2007 SPANK Rally

Posted by peter on October 10, 2007

[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!

Now, one reason I slept so well was that the 94 WPs meant nothing to any of the 33 riders.  Yes, we could look into our mapping programs and see that one of the WPs was in front of the Grauman[?] Chinese Theater in Hollywood, or in a pumpkin patch off the 5 Fwy, but we didn’t know anything else until 05:30 on Friday morning.  At that time we were all given some verbal instructions and some initial written information.  We headed back to our rooms and in about an hour I had something planned – enough to get me out on the ride!

There is something I learned, and heard it again last night at the awards banquet by a top 5 finisher – “plan your route, and ride your plan”.  Too many times I have realized and heard it said, that others influenced what someone was doing, and they blew it due to the changes they made.

So, I was very pleased with the execution of my ‘plan’, but unhappy that I failed to realize something very important during the process.  200,000 points important!  And, for those of you who know me well, to add insult to this non-realization, it was about buying the RM a cigar at a special WP location and taking a picture of an Indian statue!

Well, we left Escondido and headed E & S into some outrageously motorcycle friendly roads – up and down hills, around curves and through foothill ranges.  Great stuff!  My friend, Jack from Denver, had been down to visit in January ’06 and we rode much of this area, so it was great to re-visit it and connect some of the roads with others.

The weather was great, the temperature started rising, I was drinking lots of water as is necessary on a long ride, and I was meeting MY objectives – getting to a check point, bagging some big bonii [is it really bonuses?] and seeing southern SoCal!!!  In fact, I got to the second check point and received written instructions allowing me to bag more points [in other words, learned more information about other WPs that were in my GPS] and took off to chase new WPs.  I was having FUN!  And, it turned out, too much fun – oh, yea, I missed a couple of 5k bonii that I wanted to get, but I was working my way N toward the 3rd check point on MY time.  When I arrived at the CLOSED CP, I was stunned!  I had failed to read and realize this CP was going to be closed at 15:15 and that the cigar and picture bonus had to be completed before that time…

Now, in my defense, this RM mixes written instructions up pretty well and I had about 10 sheets of paper, at this point, that I was going back and forth through, many times, and looking at #5, followed in writing by #39, by 3, by 21 and so forth!  But, I was doing well with the 5k, 10k, even 20k bonii and I just thought the cigar bonus that was over 100 miles north – well, I will get to it later in the afternoon when I am up that way.  And, by the by, I knew I had to be up in the Big Bear Mountains area by 7PM to receive the 2nd leg of the rally and this was a mandatory CP – be late by even one second and I go home – a DNF.

Now as I am riding along I am seeing beautiful country, watching for cars, kids on their way to and from school, construction, even deer [at 9AM], and of course reading my GPS – that is giving me instructions and a 2nd GPS that is keeping track of miles, time, averages, stopped time and speed.   And, of course I am making adjustments as necessary, to the plan.  For instance, OH look! – if I go capture #7,# 8,# 9 – all on some neat country road out of Jamul, I can bag extra bonus points with a picture of a second Indian statue, that goes with the 200K picture – kind of a combo bonus!  The clock is ticking away the day during these little side ventures.

And, this is where the devious mind of the RM comes into play.  He wanted us to ride this area because he loves it and it is beautiful.  So, there are lots of bonus points and places to see.  Kind of like a toy store and only 30 hours to shop.  One wastes too much time in collecting bonii and in having fun.

Now, I have ridden several rallies – a couple of 26hr ones, many 24hr ones; some just follow a route, others I must plan a route and collect points in a scavenger hunt fashion.  So, I am becoming a veteran in this.  The ’07 SPANK was interestingly, a 30 hours rally.  24 and even 26 hours are possible to do with some conditioning and training – but, 30 hours was going to be a new challenge because of the [lack of] sleep factor.  In my 2nd leg package was an optional rest bonus – in fact 2 of them.  One was 30min, the other 60min long.  They could even be combined for 90min and about 18k points.  Pretty good, huh?  Well, a catnap of less than 45min is good for anyone, but it takes sleep of at least 2hrs to reset the sleep cycle in ones brain and body.  Believe me this has been well studied and documented.  It is used to the military’s advantage, by airline pilots, even students – but they probably don’t understand it as well.  So, the RM uses it to promote safety and it is quite effective.  Get rest – get bonus points!

I planned to do the 30min rest bonus in Lone Pine at a gas station that I knew.  I bought gas when I arrived and got a receipt – clock is counting.  I bought water at the end of the rest and got a receipt from the same station – clock stopped.  What was neat was I found a deck to lie down on, fully clothed, even my helmet still on.  As soon as my head hit the deck, a rooster 20 feet away started crowing.  It was almost 4AM.  So, I didn’t really sleep but I did meditate and rest.  Then I got up and did some yoga.  It was good and refreshing.

But, I jump ahead.  At the CP for the receipt of the 2nd leg package, I learned about the Hollywood bonus [on a Friday night?!!].  I saw there were many points in places where I didn’t really want to be.  But, I also saw that I could head down the backside of the mountain, drop onto the desert floor and head for Death Valley – essentially for the night portion of the ride.  Through DV, little traffic, lots of safety, beautiful evening, a half-moon, lots of stars vs. the places I didn’t want to be – cities, traffic, stop lights, yakkers on their cell phones, text messaging teen drivers, freeways, drunks – did I mention Friday night?

MY plan – Death Valley at night, rest in Lone Pine, and be ready for a time-sensitive 125,000 point early morning bonus in the Lake Isabella mountains area, the roads of which I know pretty well.  So safer routing, funner for me and some good-value points, too.  A picture of a [stuffed] moose in a cage – 5K [disallowed because my # on my flag didn’t show up…], 2 pictures in DV worth about 16K total, I believe.  Then the rest and another 17K in Lone Pine – but, no one bagged this one as the WP coordinates were off.

The rally flag… many bonus points around these!  These? Well, Fruit of the Loom underwear, XXL, with our rally # crudely stenciled on them, along with SPANK on the front, was the rally ‘flag’.  Think RM, devious mind tho a hardworking RM.  We wore them at certain times over our riding gear and received points; we had to display them in some fashion in every picture we took, and of course I began to try to figure out how to display them, quietly, as they became sentimental to me.  Perhaps in the garage…

So, after DV and rest it was up into the mountains above Lake Isabella and Bodfish – it was after 6AM, the wind was howling through this area, it was foggy in places and my GPS, after a couple of false starts – as in locked gate, impassable road – was heading me up a road that was no more than 8’ wide – twisting and turning like you can’t believe.  Up, up and up!

I got there, took the required picture of a lady RM, from the big 11-Day IBR, who was to hold my ‘flag’, then did some optional processes that will remain nameless and collected the 135K, or so points, and headed down the mountain.  The race was on.  I had to get back to rally headquarters before noon, or lose half of the points I had for each minute late.  So, if I had 100pts then 1sec late meant I only had 50pts.  After 1min and 1sec I would now have 25pts left… et al.  So, it was Saturday, there were lots of cars on the freeways and I was determined to not be late.  [At one point in DV I thought I might even have time to get back to rally headquarters in time for the 1 hour rest bonus, then cross the line before noon – no way!]  The GPS was telling me I had 20min to spare – and being 225 miles away meant that was close!  I would need gas, another Starbucks, an energy bar and luck to make it.  I rolled across the finish with about the 20min the GPS promised me, but was glad all the CHP I saw along the way were already busy with someone else…

The shoulda, coulda, woulda… gone for the 3 CPs as quickly as possible – one right after the other without getting many bonii in between; bagged the 200K cigar bonus ASAP; then spent the rest of daylight chasing whatever was in the immediate and do-able area and just forget all the 10’s of thousands of bonii that were left behind.  Sounds so simple; 20-20 hindsight makes it so clear, NOW!

And, in the end I didn’t too badly.  There are many real veterans ahead of me in placing.  But, I planned and executed my plan.  I received 217,000 points; I was 9th out of 23 finishers.  First place had 223K points more than me.

Of course by now you realize it isn’t the destination, it isn’t even the points.  It is the preparation, it is the plan, and it is the RIDE!

FWIW –

  • distance 1208 miles for me
  • Drive Average 57.2mph
  • Overall Average 42.7mph
  • Drive Time 21:06
  • Stopped Time 7:15 – Total 28:21
  • and, just because it is on the GPS,  97.8mph maximum speed reached

Oh yes, I plan to do some more 1-day rallies in the next 10 months, but there will be a 5-day rally that I am signing up for tomorrow.  It begins in Salt Lake City, the day after Labor Day ’08 and that Rally Bastard [as he affectionately calls himself] promises we will see MANY of the 49 states as well as Canada.  A unique twist to this 5-day rally is that we will receive the bonus listing 30-days before the event and must plan and report the plan to the RM before we leave…

Thanks for listening.

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