Thursday, May 2, 2019

Rock-n-Ride 2019 - Day 2

Rock-n-Ride is a 33 hour scavenger hunt rally where participants are required to take a minimum of a 4 hour rest stop.  Riders are awarded 30 points for every minute so a 4 hour stop is worth 7,200 points.  Riders may choose to take up to a max of 6 hours at the 30 points per minute rate for a maximum rest stop point value of 10,800 points.  Any additional rest does not add to the point total.

My rest stop started with my check-in receipt at the Red Roof Inn in Tupelo, MS at 12:54 a.m.  I woke up at 6:00 a.m. to pack and get a bite to eat.  With the bike ready to go, I collected my check-out receipt precisely at 6:54 a.m. thus maximizing my rest bonus point value.

In somewhat of a stupor, I headed out to collect the 5 bonus locations in Tupelo.  The first was a small monument with a plague of Elvis, one of the "Elvis was here" series.

The second stop is rather significant, if you think about it.  At this hardware store in Tupelo, Elvis' mother had brought him to the store to buy a bicycle.  Elvis wanted a .22-caliber rifle instead.  They compromised and purchased Elvis his first guitar.  And shall we say, the rest is history.

Another significant event happened at that monument, for the first time in over 30 years, I dropped my bike.  I had pulled up to the location and backed into the parking spot.  As I usually do, I read the rally book about the bonus and document the bonus before getting off the bike.  Having done so, I went to put the bike on the sidestand and it just kept on going.  By the time I realized what was going on it was too late.  I was fortunate to provide enough resistance that the bike made a soft touch down on its left side.  I stepped off to turn and kick myself.  Good fortune, however, was going my way again as Erin and Jeff Arsenault pulled up right at that time.  Jeff helped me right the ship and a quick inspection revealed no damage.  Being a bit red faced, I snapped my picture and headed off for my next stop.

Just a few blocks away is a city park with another Elvis statue.  Sidestand down first! Read, document and snap and be on my way.

Not even a mile down the road is the Elvis birthplace park.  Two bonus locations were on the grounds of the park but on opposite ends.  First was a statue of Elvis at 13 years.  The second is a dual statue of young Elvis dreaming of becoming the star standing behind him.

Leaving Tupelo I headed to a nearby small town of Tremont to capture another historical marker.  Fortunately, the early hour allowed me to infiltrate the blocked off streets to get near the bonus.  The town was hosting a BBQ festival and it was quite tempting to call it a day and stay for some good eats.

Next up was probably my favorite bonus location of the rally, the Coon Dog Cemetery in Alabama.  Arriving from the south, Mr. Garmin attempted to run me off down a goat trail but just a short ways in I realized that this wasn't right and headed back out to the highway where I finally ran across the road sign for the Coon Dog Cemetery.  Like the sign says, only Coon Dogs are allowed to be buried here.

Back on the highway heading towards Huntsville, AL, was able to capture an easy bonus at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

I've always dreamed of visiting the US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville but have never had the opportunity.  The bonus location visit only whetted my desire to go back.  A nerd's paradise.

Also in Huntsville was another "Elvis was here" bonus at the Von Brann Center.  We had to capture this specific marquee which, of course, another festival was going on nearby.

Now it was time to turn for the barn and capture locations along the way.  Having decided to not attempt the excursion into downtown Nashville with the NFL Draft, the Marathon and some other event going on, I grabbed my only Nashville bonus as it was just outside the loop.  The RCA Studio B is famous for being the recording spot for many legends of Nashville including Elvis, Roy Orbison, Charley Pride and Dolly Parton.

North of Nashville and just across into Kentucky I was forced off onto some beautiful back roads to capture another piece of Americana, albeit a fairly new one.  It is the 2nd "Fork in the Road" that has been a bonus location during a rally.  I believe the other was in Pennsylvania.

I was fortunate that the Garmins saw fit to route me again on some back roads that made good time into the town of Bowling Green, KY.  I needed to stop at a Steak 'n Shake and purchase a Strawberry Shake for 350 bonus points.  I walked in and ordered and the hostess said that I was the second person that she had served requesting just a strawberry shake.  I explained to her and the folks waiting to be seated about the rally and that this is a special bonus to honor the late mother of our rallymaster, Lynne Carey.   After paying, I asked the hostess if she could have the staff make the shake a chocolate shake instead and they laughed and said Yes.  After not eating anything since breakfast early that morning, that shake hit my stomach like a bomb!  Back at the bike, I grabbed the receipt and took a photo of it next to my odometer like we normally do with all other receipts.  Oops.  I was supposed to take the photo of the receipt with my rally placard.  I would be initially denied the 350 points but after other riders had made appeals, everyone that made my mistake was credited with the 350 points.

My last stop was at the Corvette museum.  This is the location, across from where Corvettes are made in Bowling Green, where a sinkhole developed directly below the main floor of the museum destroying several priceless Vettes.

The ride to the finish at Barren River Lake State Park was uneventful.  I arrived with about 20 minutes to spare and gathered my documents to prepare for scoring.  I guess the rally adrenaline decided to wear off right then and my cold arrived with a vengeance.  I felt like I could hardly walk in the door.

After all was said and done, my score of 36,235 landed me solidly in 4th place for the second year in a row.  Of the Ohio starters, the 3 in front of me are the same participants that finished ahead of me in last year's Void Rally.  I've got to figure out how to break through.

No photo description available.

My route looked very similar to others.

After another awesome dinner of catfish and fix'ns it was off to bed to commiserate with my cold.  The ride back home Sunday was uneventful and allowed me to ride across some beautiful areas of southern Kentucky.

Thank you Lynne, Jesse and the rest of the staff on putting on another great rally.

Rock-n-Ride 2019 - Part 1

Just a short write up to document the rally.  Rock-n-Ride is a music themed scavenger hunt rally and this year's emphasis was on Elvis.  Like a few other rallies, RnR offers a "spider-start" where riders can depart from one of several designated locations.  This year riders could leave from Youngstown, OH or Lake City, Florida or from Bowling Green, KY.  The finish would be at Barren River Lake State Park outside of Bowling Green, KY.  The rally is 33 hours (get it 33 rpm like an album?) with a required 4-6 hour rest bonus.

On Thursday I rode up to my start location in Youngstown, OH.  Approximately 14 other bikes would be leaving from there as well.  Several participants were two-up husband/wife teams.  A group of us wandered down to the Quaker Steak for dinner and socializing.  Each of us had already made our plans for the rally so there was a lot of hemming and hawwing going on trying to get that little bit of info on what route others were going on.

In this rally there were two Elvis themed combination bonuses.  If you rode to 4 or 5 designated bonus locations, you would get an additional bonus for the combo.  One of the combo bonuses had a location in downtown Nashville, TN at the Country Music Hall of Fame.  As we are sitting at dinner, ESPN begins broadcasting scenes from downtown Nashville where the NFL Draft is being held. The feeling of "oh s#*^" was obvious around the table.  How would we be able to get past all the blocked streets to get to the bonus locations???  Needless to say, dinner was cut short as we made our way back to the hotel to replan our routes.  I decided that I would not attempt to go into downtown Nashville but I would later learn that others were successful.

With a new plan laid out and loaded into my GPS units, I get some restless sleep and get up Friday morning for our 7am start.  The START requirement called for a dated business receipt with a Youngstown, OH address.  Below are two pics of my start receipt. I originally took the photo on the left and was about to submit it but something didn't seem right.  I did a double take and noticed that the timestamp had been cut off the bottom of the receipt.  I would have been sad if I had left with that receipt photo.  I took a second photo as shown on the right and it turned out to be a good one to submit.

My plan was to head south to Pittsburgh for a big bonus but it was risky to do at rush hour.  With the rain the risk was increased but I was committed to the plan.  Fortunately I was only delayed about 10 minutes in reaching the bonus location.  The requirement here was that I needed to be in the photo which means that I need someone else to take the photo.  I carry a small tripod that can be used for this purpose but with people around it's usually not a problem to get someone to take your photo.  People are often intrigued with the idea that you're running a scavenger hunt and they enjoy being able to help out.

Next up was bonus location that I had visited before in another rally.  In downtown Wheeling, West Virginia is the Capital Theater.  It's a quick bonus to capture as it is right off the interstate where you can exit, capture and be on your way in a few minutes.

And on to the next bonus, the giant Gavel bonus located in downtown Columbus, OH outside the Ohio Supreme Court building.  I've been to this one before as well so I roughly knew where it was.  Unfortunately I miss my exit and wasted several minutes trying to get back to the bonus.  As I pulled up to the bonus I look down and notice that the power cable plugged into my phone is smoking.  Yep, I fried my phone.  The plug had melted into the powerport on the phone.  Ugh...

Fortunately, I also have an iPad as part of my rally tech kit so was able to continue to photograph and email the bonus photos in to the rally scoring staff.  GAVL was captured and I made ready to leave as Ken and Felicia Aman rolled up.  While I fiddled with my phone trying to see how bad the damage was, Ken and Felicia documented the GAVL bonus and made ready to leave.  Now Ken has a reputation for being able to move efficiently between bonus locations so it would be to my advantage if I tagged along behind.  Our obvious route was to head to Cincinnati next so I jumped into their draft position and went along for the ride.

Arriving in Cincinnati, the Amans and I pull into the parking lot of a vintage sign company where our next bonus is painted on a nearby wall.  Several other riders were at the location at the same time.  Something unusual in rallies.  As you can see in the picture, I adopted a new strategy for me that was copied from a rider that participated last year.  I made a small rally placard and taped it to my windshield.  This made it convenient to roll up on a bonus location, document the stop and snap a quick picture.  This allowed me to capture many of my bonus locations in under 2 minutes.  With the rally book also saved on my iPad, I am able to read the bonus requirements prior to arrival.  Every second counts.

At this point I split off from most of the group to ride due south of Cincinnati to capture a relatively high point value bonus located in Cynthiana, KY.  I don't what the relevance is to the town but located on the back of the local Opera House is a huge mural to the TV show The Walking Dead.  I'm glad that I got here in daylight as this would have been impossible to capture at night.

Upon leaving the beautiful countryside of northern Kentucky, it was back on the slab heading to Louisville.  There were 3 bonus locations within the city but one was downtown and being close to rush hour and being a bit behind schedule, I made the call to drop one of the three bonus locations.  First up was Bowman Field which was a simple Historical Marker.  After fighting some heavy traffic I made it across town to where Elvis' grandfather is buried to photograph the entrance to the cemetery.  I'm not sure who was shadowing who but again I ran into the Jeff and Erin Arsenault at the bonus location.

Now ahead was the longest run of the rally, a 245 mile dash to a daytime only bonus located in eastern Tennessee.  I had to pass up a number of bonus locations along the way so that I could make the daytime bonus but I planned on picking some of them up on the way back to the finish.

Just a short distance off I-40 is the Loretta Lynn Dude Ranch.  Wow, quite the spread.  Just about everything that you could ever want to do outdoors is available there.  The grounds were beautiful.  The 10 miles up and back provided a blessed change from the drone of the slab.

Apparently some other riders were bit by the Garmin Goatpath feature where the GPS attempts to route you down non-existent roads or gravel roads.  I believe this is a picture of what some riders coming in from the north were faced with.  And to make it even better, Garmin thinks this is a 55 mph road.

The diversion to Loretta Lynn's Ranch cost me a significant daytime bonus located in Jackson, TN.  The business below required to capture the front and the mural on the side with the motorcycle in the picture.  I missed the allowable window by about 20 minutes.  It's better to go ahead and claim the bonus and be denied than it is to just not claim the bonus at all.  It's ok, I'm clearly late for the daytime bonus.

Now it was time to hot foot it to Memphis for an important time restricted bonus located at the Tennessee Welcome Center located almost directly below the I-40 bridge spanning the Mississippi River.  For those that have been on that route, the big pyramid on the north side of the bridge is now a unique destination Bass Pro Shop.  The Visitor Center closes at 10 pm and my bonus was a photo of the Elvis statue inside.  Since this was required for my only combination bonus, I had to make it in time.  At 9:45 pm I shut the bike down and hustled inside to take my picture.

Now here it is, 10 pm in downtown Memphis on a Friday night and there's a party down on Beale St., right where 2 more bonus locations are at.  With some nifty alley work and sympathetic security officers, several of us were able to slip in and capture our bonus locations, another Elvis statue and the Memphis Hall of Fame sign.

After negotiating a joint visit with another Virginia based rider, Lance, we made an amazingly quick exit of downtown Memphis and headed to the Graceland mansion.  Sadly, the mansion is located in a somewhat rough part of town and even the rally book mentioned that you don't want to linger at the location after dark.  Fortunately, the street was clear and we were able to roll up to the bonus and snap the required photo of the historical marker shown below.

I finished up and was ready to depart and Lance told me to go ahead and not wait for him.  Thus off into the night heading south for a few more bonus stops before turning in for my rest bonus.  I arrived in Oxford, MS a bit after 11 pm and headed downtown only to find that Ole Miss University apparently has a spring street party every year on this weekend.  OMG, to be 22 again.  The bonus locations was an old English style phone booth located on the town square.  The requirements included that I had to be in the picture.  A quick ask if anyone would mind taking my picture had a dozen students hustling my way.  A nice young couple helped me out and got the required shot.

A quick exit from Oxford and back onto the nighttime highway made better with the new LEDrider lights.  Holy cow, they throw a lot of light. 

Slipping into Pontotoc, MS in the middle of the night had the local constabulary interested in what I was doing.  After snapping my bonus photo, an officer pulled up behind me to ask what I was doing.  I simply said, "Scavenger Hunt" and he nodded his head and drove away.

Now I could make my run into Tupelo, MS where I planned my rest stop.  I had confirmed before with the Red Roof Inn that their receipts included a suitable timestamp.  All was good and I checked in at 12:54 a.m. for a shower and some rest.  Despite running this rally with a cold, I was feeling pretty good at this point.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Wet and Wonderful West Virginia

Business travel can be a pain.  Get up early. Drive to the airport. Wait around for an hour or so. Cram into a small seat inside a tube. Deal with the person in front of you leaning back into your space. Deal with the person behind you kicking your seat when you try to lean back a bit. Baggage Claim, say no more.  Faced with this scenario I requested and was given the OK to ride the motorcycle from Virginia to St Louis, MO for an upcoming software conference.  Since I would already be halfway across the country my plans were to drop down to north Texas after the conference to visit my folks.  Then it would be an easy 1200 mile day back to Virginia on Sunday.

So to make the ride a bit more interesting I decided that I would capture the West Virginia Tour of Honor stops and get a Saddle Sore 1000 (SS1000-1000 miles in 24 hours) in the process.  In planning the route to capture the seven locations, it was coming out just over 700 miles so I needed to add some distance.  In looking at Ohio next door, it looked like I could grab 5 of the 7 Ohio bonus locations fairly easily and get my mileage up to over 1000 for the day.

Heading out on Saturday morning at 4:00 am, I stopped by the local McDonalds to get my start receipt and a couple of McGriddles.  The sandwiches fit into my jacket front pockets and can be eaten while moving.  The girl at the drive through confided that they don't get many motorcycles at that time of the morning.  Heading out of Fredericksburg I have to take US-17 northbound through some back country but fortunately its a four lane divided road which allows for a bit more viewing space for pre-dawn critters. As I crossed the border I was reminded of a recent article naming West Virginia as the state where motorcyclists were most likely to have a deer strike.  Fortunately, the critters must have already retreated as dawn broke across the West Virginia mountains.

First bonus location was WV5 located at the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center.  Seneca Rocks are a line of rock formations that were uplifted into a vertical layer.  Quite dramatic looking.  I've seen a similar line of rock formation in Stonewall, CO.  This bonus was restricted to daylight only so arriving just after dawn allowed for quick entry and exit. Two pictures were required.

I've traveled this area of West Virginia many times and wished that I could have stayed a while longer.

Next up was a run up to Fairmont, WV to the memorial park there.  This park has been a source for several years worth of bonus locations.  Fortunately, it is right off the Interstate and easy to get to.  This particular bonus shot is worth a couple of points. First is the WV2 bonus but this year there are also bonus for pictures of real UH-1 (Huey) helicopters.  This one in particular actually did fly in Vietnam and was included here in the memorial gardens.

Turning south I followed pretty much the same path run during two earlier rallies this year.  US-19 provides a more direct north-south traverse of the state than the Interstates and my next bonus was located in the small town of Summerville.  As luck would have it, Summerville was hosting its 50th Annual Potato Festival and my bonus location was right in the middle of it. After circling around town a few times I finally located a back way where I could approach the bonus. Since we need to have our motorcycle in the picture, this stop required 2 shots.

Continuing down to Beckley I picked up the WV Turnpike as I headed further south to the town of Princeton.  The WV4 bonus is located on the West Virginia Welcome Center grounds just off the Interstate.  After claiming the bonus, it was time for some lunch. In a rally situation I wouldn't consider a sit down lunch but I knew that I had some extra time to complete the SS1000 so I pulled into the Wendy's nearby.  OMG, this had to be the slowest Wendy's in the world.  It took over 20 minutes to get my "fast food". Grrr.

Turning back north it was back on the WV Turnpike for a dash to Barboursville which is in the far west side of WV near Huntington.  My next two bonuses were daylight only locations so I needed to beat the sunset.  Fortunately, the WV Turnpike between Berkley and Charleston might as well be a public race track as drivers, cars and trucks alike, put the pedal to the metal and roll through on the curvy, mountainous path.

Arriving in Barboursville in the late afternoon, I made my way out to the city park where the bonus was located.  The park was magnificent.  I was truly impressed by how nice it was laid out on the banks of the river.  The bonus itself, WV1, was located next to a small lake and is probably the most touching of all the designs.  I understand that it is one of a series that are being installed across the nation.  It reminds us of what is important in our country and drives home the sacrifice that our military members and their families make to keep us free.  The empty outline is for the service members that make the ultimate sacrifice.  God bless them.

The next West Virginia bonus is nearby in Point Pleasant, however, a small diversion into Ohio will allow me to capture an available bonus.  So across the Ohio River I go and make my way a little further west to South Webster, OH, to location the OH6 bonus.  By now I had finally moved into the rain that would plague me the rest of the ride.

 Now on some back roads of southern Ohio, I was getting a bit concerned about the slower pace.  Heading towards Point Pleasant I passed by the corporate home of Bob Evans of sausage and breakfast restaurant fame. There's a bit of history between my family and Bob Evans Foods.  In 1987, Bob Evans acquired Texas-based Owens Country Sausage which was founded by my great uncle Clifford Owens.  So I get a smile when I roll through nearby knowing that there's still a bit of Owens in the Bob Evans company.

Arriving back in West Virginia at Point Pleasant a notion that was building all day long was reinforced in spades, West Virginia will build a bridge.  If you have a 20 ft wide creek, West Virginia will build an 800 ft long span 100 ft in the sky to cross it.  My goodness, there are a lot of big bridges in that state.  Sandwiched between a couple of big bridges is the Battle of Point Pleasant Monument (WV3).  It's a wonder that it is still standing given that it is on the river side of the massive levee wall just to the right in the photo.

My last West Virginia bonus was just north of Parkersburg but to get there it was better to go back across one of the massive bridges spanning the Ohio River and continue north through Ohio.

At the Williamstown Welcome Center is a memorial to Fallen Highway Workers and is the WV7 bonus.  This completed my tour of West Virginia but I still needed a couple of hundred miles to complete my SS1000.  Under the Tour of Honor rules, if you capture 4 of the bonus locations within a state while on a SS1000 run, it counts as a Tour of Honor SS1000 and you get a special certificate. If you capture all 7 bonus locations, then you qualify for the Tour of Honor Extreme SS1000.  Over the years that I've been doing the Tour of Honor, I believe that this will be my 13th or 14th Extreme.

Reentering Ohio at Marietta I made my way to Lowell as the sun is starting to set.  Arriving at the bonus I noticed a small yellow rock on the monument.  I don't know the whole story behind it but apparently some veteran riders have been leaving small, yellow numbered rocks at the locations that they visit as an additional honor to those who had fallen.  You can see the rock at the base of the 'V' just below the winged artwork.

The rain was picking up as I looked over my route to the next bonus located north of me.  I needed to get back to Interstate 77.  The two Garmins said to take Cat Creek Rd so I followed the magenta line.  When will I ever learn.  It was 7 miles back to the interstate and I watched as the counter steadily reduced its value.  Not 3 miles in the pavement disappears and I'm on wet hard packed gravel.  Garmin got me again. The next 3.5 miles were done at about 15 mph as the wet surface had just enough mud on top to make it interesting.  I believe that if I didn't have the car tire on the back of the Trophy that I would have never made it out.  It was dark by the time I reached pavement again and made my way to the on ramp of the interstate.  This about drained all my energy that I had counted on to finish the run.  However, getting back up on the highway allowed the stress to fade despite the increasing rain.

In a good way I'm glad that the Garmins saw fit to route me up I-77 to I-70 eastbound as I needed to pick up a bonus on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border town of Bellaire.  Now pitch black outside in a driving rain storm, I took the exit for Bellaire and proceeded to head towards downtown.  Little did I know at the time the Garmins had done me in again.  If the Garmin GPS doesn't have a speed limit in their database for the road, it assumes that it is 55 mph.  This often results in a route that it calculates as faster but it is not even remotely the optimal route.  In this case, I could have traveled 2 miles further down the interstate to the next exit and traveled on main thoroughfares to my stop.  But Noooo, Garmin sends me in the back door of the town where a treacherous set of switchbacks drop you down into the river basin.  It would be bad enough in the daytime.  And dry.  But now in the dark and driving rain, it was a nightmare.  Fortunately, I made it to the downtown park and snapped my photo of the OH6 bonus.

Now a bit wiser I followed the overview map provided by Copilot GPS on my iPad to quickly get me back out to I-70 where I would head back west.  The rain was coming down pretty hard and it was forcing me to keep my speed down a bit.  This was going to take longer than I wanted.  Now back to I-77 I took a quick exit and proceeded into downtown Cambridge for my next bonus, OH2.  This one was not very well lighted so apologies for the fuzzy picture.

One more stop to finish up for the night.  Heading back out to I-70 I made for Columbus, OH where I would turn north on I-71 to make my way to Sunbury for the OH7 bonus.  Arriving around midnight at the bonus location, I'm met with the job dropping visual of hundreds of lighted crosses in a field representing the fallen in the War on Terrorism.  As I approach the memorial to capture my photo, I notice a person with a rifle paying honor and respect to those that had fallen by marching to and fro in the same manner done in Washington, DC at the Tomb of the Unknowns.  I just had to stop, place my hand my hand over my heart, and shed a tear to the beauty and dedication of this man's effort to honor the fallen.  It's pouring buckets at this time. It's cold.  And he is taking his time in the middle of the night to honor and protect this memorial.  Thank you, sir.

By now I have my 1000 miles under my belt but I need to stage for tomorrow's ride so I make plans to overnight a bit further north. Booking on I located a Country Inn & Suites in Mansfield for the right price and make the reservation.  Needing a finish receipt, I headed out to a gas station to get the receipt and stop the clock.  Final tally,  1053 miles in 20 hrs and 40 minutes.  Pitifully slow by rally standards but I certainly did not ride this at rally pace given the really poor weather conditions.

 Here's the final route:

To wrap up I searched my Garmin for the Country Inn & Suites in Mansfield and it popped right up.  So course laid in I made my way up the road.  Pulling in to the hotel, it has a nice veranda to shield me from the pouring rain so I park and start taking off my rain gear so as to not drip all over the lobby.  I make my way in to check in and the hostess can't find my reservation.  I confirmed that I was in the Country Inn & Suites and she said yes. I asked if there was another one nearby and she said no, not that she was aware of.  Tired, wet and not in a good mood I asked for a room anyway.

Little did I know, and her as well, Country Inn had just purchased a Quality Inn one exit further down the road and this was the one was looking at.  Long story short, I paid for 2 rooms that night.  I collapsed in bed about 1:30 am.

 I had planned on getting up and being ready to rock by 6am the next morning.  I was going to continue up to I-80 and capture the final two Ohio bonus locations before making my way to St Louis, MO for my conference.  This would be about an 850 mile day.  Waking up to the sound of rain hitting the window brought the immediate reply of "f*k it" and I rolled back over in the bed.  Getting up at 8am I had breakfast and got loaded up for the straight 460 mile run to St Louis.  It was still raining but fortunately it stopped about 50 miles west of Columbus.

Arriving in St Louis I ended up with a bit over 1500 miles for the two days (just outside of a BB claim).  The plans for riding down to Texas for a few days and another SS1000 back to Virginia were squashed by work recalling me back to deal with Hurricane Florence.  So Wednesday was the 850 mile run back home with just a smattering of rain along the way.  Turned out the hurricane was a non-event for us in central Virginia.