Monday, July 4, 2011

My First Rally

Still not owning a bike, I entered Ed's Last Resort Rally 2009.  I (at the time) still had very little knowledge about rallies, how to plan a route, or most importantly... how they are scored.  But dad is loaning me his Victory, a GPS, and a map.  All I need :)  I took a computer to try the 'pro' way to plan a route, but that was more learning than the amount of time I had.  Luckily, Ed's rally is a return to origin rally... you start and end at the same location.  I borrowed a pop up camper from the mom-in-law, bought some Wally-World motorcycle gloves, a 6-pack of 5 hour energy,  3 diff types of pain relievers for a planned sore ass, and some Starbucks canned coffee.  That should be enough to keep me awake 12 hours on the bike.  Off to my first rally.
I get to Ed's Last Resort... which Ed has turned into a nice little campground with power hook ups, a stocked fishing pond, and IIRC, the house his mother grew up in, or the house he grew up in.  Either way an old country cabin that he had moved to the location.   Its a real quaint set up, right in the middle of hundreds of acres of farm land in Surrency, GA.  There is also a covered carport/barn/outdoor diner where all the festivities take place.  Since its all on location, and not a hotel... and the food is primarily cooked on site.  The entry fee covered dinner on Fri, doughnut breakfast on Sat, BBQ dinner and live music Sat night, and a pancake breakfast on Sun... All hand made right there.  Some people just come for the food and entertainment for the weekend, and don't actually ride in the rally.  They call that in the culture, an RTE.. or Ride To Eat.  This year there were 11 bikes that started, but about 30 people onsite for the event.  I got there a bit early to set up the camper, then waited for everyone else to show up.  I met Ed Tillman for the first time, face to face.  Then I met the special guest this year, who was John Ryan.  Hes the one I mentioned in the last blog, who had just completed his 84 hr, Alaska to Key West trip.  He was well know before that ride, and is now a Legend.  Ed keeps good company! Everyone started showing up on bikes, in campers, trucks pulling bikes, bikes pulling trailers...  There were Harleys, BMWs, Hondas, Kawasakis, Yamahas, and others I couldn't identify. Cruisers, Tourers, Dual Sports, and maybe a rocket in there.  All kinds of bikes, and all kinds of people.  Most were seasoned rally veterans,  since most only heard about the rally at other rallies.  It was only me and one other newbie getting our feet wet for the first time, in our first rally.  I got to meet and talk to a few more people, and everyone was free to offer advice.  My issue was, I didn't know what to ask.... so mostly I just listened to other people talk and soaked up what I could.
Everyone floated around chatting until dinner was served.  Ed used a paddle to stir the stew of ingredients that were sometimes questionable.  It would be my first time eating pigs feet that night.  A lil chewy, but not bad.  It had fallen off the hoof, so you never knew what was in each bite.  REAL southern cooking.  ( I found out in the 2011 rally that the paddle I assumed came from a boat store 50 yrs ago, was actually purpose made for cooking... from a reclaimed board...  from an old outhouse. ) But that is the charm of Ed's rally.  No 4 star hotel banquet hall and dinner at a restaurant.  Ed is a country man, and this is how its done in the country...
After dinner, the long awaited drivers meeting happens.  This is where the Rally Master... also affectionately known as the Rally Bastard... hands out the rally packs.  In your pack is all the bonus locations and wild card bonus info.  They go over a few rules, answer any questions,  and clarify any misunderstandings in the pack.  There is also a white envelope in the pack.  We had to put  our license and insurance card in the envelope,  seal it up,  and the rally bastard initialed the envelope.  One of the wild card bonus is extra points for not getting a speeding ticket.   So if you get back w the envelope intact, the points are yours.  This is to discourage speeding.  When all the questions are finally  answered, everyone scattered like cock roaches!  I knew then these guys were serious... off they went with the packs and computers back to hotel rooms or far corners of the carport to blast the bonus location into the computers, optimize the route, and upload it to their GPS units.  I had a map and post it notes.  My dad helped as best he could, but he was planning his own route.  So me and the other newbie, Ernie, sat together w our maps and plotted the locations as we found the cities.  The locations were all the way up into North Carolina, over into Alabama, and as far south as Key West.  But most were in GA.  We spent a few hours laying out the locations and trying to figure the best routes to get to them, as well as pick up the wild card bonuses.  Around 11pm, I think I finally had a good route picked, so time to MANUALLY type them into the GPS.  Now again, Ed is not technically savvy.  But he had a crap load of 'off the beaten path' places he's been to over the years and gotten their GPS coordinates.  And some he's gotten from other people.  If you know true GPS coordinates... not just entering an address, but the N34.51179 W83.52669 coordinates... then you might know there are 3 ways to write a location.  And Ed had collected all three types of coordinates, and had them mixed in the different bonus locations.  The GPS I had only took one kind.  I tried to get some in there... but it wasn't working.  The other issue was, I was tired and the GPS was hard wired to the bike.  So I was sitting on the bike trying to program it, just getting frustrated.  So after about an hour...  FK it!  I had my map, and I knew where I was going.  I would program the next town I was headed to from each bonus stop, and search the town when I got there.  Off to bed.

I don't sleep well when not at my house.  Especially in a pop up camper where you can hear every noise outside around you.  I may have gotten to sleep around 2 am and back awake at 5.  Dad, Ernie, and I unload the bikes off the trailer, crank em up, and drive em to the starting location.  Now this short, 100 yd drive, was the only warmup ride I got on this beast of a motorcycle.  I'm sure I drug my feet most of the way praying I don't drop it.  But I got it there and shut it off.  This also was my only warmup ride on ANY bike in the last 5 years.  A whole 10 seconds...  And I'm about to take off on a 12 hr ride.  No problem.  I popped an aleeve and tylenol for precationary measures, and drank a 16oz can of coffee.  Over to breakfast we went.  Got to talk a lil bit of strategy, and listened to a lot more.  I already knew I was nowhere near able to win, and all I wanted was to NOT finish last.  Ate a few donuts, drank some juice, downed a 5 hour energy, and waited for the start.  The Rally Bastard walked around and got everyone's starting odometer reading, since you have to track your ride to each bonus and put your odometer reading on the rally scoring sheet at each bonus.  I took my last potty break, and donned my gear.  My plan was to let everyone start ahead of me and be the last to leave...  A) Because I hadn't ridden a bike in 5 years. B) Because the Resort was down a mile long dirt road (did I mention I hadn't been on a bike in 5 yrs) and C) I was not here to win it, so to give everyone else a minute or two head start and not be in their way.  I said my good lucks, and see ya's to dad and Ernie, got on the bike, and waited for the go signal.

The Rally Bastard said go, blew a horn, something... I don't remember, and off everyone went.  As I watched them pull out on the road, I hit the starter button on the Vic.  Nothing.  Not one turnover, or even a click... Nothing.  I turn it off, rock it a bit (maybe the starter is hung), turn it on, hit the button... Nothing.  Awesome.  Now remember... I just cranked it up and drove it over here an hour ago.  WTF!  Now its dead.  Ed and another guy come over and try taping on the starter, rocking it again... nothing.  So now we have to figure out how to get to the battery.  We manage to get the seat off, and jiggle the battery wires.  One it slightly loose, we tighten it... Nothing.  So Ed finally grabs a battery pack - jumper cable thingy, hooks it up, and she fires right up.  We put it back together, and I'm ready to go.  Ed reminded me his cell # was in the rally pack and to call him if I need any more help.  I told him my first bonus stop was 20 miles away, so if it doesn't start there, then he'd be hearing from me, and I'd be out of the rally.  And off I went... 15 mins behind everyone else.

Now this was 2 years ago, so I don't remember the details of the entire ride.  But my path took me from Baxley, Ga, up into South Carolina, followed the state line north a while, came back into GA, across into the middle of the state, and circled back down and around.  I learned real quick that having the exact GPS coordinates saved A LOT of time.  I was driving around the towns (thankfully most were teeny tiny) looking for the desired landmark.  I probly spent 20 - 30 mins on the first 3 or 4 locations until I found the locations... but I was seeing a pattern.  Nothing was really hidden, and most were on the main drag, near the courthouse.  So common sense started to set in and they got easier to find.  I was also trying to figure out the new-to-me GPS.  I'd type in the next town, it'd say 1 hr, off I'd go, and 35-40 mins later I was there.  I was always gaining time.... and a lot of it.  The GPS in my car... I was lucky to gain one minute running 85mph in 35 zone, let alone 15 - 25 mins like this one.  And I was not speeding.  Most of the time.  But I was able to settle into a rhythm,  I followed my route, and found just about all the bonuses I went for.  I had already planned a conservative route, but the GPS was not allowing me to accurately calculate just how far North-West I could go and still get home in time.   I dropped 3 locations off my original plan just in case.  No point in coming in late and loosing all the points due to late penalties.  Around noon I stopped, got something to eat and drink, and stood up for a while.  Put a call into dad's voice mail to let him know I was fine (and the bike too), and called the wife to say I wasn't dead on the road somewhere.  I was feeling really good still, not tired, not really sore... a little bit, but that was to be expected.  Took some motrin and more tylenol, downed another 5 hour energy and was off again.  I kept on my planned route and the closer to home I got, I was still dropping a lot of time off the clock.  I should not have dropped the northern most locations!  So I added a few more lower point places not far off the lower leg of the trip.  Still I had plenty of time... but no more places to go in range.  So about 9 hours in, I only had 2 more places to go.  But now I was starting to get tired.  I couldn't find the next to last bonus... Screw it,  off to the last one... couldn't find that one either... FK! And I had all the time in the world to look!  Nope.  Not gonna happen.  It was 10 miles from Eds, and the last wild card bonus was "a 6 pack of your favorite beverage"  the politically correct way to say bring some COLD BEER.  I stopped at a CVS, got the beer, and just knew this was going to be the time the battery is dead again and won't start.  I waited to put the beer in the saddle bag, until after it started... just in case I needed it while waiting for a jump start.  But she started right up... just like every other time except the beginning.  I put the resort in the GPS and headed to the farm... almost 2 hours early.

Expecting to be the first one back, I was surprised to be greeted by my dad.  Apparently, about 4 hours into the ride, his GPS showed his next location to be in the middle of the ocean.  None of his other locations would show up right.  So he mapped it home with a dead GPS and waited for the rest of us.  Now I get to learn about the scoring process.  Its pretty cut and dry, and there are NO gimmies.  If it says write some thing down, it better be written down.  If it says get a receipt, you better have the receipt.  If it says bring it to the table for scoring... you cannot get up to go get it if you forgot it in the saddle bag.  Once you are in the chair in front of the Rally Bastard... you are there till the end.  I lost a good amount of points for forgetting stuff on my score sheet.  The worst was not writing down the points for the gas receipts to 2 states.  I had the receipts at the scoring table... but since I didn't write it down...XXXX. NO points.  And after driving that far out of the way to get it.  But this is how you learn.  I was tired, but still thinking this was a lot of fun.  The most fun I'd had in a while.  We watched the rest of the riders trickle in, most within the last 20 mins of the 12 hr window.  One guy cut it close so he was flying down the dirt road, hit the grass drive way to the area, and dumped the bike.  He was fine, the bike was fine as far as we could tell, and was listed as a few mins early.  One was about 5 mins late after driving the last 200 miles home around 90mph.  He got a ticket 15 mins from the end.  Late penalty, lost the no-ticket bonus, and has to pay the ticket.  Ouch!  But everyone made it back... no accidents, 1 ticket, no mechanical failures.... oh wait.  Dad decided to load the bikes up on the trailer before it got too late and too much beer was downed.  He hit the starter on the Vic, it cranked right up.... but the starter didn't turn off. He immediately drove it to the trailer, starter whirling away, and turned it off.  Starter motor still running.  He pulled the seat, and disconnected the battery... finally the stater motor turned off.  Ok, one mechanical failure.  I'm soooo glad it didn't do that while I was 200 miles from home!  But all in all it was a good day.  Ate some dinner, they added up the points for everyone, and I met my goal.  I did not finish last!  I actually ended up in 6th place!  Not too bad for my first attempt.  On a borrowed bike.  With no real GPS.   I was happy.  I was hooked.


  1. OK. Scared as hell. Never done a rally and this will be my first one. I am going to try and find some stuff to read to figure out how this all works. I will be 3 days shy of 64 when I do this ride

  2. If this one scared you, don't read the next 2!! Ed's rallies are a lot of fun. You can make it hard like I did on the 2012 rally, or go out and have a good time. If its your first rally, make if a fun learning experience. Noone will be short of advice so ask lots of questions.