Monday, April 15, 2013

This weekend’s adventure – the whole story

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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.

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