Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ride Report – 2012 Cape Fear 1000

This year’s Cape Fear 1000 was held on Friday and Saturday, 20-21 April 2012. Registration for this annual (and east coast season-opener) long-distance endurance rally is extremely competitive. I wrote earlier about my experience in getting registered for this year’s event (truly an exercise in you-snooze, you-lose).

For new readers, here are a couple of previous ride reports that provide a little insight into what a long-distance endurance rally is: 2011 Void Rally, 2011 Mason Dixon 20-20 Rally.

Having successfully completed the initial registration process, I was left with prepping my bike, getting enough riding in over the winter and early spring, and doing some practice rides.

Connie Custer graciously accepted my invitation to ride with me – this was to be her first long distance ride (previous rides had been in the 250 – 350 mile per day range) and her first rally (i.e., first time riding “on the clock”). The practice rides over the month before the rally focused on getting our fuel and bonus stop timing down – these rides did a great job of getting us into a “battle rhythm”: make the approach, side stand down, jump off the bike, prep whatever needed to be done, jump back on the bike, restart the engine, and safely get going in the right direction for the next bonus. In the spirit of “Bottom Line Up Front” (BLUF), Connie is a natural rallier and a great competitor, and was a huge contributor to our safe and immensely fun ride.

So, on to the details.

I was VERY fortunate to have been able to register for a Jamestown start. We left Northern Virginia on Thursday to give us time for a nice ride north, stopping off in Bedford, PA for a post office photograph:

and a very nice lunch.

Here’s our track on Thursday:


We took a little detour at the end of the day to capture a photograph of the Chautauqua, NY post office:

Then, we were on a mission to find some food. Chautauqua is a ghost town for ten months of the year (we were there during the ghost town phase), so we headed back to Jamestown. Jamestown, NY is not in the “happenin’ places” category – we did a bit of riding around until we found (a) Mexican place, and (b) a Mexican place with two rally bikes parked out front. The food was everything I expected from a Mexican place in Jamestown, NY. Sufficiently nourished, we needed north through town to the Hampton Inn and Suites, where I put a few finishing touches on the plan and went over the whole route with Connie. I’d had some real “fun” with the rally book the night before (finishing with map making some time after 0100), so I needed the opportunity to take a few more glances at the bonii and routing options before we headed out in the morning.

We selected one route for the first half of the rally (the time from the Jamestown launch about 1000 Friday to our arrival at the odometer check on I-40 in North Carolina, which was to be about 23 hours later), and three options for the second half of the rally (the period from the end of the odometer check to the deadline end of the rally at 1500 Saturday.

Connie got our starting receipt at 1007, then we headed out.


Road conditions were great, and the temperatures were pleasant (considering it was late April near Lake Erie). As it turned out, we were VERY fortunate not to be leaving just a couple of days later, when Jamestown received a foot or more of snow. That would have really put a damper on our rally plans!

Our first stop was in Andover, OH at the site of the Andover Bank Time Capsule. We hadn’t been on the road long enough to spread the arrival time of the riders who had elected to take this route, so there were a lot of bikes parked around the bank. We got our picture, saddled up, and continued south.


Our next stop was the Quaker Steak & Lube in Sharon, PA where we had to snag a receipt. Connie deftly dealt with the crowd of fellow ralliers, got our receipt, and we were off to our next stop.

We skirted Youngstown, OH….


image…enroute Carrolton, OH where we were to find a particular sign. Lots of riders milling about looking for the sign, and Connie made the save. It didn’t take long for other riders to figure out that Connie was on to something, so we got our assigned photograph and headed south.


We stopped by Clark Gable’s birthplace to get take the required photograph. Note the sky – this was a beautiful day for riding (good thing we had sunscreen along!).


Then, we had a long ride south, into West Virginia,



to Looneyville, WV. The road to Looneyville was a great set of twisties (typical back-road West Virginia) – we were fortunate that we didn’t have to do this road in the dark or in bad weather, so we were able to enjoy the whole ride.


Our next stop was in Virginia, so we headed south again.

imageIf you look closely around Bradley, WV you can see the first time error of the trip – I got off the WV Turnpike and went too far for gas. That cost a few critical minutes of our timeline. We had been running exactly on plan all day, but costly mistakes like this consume valuable minutes.


And there’s another time-wasting mistake around Wytheville, VA where I misread a ramp sign and got going the wrong way on I-81 (got to go north on I-81 to go south on I-77 don’cha know!


We departed I-77 enroute Stuart, VA – although it was getting dark, the ride was beautiful. This part of Virginia is high on the list of places to go for more leisurely riding. We had a Confederate memorial to find in Stuart. It’s a very nice small town, and the weather was such that there were a few people just hanging out, watching us run around taking pictures.



Our next stop was Speedy’s Barbecue, Inc in Lexington, NC.


From Lexington, we headed south to Albemarle, NC. The mandatory rest period window opened at 0000 Saturday, and we needed to have a receipt from anywhere in Albemarle, NC so it made sense to do the entire rest in Albemarle. We had fallen behind plan, to the point where we arrived in Albemarle about 0020. I hadn’t made reservations in Albemarle as one of our rallying pals had, so that cost some time while we looked for somewhere to stay. I got the clock stopped and rest stop started about 0045 (after some fun trying to find fuel at that hour) – that delay was very costly (50 points / minute!).

We each got some good sleep, then got going in the morning, starting the clock again a little after 0600 at the Walmart gas station across the street from the hotel. From Albemarle, we headed to Ellerbe, NC


where we snapped a picture of some figures out in front of the Inn at Ellerbe Springs.


Carthage, NC was next on our list, where we stopped by to see an old time sign on the side of the [former] Cornwallis Service Station (where corner gravel is featured prominently).


Now, we were off to do the odometer check and participate in a Time-Distance-Speed test (the goal was to finish as closely as possible to the mean speed along the odometer course). We had a bit of a routing challenge during the odometer check, so we got to do it twice, but we came in 2 seconds below the mean on the T-D-S challenge, so we got the maximum number of points (7500).

We had worked out three alternative routes to take after the odometer check. We were a little late getting out of the check, so we selected the route that we had planned in case that happened.


In the spirit of routing mistakes, I blew another turn (that I didn’t realize until much later) – I was supposed to take the short blue route to the east, but since I missed the turn, I got to go quite a bit further south on the freeway, before turning north again to our next stop. We had plenty of margin on this route, so this mistake wasn’t nearly as costly as it would have been if we were on a route with a tighter margin.

This is a lighthouse in a small pond in back of a gas station in Pink Hill, NC (note: we couldn’t see anything that remotely resembled a hill in Pink Hill).


After Pink Hill, we headed north to Kinston, NC to locate the CSS Neuse. This was one of the big point bonus locations that we wanted to get, and we did.



We had enough margin remaining in Kinston that we got some water and got a quick bite to eat. From Kinston, we had a straight shot south to Surf City, NC to visit Skully the Pirate.


There wasn’t anyone else around, so I knew I had to use the tripod. Good plan – poor execution, since you can’t read our number using this resolution on the camera. Next time, park closer and use the max resolution allowed by the rally rules.


After Surf City, we had a leisurely ride down U.S. 17 to our penultimate stop – the convenience store across the street from the rally headquarters. Our mission: obtain adult beverages that could be safely carried on the bike across U.S. 17. We got to the finish line safe, and sound, with beverages in hand in plenty of time to stop the clock. There were bikes everywhere – about 120 or so.

We got scored okay, and got ready for the post-rally banquet (which was BBQ and GREAT). We were both pretty tired after riding much of the previous three days, so each of us turned in to get a little shut-eye before getting ready to head back to Northern Virginia.

We rode about 1140 [uncorrected] miles in 29 hours on the clock – not too bad – just about my historical average speed over ground for all trips, on the clock and not.

The weather report for Sunday was predicting a lot of rain all up and down the eastern seaboard. It wasn’t raining when we left Wilmington, but it sure looked like it was going to rain any minute. We got a few sprinkles on the way north, but the ride was otherwise uneventful.

The post office in Maple Hill is on the Big Money Rally bonus list, so we stopped by to take a photograph.

imageThe Smoke Chasing Grand Tour has a mandatory stop in North Carolina. It was closed on Sunday, but the owner was there to greet us – it looks like a great place to eat!

We wound up eating at a nice BBQ place in Cary, NC before getting back on the road heading north.



I had wanted to stop in the Richmond area to knock out the National Battlefield Park, but the rain was really starting to pick up, and the traffic was getting bad. The rain intensified to the point that we headed north on U.S. 301 to avoid I-95 entirely.



We had U.S. 301 essentially to ourselves the whole way back to Northern Virginia.


We got back safely (if more than slightly soggy) at a decent hour. I dropped Connie off at her place, and I headed back to a heroes welcome offered by Opie and Cinder. We had put nearly 2000 miles on the bike over the four days – a very nice ride!

Epilog. Our objectives for this rally were pretty simple: Finish safely and have fun. We met those objectives handily.

Lessons learned:

* Plan for visor change-over and layer add / removal. Doing this ad hoc is expensive

* If you can’t see the gas station from the road, it doesn’t exist. That’s a lesson that I have a real hard time learning.

* Plan the evening stop ahead – it pays huge dividends to have a reservation. We had plenty of time before we left Jamestown to make a reservation and didn’t. That cost a lot of points and cut down on needed rest.

* Our 3” x 5” card system worked really well – we’ll work on double-checking the data, and making sure we understand the requirements for each bonus location (they’re frequently different, in terms of what must be in each photograph).

* Rain-proof all gear before leaving. It’s easy, and it’s easily forgotten in the planning process.

* Bring heated gear – April can be chilly.

* Build a checklist of stuff to be brought to the scoring table. It’s easy to forget things in the press to be scored, particularly when you’ve been riding a while. This will be really important at Butt Lite 6IX in August, because of the pressures of a multi-day rally.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

2012 Cape Fear 1000

The rally book arrived in my email inbox a little after 1730 today. I couldn't get out of the office until a little after 1910, so I didn't get a good look at it until nearly 2030. Like, apparently, many others, I was entering bonus locations by hand until around 0030 or so.

There are a couple of very promising routes leaving Jamestown...enough to ponder while sleeping this evening....