Rich and Wade’s Isle of Man Adventure (2014): Part 6 – Race Day

May 10, 2015

If you came here from Part 5 – Final Race Prep, you’re up to speed on how this story has evolved. If not, I suggest you start at Part 1 – Background. When we last left our heroes, they had survived a 2-day thrash to replace the blown engine with a used street motor they found on eBay, gotten it running reasonably well after finding and fixing two mistakes (an upside-down shifter and a disconnected spark plug wire), and received a gift from the race officials when they got credit for a full lap after their last-chance practice session was red-flagged for a civilian medical emergency.

Meanwhile, back in the states, my alarm is set for 3:00am – the race is scheduled to start at 3:30am my time (11:30am, UK time).

9:30pm Tuesday night (my time): Text from Rich – “hi ho hi ho it’s off to war we go” (7:15am his time)

Yeah, not much chance that I’ll sleep tonight.

Friday 8/29 – RACE DAY! (all times are my time, PDT)

Learned from Twitter that the start time is delayed by one hour because of wet conditions – expected to clear in time because of high winds. That’s a mixed blessing for sure – dry=good, windy=bad. I found this web cam view of Douglas Harbor on Race Day morning on the Manx Radio website. Looks pretty gloomy!

DawnRaceDay

At this point, I’m following the race on three devices pointing to three independent sources of electronic updates:

  1. iPad following Twitter feeds from @iom_tt, @manxgrandprix and others
  2. iPhone streaming live radio feed from Manx Radio
  3. Laptop browser connected to the electronic timing check points so I can “watch” Wade progress around the course

In addition, I have two close friends who are awake and following it with me: Terry K., who got invested in the event over beers and dinner earlier in the month, and Sarah J., who assisted with Wade’s rehab from his ankle injury. They both had the same resources as I and we were communicating via text.

Race is underway!

4:30am – 1st rider has left the start line.The riders leave in 10 second intervals (in numerical order) to avoid crowding on the course. Wade is #89, so he’s scheduled to leave 880 seconds (roughly 15 minutes) after the first bike.

4:45am – Wade left the start line as scheduled (confirmed by electronic timing). Here is a YouTube video of the the start line. Skip ahead to 14:44 and you’ll see Wade leaving, right on time. The eBay engine sounds rather healthy, all things considered!

Now I’m obsessively refreshing my laptop browser so I can watch for Wade’s transponder to trigger each of the 6 checkpoints around the track. What a cool system this is. On the live timing website, you choose the rider(s) you want to follow. When the dots appear on the maps, your rider is highlighted in yellow. By the time Wade got to the third checkpoint at Sulby, it occurred to me to take screen shots so I could later document my stress with a time-lapse video. Keep in mind that Rich had none of this technology available to him – he just had to wait 25 minutes per lap and hope that Wade showed up again.

5:08am – Wade completes his first lap.

By this time, the leaders (who are 15+ minutes ahead of Wade) have not only completed their first lap, but are well into their second laps and are capturing most of the attention of the Radio TT announcers. They do to their best to throw in mention of the back-markers, hence this AWESOME moment from the radio feed: “Here comes #89, the bike with the eBay engine.” THAT’S US!!!

5:30AM – Wade completes his second lap and enters the pits for his mid-race fuel stop. This photo is taken during that pit stop. Rich is the guy behind the rear wheel.

5:37am – Wade’s transponder registers at the Glen Helen checkpoint

5:37am – Red Flag (Twitter and Live Radio)

5:40am – Two separate incidents between Glen Helen and Ballaugh (Twitter and Radio)

Wow, now the stress level kicks in for real. The last place Wade’s transponder checked in was Glen Helen. There are two crashes between there and the next check point (Ballaugh), and we don’t have any idea exactly where. Is he one of the crashes? Did the engine blow and cause one of the crashes? Is he ahead of or behind the crashes? I refresh my browser compulsively, hoping #89 will check in at Ballaugh. No such luck.

5:49am – Race will not be restarted, results will be based on two laps (Twitter and Radio)

6:05am – Crash details: 3 bikes at 11th Milestone, 1 bike at Bishopscourt, all riders transported to hospital (Twitter and Radio).

This helps a little, because both locations are much closer to Ballaugh than to Glen Helen. Since the red flag was thrown so soon after Wade’s transponder check-in at Glen Helen, I dare to raise my hopes that he hadn’t had a chance to get nearly that far.

6:13am – text from Rich “still no news, think it may have been the leaders”

6:21am – text to Rich “This is agonizing, I can’t even imagine how you feel.”
Reply: “Kind of like the ground crew at a WWII fighter base must have felt.”

6:30am – text from Rich: “Every time someone walks toward the tent my heart stops but I also would like to know WTF is going on”

6:50am – Rich finally got word that Wade is OK and got the sense that he’d be able to ride the bike back to the pits after the roads reopen

Let me recap these 73 minutes of hell:

  • Wade was somewhere between Glen Helen and Ballaugh
  • The two crashes were somewhere between Glen Helen and Ballaugh
  • He is running an untested used engine that we bought on eBay and installed two days earlier

I was doing my best to (a) keep Rich informed during this 73 minute information gap and (b) maintain my own sanity, and I’m extremely grateful that despite the hour on the west coast, I wasn’t alone – Terry and Sarah were right there with me, texting and hoping and wringing their own hands.

Here’s what it looked like on the live timing site (Wade is the yellow dot). I added some sound effects to enhance the experience (after all, I was listening to the live radio feed) and I obviously compressed the time frame – each photo (5 seconds) roughly equals 4 min in real time.

7:50am – I’m still waiting for confirmation that he’s actually made it back. Hoping that they’re just too busy packing the shipping container, and assuming no news is good news. My second biggest fear even after I knew he wasn’t IN the crash, was that the replacement motor had also blown and CAUSED the crash. That’s why it was so important to know that he was able to ride it back to the pits.

10:15am – finally, a text from Rich: “Got the bike thru post race tech we are finishers and can you believe it were minor heroes for sticking with it and prevailing. Bike is in the crate and we’re off to the awards dinner to meet the folks that run the island.”

1:50pm – “Wade hobbled up to the stage and got his finishers trophy. For 64 out of 96”

OMG, THEY DID IT!!!

Facebook post, Friday afternoon, August 29

“Short story: they finished. 64th out of 96. With an untuned stock motor from a wrecking yard that they found on eBay on Sunday, picked up in the UK on Monday, delivered to the pits at 7am on Tuesday, thrashed on Tues/Wed, and got running in time for practice on Wednesday afternoon. Which was critical because they still needed one more lap to meet the qualification requirements. Minor hero status amongst the other teams for persevering and prevailing.”

“Slightly longer story: race was red-flagged two laps into the four-lap race (each lap is 38 miles) because of two serious incidents on the track. Both were in the multi-mile segment immediately following the checkpoint where Wade’s radio transponder had last pinged. We had 73 minutes of true terror before Rich was finally informed that Wade was not involved. Sadly, one rider was killed. Tragic.”

“Much longer story will come in a week or two when I have time to put my thoughts together in a blog. For now, I’m going to rest. I’m still shaking from relief and joy.”

Next up: Part 7 – Aftermath, Race Photos, and What’s Next?

Photo credits:

Start Line and Pit Stop – Anthony Robert (Photo Mannx)

Douglas Harbor – Manx Radio Web Cam


Rich and Wade’s Isle of Man Adventure (2014): Part 5 – Final Race Prep

May 10, 2015

If you came here from Part 4 – The Engine Adventure, you’re up to speed on how this story has evolved. If not, I suggest you start at Part 1 – Background. When we last left our heroes, they had found a used engine on eBay, traveled by air and land to the other side of England to pick it up, endured a ridiculous sequence of setbacks trying to get the engine back to the island, transplanted the engine into the bike, and somehow managed to get it running. My view of Tuesday (at the time) can be summarized as follows: 6:30am: Rich made it back to the island with the engine and turned it over to the transplant team 11:30pm: text from Rich (yes, 17 hours later…) – “It lives again!” Woo hoo!!! But they were by no means out of the woods: they still didn’t have enough laps to qualify to run the race, and they had no idea whether or not the engine would hold up for a practice session and four grueling laps in the race. Remember, this wasn’t a shiny new race engine, it came out of a street bike with over 30,000 miles on it and the only assurance we had from the eBay seller was that it ran when he got it.

Wednesday 8/27

I received word at 10:30am that Kenny made it on to the boat with the rental car, so it’s finally headed home to Liverpool. Now the only challenge is to get Kenny back by boat or by air – everything at this point is Standby. It’s not surprising that there was a lot more to the engine story than just the 17-hour thrash on Tuesday. Swapping an engine in a motorcycle is not a trivial operation in the best of conditions, let alone on an island in the middle of the Irish Sea in variable weather with an ad-hoc volunteer crew of helpers. They got it done, but on Wade’s first ride around the pits, the bike was sputtering and couldn’t get out of its own way. They discovered that the shift lever linkage had been mounted backwards or upside-down, so what he thought was 1st gear was actually (take your pick), 2nd/3rd/higher. Once that got fixed, things improved dramatically, but he still wasn’t getting anything close to the expected horsepower/speed, even for a used street motor. 3:15pm: Scheduled practice. Because of the initial equipment problems and the blown motor, they still only have 4 out of the 5 laps they need to qualify to start the race. And now they have so many unknown variables with the replacement motor that still isn’t running right. Why is it running so poorly? Will it survive? Nothing to do but cross our fingers and wait – off they go. Thomas sent us this photo – taken at 3:14pm, just before the bike went on course. No worries, right? CAM00396 3:45pm – Ros (their B&B hostess) managed to snap a photo of Wade as he approached her driveway – proof that it’s running! I had no idea she lived right on the course. [The fellow in the foreground of this photo is Ron Halem, aka Gold Star Ron. Ron was a local vintage race bike builder (Prunedale, CA) with a long history on the Isle of Man, both as a racer and a fan. Sadly, he passed away from cancer in November of 2014, just a few months after this photo was taken.] Wade practice after engine replacement 3:49pm – Twitter feed reports that practice had been red flagged. My heart stops for a moment – after all, the last time there was a red flag, we caused it due to the spectacular oiling of the course from the blown motor. This time it turns out to be unrelated to the bikes – a civilian medical emergency that requires an ambulance go onto the course (did I mention that all 37 miles of the circuit are on public roads?). I knew Rich would be stressing too, so I texted him to let him know it wasn’t us. Good news: because the red flag was outside the control of the race officials, Wade got credit for the lap, so he has now officially completed the 5 required laps to quality for the race. Bad news: when Wade finally made it back to the pits, he had oil all over his boot. Now they have a day to chase down the leak, fix it, figure out why the engine is running so badly, and hope for the best during the race.

Thursday, August 28

There are no practices scheduled on the day before the race, so all efforts are focused on finding and resolving the oil leak and trying to get it to run better. I did get word that Kenny, after having delivered the rental car / world’s most expensive hand truck back to Liverpool, has made it back to the island – yay! Their time was well spent, as they identified and resolved three critical flaws:

  1. They found a small leak at the plug where the alternator was removed. Rich has fashioned a new gasket and sealed it up.
  2. The ad-hoc crew located a dyno facility in the pits, so they can run the motor to confirm that the leak is fixed. If so, the race is a go. If not, that’s the end of it – too dangerous to take the risk of oiling the track (both for Wade and the other riders). This also gives them an opportunity to identify the source of the power loss. The dyno operator reports that it’s only making about 56hp (should be closer to 100hp) and it’s running a little rich. They pulled the carburetors to adjust the jetting, and then while they were putting the carburetors back on …
  3. … Wade noticed that one spark plug hole didn’t look like the others. It seems that in the thrash to put the engine together, one of the plug wires hadn’t gotten reconnected. Um yeah, that would certainly explain the huge horsepower disparity!

As if we hadn’t had enough challenges, the shipping organizers have decided that the pits have to be cleared and all shipping containers packed and ready to go by 8:00am Saturday morning. Team USA thought they had through the weekend. So on Thursday, instead of focusing 100% on the bike and the race, they’re also scrambling to pack what they don’t need. And tomorrow (Friday), instead of celebrating the race (regardless of the outcome), they’ll be packing the rest of it in preparation for shipping back across the ocean. Adding insult to injury, they don’t fly out until Tuesday morning so they have 3 days to twiddle their thumbs.

Facebook Post, August 28

“What’s on my mind (FB asks)? Keeping the Dream Alive. Race Day on the Isle of Man. 3:15am alarm so I can follow it on Streaming Radio, Twitter, and Live Transponder Timing/Map. That’s what. Odds of getting much sleep between now and then? Slim to nil. After what they’ve been through, I’m beyond thrilled that they made it to the start line. Now all I care about is a safe outcome – if they manage to make it to the finish line, that’ll be a fantastic bonus, regardless of position.”

Next up: Part 6 – Race Day


Rich and Wade’s Isle of Man Adventure (2014): Part 7 – Aftermath, Race Photos, and What’s Next?

February 4, 2015

If you came here from Part 6 – Race Day, you’re up to speed on how this story has evolved. If not, I suggest you start at Part 1 – Background. When we last left our heroes, they had overcome a series of ridiculous obstacles and had earned a 64th-place finish (out of 90 starters) in the 2014 Manx Grand Prix with a 1992 Suzuki GSXR 1100 that was built in our garage. The bike and tools are packed and ready for shipping, so now they can enjoy the awards banquet and three days of sight-seeing and visiting friends.

Awards Banquet

As I mentioned in the last post, Rich reported that Wade was able to hobble up to the podium to accept credit for his 64th place finish. Just surviving the race is such an accomplishment that everyone who finishes gets acknowledged at the banquet. Rich also pointed out that the awards banquet had a nice pub, and that the Barkeepers give the racers one heck of a pour.

Three days as Tourists

Until the race was in the books and the crates packed, every moment was spent overcoming adversity and tending to business, which included daily laps of the island in the rental car to familiarize Rich with the course. As I mentioned earlier, those laps were critical to giving him the perspective he needed to interpret to the feedback he was getting from Wade and make appropriate tuning adjustments to the suspension and the engine. But they didn’t really count as touring.

With three days to relax before their flight home, our heroes finally had a chance to relax and be tourists. Among other things, Rich reported these field trips:

  • The IOM actually has three race courses and we hot lapped each one in our rent’a’racer.
  • We also spent a nice afternoon visiting Peel, one of the oldest towns – as a Left-Coaster, it’s hard to get used to grave markers that list DOD as 1400-something
  • Lunched in Ramsey sitting by the quay enjoying the sea air and just relaxing.
  • Met up with Peter and Jean Tucker, locals who have known Wade since the mid-1990s but didn’t manage to cross paths until after the race. Peter later sent me this photo of the four of them.Tucker10

Race Photos

After Wade and Rich got home, I scoured the internet for photos and found these gems. Dave Kneen, Manx Photos Online, you ARE the man! As always, click on the photos to see the full-res version – trust me, it’s worth it, especially for the Ballaugh Bridge photo.

Town of Kirk Michael, Practice, Thursday 8/21

Gooseneck, Practice, Friday 8/22. Note his left hand shading his eyes against the sun!

Creg-ny-Baa, Race, Friday 8/29

And of course, the one you’ve all been waiting for, the iconic Ballaugh Bridge airborne shot, Wed 8/20 (his first day on course). Remember, he’s about to land on a broken right foot!

Homecoming

Getting home seems anti-climatic after what they’ve been through. I know, you probably expected to hear that the volcano in Iceland stranded them for weeks. Or that their plane vanished in the Bermuda Triangle. Or that the cargo ship sank with all of the Team USA bikes aboard. But none of that happened. Wade and Rich made it home as scheduled without incident, and they calmly cooled their jets for 2-1/2 months until the ship with the bikes wandered into port just before Thanksgiving. BTW, here’s what the shipping crate looked like when it showed up in the driveway on the trailer after being picked up from the Port of Oakland, with tool boxes and lifts stuffed in every nook and cranny..

Crated Suzuki Front

What’s Next?

Well what else, planning for 2015. Our motto is, “If one was good, more will be better.” We had hoped to bring four bikes in 2015, but two of them didn’t work out. One was recently denied entry by the organizers (for reasons that are unclear to me – politics?). At least this year, we got that word in advance of shipment – last year, Wade shipped the bike and was denied entry after it showed up. The other (a Classic Moto-Guzzi) didn’t get finished in time because the engine builder wasn’t able to meet the deadlines. As I write this, the following bikes have been entered and accepted in the event, and are currently undergoing final prep for shipment:

  • “Betty Boop”, the 1992 Suzuki GSXR750 we’ve grown to love in this tale, will be making a repeat appearance, but in the Classic TT Formula 1 race instead of the Senior Manx GP. She has a new engine, but the venerable eBay motor will be along for the ride as a spare.
  • “Purple Yam”, the 2015 Yamaha R6 that spent about 10 minutes in its new-from-the-showroom configuration before it was unceremoniously stripped and rebuilt with all new parts and bodywork, will be entered in the Junior Manx GP.

Yes, all of the bikes have nicknames. Just like our pets.

In 2015, the goal is to win a replica award. These are special trophies given at three levels – Gold, Silver, Bronze – only to those who finish within a percentage of the winner’s time.

You can bet there are more episodes of this Isle of Man Adventure to come!

Photo Credits

All photos on course (Ballaugh, Creg-ny-Baa, Gooseneck, Kirk Michael) – Dave Kneen, Manx Photos Online


Rich and Wade’s Isle of Man Adventure (2014): Part 4 – The Engine Adventure

February 4, 2015

If you came here from Part 3 – Practice Week 1, you’re up to speed on how this story has evolved. If not, I suggest you start at Part 1 – Background. When we left our heroes, they had gotten the bike on course at the Isle of Man, having overcome many personal injury and shipping obstacles, and then spectacularly blown the engine just short of meeting the qualification requirements for the race.

The insanity of the next 48 hours is best summed up by a simple chronology. I swear, I haven’t embellished, I didn’t need to. You just can’t make this shit up. Except as noted, all times are UK time (8 hours ahead of us).

Sunday 8/24 (my time, PDT)

3:22am – Perhaps you remember, we had a little earthquake here in Northern California. Epicenter in American Canyon, about 20 miles from my house (as the crow flies).

3:28am – Text exchange:
Me: “Earthquake! Don’t know size yet. We’re fine.”
Him: “Where would be good.” (Wade lives in San Francisco, and his wife was at home…)
Me: “6.0 American Canyon. All FB posts so far have been North Bay folks.”
Him: “Well you have totally scared Wade and me. IOM bites us, but Mother Nature is out to get you. Please try to have things sorted out before we get home ;-)”

7:30am – Text exchange:
Him: “Please check on eBay.uk, seller Pete Stansfield, GSXR engine, 350 GBP.”
Me: “Found it, but it’s in North Yorkshire. Don’t know how you could possibly get it in time.”
Him: “Call him and let him know it’s for a Manx rider who needs it now. Just trying. People all over are trying.”

I email and call the guy (Pete) – he (and all of the UK) are on holiday until Tuesday, no way to transport the motor, he won’t be home until Monday. Looking bleak.

Pete emails me back and says he’d be available Monday after 2pm if Rich can figure out a way to get there. Side note: I’m amused by Pete’s concern that he’s “clear on the other side of the country” from Liverpool. So I googled it – 120 miles, roughly the distance from my house to Placerville. Couldn’t stop chuckling about that, it’s definitely all about perspective.

Rich and I figured out that he could fly to Liverpool, rent a car, drive to the “other side of the country”, pick up the engine, drive back, and take it back to the island on the ferry (presumably on a hand-truck, which they brought with them). All in a day’s work.

I let Pete know that’s what we’re going to do. He further adjusts his timeframe and says he’ll be available after noon.

Monday 8/25 (UK time)

12:01am – Rich confirmed he has reservations for the flight, the rental car, and the return ferry.

5:30am – Rich and Kenny (a new friend/helper from Team USA) leave for the airport

7:00am – Flight from Isle of Man to Liverpool

8:00am – Rental car procured, R&K are on their way to Malton (east of York)

10:00am – R&K arrive at Pete’s house (2 hours early), whereupon they inspect the engine and execute the transaction. And because they are hours ahead of schedule to catch the return ferry, they accept a gracious offer from Pete and his wife to join them for a lovely country breakfast prior to their return to Liverpool. Here are the two of them at Pete’s shop, ready to load the engine – nothing scary about that greasy lump of steel…

View this post on Instagram

Yesterday Holly phoned from San Francisco, her husband is in the Isle of Man with his rider Wade Boyd and his GSXR750 which has just deposited it's internals on Crosby straight at 160, Wade is smiling 'cos he is still alive, Holly's man Rich isn't so happy. Oh and she's just had an earthquake. Can I help ?. So this morning Rich and friend Kenny from LA get a flight to Liverpool, hire a car and come to Malton for a replacement motor and a bacon sandwich. Turns out Rich spent a season racing Formula Ford in the UK in the early 70s same time as I was helping local racer Pete Clark also in FF. Once back at Liverpool it wasn't quite plain sailing as the authorities wouldn't accept a GSXR lump on a trolley as hand luggage so the hire car was re-hired and is now on the boat. The delayed Senior race is on Saturday, good luck boys ! #manxgp #wadeboyd #goodguys

A post shared by Pete Stansfield (@stansfieldpete) on

11:00am – Engine loaded in the rental car, R&K headed back to Liverpool. All systems go!

Or not.

3:30pm – Officious twit at the ferry won’t let them take the engine as carry-on (on the hand truck), and it’s too heavy for the baggage conveyor. Please note that this twit was not much more than a ticket-taker; the baggage loaders (most of whom were women) were more than happy to cooperate and help load the lump of steel, but they couldn’t take the risk of being turned in by the twit (who wasn’t a superior, but WAS a known dickhead). The ferry is full, so they can’t bring the rental car. Last option seems to be to make friends with someone parked in the car-loading queue and convince (bribe?) them to load the engine in their vehicle. Highly illegal of course, but what other choice do they have?

5:00pm – Rental car somehow made it on the ferry as Standby. R&K will have to figure out how to get it back to the mainland another time. (Most Expensive Hand Truck, Ever!!!)

8:22pm – Confirmation from Rich that they (Rich, Kenny, the rental car with the engine) are all loaded up on the ferry and ready to go.

8:30pm – Scheduled departure time

9:23pm – Text from Rich: “Ferry has broken down, engine trouble.” Really? We haven’t had enough engine trouble already?

10:14pm – Text from Rich: “Paging for a doctor/nurse because someone on the ferry has collapsed”. OMG, when is this going to stop?

Tuesday 8/26 (UK time)

12:51am – After sitting on the broken ferry for over 4 hours waiting for news/instructions, they have now been offloaded and are driving 70 miles to another port (Heysham) where a different ferry awaits them. Not a fresh empty ferry, but an equally full ferry that had been held awaiting these new passengers and vehicles.

2:30am – Text from Rich: “Loaded on the new boat, wall to wall people and vehicles.”

3:05am – Boat finally sails, due to arrive at 6:20am. Now I’m watching CNN, hoping not to learn of a tragic overloaded ferry accident in the Irish Sea.

6:30am – The precious engine has arrived on shore, 8 hours after its intended arrival. Meanwhile, back on the island, Wade and a pick-up crew of Team USA mechanics had been busily uninstalling the broken motor from the bike and preparing it for the replacement. Rich handed off the eBay motor to the transplant team and promptly went to sleep for a few hours.

Pete somehow got this great photo of Wade waiting with the gutted frame. Note he’s being a good boy with his broken foot elevated.

12:00pm – Rich wakes up, but can’t get to the pits to help or monitor status until the current race is over because it’s on the other side of the course and there’s no crossing. There is some good news, however: because of Monday’s postponements for weather, the schedule has been shifted and compressed. The result is that their practice today is canceled (they wouldn’t have made it anyway), so now they don’t have to feel bad about missing it.

11:30pm – text from Rich (yes, nearly 12 hours later…) – “It lives again!” Woo hoo!!!

Facebook Post 8/26 (my time, after I knew the bike was running):

“Grand adventures cannot happen without great challenges. I guess it wasn’t enough that in the prior 6 months, both Rich (bike owner/builder) and his friend Wade (veteran IOM racer) were taken out in separate motorcycle crashes. The events of the last 10 days have increased the degree of difficulty exponentially (and they aren’t even remotely out of the woods yet), spawning two new definitions of “bucket list trip”:
— a trip so filled with drama and hurdles and setbacks and stress that you’ll be lucky if you don’t kick the BUCKET before it’s over.
— a trip so important, with a growing team of supporters so dedicated and tenacious and unflappable, that it’s worth throwing BUCKETS of cash at it just to keep the dream alive.
Trust me, I WILL blog about this in great detail when it’s over, with input from Rich when he gets home. Whenever that might be, because there’s another ice volcano in Iceland that is threatening to blow with the potential to ground all trans-Atlantic flights again (remember 2010?). Until then, I’ll be keeping a relatively low profile to avoid jinxing this trip even more.”

Yeah, I guess the accidents and the UPS nightmare and the engine blowing and the Napa Valley earthquake weren’t quite enough. Iceland had to add some volcanic ash into the mix.

Next up: Part 5, Final Race Prep


Rich and Wade’s Isle of Man Adventure (2014): Part 3 – Practice Week 1

February 4, 2015

If you came here from Part 2 – Getting There, you’re up to speed on how this story has evolved. If not, I suggest you start at Part 1 – Background. When we left our heroes, they had arrived at the Isle of Man, having overcome significant personal injury and shipping obstacles. After a full day of thrashing, they were finally ready to put the bike on the one and only Isle of Man Mountain Course.

Finally, the bike goes on course

On Wednesday, August 20, I finally got great news: after a thrash on Tuesday and Wednesday to get everything installed, they passed tech inspection and Wade took the bike out on course for the practice session at 7:05pm. Lap time 25:47.279, ave speed 87.785. The bike needs a few minor tweaks, but is otherwise running fine. Other teams have rallied to their cause and are sending mechanics to help, and the organizers really want him to run so they’re being lenient with some of the qualification requirements. Wade’s foot is holding up (as long as he doesn’t walk too far) and Rich reports that he (Wade) is grinning from ear to ear. Thomas (our new German friend) took this photo at 6:24pm – they look confident and ready to go, even before the initial success!

From Thomas Aug 20 18.24

On a much more grim note, Rich texted that a rider who was staying next door to their B&B digs at Roundhay crashed in practice and was killed. http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/isle-of-man-news/competitor-dies-in-mgp-practices-1-6795237. This is the reality of the Isle of Man, and substantiates its reputation as the most dangerous motorcycle race in the world.

Hurry up and wait

Practice on Thursday, August 21, cancelled due to rain. This is another huge setback, because in order to qualify for the race, riders must have 5 laps on the bike and at least one lap time under 23:00.

The rain day wasn’t a complete waste, though. When Rich and Wade arrived, with both of them in rather tenuous states of physical disrepair, they made the wise decision to rent a car to get them around the island. As it turned out, this was as much a strategic decision as practical. Every day, when the roads were open to the public, they drove around the course at least once, sometimes twice. These “laps” gave Rich an invaluable opportunity to learn the course through Wade’s eyes, which enabled him to visualize the feedback Wade gave him after each practice session on the bike and then make educated adjustments to the suspension.

On Friday, August 22, they made practice and Wade posted a lap time of 22:17.111, ave speed 101.583. Whew, he made time, but still doesn’t have enough laps. No worries, there’s another practice session next week to get that required lap, right? Maybe…

Hubris and Social Media

On Friday August 22, I stumbled on a photo of Wade on a Twitter feed and posted it on Facebook with this comment: “This is happening right now! Rich built this race bike from the ground up and he’s currently on an uber-bucket list adventure at the Isle of Man, where his friend Wade Boyd has just qualified for the Senior Manx GP race next week with a top speed of 145mph. They had SO many challenges to get there (Rich’s crash in March, Wade’s crash in June, shipments with forks and body parts not arriving until Day 3 of practice), but it’s all working now (except for a nagging clutch-slipping problem) and Wade is getting faster every day of practice. The race is a week from today.”

Practice-Tomas

The fellow standing next to Wade is Thomas, the benevolent German I mentioned in Part 2, who helped so much during the entire stay (including pushing the bike around so that our injured heroes didn’t have to).

Engine Disaster

On Saturday August 23, everything blew up. Literally. No better way to convey than by publishing my text exchange with Rich with some Twitter accompaniments:

Him: “Wade is out for a practice lap. A bit hard to sit around and wait 25 min for him to show back up. The hand-wringers, me included, are everywhere. Upside? Full bar in the paddock.”

Me: “I wondered about that.”

Him: “Yep, here I sit having an Irish Whiskey. There’s a red flag so time to worry. I’ll let you know what’s up.”

At that point, I checked in with Twitter and found this:
@iom_tt: delay due to oil spill on road. More info when we have it

Me: “Oil spill in Crosby = red flag”

Him: “Yep, was us. Sawed the engine in two. May have a loaner, otherwise we watch.”

More Twitter:
@iom_tt: Oil on road at Gorse Lea – we’ll continue with programme as soon as the course is clear
@iom_tt: 45 mins to 1 hour delay until Joey Dunlop parade can start – standing down for now
@iom_tt: No further practices tonight – detergent on road makes road unsafe for race bikes. Parade lap will go ahead, if possible

Me: “I’ll give you credit, he oiled the course so spectacularly that they canceled the rest of practice!”

Him: “Hey, we yanks don’t mess around.”

This photo was posted on Twitter: “Marshalls to stand on whiteline and direct riders over to clean side of road.” I can’t be certain, but I’m guessing that was our line of goo.

Line of Goo

Naturally, I blamed myself and my moment of hubris on Facebook for this disaster, and followed up on Saturday with this post: “CRAP!!! I’m not usually superstitious, but my instincts were to not post much about the Isle of Man until it was over. My excitement about seeing the photo got away from me yesterday. Today they blew the motor. Hoping to find a loaner, but they may have become spectators. DOUBLE-CRAP!!!”

Next up: Part 4 – The Engine Adventure

Photo credits:

Wade and Thomas in the pits – Anthony Robert (Photo Mannx)

Line of Goo – Mark Kneen – @markkneeniom (or maybe Dave Kneen, Manx Photos Online)


Rich and Wade’s Isle of Man Adventure (2014): Part 2 – Getting There

February 4, 2015

If you came here from Part 1 – Background, you know how this story started. If not, I suggest you go back and find out. When we left our heroes, they were scrambling to prepare a 1992 Suzuki GSXR750 for shipment to the the Isle of Man to race in the Manx Grand Prix. But then…

The Bike Builder Takes a Dive

On March 5, Rich low-sided his Moto Guzzi on a stretch of damp eucalyptus-oily road near Tomales and fractured his pelvis in three places. He spent three days in the hospital and the next 8 weeks in a hospital bed at home with strict orders not to bear any weight on the affected side. He knew full well what was at stake if non-compliance led to delayed healing, so he followed those orders to the letter. His only activities during that time were transferring to the wheelchair to get to the bathroom, and doing the in-bed exercises given to him by the home physical therapist.

His patience and compliance paid off and he was back on his feet by the beginning of May (and back in the saddle by May 18). But he couldn’t recover for the lost time when he should have been finishing up the bodywork and forks for the bike. He was up and about in time for the June date when the bike was loaded onto the shipping container at the Port of Oakland (along with several other bikes from Team USA) for the trip across the Atlantic Ocean, but the bulky body work and heavy race forks weren’t included in the container. They would have to get there a different (and far more expensive) way.

Back in the Saddle

But then…

The Rider Gets Taken Out

On June 15, Wade and Rich made their non-refundable airplane reservations for the round trip. Less than a week later, we got word that Wade had been hit by a pick-up truck on the streets of San Francisco and pitched off his bike, suffering a concussion, fractures in his back, and a broken ankle and foot. The date of the accident was exactly 8 weeks before they were scheduled to fly.

The shipping dilemma caused by Rich’s accident was easily mitigated (or so we thought) by throwing money at a solution. But Wade’s injuries put the whole adventure at risk. Could he recover in time? How would he tolerate a 19-hour flight? Would he be able to ride, let alone race? Given the timing and his doctor’s orders, they wouldn’t even know until they got there and tried.

Rich gave him the stern lecture about compliance (based on his own experience and success), and Wade reluctantly agreed to follow his doctor’s orders regarding weight-bearing. And at this point, my good friend Sarah, who specializes in rehab (both human and canine), stepped in to help. Using Rich as her human subject, we recorded a series of videos with a progression of exercises for Wade to follow as soon as he was cleared by his doctor to begin therapy.

In theory, it was great news that the injury was to his right foot – all it had to do was to tolerate a race boot, stay on the foot peg, and maybe brake from time to time (most of the braking is done by the right hand). Had it been his left foot (which works the shifter), there would have been greater cause for concern. But here’s the kicker: this isn’t just any ordinary race. There are several places on the Isle of Man course where the rider and bike are airborne, and BOTH feet are critical in the success of the landing. This was the thought that kept them both awake at night as they prepared for their departure.

Our heroes were determined to overcome all of the odds and prevail, and things were looking pretty good, all things considered.

But then …

UPS FAIL!!!

On July 28, Rich worked closely with The UPS Store in Santa Rosa to carefully pack and air-freight the bodywork (at considerable personal expense). He and the proprietor had long discussions about the fact that these items were not for resale or other commercial use, and were only for personal use in conjunction with a race bike that was already there. The UPS Store owner assured him that (a) the parcels would be there well before he and Wade arrived on August 16, and (b) they would not be assessed VAT/Duty/whatever it is. Off went the three large boxes (to the tune of about $1000).

On August 4, Rich was notified that the parcels were stuck at UK Customs, and had been assessed a $1000 duty charge. For the next week, the store owner insisted he could fix the problem but he failed miserably. He eventually conceded defeat on August 13 and recommended Rich just pay the fee and try to recover it later. We paid it, and sent word to our hostess on the Isle (Ros) to pick up the parcels.

But then…

UPS EPIC FAIL!!!

Late Thursday night, as Rich was preparing to leave for the airport, we received an urgent distress message from Ros that the parcels were no longer on the island. They had been returned to the UK in anticipation of returning them home for non-payment of the tax. So at 7:30am on Friday, as Rich and Wade took off from SFO headed to the Isle of Man, try to imagine their state of mind: for Wade, the trip itself is old hat – he’s raced there for nearly 20 years. For Rich, going to the Isle of Man is the dream of a lifetime. They have both overcome significant setbacks from recent injuries and have accepted the resultant uncertainties. But thanks to the epic failure of The UPS Store, the uncertainty has been raised to a new level and is beyond their control – they already know they are arriving to a bike that can’t be raced because it doesn’t have body work or forks, and they don’t yet know if Wade’s foot and ankle have healed enough to race. Hard to avoid the bitter expectation that the whole trip would be for naught.

In the meantime, I went directly to The UPS Store on Friday morning and met with the owner. He showed me an email he had received from the UK acknowledging receipt of the money and assuring him delivery would proceed immediately.

But neither of realized that “immediately” is a relative term when you’re dealing with the Isle of Man. I got word from Ros that she had been in touch with the agent on the island, and the best possible case for delivery was Tuesday morning. TUESDAY, August 19. Two weeks after the boxes were supposed to have gotten there, three days after Rich and Wade would arrive, and worst of all, well into the third day of mandatory practice (having already missed Saturday and Monday). Regardless of how madly they scrambled to prepare the bike after getting the boxes, there simply wasn’t enough time to pass tech inspection in time for the Tuesday practice session at 7:05pm. The dream seemed to be fading at a precipitous rate.

The airport and the flight

I love the image of the two of them at the airport: Wade has a boot on his right foot, he’s walking with the assistance of a cane, and he’s using a wheelchair for most of the distance runs. Rich is still limping, probably should have been using a cane, and is Wade’s “able-bodied attendant” through security and pre-boarding. They’re both wearing full-leg support hose to avoid blood clots on the long flight, and they are both under strict orders from Sarah to walk the aisles and do their lower leg calisthenics during the flight. As if they didn’t have enough stress, here’s a tidbit I didn’t know until much later: apparently, the Tech Inspection tent is at the top of a 1/4-mile hill, similar in steepness to our driveway (which is manageable but not trivial), and you aren’t allowed to ride the race bikes up the hill. The bikes have to be inspected before every on-track session. Aside from everything else they had to worry about, they had absolutely no idea how they were going to push the Suzuki up the hill once, let alone again and again.

UPS Not Done Failing

When Rich got word on Tuesday morning that the parcels had actually arrived, he showed up to pick them up and was informed that the $1000 duty had not been paid. So he paid it AGAIN. As I write this in May, we’re not done with The UPS Store in Santa Rosa. As I see it, somebody stole $1000, there’s another $1000 that should never have been assessed, and the $1000 it cost to ship the boxes should be refunded because they didn’t manage to get it there as promised. But that’s another story.

Meanwhile, back on the island, Rich and Wade and an assortment of ad-hoc volunteers have thrashed through Tuesday in order to have the bike ready for tech inspection and practice on Wednesday. One stand-out in the volunteer is an amazing (and imposingly large) German fellow named Thomas, who has taken on the bulk of the bike-pushing activities. One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is that this bike has never turned a wheel under power, let alone under any sort of race conditions. It went from the bench in Rich’s shop to a dyno at Mammoth Motorsports to a crate in a shipping container to the pits at the Isle of Man. This whole adventure is truly a leap of faith.

Next up: Part 3, Practice Week 1


Rich and Wade’s Isle of Man Adventure (2014): Part 1 – Background

February 4, 2015

As long as I’ve known Rich, he’s been obsessed with the Isle of Man, a tiny self-governed fiercely-proud democratic “Crown Dependency” in the middle of the Irish Sea between Ireland and Britain.

Isle_of_Man_TT.svgHis fascination is not so much with the Isle itself, but with a racing event held there since 1907: The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy motorcycle race, aka “The TT“. This race, which runs on a 37.5 mile course through the narrow town streets and country roads on the island, has been characterized as the World’s Most Dangerous Race. Lest you think that’s hyperbole, this video will likely convince you otherwise (I recommend you view Full Screen):

His hero is Joey Dunlop, an icon at The TT for 15 years from 1996 until his untimely death in 2000 at the age of 48. For years, a mounted/matted map of the Isle of Man decorated our condo in Novato, along with a poster of Joey. When we moved to Petaluma, the posters moved to his shop in the side yard.

I’ve always known his bucket list included a trip to The TT, and in the summer of 2013, I decided to help him make it so. I posted this on Facebook on 6/7/13:
“One of the items on Rich’s bucket list is to attend the Isle of Man TT, and I want to help him realize this goal. He’s a serious fan – has a poster of Joey Dunlop in his shop! We have a friend who hails from the island and I’ve sent him a Linked In message. But I also want to reach out to my Facebook friends across the pond to see what other resources I might tap into. I’m looking for a full-service experience – bike rental (or loan), places to stay, local knowledge and experience, etc.”

I got all sorts of responses, including people who knew people who could help. But as it turned out, Rich managed to stumble into a different and even more incredible plan, from which the rest of this adventure stems.

Rich has always been a wheeler/dealer. He truly has a knack for it and though he doesn’t always come out profitably, he usually ends up happy with the result. One of his deals through a friendship with a couple of motorcycle racers in Colorado netted him two identical race bikes: one crashed and one with a blown motor. He took on the project of combining them into one serviceable semi-vintage race bike – a 1992 Suzuki GSXR750. He didn’t really have a plan for this bike, except maybe to find a local rider with a racing license to ride it in some track days at Sears Point (or Infineon or Sonoma Raceway or whatever it’s called today).

On a completely unrelated note, Rich rejoined the infamous Sunday Morning Ride on the Marin County coast a few years ago. He first encountered the ride in the late ’60s, and after taking a break to pursue car racing, he became a regular rider in the 80s and early 90s. He gave it up abruptly after Mothers Day in 1994 when 3 of his friends were killed in a single tragic accident. After a break of nearly 20 years, he rejoined the ride a couple of years ago and reconnected with several old friends from his earlier days on the ride. Among those friends was Wade Boyd, son of the late Bill Boyd. Bill was an accomplished motorcycle racer, a legend on the Sunday Morning Ride, and was one of Rich’s best friends from the earlier years. Here is a beautiful summary of Bill’s story. For more information (and historical perspective) on the Sunday Morning Ride, here are a couple of articles I stumbled on – one from 1971 and another from 2001.

Following in his dad’s footsteps, Wade’s racing career has been equally illustrious and even more varied. He races both motorcycles and sidecars (currently partnered with his wife, Christine Blunck) in a wide variety of venues: Pikes Peak Hill Climb (2012 and 2013 Sidecar Champion), Flat Track (Sacramento Mile), Road Racing (AFM and AMA), Speedway, and international events like Phillip Island in Australia (International Island Classic Sidecar Champion January 2015) – just to name a few. Basically, if the event includes two or three-wheeled vehicles and has both green and checkered flags, Wade will give it a shot.

But more importantly to this story, Wade has been a regular competitor on the Isle of Man since 1995. Here is a link to his Isle of Man Competitor Profile. Wade is a privateer (no corporate sponsorship), and every year his trip is managed on a shoestring budget. In spite of the financial constraints, he has been remarkably successful and is universally loved by the locals on the island. So when Rich and Wade connected on the Sunday Morning Ride last year, they rode, they ate breakfast, they talked, and then they talked some more. Rich mentioned he had built a race bike and Wade said he’d consider riding it.

The nMGP Logo IOM CMYK copy.ashxext thing I knew, Wade was hanging out in Rich’s shop and they were working together to get the Suzuki to the Isle of Man. Not for the TT, but for the Manx Grand Prix (MGP). What’s the difference? The TT is modern and pro and big bucks; the GP is vintage and amateur and collegial. Unbeknownst to me, Bill (Wade’s dad), who respected Rich as a talented and conscientious builder, once mentioned to Rich that if he ever found himself with a suitable race bike, how thrilled Bill would be if somehow Wade could ride it on the Isle of Man. Until Rich filled me in on the back story, I thought it was just serendipity. Now I know Rich was fulfilling a promise to a late friend.

mmslogo2As the months passed, they continued to work on the bike and make arrangements and everything looked good – they had help from Mammoth Motorsports (a local motorcycle performance shop), the shipping plans were coming together, and the bike was almost ready to go.

What could possibly go wrong?

Find out in the next installment: Part 2 – Getting There


2012 Utah 1088, Part 4: Results and Reflection

October 20, 2012

Sunday, June 24, 2012

(If you didn’t come here from Part 3, you might want to catch up by starting with 2012 Utah 1088, Part 1: What? Am I really doing this again?.)

Having survived my second 12-hour rally in as many years, next stop was …

The Awards Banquet

One of the first things the Rally Master did was address the Deer Crossing controversy. He proceeded to read the question out loud, at which point several people (myself included) said in unison, “Aw Shit”. You see, while the description talked a lot about the signs, the actual question was “How many deer crosswalks are there?” The right answer was 4. Deliberate misdirection? No doubt. I took a big gulp of my Uintah Cutthroat Pale Ale to toast the slipping away of my anticipated multi-way tie for 1st place. There was still a glimmer of hope, however, because the fellow at the bar the night before who had insisted it was 4 was in the couples class – maybe everybody in the single rider class missed it – a girl can dream.

Side Note: As I’m writing this a few months after the event, I feel compelled to insert a link to a hilarious and relevant video that went viral last week. Enjoy.

Results

For the most part, the banquet followed its usual format – announce the 10th place finishers in all three rallies (12, 24 and 3-day), tell a story, announce 9th  place, tell a story, etc. I was relaxed because I already knew I was a finisher (made the CP, got the minimum miles, and made it back on time) and that was my primary goal. I also knew that I was almost certain to be the “butt” (so to speak) of one of the stories because of the ‘gun in the flaming saddlebag’ experience. There was really no hope of escaping that public ridicule – the story was worthy on its own merit, but more importantly, the Rally Master is a gun enthusiast. (Do you really think there would be a shooting bonus and a gun prize if he weren’t?) But it gets worse: when Rich was researching which gun to buy for me for Christmas a few years ago, it was none other than the Rally Master who made the final recommendation (Walther PPK/S .380 ACP with crimson grips, in case you care). So you see, he had a personal interest in the specific gun that I had so carelessly abused. Yeah, there was no hope of escape – and it came up more than once.

There were some other special moments during the banquet:

  • The entire room was served with gin & tonics for a group toast in honor of Ken Morton, aka Dread Pirate Kermit, who died in an accident during last year’s 3-day rally.
  • The announcement of the RPM award recipients: Bill Gillespie and John Langen. This award was started many years ago by the Rally Master in honor of Ron Major, a long-distance riding legend, and is awarded at his discretion during the 1088 banquet to the person (or people) who have best exemplified support of the endurance riding community over the years.
  • The astonishing reunion of Ken Meese and his missing GPS. Here’s the back story: Ken is an accomplished rallyist who crashed after hitting a coyote in the Nevada desert during a 10-day rally last summer. For the 3-day event this year, he submitted a bonus question (which all 3-day riders were invited to do), which involved going to the site of the crash and taking a photo of the elaborate memorial he had built for the coyote. In addition, he offered a cash reward for anybody who recovered his GPS from the site – he had been there several times himself to search for it and considered it hopeless. Not so much. The “finder” presented the tattered but intact GPS, and immediately turned over the reward to the Polio Plus fund, which was founded by another rally participant, Bob Mutchler. Love it.

But back to the results: as the Rally Master worked his way up the list to 5th, I was delighted NOT to have heard my name yet. He finally announced a tie for 4th place – me and Nancy L. I’m OK with that! Podium finishers were Brian R. (awarded 3rd ), and a tie for 1st Place – Larry H. and M. Johnson. Yes, the very same Larry of Kemmerer Karma fame. Nice job, my friend! Maybe now you can talk your wife Anne into entering next year on HER Ninjette.

Reflections

I achieved all my goals for this year: I had a great time, I finished in the top half, I legitimately beat experienced rallyists, I represented! And I logged the 2nd highest number of miles on this year’s 12-hr rally … on a 250cc motorcycle! Some may consider that inefficient (in terms of points per mile), but it was planned and sets a personal record. Success!

And after I got home, I received further acknowledgment of my achievement in the form of a custom and personalized certificate from the Rally Master. Thanks, Steve!

I know this blog is all about me, but I do want to acknowledge the accomplishments of the riders in the 24-hour and 3-day rides. Full results will be posted at www.utah1088.com. Thanks for joining me on this adventure and I’ll see you next year for the FINAL running of the Utah 1088, sure to be a bittersweet event after 21 years.


2012 Utah 1088, Part 3: Rally Day!

October 20, 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2012

(If you didn’t come here from Part 2, you might want to catch up by starting with 2012 Utah 1088, Part 1: What? Am I really doing this again?.)

In 2011, the 12-hour rally was somewhat of a novelty and there were only 7 starters (and 3 finishers). This year was an altogether different story. Several veteran rallyists opted to enter this one for various reasons:

  • Experience a different time management challenge – some say that 12 hours is harder than 24 because you don’t have as much room to compensate for errors.
  • Avoid the critters – one veteran of several multi-day rallies has tangled with a deer and decided she didn’t want to deal with that on this rally. I agree.
  • Avoidance of night riding – bad eyes, lack of supplemental lighting, fear of critters – all valid reasons not to ride at night.
  • More relaxing – some veterans are warming up for the MERA 10-day rally later this summer and just wanted to relax on this year’s Utah 1088.

This year there were 12 entrants, 10 finishers, and most of my competitors had considerable rally experience, including multi-day rallies – a very different picture from 2011.

Last year, I showed up with the goal of finishing and ended up winning (sort of by default). This year, I obviously had some interest in defending my title, but with the added numbers and level of competition, I quickly went back to my original goal: Be A Finisher, not a DNF.

Let the Games Begin

At the start line, I had two options for my first bonus: head east to the BMW shop on the northeast edge of downtown to pick up a signed business card, or head west and south to the firing range for the shooting bonus. Strategically, the choice was pretty much a wash, so I decided to make the tactical choice as I left the parking lot after seeing which direction the other riders chose. You see, both had the potential for traffic jams and waiting in line. Most of the riders turned left out of the parking lot (toward the range) so I turned right.

I made a quick jaunt out to the Bavarian Motorcycle Workshop just north of the city. As I passed by the I-80/I-15 interchange, the cops and construction crews were just starting to shut down eastbound 80 at I-15 and divert everyone onto I-15. That worked out nicely, I’m guessing there might have been some traffic back-up had I hit this interchange later. Just a couple of other riders at the parking lot of the shop – got my signed business card and stowed it safely in my neck bag, noted my time and mileage, and bagged my first 1756 points. Then I committed my first illegal act of the ride – crossed over a gravel median without a moment’s hesitation so I could head back the way I came. Yep, not my first rodeo, I landed at the bottom of that slippery slope last year.

Next up, the shooting range. This bonus involves standing in line at a firing range, paying a fee, and taking three shots at a target. At the end of the rally, the best shot wins the gun. I skipped it last year because the duration was out of my control and it wasn’t worth enough points. This year, the Rally Master increased the points and boosted it to the must-do “red” category. I also learned that the actual shooting was optional if you were philosophically opposed or just didn’t care about winning the gun – the only requirement was to stand in line and pay the fee. My start line gamble paid off – by the time I arrived at the range, there were only 5 riders ahead of me in line and I was way ahead of schedule. I waited my turn, paid my money, declined to shoot, and was back on the road at 7:36am with 7806 additional points under my belt.

I headed west to Magna for a visit to the Pleasant Green Cemetery. My task was to take a photo of the POW/MIA rock, which was reported to be enclosed in a fence in the middle of the cemetery. Cemetery bonuses can be tricky (as I learned in my warm-up rides) because you can never be sure if you’ll be able to drive to the target of if you’ll have to park the bike and wander around to find it. For this reason, I had allowed 20 min in my S&T planning for this one. Lo and behold, I could see the fenced area when I crested the hill at the entrance and drove right to it. Park, place the towel, snap the shot, note the time and mileage (a recurring theme), and I’m back on the road.

Leaving the Greater SLC Valley

This is the point at which I diverged from the Rally Master’s directions. Rather than heading south (toward the wild fire and some known construction areas), I got onto USH-210 and headed east toward I-80. My next task was to preempt that second-half bonus I mentioned earlier. I was looking for a golf cart crossing bridge on USH-65 near I-80, and I had to report how high the clearance was. 15’ 3”, 569 points. BTW, I wasn’t the only one that decided this was the more efficient route – I encountered at least two rally bikes in the couples class while I was there.

Just past Park City, I turned south on US-40, looking for USH-248. On this road, the route instructions informed me that I would need to do some counting to get points. The state is doing an experiment on this stretch of road and has established deer crossings. The instructions mentioned the signs that I would see on this topic, and asked me to count how many signs I saw between MP6 and MP12. Or at least that’s what I thought the question said. I was all over it – I quickly ascertained that each crossing had 3 signs: the “Deer Crossing in 1000 ft” sign, the “Deer Crossing in 500 ft” sign, and the actual “Deer Crossing” sign. I also noticed that in the third set of these, the last one was missing – I shot a glance over my shoulder and noticed one knocked down on the ground (hopefully not by a deer). I pulled over after MP12 and smugly wrote down “11 standing, and 1 knocked down”. Nailed it – 1216 points! (Not so much, I’ll come back to this later.)

The next stop was a GPS-only bonus. We were told to go to “N 40 42.974 W 111 17987” and take a picture of the unusual Diner that stood in that spot. As it turned out, this was right on my route and based on the description, I could have gotten the photo without a GPS. But remember I told you that we had to declare out GPS and submit the serial number during the check-in process? Something tells me that you wouldn’t be successful trying to claim the points for the GPS-only bonus if you hadn’t reported your GPS. I had, I took the photo, and I got 2917 points to show for it.

To the Checkpoint … and then some

After that, because I had decided to short-cut the suggested (and reportedly beautiful) base route on USH-150, all I had left to do was get to I-80 and complete the long boring 45 mile ride to the CP in Evanston WY. Along the way, my GPS said that I was going to get there an hour early, and I found myself wondering if I could pick up another second-half bonus during that “break”. My next bonus was at MP-19 on WSH-19, just east of Evanston heading toward Kemmerer. Not knowing where MP-19 was, I decided to head out there and hope that it was near the I-80 end. That would save me a little time after the CP.

What I didn’t take into consideration, however, was the fact that I was nearing the limit of my fuel capacity, and that the winds on I-80 weren’t going to help at all. And since I hadn’t yet activated my “Leg 2” route into the GPS, I didn’t actually have any idea how far it was to WSH-189. As I cranked my throttle to survive the uphill headwinds and watched my speed and my gas gauge drop at an alarming rate, I found myself wondering whether or not this was a good idea. Was I really going to run out of gas before the CP? NOT AN OPTION! But I did a few on-the-fly calculations based on last year’s fuel mileage (which I tracked very closely) and just as I decided I should probably turn around, there was WSH-189! I took the exit, headed north, and found the first marker: MP 0.75. Seriously? That wasn’t at all what I was hoping for – I needed MP-19. Oh well, nice try. I turned around, got back on westbound I-80, and cruised back to the CP, with the wind this time. Still got there 25 min early, plenty of time to go through my CP checklist “off-the-clock”:

  • refuel
  • drink a Boost and a Gatorade
  • replenish my hydration bladder (which I had already emptied while I was riding – yay me!)
  • sunscreen and chapstik
  • clean face shield
  • pee (TMI?)
  • reprogram the GPS for Leg 2 (CP to Finish)

When I was done with my housekeeping, I headed across the parking lot to where the rally staff was gathered and took out the laminated placard I had been given with my route instructions. The CP requirement was to have the Rally Master take a photo of me holding the placard. At 10:55am (the CP didn’t open until 11am), I sat there like an idiot holding my placard with my bike running and my helmet flipped up. He finally acquiesced and took my photo early, but reminded me that I couldn’t leave until 11am. Yep, I know that. My long-time friend and rally-staffer Bill Gillespie stood next to me holding his cell phone (which reflected “official rally time”) and counted down the minutes before I could leave. At promptly 11:00am, I popped the clutch and headed east. This time  I wasn’t the least bit surprised by the winds on I-80 because, after all, I had been there before and I was ready for it. I also knew that I had 19 miles on WSH-189 before I had to worry about my next bonus. Maybe that little detour paid off in reconnaissance data.

Onward to Idaho

MP-19, WSH-189 – What’s the name of the creek? I don’t even remember now – was it Arthur? Arnold? Regardless, I wrote it down (along with my time and mileage) and moved on toward Kemmerer with 635 more points.

Things got interesting in Kemmerer. We were looking for the original JC Penney store – I didn’t know that it was founded there and I’ll bet you didn’t either. That’s what makes this stuff fun. I found it easily because there were a bunch of motorcycles there – funny how that works. Now we get a lesson in Rally Karma:

  • As I pulled up at the store, a friend (let’s call him Larry) offered to take my picture with my rally towel and the store in background (meeting the bonus requirement). How nice! He then related this story: he had just found another rallyist’s paperwork that was left behind – this is a big deal, without paperwork, there are no points. He called the Rally Master for guidance and was told to leave it somewhere obvious and secure in case the rider came back. Good on Larry for sportsmanship points!
  • As I was getting ready to ride off, I discovered a rally towel sitting on my saddle bag. For a moment I chastised myself for not putting mine away (because without a rally towel, there are no points either), but then I discovered it wasn’t mine, it actually belonged to Larry – he had set it down while he was taking my picture. I chased him down across the parking lot and returned it.
  • As I was leaving town, I realized that Larry’s generous offer and subsequent towel mishap had thrown off my precious 3-part rhythm (bonus requirement, time, mileage – remember that?) and I had neglected to record the latter two data points. I pulled over and (yes, I’ll admit it) retrofitted the time and mileage. It was only a mile and a minute – honest, I was there when I said I was.
  • Later we learned that the original paperwork-loser showed up at the CP in Evanston (he was on the 24-hr ride, which came from the north and had a different CP window) and was prompted repeatedly by helpful rally staff “Where’s Your Paperwork?” He was doing his own CP routine so he balked and resisted and got annoyed, but they persisted. When he finally realized what they were trying to tell him, he was informed that he could find it in Kemmerer, so he went to retrieve it (about 90 miles round-trip) and still made it back to the CP in time.

When I showed up in Montpelier ID for the next bonus, another rally participant (this time a pillion rider in the couples class) beckoned me into a parking spot on the curb, gestured Vanna White-style toward the sign we were to photograph, and again offered to photograph me and my rally towel with the sign. This time, based on my near-mistake in Kemmerer, I was more vigilant and remembered to complete the rest of the requirements (time, mileage) before I rode off with 756 more points.

After a fuel stop in Montpelier (with a full checklist review), I was faced with a long boring ride up USH-30 from Montpelier through Soda Springs to I-15. Until this point, I had been encountering rallyists at various points along the way – those who had chosen the same shortcut, and then at the three bonus stops after the CP. But I knew that I would be diverging from the pack at Montpelier and would be on my own because most (in fact all) of the other riders would be heading south on USH-89 to Bear Lake.

In the interest of full disclosure, I also have to admit that I didn’t fully review the question in Montpelier and on the boring multi-mile stretch that followed, I found myself with these thoughts running through my mind: “Was that really the right sign? Why did I believe them? Did they just f@*# me up deliberately? Did they lead me down a garden path of rally FAIL? Nah, they’re in a different class (the couples class), they’re not competing against me. And besides, they’re Canadian – they aren’t that devious… right?” Yes, I shared my paranoid reflections at the bar after the event and the three of us had a good laugh.

I also had plenty of time on that boring leg to second-guess my round-about routing decision. But I remained confident because I had done so well to that point (or so I thought) and I knew that because of my earlier shortcuts, I needed the high-efficiency miles that I would get on I-15. I got to McCammon, took a quick potty-stop (yay, my hydration plan is working…) and took the I-15S on-ramp. At which point my life went to hell.

Hell on the Highway

In my head (and in my routing plan), I was expecting to average 80+ on I-15 as I traveled south gobbling up much-needed miles on the slab. How could I have been so wrong? In my warm-up rides and previous rallies, I have faced cross-winds, head-winds, combination winds, gusty winds, and the buffeting surprises that result from passing semis and motorhomes. But nothing in my experience prepared me for the evils that are the winds on I-15 in Idaho. What makes them special? They change direction on a whim! Just as I got settled into fighting the cross-wind from the west, I’d pass some invisible barrier and nearly get slammed over as it was suddenly coming from the other direction. I’d climb a hill against a headwind with the throttle pegged and my speedometer dropping, and suddenly find myself accelerating wildly while fighting to adjust for the new crosswind gust. I was facing 70 miles of this on a tiny little motorcycle and quite frankly, I was scared.

I went into this ride with a bad right shoulder and it had started to give me grief on the USH-30 stint between Montpelier and McCammon. I had planned to take an Advil or two during my potty stop there but forgot. As I fought the wind on I-15, the shoulder screamed and threatened to give up completely. I pulled over at a rest stop, dropped four Advil, and did some serious soul-searching as to my next move. Had I made any mistakes to this point (e.g. off-target at the CP or missing bonuses) I might well have bailed. But as far as I knew, I was riding a perfect rally (based on my plan) and I wasn’t willing to let it go. So for better or worse, right or wrong, I made the decision to press on. I had to get back somehow, and the thought of begging Rich to drive the van up to rescue me at the rest stop was not appealing.

The on-ramp from the rest stop was uphill and I found myself fighting for position with a 40-ft motorhome. I was in the fast lane and desperate to pass it when suddenly my bike gave up. The throttle was pegged and the bike started surging. I couldn’t get by, swearing didn’t help, so I bailed and dropped into the windstorm behind the RV. While I struggled to figure out what was wrong with my bike, a giant semi passed me too. I finally realized that my only problem was that I had missed top gear. Result: I redlined the motor and triggered the rev limiter (hence the loss of power and the surge). What a surprise! On that bike, I spend a lot of time searching for the non-existent 7th gear (it’s hard to get used to 10K on the tach). But this time, I missed high gear, topped out in 5th, hit the rev limiter, and as a result, lost confidence in the bike for the first time ever since the day I bought it.

By the time I realized my mistake, I was stuck behind the semi, which creates a unique nasty buffeting wind eco-system in itself. I dropped back even farther to gain some stability, regain my confidence, and plot my next move. My opportunity came on a long uphill stretch where the wind had settled down a bit (relatively speaking), there was little traffic (competition for lane position), and both the truck and RV were suffering from a greater horsepower deficit than I (now that I had found top gear). I made my move and got past them both.

When I reached my next exit at Tremonton UT, I was so relieved to get off the Interstate and out of the wind that I didn’t really care what came next. I knew I had a gas decision at that point so when I saw the sign to my next bonus points (Golden Spike Natl Park – 27 miles), I turned around and pulled into the Chevron station to fill up. I didn’t care that it was 110 degrees, that was trivial compared to the 70 miles of treacherous wind I had just survived. I filled my gas tank, sucked down a Gatorade, refilled my hydration bladder, and wondered what poor trucker had lit his brakes on fire because the stench of burned something was terrible! (Remember this, it will be important later in the story …)

Back on Track in Utah

Now that I’m safe and sound and heading for the next bonus points at Golden Spike and the Thiokol Rocket Garden, let’s reflect for a moment where my head was at: I had opted for a route that I knew no one else was on; I had endured 70 miles of torture on I-15; the temperature was well over 110; and I hadn’t gotten any bonus points in over 3 hours. Things were looking pretty grim. Imagine how pleased I was when after I had picked up the 1028 points for the Rocket Garden and was headed out to the middle of nowhere to Promontory, I passed several of my cohorts coming the other way! I was back on track! When I got to Golden Spike, there was Larry (of Kemmerer Karma fame). I answered the question (the final spike was set at 12:47pm, in case you care), and headed east toward the freeway with another 1697 points for my efforts. Things were looking up. Or so I thought.

I had been extremely careful with my paperwork during the rally, especially after the Kemmerer reminder. Each time I completed all of the questions on a page, I’d remove that page from the carabiner binding and stuff it safely into my tank bag. After I left Golden Spike, I only had one page (and one bonus, for that matter) remaining. But as I headed east out of the park, with the wind coming from the south (my right side), I fell victim to a serious flaw in my tank bag/paperwork securing design. You see, my carabiners were on the left side with the stack of sheet protectors secure under my map flap. And all of my previous rally cross-wind had come from the left side, which had no impact. But on this leg, I found myself heading east with the wind blowing from the right side; the flap of my tank bag lifted, the plastic sheet protector got pulled out the other side, and <gasp> my last sheet of paperwork vanished – sucked right out of the sheet protector!

I slammed on the brakes, made another of many illegal U-turns, and headed back west toward the Spike. Greater rallyists than I have gone searching for flying paperwork over the years, so I didn’t hold out much hope. But about 100 yds back up the road, I spied the missing sheet, stuck up against a thatch of weeds next to the road. I parked the bike and approached carefully, as though it were a stray dog and I might scare it away if I startled it. I managed to grab it (with enormous relief) and stuff it back in the sheet protector.

At that point, I discovered the real issue: during one of my stops when I had removed completed sheets, I had managed to disconnect the middle carabiner from the tank bag. The result was a “bleb” in the attachment, not a fundamental design flaw. No matter, I wasn’t taking any chances and spent the next 30 miles lying with my chest on the tank bag to avoid any repeat performances. I only had one more bonus, then I could stuff all the paperwork away and relax.

My last challenge before heading to the hotel was to bag a photo of the blue buffalo at the entrance to Antelope Island State Park. I’ve never been there so I didn’t know exactly where the “entrance” was, but I knew there was a multi-mile causeway out to the island. I made sure the round-trip length of the causeway was included in my routing plans, just in case the gate was on the island side, so that it wouldn’t come as a surprise and hose up my time. After my harrowing experience on I-15 and my near paperwork disaster outside Golden Spike, imagine my thrill at finding the blue buffalo on the mainland side of the causeway. Got the photo (2601 points) and headed back east for the cruise home. My GPS, which had expected an extra several miles of riding to the island, recalculated and provided a new projected arrival time at the Hotel/Finish of 6:10pm (due at 7pm). I double-checked my mileage (was already well over the 520 minimum required) and decided to cruise home in “no mistake” mode.

The Home Stretch

As I approached SLC on I-15, I noticed an electronic sign that indicated the following:

Time to I-80W:
Via 215-18 min
Via Legacy Parkway-20 min

I had never heard of Legacy Parkway, but I tucked away the information in my brain. The next sign I saw said “Legacy Parkway Exit – 55MPH – No Trucks”. No Trucks? YAY!!! I was so tired of trucks after my experience on I-15 that I would have done almost anything to avoid them. I had plenty of time to spare and I was in “no-mistake” mode so the speed limit was actually a relief. It didn’t matter that my GPS would fight me to avoid this road it didn’t even know existed because I knew exactly where I was headed. Legacy Parkway, here I come!

The Ninjette and I rolled into the parking lot of the hotel at 6:18pm with 570 miles on the odometer and 42 minutes to spare. Rich was there to greet me with a Utah 1088 water bottle in his hand (one of the SWAG items, remember?). I already suspected what was in it – a bunch of ice, a bunch of Rose’s lime juice, and a bunch of vodka. But I wasn’t quite ready to partake – first I had to shed some gear, finish my scoring process and drink some more water.

Scoring

We headed inside to the scoring area to gather everything together, review my paperwork, and turn in my required stuff. The scoring To-Do list:

  • Review the bonus paperwork to confirm that all my entries are legible – answers to questions, check marks for photos, mileage/time for each bonus.
  • Review the camera to be sure the photos are all there and my towel is visible. Not that it matters, of course, because I can’t fix it at this point, but just for my own peace of mind and no surprises at the awards banquet.
  • Retrieve the signed business card out of its safe place in my neck pouch
  • Mark up my official scoring sheet
  • Turn in my official envelope with the paperwork and bonus tokens (the business card was the only one I had to deliver – other common examples are receipts and keno tickets)
  • Get my score sheet and photo card scanned for the Rally Master to review
  • And finally, take a sip of that ice cold vodka gimlet.

I’m Melting!

When I headed back out to the bike to unload my luggage and GPS, I was shocked to discover that my right saddle bag was resting on the exhaust pipe. I disconnected it and peeled it away from the pipe (where it had melted and stuck) so I could assess the damage. At first glance, it didn’t appear too bad – a patchable hole in the bottom. And then I opened it and dumped out the contents on the grass. Holy cow, the devastation was astonishing. The heat turned the zipped-up bag into an oven and toasted nearly everything in its path. Remember back in Tremonton when I wondered about the trucker with the over-heated brakes? That wasn’t a trucker at all, it was ME! I was practically on fire and didn’t even know it.

A few things survived somehow, notably the electric vest, Aerostich rain gloves, and glove and helmet liners – as it turns out, the expensive stuff! But my winter gloves were melted into an unrecognizable ball, my leather summer gloves looked like the hands of a CSI fire victim, and the nylon liner and inside straps had evaporated. And everything was infiltrated with an unbelievable stench. By far the scariest find was my handgun, which was stored safely in a nylon case with the clip and bullets separate in an outside zipper pocket. The bike had been parked in the shade for at least 30 minutes by this time, yet both the gun and the clip were still so hot that I could barely hold them in my bare hand. The bullets had gotten so hot the casings were discolored, as was the stainless-steel barrel of the gun. Wow, that could have gone very differently. I guess I literally dodged a bullet..

After discarding the ruined items and breathing a sigh of relief, it was time for a quick shower, dinner in the restaurant, then over to the bar for the post-rally story-telling.

De-briefing in the bar

I found the Rally Master holding court in the bar with some of the other 12-hour rallyists. There had apparently already been some discussion about the deer crossing question. When I walked up, he asked me what the answer was. I responded smugly, “that depends whether you count all the signs or just the ones that were standing – I say 12.” He turned to another rider and said, “See? Everybody is giving the same answer – I’ll accept 11 or 12, not 4.”

Little did I know (though I shouldn’t have been surprised) that he was yanking all of our chains. I had a drink or two, shared a story or two (including the whole ‘almost caught fire’ thing), then retired for the evening, confident in the knowledge that unless someone had somehow made it to Jackson, I was probably going to finish in a multi-way tie for 1st Place. But as you’ll see, pride definitely goeth before the fall.

Next up: 2012 Utah 1088, Part 4: Results and Reflection


2012 Utah 1088, Part 2: Yep, we’re back in Utah

October 20, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012

We’ve arrived in Utah for the 2012 Utah 1088. If you’ve landed on this page and don’t know how we got here, you should probably back up to 2012 Utah 1088, Part 1: What? Am I really doing this again?. And if you don’t know what a rally is, check back to 2011 Utah 1088, Part I: Final Preparations.

Check-in

Check-in day was Friday and I had several chores to perform:

Step 1: Odometer check. This is standard at every rally. The riders are all given a carefully-prescribed route of about 20 miles to ride. At the end, you submit the mileage shown on the odometer, which is compared to the Rally Master’s result for the same route. The result is an adjustment factor that gets applied to your mileage for the rally to determine whether or not you traveled the minimum required miles to be a finisher. As with last year, my mileage was exactly the same as his so I didn’t have to worry about corrections – what I saw was what I got, one less source of stress on the road.

Step 2: Self-inspection. We were asked to sign a statement that we were carrying the required equipment – first-aid kit, tool kit, tire repair and inflation kit, flashlight, hydration. If we were using GPS, we stated such and submitted the Unit #. You’ll understand the relevance of this in Part 3 when I get to the GPS-only bonus. And finally, we noted the color of our riding jacket/suit and helmet. This is important to assist in search efforts in case one of us goes missing.

Step 3: Photo record. We were then required to have a self-portrait taken on our own cameras. This would be used to help validate which card belonged to whom in case there was a mix-up at the end when the photos were scanned.

Not bad, for a last-minute effort.

Step 4: Rally towel design. This was new for me this year. Typical of this type of rally is that photos taken for bonus points must include a specific item. Last year it was the rally hat, this year the rally towel. But we were first required to “personalize” it to make it recognizable and individual. We were warned about this in advance, but I hadn’t put any thought into it. So I had to wing it with limited creativity and the tools I had at hand, which amounted to several colors of Sharpies. I decided to replicate the logo for my bike since I knew it was the only one on the rally. Oh yeah, I also added a paw print in honor of Billy, our canine traveling companion.

Step 5: SWAG. Great assortment this year – long sleeve t-shirt (in black this year rather than white – Yay!); Utah 1088 license plate frame, metal water bottle, and an LDComfort helmet liner (nice!)

Once we finished up with Check-In, it was back to the room to chill for a while before the Riders’ Meeting. This gave me plenty of TV time, which exposed not only the weather report (HOT!), but a new challenge – Wildfire! You see, a wildfire had broken out just south of Salt Lake City and there was no sign of imminent containment. Last year’s rally route went south, right through the fire area. Would this year’s route do the same? What sort of variables would that introduce in terms of road closures, traffic, air quality concerns, etc.? Could the legendary deviousness of the Rally Master really have extended to this sort of natural disaster?

Riders’ Meeting

We were asked to bring our finished rally towels and driver’s licenses to the mandatory riders’ meeting. I was unprepared for the level of planning and effort that others had put into their towels – there were bedazzled towels, puff-painted towels, towels with banners and fancy fabric attached, quite an assortment. Oh well, mine met the requirement of being recognizable – this wasn’t the time for towel-envy.

After the Rally Master gave some final reminders of rules and answered a few questions, we presented our driver’s licenses and had them sealed in an envelope. More on that later. We then had another portrait session – this time on his camera holding our rally towels. This photo served two purposes – validating the rally towel in subsequent bonus photos, and further assistance in search efforts if one of us went missing.  At that point, the route instructions were distributed and we all scurried up to our hotel rooms to begin routing and plotting. This is where the fun really begins.

Routing

There are as many ways to plan, route, map and transfer to GPS as there are rally riders. But this is what I have come up with after years of helping Rich route for his rallies, along with testing and honing during my warm-up rides and last year’s rally. It goes something like this:

Initial Review

  1. Read through the turn-by-turn instructions (ignoring all bonus questions) and highlight the base route on the map. This gives me an idea of where the Rally Master wants me to go. I was very relieved that the route was sending us north and east, away from the wild fire, which was south.
  2. Highlight the mandatory Checkpoint (CP) on the map and note the time window with a black Sharpie – this gives me an idea how much leeway I have on the first leg of the rally. BTW, the CP is worth 3000 points.
  3. Enter each bonus question in a spreadsheet with the following information: question #, description, location, requirements (photo, answer question, etc.) and point value.
  4. Identify the “no action required” or “no option” bonus opportunities and move them to a different sheet to reduce the clutter. These were the same as last year:
    • Use the SPOT tracking device – 5000 points. No-brainer, Rich and I always use it when traveling alone, even in the car.
    • Return with your driver’s license envelope intact – 5000 points. No action or decision required, so it gets moved to the other page. The related one, “Return with your driver’s license envelope torn – Minus 6500 points”, also got moved. Have you noticed how important it is to the Rally Master that we avoid interactions with the po-po? Net difference is a whopping 11,500 points!
    • Checkpoint (CP), Evanston WY, 11:00am-12:30pm – 3000 points. This is required, so it goes in the “no option” list. The only role it plays in my routing process is as a Finish spot in Leg 1, and a Start point in Leg 2.
  5. Identify the alternate route option (or as I call it, the red herring) and test it with the goal of embracing it or eliminating it. This year’s option was to go to Blanding and back for 9021 points. If you chose this option, you were exempt from the CP requirement. Not a chance. The 620-mile round trip was enough to nix it for me, but add to that heading south into the fire area and the heat of the desert? No thanks. And 9021 points (in the scheme of things) wasn’t nearly enough to be tempting, especially when you also considered the 3000 points you would NOT get for the checkpoint.
  6. That left me with 13 bonus opportunities to consider in my routing. Next step is to sort by point value, then divide into four color-coded groups by value – red, orange, yellow, and green. This color-coding carries through on labels I put on the map and route instructions and serves as a quick reference on whether or not I should blow off a bonus if I get behind in time. The green ones are the first to get sacrificed, the yellow and orange ones require more thought, and the red ones are non-negotiable.

Routing (Microsoft Streets and Trips)

  1. Next, enter the bonus opportunities and the CP as “pushpins”. I use the same color-coding for visual reference, and I have developed the following naming convention to assist when I’m riding and the waypoint comes up on my GPS:
    Bonus # – Point value – Identifier (e.g. 5–1276–Pleasant Green Cemetery)
  2. I save this file off as the master bonus list and then run an Optimize and Get Directions. This gives me several important bits of information to use as a starting point:
    • How many miles and how long it will take if I try to do everything on the list (I need 520 miles and I only have 12 hours)
    • Arrival time at the CP if I take the optimized route (probably doesn’t coincide with the required time window)
    • If (and how) the optimized route differs from the base route that the Rally Master has presented (which is only a suggestion)
    • Accepting the assumption that my first pass will be too long, I have an easy color-coded visual representation from which to start whittling away the options.
  3. From this exercise, I found that the “everything” route was calculated at 739 miles and 12:50 hours – way too long. And the obvious bonus to sacrifice was a out-and-back side trip to Jackson WY, which was represented by a yellow pushpin and was worth just 1108 points. Re-running the optimization without Jackson left me with what appeared to be a doable route of 530 miles and 9:17 hours, AND got me to the CP in plenty of time for the scheduled opening. Time to save the master and start honing down my route.
  4. Now I split the file into two chunks: Leg 1 (Hotel -> CP) and Leg 2 (CP -> Hotel). The primary benefit of this strategy is this: once you activate a route in the GPS, it always displays the projected time to the end of the route. Since the only times that mattered to me were the CP window and the Finish time, that is what I always want to see represented on the GPS. When I leave the hotel I activate the Leg 1 route, and when I leave the CP, I activate the Leg 2 route.
  5. For each Leg, I make the following changes:
    • Remove the bonuses that don’t apply to that leg
    • Enter a “duration” time of 10 minutes for each simple bonus and 20 minutes for each complex bonus. This makes the projection more accurate by allowing time for for the work I have to do at each bonus (photo, walk somewhere, etc.), and also builds in some padding for activities that aren’t otherwise represented (gas, bathroom stops, hydration and sustenance, traffic, etc.)
    • Set the departure time for the Start (7:00am for Leg 1, 11:00am for Leg 2) and the arrival time for the Finish (11:00am for Leg 1, 7:00pm for Leg 2). I also had to enter an arrival time for one of the afternoon bonuses because it wasn’t available after 5:00pm. This results in a warning from the program if the projections have me arriving late. Two of the morning bonuses also had time constraints, but I wasn’t worried about them because I knew I was doing them first and time wouldn’t be an issue.
    • Optimize and Get Directions again. Confirm that I can still do everything as planned and that I’m getting to where I need to be with plenty of time to spare.
    • Export both legs to GPX format, open in Garmin MapSource, transfer to the StreetPilot 2610. That’s that.

Final Mapping and Paperwork

The first thing I had to come to grips with was the discrepancy between the Rally Master’s suggested route and the one that I had come up with on the computer. I doubt that this has anything to do with his deviousness – he honestly endeavors to show us the beautiful roads in Utah. But he doesn’t always give us adequate motivation (i.e. bonus points) to make it worth the risk of losing time, especially for less experienced riders like me. Last year, I made a strategic decision (at the software’s suggestion) to avoid a windy mountain road (the Alpine Loop) in the second half of the rally. It turned out to be a wise one, since 4 riders DNF’d due to time and I suspect that road was a contributor to their delay. This year, the software had thrown me three significant routing variations:

  1. Go directly east from Salt Lake City to Park City rather than taking a detour south (toward the fire) and coming up from a different direction. There were no bonus points on his suggested route, and I was also able to pick up one of the bonuses that was intended for the second-half of the rally along the way. This was a huge benefit because it would cut out a risky loop at the end of the rally when I might be struggling to make time.
  2. Go north after the Oakley bonus and take 80 directly to the CP at Evanston instead of taking the scenic route up Hwy 150, the Mirror Lake highway. In hindsight, I regret making this choice because I had plenty of time and I hear it’s a beautiful road.
  3. Go northeast from Montpelier ID and hit I-15 south rather than going down through Bear Lake and Logan Canyon. This was a tougher choice because I know that area is beautiful. But I also know that Bear Lake is a huge summer recreation area, has very restrictive speed limits along the lake, and was likely to be riddled with boat-towing traffic and pedestrians. Not only that, but because of my decision to take the short-cuts on the first half of the rally, I would need extra miles to make the minimum (520) and I wasn’t sure that the Bear Lake route would be enough. I didn’t want to get stuck doing the ride of shame to Saltair and back at the end of the rally just to gather miles, and furthermore, I was concerned that the Bear Lake route would burn up too much time to even have that option. Nope, I-15 was the most time-efficient way to gather miles (or so I thought at the time) so that’s what I decided to do.

Last year, I made a list of the turn-by-turn instructions and inserted the bonus instructions, then carried this reference in the map pocket of my tank bag. Sort of a Cliff Notes version of the rally, very much like a roll chart (for those of you familiar with enduro dirt bike events). This was quite effective for my first time, but it hid my map and so I didn’t have the visual overview of where I was and what was coming when.

This year, I decided to do things differently and rely solely on the map and GPS. Same as last year, I highlighted my route and then added numbered dots to represent the bonus stops. But then I added labels on which I wrote the pertinent information about the bonus: what it was, what I was required to do. Naturally, the dots and labels were color-coded to match the point value, which gave me an instant visual guidance for making sacrificial decisions if I got behind.

Detail of the Greater SLC area.

State-wide view of my route – the RM’s suggested route is in pink.

The final step was to place the route instructions / bonus questions into sheet protectors and clip them together, binder style, with three small carabiners. These carabiners attach to my tank bag under the map flap and give me easy access to the paperwork when I have to note my bonus information. I write my answers directly on the plastic with a Sharpie and turn the whole thing in at the end – this minimizes the risk of the paperwork tearing, blowing away, or becoming a soggy mess.

I was in bed by 11pm, ready for the 5:45am wake-up call and the 7:00am start. I’ll admit that I did wake up at 2:00am re-obsessing over the Jackson WY decision – could I make it if I skipped something else?. I got up and refreshed my numbers (no, it’s worth fewer points than what I’d have to skip), got over it and went back to sleep.

Next up: 2012 Utah 1088, Part 3: Rally Day!