pit took the center line and got himself stuck up to his axles. After a long wait, he was pulled out. The wait did give us an opportunity to scope a more solid exit and we made it out unscathed.
We arrived at pit 13 around 10:30 and asked the bajabound folks if they had seen an XR pass through recently.  They had seen our bike about 15 minutes earlier so we jumped back in the car to make the 60 mile trip up to pit 15 where Brian would take it to the finish. We skipped pit 14 as it was a remote pit, Ray however would stop in and get fuel from the Baja Pits guys.

Pit 15 – RM458

Things were pretty quiet when we arrived at pit 15 and I checked in with the BITD volunteers to see if Ray had made it through 14 ok. We had to wait a bit to get an update but it was good news, he had cleared 14 and the halfway point between 14 and 15.
Ray made it in to 15 safely and looking pretty beat. Luckily Brian had been able to catch some sleep in the car so he was refreshed for the final stretch. He was back on course at 1:00 am looking like a Christmas tree with all four of our rear facing flashers on his backpack, there was no denying that he wanted to be sure he was seen!
We had previously ridden the leg between 15 and 16 so thankfully Brian knew what to expect, and it was pretty open allowing for good speeds even at night.

Finish – RM 534

We arrived at the finish and watched the other weary competitors packing their vehicles and enjoying some cold beverages. I changed out of my dusty gear and we prepped the trailer to load up and head out as soon as Brian arrived. We pulled the chairs out and waited…
To our relief Brian rolled in around 3:45am. Casey was there to congratulate us and handed over our finisher pins. We had accomplished our goal of finishing the longest point to point off road race in the US. The exhilaration of such a feat had me smiling ear to ear as we pushed the bike up to the Ford mesa to have a quick chat with George Antill.
This was the first time we had really seen the bike in the light and it was looking beat, the last section of the course was very rocky and the top triple had gotten tweaked to the right, making the whole front end look out of whack. The compression was nowhere what it was when we started the race, but the bike still ran good enough to get us over the line. A slightly tweaked front rim and generous coating of dust completed the look.
We loaded the bike and headed to the Grand Sierra Resort. After checking in and grabbing a beer, I took a long hot shower and got to sleep somewhere in the neighborhood of 6am, I think I was out before my head hit the pillow.


We finished the race with no injuries, which, along with having fun is what we set out to do. Despite some setbacks, fun was had in great abundance. Like a wild night of drinking and the ensuing hangover (not that I’ve ever had one of those), with time the memories of the hardships will lighten and the stories will grow taller, further fueling the likeliness of it happening all over again. I can only hope and work towards making that come true!


This adventure would not have been possible without the support and understanding of our significant others, families, sponsors (especially MX1West.com and Santa Rosa Transmission), fellow racers (especially UTV 1919)  and of course the BITD and all their hard working volunteers.
Special thanks to my dad for joining us on the adventure and staying awake (almost) the whole time.

Race Stats

  • 233 total entries - 155 finishers (67% finishing rate)
  • 10 utv entries – 5 finishers (50% finishing rate)
  • 140 vehicle entries – 91 finishers (65% finishing rate)
  • 83 bike/quad entries – 59 finishers (71% finishing rate)
  • We were the 56th bike/quad to finish
  • We finished 3rd in our class, 40+ Am
  • Our total time was 21:22:45.280
  • Our GPS indicated top speed was 85.6mph (the GPS died after RM 308)
Last Updated on Saturday, 11 September 2010 19:22