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.

2019 – TOH New England – SS1000 – Day 1

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.

Sites 1: MA4 – Spencer, MA

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.

 

Site 2: MA1 – Boston, MA

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…

Site 3: NH2 – Exeter, NH

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…

Site 4: NH1 – Concord, NH

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.

Site 5: NH4 – North Conway, NH

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.

Site 6: ME1 – Augusta, ME

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.

Site 7: ME2 – Bangor, ME

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.

Site 8: ME4 – Presque Isle, ME

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.

Site 9: ME3 – Greenville, ME

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.

 

Site 10: NH3 – Groveton, NH

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.

2019 – TOH New England – SS1000 – Pre Trip Planning

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…

Cyclops Light

** Disclaimer, I fully recognize that this project is over kill and is more of a because I can thing than a because I should **

Mockup of the tank mounting location during fabrication
Mockup of the tank mounting location during fabrication

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.

 

BLE Module Rendering

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

 

BLE Module Case Rendering

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.

App Screenshot

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.

 

Hazards! (Pay no attention to the middle set of lights, that’s glare from my case, I think)