2019 – The Void 14 – Part 2

Cutting 3 hours off my rest bonus made up for the lost time and had me getting to the finish with 30 minutes to spare. This sounds like a lot, but unlike other rallys, in the Void, the clock doesn’t stop until you submit your paperwork for scoring. I’m still new enough at this that I don’t have a good feel for how much I’d need so 30 minutes was about as tight as I wanted to cut it. (rumor has it the wining rider pulled into the parking lot with 3 minutes left to get his paperwork submitted).

I left the rest stop after 3:01 and was feeling pretty good (a fair bit of Coffee at Denny’s certainly helped.) The morning was pretty uneventful with only a few deer sightings. I made it to Baltimore, staying on schedule, picking up 3 bonuses and 2 fast food bonus. Unfortunately it turned out the I-895 tunnel was closed for construction forcing me to take I95, which cost me 30 minutes.

The next bonus was out in Annapolis, which is this cool little town that’s clearly been around longer than cars have. It reminded me of the pirate towns you see in movies, but a little more reputable, it would probably be a cool place to wander around for a few hours. This being a rally I stopped for about 3 minutes. and dodged through a possibly closed road on the way out.

From there I followed the Washington beltway around to the north before heading to the Taste of New Orleans Smokehouse. The plan called for a Fast Food bonus next at a near by Chipotle. As I’m getting close I see lots of people milling about and children carrying instruments. I quickly realize that there is either a parade just ending, or about to start. I’ve never heard of a Columbus day parade, my birthday was the day before so maybe it was for that? Traffic was still moving if a bit heavy, and I pulled into a very full shopping plaza with the Chipotle in it. A Maryland State trooper generously offered to let me park on a concrete slab that wasn’t really a spot. I explained to him that I just needed the picture and I think he was confused but let me do what I needed to do and I was on my way.

The route to the next bonus took me into the outskirts of DC, another first for me, it turns out there are some really interesting twisty parkways in the area, I’d like to go back and explore some more at some point. After getting the Metro diner it was once again time to make a decision. If I stuck with the plan the GPS was showing me getting to the finish 3 minutes late, and not leaving time for scoring. If I headed straight for the barn I would get there 1.5 hours early, which was disappointing. Based on my luck with traffic so far I made the decision to make this my last stop and head for the finish. Dropping the 9,840 point bonus hurt a little.

I felt a little better when I hit more traffic on the way back to Fredricksburg losing another 30 minutes. I still arrived over an hour early and was one of the first bikes back. I’d really tried to plan an aggressive route this time, and was pretty bummed I couldn’t execute it. This did give me the chance to triple check my rider log, where I caught one minor error.

Scoring went smoothly despite a couple of technical issues (hazard of being early I guess). Other than the light house issue I didn’t lose any other points.

The banquet was a blast as expected, hosted by Rallymaster/Comedian Scott. The food was good and it was fun listening to everyone’s stories. I was fortunate to sit at the same table as some of the top riders and it was reassuring to hear that their routes were fairly similar to mine, with the critical difference that they either skipped NYC or managed to hit it and Long Island at night when traffic wasn’t an issue.

Last year, of the PA starters I finished 9th overall, this year I was 6th overall, however they separated the 2-up teams into a separate class leaving me third out of 22 riders. Given my mistakes I was very happy with that. It stung a little that if I hadn’t messed up the light house I would have had 2nd, but that’s the way these things go.

On the 8 hour ride home the next day I spent a lot of time thinking over some of the conversations I’d had at the banquet. A few of these centered on the deficiencies in BaseCamp, the routing software most of us use. It’s main downfall is that it doesn’t have any concept of points, it’s a general tool and not specific to rally riding. As a result of this not only do we jump through hoops with spreadsheets to get the bonus data into the appropriate format but we also group the bonuses into categories (low, medium, high, etc) based on someone arbitrary tiers. There was some discussion on how this may artificially bias a rider between two bonuses that are only a few points apart in reality. I started thinking that a color gradient/heat map might be a better solution. BaseCamp also has no ability to use historical traffic data (which would have been really useful this time) and makes comparing routes a pain. By the time I got home I’d roughly flushed out in my head what I thought a rally specific tool might look like. And I have been looking for an excuse to learn C# better…  we’ll see where this ends up.

2019 – The Void 14 – Part 1

This was my second time doing the Void rally and based on how things had gone on the previous two rallies my primary goal this time around was to not have anything major fall off the bike.

The theme of the rally this year was food, with most of the bonuses being diners or other food related establishments. About a week before the rally, as is typical, we received the bonus locations, but not details via email. I spent the next few days studying the locations and trying to come up with a route I liked. Unlike last year, there wasn’t an obvious best route right out of the gate. There were a high concentration of low to mid point bonuses in the NY City/Long Island area, and more spread out bonuses west and south. The highest theoretical route I could come up with was to sweep Long Island, take the ferry over to CT and come back that way. I wasn’t terribly thrilled about dealing with that traffic and would prefer to ride someplace new though. There was also forecast to be a massive storm system coming through and high probability of the ferry being canceled. Going west you could get close points wise, but were bumping up against the millage cap (1700 miles). Knowing my bike won’t make time on the highway the way some of the bigger bikes will, I felt I’d be at a disadvantage going that way.

I was still mulling over the options on Tuesday night when we received the full rally pack, which changed everything. The rally book it self was pretty typical with only 2 combo bonuses. What we also received though was details on the “blue plate special”. The blue plate special had two parts, chain restaurants and fast food restaurants. These were essentially wild card bonuses in that there were no fixed locations. We were provided a list of possible restaurants for each category with the restrictions that each restaurant could only be used once, and there must be at least 2 regular bonuses between each blue plate special bonus. A chain restaurant bonus was worth 75% of the value of the previous regular bonus. The value of a fast food bonus incremented exponentially, so the first one was only worth 50 points, but by the time you got to 10 it was 1,943 points, and if you could get to 20 it would be a massive 112,085 points.

Some quick calculations convinced me that the way to win this was to get as many fast food bonuses as possible. In order to do that, it was necessary to get as many regular bonuses as possible. Due to the huge value of the fast food bonuses, the individual bonus points values were almost irrelevant. I had a little bit of luck in that when I arrived at work on Wednesday, the power was out for the whole building and the power company was forecasting many hours to get it fixed. My employer sent us all home giving me almost a whole day to work on my route. I settled on a route that went up into CT before returning through NYC, Long Island, down the Jersey Shore, through Baltimore and DC before ending up at the finish in Fredricksburg, VA. I was shooting for 14 Fast food bonuses. This route had the advantage of avoiding the ferry, it turns out that this was probably wise as I know of 2 people that did it, the first had their bike fall over enroute, and the second was technically canceled, but managed to talk their way on anyway.

Thursday was a travel day and I hit a number of TOH memorials on the way down to the start in Bethlehem, PA. To get warmed up for the rally. The trip was pretty uneventful. I had one instance of the ongoing vapor-lock problem and decided to play it safe and only run 100 miles on the main tank, which gave me a total range of about 250 miles. Not the range I wanted, but it worked, I didn’t have any further issues on this trip. I had dinner that night with a number of the PA starters and had a good time reconnecting with people I’ve met in the past and meeting some new friends. After diner I returned to my room to try and get some sleep and finish my preparation. I remembered as I was falling asleep that I still needed to send in my route deceleration (worth a few points) and got that done.

The next morning I headed to a Wawa that I’d scouted ahead of time, and at the appointed hour grabbed my start receipt and texted a picture of it to the Rallymaster and receiving the “K” response I was on my way.

It turns out, on my way wasn’t very far as I’d chosen this Wawa specifically because it had Long John Silver next door, netting me my first Fast Food bonus. (Fast Food bonuses had to have the entire bike in the picture)

From there it was a bit over an hour to the Empire Diner in NJ (EDNJ), on the way I was passed by Steve Gallant and his wife Char. Steve finished 3rd, as a rookie, in the IBR earlier this year. This gave me some hope that my decision to go east wasn’t completely crazy. I didn’t see them again until scoring where they beat me by over 10,000 points. There was some morning traffic on I287 and I was running about 30 minutes behind schedule. I knew traffic in New York was going to be unpredictable and I told myself that I wasn’t going to worry about timing until I got off of Long Island. This became a kind of mantra as the day went on.

From EDNJ, I headed into CT via I87 and picking up the Merritt Parkway. I grabbed 3 regular bonuses and 2 Fast Food Bonuses in CT and NY before heading into Manhattan for another Empire Diner. I’d debated the wisdom of going after this one, but in the end decided to go for it.

I had a minor panic at the Empire Diner in Manhattan, after the stress of getting there, and finding a place to park (in front of a hydrant), I couldn’t get the bike positioned right to make the side stand work (this has been a frequent problem since adding the aux tank, I many need to consider shortening it, or upgrading the rear shock). I ended up popping the front wheel onto the sidewalk, so now that I’m stressed, and very questionably parked, I look down at my notes to see what I’m supposed to take a picture and read: “take a picture of the front of the Diner so you can see the red “Diner” on the front of the building”, easy enough. Except I can’t find any red at all, it’s all black. After wasting a bunch of time looking around and re-checking my notes I decided that it must be an error in the rally book and take a picture of the black signage. As I’m getting back on my bike and getting ready to head out I realized my mistake. The next stop is the Empire Diner on Long Island, and I’d been reading the instructions for that one instead. The correct instructions were “Take a picture of the diner so you can see the word “Empire” in the picture. There are several angles of the diner that will afford you this opportunity.” I was good to go, but had wasted a bunch of time.

Getting in and out was pretty straight forward, easier than I’d feared, but traffic was far worse than anticipated. In retrospect going for it was a mistake as it cost me almost 2 hours. I’m happy to be able to say I rode the bike into Manhattan, but I think once is probably more than enough in one life time.

The ride up the north side of Long Island was pretty uneventful I picked up 4 more regular bonuses and 2 more Fast food bonuses. By the time I started heading out to Montauk Light House it was about 1800 and I was feeling pretty glum about my prospects, I hadn’t lost any more time, but I hadn’t made any up either. I knew I was going to have to make some changes to my planned route, in addition it was getting colder, it was very windy, and I was starting to feel a little bit of evening fatigue coming on. I was shocked by the amount of traffic this far east, and knowing that it was a holiday weekend (sort of) I had serious concerns about how much traffic I would encounter on the way back. As a result of this, as well as very strong winds, I was not in the best frame of mind when I got out to the Light House.

The wind was strong enough that I had to put the bike on the center stand to keep it from being blown off the side stand. The requirement for this bonus was to have the light house and the historical marker sign in the picture. There is a sign in front of the light house that I couldn’t make out due to it being just past sunset, I made the incorrect assumption that this was the required sign, and hoped the picture would be good enough. I did look around to see if there were any other signs that met the requirements but didn’t see any. As I found out at the scoring table, this was not the correct sign, the correct one was only a few feet away, but in my hurry to get out of the wind I missed it. This is officially the first time I’ve lost points for taking a bad picture, I’m sure it wont be the last.

Not knowing about by mistake I headed out, now heading west on Long Island, feeling good about heading in the right direction and the last 3 Bonuses, and 2 Fast Food locations on the Island went by quickly and without incident. The traffic I’d feared didn’t materialize and I was getting a second wind as I made a final fuel stop in NY (I hate getting fuel in NJ).

I almost lost this one at the scoring table as the sign is hard to read.

Once in NJ I was repeating part of my route from last years Void hitting several points on the Jersey shore. This was fairly uneventful until I got to long beach. The storm that had gone through the last few days had resulted in some flooded out areas. There were some “puddles” about 6 inches deep completely blocking the road in spots. Going slowly I made it through these areas, but I’m not sure the bike will ever be the same. I’d hoped this might be freshwater rain, but the next time I used the hydration system my hope faded, definitely salt water. On my way back out through the puddles I passed another rally rider, the first I’d seen in quite a while. At the next stop, the Oyster Creek Restaurant, the rider caught up to me as I was trying to figure out the instructions to take a picture of a “Oyster Creek Inn”. The other rider turned out to be Steve Giffin, who’d won this year’s MD2020, and is always a top finisher, once again giving me hope I wasn’t completely off the mark. We decided that the instructions must be in error and I headed out to my rest stop.

This was decision time, I was still over 2 hours behind schedule. I’d also planned pretty aggressively counting on making up some time, which wasn’t happening. The rally requires a 3 hour rest stop, and awards additional points for each additional minute up to 6 hours total. I’d originally planned on taking the full 6 hours, but the 1800 points I would lose would be well worth it to pick up the 9840 points I’d get for the final planned fast food stop, so the rest bonus got cut to 3 hours. I knew I wanted to do some replanning and paper work so I decided rather than getting a hotel I’d just spend the time in a Denny’s.

I filled out my riders log and took another look at the plan for the rest of the rally. I’d planned on hitting the bonus on the southernmost end of the Jersey Shore, but looking at the map again I realized the I could add a bonus on the other side of the finish instead. I also remembered that to get to the one in NJ you had to go over a toll bridge that only took cash, which is just a pain. This would give me more flexibility in dropping it as the last bonus if needed without effecting the mileage or timing. Of course this simple change meant replanning all of the remaining fast food stops too. Oh well…

 

Continue to Part 2

2019 – Tipsy Goat Rally

Two years ago the 8 Hour Team Lyle New England rally was my first ever endurance rally. Last year I participated in it again as a warm up for my first longer rally, The Void. Unfortunately the event wasn’t held this year, and that got me looking for other options to fill the gap between the MD2020 and Void rally. Jonathan Hammy Tan runs a series of experimental rally’s each year and this year he was planning one for the weekend of September 21 and 22. This was shockingly free on my calendar and the timing was right to serve as a warm up for The Void while still providing me time to fix stuff if something went wrong.

The theme for this years rally was “Tipsy Goat” and riders were awarded one point for each Brewery, Winery, Distillery, etc that they visited. There were 2 versions of the rally, a local edition and an online edition. The local riders could start from anywhere but had to meet at a restaurant in PA at the appointed time. The online edition could start and end anywhere and could take place during any 8 hour block of time during that weekend. I chose to do the online edition because I was worried about being able to fit the extra transit time required in to my schedule.

I’d originally planned on an early start on the Sunday but due to a change in my wife’s plans I ended up doing the ride on Saturday. I almost had to scrub entirely due to some last minute work issues, but it thankfully worked out.

The plan was to get the food art bonus (5 points) first using that receipt as the start receipt as well. The route start location was dictated by the location of a friends house who has goats. I found a nearby Dunkins, bought a couple of donuts and made some “art”. The observant may notice a rookie mistakes with this picture. The time on my camera is wrong. I’d opted to use an old school camera rather than my phone so I wouldn’t have to keep unmounting the phone and switching apps due to the high frequency of bonuses I expected. I had actually remembered to check the time on it the night before, but must have not set it correctly. Due to the nature of this rally, this wasn’t an issue, but on bigger rallies it would cost me points.

After grabbing the food art bonus and start odometer, I headed off to the first stop, a near by brewery. For whatever reason they didn’t have their name on the building, so I took a picture of the sign at the drive way with the building in the background. The rules stated no roadside signs, but I’m hoping this is acceptable. This actually happened several more times, apparently breweries/wineries don’t like signs on their buildings? From there It was off to the all important goat bonus. This was worth 10 points, and required all of the rider, and mascot, to be visible (i.e. no selfies). I’d brought a small tripod with me, but was having some issues with the animals running away from me when I walked to the fence. Thankfully, the daughter of the family was home and offered to take the picture for me.

I took this opportunity to take off my sweatshirt as it was warming up faster than expected. From this point on I didn’t get off the bike until I hit the 30 Mile Brewing, after getting my end receipt, almost 8 hours later.

Overall things went pretty smooth. There were about 6 locations that were on my route that I either couldn’t find, they’d clearly gone out of business (and taken down the signs), or weren’t clearly marked. This was disappointing and I guess I should have spent more time scouting with google maps/street view. I did stick to the planned timeline (with a budgeted 2 minutes per stop) and the bike had no issues other than one instance of the fuel line vapor locking. I’ve been trying to fix that issue for almost a year now so it wasn’t a big surprise. I would have preferred it hadn’t happened on the I95 bridge over the Quinnipiac river in New Haven though.

When time was running out, I grabbed an end receipt and continued to the next brewery on this list, 30 Mile Brewing. This time rather than taking a picture I purchased 2 growlers and proceeded home to write up my log sheet and have a beer. I ended up with 42 locations for a total of 57 points, not as many as I’d wanted but over all a good shake down run and I had a blast, now I wan’t to go back to each of these and sample their product. That may take longer than 8 hours though.

 

 

Results: In the final tally I was awarded 55 points (I’m not sure where I lost 2 points, but I’d guess it’s the 2 that weren’t obviously distillery or breweries.). That was good enough for 2nd place. First was and impressive 20 pts ahead which makes me feel better about the 6 locations I couldn’t find as they wouldn’t have affected the out come.

 

2019 – TOH New England – SS1000 – Addendum

It took longer than expected, in part due to a clerical error, but the IBA certified my TOH Extreme SS1000. Coincidentally I received the 1st place New England TOH trophy within a week of the certificate. I had a great time doing this ride, and while it’s unlikely I’m going to try and repeat it, I’m defiantly looking forward to my next certificate ride and have already started looking at options for a Bun Burner Gold (1500 miles in 24hrs).

2019 DirtDaze

I’ve owned a dual sport/adventure bike for over 11 years and excepting a few dirt/gravel roads I’ve never had it off pavement. Largely that is because I don’t know how to ride off road. At various points in the past I’ve tried to find a dirt school, only to find the options too far away, too expensive, or the timing just didn’t work with my schedule. When a fellow New England rider at the MD2020 mention that he and his wife were going to be attending the Touratech Dirtdaze Rally in VT this year, and taking an off road class in the process I was intrigued. A little bit of research showed that they’re offering two different class, a 3-hour introductory, and a 4-hour intermediate class on 4 different days for a reasonable price. Google shows it being 3 hrs and 175 miles from home, making it practically in my back yard.

My wife had a horse show on Sunday, and in an effort to not use any more vacation time, I signed up for the Saturday morning introductory class and Friday night camping. My plan was to head up after work on Friday however about 6 weeks before the event they called and informed me that in order to camp Friday night I would need to purchase a day pass for an additional $20. Not needing that much encouragement, I decided that meant I should take a vacation day on Friday and make a day of it. I also decided that going the way google suggested was boring and put together a route to pick up 9 TOH locations on the way. I specifically wanted to hit the Gold Star Memorials in Concord NH, and Montpelier VT. The purpose of the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument is to honor Gold Star Families, preserve the memory of the fallen, and stand as a stark reminder that Freedom is not free. These are new to the TOH this year and are of particular interest to me as I lost a cousin in Iraq and witnessed the devastating effect this had on his family.

Friday morning I’d planned to leave at about 0500, which would get me to DirtDaze around 1200. Due to a late night EMS call, and general lack of anything but a self imposed time table I snoozed the alarm a few extra times and didn’t end up leaving until after 0600. Having never been to this event before (turns out it’s actually it’s first year in this format) I was concerned about getting there too late and decided to drop the eastern most part of my plan that would have taken me through Manchester, NH and up into Concord, NH. The new route hit 5 TOH sites, including one Gold Star Family memorial and got me to DirtDaze just after noon. In retrospect, the event was smaller than I’d imagined and I would have had plenty of time to do the full route, oh well.

 

My meager camp site

As I mentioned the the event itself was smaller than I expected, they’d been advertising for weeks that it was sold out so I was expecting it to be pretty crowded. That turned out to not be the case, it was definitely busy, but not overly so which was a pleasant surprise (I generally don’t like crowds). I was able to get registered right away and despite the schedule showing camping check in not starting until 1600, I was able to do that right away too. The camp sites were in a field, that clearly hadn’t been mowed recently. They had it partitioned into 20’x30′ sections. Certainly not the best camp ground I’ve ever stayed at, but not the worst either. The spots were functional if not exciting and got the job done.

Once settled in, I wandered the expo area which was pretty sparse. I was disappointed that the title sponsor, Touratech didn’t have a booth at all. This is particularly perplexing since they apparently “uninvited” Mosko Moto about 6 weeks before the event. I have a couple of bags from Mosko Moto and really like them, they have a new line of apparel that I was really hoping to see in person. I guess Touratech doesn’t like direct competition. If a little company like Mosko Moto has Touratech scared, they must be doing something right, I can’t think of a much better endorsement. There was one vendor, with a 10’x20′ booth selling mostly Klim gear. I did try on a few things for sizing, but didn’t buy anything, even with a 10% show discount it was too rich for my wallet. The highlight of the expo area was the demo rides from 4 manufactures; KTM, Honda, Triumph, and Beta. I considered riding a few of them, but the reality is based on the type of riding I’m currently doing, none of these bikes would be on the short list if I were contemplating a new bike. I decided to avoid temptation, and possible liability, and didn’t ride any of them.

Obstacle Course

I spent some time watching the Intermediate class train on the obstacle course. They were doing some obstacle crossing exercises and hill climb type stuff. Watching them, I was glad I’d decided to do the intro course as it didn’t look stuff I was quite ready for. After the class ended they opened the course up to the public and it was interesting to see the variety of bikes attempting stuff. There was everything from a grom, that did shockingly well to a big GS bike with an Iron Butt Rally backer plate, didn’t take too much work to figure out who that must be. After watching that for a while I went and made dinner. There were meals available at the lodge, but when I’d registered I was under the impression you’d be able to purchase them on site, but it turned out to get the hot meal you had to pre-order. I decide to just have some dehydrated meals from Mountain House which where decent enough. From talking to some people that bought the meals, it didn’t sound like I missed much. After dinner I headed up to the lodge for the door prize giveaways (I didn’t win anything) and camp fire. Outside alcohol was forbidden, but they had beer for sale. Turns out the only options were PBR and Harpoon IPA, pretty disappointing considering we’re only 12 miles from the Long Trail brewery. Following the door prizes there was a presentation from Ernie Vigil who rode a Triumph Scrambler 1200 in the Mexican 1000. It was an informal, but interesting discussion. It started to drizzle a bit as he was wrapping up and I decided to call it a night.

Foggy Morning

I awoke the next morning to the sounds of the porta pottys being pumped out at 0600. It was nice that they had them close to the camp ground, but they could have waited a bit to service them, oh well. The plan for today was to take the basic class at 9, then head home after. Class was scheduled to 12 and camping checkout was 11 (not that I think anyone was checking) so I took my time making breakfast and broke camp. Unfortunately my tent was still pretty damp when I put it away, at least I wasn’t going to need it again this trip. I headed over to the training area early in order to take all of the luggage off my bike before class. It probably would have been fine, but I didn’t want to have to worry about it. The classes were conducted by Dragoo Adventure Rider Training (D.A.R.T.) which is based Oklahoma. They brought in two instructors to run the training for event. Class started promptly at 9 with some basic safety and philosophy discussion and then proceeded to the meat of the class. The first things they had us do was to drop our bikes (ok, lower slowly to the ground) and practice picking them up. This wasn’t new to me, but a good review (and a skill I used twice more that day). That was followed by some basic balance exercises, slow riding, enduro steering, and finally counterbalance turns. It doesn’t sound like much, but we moved at a pretty good pace for the full 3 hours with only a few breaks. After the 3 hours I felt very comfortable controlling the bike from a standing position which I’d never really done before and felt I had some good tools to play with off road. At the end of the course they asked if anyone was staying for the advanced course that afternoon. No one was, but there was some discussion on how the descriptions on the site weren’t very clear and there were some that might have done so if they’d known that was an option. There was one participant who was able to register for the afternoon class on the spot. Despite advertising for weeks that it was sold out, they apparently had a few spots open. I was very tempted to do the same. Despite the way I’d felt watching the advanced class yesterday, I now felt confident enough to try some of the harder stuff. Whether that confidence was justified or not I’ll never know as I needed to be home that night and decided not to try signing up. I guess that will give me an excuse to come back next year.

Rider preparing to leave on guided rides

My only real complaint about the whole event was a lack of readily available water. There were porta potties near the camp sites and expo area, but the only place to get water was at the lodge. There were no obvious water fountains and they were selling water for $3.50 a bottle which is ridiculous. I filled up my water bottles in the bathroom sink a couple times. I learned from another person in the training class that they were allowing people to fill from the water spigot on the soda fountain in the cafeteria, but that certainly wasn’t advertised. It would be nice if next year they have a water buffalo near the campsites and where the guided rides depart from so people can fill there hydration packs easily.

For my trip home I’d prepared a couple of options. One was another TOH trip that swung west to Albany to pick up some more sites and another gold star family memorial. Another option is to try the Trans-Mass trail, this is a route I heard about on Facebook a few weeks ago that attempts to cross western Massachusetts north-to-south using as many dirt roads as possible. I figured this would be a good way to exercise my new found dirt skills on relatively tame roads. I didn’t have a good way to judge how long the trail would take, but figured if it started getting late, or stopped being fun I could bail and head straight for home pretty easily. I ended up taking just about 3 hours to do the whole trail (but I forgot to take pictures), making the whole trip home a little over 6 hours. In total I put in 533 miles for the 2 day trip. I felt vastly more confident on the dirt roads than I ever have before and am eager to find some more challenging trails.

Overall I had a great time on this trip, I think that if I had to do it all over again I would just make a day trip of it, and signup for both classes. It would have made for a pretty long day, but not unmanageable so. Next year I’m going to try and make it back for the advanced class if they’re still offering it.

20 Years as an EMT

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.

2019 – MD2020 – Part 2

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.

2019 – MD2020 – Part 1

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.

2019 – TOH New England – SS1000 – Conclusion

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!

2019 – TOH New England – SS1000 – Day 2

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.

Site 11: VT1 – Barton, VT

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.

Site 12: VT3 – Rutland, VT

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.

 

Site 13: VT4 – Westminster, VT

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.

Site 14: VT2 – Bennington, VT

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.

Obligatory Food Picture

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.

 

 

Site 15: MA3 – Lenox, MA

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.

Site 16: CT2 – Waterbury, CT

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.

Site 17: CT4 – Wilton, CT

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.

 

Site 18: CT3 – West Haven, CT

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.

Site 19: CT1 – Stonington, CT

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.

Site 20: RI1 – Hope, RI

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.

Site 21: RI2 – Smithfield, RI

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.

 

Site 22: RI4 – Woonsocket, RI

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.

Site 23: MA2 – Franklin, MA

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.

Site 24: RI3 – Westerly, RI

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.