Monday, October 8, 2012

2012 Void Rally Ride Report

Wow…another great Void Rally is in the bag. The Void is essentially the end of the rallying season here on the east coast. There are one or two short local rallies after the Void this year, but the Void is the last of the 24-hour rallies on this coast.



The rally book for the Allentown starters came out on Tuesday, 2 October 2012. That gave me Tuesday evening and Wednesday evening to think about the routing options, before heading northeast to Allentown on Thursday. I worked up a couple of what I thought were good options, and slept on it to see if I got any more insight.

One of the themes for this year’s Void (there’s a theme every year) was SQRT(49), so the bonus location values were all a multiple of 7. I fixated on a bonus location at Fort Monroe, VA – this was a bonus location that I didn’t select during Butt Lite 6IX, and I got it into my head that I just had to go this time. To add to the challenge, the Fort Monroe bonus didn’t open until 1030, and the route between Fort Monroe and Lynchburg meant that I had to leave moments after 1030 to make it to the finish before penalties started.

With a couple of options plotted out, I was ready to head to Allentown. Connie was originally to ride with me, but she wound up on the injured list, so I rode this one solo. Bummer.

I got my usual late start out of Northern Virginia, so I wound up arriving in Allentown after midnight.


I stayed at the Hampton Inn in Allentown on Thursday night. I had called ahead to make sure they (a) had an Allentown address on their receipt, and (b) could give me a checkout time on the checkout receipt. I was very happy about getting this critical planning element out of the way so early.

The hotel certainly came through on (a), but I didn’t find out until 0850 (the opening of the start time) that the counter person couldn’t manage to get a printed time on the checkout receipt. Ugh. Well, I was off to find a place that could generate a proper receipt before the 0910 deadline. I stopped at a Sunoco station (that other riders had tried), only to find that the clock on the register was over one hour off. Amazing. So, I tried a CVS – didn’t have an Allentown address. Finally, I located a Rite Aid that was in the right place, and had the correct time on their receipt. With a couple of minutes left until I became a DNS (Did Not Start – riders that weren’t officially on the road by 0910 were out of the event), I had my receipt in hand, and the required text was sent to the rally staff. The lesson here was to skip the reliance on the hotel, and scout out the big box drugstores in the area.

The Ride.

My first bonus location was the Cabela’s store in Hamburg, PA. I had visited this store during its grand opening several years ago, and it was nice to stop by again, even if only for three minutes. The store is a spectacle of outdoor gear and activities – I heartily recommend it as a stop.

There’s a nice sculpture of a canoe out front, and my assignment was to get a photograph of my flag and that sculpture. As it often is, my bike was a perfect rally flag holder.


From Hamburg, I traveled southwest to visit the highway marker for the Tapeworm Railroad. As you can see in the photograph, there were several of us on this route.


Funkstown, MD was the next stop. I overshot this location by a bit, and had to do a U-turn to get back to the parking lot where my bike (and others) are parked.


The next stop was the Road Kill Café, located in Artemas, PA. The road to and from the Road Kill Café was awesome.


I’ve been to the Farnham Colossi earlier this year (one of my Roadside America trips), so I knew what to expect. I didn’t expect the novel route that my Garmin GPSr would suggest – I knew of the paved road adjacent to the property; what I didn’t know is the goat trail that allows a “shortcut” to get to that paved road. Helpfully, the Garmin maps showed the speed limit as 55 mph on the goat trail, so every foot of 15 MPH to avoid shaking the bike loose on the gravel and washboard cost time against the budget. Oh well, “they” say that there’s a GS hiding under all that RT “tupperware”, so off I went. I got there safely, found the correct statue (third from the left), and got the photograph.


From there, I headed south to find a historic marker on Rt 50 in Virginia. I’ve been by this spot many times over the years…this time, I got to stop, take a photograph, and snag 49(!) points.


My next stop was the John Marshall’s Birthplace memorial near Midland, Virginia. I’ve been here before, too, so I knew that there was a ~1/2 mile hike to the monument that was likely to be really muddy. I’d factored in the 20 minutes I’d need for the hike the trail, take the photograph, and then hike out. There was a couple of fellow bikers hanging out on a picnic bench as I arrived – I imagine they thought it was odd that riders in ATGATT were showing up, doffing helmets and jackets, and hustling down the trail with a camera and golf towel (err, rally flag). I was happy to have them hang out on the picnic table, though, figuring that they’d keep an eye on my bike.


From the John Marshall Birthplace memorial, I had a nice (but slow – “rush” hour traffic) ride to Orange, Virginia. I had misjudged the effect of Friday afternoon traffic on my schedule. I simply hemorrhaged time as I sat behind trucks and school buses on the two-lane, no-passing-zone roads in that part of Virginia.

The Orange County Airport is located just outside the historic town of Orange, Virginia. As some (not me, thankfully) visitors say, “stop for the speeding ticket, stay for the history”. The goal at the Orange County Airport was to locate a stamp, and use the stamp on my rally book. I searched both the old operations building, and the new one, and couldn’t locate the stamp. A quick call to the Rally Masters settled on a substitute – a photograph of the Orange County Airport sign.


Orange is also home to one of the more popular Harley-Davidson dealers in the mid-Atlantic, Waugh Enterprises.

From Orange, I needed to head west, to the crest of Skyline Drive, in Shenandoah National Park.

This highway marker is on the eastbound side of U.S. 33, across the street from the entrance to Skyline Drive. I hadn’t scouted this location online, so when my GPSr said to find it in the park, into the park I went. I realized after looking at the GPSr closer, that the marker was outside the park. I lost a couple of minutes fumbling for my park pass and doing a few U-turns.


From the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe bonus, I needed to ride to Natural Chimneys Regional Park to get a photograph of the sign at the entrance. It was getting dark, so I used my headlights to help illuminate the sign.


I’ve been by the golf course at Swannoa several times (while motorcycling, not golfing), so I had a good idea what I should find at the bonus location. It was dark by this time, so I brought a flashlight, along with my camera and flag, to find the bonus location.


There was some huge social event going on at Washington and Lee University the evening I stopped by. I imagine that the young women dressed up for some kind of party were amused with a ATGATT rider stopping by to make a quick photo stop.


This is a photograph of a bikini-clad woman riding a dinosaur in Glasgow, VA. This hasn’t been on my giant critters list until now. I’ll have to come back in the daylight to get a proper picture.


I’d been by the next location on my own travels – it had been a bonus location for this year’s Cape Fear Rally, but I didn’t stop for it then – I thought it was too far off the track. My GPSr said the location was right off the road. It was dark, but I couldn’t find anything like the description given in the rally pack (something like “find a gate hanging from two stone pillars”), so after thinking about the problem for a few seconds, I elected to head up a gravel road (past a sign letting me know that the area was really closed after dusk). After going up the gravel road a few hundred meters, the gate became visible in my headlights.


Having taken the needed photograph, I turned around in the gravel very carefully, then continued south.

I’d lost enough time during “rush hour” in central Virginia that I dropped one of the bonus locations south of Roanoke. With that one dropped, the bonus in Roanoke was the last one before heading to Lynchburg to get a couple of hours of sleep.

Connie and I had been to Roanoke earlier in the year; while there, I wanted to snag a particular virtual geocache (I build practice rallies using virtual geocaches, normal geocaches, and roadside attractions, among other things). Imagine my surprise when I find myself back in the same spot, in downtown Roanoke, reading historical markers! There was some kind of event going on, so it was fun to find a safe place to park the bike near the marker. One of the EMTs on duty came over to ask me what all the motorcyclists were doing, jumping off their bikes, writing down numbers, then getting back on their bikes to get out of town. Pretty funny.

After Roanoke, it was time to take the mandatory rest stop. Because of my fixation on Fort Monroe, I elected to take the mandatory rest at the Rally HQ hotel in Lynchburg. During the Void in 2011, I did the odometer check just after midnight, and completed the rest bonus at the rally hotel.

I scoped out a place to start and stop the mandatory rest bonus – it was a 24-hour grocery store in Lynchburg. We were to put no more than 6 miles on the odometer from the start of the mandatory rest to the end. I thought I had a LOT more margin that I did…I nearly used up all six miles in getting from the grocery store, to the hotel, and back again.

After some nice rest, I was off again, heading south and east.

This highway marker near Pleasant Hill, NC, discussing the exploits of Lord Cornwallis, was missing the good stuff. I got a picture of what was left, then went off in search of a receipt. By this time, I was a little short on fuel, as well, so I was hunting for a fuel station.


This nearby place was happy to sell me a candy bar, but couldn’t produce a computer generated receipt with all the right information, so I snapped a picture, then went off in search of fuel.


My next stop was to visit a historical marker to retrieve some dates (one of the other themes of this year’s Void was math, so there were several bonus locations that involved numbers).

My next stop was the Ruritan Memorial in Sunbury, NC.


I visited the Fort Monroe National Monument to get a stamp for my rally book (28 points!) and for my National Parks stamp book (which I carry in the tank bag). Fort Monroe really turned out to be a bad idea – I got caught in the usual traffic jam on I-64, and there was just too much riding and not enough bonus stopping. Oh, well.

So, after getting out of the I-64 traffic, I was headed back to Lynchburg. I knew I was going to be in the penalty window, but that I could get enough points at the next bonus to pay the incremental penalty and give me enough time to complete the scoring packet before the next penalty increment kicked in.

This would have been a lot better, were it a chicken…had to settle for a nice dairy cow, though.



I made it back to Lynchburg a few minutes after the penalty window started, but the elevated cow offset the first penalty increment. I got my stuff off the bike, scribbled the last bit of data necessary to get the scoring packet complete, then checked in to stop the clock.

I did okay at the scoring table, leaving no points on the table (which is really good).


The banquet was first-rate (as is usual for the Void Rally). I got a lot of time to chat with my friends, before I headed back to my room to get a nice night’s sleep.

The journey home.

We’d had spectacular weather for the rally – reasonably clear skies, with very pleasant early October temperatures. That was not to hold, though. The rain started sometime overnight, so the area was pretty damp when I got up on Sunday morning.

I waited for the weather to clear a bit – I’m usually either nearly the last or the last out of the parking lot to head back for the barn. Today was no exception. It was a bit chilly and damp, but it was still a nice ride home.

I can hardly wait for the 2013 rally season to begin!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

2012 Rendez-Vous Rally – the ride home

It was great to have a nice night’s sleep before saddling up again for a ride home. The bad weather of the previous day had cleared out, and we were all set for a nice riding day.

The Auberge Harris puts on a nice continental breakfast (there’s a hot breakfast available, as well, but we were both set for the lighter fare).

We chatted with the Rally Master and some of the other riders, before heading out about 0900.

We started out with partly cloudy skies, and temperatures in the low 50’s (deg F). We had both brought our heated jackets and controllers, and Connie ended up using hers for much of the day. I found that the jacket alone (without the rain liner) was just fine, and that my soaked gear from the previous evening was drying quite well. The ride home was uneventful weather-wise. The temperature started off cool (<60 deg F) and slowly warmed after about 1030 until the temperature got into the 80’s in New Jersey.

We had about 600 miles to cover on Sunday, so we elected to ride straight home. The border crossing wait was quite short (~12 minutes).

We did a fuel and snack stop in Lake George that was interesting – there was a car show that was wrapping up, so there were a lot of people and vehicles in town.

I always dread the boredom of I-287 and the New Jersey Turnpike, and wasn’t disappointed during the Sunday ride. The construction spiced up the ride a bit, but otherwise it was the old and familiar ride. Ugh.

We got back to Northern Virginia safe and sound a little after 2000. We’re looking forward to the 2013 edition of the Rendez-Vous Rally!


Lessons learned

Get a few Canadian dollars and some pocket change early.

It’s essential to have primary and backup GPS – my primary went stupid early in the morning of the rally – took some time to get it back on track. Several times I had to force recalculation on either the primary or the alternate to get the two to agree. Sometimes they disagreed by as much as two hours on the arrival times. Ugh.

Got foul weather gear on at just the right point on Saturday. Temperature management was reasonably good, as was hydration.

Goat trail routing. I had both the primary and secondary GPS receivers configured for motorcycling. That may have contributed to our being routed to two very rough roads. We took the first one, but the second one was a bit too long and too uncertain, so we went around. As it turns out, I should have stayed on the freeway for the second one, which would have saved a lot of time.

Know where the ferries run, when they run, and how much they cost. I didn’t know about one of the ferries on the St Lawrence River – knowing about that ferry might have caused me to drop a big bonus (and a LOT of riding) for several lower point bonii that would have yielded a larger total.

Get Connie a clear pinlock visor for rain.

Our stops are getting better and better. With a little advance reading and planning, we can get our bonus stops down to under five minutes (which is pretty good). We had one stop that involved a photograph and a purchase, and we were able to get both done in 12 minutes.

2012 Rendez-Vous Rally

Getting ready.

There were two options for breakfast available at Auberge Harris – a full breakfast, and a toast, coffee, and juice breakfast. I knew that my on-the-clock riding style favored the lighter fare – we agreed to skip the heavy breakfast and to go with something lighter and faster.

Connie and I had slightly different wake-up times in mind, so we set two alarms. The first alarm went off at 0345, and the phone alarm went off at 0400, signaling the start of a full day on the clock. I wanted to be at breakfast soon after the 0430 start, so we could get our meal before heading out. We’d heard discussion about Saturday weather during the Friday evening dinner, and I’d consulted to get an idea of what we might be facing. We made sure our weather gear was handy in packing the bike for Saturday’s ride.

After breakfast, we made sure everything we needed for the day was loaded on the bike. One of the nice things about a loop rally (same start and end location) is that you can leave stuff you don’t need at the hotel, leaving a little more room on the bike, relieving the need to pack everything extra tight. After making sure the bike was loaded and all the electronics were on, I moved it to the starting line.

The 0500 rider’s meeting provided the two wild-card bonii, and Connie set about getting one of them accomplished before we left the hotel (which was a great plan). That ensured that we had one less bonus that needed to be done “on the clock”.

The ride.

We had a staggered start, three bikes at a time. Our start time was 0537.

This map shows both the bonii locations in the vicinity of our planned route, and the track as recorded in the primary GPS receiver. The purple symbols are the highest value, then red, then green, then blue.


Due to my error in capturing our track, I don’t have the track for the beginning of the rally. Ugh. I’m going to buy a separate GPS tracker so I don’t have to remember this little bit of housekeeping every 800 km or so.

The Spotwalla track is driven by Spot, which has a low data rate (1 update / 10 minutes), so it’s difficult to see what happened at the beginning of the rally.


I managed to make the first two turns out of the hotel correctly, but missed a turn onto the freeway. As a result, we ended up starting the rally going east, instead of west. You’d think that after all of these years riding a motorcycle, I’d be able to get the turns right, but this rally was plagued with missed turns. We made two trips across Rivière Richelieu, one to the east, and one back to the west, before getting on track.

We headed west, before turning north. Somewhere southeast of Montreal, the weather started to turn nasty, then it got a little worse. Adding to the weather fun, there’s a lot of construction around the southern extent of Montreal.

In the middle of the impending thunderstorm, the construction zones, and my apparent lack of fluency in the French language, the primary GPS (Garmin zūmo 665) decided it just had to freak out. At one point, the 665’s display was covered with routes, all of which were nonsense. The backup GPS (BMW Navigator IV, which is a rebranded 665 – without the SiriusXM receiver) was behaving just fine.

Navigating unfamiliar freeways and roads, and dealing with Garmin navigation quirks, led me to make a few navigation mistakes that cost crucial minutes. At one point, we were headed west on Autoroute 40 (one of the routes of the Transcanadienne, or Trans-Canada Highway), when we were supposed to be heading northwest on Autoroute 13. We got that straightened out (eventually), and got on the right highway.

With all of my navigation errors, that initial conservative route was going to be realized, one missed turn after another!

Once we cleared Montreal, we stopped long enough to get our rain gear on (in a freeway service area, just south of Prévost), and top off the fuel tank. We got our gear on just in time, as the rain really cut loose as we got back on to the freeway. We rode through hard rain nearly to the next bonus.

Our first bonus was in the lovely town of Sainte-Agathe-Des-Monts. As specified in the rules, the pillion needs to be in the photograph for every photo bonus (not every bonus in this rally was a photo bonus – for several, we needed to answer some kind of question, just like a virtual geocache).


The theme of this rally was “the cheque is in the mail”, so we visited more than a few post offices….

The rain stopped, and the skies ever-so-slowly cleared over the next few bonii.

We headed north to the southern-most shore of Lac Tremblant, to find a specific Canada Post box. This area is definitely on the “do-‘gain” list! On first impression, the area is largely targeted at the skiing crowd (with the bottom of a lift just a few meters from where I initially parked the bike), but with a large national park nearby, I imagine that people visit year-round.


The route out of the Parc Du Mont-Tremblant area was awesome. The roads were dry, and marvelously twisty (and well-paved). I surmised, during the ride, that the bonii were selected to entice some of the riders to try this road – that was confirmed by rally staff conversations on Saturday evening and Sunday morning.

Our next stop was St-Donat-de-Montcalm.


From there, we headed to Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci to visit a motorcycle-related site.


I just loved the ride through the Laurentides, with its forests and great roads. Next time, I want to check out the vegetation a bit more, to compare it with what we would find in the Pacific Northwest.

From there, we were on to Sainte-Émélie-de-L'Énergie to get a photograph of the sign in front of the Canada Post office.


Just after Sainte-Émélie-de-L'Énergie, in the vicinity of Lac Maskinongé, we wound up routed on what can be best (and charitably) described as a goat trail. I suspect that since I have the GPS routing set up for “motorcycle”, it thought that saving a few seconds by running us on a rough gravel road would be a good idea. Well, what’s a motorcycle trip without a few miles of rough, loose gravel and downward sloping, uncambered turns?


Imagine my surprise, and delight, when we popped out on the road that we should have been on before!

Next, we were on to St-Édouard-de-Maskinongé to visit a location and answer a question. From there, we headed northeast to Val-Alain to visit a covered bridge. At the bridge, we were to locate and record a graffiti message. The route to the bridge was another great example of poor routing. I followed the bad GPS route, only to find us heading past a sign that said (in French), Cul-de-Sac (what do I care about the bottom of a sack, I thought). Well, it turns out that it’s not a Cul-de-Sac, really…it’s the start of a seriously long goat trail. As soon as I saw the trail, I turned the RT around, and figured that we’d find an alternate route.


As my two youngest kids are fond of saying about our geocaching trips, Connie and I took the hard way in, and the easy way out. The goat trail is Ligne la Petite on this map, and is impassable for two-up riding on an RT. Yes, I might have taken it if we weren’t on the clock, but not when we’re running a rally. When we looked back up Ligne la Petite, it looked pretty impassable (very narrow, and lots and lots of gravel) at its eastern end.


We then headed southwest to Drummondville.


From Drummondville, there were two bonii that combined would take about an hour. We had enough time on the clock to visit both, so we were off to Roxton Falls to visit six mailboxes. From Roxton Falls, we headed to a mailbox near Granby. I think the rally book location on this one was about 600 m off, so we took two tries to find it.

Our next stop was a former Canada Post office in St-Hyacinthe to answer a question.

We picked up some very gusty wind between Drummondville and the end of the rally. At some points, we were buffeted pretty hard.

Our last bonus of the day was this Canada Post kiosk in  Ste-Marie-Madeleine.


By this time, we’re getting to the point where we have VERY little margin to make it back before the penalty window opens. We have a short discussion about dropping our last bonus, and heading for the barn. The last bonus is right on our way back, but the few minutes taken to get the photograph, or question answered, would cut into our margin. As it turned out, the weather ensured that we (a) didn’t stop at the bonus, (b) got soaked, and (c) wound up seriously in the penalty window. As we rode west, the rain and lightning began – the more we rode west, the more the rain was “falling” sideways, and the slower the traffic got. It was raining so hard (and the wind gusting so bad), that we rode with the hazard flashers for a while. We rode for about the last 45 minutes of the rally getting completely, totally, and utterly soaked.

We were nearly at Auberge Harris, when I made the last bad turn of the day, at the same intersection as my first bad turn. How ironic. Anyway, we finished safely, if not remotely dry.


I got about preparing our scoring package, which Connie got a hot shower to warm up after the drenching we got on the way back to Auberge Harris. We didn’t have a fuel log, and we hadn’t made a lot of stops on this rally, so preparing the scoring package was pretty easy. I got our package into the scoring queue, then headed back to the room for a shower.

Scoring was really uneventful – we left the two wildcard bonii on the table because we hadn’t recorded the bonus code and odometer reading on the receipts, but other than those two, we did really well.

Finisher’s Banquet and our score.

We had a nice buffet dinner, swapped a lot of stories, each received door prizes, and got our score (we finished 16th in a field of 31 finishers). The father and son team who took #1 and #2 each made 29(!) bonus stops.

Post Script.


Now that it’s all done, I realize that the covered bridge bonus just wasn’t worth the time. At least one other rider took a ferry across the St Lawrence, avoided the covered bridge bonus, and picked up more points. The trip out to the covered bridge and back was straight slab, not my favorite kind of trip on a bike.

We would have scored much higher if we’d headed back to the U.S. for the day, but as one of the other riders said, “if we wanted to ride a rally in the U.S., we would have signed up for another rally” (like the Minuteman 1000, which I rode in June).

Weather gear.

The zip-in liner of my riding clothes works great. The gore tex / kevlar shell gets soaked (and weighs a ton when wet), but I remain nice a dry inside.

Connie’s zip-in liner of her jacket works great, and she wears rain pants over her armored pants.

We both wore heated jackets for most or all of the day, though I didn’t energize mine. I brought heated gloves, but didn’t wear them because even when completely soaked, it wasn’t cold enough to warrant the extra bulk.

Friday, September 14, 2012

2012 Rendez-Vous Rally – prelude and the ride north

The rally staff sent the bonii list via email on Saturday (9/1/2012) evening – I downloaded the list as soon as Connie and I got back from Parris Island / Charleston, and started to look for a good route. While I’ve driven thousands of miles in Canada (Yukon, Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland), and a few motorcycle miles in British Columbia in my youth, those miles have mostly been in a cage -- this was to be my first long motorcycle ride in Canada. I didn’t know exactly what to expect in Quebec or Ontario, either from the roads or the likely bonus locations, so I wanted to be a bit more conservative in my route planning. I plotted out several likely candidates, trying to avoid border crossings “on the clock”.

I fussed around with routes a bit more between Saturday and Thursday, looking at alternatives, knowing that I’d likely replot everything once the rally book was provided on Friday evening.

Connie and I got underway from Alexandria around 0900 on Thursday. The weather was very pleasant. We had anticipated rain over the weekend, so we had rain gear with us, and both of us brought our heated jackets and gloves.

I had planned a route that would keep us off the slab as much as possible (and offer scenery and geocaching).

We rode north, up the Baltimore Washington Parkway to I-695. I wanted to grab a few geocaches on the way north, which was an incentive to get off the slab and visit some places that we wouldn’t have otherwise visited.

Our first cache was pretty routine, but it did involve getting off the slab. We started off with Tall Cold One!

From there, we continued north to Still Framed….. This one was pretty interesting, and well worth the stop. On the way to this one, we saw the Shoe House again.

Connie and I had a great lunch at McCleary’s Public House in Marietta, PA -- what an interesting river town.

After lunch, we continued north to A LIFE GIVEN FOR FREEDOM to take a picture. 

We stopped in Pottsville, PA to snag a really interesting virtual cache, Standing Tall. This one was really tough  to navigate to on a motorcycle. After the cache, it was time to refuel, where we had some interesting conversations with one of the locals. While there, we also learned that Pottsville in the headquarters for Yuengling (and got to see a very little of the facility itself). As interesting as Pottsville is, it won’t be on our “gotta see again” list.

We were running a bit behind as we crossed into NY, so we skipped the virtual geocaches in Binghamton.

Connie and I overnighted in Norwich, NY (staying at the Howard Johnson’s, which is just about the only place in town, other than a Super 8 – we’d had a discussion about the suitability of any place whose name included a numeral, and so we wound up selecting HoJo’s). Dinner at Nina’s Pizzeria & Restaurant, a local Italian place, was great (and wow, was there a lot of it). We got up reasonably early in the morning, had a quick bite to eat and a coffee at Garf’s Deli, and hit the road heading north.

Our first cache of the day, Harvey the Troll, was in a beautiful creek-through-a-park setting.

We stopped in Utica to visit Through the Eyes of an Eagle, on our way through the Adirondacks.
Our last cache of the day was Walkin’ Fourth on Water, in Inlet, NY. Continuing through the Adirondacks, we got to see Old Forge, Saranac, and loads of other places.

We learned a bit about administrative divisions in New York – counties, cities, towns, villages, and hamlets.

The leaves were already turning in the Adirondacks – the ride was very nice. The roads were reasonably well-maintained.

We got back on the slab in Plattsburgh, NY and rode north to the border crossing, where the wait was minimal. From the border, we headed north to the rally hotel, Auberge Harris in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. This was a great rally hotel – any place that welcomes about 40 long distance motorcycle riders for a weekend is GREAT.

We arrived at Auberge Harris about 1700 – the middle of the check-in window. We didn’t have an odometer check, so all we needed to do was get our paperwork in order and have our camera checked (i.e., is the resolution set correctly, is the time set, does the camera actually WORK). After check-in, we got ready for the 1900 rider’s dinner, which was a great opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones. After dinner was over, the rally book was distributed, and the next round of fun began.

I went back to our room, and checked the rally book for bonii time restrictions and to see what combo bonii were identified. The rally book didn’t have details on wild card bonii – we had to wait for the 0500 Saturday rider’s meeting for those.

I took a hard look at the bonii again, and plotted a northern loop that I thought we could get through okay, and one that I hoped would provide some really nice scenery. After fussing around, programming the primary and backup GPS receivers, I turned in for about six hours of really solid sleep, and managed to second-guess myself on the route only once.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Butt Lite 6IX Ride Report

It was ages ago that I signed up to ride Butt Lite 6IX. I’ve ridden several “single day” (i.e., fewer than 36 hours) rallies – Mason Dixon 20/20 in 2011, The Void in 2011, and Cape Fear in 2012. I had a lot of fun in those rallies – planning the ride, and riding the plan. After the 2011 Void, I thought I’d be ready to run my first multi-day, so in went my application for Butt Lite 6IX.

Lisa Erbes has a nice discussion of her decision to continue the Butt Lite tradition – it’s worth reading to get the context on this event. In short, the goal was to have 66 bikes (single riders or two-up couples) put in 6000 miles over 6 days. Lisa recruited three very experienced Rally Masters and a slew of great volunteers to put on a first-class rally. In the end, 58 bikes started, and 52 successfully completed.

Jumping to the “bottom line, up front”, here’s my track as it was recorded on Spotwalla (based on my Spot track):


Note that there’s a gap in the track in Minnesota…as it turns out, Spot turns the tracking feature off if it’s been on for 24 hours. I know that, now, so there aren’t any other gaps in Spot coverage.

Now, on to the story.


I enlisted Connie to participate in several practice rides – we did a VERY hot weather ride out to Western Maryland, and another to Buffalo, NY. Both rides were very good at wringing out gear issues. I’d had a 36,000 mile check done on the bike by the service department at Bob’s BMW right before the Buffalo trip, so part of that trip was scuffing up the tires and making sure everything was squared away before heading off for what I thought might be an 8,000 mile trip.

I used the Iron Butt Association pre-ride checklist to make sure I had what I needed for the ride. As it turns out, I packed too much of some stuff, but just the right amount of other stuff. I’ll cut back a lot on some things next time.

The ride to Blairsville.


I departed Northern Virginia MUCH later than planned – I had the usual issue of getting home from work (the Preliminary Design Review ran long), and still had a little packing to get done before shoving off. I wound up getting out of the driveway around 2300. I had planned to ride west on I-66, then south on I-81 to avoid the inevitable fiascos on I-95. My route turned out great – I overnighted in Woodstock, VA, then got up and got going in the morning with sufficient margin to arrive in Blairsville, GA before the 1700 tech inspection cutoff.

This is what a clean bike looks like (before the windscreen becomes bug-encrusted) – this shot was taken at the hotel in Woodstock, VA:


Connie loaned me this little otter to use as a mascot for the trip – he was bundled up in a sock, and tie-wrapped to the primary GPS mount for the entire trip. This is what he looked like in Woodstock, VA.


The ride down I-81 was really nice – visibility was very good, and traffic was manageable. I had wanted to stop off to do a little sightseeing (and geocaching) on the way down, but the late departure from the house the night before cut into the time I’d have for flower-sniffing. That’s a general rally fact – a minute spent doing something now takes a minute away from doing something else later on. While that’s true in life generally, that condition is particularly noticeable on “rally time” since everything is “on the clock”.

I made it to the rally start at the Lodge at Copperhead in Blairsville, Georgia with plenty of time to spare. I got checked in, got the bike inspected, and learned that the odometer check was a bit longer than I wanted to ride (~133 miles?).

This is the view from the cabin I was assigned:


The lodge is in the background of this shot:


The pool adjacent to the lodge:


We had a rider’s meeting in the early afternoon, and a nice meal before the Leg 1 rally packs were issued immediately after dinner.


Leg 1: Blairsville, GA to New Ulm, MN.

The rally pack consisted of several items:

  • List of bonus locations (bonii),
  • Scoring booklet,
  • Rally flag (precious cargo, not to be lost or misplaced!“,
  • “Thumb drive” – containing three files that described the physical locations (latitude and longitude) of each bonus location, and
  • An express mail envelope that needed to be turned in at scoring.

Each rider retired to his / her room, and started to plan their ride (note that while we’re not “on the clock”, all Leg 1 planning is done at the expense of sleep). There were no “mandatory” bonii on Leg 1, but Eddie James’ grave in Atlanta offered big points, and there was a huge point bonus at the Waffle House museum to snag a “special, mystery guest” signature on our souvenir Butt Lite 6IX coffee mugs (which are great swag). So, my route started with a trip south to Atlanta.



The riders and staff met for breakfast, which was excellent. The Lodge at Copperhead puts on a great spread. A short rider’s meeting revealed no major changes in the Leg 1 bonii, so I was good to go.

More pre-ride photos are here.

We started at 0800, and riders began to spread out along the route south.

My first stop was Eddie James’ grave in Atlanta (for 400 points). My geocaching experiences ought to be enough to tell be to be leery of cemeteries and parks, because you can really get goofed up on routing. Sure enough, the GPS route to Eddie James’ grave put me right on a closed goat trail. Some riders figured out the painless way in, the rest of us spent 15 minutes or so hiking into (and then back out of) the cemetery.


There were two bonii after the cemetery – there was a third on my original route, but I thought that would offer little in the way of points, while offering a lot in the way of delay, so that bonus was dropped enroute.

Site of the surrender of Atlanta, GA (21 points):


I’ve since learned that this is a very busy intersection in Atlanta, but didn’t notice that the traffic was all that bad when I was there.

Sideways was a dog that had been adopted by students at Georgia Tech – this is his grave marker (and some other rider’s arm – John Frick?). This photograph was worth 42 points.


And now, on to the Waffle House Museum in Decatur, GA, on the site of the first Waffle House.



We had been issued official Butt Lite 6IX coffee mugs that we were to have signed at one or more locations along the route (for BIG points). This was my first signature (worth 1000 points). The photo wasn’t required, but I wanted to have the picture for the record. Note the fancy “chip clips”.


Next stop: Rose Hill Cemetery (wow!, were the roads narrow and twisty in the cemetery – great slow-speed riding), to visit at pay respects at the graves of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley:


The cemetery photograph was worth 150 points.

Next, I was off to the scene of Duane Allman’s fatal crash at the corner of Hillcrest Avenue and Bartlett Street in Macon. This photograph was worth 150 points.


And then, I rode just a few blocks away to visit the scene of Berry Oakley’s crash, that occurred about one year later. Berry Oakley’s crash proved fatal later that day, after he went home instead of seeking medical treatment (contemporaneous accounts said he would have succumbed to the skull fracture, regardless of any medical treatment he might have received). This photograph was also worth 150 points.


I realized, as I was in Macon, that I didn’t compute an optimal route through Macon, which probably cost some time.

Then, I was off to visit the grave of William Samuel McTier AKA Blind Willie McTell for 66 points:


I had to get a receipt from anyplace in Statesboro, GA (there’s no picture for that part of the adventure) for 99 points.

These last two bonii were part of a combination, so there were additional points available for doing both.

There’s a find piece of roadside art near Savannah, Georgia, worth 134 points:


This sign, commemorating the composer of the perennial Christmas favorite, Jingle Bells, was worth 41 points.


This photograph, inside a bar on Tybee Island, Georgia, was worth 123 points.


By this time in the day, I’m hungry and tired, and I know I have a lot of riding left. One of the things that separates me from the true “big dogs” is my inclination to stop periodically to have something “real” to eat, and to rest a bit. I stopped at Wendy’s (I figured someone would approve!) to recharge a bit. From that stop, I continued west.

This photograph, in Enigma, Georgia, was worth 101 points.


While you can’t see it very well, this is a photograph of a kinetic statue of Ray Charles in Albany, Georgia, was worth 114 points. I had two auxiliary (portable) lights with me – one battery-powered, and one powered by the bike. I used the battery-powered one to make this [feeble] shot.


For some reason, I managed to get myself routed off of the freeway leaving Albany enroute Montgomery, Alabama. The road was just fine, but I suspect I would have made better time on the freeway.

I overnighted around Union Springs, Georgia, at some little mom-and-pop, no-frills motel.

I got rolling early, and headed west. My first bonus location of the day was to this site south of Vicksburg, Mississippi. The best (and only) twisties of the whole trip were on the road to and from this location. The photograph was worth 401 points.

The cars in this photograph belong to some kind of sports-car club – they were staging up in Port Gibson, Mississippi, as I rode through to the site. As soon as I parked for the photograph, all of these folks showed up. I got my picture, then threaded my way through the cars to get out of town and back north. I was in a rush to get out of this crowd, so I waited until I got back to the little town to stop for a bite to eat out of my tank bag.


This photograph of a bat on a water tower in Transylvania, Louisiana, was worth 143 points.


This sign in Greenville, Mississippi celebrates the first legal liquor store to open in Mississippi post-prohibition. Jigger & Jug, which opened on 6 August 1966, is still open for business after all these years. The photograph was worth 111 points.


My stomach got the better of me (for the day), so I stopped to refresh at McDonalds in Clarksdale, MS – another big use of time, but it sure seemed like a good idea at the time.

My next stop was to find a sign noting the home of Levon Helm at the entrance to Marvell, Arkansas (202 points). The location given in the rally book was for a place near the center of town – NOT at the location of the sign. This is pretty typical of rally books that I’ve seen – making reading comprehension essential if you’re going to figure out where the sign might be located.

There are three primary routes into Marvell – my route caused me to use one of those primary routes. As it turned out, the route I used didn’t have a Levon Helm sign. I spent a little time going back to the edge of town to verify that I didn’t pass by it by mistake, then headed further down that road to see if I could find the right sign. And, here it is:


The next stop was the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas, to pick up 383 points. I didn’t have the scale set right on my primary GPS, so it took me longer than it should have to locate this gigantic building.

DSCN0293From Little Rock, I headed north to Missouri.

This monument in Harrison, Arkansas commemorates the Mountain Meadows Massacre – the photograph was worth 666 points.


I got some sleep at the Day’s Inn in Mountain Grove, Missouri, then hit the road. I had intended to overnight in the Cape Girardeau area, but stopped a little short.

After a nice rest, my next stop, the Rush Hudson Limbaugh, Sr., United States Court House in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, was good for 112 points.



A Third Principal Meridian marker near Cairo, Illinois was worth 300 points. I couldn’t know it at the time, but I would be back through here searching for yet another Third Principal Meridian marker in just a few days.

Cairo and the surrounding area is very interesting, and very historic – a lot has happened over the past few hundred years along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.


There’s a statue of intrepid newspaper reporter Lois Lane in Metropolis, Illinois. This photo was worth a whopping 777 points.


This plaque in Makanda, Illinois reads:

In memory of

The hound dog that tradition says
dashed his life out against the abutment
of the iron railroad bridge 300 feet
south of this spot while running on
3 legs, trying to put out a flaming
hot box on the speeding train of his
beloved fireman-master.
Sept. 2, 1859

The photograph was worth 333 points.


The ride out of Makanda took me through some very nice park land.

My McDonalds stop of the day was in Benton, IL – another huge use of time, but it felt good to get off the bike for a few minutes, and to get some ice in my hydration bag.

Following the stop in Benton, I had a ride north on I-57 to Arcola, Illinois, to visit the site of the National Hippie Memorial, for a photograph worth 420 points (a little Rally Master humor there – very little).


Rolling into Arcola, I spied this restaurant, so stopped (briefly) for a picture on my way back to the slab. Note that there we no chickens (live or otherwise) in sight:


I had another long ride north, to the shore of Lake Michigan. I needed to get fuel before the next bonus, and wound up getting involved in a long conversation with another of the customers. Wrapping up the conversation, I was off to take this photograph of a “futuristic” home that was worth 141 points.


In hindsight, I think I made a mistake to drop three small bonii enroute to Chicago. These three bonii (total of 144 points) were very close to one another, and it would have been trivial to make two stops to get the three bonii. Oh, well.

Another interesting feature of this rally was having bonii with identical locations – this made routing using MapSource a little challenging.

I dropped a 62 point bonus on the way to Chicago – I probably should have rethought this, as well. While these were low value, the marginal cost to pick them up was also low.

I had also dropped this next bonus, because the point value was pretty low (72). I rode right by it, though, so I went back quickly to get it. It marks the boundary between Illinois and Indiana.


This sign, painted on a exterior wall of a shed at Calumet Fisheries, was worth 182 points.



Then, I was off to visit Pilgrim Baptist Church for 203 points. Pilgrim Baptist Church served as Triple Rock Baptist Church in the film Blues Brothers.


I really like rallying in cities, and had a lot of fun doing the bonii in and around Chicago. Well, except this one. There’s a McDonalds restaurant up on this elevated freeway. The trick was to ride up the ramp, park at the McDonalds, get a receipt, then go back through the toll booth to continue west. I interpreted the rally book’s “if you can’t get a receipt, take a photo” comment to allow a photo – this was disallowed at the scoring table (because I could have gotten the receipt if I had been willing to wait about 10 minutes). Ugh. That cost 170 points.


Then, I was off to the Palace Hotel. I blew this bonus on reading comprehension – the actual bonus was INSIDE this building (see where the pickup truck is exiting the building). This mistake cost me 107 points.


Once I’d had enough fun in East Chicago, it was time to head into town to remind myself how poor GPS coverage is in a city with tall buildings. I hadn’t taken the time to refresh my memory of the Chicago street layout, so I had to do that work on the fly, relying on the street addresses of the bonii.

It was raining lightly as I arrived downtown. Fortunately, the traffic was light and there weren’t a lot of pedestrians jay-walking. I went around the block several times as I hunted the two bonii downtown.

This is some artwork in Daley Plaza in Chicago – the photograph was worth 136 points. Daley Plaza was also featured in the Blues Brothers.


This is a photograph of a giant bat (worth 137 points)…I couldn’t get the entire bat in the shot, it was so tall.


Continuing the Blues Brothers theme, we were to ride to 1060 W. Addison Street, Chicago, IL to visit the address that Jake Blues used on his Illinois Driver’s License. This photo of Wrigley Field was worth 350 points.


And so, naturally, I had this quote rattling through my brain as I’m heading out of town:

Elwood: It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark... and we're wearing sunglasses.
Jake: Hit it.

One more stop – Oak Park, Illinois, to get this photograph (133 points):


I skipped a 92 point bonus in Evanston, Illinois.

Leaving Oak Park, I was really hungry, so I stopped off for a hot dog at Gene & Jude’s in River Grove, Illinois.

From River Grove, I had a really long slog on the slab all the way to New Ulm, Minnesota.

I showed up at the checkpoint at 0540 (beating the 0600 – 0800 penalty window). I worked on my score sheet for a few minutes, then got into the scoring line. The rally staff and volunteers kept the scoring process fast and efficient. There was a hot breakfast, as well, which was really nice.

Leg 2: New Ulm, Minnesota to Denver, Colorado.

At about 0800, the Leg 2 rally pack was passed out, and we were off again to plan the second leg of the rally. I sat down with my computer and laid out what I thought was a fun and interesting ride. While I’d been very careful to select a Leg 1 route that would maximize points and minimize time in the saddle, I was tired enough during second leg planning that I went for big points north and east of Minneapolis that I just couldn’t reach. The story of my second leg was shot through with overreaching, which required a lot of on-the-fly replanning, Iron Butt Motel resting, and what seemed like a zillion miles of slab with few bonii until I reached Detroit. But I’m getting ahead of the story.

I left the checkpoint, and headed about an hour and a half away, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for what was a mandatory stop in disguise – Bob’s Java – to get my coffee mug signed again (1874 points) and to get a receipt (125 points).

The route I’d selected out of New Ulm had me heading north (instead of west), north to the Upper Peninsula.

This stop was the most gravel and sand of the entire rally. The photograph was worth a modest 85 points.


The, I was off to Duluth, for 99 points. I’m glad that I went to Duluth to see the place, but this was not a good route (or stop) for the purposes of rally bonus point collecting.


As a simple measure of what a bad route this was, I only had four bonus stops for the whole day, and two of those were in the same location in Minneapolis!

I overnighted at the Comfort Inn in Ironwood, Michigan. I was far enough behind my unbelievably ambitious plan, that I dropped two really big point bonii that I just couldn’t get to.

This photograph was worth 399 points.


This lighthouse photograph was worth 600 points.


My McDonalds stop of the day was at St. Ignace, Michigan – yet another huge time sink. I got my meal, and proceeded to eat it outside – the weather was beautiful.

Next, I got a chance to ride across the famed Mackinac Bridge. Bridge construction had the two outer lanes (the ones with pavement) closed, leaving the two lanes with metal grates (ugh) open to travel.

My next stop was Tawas City, Michigan, on the shores of Lake Huron. There’s a spot with a LOT of cartoon characters out in the yard – we were to take a picture of Pooh (who’s looking a bit shopworn these days). Pooh was worth 686 points.


I was back in full rally mode…all the fatigue of the slab slipped away as I hunted the elusive bonii in the Detroit area.

My next stop was a place known as the Hamtramck Disneyland. In a rookie move, I didn’t read the bonus description completely, and missed the fact that I was to take the picture FROM THE ALLEY. I couldn’t imagine that there would be a 24 hour bonus in an alley in a residential neighborhood in Hamtramck, Michigan, but there it was. I took my picture, and lost the 650 points somewhere on the scoring table. Oh, well.


Next stop – the home of the “Motown Sound”, for a photograph worth 400 points. Venturing just a few blocks off the main drag got me into some really interesting alleyways.


I next needed to get a receipt from the Obama gas station in Detroit, to earn another 666 points. It was a very interesting neighborhood. I bought a bag of chips, got my receipt, then went outside to take a few pictures. The station attendant remarked that all the “bikers” wanted receipts today. Imagine that.

Just couldn’t avoid the phrase “drill baby, drill” from popping into my mind as I rode away.


Having visited the Obama Shrine gas station, I headed off to another cemetery, to visit the grave of the father of the blues, Eddie James Son House, Jr.


The last stop in Michigan was to visit this plaque that celebrated Rose 2d of Aberlone in the very pleasant town of Plymouth, Michigan. The photograph was worth 300 points.


Getting out of Plymouth was a real chore. My primary and secondary GPS receivers couldn’t agree on a route south to Paducah, Kentucky. I was also getting cold, and needed to get my jacket liner on. In the process of pulling out the jacket liner, and getting it put on, I managed to drop (and subsequently step on) my glasses. Ugh. To celebrate the routing challenge and the smashed glasses, I did a few miles on a gravel road to get back to a main thoroughfare. All-in-all, I managed to waste entirely too much time getting out of town.

I needed to get south, and was running out of day (and steam), so I overnighted at the Comfort Inn in Lima, Ohio. Once nicely rested, I continued on to Kentucky.

This statuary is located on the grounds of the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky – the photograph was worth 302 points.


And, here’s my second stop at a Third Principal Meridian marker near Cairo, Illinois. The photograph was worth 303 points.


This 225 point photograph was taken near Cairo, Illinois.


The fatigue I experienced when I planned the second leg caused me to ride right by an easy (and large – 341 points) bonus in St. Louis. That bonus was on my list of bonii on the top of my tank bag, but that list was obscured by the holder for the rally book. When I entered the Leg 2 bonii in the primary GPS, I neglected to enter that particular location. Additionally, the next stop was time-limited (I needed to have the photograph taken before 1700 to beat the gate closure time) – I made it with 10 minutes to spare.

This monument to William Clark (at his grave) was worth 120 points.


I made another routing mistake in St. Charles, Missouri. I got this low-point photograph (90 points), but didn’t get the high-point location (362 points) into the route. The high-point location would have taken another 10 minutes (maximum) to get, so this was a really big mistake.


I dropped the 265 point bonus in Jefferson City, Missouri, because I needed to get down the road to Kansas City, then on to Denver. I knew that I had enough time budgeted for the Kansas City stops, and for some sleep enroute Denver, so didn’t have any extra time to spare. I dropped a 136-point bonus in Independence, Missouri, that I probably should have stopped for because the marginal cost would have been low.

In Kansas City, there were two bonii right on top of one another. In yet another routing error, I didn’t realize this, and left the first bonus (the 301 point photograph, below), only to ride around downtown a bit to find the second. I got back to the same location, wrote down the answer to the question (which was worth an additional 60 points), then headed west.


Then came the very long slog west on I-70 across Kansas and eastern Colorado. Ugh.

My penultimate stop was the final mug-signing bonus location – at the Littleton Cemetery in Littleton, Colorado. This final signing was worth 888 points, and had to be claimed between 0900 and 1100.

The deadline for riding across the finish line at the Marriott Hotel at Denver Tech Center was 1100. I left some schedule margin for traffic to Littleton and along the route between Littleton and Denver, so I was able to get to the finish line with plenty of time to spare.

Here I am, approaching the finish line – the end of the riding portion of Butt Lite 6IX (and nearly the start of the second trip to the scoring table):


And here I am, waiting in line to have the odometer read.


Next stop – the scoring table.


The scoring table.

Like scoring in New Ulm, the scoring process was very efficient. There were a lot of volunteers to do the scoring, so after I completed my scoring sheet, I got into line. After scoring, I headed up to my room to take a shower and put some clean clothes on. What a great feeling.

An advantage of bringing the right gear, is that you can wash it out in the sink, and put it out to air dry:


Resting, geocaching, and shopping.

The Iron Butt Association International Meet was also happening at the Marriott, so there were some great vendors in the hotel’s atrium, I did a fair amount of shopping while there, to get a few things to make long distance riding more comfortable and efficient.

The banquet and the results.

We had a great catered meal, at which the results were announced. I finished 14 of 52, which I’m really happy about.

The cam chain tensioner crush washer.

My 2010 R1200RT doesn’t burn oil, and usually never leaks oil. I noticed, when I arrived at the finish in Denver, that I had a bit of what looked like soot on the left side of the fairing, next to where my left boot would sit on the peg. I looked under the engine, and couldn’t see any evidence of oil drips or leakage around either the filter or the crankcase drain plug. I could see a little weeping around where the side stand connects. I had planned to get the oil changed on Friday before returning back to Northern Virginia, so knew that I could get a better look once the bike was on the lift.

I talked to the service department at Foothills BMW in Lakewood when I arrived on Thursday – they said to show up early on Friday, and they’d get me in for an oil change. When I fired the bike up on Friday, I noticed the distinct (and unmistakable) odor of burning oil, and saw a wisp of smoke come up through the fairing just forward of the fuel tank once the engine warmed up. I had plenty of oil still in the engine (by the sightglass), so rode over to Lakewood so the Foothills BMW service guys could diagnose the problem. Once they got the bike on the lift and the left fairing off, it was obvious that I had oil blowing by the left side cam chain tensioner crush washer. Running the bike while on the lift, it was easy to see oil now dripping from that bolt / crush washer area.

So, I wound up with what would soon have been a must-stop-now fault while conveniently located at a dealer that had the tools and expertise to do the replacement of that $0.68 cam chain tensioner crush washer.

I called the hotel to extend my stay by one day, and called Enterprise to get a car (the Enterprise office was about three blocks south of the BMW dealer), so the logistics of this repair was going very smoothly.

I asked for a compact car at Enterprise, and this is what I wound up with:


You might imagine the change from riding a motorcycle for the past week+ to making the transition to driving a pick-up truck.

The folks at Foothills located one of these $0.68 parts and had it shipped over-night, and did the replacement for me by the time I arrived at 1200. By 1400 on Saturday, I was all done with paperwork, and on my way back to Northern Virginia.

The [straight, flat, and dry] ride home.

Okay, so I’m a long distance rider, so it wasn’t the 1739 mile ride home that was the issue. I-70 is unnaturally boring. Getting out of the Denver area a day later than planned didn’t help, but the unrelenting boringness of the ride made it seem REALLY long.

Everything I read about drought across the mid-west seemed to be true – mile after mile of dry lands and stunted crops.

I did some geocaching and sightseeing all the way home.


“Atomic Cannon” at Fort Riley, Kansas:


I got back to northern Virginia about 1800 on Monday, 8179 miles after I set out for Blairsville, Georgia.




I’ve been to all 50 U.S. States over my lifetime – sometimes in a cage, sometimes by train, and sometimes by air (and rental car). I haven’t been to all that many by motorcycle (yet), and this trip helped fill in a lot of states (this is the complete list of states in which I rode over the period from 8 August through 20 August, including a lot that I’ve ridden through before):

North Carolina

So, 17 states over 13 days…not too bad.

Lessons learned

Camping equipment – didn’t need it, and shouldn’t have packed it to begin with. Fortunately, I removed most of it before I left home.

Large bag – very nice to carry gear in, but didn’t need a bag this big for this trip.

Too much food on the bike – this is a lesson I’ve learned in backpacking, that I hadn’t applied (yet) to motorcycling. Also, when I need a quick bite, I can get it at most gas stations.

Time management – critical! I’m a big dawdler, even on rally time. This is something that I’ve got to continue to work on.

Food stops were extravagant – these need to be cut way back in the future. See time management, above.

Fuel stops were generally very good, with the exception of those that were tied to getting food.

Don’t plan while tired – this planning leads to mistakes that are hard to recover from. Leg 2 was plagued with this problem.

Follow the plan when developing on-the-road (tank bag) notes – route building on the fly was difficult, made more difficult because I couldn’t see my notes. I’m going to get another rally book mounting and reading system installed, as soon as Linda Tanner finishes my bag.

GPS – make sure the scale is correct coming up on a bonus location. Clinton library was difficult…too difficult. So was the cow plaque and the second TPM plaque.

Bonii in cities – GPS just plain doesn’t work in big cities like downtown Chicago. Need to plan route by hand, and follow the hand-written routing.

Beware of bonii in cemeteries, because access can be via goat trail – this is true for any route that may be considered “off road”.

Chip clips worked very well to hold the flag – they have an assigned place in the tank bag (as does the rally flag).

Camera worked great – made it the whole rally on one battery charge, but had a spare battery just in case. Others had a backup camera, just in case. I have my old rally camera that I can bring for that purpose.

Flashlights – only used one of the big hand-held auxiliary lights, not the other. If I’d done more night bonii, this situation would have been different.

Should have had electric jacket and controller. Was planning on unrelenting heat, and wound up with some pretty chilly (and sometimes wet) nights.

Left heated grip would have been nice – this is warranty work that needs to get done on the bike soon.

General stuff

Garmin Zumo 665 is unreliable when using SiriusXM – unit sometimes crashes (not sure of cause), and loses satellite radio connection / feed from time to time. Interaction with Android phone and SiriusXM radio problems? More experimentation necessary. It was really nice to have satellite weather, traffic, and music, though….


I can hardly wait for our next rally – the Rendez-Vous in Quebec (and elsewhere).