Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I'm Still Here

Following an encounter with a telephone pole, and six months in the hospital, I'm back!  It's been a long road home.  Thank goodness for my son, my wife, daughter Cora, and many friends who have been by my side and supported me along the way.   Rehab has been and continues to be tough.  But, it's necessary, thanks to all of my coaches keeping me motivated and on the road to recovery.  A long road it will be, but I am optimistic.  No more motorcycle riding for Rick, maybe a Slingshot down the road.   There's a brand new Super Tenere in my garage if anyone is interested.

Thank you all of you for your continued support and encouragement.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Rallying the Void 10

The Void 10
October 9-10, 2015
Moultrie, GA to Fredericksburg, VA

It is an October tradition for us to participate in The Void Rally.  This  was our 7th year and each year has been quite the experience. We offer  the following explanation of what a rally is and freely admit it was shamelessly plagiarized from the Void website as it is the best explanation anyone could offer. 

 A motorcycle endurance rally is part scavenger hunt, part trivia quiz, part poker run, part marathon, and all done on a motorcycle.  The goal is to have the most points at the end of the event.  Points are acquired by visiting Bonus Locations and properly satisfying their requirements.  Every Bonus Location gets an assigned point value; complete the requirements, get the points; Sounds easy, eh? Reading comprehension is a key factor.

Bonus Locations and their assigned points values are determined by the Rallymasters; who then relay this information to the riders.  Rallymasters often have a “theme” or some underlying connection among all of the Bonus Locations.  Themes for the Void Rally have included Yahtzee, redneck's, golf, storms, etc.  Bonus Locations are sometimes selected because they are sentimental like the grave of a friend or relative, or purposeful like making a purchase from a rally sponsor.  Other times, the Location is selected because of where it is: a breathtaking overlook; down a long twisty section of mountain road; or a crowded beachfront boardwalk.

Not all Bonus Locations are created equally and it would be considered unusual if they all had the same value.  A Location’s point assignment is based upon any one of several factors.  Some of the variables that play into a bonus’ value could include its proximity to other bonii, condition/type of road access, and “ease of acquisition”.  As you will find out by reading various rally veterans’ ride reports, Rallymasters are not “normal” by any stretch; so be prepared for twists and turns along the way.

Motorcycle endurance rallies are staffed by volunteers. Putting a rally together requires countless hours of preparation, thousands of miles logged and numerous contacts with staff from other rallies.  The Rallymasters do this, not for glory or monetary reward, they do it because they want riders to have a good time, visit places they might not otherwise ride to and participate in the camaraderie of fellow motorcyclists.  

At the beginning of a rally every rider will get a list of Bonus Locations. This list will include point totals, time restrictions (if any) latitude and longitude, directions/address, what the rider is actually looking for (a statue, plaque, business, etc) and what time it is available.  Rallymasters may include a brief story of significance of the Bonus Location.  The mission is to construct a route that gets from the start location to the endpoint, within the allotted time while attaining as many points as possible.  A rider must also allow time for sleep, fuel, meals, traffic, twisty roads, weather conditions, etc..  Rallymasters will often put restrictions on certain bonus locations.  For example, the bonus can only be claimed during a certain time window, or only before or after another bonus, or.....well the permutations are endless.  Again, reading comprehension is critical.   

Riders are not expected nor compelled to obtain every Bonus Location.  To paraphrase the Iron Butt Rally’s Bonus List quote- “treat this list like a restaurant menu; trying to eat everything will make you sick and possibly die.”  A rally is different from a true scavenger hunt in one important way - Riders are expected to actually ride to the Bonus Location and satisfy the requirements. This is discussed in great detail in the rules.

Riders try to balance the available time with the number of miles they can cover against the potential points available to them. The top finishing riders will try to maximize their points per mile and points per minute ratios. 

Once the rider arrives at the end of the rally, they gather and organize all of their rally material, and prepare for scoring. The scoring team acts as a reviewer and certifies that the rider did indeed satisfy the requirements of each bonus location they visited. The scoring team individually reviews every rider’s submission and the results are then tabulated. At the end of it all, whichever rider attains the most points is the winner- that’s how it works in a nutshell.

Enough of the how it is supposed to work, let's look at how it actually happened.  The theme this year was "Lights, Camera, Action".  Bonus locations were tied to in some fashion to the movie industry and ranged from the lodge where many scenes from "Dirty Dancing" were filmed to tributes to the actors from the movies.  There were over 335 possibilities on our menu.  

Riding over to Moultrie for the start was uneventful and we met fellow rally rider David Clark on Thursday afternoon.  Fellow riders met us for dinner as we exchanged ideas and friendly taunts.

The start in Moultrie, GA had to occur between 0840 and 0850 am.  Then you had to text a set of required information to the Rallymaster and wait for a response before taking off to ride your planned route.  Receipt captured at exactly 08:40:00, text sent, response received and we were off.  

I will not try and report on all 40 something bonus locations we managed to hit, but will present some of the highlights and try to explain some of the themes within the theme.  

TBL bonuses were tied to "The Big Lebowski" and were bowling alleys.  Our stop was to take a photo of Tift County Lanes.  A TBL bonus could only be claimed once per state.  Arrival time was 0918 and we were on schedule. 

"Trains, Planes, and Automobiles" from 1987 with Steve Martin and John Candy formed the basis for a series of bonus locations.  These bonuses were tied in as a combination which could only be claimed once per day.  You had to capture a plane, train, and auto bonus to complete the combo.  First stop in the combo was a photo of the B-52 at the aviation museum at Warner Robbins AFB.  We arrived at 10:44 and were behind our plan by 3 minutes.  

"Home Improvement" and Tim the Toolman Taylor (Tim Allen) made up the next series of bonus combinations.  Home Depot could be claimed Friday and Lowe's on Saturday at specific locations and only once per state.  A picture of the store with your rally flag AND a receipt from the city it was in were required to fulfill the bonus.  Our arrival time was 11:16 and 142 miles into the rally.  Only 5 minutes behind schedule.  

We claimed bonuses from "My Cousin Vinny, "The Walking Dead" and "Little Darlings" as we rambled around Georgia and also stores that represented "Last Man Standing" another Tim Allen bonus.  Instead of Lowe's and Home Depot, now we're searching for Bass Pro Shops or Cabela's.  Receipt also required.  

Into downtown Augusta, GA  now for a photo of the James Brown statue located in the median of Broad Street.  Arrival time was 5:28 and 10 minutes ahead of schedule.  At this point we are 421 miles into the rally.  

A couple more bowling alleys in South and North Carolina were grabbed before we headed off to Charlotte Motor Speedway.  I was opposed to this bonus for a couple of reasons.  First, it was race weekend and a NASCAR race was going on that night.  It doesn't take much imagination to see where that might become an issue.....NASCAR, crowds, rednecks, and alcohol.  Secondly, the bonus was located on the backside of the track and not easily found and lastly, the track was undergoing renovations and we weren't sure the bonus even existed. 

I listened to the voice in my helmet (Barbara) and reluctantly agreed to give it a try since we would be there during the race - not before or after.  The bonus did not exist any longer, lots of pedestrians and trolley cars running around, it was very dark and loud, and admittedly a bit frustrating.  We managed to filter our way to the front of the track and take a photo proving we were there.  Time is 9:13 and we are 614 miles into the rally and actually are 8 minutes ahead of schedule.  Woohoo!

We run around the Charlotte area and get bonuses in both South and North Carolina - Bass Pro, Cabela's, and a Home Depot.  

On the campus of Davidson College in Davidson, NC is a historical marker about X-Ray experiments which ties in to the 1963 thriller with Ray Milland, "The Man with the X Ray Eyes".    Time is 11:04 and we're at 686 miles.  We've made up some more time and are 29 minutes ahead of our plan.  

 Last stop before our rest break was the North Carolina Auto Racing Hall of Fame.  

Statesville, NC was where we had reserved a room for our rest break.  We got our receipt to start our break at 11:40 and were 31 minutes ahead of the planned stop.  712 miles for the day.

We took full advantage of the rest break and we're rolling again 6 hours later at 05:41 in the rain.  

Weather radar showed that we would be in the rain for the next several hours at least.  Rain went from light drizzle to deluge and back for the next few hours as we made our way off the interstate into the mountains and onto those curvy mountain roads.  

Mountain Lake, Va is home to the Mountain Lake Lodge.  In the Blue Ridge Mountains near the West Virginia border is the Mountain Lake Lodge where many of the scenes from the movie "Dirty Dancing were filmed.  The road in and out is a typical mountain road - lots of elevation changes, curves, and this time of year lots of leaves falling onto the roadway.  Add in the persistent rain and you have the formula for a rather exciting ride.  

Arrival time is 08:15 and 857 miles into the rally.  We are a little ahead of schedule since the rain has slowed us down a bit.   This really is a beautiful spot and would make a great fall weekend getaway.  

The Virginia Museum of Transportation is located downtown Roanoke,VA on Norfolk Ave.  October seems to be the time of the year when every town in Virginia wants to hold a street fair and Roanoke was certainly having one.  Every street we needed to go down was blocked so we picked our way slowly around in the rain  to get to our bonus which was any bench made from railroad wheels.  We planned to claim 3 bonuses here. 

First was the railroad bench bonus - part of the Trains, Planes, and Automobile bonus combo for Saturday, next was "Trading Places" where we had to be photographed with another rider's rally flag, and finally a take on "Blazing Saddles" and the line "Badges, we don't need no stinkin' badges".  The final bonus was a photograph without rally flag, helmet, or motorcycle in the picture.  With the rain steadily pelting us, it really was a sad picture.  

First we claim the bonus!

Then a photo of us holding David's flag.  The rain continues!

 And finally just us.  We are reminding ourselves that we do this for fun!

We're off to Natural Bridge, VA to find a pink Cadillac.  Located at the Pink Cadillac Diner, it was a simple matter to quickly snap a picture and be rolling again.  

Staunton, VA is the home of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum.  When Woodrow Wilson returned from France after negotiating the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, a new Pierce-Arrow limousine awaited him at the dock in New York to take him back to Washington.  The automobile had just been added to the White House fleet. Wilson favored this automobile so much that when he left office his friends purchased it for him to use.  The car had received its finishing touches at the plant of the manufacturer, the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company of Buffalo, New York, in June 1919.  It was the 120th of the "Series 51" model.

The museum and library are built on the side of a hill and there were lots of steps between where we parked and the display - seemed like it was uphill both ways!  Time is 11:56 and mileage has reached 1008.  

One last bonus before heading to the finish line.  Culpeper Regional Airport in Culpeper, VA where a bronze plaque was supposed to be the focal point for the bonus.  About 10 miles away from the bonus, we saw a huge banner advertising the Culpeper Air show and directing attendees to public parking for a shuttle ride to the airport.  We realized at this point, getting to the bonus may be impossible and we were correct.  

Local police officers manned the entrance to the airport and would not allow us to pass.  We took picture of the officers and their patrol cars but had a momentary lapse of judgment when we did not get real proof that we were at the Culpeper Airport.  I knew better but just plain forgot to provide conclusive proof.  This was the final bonus for our TPA combo bonus of the day. 

The time is 1:58 and mileage stands at 1103 and it is only 33 miles or so to the finish.  

We have to be at the finish and have all paperwork for scoring completed by 3:40 which was 31 hours from our start time.  We dash through the ever thickening traffic and finally arrive at the finish line at 2:46 and 1136 total miles on the odometer.  

We stay fairly well organized during the rally so it didn't take us long to get all of our times, odometer readings, receipts, and photographs ready to turn in for scoring.  Everything was turned in at 3:20 - a whole 20 minutes to spare.  

Our names were called to scoring fairly quickly and everything went quite smoothly until that final bonus.  With nothing to positively prove we were at the bonus, points for that bonus were denied resulting in the loss of the 2500 point combo.  Ouch! 

Great food and companionship were on the menu for the banquet.  Everyone told tales of the last two days of adventure while we waited patiently for the Rallymaster - Scott La Shier - to announce the final standings.  Barbara and I were quite pleased when we were called to accept the 2nd place trophy.  Had we not lost that last bonus, it would have been an easy 1st place finish.  Easy come - easy go.  

Sleep came quickly and after a leisurely breakfast we departed Fredericksburg and headed to Williamsburg to visit with Joe and Linda Inge - old friends from my days at Fort Hood, TX.  We spent the remainder of the day and evening catching up on the last 22 years and where old friends were and how they were doing.  Linda is a marvelous hostess and fed us repeatedly.   It was a very pleasant visit and one to be repeated before another 22 years escapes us.  

Monday was just a brutal 779 mile ride down I-85 and through afternoon rush hour traffic in Atlanta.  Our weekend ride looked like this. 

The straight line gap is my fault.  Forgot to turn the tracker back on after our rest break.....even though there is a big reminder posted right on my GPS. 

We look forward to next October and what surprises the Rallymaster might have in store for us. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

North to Alaska - Day 6 - Banff and Jasper National Parks

Today we spent the day traveling through Banff and Jasper National Parks.  The scenery was so awesome that I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.  It had to be one of the prettiest days we've spent traveling!

One little burp as we entered Banff, Jim mysteriously runs out of gas.  Seems his fuel cell had vapor locked.  In the photo are Jim on the left, Barbara, Robert, and Jean and Mike Donnelly.

 Going up in the gondola at Banff.  Barbara loves heights!

Jim Puckett
 The view from up top.

Lake Louise

When Barbara's mom and dad were stationed in Alaska, they stopped here on the way to and from.  An attendant would go out on the frozen ice and cut chunks out for their coolers.

The following are just a sample of the views along the Icefields Parkways.  Amazing!

Athabasca Falls - the roar of the water was tremendous. 

More on Jasper and Banff to follow.