New Eyes for the FJR

Light, we need more light captain!

Truth be told, the factory/stock headlights on the Yamaha FJR1300 are pretty darn good.  I did replace the factory bulbs with some ‘better’ brighter halogen bulbs when it was new.

I also added lower fork mounted lights.  Initially MotoLights[TM], but in 2009 I won a set of Glenda Clearwater lights at the Eastern Owners meet.   These lights (as well as the moto lights), while they do illuminate things up close, and fill in the void near the bike, they really don’t throw any appreciable light down the road.   The are mostly ‘see me’ lights.  Lights there for the benefits of others so they can see me.   The lower mounted lights help break up the ‘single’ light that makes distance harder to judge and make me stand out more.  They help, a lot, but people will still pull out in front of me, even with my high viz jacket.

Anyway, on to today’s project.   While riding rallies that require us to ride 24 hours a day we ride at night a lot.   Often on twisty mountain roads.   It’s often darker than dark.  While the stock headlights are good, it’s still pretty easy to out ride your lights.

With the upcoming Void Rally and others on tap, specifically the 2012 MD2020 which will be almost ALL mountain roads I decided it was time to add some Auxiliary Lighting.

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The number 1 self contained HID for this type of application is the Soltek Fuego’s.  While they have gotten cheaper (now $320 each instead of $500 each), a pair is still north of $600 plus hardware.

The next best thing, is the Chinese Knock Off’s.   They can be had via Amazon for $120 each or there about.  Hella also offers these same lights with their name on them.

So $240 sounds a whole lot better to me that $600.   Allegedly they put out about 90% of the light of the Soltek’s at less than 1/3rd the price. 

I lucked into a deal and got a pair used from an FJR forum member.  

The next puzzle is where to mount them on the FJR.  The FJR doesn’t really lend itself to lots of mounting spaces, and these lights are LARGE.

The standard approach is using a set of brackets that mount the lights under the mirrors, using the mirror mounts.   That works well for some of the smaller lights but doesn’t work real well for these larger lights or the Solteks.   The other problem with that location is that a simple parking lot tip over (and I’ve had a few in the years that I’ve owned the FJR) will likely break or smash one of your $300+ lights.

I was struggling to find a solution, then ran into Alex’s Brackets.  These brackets were made specifically for these lights or Solteks.  Mounting them above the mirrors instead.  This is good for both tip over protection and getting the lights as high as possible.

I received my brackets, and a spare set of left hand controls off a wreck on ebay for cheap to mount the switch (in case I messed it up), and fabricated a wiring harness.

Since I do have the Twisted Throttle Mirror Extensions, I did have to ‘tweak’ the brackets a bit.   Nothing a little bench grinder can’t take care of.  Repainted them and viola Done.

Mounted them up today and now I can’t wait until it gets dark Winking smile

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Had to increase the relief for the windshield.

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Had to grind a little relief for the mirror extensions.

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Had to come up with about a 3/8 inch spacer, ended up using 5 fender washers.

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Touch up paint on the brackets and washers once finished.

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Added this toggle switch to the back of my left hand controls.  This On-Off-On switch, turns the lights (On when the bike has power – Off – On with the High Beams).

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More photos available on PicasaWeb.

Mason Dixon 20-20 for 2011

What is a motorcycle rally?

If you already know what a Motorcycle Endurance Rally is.  Maybe because you read my report form last year (2010) or 2009 you can skip this section and go straight to the Ride report.   Otherwise, the basics are explained in the (2010) report.

This year’s rally them was the 500.

A Racing theme, no the rally still isn’t a race but the bonus location were race related.  Race tracks, and race teams, race horses, and race things in general.

We were given the bonus locations a week a head of time.  There’s software we use to sort and organize the bonus locations and place them on a map for route figuring.   We color code them based up on value.  This year the values were *special*, in that most were worth less than (1) point.  Like .66 or 1.05 or something silly.  Why is this important?  For one it breaks the excel macro’s for color coding and it just sucks to ride a bunch of miles for like 18 points.

Once the bonuses were fixed and plotted the looked like so:

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(Click for larger image)

Rally HQ was Hagerstown MD.

Essentially, to be a finisher you had to score 3 numbered bonus locations plus the mandatory visit to Fort Indiantown Gap cemetery to visit Jim.

As mentioned all the bonus points were sub 5 points, with the exception of 6.

Flight 93, Battery Park (Manhattan, NY) and Arlington Cemetary, DC were worth 11 points each.   There was a bonus of 467 points if you got all 3 (for a total of 500).   So that pretty much made these mandatory.

Then there was Indianapolis for 100 points,  Randleman, NC for 42 points and some crazy location in Wyoming for 751 points.  (The Sucker Bonus).

So after review:

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It was clear to score well you’d have to get the big 3.  If you wanted a shot at winning you’d also have to get Indy and possibly Randleman.

To complicate things, NY, DC, and Indy were daylight only bonuses.  You had to get them between 5:30am and 8:30pm.   Pretty crappy, since you only had from 5:30am to 2pm on Sunday.

There was one other wild card, at the rally hotel in Haggerstown, there was a bonus location available from 5pm-8pm Saturday.  Some skill challenges where you could score between –30 and 30 points.  The races/skill test was undefined, and since this is the Mason Dixon rally we had no ideal what type of shenanigans Rick would pull. 30 points would be a LOT in this rally, but with the chance to also lose, we decided we’d pass on those.

I won’t bore you with the 72 iterations that I went through to figure out where we’d go.  If you just got the big 3 you were in a for a nice 800ish mile ride.

But we weren’t in this for a nice ride, we wanted to score well for a change.  It was clear to me we needed Indy.  On Memorial weekend, yeah, race weekend, thanks Rick.

In the end we settled on this route:

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From the barn, straight to flight 93, then beat feet to Indy.  Getting there around 1-2pm.  I did my homework, there was a parade at noon, and generally speaking the area around the bonus would be off-limits.  (Streets closed) but I figured that’d be cleared up by the time we got there.   There was no way I was going to try and go there on Race day, but some folks did at 5:30, about the only time you could *maybe* get it.

From Indy we’d pick up the low hanging fruit along I-70 that was close on our ride back to the hotel for our rest bonus.

We planned to sleep for 4 hours (1 more than the 3 hour minimum rest).  Then get up and run down to Arlington and be there at 5:30am, snap the picture of the memorial and get out of dodge before Rolling Blunder, with special guest Sarah Palin who would be in town (again, thanks Rick)

From Arlington, beat feet to Manhattan, get there around 9:30am, hopefully before to many tourists would hit Ground Zero.

Then to Jim’s grave, again picking up low hanging fruit on the way back to the barn.  That was the plan.  1620 or so miles in total.

And so it began.

With a LeMans start.  Rally riders 50 yards from their bikes with the helmets between us and our bikes.  (nice touch Rick).

Unlike 2010 we got started on time.

And we beat feat to Flight 93

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From there it was a long ride to Indy.  We didn’t stop for anything other than fuel.

We made it to Indy, we had budgeted 1.5 hours to get this bonus.   We rolled right in like we owned the place.

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Now technically this is NOT the item we were supposed to take a photo of.  But it met the definition.  “Take a photo of the 100 Year Anniversary Logo on the Museum” or something like that.  Hard to see in the photo but that white sign says “Museum Entrance”.   We were also parked right next to a vendor and bought our ‘wild-card checkered flag bonus’.   3 additional points were available if you crossed the finish line displaying a checkered flag.  At the pre-dinner, desert was cup-cakes that had little checkered flags in them.  I knew we needed that damn flag, but neither Kyle or myself had cupcakes and neither of us grabbed one.

From Indy we actually ran out west of Indy go John Force’s place to take a photo of Eric Medlen’s statue, a driver killed during a test run of one the Force Chassis.

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We headed back to Haggerstown.  I –70 would be just as exciting the 2nd time around (not).

On the way back we grabbed the bonus at the John and Annie Glen Historic site:

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From there some dilapidated old dirt track.

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We got Holeshot motorsports in MD

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Did I mention yet that riding the slab for 30 hours sucks?  Yeah, all interstate, who’s Idea was this?

At some airport that had been used for a makeshift race track a few times we were supposed to get a photo of ourselves on some playground equipment, but that playground no longer existed.  We called the Rallymaster and were instructed to get a photo of ourselves at the terminal so we did.

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From there it was back to the hotel for the rest bonus.  Which is best documented by using an ATM receipt.  We each got them, then the ATM ate Kyle’s card.  Doh!

The idea given to me by the Void rally master when I had an issue getting a good ending receipt from the hotel last fall.  He said go to an ATM check your balance and use that for the start and ending receipts.  So that was the plan.

We discussed what we’d do to get him a stop receipt.  If you’re staying at the Ironbutt Hotel (sleeping on your bike or on the ground you’ll often just go to a gas station and buy something.   We did this the year prior.  Used a gas receipt, then slept on the ground for 3 hours and bought a cup of coffee from the same joint in the morning.

We decided that I’d just pull two receipts.   What was important was that the receipt came from the same location, same machine, not who’s card was used.  We reasoned that if I had paid for his coffee the year prior, it wouldn’t have mattered, so using my card wouldn’t matter.

We slept for 3.5 glorious hours.

We left a little early to get into DC with the least amount of fuss.

While we had budgeted an hour and a half to get the Indy bonus, it only took us about 20 minutes.  However that extra time we booked vanished over the next few hours.   We were concerned that we wouldn’t close the loop in time.  We had 600 miles to do and figured we’d probable loose ~30 minutes over that time.  Which meant we’d get the big ones and drop all the extras.

We ran to Arlington and go there about 5:15 and had to wait for 5:30 to roll around to take the photo.

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We had to take a photo of the memorial and have the Washington memorial visible in the background.  (note there isn’t a time/datestamp on this photo because I switched to ‘night’ mode to get the monument to show up.

Then we ran straight to NY, dropping two bonuses along the way.

The trip inbound was pretty uneventful for NY.  We rolled up the the target, hopped off our bikes, and snapped the picture.  Kyle got some random tourist to hold his flag.

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The target was the globe in the background.   The guys directing the bus traffic weren’t real happy with us but we were in and out in less than a minute.

From NY it was all down hill.   We had one more mandatory stop at Jim’s grave.

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We blew off a couple other bonuses and just headed to the barn.

Would-should-coulda…

In the end we clocked in with 1640 miles (or there abouts, I don’t know what the final corrected value was).   783.28 points with all wildcard and check in bonuses.  A good ride.

(IF) we’d a picked up just one or maybe two of the other planned bonuses of which we probably had time to get since we were back 15 minutes before penalty time, we coulda maybe won.  But then again, (IF) my aunt had balls she’d be my Uncle.

Good enough for 4th and 5th.

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I’m happy with this finish all things considered.  We planned our ride and rode our plan.  We rode safely, and slept well.  Or at least well enough.

But the story doesn’t end there.  After scoring I went out to put the cover on my bike and was greeted with this:

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Ouch, with 500 miles to ride to get home, that wasn’t going to work.   At the banquet I asked about tires and tried to find a solution.  Most motorcycle shops aren’t opened on Monday’s let alone memorial day Monday.   It was looking like I’d have to spend an extra night and buy a tire on Tuesday.

Then Ron Moser came to my rescue, he was quite sure he had a ‘take off tire’ that would get me home.  His place was on the way.  150 miles on the way but on the way no-less.  He also had tire changing equipment.   Now I just had to get there.   150 miles was doable with the aid of… wait for it …

 

Gorilla tape.

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Stop laughing now.

It actually worked out fairly well.  We taped it up, rode 10 miles checked it, it was good.  We stopped about every 20 miles, checked it, re-taped if necessary and eventually got to Ron’s

Things learned: this works.

It works best when you keep the speed down, like under 60, more like 50-55.   Yeah it was hard being passed by trucks, and Harley’s for 150 miles.  But I swallowed my pride in the name of safety and we made it.   150 miles is pretty much the max though.  That tire was way beyond done by the time we got to Ron’s place.

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But with my newly mounted new to me Pilot Road, I was good to go.

For what it’s worth, the tire was a Pirelli Angel.  It had 5500 miles on it prior to the rally and looked really goo, good enough for me to take to a rally and expect to be able to put 2500 miles on.  I really though it had another 2500 in it or I would not have ridden the rally with it.   While these tires were ‘good’ they weren’t great, and obviously give up rather quickly toward the end, which isn’t good for me.

At the end of the weekend I piled 2599.2 miles on the FJR, now affectionately named ‘Trigger’.   I need personalized plates.

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The end…

Rally The Void 05 – My Ride Report

This weekend was the Void 5, the East Coast Fall rally.  The theme of the rally was ‘Weather’, or more importantly Tornado’s and Hurricanes, stuff like that.

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If you don’t know what a rally is, see my MD 2020 Rally report, I explained it there.

The Void is unique in that it’s really 5 different rallies at the same time.

(4) 24 hour rallies, all starting from different locations, but ending at the same place.  And a 10 hour rally starting from the rally headquarters in Lynchburg, VA.

My group started from Lexington, KY.   All four starting locations were given their rally books on Tuesday the 5th, with the Rally scheduled to start at 11 am on Friday at their respective locations.   That gave us 3 days to look at the locations, the points and try to come up with a route.

The rally window was 26 hours, minus a 3 hour minimum rest, meant we had roughly 23 hours to work with.

23 hours at a 52mph average would mean a decent route would be approximately 1200 miles.

The bonus list was provided and when mapped out it looked like this:

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This was a photo rally, which meant to prove you obtained a bonus you’d have to visit it and take a photo of the required item with your rally flag.   In the above image, the ‘big rocks’ were hurricanes worth 500 points, with each hurricane was 4 other bonuses that went with them.  You could earn a sequence bonus if you got them in order 1-4 plus the related 500.

Upon examination, I didn’t think that was worth while.  Each sequence involved some back tracking.

There were a few other bonuses that had tight windows.  One that was only available 1 hour before the rally ended, and according to most mapping software it would take you 59 minutes to get from it to the finish.  Given that you were losing points for each minute you were late, any traffic jams or any delays and you’d be in penalty land.

In all of my previous rallies I’ve ridden with someone else, either Kyle or Kyle and my dad.   Riding with more than one person slows you down some.  Not a lot in our case as we’ve probably all logged over 30k miles riding together so we know what to expect from the other person(s).

My dad decided he wanted to run a more conservative route, about 900 miles.   Being a competitive person, I wanted to score well.   I’m simply not in the league as the top guys.  They ride many rally’s per year and have been doing it a long, long time.   But I believe I can compete at the ‘B’ level.  So I created a route based upon what I thought I could do and hopefully score well enough to be in the top 5.

My route tried to hit the basic rule:  Get the big rocks and use big roads to do it.  That mean a lot of highway time.   It’s hard to make time on two-lane twisty roads.  While that’s the type of road I most enjoy riding, it’s not a good choice for rallying.   Especially at night.

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My route had me starting in Lexington, running over to West Virginia, down past Charlotte, then up towards Washington DC, then back to the Rally HQ in Lynchburg.   There was quite a bit of out-and-back, but those runs were all for big points (500 point bonuses) so I felt it was worth it.    I had discovered a route that would allow me to get four of the 500’s and two 200 point bonuses for a total of 2400, which would have been a top score with the rest bonus and gift bonus.  But that route had absolutely no room for error.  It was definitely go-big or go-home.  If something bad were to happen, if you got behind by as much as 30 minutes you were doomed.  There was no saving it.   Often it’s a route like that that wins but I elected not to run it, maybe I should have, it was only 50 miles longer than my chosen route.

At the start we had a window of 20 minutes to get a starting location receipt, and call into the rally master.  A receipt from Lexington with a time stamp between 10:50 and 11:10am on Friday.   If you started at 11:05 your finish time (penalty time) started at 1:05pm on Saturday.

IF you wanted to take a crack at that tight 200 point bonus it was in your best interest to start as late as possible like 11:09, to buy yourself 9 extra minutes to get from it to the finish before you started incurring penalties.   I wrote this bonus off, it didn’t fit into my route.

I started at 10:59 which meant I had until 12:59 to check into the finish.

My first stop was the “Vortex Loop” street sign.  I got there ahead of schedule.

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From there I ran to General Jenkins historical marker.

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At this point I was making good time and could see I was running ahead of schedule.  The biggest factor for this was that I *think* Streets and Trips thought a number of the highways were 55 MPH roads which were now 70 MPH roads.  Running at roughly 5 over, meant I was picking up almost 20 miles an hour.  The General Jenkins bonus was 200 miles into my route, so I had picked up almost 30 minutes by then.   Things were looking up and I was excited.

3rd stop was to get a photo of the wooden sign in front of the Hurricane Fire Department, in Hurricane, WV.  As rallies go, you have to get a photo of exactly what the book says.  The sign in question was covered by the ‘Change your Clock/Battery sign’ and that wasn’t a good thing.   If they had taken this sign down during the day and another rider returned with a photo of the actual sign, I would be hosed.  No points for you!.   So I call the rally master, made him aware.  Actually he was already aware, he instructed me to make sure he could recognize the fire department.  I took quite a few alternate photos just in case.

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Then off to Tornado, WV

To get a photo of the post office and volunteer fire department there:

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These two bonuses were literally 15 yards apart.  A lot of folks missed this because in the mapping programs they were so close, they looked like (1) location.

50 points each!

My next bonus was about 100 miles away, on good twisty roads to get near Fayetteville, WV.   Actually at the BOTTOM of the New River Gorge Bridge.  At this point, or at least on my way to this, I was 45 minutes ahead.   This was good because my next bonus was on the list, but according to the plan I would be 20 minutes late.  It was only available 8am to 8pm.  But I was going good, until…  I got to Fayetteville.   So on the east side of the gorge, there are two roads that run down to this point.  At one time they were two way, now it’s a one way loop.  But Garmin didn’t know that and tried to run me down the wrong way on a one way road.  It took me a good 15 minutes to get that sorted out and to get down there.   Photo take at: 4:59pm  My scheduled time was 5:27pm so I was still 30 minutes ahead.

As I came out of the gorge and tried to go south on 19, it was backed up, bumper to bumper as far as I could see. @%$#%@ so I mashed the detour button on the GPS, and started following it.  Through Fayetteville, all back streets, all 25 mph, not the 55 mph I was counting on.  I was losing minutes and fast.

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I finally escaped, and got back out on 19 past the backup, which I think was construction I don’t really know.

My next stop was either the Stone mountain state park 170 miles away if I could get there by 8pm or all the way down past Charlotte, NC, in Chester, SC.

I was doing my best to get there, but I didn’t have time to stop for anything other than fuel.  For 3 more hours I sat there, and twisted that.

The Stone mountain bonus was almost 20 miles off the interstate, twisty roads, and it was going to be in the dark.   When I departed from the Ferry bonus, my ETA to Stone mountain was 8:04pm.   I had to make up 4 minutes, but with given 150 of the miles were interstate and I had the benefit of Garmin thinking at least part of it was 55 and not 70 I thought I’d be OK.   I’d make the call when I got to the exit.  The sun pretty much dropped out of the sky around 7pm, and so did the temperature.  It was 48 ish degrees, and I wasn’t dressed for this.  I still had my mesh jacket and summer gloves on.  For what ever reason, my heated grips weren’t heating and I was freezing my arse off.  But I didn’t have time to stop and put better gear on.  I figured I could man-up and tough it out for the last 60 miles.

At the exit, my eta was now 7:50 so I thought I’d give it a shot.   As I pulled up to the gate the ranger was sitting there waiting to close it at 8pm sharp.   They don’t mess around.  He flashed his lights, and I rolled up to the ranger’s truck.   He asked if I was camping tonight, cause if so, I needed to head back he was closing the gate.   I explained I was on this scavenger hunt thing, and needed a photo of a stone mountain park sign.  He pointed to a metal sign that said Stone mountain and the hours.   I pulled over, read the instructions which specifically stated the the sign was the map of the park with the ‘You are here’ sign at the visitors center.

I showed the ranger the rally book, and said, they are pretty specific, it needs to be ‘THIS’ sign, and I have to snap the photo by 8pm.  He looked at his watch and said, well, it’s about a 1/4 mile down, the road is not lit but there should be a light at the Visitor’s center.  Go get your photo, you have 6 minutes.  I’m locking the gate at 8:06, if you aren’t back you’re spending the night.  (he said with a big grin).

I ran down to the Visitor’s Center, had no trouble finding it.  Jumped off the bike, grabbed the rally pack (with flag) and took the photo.

At Exactly 8:00pm

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I got out of the park, he closed the gate behind me and I quickly pulled over in a parking area and started digging for my heated liner.

I slammed a protein drink, some blueberry and dirt flavored concoction.  It was horrible!  I washed it down with a bottle of water and hopped back on the bike.   The next bonus was in South Carolina, a little over 100 miles away.  That’s roughly 100 minutes to get there, and I’d need to stop once for gas.

My plan was to ride back up near Stone mountain and find a hotel for my required rest bonus.  So I was looking at another 3-4 hours in the cold before I could get some rest and warm up.  It was gonna suck.

I beat feet for NC, at the exit I noticed there was a boat load of hotels, and even a Motel 6 advertising $39 rooms.  This was perfect.  I only needed the room for 3 hours so the cheaper the better.

I picked up the Cyclone restaurant bonus, which was another good 500 point bonus at 10:42 pm.

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My original plan was to run back up north, half way to the next bonus, then sleep for 3 hours.  The rest bonus couldn’t be started until after 10 pm.  It was after 10 pm and I was freezing, even with a heated liner.  I still had mesh pants on and needed to put on my Long-John LD Comforts or something.  So I figured I’d grab some sleep here, then head north after the nap.  I was still 20 minutes ahead.  So sleeping now made sense.  I rolled back to the highway, stopped in at the Motel 6, grabbed a room, checked in at 11:04.  The minimum rest bonus requirement was 3 hours.  I asked for a 1:45am wake up call.

I got in my room, got out of my riding gear, laid out some warmer stuff for the morning, sent a text to my wife that I was still alive, and updated a buddy (Kyle), then set the alarm on my phone for 1:47.

As soon as I nodded off, my phone went off.  First my wife, thanking me for updating her.  Then 5 minutes later, Kyle asking more questions.  I didn’t have time for this, so I tried to go back to sleep.  Which as tired as I was is difficult.

You are still amped up, on adrenaline from riding and the time pressures.  You’re constantly thinking; “What can I do better tomorrow?”, “Are there any other bonuses I can add?”, “If I need to bail tomorrow where is my point of no return?”.  I resisted the urge to open up the laptop and look for more points.  I was still 20 minutes ahead and considered that a blessing.  A blessing which wasn’t going to last long…

I awoke with a start at 2:20 am…  What the?  The hotel didn’t call me or if they did I didn’t hear it.  I grabbed my phone.  Oh…  I set the alarm for 1:47pm, no wonder.    I scrambled to get dressed and back out on the bike.   I got my receipt as another rider was checking in.   Thinking about it now I should have just given him my room key.  I only slept on one of the two beds.

By the time I got on the road, I was now 20 minutes behind, not the 20 minutes ahead when I went to bed.  I was pissed.

It was dark, and cold.  Even with LD Comfort long pants on under my mesh pants it wasn’t enough, even on an FJR.  My legs were cold.

Body was good thanks to Gerbings[tm], but I had neglected to hook up my heated gloves and my heated grips were not working.

I couldn’t make ‘good’ time.  It was dark and foggy, and deer were everywhere on 77.   Then I rolled past this section on 77 marked as a ‘high wind gust area’.  It was 46 degrees, then in an instant it was 66 degrees, and the wind came.  First from the left and nearly blew me over a complete lane.  Then from the right.  For about 8 miles it was the most incredible thing I have ever experienced.  I’ve ridden through some storms, and literally, only a few miles form a tornado in Kansas, but this was incredible because it kept changing and violently.   It kept me awake, then just like that it was 46 degrees and calm.

My next bonus stop was through Floyd, VA on the south side of the Blue Ridge parkway.  It was dark and twisty.  I have some aux lighting but it’s only for visibility, they are see me lights, not help me see lights.  It doesn’t add any appreciable light to the road, and this sucked.

I then realized that not only was I 20 minutes late but I was loosing minutes fast.  I looked at my secondary GPS, it shows I was running about 35-40 mph, but, it thought the speed limit was 55.   Not good.  55 might be fine in the daylight but I didn’t have the lighting to travel at 55 at night.

The bonus was a corner marker from 1824:

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It was not easy to find, at least not in the dark.  Photo taken at 06:43.  I was supposed to be there at 06:03 or even earlier.  I was bleeding time, and given the road ahead to the next couple bonuses, it wasn’t going to get better.

As it was, my planned time had me back at Rally HQ at 12:59, so I was now officially ‘worried’.   It’s not about riding fast, it’s about being efficient.  Not getting off the bike, short ‘fast’ stops.

I decided to head to the next bonus because it was on the way.   The key to my route was another 500 point bonus near D.C so I still had 500 miles to ride.  Any more slippage and I would be late and that’s a bad thing.

The next stop was in Roanoke, a bridge, I had to take a photo of the water level gauge.

I had another Garmin issue, trying to take me down the wrong way on a one way street.  I was losing time and not happy.

I found the bridge but by the time I walked to it, took the photo and got back it was 7:40, per my schedule I was supposed to be done with this bonus by 7:06.  I was still late.

The next bonus was just across town.

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I had started for the next bonus that was literally only a mile or two away, but traffic was holding me up.  I started running calculations on the GPS, what if stuff.

I grabbed the photo and started thinking about the next one.  It was on the way, but slightly out of the way.

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The ‘IF’ part was that ‘IF’ I was still 30 minutes late after getting the next bonus, I would then be late and start losing points.  As I got closer, I could see that the part that was off the route was going to take me too long so I aborted that bonus and beat feet for D.C.  (Strausburg to be exact).

I figured it was mostly highway, and if the route software still thought the highway was 55 MPH I’d be OK.

In Strausburg, I had to take a photo at a plantation.

This one:

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Per the plan I had made up some time.  I was supposed to nail this by 10:09, I figured if I made up 20 minutes going there I could make up the last 10 coming back.  It worked out well enough that I could bag my final bonus near the finish.

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I finished at 12:56, with 3 minutes to spare, and only dropped one 54 point bonus.

At the end of scoring with rest bonus and gift bonus I had 7808, which turns out was 4th, one away from a podium finish.  3rd place scored 9 more points.  2nd was like 20 points higher.   Over sleeping cost me a 2nd place finish… Grrrr…

At the end of the day I learned a valuable lesson about alarm clocks and still had fun.  1229 miles in 22.5 hours.  More of it than I wanted on twisty roads in the dark.

I should have gone for the big money route.

I still don’t know how the winner scored over 8000 points.  I hope he will share…

I’m already looking forward to the Void 06

(Posted while still exhausted so a good portion of this likely doesn’t make sense).

Man Camp 2010

Last year we started a “tradition”.  The “Man Camp Tradition”, which will be an annual motorcycle sabbatical to some place with super roads to ride.   It’s a hand full of guys and the weekend consists of eating like men, drinking like men, and partaking of mostly “Manly” activities like motorcycle riding, whiskey drinkin, card playing, and gun shooting.  (not necessarily in that order).

We’re lucky that one of the participants has access to a Cabin in North Carolina off of route 28, which in itself is a super motorcycle road.

Details of our fun last year can be found here: https://www.dishers.com/2009/07/20/man-camp-2009-recap

This year was very similar, except I didn’t take nearly as many photos.

We started out Wednesday the 7th of July, with an return date that was flexible based upon weather and activities.   We were fortunate to have Kyle’s dad as a guest this year.  Rounding out the number of men to 6.

Wednesday involved the normal commute to the destination 450 ish miles.   A little longer this year because the Dragon (Route 129) was still closed in Tennessee so we had to divert around the mountain.

That evening we all met up and made our first pilgrimage to the the grocery story for man food and frosty beverages.

Thursday morning was a great day to ride.  Chris had to stay behind and finish up some school work for his Masters.  So 5 of us took off for the good part of the Blue Ridge Parkway and a trip up to the top of Mount Mitchell.

A good day of decent twisties.   It was HOT, but up at altitude along the Blue Ridge it was nice.

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(the older gents at the top of Mount Mitchell)

Friday was more the same with a run across the Cherohala Skyway, and then to the Tail of the Dragon for lunch and a couple runs down the famous Dragon.

It rained while we were at the Tail of the Dragon cafe so we weren’t as aggressive as we (or I) would have liked to be.

We rounded out the Friday ride with a stop at the Fontana damn, then back to the grocery to restock on breakfast food.

Friday night brought with it a 2-Card poker game that Kyle Sr. used to play back in the day.   I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Chris for participating and subsidizing the rest of my fuel expenses.  🙂

Saturday was a ‘chill day’.  Chris and Joe headed for home on Saturday.  Chris had to catch a flight early Monday and Joe was working through some work issues and had to head out.   That left my father and I along with Kyle Jr. and Kyle Sr. hanging out.

We spent most of the day shooting, or accelerating lead towards used beverage cans and just basically chilling.   Both the older gentlemen took the time to watch “The Hangover” on my iPad, which is now a classic.

Evening brought some good barbeque from North Carolina and a shorter ride through some off the path mountain roads.

On Sunday we had made plans to go rafting on the mighty Natnahala river.  (Just a few class 3 rapids, nothing over the top).

We arrived at 10am for our 11am departure.  A 2 hour ride down the river with lots of fun fighting with other rafts in the 51 degree water.   It was cold, the water that is.

At the end of the trip during the largest of the rapids is where we (my father and I) had our out of raft experiences.

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First Dad went, and while I was busy laughing…

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about 2.3 seconds later…

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I was swimming, and it was COLD.

I just assumed the rafter/swimmer position and enjoyed the rest of the ride and was picked up by another raft just before the end.

Good times.

Next year we’re looking at making the rafting a staple of the trip, possibly somewhere a little more exciting like the Upper or Lower Gully in WV.

We left on Monday.  It was raining as we were packing and cleaning the cabin.  We started out in Rain gear for the first 10 miles of our 400 mile journey.  We dropped of the trash from the cabin and loaded up on fuel.  At that point I made the executive decision to get out of the rain gear.  After all if it was only drizzling, I’d rather be a little wet then be hot and stuffy.

Of course as soon as we got into the mountains the sky opened up.   It took us 2 hours to ride 56 miles in rain that was at times “sideways”.  I didn’t get that wet when I went swimming in the river.   It took every bit of the remaining 5 hours to dry out.   In other words it sucked quite a bit.

All in all we had a great time and I can’t wait for next year.

Other Misc Photos here: http://picasaweb.google.com/mdisher/RaftingManCamp#

My 2010 Mason Dixon Rally

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

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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:
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    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.

Route Planning

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:

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(You should be able to click for a larger version).

We are starting and ending the rally at the point labeled [1], the point labeled [2] 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:

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Key components of our route focused on getting from Hagerstown Maryland up to the Lake Champlain area where there were big boni.

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and getting up and around into Canada to this Daylight only bonus in  Prescott.:

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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

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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.

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The passengers on the plane are real hero’s.  No doubt about it.  There’s no telling how many lives they saved.

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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.

Pfffft.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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Photo taken at 15:27 by our schedule we were supposed to be there at 15:13, so we were now 14 minutes behind.

Ugh…

Next stop 158A, the Fort Ste Anne Historical marker.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Photo time: 04:31 schedule time: 04:37.  What happened to our 15 minute cushion?

On to 192B a marker:

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On to 143B, a Daylight only YAL.

We were early but had to wait until 0530 (the start of daylight) to take the photo.

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Since we had to wait, we were right back on schedule.   On to 106B the Light house bowling alley.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!