Saturday, October 19, 2013

Big Tex Rally 2013

Thursday: This is the first big ride I’ve taken since the Iron Butt Rally in July. It’s not that I have lost interest in motorcycling. No not at all. It’s just that I’ve been exceptionally busy with other things in life. Riding my motorcycle for anything other than work hasn’t been very high on my priority list. With this rally about to start though, it’s time to get serious.

This week I changed the rear tire and spooned on a new PR3 Z rated tire. Since the regular PR3s gave me 15K to 16K in mileage I’m hoping to see 18K to 20K out of the Z rated series. The miles will tell. The bike is ready to go, there really wasn’t much prep needed after the IBR. It held up well.

The rally has 4 different starting points in Texas so riders could opt for the city most convenient to them. The bonus locations have been normalized points-wise so it’s fair for everyone. I know there was a discussion about that last year but judging from the finishers and where they each started from, last year’s event was pretty well balanced for the different start cities

I finished up my route earlier this week and haven’t touched it since. It looks like I’ll be riding 1500+ miles while getting the full 8 hours of rest and visiting Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and Houston along the way.  It should be a great ride starting from Victoria.

Friday: I was up before the alarm and had the bike packed in short order. I wasn’t really in a hurry as the start location was just across the street at the Shell station. The normal paperwork and odometer check was followed by a rider’s meeting. During that meeting we learned the Texas Icons bonii were changed from 150 points each to 1,500 points each. There was still a combo bonus of 5,000 points for any rider who collected at least 10 of the 12. There were no other changes to the rally book. We were let loose and the rally began.

DSCN0340My plan included getting at least 10 of the Texas Icon bonuses. Eight of them I already had planned and I thought I could probably find 2 of the remaining 4 along the way. The first bonus was a picture of Stephen F. Austin just off of Hwy 288 near Angleton.  As I was leaving 2 other riders pulled up. Reviewing my planned ride versus the actual ride, leaving this bonus is where I made my first error. The planned route had me going up 288 to Hwy 523 over to Hwy 35. Instead I followed the GPS through Angleton, had to backtrack because of a road closure and finally made it to Hwy 35 between Santa Fe and Hitchcock. It was 7:54 am when I left the bonus, my schedule had me there at 8:14 so I was ahead of schedule. A great way to start.

The next bonus was in Galveston where I was to collect a picture of the monument to those lost in the terrible hurricane of 1900. These first few bonii required me to be in the picture. This created a little delay as I had to set up the tripod, frame the shot, set the timer and then jump in the photo. I left the bonus at 9:04am, the scheduled time was 9:15am.  The mis-route in Angleton had cost me 10 minutes. But I still felt I was doing OK.

On my way toward Houston, I opted to stop by NASA for the small 44 point Lunar Command module at Johnson Space Center. It was quick and easy to get in and out of. It was taking less time to set up the tripod now. I left the bonus at 9:40am, my schedule was for 9:46am. I was losing my extra time I previously had.

DSCN0344 Once back onto I-45 heading toward Houston, I opted to catch the HOV lane. Since it was after 9:30 I didn’t expect traffic to be horrible but thought it might save me a couple of minutes. What I didn’t know was that the HOV lane dropped drivers into downtown instead of letting them merge into freeway traffic as it does on Hwy 59. So I found myself on surface streets for a short time before making it over to Goode Company to snag a picture of an Armadillo. This was my first Texas Icon that I had planned to get. Departure time was 10:11am, the schedule was 10:15am. I had lost just about all of my spare time and I was only at the 4th bonus of the day.

At this point I had a disagreement with my Zumo 665 GPS. It wanted to keep me on surface streets while I knew it was better to jump on the freeway to zip over to the next bonus at the SculpturWorx near I-10. I arrived at 10:22am which was fine. However, I struggled to get the correct photo of Lyndon B. Johnson and it was 10:32am when I was finally leaving. That’s right, a 10 minute stop. Yikes! My schedule had me departing there at 10:25am.  I was now officially behind schedule. And the first time issue showed up at the next bonus closed at noon. My GPS was showing an arrival time of 12:15. There was nothing to do but try to make it. I shot up Hwy 59 to Livingston and then headed East on 190 to Woodville and the Dogwood Cafe. It was 12:05 when I arrived and true to their word, they were closed. I met another rider there who said he had arrived at 11:58am and the door was already locked. Bummer.

There was nothing to do but continue my planned ride and see if I could make up a little time. As it was I was only 10 minutes behind when I left the cafe. So I continued east on Hwy 190 and then shot up Hwy 96, stopping in Browndell to get another of the Texas Icons bonus, a city population sign under 300. I was still 10 minutes behind schedule when I left the bonus.

Around Pineland, I left Hwy 96 and headed toward Hemphill, there I collected the Columbia Memorial bonus. This was one bonus that I really wanted to visit and took a little extra time while I was there to pay my respects to the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia who died on February 1, 2003 when the craft exploded. It is a very nice memorial to the entire crew. It was 1:20PM when I pulled away from the bonus, I was now 15 minutes behind despite my best efforts to make up time while in motion.

I travelled north on Hwy 87 to Center where I picked up Hwy 96 again and continued north. Soon I was on Hwy 59 heading into Marshall and my next bonus at the Marshall Depot. I had to collect a replica train ticket from the museum on the second floor. When I walked in, the gentlemen behind the counter was very cordial and lead me to what I needed. He wanted to explain how the tickets used to work, and I obliged him the time. I wanted to keep moving, but I also wanted to be a good representative of the rally so I quietly listened to his story. Then I returned to the bike and headed west out of town. Now 20 minutes behind schedule.

I opted to skip my next bonus at the world’s largest Dairy Queen since it required me to take off my gear to get a photo wearing a T-shirt. In Gladewater, I cut down south and picked up I-20 heading for Dallas. Once on the interstate I found my 3rd Texas Icon bonus, an Oil Well Pump Jack. It was only 1 of 4 that I was unsure if I’d find.

A short distance later I detoured into Tyler to collect a bonus at Stanley’s Bar-B-Que. The bonus instructed riders to enjoy a meal so I did. Since I’ve been watching what I eat for the last 2 months I opted for their smoked Turkey. It was good and juicy. Other riders told me the pulled pork was fantastic. It was 4:22pm when I left the parking lot, now only 12 minutes behind schedule.

DSCN0355 The ride back to I-20 and toward Dallas was uneventful and the miles quickly disappeared. When I arrived in Mesquite, I dropped off the interstate to collect 2 of the Texas Icon bonii. First was a sign for rodeo grounds. The Mesquite Rodeo grounds fit the bill nicely.

Then I rode just a short distance over to the Mesquite Memorial Stadium to get a ticket for a high school football game. This is where my planning quickly revealed an error. While a previous version of the East Texas route had me arriving at this stadium when I could acquire the ticket, my current route did not. I arrived at the stadium at 6pm, the game didn’t start until 7:30pm and a fan told me they didn’t start selling tickets until 7pm usually. While I was still behind on my overall route schedule by 23 minutes I had made an error in picking this stadium to bag the bonus.

I left the parking lot and fell into another error. My original route had me returning to the Interstate yet when I followed my GPS, it wanted to take me down Scyene road into Dallas. OK, people who live in and around Dallas instantly recognize the problem. But for the rest of the readers, let me tell you. That is the WRONG road to take into downtown Dallas. Especially in October as it goes right by the State Fair and I had to fight my way through all of that traffic. I managed to get my call-in bonus shortly after 6pm though.

My next bonus stop was in Deep Elum which is part of the Dallas area. The bonus required I take a photo of the Deep Elum sign and the neon had to be lit. It was 6:24pm when I arrived. This was the second bonus I arrived at too early. Grrrrrrr.  I decided I’d go on to the Ranger bonus at Love Field. Again, my GPS misguided me onto surface streets instead of returning me to the Interstate. Riding through downtown Dallas at 6:30pm on a Friday is not a good choice.

DSCN0356 I arrived at Love Field at 6:51pm, parked within inches of a police car next to a No Parking sign and ran inside to capture the photo of the Ranger. Upon my return to the motorcycle I found 2 police officers at the bike trying to figure out what they were going to do. As I approached them at a full run, I was waiving my flag and telling them it’s OK, I was leaving. One of the officers looked at me to make sure I was in my right mind, then told me to be safe and have a good time. As they walked away I mounted my bike and took a little time to record the bonus and catch my breath.

Then I was off to my next bonus. Looking at the GPS it looked like I was going to pass very close to the Deep Elum bonus on my way to the next bonus so I opted to detour. That led me back into downtown traffic which was getting even worse. Then to add insult to the whole thing, when I finally arrived at the sign well past sunset the sign was not lit. Aaaargh!!!! I had wasted an enormous amount of time trying to get a 272 point bonus and I didn’t get it.

Next I headed to the Texas Theater to get a picture of a signed movie poster. My GPS was telling me there was 17 minute delay due to traffic and I couldn’t find an alternate way around to it. So I dropped the bonus worth 400 points and headed to my next one in Waxahachie. Reviewing my route after the fact though, I rode within a mile of that 400 point bonus. Dropping it from my route hadn’t actually changed things much time-wise.

When I arrived in Waxahachie for the Munster bonus it was 8:08pm. I was now more than an hour behind my planned schedule. I parked on a dirt road across the street and tried to walk in. However, the police spotted me and would not grant me entrance to the front yard. I was instructed to go park my bike 2 miles away and catch the shuttle. They assured me the shuttles were running constantly and that I wouldn’t be delayed very long waiting for the next shuttle. So I returned to the bike, and rode to the High School parking lot. Unfortunately there wasn’t an available parking space to be found and I was having problems with my auxiliary electrical system. I was really getting frustrated at this point and opted to find a place to fix the electrical problem. Thus I dropped the Munster bonus worth 750 points.

The resolution to the electrical problem was simple, the main fuse had cracked and was intermittently losing connection. Switching the fuse with one of the spares I had bought earlier in the week quickly solved the problem. I can’t explain why I didn’t change the fuse before the rally since I was aware of the problem. There is just no excuse.

DSCN0357 Waxahachie’s football team was playing an away game and I realized my opportunity to find a High School football game was quickly closing as the clock slipped later into the evening. I made my way back to I-35 and headed south to Hillsboro where I was able to find a game. The stadium is located on a long dirt road and there’s no ticket office or program sales. I found a gentleman in a trailer who was with the Rotary club and inquired as to where I might purchase a ticket or program for the evening’s game. He laughed and informed me they were just a small town high school and everyone was welcomed at the games free of charge. And they didn’t print programs as everyone knew all the players. Hmmmm, this posed a problem. A call into the Rally Master though, yielded a solution. I was able to get a picture of a fan holding my rally flag with the score board in the background.

With my 4th Texas Icon bonus collected I returned to I-35 and headed south. I was now almost 2 hours behind on my schedule. That was valuable rest time I was giving up at 15 points per minute. I had a tip on a vehicle with horns attached to the front in Austin on 5th street. It was only going to take a few extra minutes so I decided to stop by and bag the bonus on my way to San Antonio. This was another one of the 4 Texas Icon bonuses I hadn’t completely figured out before the rally started. When I arrived at the site, I found the blue school bus but no horns. I looked around for a few minutes to make sure I wasn’t missing it, then moved on.

I arrived in San Antonio at the Alamo to find Paul Tong, last year’s winner, just about to leave. He offered to watch my bike since the local druggies had been messing with a rider’s bikes when he arrived. I grabbed my photo of the Alamo which was my 5th Texas Icon bonus and the last planned bonus of the day. Then I headed to Boerne where I had a room waiting already.

The last ten miles on I-10 into Boerne it started to really rain on me for the first time of the ride. I just kept going and arrived at the hotel just after 1am and collected a gas receipt from the gas station next door to start my rest bonus. Earlier in the evening Steve Bracken had contacted me to say he was going to be in Boerne so we agreed to split the room. When I walked into the hotel, the clerk handed me a room key and I quickly got started with the rest bonus.

Saturday: I was awake when the alarm went off. I realized I could actually gain more points by staying at the hotel than leaving early to get 2 low point bonii on the Willow City loop. So I visited with Steve and adjusted my route. I had to be in Austin before noon to get the Stevie Ray Vaughn bonus, so everything was adjusted to that. I left the hotel just before 8am and got my start receipt at 8:03am.

I cut through the backstreets of Boerne and soon found myself headed up FM1376 toward Luckenbach. Along the way I was able to get a Texas Icon bonus, an Aeromotor Windmill. In Luckenbach, I collected the 500 point bonus of the Alaskan license plate and also collected another Texas Icon bonus, me on the back of the saddled Longhorn.

DSCN0361   DSCN0362   DSCN0363

I was feeling pretty good as I was now knocking off the Texas Icon bonii and staying on schedule. As I was heading up Hwy 281 to my next bonus I found a Texas & Southern Cattle Raisers Association, Inc posted sign and some cacti. Both were Texas Icon bonii. I had now found 10 of the 12 and captured the 5,000 point combo bonus. I was quite pleased with myself.

The next bonus was at Dead Man’s hole just north of Marble Falls. I was in and out quickly while two other riders seemed to ponder where they were heading next. I knew where I was going, Bastrop.  The question was whether I could get there in time with the traffic in the area.

I used every trick I knew to get through Austin quickly and soon found myself heading east on Hwy 71. I had my second GPS set with the next 2 stops in it. Traffic was not moving at the speed limit and it was just impossible to get past the packs of cars. As I watched my window of opportunity slip away, I had to make a decision as to when I would drop the Bastrop bonus for 250 points. That decision finally came just 3 miles away from the bonus. I had to turn around as the GPS told me I’d be late. Missing a 2,000 point bonus wasn’t an option.

On my way to the next bonus I swung by the blue school bus again hoping they had taken the horns in for the night. No such luck. I was still looking for two of the Texas Icon bonii, a person on horseback and a vehicle with horns attached. I arrived at the park and found a spot for the bike, then made my way to the statue. Almost the entire field of riders was at the photo bonus. I realized 2 things at this point, this was a “could not miss” bonus and that I had to really get moving to the next bonus quickly if I was going to get ahead of the line that would surely form at the shooting range.

After the photo was taken, I headed to the bike and left as quickly as I could. I opted to get over to TX-1 and take the tollway north around Austin as it has a liberal speed limit. Once I hit the tollway it didn’t take long to break away from the pack. I soon found myself on I-35N working my way through traffic. I worked my way up the interstate quickly and managed to arrive at the next bonus well ahead of most other riders. A short wait in line, then 3 shots into the rally flag and I had earned 2,000 points.

With that large bonus collected I now had several low point bonii that I would collect while running the mileage up to 1,500 so I could collect another 5,000 points. Leaving Temple I took Hwy 36 north, this turned out to be a very good choice as riders who had planned to ride up I-35 to Dallas found themselves in a crazy traffic jam not far up the road and it lasted for quite some time. I realized I didn’t have enough fuel to make it all the way to the finish so I stopped for fuel and a bio break in Gatesville.

After the stop I realized I probably didn’t have enough time to collect the bonii and get the 1,500 miles in. Since my remaining bonii only totaled 1,031 points I opted to just follow the route and grind out the miles. If the bonus was clearly visible from the road I would get it, otherwise I wasn’t stopping. My route led me to Hamilton and then north on 281. In Hico, I picked up Hwy 220 to Hwy 67 toward Glen Rose. In Glen Rose, I took Hwy 144 north out of town

As I rode into Granbury, I picked up a local law enforcement officer who wanted to see where I was going. But as I passed through the city limits they lost interest. When I reached Weatherford, I had to make a decision, was I going to follow my planned route past the final 2 bonii and risk being late or was I just going to grind out the miles on I-20. Since the GPS was telling me there was traffic on my planned route, I turned west onto I-20. I then set the GPS to route me to the finish. I kept going west until the mileage would take me over the 1,500 mile mark. Then I turned around and headed to the hotel. Even in the last few miles of the ride, my Zumo 665 kept trying to take me down surface streets instead of the freeways. I think it’s time to completely format the unit or send it in for replacement. It is screwed up.

I arrived at the finish at 5:42 and stopped my clock. Unloaded my bike, said hello to my sweetheart who was waiting for me, then got my paperwork prepared for scoring. Once turned in I could relax and visit with fellow riders until I was called for scoring.

Sometime after 9pm I was called in for scoring and learned that I failed to include a receipt for a donation that was worth 2,000 points. Grrrrrr. How could I have been so stupid? I was not happy with myself, but I tried to keep my cool and managed to get through scoring without further heart ache. Holly, the rally master’s wife was my scorer and she is a very pleasant person and made the process as good as it could be.

After scoring though, I was in a real funk. I was pissed at myself for not coming better prepared for the rally and missing such a big bonus at the scoring table. I tried to snap out of the funk but it would take some road therapy the next day before I got over it. After 10pm they had totaled the scores and announced the winners. I walked away with a deck of Big Tex Rally playing cards as a door prize but not a decent finish. I knew I had not ridden a good ride and it was 100% all on me.

Here are the final results:

Rider # Points Name Rank
25 50,840 LIPPS 1
71 50,524 NORRIS 2
66 50,313 MOREHEAD 3
50 50,108 TONG 4
13 49,726 LOVEALL 5
30 48,732 TRAIL 6
72 48,724 WATKINS 7
61 48,675 QUARLES 8
19 48,544 FARMER 9
75 47,876 LeGALLEY 10
24 47,760 SCHUMACHER 11
21 47,674 RICKARDS 12
43 47,674 PERRY 12
57 47,145 MARTIN 14
45 46,881 EDWARDS 15
55 46,844 FRANKIEWICZ 16
68 46,666 SCHOELLER 17
73 46,666 ZaBELLE 17
63 46,617 SLATON 19
67 46,530 BRACKEN 20
69 46,481 de WET 21
60 46,221 DUCK 22
52 45,741 HATHAWAY 23
28 45,684 SMITH 24
10 45,508 WALTERS 25 <<<<
20 45,198 BURKS 26
49 45,022 JOHNSON 27
31 44,883 CORNETT 28
8 44,346 CARTER 29
41 44,346 CLARK 29
56 44,329 COLLARD 31
11 44,053 MIXON 32
70 43,867 DEES 33
22 43,276 HARTWIG 34
40 43,276 SCHWAB 34
47 43,276 TAYLOR 34
64 43,276 MILLS 34
42 42,743 BOWERS 38
58 42,273 RILEY 39
23 41,590 HECKER 40
46 41,590 HUDSON 40
74 41,382 FRASER 42
51 39,886 BEAULAC 43
1 39,103 POWELL 44
37 38,749 HARRIS 45
53 38,123 NATALI 46
59 37,671 HALL 47
16 37,667 GETZENDANNER 48
2 35,955 LEFCOURT 49
39 35,413 PONCIK 50
6 35,246 SCHWAB 51
27 35,192 SPRINGGAY 52
29 34,638 ARNOLD 53
62 34,288 STALLINGS 54
65 34,038 BAILEY 55
9 32,998 HOOD 56
48 32,413 COOK 57
12 31,039 STILL 58
44 30,926 COX 59
33 26,463 EMMERT 60
7 25,492 ROONEY 61


25th place. While it’s a mid-pack finish, it’s the second worst rally I’ve ridden since I started riding in rallies 2 years ago. But it’s actually a great score when I take a moment to think about how little I prepared for the rally. I applaud all of those riders who properly prepared for this ride. Events like this, where the rally book is handed out weeks in advance require some planning and research. If I’m not willing to put in the time, I shouldn’t bother to ride the ride. I ended up dropping 3,000+ points during the ride because I had not properly researched the bonus or allowed sufficient time to collect the bonus. The 2,000 point error at scoring could have also been prevented with just a little bit of preparation.

Like all rallies where I return home safe and sound, this was a success. But I learned some important lessons in this rally too. And my opinion of the DFW area remains the same, I DON’T LIKE IT!