The Death of the Turtle

We knew the Turtle was having issues. From the fan clutch locking up to a loose spark plug wire and worn points, the engine was really giving us fits the whole trip. (I say us, but Nick was the one who really had to deal with it - crawling under the engine on the rocks at the RV park or trying to get something just right while jammed between the seats and the engine.) He had spent most of the four days we'd been down in Tucson trying to get it running right and nothing was working. He would make one adjustment and it would be better for a while, then something else would act up.Thursday morning, he made some last ditch adjustments to the timing on the distributor while I was finishing up food shopping. Our hope at that time was to just make it up to 24 Hour Town, race, and deal with it after the race.

Heading North on Houghton Rd and things looked promising. The engine sounded better, we had a little more power and we were starting to get hopeful again. Then we hit the hill right after the Pantano Wash. The engine started shrieking and shaking like crazy. There was a creak, a bang and a plume of smoke gushed from the exhaust pipe. Not good! We lost all power, the oil pressure plumeted and it was clear the turtle was in trouble. We were getting honked at by other drivers - both for the pathetic lack of speed and the plume of smoke. Before we could make the left turn onto Tanque Verde, the oil pressure dropped again and the engine started stalling. Three times in a row as we struggled through Tucson traffic, the engine stalled. Nick was able to restart it all three times, but it was pretty obvious. We weren't going to make it to 24 Hour Town. At least not in the turtle.

I was both navigating and trying to find a U-Haul store at that point. Amazingly - there was a location on the road we were on - at least that's what my phone said. And we hadn't passed it yet. I'm scanning the street names and numbers, looking for the U-haul sign. We're getting close, but the turtle was getting increasingly sluggish and the oil pressure was completely gone. Then we reach the right number - but the U-haul sign was gone and the building was all boarded up. Hearts sank - now what? We had no options left. But then - salvation in the form of a white and black billboard a block down. U-Haul!!!

100 yards from the driveway, the turtle stalls again. And this time we couldn't get it started. I'm not sure how Nick managed it, but he wrestled the dead turtle into the driveway and then a parking spot of the U-Haul store. And it was truly dead - oil was spewing everywhere and it wasn't starting at all.

The turtle's final resting place... Neatly parked in the U-Haul lot

There was a lot of crap to unload, pack up and reload prior to getting to town!
I don't know how we managed it, but we even found the U-haul location where the manager was a mountain biker and understood the plight of two riders desperate to get to a major race. He rented us a van and agreed to let us leave the turtle there until after the event. Two hours later, we'd emptied out the turtle and packed up the U-Haul van. Man! There was a lot of shit in that beast - both for racing and for living! But we still had to figure out how to manage the race without the comforts of the RV. A tent, small heater, cot and portable stove from Walmart did the trick and it was time to finally think about riding our bikes.
Our new home for the weekend...

Gear puking! 24 hour gear scattered around camp.
We picked the name "Learning Curve" because of the progression we've made in our racing and the things we've learned in the last five years. Little did we know the learning curve back to tent camping without the RV was going to be steep and quick!


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