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 Audbile.com 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

1 comment:

Rex LeGalley said...

Congratulations Brian!

You needed to beat me this time, since the Heart Of Texas Rally took some wind out of your sails!

Just remember, It's now MY Turn Again, and the 2013 Iron Butt Rally is NEXT!!

Ride Safe and Long!