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.
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.
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…
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…
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.