Youngstown OH – White House TN
Fri April 26, 2019
The storm system that blew through yesterday evening was howling outside the cozy confines of my hotel room as I worked on my route into the wee hours. Luckily, the main storm front appears to have gone through and Youngstown was in the relatively peaceful center of a large rotating weather system. We all expected to get wet this morning for the first couple of hours, but it was nice to pack up the bikes without rain coming down.
Rally start time was 06:00 CDT so we easterners had an “extra” hour over our BBQ-hogging brethren in Bowling Green (nyahh!). 🙂 Hotel breakfast opened at six and we chatted about our last-minute routing from the previous evening. Everyone seemed to be happy enough with their plan. I wondered how many of them would be continuing on through Nashville like me, despite the uncertainty.
Gerry Arel had identified a good receipt location at the BP station just around the corner from the hotel and was gracious enough to share the info with the rest of us, saving me sixteen miles east to the Speedway station and back. Eight or ten bikes were at the BP, waiting at the pumps or parked to count down the final 10 minutes or so. As I was starting with full tanks and the store wasn’t busy, I elected to purchase some Visine to get my receipt. After confirming with the clerk that the register clock was accurate, my buddy James and I waited impatiently for the seven o’clock hour to strike. At 6:59, another customer got behind me in line and my manners got the better of me, letting him go first. Of course there was some delay with his purchase and James raised his eyebrows at me as we watched seven o’clock come and go. I cashed out at 07:02, wished James good luck and proceeded to fumble around on the bike, getting everything in place and trying to waterproof myself for the rain that was just now starting to fall again.
I managed to get out of the parking lot and onto the I-80 heading west, when my right mirror-cover suddenly came loose and dangled by the wires as I accelerated. Shit! I pulled to the shoulder and snapped it back on, while ensuring there was no damage. Must have pulled it a bit loose while removing the rain cover this morning. I got moving again without further delay – what a start!
Before heading north to Cleveland for the important combo bonus there, I rode southwest to Canton OH. The rain had started to fall and would be an on-and-off factor for the remainder of the morning into early afternoon. Again fumbling in the cool wet weather with my gloves, paperwork, phone and placard, I managed to get the required photo of the First Ladies National Historic Site museum, for Tom Jones’ song “She’s a Lady”. I was feeling rusty with my rallying skills this morning, but I emailed the photo successfully and the first bonus was in the books!
My friends Jeff and Erin Arsenault pulled in right as I was packing up. They are a finely-tuned rally machine, so I was pleased I’d somehow managed to sneak ahead of them to the first bonus. 😉 With a quick wave, I was off.
I now pointed the ST north to Bedford Heights OH, to a Harley Davidson dealership to get a picture of Elvis’ 1975 FLH bike, which is there on display. This was a limited time bonus based on the shop’s hours and worth decent points. I arrived right as they opened at 09:00 in time to see my fellow New Englander Roy Kjendal already coming out. Dale Bundy was also there inside, sitting at a table and dealing with some electronics issue. The friendly staff was kind enough to direct me to the bike and then to the restrooms, though my dripping Klim gear and full helmet earned me several raised eyebrows along the way.
Continuing north and running a few minutes behind schedule, I didn’t make up any time during this stretch due to heavier (but moving) traffic and concerns about hydroplaning with all the water that the heavier showers were leaving on the roadway (even with the car tire on the rear wheel, which feels very secure in wet conditions). I began having charging issues with my cell phone around this point that would plague me for the remainder of the day.
I still haven’t settled on a dependable solution or process for ensuring my phone is a reliable piece of LD kit. The RAM GDS mount with Intelliskin solution has proven unreliable for charging due to weather exposure and possibly vibration, even though the one-handed usability and stability is excellent. I’d decided to revert to the RAM X-grip for my naked phone with a regular micro-USB cable for the rally. Unfortunately, this exposed the charge port of my S7 to water running down the phone. Constant reconnections, since this rally requires photos taken by cell phone, are problematic as the cord end gets wet and then causes the phone to detect moisture and refuse to charge. I know better than this – this has happened to me before, but for whatever reason, I did not think about pocketing the phone during the rain, wanting to have ready access to Waze, Bubbler and other apps. Addressing this problem is top priority before my next rally.
Traffic in Cleveland itself wasn’t too bad mid-morning on a rainy Friday, and I hit a nice string of green lights through downtown en route to the big combo bonus at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, on the shore of Lake Erie. Now about 10 minutes behind, I completed my tasks and got moving again ASAP.
I ran a short distance south to Brunswick OH, where I’d marked off a Steak n Shake restaurant to purchase a strawberry SHAKE – this was another be-on-the-lookout bonus introduced to the rally book last year in honor of Lynne’s mom, who liked the shakes at this chain. I was running pretty much on time upon arrival at the deserted restaurant at 10:00. I was able to enjoy about half of it while taking care of my necessary paperwork (no rain) and emailing, etc. but probably spent a bit too much time at this stop, calling the Rallymaster to verify the receipt would be OK with just a store number listed.
Marion OH, one time home to Huey Lewis, was next up and about 100 miles away to the southwest. More showers ensued and my supposed waterproof Held gloves became more and more waterlogged. The cold wetness crept in to chill my fingers and contributed to the overall blue feeling that had fallen over me. I was of course glad to be out riding a different area of the country and doing what I loved best – rallying – but I was just in a bit of a funk about the rain, the phone charging issue, running behind, and my overall inefficiency at the stops so far. Experience tells me these feelings pass on by before you know it, and I knew clearer weather lay ahead.
I pulled up to the old post office building in Marion, noted the stats, and snapped the photo before re-reading the rally book. I knew I was out of order and made myself stop and double-check…sure enough I’d captured the incorrect sign in the photo. I pulled the bike ahead 100 feet and took the proper photo of the Popcorn Museum sign.
I’d been saving my dry heated gloves to wear after the rain completely stopped, but decided the rain was letting up enough to make the change. If nothing else, I’d feel better with warmer fingers! It did help my mood a bit as I headed south on US-23 towards Columbus, until one of those oddball situations occurred setting the tone for bad luck and silly mistakes to come.
As US-23 approached Columbus from the north, passing through Powell OH, the four-lane divided highway went through some commercial areas with strip malls, etc. and traffic built up a bit. I was waiting at the light where OH-750 crosses for a couple of cycles and was about three cars back from the light to go through on the next green light, when all of a sudden, two motorcycle cops pull out into the middle of the intersection, park their bikes and blocked ALL FOUR LANES of building traffic in both directions, plus the westbound side of OH-750. They waved random cars coming out of the eastbound side, but other than that kept everyone else at a standstill….FOR OVER 10 MINUTES. There was no indication of what was going on or how long this would last. No emergency trucks, no procession of cars with headlights, no circus elephants on parade. WTF!?
Sitting there in the rain, I could hear the rally clock ticking loudly and watched the minutes to my next ETA creep (or rather leap) upwards. The GPS showed a parallel road to the west, so I cut through the right lane cars to the breakdown lane up to the light and took the right turn without so much as a glance at the cops blocking our way. Only to see another LEO blocking the way forward past the exit road from the big shopping area on the corner. Really, WTF! I pulled straight up to him and asked what was going on.
I couldn’t hear/believe him with my ear plugs in and had to get him to repeat it a couple times before I understood. What is wrong with these guys? Blocking a major state highway in a commercial district before the procession was anywhere near ready to go through? I understand paying respects to our deceased, but this was poor planning or execution of traffic control in my book. In MA, those cops’ bikes would have been run over by an angry mob by now.
I pulled in to the shopping area and followed my GPS map back to the last crossroad of US-23 and went west there. The parallel road was backed up as well! Again watching the Garmin map closely, I turned into a small residential neighborhood that appeared to present a roundabout way around the blockage. Finally, I was able to circle back to a major road into Columbus after a total loss of about 45 minutes (at the time I wasn’t sure exactly how much time I’d lost). Crap! I’d never be able to get those extra bonuses tomorrow and now had to consider actually dropping something from my route today. I was pissed off, but tried my best to compartmentalize and focus on the task at hand.
Columbus traffic was also surprisingly light (maybe just compared to Boston!) and I found my way in to get a photo of the large gavel sculpture behind construction fence in downtown.
Looking at my planned ETA on my route sheet, I now appeared to be about TWO HOURS behind schedule. Holy hell!? (Note: it turns out a spreadsheet formula error resulted in incorrect ETAs for my bonus stops for several bonuses today starting with this one. I was actually closer to just one hour behind at this point – discovered post-rally of course!). My annoyance at the town of Powell OH’s finest was renewed. I needed to make some time and, with drier roadways, opened up the throttle once I was back on I-71 south.
I was so ticked off and focused on making up time that I forgot I was getting low on fuel, having long ago cracked open the valve for my aux tank. The skies were clearing up a bit and perhaps that helped to distract me as well. At about 356 miles from my last fill-up (30-40 miles less than expected), on a long stretch of interstate with no exit in sight, I ran out of fuel as I was passing a flatbed tractor trailer. I immediately knew what had happened and flipped on my blinker immediately. With a sinking feeling, I faded back, made it to the shoulder, and coasted the bike as long as I could before coming to a halt.
Well, there goes my rally, I thought. I punched up nearby gas stations on the GPS, but it didn’t look like anything was close. There wasn’t even an exit very close (turns out the next one was about 1.5 miles ahead and there was no gas there anyway). I figured I would try pushing the bike along the shoulder a ways to see if the next exit was reachable, so I stripped off my outer layers and packed them away in preparation for the workout and began to push. I figured I’d call AAA if I couldn’t find something myself. I got maybe a couple hundred yards, when I saw a pickup truck going heavy on the brakes pull over to the shoulder up ahead of me. There were all sorts of flashing LED lights on the back of the cab and tailgate and I figured it was a highway worker or unmarked trooper. The guy that got out had a smile and asked if I needed any help as I pushed the bike up to the truck and set the kickstand.
“Well, you don’t happen to have any gas I could buy from you, do you?” I asked.
The smile grew wider. “Sure do!” he said.
“No. Way.” I said, getting excited.
I introduced myself and he said his name was John (I think?) as he retrieved a full 2.5 gallon jerry can from his toolbox. He said he always carried spare gas for stranded motorists and remarked that most motorcycle riders he helped were usually just standing by their bikes with a cell phone, rather than pushing their bikes. I couldn’t believe my luck and kept thanking my good Samaritan profusely. I gave him $20 for the gas and told him it was the most expensive gas I ever bought and worth it!
I caught my breath, drank some water and geared back up again. I stopped at the very next exit that showed fuel available and filled up the tanks, still in a bit of a daze. Now I had to seriously look at my ETAs going forward and consider my options for salvaging my route. I was still thinking I was somehow 2-3 hours behind at this point, though it didn’t seem right according to my final hotel ETA. There were a few lower point bonuses around Bowling Green KY that I knew I could skip if needed to get back close to schedule for tomorrow, so I hoped I’d simply miscalculated on the spreadsheet and figured I’d see about the timing when I got down the road a bit.
In the meantime, I had another limited-time bonus to get to in Cincinnati at the American Sign Museum. I arrived about 24 minutes to closing and was able to enter the gate and get the photo of the required mural. I like old signs and would love to pay this museum a real visit some day!
About a mile further on, as I worked my way back to the highway, I just happened to pass by an SPCA shelter and quickly pulled in to claim the POUNDOG wildcard bonus. I got the photo of the sign first and then went inside to ask the nice folks working there if I could get a photo of a dog.
“Which dog?” she asked.
“Any dog,” I replied, and explained it was for a scavenger hunt and the bonus was to bring awareness to animal shelters (which is true in my case, as I’d never visited one before). Luckily, there was a dog meeting some people in an adjoining room and they agreed to let me join them to meet Lala, a very handsome mixed breed who sniffed me carefully and gave me a nice kiss on the face. It was hard to think too much about her life there at the shelter and I hoped she was on her way to a loving home with those people. I missed my dog back home the rest of the day, but at least I had something distracting me from how behind I was. This was an inventive and cool bonus.
Pleased with the unexpected bonus points, I headed west from Cincinnati into sunny skies and a stiff west wind. For the next bonus, I made a return visit to picturesque Hanging Rock in Madison IN. This bonus cost approximately an hour of ride time for a decent 399 points and was worth it for my route to work. I wasn’t ready to give up that many points yet, and it was nice to be off the interstate and on rural roads for a while.
As I crossed into Kentucky at Louisville, I realized the three bonuses located there weren’t in optimal order on my current route, so I switched them up on the fly, based on my memory of the map in Basecamp. I hit the city after rush hour, so it worked out well with minimal traffic hopping on and off the beltway highways to grab my photos. First, one of the infamous “giant bats” of Louisville, this one being of the baseball variety at the Louisville Slugger headquarters.
Then I looped south to the suburb of Shively for a photo of the gates of the cemetery where Elvis’ grandfather is buried.
Still showing two hours behind at this point as I left Louisville behind. My cell was still refusing to charge due to “moisture detected”, and I was down to 6% battery around this time. I tried a couple different cords as well as holding the phone’s USB port in the wind while riding, to no avail. More stress.
111 miles later, I’d crossed into Central time and arrived at the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green KY. 3% phone battery now.
Even as I processed the VETTE bonus, I was debating as to my next move. I could hop right back on the interstate and get to my waiting hotel pretty much on schedule for the day. It would mean dropping four bonuses worth a combined 653 points. Because two of them were just a couple miles up the road. I decided to drop only the most remote bonus, located several miles west of Bowling Green. Snagging the other three seemed a good compromise which would get me to the REST stop less than one hour behind.
So as night fell, I followed Garmin’s pink line a couple miles further into town, crossed the river and down a country lane to the Beech Bend Park raceway, where Lynne’s father had once spent time racing – this was her tribute to him. My cell started charging again at this point, so maybe it was a sign I’d made the right decision.
Back out to the main road and almost immediately I stopped for another historical marker, a low-point bonus but it was right along the way.
I picked my way through the quiet streets of Bowling Green to join US-31W heading south to Woodburn. Then turned on a nicely paved, very curvy and rural road which included a low-water creek crossing that was thankfully dry at this time. There was a group of teenagers hanging out near this bridge who didn’t seem to appreciate my thousands of deer-roasting LED lumens on high beam. 🙂
A giant fork created by a local LD rider marked this fork in the road, and not a single car passed by while I worked to get the bike and entire fork into a recognizable photo along with my placard.
Now it was just a scant half hour or so to my hotel in White House TN. I arrived about an hour later than originally scheduled, which was not as bad as I had been thinking throughout the afternoon. I suspected a spreadsheet error at that point and was glad for it. The gas pump at Love’s didn’t have acceptable receipts (no city or state) to begin my rest bonus, and the duplicate receipt wasn’t any better. I used the ATM in the store, which printed a good one and charged me $3.95 for my trouble. Bought a sandwich for the hotel room and bingo, that receipt was good too. Official REST started at 21:19.
We needed to stop a minimum of four hours and could earn points up to six hours. As usual, the rest points were big enough to make it a no-brainer to take the full six hours. Back in the hotel room, I did briefly consider shortening the stop in order to ensure I could complete my base route on Day 2, but abandoned the idea as it would take me completely out of the running. I thought at this point that a Did-Not-Finish (DNF) status was highly likely. Any bail out of tomorrow’s route would result in missing one or both of the combos, so I must plan to ride the entire loop.
Adding any optional bonuses along my route was now pretty much out of the question. However, I only dropped the one low-point bonus today, and there was a chance, however small, that I could ride my plan successfully tomorrow and turn in a respectable score. I would have to get my head out of my butt, be super efficient at the bonus stops tomorrow, and ride my ass off tomorrow.