I finally have my own motorcycle to ride in a rally!!! I put about 1500 miles on the 98 Concours since I bought it, and other than a few tiny oil leaks I took care of, there have not been any issues with it mechanically. Thats good considering its got 73000 miles on it. Some rally guys have up to $30,000 tied up in motorcycles, electronics, riding suits, and other "farkles". I have a staggering $2500 invested! I'm doing the "Bubba" version of rallying... Duck tape it if it breaks and hope you make it until the end. But I bought 100mph tape just in case! My farkling consists of a taller windshield, cup holder, and GPS mount. I installed a 12v lighter plug outlet in the dash so I could plug in a GPS or phone, or both. I used a RAM mount and cradle on the clutch reservoir for the Garmin (car type) GPS. It test rode a few times and I got it positioned where I wanted it. Worked great. Hard to hear over the noise, but no big deal. The motorcycle versions of GPS are water proof and pair up with bluetooth helmet systems to listen to it. They are also $700 and up! Not gonna happen. So I packed a ziplock bag and duck tape to cover the GPS in case it rained since it was $99 3 years ago, and not waterproof. And if for some reason, the RAM cradle or mount broke, I also packed the suction cup from the car for it. Just in case.... I packed all the hand tools I thought I would need for a minor roadside repair, tire slime and plug kit, small air compressor, cloth to clean the windshield, rain suit, change of clothes, and a shaving kit. All that had to fit in the saddle bags, so my top bag was free for rally paperwork, laptop, and other essentials needed during the rally. I used the tank bag for medicine, 5hour energy drinks, granola bars, cash, phone... anything I may need immediately while riding but not worth stopping for. I packed it all up the Thurs before the rally, so all I had to do Fri morning was pack my computer bag, suit up, and head out.
Fri came, kissed the fam goodbye and suited up. I figured I would show up early and help out Ed with anything he needed. This was also going to be THE long distance shake down run, since the longest ride yet was only about 1 hour on the road. I figured if the bike could make the 3 hour ride there w no issues, it would make the 12 hr rally. I was also using the ride there as a practice rally. No stopping for any reason other than gas. This was to make sure the RIDER was ready for the 12 hour rally. Got my gas in Crawfordville, reset the GPS trip meter, and hit the road. There are no highways to get to Surrency, GA... all back roads through tiny towns. This is a good test for GPS functionality and accuracy as most rally locations are "off the beaten path". See the trend here... A lot of things to test on this ride to the rally. Its almost like I'm winging it! Which is pretty much the case.
I made it 200 or so miles, 10 miles from Ed's and stopped in Baxley for water, lunch, and gas... in that order. It was pushing 100 degrees and my 24oz bottle of water was long gone! I grabbed 2 bottles of water, a corn dog, and sat down on at a gas station table for lunch. Drank one full bottle of water, ate the corn dog, and was out the door in 5 mins. Headed to the pumps, filled the tank to the max since this was my starting fuel for the rally, and drove it in to the the Resort. I made it and the bike made it with no issues. Again... this had been a test of the GPS. From the time I left the house, until I got there, time was falling off the arrival time on the GPS. Add in the food and gas stop, I arrived at the end at the exact minute the GPS said I would all the way back at the house. Good info to have. Basically, for every 3 hours on the road, I gain enough time to fill up w gas, food, and water... and break even on time. Gain time on the road to loose it at the gas stops. When my route says 12 hours on the computer, it does not factor in stopping for any reason. It just gives you on the road time. But since my driving style lets me break even on the GPS arrival times, this means I won't have to factor in the stops for the rally. Less of a headache. Score! GPS worked like a champ the whole ride over on its new handle bar mount.
There are only a handful of people there since I'm pretty early. Ed greets me and wants to check out the ride. He tells me he used to have one just like it and was thinking about getting another one. (I'm sure he was just blowin smoke since his mount is much nicer than mine) Dad pulls in a couple minutes later with Ernie and now all the story telling and lying officially begins. Dinner isn't until 6 so we have a few hours to burn. We help Ed move stuff around, and get things ready for the rest of the crowd. People keep trickling in. Again... on bikes. In cars. Trucks pulling trailers. Campers pulling cars. Bikes pulling trailers. Most everyone is there by 6 for dinner, as the rally packs are getting handed out @ 7:30. That's really what everyone wants the night before the rally. The partying is really for when the rally is over. Tonight its all about planning the route. As it is for all of Ed's rallies, its a 'soup' dinner on Fri evening. Ed's special stew and rice. If you ask whats in it, you possibly run the risk of hurting Ed's feelings. You don't want to hurt Ed's feelings! But I helped him take the pigs feet from the freezer to the pot, so I have a good idea whats in there. It was pretty good considering it was my first time eating pigs feet.
Thankfully dad and I sat down together with our computers and started formulating plans. This was of course only my second rally. And a few weeks prior, he got trained on the way to plan a route on a computer. A bit after that, we talked on the phone on how to do it, so now we are both ready to put our new computer aided route planning skills to the test. DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG IT TAKES TO TYPE IN 70 LOCATION'S GPS COORDINATES INTO A COMPUTER WITHOUT MESSING UP!!!! WTF! Next year I'm lobbying to get them in digital format, since that is how they got the info in this years Iron Butt Rally... The biggest rally in the US. I took me almost 2 hours just to get the data in the computer right. But I finally got a birds eye view of all the locations and started plotting a route. But what I was finding, was that all the close in bonus locations weren't worth shit for points. Its a common thought that there is a winning route that most people quickly see, and plan around that route. Not this year. Jim and Donna put a lot of work into spreading the field. You had to go for a long ride to get points. Generally, you can pick up a lot of little point bonuses, or go for a few big point bonuses to win. Not this year. If you want a lot of points, you have to go a long way get them. The previous 2 years, the winners racked up around 7000 points. Most of my routes were coming in around 2000-2500 points. Dad was having a tough time too. There were just no routes to go to pick up a lot of big points, or a few big points with a bunch of little points on the way. There was a cluster way down in central FL, but dad said that was the "sucker route". An obvious route thrown in by the Rally Masters to see if a sucker would take the bait and DNF (Did Not Finish). They look doable, but they aren't. So I kept trying all the routes I could, and throwing in all the wild card bonuses... still not enough points. So just for the hell of it... I plotted a route to the FL locations. It was over 3000 points before the wildcards. It was also 12 hours drive time... not including stops to get the bonuses, or gas. Dad was still convinced it was a sucker route... So still being in the Rookie class this year, I took the sucker route. I figured if I make it, I have a good shot at placing in the top 5. If not, oh well. But in my head it was the only route that had enough points to possibly win. It was now about midnight, so I was beat. I plugged the coordinates to all the bonuses into the GPS by hand and went to bed. Dad was still up grinding away on his route.
I tossed and turned about an hour, so I got about 4 hours sleep before it was time to get up. It was nice to stay in the cabin at Eds since it was right there. But after sharing a room with 3 other old, crusty, snoring men.... the Holiday Inn may have been a better choice :) I put my contacts in, brushed my teeth, and headed out for the doughnut breakfast. I had 2 or 3, a cup of OJ, a small cup of coffee, and a 5 hour energy drink. I dried all the dew off the windshield so I could see, mouted up the GPS and verified all the coords were still in there, and STARTED THE BIKE. It started fine. You do learn something in every rally. I was not going to be jump starting my bike after everyone left this year. Plus I had a 700 mile course in front of me, so I was going to try and be one of the first out. I told dad my route, he tried to explain his which was HEAVY on piecing together all the wild card bonuses. I warmed up the bike around 6:10 since its carbureted and doesn't like to run smooth until its got some heat in the motor. Shut it off after about 5 mins. I got suited up, and was sitting on the bike ready to go at 6:20. I was the only idiot doing that. Rookies. Oh well. I was ready. I had the first bonus in the GPS and ready to go. People started wandering to their bikes. At 6:25 the Rally Master said "We have a lot of bike to get out of here, so you can start moving out." I wasn't waiting for a second opinion. I cranked it up and was gone! I was 2nd out of the gate. I can use those extra 5 mins!
I purposefully chose my first bonus 10 miles away, first instead of last, just to get one out of the way quick and settle the nerves. The rider that got out in front of me apparently had the same idea. I followed him a mile or 2, doing the speed limit. When I saw I lost a minute on the GPS, I flew around him and took off. I had a LOT of ground to cover, and could not loose time on the GPS. I found the first location, grabbed the notebook from my tank bag, wrote down the info requested, and was off. Never got off the bike. I pulled up the next location on the GPS, did a U turn and was gone. The guy I passed pulled up as I was leaving. I saw him getting off the bike to get his rally sheet out to fill in the info. What a waste of time I thought! I took a left at the stop sign and took off. The sexy British voice on the GPS said "Recalculating. When possible, make a U-turn." Lesson one learned already. Look at the GPS when leaving a location!! I'm sure the other guy was saying to himself... "What a waste of time," as I drove past him going the other way now :) My next stop was just past the GA/FL line 85 miles away. On my way there, since it pretty early, and I'm in the middle of nowhere, and noone is on the road... I pick up the pace. Maybe slightly above the posted speed limit. Well... the faster I go, the more the bike vibrates. Thats normal. The handle bars is where most of the vibration is felt. The GPS is mounted to the handlebars. It starts tuning off, and back on randomly. WTF! I cant ride a 12 hour rally w/o a GPS. Especially my route. The plug is in the socket tight. I lay my hand on the GPS. Its shaking like a Harley on the handle bars. I slow down a bit... that lessens the reboots. Speed up... reboots more. I figure I will deal with it until the next stop. About 20 mins from the next bonus it starts sprinkling. Now I have to stop to cover the GPS with the ziplock, or the rain will kill it. I figured my only other option in mounting was the windshield suction cup mount I brought on a whim. I stuck it on there, ziplocked it, and duct tapped it shut to keep the water out. Off I went. Got it up to speed... no vibrations. It didn't turn off again... SCORE. 5 mins wasted on the side of the road though. I'm just hoping it doesn't loose suction and fall off. On to the bonus.
Most the bonuses have a paragraph description, since they are usually historical in some way. This one was called "Off the Beaten Path". To me this meant, most likely, a dirt road. No problem. Ed's Last Resort is on a dirt road. When I turned down the first road, it showed 6 miles to destination. It was paved. Cool. A mile later, it turned to dirt. Crap. I slowed down, since it was hard packed and rippled really bad. It was shaking me to death. I'm idling for about another mile, then w/o warning, that hard packed dirt tuned to sand. The front wheel dug in, tuned right full tilt, and came to a complete stop. Immediately! We went down. Holy F'n Sheeiit!!! Lesson two. Don't drive on loose sand roads! I immediately jump up, put he kick stand down, and throw the bike back up on two wheels. All 600 lbs of it! Mirror is bent back, air scoop on the fairing is busted off on one end, but nothing too bad. I shoved the vent, back into its hole. Sheeit! Cranks right up. Good. Nothing but sand the next 5 miles... no f'n way. I'm just going to turn around and head back to the main road, and skip this one...... 5 mins later, I finally got it turned around and headed out. Sand pits are not easy on a 600 lb street bike and street tires. Now I'm really behind, and no points. What else can go wrong! I'm barely into this and already have GPS issues, dropped the bike, and missed a bonus. One more thing goes wrong, and I'm done.
I get back on the pavement, and head south. I'm one mile into FL, and my next stop is 150 miles south in New Smyrna Beach. Bike is feeling Ok after the fall, and the GPS still hasn't shut off. Looking better. But I have a lot of time to make up, and I can't miss any more bonuses or my route IS the sucker route. I was on the west side of Jax so I got on I-295 and continued south around Jax. 295 is normally 80 - 85mph, bumper to bumper traffic so I should be able to keep the pace up pretty high. UNLESS you fall in behind an FHP car. Speed limit it is... for about 10 miles. Finally he pulled off and traffic picked back up. Traffic was pretty thick all the way to Daytona, but I was able to keep the Connie in the 80s most the way. I was making OK time. Still gaining time so thats good. I guess. But my GPS, being the cheap-o one, does not let me set an entire route. So I only know how long to the next stop... not total time. I had 5 stops to make in FL, make the turn, and head back to the house. I've included 2 'throw away' bonuses back in GA, that if I was short on time I could skip. I just won't know how good I'm doing on time, until after the last FL stop. Plus at some point I have to take a mandatory 30 min break at a McDonalds. I decided to get all my FL bonuses before my break, that way I had 30 mins to calculate how much time I still have and if I need to head to the house or go after the last 2 bonuses. So I'm pretty much winging it... Bubba style.
Still on back roads, I'm driving as fast as reasonably safe... passing when I can. But still making OK time. I think. I still have no idea if all the set backs were were too much to overcome on the road. I only had a 15 min window in the good according to the computer... but thats been eaten up twice over. I find the cemetery easily, but the plaque I needed for info was on the back side of the tourist building. Off the bike again. I get the info and punch in the listing for the Train Museum in Dade City, FL. Now where is another BBQ place.
Still all back roads, its 30 or so miles to the Train Museum... I passed another road side trailer selling BBQ. Swing in there real quick, and the guy was not too pleasant. No menu. So off I go again. 3 mins wasted. I found another one... this time a real building. Ran inside and asked for a menu. "Sorry. We area all out." WTF! "Oh wait, here's a breakfast menu. But there is no BBQ for breakfast." As long as it has the word Barbeque on it I'm good... and It does. Out I go w my menu. Oh wait!! This one does say BARBEQUE, but the other says BBQ. I better check the rally pacl to see if either is OK. Well... the letter of the law says it needed the WORD "barbeque"on the menu. But it didn't say BBQ was not accepted. These things matter. But I also read that I only needed ONE barbeque menu. I mixed up in my head the requirements from another wildcard bonus that needed 3 different items. Shit! All that time wasted! Oh well... Keep moving. I have what I need. Plus a backup.
I was looking for a locomotive, or caboose, or something visual on the side of the road for the train museum... nope. Just a little old train depot building with a plaque on the wall. I had to park on one side of the building and run to the other to find the plaque. Got my info, and re-read the rest bonus requirements so I don't screw that up too. All I need is a starting receipt, and an ending receipt from a McDonalds. But another bonus was a Vidalia onion, or a sauces made w Vidalia onions. I figured since I was headed to I-75, I could find an exit with a McDs and a roadside FL fruit stand/tourist trap. Don't they always have Vidalia onions... and pecan logs... and Moon Pies!?! I'm now done with the FL bonuses, and headed back to GA.
Somewhere between Ocala and Gainesville on 75, the bottom fell out of a cloud. It looked like it'd be a short afternoon shower, so I didn't bother donning rain gear in order to save the stop time. 30 MILES LATER I drove out of it. I was soaked!! But @ 80 something mph, it doesn't take too long to dry out. But I still don't know how I made it through all of it. I was sandwiched between two semis, front and back, riding in the center lane, and one in the right lane out front. It was raining like hell, and all the spray from the trucks gave me a visibility of about 20 feet. My new wind shield had no rainx on it so the water was coating the front, then rolling over to the back of it... so water on both sides and I couldn't see through. I had to sit up as straight as possible to see over the top of it. Luckily the wind kept the visor clear of water. And all this was @ 80 mph. I couldn't see cars coming up in the left lane to move over, plus, they were passing us.... so they were doing about 85. I just rode until the rain slowed enough so I could see to get out of my sandwich. Finally the rain stopped, and the sun came out, so now it was time to stick my arms and legs out to dry off. Once I finally got dried out, another storm was approaching. This one looked bad! A low ceiling of black clouds as far as I could see. It looked like an upside down boiling mud soup. This time I pulled over and threw on my rain gear over my jeans and jacket. Took about 5 mins, and I was off again into the mouth of the storm. Lightning was streaking all around me. It sounded a few times like it hit right next to me... when you hear it the same time you see the flash. It was nasty! But no rain yet. Just blackness. Once the the lightning stopped, I finally hit the rain. It was light, and lasted about 5 mins, and all was clear. WTF! Oh well. This was a cold front moving in, so the temp dropped about 20 degrees. I should be able to tolerate both jackets. I was not going to stop again to remove the rain gear, unless I had plenty of time in Valdosta at the next bonus.
All I needed was gas in Valdosta, so just outside the city, I pulled up the finish line to see how much time I had. I showed me arriving at 7:05pm... 5 mins late!!! Shit. No time to remove the rain gear now, so it was a gas and go in Valdosta. When I had figured my time check at the rest bonus, I didn't account for Valdosta being so much farther west than I thought. Time to pick up the pace. The next bonus was on the route back, so only a min or two stop there. I should be able to make up those few mins late on the road. But I also had to stop for the last wildcard bonus... a cold 6 pack of my favorite beverage. That'd be another 5 mins or so. So I had to make up almost 15 mins on the road, and had to cover 110 miles in 1.5 hours, and stop two more times, not to get in late. Luckily, through most of this, it was mostly long straight back roads, and no traffic. I was dropping time real good off the GPS now. Got to the last bonus, got the info w/o out having to get off the bike, and headed to the finish. I was only going to stop for the beer bonus if the store was on the right side of the road. So wouldnt you know it... I never passed another store on the right side of the road!! I finally saw one on the left, one car (no crowd) and pulled in there. Grabbed the 6 pack of 16oz cans of Bud Lite (I knew I would need a few) , and hit the road. Now the GPS said my finish time was 6:55. Still a pretty slim margin, and I had 30 miles to go. So once the time read 6:50 I felt pretty secure. Then I see the road blocked in front of me with people walking everywhere, cop cars and firetrucks on both sides of the road, and in the middle lane!! WTF! This is not good! I think... I just drove 650 miles, in 12 hrs to DNF 20 miles from the end!! Luckily (for me, not the drivers of the crashed cars) the road was clear on my side, so I made it through the mess with just having to slow down. I cleared it, and sped back up to speed and took it to the finish. Again, once I was back around 6:45 arrival time, I locked it to the speed limit and eased it home. I finished in 12:15 mins (15 mins early) and logged 704 official miles on my odometer... 715 or so on the GPS. I was worn out. But happy I finished on time. I got logged in as completed by the Rally Bastard and they beer checked me for the beer bonus. I then clarified that I could drink one, BEFORE I got scored since the rally pack said bring the 6 pack to the scoring table. I was good. So I downed a 16 oz beer while I gathered all my scoring paperwork. Then drank another while filling out my paperwork... maybe not the best idea. There were some riders there, and some still coming in. Dad was not there yet. So I sat down and started filling out my scoring sheet.
7pm was the end time. After 7:15, you DNF. Where's dad? DNF time came and went. Ed told me he got a call from dads wife, that he was 200 miles out 2 hours ago. He showed up around 7:30. DNF. But as Richard Buber said... if you never DNF, then you don't try hard enough. This was his 3rd I think. So he's always pushing the limit. I was still doing my paperwork we he came in. There was a trip log in the back of the rally pack, so thats where I was filling in all my bonuses. Got it all neat and pretty, then dad said "You know you have to put all that info in the rally pack, not in the log right?" Crap. Now I have to go back and transpose the info again! I get that done... organize all my receipts... and go sit in front of Donna Phillips. Were going through it all, and get to the Mt Dora Lighthouse. I show her the photo, and the gas receipt that says Mt Dora, and that there was no sign to be seen talking anything about the light bulb in the light house. She accepted it. All the bonus locations points were good. I didn't loose one... Except for the last one I forgot to write down. I missed writing it in on the second transposing of the data. Good thing it was only 30 something points. Now for the wild cards. Got the beer bonus. Got the Vidalia onion. Got the no speeding ticket bonus. Time for the gas in 2 states bonus. The gas bonus in Valdosta was my only gas stop in GA. I couldn't use one receipt for 2 bonuses. So I forfeited the regular bounus for the 2 state bonus since it was worth more. 60 points lost there. Now the big blunder... the rest bonus. Rally pack stated it was a mandatory 30 min bonus. My check-in was 2:00, but my check out was 2:29. Only 29 mins!!! She said no. It has to be 30 mins. I pleaded since the rally pack was wrong about the coordinates for Gator Joes, and that I wasted 10 mins figuring out their mistake, that should more than account for the 1 min short on the rest time. She asked the other Rally Bastard... Jim Phillips. He asked me if I knew when I got the receipt that I was 1 min short. I said yes. He said nope! Stop was too short. There goes 450 points!! So I ended up loosing 500 points at the table, and 100 something by missing the bonus when I dropped the bike. So I was down 600 - 700 points than what I planned on getting. Well... I hope more people screw up like me so I have a chance to finish in the top 10 now. Off I go to tell dad the whole story of the trip and get his reasoning for being so far behind... And EAT!!!
Cape Fear 1000 rally. This rally fills up in 5 mins once posted online every year. So in theory I won $90 bucks! Cool. The rest of the night was more talkin and chattin... People said their goodbyes and headed out. Some back to the house, most back to their hotels. Me, Dad, Richard, and Ernie piled into our respective bunk beds in the cabin and got some much needed sleep.
Sunday morning breakfast was cooked up by Ed in the cabin. Pancakes, bacon, sausage... and probly some other stuff. Mr Hod Rod, Joe Sunnutti gave a morning prayer meeting. He is a Chaplain for God Speed Ministries, and usually travels the drag racing circuits. After the services, most everything was done. Me, Dad, and Ernie headed out, and I followed them to Jax. They went South, I went West and cruised on the house... Ed's Last Resort Rally 2011 Winner. What to do next? I have a few ideas.