By Tom Webb
I could never figure out why Pete was so angry with me. I was the one who finished the National Enduro, and I was
the one the club came to while I was sucking the bottom
out of my water bottle and digging nose ornaments the
size of a BSA main jet out of my conk.
“Hey, you’re one of those Kolbe guys, right? I can
tell from your jersey. Your buddy is broken down on the
course. You need to go get him,” the club member said,
like it was no tougher than driving down to 7-Eleven for a
pack of Marlboros.
“Okay, give me a second. Can I get to him with my
The man actually giggled. “Fat chance. Grab a tow rope;
he’s on the moon.”
Now I was actually intrigued and irritated. “Where is he?
I was with him at a reset on the last loop.”
“He’s about halfway into the 40-mile loop. Just re-ride
the exact course and you’ll find him.”
“Come again? That was an AA loop and kicked my butt.
I want to tongue a Pacifico and go scrounge some food,
not suit up, gas up and go pound rocks, whoops and
inhospitable terrain. Pete is my North Star, my mentor and
my friend, but, at the time, heading back out sounded as
tasty as a big bowl of yak yogurt.
I started to plead
with the man. “Is
there not a shorter
way than to ride the
loop again? Can’t I
ride it backwards?”
The club member
looked me over. “You
don’t have wings, so I guess you can’t fly up that mountain we took you down. You remember? The one with the
waterfalls, boulder zones, slick rock chutes and carnage!
Not even Jay Tullis could ride up that, so man up and go
get your buddy!”
Reliving the brutality of the terrain was a nightmare. The
club had done a superb job of laying out a tough desert
National, and having to ride it again when I was hammered
nearly made me hurl. But, there’s an old saying that my
mom always preached to me: “There but for the grace of
God, go I.” If I were broken down, Pete would get me in a
New York second and not snivel.
I found Pete and his Can-Am 250 Qualifier about 26
miles into the third loop. Pete figured that the ignition
went out since the spark had virtually gone dormant. Like
a good marine, he had rationed his water and had a little
snack in his butt bag, so he was good to go.
We wrapped the tow rope around his Can-Am’s crossbar, and he held the very end clasped to the left-side grip.
I figured since I had no idea how to find the pits other than
following the trail, we’d ride it backwards. This sounded
about as fun as sticking a drywall screw up my nose, but
these were the cards we’d been dealt.
I looked at Pete and said, “If things get hairball, just
release the rope. I’ll try to take it easy.” And, with that, we
From my side the tow job required quite a bit of effort,
especially when I was trying to keep the rope taut, as slack
would gather and just about yank me sideways and off the
bike when it suddenly went bow-string tight. So, I naturally
started going faster. And while the rope would waver and
flap a bit, throttle seemed like the perfect equalizer. The
technical trail was
interesting, as the
ups and downs
proved to be
slack-makers, but I
learned to ride the
brakes and feed
throttle in a constant give-and-take to maintain momentum and keep the
tow rope stretched.
Whoops were brutal. The deep sand required staying in
a strong part of the powerband and working the clutch in
an effort to stay slack-free. Frankly, it was impossible, so I
figured I’d just hammer it hard, and if it was too much for
Pete, he’d let the rope go. Since the last four miles were
whoops and he had held on easily, I figured we were a
good tag team, brilliant pilots and naturally gifted.
When I pulled up to my truck and stopped, I did not
have enough time to hit the kill button before I felt the talons of a lunatic trying to choke me to death. There was a
horrible screeching sound, and I realized it was Pete and
he was berserk.
“You miserable, long-haired idiot! I nearly had 14 coronaries and aged two decades just holding on. I’ve never
ridden that hard or fast or been that sideways, out of the
saddle, doing handstands. I had both legs off on the side,
getting dragged like a bull rider, and still you wouldn’t slow
down or look back to see if I was okay. Couldn’t you hear
me screaming? That was the scariest ride of my life! I want
to punch you.”
Our travels continued. We hooted. We raced and
explored. But, Pete vowed he’d rather rot than get towed
by yours truly. o
The tow job
“When I pulled up to my truck and stopped, I did not have enough time to hit the kill button
before I felt the talons of a lunatic trying to
choke me to death.”