Saturday, April 26, 2014

Heart Of Texas 2014

Leading up to the big day, this rally offers riders the chance to start with extra points by either riding a few certificate rides (600 miles in 24 hrs, 1,000 miles in 24 hrs and 1,500 miles in 24 hrs) or riding the Unique Bonus and the All or Nothing Challenge. If you successfully completed the Unique Bonus and All or Nothing Challenge you would start with 600 points. If you rode all three certificate rides you could start with 500 points.  I managed to complete two of the Certificate rides while traveling to and from the JAX party in March.  I simply ran out of time to get the 1,500 mile ride done. It wasn’t a matter of difficulty, just a matter of time. I was happy to be so busy with work.

So when Saturday morning rolled around I was standing around waiting for 6AM with 250 points in my favor.  Of course, I knew at least 2 of my fellow competitors had completed the All or Nothing challenge so they were starting with 600 points. I was already in a 350 point hole. I had come up with a pretty solid route and I just needed to execute it to land somewhere in the top 5. I waited patiently in Dublin, Texas at the bank ATM and when my phone said it was 6AM, I calmly counted to 10 and proceeded to get an account balance as my start receipt.  It said 6:00AM, I was on the clock!

My first bonus was just across the street where I had already parked my motorcycle. I was to get a picture of the “Sweet Inspirations” statue at the Dr. Pepper bottling plant in Dublin. I snapped the photo, logged it in my notepad and thumbed the starter. My GPS told me I was going to be 35 minutes. Being late on most trips isn’t a big deal, being late on a motorcycle rally however means you get disqualified as a “DNF – Did Not Finish” Seeing how I have never DNF’d previously I wasn’t about to let that happen today. So I got myself moving on down the road to my next stop, the Carlton Baptist Church Bell. Since the sun hadn’t come up and critters were out and about, I took it easy for the 17 mile ride over.

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Next up was the courthouse in Granbury. As I headed north on Hwy 220 the sun started to rise and I enjoyed a peaceful ride through the country and into the sleepy little town. Typical stop lights and stop signs slowed me briefly but I soon found myself snapping the photo of the courthouse the and confederate memorial. One stop 2 bonuses, that’s how I would save time and collect points.

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From here I had some distance to travel as I was headed up to the Shackleford County courthouse in Albany, Texas. Most of the route had 75mph speed limits which allowed me to slowly reduce that time deficit that I had started out with in Dublin. In the town of Cisco, I met up with a fellow H.o.T. rider while waiting for a train to pass. I regret I didn’t get his name, but once the train passed and traffic started moving I quickly lost him in my rear view mirror. Something to always keep in mind during a rally like this is that it’s not a race, it’s a challenge of riding the best route that generates the most points. It doesn’t matter if you are behind or in front of someone else because they could be riding a totally different route.

Along the way up Hwy 6, I passed 2 other rally riders headed in the other direction, Jim Orr and Paul Tong with his daughter.  Upon seeing those 2 riders my mind immediately began analyzing what possible route they could be running that would cause us to cross at this time. I’m still not sure to be honest. Before I knew it though, I was rolling into Albany and quickly snapped the photo of the courthouse clock tower. There was no war memorial at this location so I only snagged a single bonus.


As quickly as I came into town I was headed back out of town, this time on Hwy 283. About 15 miles outside of town I made the one mistake of the rally. About a 1/4 of a mile off the road I saw a windmill farm. At the time I was in a hurry because the GPS still told me I was 20 minutes late, and I wanted to actually get a closer shot of the windmill farm so I kept going.  Those 400 points alone wouldn’t have changed my overall finish but it’s the one bonus I didn’t collect on my route that I should have. Note to self – never leave anything to chance on these short rallies!

About an hour later I was picking up several bonuses in a row. First it was the Cotton Wood Post Office and Bank which required that I be in the picture, then there was a veterans war memorial and Subway restaurant in Cross Plains. The Subways were an interesting challenge this year, the rally master sent out 6 pictures of Subway restaurants and in order to collect the bonus we had to purchase a cookie from each of the 6 correct locations. Some of the photos had distinguishable items in them like store names or road signs. But a few were really tricky. When the rally master sent out a follow up email, he drafted an elegant paragraph that practically led you to all 6 if you were paying attention.

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Next up was a dash over to Coleman for the Coleman Bell. When I arrived at the location who did I see but none other than Jim Orr. He was off his bike and taking pictures of the bell and a war memorial. You can see him just behind the bushes in my picture. Since I hadn’t planned on grabbing that war memorial I snapped my picture of the bell, logged it in the notebook and took off. Taking just a second to say Hi to Jim but never getting off the bike.  At this point I was only 15 minutes late to the finish.


Thanks to the strong winds I wasn’t getting very good gas mileage this morning so on my way to the next bonus I stopped in Brownwood for gas. As luck would have it there wasn’t anyone else at the convenience store so I took the opportunity to run inside and buy a 6 pack of beverages, that was another bonus item I needed and it was worth 250 points. Things were going my way!

A short ride down the road had me in Zephyr when I picked up a bonus on the side of the road. If they were all this easy it wouldn’t be much of a challenge. Of course the next bonus wouldn’t be so easy. The quickest way to the Regency Bridge plaque was via several miles of gravel road. So I stood up on the pegs and zipped across the gravel in no time at all. This shortcut really knocked the time off the GPS. Once I was back on pavement again, it said I would be less than 5 minutes late.  Alright!!!!!

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With the GPS arrival time being less of an issue I was able to relax a little as I headed down to San Saba for another courthouse clock tower photo. As the morning was getting along, more and more people were starting to move around. By the time I got down to San Saba, Saturday morning traffic was in full swing.  Parking was difficult, so I waited patiently for a break in traffic and then walked into the road to get the picture I needed. No memorial bonus was planned for this courthouse either so I kept moving after logging my information.


A brisk ride down Hwy 16 took me into Llano where I picked up a war memorial at the courthouse on my way over to Kingsland for another Subway bonus.  Rather than taking the original route suggested by Basecamp, I found a great short cut from Hwy 71 over to Kingsland and back. When I arrived at the Subway, I thought I would lose all of the time I had made up in the first 6 hours.  It was lunch time and this was the place to be. A line reached almost to the door.  I took a few deep breaths and then calmly walked in and began politely asking, “excuse me, would it be OK if I move ahead as I only need a cookie?”  I had to repeat the question to 3 or 4 patrons before I was quickly shuffled to the front of the line. Everyone wanted to know what I was doing and when I told them it was for a scavenger hunt they were all happy to wish me well and get me back on my bike.


I back tracked through LLano via my shortcut and headed over to Mason for the courthouse clock tower. This time I was able to get a 2-fer with the courthouse clock tower and a war memorial.

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From Mason, I headed down to Fredericksburg for a Subway bonus and a war memorial bonus at the court house. I picked up the war memorial on the way in. Since parking was already insane I had to park a little ways away from the memorial, hopped off the bike and walked over to take the photo. I respectfully laid my flag at the base of the memorial, stepped back and knelt to take the photo. Apparently a few people were watching and as I got up to leave I got a few thumbs up for several folks.

Arriving at the Subway, I was pleased to see Frans and Bettie De West coming out. I said hello and walked inside to another long line.  I calmly and politely asked the question again and quickly found myself at the front of the line. My time inside was so short that Frans and Bettie were still outside when I got to my bike. I realized that I needed a better way out of town since I was heading west on Hwy 290 so I went a block off of the main street and passed through town with only the slightest delay.

I was now committed to the droppable bonus in my route, I was heading down to Leakey for another Subway bonus.  The GPS said I had a couple of minutes to spare. With the liberal speed limits on 290, Hwy 41 and US 83 I felt good about my time. Before I knew it I was in Leakey with 8 minutes to spare.  I needed fuel so I turned the stop into a Subway, Fuel and Bio break stop. The lady behind the Subway counter was moving slower than molasses on a cold winter day. When she put another customer’s sandwich in the toaster she just stood there looking at it. I finally spoke up and asked if I could possibly get a cookie as I wasn’t feeling very well. Yes, that was a white lie, but she was clobbering my time.  I soon had 3 people helping to get my cookie and with the receipt in hand I walked out feeling much better.

No matter the rally, I always seem to find a way to ride a fun, twisty road or two. This rally was no different, I left Leakey via FM 337 and headed over to Medina where I could then cut over to Bandera for a bonus. Along the way I found a sneaky sheriff trying his best to increase the coffers of his county but he would not receive a donation from me on this fine day.

Bandera was busy as I had anticipated so once I snapped a photo of the clock tower and memorial I found an alternate way out of town. There was one tricky part to this courthouse clock tower bonus. We had to also record the time of the clock since it was actually just a painted clock face and not a real clock. I’m sure there is some historical significance to 10:10.


If anyone has ridden in the Texas Hill Country they know people just don’t seem to be in a hurry. So heading toward San Antonio via Hwy 16 was a struggle. I opted for Hwy 46 over to Boerne so I could pick up I-10 but that wasn’t much better.  Everybody wanted to sit in the left lane going exactly the speed limit while people in the right lane seemed to struggle with anything quicker than 10 under the speed limit.  It was frustrating to watch my GPS’s arrival slip closer and closer to the 6pm arrival time.  With patience and persistence I was able to get around San Antonio via Loop 1604 and  head up I-35 to San Marcus.  Traffic issues were the same on I-35 except now there were 4 lanes of traffic to contend with. The quickest lane seemed to be the far right most of the time.

From San Marcus I cut over to Lockhart for the final bonus of the day. My GPS was telling me I’d be 4 minutes late. I worked my way into town, snapped the photo and got out of town as quickly as possible without driving like my hair was on fire.


Once I hit the TX 130 Tollway my GPS suddenly became my friend and told me I had a couple of minutes to spare. Not much but enough as long as I kept the bike moving, so that was what I did. All the way into Georgetown via TX-45 Tollway and then a short 4 miles up I-35. I rolled into the hotel with 3 minutes to spare and checked in. I had successfully finished another ride without a DNF.

I compiled my photos and Subway receipts and then went through scoring. It was great to visit with other riders while I waited my turn. I got to hear lots of stories and it seemed everyone had a really good time. At the scoring table, I received points for everything I rode for and ended up with a score of 12,850.  Keep in mind, if I had simply taken a couple of minutes to get the Windmill farm it would have been 13,250. 

When scores were announced I came in second place to my friend and rival Rex Legally who scored a total of 13,400 points.  He too, got all of his points at the scoring table. Third place went to Steve Bracken with 12,000 points, another friend and respected rival of mine. On this day, we all rode great rides. But Rex’s successful completion of the All or Nothing Challenge was just too much of an edge to over come.

I’m very pleased with my ride this year, and I’m looking forward to sitting across the table next year as a scorer for this rally. I know what it takes to do well in this rally and to decipher the crazy puzzles the rally master puts together. It’s going to be fun to help contribute to those crazy puzzles…. now where is the nearest ferry river crossing in Texas? What’s that? It’s only open from 10am to 2pm and runs once an hour. Perfect!

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