Chain Reaction

Ontario, CA — At about 8:30 PM Arun Lakhotia contacted the Chase Team with grave news about a mechanical failure on the CajunBot. The chain had failed and CajunBot was down. Without a spare chain, the team was disheartened and feared the end had arrived before the start.However, their was a glimmer of hope in the eyes of team members when the chase team leader Danny Majors arrived at TGIF restaurant to pick up the broken chain in route to Ramona, California to look at what we hoped was a compatible replacement. With failed chain in hand, we roared up the ramp of I-15 without any idea whether our race to Ramona, CA would put us back in the DARPA race. Even more, we hoped for the possibly we might even get the CajunBot to the opening ceremonies on the infield of the California Speedway Wednesday morning.

The Ramona connection wasn’t the only option in the plan. Even if we couldn’t get CajunBot into the opening ceremonies, we needed a plan that would enable us to qualify. Within minutes, we’d formulated four options that could get us back on track.

Danny reached for the phone and I cracked the hatch of my laptop and we started pecking away in search of a source for a replacement chain. Danny’s first call was to Tom Cain, owner of Cain’s Equipment Sales in Lafayette, Louisiana. It was a late call and Mr. Caine was quite hospitable. While Mr. Caine didn’t have a replacement chain in stock, he did provide the name and phone number of the ATV manufacturer.

This information pointed us to the manufacturer’s website and list of dealers. We immediately located two dealers in the Southern California area: 2 the Max ATVs in Ramona, CA and Tico Tech, Inc. in Altadena, CA. These two incredibly helpful dealers offered Team CajunBot two promising options.

We made first contact with Gina Hampton at 2 the Max ATVs. Initially, we didn’t believe she’d be able to help us. She didn’t have a chain in stock, but she did have a new Max IV. After some discussion, Danny and Gina worked out a deal in which she would give CajunBot the chain off of her new vehicle. This deal took several phone calls to develop.

Meanwhile, between calls with Gina, we’d also contacted Rafael Calvo at Tico Tech, Inc. in Altadena, California. Rafael was very accommodating and offered the chain from his personal ATV. He even offered to deliver his ATV to our mechanics in Ontario, where Team CajunBot could remove the chain.

Two other options were unfolding within the few short minutes following “the call”. Another Max IV ATV owned by MedExpress, a Team CajunBot sponsor, would also offer the prospect of a replacement chain. When Danny contacted the MedExpress team, the ATV was actually on its way out of New Orleans as part of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. A MedExpress ambulance was towing it, and it was nearly home. The plan was to remove the chain on arrival, and then deliver it to a member of Team CajunBot who was flying out of Lafayette tomorrow (Wednesday) morning.

The final option was simple, to deliver the broken chain to a nearby motorcycle shop for repair.

Danny and I tag-teamed between web and phone for what amounted to about 30 minutes before a solution emerged from the four options.

While each option offered a solid chance for a replacement chain early on Wednesday morning, only one option delivered the chain early enough to get Team CajunBot on the infield of the Grand Challenge Opening Ceremonies.

A quick return call to Gina at 2 the Max ATVs put the wheels in motion…the wheels on the Chase Team truck. With laptop on board, Verizon wireless Internet card inserted, we mapped the route to Ramona using Google Maps. It would be a 100 mile trek to see a chain we only hoped would match. We stopped at TGIF, picked up the broken chain and hit I-15 with the pedal to the medal. As we raced to Ramona, Gina’s husband George was busy working to remove the chain on their new MAX IV.

In an effort to quicken our trip, we asked Gina if she could meet us at the El Norte Parkway exit. It was no surprise she accommodated our request, saving us about 1 hour drive time. This also meant that it cost her an hour on the road.

Gina, husband George and their son George (and their toy Poodle) arrived shortly after us. After introductions, we laid out the new chain beside the broken chain to compare the two. It was a match, and there was a great sigh of relief that rippled from Encondido to Ontario to Lafayette.

We delivered the chain to a renewed Team CajunBot, despite the fact it was 1:30 AM. The team plans to arrive at the CajunBot garage bay at 6:00 AM this morning to begin installation of the new chain. With a bit of luck and some hard work, you should see Team CajunBot beside CajunBot at opening ceremonies.

On behalf of Team CajunBot, we appreciate the sacrifice and good will offered by everyone who assisted us in solving this problem, especially the great people from 2 the Max ATVs.

Please join us in showing your support by visiting the 2 the Max ATVs website at

— Mike Spears

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