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Race Across America

A Front Row Seat to the Race Across America


A Front Row Seat to the Race Across America

A Front Row Seat to the Race Across America

by Dave Nevins

While the Tour de France has twenty-one stages, hotel stays, catered meals, ample sleep opportunities and is ‘only’ 2088 miles, the Race Across America (RAAM) is one single, grinding, relentless stage.

Vic Armijo and Jennifer Salazar and rider Christoph Strasser near Trinidad, CO

 The top solo participants in RAAM average about two hours sleep a night, with no hotels.  Their meals

are corralled from the confines of cramped vehicles and they pedal 3,004 miles (if they are among the 50 percent that prevail as overcomers ).  The clock starts in Oceanside, California as riders follow a detailed network of  back roads that take them through the searing heat of the Mojave Desert, up and over the Rockies (high point is 10,856 feet), across the wind ravaged Kansas landscape, over the dreaded Appalachians, with a final tick of the clock in Annapolis, Maryland.  This year, the country unleashed some brutal, nasty weather upon the participants.  The desert Southwest was 5-10 degrees hotter than in the past decade and torrential rainfall and floods east of the Mississippi River slowed the race field.  

Christoph Strasser (Austria) near Trinidad, CO

With the start of RAAM on June 16, I was driving the RAAM Media 1 vehicle. I followed the procession of solo riders as they left the Pacific, churned up Palomar Mountain, took the plunge down the Glass Elevator, a ten mile plummet into

Borrego Springs, CA and the searing heat of the Mojave Desert. This is stark reality punishing the riders, especially those coming from Europe.   Their training doesn’t usually include adapting to oven temperatures.  I had a front row seat to the highs and lows that make up one of the toughest events ever concocted.  

Severin Zotter (Austria) - Hanover, PA

With me in the Media 1 vehicle were photojournalist Vic Armijo and  videojournalist  Jennifer Salazar.  Their task was to provide photos/commentary and video of the race, with a special eye on the leaders.  My task was to assist them in reaching their goals. I drove, drove, bought gas, and drove some more, with ample opportunities to take my own photos/film and assist Jen with filming. 

Along beautiful Highway 12 near La Vita, CO

It took a short while to

work our way through the whole field of solo riders and eventually catching the race leaders near Brawley, California.  The teams (2, 4 and 8 person) started the race on June 20


and generally caught the tail end of the solo field in Ohio.  

Adam Bickett

This was my sixth RAAM.  In the other five I had participated in I had been part of a crew supporting a team.  This included Team Type 1 and their first RAAM (2006).  I also crewed for Team Type 2 for two years (2009 & 2010).  During this year’s race I was extra thankful for my CGM, as I was living a life that was definitely off-track from my usual lifestyle. I had to stay focused and do the best I could with blood sugars and control, constantly checking the sugars on the CGM.  It was easy to check the blood sugar levels with a quick glance on the CGM.    My basal rate had to be notched up a significant amount to cover my deficient exercise life while fastened to the driver’s seat. Thankfully, I had good blood sugars for most of my time on the road.  Another smile….

Vic Armijo and Jennifer Salazar near Hanover, PA

The long hours at the wheel did affect my glucose levels and management.  

started each day with a low carb meal and kept the basal rate at a higher rate than normal.

Lunch was usually whatever could be snagged at a roadside gas station/convenience store.

Not ideal, but slightly better with coffee in hand.

Dinner found us chasing riders or settled into a hotel in Anywhere USA.  I often packed a dinner of sorts early in the day from food that I was able to pick up or had packed in Dave’s ever-relied upon food bag.  Our first sit-down dinner didn’t happen until the end of the race in Annapolis.  I relied on constant contact with my CGM and the convenience to make bolus shots

when needed

on my insulin pump during crazy-busy times often while driving.  

Pagosa Springs, CO

Steering wheel in hand meant dealing with traffic, a long list of turns and directions for each day and continual filming and photography.  Often I drove alongside the cyclists to provide some of best opportunities

for Vic and Jen to take photo and film

yet a little unnerving for the driver.  We were always on the search for choice places to capture incredible footage.  Thankfully, this was Vic’s tenth year and he was pretty dialed in to the premium locations for shooting.  Our route took us mainly on back roads where we were immersed in the beauty of this country

the nooks and crannies of a beautiful and historic landscape that eludes most people zooming down the main arteries that crisscross this country.

Jennifer Salazar in Maryland, near the end of the race

Toward the end of the race, the notorious hills of West Virginia and Maryland greet each rider with a wicked, sneering grin as the finish line hails.  By this point riders are at their lowest ebb energy wise.  We ended the race tracking the top two solo riders; Severin Zotter (Austria) and David Haase (United States).  Severin wheeled across the finish line in Annapolis, first (eight days, eight hours, and seventeen seconds).   An amazing feat since this was his rookie year.  

A fun shot taken by Jennifer Salazar as I was not, quite, the RAAM Rookie Male of the Year

So what was the payoff for me? I came away with a vast number of photos and a healthy amount of video from a truly amazing event.  Not to mention the many  outstanding and inspiring

stories, too many to recount in this blog.  No doubt the memories will stay with me forever, not to mention the hope that I’ll be back on the roads of RAAM next year.  


"As the Crow Flies"


"As the Crow Flies"

'As the Crow Flies'

This is a story where the pictures tell most of the story, so I will lay out some of the background for a rather unique tale involving a crow, a ghost town, Hwy 40, and Flagstaff/Mt. Humphrey's.  As I look over the photos, I could not have orchestrated this better had I hired a film crew.

The background involves 2 different angles.  As my rental car  was zipping down Hwy 40, between Winslow and Flagstaff, AZ, I caught storm clouds enveloping Mt. Humphrey's.  I took the next exit (Two Guns road) in search of a high spot to snap the swirling weather conditions that were developing 30-40 miles ahead of me.  

I did not locate a good spot to take a photo, but I did notice a ghost town on the other side of highway.  Hmmm.  Love to explore, so I checked out the remnants of a failed commercial enterprise, mixed in with some older buildings.

Link to a story on Two Guns:

Two Guns Ghost Town

After exploration, photos and realization that I had a rental car to return, I ventured back onto Two Guns Road.  One last fleeting photo of the Hwy 40 sign (since I had traveled across most of the country on it).  Lucky me, there sat a crow on the Hwy 40 West sign.  

I took a photo and tried to get another photo of our bird and signage.  Evidently the crow had a mission, and I caught him/her taking off.  For some unknown, but now cool reason, I took a photo of the crow flying across the highway

The crow would arrive just before I reached the highway entrance.  I glanced at the same signs, but the West Hwy 40 sign was now on the right.  I had first seen the crow on the Hwy 40 West sign on the other side of the highway and he/she now sat on the Hwy 40 West sign on the other side of the Hwy.  

As if the crow felt like I needed additional help/support, I would get 'beaked' into a West direction.  'As the crow flies' may take on a different meaning.


Getting Paid for Adventure

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Getting Paid for Adventure

'Getting Paid for Adventure'

In a couple days I will embark on another adventure, of sorts.  I will be driving the Media 1 vehicle for the Race Across America (RAAM).  Many consider this the toughest athletic event on the planet.  It is also my next paid employment.  Somehow, someway, I have come into a number of adventurous jobs that seem to fit well on my resume and my lifestyle.  Yes, work can contain a bit of adventure.  Why not?

In the 90's I assisted Franz Spilauer (RAAM winner in 1988) on 2 different bicycle tours over 2 summers.  Each tour was about 3 weeks long and hit major tourist points in California, Utah, Arizona and Nevada.  We covered about 5,000 miles each trip.  The riders would cover about 50 or so miles each day and the rest of the miles was driven.  It was an amazing opportunity to spend time in most of the major parks in the 4 states that we zipped through.  

I would move out of  the desert and to Boise, Idaho for a job.  Not just a job, but an opportunity to get paid to ride my bicycle as a bicycle messenger.  Not quite a New York City messenger at heart but still a cool job.

I would then get paid for running.   Lacking talent (to officially get paid to run, as an athlete), but I would be part of the creation of 'Boise Backcountry Adventure', a trail book for the Boise, Idaho area.  We were of the frame of mind to run all the trails (except the canyoneering sections).  Over 1,000 miles was run to obtain information for the publication.  It was another exceptional job opportunity.

No running or pedaling involved, but I consider my move to Sitka, Alaska to be linked to adventure.  Just getting to my island setting, with a vehicle was interesting, to say the least.  I would enjoy time and a unique lifestyle in the Last Frontier and am glad to once again combine adventure with employment. 

My latest job revolved around adventure.  At least other people's adventure.  I was employed at Perimeter Bicycling Association of America with a slate of events, such as El Tour de Tucson and Viva Bike Vegas.

The adventure job list could roll into volunteer work.  Maybe another blog hangs in the balance.  

If you are up for adventure, and even jobs with a dash of adventure, keep your eyes open.  You never know what adventure you will find, or what adventure will find you.

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1 Stage, 3005 miles and a pillow waiting for me back in Sitka

1 Stage, 3005 Miles, and a Pillow waiting for me back in Sitka

The Race Across America (RAAM) is considered by many to be the most difficult bicycle race on the planet(If you are seeking adventure and tremendous suffering this may be the event for you). When the cyclists roll out of Oceanside, California the stopwatch will not stop until they cross the line in Annapolis, Maryland. Pedaling east, the 3,005 mile stage will include over 100,000 feet of climbing, temperatures that can range from freezing to 105+ degrees, physical exhaustion, illusions, wicked weather and yes, a major overdose of insomnia.

This past summer was my third RAAM as a crew member. It is a very novel way to spend a vacation. So much for a normal holiday time on the beach. Our RAAM train will zip through 14 states, take lots of cool pictures, assist heroes on bikes, make new friends, promote a cause and stash some wonderful memories en route. The crews are a vital link for the riders survival. We take care of the details so that they can crank the pedals 24 hours a day.

Team Type 2 consisted of eight riders with Type 2 diabetes. Eight dedicated, determined men cycling with a mission & a purpose. There would also be a Team Type 1 with cyclists who had Type 1 diabetes. I am hard wired to the cause of both teams as I have Type 1 diabetes and run events through my diabetes adventure group – No Limits.

This year was the largest field ever. 30 solo riders and 210 racers on 39 teams. 19 countries were represented. Solo riders found some of the worst weather in RAAM history as storms seemed to follow them across the country. On the other hand, teams, which left 2 days after the solos, were blessed with excellent weather.

For the solo crusaders, if you choose to sleep then you are losing time to the competition. Grinding the pedals for 22 hours a day is not unusual for the soloists. The teams are able to alternate riders and snatch a little bit of zzzzzz’s, but as the RAAM t shirt so aptly states, “This Ain’t No Tour”. 24/7 for the crew and the cyclists who a putting their sweat and heart on the pavement of backroads America while dealing with a rather challenging disease.
Our crew, assembled from all parts of the country, gathered in Oceanside, CA for a crash course in RAAM 101. Not stated, but soon to be evident, it would not be unlikely to piece together only about 20 hours of sleep during the week that we are bouncing down the roads. It is a challenging task, but it is an opportunity that I cherish and I will catch up on some sleep………later.

19 crew members, all volunteering their time, seems like a small army but we are all on the game board as the pieces move along the route. We all have important tasks to do that need to happen. In the 5 vehicle procession there are drivers, navigators, a massage therapist, 3 nutritionists, a crew chief and many assorted, vital tasks to be done by all to make the race as doable for the troopers of Team Type 2.
Team Type 1 would win the 8 man category for the fourth time in 5 years with a time of 5 days 10 hours and 48 minutes. Team Type 2 would span the country in 7 days 14 hours and 53 minutes. Just behind the time posted in 2009, but just ahead of the dog chase that was created by the 8 man team Friar’s Club who were nipping at our heels and tires. 3005 miles and it was decided by 2 minutes. This definitely ain’t no tour. Not a chance.

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