Monday, October 21, 2013

Big Texas 36 Hour Rally Ride Report

This past weekend I rode the Big Texas Rally, my first attempt at an Iron Butt type rally.  If you're not familiar with how these work, you're provided a list of bonii with each being worth a different number of points.  Then you're provided a check in or rally end location and the time you must be there.  You're task is to select the number of bonii you can ride to, do whatever the rally book calls for at this location, and get to the end location on time.
The Big Texas rally book had about 90 potential bonus locations and several locations you could start from.  I chose to start in Childress, Texas.  The night before the rally start, Mark and Eric had reserved a room at Maxey's Steak House for us to have dinner if we wanted to.  I went, had a good meal, and heard some good discussion about the rally.  As a newbie, I just sat and listened to those who had done several rallies.
The rally start was at 6 am on Friday, I was there early, got my starting receipt, and was anxious to get started.  About 20 riders were starting at Childress, here's a pic of some of them.
We got started at 6 am, I don't think anyone but me noticed me stalling the bike as I started out of the lot, something I've done on the RT about 3 times the entire time I've owned it.  My planned route was to ride over to Amarillo, get the Cadillac Ranch first, then head to Palo Duro Canyon.  It was pretty chilly and dark on the way over, I was watching for deer but didn't see any.  I got to Cadillac Ranch ok and walked down to take the required picture.  The rally book stated we must paint our first and last name as well as rider number on the roof or trunk of any car, then take a pic of ourselves including all. I had an issue with my flag blowing around and obscuring my number so I had to make 3 attempts at it before I got this. You have to look real close to see my info because I tried to use a paint pen instead of the spray paint that would have been much better.  I should have researched it better online and I would have known this.
I jumped back on the bike and headed for Palo Duro Canyon.  If you haven't been there before, it's really a pretty place and fun ride to the bottom.  I got passed by the eventual rally winner, Erik on the way down but that's ok, he was in it to win it, I was in it to finish.  Nice job Erik.  He was at the plaque when I arrived and was gracious enough to take the pic for me.
Rally Master Wayne had a great idea that changed things considerably for me and several other riders as well.  Originally, there was a list of 12 Texas icons worth 150 points each if you took a pic of them along the way.  At the start, it was announced that these icons would be worth 1500 points each instead.  Suddenly, I went from worrying about getting the required 25,000 points to be considered a finisher to knowing that I could relax a bit and have plenty of points just by picking up a few of these. Anyone collecting 10 or more would also get an extra 5,000 points.  I managed to get 5 of the icons, a windmill, a pump jack, a posted sign, a cactus, and a rodeo grounds.  Here are the pics of those.

I won't bore you with every single bonus I picked up but I rode my plan pretty well Friday but made the mistake of a newbie by not hydrating very well and I waited too long to grab anything to eat.  By 5 pm I had a thumping headache and at least 3 hours left to ride.  I made it to Sonora, Texas right at 9 pm after a harrowing ride on I10 where I just knew I'd have a close call with Bambi's daddy.  We were warned about I10 just after dark and just before dawn being very bad for deer in the road.  My route planned for me to be on it for both, not a great idea but I was lucky enough to avoid any mishaps.
The rally book called for a minimum rest bonus of 4 hours and 15 points per minute up to 8 hours.  I checked in to the motel, took some tylenol, and laid down with a cold wash cloth to try and get rid of my headache.
The alarm went off early on Saturday and I was feeling quite a bit better.  I got my rest bonus end receipt and a cup of coffee to start the day.  I already had enough points from Friday to be a finisher so I decided to take an easier route and make it safely to the finish on time.  I grabbed some great BBQ at Kreuz Market in Lockhart and headed to Austin for a noon picture bonus at the Stevie Ray Vaughn statue.  Parking here was bad so I parked about half a mile away and looked like a strange sight walking among all the joggers and walkers in my riding gear.  Just about everybody in the rally showed up at this bonus.  The rally book said that at exactly noon, 1 picture would be taken and for 2,000 points we had to be clearly visible in it with our rally flag as well.
After this picture, I hot footed it back to the bike and head for the next bonus, a pistol shoot near Killeen.  Here, we had to place our rally flag about 10 yards away, then shoot at it 3 times with either our pistol or one provided by the rally.  I opted to shoot a Ruger 9mm and managed to perforate my flag 3 times.  1 of the 3 was a flesh wound, just on the edge but a hit is a hit.
I had originally planned to get several more bonii after the pistol shoot but I was dragging and that nagging headache was starting to come back so I headed towards the rally check in location.  I had heard that I35 north was shut down due to an accident so I meandered north up highway 317 a while. This turned into a nice winding road and I was able to just relax and enjoy the ride.  At the start of the rally, our driver's license and insurance cards were sealed in an envelope.  At the end, if the envelope was still sealed, it was worth 5,000 points.  I only saw 3 or 4 troopers my entire ride and rode no more than 5 miles over the limit, so I had these points in the bag.
I made it to the rally check in just before 5 pm, completed my scoring paperwork, and was scored.  I had ridden just over 1200 miles, scored just over 30,000 points, and completed my first rally.  After a shower, the bar was open, we had some good food, and I met more riders.  The scoring took a while and the winners were announced just after 11 pm.  Congrats again to Erik and all of the riders who participated in the rally.  A special thanks to Steve B for giving me some rally routing pointers prior to the rally.  Texas is really very scenic and I'd encourage anyone to take a drive around to see it.  I'd like to thank Wayne and all the others for putting on the rally.  I think I'm hooked, it's cheaper than crack....barely.

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Long Distance Riding Legend Is Gone

John Ryan, the man who would stop at nothing, is gone.  I'm sitting here this morning, unable to sleep, still thinking it's all a bad dream. John was killed yesterday in a motorcycle accident.  While I hadn't known known John very long or really all that well, I feel like a void has been created in my life.  I didn't meet John until this year's Very Boring Rally in Minnesota.  I had read about him and his long distance riding accomplishments including his record time of just over 86 hours from Alaska to Florida. So why is a usually non-sentimental guy like me at such a loss?

I just started riding motorcycles in late 2010 and did not discover long distance riding until mid 2011.  I started posting some of my accomplishments on Facebook and mentioned John in a couple of those.  One day I logged in and had a friend request from The John Ryan, I was thrilled.  I accepted the request and before too long, when I would post something about riding, a rant about liberals, or how a good guy shot a bad guy, I'd get a "like" from John.  Maybe stupid to some, but to me, it was exciting every single time.  His posts were always entertaining, even during that time he thought about quitting Facebook.  I loved reading the stories about Fubar Farms or how he thought Obama was the worst President ever.  It seemed we shared a bond that was hard to explain.  That's how John was to me, a legend but a guy who didn't act like it and took the time to make you feel like you belonged.

I met John briefly at the Aerostich Very Boring Rally this year and heard him speak.  I remember wanting to get there early in case the room filled up so I could sit close.  When I walked in the room, John was asleep on the stage, just sacked out in his Stich, not moving a muscle.  He woke up right at the starting time but was having some issues with his blood sugar level and ate some fruit before he started talking.  I could tell he wasn't comfortable in front of a crowd and would probably prefer to be out riding somewhere on his bike instead of speaking.  He talked for a while, then answered every question anyone had.  I remember how good natured he was with the ventriloquist when I'm sure he would have preferred to strangle the guy but there were too many witnesses.  I was so awestruck, I took a picture of his Yamaha parked just outside the front door.  It looked...well.....ridden.  John didn't care about the latest technology or a clean shiny bike, he liked to ride.  No bluetooth helmet, smartphone, or any other contraption, just him, the bike, and the road.

John and I were gong to share a room at the end of this month at the Iron Butt Association party in Dallas.  I was looking forward to it, but now I'm not sure I want to go.  I can hear John now though when he sees all of us mourning his loss and he'd probably say something like this "F it, I zigged when I should have zagged and that f-ing cager nailed me.  You guys don't sit around feeling sorry me, get off your ass and go ride."  I'll go ride, but I'll be a little less excited about knowing John's not here to "like" my post when I write about it.