I think my route was longest Thursday night. It has been slowly getting bigger since I had gotten the rally book. When I got to Pottstown late to the dinner I brought my tank bag inside. I didn’t really understand why someone asked me, with some surprise: “is that waterproof?” I hadn’t really been getting rained on. In fact, all summer full time 2 wheel commuting and long rides on the weekends I had seen very little rain. I was seriously considering the possibility that I had a personal high pressure zone. No, really, I was. It. Was. Not. Going. To. Rain. On. Me.
Sitting in the hotel with Catfish, cowardice set in and the route starting getting shorter. But, BUT, it was not going to rain. Woke up and it wasn’t raining. Followed Fuzzy to BP and congratulated myself on A. being conservative on my first rally, B. being magical. Made a quick trip back to the hotel to jump Catfish’s FJR. Got a bit spooked because my tank receipt looked good to me but everyone else seemed to be going inside to get their’s. Ran mine by two other people we all saw the city, state, date, time and hand written odo. Off like a prom dress as my mother likes to say.
Absolutely blasted to Harrisburg. The Vstrom is noted for MPG not MPH but I left the throttle a little more openish than typical, a little. It was not immediately apparent but Harrisburg exposed the biggest flaw in my rally planning strategy, that is, focusing on how to get there more than what to do when I did. First waypoint doesn’t land me where I need to be. Stop, search for a YMCA, drive a bit. Second waypoint doesn’t land me where I need to be. Stop, search for a post office, drive there, oops not so much. At this point I learned just ask locals. It would be a long time before it occurred to me I didn’t need a post office I just needed a receipt. So that was 45 min.
I fix the delay by ditching a few of the boni on 89 and blasting south. I’m from the north so I had no idea how common Cracker Barrels where. I mean, I knew they were all over the place but, come on. Made up for skipping a bonus by stopping for the cracker barrel bonus. Chatted with a guy, told him my route and he proceeded to give me a turn by turn breakdown (trucker for 30 years). I briefly considered taking him on as a GPS. Got him to hold my rally flag instead. Ok, back on track for the Motel 6 double bonus.
And then the rain started. Leaving Motel 6 I made the call to skip everything, and head for Asheville. Stopped for gas and it was raining hard. Put on the boot covers and didn’t get off the bike until I needed gas again, got a Subway did some route math in my head. While I was there my planned couch surf in Charlotte emailed and canceled. Screw it, I’m going to DC. The amazing thing about rallys is the udder lack of constraint on decision making, actions have consequences but the only limits are what you can get the bike to do. Before I signed up for this thing I read Catfish’s quote on Fuzzy’s blog, “if you are not having fun you can always stop.” This is profound. Sitting somewhere in the south of VA I was on the edge of making my route possible if I took the minimum rest, the Catfish quote expanded to “if x then y.” I just turned around and started heading back up 89.
On the way I decided to take the Blue Ridge north. This was a very romantic notion in my mind. The BR in the dark and rain and all to myself because of the shutdown. I had turned off my GPS and took the first exit that had Blue ridge on the sign, how romantic of me, I know. Rode back south for a while to get to it. Stopped and asked a couple if I was almost there. They took my picture which proves that just because you’ve been riding in the rain for hours and it is night time you do not automatically look like a bad-ass (whatever you feel like). Stopped at a diner to make sure I was really there because had been romantically riding south for a while, wanted to be a little more practical (and northbound). Stopped to take a photo and a truck asked if I was ok. The park was was awesome. A slick black sheet of deserted twisties and critters. The longer I rode the move vivid the image of white plastic and hi-viz green sticking out of ditch became. I began to be absolutely certain that what would happen was that 42 minutes after I laid the bike down the next car by would run me over and then stop to see what they’d hit which was how I would be rescued. Did I mention the part about how I couldn’t keep my shield clear? I turned the GPS back on and got off the parkway.
Before long I was back on something straight. The rain let up for a bit and I slammed into fog. I love Bets’ (my bike) headlights, except in the fog (recommendations for fog lights? PM me). I slowed down in time to see the “it’s really steep trucks slow down sign.” I don’t worry because the “next 3 miles part” must be a typo. In a few hundred feet the “and it is really twisty too” sign gets a nervous laugh out of me. And then the two cars catch up with my 22 mph decent. This goes on for a least 3 hilarious days before I find an actual road.
Back on 89. I have decided against giving up on the whole “points” thing and grab some of the small boni on the way. Good call, I start to actually feel like I am on a rally (even though I think I drove 500+ miles without getting a point). Pink Cadillac and several music stores in the bag before I start the rest bonus at 2:45 in Falls Church and crash at a high school buddy’s place. I dump my stuff in the drier, plan for the morning and go to sleep. I wake up just before the 5:30 alarm and decide I need another cycle so I go back down again until 7:00. At this point Mike is up, we catch up and talk about the rally. I give up on the karaoke bonus (thus keeping my karaoke free status, if I ever do karaoke it will be Stagger Lee BTW), plan to grab the the Washington A and B side boni and then head into FIN with time to spare. There is a handy Starbucks between the two and I take a break while I’m there. The woman working actually said the words “do you want your receipt” and I actually thought “Do I? Nope I don’t” before telling her as much. This moment will replay in my mind in about 45 min once I am out of the city. Anyway, got the Jimmy Buffet bonus and learned about a trucker protest going on in the city. Time to head for FIN.
Almost got out of there without silly traffic, almost. I had tons of time but was panicking anyway. Saw a white helmet wearing hiz viz in the northbound lane and thought “so that’s how the big fish swim” no way I would have been heading into DC with this kind of traffic on my left at 2 hours from the start of penalties. Rode Telegraph road all the way to its end without seeing any giant statue of Jesus. No surprise really, I am pretty much a pro at not finding stuff. Oh, there it is. What a way to end a rally.
Got into Fredricksburg and got my finisher packet. I answer the how’d it go with a sheepish “badly.” But I’m laughing so hard that I’m concerned that they are concerned I have lost it. I ride around back and start to prep my documentation. This takes a lot longer than it felt like and I hand it in for scoring. Whew.
Protip: get your start text correct. Other than that I don’t lose any points. More frightening than my finish position is the fact that I rode nearly a mile per point.
Meets lots of great people at the rally banquet, watched a fire at the Olive Garden across the parking lot. Charged my cellphone with my bike.
Woke up needing a jump, so did Catfish. We bookended the rally with cables attaching our bikes. Rode back to MA.
Thank you to the rally masters and volunteers!
Having never done this before I was amazed at the professionalism and smoothness of the process. Coming from the endurance running world, If this was a marathon, triathlon etc. this would cost hundreds of dollars and would not be as well run. Andy at scoring was extremely helpful, going out of his way to point out all of my near misses and what I learned from him will save me many many points in the future (AND he didn’t even laugh at my route). I saw equally graceful winning and losing all around me at that table which was very cool.
Glad to have met you and sorry I probably only remember your face not your name. Thanks to Fuzzy and Keith for helping out a noob, and Catfish for splitting a room with me and helping out a noob.
Looking forward to doing it again!
Oh and if you are reading this and have never done a rally check out LD rider before you do (oops).