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…


Steve said...

Nicely done Brian.

Autopsies are great, they show where you can improve, but this was a solid ride, well done.


Brian said...

Thanks Steve,
the really in-depth autopsy of this ride is particularly important as I plan to use it while debugging my code further. I have a dream!!!!
"Never open BaseCamp again during a Rally. Just update my status in RallyMan and let it give me an updated schedule to follow."

Computers don't get tired on a multiday rally and won't make dumb mistakes as a result. Plus I like lists that help me with schedules.

This is about as close as I can get to the computer that helps Stark in IronMan.