Bridgeport WV – Erie PA
Sat Oct 10, 2020
After a decent sleep, I left the hotel on schedule to get clocked out of the REST bonus right at six hours. Of course, the gas station’s credit processing system was down so I had to pre-pay with cash inside, then go back in for my change and receipt. Oy! At least I was in no danger of clocking out early and missing any rest points.
Zipping west on US 50 through Clarksburg, there was no traffic to speak of at this hour. Exiting on the western edge of town, I took a couple turns onto Gregory’s Run Road, a gem of a narrow pavement curving past sleepy residences and small farms. I spotted a roadside memorial (another wildcard bonus) and made a mental note to stop there on my way back out to 50.
The DOLA bonus was only a mile or two away, and I turned on Isaac Creek Rd when directed by Garmin and then Red Oak Rd, which soon turned to a gravel lane passing through a couple gateposts. It looked suspiciously like a driveway.
I could actually SEE the bonus location on the GPS screen at this point so figured it must be the right way and continued on down a hill … right into a dead end in the yard of a mobile home! Crap, apparently this was no longer a through way over the creek that I could see on the map between myself and the bonus. I performed a tipsy multi-point turn on the sloped rutted ground and got out of there before someone woke up and came after me with a shotgun.
Back on pavement, I pulled to the side and spent some time zooming around on the GPS, to figure how to get there from here. I eventually rode back a mile to Gregory Run Rd, continuing north to WV 20 and the bonus. I snapped the photo of the Dola Miners Memorial, dedicated to 23 men who died in a nearby 1963 coal mine explosion. This was also my third bonus for the DUCK combo.
Now I was lucky enough to take another spin down Gregory Run Road in the reverse direction. The one car I overtook pulled right over to let me by when he saw how much fun I was having. When I stopped a couple miles up the road to document the roadside memorial bonus, he pulled over to make sure I didn’t need any help. Have I mentioned how nice WV folks are?
US 50 is a divided four-laner in these parts, allowing me to make good time to WV 16 in Ellenboro. This was a nice rural road, though it seems fairly well trafficked as a primary route to the river crossing in St. Mary’s. The last few miles go through nice hills with some good curves before descending steeply and briefly into the Ohio river valley. I rode into St. Mary’s and pulled in to a Gomart for the STM bonus, my third BASE combo fuel receipt.
Then I crossed the Ohio River into Newport OH and turned east to follow the river bank on OH route 7, another scenic byway. This was quite a pretty stretch of road, with several miles of great river views, with a couple long barges cruising along, framed by a backdrop of autumn-splashed bluffs.
Unfortunately, I was more focused on the rally clock than taking extra photos, so the best scenes are only in my memory. Apparently, I was so distracted that I completely missed a Mail Pouch Tobacco barn (wildcard bonus) that was facing the opposite direction along the way here, according to some other riders I spoke with later.
I enjoyed the river ride in Ohio for many miles before crossing the water in New Martinsville to continue along the WV banks. Another mile and I reached the village of Proctor where I pulled over at the waypoint, looking around for the next bonus. It was nowhere to be seen. Pulling out the rally book, I saw that it directed you to the bonus from this spot. Just a bit further down the road, I spotted my quarry and pulled over by the westernmost marker for the Mason-Dixon line (i.e. “end of the line”), which was kind of a nice symmetry on the sundowning edition of this event.
After snagging this bonus, I continued north on WV 2 for another 30+ miles or so, making pretty good time to I-70 near Wheeling. This section of the river seemed to have a lot more industrial properties alongside, so not quite as scenic.
I also used this stretch to make my final major routing decision. Not wanting to miss out on the sizeable DUCK combo, I absolutely had to get over to central Pennsylvania for my final two bonuses in that string. I’d already guessed that the LOST bonus in Pavia would be a time suck, but had hoped to have time for the two Pittsburgh area bonii, worth a combined juicy 442 points – all based on how my morning ride went.
The DOLA bonus dead-ends had cost me a good 15 minutes. While I’d made up some time and cut my deficit to just eight minutes, keeping the Pittsburgh bonii would get me to the finish with only minutes to spare, assuming no further delays today. Because we have to do all our scoring prep on the clock and there were several specific bonus submissions required at the end of this rally, I wanted to have the better part of an hour to get that all done at the finish. I made the call to drop those Pittsburgh bonii to gain an estimated 37 minutes, and adjusted my route accordingly on the two GPSes.
I-70 took me as far as New Stanton, where I joined the Route 66 Turnpike north around Greensburg. I turned east on US 22, a fairly quick-moving divided four-lane that took me miles and miles east to Cresson, where I turned north on PA 53 up to the small village of Ashville. There I had to pull over and break out the rally book once more to re-read the bonus description that leads you to the bonus photo a short distance from the waypoint. Here is the memorial dedicated to a local go-getter with the unfortunate (?) nickname of “Boob”.
PA 36 took me through busy Altoona and after a couple turns I re-joined US 22, now just a simple two-lane thoroughfare. I enjoyed a nice ride through some state gameland properties and along the Juniata River before weaving through the small village of Alexandria to reach Petersburg in Juniata Valley. This beautiful little hidden valley is another place to explore a bit more at leisure someday. I got my photo of the memorial for Medal of Honoree Sgt. Port in Petersburg before turning around to retrace my path back to US 22. This was my fourth DUCK combo bonus.
Now I headed northeast on PA 453, an amazing stretch of road along the Little Juniata River through some steep-sided canyon sections. The fall colors were getting better and better along today’s route looked great against the bare rock expanses. I wish I had taken photos, but the rally clock was ticking loudly now.
I took I-99 and PA 350, through more state gamelands up to Phillipsburg, where I re-joined PA 53 north to Kylertown. The riding was amazing, beautiful rural roads with nice curves and the startling fall color all around. I’d never known Pennsylvania as a destination for leaf-peeping, but after this trip I fully intend to go back and explore a lot more of this state in a future October. The colors are somewhat more muted than the bright sugar maples in Vermont, but there are so many different shades, just of the color red! Again, no pics…sorry!
In Kylertown, I turned onto the appropriately named Rolling Stone Road. Coming off a long deserted straightaway down a hill with a left-hand curve, I suddenly registered a bunch of vehicles in the road ahead and braked hard. A tow truck was working to pull the car of a young man off the embanking next to the oncoming lane and was completely blocking the road. There was one car waiting ahead of me with a couple of motorcyclists ahead of him, next to a gravel pullout.
Realizing this would take several minutes to resolve and not wanting to get rear-ended by the next traffic coming down the hill, I pulled up ahead of the line and over onto the gravel to shut my bike off and wait. I could now see there was a sheriff’s deputy on the other side of the tow truck, managing the scene, and blocking any chance of scooting my way around the front of the truck. Oh well! The other riders pulled over to join me and chat. They were local riders on a Concourse and an RT, just out to enjoy the day and we chit chatted a bit about Iron Butt rides when they saw my IBR plate backer. I explained that I was actually in a rally at the moment and wondered if they’d let me go ahead once the road was cleared, to which they had no problem at all.
The accident cleanup progressed and the tow driver motioned at me like he wanted to use the space I was parked in. I gave the thumbs up and motored over into the other lane so he could finally pull the crashed car across the road into the gravel. Since I was basically now even with the site of the crash at this point, I continued riding through the scene, past the surprised deputy and the long line of cars waiting from the other direction. I had lost about eight minutes total at this delay, but quickly got back up to speed, enjoying the now-wide-open road ahead of me for the next few miles. 😀
My next destination would be the infamous Nelsonville Cemetery bonus, located on the site of an abandoned community in the middle of the woods, and only reachable by miles of tricky gravel roads. Some of the roads are shorter and less tricky than others, however, and I did some advance routing for this one. Similar to Pickens WV, I’d inserted some shaping points on my route to ensure I stuck to the “primary” roads as much as possible.
Hitting the Quehanna Highway, I turned right, and then again in a couple miles onto Pottersdale Road. I was then treated to eight miles of surprisingly well-paved scenic curvy road, through the small community of Pottersdale. The road became Keating Mountain Road at the county line. Even with my exact routing, the GPS tried to fool me into taking a goat path (some other riders were later cursing Old Elbow Lane) that shortcuts a curve in the road, but I was prepared and gleefully ignored the pink line for several hundred yards until it recalculated. Soon after, the pavement ended.
It was only four miles of gravel, but it was a hard, jarring base of rock underneath the loose gravel surface and the road went up and down constantly over hill and dale. I kept to first/second gear and stayed off the front brakes, focused on getting to my destination and back out again safely. It felt like every farkle on my dashboard was going to shake right off the bike, and my Zumo 595 GPS rebooted and or froze at least three times.
There were occasional driveways that I passed out here, so it’s not as remote as some other places I’ve been. The jeeps and trucks passing by all returned my wave, and I can only imagine what they were thinking as they shook their heads at me. I finally came to the T intersection with Keating Rd and turned left to find the pretty little cemetery tucked in beneath the tall pines..
Now, of course I had to retrace my path southwest back over those four jittering miles. At least I was prepared for it now, but hitting pavement again never felt so good! Back through Pottersdale to PA 879 for a nice ride out by the Susquehanna River’s West Branch to I-80. Did I mention yet how beautiful the fall colors were? And that I’m sorry I didn’t take more photos? Oof!
40’ish miles on the interstate, then back on lovely two lanes, taking PA 36 northwest through Barnett and the deep evergreens of Cook Forest State Park. I crossed the Allegheny River in Tionesta and turned after a few miles further onto Pithole Road. Garmin tried to scam me onto another goat path, but I didn’t fall for it, figuring that the next bonus seemed well-signed enough to be located near a paved road.
Sure enough, I was soon pulling in to another ghost town site at Pithole PA. An oil boom town of the 1860s, Pithole lasted only 12 years or so before being abandoned to the ravages of time. Now it’s a historical site with a small visitor center and some interpretive signs. The bonus was one of those signs.
Garmin made one last-ditch effort to get me into the dirt, but I was brooking no nonsense and stayed on asphalt by way of PA 227 up to Pleasantville. I picked up PA 8 in Titusville to 97 in Union City, where the delightful rural riding finally gave up the ghost to more urban surroundings. I knew thunderstorms were forecast for the Erie area this evening and there were certainly dark clouds visible ahead for many miles.
My next stop was in Erie to complete the BASE bonus and most likely end my rally. I had been holding out some hope of possibly shooting east 50 minutes to pick up a bonus in Jamestown NY if I gained enough time back. However, by the time I crossed I-90 and made it to a gas station just over the Erie city limit, there was just under an hour to go until DNF. I pumped the fuel for my receipt, verified the address, and knew then that my rally ride was over. Now to handle the paperwork!
Looking around I didn’t see any nearby fast food restaurants and the store had all their chairs and tables tied up for pandemic compliance. I pulled into a parking space and started pulling out my rider’s log when just at that moment, raindrops began pattering down in a steady sprinkle. Shit! OK, I know I passed a Wendy’s on the way in from the highway, so back I go!
In a couple minutes, I pulled in to the Wendy’s and hauled in my gear and paperwork, finding a convenient table by the window in the socially-isolated dining space. Adrenaline still flowing, I spread out and got to work recording my stops, verifying all the fiddly bits, and ensuring proper order of operations for completing the final submissions of my ride. Certain bonuses must be claimed in a certain order, testing the rider’s reading comprehension skills even at the last.
I brought my rider’s log up to date with all of today’s bonuses, then claimed the BASE combo immediately after ERIE. I filled in the final sequence for the FLAG, LOG, and ENDEX bonus claims. I took a photo of my flag and sticker for the FLAG bonus, which was supposed to be “the last bonus with a value that you submit” and sent off the email.
Then it struck me that I hadn’t sent in a photo of the BASE combo page from the rally book in order to claim the bonus properly, so I took care of that next.
I ran back out to the bike to get a final photo of my odometer, which I would need to text in and officially end my rally. I entered the final ODO reading on the rider’s log and submitted photos of the two pages for my mandatory LOG bonus (no point value).
I double-checked everything to ensure I done things in the proper order (do you see the problem yet?) and finally texted my ending ODO photo to the rallymaster to end my rally at 19:01, with just nine minutes to spare. Whew, now I was really done!
Up until this point, I’d fully expected to see some of my fellow Binghamton starters here in Erie with me, and was hoping to grab a meal with someone to revel in our finish. But as it turned out they all had very different routes in mind and ended up hundreds of miles away. Based on the group spotwalla.com page, I was the only rider ending up here in Erie!
So I made my hotel reservation online, packed up and headed over in the rain, stopping at a Subway to pick up dinner. Cleaned up and in my room, I was glad to be done and exhilarated from today’s fun riding and beautiful scenery. It was somewhat anticlimatic without the usual socializing and reverie with other riders, but at least I was able to chat online with several other riders and get a feel for what the others did.
There was supposed to be an online awards presentation tomorrow morning at 11:30am, which seemed a bit odd since many riders would be traveling home at that hour. I had at least an eight hour ride, myself, so I figured I’d just have to find a rest area with wifi to tune in while taking a break from the road. I made a last minute decision, just before turning in, to get a super early start instead, and just blast home in time for the Zoom meeting. I set my alarm and went to bed.
I was on the road for 03:00 and had a quick and uneventful ride home via I-90. My Valentine 1 and Waze served me well! The rally staff experienced some “technical issues” that caused postponement of the virtual awards ceremony to be delayed until Monday evening, but I enjoyed the empty highways and early arrival at home all the same.
The Zoom meeting went off very well, considering we only had 45 minutes on the free edition. It was nice to see some familiar faces, though some folks were hard to recognize without modular helmets and a motorcycle underneath them. The rallymasters each had their say and Rick ran through the top five riders in from each starting region. There is never enough time to listen to Scott’s antics so hopefully things are back to “more normal” at next year’s Void.
As expected, the scores were very close near the top. Steve Giffin pulled off another decisive victory, some 800 points ahead of second place Scott Durham. Billy Connacher slotted in at third, 70 points behind Scott and just eight points (!) ahead of me. I was very happy to have placed fourth, my highest personal finish in the challenging Mason Dixon 20-20.
My score total seemed off and I realized I hadn’t been credited with the FLAG bonus points. The rallymasters confirmed it was because I had emailed (i.e. “submitted”) the BASE bonus page photo (which has a point value) after the FLAG photo (which was supposed to be the last submitted bonus with a point value). Even though I had claimed the bonuses in the proper order on my rider log, the RMs pointed out that the rally book instruction trumps any prior communications and procedural rules, so the points remained denied and I would remain sad. Alas, another victim of “reddening compression”!
Hats off to Scott, Rick and Jean for making this rally happen in 2020, despite all obstacles. Even missing the socializing and the planned banquet BBQ, I know all of us riders really enjoyed getting out there on the hunt again, and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.