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How I got a Taste of Dakar...

Apr 23, 2012 // Trips on Two Wheels //

Special Guest Post by Jim Coffman of Joplin, Montana.


So here’s the deal. You know that sexy looking luggage rack I got for the Triumph Tiger? Well, the company that made that work of art was putting on a ride in Death Valley. I called in about the luggage rack and talked to this guy named Erik at AltRider. He went on and on about how epic and awesome the ride will be. He’s talking 50 riders, celebrities, video, magazine guys, and a BMW dealer. I’m thinking it might be out of my league. Initially this didn’t sound like my idea of fun -- I hate crowds and I would have to change my vacation dates. I was thinking I’ll pass. What do you think I did?

2 months and 1,012 miles later we pull into Mesquite, NV with the Taste of Dakar as the last stop. My buddy Sandy Anderson from Chester, MT was spending the winter there, so using Erik’s “epic and awesome” sales pitch I got him signed up, which coincidently gave us a place to stay! My next draft pick was Steve Gulick from Helena, MT. Steve was a tougher sell because he didn’t have a bike but I convinced him he would be a celebrity by riding my classic ’89 Honda Transalp. Bingo! Someone to help pay the gas bill!

After a week of pre-Dakar training and crash testing in the Mesquite area under our butts, we headed for Shoshone, CA. After checking in with Brianna and Nancy from AltRider, we set up our tents and walked around meeting other riders and checking out bikes. I’m starting to worry because I’m seeing a lot of knobbies and even a few barely street legal dirt bikes. Damn! I should have got TKC’s instead of cheaping out with Shinko’s. BMW is obviously the predominant brand so Sandy’s GSA blends in nicely. My Triumph Tiger 800 XC is definitely the red headed step child in the group, and as predicted, the 23 yr. old Transalp is getting lots of attention. Even Brian Catterson of Motorcyclist magazine is taking pictures of it!

We volunteered to help Brianna set up the sound system at the Crowbar, the local watering hole and restaurant, and then back to camp where a keg of local microbrew was being tapped. Brianna asked if I would like to do an on-camera interview for the AltRider Taste of Dakar video, which I agreed to. It was surprising how hard it is to answer simple questions in front of a camera! After dinner back at the Crowbar, Jeremy introduced Jimmy Lewis who entertained us with his Dakar experiences and laid out the ride itinerary. We formed groups of 6 riders and discussed which route to take – advanced, intermediate, or scenic. Paper maps were handed out and Erik loaded the routes into our GPS’s. Agreeing that our riding skills were WAY beyond beginner and not wanting to miss out on anything “epic and awesome”, our group voted for the intermediate.

Saturday at breakfast, Jimmy explained what to expect on each route with the key word being SAND. Advanced = Bottomless SAND and dunes. Intermediate = SAND but with a bottom. Scenic = No SAND. “ Hey guys, maybe we should rethink our choice.”

Six skilled riders armed with high tech GPS, paper maps and verbal directions start the scenic route by taking a wrong turn one mile from town! A ten minute group meeting gets us on course and we proceed into the unknown. My Zumo GPS is pitching a fit, screaming at me to make a u-turn lest I die here and become coyote bait! Zumo has determined the best route to Pahrump is back to Vegas, get a nice room, win big on the slots and take a limo to the gentlemens’ club! I ignore the obviously defective technological gizmo and rely on my infallible sense of direction and follow the dust cloud of the rider ahead of me. He must know where he’s going because he’s hauling ass! 

Ten minutes into our 4th road side map quest we see a lone rider approaching. Jimmy is riding sweep between all 3 routes just to be sure the coyotes don’t over eat. Just for fun he gives us a mini sand training session in the ditch along the road. This guy can ride! After pointing us in the right direction he headed off in search of other navigationally challenged riders. Full of directional confidence instilled by THE master, we ride.

A woman in a SUV pulls up beside six guys holding maps. Glenn, our group leader at the time, breaks the man rule and asks directions. “Mount up men, it’s thata way”!


After touring most of Pahrump’s back streets we triumphantly arrive at the Lewis estate. Lunch is served and then Heather Lewis leads us out of town to some small dunes and a huge dry lake bed. Jimmy again appears out of nowhere and the two of them school us on sand riding techniques. Epic and awesome indeed! After a few high speed runs on the lake bed, we’re on the pavement back towards Shoshone.  Zumo has forgiven me and happily points the way to camp. A shower would be nice but there is only one in camp so the desert dust will remain as a badge of honor. After dinner and awards presentations, Manuel Lucchese captivated the audience with an incredible recount of his 2012 Dakar adventures.

8 a.m. Sunday… the Montanans were on the road to Mesquite. 1,012 miles later, back to the real world.

As I write this I realize how lucky I was to stumble upon the Taste of Dakar. I got the same thrill today that I got over 46 years ago on my first ride! I can’t think of many other activities that feel like the first time, every time, all the time!When I phoned in my order at AltRider all I wanted was a luggage rack, but I got a whole epic adventure too!    



Check out the official AltRider Taste of Dakar video here: 


7 and counting...

guest // Apr 27, 2012
Nice write up Jim!! By the way I did a couple of watercolor paintings of a few of the 222 pictures I took. Loved screaming around on the dry lake beds. Come down to southern AZ sometime. Looking forward to your You Tube video.
guest // Apr 27, 2012
Man that sounds like fun, really cool to get to hang out with those guys, I'd love to hear the Dakar stories. Any word if Manuel is going to make Dakar 2013? If you haven't heard of this kid, his stories of building his bike in the living room are pretty cool...
guest // May 01, 2012
Great trip. Can't wait for the video..
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