Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Divide stories: Gary Dye

One of the most colorful characters that you never hear about from the early days of modern endurance racing is Gary Dye.  Then as now, Gary wasn't much for social media or time spent online -- his preference for learning and experiencing was to be outside doing what came naturally.

One of the early races in this genre was known as the Grand Loop.  Gary was the first person I ever heard call this collection of trails by that name, and also the first person I'd ever heard of riding it in one go.  While Gary's early traverse of the route (in '98 or '99 IIRC) wasn't what we think of these days as "racing", he did it in less than a week which simply wasn't conceivable to anyone other than Gary way back then.

Knowing that he was one of the few both up to the task and keen to try, I leaned hard on Gary all through the winter of '03 and spring of '04 to join us for the inaugural divide race.  In those days Gary spent most of his time riding a 6 x 6" travel 26" bike -- hardly an ideal sled for the GDR.  As the date drew nearer and he seemed more and more likely to participate, I offered the use of my Willits B2 29 incher.  After a brief test ride on it he wondered aloud why I wasn't riding it -- so ideal did it seem for the task at hand.  13 years on, and his bulbous rear rack/bag/pack notwithstanding, I still believe it to be an ideal bike for this route. 

Gary and I had raced together only a handful of times, largely because if he gets an idea to go do something he doesn't wait around for someone to organize an event -- he just goes and does it.  If memory serves, prior to this GDR the stars had only aligned for us to race together on the Grand Loop in '01, '02 and '03, and the Kokopelli Trail Race in '04.  

Gary was the sole finisher of the '01 GLR .  We'd leapfrogged off and on for ~160 miles, until my frame broke near Tabeguache Creek and I had no choice but to watch him diesel away solo.

Then in '02 Gary led Pat Irwin and I out on a brutally hot Grand Loop start.  Across the desert west of Grand Junction we toiled through the first night, with a desiccating headwind, uber-sandy trails, and temperatures only bottoming out at 86* before shooting up above 105.  I caught Gary a short distance up 'the shandies' (also a term coined by Gary) where he lay in the shade of a creekside cottonwood, moaning, with a moist bandana over his face to keep the flies off.  I spent a few minutes there with Gary, trying to assess what ailed him so that, if possible, I might offer some assistance.

As Gary told it, the night had been so hot that he'd blown through double the water he'd expected to, and when he arrived at the turn for the Cisco boat ramp he detoured over to see if he could somehow beg or borrow more.  It was far too early for boater traffic, so he went to plan B and "did some dumpster diving".  That effort netted him enough water to continue, but now, writhing in the dirt, he suspected his ill begotten loot had somehow been contaminated.

As I ran though my mental rolodex of what we might be able to do about his predicament, he rolled onto his side, grunted, and released an enormous fart.  Then he settled back down and uttered a line that will forever bear repeating:

"I don't know if I'm gonna puke or shit my pants, but I hope it happens soon..."

The oppressive heat and desert aridity would prove to be the undoing of us all that year -- there were no GLR finishers.

That fact had both Gary and I primed, a year later, when we again rolled across the desert and up into the La Sals.  Starting in the heat of afternoon and pushing hard all through the first night, Gary was always just a ridge ahead as we crawled across the landscape.  Roughly 20 hours in I finally caught him when he halted for a brief break.  Determined to take advantage of the gift he'd given in stopping, I pressed on up the shandies, repeatedly looking over my shoulder but never catching sight.  Convinced that I'd opened a decent gap, and positively worked from ~23 hours of non-stop movement with at least that much more to go, I laid down for a quick siesta.  

The spot I chose was where a writ-large juniper cast enough of a shadow that I could take advantage of it while still remaining in the literal middle of the road.  That placement ensured I wouldn't sleep long -- if a vehicle came I'd be awakened by the crunch of gravel, and likewise, I hoped, if it was Gary approaching.

My sleep was brief but productive -- maybe 20 minutes at most before I was awakened, refreshed, by Gary's voice asking "..the hell are you doing?"

Concern in his voice turned to annoyance and then acceptance of his role as alarm clock as I hopped on the bike and motored away up the hill.

Gary wasn't a finisher of the '04 GDR -- he pulled out somewhere in Wyoming or Northern Colorado due to a malady or overuse injury that escapes me at the moment.  I just thought it important to mention that he was part of the event, because he'd laid so much groundwork that made it possible for the rest of us to think, and go, further.

Thanks for checking in.

1 comment:

  1. I love these stories of the "old days" of self-supported racing! Keep'm coming! :-)