by Anton Largiader
My goal was to not be in last place, and to get the Saddlesore 1000. I did both by setting a conservative strategy, executing it well, and modifying it as I went, based on the current situation. But that's about all of the self-back-patting I have to do; it was a fun ride and I want to tell you about it!
Friday night, bonus packs were distributed and I started planning about 9:00. My plan had been to beeline to the Danville checkpoint, see how I was doing time-wise, and then pick up some bonuses and budget a few hours for sleep on the return leg. But it turns out that I would have gotten to Danville hours before it opened, so I had some time to kill on the first leg. The way-out bonuses were eliminated: New Jersey Turnpike, Lancaster County, and others like that. The remaining ones involved a few choices: go down the Eastern Shore of Maryland (ix-nay: uncertain as to beach traffic, and no interstates), go on the Potomac peninsula to Point Lookout Maryland and a few other bonuses (nope, needed two extra hours) or go down I-95 and get bonuses right off the interstate, which I did. I wrote directions, and wrote down some "no later than" times for each bonus. If I was later than that, I'd pass it without stopping. Then I went to sleep.
Next morning, I was off at 7:04. I set the clock to match the rally time as I rolled out, and went first to the Southern Mountain Inn to find out what day they closed and the price of the Sunday buffet. Then I got back on the slab and pulled into Fort McHenry in Baltimore to get a passport stamp. I was slightly ahead of my schedule, and felt good. From there, I went down to the first checkpoint in Annapolis, where I needed a gas receipt. My former life remembered that the gas stations on 450, outside town, still were in Annapolis, so my stop there was quick, painless, and I saved a few miles. Then it was back on 50 to DC and down towards Richmond.
On 50, I joined up with Jim Fletcher, a friend from BMWBMW who was in the rally just for the SS1K. We rode together down 95, then I split off to get Stonewall Jackson's death date and burial location while Jim continued south. I was close to an hour early at this point, and was wondering how to use the time. But the next bonus was the Cracker Barrel in Williamsburg, so I pulled in for lunch with the laptop and the bonus book and reviewed the options.
A word here on fast service. When the hostess showed me a table, I ordered a house salad from her before even sitting down, mentioning that I was in a bit of a hurry (I was ahead of schedule, but I didn't want to spend it eating!). I had hardly opened the bonus book before the food was on the table! Total time to eat, plan, pee and pay was around 30 minutes max.
Anyway, I ran the rest of the leg through the computer and found that I would get to Danville about two hours early. Not good! There were two bonuses to grab in Va. Beach, though. In Norfolk, again, a prior life remembered that gas stations at the first Norfolk exit said "Norfolk" (required for the checkpoint) so I dodged off, got fuel, and got back in I64 and headed for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. I needed a toll receipt, but had no intention of paying the $10. After all, I didn't want to cross! So I pulled into the parking lot by the tollbooths, went in and found that they were happy to give me a receipt! Cool! Back on the road, east through some traffic to Seashore State Park (also known as First Landing State Park) to find out who mans it and what number to call for more info. Talking to the ranger at the gate (too cheap to pay to go in!) I found the information I needed, and also that another rider was already there, and was still in the park! It was Jim, a few minutes ahead. I'd seen him leaving the Cracker Barrel when I arrived, and he was making this his second bonus. Fortunately, we compared notes and I found that I had to actually enter the park to get the required information, and there was a different phone number, too! The ranger let me in without paying and I got the correct info for that stop. Since the Bridge-Tunnel was so close, we stopped again for Jim to get it and then went around Norfolk and headed west for Danville. There was another bonus south of Va. Beach, but we decided to play it safe. Jim had only slept three hours the night before and wanted to rest if we had the chance.
By this time it was about 3:00, and we were coasting across the southern edge of Virginia. When I finally saw signs for Danville, I was a bit disappointed that we would be nearly an hour early. I had gotten pretty good sleep the night before, and wanted to press on while I could. But there was nothing to do but get there and relax, which was OK, too. We were the first to arrive, but only by a few minutes, and we ordered some stuff from Pizza Hut and took it easy. George Young, the president of BMWBMW, slept on a pool chaise in full Aerostich and helmet. Elsie Smith, who I'd seen behind me at Williamsburg and Va. Beach, came and left promptly at 6:30. Jim and I left about 6:40, heading west again, straight for the Charleston VW corner.
That part was pretty fun. 58 narrowed to one lane and went over the Blue Ridge. Uphill esses and sweepers, down around tight bends, and beautiful scenery. The sun was still up, and it was probably the nicest part of the trip. That went on longer than I expected, and I had been worrying about time and the route for quite a while before we finally reached I-77. So we went north, then onto I-81, then I-64. I think we got to Charleston around 9:15, feeling great. The gas stop was a bit seedy, but we were happy to find an open station at all; this place really rolls up the sidewalks at night! I had a nice chat on the CB with a trucker on the way in; he warned of speed enforcement in the immediate area but none was spotted. Jim called home, and I tried, then we were off for Morgantown.
We were doing OK time-wise, but both of us knew that some sleep would be needed before getting back. There were four small bonuses before Morgantown, each was just off the interstate, so I figured we'd stop for them, more to keep us alert and focused than for the points. Jim was a bit tired at this point but I was feeling good. Zoom down the ramp! Left turn, go go go! Stop! OK, the color of the post office. Lots of halogen lighting on tap for that one! "Jim, write down 'white'." Back onto I-79, 15 more miles, repeat. First eatery, just inside town... Granny's Kitchen! Back on the road! OK, name of the General Store for the next one. At that point Jim mentioned that he might drop off to get some sleep soon, and that I should go on when that happened. The next bonus was about 50 miles further, but at about 1:00, with 950 miles on the clock, he was still with me as I pulled off for it.
I had felt the bike handling strangely for the last few miles, and when we got to the bottom of the ramp, my fears were confirmed: the front tire was almost flat. I didn't need the gas cylinders, though, as there was a store open across the way. A quarter got me lots of pressure in it, and I heard no leaking, so I figured all was well and we went for the last bonus. We had to hunt around for the historical marker, but found it. As we're stopped in the wrong lane in the street, with several hundred watts illuminating our prey, the local cop rolls by... again. Hmmm. The marker was acoss the street from a park, Jim's tired, and I'm getting that way. Hmmm... We dodged around back, parked the bikes, and WITHIN SECONDS the cruiser made the third appearance. But the cops were friendly, and I told them straight out that we were on a trip and thought this was a good place for a nap. No problem, says The Man, pull the bikes right into the picnic shelter if you want. Jim's question about safey brought laughter. "We get about 1000 calls in the whole year, and that includes barking dogs and such." As eagle-eyed as these guys were, I knew we were in good hands, although Jim was thinking "Deliverance". Jim, you just let those banjos lull you to sleep. We set the alarm for two hours, and I stretched out on the wet grass in my suit and helmet.
The "Iron Butt Motel" was new to me, but I made myself pretty comfortable with a roll of clothing holding my helmet at the right angle. Faceshield open for air (hope the birds are asleep!) and I loosened the 'stich a bit. I had added the polartek pullover to the long-sleeved tee and Gerbing jacket for sleeping, since I wouldn't be plugged in, and it was a bit bulky. I pretended that the bulk on my arm was not the Aerostich, but Tracy cuddled up to me, and that weight on my chest... it's not all of the clothing I'm wearing, that's the cat sleeping on me! I was asleep within the minute.
Jim awoke after only an hour and was ready to get going. I'd have slept the second hour, but at this point we were pushing and pulling each other, so we left. The cruiser was parked in the driveway of the parking lot, and the cop was talking to some toothless friend, and we waved to him and headed the last few miles to Morgantown. I was cold, though, and left the polartek on over the electrics, which I hadn't done before. Boy was that hot! I still didn't really warm up until Morgantown, though. The odometer read 999.something at the next gas stop, and I missed the big rollover as we got back on the interstate for the most painful leg of the trip. It was about 3:30 now, and we were beat. Several times Jim dropped way back, and I didn't notice immediately. This is a sign of fatigue! Once I just stopped, angled sideways for a better view, in the middle if I-68 and waited; there was nobody else on the road. I was in heap big trouble, too, and the distance left was NOT getting shorter. Every time I checked, it was still 100 miles to go. Then it was always an hour to go. I'd stop checking, hoping to be pleasantly surprised if I waited long enough. Nope. Still the same. We rode on through the spectacular cut in Sideling Hill, with the curved strata, but it was visible only by the peripheral light of the PIAAs. I stood on the pegs for refreshment, and felt better. As soon as I sat down I was sleepy again. Up - OK. Down - dozing. Hmmm.. Deep knee bends! And that was the key! Twenty deep knee bends on the bike had me wide awake for good. Jim caught up from his most recent dropping back, and I motioned him alongside. "Tired?" (palm on side of helmet, tilt the head). "Yes" (no explanation needed). "Watch this" (point to myself) and I do the knee bends again. He caught on, and that was it. Light was beginning to break now, and we motored on into the lightening sky. We got to I-81 around 5:30, and Jim zoomed up towards the PA line, and the finish, as I stopped to check the tire. It was OK, and I was awake now. I checked the map: the two bonuses nearby were just within range, if everything went well. I thought for quite a few minutes about this. They were good bonuses, and even if I was a few minutes late, the bonuses would offset the late points. But I was on the verge of completing my original plan: getting the 1000-in-1 and finishing the rally with points. Screwing up now could cost me the first, and the second was a done deal. Besides, I had the questionable tire, and Jim would not know what had happened to me. I put the paperwork away and motored on in to the finish. I checked in at about 5:40, with around 1150 miles and ten relatively small bonuses.
I gathered the receipts, completed the paperwork, and got some sleep. In the afternoon, there was an awards banquet where I received my 1000-in-1 certificate (I'm certifiable now!) and found that I was 18th, ahead of quite a few Iron Butt types who had gambled with bigger stakes and lost. My roommate was not there; Mike Sachs from Atlanta had dawdled and lost time, then run out of steam in Charleston. Gary Harris had taken the challenge and gone for the New Jersey Turnpike (exit 3) bonus, and had lost enough speed penalty points to put him low in the standings. Elsie had gone to Asheville from Danville and finished late. Roy Collins had lost the drive splines on his Gold Wing in Morgantown, and one rider was time-barred in Danville.
I hung out until about 3:30 with some old and new friends, then headed home for some real sleep. Unbelievably, it still felt nice to be on the bike.
The best part was clearly my Awesome K75RT with way cool electric windshield and deer-vaporizing driving lights. But other than the bike, the winner was clearly the heated jacket. I simply don't understand how one can ride long distances in the cold without it. I wish I had the variable controller for it; I might have stayed plugged in on low heat while sleeping in WVa. As it was, I would have slow-cooked myself and drained the battery. About the lights, they sure are bright. In construction zones, or anywhere else where there is a lot of reflective stuff, they are too bright. But they sure did find a lot of deer in WVa in the middle of the night, evenly split dead/alive.
80 to 90 on the interstates, up to about 80 on the major back roads, and whatever on the smaller ones. I made much better time than Map'n'go predicted, and probably I should have gone for the Potomac bonuses instead of going down I-95. Live and learn. Very little enforcement. A rider right in front of us got pulled for passing in the center turn lane in a village, and several riders had their licenses "inspected" by various LEOs in the five or six states we were in. Our licenses were sealed in envelopes at the start; if you came back with the envelope still sealed you got 500 points. Also there was a speed bonus of 1000 points from which points were deducted if you showed an average speed over 60mph for the rally. 5 minutes were deducted from your time for each bonus, raising the average speed figure. A bit complicated, but one finisher with over 1400 miles finished far behind me as a result. Understanding this bonus was vital to being a top finisher. My adjusted average speed was 52mph, so I got all of those points.
The longer I rode, the better I felt. The windshield is really good, and I watched my posture and had very little shoulder pain the whole time. As usual, being in heavy traffic or in the cold made it worse, because of tension. But at midnight, with 900 miles on the clock, I felt like I could ride forever. I drank lots of water. During the day I had a smoke faceshield, since the route was aimed into the sun for most of the day. At Danville I changed to clear. I'm still undecided about the smoke shield; it removes the vibrancy of the colors and dulls the scenery and with good sunglasses I'm pretty happy with the clear one in daytime.
And I'm as sold as ever on touring with a CB. This thing will be on my bike for just about any riding I do from here on. A huge regret was that Jim didn't have a CB also. Talking to each other in the middle of the night riding would have been a real plus to staying alert, and during the times when he was in front, I could have told him of radar and other things. We did a lot of cryptic gesticulating back and forth, which is fun, but sometimes on a ride like this you just need to be in clear communication. But there sure are some jackasses out there driving trucks. Not all, just some.
Overall, I had a really good time, but I won't do it again really soon. It takes a lot of time, for one, and it really tired me out! Knowing better now how much planning is needed to win, I think the planning is the really fun part. The ride is mostly proof that the plan is workable. It's fun, too, but the 4:00 AM fatigue is something I could do without. Ironically, the winner had time to sleep, since the speed bonus penalized the all-night speed freaks. He won a rally last fall with extreme riding (around 1350 miles) and the speed bonus was designed to keep him from doing it again. When he took a minute to sit down, mid-rally, and read the details of the speed bonus he found that if he got any more bonuses he'd do worse overall, and that his only option was to go straight home. He did, then over breakfast figured out the best balance of speed penalties and late penalties and checked in at that minute.
Anyone wanna go for a ride?