5 n Dime – 2014

That’s the name of the rally [scavenger hunt] I just completed over the weekend of July 4th – what a way to celebrate this country and see a lot of it – check Mark’s byline on the right of my web page! The 5 n Dime achieved its name after a disgruntled potential participant complained to the RM [rally master] of how the MERA rallies were dime store quality – or something to that effect. Never one to miss a good chance the RM changed the name and added the theme of Woolworth’s 5 & 10c stores!

As usual we signed up months in advance – about 60 of us – and we all received the 67 page, 197 bonus list a month before the start date. MERA allows one to utilize anyone and everything to plan the route we will take. I utilize a bit of local knowledge from friends and relatives, and a lot of Streets & Trips mapping program with much google thrown in. With the latter I can visualize what the bonus looks like – a Woolworth’s at an address, a statue, a bridge et al. Thus, when I arrive I know exactly what I am looking for; or, maybe in my research I decide not to go to the location due to potential time wasting difficulties.

With the help of friend Mark V. I received a well plotted S&T U.S. map of all 197 potential bonii. This saved me time and allowed for easier visualization of potential routing. There was a Union Railroad Station’s theme in major cities that caught my eye. Living in the west I had the opportunity to get 5 stations’ pictures for good points plus an additional bonus for all 5. The problem [there always is a challenge] was the first station for me was in LA, the second in Portland, OR – a whole day’s ride away with few opportunities for other bonus points along the long way… I nixed Portland and ended up with only 4 of the stations but a better route that more than made up for the lost points available for this combination.

I essentially rode from LA to Chicago and Milwaukee, WI, and back to the finish in Salt Lake City, UT; 5 days and 4,500 miles later. I obviously zigged and zagged a bunch to pick up bonus locations along the way. That was my ‘5’ part of the ‘5 n Dime’. Others chose the ‘Dime’ portion and they rode ~ 10,000 miles in 10 days – obviously affording them with the opportunity of seeing more of the country, Canada, and even AK!

There were some nice bonii located in and around LA – the USS Iowa in the Long Beach Harbor; this was followed by the SR-71 [huge spy plane, delta-shaped with a cockpit the size of a bathtub!]. There were 2 such planes close for me – LA and Palmdale, CA.

Also in LA was the Griffith Observatory for a pic of the James Dean bust and a second pic of the ‘Hollywood’ sign in the hills about 3/4mi away. I arrived here after a 09:00 start for me, about 10:00 [I had scored the USS Iowa, the first SR-71, the LA Union Station, pics of 2 freeways with the number ‘10’ in them] and now was at a bit of altitude and into the morning marine layer. Dean’s bust was easy, and even another bonus of a uniformed park ranger, but the Hollywood sign was barely visible in the morning fog. I took 3 different pics of it with my rally towel [the towell is a necessity for all bonus pictures] lined up exactly with the sign – in case there were questions of the sign at the scoring table – which there weren’t.

Another [recurring MERA rallies] theme was to score receipts from up to 5 “In-n-Out” hamburger stands. In-n-Out being deemed the LD rallyists’ favorite burger joint! These don’t open in LA until 10:30 and even tho I had several close to home, they weren’t yet open. This was a progressive bonus where the first In-n-Out was worth 1505 points and the fifth resulted in 2305 each – thus 5 added up to 11,525 points!

Now, after the Observatory it was the magic hour and I had routed 5 In-nOuts, almost in a 15mi line as I vacated LA. I had many $1 bills in my pocket to ‘pay’ for these receipts if necessary. Everyone I asked provided me with their receipt for free and refused the $1 bill – only the cops I asked at one of these didn’t want to oblige me… Now, in fairness to all my fellow rallyists, I do know the ‘intent’ of the bonus was to eat something but that was not specifically stated – sorry Mr. RB.

Next was the aforementioned Palmdale SR-71 and then on to Bakersfield for my first Woolworths store – pretty normal with red façade and gold letters.

Bakersfield Wooworth's store

Unbeknownst to me, my LD friend, Dr. Ted B., was trying to intercept me at the Woolworths. I was a few minutes early and he was as many minutes ‘late’ and we unfortunately missed each other. It is always fun to meet someone along the route.

It was over 100° and I needed to keep moving to try to stay cool with my LD Comfort gear [www.ldcomfort.com] – wet it down, close up the vents on my jacket and the inside temp drops – like the Bedouins! Before hitting the highway again, I stopped at a mini-mart for some coconut water and cold bottled water. The coconut water is much preferred over other energy drinks as it does not have sugar or HFCS added to it but it does contain K+ and other electrolytes. Good stuff!

Now came a long slog through the CA Mojave Desert and into NV – Parhump to be exact. A now-defunct restaurant was the goal for a pic. The GPS took me down some side road that dead-ended but alas, there was a hole in the fence that allowed me to ride through and onto a dirt path that led me back to the main road. Did the GPS really know there was a hole there?

Of course a MERA rally always has a Las Vegas bonus or 3. I chose only to take on the memorial to ‘Bugsy’ Siegel, the ‘father of modern day Vegas’, who apparently couldn’t account for $62mil [today’s money] in the construction of the famous Flamingo Hotel and Casino. He was found shot by unknown assailants 6 months after it opened back in the late ‘40s. A pic scored me 2805 points. I chose not to take on the 550’ world’s tallest ferris wheel bonus – too much waiting and riding time and even a $25 cost!

Now I was on my way to score my 3rd state receipt bonus in AZ – the corner of which the I-15 barely passes through, and then to St. George, UT for the night – a short 725mi day that was full of bonii and over 60,000 points. BTW – for every state we were in, and collected a receipt of any kind we would receive 1500 points – I managed 12 states, I believe.

Early morning 2, I was on my way to 5 National Parks within the State of UT – they are all unique and beautiful. I only had to take a pic of each of the NP signs. On the way I scored the necessary UT State Highway 12 bonus along with the pie bonus in Bicknell, UT. The pie bonus was unusual – I was to try the Pinto Bean pie and the Pickle pie. I did and they were good. I had water and coffee and a bite of each. The waitress understood my request as she had other motorcyclists there doing the same. She served me a plate with a nice bite of each, and the rest of the pieces of pie I had asked her to provide on another plate to a group of young ladies who were out for the day. They were happy with my offering.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Jon and Ande, who were two-up competitors on a new BMW 1600 GTL – very sharp. With her ‘freedom’ on the back, Ande was following other riders on the SPoT tracking page with her i-Pad. She realized someone was close to them and that ended up being me. Ande and Jon are serving in our U.S. Navy [thanks for your service guys] and Ande has been the ship commander in an earlier call of duty! That she is an attractive 40-something blonde adds to the intrigue of her accomplishments.

Finishing up the NP bonus with Canyonlands and Arches, I headed on into CO. Another ‘letter’ in my effort to spell M-E-R-A was obtained from the Eagle, CO post office. Then on into the Denver area to find the Danny Dietz memorial. Danny was part of a Navy Seal team on an ill-fated mission to capture a Taliban leader – it went way wrong and the movie Lone Survivor is a ‘true story’ of the mission.

Respect for Danny Dietz in the waning light

Finally, for the day, the Denver Union railroad station for a picture and 5500 more points. I spent the night another 100 or so miles east close to the CO-KS border, in Burlington. Motels and rest are a bonus worth 1500 points for 5 each – no time limit for the rest, but because of the point value I do get some sleep each night.

Morning brought sunshine and little threat of rain. I had 230mi to go until my first bonus – the geographic center of the continental USofA. Nice marker on a hill in the middle of the KS cornfields – now cultivated for ethanol and HCFS…

There wasn’t a combo or theme but it finally dawned on me that we were given 2 bonii that were similar – to go to the important spot of the assassins who killed the men who killed the presidents! Lincoln was killed by JWBooth and he in turn was killed by Thomas ‘Boston” Corbett. Boston lived out his life in a hole-in-the ground near Concordia, KS in the middle of nowhere. Within the last 20 years or so some Boy Scouts erected a memorial and this was the bonus. Turns out it was down some gravel roads that ended up being about 20 miles in total. In general, gravel roads on a big touring bike aren’t exactly fun.

Following Boston’s hole-in-the-ground, I headed to Abilene, KS for the Eisenhower Library and a sign there. I had been there previously so this was a quick photo-shoot, fill-up and drink-up and away.

On a bike trip from the Blue Ridge Parkway a couple summers ago, my good riding friend, Jack C. and I found a nice shady pull-off along US 36 in Seneca, KS. Turned out it was next to a park the county had erected for all the men and women who had, or are now serving this country in the military. Unique as I felt this memorial was, I nominated it as a bonus. The RM allowed each participant the opportunity to designate a bonus for the rally. Since I was in KS this was my next stop. I love riding in and through the farmlands, and the heart of America, and recommend US 36 through MO & KS if you are ever traversing middle America and don’t want to run the slab. It’s fun and not really that slow.

Now, the RM/RB has a taste for chocolate and so next up was the Mars factory, at 100 Mars Blvd., in Topeka. This 500,000sqft plant has quite a daily production run – reportedly 39 million M&Ms and another 14 million bite sized Snickers! Of course a picture of the plant was the bonus [a huge green M&M over the door], AND we were to bring an unopened bag of dark chocolate M&M’s back to the scoring table – and I guess eventually to that RB… I never really heard what happened to them…

See the green M&M?

The day was wearing on – about 600 miles out now, and on to Kansas City, MO for another Union Railroad Station and another Woolworths also in KC. It is quite old and is now an art gallery.

Final stops of the day were in St. Joseph, MO for a pony express memorial [what did they do, and what do we do? Ride our butts off…] and on to Laclede, MO for a General Pershing statue photo. Interesting because the statue was in a very small town, and it was very dark, and a few people were out on their porches and here comes a motorcycle down the street… I drew attention! The large statue was easily lit up with my lights and I snapped the pic and was gone – quietly…

Gen. Pershing late in the evening

I spent Thursday night in the Springfield, IL area after about 1030mi for the day – to tell you the truth right now, I’m kinda fuzzy on wherever it was I slept! But I do know the next morning… it was the 4th of July! I rode a 100mi or so and stopped for breakfast short of Chicago.

This was a big rally day coming up and I needed to score big on the Hancock Building with a ride to the 94th floor [only 1030ft and only a 43 seconds ride!]. Got a pic of the skyline and was down again.

Chicago Skyline from 1030 feet!

Interesting, they took my ‘go-to-the-head-of-the-line’ $35 pass money but wouldn’t let motorcycles park in their parking lot! Not sure anyone of us rallyists learned the reason for that. I did something I don’t often do and parked on the street and covered my bike and walked the 3blks to the Hancock. Probably was back at the bike within a half-hour and all was good.

Next was a hot dog stand – pic only, no purchase or receipt – warned of ‘rough’ neighborhood; then off to Jack Ruby’s grave marker – the other assassin’s assassin who killed Oswald after his apparent shots killed Kennedy – a very plain, small marble tombstone in the ground with no reference to anything except his name and dates of living.

Next big points were up in Milwaukee, WI that came about with some toll road monies and a bit of 4th traffic. First was a plaque of TRoosevelt who was shot in the chest on or near the spot, and who then gave an hour speech even though he was wounded! The location is inside a Hyatt Hotel and the personnel raised an eyebrow as I traipsed my motorcycle clothing-clad body through their pristine lobby to obtain another pic. This one was a ‘selfie’ as a couple ladies walking through the area at the time obliged me with taking it.

TRoosevelt plaque

In Milwaukee… well, that smacks of beer and the RM likes his beer so we got to go to the Best Place Tavern where there is a statue of the king of beers – Gambrinus. This wasn’t difficult and the statue is located in a garden that the tavern surrounds. Staff was nice and easy in and out.

King of Beers - Gambrinus

I had ridden about 300mi and had obtained ~53,000 points thus far today – wow! if only all days could be so productive. That is what planning can do, though.

Back into IL now, in fact to a park in Oregon, IL and a 48ft tall statue of a native American – made of concrete and only weighing some 539,000 pounds!

One big native American

This was followed by a decision to scrap the 4-hours night-time ride up to Mankato, MN, and instead obtain two more inline bonii that kept me heading toward the barn. My sister lives in MN and as I was planning the route I spoke with her about this area – all small country roads and highways and lots of deer. So, I had considered this as an ‘out’ option on this long day and I took the option. Another competitor that I did not see on this day did make the night-time trip and reported to me at the finish, that I had made a good decision.

As I continued on westward I decided to go to Strawberry Point, IA for a pic of the 15ft tall strawberry and followed that 60 miles south with a pic of the ‘American Gothic’ painted barn that was quite nice. Unfortunately it was late and practically dark when I arrived at the barn but no one appeared to be home so I lit up the barn with my big lights and snapped a pic and was gone.

A non-marketing-type pic of a painted barn at night!

Now if you are still reading, remember, it is July 4th! Let me tell you, wandering around IA on the night of the 4th was a wonder!! There were fireworks being set off in every small town and practically every farm I rode past. It was quiet enough that when I rode by a nice display I could honk my big horns and give an approval. Lots of fun.

Having ‘missed’ Mankato, MN meant I was further down the road – in fact, clear down I-80 to near Grinnell, IA for the night. When I awoke it was to my first and only rain on the trip. I had been fortunate to only catch a few drops in the desert from a thunderstorm. This was an earnest rain and I needed to get through Des Moines, IA on a Saturday morning. Now that I look at the maps I see I somehow – foggy facemask – got off the main road and rode through some of the town only to access the main road again. Thank goodness it was not cold because my rain gear couldn’t really handle the volume of water and when I finally could shed the gear I was quite a bit wetter inside than I had ever been.

Good ol’ 75mph on I-80 and things dried out pretty well. First stop was Stuart, IA where a plaque had been placed above the door of a bank that Bonnie and Clyde had robbed back when. On west on I-80 between Council Bluffs and Omaha, NE is a display of huge locomotives. Google had shown me these were visible from the highway and I could get my less-than-marketable quality photo of the big No-6900 at a pullout just below the display. This puppy is 98ft long and produced 6,600 HP with its diesel-electric motors and is considered one of the largest and most powerful.

2 very large locomotives with No-6900 on left

In Ashland, NE is something that really goes/went bang in a big way. In the Strategic Air & Space Museum are many vintage planes [even another SR-71 suspended from the ceiling!] and a 50’s era Mark 36 hydrogen bomb. It is probably 12ft long and maybe 7’ in diameter – big! And, it wasn’t easy to locate as it was below an open bomb bay door under a B-34 plane. But, photo was secured. I met 10-day competitor and eventual winner, Erik L. on the way out of the Museum – a 10sec hi and a smile.

see my rally flag?

In Kearney, NE there is a monument to the Oregon Trail pioneers and a pic here was worth 4902 points. How interesting I also met competitor Paul T. here – he was the eventual winner of the 5-day event I was in! 2 bonii, 2 winners – is there a message here? Of course it was too early to know these outcomes but nice to see friends and exchange some brief ‘tales’.

I was starting to experience some serious medical issues and even though the GPS was saying I had one more bonus at Cabella’s in Sydney, NE and would be back in Salt Lake City that night about midnight, it was not to be. I scored the bonus but had to spend 3+hrs in the ER in Cheyenne, WY before I could limp on home to the finish line. I made it about 07:00 on Sunday morning, 3hrs before the deadline.

I snapped my last motel pic as I pulled in and got my receipt since I had been registered for the night, and cleaned up a bit and headed for the scoring table. Always nice to see lots of friends and of course Jeniel and Steve Chalmers, the hosts of the event. Scoring was painless, I ended up on the massage table, and met another friend whom I had known through our MERA internet list, another Jack C. He’s in the medical field and was all ears to my situation with the offer of help. I ended up resting in my room until it was time for the afternoon banquet.

The first real food in 5 days was delicious – salmon, potatoes, good veggies, salad and lots of fluids. As we were eating a running commentary of the scoring was provided by Steve. There had been 51 starters but only 26 finishers – the highest attrition in any MERA rally. The 5-day had 16 finishers of which, Paul T. was the victor by a margin that was almost 50% greater than the runner-up. The 10-day was won by Erik L. and this was also by a large margin.

I was blown away with the announcement of my finish in 3rd place – my first podium in 11 years of riding with MERA. I was very pleased with my route and my ride having done about as well as I could with both. The bike held up very well, thanks to Mr. Waldi and his son David, of http://valdis-motozone.com/ in Torrance, my mechanics.

I am ‘well’ now, or healed, and am working hard with some new business. This was written on the aeroplane trip to MN for the BMW MOA national meet where my son will get to participate in Camp Gears – a program put on by the MOA Foundation for young riders.

Here’s hoping I have some more miles left in me.

Categories: Ride Reports | 2 Comments

2012 Mera 10 n’ 10

This was a bit different for me; a bit more relaxed and ‘fun’ as I knew what I wasn’t trying to do and had ambitions to just do my thing, have fun, see some new sights and go where I hadn’t before.  It is always nice to do well in the standings but most important is to be safe, plan my ride and then ride my plan.

A month before the start, the rally master sends out the bonus listing – this time about 40 pages and more than 150 possible bonii.  One gets to use anything and anyone to help plan a route.  Many competitors go for the biggest points, the most combinations for even more points and thus attempt to find the winning ‘route’.  Most competitors are years, if not decades, younger than I and may have thoughts of grandeur that I don’t, or they may look upon the situation in a more ‘energetic’ way.

Before the Hurricane Isaac came into the picture, I knew there was the possibility of the SE being impacted by such a storm; I knew, even though the big points were in the NE and along the E Coast, that I did not want to go there.  In my planning I avoided all of those areas that might be in a storm and were essentially east of the Mississippi River.  My route attempted to stay totally to the W of the MS River.  As the Isaac forecast got more serious I made some changes in my route and did ride in Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Illinois.  While I was in much heat and humidity I did not ride in any of the storm itself!

There is always a nice pre-rally dinner the night before and we all get re-connected and hear of any final instructions.  We also have to ‘decorate’ our rally flag – a terrycloth towel that we personalize.

Day 1 – This IS the 10 n’ 10 rally and we start at 10:10 AM.  There were ‘easy’ points in the LA area and a bed at home, so after a very unique start to the rally, off I went from SLC to home this first day – about 800mi.  I slept a few hours and hit the road, for the LA bonii that were downtown, long before traffic was a bother on the freeways.  I found the big fork in Pasadena, the 2 huge chairs in LA, Kermit the frog at the Henson Studios, along with John Wayne riding his horse in front of the Flynnt Publishing Company.

Big chairs in LA

Big chairs in LA

John Wayne

Kermit the Frog

I was in and out of the Reagan Memorial complex in Simi Valley before the blinds were coming up on most houses and on up to Kernville for the exciting lawn mower races.

Each participant was provided a lap or two on a quite non-normal riding lawn mower around a 1/8th of a mile track.  BIG points for this – like 15K.  That was what my leg 1 – a total of about 55K points for me.  Most important it was a successful start, I made my time marks and got all my bonii that I had planned.  Oh, yeah, the unique start?!  We were awarded 8500 points for firing the automatic weapon of our choice at a local range in SLC – I chose the SAW.  What a kick!  Well, in actuality there wasn’t a lot of kick to it but it sure was fun – 50 rounds in about 15sec of several short bursts of fire.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M249_light_machine_gun

Leg 2 was a sprint across the southern deserts of CA and into AZ for a quick receipt and photo at the Roadkill Café in Seligmen, AZ on Historic Route 66.  To my surprise a fellow competitor followed me in the door and we ended up riding E across AZ to Gallup NM and another bonus – the Code Talkers statue.  This is a tribute to Navajo Indians who in WW II provided the only ‘code’, by which military messages could be transmitted, that the Japanese could not break!  It was so far off the beaten path that my GPS had trouble getting me out of the place – and it was midnight.  I had reserved a room back in Gallup and called it a day after about 800mi.

Seligman, AZ

Native American Code Talkers

I stopped by the Unser Racing Museum in Albuquerque, NM for a picture and headed N to Pikes Peak.  The weather had been a bit iffy on the mountain but that day it turned out good and I got to the top for a minute and a picture then back to the bottom in a bit over an hour – quick for a climb to 14,100 feet.

I was there!

14,127’ for elevation on my GPS

One of my life-long friends and ‘sister’ has a place in Denver and after gathering a few bonii I spent the night at her nice place.  Off early the next morning and snapped a photo of the wild mustang at DEN International Airport.  Then E on I-70, zigging and zagging while getting photos of the home of Kool-Aid [originated by a ‘home’ chemist]; a big golden spike replica of the real one that is back in Promontory, UT; a train wheel marker that was the first Jesse James train robbery site; and way on east to Independence, MO for Harry S Truman’s Memorial site.  I stopped after about a 1,000mi that day.

Click the photo to read the full message



Early away again and toward the SW I was able to get a neat photo of the largest atomic cannon ever built at Junction City, KS.  It was on a hill and the sun was coming up behind it – 10min later and the sun would have made for a difficult photo.

Just before one of many Subway breakfast sandwiches, I completed the Eisenhower Museum bonus with a photo in Abilene, KS.

Continuing on SW I stopped at the Mushroom State Park for photos of weird rocks shaped like mushrooms, of all things…  this was SW of Salina, KS – out a dirt road that I told the rally master the Apaches certainly didn’t see me on as it was just damp enough to keep down the dust but not wet or muddy enough to be a problem on the bike.

Now there are two things about a rally that are fun – getting somewhere quickly on our great Interstate roads system and once you get to an area you get to ride the country highways and byways.  Assuming the surfaces are good these secondary roads can be very entertaining.  Getting out to the Mushroom State Park was just such fun.

Next was way south to Elk City, OK where a Route 66 museum is – another photo, but what was strange was my GPS took me to an old building that was a museum and had a Rte 66 sticker on its window and I thought that was what I was looking for.  GPS’s can be very accurate…  As I was going W out of town I looked at my paperwork while waiting in the heat at a stop light and realized the address was listed differently than where I had just been – and I was headed toward the correct address.  Got a pic of the correct museum and kept going SW to Roswell, NM for some alien bonii.  Stopped for the night in Roswell after 900mi.

 

Wrong

 

Right

One of many aliens in Roswell

During the rally we have ‘things to do’ to earn extra points – find a snake, an alligator, a police officer, sunset – all photos; collect 4-waters [from the Great Lakes, Gulf, Atlantic and Pacific – big points]; and the one I like is to spell A-N-T-I with city limit signs.  The 10 n 10 is kind of the anti-rally as it is way different than the other 11-day rally that is held every other year.  Here were my offerings for A-N-T-I:

Day 4 I headed toward Kermit, TX for a bonus of anything saying the same.  Remember I was in LA and took a pic of Kermit the frog?  Well, this was part of a combo bonus honoring one of our friends and he and Kermit had a thing.

I always try to include the sticker in all my Kermit photos

On E to Sweetwater and a pic of the WASP Museum honoring the women pilots of WW II who were instrumental in breaking in our new planes and for flying them across this country to another place where they might be shipped or flown on to battle.  A lady in one of my nursing facilities was just such a pilot and she was very interesting and special to me.  The museum wasn’t open so I didn’t get to go in.

Now it was a bit of a sprint up NE to Arcadia, OK for a timed bonus that had a 2hr window.  While I ride briskly, as conditions allow, I do not ride out of control.  I’m on this TX country highway in the middle of no-where with a posted speed limit sign of 70mph, and doing about 77 – no town, no houses, no traffic except this gray indistinguishable car coming at me a half-mile or so away… on come the whirling, flashing lights and he makes his U-turn about the time I stop safely off the road side!  A very nice officer who explained the speed limit and my performance, took my paperwork back to his car [it’s hot and humid] and as he is walking back I shout that I don’t want him to bring me something back; he says he’ll see.  About 4min later [I’m on a timed bonus…] he returns with only a warning – thank you very much – and sends me on my way.  But wait, I am on a scavenger hunt and if I could get you to hold this flag for a picture it would be worth 5000 points; nope, no pictures… yes, I understand officer and thank you for the warning!

8min have just passed – I’m on a timed bonus – and now am in a TX computer system that will tell ANY officer that I have been warned.  7 over in nowhere and now have to ‘book’ it even more carefully another 200mi north.  The odds are not good – but not only did I escape TX without any more stops I also didn’t get stopped anywhere else on the ride – good.  And, I made it to the timed bonus with 15min to spare… of course a flat tire, or a road closure or detour could have changed all that.

So, a former rallyist was at POP’s and he signed my paperwork for the bonus; I bought a Dr Pepper for a receipt at POP’s that is known for having one of the largest pop bottle selection; a 25ft neon pop bottle sign out front and it is on Rte 66.  Nice to see Steve there and it was a neat place.  Just down the road was a famous round barn for another score.

Bottles floor to ceiling n’ things to eat

Neon bottle out on Rte 66

Then the fun began [tongue in cheek] – a combo bonus of 3 designated toll roads in and around Oklahoma City – but it was quite late and some of the toll booths were  unmanned and of course not knowing which booths to go to I was perhaps riding a hundred miles or so for nothing – and they were costing me money.  I would say I spent $8-10 just getting to, on, and off these toll roads.  One I was on I  found a nice lady who asked me where I had come from [she meant what local city].  I told her CA… she laughed and said 50c and provided the much needed receipt as well as a short cut via country roads to the next toll road.  I found it and rode another 30 or so miles thinking this might be for naught, when wahla! there was a nice lady in the last booth on the toll road.  I asked her if anyone had ever told her how she was the best person to be found at this late hour.  Another laugh and another receipt so that completed the combo for another 5,102pts.

Before this 1000mi day ended I went on to Alma, AR for a picture of Popeye – because this local area is known for its spinach.  Too bad the pic not good – he stood a good 20’ tall!

I believe this was also another motel stop that cost less than $50!  The rally master is very good about our safety and we are allowed 10 motel receipts during the rally and they are each worth 5000pts.  I turned in 10!  Also, each state we brought a receipt from we earned 1,111pts and I turned in 20 state receipts.

The heat and humidity from Isaac are comin’ on and I am headed back to TX, where I will be careful again, for the Dallas-Ft Worth area.  Two problems creep up, I am riding with a tail wind that affords me little cooling and my GPS seems to be about 5 to 10 seconds late on its decisions.  I am on the correct ramp but it forks and the GPS isn’t telling me which road to take.  Sometimes the forks are toward Mennard or toward Camptown but these are not what I have heard of and so about 90% of the time I ended up taking the wrong fork – meaning lots of off and on the freeways to get the correct one – I even ‘succeeded’ in going west, choosing south incorrectly, getting off and back on only to learn I was too late for the ramp to the west, so now I am going north and get off and on to finally get to the west bound road I was on in the first place.  This happened only in the Ft. Worth area and was difficult.  By the way, I was looking for Barn A at Fort Worth Stock Exchange that has become a large complex for recognizing the cowboy.

My next bonus was a special rest stop where we were to take a boat or tube ride in a lake – the long hot summer had created low water levels and so no ride, but I did eat some fruit, cool off a bit and reload my GPS to see if I could get it to work better.  I had been deleting each bonus as I completed them so I didn’t think it was being overworked.  Ron was at the lake house and was cordial to the riders; he is also a partner in the house with one of our rally riders who helped arrange this bonus.  Thanks fellows.

As this day is growing longer I head on out and around the busy cities for Tyler, TX where a BBQ shack is located – thank goodness it was closed so a pic did just fine for the bonus requirements.  And, now it was time for some good night riding as I made my way up to the Memphis, TN area – another ~1000mi day.

[BTW – while starting this report I missed an hour of the banquet celebration because this computer was on CA time and not the mountain time that SLC is on… too bad because there is much merriment and sharing at the dinner, along with some good food – the first real food in over 10 days.]

On the way toward Memphis I got sleepy and tried a power nap on a bench behind a station, but as I arrived there was a rather large cat [non-house type] on top of the trash bin.  I scared it away but as I lay down it wasn’t real easy to fall asleep.  I decided to ride on but lo! there was an inexpensive motel that fit the bill and I settled in safely for 4 or 5hrs of good sleep.

On into Memphis, TN there were two bonii to obtain – one was Sun Records, original headquarters where Elvis made his initial recordings and start, along with countless blues performers of the 50’s and on.  The second was another BBQ place, as Memphis is known for BBQ – it was early morning so no worries and I took a good shot of Beale Street that is a happening place during the evenings.

Then I didn’t think things through real well – the next bonus was an elephant to take a pic of in Cookeville, TN – way east, even east of Nashville.  As I rode toward Nashville I realized I was spending about 3hrs of time for this bonus and if I had cut north from Memphis I would have shaved even more off.  I skipped the elephant and rode on to Bowling Green, KY where a huge Corvette museum and national meet was happening.  I had to get into take a pic of a ’53 ‘vette that was on display.  Now, I have been around promotions and shows enough that I figured some moxie was in order.  I was dressed in some interesting motorcycle pants of 2 different colors, a black tight top, and I always wear a name tag around my neck – I ‘stormed’ in, past the admission pay table, found a nice gentleman who was looking to help someone and he and I moved right on through the lines of attendees and ticket takers as if I was a VIP – got the pic and was out of the place in 7min – for free!  Very nice car, too.

The unexpected highlight of the trip for me was about to occur – I was headed for a Trappist Monk Monastery in Trappist, KY.  The roads were unbelievable!  Smooth, well surfaced, incredibly curvy and hilly – a motorcyclist’s dream, especially after all the slab I had ridden.  Arrived at the Monastery later in the afternoon but in time to purchase some fudge, made by the monks, and worth 4800pts as well.

Then more interstate up to Louisville and IN where I stopped for a state receipt I hadn’t expected.  While trying to locate a Starbucks I found a Radio Shack for some mending material for my speaker-equipped ear plugs, and right next door to it was a 5 Guys Burger place that was a bonus.  I had already collected it in the LA area but felt compelled to send the rally master a phone pic of it as a surprise for just choosing an off ramp and finding it there.

The RM has humor within [along with mischievousness, et al] – he says we long-distance riders are thought of as anything but normal.  What did he do?  He sent us to Normal, IL to take a pic of anything that said Normal, IL.  I found a nice water tower to photograph and an inexpensive motel to catch some winks in and called it another day.

The tower at night wasn’t as good as day.

I made an executive decision to NOT go to the Pabst Brewery near Chicago [traffic] and instead headed straight for Dyersville, IA where the filming of Kevin Costner’s “Field of Dreams” occurred.  What a place – in the middle of corn and wheat fields stands a beautiful baseball field, a barn and a cozy looking farm house, the latter the subject of the bonus picture.  A small group of tourists were ‘playing’ baseball and a good hit would have landed in a cornfield that bordered the property – with no fencing involved! – just idyllic.  This place gave me quite a chill in the previous 10 n 10 rally but that was at 02:00 and now it was broad daylight.

Probably the moving experience of this rally was going to Clear Lake, IA for a photo of the phone booth that is still in the Surf Ballroom where Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and others performed their final show before a fateful plane crash took their lives – it was the ‘day the music died’.  The booth was special, as it was a 1959 era wooden booth with glass door and old phone still attached.  The performers had called their wives in LA and NY before heading out.  The place is still happening and some youngsters were decorating for a dance party that night.

Off to Mankato, MN for an inauspicious photo of the location of a mass execution of 38 Sioux that occurred in 1862.  A nice man from the library close by showed me several memorials and declared that the particular one I was searching for wasn’t a good one for the city.

Finally, out into nowheresville for photo of the largest crow – a huge statue that is surrounded by many things signifying crow – the river, state park et al.  It was actually outside of Belgrade, MN.

Finally, I was headed west and back to the barn.  I rode into SD and found a place to spend the night.  Up early and headed for Mobridge, SD, I finally found something different to eat than Subway breakfast sandwiches.  I had been hankerin’ for Mexican food and had seen several Taco Johns, so I decided to stop in one that was open early in the morning – glad I did because the breakfast burrito was tasty.

Just west of Mobridge, SD is a large statue of Sitting Bull – he overlooks a lovely valley and river and seems as if it is appropriate for him to be there.

My last two bonii were kind of tied together.  I had to find a tunnel that would allow me to take a pic of Mt Rushmore and the carvings.  I went through the first tunnel expecting the view was in front of me and snapped a pic while coming out of the tunnel – of trees.  I went on to the next tunnel and there was a shot of the carvings – stately!  My GPS continued me on up the tight, curvy road until I figured it didn’t know where we were going.  I turned around and headed back down the little road for the main highway.  Lo and behold, the first tunnel I had entered had the view I wanted but it was behind me so I didn’t see it originally – very nice view, too.

A few miles SW of Mt Rushmore is Chief Crazy Horse, SD where a mountain is being carved into a huge representation of its namesake.  Wow! what a project.  They wanted $5 to get in but when I told the lad I just wanted to take a picture he allowed me to go in 20 yards and snap the picture.

So, I’m several hundred miles from SLC but I had made a reservation that night so I would have a place to really rest.  I headed SW through SD and into WY to get to the barn – beautiful country roads with little traffic.  I missed one large rain storm but ran into another that proved to be a serious storm for the last 2+ hours into SLC.  It isn’t easy riding in the rain because the helmet visor doesn’t like the water, the condensation from my breathing makes it difficult to see and of course the lights from the trucks and cars.   I can’t believe some of the rallyists were in the throes of Isaac for days.

Over my shoulder – heading back to Salt Lake City and into a big storm

Arriving safe and getting cleaned up was nice.  A short sleep and time to officially check in – this includes an odometer check, bonus scoring, and a nice touch – bloody marys and mimosas.  We even could have a massage!  Of course there was lots of banter and information that we all could share about our trials and tribulations.

The dinner I arrived at late was well underway and I got to learn of the top scorers – turns out Twisty Lipschitz was second to Roadrunner by ~8% in total points; she placed second to our late dread Pirate friend 2 years ago.  This happened in the inaugural running of the 10 n 10.  Twisty BTW happens to be a very accomplished lady rider!  Roadrunner is known for his wins and collecting coyote trophies while tooling through the Silver State of Nevada.  The joke on me is they both scored more than twice the points I did in my effort, butt then they have stories of NYC, Boston, Washington, DC, Miami and Isaac that I don’t – thank goodness for me.

There was a special contest this year taking into account several rallies, and a trophy was up for the person who received the most points for participating in, and doing as well in, as many rallies as possible.  Irish Rider did just that and while he didn’t win any of the rallies he was a consistent top finisher – 4th in this 10 n 10.  Private Pilot is new to rallying and decided to forego so many individual bonus huntings and instead opted for a 4-corners ride that included specific locations in the 4 corners of the US 48 contiguous states – nice accomplishment.

My mileage approached 9,000 this rally.  I was stopped for bonus gathering, gas, food et al [not motel time] for about 25hrs or 1/7 of my total ride time.  I went through about a $100 of gas per day and my new tires really worked well and proved they were worth more than the average car tires cost.  I placed 11th again, as I did in the first one!

Good fun, much thanks to Steve and his wife Jeniel for making all of this possible.

Epilogue: I cleaned my bike yesterday, going to the garage for the first time since returning home Monday – what to my wondering eyes did appear but a not-nice oil blob on the garage floor – my 3rd transmission seal has failed again.  Seems the vibrations I was feeling may be from a failing tranny bearing.  Major disassembly necessary…

My Route

 

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LC-11 Rally Ride Report

Ahhhh… the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the road.  Springtime and my first rally of the season after a long winter and some lingering weariness from the MERA 10 ‘n 10 last summer.  The LC-11 was a nice extension that followed the Low Cal 250 the previous weekend, and the LC-11 was based out of Yuma, AZ with an 11 hour destination point of San Diego BMW Motorcycles.  The Low Cal rallies are fund raisers for the Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation – a worthwhile cause.

The participants received the rally pack a week before the start via internet from the Rally Master, Craig Chaddock.   A scavenger hunt, variable mileage format allowed us to plan a route that we would be able to ride and the goal would be to obtain the maximum bonus points that would add up to a nice grand total.  Of course, some entrants would be going to new places and seeing new things and maybe preparing for a big dance down the road and so those were goals also.

This year there was an arm chair class – the participants received the same rally pack and based on strict given parameters they planned a route they thought might be a winning one but they didn’t have to ride it [or couldn’t, or had to work, or family…].  This class provides an opportunity to learn about mapping programs and GPSs and one’s own ability at decision making.

I took several evenings to plan my route and had more than one in the works until one became more clearly obvious as a potentially high-point choice.  The RM was feeding us information and answering questions as the week went on so there were tidbits of his knowledge that helped in the final routing decision.  A particularly high-point bonus was up a quite rough mountain dirt road that was 17 miles round trip and when descriptions of boulders and 15% grade climbs [then descents] were offered this became a no-go for me and my very nice BMW R1200 RT.  Thank you, I will find points in other places, and I won’t suffer for 30-45min on a ‘road’ that might be fun while riding a full-on dirt bike!  This turned out to be a wise decision, even if I say so.

On Friday I wound my way through the desert toward Yuma and visited a few of my choices for bonus locations.  This was a worthy effort as I learned some roads weren’t of interest to me even though they offered a more direct path to the next bonus.  Some of the bonuses were quite out of the way, others required some searching for answers, et al. – nicely typical of the rally concept.  While traveling the slab I was able to try out my new communication system and talked with some friends via blue tooth and the ‘droid phone as well as listen to some tunes while shooting to the east on I-10.

In typical fashion I hadn’t eaten much for the day and decided to replenish at the Olive Garden before going to Peggy’s Diner for an informal rider’s meeting and ice cream.  The gang was there and Craig offered advice during all the talk and getting to know each other time.

At 05:30 Saturday morning we started to gather at the appointed Chevron station for the gas-up, odometer check and the start.  We had a 30-minute window to get on the road.  There were approximately 15 of us to begin heading essentially N and W as the roads would take us to San Diego.

My first stop was in AZ at the Laguna Dam bridge – a US Government project of 1908 that is no longer in use.  It was interesting because it was decorated with swastikas – long before Hitler’s actions gave the design an evil meaning.

Click on any photo for a larger version.

Then off to the Yuma Proving Grounds and a nice display of early but significant artillery – we were to locate a particular “Yuma Duster” and identify the barely legible writing on its front.  Turns out to be Teddy’s Roughriders was the answer.

US95 took me N to Blythe and beyond for the Blythe Italigos – interesting works over several hundreds of miles of desert that were done by natives perhaps 10,000 years ago.  They dug into the rock and ground and made large human and animal figures that were initially identified by the pilot of a small plane back in the ‘30s.  These figures are so big and visible from our satellites that the extra-terrestrial communication concept has come into discussions about their meaning.

I captured this while catching some air in the rugged desert…  J  These are now fenced off and as you can see, unfortunately the area around this one has been ‘defaced’

In the same vicinity were a couple more bonii that involved the movie set location for Torque – an apparent box-office hit back in the ‘90s.  What? You didn’t see it? I have never heard of it…

The new S&W model 642 made some nice noises in this same area on Friday.

Next it was back into Blythe for the Gateway Plaza Memorial.  I chose to honor the US Army, as I was once in it, and the RM asked us to put our helmet on one of the 6 services that were recognized.  It was also time for some petrol and a V-8 juice.

Straight south of Blythe is AZ again, and crossing the River placed me in Cibola, AZ where there was a sign ‘tree’ for us to get an answer to – how far is Belton, TX?  Turns out it is 1215mi.

Very windy was the weather for the whole day and I was headed toward Glamis and the sand dunes on Hwy 78.  The direction of the blow was from the NNW and I had essentially been running N or S for the morning.  Now I was headed SW with the winds hitting me from the side pretty solidly – like steady at 40mph with higher gusts.  I heard, but only saw a lot of sand on the road, that the CHP had closed the road for part of the day due to the wind.  I made it on around to the southern end of the Salton Sea.

Here, after some roads of questionable repute, I ended up at the Whistler Mud Pots – a geological phenomena that has hot water and CO2 boiling up through the mud… if only Al Gore knew.

Then a few more miles took me to Salvation Mountain, a real work of art that deserves more than the 5 minutes I was there for the 4000 point answer found on a small plaque.  This is a religious-themed ‘mountain’ that has been a work in progress for decades.  The dry desert air has preserved it well and apparently 1,000s of gallons of paint have been used in its design and preservation.

This was sort of the half-way point for me – I had planned to review the clock and the remaining route and possibly elect to bailout on the next bonus up in Mecca – a misnomer if there ever was…  Butt, I was actually about an hour ahead at this spot and thus things were looking possible.  My problem was not that I was behind time but I now had extra time – and I had not planned a ‘what if’ for any extra time.  I should have had a couple of other bonii to go get if this was to be the scenario.  In Mecca I got some more gas, for safety, and grabbed the required picture for another 817 points and rounded the Salton Sea at the N end and headed for a trio of bonii that would be fun because they were on the twisty roads San Diego County is known for to those who enjoy two-wheel travel.

Fountain with flagpole, Mecca, CA.

First of the 3 bonii were the Saber Tooth tigers just out of Borrego Springs.   I had to be careful when I retrieved the helmet!

In fact there are many sculpted animals in the scrub and long grasses in this area – both modern and extinct.  Very interesting.

Next was a picture to help us all remember and celebrate our roots:

And, finally to Butterfield Ranch – a nice stop for people out on the road who would like some shade and a cool beverage and snack – just what I got, along with the required receipt [handwritten interestingly enough and the lady already knew I was going to ask since I had my riding gear on and I wasn’t the first one to be there to ask for a receipt.  I told her ++Craig said Hello, and received a blank look].  The Ranch had some old equipment around and we were to snap a pic of the fire engine rig.

Last bonus of the day for me was in Julian, crowded on a Saturday afternoon, but some local knowledge helped me through this.  This memorial was part of a combination bonus that earned extra points for the pic in Blythe and now this –

Another Veterans Memorial nicely done on the hillside.  That’s my headless helmet in the foreground, part of the requirement – 502 points, a thank you to the Veterans, and another 800 points for the combo.

At this point I had plenty of time to make it back to the barn and had decided to take the longer way back because I knew straight west of Julian on CA67 would be slow.  I headed down CA79 toward I-8 and followed another rider since the road was very hilly and curvy and the traffic didn’t allow for a pass that would result in anything meaningful in time savings.  Out on I-8 finally the speed quickly got to way over freeway limits, and I was still being passed.  And, the rider was still in front of me.

I had considered one more bonus with the time allowing and to my surprise the rider in front took the exit to get to it.  I decide, nope, I am just gonna keep heading in.  I arrived about 20min before  the time that would have started costing me penalty points and I felt good.  The other rider arrived a couple minutes later [and, later told me he had run into one-way streets that prevented him from easily scoring the bonus.  I had heard about the one-way streets and this was one of my reasons to skip it. JOwen would never have done something like skip a last bonus… It turns out that this bonus would not have changed the standings, for the other rider, or for me.]

My LC-11 route - click for larger version

So, with San Diego BMW’s great hospitality  we were treated to scoring tables to get our rally stuff together, plus cool, refreshing drinks and chips to ease the hunger pains, and a nice ambiance that is always present at this fine shop.  Owner Gary Orr and I had participated in the 10 n’ 10 and we were friends and got to talk a bit.

As is their M-O the shop BBQ’ed a nice feed for everyone with steaks and hamburgers and lots of trimmings.  I enjoyed the potato salad and the macaroni salad along with some good ice cream!

Then came time for the announcements of the results:  Craig and his wife Lisa had great fun with all of us and told some stories about the day.  The rider, mentioned above that I followed down I-8 turned out to be 3rd place finisher Chad Smith from Tucson, AZ who had escaped the stranglehold his business has on him long enough to compete.  He ended up finishing dinner and heading back to Tucson that same night because of business.

Friend Brian Casey was 2nd by ~200 points – he had told me while we ate that he had gone for the mountain dirt road bonus I had decided not to attempt; I told him I thought he had won the rally with that effort.  He got caught in traffic and a time crunch as the clock wound down and did not get to add to that big bonus with others that would have allowed him to score big.  [Brian is the one who helped put the inner workings of this blog together – thank you very much, Brian.]

And, finally Craig says something to the effect, well, the winner of the LC-11 rally is a friend and able competitor…  – and it turns out it was ME!!  I won!!  Giving a Woods-type arm pump I was really ecstatic – I had planned my ride well and had ridden my plan – and this is the key to doing as well as you can in any rally.  Changing one’s mind and plan during a rally is usually costly.  A great day and I was fortunate.  I even won a nice gift card from San Diego BMW – probably a down payment on the new 1600 GTL!

Thanks to Craig and Lisa, as well as San Diego BMW and Gary Orr, for all they did to make this rally a good one.

LC-11 Rally Master Report

STATS:

  • Run time:  8:57hrs
  • Stop time: 1:40hrs – that was for 16 bonus stops plus other necessary stops – a ~6min average
  • Moving average: 60.2mph
  • Overall average: 50.6mph

Stay tuned for the MERA 1088 at the end of June.

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The 10 n’ 10 Ride Report, or…

…How I Rode 10,100 miles in 10 Days and Was Almost Designated 25 miles Short…

About a year ago we learned of the probability of a 10-day, 10,000 miles rally – the “typical” scavenger hunt format of going places to obtain photos or receipts, or answers to questions – in this case, throughout the good ol’ USofA.  Let me tell you, it does take about a year to prepare for this endeavor.  The bike, the bod, the kitchen pass, the business schedules, the finances…

Well, I signed up and was hooked.  The Rally Master [RM or RB], Steve Chalmers of MERA fame, also had some planning to do and in the end the participants were presented with some 40+ pages of bonii and 160+ bonus locations – to choose from!  http://www.utah1088.com/

30 days before the rally we were emailed the rally pack and we could start planning our routes.  Now, there was business, family, another rally and the National IBA meet in Denver and not a lot of continual time blocks for me to plan correctly.

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RWYB 2008

RWYB – means several things to different people.  To the Rallymaster [RM] it means a lot of hard work in preparation and planning so some of us can come and play; to others it became Rain Where You Be; to me it meant soul searching in my attempt to do well; and to still others the name means Run What Ya’ Brung – kind of an “if you can ride it here, then you can ride it in the rally”.

The short version: about 26 of 35 showed up in Salt Lake City on Labor Day weekend to go wherever in the USA we decided to go to collect bonus points that we all knew the locations of 30 days in advance… These included Hyder Alaska, Key West Florida, the far North East and San Diego, California.  Approximately 9 called during the last few days prior to the rally to cancel their efforts due to the threat of two hurricanes.  We had a pre-rally dinner and heard some final instructions, had a good night’s sleep and were off for 5 days of riding at 07:00 Tuesday. Several apparently didn’t let the hurricanes bother them and headed E and S.  I was bothered and so I took an alternate route that was W, NW, and mid-west.  19 of us finished; I scored 12th; the victor had ~10,500 [~15%] more points than me.  To finish one had to accumulate 5000 miles in 5 days [120hrs].  The mileages ranged from 5009 to 6346.  An interesting note is that we had our drivers licenses sealed in an envelope that we carried; if we brought it back unopened then we received points, and if it was opened we lost a lot of points [hence, ride carefully and don’t have to show your license to a policeman! (LEO)]  And, ALL of us succeeded in this bonus effort.  But, in truth, one silver tongued Canadian on the ride talked his way out of opening his envelope even though a LEO did give him a ticket.

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2007 SPANK Rally

[Note: This was written before I realized there were serious fires throughout Southern California, and in fact I had ridden through some  of the areas that are now on fire… If the rally was 24hrs later in starting there would have been no way to ride in areas like southern San Diego County.   In no way was I making light of this very serious situation as I did not know of it until I arrived home on Sunday afternoon.]

Interestingly enough, I got the best rest I ever have before a rally on the night before this one and it was due to some forethought by the Rally Master, George Zelenz,[RM] and good work by one of the participants, Jerry White.

Normally, the night before a rally one is trying to sleep, tossing and turning figuring what to do or not do, planning, re-planning et al.  Well, this RM decided he wanted to level the playing field, so he gave us all 94 waypoints [WP] for our GPS on Thursday evening, and they were downloaded into our computer in a matter of seconds, and into our GPS as quickly.  Wahla – so quick and easy.   For those who do not know, this is what a WP coordinate looks like – N33o06.955 W117o06.091 and the GPS takes one to within a few feet of this point – in a town, on the desert, literally anywhere.  We locate objects, rocks, signs, holes in the border fence, statues, et al with this info input into the GPS.  One can imagine how long it would take to enter 94 of these WPs and the probability of the [in]accuracy of all 94.  So, George said everyone gets the 94 WPs quickly and easily, and Jerry, a computer whiz, put the program together that made it happen.  WOW!

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