The 1998 Mojave Death Race


Why would anyone want to run and ride a bicyce through the Mojave Desert in June? A team of JPL employees had their own personal reasons why and the result was JPL's first team entry in the "Death Race". The course covers 250 miles of paved and dirt roads through California and Nevada.

The team captain, Mark Ryne, saw the race description and decided that even Rocket Scientists could tackle an event like this. He organized a team of 12 racers and 6 support crew to represent JPL in the third annual Death Race. "If So Cal Edison can beat the Navy Seals, then we thought that we might have a chance." said one participant.

There were 11 teams racing. They ranged from the U.S. Marines, the Orange County Marshalls (organizers) to teams from Lockheed-Martin and JPL. The relay race started early in the morning to take advantage of the cool weather but the temperature soon reached the ninties. The wide range in temperatures combined with the rough roads and the isolation made the race one to remember. During many of the legs the racers couldn't see the other participants, just the reassuring support van being driven behind them. Dick Mathison, his wife Genny and Melinda Kiely provided the sweep support for the JPL team. Many racers thought that the support crew had the hardest job of all as they drove the entire 22 hours that it took to complete the race!

While much of the course covered rolling countryside some of the mountain bike legs were a real adventure. Eugene Chu had a ride that was later dubbed "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride". While the support van was trying to keep up with Eugene, they nearly missed a turn on the dirt road. Not what you'd hope for at 2 a.m.

While the Death Race didn't quite live up to its name (much to the delight of the participants) several people recieved I.V.s to offset the effects of dehydration. It was a challenging course under difficult conditions, but team JPL came in at 22 hours, good enough for a fifth place finish!

"We were ahead of the Marines for the first 5 legs. That made us realize that we were more competitive than we had thought." Not too bad for a bunch of Rocket Scientists!

This is a team event that featured a combined race for cyclists and runners in the Mojave Desert in California and Nevada. It was run relay style in 21 legs, ranging in distance from 6 to 31 miles, each covering running and cycling surfaces from paved road to desert trails. Teams for this event consisted of 12 members which may be any combination of men and women. Several support vehicles were needed and amateur radio support is strongly recommended. This year's race was on June 6-7, 1998 and took about 22 hours for the JPL Team to complete.

The race is organized by the Orange County Marshals Department, and teams are typically from law enforcement, the military and large corporations. The registration fee is $550 per team, but the ERC provided a 50% subsidy! (Thanks, ERC!)


The JPL Team and Results:

Steven Adams (Radio), Al Cangahuala, Eugene Chu, Eileen Clark (Logistics), Nancy Dankenbring, Randy Hammock (Radio), James Jackson, Greg Kazz, Aaron Kiely, Melinda Kiely (Medical), Paul Herrera, Dick Mathison (Radio), Genny Mathison (Radio), Susan Merrill, Mark Ryne (Captain), Paul Siqueira, Bill Taber and Carlos Velazquez


  • Deathrace Results Official
  • Team JPL Results Unofficial
  • Team JPL Support Crew


    Course Description and Leg Map

  • Leg Map provided by Death Race Sponsors



    Leg and Hand-Off Descriptions

    So, just was this race like? Read some of the leg descriptions and you'll get an idea. But nothing beats being there. We are looking for racers for the 1999 Death Race already!

  • Leg Descriptions provided by participants. (Read these to get an idea of what it was like.)
  • Detailed Leg and Hand-Off Descriptions
  • Support Crew Descriptions What is involved for the support crew?



    Environmental and Astronomical Conditions

  • Sun and Moon Data for June 6, 1998
  • Sun and Moon Data for June 5, 1999



    HTML version of Application Form

    More information than you probably ever wanted to know. The app is 12 pages long. There are numerous errors and inconsistencies - I have corrected those that made sense to me. There are also lots of RULES, but it is not clear which are really enforced.

  • HTML version of 1998 Death Race Application



    Links to other Death Race and other Related pages...

  • Death Race Home Page previous results and links to First Aid Online and CPR Instructions
  • Team Dead Geckos, Lockheed Martin, Phoenix, AZ (and really nice people!)
  • Team SoCal Edison 2, San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, CA
  • Mojave National Preserve Virtual Visitor Center
  • Proposed Construction of Ivanpah Dry Lake International Airport


  • Updated 6/16/98
    Web page maintained not frequently enough by Mark Ryne