Last year, at the 2017 PB 500, I broke my hand which required surgery and my lower leg which my Russian doctor assured me required nothing. He was right. Before that happened, I crashed and a guy used my bike as a ramp to launch his Africa Twin into the air. He mangled my chain, which I didn't notice but discovered when it snapped 10 miles further on. So I was hoping that this year's event would go a bit better for me.
I woke at 5am, packed the bike, and got on the road by six. The thermometer read around 40° F. It was a cold two hours over the Verrazano Bridge and then south on the NJ Turnpike to 206 and into Hammonton. I arrived at by 8:30, got registered, and had the bike inspected.
I ended up riding with a guy whose name I can't recall. He rode his Husky 501 very well, especially in the enduro sections. He'd get ahead of me there, but I could keep up with him in the sand and on the woods roads. The tracks were really fun with a good dose of all the different terrain the Pine Barrens offer. Jack ends the day with a long run through a deep sand section. It dead ends, and he turns you back around to run it again. I remembered feeling exhausted while riding through it last year but feeling great today.
It was absolutely soaking this morning after pouring rain all night. In hindsight, I should've skipped the day. The morning started off well, and I made my way through a bunch of slower groups. Eventually, I caught up with three guys and rode behind them. (When we stopped, we realized we had all met last year.) As we got close to the lunch stop, the puddles got super deep, and some were being filled by overflowing wetlands we rode through. I sucked in a small bit of water going through a deep one. Pulled the plug, turned over the engine a few times, and everything seemed good. A few miles later we came on another really deep puddle. I went through last after the other guys had dug it up, stalled, and when I went to put my foot down fell over, bringing the bike with me into the water! Fuck! We pulled it out, pulled the plug again, etc. It started back up, but this time there was water in the crankcase. I decided to ride to the gas station a few miles away and then call the support truck. I made it, but the bike ran rough by the time we got there.
The truck picked me up, and I spent the afternoon riding around with Dennis. He knew a lot about the forests and pointed things out and told stories as we drove around. There wasn't a lot more action that afternoon. Most people had smartly called the day early and gone back to the motel.
We stopped by NAPA where I bought eight quarts of oil and proceeded to change it over and over until it began to look clean. I let the bike run for ten minutes with no problems and would decide what to do tomorrow morning.
The forest was still soaking this morning, but my bike ran strong. I decided to go for it and spent the morning riding alone, just enjoying the day and that I was even out there at all after what happened yesterday. Many deep puddles still covered large areas of the road. I tired to keep out of them, but it was impossible. There was just too much water.
I stalled the bike braking hard for a puddle, and it seemed to hesitate when I hit the starter button to get moving again. A few miles later, I stopped for a snack. The bike wouldn't start back up after that. I poked around at some wires, but nothing changed. Riders stopped and offered their opinions. Lunch wasn't too far up ahead, and the sweep riders would be coming through soon. It seemed all the water had gotten to something electrical. After wiggling wiring around for half an hour, I was able to start it and rode to lunch, where we figured out how to start the bike by overriding the starter switch. I decided to call it a day and head back to Brooklyn before I could do more damage. I found a ride with two other guys, Ross and Josh, and we drove back.
Despite all the problems I had, I look forward to the PB500 every year, and I can't wait do it again!