BMRx Rally 2016 Part 5: Mad Dash

Sun 9/25/2016 – Mon 9/26/2016(Leg 3)
Akron OH to Newport VT
~1273  miles

Woke up a half hour before the alarm this time and dozed for another 25 minutes or so before my polite cell phone alarm went off. Killed the Meanie before it could wake the hotel. Had some room coffee while I packed and double-checked my route and the weather. I was on track for a 5.5 hour rest stop and clocked back in to the rally only three minutes late this time.

Next stop was my final triangle corner in Elkins WV. The highways were wonderfully empty at four in the morning and I made great time south on I-77 through Ohio to West Virginia. Hopped on US-50 at Parkersburg, for a nice long stretch eastbound through thick patches of fog in the chilly night air. Jogged south on I-79 and then another secondary highway blast on the hilly and curvy US-33. The sunrise glow on the mountaintops through the mists was beautiful, and I reflected back a bit on the many different landscapes I’d ridden through in the past couple days. I just love riding through West Virginia.

I finally pulled in to Elkins right around 8am, and it was still a pretty quiet Sunday morning. Located the YMCA which was the subject of my corner photos (remember, arrival AND departure photos this time!). I took the photos and sent them, but then realized I had no data signal. I decided to find some higher ground with a signal, to get the photos sent out and confirmed on the rally site before I would move on. I rode a couple miles up, out of downtown, and found a signal, but the emails disappeared from my drafts folder and never appeared under Sent Items or on the website. Frustrated, but glad I’d decided to verify things before moving on, I went back to the Y and re-took my arrival and departure photos to match the sample:

Rode back to my “signal place” and this time, the emails were properly sent and I confirmed their appearance on the website before allowing myself to continue on. I’d probably wasted an extra half hour there in Elkins, dealing with the signal issues.

Time was temporarily forgotten, however, after turning onto US-219.

This was my second time riding this road and my first with a bike that could do it some justice. With no cars in front of me for the entire length, morning sunlight dappling through the trees in the Monongahela NF, I enjoyed this early morning ride thoroughly. Who says rally riding had to be all Interstates with gritted teeth? I was smiling and loving it.

Continuing onto the Maryland section of US-219, new territory, I stopped to send in a PP to thank the rallymaster for putting bonuses around here. The MD section was very nice as well. If not quite as twisty, it was beautiful riding up on a ridge surrounded by scenic farmland.

I took 219 all the way up to I-68, where I now had plenty of traffic to deal with. How I missed my night time solo riding! Hit I-70, which I followed all the way into the outskirts of Baltimore for the next bonus words “700-718 Reistertown”:

Then quickly headed due northwest on I-795 and MD-140 to Westminster:

At this point I had to really stop and think about whether I would have time to get one of the PA bonuses, or should I just skip them both and shoot for NY and then back to VT. I did a few quick calculations with the GPS and had myself arriving at the finish with just a couple minutes to spare. In my rally-addled brain, I was still trying to justify getting the PA bonus, and told myself it could be done as long as I hit no more traffic slow downs. I started off northwest again on the Baltimore Turnpike, route 97. Immediately, it became clear that this was not a road I would be making a lot of time on, due to slower local traffic. By the time I hit PA-15 just before Gettysburg, I’d lost several minutes already in some 20 or so miles. I pulled in to a Sheetz station to collect my thoughts and recalculate again. I removed the PA bonus from the route and made a couple manual adjustments to force my route to stay in the US (it wanted to route me up into Canada again!) and to keep to interstates as much as possible now, which meant routing into MA to take I-91 back up the length of VT to Newport. I now had a good hour and a half cushion at the finish. I called my wife from the bike and asked her to book me another night at the same motel I’d stayed in prior to the rally start. The temp forecast for northern VT told me I didn’t want to be stuck in the Iron Butt Motel tonight (i.e. sleeping outside), nor trying to ride the 200+ miles back home after finishing that late!

I wished I had made the routing change back in Westminster as I could have made a more direct route to NY, but now I turned north on PA-15, which I proceeded to follow across almost the entire remainder of Pennsylvania. Parts of this road moved along quickly, while at other times I found myself riding through the middle of towns or stuck behind a lot of slow local traffic. At some point around New Columbia, I passed a fellow rider on a BMW, who appeared to notice I was in a bit of a hurry and fell in pace behind me, allowing me back into his lane when traffic slowed in mine, etc. In Williamsport, there was a short jog west on I-180 and I waved goodbye and thumbs up as I was exiting immediately back on 15. He was going the same way, however, and now I fell into pace behind him and he picked up the pace considerably. We blasted north on 15, with little traffic in the late Sunday afternoon, now on a divided highway alongside Lycoming Creek with nice long sweepers amidst the backdrop of hilly landscape. Focusing on this “mini-group” ride took my mind off my timeline and sore back, and gave me something immediate to focus on, engaging with the bike in the turns and really having a ball.

I had to exit at PA-6 and pulled up alongside to give my temporary traveling companion another thumbs-up, waved goodbye/thanks. A short way down route 6, I turned north onto PA-549, another REALLY nice little rural roadway bending and twisting through farmland as the shadows grew longer. Leaves were getting a touch of fall color and despite feeling the time crunch, I stopped to submit another Personal Picture to the rally page, although the colors didn’t show up very well.

PA-549 merged into NY-328 and brought me up to Elmira NY for the “Rainewicz” bonus photo.

Then NY-13 northeast up to the Finger Lakes region, through Ithaca up to Cortland for a pic of the “Dark Horse Tavern” sign just before sunset.

That was it, my last optional bonus photo! Now it was just a matter of keeping upright and safe during a final mad dash to the finish. Counterintuitively, my GPS first led me south on I-81 to NY-206 east. This road allowed me to make some pretty quick time through rural farmland, with just a few small towns on the way to I-88 eastbound. Darkness had fallen and the freeway speeds combined with rapidly dropping temps at elevation on I-88 required a pit stop just before merging on to I-90. Got fueled up and my long johns and heated gear back on…I knew it would be a long ride on the freeways to get to the end with temps likely to go down to 40F or so. That stop, plus a long stretch of one-lane construction on I-88 had shaved my cushion down to about an hour or so by then.

I covered the Mass Pike miles pretty steadily, not too fast as enforcement is pretty regular. I-91 north of Springfield is also regularly patrolled and I kept my throttle in check, though I wanted nothing more than to be out of the cold night and into a warm bed. Once I passed the last MA exit, I knew the amount of traffic would drop considerably, esp considering the late hour on a Sunday night. I made my last gas stop off Exit 1 in Brattleboro and continued on. I was down to less than an hour of cushion to finish the rally on time. As the temps dropped and clouds of mist developed on the highway, I felt like some cold, wretched creature, crooked-over from an aching back and speeding through the darkness away from civilization. Maybe I was a bit delirious now. I knew via texts that my wife was still rooting for me at home and she sent me this photo of another interested party watching my progress in the late hours:

My driving lights on high beam lit the way considerably well, though I began to react more slowly to flick them off when oncoming car would appear on the opposite side. When I noticed the thermometer reading in the mid-30s F, I pulled off the interstate once more at Fairlee, to put my rain gear on over my normal riding gear, just to add some wind protection against the biting cold. Wish I’d though of that sooner, but more precious minutes used up! After what seemed like hours…well it WAS hours, but even MORE hours than it actually was, I pulled off the highway and rode the final few miles into Newport to get my final corner arrival photo and end my rally at 1:28am, just 23 minutes within the ending time limit! As I confirmed my photo was properly submitted and scored on the website, I saw a couple other late finishers in other parts of the country clock in after me…I wasn’t the only crazy still out riding, though they were probably much warmer than I.

Despite being in what I would have considered the middle of nowhere in northern VT, there was a 24-hour gas station and convenience store in town right down the road. Fueled up and grabbed some grub to eat back at the hotel room, as I had pretty much skipped any sort of real meal that day. I felt tired, but happy to have completed the event. I missed the camaraderie of having other rally riders at the finish to BS with and tell tall tales, but figured that would be happening online tomorrow. For now I made do with some much-appreciated words of praise and encouragement from the rally staff via the website, and carefully rode back down the highway to my waiting hotel room in Barton and a well-earned rest.

My final leg route on Sunday:

My GPS trip computer mileage calculated to about 2795 miles for the rally itself. Over 3200 miles round trip from my house door-to-door between Thursday night to Monday evening. My back was still feeling the effects two weeks later!

My final spot tracking map for the rally:

2 comments on BMRx Rally 2016 Part 5: Mad Dash

  1. Steve- Thank you for sharing! What a ride! As a rookie, I've gained knowledge from your ride report. I was riding the "A" triangle however DNF'ed before getting to Gerlach due to electrical issues.
    Again, thanks–Ken C #349

  2. Thank you Ken, I appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment! I've gained so much by reading RR's from other folks so I try to contribute my part to help keep us all entertained when we can't be out riding. Too bad about your electrical, better luck next time and hope to meet you in person at a rally some day!

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