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.