Ronkonkoma NY – Geneseo IL
Tues June 18, 2019
I awoke after my two hour slumber and put the coffee on while packing up. The weather sites called for storm cells to be heading through the NY area this morning. I wasn’t certain if breakfast was included at the little restaurant inside the hotel and didn’t take the time to find out. I got my bike packed up and refilled the thermos with ice, then hit the roads of Long Island about 09:07, shaving about 20 minutes off my planned stop. From what I could tell on the group spot tracker, Greg had already been to the lighthouse early this morning and was on his way back through the city by now, during rush hour. I was hoping midday would be kinder in terms of traffic.
This was my first time out to the eastern end of Long Island, and my assumptions of winding country roads and light traffic were sorely misplaced. After several miles of divided parkway that flowed fairly well, things ground to a snails pace on the local town roads starting in Southampton. The surrounding looked like any of several New England suburbs or rural towns I’ve ridden through, but the volume of cars was doubled or tripled. Every traffic light seemed to have a backup of several light cycles and slow construction vehicles didn’t help. I used every trick, technique, and shortcut I could think of to keep myself moving, passing where possible and avoiding the biggest delays.
I arrived at Montauk Point Lighthouse Museum right about 11:00. The point was fogged in a bit, but the lighthouse was visible on the grounds, behind some closed chain-link gates. After re-reading the bonus instructions, I walked down to the gates and got the best photo I could to match the angle shown in the rally book, which must include the sign with the lighthouse itself in the background.
Back at the bike, I had second thoughts about my photo angle. Seeing as this was the largest point bonus in the entire Leg 1 rally book, I didn’t want to chance screwing it up. So I gathered my flag and camera once again and jogged down to the museum entryway, paid the $12 fee to gain admittance to the grounds, and walked 50 more feet to get a clearer photo of the sign and lighthouse.
The next three hours were among the most miserable I would experience on the entire rally. After escaping the local roads of far eastern Long Island, I-495 brought me to the western end fairly quickly. Then, I decided to trust Waze to navigate me through the NYC area rather than following the Basecamp/Garmin suggestion of looping north to I-287 via interstates 95 and 87. Waze decided to take me due west through Manhattan and over the George Washington bridge, a place I swore never to ride again unless it was absolutely necessary during a rally. I should have known better and don’t know what I was thinking. As the traffic closed in around me, the cloudy skies opened up. Hard. The roadway was flowing with water as I inched forward in traffic, with not even a breakdown lane or shoulder on which to make an escape. This lasted approximately forever.
After finally crossing the GWB into New Jersey, there were some blue skies while the rain and traffic let up for a short while. Then I hit a traffic backup near Patterson NJ caused by an accident that had apparently just occurred. I was up near the front of the blockage and could see a police car was blocking the right two lanes exactly even with an on-ramp while the officers were scrambling to deal with the crash in the left lanes. The first car on the on-ramp was vacant and blocking that traffic, because the driver had run over to assist with the accident and everything was at a standstill.
An ambulance came up the on-ramp with sirens shrieking and horn blasting for that first car to be moved, not realizing the driver was absent. She came running back over to move her car, allowing the ambulance to get by. This also freed up the path for the onramp traffic – should they dare – to proceed and join the highway past the scene of the accident. No immediate takers, so i quickly wheeled myself over through the breakdown lane and over the triangle to the ramp and zoomed on my way, on a now empty I-80, feeling lucky to have gotten through that mess quickly.
Smaller storm cells hit me off and on as I proceeded west on I-80, but at least I was out of that NYC traffic morass! Temps in the low 60s felt refreshing after the humidity of the Outer Banks yesterday (was that just yesterday?).
A hour or so later, still in Pennsylvania, I ran into a jam that turned out to be backed up at least TEN MILES. I had to get creative with my routing and riding skills to find a way to the front of this mess. Apparently, there had been a major accident involving multiple trucks and a few miles of I-80 westbound was completely closed. When I made it up to the front, they were detouring all westbound interstate traffic onto a local road in Turbot township and then a mile over to I-180 to then regain I-80 westbound. Not a terrible detour except for that initial backup, which could have meant sitting for hours and been a rally-killer.
Roads less traveled, indeed! I had a lot of time to ponder the rally theme today and wasn’t exactly feeling the sunshine and butterflies that great motorcycling roads bring to your soul. However, I was convinced this WAS a good route points-wise and that was what mattered for the next 10 days. Fun/scenic riding areas would be a most welcome during the rally, and I’d be likely to see some of them once I got out west. For now, I told myself that I was just paying some of my dues in advance a la “certificate mode” – just cranking out the interstate miles and trying to make efficient stops.
My next planned bonus stop was (so I thought) in western Pennsylvania, a low-pointer just north of I-80 that would make a great break from the highway. I exited the interstate and rode through the nice little community of Clarion. I’d been enjoyed bright blue skies and clear weather since Harrisburg, but of course my radar app showed a plump little rain cell about to cross through right where the bonus was! I crossed the Clarion River and arrived at the designated waypoint near State Gamelands No 072. What was I looking for again? I pulled out my rally book and reviewed the bonus, coded SROCK.
Hmmm…Seneca Rocks. Wait, I’ve been by that before, isn’t that in West Virginia?
Yep, says here WV right in the rally book, WTF?
Hmmm, did I get the bonus name wrong, is there some other bonus here I should be looking for?
I pulled out the laptop and confirmed the SROCK waypoint was the only one in the area. I flipped through the rally book quickly and confirmed there were no other PA bonuses except the rail car in Pittsburgh, which was not on my route. Well shit! I figured I must have transposed some digits when updating the coordinates of my waypoints before importing to Basecamp. I could only hope this was an anomaly!
Note: I later discovered that I had completely screwed up the latitude by taking the first coordinate from the SHRM bonus, which falls just before SROCK in the listing.
So I’ve wasted maybe 15 minutes on this pointless little side trip, not a big deal in the grand scheme of 11 days. But feeling stupid wears you out, and I knew I needed to regroup a bit. I wanted to make the most of the remaining daylight and get more miles in, but also knew that the later it got, the more exhaustion would affect my decision-making. Ken had imparted some rally wisdom in the past, about the benefits of just getting off the bike for 20 minutes to have a meal, even just a sandwich, and do a “reset”. I needed that now and the opportunity presented itself when I stopped for fuel in Scrubgrass Township PA and spotted a Subway sign at the convenience store next door.
I purchased a sandwich and cold drink and brought my laptop and rally book in to one of the booths they had near the front of the store. I ate half the sandwich and some chips while looking over my route in relative peace and quiet. My original route had me taking my full 8 hour rest tonight, perhaps somewhere around Elkhart IN, setting me up for the Chicago bonus first thing in the morning. But then I realized yesterday, after starting the rally, that the REST1 bonus had to begin on Wednesday 6/19. The bonus in Chicago was only available 0600 to dusk, and I had planned to exit the city against morning rush hour. Now I realized that the timing was off due to my ferry and rest miscalculations, and I’d either be entering the city right at rush hour or getting there too early and wasting time.
I didn’t like the idea of more city traffic for a relatively lower point bonus anyway, so I dropped Chicago from the route and looked at the bonuses in Iowa. I didn’t have time to spend 45 minutes on the tour at the CRYST cave site, but I did see a way to nab the less restrictive daylight-only MAQUO bonus (actually worth more than Chicago) at sunrise by riding through the night with perhaps a stop or two at the Iron Butt Motel. I’d take my full rest the following evening somewhere close to Mount Rushmore, setting me up for an early morning arrival in Yellowstone. I liked the new plan because it would also get me through the entire Chicago metro area in the wee morning hours with little traffic. I was all for that!
I uploaded the new route, packed up, and stored the remaining half sandwich for tomorrow. I was completely recharged after this little pit stop, and felt really good about having a more solid plan for the next 24 hours. All the weather had moved through by now, and the twilight sky was clear and beautiful. I had miles to go before I slept, and they passed uneventfully as I sped through the midwest states, chatting off and on with friends and family on the phone until I was probably the only person I knew who was awake. I grew really tired as it got past 03:00 CDT while traversing Illinois, and knew I needed to stop for some shut-eye.
I took the exit in Geneseo and immediately spotted signs for Walmart. Knowing they allowed overnight parking for travelers by company policy, I joined several trucks and RVs in the parking lot. I found an isolated spot by the edge of the lot, set my Screamin Meanie for 30 minutes, loosened my ear plugs, and laid down in the shadow of my bike for a much needed sleep cycle, with a rolled up fleece behind my neck, just like the Routemaster suggested.