Monday, June 17, 2013

God, I am SUCH a child!

I may be 42, but I am not a grown up.

Sunday, Kate and I went for a nice leisurely ride.  We went up to High Point State Park.  The name, while not overly creative, is accurate, as it is the highest point in the state of New Jersey.

After arriving at the park, we went for the "scenic" drive, .6 miles, instead of the "direct" drive, .5 miles, to the monument.

While meandering down this long and winding road, I noticed a trail to the right, with a sign that said "observation deck".  Hmmmmmm.  Looks like a walking trail, but no signs about not taking vehicles.  I have my GS.  How bad could it be?

Well, after this slight incline with a little dirt and rocks, it became a 3' wide tree lined boulder strewn, bike eating, what the heck were you thinking, trail.

And I promptly got stuck.  Tree to my right, death giving cliff to my left.  I IMMEDIATELY regretted this decision, which, BTW falls under the "poor choice" category, NOT the "bad idea" category.

So I am stuck, trying to figure out how to back my 700 lbs behemoth out of this situation, and almost drop her about 5 times in the 6 inches I managed to move.  Luckily for me, 3 large men happened by.  Even more luckily for me, they were neither inmates nor cast members from Deliverance!  They very kindly offered to help, and with some grunting and groaning, we managed to wrestle Captain USA to a spot where I could get him turned around.

Naturally, Kate was extremely helpful in documenting the whole procedure.

The rest of the day went fairly uneventfully.  So naturally, I had to do something more, um, dumb, today.

Today is "Ride your Bike to Work Day", which came as a surprise to me, since I though that was most days during the year.  But apparently there is an official day.

ANYWAY, Revzilla is hosting a contest.  The contest is to put up a picture of you "dominating" your work.  Challenge Accepted!

So add one 42 year old child, a Rallye GS, a giant American Flag, a forklift and a 6 foot pallet and what do you get?

Idiocy.  AND  Domination.

I am such a child.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Minute Man 1K in the Books

Update, Star Date -309560.2840

Well, the 2013 MM1K is in the books.  It was quite the event, I can tell you that.

Riders got the bonus locations Wednesday.  That gave us 2 days to go over plans, routes, etc, with the hope that our routes would not be blown out of the water when the rally packs were distributed.

Looking at the weather, it was not good Mav.  Tropical Storm Andrea was going to be on us Friday and most of Saturday.

I spent a bunch of time planning my route, as is the norm.  I designed several routes that included what I expected to be combo bonuses, of which I was only right on one of them, but that one was a solid route.

Wednesday night, Kate had a work problem I helped her with and we were up until 3 AM.  Then regular work day on Thursday, and some final route planning, etc Thursday night.  Our plan was to leave mid day Friday, to get up to Rally HQ for check in, etc, around 3PM.

We woke up around 7:30 on Friday AM and looked at the weather.  I said to Kate "we really should leave now, before the worst of it gets here."  She agreed and we hopped into hyper drive to get rolling.

3 hours later, we managed to get out of the garage, right in the middle of the worst of the rain.

Right before we headed out, the Rally Master sent an email indicating that there would be an alternate odometer check method available.  All you had to do was stop at a specific gas station on the way to HQ, zero out your trip meter, write your starting odo on the receipt and get to HQ.  That was nice, as it could save you an extra 30 minutes in the rain.

Kate and I decided to do this, and right at the exit for the gas stop was a good Italian Joint, Rinaldi's Italian Specialties, where we had some tasty lunch.  Lunch over, we went and grabbed our start receipts and rode up to rally HQ.

Got to HQ, started the check in process and guess what we forgot to do?  If you guess WRITE THE ODO on the receipt, you are RIGHT!  Ding Ding Ding!

So the RM, feeling badly for us was about to let us slide, when, unbeknownst to me, my sweet, dear Kate, gave him a sign to make me go back out and ride the odo check, thinking it would be funny.  And it was.  Especially considering he made her do it too.  hahahahahaaaaaa.

After going for the Odo check ride, we got in and finished registration, checked into our rooms, and pulled off all the wet gear.  We were pretty darn wet.  My tank bag rain cover didn't do anything, except seal in the juices.  Not a good sign for the start of what looked to be a wet rally.

I think every rider did what we did at that point.  The process was as follows:

Turn room heat to 90 degrees.
Turn on heat lamp in bathroom.
Turn on hair dryer in bathroom.
Wring out what you could into the sink/tub.
Take turns using the hair dryer to attempt to dry out each piece of clothing/equipment.

I am confident of this, because outside of every other room you could hear a hair dryer blowing.

The fun really starts.

Dinner was great, as it was last year.  Rally towels and rally packs were distributed.  When the RM gave the OK to open your rally packs, I had a rude surprise.  My rally book was 2 pages thick.  I looked around the table, and noticed that everyone else had 25 pages or so.  WTF?

I asked and the RM told me that it was correct, and that I should look at my pack in better detail.

I guess I have a reputation of riding a lot of miles in rallies.  So I got special bonus locations.  Like Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and Key West Florida in my rally pack.  It was really very funny and the staff and other riders got a good laugh at my expense (one of many opportunities this weekend).

I was eventually given the real rally book, and there was a little Q&A with the RM.

Went back to the room and looked at the rally book in detail.  Seemed to be straight forward with no huge surprises.  The wild card bonus was to get a picture of the farmer signs you see around, the yellow signs with a farmer on a tractor.  You could grab up to 3 of those.  The only combo bonuses were for the Diners, or WD bonuses.  I had seen that there were 8 location prefaced with WD, so I had made a route that included them all.  Good thing for me, as it was worth 10,000 extra points to grab all 8.  They were all in and around Boston, so my planned route had me grabbing these bonuses around midnight or later, when traffic would be light.

So given all that, I really did not have to work so hard at final routing and was in bed by midnight.

And then I fell asleep.

At 3AM.

Alarm goes off at 4:30 to get ready for the 5:30 rider's meeting.

Typical rider's meeting and one more bonus is distributed.  Grab something Cumberland Farms branded from a Cumberland Farms store.  You could grab 3 of these.

The rain was still coming down, although less so, and we all lined up for our epic rides.

I left the starting gate at 6:02 (even though the RM wrote 6:01).

My first bonus was right near HQ.  Grabbed that, and on my way.

My route had me riding south into CT, then North West into NY, up into Burlington VT, across to Maine, down into Boston and then home to HQ.

Here is the link for my Spotwalla.

On my way down to SS4, getting gas in Milford, CT, my satellite radio stopped receiving.  Not sure what was up, I looked and my antenna puck was flopping around behind me instead of sitting on my top case  What a PITA.  I fiddled with it as best as I could, but it ended up flopping down by my tire and rubbing, and probably pulling an internal wire loose.

So I had to ride the whole ride without music, weather or traffic.  It has been 5 years since I rode without music.

Next stop was a birthing center.  I had a lovely conversation with a male nurse that lasted about 3 years.  He was intent on talking to me about the differences and similarities between my C14 and his 90 CC scooter.  I know we are ambassadors when we are out there, so I was as polite as possible, but when my next birthday rolled around on the calendar, I had to extricate myself from this conversation, and off to my next stop.

That next stop was MAX BMW in CT.  I saw my favorite sales guy, Zac Wiley, for about 30 seconds.  I pulled in, snapped my photo, gathered my data, and rolled out.  Zac was at the front door of the dealer.  "Hi Zac, Bye Zac" was all I got out as I pulled out of the parking lot.

Went about the business of gathering bonii.  Saw some cool stuff.  Here is some farm junk.

 This photo shows some stuff.

Here we have 3 cows, resting serenely by the side of the road.  Luckily, they are made of bronze and did now try to mate with my Kaw.

Speaking of mating with Kaws, what are these guys doing with this bull?  That was one of the rally questions.  I knew what my initial answer was, but it could not be right, could it?

Ever wish you had a giant, green outdoor chair?  So did the people at this library.  They have one, do you?

A barn.  Try to contain your enthusiasm.  If you look closely, right under my muffler, you can see my ZUMO antenna hanging down.  Not great for reception or longevity.

 A sign.  I know.  The thrill a minute life of a rally rider is in full effect.

OK, now this was something I had not planned on.  There was an added bonus for being at a MAX BMW dealer between noon and 1 PM and having a burger.  You had to sit there for 20 minutes.  My route had me showing up 12 minutes before noon.  I could then gather the bonus for going to MAX2, do a little paperwork, then start the MEAT bonus at noon exactly.  The PROBLEM was, and this is unusual, I was waaaay ahead of schedule.  I got there at 11:30.

I had a bonus in Maine that you had to grab during daylight.  In my planned route, I was going to get there with about 5 minutes to spare, and knowing that my plans are usually aggressive, I decide to pass on the 6500 Points for MEAT, so I could be sure to grab the 9000 bonus in Maine.

I also had a very odd experience at this bonus.  I pulled up, started my photo gathering, etc., and a random customer started heckling me.  "Why would you ride a Kawi to a BMW dealer?"  I told him I was riding my Kawi to win the rally.  "So you want to race?"  Talk to me another day, I am on a rally.  Seeing that I was moving briskly getting, my picture, etc, he starts yelling "Come on!  Move faster Hurry! Hurry!"  My next comments to him were less than pleasant, but not overly rude, however, I made my displeasure at his lack of tact known.

I have run into this brand love hate BS at HD gatherings, dealers, classes, etc., but never with a BMW dealer.  Gross.

This poor bear was in prison, and now he is serving time holding up a sign for a bar.  Not sure which is worse.

 Ever wonder what an 18,500 piece of marble looks like?  Now you know and have a C14 as reference.  And for the record, the C14 is a few pounds less than 18,500 until I sit on it.

Another sign.  Calm down, it just keeps getting better and better.

As I mentioned, there was a wild card bonus for Farmer Signs.  I was several hundred miles into the ride and had not seen one.  I was starting to get concerned I might not get the three of these we were allowed, but in the course of about 10 miles, I grabbed three.  All on my route, all quick snap and go.

This one was fun.  There were two dog sculptures made of hay bales.  Not something you see every day, nor something you would want your neighbor to put up, but here they sit.

There is some irony with visiting a solar array on a rainy day.

You HAD to know this was coming.  Yes, another sign.  I try to temper my excitement with photographing signs with doses of boredom, so I don't have a heart attack from the overwhelming thrill of the event.  It helps to think of baseball.......

Here is a barn.  "So what?" you may ask.  So this one is round, says I.

 Up until this point, except for my antenna coming loose, this rally was going well.  The Rally Gods had not made their appearance yet, and I was way ahead of schedule and really having a great rally.  Most of my boni were within 30 miles of each other, and some were barely a few miles apart.

This next stretch was the longest of my route, without a bonus.  85 miles.  So I sat back, relaxed and twisted the throttle for a bit.  Made good time, and got to this bonus location.  I dismounted, went to my top case, AND IT WAS UNLATCHED.  And the rally flag was GONE! 

In the rally world, this is pretty bad.  You can't claim boni without your rally flag.  You can't score without your rally flag.  The rally flag is pretty damn important.  And I just discovered I had lost mine somewhere over the last 85 miles.

At this point, I knew I had to go back and get my flag, and I knew my route and rally were shot.  I was mad for a minute or two, but then I just resigned myself to what reality was.  I turned around and started to backtrack.  I knew I would have to keep an eye on the other side of the road for the whole trip back.  1 mile later, I saw it!  Right there in the middle of the highway.  The most beautiful sight of the rally (except when I got to HQ and saw Herbert safely parked), was a pile of green and white towel, sitting in the middle of two lanes of traffic.

I could not believe how lucky I was.  That towel had sat flopping from the back of my case for 84 miles, and let go one mile from my next stop.  I only lost about 5 minutes.  So lucky.

Now that we are through that bit of excitement, here is another sign.

And if that wasn't enough to get your blood flowing, here is another one.

 This can get a bit repetitive, no?

I made the bonus in Maine with time to spare, right around 8:00 PM, sunset was 8:25 or so.

Here I met up with my buddy Bruce. 
We always end up seeing each other on our routes.  This was a fun moment, and I had an emotional recharge seeing him.  

This bonus was for an HHM and a two level bridge.  The coordinates brought you to the top level of the bridge.  Having done some of this stuff before I KNEW the HHM had to be down near the lower level.  Took a look at the map on my GPS, and made a stab at getting down there.  It was pretty easy.  I did not spot the HHM right away, but experience has taught me to STOP RIDING and look around.  Once I did that, I spotted the HHM, grabbed the photo and rode away.

 Hey!  Look!  A sign!

My final boni were all diners.   There were 8 in all.  I purposely routed these so I would be visiting them in the middle of the night.  I knew I would start my rest bonus in the middle of gathering these.  Your rest bonus had to start before 2:00 AM.  I mean, first off, these are diners, and diners are open 24/7, and besides that, I would be in the middle of Boston.  Something would be open around 2:00 AM, right?  I mean, its a major city.

NONE of these were open.  So instead of getting to get my rest bonus in a nice comfortable diner, I resigned myself to working at a gas station.  At 1:30, I started looking for real.  At 1:40, I was sweating.  At 1:45, I was getting concerned.  I finally managed to find an open gas station at 1:50.  That was closer than I planned.

I have a nice comfortable system for working on paperwork on the bike.  I have a cool little stool that fits nicely on the bike, my side bag holds my laptop, I have a notebook holder with a light, so I am good.  I start filling in my paperwork and realize I needed some guidance on the proper way to fill in the log.  Uh oh.  I had teased the Rally Master about calling him in the middle of the night and now I needed to.  I sent him a text.  No answer.  Crap.  So I called him.  He was tired.  I legitimately felt bad, but I could not afford to mess up the paperwork.  To his credit he gave me my answers very graciously.

I looked at my route again and realized I would be coming in about 15 minutes early.  I then looked and saw a nice juicy 5200 point bonus on the way back to HQ, not directly, but close enough.  Putting that into my route had me getting back to HQ 10 minutes late.  That would be a negative 1500 points, as a penalty, but a net of 3700 points, so on the route it went.

On the final stretch of my route, between Worcester and the final bonus, Streets and Trips showed me running along the highway, and then getting off to go grab the bonus.  Garmin, in its infinite wisdom, took me along a local road.  One with 25 MPH limits and constantly switching speed limits, you know, a speed trap paradise.

I thought about jumping over to the highway, but Ms Garmin showed me on time.  I fought the urge and followed instructions.

I had to keep a close eye on the constantly changing speed limits.  It was 5 AM, I am riding a bike with enough lights to make it look like a UFO, in an area where the police probably take their speed limits seriously.  It was not worth going a little fast, to try and make up a minute of two, and risk getting pulled over for something stupid like 38 in a 35.  So I rode very cautiously and conservatively.

Grabbed the last bonus and headed home to rally HQ.  The entire time I was riding to that last bonus, Garmin was showing a 6:17 arrival time.  As I got closer, the time started going down and I pulled in at 6:11!  Sweet, only a 9 minute penalty!  Except the RM had me down as leaving at 6:01, so it became a 10 minute penalty.  More on this, later.

As a note for those who don't read my blog (shame on you), I have had good success in rallying, but I have also NEVER scored cleanly.  I have left points on the table at scoring EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  This rally was going to change that.  My goal was to plan, ride and score, exactly as I intended.  I WAS NOT going to leave points on the table.

To that end, I was doing my paperwork for 2 hours.  At one point, I was in the hallway outside of scoring with a laptop, scroll paper, notebook, phone, and two cameras.  The RM took a very flattering picture of me, which would become part of the fun at awards.

Long story short, I got scored and it was completely clean.  WHEW.  I had done what I set out to do.  I then had to wait for awards to see where I would end up placing.  I was confident it was a good score, just not sure it would be the top score.  I made a note to the RM that he had me leaving at 6:01, but I knew I left at 6:02.  It was only 150 points, so I told him if it was that close, I wanted a review, but if not, then don't worry about it.

At breakfast before the awards banquet, Long Haul Paul got me good.  Paul is a member of the rally staff.  I was sitting at my table and he came in looking around the room like he was searching for someone.  His eyes met mine, and he gave me this "sorry man" look.  He then came over and asked me if I had eaten already.  He then patted me on the back and said "sorry" before walking away.

S.O.B. what I had I messed up?  I went over all the paperwork in my head.  I KNOW I had read every question and provided every answer.  I could not have gone to a wrong location.  I was solid.  I was dejected.  I knew any points lost would blow me out of the water.

Rob came up to the podium and started to go over the finishers.  He made the announcement that the difference between first and second was less than 150 points.  I should have known something was up at that point, but I was oblivious.

After many more jokes at my expense, the results were announced.  I had won and by a decent margin, not 150 points.  This was the sweetest win of my career so far.  I had come full circle in one year and won the rally that started me on this adventure.

I also was called a "big dog" by the RM.  That is not a term thrown around in the LD community and that might be more rewarding than the win.

On another note, I am THRILLED to report that Kate took 3rd place in the Saddle Sore division and there were two other women in the top 10.  Girls rule!