I got up around 06:30, with just under five hours sleep, grabbed some of my gear and what I needed for the final odo reading and headed down to uncover the bike and pack some stuff. Filled up the water jug from the big containers of ice and water they had under the portico. I knew now that I didn’t have to worry at all about the ice melting too quickly in my RTIC jug. 🙂
I hit the breakfast buffet and my fellow riders all seemed a little bit less relaxed and more focused now on the task at hand. Generally, folks don’t reveal too much about the specifics of their route plan. Based on the fairly obvious bonus scatter pattern, I believed Jeff was purposely trying to keep the rally scoring fairly tight, and assumed I’d be seeing a lot of other riders out on the roads with me during this leg. I tried to keep breakfast comparatively light today and was outside by the bike at quarter to eight, plenty of time to poke around and grab a few photos while awaiting my final check-in.
I snagged a couple zip ties from Angelo to better attach my ID badge to the lanyard, something I’d learned in 2019 was a common mod since the lanyard clips aren’t really worthy of 11 days of rally abuse. I added some electrical tape for good measure – you DO NOT want to lose your ID badge during the rally as it results in a big goose egg for your score on that leg.
The staff worked their way quickly down the line of bikes once they got started. I got my odometer read and my ID card punched, and boom – now I’m at leisure for yet another 2 hours. 🙄 Snapped a few more pics, then headed back upstairs to finish packing and gear up.
Room cleaned out and ready to rock. I dropped a bag of stuff off in the designated room off the lobby then joined the crowds milling about the staging area and portico, trying to stay cool in the shadier areas until it was time to go.
At 09:45, Dale called us all to gather for the final rider briefing to lay out the logistics of the starting order, etc. Provo PD would be providing a motorcycle escort for the field all the way out to the interstate ramp. Danny Dossman would have the honor of leading the pack out of the gate on Tom Loftus’ bike, starting from the back of the lot to form a parade past all the other riders who would come after.
In typical Warchild fashion, Jim Owen and Wendy Crockett had been assigned to park in the fore-most positions in the lot, meaning they would be leaving last. The obvious message here is that it really doesn’t matter what order we leave in. 🧐 There were no further additions or changes to the rally book (someone asked), and we were sent back to our bikes to await getting ‘the finger’.
At the stroke of 10:00 Mr. Dossman was given the signal and proceeded to lead us down the alley of bikes, with everyone flashing their lights and honking a to provide our comrades with a good send-off. Dale continued down the line of bikes, alternating sides every 8-10 bikes. I had the bike pointed correctly, kickstand up, and in gear when I got the signal this time – no stalling out! And I was on my way!
The local officers in front of the pack did great, but were a bit slow in blocking off each intersection, which bunched us up a bit until reaching the highway. Maybe they are more used to charity rides and parades that roll along sedately. Good thing they weren’t aware of the lit fuse smoldering just behind them. 🧨😈 For some reason there were a lot of small kids out along the route with their parents waving as we went by, so many of us waved back and gave them a toot. It was fun to watch their faces, watching this unusual sight in the quiet streets of Provo..
I headed north on I-15, as did most of the rest of the field, it would seem. My first primary target was the big group photo bonus UT at Golden Spike National Historical Park north of Salt Lake. This was a rally-wide bonus for the state of Utah, but would only be valid to capture at 13:00 today. To claim group photo bonuses, the rider must be at the appointed location, checked in by staff, and appear in the designated group photo when it was taken, with their face and flag visible.
The first dilemma thrown at the riders was a small 85 point bonus called EPIC about 15 miles off the interstate on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. It would be easy to get to the Golden Spike park with about an hour to spare to sit and wait around, OR you could try to fit in this little side-trip on the way. Basecamp and my GPSes calculated an arrival time of just past 13:00 if I stopped for EPIC, too late to claim the larger and more important group photo. So, it was an early test of trust and knowledge of one’s own GPS and riding style, along with keeping proper perspective and weighing bonus value vs risk.
I had given myself a go/no-go waypoint on the interstate to make the decision depending on what time I arrived there. If I beat the time, I’d go for EPIC, otherwise just keep trucking to Golden Spike Park and wonder what-if. As we all brought our bikes up to speed amongst the car traffic, you could tell there was some built-up adrenaline as some jockeyed for position in the faster lanes. Eventually the bikes spread out more as riders settled in to their individual comfort zones. I ended up riding with my buddy Ken for awhile until he took an exit in SLC, much to my surprise.
There was a high pace being set by many, who gradually disappeared up ahead of me, so I figured they were trying to go for EPIC first – there was no real point in rushing to the group bonus. I kept my speed up but didn’t go overboard, especially after seeing active law enforcement stops along the way out of Provo and up through Salt Lake City. It would be nice to hit Antelope Island if there was time, but it was one of the smallest bonuses on the leg. I was also thinking about something Jeff had mentioned during the rider meeting while discussing our tracking bonus and speed. He’d said that one of the bonuses was about 20 miles of freshly paved road posted at only 45 mph and “they would be watching”. For all I knew, this road and causeway out to the park on Antelope Island could be that very stretch of road.
Anyway, I didn’t beat my ‘go’ time threshold, so I stuck with the ‘no-go’ plan and skipped EPIC, continuing north. I knew I’d have some unbearable down time at the group bonus, but I was committed to my decision. Then I missed my exit in Corinne.
I had started woolgathering a bit since there was currently no rush, and pondered what was unfolding on the group Spotwalla page, where riders had broken off west on I-80 towards Nevada, obviously skipping the photo bonus. According to my wife, that was the first major split in the field, with just a few crazies headed south right from the start. I figured Ken must be among those. Luckily I found a turnaround without going the several miles to the next exit and corrected my mistake in short order. Stay focused!
UT 83 was a nice quick road with both farms and some desert grasslands forming the scenic backdrop. There was a long line of rally riders strung out along the road, the pace still high despite the fact we’d be waiting around a while upon arrival at the bonus. I saw a few folks pull off for gas at a local station, which was probably a good idea since they could take care of a fueling stop basically off the clock.
I arrived at the entrance to Golden Spike National Historical Park with just over an hour to wait for the photo. The park commemorates the location and event where tracks being laid by two railroad companies met in 1869 to form the first transcontinental railway. I took my time getting an extra photo or two before pulling in to the parking lot, which was full of rally bikes and riders. Already, this was turning out to be a very different rally from 2019 for me, when I only saw 2-3 riders during my entire first leg!
I parked the bike and got instructions from IBR staffer Tim Masterson on where I should go. After noting my time/odo information for the bonus, I showed my parks pass at the front window and walked through the small visitors center to the rear outside platform facing the locomotives. I checked in with staffer Dennis Bitner, who confirmed my flag and ID number and told me where to be for the photo just before 1 o’clock. I meandered out long the walkway for some photos of the 19th century replica locomotives. Very cool and impressive!
I read several of the plaques. which were of some interest to me after watching the AMC show “Hell on Wheels” a couple years back. I was glad I’d come to this bonus, especially since it was featured so prominently on the rally artwork. I hadn’t really made it to any of the featured locations in 2019, which had felt a bit disappointing somehow.
The brightly painted locomotives even cooler to examine up close and I was surprised to see/hear steam coming out of various orifices of the machinery. They apparently keep them stoked during the day to be prepared for the scheduled reenactments that are part of the draw of this particular park.
Despite the well-planned frustration the Routemaster had orchestrated in luring three dozen riders to sit around for an hour just after starting the rally, I felt fortunate that I had this extra time to take some photos and really enjoy the site. Very rare on rallies in general, in my experience.
After getting my fill of the trains, I went inside to look around and enjoy the air conditioning. However, there were so many tourists already there in the small space, that I headed back outside in short order. Not having even known of this park’s existence before this week, I was surprised how popular it was, even on a Monday.
Dennis was still checking folks in, and I said hello to Ben Ernst, who mentioned he’d been to the EPIC bonus. I was taken aback to hear that, because there was still a good 20+ minutes to photo time. I congratulated him on taking the risk that paid off, and felt a bit dismayed that my calculations had been so misleading right out of the gate. There were a few other riders who showed up around then that had made the run out to Antelope Island. I had a feeling that Jeff must be feeling pretty pleased with himself, having vexed most of the Golden Spike riders with this little ruse.
I’d noticed a gate off to the side of the visitor center on my way back from the trains and wanted to see if it was open to the parking lot. Indeed it was, and I now had a planned escape route for after the photo without having to go through the crowded visitor center again! There was a large shaded patio area nearby with picnic tables, so I joined a few other riders waiting there for the photo.
At the appointed time, all the riders, over half the field all told, moseyed down to the area in front of the two locomotives facing off. A couple re-enactor engineers had boarded the trains shortly before and stoked the engines with coal and wood to get a good smoke and steam puffing out as they emulated the scene of the meeting of two railroads. Exactly at 13:00, the picture was snapped by Dennis and we were free to go. NOW the rally was on for real!
I jogged back up the path and out through my “escape hatch” gate right to my waiting bike, followed by several other observant riders. I quickly donned my gear and was one of the first several bikes out of the lot. Trying to switch my brain and speed back into rally mode, I passed a few riders on the way out along Promontory Road and then turned left onto UT 83, whereas I noticed that most folks were turning right – I assumed to I-15 where they’d continue north towards the Idaho bonuses.
Immediately after the turn and still getting up to speed, I spotted some sort of large rocket up ahead, which especially caught my attention in light of the rally theme and artwork. Turns out it was a Northrop Grumman facility, with some retired rockets and shuttle boosters on display out front. Pretty cool and unexpected surprise.
As I continued north on 83, I spotted a few other bikes behind me in the distance, and now knew I wasn’t the only one who’d chosen to go northwest after the group photo. We all appeared to be going around the same speed so they remained in my mirror for quite a while as we jogged west on I-84 and picked up UT 30 to circle back down around the Great Salt Lake to the interstate. This was an isolated road, with a mixture of grazing lands and desert with views of salt flats as you got closer to the lake bed.
After finally hitting I-80, I stopped briefly to re-fuel in Wells, then continued on down to Elko, where I exited for the ELKO bonus. My buddy Marc had passed me by during my fuel stop and was just finishing up at the bonus. We exchanged a wave as he took off, and I got down to my own business.
In 1926 pilot Leon Cuddleback landed his tiny Curtis biplane at Elko, completing the first scheduled air mail run in the US.
A two-up couple (the Handleys?) rode in as I was finishing, so I gave them a wave as I left. Back on the highway, I soon caught up to Marc on the long ride across Nevada on I-80. The ST was eating miles a couple clicks faster than his mid-size GSA, and I gave him encouraging hand signals and body language as I went by 😎 and received a jaunty salute in response. 🖕
It was another hot afternoon, up to a steady 104F for quite a long stretch. I was prepared for this after the intense heat last week en route to Provo! I stayed buttoned up and spit cold water from my jug into my sleeves whenever they seemed to be drying out, which helped maintain the evaporative cooling.
The wind picked up significantly on the approach to Fernley, some of the gusts blowing me around in my lane. I stopped for fuel there at Terribles Casino, the same place I’d stopped for a NV receipt during my 48-10 last year. Before I went inside for the restroom, I checked the bike twice to ensure the wind wasn’t going to blow it over.
I headed south from Fernley to pick up US 50 west at Silver Springs, several miles into the unincorporated community of Dayton NV. This town still had the old west motif apparent in the small historic district I rode through, which was kinda neat. I rode right past the unobtrusive NVGOLD bonus plaque the first time, and pulled a uey to come back to it.
Abner Blackburn made the first gold discovery in what is now Nevada in 1849 in the canyon just west of here.
US 50 brought me into Carson City, where I picked up I-580 northbound. Winds were still pretty stiff but it was only about a half hour or so up to Reno, where I found myself rolling down N Virginia Street, which appeared to be the main drag for some big casinos.
The NV rally-wide bonus was a small plaque on the side of this street, at the former site of a tailor shop.
Jacob Davis invented the pants we now know as blue jeans using sturdy cotton fabric he obtained from Levi Strauss & Co, combined with his own invention of strengthening the stress points with copper rivets.
Heading north out of Reno on US 395 into the gathering dusk, the wind gradually eased off as I gained elevation into the Sierra Nevada range. I picked up CA 44 near Susanville, leading to CA 89 for the dark isolated ride northwest through the Lassen and Shasta National Forests. This section was actually quite fun, since the roadsides were cut back and very well marked, and I was able to use high beams and keep my pace high while still on critter alert. I pulled over a few times for quick stretch/nature breaks, as I started to feel the effects of the excitement, heat, and miles of my first day on the rally, following limited sleep the previous night.
Knowing my rally sleep cycles fairly well, I’d loosely planned a short roadside nap for somewhere in the Yreka CA area for around 01:30. I hit the I-5 at Mt. Shasta (too bad I couldn’t actually see the beautiful namesake mountain this time around) and came back into reliable cell service. After a phone chat with Ken, who had indeed skipped the group photo and was up ahead of me on this northwestern route, I wasn’t feeling sleepy again until after crossing into Oregon.
The first rest area was just south of Ashland OR, and it was well-lit and fairly quiet. I grabbed a picnic table under a small pavilion, set my cell phone alarm for 2 hours (with my Sena still connected), rolled my fleece up behind my neck and drifted off.