Saturday, April 28, 2012

Heart of Texas Rally–The 12 hours of fun

I was awake before my alarm went off, no surprise there. I had packed the bike and prepped everything yesterday. So all I had to do was wake, shower and hit the road. I managed to do that by 4:30 which put me on Galveston island around 5:45. So I parked at a gas station near the first bonus and waited.

I had simple goals for this rally. I wanted to ride a good ride, get all the points on my route and finish in the top half. If I managed my route correctly I’d score 3,250 points. Another rider I was in communications with this week had a 3,450 point route and I knew there was a rider coming from New Mexico who would surely ride a 4,000+ point route. So I had no delusions of winning this thing.

Here’s the itinerary that I put in the map pouch of my tank bag.

At 6:02 I filled up my tank and said “Yes” to the receipt question. Oooops, the time on the pump was 5:47am. That wouldn’t work. Instead of trying to get some help from the attendant who was just opening up, I jumped on the bike and rode less than a mile to an ATM. I jumped off the bike, left it running, got a balance inquiry with a time stamp of 6:07AM and I was good to go. Albeit 7 minutes behind.

I went over to Gaido’s Seafood to get a picture of the Giant Shrimp. No shrimp, but I knew exactly where it was supposed to be so I set the bike in place with my rally flag and took the picture.

As I was leaving, a fellow rally rider on a Spyder pulled up behind me. No time to talk as I knew I was behind schedule. I needed to be at the next bonus in 1 hour.

As I rolled into Alvin, Tx on Hwy 6 @ Hwy 35 I saw a group of motorcycles meeting up for a ride. Perfect!!! I’d snag my Group Photo bonus early. Here’s the instructions for the bonus.


And here’s my photo


Notice anything missing? How about the “on their motorcycles” part.  Doh!!!! No points for me on this one.

I arrived at the Brazos Bend Park bonus at 7:19, that was 14 minutes behind schedule. I bagged the bonus and took off.

Fortunately I was on very familiar roads so I was able to make some time as I traveled the back roads of the area. I reached LaGrange and the Monument Hill State Park at 8:50. I had managed to catch up with my schedule.

The next stop was Palmetto State Park near Lulling. I considered getting gas at the Bucees there but changed my mind due to the crazy number of people doing the same thing. I arrived at the park entrance at 9:39, 8 minutes ahead of schedule. I found a dry spot of vegetation that looked like it needed some irrigation and did my part to help out.


From there it was a 185 mile stretch along I-10 and Hwy 90 to get to Bracketville. This is the part of riding where I really want cruise control. I struggled with the wind and my speed quite a bit. Not to mention cars in the left lane doing the posted speed limit or below. Really? Move over Texas!!!

I got my first fuel stop in Seguin, 7 minutes.

I had my head down in my GPS when I got to Brackville and almost missed the cannon. I took an extra minute to eat some beef jerky while I was there. I was still 8 minutes ahead of schedule even with the fuel stop.


From there I back tracked to Uvalde where I picked up fuel stop #2, it’s not that I needed fuel, but my strategy was to get my last fuel stop in Bandera so this seemed like a convenient place to get it. The pump wouldn’t print the receipt so I lost a little time walking inside, 6 minutes.

I arrived at Garner State Park at 1:38PM, getting the photo was a little challenging because of the wind and the “lookie loos” who kept stopping to take a picture of me taking a picture. Really people???


Riding to the next stop was great, FM1050 is a fun road. I did catch up with a Texas DPS officer but I guess when he realized I wasn’t some deranged maniac he pulled over to the shoulder and let me pass. As I did he gave me a big thumbs up. Needless to say, I didn’t wear his kindness and kept the speed to a moderate pace as he disappeared in my mirrors.

I arrived at the Lost Maples Café in Utopia at 1:54PM, snapped the photo and dashed to Bandera. I was 18 minutes ahead of schedule.


I got to Bandera well ahead of schedule, as in 2:25PM. I was 35 minutes ahead of schedule considering I couldn’t get my Subway receipt until 3pm. I cruised through town looking for a gas station that wasn’t crowded, then circled back to the Shell station where I waited briefly before getting my 3rd fuel stop and the 200 point bonus. Then a ride across the street to the Subway.

OK, the Subway in Bandera is in no way a flagship store for the chain. In fact it’s probably on their “Needs improvement” list.  The girl behind the counter was no where to be found, I think she was hiding in back hoping no one would find her. At least 1/2 of the meats weren’t available and the list goes on. The kicker was that my receipt showed a time stamp 7 minutes against me. So instead of being able to get a second receipt at 3:01 for a bottle of water I was going to have to wait until 3:08. As it turned out, I didn’t get out of there until 3:15 because the girl went on her break despite the fact that I had asked her to please help me with a receipt precisely at 3pm.

I left Bandera in a blaze and arrived in Kerrville at 3:35PM (10 minutes ahead of schedule). I just pulled onto the shoulder and snapped the picture.


I took the loop around Kerrville and got on I-10 in fantastic time. The South Llano Park bonus turned out to be easy as the sign was right there at the road. I bagged the bonus at 4:25PM (30 minutes ahead). I knew I was doing OK, time-wise.

The GPS found a nice short-cut from Junction up to Brady and I was able to get to my last bonus even quicker. I snapped the Brady Butane bonus at 5:20PM.


With my bonuses collected I headed down the road to the Holiday Inn to get off the clock and start working on my rally log. I completed the rally at 5:25PM.

My final score was 2,850 points. I only lost the one bonus for the Group Photo because I failed to completely read the instructions. Otherwise I road a perfect rally. Based on points, I received 88% of the points I set out to get with only 1 mistake. It’s not a perfect rally but certainly an improvement from the last one.

When they announced the top 3 riders, I wasn’t surprised to hear they all rode more than 4,000 points. With a score of 2,850 I don’t know where I placed. But I’m happy with my rally this time, I planned a very achievable route, rode it, made only one mistake on a bonus and finished on time. That’ll work until next time.

Oh and I got to meet several great new friends whom I expect to see at future rallies.

UPDATE: So the results are in. It appears I tied for 13th place with a score of 2850. Missing the 400 photo bonus cost me 7 positions. There were a total of 32 finishers and 3 DNFs. So I accomplished my goal of finishing in the top half and I have something to work on for the next rally.

2012 Heart of Texas Rally Finisher List
1. #24 Mark Smith 4325
2. #12 Rex LeGalley 4150
3. #4 Ron Milleman 3825
4. #5 Ray Lea 3700
5. #6 Michael Hickman 3550
6. #17 Betsy Young 3500
7. #26 Nick Getzendanner 3200
8. #6 Dianne Fox 3120
8. #7 Bobby Fox 3120
9. #38 Steven Bracken 3050
10. #18 Al Landry and Liz Mrak 2925 1st 2up class
11. #22 Paul and Jenn Saccoccio 2920 2nd 2up class
12. #3 John R Smith 2900
13. #31 Stephanie May 2850
13. #34 Brian Walters 2850
14. #2 Glen Copeland 2750
14. #33 Jack Dannenberg 2750
15. #42 David and Son Trail 2625 3rd 2up class
16. #32 Andrew Tatton 2600
17. #23 Kendal Larson 2585
18. #5 Randy McCamey 2500
19. #43 Abe and Kathi Garcia 2400
20. #39 Connie Schluter 2385
21. #19 Chris Mixon 2375
22. #25 Marshall Harris 2320
22. #16 Jim Howard 2320
23. #40 Dave Schluter 2185
24. #28 Jim and Eva Patterson 2070
25. #36 Karl Zurcher 1800
26. #9 Donny Phillips 1650
27. #29 Mark “Rusty” Allen 1450
28. #30 Paul Partin 850

#27 Robert Hall
#35 Mike Getzendanner
#20 Kevin Sawatsky

My Route

Friday, April 27, 2012

Heart of Texas Rally–Day -1

Tomorrow is the 2012 Heart of Texas Rally. It’s a 12 hour rally.

Here’s my Spotwalla link to follow along. I plan to start from Galveston island at 0600 and end up in Brady, Tx before 1800 tomorrow.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Fools Rally 2012–Day 2

It’s amazing what food, a shower and some sleep will do for you.  I was up before my alarm went off and started working on my route. I discovered the problem with my GPS, some how the order of the way points had become scrambled and it had me back tracking quite a bit between a few spots. Since I was behind on my schedule though by about 2 hours I shaved a few bonuses and re-optimized the ones I kept.

I got over to the gas station just a few minutes after my 6 hour REST window was completed, filled the bike full of fuel and headed south on I-35 for 2 exits. I needed to bag my EAT bonus at the nearby McDonalds and then grab the Oklahoma City limit sign for the FOOLS bonus. By 6:45 all of that was done and I was rolling up I-35 to my first planned bonus of the day.

An old caboose in Choctaw, OK was the bonus I was after. And I drove right by it at first because I was blindly following my GPS. When I realized the GPS was in error and that I was not going to drive down some guy’s driveway I turned around and found it back down the street.

14 - CCH

Next I rode up through the country side to Arcadia, OK for the BARN bonus. When I arrived I saw a big red barn, pulled up in front of it and snapped the picture. The problem however is that I failed to read the bonus listing which said, “Take a picture of the historical marker across OK-66, just South of the red barn.” Doh!!!! That was 104 points and time lost. RTFP!

15 - BARN

The Edmond Post Office Massacre fountain was next on the list. Riding into suburbs like this one can really slow the pace. I’m simply not going to blast through 35mph zones at 70mph. That’s not me. As I was approaching the bonus I saw another rider go through the intersection in front of me. I was certain I had seen my first rally participant of the entire ride. Bagging the bonus was easy and I completed my second CALLIN bonus for additional points.

16 - EPOM

Next I went to the Memorial Park Cemetery for the WILEY bonus. As I was riding up to the cemetery the other rally rider (Phil) was coming out. I was tickled to death to see him because it gave me some sense of doing the right thing. I rode into the cemetery and found the monument exactly where the GPS showed it to be. Snapped the photo and logged things.

17 - WILEY

Next I headed south on I-235 to get the OILPNR bonus. The historical marker told the story of Oklahoma’s Oil Pioneers. As I pulled up, Phil was just backing away from the marker. It made it easier to find. Thanks Phil!


From this point the GPS put me on I-44 for a short distance before dropping me onto surface streets and a 45mph speed limit. This slowed me down for about 10 miles until I was able to get past the John Kilpatrick Turnpike, then it was clear sailing at a nice pace. I rolled into Okarche, OK and bagged the BOOZ bonus at the oldest bar in Oklahoma. It was there before Oklahoma was a state.

19 - BOOZ

I had to make a decision at this point to drop one of my bonuses, the Watanga Post Office. It was going to add an extra 50 miles to my ride for a net of 113 points. Plus the GPS wasn’t showing enough time to get the other bonuses so I dropped it.

Next stop was the Kingfisher County War Memorial which was in a cemetery. The GPS had the coordinates right but messed up on the entrance. So I took a little detour before getting my bike into place for the photo. There are a few places that I won’t ride my bike up on the side walk. A war memorial in a cemetery is just such a place.

21 - KCWM

Next stop was the Big Four School historical marker to the east of town. It was easy to find and I bagged the bonus without much of an issue.

22 - BIG4

An old retired plutonium plant in Gutherie, OK. was next along the route. If I didn’t know what it was from the rally packet I would have never suspected it to be a plutonium plant. I’d imagine there’s enough security there to cause you problems if you decided to hop the fence and go nosing around.


A stop at the First Library in Gutherie was my last bonus before I hit the interstate system again.


Then it was back on I-35 down to I-44E. I exited at Chandler to go visit the chapel at the Davenport cemetery. I was getting closer to the end of the rally.


Next stop was the Sac & Fox Veterans Memorial 4.5 miles south of Stroud, OK. While heading south on Hwy 99 I passed Phil again.

27 - SAC

Tick tick tick. The clock was running out. I had allotted myself 30 minutes plus travel time to capture the 2 last bonuses. I rolled up on the Meadowgold sign and snapped the photo with ease. I was feeling good about things.

28 - MGOLD

From Tulsa I was heading down Hwy 64. As I approached the I-44 interchange I saw a big cloud of black smoke rising in front of me along with brake lights. At the last minute I cut over to the exit for I-44W hoping to avoid the calamity. A U-turn at the next exit allowed me to get back on Hwy 64 just a few hundred yards past the problem. A tanker truck had caught fire and the entire front of the truck was completely gone. TFD were on the scene with the fire out from the time I made the U-turn to the time I got back onto Hwy 64.

I arrived at the cemetery to grab my last bonus of the day at 1:10pm. That was plenty of time I thought. I knew the section and started walking along the graves to find CPL Jared Shoemaker. Even though I had the plot location there’s no signs giving directions. Just as I was about to give up I walked right up to his grave, snapped the picture, sat there a little bit and then hot footed it to the bike. It had taken me 25 minutes to bag the bonus and I had only planned 15 minutes.

29 - JARED

When I got back on the bike the GPS told me I would be to the end at 1:51pm. Since my start receipt was 7:59am that meant I had 8 minutes to spare. There was only 1 convenience store along the way and it was on the wrong side of the street. So I opted to skip the COLD bonus (bring a 6 pack of something cold). The bonus was worth 60 points and I decided it wasn’t worth risking the possibility of DNF’ing the rally for a 6pack of cold drinks.

I arrived on time with a few minutes to spare. I wasn’t the first nor the last to arrive. But I had completed the rally within the allotted time.

After introductions and some preliminary story telling we all moved inside to work on our bonus logs. Since I had done mine along the way all I really needed to do was just organize my photos. I went the extra step of renaming them to match the bonus location. Overkill yes, but it made it easier when I wrote the blog.

The scoring process was fair and informative. I learned about my mistake with the BARN bonus and found out where the Wilson Fire Department was located. I took my bike over to the hotel where I was staying and caught a ride back to the rally master’s house for some drinks and grub. It was a great end to a great weekend.


Final results:
6959 points - 1344 miles - LeGalley, Rex
5270 points - 1160 miles - O'Conner, Phil
4891 points - 1161 miles - Getzendanner, Mike
4701 points - 1065 miles - Walters, Brian
DNF - Bracken, Steve
DNF - Durandette, Larry
DNS- Aikens, Steve
DNS - Wall, Cliff

I was the last place finisher, but I finished and that was my goal for my first rally. I maximized my points at every location by sending in a text message for 5 points. That required me to remove my right glove each time to type on the screen. I need to get a stylus or some glove tips if I’m going to do that again.

Some other things I did that could be changed:

I didn’t stay on top of my nutrition Saturday. I was wearing my heart monitor and learned that I burned 3000 calories while riding for 19 hours. However, I didn’t eat 3,000 calories worth of food. I have to fix that next time.

At each stop I was making my complete entry in my bonus log, moving the current bonus listing to the back of the book, etc. This cost me time. I’m going to just record my info in a little note pad and read the details of the next bonus location before pulling out. No more reorganizing the rally book pages while on the clock.

I loaded my entire route into the GPS which was fine except the Zumo can only have 25 waypoints in a route before it’ll go into partial route display mode. I had 30 waypoints at the beginning. And I had no real way to know if I was ahead or behind my schedule. So instead I’ll write the stops in order in my notebook with expected times that I’ll be there. I think I need to re-visit Streets & Trips or DeLorme for their routing features. MapSource is great as a way to load the waypoints into the GPS but not for timing stops and such. I also need to check out BaseCamp to see if it has better routing features like time per stop and stuff so I can quickly create a schedule based on my route.

Reviewing the planned route for traps like the dirt road debacle is also a good idea.

Route planning efficiency was definitely an area that needs improvement. But now that I’ve found the ezBake spreadsheet for Excel I can at least work a little more efficiently when trying to evaluate routes and their potential scores.

Finally I discovered that maintaining an average trip speed of 50 mph (excluding the 6 hour rest time) is quite a tall order. I managed a 44.375mph average for the rally (excluding the 6 hour rest stop). So I have to work on getting that up higher. Efficiency at the stops is paramount.

I had a blast this weekend and I’m already looking forward to my next rally at the end of the month.