The Cord 2013 – Part 1 Saturday – Hell On Earth So another Cord is over. Wow, where do I start? I hooked up with Hal Judd, an old friend from school to share the ride from the GTA. Friday evening, we arrived at Graham and Karen’s place outside of Gooderham, who were friends of Hal. He had arranged for us to stay there over the weekend. Both Karen and Graham are dirtbikers, so it was a pleasure to stay at their lovely home and swap war stories. Graham is quite involved with the Cord, and had stopped by Gooderham on the way back home to see what was up. The situation was grim. There was event permit issues with the Orilla police and a huge storm front coming in that was promising substantial amounts of rain. The rain started late Friday evening and continued throughout the night. On Saturday, the police problems seemed to get sorted, but the weather was the real issue. We would ride the endurocross section, and proceed directly to the second section, missing a road and trail section that was causing the police problems. I was a little concerned about my ’09 Husaberg FE450. The Berg, who I refer to as “Inga”, has been performing like a typical sexy super-model: great performance, but unreliable and high maintenance. Hopefully she would perform this weekend and not leave me stranded like a couple times before. It turned out that I had been assigned minute 40, which was not a good thing. Blair had 4 bikes starting every minute, so that would mean over 150 bikes would be tearing up the trails in front of me on this rainy day. Two years ago I had minute 51 and finished in the rain, so I figured I might have a chance. Hal was on minute 36 so he was just slightly better shape than me. First off was the endurocross course which was wet, but a ton of fun. Inga flamed out on one of the logs, but overall seemed to be running fine. Then it was off to the first check. The transfer section to the check was already getting nasty and I passed some broken bikes on the way. As usual there was a wait at the first check. I had to laugh when one of the riders was concerned because one of his boots had filled with water, and proceeded to remove it to dump it out. I can only assume this was his first Cord. Of course the first section was nasty, but rideable. I wasn’t a hero in there, but I made it out in one piece. It was tough. Even the wider trail sections where completely chewed at this point and it was a lot of work to keep the bike up. The rain continued to get worse and the trails were turning into rivers. For some reason I was actually starting to have fun. Much of the course at this point was wide, rocky snowmobile trails and I was having a blast riding over the rocks and jumping over puddles. It was raining even harder now, and it was difficult to maintain speed in the down pour, but I still had a smile on my face. I met Graham who was directing the riders and stopped for a quick chat before continuing to the next check. It was after the next check that things were starting to get bad. Let’s call this section “mild insanity”. Some of the puddles in front of the rock faces were getting VERY deep. Inga is a submarine with her high airbox and fuel injection, so I figured I could make it through almost anything if I didn’t do something stupid. Well I almost did something stupid. I was heading into one puddle and just before the climb out on the rock face I hit something hard and stopped dead. I almost dropped the bike. The water was up to the seat. Another couple inches deeper or if I slipped on the rocks and she would have been under water. Several riders weren’t so lucky. I heard later that Graham was pulling out drowned bikes with his ATV, one attached to the other like a circus train. I was still in good spirits at the gas stop. A quick gas fillup, energy bar, banana, Gatorade and I got to the check 10 minutes early which meant I got to make back some time I lost in hopes of not houring out. Warren Thaxter checked me in and off I went. The riding was tough, but progress was being made. That is until I got to the two ladder bridges. The area was pretty much destroyed. A couple stuck riders left me no options as to which line I could take, so I headed for the third wooden bridge to the right. There was a small rut in front of it to get onto the bridge, pretty standard stuff, so I gassed it into the rut and swoosh! The bike sunk. The rut was so deep the seat was level with the ground. This was the beginning of the end. It should be noted that I spoke to several earlier riders had ridden the same line with no issues. I was facing the hazards of minute 40. After much lifting, pulling revving and swearing I got Inga out of there, onto one of the aluminum ladder bridges and walked the bike across. Next fiasco was another creek crossing. Several bikes were stuck in the trail. The problem was a steep slick river bank with gouged out tree roots and no possibility for a good run up. There was no option but to push the bike up the hill. A couple bikes tried to go around, but the attempts also proved to be of no use and left the bikes stuck in the mud. This would be the first tag-team group effort. We all took turns helping each other get up and out of there; simply was no other choice. After a drink of water and a couple minutes to let the heart rate settle down, we were off again. The last section could be called “mild insanity”, this one was quickly turning into “total insanity”. The next obstacle would be the turning point for switching into survival mode. Forget about, trophies and houring out, let’s just get the hell out of here alive. The hill in front was simply destroyed. Exposed roots and rocks left no place for traction. I knew we were in trouble when I saw bikes being pulled up the hill by rope. There was a few bikes queued up for rescue in front. Then along comes Rick Day and a kid on a KDX. Rick and I decided the youngest one should try the alternate path instead of waiting, so we got the kid to fire the bike up the hill as best he could. First attempt got nowhere. The second attempt got the bike half way up and we yanked it up the rest. By this time, the other line had cleared and we decided I would go next up the original line. It seemed to be working better. I got Inga pointed in the right direction and cranked up the throttle. I was getting up pretty well. For a millisecond I thought I might actually make it. I almost cleared the apex to the top when the bike proceeded to launch straight up in the air throwing me off the back, and then quickly began sliding back down the hill. We got the bike stopped, hooked up the rope and start heaving until the top was cleared. Rick was next. He can ride pretty good for an old guy and got surprisingly far before the bike got jammed into the roots. We had one more bike to get up and I was off to the next obstacle, Then the next. Then the next one. It turned into a series of 100 meter obstacle sections,. Ride, get stuck, repeat. I figured that I was I need of some Vitamin Advil at this point, but was out of water, we all were. A clear stream provided refreshment. Hopefully it won’t turn into a case of Beaver Fever. It was worth the risk, because at this point if I started cramping up, there would be no way I could ride out. I had to stay hydrated. It seemed like we were riding for hours and there was no end in sight. Did I mention this section was only 8 kms long? I looked at my odometer and it didn’t look good, We had only gone a couple kilometers and had several more to go. At this rate we might not make it out before dark. Simple solution, just ride faster right? Wasn’t going to happen. Everyone was getting fatigued and making stupid mistakes, we just had to press on as best we could. Buddy on the KDX didn’t make a hill and falls over. I was up ahead, and tried to get Inga stabilized so I could get off and help him. It didn’t look good, I was really worried he got hurt. I threw Inga down and ran to help him. He somehow got tangled in there badly, with the bike on top of him, under a large tree branch. I couldn’t lift the bike off him, the branch was in the way. After I dragged the bike away, with him under it, he got up and all was good. Not much later we heard a voice calling and saw someone walking toward us on the trail. It was one of the sweepers. It turns out the sweep riders would not ride in knowing that they too would get stuck and elected to walk the section. We were only about 500m from an alternate route out of there. Yipppeee! It was a ride down a forest access road then we would take the 507 highway back to Gooderham. Rick somehow got ahead of me on the trail but stopped at an intersection. I said to Rick, “You are riding like you are on a mission!”. He says, “Yes I am. I am on a mission for dry clothes, food and beer”. Enough said let’s get back. Of course it started raining again. Raining hard. Riding down the 507, the rain drops felt like gravel bouncing off my face. Pulling into the start in Gooderham, Hal was already on his third beer so he decided he would be my pit crew. I also got a pleasant cheer from the Head family. Before the race, I was quickly recruited to be on the GP Bikes team by John Head. I felt kinda bad for letting them down and not finishing the race. Turns out John DNF’d too so at least he couldn’t bug me about it. Hal dumped some gas into Inga before she would be impounded for the next day’s ride. A quick inspection showed I had no rear brake pads left. Nothing, I was running on steel. I thought they felt a bit weak. Crazy, I installed new pads just before the event. The Cord is hard on bikes. John gave me a set of used pads so I could ride the next day. Hal quickly installed them and the bike was wheeled into the impound. After getting cleaned up we walked over the Community Center for dinner. It was obvious that it was a crazy day. The wall where the results were posted was covered with DNF’s. I didn’t even bother to look at my results but it appeared Hal was first in his class. There was some concern over the three sweep riders who hadn’t yet returned. On the way back to Graham and Karen’s place, we passed three riders heading back into Gooderham. It was 8:30 at night. We got back to the cottage and were welcomed to the smell of freshly baked ginger cookies and a glass of Jagermeister on the rocks. Very nice. Later in the shower, I noticed how much dirt was in my hair. Then I remembered an incident back at the trail. Rick was hung up a log and stopped to take a break. Inga was wedged into some rocks just below and I needed some time to get my strength back. So I sat down on the log and took off my helmet to cool off. Of course Rick decides to go for it and roosts me something good. I pick up my helmet and it’s filled with dirt. Dirty hair mystery solved. To be continued….