Monday, April 29, 2013

Garmin 665 & the 2.90 update - Grrrrrrrr

WARNING: Attempting what is written in this post may render your zumo 665 an expensive paper weight or you may have to pay Garmin for an expensive repair, or aliens may come and take you away to their planet for probing to determine why you tried this. Reader beware!


Being a tech geek I always like to have the latest features and fixes on my electronic devices. To that end, when Garmin released firmware 2.90 for my GPS I eagerly went to the bike to retrieve the unit and plugged it in and proceeded to perform the update through the Garmin myDashboard. Before I knew it I had version 2.90 installed and ready to go.

And then I rode the Heart of Texas Unique Bonus ride where I found a very serious problem. The Zumo wouldn’t reliably make/receive phone calls. The first call might work but then subsequent calls would not. Or maybe the first 2 or 3 attempts would fail with no audio but the call would connect. Sometimes this could be fixed by rebooting the phone, or rebooting the Zumo, or both. Maybe removing the pairing and starting over. This is not the sort of thing you want to hassle with while on a motorcycle and certainly not the sort of issue you want during a rally.

So today, I decided to call Garmin with a laundry list of problems. Many focused on the bluetooth issues. After a 20 minute wait I finally spoke to a customer rep named John. He was exceptionally polite and I was determined not to lose my temper as I kept reminding myself that he was likely a helpless tech support worker who could no more really fix a complicated programming issue than he could route a monkey to the moon. But I was hoping he had some helpful information that could point me in the right direction.

In the end, even though the bluetooth problems didn’t occur until AFTER I upgraded to firmware version 2.90 he said there was nothing he could do about it since my Samsung Galaxy Nexus and ATT Z431 phones were not supported devices. He went on to say that bluetooth is not a standardized protocol and manufacturers just do what they want so there’s no way Garmin can be expected to work with every phone. When I heard this I was dumbfounded. I’ve heard support desk people say some really stupid things but this took the cake. Bluetooth wasn’t a standardized protocol, I wonder what Jabra, Motorola or any of the other thousands of headset manufacturers would say to that.

Next I asked if there was a way to revert the firmware to an older release. He told me NO, absolutely not. The upgrades are permanent. At this point I recognized I was talking to someone with far too little training or he was just plain stupid. So I switched gears to deal with a mount issue which in part has to do with corrosion. He agreed to replace the mount under warranty. At that point I concluded the call.

Now, I turned to Google and the hacker community. It turns out you can revert to an older firmware version on the Zumo 665 pretty easily if you can find the update file known as a GCD file. The only trick is that Garmin hides the files because they don’t want you downloading them directly. Good old “Security through obscurity”. But that won’t stop the dedicated individuals out there.

I found a wonderful site called, they talk about all sorts of electronic devices like cell phones, laptops, GPSes and more. And they have a fantastic forum with some really smart people. I found this post where they list the last 4 versions of updates for the 665. You need to register before you can see the links but registration is free and easy.

The next question I had to answer was how to apply the update in order to revert my version 2.90 unit to version 2.80. The solution turned out to be rather simple. Find the Garmin WebUpdater.exe program on your hard drive. On my computer, it was located at
c:\Program Files(x86)\Garmin\WebUpdater\WebUpdater.exe
With the Zumo plugged into the computer already I just drug the zumo665_GCDFile__208.gcd file over the webupdater executable and released the mouse button. The webupdater started and after clicking next a couple of times it began installing version 2.80 firmware onto my Zumo.

Once the updater was finished I unplugged the GPS and put the battery cover back on. The unit detected that I was trying to install an older version of the firmware and warned that my user settings would be deleted. I agreed and pressed YES. After the update finished, the unit rebooted and I was prompted for set up information just as I would be if I had taken a brand new unit out of the box. Interestingly my home location was not lost during the upgrade while other user settings were including bluetooth pairings.

I’m now running version 2.80 and will test it for a few days. In my initial tests I noticed it also suffers from a hang up problem where you press the “End Call” button the GPS and the phone drops the call but the GPS isn’t aware of the call ending. You have to press it a second time. I don’t believe this was present in version 2.70. However, of the dozen or so test calls I placed, each and everyone of them successfully connected on the first try. I’m making progress by going backwards.

So that’s how I managed to revert my Zumo 665 back to an older working firmware release. YMMV.

The next step is to redo the XM weather alerts so they are nearly muted.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Heart of Texas 2013 Endurance Rally

Saturday 4/27: It was 12:30am, when I checked my email on the phone. I’d been laying in bed for the past 2 hours waiting to fall asleep. I was just too anxious to begin the rally. I found the extra bonuses in my inbox, James, the rally master had sent them out the morning of April 27 just as he said he would.

There were 3 additional bonuses available. The first was to find 5 firemen, get them to stand behind the bike while holding the rally flag and stand in the photo with them which meant I needed a 6th person to take the photo or figure out how to use the timer feature on my camera. This was worth 175 points. The second bonus was to get a photo of a uniformed motorcycle officer on his bike holding the rally flag which was worth 150 points. And the last one was to get a gas receipt in 4 different Texas towns starting with the letter “I” for 250 points.

Google was my friend and I quickly found the 17 cities starting with the letter “I”. I entered them all into Basecamp and realized only 2 were remotely close to my route. And the amount of re-routing I would have to do wasn’t worth the effort at this point. The largest concentration of “I” cities were up near Dallas. I decided that last minute bonus was given to help balance out the points for people starting above Dallas as they didn’t seem to have the chance at a high scoring route up there like we did from Texas City or South Padre Island.

With the new bonuses sorted out, I went back to bed to lay down. I think I caught a 30 minute nap at some point. Finally 3:30am arrived and I sprung out of bed and got myself out the door 40 minutes later. The GPS showed 4:14am as I left the driveway. I knew I had plenty of time so I wasn’t in a hurry. It was 5:10am when I rolled into Texas City and parked in front of the phoenix sculpture. I took a practice photo to see how things looked. Then I scouted around to make sure there wasn’t another phoenix sculpture anywhere. I made my way over to a gas station to top off the tanks. Went through the What-a-burger drive-thru for breakfast tacos and headed to the ATM just around the corner from the bonus. With 30 minutes to spare I watched as 4 other riders came into town, scoped out the bonus and headed for the gas station. I expected another rider to see what I was doing and start from the bank with me, but no one did. So I waited.

DSCN0087When both my GPS and cell phone clocks read 6:00am I completed an ATM transaction and retrieved my receipt. The time was 6:01am. I was on the clock! I recorded the mileage and stuffed the receipt into my receipt box and took off to the bonus. I worked quickly at the bonus and by 6:04 I was leaving the bonus. On my way out of town, I was surprised to see the 4 other riders standing around at the gas station. I honked at them and kept moving. I later found out they were waiting on the pumps which were 10 minutes off. Ouch!!! That’s why I like ATM receipts.

DSCN0089 The next bonus was in Angleton. I was supposed to get the Heart of Angleton sign at the corner of Miller and Loop 274. The ride over to the bonus felt excruciatingly slow. I just had to remind myself it was only the beginning of the rally and the pace would be slow until I got away from the coastal cities. The GPS seemed to take me the long way into town but it turned out to be a fortuitous thing since the bonus wasn’t exactly placed where the coordinates were but rather a half block up the street on Loop 274. I gave up a couple of minutes searching to make sure I wasn’t missing the sign at the given location and then snagged the sign around the corner. 

As I was leaving town I saw a few more Heart of Angleton signs but believed I had gotten the right one. So far the first 2 bonuses weren’t exactly where the GPS coordinates placed them. I either missed the first bonuses or the Rally master was being tricky. I accepted the fact that I would find out at the scoring table.

When I got to West Columbia I was pretty much in my back yard and hustled up Hwy 36, caught the back road up to Hwy 90a and scooted over to Shiner for the next bonus. The Spoetzl Brewery building, aka the home of Shiner beer. It was 8:50 when I pulled into the parking lot. Fortunately they weren’t open and no one was in my way. I took the photo, logged the time and mileage in my notebook and read the next bonus. Total stop time was 1 minute 21 seconds, it doesn’t take long to get a photo.

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From Shiner I headed north up to I-10 so I could cut over to Hwy 77 and get up to Ammansville. As I road into Flatonia I saw the firestation was open with all of the vehicles parked outside. I pulled up, walked inside and started asking for help with my fireman’s bonus. When I told them it was the highest scoring picture on my scavenger hunt and they were worth more than a motorcycle cop they were really interested in helping. The stop took 5 minutes but the 175 points were worth it. I thanked them all, recording things in my notebook and hustled out of town.

DSCN0095 I was so excited that I had bagged the extra bonus that I wanted to call Reagan. Well it wasn’t meant to be thanks to the Zumo and it’s messed up bluetooth stack. A call to Garmin is definitely in order. After multiple failed attempts at making a call, I found myself in Schulenburg and heading north on Hwy 77. It was a quick jaunt down a country road from Hwy 77 to get a photo of the St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Ammansville. On my way into the community I met Jim Orr who was already leaving. I wondered how he had gotten ahead of me and then decide he must have passed me while I was in Flatonia. Another 90 second stop and I was leaving the bonus and headed for Elgin.

Getting through La Grange was mildly annoying as I encountered traffic which didn’t want to go the speed limit. But once I reached Hwy 71 things cleared out a bit and I was able to move along at my desired pace. In Bastrop I took a little detour which shaved a little time and got me headed up Hwy 95 toward Elgin. The fine folks at the roadway commission should really consider widening Hwy 95 between Bastrop and Elgin. Or at least put in more passing zones.

DSCN0096 When I got to Elgin, I followed the GPS right to the coordinates, jumped off the bike and got the picture of the sign. The trash cans provided a convenient location to hold my flag. Since the bonus description said to get a picture of the “City of Elgin” sign I looked around to make sure there wasn’t another sign that I was missing. After all, this was the Chamber of Commerce sign. No other sign found so I left for the next bonus in Florence.

Hwy 290 toward Austin, isn’t the quickest road. Despite the continued growth in the area, the state just hasn’t kept up with the roadways needed for the population. It’s been that way since I was a little kid. So getting from Elgin over to the Tx-130 tollway was a test of patience. So far I had managed to build a 60mph overall average. I needed 66mph if I was going to try for my big 2nd half.  I knew I was still increasing the average so I didn’t let the traffic bother me. By the time I reached the north end of the Tx-130 tollway I had increased my overall average to 61mph thanks to the liberal 80mph speed limit on the tollway.

DSCN0097 Getting to Florence once leaving Georgetown was a challenge. More people out for a Saturday drive and no one wanted to drive the speed limit. But I made it into Florence, found the church and got the photo of the historical marker. By now I was really hitting a stride with my stops, they were under 90 seconds. And things were going great. The only issue on my mind was finding a quick place for a bio-break. So far the bonuses had been in populated places and gas stations take too long.

DSCN0098 The ride over to Oatmeal was a quick one. I finally found myself on good country back roads with friendly speed limits and no traffic. I made good time and started to see my average climb to 62mph. I needed 66mph to pull off the big second half but felt I still had time to get those other 4mph before I had to make a decision on the route. The stop at Oatmeal provided the opportunity for a much needed bio-break as it was the first one since I’d left the house. This was also roughly the halfway mark in the route. So far I had ridden 357 miles and it was 11:52am.  While I had hoped to get there by 11:40 I was still OK on time. My total stop time for bonuses and traffic at this point was 24 minutes 40 seconds. The low fuel light was on so as I headed to Horseshoe Bay I started looking for gas. The GPS said Marble Falls would have what I needed.

As I rode into Marble Falls I spotted an Exxon for gas and then noticed Hwy 281 was bumper to bumper. I was concerned about the traffic so while I was refueling I searched on the GPS for an alternate way across the river. Nothing! No reasonable detour to get me across the water. When I pulled out of the gas stop I showed a total of 35 minutes 4 seconds stop time and my overall average was down to 59 mph. I remained as level headed and calm as possible. Jumping off onto one of the side streets would only get me delayed further so I waited in the traffic.

When I finally made it across the bridge my total stopped time had jumped to 50 minutes and 49 seconds. I was really hot under the collar when I discovered the whole reason for the lengthy delay was due to a Triathlon being held in the area. OK, anyone who follows my blog knows that I don’t really care for bicyclists on our roadways. But honestly bringing traffic to a complete halt and delaying travelers by 15 minutes or more across the ONLY bridge in the area is irresponsible on the city’s part and rude on the part of the organizers.

DSCN0099 By the time I got over to Horseshoe bay, I was cooling off again and focusing on the task at hand. I rode into the resort and pulled up to the fountain. I reminded myself that getting hit while crossing the road in a turn around would be a bad story for the blog. I crossed the street and framed the picture. A friendly motorist waited for me to get the picture and get safely back to the bike before entering the turn around. That single minute pause on their part really lifted my spirits as I recorded the bonus and left the resort. Enchanted Rock was next.

I made my way over to Hwy 71 toward Llano, wishing I could find a county road going west over to Hwy 16 and Enchanted Rock. Then I hit my second delay caused by that ridiculous triathlon. The sheriff’s department closed Hwy 71 for bicyclists riding up to the intersection of 2233 and Hwy 71. The backup was at least a mile long. This only cemented my belief that bicycles don’t deserve to be on our roadways. When they require special police intervention of traffic flow that is WRONG!@!@!@!@! This delay cost me more stopped time as the number increased 55 minutes and 22 seconds and my overall average had fallen to 54mph.

DSCN0100 Being the optimist I thought when I got onto Hwy 16 out of Llano I would be able to pick up the pace and dash down to Enchanted Rock. Well…. every Stoner in the area must have been out for their flower sniffing drive because every car I passed was going at least 10 under the posted speed limit. And it continued along RM 965 to the Enchanted Rock entrance. I recorded the bonus and started to figure out what I was going to do. The delays caused by the triathlon had put my whole rally in jeopardy of a DNF or a dismal finish without completing the progressive bonus.

It was 1:53pm when I left Enchanted Rock. That was far too early to call it quits and head to the barn but my GPS was telling me I’d be late to the finish even following my base route and dropping the difficult bonus at Rio Frio. The only thing that gave me hope was the fact that below Kerrville I knew the roads and knew what was possible.

After clearing Frederickburg and heading south on Hwy 16 my GPS told me I would arrive at the finish by 6:07pm. That was 7 minutes late and meant that I would DNF. But if I cut any more bonuses I would lose the 500 points of the progressive bonus and any chance of a decent finish was gone. I knew I had to be smart and efficient for the next 4 hours. No mistakes, no delays.

The first opportunity for efficiency was in Kerrville, the GPS wanted to drag me through town but I knew better and took Loop 534 around town down to Hwy 173. This simple adjustment allowed the arrival time to drop to 6:06pm and I didn’t have to speed to gain the time. Once on Hwy 173 it took every bit of restraint not to crank up the speed to a comfortable 75mph. The speed limit was 55 leaving town and my cruise control helped control my speed. When the limit did rise to 70mph my choice of speed followed.

DSCN0101 I reached Bandera and left while managing to gain another minute on the arrival clock. It now showed 6:05. Still late, still a DNF. But there was hope. Once on FM 470 I was in my element and had the road to myself. I enjoyed the twists and turns and the wide open spaces. This was not an area for cruise control. As I road into Tarpley I went straight through town and stopped on the west side to get the “west Tarpley town limits” sign. For once my reading comprehension had paid off. This stop was under 60 seconds.

From Tarpley my original route had me dropping down through Utopia and over to Rio Frio for a 75 point bonus. However I knew about the road construction between Utopia and Rio Frio so I dropped the bonus and headed north on FM 187 through Vanderpool. FM 187 to Hwy 39 to Hwy 83 was a nice long ride to get into the grove of things. And with no traffic to speak of the time slipped off the GPS. The arrival time showed 5.59pm when I reached the intersection of Hwy 41 over to Rocksprings. Things were looking up.

When Hwy 41 reached US 377, I turned south to Rocksprings. As I rode into town I saw a historical marker on the left but my GPS said my waypoint was another 300 ft ahead on the right. Sure enough it was in front of a historical marker. I snapped the photo, recorded things and turned around. The next bonus in Telegraph was on the road I was on so there was no way to miss it.

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The stretch of road from Rocksprings to Telegraph was fun. I mean really fun. Lots of twists, turns and even some elevation changes. Plus a complete lack of traffic. I pulled off the road in Telegraph, snapped the photo and took off. I was feeling pleased with myself as I had completed the progressive bonus so now all I had to do was get to Brady on time and the GPS indicated I could do just that.

I proceeded up 377 through Junction and followed my base route toward the end. As time passed I continued to see time slip off the GPS arrival time so I decided to collect the Hext Post Office bonus if I could. I gave myself 2 minutes for the bonus attempt. When I got to Hext the GPS turned me left toward the town center. I couldn’t find the right building and almost gave up until a gentleman was waving at me. I pulled up next to him and asked where the post office was. He pointed up the hill and said he was sorry but there wouldn’t be anyone there this late. I thanked him and told him I only needed a picture. I found the bonus easily with his help and collected the last bonus of the day for 60 points.

Now all I had to do was ride the last 24 miles to the finish without getting stopped for any reason. When I reached Hwy 190 I depended on my cruise control to curtail my overwhelming desire to twist up the throttle. As I rode into town I spotted a side street next to the school which would take me right to the hotel and avoid a couple of stop lights. I rolled into the hotel parking lot at 5:56pm with 4 minutes to spare. I was the last rider to make it in and the Rally master was there to greet me.

After a few brief greetings to fellow riders, I made my way inside to pickup my scoring pack and fill out my trip log which needed to be turned in by 6:30. Using the new system with the little notepad and receipt box, it was quick and easy to neatly fill out my rally sheet and turn things in for scoring. I didn’t even look at my pictures on the SD card because I knew there was nothing I could if they were wrong. I turned in my paperwork and then relaxed and enjoyed the after ride social. I had ridden my butt off and knew I had given it my all. Now I had to wait to see how scoring went and whether 3 other LD riders I respect had figured out the puzzle better than myself.

Sunday 4/28: Breakfast and the awards ceremony was held down the street in the fellowship hall of the First United Methodist church. I thought it was a fitting end since for me personally God has been with me along the way to save my bacon more than a few times. Breakfast was great and it gave us a little more time to socialize. Awards were given out for the riders who rode 500, 1000 or 1,500 miles to collect the Unique Bonus earlier in the month. My certificate was for 1,000 miles in the 24 hour period. Steve and Rex had both ridden 1,500 mile routes for their certificates.

Then it was time for the finishers announcements. My friend Steve Bracken had shown me his score sheet which was 1,155 points. He hadn’t realized there was a 500 point progressive bonus for collecting all of the towns to spell “Heart of Texas 2013”. When James announced Steve had 3rd place with a score of 1,655 I realized a couple of things. First that he had been given the 500 points for the progressive bonus even though he didn’t know about it. Second, I knew my score was higher. Who’s name would James announce next.

Thankfully James didn’t drag it out very long and I learned I had indeed rode to a 2nd place finish with 1,820 points having ridden 720 miles. I was really happy with the result. It wasn’t so much that I had placed 2nd but more that I had planned a strong route and executed it while only dropping one bonus. Plus dragging myself from a DNF to a finisher in the last 4 hours of the ride made me feel like the biggest winner of all.

My good friend Rex LeGalley clinched  first place with a points total of 1,875. He also rode 720 miles. Afterwards he mentioned he wasn’t really sure which one of us were going to pull it off since we both had done the miles and seemed to have collected about the same number of bonuses. I was just happy that we both came up with such great routes and both had to handle the situation in Marble Falls and adjust our routes accordingly.

There were a few friends who didn’t make it to this year’s rally because of illness or scheduling conflicts. I look forward to seeing them in July for the big ride. It certainly would have been fun to see what sort of routes they would have executed given the challenge of the rally.

This rally threw a twist in how I had to plan the route. It also was the first time I’ve ever really found myself in a position of a DNF and I learned that indeed I have the skills and mental determination to control myself in such a situation. Planning a 720 mile route was also the most aggressive route  I’ve ever planned in a rally to date. But at least for next year, for this rally, in this part of Texas I think something a little more aggressive is even possible, but I will have a better contingency plan incase delays throw a kink in things.

Next month I’m heading to the North East to ride in the Mason Dixon 20-20. That will also give me more challenges in routing, riding and bonus collecting as it’s not a photo bonus rally. Plus I’ll see Rex again….

Friday, April 26, 2013

Heart of Texas 2013 Endurance Rally – Day -1

Follow me on the ride tomorrow.

In just 10 hours 51 minutes I’ll be starting the clock for the 12 hour Heart of Texas 2013 rally. This year’s challenge is to spell the phrase “HEART OF TEXAS 2013”. Lucky for me that I got the Unique Bonus earlier this month so I’m starting tomorrow with the 2013 already satisfied. That leaves me with 11 bonuses to collect on my way to Brady, Tx. In order to score points though I have to travel to specific cities to get the letters. Some of the bonus locations available include Anthony, South Padre Island, Texas City, Hemphill and Texarkana to name a few. And of course there are lots more, 77 in total.

I’ve got an optimistic route plan that can score in the 900’s if executed completely. Even if I have to shed a few stops I can still finish in the 800’s. So I’m satisfied with my route selection this year. But don’t look for me in Brady until just a couple of minutes before 18:00, I definitely won’t be early and I can’t be late.

For a bike that is supposed to be rally ready, I sure had to do a lot to it over the past 2 weeks. I put on a new rear tire yesterday, got 15,323 miles out of the last one. Woooohoooo! I also had to re-mount my Valentine 1 and Spot as the old mounts wouldn’t work with the Aeroflow windshield. Oh that’s right, I got a new windshield to help with the noise I’m noticing in my new Shoei Neotec helmet. I also purchased an AT&T Go phone as a backup for my “Can you hear me now” phone. Let’s face it, there are spots in Central and West Texas where the little guy just hasn’t gotten too yet. So it’s nice to have a backup cell connection. At $2/day of use for unlimited talk and text without a contract I can handle that. My wife graciously gave me her old Eddie Bauer Fanny pack which I strapped across my aux fuel cell to keep the motorcycle cover in. This will give me more space in the saddle bags plus the pack is a little larger than the original cover bag so it’ll be easier to pack and unpack on my rest stops.

I’m going completely minimalist on this trip as far as what I’m packing. Besides my standard riding gear I’ll take a pair of pants and boxers. LD Comfort base layer folks, it’s the only way to ride. I’ve also stripped down my in-rally process so that I don’t have to go to my trusty portfolio binder for anything. I have a little box for my receipts, a tiny notebook with the route listed in it where I can record times and mileage and I have a condensed version of the rally pack with my planned stops. All of that will live in my tankbag. I’d put my rally flag in there as well but it’s an 8.5x11 sheet of paper in a plastic cover so it’s staying in my side case where extra food and tools are stored. But I can get to it without getting off the bike if the picture allows it.

I also added 2 retractable id badge reels to my jacket chest pockets. The left pocket still holds the camera now on a reel long enough to put the camera arms length from me. The right pocket holds my 3 primary credit cards and speed pass for quicker fueling. Since the cards are attached to the reel I don’t have to worry about dropping them, losing them or leaving them. And the wallet with other credit cards stays safe and secure during stops.

The bike is packed with the exception of my laptop and toiletry bag which I’ll load in the morning when I fill up the water cooler.  I have a few new things to try out during this rally but they are more about refinements than completely new routines. The same goes for the changes to the bike, they are really just refinements and not completely new things.

4/27/2013 06:00 CDT the fun begins!!!!

Monday, April 15, 2013

This weekend’s adventure – the whole story

Click here to see the spotwalla map.

This post can’t be published until after April 14th in order to allow others to complete the All or Nothing Destination Challenge for the Heart of Texas 2013 Rally (Facebook).

Saturday 4/6: I was up before the alarm clock. I wasn’t in a hurry as I had packed the bike the night before. All I needed to do was grab my toiletries and get a gas receipt to start the clock. My planned start time was 4:30am but somehow it was 4:44am by the time I managed to get my receipt. No problem, I had plenty of time to cover 1,000 miles. I left town via my normal route down Hwy 59 to Spur 10, up to Hwy 36 and over to I-10.

Everything was going along quite well. Even with the minor delay at the start I was on schedule for my lunch with friends at 11am in Red Oak. As I approached Columbus, TX I started running through a check list in my head. I realized I had left my rally flag at home. I was over 70 miles away from the house already and I didn’t have my flag. Arrrrrggggg! I was pretty sure I could get by without it for the Unique Bonus picture I was going for today, but not so sure about tomorrow’s All or Nothing Destination Challenge (AONDC). So I took the exit for Hwy 71 to Austin, made the first u-turn and headed back toward the house. Some quick calculations told me I would be more than 2 hours behind and adding 140+ miles to the day’s route.

It was around 6am when I decided to call Reagan. I knew she was still asleep but I was hoping she would help me out. Because the rally flag wasn’t mandatory for the Unique Bonus which I was riding to today, I didn’t think I would have any problems with her helping me. But the experience did teach me a lesson, don’t take off without your rally flag when in rally mode. So Reagan agreed to meet me along Hwy 36 with the rally flag. That would cut the back track distance in half. Along the way I started experiencing bluetooth issues with my phone and zumo which would plague me throughout the weekend. We finally met up with each other in Wallis, I got my flag and another kiss and then I was back on track.

I was now an hour and half behind schedule so with Reagan’s help I canceled my lunch stop to try and stay closer to schedule. Traffic was light and the 75mph posted speed limit on I-10 made it easy to regain a little of the time I had lost. It was 8:28am when I stopped for gas just east of San Antonio. The stop was chosen because it’s an easy off / easy on location. Unfortunately the receipt printer didn’t work so I had to go inside and stand behind a mother and daughter who weren’t in any hurry. I just reminded myself I had plenty of time. And it was only a 1,100 mile ride today.

With the receipt collected I caught I-410 over to I-35N and left San Antonio. As I approached Austin the GPS kept trying to route me onto the toll road but I ignored it thinking I could make equally good time through town since it was a Saturday. And for the most part I started to gain time when the GPS gave up and left me on I-35. But then a traffic alert popped up saying I’d be delayed a couple of minutes. Try 28 minutes!!! There was a wreck near Round Rock and the LEOs had closed the freeway, diverting 4 lanes of traffic onto the shoulder.

Once I cleared that I looked at my arrival time. I was still on track to arrive before dark at least. So I soldiered on, resisting the urge to crank on the throttle excessively. The cruise control was my friend.

When I got to the I-35 split north of Waco, I took I-35E to head into Dallas. As an added challenge to the ride I was dropping off an old fuel cell for a fellow rider in this year’s IBR. I figured the urban landscape would give me some extra practice of hunting bonuses in such an environment. Let me just say, folks in Frisco, Texas sure make it interesting. I had soccer moms darting across 4 lanes of traffic with no concern for themselves or others. It was interesting. But I managed to find the house and make the drop off. I treated it just like a bonus location and I was gone in a flash.

I got back over to I-35 heading north toward Oklahoma City. Along the way I popped into a McDonald’s to get a few cheeseburgers for lunch and dinner. With the nice tail wind that had been following me since San Antonio I was enjoying some great gas mileage and didn’t stop for gas until I reached Purcell, OK just south of OKC. This time the gas pump’s receipt printer worked and I was done with the stop in short order.

The GPS kept trying to route me around OKC instead of going into town. But I really want to stay on the interstate and ride into the city. So I kept ignoring the navigation prompts until I got to I-240 which I took west and followed the signs to I-40.  I found another traffic jam this time caused by a construction crew replacing a steel beam on a bridge where an oversize load impacted it, delayed 10 minutes this time.

With OKC in my mirrors I was heading west back into Texas. The ride through Amarillo was uneventful and it looked like I was wouldn’t need to stop for gas prior to reaching my bonus location. I left I-40 when I got to Vega, TX and turned south. I stopped quickly to put my electric jacket back on as the temperature was starting to drop as the sun disappeared on the horizon.


It was just after 9pm when I arrived in Friona. The instructions for the bonus said to send a Spot OK message and/or take a picture of the motorcycle with the road sign. I did both just to be on the safe side. I was using the camera in my phone to get the picture so I could send it via email and text. It took quite a few attempts to get the lighting sufficient. Thankfully I was caring my LED spot light.

As I was leaving the bonus I saw a local motel just around the corner. Ooops, didn’t find that in my google map search efforts. I already had reservations at the Travel lodge in Clovis, NM so I headed that way. I stopped to fill up in Texico, NM because I didn’t want to get caught in the middle of the night waiting on a gas station to open tomorrow morning.

My stay at the Travel Lodge was ok but not spectacular. The rail road runs parallel to the main road where all the hotels are. And my air conditioner was noisy. But it was already 10pm when I got into my room so I just dealt with it. To make matters more interesting. I had a spam attack problem on my email server so I had to take an hour to resolve that and lock things down. Once finished I grabbed some sleep.

Sunday 4/7: I was up and out the door by 5:30am, I wanted to get back to Friona by 6 to get started on my All or Nothing Destination Challenge. I arrived back at the sign just a few minutes after 6 and then struggled with the phone and bluetooth issues. I was finally able to get in touch with the Rally master and he gave me my first challenge. He explained the rules like this:

I would be going to 3 destinations in order to complete the challenge.
The first destination was worth 150 points.

In order to find the first destination I had 3 choices to pick from:

North South East West
Name it

Since I had decided yesterday that if I were given a set of choices I would pick the middle one, that’s what I did. So he gave me GPS coordinates to my first location. Note that I said “location” and not destination. Part of the challenge was that in order to get to each destination I would have to travel to 1 or more “locations” to find instructions to the destination. My start time was 6:24am and I had 6 hours to reach the end. My first location was N35 44 36.1 W101 18 10.8 where I would find a Heart of Texas sticker with further coordinates on it.

I punched the coordinates into the Zumo 665 and left Friona. The route showed I was heading back through Amarillo and then northwest out of town. I was a little concerned with the GPS because it was didn’t actually show the destination as being on a road but rather in a field. I was also wondering about my rear tire as it had over 13,000 miles on it already. Getting stuck out on the back roads of north Texas on a Sunday didn’t sound too good to me. But I wanted to find out how many miles I could get out of the Michelin PR3 so I put that worry out of my mind.

As I headed up Hwy 116 I started to worry that I had written down the wrong coordinates, when I got to a hill top I tried to call to verify. Bluetooth issues prevented me from making a successful call and when the rally master returned the call it went to voice mail so I just had to trust that I had written it down correctly. Just before reaching Stinnett I turned off onto a rural road which my GPS told me was the way to the bonus. I stopped the bike dead in it’s tracks when I reached a cattle guard into a ranch that said “No Trespassing”. I felt pretty sure the rally master wouldn’t send us into an illegal situation so I back tracked to the main road where I was able to get cell reception.

I punched in the coordinates on the 550 and confirmed them with the rally master. It turns out the Zumo 550 had a different idea about how to reach the location, so I followed it back through Borger and around to FM280. The Zumo 665 kept telling me to go the other way until I was a mile from the bonus on FM280. Then it agreed with the older 550. Strange really since both had the same maps.

When I arrived at the location I found a road sign but no sticker. I got off the bike and started walking around the pole looking up and down to take into the entire sign. Then I saw it, on the backside of the pole, right at eye level. A sun faded Heart of Texas sticker with coordinates:

N34 47 54.02 W101 26 10.1  - Historical Marker

Great! That was 77 miles away to the south and I didn’t know if it was the destination or just another location to get to the first destination. I hoped it was the destination and hustled south. Along the way Reagan called to wish me a good morning and we talked for a little while as I zipped back through Borger and headed south.

When I got south of 287 on FM 207 I started finding wonderful twisties. I thought to myself, this just had to be the first destination as the scenery was too cool. Plus I had already ridden more than 250 miles this morning and I didn’t think the RM would make the challenge more than 350 miles since we only had 6 hours to complete it. I arrived at a gorgeous lookout and found a historical marker with another Heart of Texas sticker. This time I had to call the RM to verify I was there. When we spoke he asked me a couple of questions and then made sure I had found the location for the next destination. His final words were “We’ll see you there soon.” I punched in the intersections, I was headed to Wild Bill’s @ 6th and Maryland in Amarillo, TX.

On the way back up FM207 I opened up the throttle a bit and had some fun with the road. It wasn’t that I was in a hurry, I was just really enjoying the twisties. Along the way I passed Betsy Young who was also riding the AONDC challenge. I thought she had started ahead of me and was going to be late as it was 10:25am when I left the first destination giving me 2 hours and her something less than that.

I arrived at Wild Bills at 11:19am. I still had more than an hour to finish the AONDC. I wasn’t sure if I had to go anywhere or do something there. I was greeted by the RM and his family. I asked if I had somewhere else to go or if the challenge was here. He told me I’d be riding some more. I ditched the helmet and earplugs so I could hear the instructions and then sat down at a table to see what awaited me.

As I sat there he dealt 3 cards, saying those 3 cards would tell me where to go to find the final destination. He assured me all of the locations and the destination were within the Amarillo city limits. Without looking at the cards I was allowed to trade in 1 card and get another from the 4 remaining. I opted to trade in the 2nd card and took the 2nd of the 4 available. This followed along with my plan of taking the middle choice each time. When the cards were turned over he started telling me what location numbers I would go to. Then when he turned over the 3rd card it showed the queen of hearts. I was informed that meant I could ride straight to the destination and I was given a photo and told to find the destination.

heartofamarillo I could ask anyone, I could call anyone, I could google, I could get any outside help. I asked him what the place was known as to locals, he called it the Heart of Amarillo.  Instead of talking to locals there at the bar, I opted to go to google. I figured I’d find it quickly with a name. Verizon’s voice service works in Amarillo but the 4GLTE doesn’t. So I resorted to my backup plan which was to call Reagan. She wasn’t near a computer but had her phone so with a little searching she found it.

It wasn’t clear what the address was exactly but we knew I was on the right street so I head east on 6th Ave reading out cross streets as I went along. Finally I recognized the buildings in the photo, pulled up onto the sidewalk and collected my destination photo. I just had to return to claim the challenge.

A short ride back down the street to Wild Bill’s and I collected the points. That’s when I found out Betsy was actually behind me on the clock and had sufficient time to complete the challenge. So I stuck around to watch her go through the 3rd challenge. She wasn’t so lucky and didn’t get the queen of hearts but instead had to find 3 locations in town then return only to be given the same photo. Betsy being Betsy, she charmed the locals and quickly got the directions to the final destination and then returned with here photo.

We all sat around for a couple of hours visiting. It was after 2pm when it dawned on me that I needed to get home. So I paid for my meal and iced tea. Then geared up to hit the road. By this time the bar was filled with Banditos, they were cool and I didn’t have any problems.

I left Amarillo pretty much the same way I came in, heading back east on I-10 to 287. I stayed on 287 until I reach Ft. Worth. Along the way Betsy passed me at a gas stop and then I caught her until she pulled off for gas. I cleared the Fort Worth area as the sun was setting and stopped for gas just north of Waco. Even though the receipt printer worked I took a couple of extra minutes to go inside for a bio break.

From Waco I picked up Hwy 6 down to Hempstead and then into Houston on Hwy 290. The Zumo 665 wanted to send me down Hwy 6 which is riddled with stop lights. So I opted to take Beltway 8 around. Once there though, I discovered the tollway was closed from 290 around to I-10. I was forced onto the feeder roads with all the other unsuspecting travelers.

I collected my final receipt at the Exxon where I had started yesterday morning. It was 11:08pm. I had ridden 2,093 miles in 42 hours 24 minutes. The rear tire still looks good with 14,600 miles and I should reach 15,000 on it before needing to replace it.

Friday, April 5, 2013

This weekend’s adventure

It’s time for a weekend of training. I’m heading north this weekend. I’ll go as far as OKC on Saturday and stay in Clovis, NM overnight.

Spotwalla Link to follow me. (Removed)

Depart: 4:30am Saturday
Obtain a Bonus: 9pm-ish
Rest in Clovis: 10pm-5:30am
Begin collecting more boni: 6am Sunday
Return Home: 10pm-ish Sunday.

It’s gonna be a full weekend and close to 2,000 miles. A full write when I’m done of course.

Update 04/08/13: I finished my ride successfully this weekend. In accordance with the rules of the rally, I can’t share information on the Unique Bonus and the All or Nothing challenge because the window of opportunity is still open. It will close on April 14th, and I already have the post queued and ready to go. So check back on April 15 after midnight to read, “The weekend’s adventure – the whole story”.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Riding for a cause

Anyone who knows me knows I don’t need a reason to ride my motorcycle. Heck, a day ending in “y” is a good enough reason for me. But sometimes there can be a cause for riding as well.
IMG_20130402_124512Last month I found an email in my Inbox that told me to enter the MS5000. What??? I don’t ride bicycles. Wait, that’s the MS150. The MS5000 is for motorcycles and the concept is simple. Between April 1, 2013 and May 20, 2013 a participant needs to ride 5,000 documented miles. That’s easy enough, considering I’m already entered in the Heart of Texas Rally which will help be add at least 2,000 miles to the odometer this month.
I’ve set a small goal for myself to raise $500. The folks at the National MS Society have even made it easy for me by giving me a fund raising page. Visit my page. And if you want to see how all of us are doing, checkout the group fundraising page. I hope to at least get to the $100 mark soon, as then I’ll get a T-Shirt.
So I’ve sent in my start receipt and rode to a client’s site today. I only have 4,981 miles to go.