Monday, June 18, 2018

Mason Dixon 20/20 2018 - Day 2

Is This a Winner?

The alarm sounded at 3:45 am and I awoke surprisingly fresh.  I think my adrenaline was on overdrive already.  We were required to have a rest stop of at least 3 hours so with a start of 1:06 am I needed to be at the gas pump at 4:06 am.  The receipt printed out with 4:10am which was close enough. After documenting, I set off for the first of my combo string of the morning.

For this rally the RallyBubba set up a string of 7 bonus locations, that when claimed in sequential order, would allow you to also claim an additional Male Actor bonus worth 5,306 points.  The string were sites the John Wilkes Booth made his escape from D.C. after the assassination of President Lincoln.  Bonus JWB1 was located near Fords Theater and the last bonus JWB7 was located just a few miles in Virginia near the town of Port Royal.  So since this was a combo string I planned to capture them in reverse order, 7 to 1.  

JWB7 is a Roadside Historical Marker (RHM) on US 301. The barn where Booth was surrounded and killed now sits on Fort AP Hill property so the RHM is as close as you can get.  An interesting little tidbit about the route planning to get to this location. The shortest route to go from the end of my Rest bonus to the bonus location was to take US17 east from Fredericksburg to Port Royal and then turn south on US301.  Unfortunately, all of the route planning software programs think that the first turn around to get to the northbound side of US301 is nearly 9 miles further south for an 18 mile round trip.  Since I travel that route a few times a year, I knew that there was a public turn around lane just a hundred yards south of the RHM.  This was key to planning this combo.

Timing was also key to this string as my planned 2nd stop, JWB6, was designated as a 'Daylight Only' bonus which, for the purposes of this rally, was defined as the period between 5:30 am and 8:30 pm.

I arrived at the JWB6 bonus about 5:35 am and snapped my photo of the Cedar Point Wildlife Management Area map before having to backtrack a short way for the JWB5 bonus.
I had a client located in southern Maryland for several years so I was somewhat familiar with the area which really helped in making good time.  The countryside is quite beautiful as it is a mixture of forest, farms and wetlands.  The just rising sun make for pretty streams of light as it filtered through the trees along the route. JWB5 was a RHM just a short distance off of US301.
Heading back north again I had to make a loop through some additional Maryland suburban countryside.  Subdivisions interspersed with farms made for a quiet morning ride.  JWB4 was a more modern version of a RHM.

Dr. Samual Mudd lives in infamy for patching up Booth's broken leg as he fled from DC. The Doctor was part of the original group the planned the assassination.  Convicted to life in prison, he was pardoned by President Jackson for his work in saving lives during a southern Florida Yellow Fever outbreak.  This RHM was designated JWB3.
JWB2 was located at the Mary Surratt house in Clinton, MD.  There were several other RHMs present at this location so the mantra of 'read the rally book' is vital to a successful score.
The final location in the JWB bonus string was located in the heart of DC around the corner from Fords Theater.  Thinking that the Theater would be the bonus location, I had made several inquiries with the RallyBubba prior to the rally as to whether the bonus location coordinates were wrong.  Craftily, the RallyBubba knew that the bonus location sign was not on Google Maps Streetview.  After some more research I finally figured out that Booth had escaped out the back of the Theater and taken a still existing alley way out to F Street where a horse was waiting for him.

Of note is the actual photo of the marker.  The same image is not on both sides of the marker.  I had looked at the rally book and saw the image of the large building on the left in the photo.  Then I stepped off the bike to snap the photo of the other side.  Luckily, I caught myself and stepped around and took the correct photo.  I don't know if it was important to this rally but in some others, taking the picture of the wrong side of a sign can mean denial of the bonus.  Attention to detail is critical.

So having completed the JWB combination string in sequential order I recorded my Actor Male bonus AM03 worth 5,306 points.  That critical Male Actor allowed me to finish another big bonus point value Project.

Now I needed to pick up a few more resources to complete my other Projects.  I needed a Female Actress and none of my choices to capture it were optimal.  I was running low on production revenues so I chose to head to AF13 as she would only cost me $6 million.  The problem was I had to transition a lot of DC urban streets and the combination of stop signs, 6 way traffic lights and such made for a major time suck.  Plus arriving at the bonus location did not reveal where the bonus was at.  Needless to say I spotted a depression in the ground and thought "Surely not" but, lo and behold, the bonus location was a subterranean plaque near a storm drain. (Edit: another participant pointed out that this is not a storm drain but rather a natural spring location which is the namesake for Silver Spring, MD.) 

I had some juicy options in the Baltimore area but after being accosted by street thugs there a number of years ago while riding through, I avoid Baltimore at all cost.  Just not going to take that chance.

So bypassing Baltimore I made a spirited run up to Reading, PA to capture my last Director bonus (DI09) at the local airport.  They were getting ready to have an airshow later that afternoon so this tugged at my heart strings telling me to stay for a while.  

My production company reserves were almost depleted so I was forced to head to the nearby revenue bonus (RE3) location in Port Clinton, PA.  I had been there last year to visit the Triumph/BMW dealer where the IBR winner Jim Owen and runner-up Bob Lilly were giving a presentation.  The task here was to stop at the local sweet shop and purchase a bag of roasted peanuts and bring them back to rally HQ.  With the purchase complete and $10 million stuffed into the production company coffers, it was off to complete the rally.

Of a somber note, the only mandatory bonus location in the whole rally is to visit the gravesite of Col. James Young in the Ft. Indiantown National Cemetery. On Memorial Day weekend, it is truly humbling to turn into the main entrance and behold the tens of thousands of American flags lining the roadway.  It is just incredible. I wish with all my heart that everyone that I know could visit here one time in their lives on Memorial Day weekend.  Col Young was an early Rallymaster of the Mason Dixon 20/20.  Sadly in 2001 while riding in a rally in Colorado, Jim was on a back country gravel road in the mountains and somehow left the roadway.  His body was found a week later.  The visit to his gravesite each year is a tribute to his service and memory.

After visiting Col Young, there was another minor point bonus location (LO01) within the National Cemetery that I just so happened to need to complete a Project.  Being Memorial Day weekend, it was difficult to get to and the guard on duty wasn't too keen on us using the cemetery as a bonus location.  Obviously he didn't know the history of Col Young and why we visit.  Thankfully after a 5 minute lecture he allowed me to pull my bike up in the parking lot to snap the picture that I needed.

Now it was time to seriously boogie back to the host hotel and the finish line before the 2pm deadline.  Get there at 2:00:01 and you are DNF'd (Did Not Finish).  A glance at my GPS let me know that I could snag one more bonus location for additional insurance on my Projects, and the additional points that it provided.  The location (LO23) was a covered bridge located on the grounds of Messiah College just south of Harrisburg, PA.  Being Memorial Day weekend, the Interstate traffic was heavy but fortunately moving.  A couple of other riders were bagging the last minute bonus as well.  This one required that quick check of the rally book as it required that your motorcycle be in the picture.

With the bonus collection portion of the rally complete now it was time to turn for the barn and make haste to the finish line.  After a quick splash and dash for some fuel, I hopped onto I-81 and hustled to the finish.  Arriving with about 20 minutes to spare, it was a relief to be done.

Per rally rules, we had to be in line and ready for scoring by 3pm sharp.  So I grabbed my rally pack, bonus sheet, and laptop and made my way to the banquet room to prep my bonus submission. After going over the numbers I realized that I had successfully achieved a really competitive score.  The excitement began to grow that I might have actually won this thing.

This is what I submitted.  The P03, P06 and P09 represent the combination 'Projects' that I completed.  The AM03 bonus represents the completion of the JWB combo string.  Boom.  This was a winner for sure.

Note: This contains post rally edits where I flipped the order of the JWB bonus. The correct order completed in the rally is the reverse of those listed.

Little did I know how disappointed I was to be in less than an hour.

The first indication that things were not going to go well was when I overheard someone asking if anyone in line had completed the JWB string.  I confessed that I had.  They asked how I did it with the requirement to do them in sequential order.  I replied that I did, 7 to 1.  They said that the initial 'Cover Sheet' sent out a week before the rally stated that the order must be 1 to 7.  Oh crap.

From the Cover Sheet document:

To claim AM03, you must obtain JWB1 to JWB7 in that exact order without exception.

At this point I am beginning to get sad and desperate.  Surely I didn't mess up that bad.

I went in to scoring and sure enough, there on the scorer's screen was the note 'Did not complete in correct order.'  Now I'm really sad.  I had several discussions with the lead scorer Eric Bray and the RallyBubba Rick Miller regarding how the rally book description was written.  We settled on credit for AM03 but no credit for the project.  I'm good with that.  A second 5th place finish is wonderful to me.

All that attention to detail mentioned throughout this story, and I missed a critical piece right off the bat before the rally even started.  Oh well, I have two more tries to get it right in the MD20/20.

Thanks for hanging through this report.  Thanks to Rick Miller for a wonderful puzzle and a well run rally.  Thanks to all the support staff who assisted with scoring, registration, food, etc.  Without you, the rally is not possible.  Thanks to the staff at the Comfort Inn Martinsburg for being such gracious hosts.  Lastly, thanks to my wonderful wife, Karen, for supporting me and letting me indulge myself in this endeavor.  

Footnote:  When I got home I went straight to my computer and figured out that I could have completed the JWB bonus string in the correct order and finished with a slightly higher score than what I had thought.  Lesson learned.

Here is the revised plan post rally showing that the capture of the AM03 bonus in the correct order was possible but would have had to been a perfect run.  Remember the JWB7 bonus ride time is longer due to the routing shortcoming of Basecamp and Google Maps. LO23 would have been an optional capture if time had allowed.  Total score with this plan would have been 77,421.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Mason Dixon 20/20 2018 - Day 1

The Penultimate Penultimate...

The Mason Dixon 20/20 Scavenger Hunt Rally, started in 2000, has grown to be the premier 32-hour rally on the east coast.  Held over the Memorial Day weekend, it is positioned to be the warm up rally for the major multi-day events held mid-summer.  Participants gather to measure themselves against the competition and to see the latest farkling ideas on the market. [Farkling - adding devices and/or other modifications to a rally bike to enhance the competitiveness and safety of the participant.)  The Mason Dixon is unique among other 32-hour rallies in that the start and finish locations are the same place rather than the scatter starts of some other rallies.  All riders participate on a level playing field.

The 2018 edition of the Mason Dixon 20/20 rally is the rally before the next to the last rally hence the title of this story.  The final edition of the MD 20/20 will be held in, er, 2020.  Participants in the 2018 and 2019 editions will have dibs on available slots for the final 2020 edition. As in previous editions, the major carrot at the end of the road is the highly coveted automatic draw entry for the winner into the upcoming 11-day Iron Butt Rally.

The 2017 running of the MD 20/20 was my rookie year and I was very happy to have scored a 5th place finish.  Much of that was due to the now infamous '207W' bonus that bit approximately 50% of the field.  It was a part of a combination string bonus where if you got all the components in the proper order you would be awarded a ton of additional points.  Most of the components consisted of roadside historical markers (RHM), however, one bonus location was on a granite monolith that was about 20 ft away from an RHM.  Riders incorrectly assumed that the RHM was the bonus location and they ended up being very sad.

Based on my success in 2017, I was really looking forward to the 2018 edition. Coming off a disappointing showing in the recent Rock-n-Ride rally the month before, I knew that I needed to step up my game if I were to prepare myself for the upcoming Bull Lite IX 6-day rally in July. So the MD 20/20 prep became an obsession.  As per standard procedure, the bonus information was released by the Rallymaster (aka RallyBubba) the Sunday prior to the start.  Practically every waking moment outside of the rally funding work activities was spent in planning and replanning the MD route. Fortunately, there is a lot of chatter available for this rally via a dedicated forum and participants were active in asking questions regarding the bonus locations and the requirements spelled out in rally documents (we will return to this point later).

The theme of the 2018 edition was Directionally Challanged. Each participant was required to come up with a 'Production Company' name as all the bonus locations were necessary resources to making a TV Show or Movie.  Resources included Male Actors, Female Actresses, Directors, Locations, Music, and Situations. The pariticipant's job was to contract as many resources as possible within the allotted time frame.  Of course, resources cost money so each Production Company started with a $125 million dollar budget that could be spent on contracting resources.  The Production Company was required to remain solvent at all times so there were 4 'revenue' bonus locations that added to the reserves.  Big bonus points could also be gained by obtaining resources to complete 'Projects' such as a Documentary, TV Show, or one of several pre-designated movies such as the Wizard of Oz, etc.  The really big bonus Project, the movie Wedding Singer, required riders to be at a specific location in North Carolina at precisely 5:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.

My anxiety level was off the chart leading up to this rally as I thought that I had come up with a super competitive ride plan.  I was going to be able to complete 4 Projects including the big Wedding Singer project. As I arrived at the host hotel (Comfort Inn in Martinsburg, WV) on Friday afternoon, only a few riders had arrived.  Following check-in we were required to ride a predefined loop to calibrate our odometers.  Mine reads about 1.5% slow so that is factored in to my final reported mileage after the rally.  Little did I know then, some confusion on recording my odometer/tripmeter numbers would cause some drama after the rally.

Friday night we sat down to a pre-rally dinner (who knew that Walmart fried chicken is really that good!) and swap stories with other riders.  Looking around the room there were a lot of 'Big Dawgs' in the crowd including 2-time IBR winner Jim Owen and Butt Lite runner-up Kirsten Talkin-Spaulding. With the knowledge that nearly 1/3 of the participants were previous IBR finishers made my anxiety level rise even further.  "Was my plan really that good?" I kept asking myself.

After a surprisingly good night's sleep, I woke up at 3:45am to shower and get my stuff together. We could begin to 'stage' our bikes for the start at 4:45am and have breakfast at 5am (thank you Comfort Inn staff for so graciously serving breakfast early for us).  The mandatory riders meeting started precisely at 5:15am.  At that time RallyBubba Rick Miller and staff handed out the sealed rally packs with instructions to not open them yet.  After everyone had received their packs, we were allowed to open them and begin asking questions.  We were warned that everything in the envelope, including the envelope, had to be turned back in at the end of the rally.  When questions were answered, we were turned loose about 5:40am.

Like everyone else, I gathered up my rally pack and made haste out to the bike to get started.  My plan was fairly ambitious so I didn't have time to waste.  Storing away my rally pack, I went through my routine, insert ear plugs, connect to and turn on my headset, put phone in the cradle and plug in, put on my LD Comfort dorag, put helmet on, put....jacket...where the hell is my jacket? Crap.  Fat Boy don't sprint anymore so I made my best approximation heading back into the hotel, down the stairs, to the banquet room to my seat where my jacket is hanging onto the back of. #^$&#($%&#$ as I had back up the stairs and out to the bike.  By this time most of the field has already departed.  I lost another 10 minutes of time.  Hopefully this would be my one big mistake of the whole rally. Sadly, it wasn't.

Blasting off to the north up I-81 and transitioning to I-70W I picked up the Penn Turnpike for a few miles before heading north again on I-99 where I started a rural transition to my first bonus location. The weather was absolutely perfect and the morning ride through the Pennsylvania countryside was pure bliss. The first bonus was in the town of Windber, PA and was a RHM for John Weismuller (aka Tarzan). I had fortunately discovered the week before that the RHM was about 100 yards away across the bridge from where the rally data GPS location said that it was.  

After a quick snap and recordation, I moved less than a mile down the same street to a second bonus location for Alan Freed who coined the phrase Rock n Roll. Whereas the previous bonus was for a Male Actor, this was a Music bonus.
Continuing my ride to my most northern bonus location of the day, I captured another Male Actor bonus near Jonestown, PA which was the site of the tragic flood of 1889 when a dam burst just upstream from this location.
Turning back south on US 219, some thin mountain fog shrouded the roadway making for a comfortable and peaceful run down to the site of the Quecreek Mine disaster. The monument to the miners who perished was the bonus location. Just as I finished up another rider pulled up which got me thinking how many others were following this same route.
After rejoining the Penn Turnpike westbound my next stop was outside Perryopolis (kinda rolls off the tonque right?) southeast of Pittsburgh. This one is memorable as the ride out to the location led to a single lane tunnel that opened out onto a long single lane bridge over the, get ready for it, Youghiogheny River. A really long train caught me shortly after crossing the bridge and caused a 10 minute delay.

I was making good time and staying largely on schedule.  The weather was just wonderful and traffic was light given the holiday weekend.  I made my way down to Charleroi, PA for a Female Actress bonus before making my way south into West Virginia via the Mon-Fayette Toll Road (PA-43).

The next bonus was in downtown Morgantown, WV which, based on prior experience attending some football games, I knew was going to be a big time suck. All three GPS units agreed on a convoluted route up and down and around, left and right until I ended up in downtown.  The bonus was a statue of Morgantown native Don Knotts (aka Barney Fife).  As I normally do, a quick check of the rally book included instructions that I had to be in the photo along with my rally flag.  A passing WVU student gladly snapped my photo and I resumed my odyssey of trying to get out of downtown Morgantown.

Time was ticking away as I kept a watchful eye on my expected time of arrival for the 5:30 pm bonus.  Now began the sprint down through West Virginia to capture a few more bonus locations and arrive on time.

Just a short distance away in Fairmont was a bonus location tagged to count as a Female Actress, in this case Fairmont native Mary Lou Retton.

Jumping back on US-19 South, I made surprisingly good time heading towards Beckley.  As is the norm when I ride through West Virginia, the good weather turned to crap and I hit heavy rain for the next 3 hours.  I'm talking buckets.  The kind that you can't see more than 50 ft ahead. Ugh.  Slogging onto I-77 South, I really appreciated the protection afforded by the Triumph Trophy. At highway speed only my toes and the top of my helmet were in the elements.  Of course, that all ended as I left the Interstate to jog over to Mt. Airy (aka Mayberry) for a picture at the statue of Andy Griffith and a young Ron Howard. Not surprisingly, there were several other riders at this bonus location as it was a coveted Directors bonus. It, too, required me to be in the photo and a local who was enthralled with all the motorcycles was happy to stand in the pouring rain to take our pictures.

Several of us departed together to continue south out of Mt. Airy on US601.  The pouring rain continued for the 50ish miles to the next bonus.  Thankfully as we approached the location the storm cell had finally moved east of us.  I took my snapshot of the historical marker and caught up with some paperwork that I had avoided during the rain. My bonus location stops are still taking just a bit longer than what I would like but I think they are as good as they are going to get. An experienced LD rider, Troy Martin, advised me to always read the rally book BEFORE you snag a bonus. You will be much happier if you do (see paragraph about the 207W bonus above).

Seeing the ETA on the GPS still in the positive I went ahead and made one more stop at the desperately needed revenue bonus. Our task was to go inside a JR Cigar store and purchase a cigar costing $2 or more and bring it back unscathed to the rally HQ.  The RallyBubba had plans for all of those cigars. This stop added a muchly needed $25 million dollars to my production company's coffers.  I wouldn't be hitting another revenue bonus location until late in the rally tomorrow so this one was a blessing.

Finally I was on the road to the nearby big point bonus location on Lake Norman, NC.  Groups of other riders were all converging on this location so a steady stream of bikes filed through the upscale neighborhood surrounding Trump National Golf Club Charlotte.  As we arrived at the designated coordinates we happened up a lakeside wedding in progress.  It turns out a couple of LD riders were getting hitched and had consented to have their wedding as a big point bonus location.  Our task was to assemble precisely at 5:30pm and have a group picture taken with the bride and groom. If you got there at 5:31pm you were SOL.

It was a lot of fun and we were all laughing hard, particularly the official wedding photographer when the 1-2-3 was given and everyone shouted, "Cheesedick!".  Needless to say we had to shoot the pic several times.

I had planned on this bonus to take about 30 minutes so I was elated when we were turned loose about 5:40. I really needed the extra cushion as my schedule for reaching my rest bonus was going to push my schedule tomorrow to the point of being razor thin.

All 3 GPS units were giving me 3 different routes so I fell in behind 2 other riders as they looked like they knew where they were going.  We skirted along the northside of Charlotte on the beltway before trekking out away from the city on NC-49.  Our destination was the Pisgah Covered Bridge.  One other rider and I squeezed out ahead of the pack chasing us as we got closer to the bonus.  Turning off onto a small county road I was in the lead when we rounded a corner just as a local farmer turned his tractor to parallel the roadway while he was spreading manure in his field.  Neither one of us had time to react and were met full force with a covering of dry manure dust.  While recording the bonus Jim Owen pulled up next to me and I swear he wrinkled his nose before taking off.

So finally I get to turn back north and start working my way back towards home where I had planned to take my rest bonus.  Hitting I-74 to Greensboro where I picked up US29.  I was running low on fuel but hoping to make it to Danville, VA as their gas prices are ridiculously low, usually about .30 cheaper than anywhere else.  I rolled in to the station showing 8 miles on the range to empty indicator.

Soon after leaving Danville darkness rolled in prior to reaching Lynchburg.  The next bonus was on the west side of town and there just wasn't an easy way to get there. After slicing through several back streets (some under construction and others in places that I was uncomfortable) I reached the bonus location where 2 other riders were also.  Thankfully they informed me that the sign that we were to take a picture of was missing and that instructions had been passed down to take a picture of the sign hanger along with the street sign nearby.  Simple enough but Lynchburg is always a time suck.

Since I still was ahead of schedule I went turned east and rode out on US460 to Appomattox, VA to snap a much need Music bonus.  The real downside to this was that it put me on some serious rural county roads where deer are thicker than fleas.  We're not talking overgrown jackrabbit Texas deer but full size make your life miserable deer.  And yes they were everywhere but thankfully not the roadway.

I forgot to add this in the original post.  For the second time this year, I ran up on a driver's license checkpoint in the middle of BF Virginia during a rally.  Two deputies had staked out an intersection and were very interested in why I was riding through deer infested roads at this time of the night.  I just said I'm trying to get home and after about 10 minutes they let me go. This is getting really annoying.

Finally reaching Charlottesville I was able to capture 2 Actress Female bonus locations that were close together.

The second bonus was located at the home where famed artist Georgia O'Keeffe lived during her residency at the University of Virginia.

Thankfully I've travelled many times from Charlottesville to Fredericksburg and know the fastest route.  None of the GPS units will ever plan that route so I was able to shave another 10 minutes off the ETA.  Rest bonus started shortly after 1am and I made the short 1 mile run to the house for a quick shower (to get all the manure off me) and to collapse in my own bed.

Status after Day 1:

Day 2 continued...