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.


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.


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.


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 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.


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!

2012 Utah 1088, Part 1: What? Am I really doing this again?

October 20, 2012

May and June, 2012

I don’t ride much during the year – I get no joy from commuting on the bike and on the weekends, I’m usually doing something that involves a dog or two. And most significantly, I don’t have the passion to go out riding just ‘cuz. That’s why the Utah 1088 12-hour rally is such a challenge for me. I’ve been friends with the organizers and many of the riders for years through Rich’s participation, and since it was my off-hand suggestion that led the Rally Master to add the 12-hour version to the mix in 2011, I felt compelled to give it a shot last year. I actually had fun and I promised that I would continue to enter as long as he continued to offer it. Oh yeah, it didn’t hurt that I won and had a title to defend. (If you haven’t seen my report from last year, you can catch up here – 2011 Utah 1088, Part I: Final Preparations.)

But in May of this year as I absorbed that fact that the event was quickly approaching, I also realized that I hadn’t done any preparation to get in shape. That’s not the way to go into a 12-hour ride – you’ve got to get both your body and mind ready for the grind. And more importantly, I was at risk of suffering the unprecedented humiliation of having my starting odometer for this event read exactly the same as it did at the end of last year’s rally. The Rally Master loves to call people out at the awards banquet and I knew that this fact would be fair game. I simply couldn’t allow that to happen.

Equipment Scramble

Clearwater LED driving lights

Rich and I had done so much bike preparation for last year’s event (Farkles for the Ninjette) that there wasn’t much to change. On our last trip to the San Mateo bike show, we discovered Clearwater fork-mounted LED driving lights. He needed new lights for his ST1300, but we saw that they also had a kit for the Ninjette. This had nothing to do with the rally since I only run during the daytime, but they’ll light up the night on the rare occasions that I find myself out after dark.

Ninjette loaded on the Rage hitch rack.

And just a couple of weeks before the rally, when it was clear that he wasn’t going to be able to ride his own bike (strabismus, a vision problem requiring surgery), a friend mentioned a very cool hitch rack she had seen that would eliminate having to tow a trailer. Avoid the ridiculous California speed and lane restrictions and hassles backing up? Done! We added the Rage Powersports SMC-600R to our arsenal.

Pre-rally Warm-ups

With the rally date looming, I asked Rich to whip me up a couple of warm-up rallies. He actually loves doing this because deep in his heart, he has always wondered how he would do as a rally master. The first request was a 3-hour ride ending in Calistoga, where he and Billy (our young Border Collie) would meet me for dinner. The second was a 6-hour ride ending at the Yolo County Fairgrounds in Woodland, so I could attend a membership meeting of my dog agility club. This one had an additional incentive – Rich was going to a bike show in nearby Dixon so he met me in Woodland with the van. We’d load the bike on the new hitch rack for the drive home, which allowed me to also enjoy a cocktail to celebrate a friend’s birthday. This would give us the opportunity to fully road test the new hitch rack before he left for Utah.

He put a lot of effort into these training rides and threw all sorts of challenges at me to get me ready for whatever deviousness the Rally Master might deliver. He sent me searching for headstones in cemeteries (time waster of uncertain duration); he reinforced that easy small point bonuses aren’t necessarily worth the effort if the wasted time puts larger bonus gathering at risk; he taught me that things aren’t always as they appear; and he reminded me that if you can’t do what the bonus question asks (there is no place at the Aetna Springs Golf Course from which to get a receipt), you need to do something to at least prove you were there and that you tried (take a photo of the club house – I passed that test).

Both warm-up rallies were successful and through them, I accomplished several goals:

  • Refreshed my routing and planning decision skills
  • Gathered my gear and organized what I would and wouldn’t need for the Utah trip
  • Got my brain in gear and my rhythm going for the bonus-gathering requirements – photo/question, mileage, time. Always all three. Miss one, no points.
  • Abandoned my plan to break in my new deerskin gloves – a seam was digging into my knuckle, so we followed the instructions for softening them up and the seam blew out! The new gloves went back to the manufacturer (and have since been repaired and returned), and I pulled out my old gloves that I wore comfortably in last year’s rally.
  • Broke in my body – hand, wrist, shoulders, butt, knees, neck. They all take a hit on a ride of any duration, but the warm-ups reminded me that I could survive it and the discomfort would pass.
  • Perhaps most importantly, I learned that I can survive in the heat. During the second ride, I spent most of the ride in official temperatures in the low 100s, but registering on my thermometer in the 110s. I learned to respond to how I feel and not get freaked out by what the dial says. And to stay hydrated.

I also exposed some gaps in my gear – things that had been misplaced or weren’t on my checklist. The warm-up rides gave me time to mitigate these deficiencies before I left for Utah.

I was left with much more confidence about the upcoming rally and a few hundred more miles under my belt, thus side-stepping the threat of public odometer humiliation. All that was left to do was change the oil, load it up on the rack, and send Rich and the Ninjette off for Utah. He also took Billy, one of our dogs – we have a long-standing tradition of bringing a dog to MERA events.

Next up: 2012 Utah 1088, Part 2: Yep, back in Utah

2011 Utah 1088, Part III: Results and Review

September 7, 2011

My 12-hour rally was over and I had met both of my goals – stay upright and healthy, and Finish. Furthermore, I had determined by the number of DNFs that I had somehow managed to land on the podium. I had a great time, followed by a good rest, so now it was time to enjoy the post-rally festivities. The full report of my 12-hour ride is here: 2011 Utah 1088, Part II: Rally Day!

The Return of the Real Rallyists

I got up at 5am and headed down to the parking lot to greet the real rallyists as they checked in to the finish line. These are the folks who entered the 24-hour and 3-day events, the hard-core long-distance enthusiasts on big custom-outfitted motorcycles. Most of them don’t even get warmed up and settled in the seat until long after 12 hours has passed. Some had arrived earlier in the morning and were already recovering in bed. Some had informed the RM that they would not be making it in on time for a variety of reasons – rest, mechanical failure, bad time or fuel management – but hoped to return in time for the banquet. Tragically, we also learned that one of the riders got tangled up with tornado winds in Nebraska and had ridden his last ride. That news definitely put a damper on the morning’s activities, but for the most part, the returning riders were upbeat and enthusiastic about their adventures. Rich made it in from his 3-day ride with about an hour to spare. Time to move on to rest, war stories, and the awards banquet.


I’ll just come right out and say it – I won the Single Rider Class of the 12-hour Utah 1088 rally. I already knew I was on the podium because of the four DNFs, but I never dreamed I would be the winner. I somehow managed to ride 564.6 miles in 11 hours and 31 minutes on a 250cc motorcycle and earn 29,730 points.

Utah 1088 trophy – beautifully laser-etched by Steve Chalmers

Click these links for the complete results from the 3-day, 24-hour, and 12-hour divisions. Also, click here for a summary of the total miles for each rider.

Oh, and one more thing: I earned a MERA Certificate for riding >500 miles in 12 hours! The cert showed up in the mail in August. This is one of the great personal touches that Steve puts on his rallies – it’s not just a generic certificate, it actually acknowledges details about MY ride!

Reflections on Preparation

Referring back to the articles I wrote on preparing for this event (which are linked in the headings), I want to highlight the improvements that I found most significant.

The Bike

The 250 Ninja is NOT a rally bike. Most of the riders who do these things are on big bikes – 1000cc and larger. In addition, many of them have been heavily modified with custom-made seats, extra fuel tanks, lights that turn night into day, and all manner of electronics. Though Rich and I made significant changes to my bike, what we did is nothing compared to what you see on the big bikes that the serious riders use. In fact, as I pointed out in that article, most of the changes we made were underway before I even decided to enter the rally. That said, I want to point out the two most important changes, without which I know I couldn’t have survived for 12 hours.

  1. Riding position. Changing from an aggressive sporty position to a more natural upright position was key. This was accomplished by raising the handlebars and seat and lowering the foot-pegs. The result was an amazingly comfortable riding position that sustained me until about an hour from the end, and then the only thing that gave up was my derriere.
  2. Throttle-lock. I have no doubt that I would have given up without a good throttle-lock. I used it for much of the ride, especially on the straight interstates and rural highways. On the twisty stretches where I couldn’t use it, my aching thumb and wrist quickly reminded me how bad the ride would have been without it.

The Body

I did make some changes to my gear that I wouldn’t have done had I not entered the rally. Some of the changes were due to personal experience during my shakedown rides, and others came from the wisdom of the community. The two most important changes I made to my gear were these:

  1. Flip-up Helmet. When I decided to buy this, I thought it would enable me to eat and drink as I rode. That is not the case, nor is it the true benefit. With the hydration tube and the retracting reel, I can drink without flipping it up. And the thought of eating on the fly turned out to be ridiculous – even if I had figured out a way to extract my jerky from the tank bag without crashing, I probably would have bitten holes in my cheeks. No, the value of the flip-up is that you can have meaningful and non-threatening interactions with humans (convenience store clerks, Checkpoint personnel, locals who know where the 3600-pt memorial is) with the helmet on. I knew from my limited shakedown experience that I wanted to avoid removing my helmet if possible – not only does it take time and have to resettle into position, but I also knew that if I allowed myself to feel the relief from the sweating and itching, it would be doubly annoying to have it return.
  2. Ear Plugs. I had no previous experience using ear plugs while riding, but on the advice of seasoned rallyists I decided to try them out. I first rode with them on Shakedown ride #3 to get used to the feeling and difference in the sounds around me. And then on the way home from that ride, I forgot to put them in. It took me about 30 minutes to realize my mistake. What a difference – it felt like all 250cc of the bike was in my head. And on this rally with the higher speeds and RPM, I would have been miserable without them! Thanks to PlugUp for a great product.

The Process

Even though I have never ridden in a rally before, I have been intimately involved with these events for nearly 20 years because of Rich’s participation. I acknowledge that I’m a dilettante, but I have paid close attention to his learning process (both successes and failures) in all aspects of rallying – preparing the bike, managing gear and paperwork during the ride, pacing, and routing. In other words, by pure osmosis I was perhaps one of the best-prepared rookies ever to enter a rally and I was rewarded for the effort.

As I reflect on my shakedown rides, my pre-rally planning, and the execution of my plan, I can see a few opportunities for improvement but I can’t identify any significant mistakes. That’s one of the reasons I went to the trouble to write all of this up – I’m more than willing to share my experiences with other rookies. Looking forward to next year, the only thing I would change in my strategy is to soften my “off-the-bike” and “wrong-direction” avoidance rules and go for one or two of the “in-town” Boni if they seem doable.

What’s Next?

Will I do it again?

When I first entered the rally, my plan was to do it once to shake the dilettante monkey off my back and then quietly slide back into my supporting role for Rich. But I had a blast and I want to do it again. I have already told Steve that I will keep entering the Utah 1088 as long as he continues to offer the 12-hour version.

What about longer rallies?

Not going to happen, not a chance. I’m not comfortable on big bikes, I’m nervous riding at night, and I’ve never been worth a damn on graveyard shifts or any other sort of all-nighter. I have neither the skills to ride fast nor the desire to ride far. And I have no interest in doing any hard-core customization on the Ninjette, like adding fuel capacity or lights.

Will the field be larger next year?

2011 was the first year that Steve has offered anything other than a 24-hour version of the Utah 1088. But both the 12-hour and the 3-day versions were well-received and he has decided to use the same format next year. My hope is that reports like this will draw more riders to the 12-hour rally – it is a perfect place for rookies who want to give it a try and veteran rallyists who are ready to scale back from the longer rides. In fact, I’m toying with some ideas for additional incentives to riders who enter on small bikes like mine – sort of a Baby Bike Challenge.

So with all that said, it’s time to sign up for 2012! The 2012 Utah 1088 Entry Form is now available and I encourage my riding friends to give it a try.

And yes, I entered it and ran it. Here’s that story: 2012 Utah 1088, Part 1: What? Am I really doing this again?

2011 Utah 1088, Part II: Rally Day!

September 7, 2011

The bike is perfect (Farkles for the Ninjette), my gear is ready (Body Farkles: Damn, 12 Hours is a Long Time), I am prepared (Shakedown Rides: Training for a 12 Hour Rally), and my route is plotted (2011 Utah 1088, Part I: Final Preparations). All that’s left to do is run the rally.

The Start!

At 7:00am, I was ready for the symbolic green flag (actually the RM’s hand) to drop. I let the gung-ho gun-slinger crowd go ahead so I wouldn’t get caught up in a melee exciting the parking lot. As anticipated, I was the one of the few that went West onto the freeway because most of the riders either went East to the BMW shop or South to the shooting bonus, both of which I had decided to skip.

Three Rally Lessons Learned

First stop was a Vista Point with a couple of plaques on I-80 overlooking the Great Salt Lake. On this bonus, I learned Rally Lesson #1: Never Trust Your GPS. When a location is described on the instructions as “between MP# and MP(#+1)”, there’s no way to accurately represent it on a computer map while setting up the routing. As a result, I visually identified my target at the exact moment that I blew by the exit.

I wasted no time learning Rally Lesson #2: Do Whatever It Takes To Get The Points. I spent about a nanosecond on the shoulder determining if I could cut across the dirt divider to get there (no, there was a cyclone fence), and then headed to the re-entry on-ramp. Because I am (or was) generally a law-abiding motorist, I spent another nanosecond wondering if I should park at the exit and walk back. You can guess the rest – yes, I rode the wrong way back up the on-ramp to get where I needed to be. Funny how much easier those decisions got after the first one – it’s definitely a slippery slope.

At that point, I learned Rally Lesson #3: This Is A Competition. I knew several things about this bonus: (1) it asked a question that required an answer; (2) the answer sheet was not consistent and suggested that a photo was required; (3) all photos had to include our rally hat; and (4) where there is ambiguity, more information is better. There were two other riders there and they had just taken a picture of the marker . . . without their hats. Before I could stop myself, my Outside Voice said “I don’t think a picture is enough”. CRAP, Shut Up You Idiot. As they went back to review their paperwork, I wrote down the answer to the question and hustled to take a photo with my hat before they noticed their other omission (the hat). Lesson learned, move on.

Salt Lake Vista Point, 998 pts

This isn’t as hard as I expected

I was back on my way with an easy 998 points under my belt. Next stop, get the name of a “geological feature” on SR-196. I already knew it was called Lone Rock because it said so on Google maps. But I still had to record my time and mileage when I got there (a requirement of all bonus stops). Chalk up another 999 points – I was on a roll and was really starting to enjoy the ride.

Another lesson I was also learning quickly is that it’s a lot easier to average 60+ mph in western Utah than it is in western California. Not only are the roads straight (in contrast to the California coast), but the posted speed limits are much more liberal: 2-lane rural highways are 65mph, the interstates are 75mph, and we all know that those are just suggestions. As I flew south on SR-196, Carmen (my GPS) reported my estimated arrival time at the CP as 10:13, more than 45 minutes ahead of opening time. Great start! Then came the next bonus search when everything changed and I began the traditional “swearing at the Rally-Bastard” ritual.

Rally-Bastard, you have earned your nickname

The next stop on my route was a huge 3598-point GPS-only bonus – we were given coordinates and instructions to take a photo of a Memorial at N 40 32.307 W 112 44.834. I had mapped it and it appeared to be right on the highway, so I rode along looking for something obvious. I noticed a roadside shrine along the way, but that felt too random and temporary to be the intended target. I rode back and forth a few times trying to narrow it down (BTW, the Ninjette makes beautiful illegal u-turns on 2-lane rural highways – did I mention that slippery slope of legality?).

I finally ended up at a ramshackle roadside ranch, which according to Carmen looked pretty close – I figured I could wing it into position. I rode into the driveway and watched the coordinates get closer as I headed directly toward a horse corral. The immortal words of Joseph Smith crossed my mind: “This is [or must be] the place!” I walked around for a few minutes looking for something, anything – a hand-painted shingle in memory of Uncle Jake would have sufficed. Nothing. I took a photo of Carmen (showing N 40 32.289 W 112 44.832) to prove I had tried. I didn’t really think it would fly but I had nothing to lose. At this point, I also noticed that my CP arrival time was ticking away with alarming speed so it was time to get back on the road.

N 40 32.307 W 112 44.834 - any farther North and I'd have been in the horse corral

As I headed out of the ranch, I spotted a fellow in coveralls wrenching on a large tractor behind the barn. I rode over to him, flipped up my helmet to expose my gender (constrained by ATGATT), flashed a winning smile (constrained by properly-fitting cheek pads), and these words actually came out of my mouth (spoken with dimples in my voice): “Hi! I’m on a little scavenger hunt and I’m looking for a memorial somewhere in this area – can you help?” “Yes,” he said, “it’s across the road up the hill.” My heart sank. “Oh, so I have to hike up there?” [thereby breaking my “time off the bike” rule…] “No,” he said, “just go back up the road a mile or so and look for the turn-off.” My heart soared and off I went.

The turn-off, though marked with a government sign pointing to “Iosepa”, turned out to be a gravel road. I don’t have a lot of gravel experience (OK, none), but I reminded myself why I love this bike – it’s short and it’s light. I can hold it up at a 30-degree angle, I can pick it up if it falls over, and worst case, I could slip the clutch and paddle-foot up and back if need be. Carmen convinced me that I was still far enough ahead of schedule to the CP to give it a go and so I headed up the hill.

Nothing could have prepared me for what I encountered next. My first clue of strangeness was a colorful hand-painted sign at the entrance to the gravel road welcoming me with “Aloha Iosepa”. Hmmmm. I could see a tall monument in the distance so at least I knew I was on the right track. I rounded the bend and this is what I saw: on my right, a motley assortment of RVs and tents; straight-ahead, a huge clearing with a permanent awning and picnic tables crowded with lots of children, quite a few women, and not quite enough men; on my left, an old cemetery in which stood the previously-spotted monument.

The monument turned out to be a huge engraved granite slab with the bust of some sort of warrior on top and what appeared to be a feather boa around its neck. At this point I didn’t really care – I was already WAY over-committed to this bonus and I just wanted to get my photo and get on down the road. There was a nice fellow at the memorial who, after I offered a few explanatory words, offered to hold my hat for the photo (that’s his arm on the right).

Iosepa Monument, 3598 points

I took an extra close-up because I figured no one would believe me about the feather boa and then headed out for the even more treacherous ride DOWN the gravel road. I arrived back at SR-196 feeling VERY smug and intrepid (not to mention 3598 points richer). I’m also not ashamed to admit that I was pleased that no other riders had seen me so my “intel” was secure – I earned those points and didn’t want to share! As I headed back on course, Carmen still reported arrival time at CP of 10:47am – 13 minutes before opening – WHEW!!!!

Iosepa Monument - is that really a feather boa?

As I wrote this, I decided to find out more about this Iosepa place. Its Wikipedia listing (complete with a photo of the monument) reveals that the accessory is in fact a lei, not a feather boa. It describes the site as a 19th-century settlement of Polynesian LDS church members. I feel compelled to point out that none of the people I saw there looked the slightest bit Polynesian, but I digress. FWIW, Wikipedia lists the coordinates as N 40 32.233 W 112 44.667, not N 40 32.307 W 112 44.834 – don’t know where the discrepancy came from but it doesn’t matter now – I got the points.

Things can change after the instructions are printed

After marveling for a moment at a huge new building with no signage out in the middle of nowhere at the intersection of SR-196 and SR-199 (which I assume to be a new LDS church for the town of Dugway), I turned east on SR-199 and headed for the historic town of Rush Valley. Along the way, I found myself on a splendid mountain road over the Stansbury mountains. Slowed me down a little, but not as much as Carmen expected – I actually gained some time. My task was to find a rusty sign for Rush Valley, note the date the town was founded, and take a photo for good measure (865 pts). Easy peasy.

Historic Rush Valley sign, 865 pts

Then I headed west on SR-36 looking for the intersection with SR-6, at which I was instructed to find an odd collection of highway signs and arrows pointing every-which-way. Got there, no signs, several other motorcyclists riding back and forth looking perplexed. I did the same (rode back and forth), opted to write my time, mileage, and “no signs” on my paperwork, and then headed on down the route.

But a couple of miles later, my “get something to prove you were there” instincts kicked in and I realized I really should have a photo. I was still ahead of schedule for the CP, so back I went to take a photo of the sign for the abandoned smog inspection station in the area. I learned later that a truck had taken out the highway signs and some rallyists had submitted photos of the skid marks as proof – that’s pretty creative.

Proof that I at least tried to find the cluster of highway signs, 1156 pts

While I was taking my photo, another rallyist wandered over to chat. He asked if I had been able to find the GPS bonus. With my newly-jaded attitude borne from the Vista Point experience, I responded with an eye roll and “uh, yeah.” He pressed me, describing the horse corral, and wanted to know how I had found it. I responded with “It doesn’t really matter now, gotta go”, flipped my helmet down, and took off out of the driveway. Damn, I really am a bitch! (I later apologized to the rider back at the hotel and described the effort I had gone through to find the flippin’ Memorial…)

The All-Important Checkpoint

As I headed east on SR-6 toward I-15 (and the CP), two things became clear:

  1. Carmen assured me that in spite of my two significant delays, I was still going to get to the CP about 15 min early, BUT
  2. All that extra driving around for the two elusive Boni had seriously jeopardized my odds of making the CP without refueling

My pre-rally estimate of 200 miles per tank didn’t take into account the effects of sustained speeds of 80+ mph. My original route had shown a distance of about 175 miles to the CP, but with the back-and-forth of the memorial and the missing signs, I had added quite a few miles to my total. High on the list of rally no-no’s is running out of gas. And I instinctively knew that getting gas in a town before I launched onto the Interstate was bound to be less disruptive than having to exit the Interstate for gas before I arrived at the CP. So I filled up with 4.4 gal in the town of Santequin at 177 miles and then headed south on I-15 for the CP.

As I rode the last 22 miles into the CP at Nephi, I ran down my checklist of chores. It hadn’t occurred to me to anticipate and write them down (note to self: do that next time), so I counted them out on 7 fingers to help me remember:

  • Top off the gas tank (it took 0.4 gal – my tank holds 4.8 gal – good thing I stopped in Santequin!)
  • Refill the hydration bladder (I was determined to stay ahead of the water loss)
  • Suck down a bottle each of Gatorade and Boost (breakfast of champions)
  • Re-apply sunscreen and chapstick (yes, you can get a seriously ugly burn even with a helmet on)
  • Clean the bugs off the face shield (they ALL came from the first 30 miles on I-80)
  • Secure the flapping straps on my tank bag (you have no idea how annoying and distracting that is)
  • Pee (was that TMI?)

I pulled into the CP at 10:45am, 15 minutes before it opened, leaving me a precious 15 minutes “off the clock” to perform my checklist tasks. I remembered all but one (the flappy straps). At exactly 11:01am, I checked in with the RM, mentioned the missing signs (which he already knew about), and thanked him for inviting me to the picnic on the side of the hill with the fundamentalists. Then I headed out for the remaining 8 hours of the rally. Life was good!

Hundreds of miles and not much to do

I left the CP feeling relative relaxed. I was true to my plan, on schedule, and feeling really comfortable on the bike. The next few hundred miles didn’t pose too many challenges, or so I thought. I had a simple 987-pt Bonus as I headed east on USH-132 (the name of a Scenic Byway) and then no more “work” to do until I arrived in Duchesne.

30 minutes later, I hit the wall in the town of Mount Pleasant – it was starting to get hot and the country roads were long, straight, and hypnotic. I pulled over in the shade, walked around a little, and chugged my first ever 5-hr Energy Drink. Rejuvenated, I was content to follow a couple of RVs out of town and up the hill until I could find a safe place to pass them (it’s harder on a little bike, trust me…) and I finally made it to USH-6. Ah, the mountains, much cooler and more interesting. As I headed east on USH-6 toward Helper (a road that Rich and I have traveled dozens of times on the way to Colorado), Carmen reported that I would return to the hotel by about 5:00pm. Really? Two hours early? I started to second-guess my plan. Could I have done some of the “in-town” bonuses in the morning? Could I actually make it to Little America WY after all?

NO, NO, NO. Discipline kicked in – I must Finish – nothing more,and definitely nothing less. But at this point, I did allow myself the freedom to contribute a few entries to the newly-launched Utah 1088 Photo Blog, which we had been strongly encouraged to do as we went about our travels. Here is my first Photo Blog entry from Soldier Summit on USH-6.

The Ninjette made it to Soldier Summit. Past the halfway pt and still going strong. Damn, it’s pretty out here!

Tar Snakes – Are You F***ing Kidding me?

Just when I thought I had nothing but a simple cruise to the next bonus in Duchesne, I encountered trouble coming out of Price Canyon – the dreaded tar snakes. I had heard about their evilness, but for some reason I thought that wetness was the problem. In fact, when I started up the hill and saw them, I remember thinking “good thing it isn’t raining.” The next thing I knew, both of my tires were sliding and I nearly crashed. It turns out that in the heat they turn into little strips of oiled Teflon. And because they aren’t flush with the pavement, the little bike gets “light” when it hits them, compounding the problem. Those few miles turned out to be by far the scariest of the day – and worth a Photo Blog entry so I never forget.

My first tar snakes ever. They SUCK!!! (Especially on a light bike…)

As I continued out of the canyon toward parts unknown, the tar snakes became a distant (and unpleasant) memory and I was actually starting to enjoy the twisty road. But then I experienced the first true deficit of the little bike when I realized that my throttle hand had hit the stop and my speed was dropping … 50.3 … 49.5 … 48.7 … 47.4.  …  wow, this must be a really steep road! Imagine my surprise when I emerged from the climb to discover a “Summit 9114 Ft” sign. I have since learned that this unlabeled summit is called “Indian Creek Pass”, but at the time, all I knew is that it was REALLY high! It was worth a couple of Photo Blog entries – a photo of the sign, a photo of the view, and a pee behind a tree (mercifully, no photo).

Holy crap – 9114 ft? No wonder the poor little thing was working so hard coming out of Price canyon!

…And this is the pay-off for all that work – what a view!!!

The ride from Indian Creek Pass into Duchesne ranks among the best rides in my (admittedly limited) riding career. For you West Coasters, think Spooner Pass into Carson City but several times longer and no traffic. I stopped on my way into town for an 1136-pt photo of the Duchesne City Cemetery, a quick gas fill-up, and then West on I-40.

Duchesne City Cemetery, 1136 pts (yep, that's my hat between the E and the T)

Just when I thought I had it wired: Wind and Construction

On the map, I-40 looked like a cruise, but wind and construction demonstrated why my conservative strategy was sound. I was not terribly phased by the wind, but only because I had encountered it during one of my shakedown rides coming home from San Jose. Construction, on the other hand, is a giant PITA and there is no way around it.

Stop #8 on my route was a 1458-pt memorial cross on I-40, one of 14 throughout the state erected to memorialize fallen UHP troopers. (I have since learned that an atheist group has filed suit to have these torn down. Really? Can’t you find anything more important to do with your time and money? Like campaign against Rick Perry? Sheesh… I could barely see the cross, let alone be offended by it.) Meanwhile, back to the rally, this stop happened to be at a huge pullout, which inspired me to perform some much-needed housekeeping (hydration, nourishment, sunscreen).

UHP Memorial Cross, 1458 pts

I headed on down the mountain into Heber City, topped off the fuel tank, then turned south onto USH-189 toward Provo. I found myself riding by Deer Creek Reservoir watching the kite-surfers – hey, I thought that was a SF Bay thing – who knew you could do that on a lake too!

As I continued down the western slope of the Wasatch, I executed a significant (and planned) modification to the Main Route instructions by blowing past the turnoff to SR-92, aka the Alpine Loop. My mapping software had fought me the night before when calculating the route, and when I zoomed in to find out why, the smooth line transformed into a very squiggly line. AND, there were no bonus points on that leg to lure me. While the road itself (which I hear is beautiful) might have been an interesting challenge (a) for more experienced motorcyclists or (b) earlier in the rally, I knew that squiggly lines at that stage of my ride represented an unacceptable risk to my goals. So I continued into Orem and then west on SR-52 with confidence. I was headed for Stop #9 – a photo of the green dinosaur on the north wall of the Museum of Ancient Life in Lehi. A little construction, a few detours, a few hundred feet of wrong-way riding, no sweat.

Museum of Ancient Life, Lehi UT, 2933 pts

The home stretch

Once I bagged the 2933-pt dinosaur, I didn’t have much left to do except ride and ride and ride back to the hotel. I didn’t dare stray from the Main Route because I needed miles and I didn’t want to get stuck on the SLC-to-Wendover Ride-Of-Shame. So I rode west on 73 through Lehi, trusted the RM when I found myself headed south, and then finally met up with USH-36 North to Tooele which I knew was well within reach of the hotel.

I found this billboard as I rode into Tooele, and decided it was worth a couple more illegal u-turns to capture for the Photo Blog.

Best billboard I saw today. Had to go back and post it.

When I hit I-80 and headed east to the hotel, I knew I had to check my GPS mileage at the off-ramp. I was emotionally prepared to do another 20-mile round trip west to Saltair if needed, but as it turned out, I had more than enough miles and I was about 40 minutes early. Just to be sure, I did a few low-risk laps of Amelia Earhart Rd between 5600W and Wright Bros Drive (sort of a mini Ride-of-Shame) before I pulled into the hotel parking lot at 6:31pm.

Post-Rally Housekeeping

Scoring was very efficient. The rally staff recorded my finish time and mileage and certified that my driver’s license was still snugly sealed in the envelope (5000 points). I was directed inside where I had plenty of time to review my bonus answers, confirm they were legible, turn in my paperwork, and have my SD card scanned to verify I had taken the required photos.

With that, there was nothing left to do but unpack the bike, check Rich’s progress on his SPOT, and enjoy a casual dinner with a few of my friends on the rally staff. I had good reason to relax and celebrate – I had met both of my goals AND I had fun. And as it turned out, four of the seven riders entered in the 12-hour event had come in just a few minutes over time, thereby earning DNFs. Even though I was tired, I could do that math and so I knew before I went to bed that I had achieved a podium finish. I set my alarm for 5am so that I could watch the return of the real rallyists – the ones who rode the 24-hour and 3-day versions – including Rich.

Below is the Spotwalla map showing my actual route – click on the map for an interactive version to see things like my zig-zagging north of Dugway looking for the monument and my final back-and-forths before the finish line.

SPOT statellite tracker record of my ride

Next up: 2011 Utah 1088, Part III: Results and Review

2011 Utah 1088, Part I: Final Preparations

September 7, 2011

After months of preparing my bike (Farkles for the Ninjette), my gear (Body Farkles: Damn, 12 Hours is a Long Time), and my body (Shakedown Rides: Training for a 12 Hour Rally), I finally arrived in Salt Lake City on Thursday June 23. I’m entered in the 20th Anniversary of the MERA Utah 1088 endurance rally, 12-hour version, which starts on Saturday morning at 7am. Time to get serious.

Key Rally Concepts – a Primer

Rally Master (RM): The Rally Master designs the rally, and in many cases, plans and promotes the entire event. The MERA Utah 1088 is Steve Chalmers’ baby and has been since its inception in 1992. He does it all: offers up a wide variety of interesting Bonus opportunities and routing options, organizes the post-rally awards banquet and bar-fest, and laser-etches all of the awards. He is known for his clear instructions (no gimmicks), fair scoring, and devious and sometimes twisted sense of humor about bonus selection. For the latter, he has been affectionately dubbed the “Rally-Bastard”.

All The Gear, All The Time (ATGATT): This is the slogan of all the serious motorcyclists I know – own the right gear and wear it whenever you’re on the bike. In other words, there is never a good reason or excuse for riding in tank tops, shorts, sandals, or <shudder> without a helmet. On this rally, failure to wear helmet, boots and gloves at any time during the rally results in Disqualification. Most riders also wear full riding suits with armor/padding.

Did Not Finish (DNF): The basic goal of all rallyists is to Finish. Finishing criteria varies from rally to rally, but nobody wants a DNF next to their name.

Checkpoint (CP): In this rally, there was a single checkpoint with a narrow window of time. Missing it results in a DNF. The only exemption was for riders who opted for the Alternate Route (described later).

Bonus opportunities (“Boni”): Finishing position is determined by total points, which are accumulated by collecting Boni – sort of a two-wheeled scavenger hunt. Descriptions and requirements for these bonus opportunities are scattered amongst the Main Route instructions. Bonus opportunities fall into two basic categories:

  1. Those available along the route. Some are right on the Main Route and easily obtainable; others require some extra effort or miles. Point values for each roughly correspond to the degree of difficulty. Often the highest point bonuses are red herrings, doable perhaps, but more likely to result in a DNF for greedy rallyists. In this rally, the bonus values along the Main Route route ranged from 865 to 3625 with additional options up to 4697 points.
  2. Those available regardless of the route. The points for these are tied to the importance to the Rally Master. There were two on this rally:
  • 5000 points were awarded for avoiding an encounter with law enforcement (and 7500 deducted if you did not) – this incentive helps maintain the reputation of the rally. The concept is simple: our driver’s licenses are sealed in an envelope before the rally. Return with the envelope intact = earn 5000 points; return with a torn envelope = deduct 7500 points. This rally has been running in Utah for so long that veteran troopers have been known to pull a rider over, ask for the envelope, tear off the corner, and send the rider on his/her way without a ticket – knowing that they had already inflicted enough pain. There are lots of stories of creative avoidance tactics to avoid the dreaded “envelope tear” – begging, lying, whatever, some successful, some not – in my book, this is legit. Some experienced rallyists carry duplicate licenses – that just feels like cheating to me. My plan, if faced with the problem, was to point out that a 250cc “not much more than a scooter” motorcycle couldn’t POSSIBLY have been going that fast.
  • 7500 points were awarded for carrying a SPOT satellite tracker – this gives the Rally Master peace of mind because he can keep track of his “ducklings” while they are out. We were informed prior to the rally that use of the SPOT was “strongly suggested” and that we would be highly rewarded with points for compliance. No brainer there, Rich and I embraced the SPOT years ago and had already acquired a second one for my solo travels with the RV and the dogs.

The Plan

Going into this rally, I had two simple goals: (1) stay upright and healthy, and (2) finish. Most rallyists list “have fun” at the top of their goals, but I figured the other two were more important and having fun would be the natural result of accomplishing my goals. I did not want to be listed in the results as a DNF. The requirements for finishing are deceptively simple:

  1. Leave the hotel no earlier than 7:00am
  2. Make the mandatory Checkpoint within the prescribed time window
  3. Ride at least 544 miles
  4. Return to the hotel by 7:00pm (there is NO slack – 7:01pm is a DNF)

My shakedown rides had taught me that maintaining the 45.33 mph average to meet these criteria was not an easy task. That average has to account for all downtime, including fuel and potty stops, checkpoint and bonus administration, sustenance and hydration, clothing changes and gear adjustment, etc. And it also has to be sustained in the face of unanticipated delays like construction, traffic and weather.

Since maintaining that average was key to my goal, I showed up at the rally with the following fundamentals firmly embedded in my brain:

  1. Minimize non-riding time while ON the clock. The adage amongst experienced and successful rallyists is that every minute off the bike is a mile lost on the road.
  2. Maximize the use of time while OFF the clock. Arriving at the checkpoint before it opens gives you “free” time to take care of all that business that otherwise detracts from #1.
  3. Minimize high-risk routing and bonus choices. Examples:
  • Bonuses that require extra miles may seem doable on paper if all goes well, but also have high potential to result in a DNF due to unforeseen factors like construction and local traffic.
  • You don’t have to follow the route instructions exactly, and in fact, except for making the CP, you don’t have to follow the route instructions at all. Alternate roads may get you to the same place with less time and less work, thereby less risk.
  1. Organize my gear to optimize access to the things that impact downtime. This may be the most important thing and the most often overlooked by rookies. The common theme here is “attached to (or easily-accessible in) the tank bag”.
  • Paperwork (e.g. route instructions) – 3-hole sheet protectors attached to tank bag with mini-carabiners.
  • Pens – mini-sharpies with built-in key rings attached with carabiners to tank bag
  • Camera and hat – hat attached to camera strap attached to tank bag with carabiner
  • Hydration – my tank bag has a pocket for a bladder and a hole for the hose. But thanks to a tip from a fellow competitor, I made a key last-minute modification – a $1 “badge reel”. When properly affixed to the bite valve tubing and the tank bag, the reel caused the tube to retract to a reliably-accessible position for on-the-road hydration.
  • Sustenance – simple, effective, efficient. In other words, Gatorade, Boost and beef jerky in the tank bag.
  • Personal care – sunscreen and chapstick, easily accessible in the tank bag.

Odometer Check

The first official event of the rally is the odometer check. We were sent on a ~20-mile ride with very strict directions, including which driveways to exit and enter the parking lot. The purpose of this is to determine a correction factor for each participant’s mileage readings. For example, if the “official” distance of the odometer check was 20.0 miles, but my odometer showed 21.0, I would have to adjust my total mileage reading for the rally by a factor of 1.05. That is critical information because to meet the 544 mile finishing requirement, my odometer would actually have to read 571.2 (in this example). In my experience with Rich, most bikes are about 10% optimistic. I was prepared for this and had designed an hourly mileage landmark cheat sheet if necessary. As it turned out, my odometer was spot on – whew, one less thing to worry about.

Pre-Rally Routing

In all of the pre-rally announcements, the RM had stated that we would be receiving our route instructions just 15 minutes before the start. That’s not much time to come up with a plan and I was more than a little concerned. I had already decided that I would use that 15 minutes to find a way to get to the Checkpoint at least 30 minutes before it opened, with or without bonus points, and use that off-the-clock 30 minutes to route the remainder of the ride. To my enormous relief, he distributed the instructions on Friday night immediately following the rider’s meeting.

I went upstairs, fired up the laptop, and began the routing process. Our instructions were actually quite simple, and in a nutshell, my process went something like this:

  1. Highlight the Main Route on the map. The Main Route is clearly defined in the instructions by a series of simple commands like “80 West to 196; 196 South to 199; etc.” This gave me a baseline on where the RM wanted us to go. I knew from previous exposure that the route instructions are a suggestion, not a requirement.
  2. Enter and evaluate the Bonus List in Excel. This went quickly because there were only 16 offered and of those, only 13 were discretionary. The others were either gimme’s (enable SPOT tracking) or not relevant to routing (is my driver’s license envelope intact). I entered the basics – number, brief description, requirement (photo, receipt, answer question) and points. Then I sorted by point value, divided the list into thirds to determine cut-off points, and used Conditional Formatting to assign a color to each of the groups based on value (red=high, yellow=medium, green=low).
  3. Eliminate the Boni that didn’t fit my criteria. Referring back to my pre-rally planning, I was avoiding Boni that (a) took me off the bike, (b) went the wrong way, (c) added unnecessary mileage, or (d) added variables beyond my control. Staying true to this plan, I eliminated the following:

#1, the “alternate route”. Ride to St. George and get a receipt. Seriously? That’s a 600-mile round trip. This one provided an exemption for the CP requirement, but still, I’m stressed about getting 544 miles, let alone 600.
#2, which involved going east into SLC (the wrong direction) to get a signed business card from a bike shop (off the bike).
#5, the ever-popular shooting bonus, which involves going south of town (the wrong direction) and standing in line to shoot a gun (off the bike and variables beyond my control).
#12, the red-herring. Ride to Little America WY and get a gas receipt, with no exemption for the CP requirement. I didn’t enter this rally to spend my whole day on the Interstates (I-15 and I-80).

  1. Plot the remaining Boni on the computer and download routes to the GPS. There are as many opinions about the best way to do this as there are software options. I use Microsoft Streets & Trips because it’s fairly intuitive and pretty good at finding landmarks. Then I export the data to a format that Garmin’s Mapsource can use to download the data to my GPS (a trusty Garmin StreetPilot 2610 dubbed “Carmen”). I entered the 9 Boni that remained after the two previous elimination steps and found myself with a route that seemed to meet the time/mileage requirements. I further broke this down into two separate routes (“Start to CP” and “CP to Finish”) so I could accurately track my progress to the Checkpoint and ensure an early enough arrival to do my required maintenance off the clock (hydration, sustenance, fuel, sunscreen, potty, faceshield clean, etc.). I was prepared to blow off early Boni if necessary to do that.
  2. Prepare my working documents. This is the paperwork I would actually use on the road and involved three separate steps:
  • Update the map. I had already highlighted the Main Route, so I added labeled dots that corresponded to the bonus locations and color-coded values from the spreadsheet.

    Planned Route with Boni and CP marked

  • Create the cheat-sheets. Two simple lists of instructions to myself (Start-CP and CP-Finish), written with a Sharpie in large enough print to read on the fly as I was moving. Here is the 2nd list (CP-Finish).

    Cheat Sheet, CP to Finish

  • Protect and ‘bind’ the route instructions. The route instructions might as well be made of gold. They have blanks that need to be filled in for each bonus and checkpoint, and if you show up at the finish line without them, you’re toast. To avoid the risk of water damage or wind abduction, and also to simplify the process of recording the required information, I inserted each page in a plastic sheet protector, bound the pages together with tiny carabiners, and attached the bound set to my tank bag under the map flap. All I had to do to record my progress was open the Sharpie (which was also lashed to the tank bag), lift the map flap, and write the info on the sheet protector. I had already verified with the RM that I could record my information on the outside of the sheet protectors and turn them in that way.

Even with a few last-minute tweaks, I was done with all of the preparation by 11:00pm so I turned on the TV to check the weather, set both my alarm and wake-up call to 5:45am, checked Rich’s SPOT to be sure he was still moving (did I mention that he was half-way into his 3-day rally at this point?) and hit the sack.

Next up: 2011 Utah 1088, Part II: Rally Day!

Shakedown Rides: Training for a 12 Hour Rally

September 7, 2011

If you have read my earlier posts, you know that I bought a 250 Ninja that I love (Finally, a motorcycle just for me) and made some significant changes to make it more rideable (Farkles for the Ninjette). In addition, I made a crazy decision to enter a 12-hour rally, which resulted in some needed gear modifications (Body Farkles: Damn, 12 Hours is a Long Time).

For someone who rides as infrequently as I, the thought of riding for 12-hours straight is more than a little daunting. Fortunately, I had the sense to train by doing a series of shakedown rides. These were actually mini-rallies that very closely simulated the requirements I would be faced with on the actual rally. For each ride, Rich developed a list of bonus opportunities and gave me a time-frame. I went through the full exercise of reviewing the bonus list, weeding out the red herrings, routing a doable ride, and executing the plan.

I ended up doing three of these shakedown rides in the two months leading up to the event.

#1: Can I Even Do This?

Rich and I both used this ride to test our computer routing skills. We had the same bonus list and independently plotted our own routes. We would leave our home in Petaluma at the same time and meet for dinner at the Pacifico Restaurant in Calistoga 5 hours later. My route resulted in a beautiful tour of the Sonoma County coastal hills through Sebastopol and Graton, then up to the Alexander and Knights Valley wine regions, then over two sets of mountains into Lake County, and back to Calistoga. I have no idea what Rich did, but I’m pretty sure he got lost because he had been at the restaurant for over an hour by the time I got there.

Important take-aways from Shakedown Ride #1:

  • My new helmet needed some more break-in time. I developed an unpleasant jaw pain on the left side of my face. It finally subsided, but I was concerned.
  • My StreetPilot needed a sun visor (a common issue)
  • I definitely need a throttle lock
  • The changes we had made to my seat and riding position were perfect

#2: Riding in the Rain

I deliberately picked a very rainy day for the second ride. Rain is always a possibility in Utah and I needed to boost my riding confidence and test my gear. For this 3-hour ride, I went directly out to the coast (Tomales), headed south on Hwy 1 to Marin County, then came home on the freeway. I still had my bonus list to deal with, which meant managing cameras, Sharpies and paperwork in the rain.

Important take-aways from Shakedown Ride #2:

  • I needed a better plan for managing my paperwork than stuffing it into the chest pocket of my jacket. By the time I got to the first bonus question, it was a soggy unusable mess.
  • The time to put your over-gloves on is at the first hint of rain, not after your regular gloves are already soaked through.
  • My jacket and pants needed to be doused with Scotch-Guard
  • Hwy 1 sucks in the rain, not because of the wetness, but because of the mud, gravel, and eucalyptus droppings.
  • Riding in the rain isn’t as scary as it seems, as long as you stay away from the paint on the pavement (crosswalks, arrows, letters)

#3: Getting Serious About Distance

Rich had entered the Cal 24 Rally, which ended with a banquet at a hotel in San Jose. We thought it would be fun to have my final shakedown ride end there so I could join the participants for dinner. This was an 8-hour plan – first to San Francisco, then down the coast all the way to Castroville, over to 101, up 580 to Pleasanton, then back to the hotel in San Jose. This was the first ride that would require me to refuel (both the bike and my body), which adds the elements of fuel planning and time management. It was also going to entail a greater temperature variation than I had encountered before, which was going to put my riding gear to the test. It was chilly at 6am when I left home, but rose to the 80s mid-day in the valley.

Important take-aways from Shakedown Ride #3:

  • It isn’t as easy to average 45 mph when you have to stop for necessities in addition to bonus questions
  • The helmet problem identified on Ride #1 had disappeared – break-in was complete
  • The LDComfort top and tights worked as advertised – I never felt the need to add or shed any clothing
  • I survived 8 hours with a reasonable average speed, which made me pretty confident I could do 12.
  • That evening, I learned to manage the wind, as I found myself in an evil gusty cross-wind for most of the ride home.

With those three rides under my belt, my training was complete. All that was left to do was get to Utah and run the rally.

Next up: 2011 Utah 1088, Part I: Final Preparations