Rock n Ride 2019 Part 1: Don’t Be Cruel

Southeast MA – Youngstown OH
Thur April 25, 2019
(~603 miles)

For the past two years, I’ve kicked off the endurance rally season with Rallymaster Lynne Carey’s 33 hour Rock n Ride event in April. I was looking forward to getting back into the rally-mode mindset and seeing many of my long-distance rider friends again for some friendly competition and the delicious catfish buffet afterwards. This year, the game would start in one of three designated cities: Youngstown OH, Lakeland FL, and Bowling Green KY (where riders would be treated to a special home-cooked barbeque meal the night before). If I’d planned ahead further out, I might have gone for the BBQ, but as it was I was signed up to start in the closer point in Ohio along with most of my northeastern riding friends. You would only compete against people starting in the same location.

Per usual, we had homework bonii to complete before the rally, including verification of our ability to email photos from our cell phone to the rallymaster. The bonus locations in this event are always music related (some very loosely), and the over-arching theme this year was Elvis Presley. For this TEST bonus, we had to send in a photo of ourselves posing as The King in front of our bike.

Flying Elvis pose for TEST       the original

OPENMIC bonus - Boston Marathon starting line

The OPENMIC bonus is another standard, in which we needed to scout out a possible future rally location with a brief written description to relate it to a rock song, album or artist. I decided on the starting line for the upcoming Boston Marathon, which was getting a fresh coat of paint that day and related it to The Long Run, by the Eagles.

Due to the nature of the remote start, the Ohio and Florida starters were sent a PDF file of a placard to print out and laminate for use as our rally flag to be in every bonus photo. Lynne goes the extra mile, however, and presents everyone with a real rally flag keepsake as part of our swag at the finish, which is really nice to have. The rally books were emailed on Monday evening, giving riders a few days to plan their routes for the event. I spent several hours basically tweaking variations of the main basic route that I spotted which included both of the available combos in the rally pack.

With all my assignments and paperwork properly completed and submitted ahead of time, I set off towards Ohio around 07:30 on Thursday, using the Mass Pike to I-84 and thence across Pennsylvania. I had completed a bunch of maintenance and farkling on the bike since my trip to Jacksonville last month, but had not gotten much time to ride around locally. I noticed the clutch fluid was a bit low (return of an old leak under the reservoir?) and there was a slow oil seepage near my right valve cover, but these seemed to be items that could wait until my return if I just kept an eye on them. Everything was working well and being on the bike again felt great. I had upgraded to a slightly larger and re-designed auxiliary ‘keg’ tank and was gratified to discover I could get 400 miles under the wheels before needing to fill up, while doing normal highway speeds.

Pesto cauliflower wrap

I stopped at the Red Line Diner in Fishkill NY for a late breakfast. As I am following a healthier diet at the moment, the pesto cauliflower breakfast wrap sounded (and tasted) good. There was some slowdown going through Hartford CT and then again crossing the Hudson River on I-84. I rode into the approaching weather system in western PA and it showered off and on for the final hour and a half of my ride.

Our remote start required that we start our rally the next day by obtaining a printed business receipt no earlier than 07:00 EDT within the city of Youngstown. The hotel many of us had booked was located in the adjacent Austintown suburb, and I had some concern about finding a receipt right around there, so I filled up right off the interstate at a Speedway in Youngstown proper, about 8 miles from the hotel and verified the receipt address.Quaker Steak and Lube

A group dinner was scheduled for 18:00, and I rolled into the Country Inn and Suites hotel just minutes prior. Several familiar faces greeted me in the lobby, getting ready to head out. I was a bit chilled, not having stopped to layer up in the rain, and the breakfast wrap wasn’t sitting so well, so I told them not to wait and I’d walk over to the restaurant after settling in. After checking in and grabbing a quick shower, my stomach settled down and I headed over to the Quaker Steak & Lube.

Rock n Ride 2019 Part 1: Don’t Be Cruel

Gas pump door handlesThis was my first dining experience at this regional chain and the folksy gas station theme was amusing, down to the gas pump door handles and full-size cars mounted on the walls and above diners’ heads on hydraulic lifts.Eating under a car on lift

Red corvette on the wall

The meal was festive, company was great, and food was decent. The talk of the evening was the bombshell that had been dropped by another rider via the rally’s private Google Group, informing us that the NFL draft was being held in Nashville this weekend and about 350,000 people were expected to be in and around the city. Of course, one of the combo bonuses was right in the heart of that city, along with a few other worthwhile bonus locations. It was a major keystone of my route (and for most others’ by the sound of it) and we stared in stunned amazement at the TV coverage showing an ocean of pedestrians in the streets of downtown Nashville, which were largely blocked off to vehicle traffic by the police for the duration of the events. Oh cruel…CRUEL Rallymaster!

“Look there’s our bonus!” Jim Owen shouted out pointing at the screen, making us all crack up.

Ohio pre-rally meal

Photo credit: Felicia Aman

We enjoyed the rest of our meal, but knew we had work yet to do tonight back in our hotel rooms to re-think our strategies. After settling up, we said good luck and scattered to go tear out our hair and fret about the potentially huge time suck or giving up the Nashville points all together. Here is what Google Maps was showing for traffic blockades in the downtown area, with the yellow stars representing the bonuses we had in that area.

Nashville traffic map

Our bonuses appeared to be right on the edge of the blocked-off areas, but I knew the crowds would be extended well beyond that. I’d had what I thought was a pretty strong route planned, which included hitting Nashville around midday Sunday, en route back to the finish. That obviously wasn’t going to work out now. I pulled up my very first route that had me hitting Nashville at night and spent the next few hours tweaking it to come up with something workable and almost as many points as my original plan. I also had several optional bonuses noted for the second day that would boost my score up if I was fortunate enough to be running ahead of schedule.

On top of the Nashville surprise, that evening Lynne sent out another email with five “wildcard” bonuses to be on the lookout for during the rally. I didn’t see the email at first as my email program wasn’t working on the wifi until a restart. The wildcards included: a pink Cadillac, a dog at a dog pound/shelter, a real album-playing jukebox, purchase a yellow rose to bring back to Lynne, and a historic “old jail” building. I made a few half-hearted searches for these items along the route as I tweaked it, but it was simply too much to do in one night. I’d hope to happen upon a couple of them as I rode or search again during my rest bonus. I finally wrapped my planning up around 01:00, after completely re-writing my route sheets and uploading the new routes to my GPS units. Better or worse, I had a plan!

Ride to start map

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