In college, more or less on a whim, I joined the student run ambulance. My mother was a nurse, my grandfather was a fire chief, it seamed a natural fit. Plus they had cool radios… Consequently I took an EMT class, time wise it was the equivalent of a 4 credit course (I don’t think I actually got credits for it though as it wasn’t through the school). Academically it wasn’t much of a challenge compared to the rest of my course load, but the practical testing was probably the most stressful experience of my life at the the time.
20 Years later I’ve been a volunteer member and officer in 3 departments, and worked for a commercial service in the city of Albany (best college job ever). I’ve trained to advanced life support levels, and let it lapse when I wasn’t in a position to use it anymore. Been certified as an EMT instructor, and let that lapse when having children didn’t leave me with the time to teach any more.
20 Years is just getting started compared to some of the people I’ve worked with, it’s also longer than others have been alive. At times it’s been one of the toughest things I’ve ever done, at others it’s been one of the most rewarding. Although our protocols have changed significantly in some areas, the fundamental assessment skill I learned in that first class still serve me well today.
It’s interesting to look back at how some of the small choices we make have profound impacts on our lives. Looking back on 20 years also makes me realize one other thing: I’m old.
When the alarm went off seemingly as soon as I laid down I was very tempted to turn it off and stay in bed but I forced myself to get up drink a cup of coffee and put my gear back on. I loaded up the bike, returned to the gas station and got my receipt at exactly the 3hr mark. The ride to N04 was pretty nice, as the sun came up I started to feel more awake. N04 is the Flight 93 Memorial, I was really hoping to at least get to see the memorial but the bonus was the sign on the highway so I never got close. I was tempted to at least ride through the parking lot, but at this point I was showing almost 30 minutes behind schedule and was worried about having to drop bonuses later. So I got my picture and started on the longest leg of the trip at almost 3.5hrs.
I’d been dreading this leg figuring i’d be tired and that long on the highway would be monotonous, but it turned out to be my favorite leg of the trip. The first bit on RT30 was a nice windy road with a beautiful sunrise. When I did get to the interstate is was practically deserted and I was able to make good time without being too concerned with traffic. The last stretch was through Amish county, I think I passed about 100 horse and buggy’s. Being well aware of how easily horses spook at motorcycles I did my best to pull the clutch and coast pass them, then accelerate slowly away. The Amish horses are pretty used to Vehicles but it seamed inconsiderate to not at least try.
By the time I got to N05, the last of the combo bonuses, I had made up the lost time and gained about 15 minutes. I’d even had enough time to stop for fuel and grab a snack to eat. N05 was a historical marker for the Big Elk Church. I was pretty relived to have the combo and it’s big points completed. I now only had 3 more bonuses planned and was running ahead of schedule. Unfortunately my main phone, which was my only working source of navigation, had started to to discharge. I couldn’t figure out why either. I switched to a battery pack to see if that would help, but it didn’t make a difference. I was concerned that it might be overheating in the sun.
The next stop was a covered bridge in North East, MD. The instructions required that the motorcycle be in the picture. From here it was off to a nearby light house that was worth 610 points. This location required what was described as a “leisurely 15 minute walk each way”. When I pulled up there were several other bikes already in the parking lot. I stripped of my riding gear and started walking. I passed a couple of riders on their way out including Eric Bray who had brought running shoes for the occasion and was making good time. It was pushing 90 degrees and while I wasn’t running, I was walking as fast as I could. About halfway there I was wishing I’d brought a water bottle with me. I got my picture, took advantage of the porta-potty, and headed back out, passing even more riders on the way. In total it only took me me about 20 minutes to do the round trip. As I was leaving there was a line of cars waiting for spots in the fairly small parking lot. I was pretty happy I got there before that started.
At this point it was looking like I was going to make it back to rally HQ about an hour before the cut off. I knew there were 2 more bonus not too far out of the way and thought about adding them. Unfortunately my phone was down to about 15% battery and I didn’t want to risk loosing it completely before making it back. My final bonus of the rally was a historical marker in Elicott City, MD. There were a few other riders here and one was kind enough to hold my flag for me. I unfortunately didn’t catch his name.
I got the picture, sent it in and took a few minutes to write down the route back to HQ in case my phone died. I had submitted an image earlier with the wrong bonus number on it, I realized it as soon as I did it and sent a corrected email. On the way back to the finish I started second guessing if I’d done that correctly. I stopped at a rest area to double check the rules (I had done it right), and grab a snack as I knew I was going to have the time.
The phone held out and I pulled into the rally hotel with about 45 minutes to spare. There were quite a few bikes already there which made me feel a little better about being early. I took my paperwork, flag, and rally pack and went to complete my riders log for scoring. One of the the mistakes I made at The Void last year was not knowing what my score should be going in. Consequently the scorer made a few mistakes and I didn’t catch them. I emailed the rallymaster after the fact, and he identified the errors and corrected my score (which he didn’t have to do since I’d signed off on it). I had plenty of time so I made sure to triple check everything. Coincidentally, my scorer was Salty, the rallymaster from the void. Scoring went smoothly thanks to the email submissions and I didn’t leave any points on the table.
At the banquet that night we were treated to a great barbecue dinner, a lot of good natured teasing and generally a great time. Rick, the rallymaster, read the placings starting from the bottom, number 51. When they got to the top 10 and my name still hadn’t been called I figured he must have made a mistake and skipped me. It turned out he hadn’t, I placed 7th overall. I also won the Jim Young award for having the most efficient route (pts/mile). That was way better than I’d ever expected to do given the number of IBR veterans in the rally.
The next morning I was up at 600 as usual, having kids has ruined my ability to sleep in, and I was on the road around 7. I’d planned to take I81->I87->I84 on the way home, but wasn’t paying enough attention and blindly followed Waze when it had me get off on I76. I was therefore in the middle of NJ, cruising in the left most lane with fairly heavy traffic when suddenly the revs shot up and I had no power. I made it to the shoulder without too much drama. I was already fearing the worst and trying to figure out how I was going to get the bike home.
Turned out the master link had failed and I lost the chain. There was only one pin left of the master link and half a broken plate. I’d had the chain off to grease the swing arm bearings before the trip. I reused the master link when I put it back together and maybe the spring clip failed. I should have checked it before I left in the morning but I was anxious to get home and didn’t think about it.
I considered just replacing the master link, but the holes it goes in where no longer round, and by weird coincidence I’d added a spare chain to my stash of parts before this trip. I’d had it sitting on a shelf and decided to throw it in the side case as I was getting ready.
It took me about 45 minutes to get the chain changed, part of that was because the wrench I needed to loosen the axle nut was under the seat which required removing the aux tank to get to. Thankfully the rest of the trip home was uneventful.
A huge thank you to Rick Miller and the rest of the rally staff for putting on a great event. I’m looking forward to next year. Maybe I’ll even make it through the trip without a major part of my bike falling off.
As my second ever rally longer than 24hrs, and my first rally of the season I entered the Mason Dixon 2020. The name , in part, comes from the fact that they’ve always planned on 2020 being the last year of the rally. That made this the second to last, or penultimate. This resulted in the event selling out for the first time ever. There were also a lot of REALLY experienced rider registered, including many Iron Butt Rally (IBR) veterans and hopefuls who are preparing to run this years IBR in only a few weeks. Consequently I was more than a little apprehensive about it and was not expecting to do very well at all. In The Void rally last year I’d ridden my plan and despite having a couple of significant mechanical issues still ended up with plenty of extra time. All I was really hoping for out of this rally was to schedule a bit more aggressively and see what happens.
The bonus locations were revealed on the Sunday before the rally, and I spent most of the week trying to improve on my route ideas. The bonuses included a combo bonus that required getting 5 bonuses in a particular order, with no other bonuses in between. It would take about 12 hours of the rally to do the combo. The first of these was a daylight only bonus, but the rest were anytime. Because many of the non-combo bonuses were daylight only, the best routes I could come up with picked up as many non-combo bonus early, arrived at the first combo (N01) as close to the daylight cut off (2030) as I was willing to risk.
With the plan made as best I could with out actually having the rally book, which we wouldn’t get until about an hour before the rally started, I also made a plan to pickup a handful of Tour of Honor Bonuses on my way down to West Virginia, as well as scout the mandatory JIM bonus. This bonus is mandatory every year and it’s a visit to the grave site of one of the founders of the rally, Col James Young. Finding a particular head stone can be a challenge, it’s right next to a TOH Helicopter, and it’s well known by others as it’s required every year so I decided to stop in on the way down so I’d be familiar with the layout. The cemetery is Fort Indiantown Gap National Cemetery, it’s a beautiful facility, and seeing it decked out with 100’s of flags for Memorial day weekend was quite sobering.
The first TOH stop was an auspicious start as it was in a park that was closed when I got there. I turned around in a pull off up the road and realized I could see the helicopter through a break in the trees, I took the picture but I’m not optimistic that it’ll count. At the second stop, for the first time ever I forgot to put my flag away when I left. Thankfully I keep my flag in a spot on the bike where I can see it while riding for exactly this reason. I happened to glance down a few minutes after leaving and realized it wasn’t there. I pulled over to turn around and saw it sitting between the side case and the bike. That could have been much worse and I hope to not make that mistake again.
Thankfully after that I got into the grove and things went smoother from there. I did experience a couple instances of my GPS and backup phone not charging correctly though.
Once I got to the hotel I was able to get through registration and my first ever odometer check without any issues. I spent some time playing with USB cables to try and resolve the GPS issues.
That night there was dinner (fried chicken) and a riders meeting where some of the rules were reviewed, but we didn’t receive any additional information on the bonuses themselves. Following the riders meeting there was a Novice/Rookie meeting. I was a novice having never participated in this rally before. There were a hand full of rookies who had never participated in any rally’s before and most of the discussion focused on them. Jim Owen, the only 2 time IBR winner hung around to offer advice to us plebs. While he didn’t provide us with his secret for winning, it was interesting to hear his take on things.
Following the meetings we went our separate directions to socialize, admire all the bikes in the parking lot and make any last minute route changes. Based on some of the discussions I had with more experienced riders I was feeling pretty good about my route but I did make one change that cut my margin to N01 down to 30 minutes.
The next morning we moved our bikes to the staging area and met for another riders meeting at 0500. There we received our rally packs and frantically began trying to absorb all them. There were a couple of wild card bonuses including one for taking a picture of yourself standing in a pot hole. I found out that there was another one that I completely missed, I was focused on the locations I was planning on going to, need to be more careful in the future. After a few questions, some of them even legitimate, were were released. I made it out of the parking lot at 0545, already 15 minutes ahead of schedule.
The theme for this years rally is Cold Leftovers, all of the bonus locations are apparently from previous rallies, and all of the really flags, name tags, etc are leftovers from previous years.
First stop was the JIM bonus that I’d visited the day before. Turns out I needn’t have worried as there were about 10 other riders there at the same time making it easy to find. This is a large cemetery, but it’s small compared to Arlington or many of the other national cemetery’s. It’s humbling to think about all the men in women that have died defending our country, because of them I can spend the weekend riding my motorcycle around and many of the other things we take for granted.
From there is was off to Sugar Notch, for a WWI/WWII memorial outside a fire station then, Pittston for a memorial for those lost in a mining accident. From there I kept heading north to Jermyn for a sign that says Nebraska, not really sure the significance there.
Next up was Milanville for a historical marker. This was my closest call of the rally, on this winding back road, I slowed trying to find the sign, and I started to turn off when a utility truck comes flying up behind me, it isn’t able to stop in time, but passes me on the left. It stopped, made some rude gestures, and continued on his way. That’s fair, it was obviously my fault he was driving so fast…
I passed a few big pot holes in this area and stopped to get my wild card bonus. I thought I had an adapter to put my phone on the selfie stick, but couldn’t find it so I just adjusted the phone in the RAM X-Grip so that it could see over the dash and set the timer. By some stroke of luck, it worked on the first shot.
I then crossed into NY and headed for Corbett, NY the furthest north location of this rally for another historical marker. The second NY location was the a stone with a plaque noting the birth place of the horse Hamiltonian. The rally book claimed no one had heard of him (or something to that effect), but when I asked my wife, a horse trainer, she knew exactly who he was.
Leaving the Hamiltonian site, I ran into a detour around a local festival of some sort, it brought me out on the back side of a road block where another rally rider was trying to talk his way through. I learned later he was successful. At this point I was running almost an hour ahead of schedule and feeling pretty good about adding the extra stop the day before. Unfortunately I’d also completely lost the Garmin and my backup phone. Neither would charge reliably. Thankfully my main phone was working well, the down side is that it wasn’t really setup for offline navigation as I primarily run Waze on it and use the other two devices for offline stuff. This wasn’t a problem here, but I knew I going to be in the middle of no where PA in the middle of the night and would have been happier with a backup.
I continued on to Pen Argyle for a heart shaped head stone. It looked like there was burial going on in the back of cemetery I didn’t want to disturb so I snuck in the wrong way to get my picture. It was then on to Plainsboro, NJ for a grave stone for a cow, there has to be a story there… I then headed back into PA for a picture of the Pennsbury Manor sign. I encountered an inquisitive young man here who was very interested in how my bike did on the trails, and how smooth it is. (Given that it only has one cylinder, the answer to the last one is not very). I tried to be polite while not wasting a lot of time.
Zigzagging back into NJ, the next stop was the one I added at the last minute, it was work a good number of points but would require ridding through Philadelphia on the way out, I was a little nervous about traffic issues given the holiday weekend, but it turned out to no be a problem despite one wrong turn. I got my picture of a dinosaur and headed to the next stop in Malvern, PA for a monument to a massacre of a native american tribe. There were quite a few monuments in this park, so double checking the rally book was in order. I also noticed a sign on the way in say motorcycles were prohibited, not sure why. The next stop was the first of the N-Group combo bonuses. I was running about 30 minuets ahead of my plan which meant I was a full hour before the daylight cut off.
The leg to N02 was a long one, about 2.5 hours, most of which was highway, but there was some winding back roads at the end. As I was approaching the site I could see lightning in the distance and it was starting to sprinkle. I parked under a tree and got my picture. As I’d feared there was no cell service here and I wasn’t sure where to go. I loaded the off-line navigation app I have, and entered the coordinates, but it said I was too far away from a road to be able to calculate it. I didn’t feel like messing with it so I decided to backtrack until I got service. Before doing so I topped off my tanks at the gas station across the street. I hadn’t seen one open in a while and new N03 was even more in the middle of no where and didn’t want to take chances. I back tracked only about a mile or so before I picked up service. I pulled off and let Waze figure out where I was. While I waited a couple of other riders passed by and circled back to make sure I was ok. They offered to let me follow them if I couldn’t get it working which I appreciated, but I was now back on track. All that messing around cost me though, instead of being early I was know pretty much right on my original plan and knew I was going to lose more time getting to the stop. The ride from N02 to N03 were on these narrow, twisty, back roads. They’re the kind of roads that would have been a lot of fun during the day. At night, with a lot of fog and some rain they were just slow going. The last 10 miles or so were on this really windy barely paved road. A lot of riders complained about it, but I kind of liked it, I guess having a dual sport bike helped.
I then headed for Altoona where I’d planned to take my mandatory 3 hour rest bonus. I wasn’t terribly efficient here, I grabbed a sandwich from the gas station, had to fix an issue with my aux tank mount (some of the hardware loosened up due to the lack of loc-tite), and the hotel clerk was in no hurry to get me registered, by the time I actually laid down I set the alarm for 1hr and 10 minutes.
It took the amazing scores at the Tour of Honor less than 24 hours to score my submission and award me the 1st Place trophy for New England! Unexpectedly, this put me in first place for the whole tour based on sites visited. I can pretty much guarantee this is the last time I’ll ever be in the lead. I actually managed to stay there until the following Saturday which surprised me.
It took me a few days to get the paperwork together and submitted for the SS1000, it will likely be several weeks/months before I hear back from the IBA. This is my first time submitting as a premier member so I’m not sure what to expect.
Looking back at the trip, I’m pretty happy with how it went, I generally stuck to the plan and accomplished the primary and secondary goals of getting all of the New England ToH sites, and completing the SS1000. The weather was just about perfect for the time of year, sunny skys and not a drop of rain the entire time.
The bike, despite a few issues, performed very well. The brakes is a wear issue, and the aux tank mounting is entirely my fault. I’ll inspect the caliper carefully when I do the the brakes, I kind of hope they’re sticking, because otherwise I’m at a loss to explain the low MPG. I burned a total of 42 gallons, with an average MPG of 39.
I’m going to have to redesign the aux tank mount, and I’m not sure if I’ll have time to do that before the MD2020 rally in May which is disappointing.
Part of the exhaust header fell off the bike during The Void Rally last year (long story), and this was the first real trip since replacing it. Not only is it now quieter, but the bike has had a tendency to backfire when rolling off the throttle since I got it, and that’s now gone. One step forward, 2 steps back I guess.
I spent some time with support trying to figure out what was going on with the charging on my phone, and ended up having to replace it. It looks like something died in it. It’s hard to say if that was related to the trip or just coincidence, but I’m going to take a close look at all of the related wiring.
I felt pretty good the entire ride, I didn’t feel anywhere near as tired as I had on my previous SS1000. I think adding the ToH stops helps breakup the trip, and focus me better. My heated gear performed well, I was a little chilly the first day, and added another sweatshirt for the second which helped. I did end up with a small burn on the back of my left hand, so I’ll need to be careful about how high I turn the gloves up.
The other comfort issue I has was that the cheek pads pressed on my cheeks more than I’d like, and I think I was clenching my jaw. Consequently by the end of the first day my jaw was so sore I could barely open my mouth enough to eat. I’m going to look into smaller cheek pads, or maybe just compressing the ones I have more.
One of the other apps I run on my phone logs my position, and records how much time I spend at each stop. I can press a button to set category at the time, or I can tweak it after the fact. It’s interesting to see that I spent an hour and half just getting fuel on this trip. While each stop wasn’t too long, they add up quickly. One of the debates I had with myself when I was deciding to add the auxiliary fuel tank was that although my range would be longer, each fuel stop would take longer. In part to pump more fuel, but also because I have to get off the bike to fill the aux tank, I don’t to just fill the main tank. I’m going to need to play with fueling strategies to figure out what works best.
My bonus stop times were higher than they’ve been for rallies in the past and that added a lot of time. I think there are a number of reasons for this, but it’s something I’ll need to work on.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for following along, I hope you enjoyed reading about the trip!
The snooze button is my nemesis. I’m powerless to resist it’s temptation. The alarm starting going off at 0430, but it was 0500 before I actually pried myself out of bed. Having already decided to scratch the BB1500, there was really nothing pushing me to get up, so I didn’t. Looking at the map last night I’d thought I’d be home by 1900, and didn’t feel any urgency. I would regret that a little bit later in the trip as the expected arrival time started to creep later.
I loaded up the bike and prepared to head out. The thermometer on the bike said 19. There was frost on the seat and windshield. Yay! I’d had some sporadic issues with the phones not charging the day before and had taken the time to clean up the wiring in the tank bag and make sure everything was plugged in tight. I pushed my bike away from the hotel as best I could to try and avoid waking everyone up as I knew I’d have to crank it for a while to get it start in these temps. Sure enough it was not happy about it, I couldn’t really blame it.
Once I got underway I was really feeling pretty good, I started thinking through the math again, trying to decide if it might still be possible to get the BB1500. It seamed it might be if I could maintain 65 mph on average, based on yesterday, that was not going to happen unless I gave up on the memorial sites and just stayed on the interstate. I again concluded the BB1500 was off the table, I maybe a bit stubborn.
As I got on I91 north, heading to the next site my primary phone went from 100% charged to completely dead in less than 15 minutes. This was not a good sign. I use a magnetic adapter cable when on the bike. I’ve had phones die in the past when the USB port wears out, given the number of plug/unplug cycles I go through on a trip like this the magnetic adapter is meant to spare my phone. It’s worked quite well in the past, but is prone to being bumped loose. That’s what I’d assumed happened here. I guessed that the rapid discharge rate was due to the cold. When I got the the first site of the day, I pulled out one of my battery packs that support rapid charging and plugged in a USB-C to USB-C cable. I use this setup regularly and it’s always worked well. This time nothing happened. I tried turning it on and it instantly turned off again. I tried another battery pack with the same results. I have two phones, but only the primary has data service. I set it up as a wifi hot spot for the backup phone. Without the primary phone, I lost all tracking data, my primary navigation source (Waze), and all my entertainment. Great.
I took the picture with my backup phone and stuck the primary phone in my coat to let it warm up still thinking the problem was that it was too cold. I have an app on my primary phone that keeps track of the locations, resizes, and names the pictures in accordance with the rules. It also emails the pictures, in this case to myself so I’d have a backup if something happened to the phone. Using the backup phone meant I had to do all of that manually.
I also noticed while stopped here that the luggage rack my aux tank and top case are mounted to is pretty badly cracked. I know I had it overloaded but thought it would be strong enough. This is why I’m a software engineer and not a mechanical one. I’m assuming this was the result of the massive frost heaves yesterday. Despite the cracks it still felt solid, and there wasn’t much I was going to do about it out here anyway. I deiced that I would use up the fuel in the aux tank, but not re-fill it in order to minimize the weight on the luggage rack going forward.
On the way to Rutland, I passed through Woodstock, VT. When I lived in NY we used to visit Woodstock a couple of times a year for horses shows, it was nice to see some familiar landmarks. This site is a memorial to the Korean War Veterans. The monument is located on a busy street, but there is convenient parking in an access road behind it, next to a fire station. I turned my primary phone back on, and it would boot, and run off the battery pack, but didn’t appear to be charging. I was at least able to take the pictures I needed with it. I put it back on my bike and continued on, but it still didn’t show any signs of charging.
The memorial in Westminster, VT contains the names of the locals veterans that served in WWII. This was a nice little memorial in a small Vermont town. It is located in a landscaped area that forms the center of a traffic circle. I parked the bike right near the center, and was kind of surprised that the few cars that drove by all waved at me rather than giving me rude looks/gestures. I like small towns. The phone wasn’t charging, but did allow me to take the pictures I needed. On the way here I noticed the rear brake making noise. I checked it while stopped and found that the pads were shot and I was now metal on metal. I’d checked the pads before leaving and they weren’t in bad shape. I suspect I had a caliper sticking, this would explain the increased wear and the poor fuel mileage, maybe. I’ve been planning on replacing the disc next time I did pads as it’s still the original one and pretty worn, I guess that just got bumped up the list.
When I lived in NY, we were about 20 minutes from Bennington, it was one of the closest places to go for retail stores, food, etc. I must have passed this American Legion Post 100’s of times without ever giving it much thought. It doesn’t even have a cannon. As I pulled into the parking lot here the mount I use for my backup phone broke. This mount has a 3D Printed component, and that’s what failed. It had happened on The Void last year and I JB welded it back together and didn’t think about it again. I guess it’s time to rethink how that phone is mounted.
Bennington is one of my favorite towns, it’s got this small town feel, with a quaint New England down town area. It’s also got one of my favorite dinners, the Blue Ben. This used to be a regular stop for us, and since it was about noon, I was hungry, and I wanted to try and figure out what was going on with my phone, I decided to take the time to stop in.
The food was as good as I remembered, the coffee was better. While I waited for my food, I tried a bunch of charger/cable combinations. I carry spares of every USB cable I need because I always seem to have trouble with them. I eventually figured out that I could make it charge, albeit slowly, by using a USB-C to USB-A cable. It wasn’t ideal, but at least I was able to use my phone again. I ended up stopping for about 40 minutes, which put me further behind, but was a much needed break.
Leaving Bennington, the road started looking real familiar, I quickly realized I was on the route I used to use to commute to work during the brief time I worked at General Dynamics in Pittsfield. I was working there 11 years ago when I bought this bike. It was interesting to see how much, and how little, had changed. The memorial in Lenox, MA was a little tricky as it stands on an island in the middle of a fairly busy intersection. I almost dropped my bike here because of the slope of the road, but was able to catch it in time. I was feeling pretty good at this point, temperature was in the 50s, I’d eaten, my phone was charging and while running pretty far behind schedule it looked like I’d be home before 2200.
Waterbury can be a challenge depending on time of day and traffic, I got lucky though and although there was some traffic, it was all moving and with a quick u-turn I was able to get a parking spot right in front of the memorial. CT2 is a really nice memorial to a Navy Chaplin who performed heroically following the sinking of the USS Indianapolis in WWII.
Just outside of Danbury my bike started to stumble, I reached down and switched it to reserve as I’ve done a thousand times before, only it didn’t fix the issue. I bucked along for a bit hoping fuel would flow and it would catch, it didn’t. I pulled over, to the left (I was in the passing lane at the time) having flashbacks to last falls problems. After playing with the valves for a few moments I could see fuel in the filter and it started right up. I realized that this was the first time I’ve hit the reserve since working on the bike, and it’s possible there was just trapped air or something. I continued on, but got off at the next exit to get fuel not wanting to take any chances. This resulted in a detour around Danbury airport, more delay.
CT4 is the CT American Legion Post. This maybe another example of the rallymaster playing mind games. You can see one of last years ToH memorials from the parking lot here. As I pulled in I had a brief moment of panic that I’d screwed up and put in the wrong waypoint. I checked the listing and confirmed it was correct, took my picture and was on my way.
It figures that the one place on this entire trip that I get stuck in traffic is RT15, a road I take to/from work every day. At least it wasn’t too bad all considered, I probably only lost about 10 minutes. This was also the only time my GPSs really disagreed, the Garmin was convinced the access road to the memorial was one way, and it was, but Garmin had the direction wrong. Took a minute or two to find the right site, a statue of a sailor looking off into the sea. This is listed as a 24hr site, but there is a sign there that says the road it technically closed after 10pm (or something like that), I’d be surprised if it’s enforced though.
This was the reading comprehension test. The ToH memorial is a bench dedicated to the memory of a local that was killed on September 11th, 2001. There is a much more obvious memorial with a flag poll in the parking lot. I initially pulled up to that one, but my habit of always checking the provided picture payed off and I realized my mistake, took the required picture, despite being probably the windiest site so far, and was on my way. The temperature had started to fall at this point and the electric gear was back on. In the home stretch now, off to RI where the sites are only 15 minutes from each other. I’m feeling good.
This site is a revolutionary war era cannon in front of the Hope library. Apparently the cannons for the USS Constitution were made in this town, very cool. My usual process at each stop is to fill out a paper log sheet with the odometer and time, then fill in the same information in the app I use for planning and taking pictures. I then take a picture of the odometer with the app and take the bonus picture(s). The paper copy is probably redundant, but since I wrote the app I use, I don’t entirely trust it yet (despite the fact that it hasn’t let me down). This site happened to be the last one on the page, and I turned the sheet over expecting to see 3 more RI sites and the last MA site I needed. There were only 2 RI sites left. A check of my math, followed by a check of the map showed that I’d fucked up. The first RI site along my route is actually right next to the Stonington, CT site. So close that when I put the route together in BaseCamp I must have missed it and not noticed. There was a lot of cursing.
The good news is I didn’t make that mistake in Maine. I was currently about 45 minutes from the site I skipped. Looking at the map I decided it would be shorter to continue to the end of my plan, then backtrack to the one I skipped before heading home. This ended up only adding an hour to my route.
I was pretty pissed at myself at this point, the GPS was showing me getting home about 2200, time to take a shower, have a beer and relax a bit. With the need to backtrack I was going to be later and would probably just pass out since I had to work the next day. The good news is the next 3 sites came pretty rapid fire being only about 15 minutes apart. This site is a really nice monument to the armed services veterans.
RI4 is the American Legion Post for RI, it’s not in a particularly nice part of town, and I got to park in front of the 18 wheeler delivering beer while getting my picture. I might have been getting cranky.
The end is in sight now, this was supposed to be the last site for me before I screwed up. I still felt a sense of accomplishment getting here. Parking was a bit tricky as the memorials are on the end of a park where there is no parking. I ended up making a lap of the park in order to find a spot to park where I could get a picture of the bike and still see the memorial in the back ground. This was another where you needed to be paying attention as there are several memorials in the park that look similar. The one I was looking for is an Operation Iraqi Freedom Memorial.
The route back down to Westerly was, thankfully, a straight shot down I95 and took about an hour. The GPS was now showing me getting home about 2300, a lot later than the 1900 I’d been thinking looking at the map in the hotel last night. When I made the plan, I didn’t account for stopped time which I think explains the difference. Parking is tight at this memorial, but because it was pretty late, I just parked in the driveway of the business across the street which worked out well. This was one of my favorite memorials of the trip, and not just because it was the last one. It’s a really nicely done monument to the veterans of Westerly that overlooks a park.
I had been sending all the pictures along the way to my server at home. I had a script setup to submit the pictures to the Tour of Honor, but I took a few minutes to log into my server, make sure everything was in order and tweak the wording of the email to remove the BB1500. Then with the press of a button all of my pictures were sent off to be scored, all that’s left is to get home, and hope I didn’t screw up any of the pictures.
The ride home was uneventful, and was really the only leg of the trip were I felt truly tired, if I hadn’t been almost home, I would have stopped and taken a break. I think in large part it was mental, I’d finished the primary objective and was starting to relax, which can be dangerous on a motorcycle.
I made it home at about 2315, all told I’d done 1767 miles per the GPS and 1847 by the odometer. It took 45.75 hours all told.
I set the alarm for midnight, but my fire department pager conveniently woke me up at 1150, so by midnight I was dressed and seated at the computer with a cup of coffee. At 0001 the sites were released and I got to work. The first thing I did after importing the gpx file was to copy the New England sites to a separate list in BaseCamp and change their icons to something that would stand out better. I then went down the list of sites and skimmed the descriptions looking for availability and anything else that might effect routing.
The good news: Everything is 24hr accessible
The bad news: Boston MA and Presque Isle ME.
Boston shouldn’t be too bad if I can get to it in the middle of the night, Presque Isle is out there, that’s going to be a haul.
The RI and eastern CT sites are all lined up in a nice row and initially I planned to start there and work my way around counter clockwise, however looking at the timing I was worried about cutting it too close to rush hour in Boston, and more importantly, I really wanted to be out of ME as early as possible. My pre-plan had been to save the southern states till last anyway, so I the plan was made to head to Boston first. In an effort to save time upfront, I did not add layover time at each stop (I wish BaseCamp made that easier). I’ve heard of people doing this, and making up the time enroute rather than planning for it and wanted to see how it work out. (Spoiler: not great)
It took me longer than I’d like to get all the gps/phones loaded up. I also uploaded the route plan as a track in Spotwalla so those following along would have an idea where I’m headed. By the time I got the bike loaded up and started (it doesn’t like the cold). My official start time was exactly 0130. I apologize in advance, I didn’t take many pictures other than what I needed to claim the sites.
In recognition of the American Legions 100th Birthday this year, the Tour of Honor has selected a legion post in each state to be one of the memorial sites. This one in Spencer, MA features a cannon pointing to Europe. While I appreciate the work the american Legion does, I have to admit visiting the legion posts wasn’t as interesting or inspiring to me as some of the other memorial sites. I realized on the way here that I forgot to close the arm-pit vents on my coat which made this leg a bit chillier that I’d have liked. At least that was an easy fix.
Speaking of interesting and inspiring, the Fallen Firefighter memorial in Boston is very impressive. Unfortunately, although this is a 24hr accessible site, the park itself closes at night so I couldn’t get any closer than the fence. I want to go back to this one at some point when the park is open to get a closer look. I had a brief conversation with the security guard there and explained what I was doing. He suggested I come back when they open at 7. I didn’t tell him that I was planning on being in Maine by then, he clearly already thought I might be crazy. While I couldn’t get as close as I’d like, I also had no traffic issues, or trouble parking so that part of the plan worked out well. I’ve had the motorcycle in Boston on several occasions over the years and it’s always an experience…
This is a nice simple memorial to the armed forces in Exeter, NH. I was starting to get into the rhythm here, but discovered a limitation in my gear on this leg. I have heated socks, gloves, and a jacket liner. I purchased these at the end of last year, but this is the first trip where I’m really using them. The controller I have is bluetooth. This is pretty convenient in that I don’t have to mount it on the bike somewhere, it just lives in the pocket of the liner and I plug one wire into the bike and the whole setup gets powered. There is an app that I then run on one of my phones (I run two on the bike to have access to various apps) to control the two temperature channels. The problem with this is that when I unplug it to go take a picture, I have to remember to go back into the app and turn in back on before I have heat again. While not the end of the world, it is kind of a pain when I’m stopping frequently and adds a few more seconds at each stop. I wonder if I can add a battery to keep it alive…
This is another Fallen Firefighters Memorial, It’s located down a fairly long series of driveways, pretty far off the beaten path. It’s also not in great repair. I don’t know if it’s vandalism, or just not maintained, but there are supposed to be 4 fire hydrants, one on each section of the memorial and only 1 is left, and it was looking a bit sad. I grew up in southern NH and used to go to Concord regularly for various reasons. In fact I’m pretty sure I took an EMT test in the building right next to this memorial at one point. This proved to be the start of a trip down memory lane that this trip turned into. I decided to get fuel at this point. I’d depleted the aux tank and needed to use the restroom. The aux tank was working well, and I put almost the full 4 gallons into it, which meant it was draining correctly. Unfortunately I only got about 150 miles out of it, which puts my MPG at about 37, considerably lower than expected. Historically I’ve gotten 48-50 MPG on this bike.
NH4 is a nice little memorial to the WWI veterans from North Conway. I was starting to see more snow on ground as I get further north. I also realized another issue with my winter gear. Typically on longer motorcycle trips I snack as I go. I have a “cup” attached to my tank bag so I can put dried fruit, jerky, or whatever in it and eat it as I ride. With the heavier weight winter gloves on I don’t have the dexterity to do this. I tried to sneak a few bites at each stop but I was worried about taking too much time, it was also pretty cold and I was not inclined to stand around if I didn’t have to. I was not drinking as much as I usually would either. I was hoping this didn’t turn into an issue. I’d also started to notice that I’m spending more time stopped than I usually would. I don’t know if this is because of the cold, the gear or if I’m just out of practice.
The first site in Maine is The Maine Law Enforcement Officers Memorial recognizing the 85 Maine officers who have died in the line of duty. I had some trouble getting the flag to lie flat on this, the wind was starting to pick up making it difficult. The wind proved to be a challenge throughout the day. This site is located next to the state offices in Augusta, and I got a few strange looks riding up to this one.
The first endurance rally I ever did was the 2107 Team Lyle New England, an 8 hour event entirely in Maine. One of the bonuses for that event was located right next to the Maine Vietnam memorial I was looking for here. The memorial is located in front of the Cole Transportation museum. Unfortunately the museum was closed for the season and they had a rope across the driveway so I couldn’t get the bike very close. (the ToH rules require a separate picture with the bike if I can’t get it in the picture with the memorial). If you look closely at the picture you can see the front of Huey on a pedestal. If I were smart, I could have turned a bit to my left, taken a picture of the Huey and claimed it for credit in the ToH Huey alternate ride. I’m not smart. Chalk it up to being too focused on the mission, or too cold, but to be honest I didn’t even realize the Huey was there until I started writing this up.
The memorial in Presque Isle, ME is the site of the first successful trans-Atlantic balloon launch. This is an interesting bit of history, but outside the normal Tour of Honor memorials. Personally, I think the person who chooses these has a sick sense of humor, and just wanted to make us ride to the middle of no where Maine. This after all, would be keeping with the fine tradition of Rallymasters everywhere. This was over 3 hours from the previous site and one of the longer legs of the trip. Most of it was on I95, which in that part of ME has a speed limit of 75. My poor little thumper was just about red lined trying to make those speeds. I made pretty good time, but the crosswinds were brutal, trying their best to push me off the road. I experienced some issues with my Garmin GPS on this leg, it kept shutting off. At first I thought the USB power connector had just vibrated out, I pushed it back in and all seamed well for a while. When it happened again, I pulled over to check the cigarette outlet adapter in the tank bag. Again it seamed to fix it and I continued on my way only to have it shut off again. I pulled over and found the USB connector unplugged again. I realized at this point that the GPS had shifted in the RAM X-Grip and the connector was hitting the center of the mount which was causing the cable to come unplugged. An easy fix once I found it, but a pain in the butt until I did. This happened again later in the trip too, I’ll need to see if I can find a way to prevent this (velcro?). Once I got off I95 onto RT 1 the winds were a little better, but there were several spot where snow had been blown across the road. These were easy enough to get around but made me a little nervous. Up until this point the weather had been sunny with only scattered clouds. Up here it was overcast and a I saw a few flurries. As desolate as this part of the state is I decide that when it comes time to settle Mars, we should just get a bunch of people from Maine to go, they’ll feel right at home.
I actually saw another motorcycle going the other direction on RT1, I thought initially it might be another ToH rider, and it may have been, but they didn’t look like they were setup for long distances. Hard to tell when passing quickly though. A couple of days after getting home I saw a post on Facebook about a motorcycle accident in the Presque Isle area and the picture looked like this same bike. I suspect they’re a local, I hope they’re ok.
The site description warns “Caution: gravel turnout”, what it didn’t mention was that the memorial is ~100ft from the road and there’s 2-3′ of snow on the ground. I debated whether the picture from the road would be adequate, and I suspect it would have been, but after getting all the way out there I wasn’t taking any chances. It was the fun kind of snow too, where it’s just solid enough on top where you start standing on it only to have it collapse underneath you, for every step. It took a while to get out there, but I only really fell once. I got my pictures, then it was time to get fuel and another 3+ hr leg to the next stop.
This was the American Legion post for Maine, a fairly plain looking building with the silhouette of a soldier kneeling out front. This site is also right next to one for the Team Lyle New England bonus locations and brought back a lot of memories from that trip. At this point I had gone 834 miles in 16.5hrs, and I was starting to feel the effects of the cold, and probably not eating enough. Despite that I wasn’t really tired at all, but I was starting to look forward to getting off the bike for a while. This next leg was to be the longest of the trip at about 4.5hrs, and I would be over the 1000 mile mark before I got to the next stop. I made a deal with myself that once I got to the next site, I was going to find a restaurant to warm up, get some hot food and coffee.
Wow, they sure grow frost heaves big in Maine! There were a couple times on this leg I’m pretty sure I was airborne, and I wasn’t going that fast. This leg was mostly winding back roads and it was dark again so I was being cautious about wild life and not pushing too hard.
NH3 is another American Legion post guarded by a cannon. It was also my closest wild life encounter on the trip. As I was leaving the site I was still in a small downtown type commercial area with street lights and low speeds so I wasn’t on super high alert. I looked down at the GPS to figure out where I was going, when I looked up there were 3 deer standing in the middle of the road. They were easily avoided, but it was a reminder not to let my guard down at all.
Although the plan was to stop after this site, I ended up stopping a little earlier in Gorham. The GPS said 997 miles so I knew I’d make the SS1000 without a problem, I was cold, hungry and there was a McDonald’s in front of me, so I stopped. I ended up stopping longer than I’d intended, about 40 minutes, but man was that coffee good! I also took the time while I was warming up to look at hotel options. The next site, in Barton, VT, would put me at 1083 miles, giving me a healthy margin and I should reach it about midnight. I decided that would be enough for one day and booked a room at a nearby hotel that was only 15 miles from the last site. I should have taken the time to look closer at the map in order to understand the relationship between the Barton site and the hotel.
As I was getting close I realized I was going to pass the hotel before the memorial site, I didn’t want to have to back track out of my way so I decided to just stop for the night. The next morning I realized I had to back track anyway so I probably should have stuck with the plan and picked up the Barton site before the hotel, but in the grand scheme of things it didn’t make a big difference.
I found a gas station just down the road and got my end receipt. The official end time for the SS1000 was 1201, the GPS said 1068 miles, and the odometer showed 1113. It took me 22.5 hrs. The GPS says 19hrs of that was moving time. I was pretty happy with that given the routing required by the ToH sites and the temperatures, but it was taking longer than I’d initially planned.
I checked into the hotel and opened up the laptop to take a look at the plan for the next day. According to BaseCamp, if I only stopped for 2hrs, and was able to make it’s timing, which I hadn’t up to then, I could still make the BB1500. I decided that I wasn’t up for that and opted to get about 4 hours of sleep and not try for the BB1500. It had always been a stretch goal anyway. I set the alarm for 0430 and instantly fell asleep.
Over the past couple of years, as I’ve started getting involved with the long distance riding world, I’ve read just about every ride report/blog I can find. This is the first trip I’ve done that I felt might be interesting to others, so I’ve attempted to write a ride report. This is my first time, go easy on me….
I started thinking about doing this ride towards the end of last summer for a few reasons:
Two years ago I completed an IBA SaddleSore 1000 (1000 miles in 24hrs on a motorcycle) earning membership in the Iron Butt Association. I’d hoped to do anther certified ride last year, but life got in the way and I never made it happen.
Last year I started participating in Tour Of Honor, I did enough to be considered a finisher and had a great time doing it, but my personal goal was all of the New England Sites, and once again life got in the way.
Last fall I participated in The Void Rally, a long distance endurance rally. This was my first rally of this type longer than 8 hrs. I had a blast doing it, but I had some bike issues, one of which was a vapor lock issue that occurred when the the fuel tank got below half. I rode over 1800 miles that weekend and stopped for gas 20 times. Determined not have to do that again, this winter I build an auxiliary fuel tank for the bike. I also replaced the fuel filter which, after testing and research I believe was the root cause of the problem. Before the next rally (MD2020 in May), I need to confirm the fix was successful and the tank works.
So, I want to do an IBA Certified ride, I want to complete all of the New England Sites, and I want to stress test my fuel system modifications. A plan starts to form…
The Tour of Honor (ToH) and Iron Butt Association (IBA) have special certificates if you complete ToH sites during a SS1000 or BB1500 (1500 miles in 36 hrs). Looking at last years sites, to get all of the New England region sites would be about 1600 miles and take about 32hrs (not including stopped time). Getting the ToH memorials requires more time on secondary roads that one would typically choose for a certified ride making this is pretty aggressive for the BB1500 and all sites (you really only need 8 for the certificate).
The ToH also awards trophies to the first 3 riders to complete a state/region. While a trophy isn’t going to change my life, it is an additional motivation to try for all the site. The ToH sites for the year are released on April 1st at 0001. So, here’s the plan:
Wake up at midnight on April 1st, spend about an hour planning a route and be on the road by 0100
Complete the SS1000 getting as many ToH sites as I can, with 8 being the minimum.
Find a hotel, get some sleep and re-evaluate based on how things are going. There are 3 main options at this point
– Continue to get the rest of the sites and complete the BB1500.
– Get some or all of the rest of the site but not worry about the BB1500 time constraint
– Declare victory/defeat and head directly home.
Thinking about routing leading up to April 1st here are some of my thoughts:
It’s still pretty cold in New England in April, I have heated gear, but I don’t want to push my luck. I also don’t want to be in northern VT/NH/ME at night if I can avoid it due to wild life. Therefore a primary goal for routing is going to be to get through those sections on the first day before dark.
If I’m unable to get all the sites during this ride (which is a very real possibility), it will be easier for me to get the southern ones at a later time as they’re closer to home.
Therefore my preliminary strategy is to shoot up through Massachusetts into Vermont then across New Hampshire into Maine, returning to Massachusetts, or at least the interstate before dark.
All of that of course depends on the site locations and availabilities (some maybe daylight only or time restricted), so the plan will likely get thrown out the window on April 1st at 00:01:01. At least it should be good practice for routing on the clock…
** Disclaimer, I fully recognize that this project is over kill and is more of a because I can thing than a because I should **
One of my winter projects was the construction of an auxiliary fuel tank for my motorcycle. The tank adds 4 gallons of fuel and increases my range to about 400 miles (in theory…). One of the issues I noticed when I started mounting the tank to the bike is that it overhangs the rear tail light by a fair bit. Ideally I would have preferred to shift the tank forward to decrease the overhang and reduce the cantilevering, but if I did that I wouldn’t be able to get the seat on/off.
In order to compensate for the reduced visibility of the lights, I decided to mount an led light strip to the tank itself. These are cheap (~$11 on amazon) and I had one on the previous top box mount, so there is already a connector spliced into the wiring harness for it so this was kind of a no-brainier.
It probably would have been sufficient too, but then I started thinking about the Pelican case top box that is going to mount on top of the tank. Pelican cases have this removable plate centered under the handle that’s intended to be used as a custom name plate. I started wondering if I could fabricate a light that would go in that slot and act as kind of a third light/cyclops light that are now on all cars.
I took some measurements, did some research and decided it should be possible. This is when things started to get out of control… If I can put LEDs in there, why settle for just a brake light? I could use RGB LEDs and have turn signals too. My bike was made in 1997 and doesn’t have hazards / 4-ways. Why not add that capability while I’m at it? But how am I going to connect all of this to the bike? The top box needs to be removable, and I don’t want to drill any more holes in it that I have to (It already has 12V connected to it). Well, I’ve got a bunch of WROOM32 modules left over from a previous project, they support Bluetooth…
A bit more research, some circuit design, some cad models, and a bit of 3D printing later. I have a light module that has 36 SK6812MINI RGB LEDs, and two board based on the WROOM32 that will connect to each other over Bluetooth.
Light Board and Case Renderings
The module on the bike side connects to the existing connector for the LED light strip, it also outputs a mating connector. This allows the module to monitor the light inputs form the bike, and drive the LED light strip. This allows the light strip to implement the hazard capability too. I might have added a 6-axis gyro/accelerometer (MPU-6050) to this board as well for some future upgrades (apply brake lights on deceleration from engine braking, turn the 4-ways on if the bike tips over, etc).
The module in the top box connects to the bike module and creates the necessary serial data to program the array of LEDs. These LEDs use a fairly standard interface so thankfully there were libraries available and I didn’t have to start from scratch with those as they’re fairly picky about timing. Because the place I get the circuit boards from does batches of three, I created one board that could serve both functions depending on which parts were populated in order to reduce cost.
I built the module with a digital input that I could wire a switch to for the hazard function, however I didn’t really have a good plan for where to mount the switch. It occurred to me that since I already have the Bluetooth connection, I could write an app for my phone that would connect and not only allow me to turn on the hazards, but also monitor the inputs/outputs for testing and debugging. And while I’m at it, I can add a flood (white) mode and it might as well yell at me when I leave the turn signals on for too long… (I may have a feature creep problem)
I have a Bluetooth remote mounted on my handlebar that I’ve setup to do various things on my phone (easier/safer than trying to operate the touch screen while riding) and I’ve setup one of the buttons to be the hazards, we’ll see how that works for now. I may add a real switch later.