|06-18-2010, 04:00 PM||#1|
Not Superman Rally 2010, my experience.
I've never run a competitive rally. In fact, I don't consider myself a long-distance rider. If you've read any of my ride reports, you know that I don't go fast, I like to stop often, and for me 300 miles is a long day. My longest day of riding is somewhere around 500 miles. Yet somehow, I found myself fascinated by the planning and execution required in a rally. I looked through the IBR results, and I was especially inspired when I read this ride report, SPANK 2009.
A few months ago while I was listening to the March 30 Podcast of Sidestand Up, I heard Jim Puckett describe this year's Not Superman Rally, held for the past few years and a good rally for beginners. This year's rally would start in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. It was 36 hours with an expert class and a novice class. I went on the Not Superman Rally website and looked through the rules and some past photos. I was interested, and it felt like something I'd enjoy and might be good at.
I started asking some of my riding friends about rally riding. None of them had ever done one. I read rally ride reports online. I posted a thread on ADVrider asking what other people thought.
Finally, on the last day of registration, May 31, I signed up. I was rider #47. I had just a week and a half to plan and prepare.
My Suzuki V-Strom 650 is already set up for touring. For this trip I added a Kaoko throttle lock and a Throttle Rocker. I talked a local friend who also rides a V-Strom to loan me his touring windshield, since I usually ride with the stock shield. New rear tire, new chain, fresh oil and filter. The bike was ready to go.
We received the bonus information a week in advance. I started work on my route. As a novice rider, I was required to follow the base route, though as it turns out, everyone else did as well, since there was a huge bonus tied to the base route. The base route was a big loop which had twelve bonuses that you had to hit in order, either clockwise or counterclockwise. You could get other bonuses in the middle, but the base route bonuses had to be in order.
I loaded the base route into my mapping software and then started adding other bonuses to see how much time each added. My plan was to come up with an optimum points per time ratio. After several hours work I had what I thought was an acceptable route, with just a little more tweaking required.
Using Google Street View and Bing Birds-eye View, I scouted each of the bonus locations from my desk. For the most part, I knew exactly what I was going to look for at each bonus location, even where to park.
In the meantime, I posted the puzzle on the geocaching.com forums. To me, this rally was a lot like speed geocaching, and I thought someone on the forums would enjoy working on the route, too. I always welcome a fresh set of eyes. User WascoZookeeper responded to my posting and came up with a route for me. I reviewed it and was amazed. He'd fit in quite a few more points than the route I'd planned, plus his was shorter and took less time.
I massaged his route a little more, given my research on each of the bonus locations, and came up with a final route a couple days before the start of the rally. Basically, my strategy was to go there with an exact route in mind. My route was purposely optimistic. I'd added more bonuses than I thought I could actually do. Then, during the rally when I fell behind my schedule, I could skip one or two bonuses which I'd determined gave the fewest points per minute.
To help me along the way, I made a custom Rally Book. I copied the information from each bonus onto a separate page, adding my own notes as well as the estimated time to travel to each one. I had it printed on thick paper and bound at Kinkos and then I placed the book inside a clear vinyl sleeve which fit on top of my tank bag. I could glance down while riding to get all the next bonus information such as photo requirement and ETA. As I completed each bonus, I simply flipped the page. It turned out to work extremely well. Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos of my set-up before we were required to turn in our rally books after the event.
For the week or two prior to the rally I practiced my fuel stops, coming up with a quick procedure to get in and out as fast as possible. I stopped the bike and got off. Removed only my right glove, then I put my credit card into the pump. While the machine approved my card I removed my tank bag and unlocked my fuel cap. With the pump in the tank and the lock set, I'd get my fuel log out of the tank bag and fill out the date and time. Top off the tank and replace the pump. Grab the receipt. Double check the required information on the reciept, then complete the fuel log. Zip it all back up and get on the bike. I could be in and out of a gas station in less than four minutes.
I also practiced a bonus stop, even though I'd never done one. I picked a random park near my house, rode up to it, stopped in front of the bathrooms and got a "rally photo." I wrote down the date and time, then headed out. I timed myself at just under three minutes.
The rally rules said that there would be SPOT-related bonuses. Since I don't own a SPOT, I posted a requst on ADVrider looking to borrow one. ChiTown offered to send me his and sent it second-day. I spent half a day figuring out how to use it and how to set up a Spotwalla account, as necessitated by the rally rules.
Normally I use a Garmin GPSMap 478 on my bike. I've got a Nuvi in my car, and I experimented with mounting both of them on my bike. Unforatuntely, the Nuvi is very hard to see in the sunlight, and it's not waterproof, so I abandoned the idea.
My friend Rénee loaned me a one-gallon water jug to keep me hydrated. She also agreed to drive up to Cape Girardeau the weekend of the rally to bring to me a bit of extra gear I didn't want to carry on my bike.
Meanwhile, one more rider added his name to the list of entrants, Ken Meese. I didn't know Ken Meese at the time, but his appearance caused quite a stir among the group. Ken is a nationally known rally rider who among other things placed 9th in the 2009 IBR, 1st in the 2009 Cal24, and coincidently also won the SPANK 2009 which inspired my interest.
|06-19-2010, 11:00 AM||#3|
The trip from Memphis to Cape Girardeau is less than three hours if you go up I-55. I can't stand interstate riding. I left my house on Friday the day before the start of the rally around 10am and took a back-roads route up through Tennessee, Kentucky, across Illinois, and into Missouri. I arrived around 3:30pm to check in. I believe most of the other riders were there at this point.
Bikes were parked around the perimeter of the hotel. I took a walk around to see the other bikes. Most of them had wires and doo-dads mounted all over the cockpit. I saw multiple GPS units, radar detectors, map lights, iPhone and iPods, and fuel cells. My bike is essentially stock.
I saw the type of bikes I expected to see here. Lots of BMWs, Honda ST1300s, a couple Goldwings, one or two cruisers, two V-Stroms, and a number of FJRs. What caught my attention were all the custom plates on the bikes.
The big talk among some of the riders in the lobby was whether to join the novice or expert class. Quite a few of the riders here had never run a rally before. Most of them, it seemed, planned to run in the expert class anyway. All the people I'd talked to up until now had recommended I start in the novice class to get an idea of what rallies are like and how I feel. I'd designed my route around the novice class rules. It was a little too late for me to change my mind, though I considered it for a little bit. It was the shorter rest period that scared me. Expert class riders had to take a five hour rest period, novice class were required to take eight. I didn't know if I could do it with just a five hour stop. The other riders, curiously, expressed concern that they couldn't handle the long eight-hour break from riding.
There were a couple minor adjustments I wanted to make on my bike. I wasn't completely happy with the touring windshield, so I adjusted it up and down a few times to see if it worked better for me. I also checked my chain tension and oil level. I made a short ride to a nearby gas station to fill up before tomorrow.
Our rider meeting was scheduled for 7pm. Jim Puckett talked briefly about a few things and opened the floor to questions. The only question I asked was whether the rally flag was required in each photo. The rally book didn't specify that that the flag be in the photo for some bonuses, though it specifically mentioned it for others. The question brought some chuckles. Among experienced rally riders, this is a basic part of rally riding.
At the rider meeting we had to declare our novice status. Only four of us raised our hands. It was Josh; two-up couple Paul and Kirstin; a guy I didn't meet until later, Jack; and me. Paul asked me what I rode and when I told him he showed some surprise. "They should give an extra bonus for riding a small bike like that," he told me. Paul and Kirstin would be on an FJR.
I sat next to Ken Meese at the rider meeting. He had a mass of hand-written notes and maps with Sharpie marks all over them. I had the initial impression that had hadn't prepared very well. He was the center of attention for much of the meeting, the other riders joked about how they can handicap him to make it a fair ride. Jim suggested that Ken riding a BMW with a final drive was its own handicap, eliciting groans and laughter from the group.
After the rider meeting, I went up to my room to arrange my gear and try to sleep. I had Ron Ayres' book, Against the Wind with me and I read to help me fall asleep. Sleep is my limiting factor, I think. I don't fall asleep very quickly, and I don't wake up easily. I had an early and long day tomorrow.
|06-19-2010, 11:40 AM||#4|
Joined: Nov 2007
Location: Sonoma, CA
Great Finish... waiting for more of your RR !!
|06-20-2010, 01:47 PM||#7|
With a start time of 5am, I set my alarm for 4:00, though I didn't get out of bed until 15 or 20 minutes after. I'm not a morning person. I showered, dressed and hurriedly put my gear on my bike, and with just a couple minutes to go, I rode over to the back of the hotel where I saw the other riders. Already it was hot and muggy, and the sun wasn't yet out.
Jim, the rallymaster came by to remind us each to note our starting odometer reading. There's no mileage bonus or odometer check for this rally, but I'm glad he brought it up; I wanted to see how many miles I covered.
Bikes were haphazardly parked in the lot, a few of them lined up with Jim standing at the front. When my GPS read exactly 5am, I saw him quietly motion the bikes forward, as a traffic cop would signal traffic. No lights or whistles, just a simple "come-here" motion with his hands. With that, we were underway.
Where my bike was parked, I was one of the first few out of the lot. I followed the bikes in front of me, though I noted that they didn't take the most efficient route out of the parking lot. We turned right at the first light, and then almost everyone took the exit onto I-55 north. I saw one rider go straight across the bridge over the interstate to head in a different direction.
Heading north on 55, we had essentially two options. A 50-point bonus in Hannibal, MO 219 miles away and a 50-point bonus in Springfield, IL at 215 miles. Almost all the remaining bonuses were much farther north. I was headed for Springfield, and I figured most other riders were too.
Though I was one of the first out of the gate, I slowly dropped back as bikes passed me one by one, riders giving a nod or wave as they went by. After thirty or forty minutes, I took the tail end of the pack. As far as I could see, I was last. I kept up with the bikes in front of me, riding about 77 mph. I envisioned us like a cycling peloton. Most of us were in one large pack, but I was sure a breakaway group had formed and was far ahead.
Along the way, a steady rain started. Though my Olympia Phantom one-piece is water resistant, it does tend to get damp when exposed to heavy rain for a long period. I didn't want wet clothes the rest of the day, so I pulled under an overpass and donned my rain jacket at a cost of two minutes. Of course, just a short time later, the rain ceased.
Shortly before entering St. Louis, the backlighting of my Garmin GPSMap 478 changed from black to yellow and an alert popped up. "Changing to Daylight Mode." The sun started to show to my right. As I droned up the interstate in the changing light, I considered the hundreds of thousands of miles of experience the guys in front of me had. Though I barely knew any of them, I figured even the least experienced rider on this rally was probably more experienced than the vast majority of motorcyclists. It made me feel good to be part of the group.
The group started to split up when as we approached St. Louis. I saw a few bikes take an exit, leaving just four or five bikes in view in front of me. I rode behind this small group for a while longer, anticipating that we'd all stop in Springfield together. Then at once, they all took the right fork, and I followed the left through the city. I felt alone, but I also felt excited. "This is where the fun begins," I thought. It wouldn't be a game if we all followed each other around from bonus to bonus.
I cruised through St. Louis a little after 6am. Traffic was light and I was able to maintain a good pace, just slightly faster than the cars around me. As I approached the turn to cross the bridge into Illinois, the Arch came into view with the morning sun shining orange on the stainless steel skin.
I wasn't anticipating this first portion to be much fun. I can't stand riding the interstates. I much prefer small two-lane country roads. This morning though, I didn't mind the interstate. I had a goal, and though it was far, my mind was busy.
I-55 took me all the way into Springfield and I followed my GPS into the city. Here I made my first fuel stop. My mileage on the highway at 80 mph speeds was atrocious. I couldn't believe my low-fuel light was flashing with just a bit more than 200 miles on the tank. Before I pulled up the the pump, I ran through the procedure again in my head. Glove, card, tank bag, key, pump. I made the stop, refueled, checked the reciept for the required data, zipped up the tank bag and pulled out. It was just a few seconds more than two minutes, even faster than my practice runs.
The bonus at the Springfield Mile required a photo of the map directory in front of the race track. My research showed that it should be easy to get to, though Jim had warned us in the rider meeting that some or most of the gates may be locked, and that we may have to ride all the way around the grounds to find a way in. I saw an open gate immediately and pulled into the gravel and paved lot. Vehicles, horses, buildings, and a few people were scattered about. I found the sign quickly. A yellow Goldwing was in front of it, the rider putting his things away and getting on the bike, we exchanged a quick greeting.
My first bonus was a mess. I had to search around to find my clips to hold the flag on the sign, then I dropped things out of my tank bag. I swapped from a clear to tinted face shield, and couldn't get the shield repacked properly on the bike. By the time I took this picture, wrote down the time and odometer, and put my gear back on and started the bike, I'd wasted about eight minutes here when it should have taken just two or three. I never saw my rally flag clips the rest of the ride. I still don't know what happened to them.
Next on my bonus list was in Delaven, WI, a 240-mile run up I-39. The time passed quickly but my fuel ran low again and I passed mile after mile without seeing a gas station. I hopped off in Clinton, WI and saw that the gas station was almost a mile off the interstate. Another few minutes wasted. I put 5.6 gallons in my 5.8 gallon tank.
In Delaven, we were to take a picture of a clown statue in the town for 25 points. I'd already looked at it in Google Street View and knew exactly where it was. A quick stop, turn off the bike, snap the photo, back on the bike, go. I was happy with my efficiency this time.
Just eight miles to the next bonus, a 25-pointer at the Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI. Again, I'd looked at this in Google, and knew exactly what I was looking for. As I stopped the bike, the rain started again. A very quick stop and then a short ride around the loop near the building, as requested in the Rally Book. It's a gorgeous facility with the observatory towers standing high.
There was only one bonus required by all the participants, a 100-pointer, and that was to visit the grave of Alyson Hiles Thillemann, the girl to whom this year's rally is dedicated. She died last year of cancer at 19. when I pulled up, one other bike was there. I saw the rider plus two other men. As I got off my bike, one of the guys introduced himself and introduced the other fellow, Alyson's uncle Jeff. We chatted for a few moments. I asked him how long he'd been there and how long he was staying. "We got here at about ten o'clock this morning, and will probably stay until ten or eleven tomorrow morning until all the riders have come." They had a small tent set up in the lawn nearby. He also told me we were the first two riders to show up.
I greeted the other rider and asked his next destination. Since we were going the same way, I told him, "See you there" as I pulled out. A two-up bike was coming into the lot.
The guys took a picture of every rider who stopped. Here's mine:
Just five miles down the road is the Driehaus Estate and we had to get a picture of the entrance for 25 points. George followed me there and we swapped cameras to take each other's photo.
Once again, George and I headed for the same bonus in Lake Geneva, WI, just a couple miles from Driehaus Estate. As my notes predicted it was a busy street so we parked illegally on some yellow lines very near the bonus location for quick pictures. When we were there, a rider in a blue Aerostich ran up. It seems he'd either parked far away, or had taken a walk to confirm he was at the right place.
Our next bonus was in Milwaukee, a bit more than 50 miles away. I told George to lead the way and I pulled out behind him in the maze of cars and streets. We got on I-43 and made quick time. It was now after noon and with my rain jacket still on, the sky was clear and I was getting warm. I knew from my notes that the 50-point Mitchell Domes was a quick in-and-out. I was looking two bonuses ahead where I'd be removing my helmet for a short walk to the bonus location. That would be a good place to take off my jacket and to use the bathroom. Somewhere on I-43, George took an exit where my GPS advised me to go straight. I wondered if he needed fuel, took a wrong turn, or was simply going a different way. About ten or fifteen minutes later, he pulled up beside me and gave a wave. Later he explained that we just took two different routes to the same place, though looking at it now, I can't tell on the map where that may have happened.
Just after we took our pictures at the Domes, a two-up bike pulled up. I think it was Paul and Kirstin on their FJR. As I got on my bike, George stopped to remove his outer layer. We confirmed that we were both going to the same place next, "See you there!"
I went north along the western shore of Lake Michigan to Port Washington, WI to grab the 100-point Fishermen's Memorial bonus. I already knew that the statue of which I needed a picture was in a small park on the shore of the lake and a short walk from the parking area. I took off my helmet and walked back for my photo. There were carloads of well-dressed people filling the parking lot and a shelter in the park lined with empty folding chairs. On the way back to my bike I stopped in the bathroom.
I pulled off my rain jacket and grabbed a hard-boiled egg from my topcase and a cold Monster energy drink. While I scarfed down the meal, George and Kirstin and Paul rode up. I chatted with them for a short time and we discussed our next stop. The others told me they were ahead of schedule and were planning to alter their route to grab the 100-point Elkhart Lake bonus. It was a bonus I'd wanted to fit in my route, but had determined I just didn't have the time. My schedule was going well and thought about going with them. Should I go for the 100 points, or do I stick to my route? I decided to stay with my plan and skip Elhart Lake.
Paul and Kirstin's FJR and George's ST1300.
The Ice Age Center is in Dundee, WI, 35 miles away and is worth 100 points for a visit. This bonus requires a trip inside the visitor center which is only open from 9:30am to 5pm. It was this bonus that sent me in a counter-clockwise route rather than clockwise, which would have put me here either too early or too late.
I went from the busy streets of the city to rural two-lane. Into the Ice Age Center where there was only one other car, most likely that of the staff member on duty. I went inside and asked about the two stamps we were required to obtain. She stamped my paper and I explained that she was a stop on a motorcycle scavenger hunt. I asked if anyone else had stopped in. "No, you're the first one."
"Tell the next ones that you're out of ink." She smiled.
She asked me, "Is this your last stop?"
"No, I've got a few more, and then I'm staying in Sparta tonight."
"Oh. You still have quite a ways to go."
I took a picture of the stamped paper as the Rally Book asked, put my helmet back on and got on the road.
In the above photo you can see my custom rally book.
Next was a 50-point bonus 32 miles away in Waupun, WI where I had to get a picture of the End of the Trail statue. I expected this one to be simple, and I was hoping to make up some time.
On arrival to the park where the statue is located, I found a man and his son fishing. I asked if he'd get a picture of me in front of the statue, and instructed him to "make sure you get the whole statue" as the Rally Book requires.
Now I had a decision. In my planned route, the 50-point Swiss Historical Village in New Glarus, WI should be my next stop. On the other hand, it was going to add about 35 minutes to my route, a very low points per time ratio. Now past 3pm, I had to start thinking about darkness. My last scheduled bonus of the day was a daylight-only bonus, sunset being 8:42pm. My notes for the Swiss Historical Village say, "Only if ahead of schedule" in bold letters. I was already a few minutes behind, so I turned the page and skipped the 50 points. On my way out of town, I stopped for fuel for the third time today.
Instead, I went to Blue Mounds, WI to grab the 50-point Brigham Park bonus, which I expected would be simple. The 90-mile ride was mostly along major highways and then around Madison. The last few miles were along country roads and I saw the required sign immediately. Again, I'd already looked at it in Street View. Yay Google.
Here, I also decided to check my oil. My bike has an appetite for oil, burning about a quart per 1000 miles. Though I hadn't gone that far today, I figured the high-speeds would hasten the consumption. I added about half a quart and munched on a snack quickly. Then it was back on with the helmet and on the road. Even with this extended stop, skipping the previous bonus now put me about 15 minutes ahead of schedule.
Now the real fun started. Well off the highways, the route was along curvy country roads lined with cattle farms and corn fields. I "made up" lots of time as my GPS tends to think the average speed on country roads is quite low, when in fact it was easy to keep a 50 or 60 mph pace on Wisconsin's well-maintained back roads.
I headed for Tower Hill State Park in Spring Green, WI. The Rally Book says a 1/8 mile hike is required and advises, "Do not try to ride your motorcycle up the paved path; you will regret that mistake, if you try it." I thought it would make a good place to eat an apple. I left my riding suit on for the hike up the hill, and I jogged up as quickly as I could, noting that I probably could have ridden my bike up here. That is until the last section which was a short flight of steep and crumbling stairs. I was huffing and puffing and took a quick walk around the shot tower to catch my breath after snapping a photo of the sign to collect 100 points.
21 miles down more curvy roads is the next bonus, Natural Bridge State Park, worth 50 points. When I read the name and description of this place, I envisioned one of the beautiful but crowded natural state parks I've seen in Arkansas, though Google Maps didn't have any close pictures of this place. As I pulled up, I thought maybe I was in the wrong spot. Instead of a visitor center and campground, I found an overgrown, empty parking lot.
Unlike Tower Hill before, I removed my riding suit for this hike. The "trail" back to the centerpiece of this park was merely a worn down path through the grass, and I had to guess which way to go through the woods. The trail map I'd printed and brought from home was useless. Fortunately, the bridge was not hard to find, though the bonus photo was a little tricky, as it required that "your photo must show the entire arch and opening underneath." If anyone didn't have a wide-angle lens, they'd miss this shot.
It's a beautiful place. I would never have expected to find such a cool geological feature here, and apparently not many other people do either.
The hikes for the last two bonuses cost me a bit of time. I was now just five minutes ahead of my planned schedule and I was still hopeful I'd find the daylight-only bonus at the end of the day. I had less than three hours and several other bonuses to go.
The parking lot was deserted while I was here.
Next up, a 17 mile ride to Rock Springs, WI to pick up the 25-point Van Hise Rock bonus. My notes recommend skipping this one unless I'm ahead of schedule. By the time I made the short ride through fields and pastures and a quick road-side photo, I'd made up more than ten minutes time and was now 15 minutes ahead of schedule.
Another quick bonus just ten minutes and five miles away in New Freedom, WI. I found the 25-point Mid-Continent Railway bonus. It's a simple historical marker surrounded by old train cars and locomotives. On the other side of the park were a group of guys seemingly set up in a WWII re-enactment camp. Notably, there was an era sidecar bike there. I wished I could have gone over to chat with them for a few minutes, but I wanted to stay ahead of schedule. Curiously, none of them looked over toward me or looked up when I rode past on the way out.
Another 25-point bonus was just eleven miles away, Devil's Lake, worth 25 points. On the way, my GPS started acting up, showing me riding in a different direction or nowhere near a road. I got nervous for a minute because I had no backup and no paper maps with me. Nonetheless, I found the park easily by following signs and the Visitor Center, though the building didn't specifically say "North Shore Visitor Center" as the Rally Book suggested, so I asked the cute girl inside if this was in fact the North Shore Visitor Center. She said it was. Good enough for me, so I turned around and headed out.
The next bonus was just a few miles away, and I'd already looked at the location online. I knew exactly where to park. This was my last opportunity to make up time so that I wouldn't be late to the daylight bonus I was going for later. I found the 25-point Circus World Museum in Baraboo, WI, snapped a picture, and got on my way. 22 minutes ahead of schedule. Curiously this bonus is exactly north of the Devil's Lake bonus, down to the thousandth of a minute of longitude.
Still heading north, I went to Wisconsin Dells to get a photo of a Wisconsin Duck for 10 points. The Rally Book says "Any Duck at the Original Wisconsin Ducks will do," but when I pulled in, there weren't any. I watched as the last tour of the day pulled out of the lot and onto one of the many "duck trails" in the area. There were no Ducks to be seen, so I rode around the lot. I found a Duck sitting idle under an awning and asked the driver if I could take a quick picture. He shrugged and said it was fine. Later I learned that other riders had the same and even worse problem trying to locate a Duck. Some people were forced to just take a picture of the sign or building.
It was 7:06pm and I had two more bonuses to find, the latter a daylight-only. Now I headed for Wonewoc and Spook Hill, home of the Wonewoc Spiritualist Camp, worth 10 points. I wasn't worried about time, and with dusk coming, I decided to slow my pace a bit to avoid a deer strike. Just a few minutes after consciously deciding to slow down, I came into the small community of Lyndon Station and saw a patrol car sitting behind a group of trees. The moment I saw him I let off the throttle and snapped my eyes down to my GPS; it read 63 mph. "I'm safe," I thought. That is, unless the speed limit is 45. I held my breath.
The car turned around out and got behind me. When I saw his lights, I pulled over, stopped the bike, and took off my helmet and gloves. The officer approached and asked for my license, so I gave it to him. "I'm pulling you over because of your speed," he said. "I clocked you at 66. That's a 55 zone."
I was happy about the 55, but if he had me at 66, I might be in trouble. I explained, "I didn't realize I was going 66. I try to keep it around 60."
He went back to his car while I stood next to my bike. While I waited, I put my clear shield back on my helmet and urged him in my mind to hurry up. Darkness was coming and I had two more bonuses to find. He got out of the car and I was thankful to see he didn't have anything in his hand but my license. He told me he was going to save me some money and not write me up. "I don't want to see anybody hurt out here."
I added, "Yeah, I don't want to hit a deer." And then, "thank you for your understanding." It's only the second time I've ever been stopped while on my bike, and I got out of the other one too.
The stop cost me ten minutes, but I was still on schedule. On to Wonewoc. The Spiritualist Camp is up a steep hill outside a very small town. When I pulled up, four other bikes were already there. One guy was suiting up and left about the time I parked. I set up my flag and snapped the photo I needed. Then I went over to the other three who were looking at a map and I warned them about the cop in Lyndon Station. He might let one rider go, but if several bikes in a row came zooming through town, his patience might wear thin. I started my bike and went back down the hill while they were loading up their bikes.
In addition to the daylight-only restriction at Wildcat Mountain, I didn't have much information from my research about this location. The Rally Book asks for "a photograph of the Kickapoo River Valley in the background with The Kickapoo River Valley sign in the foreground at the Prairie Overlook." I had a park map with me, but it didn't show Prairie Overlook. In my notes, I'd suggested to myself to follow the signs in the park to the overlook, if there were any.
When I got to the park, one of the first things I saw was a sign showing "Scenic Overlook" with an arrow. The coordinates had my GPS point me a different direction. I didn't look at my map. I followed the GPS. I passed a bike parked in a small lot but saw no rider, and then came to a gravel road. I followed the road and came into a clearing with a few people camped. A guy in the campground motioned to me, so I rode toward him. He told me, "You want Prairie Overlook, it's back that way," and pointed behind me. He told me quite a few riders had come back there and what they were looking for was near the front of the park, where the sign pointed.
I followed his directions and came across the rider of the bike I saw. He was covered in sweat and said he'd run down a trail to see if he could find the overlook. I told him what the camper had told me. When I pulled up to the right spot I checked my map. I'd highlighted this exact place on the map. My little detour cost me five or six minutes.
Three drunk guys came up to the bike as I got out my camera. They wanted to know what was going on. "Bikes have been coming in and out of the park all night. Is this some sort of scavenger hunt?" one of them asked me.
"That's it exactly," I told him. "Hey, could you take my picture?"
I stood in front of the overlook while he snapped a shot. The other rider came up to get his picture and we both left about the same time; I followed him out of the park.
Now past sunset, I'd made it in time. The road leading out of the park is steep and winding and I could see his blazing HIDs light up the woods in front of him as we banked around a right hairpin curve. At that moment the words in the Rally Book popped into my mind and the photo requirement for the 100-point Wildcat Mountain. It said, "...with The Kikapoo River Valley sign in the foreground." D'oh! I missed that part. My drunk photographer had only gotten me and my rally flag in the shot. I had to go back.
I zig-zagged back up the mountain and into the park entrance, past the campground again and past the three guys up to the parking area. Now getting really close to dark, I kept my helmet on and ran up to the overlook, tossed my flag onto the overlook sign, and snapped a photo. The flash went off. I could see my flag and the sign perfectly, but the overlook was just a black patch in the background. I adjusted the settings a bit. A bit better, but still too dark. Once more, I bumped up the film speed and manually set the shutter speed really slow and took one more shot.
Second time back. Got the sign, but can't see anything else.
Hm. This might do... but that's still dark.
Let's see if I can hand-hold 1/10 second.
As I've said before, the novice class rules require an eight-hour rest period. The sooner I stop, the sooner I can start tomorrow's route. I wasted almost 25 minutes at Wildcat Mountain. It was my one big error of the ride, but I can't complain too much about that. Time to go to my reserved room in Sparta, WI.
First I had to get a receipt to document my location. I stopped at the first gas station I saw in Sparta and put in $1 worth of gas. Jim's suggestion was to purchase gas at night when you stop, and then again at the exact same pump when you start. That way, you're assured that the time difference on the receipts will be accurate and there must be eight hours between them. My time was 9:34pm. I could start again in the morning at 5:34am. After getting my gas receipt I went straight to the hotel to check in. The Scottish Inn was a bit of a dump, but the woman behind the counter was friendly and helpful. I walked across the street to the local drive-in and picked up a burger and fries. I wanted to stay away from greasy food on this ride, but it looked good and I felt fine. Carried the food back to my room for an excellent meal. I highly recommend Rudy's Drive In.
I organized my gear for the morning and looked through tomorrow's route. My original plan had been to stop around 9pm so I could start again at 5am. With my delay this evening, it meant that I would begin the day tomorrow already thirty minutes behind my schedule. Could I still make all the bonuses I'd planned? It'd be close, but I thought I could do it. Then I lay down to read the last few pages of Ron Ayres Against the Wind. I had a hard time falling asleep. Though I'd just ridden 905 miles in sixteen hours, I was still energized and ready to go, but I knew I had to be up at 4:45am. I think I fell asleep sometime around 12:30am.
Here's my room.
|06-20-2010, 05:14 PM||#10|
Joined: Jun 2009
man i'd like to do this rally
My wife says that I have lost my marbles.
Don't tell me the skies the limit when there are footprints on the moon.
Have you seen my marbles?
you can't be lost if you still have half a tank
save 5$ on smugmug.com coupon #----(DE9oGz4LoiNZA )
|06-21-2010, 05:45 AM||#11|
Joined: Sep 2009
Location: Central Ohio
Excellent write up Jamie. It gives me the opportunity to relive my mistakes!
Mistake #1 - I severely underestimated my wife's riding and rallying prowess. Which led to:
Mistake #2 - Planning too conservative a route.
Looking forward to reading about day 2!
|06-21-2010, 09:24 AM||#13|
Joined: Nov 2008
Location: Central California
Looking forward to hearing the rest of your report. I just completed the Cal24 and had a blast. Good job!
|06-21-2010, 10:04 AM||#14|
4:45am. My alarm buzzed. First thing I got in the shower. It made me much more alert. I ate a hard-boiled egg and a couple of fruit snacks and drank two bottles of Ensure. I refilled my cooler and water jug with ice. As I reloaded my bike, my phone beeped with a text message from Jim. "Are you awake? If so, call me."
I called him right back. Nothing was wrong, he just wanted to see how I was doing. I told him I felt fine, then he added, "You're doing very well. I can't tell for sure, but I think you're ahead of most of the people in the expert class." And then, "You might even be ahead of Ken Meese at this point."
He'd been following all of us using our SPOT trackers and could get a basic idea of the bonuses we were hitting. He said he was impressed with how quickly I was moving and all the places I'd stopped. He told me to keep up the good work, be safe, and have fun. I hung up the phone even more enthused about the day. Ahead of Ken Meese? Now that would be something.
I rode down to the exact gas pump I'd used last night and waited until 5:34am. Then I waited an extra minute just to be sure the reciepts were eight hours apart. $2 worth of gas to fill up my tank and I was back on the road, two miles to my first bonus of the day.
The Largest Bike bonus was worth 10 points and was right across the street from the hotel where I'd stayed the night before. Because it was on the opposite side of a divided highway, it required two U-turns, but I stopped quickly for the photo and got back on the road. It was 5:41am, I was 35 minutes behind schedule.
The next bonus was 35 miles away in La Crosse, WI at the City Brewery where you can find the worlds Largest 6-Pack of beer. It was worth 100 points. A very easy bonus. Park the bike, camera, flag, photo, done.
It had rained last night, so everything was wet, and it was cool and overcast. I was wearing an extra layer under my suit and had my vents zipped closed.
Lock and Dam #9 was 45 miles down the river from La Crosse and was worth 10 points. The ride along the river was scenic with patches of fog. Traffic was light this Sunday morning and I found the location easily. The photo was a little tricky as the bonus required that the "white sign with green lettering must be legible in your photo" and the sign was about fifty feet behind the fence.
I'd made up a bit of time, but was still 20 minutes behind schedule at 7:03am. I was already looking ahead to see if I could make it back to Cape Girardeau by 5pm.
A big bonus in McGregor, IA at Pikes Peak State Park. I rode across the Mississippi River and through the fog of the Iowa hills, puttering along behind a slow-moving car which I couldn't pass because of the limited visibility. At the park I saw a Honda ST1100 and leaned my bike next to it. I jogged over to the overlook where we had to take a photo to collect the 200-point bonus. The Rally Book says, "Your photo must also show the Mississippi River in the background." Not this morning it won't, with all this fog. Jack and I exchanged greetings before I ran over to the bathroom for a quick stop, and then back to my bike. Jack was also a novice class rider. I hadn't met him at the riders' meeting.
As I rode during the day, my mind kept going back to the morning chat with Jim. I thought it was very thoughtful of him to call and encourage me, and I also had big-headed ideas that maybe I could win this whole thing. Ahead of Ken Meese? That'd be a shocker. I pictured myself holding the Expert Class First Place plaque. In my more level-headed moments, I was thinking it'd be something if I could make a strong showing, despite my three-hour disadvantage as a novice. And at other times I wondered just how I was doing compared to the other riders. All I knew for sure is that my ride was going almost exactly as I planned.
Now on to Dubuque, IA to the River Museum bonus, worth 10 points, and about 60 miles from the foggy overlook. I was hoping this would give me some space to make up some time. When I arrived in front of the large paddlewheel where I was supposed to get a picture, I was one minute ahead of schedule. On my way back out of the museum parking lot, Jack passed by and gave a wave.
My mantra for the day was, "Don't make any mistakes." I knew I might have a strong tendency to rush things or try to cut corners. Though I felt fine, I knew I hadn't had much sleep and I didn't want my fatigue to cause me to make an easily avoidable error. During my preparation, I'd read lots about previous rallies and I found that endurance riders frequently make out-of-character mistakes while tired and under pressure. I also wanted to cram in all of the remaining bonuses, despite being behind schedule, and I didn't want my haste to let my guard slip. Don't make any mistakes. I repeated it over and over in my helmet and followed through by being especially deliberate during fuel and bonus stops. One step at a time, don't forget anything, and don't waste time. Don't make any mistakes.
My next two bonuses required a side trip into Illinois and another Mississippi River crossing. The first was to visit Ulysses S. Grant's home in Galena, IL, worth 50 points. I arrived at 9:06am, seven minutes ahead of schedule. The Rally Book asks for a photo "of the front of Grant's Home." The side of the house facing the street is unremarkable, but the side facing the small yard has many windows and the full width. I decided to take a picture from the yard at what I considered to be the front of the house. After the rally I found out that many riders had this same dilemma. Most of them took multiple photos to be sure to get the right one.
Now to Palisade State Park in Savanna, IL. This was another bonus which I didn't have much information based on my research. The Rally Book coordinates put us at the entrance to the park, and we were asked to "take a photograph of the southern view Mississippi River from the park lookout." At the riders meeting, Jim gave us the exact coordinates to the lookout he wanted. This park has about eight separate lookouts as you climb up the bluff along the river. I found it easily and took off my helmet for a very quick snack. The view over the river was gorgeous, with a bridge in the distant fog and a train rolling along the tracks, just above the water. I was now only two minutes ahead of schedule with seven hours before the check-in deadline.
I had a two and a half hour ride to the next two bonuses in Burlington, IA. As I rode I could see the sky to my southwest turning more and more dark, precisely the direction I was headed. In other direction were patches of blue sky. Once or twice I had a few rain drops hit my face shield, so I made sure my jacket vents were closed. I debated stopping to put on my rain gear, but because I didn't think I could spare much time, I didn't stop. In a few minutes the rain came down hard. I slowed down along with the traffic around me. A lightning bolt flashed in front of me, perhaps only a few hundred yards or so away. It was so close that I could see the thickness of the bolt. After just ten minutes of heavy rain, it stopped.
I crossed the Mississippi River again into Iowa and down into the small city of Burlington to Snake Alley. There were two Snake Alley bonuses: a picture at the top, and a picture at the bottom, each worth 10 points. I parked my bike in front of the entrance sign and got out my flag and camera. A family walked up and I asked if they would take my photo. Note one gloved hand, and one ungloved hand. Saves a few seconds each stop.
The woman warned me that the bricks would be slick after the rain, so I made my way very slowly down the 21% grade hill containing six curves. By the time I reached the bottom and parked my bike again, the woman and her son had walked down the street and took my picture again at the bottom. I thanked them before riding off. I was five minutes ahead of schedule.
One more bonus to go, in Hannibal Missouri, a two hour ride away. I crossed the Mississippi again at Fort Madison across the narrow Fort Madison Toll Bridge, a double-decker vehicle and rail bridge. It's also "the longest double-deck swing-span bridge in the world," according to Wikipedia. Had I planned ahead properly, I would have avoided a swinging bridge. If a boat had been coming, I would have lost about 20 minutes. The attendant at the toll booth just waved me by, saving me the 50-cent motorcycle toll and maybe 30 seconds of time.
Along the ride south I went through some time scenarios in my mind. I'd have to stop for fuel once more before the end, and I also needed to use the bathroom. Plus I had one more bonus stop. I was only five minutes ahead of schedule. I didn't have enough time. I figured I could make up a few minutes on the long interstate stretch heading back to Cape Girardeau, but I also knew I had to contend with busy traffic going the short distance to the hotel from the interstate and there was a stretch of road construction on I-55. Maybe I should skip the Hannibal bonus.
I made a record-fast bathroom stop along the side of a small country road, and went all the way to Hannibal before my fuel stop. Just before the bonus location, I put my final 5.3 gallons of gas in the tank. Don't make any mistakes. Then I went down to Mark Twain's boyhood home to collect my final 50 points. The Rally Book asks for "a photograph of you taken in front of Mark Twain Boyhood Home entrance." I was fortunate that just as I pulled up a couple came out of the gift shop. I asked if they would take my photo. While we got into position, me holding my rally flag, the guy holding my camera, his wife said to me, "Um, your sign is upside down." I flipped the rally flag over and he snapped the photo. I quickly thanked them and ran back up to my bike.
I was four minutes ahead of schedule and my GPS said I'd be back at Cape Girardeau at 4:55pm, in time for the 5pm check-in. I got on the way quickly.
219 miles to go to get to the finish line, all along the interstate. It was one of the longest rides of my life, both literally and figuratively. As I mentioned, I really can't stand long stretches without any stops or turns, and this stretch was almost torture. Moreover, I was riding into a bright sun, still wearing an extra layer under my riding suit. I was heating up and even unzipping all my vents didn't help. I didn't have time to stop. Finally, I couldn't stand it. I had to stop. I ran through a quick procedure in my head, gloves, helmet, cuffs, zipper, sweatshirt. I pulled over onto the shoulder and quickly removed the offending garment. Without time to get off the bike and stow it, I tossed it into the ditch and rode off.
North of St. Louis as I was riding south on US61, something caught the corner of my eye. I looked over and saw a deer coming across the median into the road in front of me. I got on the brakes hard. The deer stopped, looked up at me, then bolted the other way, straight into opposing traffic. I winced as he glanced off a vehicle coming my way and flipped in the air. I kept slowing and looking in my mirrors to see if the car and driver were ok. As far as I watched, the car didn't stop.
The deer scare told me two things. It was 2:30pm and clear and sunny and deer were still out. It also indicated that my response and reaction to emergency situations was normal. I wasn't dangerously tired. Don't make any mistakes.
While I rode I thought about a cold beer and treating myself to a thick steak at the finish line. I checked my GPS for steakhouses near the finish. I felt good about what I'd done, but also felt the ache in my legs and I moved them back and forth from the stock pegs to my highway pegs. All I had to do was make it through these last few hours.
I made good time through St. Louis, but it was hot. My estimated time of arrival to Cape Girardeau was still 4:55pm. I kept my speed at around 75. When I was an hour or so away from the finish line, I saw a bright headlight in my mirrors. A bike passed me. Then I saw another bike in my mirrors. I caught up with a Goldwing and stayed behind him for the final stretch. I fidgeted on my seat and changed positions dozens of times to stay comfortable. We passed into the construction zone where the speed limit is 60. Traffic slowed and we were stuck in a single lane for 20 miles. My ETA rose to 4:57pm.
The Goldwing in front of me took our exit and we cruised up the ramp to the traffic light at the top. It turned yellow as the Honda went through it. I could see him slow and try to hold up for me, but I was too far behind. I had to stop at the light as he continued. I watched the seconds on my GPS clock tick up to 4:58pm. The light seemed to take forever and I debated blowing the red light, but then it turned green. I raced across the overpass to the second set of lights where I had to turn left to return to the hotel. I could see it was red and the three other bikes were all still waiting. It turned green and they went through. I caught the light just as it changed to yellow. I followed the group around into the hotel parking lot where a woman was standing encouraging us to hurry. "You have to check in inside. You have one minute, hurry!" I shut off my bike and grabbed my rally flag as I sprinted inside the hotel, helmet still on. My legs were unsteady and I called out my rider number. I'd made it with one minute to spare.
|06-21-2010, 10:07 AM||#15|
Joined: Jan 2007
Location: Annapolis MD
great stuff. reminds me why i love these kind of rallies, even though i suck at them
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