The Finish Line
As I trek down the road, I realize that both Garmins are displaying Est Time of Arrival at 1345. WTF! The 9.5 hr trek is now only 7.5 hrs? My first thought was that the track had too many way points and the Zumos trunicated the track. My heart sank.
However, when I pulled up the turn by turn directions, the end points seemed basically correct. So, to my pleasure I will now have a leisurely gallop with 2.5 hours of slack (HA!). Soon enough, the first bonus flag arrives on the screen. To my dismay, there is not a single lightbulb in the war field parking area. Dazed on what I should do next, I decide to use the bike lights to illuminate the most probable area for the photo. I need to find a very specific sign. Except it’s not in the cute little visitor hut. Even though this was suppose to be 10-hr day ride, I fish out the headlamp I through in at the last moment and try to scan the adjacent fields for more signs. The headlamp has about as many lumens as using a fire fly on a landing strip.
I spend way too much time. About 20 mins later another rider shows up. He can’t find the sign either. Eventually, I decide to leave. He thinks we should call the rally master, but for me this tag is just too much headache. I depart.
On the way to the next bonus, I begin to question this whole thing. Really, I’ve yet to see any fun for the amount of effort. I decide to make a decision to push the go-home button after 2 more hours. The next bonus is a very simple Historic Highway Marker. A few more bonus grabbed, and the confidence is raising. It’s still raining, but my gear is keeping me dry. I find myself strangely enjoying this.
This was my favorite pic
Around noon I reach Roanoke. It’s about the half way point. From dreading the rest of the day, I now realize I don’t want to head home. But alas, I have only 4 hours to get there. (So much for getting in at 7.5 hours). I also realize it’s time to set GPS #2 to the finale location, as I try to figure out how many bonus locations I need to jettison to get home. And now I am in BFE and I need Petrol. Nary a station to be had, and then I find a little mom and pop store to fill. Wouldn’t you know it, the next 5 miles was a buffet of stations!
Really, has the world gone mad?
Even more shocking, I get on I-95 north of Richmond, and traffic is a breeze. Although I dropped a few locations, I grab an extra back to the hotel. All told, 15 locations over 450 miles. All smiles at rider check in.
Lisa was kind to help me out assembling my scoring package. Everybody always laments how much of the rallies is reading comprehension, of which should be a huge weakness of mine too. My route should have netted me 255 points, but alas, there was one point that I didn’t have time to snag and another “wildcard” didn’t help me. Nonetheless, all the pictures and locations were accepted. I did lose 15 points, thanks to some nuances with Yatzee. Such is life.
Thanks to a bunch of cancellations, Blaster is able to join for the awards ceremony. The Rallymaster is a larger than life personality. I think I know why he has a contact phone is not to report injuries, but to mock all the people that call about all the mental breakdowns they are having. Then he roasts them over the awards. Of all the weird things this hotel has, the food is excellent. Then again it’s been 24 hours since I ate. I probably could have ate my own arm and thought it was good too.
There were somewhere around 80 riders in at the dinner. I was shocked that about 1/3 had ridden the Iron Butt Rally, and another handful were noobies like me. Good people all around. Till next year!
I am still there perplexed as what the heck I am going to do about the route. I am like a squirrel with a nut, unwilling to ride within 25 miles of a bonus and not tag it. I also refuse to give up going to Roanoke (where there is a nice large straight). Panic finally breaks the stale mate, and I start kicking off bonus points. Miraculously, I happen to kick off enough of the dinky ones that were keeping me off high speed roads. After a few more tweaks, I have a route that is 9.5 hours…which I convince myself will give me enough time to stop for pics and gas.
It’s now midnight, and the room temperature in the hotel is sweltering 84F. Apparently, the HVAC cannot heat and cool simultaneously. They have turned off the A/C for the season. This wouldn’t have been too much of an issue if I had not traded my original room on the 2nd floor, for this nice walk out ground level one. Since the hotel happens to be attached to a conference center, and it’s the Navy Birthday Ball night, lord knows I won't be sleeping with the patio door unbarricaded! Predictably, I sleep poorly. The phone rings at 0430. It’s Lisa who I was supposed to meet for Bfast (and probably the only meal I will have for the next 12 hours). I’ve apparently set my alarm for PM vs AM. Just under an hour and I need to check out of the hotel and be ready to ride.
At the mandatory riders meeting, the rally master hands out manila envelopes. Closest to him, I am one of the first one he hands one too. A few more riders, then someone squeals “OH SNAP”. While the rally master snickers at her revelation, he collects the envelopes back up. They were empty, and just a ploy to make us think the routes would have to change. As a rookie, I had Wiley Coyote Syndrome—I didn’t even realize what the packet thing was about, so I didn’t even realize the potential fear.
Never the less, we are quickly sent on our way into the dark pre-dawn light. He's given us an early start with an extra 13 mins to ride! It’s been raining all night, and it’s still drizzling out. Our rally packet (shirt, 14 sheets of paper, flag, and sticker) were all distributed in a large clear Ziploc. Everyone seems to have theirs as they walk to odometer check. Everyone but me that is. Standing out in the rain drops watching my paper gets wet, while everyone else covets dry paper in a Ziploc it makes sense now. I just thought it was a way to pack all that crap...mine is safely packed will all the kit I am leaving back at the hotel. Having somewhat the home team advantage, my first stop is the Wilderness Battlefield very near RT20/RT3 which I have ridden by countless times. Should be easy, right?
For all intents and purposes, I should have been well suited to be good Endurance Rally candidate. I have the kit, I have the bike, I don’t mind the long days in the saddle, and I have cracked the Basecamp enigma machine. Yet, it has taken me nearly 3 years to get to the start line. My first ill-fated attempt would have been the year Blaster broke his foot 2 weeks prior to the event. Last year, round 2 of tootsie surgery. This year, I attended with joy, and blaster met me at the finish line.
Two weeks earlier, preps began. This was really Dorito’s first outing since I relegated her to commuter/road duties. If for nothing else, it was a good reason to fix all the little things that time and mileage had wore on her. Dear god, I thought that bike would never go back together until it sucked every last penny from my wallet. Aux lights switch froze, head bearings, new road stickies (BTW, the Tourances are much better than the Anakee 2s or Battle Wings), 12K maintenance, gear up the front sprocket, replace the leaking side cover gasket. Honestly, I didn’t think I would be keeping that bike much longer, but all those nagging gremlins are behind me now and I have fallen back in love with her.
Last week, we received the Bonus locations. I loaded them into Basecamp to look at where they would fall. Pretty much area of play was West to Roanoke, North to Gettysburg, South to NC line and East to Williamsburg. My first rookie mistake, and probably the biggest Bozo of the weekend, I didn’t realize that this was the only set of locations. I didn’t bother to even map anything since I thought we were getting “more information” at the riders check in meeting. I realized of the field of 12 or so riders, I was the only one without their route at the riders meeting….and there was nothing that would have prevented me routing in leisure in the last week. And the anxiety mounts...
Since Blaster wasn’t running this, he was very kind to loan me his GPS. You know, a GPS to see the overall route and one to push buttons on. However, my Zumo has been flaky since Canada, and it’s the point that I boot it up to load the track that the speaker starts squealing like a rabbit being eaten alive. And the anxiety mounts...
Friday night was a long one. First I wanted to make sure there wasn’t any new points provided in the Riders Packet than the emailed bonus packet. Hindsight, I wasted too much time here, and I should have saved this time on routing. Then I read the descriptions of the locations. Diligently marking the ones that sounded interesting, the ones that I thought were “easy”. This was sort of another waste of time, because the final route didn’t use any of those metrics.
It’s now somewhere around 1030 (t-8 hrs from launch), and I still don’t have a single point on my route. To some, the series of unrelated points depicts a beautiful picture. I assume these are the same people that interpret art from Salvador Dali's work. To me, it was one of those pictures you need to cross your eyes to see anything. For no good reason other than it's new track for me, I decide that I am heading to Roanoke. And it looks to be a lower congested area. By the same token, I will suspect my rider efficiency will also be lower. I am horrified at my first routing attempt—It’s 13 hours long for a 10 hour rally…And Basecamp isn’t counting gas stops nor stop lights!
My normal trick of just making Blaster ride for 4 days on track 1 won't work here. Sigh.
To Be Continued......