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.

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