The bike is perfect (Farkles for the Ninjette), my gear is ready (Body Farkles: Damn, 12 Hours is a Long Time), I am prepared (Shakedown Rides: Training for a 12 Hour Rally), and my route is plotted (2011 Utah 1088, Part I: Final Preparations). All that’s left to do is run the rally.
At 7:00am, I was ready for the symbolic green flag (actually the RM’s hand) to drop. I let the gung-ho gun-slinger crowd go ahead so I wouldn’t get caught up in a melee exciting the parking lot. As anticipated, I was the one of the few that went West onto the freeway because most of the riders either went East to the BMW shop or South to the shooting bonus, both of which I had decided to skip.
Three Rally Lessons Learned
First stop was a Vista Point with a couple of plaques on I-80 overlooking the Great Salt Lake. On this bonus, I learned Rally Lesson #1: Never Trust Your GPS. When a location is described on the instructions as “between MP# and MP(#+1)”, there’s no way to accurately represent it on a computer map while setting up the routing. As a result, I visually identified my target at the exact moment that I blew by the exit.
I wasted no time learning Rally Lesson #2: Do Whatever It Takes To Get The Points. I spent about a nanosecond on the shoulder determining if I could cut across the dirt divider to get there (no, there was a cyclone fence), and then headed to the re-entry on-ramp. Because I am (or was) generally a law-abiding motorist, I spent another nanosecond wondering if I should park at the exit and walk back. You can guess the rest – yes, I rode the wrong way back up the on-ramp to get where I needed to be. Funny how much easier those decisions got after the first one – it’s definitely a slippery slope.
At that point, I learned Rally Lesson #3: This Is A Competition. I knew several things about this bonus: (1) it asked a question that required an answer; (2) the answer sheet was not consistent and suggested that a photo was required; (3) all photos had to include our rally hat; and (4) where there is ambiguity, more information is better. There were two other riders there and they had just taken a picture of the marker . . . without their hats. Before I could stop myself, my Outside Voice said “I don’t think a picture is enough”. CRAP, Shut Up You Idiot. As they went back to review their paperwork, I wrote down the answer to the question and hustled to take a photo with my hat before they noticed their other omission (the hat). Lesson learned, move on.
This isn’t as hard as I expected
I was back on my way with an easy 998 points under my belt. Next stop, get the name of a “geological feature” on SR-196. I already knew it was called Lone Rock because it said so on Google maps. But I still had to record my time and mileage when I got there (a requirement of all bonus stops). Chalk up another 999 points – I was on a roll and was really starting to enjoy the ride.
Another lesson I was also learning quickly is that it’s a lot easier to average 60+ mph in western Utah than it is in western California. Not only are the roads straight (in contrast to the California coast), but the posted speed limits are much more liberal: 2-lane rural highways are 65mph, the interstates are 75mph, and we all know that those are just suggestions. As I flew south on SR-196, Carmen (my GPS) reported my estimated arrival time at the CP as 10:13, more than 45 minutes ahead of opening time. Great start! Then came the next bonus search when everything changed and I began the traditional “swearing at the Rally-Bastard” ritual.
Rally-Bastard, you have earned your nickname
The next stop on my route was a huge 3598-point GPS-only bonus – we were given coordinates and instructions to take a photo of a Memorial at N 40 32.307 W 112 44.834. I had mapped it and it appeared to be right on the highway, so I rode along looking for something obvious. I noticed a roadside shrine along the way, but that felt too random and temporary to be the intended target. I rode back and forth a few times trying to narrow it down (BTW, the Ninjette makes beautiful illegal u-turns on 2-lane rural highways – did I mention that slippery slope of legality?).
I finally ended up at a ramshackle roadside ranch, which according to Carmen looked pretty close – I figured I could wing it into position. I rode into the driveway and watched the coordinates get closer as I headed directly toward a horse corral. The immortal words of Joseph Smith crossed my mind: “This is [or must be] the place!” I walked around for a few minutes looking for something, anything – a hand-painted shingle in memory of Uncle Jake would have sufficed. Nothing. I took a photo of Carmen (showing N 40 32.289 W 112 44.832) to prove I had tried. I didn’t really think it would fly but I had nothing to lose. At this point, I also noticed that my CP arrival time was ticking away with alarming speed so it was time to get back on the road.
As I headed out of the ranch, I spotted a fellow in coveralls wrenching on a large tractor behind the barn. I rode over to him, flipped up my helmet to expose my gender (constrained by ATGATT), flashed a winning smile (constrained by properly-fitting cheek pads), and these words actually came out of my mouth (spoken with dimples in my voice): “Hi! I’m on a little scavenger hunt and I’m looking for a memorial somewhere in this area – can you help?” “Yes,” he said, “it’s across the road up the hill.” My heart sank. “Oh, so I have to hike up there?” [thereby breaking my “time off the bike” rule…] “No,” he said, “just go back up the road a mile or so and look for the turn-off.” My heart soared and off I went.
The turn-off, though marked with a government sign pointing to “Iosepa”, turned out to be a gravel road. I don’t have a lot of gravel experience (OK, none), but I reminded myself why I love this bike – it’s short and it’s light. I can hold it up at a 30-degree angle, I can pick it up if it falls over, and worst case, I could slip the clutch and paddle-foot up and back if need be. Carmen convinced me that I was still far enough ahead of schedule to the CP to give it a go and so I headed up the hill.
Nothing could have prepared me for what I encountered next. My first clue of strangeness was a colorful hand-painted sign at the entrance to the gravel road welcoming me with “Aloha Iosepa”. Hmmmm. I could see a tall monument in the distance so at least I knew I was on the right track. I rounded the bend and this is what I saw: on my right, a motley assortment of RVs and tents; straight-ahead, a huge clearing with a permanent awning and picnic tables crowded with lots of children, quite a few women, and not quite enough men; on my left, an old cemetery in which stood the previously-spotted monument.
The monument turned out to be a huge engraved granite slab with the bust of some sort of warrior on top and what appeared to be a feather boa around its neck. At this point I didn’t really care – I was already WAY over-committed to this bonus and I just wanted to get my photo and get on down the road. There was a nice fellow at the memorial who, after I offered a few explanatory words, offered to hold my hat for the photo (that’s his arm on the right).
I took an extra close-up because I figured no one would believe me about the feather boa and then headed out for the even more treacherous ride DOWN the gravel road. I arrived back at SR-196 feeling VERY smug and intrepid (not to mention 3598 points richer). I’m also not ashamed to admit that I was pleased that no other riders had seen me so my “intel” was secure – I earned those points and didn’t want to share! As I headed back on course, Carmen still reported arrival time at CP of 10:47am – 13 minutes before opening – WHEW!!!!
As I wrote this, I decided to find out more about this Iosepa place. Its Wikipedia listing (complete with a photo of the monument) reveals that the accessory is in fact a lei, not a feather boa. It describes the site as a 19th-century settlement of Polynesian LDS church members. I feel compelled to point out that none of the people I saw there looked the slightest bit Polynesian, but I digress. FWIW, Wikipedia lists the coordinates as N 40 32.233 W 112 44.667, not N 40 32.307 W 112 44.834 – don’t know where the discrepancy came from but it doesn’t matter now – I got the points.
Things can change after the instructions are printed
After marveling for a moment at a huge new building with no signage out in the middle of nowhere at the intersection of SR-196 and SR-199 (which I assume to be a new LDS church for the town of Dugway), I turned east on SR-199 and headed for the historic town of Rush Valley. Along the way, I found myself on a splendid mountain road over the Stansbury mountains. Slowed me down a little, but not as much as Carmen expected – I actually gained some time. My task was to find a rusty sign for Rush Valley, note the date the town was founded, and take a photo for good measure (865 pts). Easy peasy.
Then I headed west on SR-36 looking for the intersection with SR-6, at which I was instructed to find an odd collection of highway signs and arrows pointing every-which-way. Got there, no signs, several other motorcyclists riding back and forth looking perplexed. I did the same (rode back and forth), opted to write my time, mileage, and “no signs” on my paperwork, and then headed on down the route.
But a couple of miles later, my “get something to prove you were there” instincts kicked in and I realized I really should have a photo. I was still ahead of schedule for the CP, so back I went to take a photo of the sign for the abandoned smog inspection station in the area. I learned later that a truck had taken out the highway signs and some rallyists had submitted photos of the skid marks as proof – that’s pretty creative.
While I was taking my photo, another rallyist wandered over to chat. He asked if I had been able to find the GPS bonus. With my newly-jaded attitude borne from the Vista Point experience, I responded with an eye roll and “uh, yeah.” He pressed me, describing the horse corral, and wanted to know how I had found it. I responded with “It doesn’t really matter now, gotta go”, flipped my helmet down, and took off out of the driveway. Damn, I really am a bitch! (I later apologized to the rider back at the hotel and described the effort I had gone through to find the flippin’ Memorial…)
The All-Important Checkpoint
As I headed east on SR-6 toward I-15 (and the CP), two things became clear:
- Carmen assured me that in spite of my two significant delays, I was still going to get to the CP about 15 min early, BUT
- All that extra driving around for the two elusive Boni had seriously jeopardized my odds of making the CP without refueling
My pre-rally estimate of 200 miles per tank didn’t take into account the effects of sustained speeds of 80+ mph. My original route had shown a distance of about 175 miles to the CP, but with the back-and-forth of the memorial and the missing signs, I had added quite a few miles to my total. High on the list of rally no-no’s is running out of gas. And I instinctively knew that getting gas in a town before I launched onto the Interstate was bound to be less disruptive than having to exit the Interstate for gas before I arrived at the CP. So I filled up with 4.4 gal in the town of Santequin at 177 miles and then headed south on I-15 for the CP.
As I rode the last 22 miles into the CP at Nephi, I ran down my checklist of chores. It hadn’t occurred to me to anticipate and write them down (note to self: do that next time), so I counted them out on 7 fingers to help me remember:
- Top off the gas tank (it took 0.4 gal – my tank holds 4.8 gal – good thing I stopped in Santequin!)
- Refill the hydration bladder (I was determined to stay ahead of the water loss)
- Suck down a bottle each of Gatorade and Boost (breakfast of champions)
- Re-apply sunscreen and chapstick (yes, you can get a seriously ugly burn even with a helmet on)
- Clean the bugs off the face shield (they ALL came from the first 30 miles on I-80)
- Secure the flapping straps on my tank bag (you have no idea how annoying and distracting that is)
- Pee (was that TMI?)
I pulled into the CP at 10:45am, 15 minutes before it opened, leaving me a precious 15 minutes “off the clock” to perform my checklist tasks. I remembered all but one (the flappy straps). At exactly 11:01am, I checked in with the RM, mentioned the missing signs (which he already knew about), and thanked him for inviting me to the picnic on the side of the hill with the fundamentalists. Then I headed out for the remaining 8 hours of the rally. Life was good!
Hundreds of miles and not much to do
I left the CP feeling relative relaxed. I was true to my plan, on schedule, and feeling really comfortable on the bike. The next few hundred miles didn’t pose too many challenges, or so I thought. I had a simple 987-pt Bonus as I headed east on USH-132 (the name of a Scenic Byway) and then no more “work” to do until I arrived in Duchesne.
30 minutes later, I hit the wall in the town of Mount Pleasant – it was starting to get hot and the country roads were long, straight, and hypnotic. I pulled over in the shade, walked around a little, and chugged my first ever 5-hr Energy Drink. Rejuvenated, I was content to follow a couple of RVs out of town and up the hill until I could find a safe place to pass them (it’s harder on a little bike, trust me…) and I finally made it to USH-6. Ah, the mountains, much cooler and more interesting. As I headed east on USH-6 toward Helper (a road that Rich and I have traveled dozens of times on the way to Colorado), Carmen reported that I would return to the hotel by about 5:00pm. Really? Two hours early? I started to second-guess my plan. Could I have done some of the “in-town” bonuses in the morning? Could I actually make it to Little America WY after all?
NO, NO, NO. Discipline kicked in – I must Finish – nothing more,and definitely nothing less. But at this point, I did allow myself the freedom to contribute a few entries to the newly-launched Utah 1088 Photo Blog, which we had been strongly encouraged to do as we went about our travels. Here is my first Photo Blog entry from Soldier Summit on USH-6.
Tar Snakes – Are You F***ing Kidding me?
Just when I thought I had nothing but a simple cruise to the next bonus in Duchesne, I encountered trouble coming out of Price Canyon – the dreaded tar snakes. I had heard about their evilness, but for some reason I thought that wetness was the problem. In fact, when I started up the hill and saw them, I remember thinking “good thing it isn’t raining.” The next thing I knew, both of my tires were sliding and I nearly crashed. It turns out that in the heat they turn into little strips of oiled Teflon. And because they aren’t flush with the pavement, the little bike gets “light” when it hits them, compounding the problem. Those few miles turned out to be by far the scariest of the day – and worth a Photo Blog entry so I never forget.
As I continued out of the canyon toward parts unknown, the tar snakes became a distant (and unpleasant) memory and I was actually starting to enjoy the twisty road. But then I experienced the first true deficit of the little bike when I realized that my throttle hand had hit the stop and my speed was dropping … 50.3 … 49.5 … 48.7 … 47.4. … wow, this must be a really steep road! Imagine my surprise when I emerged from the climb to discover a “Summit 9114 Ft” sign. I have since learned that this unlabeled summit is called “Indian Creek Pass”, but at the time, all I knew is that it was REALLY high! It was worth a couple of Photo Blog entries – a photo of the sign, a photo of the view, and a pee behind a tree (mercifully, no photo).
The ride from Indian Creek Pass into Duchesne ranks among the best rides in my (admittedly limited) riding career. For you West Coasters, think Spooner Pass into Carson City but several times longer and no traffic. I stopped on my way into town for an 1136-pt photo of the Duchesne City Cemetery, a quick gas fill-up, and then West on I-40.
Just when I thought I had it wired: Wind and Construction
On the map, I-40 looked like a cruise, but wind and construction demonstrated why my conservative strategy was sound. I was not terribly phased by the wind, but only because I had encountered it during one of my shakedown rides coming home from San Jose. Construction, on the other hand, is a giant PITA and there is no way around it.
Stop #8 on my route was a 1458-pt memorial cross on I-40, one of 14 throughout the state erected to memorialize fallen UHP troopers. (I have since learned that an atheist group has filed suit to have these torn down. Really? Can’t you find anything more important to do with your time and money? Like campaign against Rick Perry? Sheesh… I could barely see the cross, let alone be offended by it.) Meanwhile, back to the rally, this stop happened to be at a huge pullout, which inspired me to perform some much-needed housekeeping (hydration, nourishment, sunscreen).
I headed on down the mountain into Heber City, topped off the fuel tank, then turned south onto USH-189 toward Provo. I found myself riding by Deer Creek Reservoir watching the kite-surfers – hey, I thought that was a SF Bay thing – who knew you could do that on a lake too!
As I continued down the western slope of the Wasatch, I executed a significant (and planned) modification to the Main Route instructions by blowing past the turnoff to SR-92, aka the Alpine Loop. My mapping software had fought me the night before when calculating the route, and when I zoomed in to find out why, the smooth line transformed into a very squiggly line. AND, there were no bonus points on that leg to lure me. While the road itself (which I hear is beautiful) might have been an interesting challenge (a) for more experienced motorcyclists or (b) earlier in the rally, I knew that squiggly lines at that stage of my ride represented an unacceptable risk to my goals. So I continued into Orem and then west on SR-52 with confidence. I was headed for Stop #9 – a photo of the green dinosaur on the north wall of the Museum of Ancient Life in Lehi. A little construction, a few detours, a few hundred feet of wrong-way riding, no sweat.
The home stretch
Once I bagged the 2933-pt dinosaur, I didn’t have much left to do except ride and ride and ride back to the hotel. I didn’t dare stray from the Main Route because I needed miles and I didn’t want to get stuck on the SLC-to-Wendover Ride-Of-Shame. So I rode west on 73 through Lehi, trusted the RM when I found myself headed south, and then finally met up with USH-36 North to Tooele which I knew was well within reach of the hotel.
I found this billboard as I rode into Tooele, and decided it was worth a couple more illegal u-turns to capture for the Photo Blog.
When I hit I-80 and headed east to the hotel, I knew I had to check my GPS mileage at the off-ramp. I was emotionally prepared to do another 20-mile round trip west to Saltair if needed, but as it turned out, I had more than enough miles and I was about 40 minutes early. Just to be sure, I did a few low-risk laps of Amelia Earhart Rd between 5600W and Wright Bros Drive (sort of a mini Ride-of-Shame) before I pulled into the hotel parking lot at 6:31pm.
Scoring was very efficient. The rally staff recorded my finish time and mileage and certified that my driver’s license was still snugly sealed in the envelope (5000 points). I was directed inside where I had plenty of time to review my bonus answers, confirm they were legible, turn in my paperwork, and have my SD card scanned to verify I had taken the required photos.
With that, there was nothing left to do but unpack the bike, check Rich’s progress on his SPOT, and enjoy a casual dinner with a few of my friends on the rally staff. I had good reason to relax and celebrate – I had met both of my goals AND I had fun. And as it turned out, four of the seven riders entered in the 12-hour event had come in just a few minutes over time, thereby earning DNFs. Even though I was tired, I could do that math and so I knew before I went to bed that I had achieved a podium finish. I set my alarm for 5am so that I could watch the return of the real rallyists – the ones who rode the 24-hour and 3-day versions – including Rich.
Below is the Spotwalla map showing my actual route – click on the map for an interactive version to see things like my zig-zagging north of Dugway looking for the monument and my final back-and-forths before the finish line.