Sunday, September 29, 2013

2013 Team Lyle Garden State Rally

I signed Connie and myself up to ride the 2013 Team Lyle Garden State Rally eons ago…I knew that we wouldn’t be riding the Rendez-vous rally this year, and I wanted more time “on the clock” this year in preparation for next year’s Butt Lite 7.

The rally book was released a little early – I pored over it as soon as I could get some time on the laptop. The Team Lyle Garden State Rally is wholly contained in New Jersey. After a little pre-processing of the data, this is what the map looked like:


The purple icons have the highest point value, followed by red, green, and blue.

Additionally, there were two "combo” bonuses (if you visited all bonuses of a specific theme, you got an additional bonus). There was a Bill of Rights combo (which particularly appealed to me), and there was a law and order combo. The Bill of Rights combo bonus was worth an additional 30,000 points, and the law and order combo added 25,000 points.

I tried my best to find a route that made the Bill of Rights combo bonus fit within time and distance constraints, given what I expected in terms of Saturday traffic (the original mileage cap was increased to make the Bill of Rights combo bonus more feasible). No joy. I tried to get a good law and order route planned, but couldn’t find enough points to make what I thought might be a good rider points-wise.

So, I worked up a route that visited many of the northern New Jersey bonus locations – that route netted slightly over 69,000 points. I thought that route was  within my capabilities as a rider, and factored in what I thought was reasonable to expect in terms of traffic. I knew from the forecast that the weather would be gorgeous, so I didn’t have to factor in high winds or rain. I couldn’t know what traffic I would find around the state prisons, and I couldn’t predict the impacts of yard sales and festivals (those things are in every rally, and I’ve learned to just live with them).

I used Google Maps and Street View to check out all the locations in advance. I found one bonus location in Newark where I thought the coordinates were a little off, so I was able to correct that according to the street address given in the rally book. Spending those few minutes on Street View helped me to quickly identify the bonus location as soon as I arrived at the coordinates.

Friday evening, I rode to the Hyatt House hotel near the rally start. I got a later start than I intended, as I needed to spend a little time in the office mid-day, so I got to the hotel after sundown. I didn’t bring a laptop, since I knew I wouldn’t have time to develop a route on a computer after the rally books were issued – I would have to do that on one of the bike GPS receivers.

Now, on to the ride.

Here’s my track, showing the bonus locations that I visited (and showing two that I had to shed from my planned route, as I was riding). The start location is the blue icon near Bridgewater, NJ – I rode the rally in a counter-clockwise direction because I wanted the option to shed lower point bonuses later in the day, in the event I got bogged down somewhere along the way.


Map data ©2013 Google.


The rider’s meeting was at 0830 on Saturday – that’s where we received the rally book, and learned of the wild card bonuses. There were wild cards for photographs with LEOs, photographs with LEOs with emergency lights on, photographs of WRONG WAY signs, photographs of NO RIGHT TURN ON RED signs, and a wild card that allowed us to substitute another location for any one of the Bill of Rights bonus locations. I quickly recomputed my Bill of Rights combo bonus ride, accounting for the substitution wild card, but still couldn’t make it work for me. I made a couple of quick notes on my tank bag sheet of the bonus locations that weren’t part of my base ride, intending to see if I could work up a good substitution as I rode throughout the day.

With rider #28, I was in the last group of riders to leave the parking lot at 0905.

The first stop was a Frank Lloyd Wright house. I knew it was going to be difficult to get a picture, given the fact that the house was off the road (and was a private residence).

The next stop was the David Brearley grave marker. The gate was locked, so the best photograph possible was this sign. The area around the cemetery is interesting – while I was there with several other riders, local residents were conducting a fund-raising campaign.

From there, I was off to take a photograph of the dome on the New Jersey capitol building (the bonus location symbolizing the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution). I knew this one would be tricky, given the proximity of the road and the resultant sight angle.

The next stop was a house that is surrounded on three sides by one of New Jersey’s state prisons. This was another very interesting neighborhood in Trenton – worth a return trip someday.

This pretty church in Jackson, NJ was a 1st Amendment bonus location. I had to get down on the driveway pavement to get the shot – I was worried that someone might drive by and see me lying on the pavement, next to my bike! This was one of the 1A stops.

The next garden spot in the Garden State was this prison in Rahway, NJ. There, I learned how many people visit the prison on a Saturday, and how well they can navigate while texting and talking on their cellular telephones.

I had been looking for a good Bill of Rights wild card to replace the County Courthouse that I wasn’t going to visit in south NJ, and I happened by the Union County Courthouse in Elizabeth, NJ.

Boxwood Hall in Elizabeth, NJ was the next stop. George Washington ate lunch here.

Northern State Prison was the next stop. The prison staff didn’t appreciate having motorcyclists stop by to take photographs of the prison guard shack from the public roadway. No Terry Stop for me, but not all riders were so fortunate.

Northern State Prison is a little challenging to get to, given the maze of roads and ramps in the area.

Next stop: the Star Ledger building in Newark. This is one stop where Street View was a huge help. This was one of the 1A stops.

There’s a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house behind this gate. Honest.

The State Police Barracks along this stretch of the Garden State Parkway in Bloomfield, NJ was next.

I knew, from watching my progress against my plan, that I needed to shed at least one of the planned bonus locations to get back to the rally headquarters with sufficient time margin. I dumped a visit to Wright Brothers Field in Moonachie, NJ, which gave me a little margin back.

As I rode north, I dumped a visit to William Paterson University for the same reason, and found that I had about 40 minutes of slack in the schedule to make the final half of the ride. I felt comfortable with that, given that the riding in the more congested part of the state was behind me.

I was very comfortable with the ride by this point – I thought the worst traffic, construction, and traffic lights were behind me and that I just needed to put in a solid ride back to the finish.

The next stop was Gun for Hire in Woodland Park, NJ, where I was to take a photograph of an employee holding my flag. This was the 2A stop.

Next stop, Parsippany, NJ, to the Livingston-Benedict house.

The county sheriff’s office in Newton, NJ was the 4A stop. This stop was a bit tricky for me – I had to backtrack a block to get into position for the photograph.

This sign in Blairstown, NJ was the 6A stop. I rode around the adjacent building to see if there were signs on the other side, but this was all there was.

There were three bonus locations in a very small area – two in Port Murray, NJ and one in Washington, NJ. The State Police Barracks in Port Murray looks like this:

The 3A bonus was this tank in front of a NJ National Guard armory.

We were supposed to stop at Washington Cycle Works in Washington, NJ to buy Ron’s Famous Peach Cobbler, but the shop closed at 1500 on Saturdays. No peach cobbler for me…or the Rally Master.

The final photograph of the day was of a mailbox in Lopatcong, NJ…this was a 1A bonus.

I was low on fuel, and still needed to find a few sign wild cards, so I headed back to rally HQ with my eyes peeled. I got fuel and three WRONG WAY bonuses with one [long] stop.

I got back to rally HQ with minutes to spare, then got my stuff together for scoring.

I finished with 79900, which I was very happy with.

I’m looking forward to next year!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

2013 Hot Buttered Goat Rally

Connie and I rode the 2013 Hot Buttered Goat Rally on Saturday, 31 August 2013. The rally was organized by our friend Jonathan “Hammy” Tan, and it was tremendously fun.

The format was a bit different from other rallies, in that each rider could select a start point (we all ended at Yoder’s Country Market in New Holland, PA).

Because we were starting the day in Northern Virginia, and we didn’t want to ride farther north to start, I elected to start at the southern-most bonus location, which was located in Dover, DE.


Instead of a rally flag, we brought a “mascot”, who would be in every photograph with Connie (the usual rule is that if a passenger is riding the rally, the passenger must be in every photograph). Our rally was Connie’s otter that rode with me on the 2012 Butt Lite.

We started at the Dover International Speedway, at the statue of Miles the Monster. We had planned to visit Miles some time back, but bad weather intervened, and we headed back to Virginia (through a thunderstorm). So, it was nice to make the stop this time, and collect the photograph of my lovely and talented assistant, our mascot, and Miles.

From Dover, we rode to Smyrna, DE to find Helen’s Famous Sausage House which, regrettably, was closed for the weekend. The fellow in the red car, below, was just hanging out in the parking lot, fascinated, I’m sure, by suited-up motorcycle riders stopping by to take photographs. Other hopeful patrons arrived while we were taking our photograph; they, too, were disappointed at the closure.

Our next stop was the Reedy Island range rear light (more information here).

Next, we were off to Greenville, DE to visit the sign outside the Mt. Cuba Astronomical Observatory (who knew there was a mountain in Delaware, much less one named Mt. Cuba?) .

A little ways down the road, we were to find a gate with a very nice deer motif (this is the way we like to see deer – frozen in time). The neighborhood behind this gate was somewhat different that the neighborhoods that we would be riding through just a few hours later.

This large, brightly-painted storage tank sits near the Philadelphia city line. We enjoyed the gravel at the parking spot, and the two extra bridge transits we needed to make to get this photograph.

We had all KINDS of fun getting around Philadelphia!

image I made a bad turn out of the storage tank photograph location, which sent us south across the Schuylkill River (again), which was okay since we needed to find a spot for refreshment. I didn’t find an on-ramp for I-95, so we were in for a very long slog across town to find Johnny’s Hots (in a truly forgettable part of Philadelphia). Ugh.

From Johnny’s Hots, we needed to head west to find the Turtle Rock Light. To get there, we needed to navigate Philadelphia streets (and I was already off-route, so navigation with two GPS receivers was exciting).

Who knew that Fitz & The Tantrums would be playing on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, at just about the time we were trying to get through that part of town? No wonder all the streets were blocked off!

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were playing somewhere in that expanse of green on the map, below.


Finally! We arrived at Turtle Rock Light (which is a place to which we want to return, because Fairmount Park is a great ride).

Merrymead Farm was our next destination, where we needed a photograph of homemade peanut butter.

Green Sargeant’s Covered Bridge was our next stop. This is also a virtual geocache, so we got a two-fer here.

We headed to Northlandz (more here and here and here) next, to see the train station adjacent to the museum.

We were running a bit behind plan, so we dropped our anticipated visit to the New Jersey Astronomical Association Observatory in High Bridge, NJ and Hot Dog Johnny’s (more here) in Buttzville, NJ. Based on the TripAdvisor® rating (ranked #1 restaurant in Buttzville at the time of this writing), we’ll need to plan a trip to get some dogs and some birch beer.

Our next stop was the Butter Valley Golf Port, where I managed to get a photograph of the wrong sign. Sigh. Connie and our mascot look great, though.

Our next stop(s) were in Boyertown, PA, where we were to take photographs of bears. Lots of bears. We could get one point for each bear, up to a maximum of 30 points. We were able to get more than one bear per minute, so these were much more efficient than they would have appeared.


I wanted to make sure we visited this one, which was out last bear of the day.

The Driebelbis Covered Bridge (more here) was our next stop.

The big points (1000) were at Cabela’s in Hamburg, PA. We needed a shot of the goat jumping in mid-air. We must have made quite a sight, striding purposefully through Cabela’s, in search of a jumping goat (and Connie, with her helmet in place).

We were pressed for time, so we dropped our planned visit to It’s Just BBQ in Orwigsburg, PA. That left Roadside America as our last stop.

We made it to Rally HQ with a few minutes to spare, and had a very nice meal at Yoder’s Country Market in New Holland, PA, with the other riders.

We overnighted in New Holland, then headed for Northern Virginia on Sunday morning. We had a great time!