Monday, July 11, 2016

Butt Lite VIII–Leg 2

I didn’t need an alarm clock even though I had one set on my phone. I woke up when the sun rose. I dressed and went out to my bike to see if I could repair the damage to the hydration system. That turned out to be a simple matter and I had it working in short order. The broken mirror mount seemed like it would hold up for the rest of the rally, so I put my tools away and headed inside for breakfast.

I was so hungry that it didn’t matter much what I ate, but the food was pretty good. And visiting with fellow riders for a bit was nice. Several of us had on our poker faces but I could tell, I wasn’t the only one struggling in one way or another. With a full belly I went up to my room to work on RallyMan.

Since I didn’t have the “re-route” option coded into the interface, I had to go under the hood and code in my rally stops to this point as well as the time I estimated to leave the hotel. I had a couple of issues with the automatic gas stops getting populated but finally I had things ready. The program had a start time of 10:30 MDT which I anticipated would give me 15 to 20 minutes after the riders meeting was over.  Well the meeting went long and several scoring problems were mentioned without pointing out riders. The top 10 was announced without scores. I was devastated when I didn’t hear my name. They didn’t read off point values just the rider number and place. This was a blow to my enthusiasm, I thought I’d done better.

[ Take a look at the rally blog and you’ll see I was in 16th place at this point. Apparently the rally team had found my photo time problem and taken the 500 points for the mistake. Good thing I decided to double check my camera on the first bonus stop of this leg! ]

They handed out the one page rally supplement and sent us off. I looked at it as I was in line for the elevator. 2000 points to go to Gerlach, and 500 points for something in Minnesota. Gerlach means something special to me, it’s where I feel the closest to my late wife even though we never went there together. We both recognized what it stood for but neither of us ever dreamed there would be a rock there with her name on it. So I had mixed emotions going there just to snap a picture with some past IBR winner and leaving. But I was going to let the RallyMan program tell me what to do. It’s about the math!

Once in front of my computer I had some difficulties with the “Get Distances” queries to Google. Darn internet at the hotel was flakey so I had to flip over to my cell phone internet. And to help matters I dumped 10 locations out of the program that I didn’t think were remotely possible at this point. I wanted to get that matrix down to  155 x 155. While waiting the 10 minutes or so it took to query Google over my cell phone (I’ll have a program correction for this before next year) I decided to read both of the bonuses. Then I about fell out of my chair laughing as I read the second bonus in Minnesota.

Here’s the actual bonus listing for the NOUSA bonus

In a nutshell, supposedly an 18 yr old female soldier dressed in her full military uniform was asked to leave a gas station because her uniform offended “Foreign Cab Drivers”. It turned out the whole thing was a hoax and Caitlin never visited the gas station in question. To claim the bonus we just had to collect a receipt from anywhere, for anything with a made up odometer, date and time. In other words, this was 500 points you could get just for reading the bonus sheet.   I opted to claim it as my first bonus when I stopped for fuel.

Meanwhile, RallyMan finally finished it’s “Get Distances” routine and then I kicked off the calculator. It kept coming back with routes that DID NOT include Gerlach. WTH??? That’s 2,000 points what is wrong with it.  RallyMan told me to head south, to the exact same next bonus as the original schedule.  I even went so far as to hard code Gerlach into my route and RallyMan came back with an overall score 4,000 points lower!  That’s right with Gerlach, my overall score was calculated at 40,000 and without Gerlach it was calculated at 44,000+.   I tweaked on it, checked for errors, and finally accepted the fact that going to Gerlach WAS NOT the right thing to do for me.


It was 12:15 MDT when I finally left the hotel. I had a bad case of “poor pitiful Brian”, I felt like I had screwed things up so bad that just going to Vegas for a day or two and then riding to Denver made more sense. But I had come to ride a rally and test my program, so that’s what I was going to do…

I stopped at the Chevron, near the hotel for fuel and the receipt I was going to use for the NOUSA bonus. Then I hit the road already running late. It was 12:32 as I left the station and I was supposed to be at a bonus 40 miles away at 12:41. Definitely not the way to start leg 2.

I called Decker and whined about not being in the top 10 and I was really disappointed with my rally as a whole. But looking back at it, there was absolutely no reason for my attitude. I had a score many would have loved and I had a route many probably struggled to find. I had it all, but from my point of view at the time, I didn’t have anything. Of course, if you’ve met Decker already, then you know how the conversation went. But if you haven’t met her, well…. the short and sweet of the conversation was “Suck it up Buttercup!”. I had a route to ride and I needed to get on it!

My first stop was in Carson City, I was supposed to take a picture of a clown that was in a glass case. I was having a hard time getting back into rally mode but pushed myself forward. I found the bonus, took the picture and then logged it. Then I checked the time. Crap! It was off by 2 hours! I wondered if they would catch the error for my Leg 1 photos…  I fixed the camera problem and retook the photo.



Arrival: 13:14
Schedule: 12:41



From Carson City, I worked my way through traffic and construction over to Lake Tahoe for the next bonus. Still in a funk, I wondered how the hell I was going to ever get on schedule. When I arrived at the entrance for the park where I was supposed to get the second bonus, the man at the gate seemed to want to share his life’s story with each and every person in front of me. So I waited and waited. When I finally got up to him, I asked him where this Cave Rock was and he simply pointed up the hill in front of me. His reaction made me laugh!



Arrival: 13:50
Schedule: 13:08



The next 3 bonuses had me working south and west of Lake Tahoe. While it appears to be a country like area, it’s quite congested with traffic and construction.




Arrival: 14:40
Schedule: 14:00






Arrival: 15:50
Schedule: 14:57







Arrival: 16:25
Schedule: 15:29




Despite my best efforts, I wasn’t making up the time I lost when I left the hotel earlier in the day. Traffic and construction was keeping me behind despite my best efforts. But I soldiered on. I still had a rally to ride and a plan to follow.



Arrival: 17:51
Schedule: 16:55






Arrival: 20:14
Schedule: 19:16


On my way to the next bonus the sun was starting to set on Day 4. I found myself riding on some fantastic twisty roads that challenged me thoroughly. Being as tired as I was though I opted to ride them slower than some would like and I think I even annoyed a few local drivers who were very used to the twisty roads I was on. It was during this part of the rally that I started to notice the severe cupping of my front tire. This was far worse than any problem I ever had with the Metzlers on the GS. It wasn’t going to stop me but it did mean I needed to keep at least one hand on the grips, especially at lower speeds.




Arrival: 21:54
Schedule: 20:49




After getting the GUERN bonus, I should have stopped across the street for fuel but I pushed on and found fuel along Hwy 101. This proved to be a bit of a time suck because the exits in California aren’t something I’m used to. I imagine driving an 18 wheeler in the state takes some expertise when it comes to refueling. The state doesn’t seem to design many of it’s exits with an easy off, easy on attitude. At least California has lane splitting.



Arrival: 23:37
Schedule: 22:15



This trip into San Francisco went better than my last trip in the 2013 IBR but as I expected, I lost time getting in and out of the city.  Interestingly, Waze had me take I-280 south of the bonus while Garmin wanted to put me right back on the 101. Looking at the map now, it doesn’t look like either way was necessarily “better” so late at night.

I kept riding south toward my next bonus, but I was getting tired and I realized I needed to stop for the night. The only problem, there weren’t too many towns along this stretch of highway and I didn’t think I’d easily find a quiet place to lay my head on a bench or table under a cover. When I reached Paso Robles, California I decided I’d had enough for the night. I pulled into a Motel 6, got a room and promptly fell asleep, just shedding my outer layer of riding gear.


I had stopped for a total of 3 hours and 40 minutes, it was enough time to sleep, brush my teeth and refill my water jugs. I only had 30 minutes to the next bonus, but I wasn’t feeling great because I was struggling with some sleep inertia. When I rode into Morro Bay, I made the single definitive mistake that would take me out of the top 10. I didn’t bother to actually read the bonus, but rather I acted from memory. So I stopped in a parking lot, snapped a photo of my bike and the big rock and logged the bonus.



Arrival: 4:28
Schedule: 7:02



Per the rally pack, I was supposed to get a picture of my motorcycle with the Morro Rock historical marker. Oooops! While stopped though, I pulled out my laptop and looked at Basecamp. I was 2.5 hours behind and I was pretty sure I couldn’t make up the time. I was now heading into LA at rush hour. I figured out that I could stay in Beatty, NV and I could actually flip the CARL and BEACH bonuses. This could save some time…. I hoped.

California traffic is different from Houston traffic and lane splitting is something I’m still “just getting used to”. So I wasn’t completely comfortable doing it as I headed into Los Angeles. Waze suggested a faster route rather than staying on the 405. In hindsight I probably should have stayed the course, but it turned out OK and I arrived at the cemetery to find fellow rider Troy Martin. He seemed to be searching diligently but without success. I tried to follow the coordinates given in the bonus description while he called into Rally HQ. The grave turned out to be on the other end of the cemetery.




Arrival: 10:59
Schedule: ---


We both recorded the bonus in our own way, and ended up leaving the cemetery at the same time. It was a quick and easy hop down to the next bonus.




Arrival: 11:22
Schedule: ---


We checked to see if we were continuing on together but we were not. I still had another bonus to get farther south for 500 points while he wanted to head east and get out of the traffic that was slowing him down. So we parted ways.



Arrival: 12:16
Schedule: 10:00



It was getting hot by the time I got to Newport Beach. I read the instructions twice and couldn’t figure out where the bonus was. I stopped to ask some caterers who were loading in for an event. And one of the guys looked across the street and said “you mean bunny statues like those?” Sure enough, you could see the ears sticking up above the shrubbery. I took the shortest path possible to get the picture.

When I got to Palm Springs, the heat from the sun was building. It was already over 100 degrees and my hydration system had developed an electrical problem. The switch collapsed, most likely due to the damage caused during the Leg 1 mishap. So I was having to be extra mindful of drinking water every chance I could.



Arrival: 14:02



Now I was finally out of the California traffic and could focus on making up some time. Or so I thought.



Arrival: 14:39
Schedule: 12:25








Arrival: 15:16
Schedule: 13:00


PURFOY slowed me down a little bit, because of the soft sand. I figured slowing down was better than dropping the bike.

On my way to Needles, CA I was faced with a decision between following the Garmin and following Waze. I opted to follow Waze. It would seem the Garmin wanted to take me on some back roads up to I-40 while Waze opted to keep me on Hwy 62 until I reached Hwy 95. I suspect I made better time following Waze.

Get a receipt in Needle, California!

Arrival: 17:42
Schedule: 15:01

According to the GPS, I was making up time, even though it looks like I was 2 hours and 41 minutes BEHIND when I reached the NEEDLE bonus. I used this time to refuel and reload my water jugs. It was quite toasty outside.

Heading west on I-40 and then north on Hwy 95 something unexpected happened that thoroughly messed up my time. Just a mile or so north of I-40 on Hwy 95 I crossed a very bumpy railroad crossing going less than 70 miles per hour. A few minutes later, I realized my Pelican top case was no longer attached to the motorcycle. Panic rushed through me as I realized both laptops were in there as was my rally envelope with the rally book and receipts. I turned around and back tracked to the rail road crossing where I found the case, upside down on the side of the road. Looking at the case mounting, I discovered the flimsy brackets had flexed enough to release the case. I used a few zip ties to make sure I wouldn’t have a repeat performance and resumed my travels northward. Now annoyed and further behind schedule.



Arrival: 19:15
Schedule: 16:16



I was now a solid 3 hours behind schedule thanks to the top case separation event. But I discovered a part of Boulder City I did not know existed. I like staying there because the rooms are cheap, but never knew about the cafes and bars. The next time I go out that way, I’m going to drive a little further into downtown to get a room.




Arrival: 20:42
Schedule: 17:42




I didn’t encounter anyone while I was at the Love Ranch, but it just felt very skeezy to me. I was glad I didn’t have to go inside, however all the signage around the place certainly seemed welcoming. The sun was setting and I still had 2 more bonuses to get. Make some time!!!!



Arrival: 21:26
Schedule: 18:31






Arrival: 21:34
Schedule: 18:34


After getting these two bonuses I backtracked into Beatty to start my rest bonus at the Stagecoach Hotel & Casino. In hindsight, I probably should have just rode to BROTHL and then picked up EDDIE as I was getting my start receipt for the Rest bonus. I realized it after the fact but it would have only changed things by a few minutes.

I had called ahead for my room and the lovely Innkeeper had my key waiting for me. She was kind enough to put me at the back of the main hotel where I could get some good sleep away from any disturbances. With the room acquired and the rest clock ticking, I went out to the bike and fixed my hydration system. It required the removal of a few body panels but I was able to convert it from an electrified pump system to a manual suck system. I buttoned everything up and took my normal stuff into the room. Before going to bed however, I opted for a good sit down meal at Denny’s which was attached to the Casino. While waiting on my order, I reviewed my route for the following day. Because I was a few hours late, it actually made my route easier and the road closings in Death Valley were simplified when I talked to my waitress who was a local and happy to help me get to the correct CLOSED sign for UBEHEB. With a full tummy and a simple reordering of my route, I went back to my room for a shower and some much needed sleep!


I woke up before my alarm and tried to get out of the room as quickly as I could. But for some reason I was moving slower than I wanted and soon found myself next door at the gas pumps a few minutes past the 8 hour mark. I topped off my tank, recorded the end of the rest bonus and hit the road, riding into Death Valley on Hwy 374.



Arrival: 6:31
Schedule: ---



I arrived at UBEHEB just as the sun started to come up and met a fellow rally rider, he was coming from California. We took a few different photos to make sure we documented the bonus sufficiently and then headed our separate ways.




Arrival: 7:21
Schedule: ---




I met a nice couple at this bonus, I couldn’t tell exactly where they were from but it sounded like Germany. I reminded them to use lots of sunscreen and drink plenty of water while in the park. It was already warming up at a cool 87 degrees.




Arrival: 8:04
Schedule: ---



At this point I was starting to get close to my schedule again. Since I had swapped the order of the bonuses I wasn’t sure how I was doing but I thought I was close to “on time.”

I zipped up Hwy 95 to my next bonus which the schedule originally had me getting BEFORE my rest stop. That would have been in-efficient!




Arrival: 9:56
Schedule: ---







Arrival: 10:53
Schedule: --




I had plenty of miles to the next bonus. I needed to purchase something from the A “LE” Inn roadside bar, restaurant and motel between 8am and 10pm local time. No problem, I was clearly going to be there in the day light hours.

I arrived at the bonus ALEINN @ 12:35, the schedule had me there at 13:40. Wooohoo! Reorganizing my stops and modifying the start of my Rest2 bonus was really paying off. As I pulled into the parking lot I met the same rider I’d seen at UBEHEB. I wondered if we’d keep seeing each other for the rest of the rally. We didn’t.

I just about dropped my bike getting to the next bonus though. Once again Garmin wanted to send me up a goat trail that I doubt I would have tried on the GS, but thankfully Waze led me to the location while keeping me on pavement most of the way.



Arrival: 13:57
Schedule: 15:13






Arrival: 15:50
Schedule: 17:22


The CEDRBK bonus was at 10,460 feet and as I got up to the bonus I was starting to feel slightly icky. Normally I’m not affected by elevation but on this trip I was. Maybe I’m just getting old.

At the time I didn’t completely understand just how ahead of my schedule I was because I’d made a list of the bonuses for the day using a screen shot from Basecamp and it’s times weren’t any good to me.


It would have been nice to have the schedule generated from RallyMan but since I had to hard code the route ridden to the point of Rest2, I opted for more sleeping time and went a little old school (for me at least) with the Basecamp route image..

Since I was using the Basecamp route sheet, I had to depend on the Garmin to tell me what time I’d get to the finish. And of course, it really didn’t know. But I kept on going.  For the sake of this report, I’m going to continue to the reference the original schedule I created at the beginning of Leg 2 above for times.



Arrival: 17:48
Schedule: 19:29



Between LASTWG and BEHUN I only traveled 80 miles but it took me a solid 90 minutes and I was quite hungry when I stopped. Why? Because I was on some of the most wonderful twisty tarmac you can find. State Road 12 in Utah! Put that on your “to ride” list and get up there sooner rather than later. I hadn’t ridden the road since 2008 but when I realized where I was some fun memories flooded into my mind. With so many twists and turns though, I didn’t have much time to dig in my tank bag for food until I reached the next bonus.



Arrival: 19:20
Schedule: 21:13



After leaving BEHUN I had some miles to work my way up to I-70 and that gave me time to decide if I was going to try the additional 3 bonuses I’d found for an extra 323 net points or if I was going to go for the originally planned last bonus according to RallyMan. Upon reaching I-70, even the Garmin agreed that I could make it to the finish with some time to spare and grab the extra points. So I dumped the ESCALANT bonus for 755 points in favor of 3 bonuses for a total of 1078 points. As I rolled onto I-70E from Hwy 24 it was 20:33 rally time on the last evening of the rally. I had 9 hours and 27 minutes until the penalty window started, and I only had 471 miles to go. No problem!

The sun dropped below the horizon behind me as I rolled along I-70 toward Denver. When I reached Grand Junction I stopped for my last fuel stop during the rally. It was 22:06 as I finished the stop and the temperature was still too warm to put on a liner. I knew it wouldn’t be long though as I made my way toward Montrose, CO.

As I got closer to my next bonus I was really struggling to see if I could squeeze just one more bonus into the route. PLACER was worth 626 points but it added 100 miles to the route. Garmin was saying I was going to be late, and I just wasn’t willing to risk the penalty points. So when I reached Montrose, I stayed on route for the next planned bonus.DSCN0892


Arrival: 23:27
Remaining: 6:33 hrs


When I reached the MORROW bonus in Cimarron the temperature had definitely dropped to the point that my electric liner was desired. So I took a few extra minutes to add a layer while I was at the stop.

Riding to the next bonus was fun. Hwy 50 has some wonderful twists and turns along the way. I wasn’t so concerned about the curves though, it was the potential of wildlife that had me bothered. As it turned out, I didn’t see any wildlife along that stretch of highway. Funny thing happened to me though on Highway 50. As I rolled along with all of my LED lights burning away the night, I saw a dim single headlight slowly gaining on me. Finally he caught up with me and it turned out to be a grizzly looking “biker dude” on a Harley that seemed to be a throw back from Easy Rider. Complete with the bedroll and all. He passed me (I really am a slow rider) and kept on riding into the night. It was at that moment that I found humor in the situation and some insight too. I had so much light ahead of me that I was actually struggling with the reflected light from signs and markers, yet this guy with his old, dim stock light was riding along effortlessly. I opted to leave my lights on “low” for the rest of the night with only the occasional flip to high beams. It worked out well.



Arrival: 1:12
Remaining: 4:48 hrs





Arrival: 2:32
Remaining: 3:28 hrs



Upon my arrival to Leadville, CO I was starting to feel the toll of the past 5 1/2 days of riding. It was cold, the wind was blowing and the altitude was bothering me again. I wanted to get the picture and go! But I didn’t want to make a mistake, so I followed my routine and double checked the bonus listing as I’d been doing all day.

The ride north to I-70 was just grueling for me. Now I had the Garmin and Waze telling me how long and far it was to the finish. Of course they didn’t agree. But it was less than 2 hours and most of it would be on Interstate. I just had to make my way up to I-70.

Once I reached the Interstate though it didn’t get better. I don’t know what it is about that pass over the mountains but it always seems to take forever and I couldn’t find a place to stop of a short break. So I soldiered on and talked to Decker for a little while to pass the time.

Finally I saw the glow of Denver. That infused me with new energy and I stuck with the directions Waze was giving me. The closer I got, the better I felt. I was going to arrive early but there wasn’t anything I could do about that now.

At 4:25, I rolled into the parking lot from which I had started 6 days prior. Got my time card from the rally officials and parked the bike. I’d done it! Again!!!!

Shortly after my arrival Decker came out to meet me. She was dressed in a fun clown dress that I really wish I’d snapped a picture of. It was fantastic! She definitely brightened my morning.

I made my way up to the room for a shower and to work on my rally log for the final day’s bonuses. I looked things over and felt good about my ride. It was time to go down for scoring and to get some breakfast.

The entire scoring process was very smooth and I was inside with a scorer in just minutes after reporting to the check-in table. And then my beautiful ride went to pot! I lost the LOWLAK bonus for a typo on the name Joseph and I lost the MORRO bonus for the wrong picture (READ THE BONUS). Ouch!!! That was 2,187 points lost at the scoring table between the 2 legs. I still didn’t know about the points I lost for the camera time. I walked away from the scoring table with 42,882 or so I thought. It didn’t matter though. The ride was done, the mistakes were made. Now it was time to sleep and visit with my girl!

I probably should have spent more time sleeping, but I don’t sleep well in the day time. I enjoyed the day with Decker and our 16 year old son, Hayden. We wanted to introduce him to the insanity of this sport. I think it work Winking smile

Just before the finishers’ social hour, we found a spot to load the bike into the back of the truck, strapped it down and made our way to the festivities. I enjoyed myself during dinner listening to other riders talk about their ride.

Then it was time to announce the winners. As they worked their way through the 78 finishers, the scores kept rising. I was relieved to have at least made the top 20 and when they got to the 12th place I considered the possibility of a top 10. Then I heard Lisa call rider number 28 and I knew I’d gotten 11th place. To quote Maxwell Smart, “missed it by that much.” But I hadn’t really, I mean John Coons had beat me by a solid 858 points. How much was that MORROW bonus? 1001 points. Ouch!!!

On the way up to get my finishers plaque, a few realizations popped into my head:
1. I’d safely completed a 6,250 (GPS) mile ride in less than 6 days
2. I’d proven my RallyMan program had some serious possibilities
3. I’d done better than my last Butt Lite finish
4. I was already in the 2017 IBR

Then I realized, in my own way, I KICKED ASS!!!!  Smile


So what now?

This rally showed me that while I hadn’t completely forgot how to rally, my skills are rusty. I made some seriously stupid mistakes that I can correct going forward. And my idea for a computer algorithm that calculates a competitive route is definitely viable.

I don’t plan to do any more rallies this year, instead I’m going to focus on getting married, being the best step dad I can be, being a grandpa to the cutest little girl ever (yes, I’m biased) and when I find time I’ll work on fixing the damage to my bike. And of course, I’ll fix the problems I had with RallyMan. Next spring I plan to hit a few rallies before the IBR to debug the last bits of the program. But if things go as I hope, I’ll be in bed early after the starters banquet for the 2017 IBR Winking smile

Oh and by the way… I will release the RallyMan code to the riding community after some more real world testing. I think an 11 day field test next year should about do it. For a few of you though, there might just be a beta test available…

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Butt Lite VIII–My return

It’s been more than a year since I last rode in an endurance rally. I hadn’t completely gotten away from motorcycling, I just didn’t feel up to competing yet. Too much shit had hit the fan and I needed a break. Plus new aspects of my life caused me to re-evaluate the importance of such past times as motorcycle rallies in general.
But last October I participated in the Big-As-Texas party’s BBG and had a blast. Visiting sites, whipping out my flag and snapping a photo got the rally juices flowing again. By the time I was back at the hotel I knew I had to ride some big rallies, so I entered the Butt Lite VIII and the IBR 2017.
Once I was accepted into both it was time to take stock of my current rally rig and determine what needed to be changed and what could stay the same. Over the past year I had also heard about a guy who wrote a traveling salesman program using Google, it calculated the best route to visit 50 places around the USA. This seemed like something I should explore further.
Somewhere around January of this year I decided my trusty R1200 GS wasn’t going to cut the mustard for my return to rallying. I needed a stronger steed, but I didn’t want to plunk down the cash for a new BMW. So I turned to the tuning fork company and bought the defacto standard for IBR top 10 finishers, the FJR1300. By February I had found the bike, started ordering farkles and scheduled my seat build at Russel Day Long for the month of May. Meanwhile I started writing an application that I now call RallyMan. It’s a hybrid between Excel and Python which I learned along the way is a powerful combination used in the financial services world.
As July approached things were coming together nicely. After the seat build in May I stopped by Gerlach to visit Reagan’s rock and then rode non-stop to the house. About 2,000 miles and the seat performed perfectly. It was instantly broken in. The RallyMan program still needed some tweaks and it seemed every time I fixed one thing, I came up with 3 or 4 other “cool things” I wanted the program to do. The closer I got to July though, the busier work became and the less time I had to work on the program. It would have to be good enough.
The week before the rally was a scramble to finish up all sorts of personal things and for some overwhelming reason I was driven to “put my affairs in order.” Remember I had some bad shit happen back in December of 2014. I think that’s what drove me to obsess about the well being of my loved ones instead of if I have every last detail ready on my bike. But with a little determination I managed to get everything ready and I left early Friday morning, July  1st before the traffic started to build near my house.
The ride up to Denver was uneventful. Everything just worked and I sort of viewed it as getting to the end of the tank of gas. With the extra fuel and fantastic mileage I was going more than 400 miles between tanks. Around 2:40pm I crossed into Oklahoma and by 3:15 I was in Colorado. By 6:20pm, Denver time, I was walking into the hotel and saying “Hi” to friends I hadn’t seen in a while.
Saturday, started out as expected. I woke up rested and leisurely went down for breakfast then headed up to registration and out to tech inspection. Coming through the line a day later than most afforded me the luxury of learning there would not be an odometer check so I didn’t need to be geared up to ride. I just had to have my helmet available for inspection. The morning went by without a hitch. My paperwork was in order, my bike was in order and my helmet was fine. Things were rocking along nicely. I even went to WalMart with my riding buddy Lonnie “Cougar” McCoy to get some last minute things.
Upon my return to the hotel, I went up to my room and opened my laptop to watch some Hulu or Netflix while I took a nap. That’s when stuff started to hit the fan…. My laptop screen wouldn’t come on. I tried all sorts of reset options I found while searching the internet via my  phone and tablet. Hold this button, press that key, etc…. Nothing was helping the screen was just blank….
As the afternoon went on, I made another trip to WalMart to pickup something I had forgotten earlier and scope out their laptops. I was looking for something with 8GB of Ram, i3 processor or faster and something small. I didn’t need a 17 inch mammoth beast because I wasn’t going to do heavy duty route planning, I had the RallyMan software for that. It turned out WalMart didn’t have what I was looking for. So I went back to the hotel to give the laptop one more shot. Nothing. Zip. Nada!  CRAP!!!!! One of my rally nightmares were coming true.
Lonnie’s wife had brought the car up for the start, so I called Lonnie to see if he’d take me over to the Best Buy and of course, he was happy to help out. I don’t think I was in Best Buy more than 10 minutes before I was walking out with a laptop under my arm and a $600+ dent in my credit card. In regards to travel, Reagan used to always say, “No worries, if something goes wrong I have a credit card.” Well that philosophy has resulted in the purchase of a CanAm Spyder in the past and now a laptop.
The challenge would be to see if I could get the new laptop “rally ready” before the Start Banquet or if I was going to still be loading data and programs while everyone else was planning their epic ride to win the thing. It took about 5 hours to get everything installed and the necessary files downloaded from Dropbox but I did it. I had EVERYTHING I needed to process the rally pack after dinner. The only catch was that I had to leave it syncing during dinner so I didn’t have it at the banquet and I didn’t know if it was downloading the last bits OK…..
The Rally Masters really surprised me and gave us lots of perks up front. The Rally Pack was in digital format so I didn’t have to scan in the pages. And when I got back to the room I discovered there was a CSV file which had the points, time/daylight restrictions and rally pack position information.  It was just a matter of sorting and a few find/replaces, then I was copying it into RallyMan. I was thinking things were going along really well. I’d be “sawing logs” in less than an hour after getting the rally pack.
Well, that’s how I had planned it. But I had never tested RallyMan with a rally pack containing 163 bonuses. I had written the code to take up to 300 bonuses but never tested with more than 100. One of the key things RallyMan does is calculate the time and distance from each and every point to each and every other point plus the start and finish. So in this case, imagine a matrix of 165 points by 165 points. That’s over 26,000 records. After 5 or 6,000 records though Excel would time out. I fought this for several hours until I realized it was the same OLE32 error I had solved months before when I first integrated Excel with the Python calculator code. Before I figured out the root of the problem however, I hit the 100,000 query limit with Google and had to then wait until midnight pacific time for my daily limit to reset. So I twiddled my thumbs for an hour, packed what I could pack and waited.
Finally I was able to get all 26,000+ combinations completed and I thought I was in the clear. Well…. 2 hours later I finally had a 47,000+ point route. I loaded things into the GPS, POI Pocket and my tablet. Then I set RallyMan to run a 2 hour calculation and I got some sleep. It was after 3am when my head hit the pillow. So much for being asleep an hour after I got the rally pack. Best laid plans and all….
I awoke Sunday morning just after 5am. Dang, it felt like I had just fallen asleep, oh wait. I had…. 2 hours earlier. I checked RallyMan and it found a slightly better route with more points. The same basic route just a few hundred points higher, so I updated the tablet with the new route sheet. Here’s what it looked like:
First Schedule
Perfect, I had a route planned for the entire rally, it told me when to sleep,ride and gas up. (Click on the image to get the full route list). Now the challenge was to just ride it. Easy!
I strolled downstairs to get a bite to eat and register my odometer with a rally official. Because I hadn’t gotten much sleep I wasn’t in the best of moods and the food tasted awful. But I had my route planned and I felt confident that it was a decent one. Maybe not a winning route but definitely something to put me in the Top 10.
Finally 7am came and we were released!
[ Are you still awake? You wanted a ride report and so far I’ve written a small book before the rally ever started.  Someone once accused me of writing a “booklet” when I had actually set out to write a book. So keep reading ]
At the first of any rally, I’m always reminded of the words of my friend Steve Bracken, “You can’t win the rally in the first few minutes but you can certainly screw it up!” I zipped up I-25 north, moving along at a fair pace for the flow of traffic. Before long I found myself at the first bonus,


Arrival time: 8:10
Schedule time:  8:17

It seemed like I remembered what to do still, so I turned around and headed back to I-25N. When I left the bonus, there was no cell coverage so I opted to follow the Garmin 590. But as soon as I was able to, I popped up Waze and let it get me to the next point. And this is when I had to make my first decision about which routing engine I’d follow on the trip. Waze wanted me to cut north through a neighborhood and then catch 287 north. Garmin wanted to route me back through miles and miles of small town traffic to catch I-25N. Even though I-25 offered higher speeds, I think I did better following Waze.

AMESArrival time: 9:47
Schedule time: 9:42
“Dang it, I’m behind”
I probably would have made it to this bonus quicker except I found myself on a gravel road for miles and miles with no way to pass the Toyota Forerunner poking along in front of me. The funniest part was when we came to a cattle guard and two horses were standing there. The guy in the Toyota just stopped. He didn’t honk his horn, inch forward or anything. I finally had to get off my bike and walk up to the horses and move them out of the way. The whole time the guy in the Toyota was staring at the horses as if they were some sort of Holy sign from God or something. Weird!
Now the pressure was on. I had only been to two bonuses and I was already behind my schedule, that simply would not do. I adjusted my velocity accordingly and worked to keep the bike moving and the attitude positive.

Arrival time: 11:32
Schedule time: 11:41

When I entered the park for this bonus the cute little ranger girl at the gate reminded me to keep the speed at 25mph as she didn’t want to see me get into trouble. ‘Yes Ma’am!”
Now I understood what it took to keep my schedule and more importantly I realized that when I left each bonus I would be “behind” according to my GPS units because with the settings in my schedule I had actually said I would “outride” the calculated GPS times. It’s key to understand this, otherwise you start going through an emotional rollercoaster of being ahead and behind the schedule.
As I approached the next bonus I was starting to wonder about fuel. I wasn’t in the most populated area of Nebraska. And I certainly didn’t think I could make my own ethanol if I ran out of gas Smile

Arrival time: 11:59
Schedule time: 12:04

I was still ahead after this stop, but I hadn’t gained on the previous stop. In fact I gave up 5 minutes of “ahead”-ness. No worries, keep moving!
I stopped for fuel in Alliance, NE and entertained a family that appeared to be traveling in 3 or 4 vehicles. The Dad was really interested in what I was doing but didn’t get to talk to me as the kids and grandkids all needed something from him. My Gas stop was scheduled for 5 minutes and that’s what it took according to my GPS logs!
By now I was starting to develop a rhythm and a process again. I felt good, things were going good and I had pretty much forgotten about the little sleep I got the night before. As I was looking for my next bonus, I found it when I saw another rally rider finishing up his photo. Perfect!

Arrival time: 13:35
Schedule time: 13:29


Arrival time: 14:53
Schedule time: 14:58


Arrival time: 16:27
Schedule time: 16:33


Arrival time: 18:00
Schedule time: 17:47

At this point in the day I was starting to get tired. I had pushed myself pretty hard all day and kept the bike moving. Prior to this stop, which required a few miles of gravel road, I had stopped in Belle Fouche, SD to get some gas. I wasn’t scheduled for fuel until after CENTER but I knew I was going into an area that didn’t have regular fuel opportunities and I didn’t want to take a chance. The stop ran longer than expected because I was slow.
[ *** The astute rally rider / rally master has probably already found a problem that will haunt me at the scoring table. If not look back at the picture time stamps vs. the times I have listed. We were supposed to put our camera into MDT which was rally time. That’s the time I’m using for Arrival/Schedule times listed DSCN0814]

Arrival time: 19:52
Schedule time: 19:43

Despite my best efforts I couldn’t make up the 13 minutes that I got behind at the gas stop in Bell Fouche. But I was going to keep trying. At the time, I didn’t realize this would be my last bonus for the day but it was. The schedule was about to get blasted to hell!
In Baker, MT I turned south on to Hwy 7. I was talking to my LD buddy, Tyler who had absolutely no idea where the bonuses were but he was having fun guessing. I would of course refer to them as the code which meant nothing to him and of course, I didn’t even know what city some of them were in. LOL!!!!
Our conversation was cut short when I drove out of cell coverage and then off the paved road a few minutes later! Relax! I didn’t crash or anything, nope. It seems the fine folks of Montana just decided to rip the road up complete and leave a small dirt trail with orange cones. Thankfully it was still daylight but the “road” was so rough I had to slow down considerably. At the time it seemed like it went on forever, but hindsight (and GPS tracks) shows that it was only 4.5 miles and I was able to maintain an average speed of 40mph. I certainly wasn’t going to make up the 9 minutes I was behind after the last stop.
In Ekalaka, MT, the road changed to Hwy 323 but my direction of travel remained the same, SOUTH. By now the sun was setting and an amazing light show started to play in the sky in front of me. The lightning danced to it’s own beat and for a moment I marveled at it, then I realized I was one of the tallest things out there and if it got bad I had no shelter. I don’t even think there were ditches to crawl into.
Just 27 miles south of Ekalaka, things got even more challenging. I rode past a large mule deer just standing in the road. I passed so close to him that I could have grabbed his antler. The worst part was that I didn’t even see him until I was on top of him. Just a foot further into the road and this ride report would have ended very differently. To say it “scared the shit out of me” would be an understatement. I had all my lights on, but it didn’t matter. Their eyes don’t seem to reflect like the white tails of Texas and their butts aren’t white so you don’t see them as easily from the rear or side.
At this point I made a very personal decision that I probably would have made differently 2 or 3 years ago. Having recently become a step-dad and grandpa (g-paw) I realized that getting back home in one piece to see those kids and my lovely future wife was way way way more important than some top ranking in an amateur motorcycle endurance rally. So I slowed down. WAY DOWN! In fact for the next 75 miles my average speed was 44mph with a MAX of 55mph. Toward the end of the stretch I had finally caught the storm that danced so elegantly in the sky just a few hours earlier.
My nerves were shot, I was exhausted and I was looking for some shelter so I could rest a little and regroup. When I rolled into  Hulett, WY I was to the point that I would have paid whatever rate the innkeeper asked. The only problem was the single motel in town didn’t have an vacancy. Little towns like that close up early so it’s possible they just turned on the “NO VACANCY” so as to not be disturbed. But their parking lot looked full. So I rode around for a moment looking for a bank, church or other building with an awning or other outdoor cover.  I found the “Corner Market” and as luck would have it they were going to be closed the next day for “July 4th” and there was a Coke machine there along with a bench.  Here’s what it looks like from Google Maps.
After a few hours of sleep on the make shift bench (2x10 and cinder blocks) I got up and tried to figure out what I was going to do next. This is one of those points where I view my preparations and my RallyMan program as lacking. I had not yet programmed a “re-route” or DIY feature into the program. It would have been nice to tell the program where I was in the route AND what time it was. Then it would be able to reroute and get me to the check point on time with the least damage to my score. However, I didn’t have that so I did it the old fashioned way. I calculated that I was 5 hours behind, so I looked at my route in BaseCamp and cut out 5 hours worth.   That also cut 2,371 points out of the route. At the time I didn’t know how many I’d cut, I just knew I dropped points
With an adjusted plan and a little rest I hit the road, heading for my next bonus. Shortly into the ride I ended up taking a call from one of my clients. He of course, paid significantly for the call but it was for a worthy cause and it helped to keep me going through the early morning hours before the sun rose.

SPOTHArrival time: 5:18 (Day 2)
Schedule time: 23:03 (Day 1)

I arrived at the bonus 6 hours and 15 minutes later than planned. However, the program had planned a 3 hour rest break for me after the next bonus. So in reality I was only 3 hours and 15 minutes behind schedule. Remember, I took out 5 hours of the route though. Hmmmmm

Arrival time: 7:34
Schedule time: 1:17

I wasn’t feeling good when I left this bonus and as luck (un-luck) would have it, the route to the next bonus was through twisty mountainous roads. I was OK on the straights but in the steep twisties I opted to slow down which annoyed at least one other rally rider on a GS. But we both made it to the finish eventually, so what!
It’s funny when I’m riding in these events. Most of the time I really don’t know where I am, I just go where the GPS tells me. The next bonus code was JOSEPH, and I kept wondering if this was the large carving of the Chief Joseph [ correction - Crazy Horse ] that was being done over near Mt. Rushmore. But of course I was a long way away from there. LOL!

Arrival time: 10:32
Schedule time: 11:34

Definitely not the mountain carving I was thinking it was. LOL!!! But I had managed to get ahead of schedule again. Mainly because I cut out so many miles and points. But I was once again on a schedule.

Arrival time: 12:41
Schedule time: 12:43


Arrival time: 13:00
Schedule time: 13:45

On my way into Ft Benton, MT I was really struggling with exhaustion. I decided that I would look for a quiet park bench or shady place I could take a quick nap. The park at the SHEPM bonus looked good except for ALL THE PEOPLE! I quickly realized I wouldn’t get a decent nap. So I pressed on for the SHEPG bonus at the top of the hill. After getting the bonus I found a nice sloped area near the bike and laid down. I didn’t think I went to sleep but my alarm went off 30 minutes later and I felt 10 times better than I had before. I was ready to go!

Arrival time: 14:55
Schedule time: 15:09


TENCArrival time: 17:24
Schedule time: 17:20

TENC was worth 998 points and I didn’t really understand why. All I knew was that as I got closer to it I was encountering more and more law enforcement and they were actively pulling people over. Plus the wind, OMG!!!! The WIND was bad, even for me. It definitely contributed to my schedule slipping.  Of course, after grabbing TENC, I found myself riding THROUGH Glacier National Park. Oooops!  But it was beautiful.

Arrival time: 19:21
Schedule time: 19:06

My schedule was slipping for no apparent reason, other than the time I lost around GNP, but I had a blast riding along Lake Koocanusa. I highly recommend it as a fun road. I definitely spent some time leaned over and working on those chicken strips of the back tire Winking smile

Arrival time: 20:37
Schedule time: 20:17

This stop was just south of Bonners Ferry, ID and home to my buddy Tyler. He met me at the bonus with some snacks and that huge smile of his. I didn’t stay long, but it gave me time to put on my electric liner and enjoy a coconut water. Then I was back on the road! While underway I enjoy a bit of barbequed chicken he pulled off the grill just before meeting me. Normally, I’m not a dark meat guy, but there was nothing left of that leg and thigh! Yum!!!!

Arrival time: 22:26
Schedule time: 3:07 (Day3)

In the original plan, I was supposed to rest BEFORE getting the THOMPW bonus in Oregon but after the reroute I found myself ahead enough that I picked it up before I stopped for the night in Kettle Falls. I like to find mom & pop type hotels for my short breaks but this one was a disappointment. The Innkeeper was just plain slow and annoyed me. He thought he was renting out a 5 star Marriot room in Manhattan or something. It was a modest flea dump, no ice machine on premise, no in room fridge or microwave, just 1 towel, and no soap or shampoo. But the door locked and the bed had decent pillows, I slept!
Almost 4 hours later I was again moving. Getting out of that bed was hard! But this was Day 3 and I had a check point to get to! By 4am wheels were turning again and I was winding through a forest road to the first bonus just a few miles outside of town.

Arrival time: 4:17 (Day 3)
Schedule time: 4:18
Right on time!!!!


Arrival time: 6:22
Schedule time: 6:00

Following Waze took me on some crazy back twisty roads in the dark but I made it to the Grand Cooley Dam just 22 minutes behind schedule. Even though I was behind schedule at this point I thought I might be able to pick up something to make up for yesterday’s route butchering. I found 2 extra bonuses I could pick up and still be to the hotel by 00:00 MDT to get my full 8 hour rest bonus! It would be tight, so I needed to move!

Arrival time: 7:37
Schedule time: 6:33


Arrival time: 8:44
Schedule time: 7:43


BOOTArrival time: 13:53
Schedule time: 12:33

OK, so at this point I’m 1 hour and 20 minutes LATE and yet I knew I could make it. Go back and look at the schedule and you’ll see (calculate it) that it had me getting to the check point at 18:46 which meant I had more than 5 hours of wiggle in the schedule.  I consider that to be a BUG by the way…..
After leaving BOOT, I knew one thing, I had to keep the wheels turning and turning quickly! I didn’t have time to be tired, but I did have time to stop to refuel and add water. Dehydration was a very big concern to me.

Arrival time: 15:23
Schedule time: NOT!


Arrival time: 18:09
Schedule time: NOT!

At this point in the rally, I had added 1,390 points back into the route. In hindsight I think I could have added an extra 414 points too but I didn’t catch it in time. However, I attempted one more bonus after leaving MITCH and well….
The bonus code was TULE and it was worth 293 points. When I pulled out onto Hwy 140 after the MITCH bonus, my Garmin said I’d be on time, but the Waze was screaming NO!!!!!!! I’d be late by at least 20 minutes.  I decided to follow the Garmin. At first both GPS units were in agreement to continue on Hwy 140 into the Freemont National Forest. Then there was a divergent in the routes and the Garmin wanted me to take the Bly Mount Cutoff Rd. OK, it was gravel at first, then it turned into 2 dirt trails. Then suddenly it turned into a Goat trail!!! I found myself in a place with the wrong kind of motorcycle. I started to bottom out with the limited suspension and dropped the bike twice in just 15 feet. The second time I had to remove the side cases, top case and aux tank in order to lighten the bike enough to get it back up. The second fall also broke the front fairing sub-frame where the mirrors mount. Aaaargh!!!!!!!!
Here’s the Google Map position.
Apparently I was more than halfway down the trail, but at that point I didn’t know that. And I wasn’t willing to risk any further tip overs. So I rode the bike back up the trail to better ground. Then hauled all the parts I had taken off the bike up the hill and put things back together. In the process of the event, I managed to rip my hydration hose off the bike, but luckily retrieved it before leaving the area.
Once back on the road I stopped to check things and the bike checked out OK. I was more shaken up than the bike. But I collected myself and got moving. I was now 1 hour late to the check point. I could still check in but I would lose 60 minutes of the rest bonus. F***!!!!!!!!!
In my mind I really wicked up the throttle getting to the check point. But reviewing the GPS logs tells a different a tale. Yes, I was moving but no where near a level of wreckless speeding. I guess I actually settled into my normal rally riding pace once I got moving. I had right at 5 hours to make it to the check point and as the miles disappeared so did the minutes that I would be late. In the end I made it to the checkpoint at 00:18, just 18 minutes late. All things considered, that was good.
The check point was …. well I was tired,  but it seemed like a bad place to have a mid-way checkpoint and better suited for a finish location. There was quite a bit of walking from the bikes to the check-in and scoring. And registration took way too long with just one person to work the desk at the time. The lady even apologized for the delay saying Tuesday nights were usually really slow. Apparently the event people hadn’t coordinated with the hotel front desk on the matter of check-ins.
By the time I got to my room, I was worn out, annoyed, frustrated and HUNGRY. I tried to prepare my score sheet and get ready for scoring. Then I went down stairs with everything I needed to score. The process was remarkably quick and I give the rally staff kudos for a great job.
Unfortunately I didn’t do so well at scoring and lost points for the DRYFAL bonus because I wrote it on the score sheet as DRYFALL. 540 points tossed out! I left the table with 20,448 points. Since I didn’t really know what I was supposed to have on leg 1 (my program calculated the whole rally) I went to bed disappointed with the 540 point loss and angry with myself for the debacle in Oregon that missed up my bike and cost me 180 points in rest.
I needed things to get better on Leg 2.