Monday, May 27, 2013

The Mason Dixon 20-20

With the Iron Butt Rally less than 6 weeks away, I thought I’d get one more rally under my belt before the big ride. As the bonus locations have been made available on the website, I thought I’d let everyone play along. Of course, if I talk to you on the phone during the rally, please don’t share information about a bonus location I’m headed to.

You can follow me here.

And here are the bonii displayed in Google. Note I’ve posted these as I coded them. The format is CODE POINTS TIME. A means any time, D means daylight (5:30a – 8:30p) and T is a time restricted bonus with a time given in military format.

The start and end of the rally is in Martinsburg,WV where I’ve placed the anchor. The only other required bonus is X43 which is available from 10a to 12p on Sunday. Can’t find X43, it’s in the same location as X37 northeast of Harrisburg, PA. Lots of places to visit and only 29 hours of riding time when you factor in the 3 hour mandatory rest stop. Which way would you go? How far would you ride?

Wednesday 5/22 – The weekend is quickly approaching and work has been hectic. After last weekend’s ride it was time to do a big oil change on the boxer. That means Oil & Filter, Transmission Oil and the Final Drive gear oil all had to be replaced. Nothing like waiting until the evening before to do it. As often happens when I’m in a hurry, I cut myself. It’s a nice gash on the left first finger. I didn’t want to stop so I grabbed the super glue and sealed the wound. It’s going to hurt tomorrow but at least the bleeding stopped. Tomorrow I’ll ride until it gets close to midnight, then I’ll stop for the night. I plan to be northeast of Chattanooga before I stop.

Thursday 5/23 – On the way out of town, I stopped by a client’s site to swap out some hard drives in their SAN. Everything went as planned and I was actually leaving their parking lot at 10am. That put me 30 minutes or so ahead of schedule. The trip was starting off on a good note.

The ride across Louisiana was the same as always. What else can I say about I-10. When I turned north on I-59 the dawning realization occurred that I would be taking this exact same route in 5 weeks. Uggggh! When I got to Birmingham, AL I decided to go through town as opposed to taking I495 around. It didn’t really add or subtract time, I just wanted to see what downtown was like. Being as it was after 7:30p traffic wasn’t a problem. I thought I was really ahead of schedule when I cleared Alabama. However I had forgotten about the time zone change and suddenly I was behind.

I breezed through Chattanooga as it was after 11pm local time. Too late for day time traffic, and too early for the drunks to be leaving the bars. As I neared Athens, TN. I realized that was where I had originally planned to stop for the day. Thinking I would be smart I booked my Motel 6 reservation on my phone a few minutes before I arrived. That was a waste of time as it seemed to actually confuse the clerk who tried to check me in. I told him I had made a reservation in the last 15 minutes, which meant he had to go into the system. I gave him the reservation number but he wanted my name. Then he made me verify my phone number, address and finally the reservation number. Really? I started with the reservation number. At least I could get a bed and shower for the evening.

Friday 5/24 – It was after 1am when I got to sleep, and the alarm went off a little after 6am. I was back on the bike by 6:45 and continuing my ride north on I-75. I dove into a McDonalds and got 4 sausage mcMuffins thinking that would take care of breakfast as well as lunch. At one gas stop along I-81 in Baileyton, TN. I had to go to 3 gas stations before I could finally find an available pump without a plastic sack over it. I’m not sure why so many pumps at so many stations were down, it worried me that I might get bad gas. But I threw caution to wind and filled up any way.

When I got to Salem, VA. I stopped in at Frontline Eurosports to schedule an appointment before the IBR. I used them last September when I was bringing my new bike home from Boston. They are nice enough folks and about the right distance from Pittsburgh for my liking. According to my route to the IBR, I’ll have around 530 miles on the bike following the service in Salem as I’m visiting some friends in Maryland on my way up.

With the appointment set, I made my way back to I-81 for the final slog up to West Virginia. The ride was uneventful, I mean it’s I-81 and the only real excitement was that I had stopped at the Welcome Center on my way into Virginia to put on my Gerbing liner as the temperature had fallen to 48 degrees. That was quite a change from Thursday’s departure where it was in the 80’s and pushing into the 90’s as I rolled across Louisiana.

I arrived at the hotel, checked in and began the rally check-in process. I was a little nervous at first, worried that I had missed something. Then I rode the odo check. Now it was a super simple route with easy to remember road numbers and all right hand turns. But stress of something new and not being able to follow my GPS had me a little freaked out. But I managed and when I got bike back to the hotel the trip meter showed 16.0 miles. With that done I took off to fill up the bike and explore the town for a little bit. Didn’t find anything interesting but I did find the Shell station finally.

Dinner was good and we learned about the rally and some of the characters in the group started to shine. Afterwards there was a mandatory Newbie and Rookie meeting. Being as this was my first Mason Dixon 20-20 rally I was required to be there. It finished up a little after 9:30 and I went to the room to get some sleep.

Saturday 5/25 – 4am came early. I woke up feeling like I had gotten some sleep. But doubted that I’d made up for the sleep deficit that I’d been suffering from all week long. I gathered everything and cleared out of the room, loaded the bike and headed to breakfast. By 5am I was downstairs for the riders meeting, waiting to see what bombs would be dropped on us.

Rally packs were handed out and I quickly saw a few things. 1.) The wild card bonuses weren’t sufficient enough to completely render the planned route useless. 2.) The question and answer sheets looked interesting. 3.) We had a fuel log.  I breezed over the fuel log and missed a key point which was the 300 mile limit between log entries. Yikes! screw that up and you could lose 50% of your total score. I was lucky this day and the rally master covered that important detail plus lots of other things about how to use the question and answers. With the entire rally pack covered, we were released about 5:45am. I took a bio break before leaving and then headed to the bike. I was in no rush, I knew I had the time and wanted to make sure I didn’t make mistakes by getting in a hurry.

I hit the road and was just plodding along. Sure enough a short time later riders came whizzing by me. This is nothing new. There are always riders who are willing to twist the throttle harder than myself. But when I looked down at my Zumo and saw I was doing 65mph in a 70mph zone I wanted my kick myself. There would be no “flower sniffing” today. I wicked up the throttle to proper cruising speeds and soon found myself among riders.

Arriving at the first bonus, I had a pile of papers and really no clue what process I would use. I tried to read the entire interpretive sign and then search the questions and answers. But in my haste I wasn’t comprehending anything. Finally I read the questions and then scanned the sign to find the question. When I finished finding the first Q&A I was already behind the clock by 10 minutes.

When I pulled into Lexington, VA for the next bonus I dove into a hotel to get a business card for the “Lexington on a Business card” wildcard bonus. I was feeling pretty smart about this one but knew almost everyone would be getting this one. Collecting the next bonus was challenging because the answer to the question about Stone Wall Jackson and faculty didn’t fully line up. I snapped photos of both sides of the historical marker and jumped on the bike. Another bonus that took me 10 minutes. Ugggggg.

I dropped off of I-81 onto Hwy 11 toward Glascow. I found some great twisites along this route. I was giggling manically in my helmet as I ripped through the corners and watched time slip off the clock for a change. Any rally that has me dragging the pegs of the GS is a great rally. Arriving in Lynchburg, VA. I met up with Martin and we hiked over to the boat display. I was starting to get a little better at the process. But I was still trying to read the information and then look for the questions. As we were leaving, other riders were arriving. Getting out of town was a chore due to road construction but I briefly ignored the GPSes and went the way I thought would work. It did.

I made my way back over to I-81 without the same level of twisty fun. I ducked into Salem for a bonus. This one was another sign. And after the short walk to it I had made up my mind that it was time to change things. I pulled out my camera, snapped a couple of photos and took off. I decided I’d find the Q&A when I stopped for my rest bonus. With the walk, this was still a 5 minute stop.

Back on I-81 and heading south again. I ceased my southern route in Christiansburg and headed west on Hwy 460. Even though I was off the interstate, the state of Virginia still believed drivers could handle the roadway and permitted a 70mph speed limit.  I-77 was much the same and I watched as the miles increased on the odometer. In Fayetteville, VA I left Hwy 19 and ducked through the back roads to the next bonus. I don’t recall what the bonus was on the historical marker, but I walked up, snapped the picture and left.

My routine at each bonus was starting to take shape. Before getting off the bike I would record date, time, odo in my notebook in the section for the planned stop. I’d then scan the questions to see if something popped out related to the location. Then snap a picture of the bonus item (sign, marker, etc) and take off. In some situations I would see the answer immediately and record it in my notebook as well.

At this point in my ride, I was on back country roads following the Kanawha River. It’s all 2 lane roads with minimal passing lanes. So my passing mode was set to aggressive but never stupid. I always made sure I had a clear sight line and room to make the pass. At one point I had a pace car in front of me, and I must confess, that local definitely knew the roads because I had trouble keeping up with them at times.

Heading into South Charleston, WV I made a mistake that cost me time. In Cabin Creek there was a sign that said I-64 was to my left. Instead of crossing the river and hitting the interstate I remained on Hwy 60 and hit a dozen or so lights before getting to South Charleston and dumped onto I-64. I felt a little stupid on this bone head move.

The next bonus which I think I will remember for sometime was in a quiet neighborhood. In this part of the country it seems necessary to climb a small mountain to get to a neighbor’s house. The road was one of the tightest switchbacks I’ve ridden, with plenty of steep (I mean STEEP) 180 degree corners. I arrived at the coordinates and found a GoldWing parked in the street. I pull off to the side, get off the bike and try to figure out what the heck we are looking for. The rider tells me to look in the answers and points at the blue fire hydrant. The question turned out to be something like “What utility is next to the light pole that is next to the sign?” When I think of utility I think of Gas, Electricity, Water.  I don’t think of a fire hydrant as a utility. But I collected the bonus and left the area as quickly as I could while being respectful of the neighborhood I was in.

Leaving South Charleston, the GPS took me through some congested roads and I was starting to have second thoughts about the next bonus. I was clearly behind on my schedule but I hung in there thinking I still had time. Finally I get down to Hwy 214 and more twisties. The time starts to slip of the clock again in my favor. Of course it always seems like time jumps on the clock when you are stopped at a bonus but slips off very slowly when you are moving.

The roads over to the next bonus were exhausting. Trying to maintain a pace while getting around slow traffic really wore me out. In West Hamlin, I shot down Hwy 10 to a little community to get the next bonus. The coordinates were on the sign. The only thing near there was a church so I took a few pictures of the church making sure I could read their sign. Then I turned around and back tracked a short ways before continuing my westward journey. Finally I had made a stop in 3 minutes.

I soon found myself back on I-64 and heading west. Wahooo! Interstate, time to make up time. Nope, not really. Traffic was such that I couldn’t seem to set a pace much more than just a couple over. It was a chance to relax and rest though. That’s right, rest while cruising down the road. I’m not talking about sleeping or anything. Just relaxing the muscles, stretching and kicking back for the ride ahead.

In Mt. Sterling, KY I shot down Hwy 11 to Hwy 15. As I was on Hwy 15 heading to the bonus I saw several riders coming back the other way. I judged myself to be about 15 minutes behind them now. The only question was whether they had gone to some of the back road bonuses I had visited or was I really just that slow behind them. I pulled into the rest area/park, misread the question grabbed a photo of everything I could around and in the gazebo and then left. A short stop but one that almost cost me a mistake. The question I had thought it was has something with the number of supports in the gazebo. However, the correct question had to do with a “TourSKY” sound device and you had to complete the phrase “On a clear day ….”  When I realized I was close to Lexington and saw “You can see Lexington” I realized my mistake and corrected it during my rest bonus.

Collecting the 3 bonuses around the Lexington, KY area cost me almost on hour on my schedule. The first one was in a park and you had to scan through several plaques to find the answer. The next in Georgetown was supposed to be at the chamber of commerce but the coordinates put me behind a closed car dealership about 1/5 of a mile away. Before giving up on the bonus I decided to look at the address and then I found it. This was probably the most expensive time consumed for a bonus. Finally the rail station in Frankfort, KY was a little tricky as the historical marker was 2 sided. I took a few minutes to make sure I found the question for this one before leaving. As I was, I saw Rex who I knew was running the route in the opposite direction. We had talked on the phone earlier in the day and were both struggling a little with the format of the bonii.

The sun was setting as I headed north through the country. I picked up I71 just north of Glencoe, KY. From there it was up I-75 to Cincinnati, OH. I know I’m bad with geography but I didn’t realize I was in Cincinnati until I was downtown. The Garmin had me looping around a building on one way streets  and I passed a Goldwing parked at a historical marker almost a block away from the coordinates. I circled the block and found the correct marker and collected the bonus. As I approached the bonus a lady was coming toward me and I thought she was trying to sell me something or beg for money. It turned out she waiting for one of the riders and had all sorts of refreshments for us if we wanted any. I thanked her but passed. I had everything I need on the bike. I collected the bonus and was heading out of town on I-71.

It was now dark and my GPS told me my first leg would be over around 3am. I needed it to be before 2:15am if I was going for the big leg 2 finish. I wasn’t sure where I was going to rest or even what I was going to do for a rest bonus. But I knew I wasn’t going to Iron Butt Motel it tonight as the temperature was already in the mid 40’s and I didn’t have a sleeping bag or anything. Just my riding gear and I was depending on the electric liner.

The slog across Ohio on I70 was BORING!!! The speed limit was 65mph and my detector was going off every other mile with false alerts. So I just set the cruise a couple of miles over so I was moving with traffic and I kicked back. As the night went on, I decided I wanted to finish 1,000 miles before I stopped. That way I could fuel at the rest bonus and only need one fuel stop the next day while covering the 500 miles or so that would be left. I pushed into Cambridge, OH and filled the front tank to start the rest bonus. Then I rode up to the EconoLodge. $81 for a 3 hour rest. I had covered 1,029 miles in 18 hr 41 mins with an overall average of 55mph. Instead of diving into the bed, I reviewed all of my collected bonii, recorded information in my notebook and scratched out the questions and answered that been used to this point. This would help when collecting the remaining bonii. I did get to sleep for about 2 hours but I would have liked a little more. It was 12:33am when the bike was turned off and the GPSes pulled into the hotel room.

Sunday 5/26 – It was 3:24am when the GPSes were plugged in and the bike cranked. A stop down the hill to fill the rear tank and get and end receipt for the rest bonus and I was good to go. It was COLD!!! The bike said 38 degrees as I left the pump and once underway on I-70 the temperature dropped as low as 31 I recall. The first bonus was more than an hour away and gave me plenty of time to ponder what I was going to do. The GPS told me I’d be at my decision point at 6:48. In order to make the big route at the end I needed to have been there at 5:15am. I had 2 options to consider. My original base route which only required me to be to the decision bonus by 7:15am or the slightly more aggressive route down into Baltimore that required I be at the decision bonus by 6:15 ~  6:30. I decided I would decide at the bonus.

The first bonus of the morning was along some really twisty back roads between Ohio and Pennsylvania. While I love the twisties I found it somewhat challenging to keep pace in the dark with tight 25mph curves. The GoldWing behind me was providing ample rear illumination but it was forward sight that I was wanting more of. And that’s difficult in the dark no matter how many lights you have on the front of the bike. I pulled up to the coordinates and was looking for a flag pole. It appeared I was looking in someone’s yard. The GoldWing pulled up and we talked briefly. He assumed it had to be down the hill in Bethany. Indeed it was, at the Bethany Fire Department. I instantly recognized the question, snapped a photo of the plaque near the pole and left. I figured I could find the actual corresponding answer number when I got back to the finish.

The ride back to the interstate was equally as challenging. But I never saw the GoldWing so either he decided to spend more time at the bonus or rolled back on the throttle. I returned to I-70 in Canton Township and pressed on east. Now there were signs of a sunrise on the horizon.

When I arrived at the New Lexington Market in PA, I instantly recognized what sign they wanted. I didn’t even get off the bike to record this bonus. I pointed the bike back toward the Interstate and decided I’d take my base route. It was better to finish this rally than to DNF because I was late. Besides, I had really worn myself out yesterday and not recovered with the rest bonus. I instantly recognized this feeling from the Butt Lite last year and knew I needed to go with the easier route to finish. Besides, the base route I had chosen was the route I believed I could do in the beginning before I started trying to out fox Rex.

Now, heading east on I-70 with plenty of time it was a little bit of a struggle. I had given up the ride down to Baltimore and in my mind I had probably given away several places. With the lack of a pressing finish and the fact that I hadn’t gotten as much rest as I would have liked, I was starting feel as if I was just grinding out the miles to get back to the hotel. It was as if the event was over. But I still had almost 7 hours.

I made my planned gas stop at one the service centers along the I70 toll way. I was so relaxed about the rest of the rally that I took time to go inside to look for Lexington cookies, take a bio break and even get a breakfast sandwich from Burger King. Next to the rest stop, this was the longest stop of the rally. I was stopped for 16 minutes. But those 16 minutes did a lot for me and I resumed the slog east on I-70.

I caught up to Hammy on his scooter. That gave me a boost of energy and I followed him for a while until a few pace cars came by and gave me the opportunity for an escort. I saw Hammy pull off for what I suspected was his final fuel stop of the day as well.

As I neared Harrisburg, PA the 2 GPSes were in dispute on which route to take. I opted to follow the 665 as it had the shorter time. I soon found myself back on those wonderful country roads but this time with a line of cars in front of me that weren’t really in a hurry. I reminded myself that I had plenty of time and rushing now wouldn’t add any points. I finally made it to the Minot church and collected the bonus, taking the time to read the questions and answers. The church had a temporary banner above the door so I had to go around to the front to find their slogan “Come grow with us”. As I was leaving I saw one of the 2up couples at the back of the church. I signaled for them to go to the front but I don’t know if they saw me.

On the way back up the road I saw a local grocery store and decided to stop in for the cookies. I walked in, fully geared up and went up to 3 managers standing around. I inquired about the Lexington cookies and one of them happily escorted me straight to them. I bought 2 packs so I could have a snack. Double checked the receipt and walked out feeling like the cat that had ate the canary. If Rex hadn’t found those cookies I quite possibly had just bested him even if his route was 1,000 points larger. I got back on the bike and headed to Fort Indiantown Gap for the mandatory bonus.

The cemetery was amazing with all the flags flying. I was thankful that I wasn’t in a hurry for the 2 bonii I would collect here. The Rally Master had told us not to speed in the cemetery and I didn’t. The bike stayed in second gear and just idled along. I took in all the sites and thought about all the men and women buried there who fought for our country. It was a different experience than visiting other cemeteries in the middle of the night for a bonus. I soon found the other riders, got my mug signed by Long Haul Paul for one bonus and went to the grave of  James Young to collect the second bonus. I didn’t need to walk over to the grave as I already knew the answer from research about where the grave was. But I walked over anyway, thanked him for his service, and verified that he was still born on 8/19/1951.

As I left the site, the rally was REALLY feeling over for me. But I still had 2 bonuses to collect and the first was over an hour away. I set the cruise to move with traffic and slogged down I-81. In Halfway, MD I collected the bonus at the firestation. While there one of the firemen wanted to know what all the motorcycles had been stopping by for. I told him it was a scavenger hunt and that I’d been all over Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania collecting bonuses. He thought that was pretty cool.

The last bonus was just a few miles from the hotel but the slog down I81 to get to it was almost too much for me. At 158 points I almost thought about blowing it off. But then decided I wasn’t even close to the end time and that I should just suck it up and bag it. The historical sign was in the parking lot of a convenience store. After getting the bonus, I got back on the bike and finished the 7 miles to the hotel.

It was 1:01pm when the rally official read my odometer and handed me my finish card. The odo read 28,500. I had ridden 1,516 according to the bike’s odometer. And I had done it in 31 hours. I was glad to be finished.

I grabbed my stuff and went to the room where we could prepare our paperwork for scoring. I went through the rally pack first recording date, time, odo for each bonus. Then I put the question and answers together on the answer sheet. Then I filled out the fuel log being sure each and every line was complete and matched the receipt. I didn’t want to lose points due to a transposition error. I double checked everything one last time and went downstairs for scoring. I walked out of scoring a short while later with all of my points still in tact. Regardless of the results, I had ridden a good rally and left nothing at the table.

After a shower and a nap I felt quite a bit better. I enjoyed the social hour before the banquet and imbibed in refreshments from the bar. Dinner was served and I enjoyed some delicious pulled pork from a whole roasted pig.  And then the rally master started announcing the finishing order. As he got into the top 20 he started reading not only the place but the points. I nearly fell out of my chair when I heard Rex finished with a 13,xxx score. He leaned over and said something about the fuel log. I was in shock. He’s one of the most meticulous  guys I know. The reading of the list continued and the points got higher. As we got into the top 10 I was happy to hear there was still room for me. My name was called for 5th place, I collected my award and listened for the others. Scott from Lake Jackson finished 2nd and Josh Mountain finished first. I felt as though I was among some amazing riders as I knew both of them from the Butt Lite.

I was very grateful for the finish. I knew that I had given it everything I had to ride that ride and I didn’t do anything stupid to finish. The social time after the banquet was great and I had a chance to visit with people of a like mind. That’s always wonderful.

Monday 5/27 – I awoke at 6 to the noise of my Screaming Meanie. dressed and went down for breakfast where I got to visit a little with Marty from MD. I was undecided as to how far I was riding today. I had 1,400 miles to get home and a client appointment at 2pm on Tuesday. After breakfast, I grabbed my stuff, loaded the bike and punched home on the GPS. It said I would arrive at 1:51am CDT. It was 7am EDT when I left the parking lot. I wasn’t in a hurry and just set the cruise to move with traffic. The last thing I wanted was a visit with a LEO on Memorial Day.

Once clear of Virginia I turned on the radar detector and moved up to my normal cruising speed. Which still went with the flow of traffic. As the day wore on it seemed pretty clear I was going to sleep in my bed tonight. I called Reagan a few times to visit and had her get me a new book for my account. I’ve discovered that listening to books is a great way to pass the time when slogging down the interstate. And it keeps me more engaged than just listening to music.

When I pulled into my driveway it was 1:41am. I had only stopped 4 times for gas, once for a bio break and once for a McDonald’s drive thru. The GPS showed a travel time of 19 hrs 37 mins, and only 31 minutes for stops. Not bad for a 1,396 mile ride to the house.

I would like to say that I didn’t try anything new on this rally but that would not be true. The bulk of the bike was rally tested before this weekend but there were a few things that were tested during the rally.

My tank bag from Bags-Connection. This thing is HUGE and allowed me to run the whole rally from inside of it. I even kept my toiletries in there so I had one less thing to carry inside. Electrifying the bag was nice as well because it allowed me to charge my USB battery pack when not in use.

The USB Charging pack. It allowed me to charge the Sena headset while still remaining cordless from the bike. I just attached it to the headset for a couple hours each day and put it in my pocket. Usually I would just hook it up at one gas stop and put it away at the next. But it was simple enough to do while riding down the road.

Cell phone as a source of audio. In the past month I realized that the Zumo 665 just wasn’t cutting it. So I switched things around and the phone is bluetooth connected directly to the Sena headset. Now I have more music options and better sound both with music and phone calls.

Touch screen friendly glooves. As a result of using the phone as I do. I needed gloves that would work with the touch screen. These seem to work well and are usable down to the upper 40s. But I’ll need to find some better winter gloves before next winter or a better voice command interface for the phone.

With just 4 1/2 weeks to go until the IBR, I feel like my bike is just about finished. I might adjust the position of a wire here or there. I might fiddle with the SR10 to integrate my Valentine 1’s audible alerts. But there really isn’t any more real set up left for the bike. It’s ready to go.

The same goes for me and my gear. Everything is field tested and ready. I still suffer a little discomfort after a few long days with the ear buds, so I’m going to explore some options there but if I had to leave today. I wouldn’t be rushing around to finish preparations.

My route: X47 – X31 – X30 –X28 – X29 – X41 – X38 – X42 – X33 – X09 – X08 – X07 – X06 – X35 – X25 – X32 – X43 – X37 – X12 – X48

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A ride to the deer camp

With the MS5000 coming to an end, I needed to stack on a few miles to get past the 5,000 mile mark. I was able to combine the need to add miles with a friend’s need to go to the deer camp to retrieve cameras and batteries. So a plan was hatched! We’d ride out to the property, collect the stuff and then ride 2 of the “3 sisters” on the way back and stop for pie in Medina.

John and I met at our usual Exxon station just before 6am, topped off the tanks and paired our Sena headsets. Then we headed out of town. John’s Fat Bob isn’t set up for big miles yet so we planned to stop around every 140 to 150 miles for gas. The first stop was in Luling at the Love’s truck stop. We looked at his receipt to see if it would work for normal ride certification and the answer is still NO. Love’s just doesn’t seem to put the complete location information on their receipt.

We cruised through San Antonio with ease and stopped in Kerrville for gas and a bio break. This leg of the trip John enjoyed better mileage as we had a tail wind once we left San Antonio. I didn’t look at my miles per gallon, I just filled the bike with 7 gallons of gas, recorded the odometer and stuffed it in my receipt box.

An hour later we were pulling up to the camp house. While the GS is made for gravel roads and mildly rocky roads, a Harley Davidson Fat Bob isn’t. But to John’s credit he motored through and got to the cabin. We tried to start the camp jeep without luck. Since all the things we needed to pick up could be collected from 1 road, we opted to ride the bikes down the road/trail until one of us decided it was time to walk the rest of the way. We ended up visiting all the camera locations along the way without incident. And the Fat Bob did great. Once again, I found myself in an environment that I think the GS is well suited for and there’s a Harley motoring along. It was like the Haul road in 2009 all over. LOL!

Once we finished up at the deer camp, we eagerly returned to the pavement. It was starting to get hot and standing around in riding gear wasn’t the greatest experience, rolling down the road at 70mph felt much better. Since we had gotten to the camp quite a bit earlier than I had planned we now found ourselves ahead of schedule for the day. So we took FM336 south to Leakey.

Upon arriving in Leakey, I took John over to the Frio Canyon Motorcycle Stop for a burger. We enjoyed the scenic views and cool breeze for a little while. I was concerned about his range so we stopped for gas in Leakey before riding FM337 over to Medina. On this day there was automobile traffic along the road that detracted from the overall enjoyment of the road. But John enjoyed the ride none the less.

In Medina we stopped for pie at The Apple Store. In my opinion this is another one of those don’t miss places when you go to the hill country. We got our apple pie and apple ice cream just before a large group came in. After our snack we collected a few things to take home and departed. We now had 272 miles to finish the day. As we passed through Bandera, it dawned on me that we probably could have stopped there for gas instead of Leakey. Oh well, it’s not like we were on the clock or anything.

We followed 173 south out of Bandera until we reach Hondo. Then the slog on Hwy 90 toward San Antonio began. Traffic was mild and it was easy going. I just set my cruise and listened to an audio book. As we rolled into San Antonio traffic increased but it wasn’t bad for a Sunday afternoon. I started to plan for the next gas stop. It would either be on the east side of town at I-410 and I-10 or Seguin or Luling. Anything besides Luling meant we’d stop one more time before getting home.

Shortly after passing the I410 option, John came on the headset and said he thought Seguin should be the next gas stop. We agreed on the Exxon at Hwy 46. I topped off my tanks while we were there. Looking at the GPS it looked like I would get home about 7:30 so I let Reagan know where I was and what time I’d be home. She was surprised that we were so far along on our ride at this time.

As we continued east along I-10 the traffic started to build. We encountered one accident scene in which an SUV had gone into the median and tumbled a bit. There were 2 ambulances on site and I saw some children in child seats. But it looked like the family had survived reasonably well. The delay was minimal and I don’t think my feet touched the ground once.

The closer we got to Houston the more aggressive and erratic drivers became. Since I was riding with another rider, I opted to spend more time in the right lane and let the crazies go on. When exit 720 to Seally finally arrived it was a welcomed stop and we left the interstate for the day. While at the Shell station filling up  John’s tank, my bike found itself at the center of attention for some young men. They were intrigued with the Valentine 1, hydration system and all the electronic gadgetry.

The ride down Hwy 36 was pleasant and we soon found ourselves back where we had started, each of us turning towards our respective homes. Both bikes now had another 650+ miles on their odometer. It was a great day’s ride.

This ride gave me a chance to test out a few things I’ve been working on for this summer’s rally season. In particular I had a new tank bag from Twisted Throttle as my custom made bag had to be cancelled after a 7 month wait. I went with the electrified version of the Bags-Connection “GS” EVO. I like the bag, but HOLY COW!!! It’s large. I should have no problem rallying completely out of the bag.

I also tested my Bluetooth set up further. My phone is now the center of my audio entertainment. I had an book, MP3s, XM streaming music and a few shoutcast feeds of radio stations around the country. Using the phone directly required a change in riding gear, so I acquired some RevIT Neutron gloves which have material in them to be touch screen friendly. Once I got used to them, they worked pretty well. I believe once I get them broken in they will be ALL DAY comfortable. I sure hope so because they will soon need to be 11 DAY comfortable  :)

As part of my new audio/communication set up, I wanted to have a way of taking dictation while I’m on a ride. That way I can record notable events along the way and better recount them in the blog. It’s not a big deal for a 1 day ride. But for something like an 11 day ride I think it will be invaluable. I found a free app called Philips Dictation Recorder which works great with my Bluetooth setup.

Besides the benefits of multiple audio entertainment sources and the ability to use a dictation program. I found pairing my Sena headset directly to the phone has increased the call quality considerably. I’ve made/taken multiple calls while in motion and the caller on the other end simply doesn’t know I’m rolling down the road on my motorcycle unless I tell them. With the Zumo in the mix, people always knew I was on the bike, even if I was talking to them at a stop. The Bluetooth stack in the Zumo is just inferior. I’m inspired to try out the Sena SR10 with my Valentine 1 again but that may have to wait a week or so.

I leave for the Mason Dixon 20-20 rally on Thursday morning. Between now and then I need to do a full service to the bike. But other than that, it’s ready to go. And this trip helped to prove that.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Garmin Zumo 665: Formatting the main drive

Sometimes you just have to start from scratch…

*** Normal disclaimer, if you try the information found in this post and it blows up your GPS or something negative happens please don’t blame me or try to beat me up the next time you find me somewhere. I’m merely sharing what I experience and what I found from my searches on the web. Calling Garmin and waiting on hold for 30 minutes to talk to someone and then getting them to send you a replacement unit if your device is still under warranty may be the less stressful way to go ***

Last Saturday morning I was getting ready to go for a day ride. I was supposed to attend a short mini-conference and the rest of the day was mine. Since I’d be “in the area” I thought I might ride over to the Texas Hill Country to get some pie. I figured this would be the perfect time to try out one of those audio books. So I signed up for a free trial account, picked out a book and followed the instructions to load it which involved using a special loader program.

Well the program started loading the book onto my Zumo’s main drive (because it wouldn’t see the SD card I had installed) and when I came back 15 minutes later the Zumo was in a constant reboot loop. I powered off the GPS and took it to the bike to see if things would be OK. That’s when I discovered the horror.


The Zumo 665 would start up with the splash screen and then shut off. I did a hard reset by pressing the right bottom corner while holding down the power. It would then boot up and get to the screen where I could chose the country location before shutting down. OMG!!!! My primary GPS was dead. Since I had to get to my meeting I loaded waypoint into the Zumo 550 and took off. The rest of the trip was great and I enjoyed my music via my phone instead of the XM and Zumo 665.


When Sunday evening rolled around I didn’t much cherish the thought of calling Garmin in the morning and waiting on hold for at least 30 minutes to talk to a customer service rep who may or may not really care about my problem and would end up sending me a refurbished unit which could have it’s on set of outstanding problems in a few months. So I dug into my favorite site for hacking the zumo,

I found a forum post that described a very similar problem a user had with a Zumo 660. I figured they are pretty close so I started trying to figure out how to get my unit into this “pre-boot” stage so the “updater.exe” program could do it’s thing. Here’s what I did:

  1. Install the USB drivers mention in the post.
  2. Take off the battery cover
  3. tape a magnet in place to trick the Zumo into thinking the door is on
  4. remove the battery
  5. plug in the USB cord, then power off the unit.
  6. insert the battery, if unit comes on POWER OFF unit with power button.
  7. Run the GarminCure3 program (as administrator) and build a “Cure” image from a version 2.8 image that I found through the site
  8. Launch the updater program with the new image, and select the USB option. but it won’t see the USB yet so I wait.
  9. With my left hand, press thumb to bottom left corner and hold, then press power button with left index finger and hold.
  10. When I see the Zumo listed in the USB list in the updater program I quickly click OK and it starts it’s magic of loading a new image.
  11. When the image is loaded I reboot the GPS while still connected to the computer.

At this point I had an F:\ Drive. I decided to completely wipe it out so I followed the instructions in this post using the RMPrepUSB utility. I probably should have made a backup of the drive but I didn’t… always make a backup when you have a chance.

When that was all done I had a completely blank 3.69GB Zumo main drive. So I repeated the steps above but made an “Original” image to install via the updater program. It worked and I was able to boot my Zumo 665 all the way to the main menu with the USB disconnected. However, I had no maps and most of the features were missing.

Next I found the Webupdater.exe program from Garmin and drug my Zumo665_GCDFile_280.gcd onto it. That launched the webupdater with the correct version of the software I wanted installed and allowed me to pick the extra features I desired to have installed such as voices, text files, cradle updates, XM stuff, etc…

Since I don’t plan to use the Zumo with my phone any more, I opted to launch the webupdater a second time without dragging a GCD file onto it. This allowed the program to upgrade the unit to 2.90. And I was hoping it would put my base map back on there in the process. It did not fix the map issue.

At this point I have a unit that doesn’t seem to have any working maps even though I have one on my SD card that had been working fine before I started this repair process. I find a post on another forum about the same problem, but on a Zumo 660 so I follow through it. I follow the suggestion by one user to go to myGarmin account and recreate the GMA and UNL files. The web page says everything is OK but when I start up the Zumo I still get the “Cannot Authenticate Maps” error. I opt to reinstall the latest maps using Garmin Map updater. Since I already have the full maps installed on my computer I chose to reinstall the maps on my device only and I’m given the option to install the full map set on the main Zumo drive so that’s what I do. As it was getting late, and the updater showed it would take over an hour, I left the GPS plugged in and the computer powered on…

When I looked at the computer in the morning it had crashed with a message talking about a FAT32 filesystem. Well the only Fat32 filesystem connected to the computer was the Zumo. So I rebooted the computer and tried again with the Garmin Map Updater. I didn’t make any progress. When I viewed the Garmin drive in Windows File Explorer it showed the gmapprom.img file was there but the Zumo wouldn’t detect it. I also had the GMA and UNL files installed on the device.

Next I deleted the IMG file and tried Garmin Express. It started to install the full maps and then realized it didn’t actually have the space. So I opted to install the western half of the US. Watching the progress indicator while it was installing I was optimistic as it gave me both the percentage complete and the data throughput rate as it went.

Success!!! Once Garmin Express finished I had the 2013.40 maps for Lower 49 States NW installed. I then added back in the full maps via my SD card and the Zumo is complete once again. My preferences and home location had to be reset but that was expected considering how I completely wiped the system.

I don’t think I’ll be installing books on my Zumo again. In fact, I don’t think I’ll be using the audio features of my Zumo again.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Planning my rest on the IBR

So we are less than 8 weeks away from the official 10AM EDT start of the IBR on July 1. When I stop and think about this for a minute I realize in just 8 weeks I’ll be on a road probably within 300 miles of the east coast hunting for a bonus. I might be headed to Key West, FL or Madawaska, ME. Both are certainly reachable within the 82 hours of time I’ll have on Leg 1. Going in either direction is completely achievable although going to both locations isn’t, at least not for me. So how do I figure out what is possible? With a spreadsheet of course.


By laying out the entire 11 days in a spreadsheet I’m able to plan my rest on a per day basis. From that I can then calculate the number of hours I’ll have for rally activities, i.e. bonus collecting, riding, fueling, drive-thrus, etc. That’s basically anything that I’ll be doing when I’m not in a hotel room sleeping.

So if I know the number of real hours available to me I can start to plan what my mileage possibilities are. For instance, assuming I can keep a 50mph average for the 67 hours that I’ll be active during Leg 1, I should be able to cover 3,350 miles while still getting 15 hours of rest. Going to Madawaska, ME and back is only 1,850 miles so that’s something I could build a larger route upon. Probable adding some miles into Canada. Going to Key West, FL and back is only 2,700 miles. That’s also a plan I could build a larger route upon. Now Pittsburgh to Madawaska to Key West, FL  and back to Pittsburgh is 4,408 miles. Nope!!!! That won’t work for me. It’s almost 1,100 miles more than I think I can do in the first Leg. I would need to achieve a 65.8mph average for the 67 hours I’d be active. I’m sure there are some who may try and even succeed at such a pace. But I won’t be among them. It’s well known that east of the Mississippi one’s rally pace is slower.

Since my GPS isn’t smart enough to use my “Activity” hours when calculating it’s Overall Average I added in the Overall Average field which is calculated from the possible miles divided the total hours for the leg. For Leg 1 I’m only shooting for an overall average of 40.854 miles. That seems reasonable.

For Leg 2 I’ll be heading west. And because of that I’ve upped the average by 10mph. I can always change this at the end of Leg 1 if I feel like I can achieve a higher or lower average based on performance. There’s a total of 65 hours in Leg 2 of which I plan to rest for 10 hours. That leaves 55 hours of activity resulting in 3,300 possible miles. The Leg’s end point is in Sacramento, CA which shows to be 2,467 miles from Pittsburgh. A couple of fellow LD riding friends believe Death Valley will be among the bonuses listed for Leg 2 and/or Leg 3. No problem. Dropping down to Death Valley on Leg 2 only raises the mileage to 2,725. That still means there’s plenty of room to build more of a route. My guess it that there will be a northern route and a southern route for Leg 2. I’ll likely take the one that keeps me out of stormy weather.

Leg 3 will take me back to Pittsburgh, PA. If I had time to make it on Leg 2, then I’ll definitely have time on Leg 3. With an additional 30 hours (95 hours for the Leg) the possibilities start getting interesting. Traditionally Leg 3 is where the big points are and it’s likely going to be where I’ll be able to rack up the highest mileage. Again keeping my Active MPH Average at 60mph I should be able to cover 4,740 miles while still getting 16 hours of rest. Sure I’ll push it during the last 26 hours but I’m planning a 1 hour rest period during my normal cycle for rest. That should allow for a quick nap at the Iron Butt Motel.

To put things in perspective, I could leave Sacramento, stop in Death Valley and head down to Key West, FL before heading up to Pittsburgh. That would cover 4,645 miles. That is achievable according to my spreadsheet. But it doesn’t factor in for the possibly slower pace coming up along the East coast. Hmmmm.

Another possible route might be to go north to Hyder, Alaska and then head to Pittsburgh. The route shows 4,768 miles which is at the edge of what I’m currently projecting I can do. But if the bonus points are large enough…???

By nailing down my planned rest/sleep schedule I can even break down the route for each Leg by day to determine if I’m ahead or behind at the end of each day. Ahead of schedule and I can use the time to collect extra bonuses or get some extra rest. Behind schedule and I can decide what bonus(es) I’ll drop to make it to the end on time.

This is really just one big puzzle. But I don’t get to see what the pieces are until the evening of June 30th.