Altar 2004 Day 4: 14-11-2004

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Camp Mariscos back to the Border

Breakfast time at Camp Mariscos. Rob, Erin and Dave Lopez are on cook duty and are preparing machacha, egg, clam and shrimp burritos to be washed down with mimosas, coffee and straight orange juice.

After breakfast was complete and most of the rigs were packed for the final trip to the border, we sent a team out to get Dan's wrecked quad. He rolled on the flank of one of the biggest dunes in the area. Below, you can see the crew as they return from the recovery site.

Kathleen leads that way for the 1300L through a tundra area.

Jay dumps his bike again. His bike is heavy and the soft sand makes it a challenge to maneuver. I am guessing that the fatigue is becoming a major factor as we were forced to travel a substantial distance on the fourth day. Below, Jay gets up to right the bike.

Russell is dug-in on the top of a razorback watching the team go by.

Hmmm. Roberto is stuck again. This time, we had to put a tail strap on him to prevent a roll.

Mark give a little tug on the rear with the strap while Roberto turns the wheels downhill and guns it. Note the roosting on the front tires.

The big fall. Jay dumped the bike on top of himself and was unable to get out. I was several trucks behind when the call went out that "Jay is down". He is badly injured.

Jay has likely broken his ankle and ripped apart his knee. Dan Johnson (red coat with blue hat) and Dick Lane (blue shirt, tan hat) are both orthopedic surgeons by trade and are administering first aid. They are using a splint from surplus ambulance equipment and ace bandages that Mike Nayoski brought as a forethought. Below, Jay clenches his fists in pain as they wrap the injured area.

Nancy provides a back rest for Jay so he has something to lean against as we prepare him for evacuation in Pickering's truck. While Jay was being splinted, the balance of the team loaded his bike into Rob's truck. Jay is in significant pain and is not happy about what will happen next. Act two is 6 hours bouncing around in the back of a DOKA as we traverse the balance of the dunes and make a run for the border. Mark Mitchell give Jay some pain reliever, thus easing the trip back.

Below, you can see the knee splint and the ankle splint that was applied.

The team gets to the south side of the cross and encounters a big group of four wheelers from San Luis. While we discuss our circumstance concerning Jay with them, they told us that over the years, they have had 7 fatalities in their club out on the Altar. Below, several team members examine parts of an abandoned vehicle rusting in the desert wind.

Kathleen left the key in the on position on the Raptor resulting in its inability to start. Below, team members push start her quad. And you can see some of the members of the Cruzeros group from San Luis.

Yet another de-beading. In this case, there were 3 at once and one required pulling the tire off the rim and repairing the sidewall. Below, Kai uses the air cannon to reseat the bead on Dan's truck as Dan watches.

The 3 tire dig-fest took a long time. While we were doing the tire service, Jose decided to put that dune face to good use. The balance of us used the time to load the quads in anticipation of leaving the dunes.

The Altar was not quite done with us yet. After the tires on Dan's truck were reseated, and we were ready to go, one of the team noted on the radio that his back right looked "low". True enough as it had a big rip in the sidewall as can be seen below. This required us to get the tire off the rim and install a patch, then reseat the tire. Tons 'o work. And it was getting dark. The wind was starting to blow, requiring Matt to use goggles while jacking the truck.

We got the tire off and prepared it for the patch job.

As if giving us a consolation prize, the Altar treated us to a great sunset as we completed the patch job.

After the patch was complete, it was fully dark. We did not get far before Roberto suffered yet another debeading. This forced most of the team to air up a bit for the balance of the trip. Gladly, we were not far from the blacktop.

We got to the blacktop without further incident and got through the Mexican military checkpoint without too much trauma. We had good luck at the border this time, the wait was minimal. They did, however, want to put each of us through secondary inspection to look around the interior of the cargo beds. But, the Altar was not fully done with us. As we left Yuma, Dan called on the radio and stated that the tire that we patched on the 2450 blew out at full freeway speed. We mustered the troops to determine the repair strategy. At this point, it was about 10pm and we were all very tired. 6 de-beads in one day was way, way too much. As we assessed the situation, we realized that what we had to do was to take a spare from Dave Clark's 1300, remove it from the rim and put it on the 2450. We would have just used the spare as-is, but the rims are different even though the tire sizes are the same. The tires on the 2450 were .85 aspect ratio and therefore "taller" than the normal spares that any of us had available, thus necessitating the switcheroo and a ton of work in the dark, cold roadside along Interstate 8 outside of El Centro. Below, you can see the rip in the tire as a result of the blowout.

The fully mounted XM-47 on Dan's 2450. Ready to roll again.

The trip back to San Diego was both boring and terrifying. It was boring in that there were no further events. Mark Mitchell went ahead on his own. Rob Pickering left the group and headed east back to Denver, although his group elected to spend the night in Yuma due to exhaustion. Caid, Serrano, Clark, Johnson and Espinosa elected to do a banzai run back to their homes in San Diego. After a brief stop for a burger in El Centro, we hit the road. Exhaustion became the demon to fight as we struggled to stay awake after a long, arduous day. As we approached El Cajon an eastern suburb of San Diego, Dan Johnson fell asleep at the wheel. I succeeded in awaking him with the radio. He fell asleep again at the intersection of I8 and I805 and failed to respond to my frantic calls on the radio and missed the correct turnoff. Panicking, I accelerated around him on the right. I had already committed to the exit ramp, but managed to jump over a berm to get back on I8 westbound. I planned to pull around in front of him and let him hit me from behind so I could slow him. I hoped that the force of the impact would awaken him and prevent him from impacting anything along the roadside. I succeeded in aborting the exit ramp and did a 3 foot jump with the truck at full freeway speed; I got in front of him still frantically shouting on the radio. No response. As we passed him, Kathleen reported that he had fully checked out. Remember, Dan has injured ribs and had taken medication for the pain. For whatever reason, he maintained control of the vehicle and followed me down an off ramp and to Kai's house. I still as of the date of this writing, have not closed the loop with him to determine what happened. I am guessing that his radio went off frequency and that is why he did not respond. That said, he was checked out when we passed him. At this point it does not matter. What does matter is that nobody else was hurt and no equipment was damaged. The Altar got it's pound of flesh (and many pounds of rubber) on this trip.

Below is a parting shot of the team, taken mid-day Sunday. Missing from the photo are Bill Caid (photographer) and Jay Couch who is resting his injured knee in the back of Pickering's DOKA.

This was a great trip, by any metric and all of us had fun. Tire problems are something to be expected on the Altar, but I could have done without the injuries. We hope that medical science will be able to repair Jay's injuries and he will be in full form soon.

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