First up was the Roan Mountain bonus (RON) located at the Carvers Gap turn out located on the TN/NC border. The Gap is at 5512 ft so this was going to be highest climb of the rally. On the way I encountered the only respite of rain during the entire week. Nice to have the windshield cleaned a bit. Turning off of US19E onto TN143, the area was what I dream about for retirement. Moderate valleys surrounded by mountains, bliss. I must have been lost in my thoughts of retirement as I blindly made a turn that the Garmins had indicated. Horse farms and pastures lined the road as I made my way up the mountain. The little magenta lines squiggling their way forward as the roadways became narrower and narrower. I'm snapped out of my dreamland as I ride up to a near vertical gravel goat path and stop. I look down at the Garmins and they insist that I continue straight ahead up the near sheer wall in front of me. Damn. I pull out the rally book and it says the bonus is on NC261/TN143 at the border. Key phrase "on NC261/TN143". Why did I not stay on the highway? The blue line shows the Garmin route through the valley as it thinks all the roads are 55 mph. The red line is the highway route which is signed at 40 mph so Garmin thinks the blue line is the fastest. So my wasted 10 minutes of daydreaming up the valley. Another 10 to get back to the highway. And another 10 to get back up to the previous point. Yeah, that was a 30+ minute time suck. It is my understanding that a lot of riders got bit by this bonus, including the most dominant rider in our sport.
A short distance away was the Wilson Creek National Wild and Scenic River bonus. The ride in to the Visitors Center included a trek up a 3 mile hard packed but potholed gravel road (Garmin thinks it is a 55 mph road, btw). The river gorge was certainly beautiful and I could have stayed right there for the rest of the day. As I was having to keep my speed down on the way in and again on the way out, I lost another 20+ minutes as compared to what Garmin expected. Making the checkpoint by midnight was looking more and more less likely.
The next bonus was probably less than 3 miles away as the crow flies but required a 15 miles trek down, over and back up to reach it, again along a slow gravel road. The Collettsville Cup House, aka The Mug House, is just one of those Americana things you just have to see to believe. It is a small house and a camper sitting beside it with all of the exterior surfaces (excluding the roof) covered in coffee mugs. Even the low split rail fence surrounding the property is covered in mugs. Our requirement here caused a lot of riders to be sad. When we registered at the beginning of the rally the previous Friday, we were handed a swag bag that included shirts, stickers and a coffee mug. After countless questions and evasions, the Rallymasters relented and said that we would not need our swag bag contents on Leg 1. This prompted a lot of riders to leave their bags at the rally hotel storage only to learn that on Leg 2, this bonus would require the mug to be in the photo. Many didn't find this out until they were sitting here in front of the house with their mugs in Lexington, KY. Luckily I had brought my bag with me including my mug. The mug had to be intact and also presented at scoring.
So now that I've ventured up my 3rd significant time suck of the rally, I'm running nearly 2 hours behind schedule. It's time to turn for the barn and pick up bonuses along the way. I'm starting to feel the tug of going straight to the finish but resist and continue collecting bonus points. Next up is the Buffalo Mountain (BUF) bonus up on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Floyd, VA. I'm somewhat familiar with the area as one of our favorite winery stops, Chateau Morrisette, is nearby.
It was about a 3 hour run to the bonus. With the temperatures rising again, it was nice to get up on the ridgeline for a while and enjoy the cooler temps. This was another question/answer bonus asking about what activity was done on the mountain for more than 50 years.
Just a few miles up the BRP at Tuggle Gap is a small inn, restaurant and gas station (very expensive I might add). I needed some gas so I decided while stopped I would go ahead and grab a burger. Lots of motorcycles stop here so service was a bit slow which cost me more time than I had wanted but the nourishment was welcomed.
The next bonus was at the Booker T Washington National Monument up near Smith Mountain Lake. I had passed it a few times on other rides so I sort of knew the general direction. My better judgement said to get off the BRP on SH8 east to connect with SH40 north. Buuutttt, the Garmins said go north on the BRP. I did as the magenta line said and watched the clock tick away. I finally made the call to exit near Ferrum down a county road and that was another major time suck. I even caught up with a State Police Trooper trying to make his way hastily down the mountain as well. Tick. Tick. Tick. Frustrating. The country roads making my way up to the lake were somewhat crowded and it just seemed like everything was conspiring to slow me down. Grrrr.... Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, I pulled up to the BTW bonus and captured it.
Heading out for the Appomattox bonus, it just didn't feel like I was going in the right direction. I stopped and checked my iPad and yes this was the right way. Pulling into the outskirts of Roanoke, VA, I turned east on US460. This is weird. I know Appomattox is another 60 miles east of here but is there something here associated with it? Pulling off the road and following the magenta line through a single lane RR underpass, dodging rock hauling trucks, I finally pull up to a gated gravel road right where the gps marker is located. Hmmm...doesn't seem like the right place. I pull out the rally book and punch the printed coordinates into the iPad and, sure enough, it comes up in the right place 60 miles to the east of me. I was about to call the Rallymasters when I checked the electronic files and noticed that the coordinates were not the same as those printed in the rally book. Since I knew that I was not going to waste 3 hours to bounce over for the APP bonus, I didn't bother calling the Rallymasters. Another chunk of time suck added.
A bit miffed I turn my attention to heading west back into West Virginia. The Garmins had me heading out to I-81 and heading south to Blacksburg. Being a Friday afternoon, I-81 was packed with semis going about their way. Thankful to exit off on US460 I make my way through some beautiful landscapes over into West By God Virginia. I arrive in Talcott mid-afternoon as some sort of town carnival/festival is about to kick off. The band is warming up. Booths are just wrapping their set up. And here goes a funky smelling fat bumblebee trotting across the grounds over to the bonus location. As I approach 2 other riders are there taking a water break. I highly recommend taking a few minutes to read about the legend of John Henry (Wiki John Henry Folkore). I chat for a few minutes, take my photo and start my trek back across the grounds to where I was forced to park. By now I definitely have that meat-on-a-stick look going as a local firefighter walks up and checks on me, offers me some water, and invites me into their cool tent. I thank him for the water but decline the stay as I need to get going. I have a time restricted bonus to capture and it's getting late.
Heading for the Hawk's Nest Tunnel Disaster (HWK) bonus, I finall overrule the Garmins as I know the route that they are suggesting will absolutely wear me out with the twisties. I hop on I-64 to Beckley before turning north on US19. I arrive at HWK as the sun is touching the horizon. A short trek down the path is the interpretive marker that is the bonus. This area overlooks the New River Gorge and is so inviting to just spend a while but, alas, I need to move on.
Getting back to the bike a quick check of the Garmins reveal about a 3.5 hour (218 miles) ride back to the finish. Satisfied with what I accomplished, I made the call to head straight for the barn. With the pressure off of collecting bonus, I enjoyed the 40 or so mile riverside ride on US60 before joining back up on the I-64 slab heading to Lexington. As darkness set in the traffic thinned out, the temps lowered, and I could really relax and reflect over the course of the rally. Remembering that this was a learning experience and that is the takeaway that I need to focus on. Mistakes were made but learning from them was the most important thing.
I've ridden through Huntington, WV several times at night heading westbound. It is truly a spectacular site when you pass through a small gap in the mountains at the Kentucky border and are dazzled by the lights coming from the large Marathon Oil Refinery complex across the river. It's beautiful in its own way.
Watching the Garmins count down as I neared the finish, it was satisfying to take the exit and pull up behind a couple who were finishing their ride as well. Pulling into the parking lot I spot Karen waiting for me and it brings tears to my eyes. I've accomplished my #1 goal of the rally, making it back to her.
I park the bike in our reserved area and take a deep breath. I've done it. Not the way that I had envisioned but I was done with my first major multi-day rally. That was satisfying. The Dezl GPS tells the tale of the tape. 4765 total miles with 2061 on the second leg. That would have 2704 on the first leg. My Trophy's ODO reads somewhat slow so my official mileage is lower at 4707 miles.
|Fat Boy Done Rollin'|
Of the planned 4161 points for today, I settled for collecting only 2562. That's OK. I have my Lessons Learned to be satisfied with.
Final Scoring and Wrap-up continued...