What is a motorcycle rally?
If you already know what a Motorcycle Endurance Rally is. Maybe because you read my report form last year you can skip this section and go straight to the Ride report.
A motorcycle endurance rally, like the Mason Dixon 2020, is like a big scavenger hunt. Kinda like a Cannon ball run, only it’s not a race. While each rally is different, they all have the same basic fundamentals.
In a nutshell, you’re given a list of bonus locations, some rally’s give you the list ahead of time, some not until the day of (like the Iron Butt Rally).
The Mason Dixon 2020 give the riders a list of locations about a week before the rally. Literally just a location and it’s point value in a document.
A text file containing the GPS coordinates and a corresponding PDF that lists the values and the bonus’s general availability. Availability is generally defined as 24 hours, daylight only, or specific times. Daylight in this particular rally was considered 05:30 to 20:30
We riders then take that information and attempt to plot out a route.
We use tools like MapSource and Streets and Trips. I say attempt because it’s always subject to change at the last minute based upon new information we receive at the Rally.
Going into this one we had the above mentioned items, plus the guidelines.
- Minimum Mileage to be considered a finisher: (800)
- The Mileage cap (1675)
- the hours 0530 on Saturday morning, ending at 1400 on Sunday. (Essentially 32.5 hours), late penalty time from 1401 to 15:30 where by you are losing 10 points per minute or any fraction thereof. If later than that you get a DNF – Time Barred.
- Rest bonus requirements, you must during the rally take 2.5 hours of contiguous time to rest, meaning you cannot move, or collect any boni during that period. This stationary time must be documented with proper receipts. Failure to do so will result in a DNF – No Rest.
- This was primarily a photo bonus rally, meaning you had to visit the location and to prove you were there, had to photograph your individually provided rally flag with the item to be photographed. (note we don’t know what that is yet but we have pretty good ideas).
- The theme of this rally was Lighthouses, as gleaned by the logo:
So we could assume that if there was a lighthouse near by the location that would likely be the target.
- This rally also benefits a charity, the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. And we as riders provide toys, gift cards, and things for the kids who are in need of their services.
Now, as evidenced by the last 3 rally’s and the results, I am apparently NOT a top tier route planner. Either that or I haven’t yet been able to cross the sacrificial line of riding hard enough to get top tier points, so when it comes to rally planning my example is simply that, and example.
Essentially we take the locations and color and shape code them based upon value (size) and availability. In this particular rally there were two set’s of boni. A’s and B’s. There were additional points available for getting combinations of A’s and B’s
The initial Boni List looked something like this:
We are starting and ending the rally at the point labeled , the point labeled  is a mandatory location that ALL riders must visit. Last year I visited but didn’t declare the bonus and got (0) points for it. It was worth 387 last year, and that little mistake cost me 10 places (from 39th to 28th).
As you stare at these locations the ultimate route should become obvious, but apparently it’s not obvious to us. (By Us I mean my father and riding buddy Kyle). While *most* rally’s are individual events, we generally ride together. There’s nothing to be gained by doing so other than comfort and safety. Riding together costs us time and I would venture to guess that we’ll likely never break the top 10 riding together, but that’s OK we’re in this for the fun of it.
Now, the Rally is run by a Rally Master, or more commonly called the Rally Bastard for good reason. 1/3rd of the rally is riding skill, 1/3rd is planning a good ride and riding the plan, and adjusting as necessary, the last 3rd is the mental part. It’s reading comprehension, keeping everything straight, managing fatigue, and putting it all together.
The aptly named Rally Bastard goes out of his way to make this difficult. Although sometimes he doesn’t have to try that hard, as even the obvious becomes confusing when in a rush and fatigued.
So after taking all of the above into consideration, we planned a route we felt would be *good*. Not top 10 good, but good enough for us, for our riding skills, and level of comfort. Our route looked like:
Key components of our route focused on getting from Hagerstown Maryland up to the Lake Champlain area where there were big boni.
Our Route had us getting the Prescott Light house at 7:45pm (45 minutes prior to the close of daylight hours) and it was 787 miles into our route. Which meant anything could happen and we could be unable to get it. Any significant delay. A delay at the border, anything that could eat up 45 minutes during the course of 14 hour ride and we were hosed.
Our Route if run properly would have scored us 988 points. 988 with all the combo bonuses for having 5 A’s and 5B’s would give us another 750.
Assuming we had gotten all of the other available bonus points (the rest bonus, the check in bonuses and the wild cards) we figured we’d have a total score around 1868. I knew darn well if that was the case it would be a 2200 or higher that would win.
But our route was only 1368 miles 307 miles under the cap or (5 hours of riding roughly speaking at a 60 mph average, which can be hard to maintain).
Our route however permitted us 6 or more hours of rest, so that’s where we lost some time. We were willing to sacrifice some points for good rest.
Trip to the Rally
I left my house at 5:45am on Friday. The plan to meet up with Kyle and my Dad in Dayton. We’d then sit there and twist that on over to the rally start in Hagerstown, MD
On the way we stopped at the Flight 93 Memorial. It was a bonus location but it wasn’t on our route.
This visit was sort of special. The First Officer of the flight, LeRoy Homer Jr. was in Kyle’s squadron.
It’s a very chilling place.
The passengers on the plane are real hero’s. No doubt about it. There’s no telling how many lives they saved.
It’s now a national park and a proper memorial is being built. Go visit it if given the chance. No just go visit it.
Rally Day – Rally Report
At the Dinner Friday night there was a brief introduction to the rally, and the general rules were covered. Rally flags were handed out. This year I was given rider #38. (for no particular reason).
On rally day (if 4:20 am can be considered daytime). We are given our rally book and any last instructions. The rally book details each location. For example the Prescott Light house, we were instructed to get a photo of the Prescott light house. Little did we know that there would be (2) Light houses there, and the one you’d think to take a photo of wasn’t the one you needed to take a photo of. If you didn’t stop, read the instructions and find the plaque on the light house you’d take a photo of the wrong one. Then you’d get (0) points to show for your 14 hour 787 mile ride and border crossing. (This is where the Rally Bastard stuff comes in).
In addition to the bonus points listed, there are always a couple *wild card* bonus locations.
1) Was to take photograph of a Diamond. There was a paragraph explaining that it had to be recognizable as a Diamond. If they couldn’t tell from the photo that it wasn’t a fake or a Cubic Zirconium you would be awarded (0) points. The question was then asked could it be ‘any diamond, like a baseball diamond? The answer was that sometimes the obvious answer is the right answerl (gee that’s helpful).
2) Take a photograph of a license plate with a light house on it. We assumed incorrectly of course, that this would be easy. I know one of the eastern states has (or had) a license plate with a light house on it. Since the rally hotel was basically at a large mall, we assumed we’d find one just before finishing the rally at the mall. We assumed (and you should never assume) that it was Maryland, and since the mall was there this would be a no brainer.
When we returned we scoured the Mall parking lot, not a single license plate with a light house anywhere. So we ended up not getting it. Turns out the head scoring judged (former US Navy Surgeon General and Rally icon, Don Arthur’s car in the parking lot had a license plate frame with a light house on it. We just didn’t see it. (Rally Bastards).
3) The third and final wild card was to take a photo of a home-made road side memorial, but it could not be a cross. Hrm… We thought about making one, and that’s what we should have done. But we didn’t have time. We didn’t score this bonus either. The proper thing to do was make your own, after all it simply had to be a memorial and home made. It didn’t specify what you are memorializing.
So after the briefing we were Off. The rally was supposed to start at 05:30 but we didn’t roll out of the parking lot until 05:45. (Remember that 45 minute cushion? It’s now down to 30 minutes right out of the gate).
First stop, Jim Young’s grave. A rally rider who died in 2001. His grave is always a mandatory visit. Fort Indiantown gap is a very special place. A large military cemetery. If you ever get the chance to visit it, I suggest you do so, especially on or around Memorial day. It will stir emotions in you that you didn’t knew existed. To see the number of graves from the world wars if just amazing.
Our plan had us here at 06:47 so we were only 10 minutes behind. At this point. Which means we made up 5 minutes on the 95 mile ride to Jim’s grave. Not too bad. You can generally make up time on the interstate just running 5-7 miles over the limit. I say generally. I’ll show you why we couldn’t later.
Our next Stop was supposed to be Bonus 108A, a larger bonus at 88 points. a mere 345 miles from Jims grave.
The problem was, well we were behind, and it had 10-12 miles of gravel road to contend with. To fit into our plan we had to be at the exit by 11:30. While every reasonable effort was made to make up time, we actually lost time somehow. We decided to cross this off the list and march on or we’d blow the larger 96 point bonus in Canada.
Our 4th stop would be in Middleburry, Bonus 155A, a historical marker for John Deere. Where very first moldboard plow was made. No it wasn’t easy to find. The GPS took us down behind the building and we didn’t see it initially.
Picture snapped at 13:50, we were now 8 minutes ahead of schedule, which confirmed we needed to blow off the previous bonus.
On to the next bonus a Light House, 119A.
According to our research and planning we had ‘planned’ to avoid Ferries. A number of bonus locations required the use of a Ferry or, if not, some creative routing.
While I understood the Iron Butt Rule: If the rally offers up a ferry, you will more than likely have to take it be a contender, we were determined not to do so.
Streets and Trips, Google Maps, MapQuest and my lovely GPS, all showed there to be a bridge at this location:
But when we arrived, and saw the sign that the bridge was closed we knew this was a Rick Miller/Rally Bastard special! No doubt in our minds. Fortunate there was a Ferry running right there. Who’d a thunk it. We thought about it for a minute and decided we needed the points.
It actually worked out really, really well. We literally rolled right onto the ferry, crossed the lake, rode off, took the photo, rode right back on and got on the SAME ferry before it returned. It maybe cost us 15 minutes total.
We snapped the photo at 14:32, by our schedule we should have been there at 14:21. We were now 11 minutes behind.
Next stop 111A, a covered bridge.
Photo taken at 15:27 by our schedule we were supposed to be there at 15:13, so we were now 14 minutes behind.
Next stop 158A, the Fort Ste Anne Historical marker.
Photo time 16:43 schedule time 16:09, now 36 minutes behind. Oy…
On to Bonus number 128A.
Which was a light house that was located on private property. The task was to take a photo of the menacing sign keeping you off the property. There was no such sign. We took photos documenting this fact, and called the Rally Bastard to verify that we had the right place. We could actually see the light house, but the instructions were to photograph the sign, not the lighthouse.
Last photo taken at 17:53, schedule time was 17:11, we were now 42 minutes behind.
On to Bonus 215, the Prescott lighthouse in Canada. Worth a whopping 96 points. We needed this after blowing off the 88 pointer in the beginning.
Our route had a 45 minute cushion. We needed to be there by 20:30 to take the photo. We were not 43 minutes behind and losing time with ever stop. Not because we were slow collecting the photos, or slacking off riding, we just were losing time. Sometimes traffic, other times gas stops.
So we had a 2 minute cushion and 130miles to ride, with a border crossing. We were tight on fuel, and by tight I mean, it was very close, we might have to push our bikes to the light house. Yet we didn’t have time for that. We also didn’t have time for a gas stop really. Maybe a splash and go.
We actually made up 5 minutes so we had an 8 minute cushion about 20 miles away. But both Kyle and I were running on fumes. We had to stop and get a splash of gas.
We were very fortunate that there was no line to cross the border, no wait on the bridge and we got through customs/border protection quite easily.
We went straight to the light house, though the GPS led us to think it was a smaller light house out by the docks. We read the description, found the plaque on the light house and snapped the photo:
Photo time 20:26, 4 minutes to spare. We could now relax a little bit. The first half of our route was complete and we had about 800 miles in the books.
We considered stopping to eat in Canada but man the bugs were incredible. We ended up crossing back over into NY. Stopped at a Combo gas station-Subway-A&W-LongJohnSilvers. (No really, they had all that stuff). Ate dinner, then headed to a hotel for a little shut eye. We had to take our rest bonus between 6pm and 6am so timing wise we were fine.
Our route also allowed us more time to sleep, but by the time we got to the hotel, checked in, we had about 4 hours to rest.
We got a room with 2 beds and a pull out sofa. I opted for the sofa. A room split 3 ways is a deal. $45 for 4 good hours of sleep, not in a church driveway or on a gas station picnic table was well worth it.
At 0300 we were up and off again. Next stop 37 miles away. Collins landing 200B
We had to take a photo of the Welcome Center sign.
In the end this wasn’t the sign they wanted, but the documentation didn’t indicate the other sign, it simply said welcome center sign buy the ‘yard art’ light house. While not visible in the photo, it was near by in the same (yard).
Our schedule had us here at 04:06 so we were 15 minute ahead at this point.
Early on we figured out that the Wild card bonus to take a photo of a diamond, was meant for us to take a photo of a ‘diamond shaped sign’. Clearly this is not a Cubic Zirconium or another fake diamond. Such a sign was handy at this location.
On to 147B YAL (Yet another Lighthouse)
The task to take a photo of a particular sign, and there were a few to choose from but only one ‘right’ one.
Photo time: 04:31 schedule time: 04:37. What happened to our 15 minute cushion?
On to 192B a marker:
On to 143B, a Daylight only YAL.
We were early but had to wait until 0530 (the start of daylight) to take the photo.
Since we had to wait, we were right back on schedule. On to 106B the Light house bowling alley.
Photo time 06:15 schedule time 05:12, so we’re 3 minutes behind. We also took this opportunity for a bio break, grab a cup of joe and a breakfast burrito at McDonalds. We didn’t really have the time to spare but we did so anyway.
Next stop 221B a fort, but we had to find the marker that showed that this fort was used to house holocaust survivors in 1944-1948.
Photo time 06:40 schedule time 0614, so were about 30 minutes behind our master plan. According to the plan we had about 1 hour to mess with to get back to Rally HQ before penalties would start. We now had about half of that. But only 2 more bonuses to get.
On to 114B the Eaton Post office:
Photo time 0815 schedule time 0745, still 30 minutes behind, but with still 30 minutes to spare.
On to one last bonus, that we considered blowing off as it was only 17 points. Damn good thing we didn’t. IF for some reason the sign had actually been at 128A and we just didn’t see it, or we were at the wrong place, then we wouldn’t have 5 A’s and 5 B’s. It would have cost us 400 combo points.
It was 200 miles away from the post office so we felt we could make up some time.
The road into 172A was horrible. Full of traffic and I’m not joking when I say we caught every stinking light.
Photo time 11:55, schedule time: 11:12. We were now dangerously close to ending up in penalty land.
We saddled up and beat feet for the Rally HQ, all the while looking for a license plate with a light house. I had my camera in my tank bag. If I saw one on the highway, I’d take the photo while riding if I had too, but no such luck.
We got back to the hotel with 15 minutes to spare. I circled around that damn mall for 10 minutes looking for a license plate and finally conceded.
I stopped the rally clock with time to spare.
Checked into our room, took a shower, and organized my paperwork for scoring. The only deduction I had was 5 points for misplacing my little ziplock baggie for my receipts and camera card. In the end I finished up with 1769 points. Good enough for 19th place if I recall properly.
That’s 20 positions better than last year and considering it was a conservative route, well, it worked out well.
Now why were we so pressed for time? Well our route was plotted in Streets and trips. S&T has multiple settings, like avoid certain roads. It also has Driving time speeds which you can adjust. My setup had them adjusted all the way up.
I *thought* I had it this way in the past, but actually that was a different version. We generally run about 5-7 miles over the limit, (70-72) in a 65. Not likely to get a ticket but if you do it won’t be too painful. More importantly we generally run 1 MPH above the flow. It’s always better on a bike to keep moving forward through traffic so you don’t end up just hanging out in someone’s blind spot. At least that’s the theory.
It turns out that All the way faster is 15% faster across the board. That means to stay on schedule we’d have to ride a 75 in a 65, and maintain that 15% above the average speed for the road (not the speed limit but the average speed). That’s simply NOT possible on a lot of roads given memorial day traffic. So next year we’ll have a little more flexibility in our routes.
So at the end of the weekend we rode 2325 miles. 30 hours butt in saddle. Not a lot of sleep, but a whole lot of fun.
Lastly, I cannot stand people who sit out in the left lane who run the speed limit, or over/under it and just sit there. Every state has a law, slower traffic keep right. If you aren’t passing someone get your butt in the right lane.
To help people get the message I put ‘Move’ on my windshield backwards so that it would be right in the jerk’s mirror who’s sitting there in the left lane.
Did it work? Well yea sometimes it did. But I used yellow tape and while sitting on the bike in my yellow hi-viz jacked it kind of blended in. Next year it will be a more contrasting color. 🙂
Until next year!