Awoke just before 03:00 and headed downstairs to grab some breakfast before the start of Leg 2. First, I uncovered the bike and refilled my hydration jug, to get as many tasks done as possible off the clock. Then I joined the crew in the designated breakfast room for some foil-wrapped breakfast sandwiches and coffee. Everyone was relaxed and cheerful.
At 04:00, Jeff got up and addressed the riders, stating that the cumulative total to target for finisher status after the next leg would be 38,000 points. He mentioned that a lot of high-mile routes had been ridden in Leg 1, and warned us that such a pace would be hard to maintain through the remaining legs. We were warned about a Leg 2 bonus called STS on South Bass Island in Lake Erie that had been reduced to 0 points, due to Covid-related quarantine rules. He also drew our attention to a high-point bonus at the Tonka toys museum up in Minnesota that was only available for a four-hour window and would require a fairly quick departure.
Next, Jeff quickly ran through the current top ten standings after Leg 1. As I’d expected after seeing the bonus scatter, most of the leaderboard was bunched together within a 2000 point spread, so it was still a pretty flat competition at this point. I was pleased to find myself in the thick of things at sixth position, and nobody was surprised to see Jim Owen in first, but wow look at that rookie Mr. Brooke in 2nd place – and 4900 miles ridden!!
I really didn’t know what to think about Mike’s performance at the time, or how to even process it. I felt like I’d ridden fairly hard and smart the last few days, so I figured that additional 500 miles had to come from higher speeds, much less rest, or both. Either way, like Jeff said, a pace like that couldn’t possibly be maintainable over the full course of the rally (could it?).
And that was about all the brainwaves I had to spare on Leg 1, because we were now released to retrieve our Leg 2 rally book section (click for PDF) from the staff members stationed around the room. I managed to catch the first elevator up to my room this time, brewed some more coffee, and settled into my routing process whilst munching another eggwich. As Jeff had intimated at the start, the Leg 2 bonuses were mostly scattered throughout the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions, tracing a general route down toward the next checkpoint location in Huntsville, Alabama. Here’s what my scatter pattern revealed after removing all the rally-wide bonuses that I’d already claimed.
I didn’t really consider TONKA up in Mound MN, as there were plenty of points to gather up in the northeast, including another high-point group photo bonus at 14:00 the following day. I spotted a big time-limited bonus at the Curtiss museum and the daylight-only bonus in Auburn MA, and quickly decided to make those my two anchor points for the day.
I made a final decision at this point to forgo the attractive FLIGHT combo bonus. I hadn’t had time to get the required OH bonus in Dayton back in Leg 1, and was wary of dealing with Outer Banks traffic in high season. I didn’t even put together a comparison route to include those bonuses, since I couldn’t fit them in along with New England by the time I’d be leaving the parking lot.
I was also watching the weather radar, as a big storm system was lined up for a direct hit on Indianapolis. After yesterday’s deluge, I was feeling a bit of pressure to stay ahead of that mess if possible! So now with my route chosen, I transferred waypoint/route data to my devices and did a whirlwind packing up for a planned departure by 06:30 in order to make my deadlines.
Downstairs, I dumped my stuff on a table by the elevator and jogged down the corridor to get my bonus pages stapled at the front desk. Grabbing my stuff again, I headed out back to the bike and loaded up. I was about to mount up when I realized I had no cell phone. Shit! Did I leave it in the room or had I dropped it along the way? I walked slowly back into the hotel, forcing myself to remain calm while scanning the ground. Adrenaline flowing heavy now.
I forced a smile and nod at another rider as I got in the elevator with them to go back to check my room…whoa there it is! Just as the doors were about to shut, I spotted the phone across the hall from the elevator lying camouflaged on the floor by the table. I jammed my arm in the door to exit the elevator, grabbed the phone and headed back to the bike for about a 06:45 departure. Wow, that time between leaving the room and rolling out really added up!
My mind sort of registered that many bikes were gone and that there were other riders out at their bikes getting ready to go, but I was pretty laser-focused at this point. I was pleased with my performance on Leg 1 and felt good about my plan for today. I had to make it to that final daylight bonus in Massachusetts by tonight! As I pulled out of the lot, I realized that I’d been in such a rush to leave that I’d neglected to jot down a route cheat sheet for my tank bag. Not a big deal, I’ll take care of it during one of my stops, but it reminded me that I needed to remain focused and aware of the cumulative effects of getting less rest.
I only had a few bars on the gauge, so I pulled over only 10 seconds later to quickly see if there were any gas stations en route to the highway. There weren’t, so I decided to just ride the tank out and pull off an exit when needed. That ended up being close to Muncie, about 45 min back up I-69. Then, I continued north to my exit on US 224 eastbound through Markle out to Decatur, then southeast on US 33.
My Garmin XT played a few tricks, resulting in taking a few smaller farm roads on the way to the next bonus, but I’m guessing the time difference was minimal and the riding was very pleasant, with scenic wide-open farmland. The mid-west is much more enjoyable when you’re in it, not just seeing it from an interstate, as if on a TV screen going by. Taking SR 81 from Willshire to 118 north, I finally rolled into the small former railroad village of Ohio City to nab the OOPS bonus.
The first successful automobile and, not surprisingly, the first automobile crash happened here in Ohio City in 1891.
There were historical markers for each of these events, and we needed both photos (about 1/4 mile apart along East Carmean Street) to claim this bonus. As I got the first photo along the quiet avenue, a few more rally bikes came cruising along from whence I’d come. I quickly re-mounted and rolled further down the drag to get the second photo, passing and waving to Steve Giffin on his way back out. With the second photo secured, I rode back past the first plaque where quite a little gathering of rally bikes was developing. With a wave, I continued back out to 118.
I continued north and picked up US 30 east near Van Wert. 30 is a useful four-lane divided highway (with crossroads) that allows you to make quick east-west time through a good chunk of Ohio, about midway down between I-80 and I-70. So that’s what I did. Hitting the interstates again in Mansfield on I-71, I rolled north to, and directly through, Cleveland to I-90 near the lake. Two exits east and then I turned off onto surface roads.
Steve Giffin pulled up behind me on the exit ramp, so we chatted a bit at a couple stoplights en route to the bonus. The historical marker we sought was situated on the corner of a busy intersection where St Clair Ave meets E 105th. We turned onto the quieter 105th and over to the curb with flashers on, then walked over to capture the SUPERMAN bonus.
The first comic superhero to see print was created here in Cleveland by Glenville high school students Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
I had a few other tasks to manage, so Steve was off and running before me, heading north on 105th. My GPS agreed and I followed shortly thereafter, despite seeing a bunch of construction barrels up ahead. Well, sure enough, the road was closed, but there was a short detour through a run-down neighborhood, and let’s just say I was glad it was mid-day going through here. Then the XT took me down a dead-end industrial street next to the interstate. I stopped and opened Google Maps to rescue me, and was promptly led unerringly through Forest Hills Park and to the nearest I-90 on-ramp.
My next scheduled bonus was in Hammondsport NY, some 260+ miles away. I re-fueled in Austinburg before continuing through the little PA panhandle and into New York, turning east onto I-86, which is a pretty nice ride for an interstate in the northeast. Wooded landscape with few exits or big towns, several miles of it pass through the Allegany Indian Reservation.
There was more of a law enforcement presence along here than I remembered from my Ride Around New York. In one stretch, after several miles of one-lane construction zone, I got stuck behind a LEO doing 10 over the limit and was trapped for many miles. Wouldn’t you know, as soon as the cop pulls off an exit, Ken Andrews comes scootin’ along up behind me and right on by, slick as could be, and not even a rain cloud in the sky! I had my pace set based on the police activity I’d seen, so I just waved and watched him go, though he stayed in sight for many miles.
Though unaware at the time, I made my first really boneheaded error of the rally along this stretch. Actually, the mistake had been made before I’d even left the hotel. Somehow I’d missed the fact that there was a juicy 985-point bonus, PETRO, sitting right along I-86 en route to Hammondsport. It was only a couple miles off the highway and would have been an easy stop. I’d seen it while drawing out my route, of course, and figured I would connect it in once I established the timing for my main anchors bonuses. I apparently overlooked it because on the map it looks like it’s right on the route. I didn’t even recall it was there until reviewing my leg after the rally was over. And I was sad.
In Bath, I exited onto NY 54 north and just before 16:00 pulled in to the Glenn H Curtiss Aviation Museum in Hammondsport, a few miles up the road. The bonus was only available 0900-1700 (business hours), so I’d managed to maintain a decent time margin, even though I was running about 30 min behind my original ETA. I’d heard about this museum before (it’s on NER’s Best of New England NY attractions list), and you could tell from the entrance sign and outdoor displays something about what a cool place it is.
Mr. Andrews was already off his bike and headed into the museum, and my buddy James looked like he had pulled in just ahead of me as well. We headed in together and the nice lady at the front desk waved us on through towards the exhibit we needed, declining our offer of donations with a smile. This place was amazing! All sorts of cool aviation technology and motorcycles displayed all around us. I longed for time to look around, but stayed focused on the task at hand and followed Ken and James over to the correct corner of the room to snap a picture of the Curtiss V-8 motorcycle, for the CURTISS bonus.
While the Wright Brothers achieved first powered flight, few people contributed more to the development of air transport than Glenn Curtiss. His vehicular developments also included motorcycles and boats. Curtiss achieved a motorcycle land speed record in 1907 of 136.4 mph.
Waving to the nice lady on our way out, we promised to come back and she said “You’d better!” Out at the bike, I took a few extra minutes to pull out my laptop and jot down a routing sheet for my tank bag, to keep track of ETAs for the next few bonuses. I packed up and hit the road, spotting poor James stuck talking to what looked like some interested tourists in a camper van.
I rode north on NY 54 along the eastern shore of Keuka Lake, one of the finger lakes. From past trips through here, I know the area can be heavily patrolled, but this stretch of road was fairly remote and sparsely populated, with no LEOs spotted. James eventually caught up to me and we charged north in tandem for several miles, passing slower traffic as needed to keep the pace up.
After passing through the town of Penn Yan, Google told me to turn north before the Garmin wanted, onto local Pre Emption Road. I guessed there was probably a bit of traffic on route 14 along Seneca Lake. James elected not to follow me, and missed out on a great scenic road with some nice hillside views and vineyards, paralleling the lake from a distance.
I hit route 20 in Geneva and came up behind Mr. Andrews at the first stoplight, so I knew that my shortcut had worked out. Now i stuck with my Arkansan friend, picking our way through the frustrating traffic of the finger lakes region, through Waterloo over to Seneca Falls. We chatted (i.e. shouted at each other) a bit at the stoplights along the way. Damn Harleys are loud, man! 😉
Mr. So-and-so missed the turn onto the little side street where the RIGHTS bonus marker stood at the corner, and had to pull a uey to come back, while I was parked and already getting my photo. James came riding up while we were there, shaking his fist at me “Damn local!”.
The first convention for Women’s Rights was held here in 1848. This convention sparked the national conversation for equal voting rights for both men and women.
Ken and I finished up quickly and followed the GPS lines north out of town on local roads to find our own ways to the nearest access ramp to I-90. Time to blast! I had over 250 miles to go now to my next bonus in Springfield MA. I refueled after about 40 at the DeWitt Service Plaza near Syracuse. I think Ken must have stopped as well, as we ended up riding close together again for a while on this stretch.
I-90 was pretty crowded today, and I eventually lost sight of Ken as he picked slightly more assertive lines than me through the bunches of cranky northeast drivers, who’d just as soon bump you off the road or tailgate you for 50 miles than let you pull in front of them. This ain’t the polite south nor lane-splittin’ California, sir! 👨🌾 😆
I lost sight of Ken, but James eventually caught up to me in the traffic, and was in my rearview for quite some time until he exited before Albany to go his own way. I had a feeling that many riders would be doing the New England loop clockwise, and wondered how many would be attempting the opposite direction along with me. I hadn’t compared the two (no time), but I knew counter-clockwise would work out well for timing as long as I made it to the MA bonus in daylight. I’d be on the interstate or picking city bonuses overnight, and then have daylight up north to make good time cutting across Maine/New Hampshire/Vermont without as much concern for deer.
Despite the traffic, I maintained a quick overall pace, crossing the Hudson River and remainder of New York, and finally re-entering my home state of Massachusetts.
In 50 miles or so, I took I-91south and crossed the river into Springfield proper, taking the first exit off I-291 onto surface roads. Downtown was quiet, and in a couple quick blocks, I pulled to the curb near a brick-lined plaza to snap my photo of the DURYEA bonus. A local couple was hanging around/on the replica, so I mentioned I was just getting a photo for a scavenger hunt and not being weird by taking their picture. They offered to move, but I said nope, quicker to just take the photo and be on my way, have a nice day!
Charles and Frank Duryea of Springfield developed the first successful gasoline-powered car. Their second prototype was built on this site in 1895.
It was around sunset, and I still had about 50 miles to go to the daylight-only bonus in Auburn, so I was starting to feel the pressure. The darkness seemed to be coming on a lot faster after sunset than it had out west and at lower latitudes. I set a strong pace east on the Mass Pike, riding almost as assertively as my southern friend earlier on – ah so this is what true rally mode is like again! My stress level continued to rise as the sky got dimmer and dimmer, and I kept checking the horizon to ensure I could still see distant hills, trees, and so forth.
45 minutes later I was pulling off I-290 onto the familiar streets of Auburn MA. I slipped into the parking lot of the fire station near the big white “rocket” that I’d gazed at ever since I was a young child coming with my family to the shopping mall across the street from Goddard Park. I’d learned since then that the white rocket was, in fact, a more modern (and solid propellant) Polaris missile, with nothing to do with Auburn’s claim to fame, Dr. Robert Goddard. So pulling up in the lot, I knew that missile was a red herring to throw tired rally riders off the true scent if they didn’t review the photo in the rally book.
I wasn’t exactly sure where the real replica rocket was, but grabbed my camera and GPS and was about to go looking for it when a friendly fireman came out and asked which rocket I was looking for. He must have already seen some other riders come through because he pointed me directly to the MA bonus replica rocket, an 11 foot high spindly-looking contraption enclosed in a plexiglass box, only some 20 yards away. He mentioned that it had been launched from the golf course on a hill nearby and I told him I’d actually been to that golf course and plaque (during Butt Lite IX). Incidentally, I’ll never forget it because not only did I forget my flag there, but also took the wrong photo and got no points!).
Robert Goddard launched the first liquid propellant rocket from this site.
It was pretty dark out now, but still a decent amount of daylight showing in the western sky, so I took a couple extra photos to document it. Whew, I’d made it! Now I could breathe just a bit easier as made my way back out to the interstate and backtracked slightly west on the Pike, to I-84 towards Hartford.
By the time I reached the Connecticut capital, darkness had fallen and it was a lively Saturday night in the downtown area. Customized cars and bikes with loud stereos and colored LED lighting accents were cruising the city streets, while I waited at several interminable stoplights. I maneuvered my way to the wide-open curb at a big intersection, once I arrived at the waypoint and spotted the PAY bonus plaque mounted high on the outer wall of an office building. I certainly didn’t know Hartford owned this particular claim to fame! The things you learn on the Iron Butt Rally!
The world’s first pay telephone was installed on this corner in 1889.
Wasting no time, I got the shot and got moving again, pulling up to another stoplight on the way out to the highway. Across the intersection in the oncoming lanes was another rally motorcycle. The light was just long enough to make out that it was my buddy Ken Aman – what are the chances! I waved, but it was either too dark or he was too focused on his GPS to see me, and so two ships passed in the night. So crazy, since we’d been talking for a couple hours by phone almost every day of the rally.
Rather than follow Basecamp’s suggestion of looping south via CT 2 to I-95, I picked up I-384 to US 6, which afforded me a more direct ride across eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island with about the same ETA, especially at this time of night. I made a stop for fuel just over the RI state line in Foster, at the same 24-hour station where I’d bagged the Ocean State on my 48-10 ride.
I turned north on I-95 in downtown Providence, and exited a few miles later into the adjoining city of Pawtucket. I spotted yet another rally rider (same guy from the ACE bonus in Montana I believe!) as I puttered through the dead-quiet surface roads. A couple blocks later, I arrived for the RI bonus at the historic Slater Mill.
The Old Slater Mill in Pawtucket is known as the birthplace of the cotton manufacturing industry in America.
Situated near the mouth of the Blackstone River valley, my home turf, I’d seen the highway signs for this place more times than I could hope to count, though I’d never visited. As it was, at this time of night, I came away not much the wiser anyway!
When I first created my route, I knew I’d be passing close by my house when I got past Rhode Island. So far I’ve generally stuck to the rally tribal wisdom that states you should never sleep in your own bed during a rally, or you might never leave! However, I’d reconsidered this during the ride today, thinking it was too good an opportunity to pass up to get a shower and decent resting spot without mucking with a hotel. I’d considered how to manage the logistics before calling Char to expect me just past midnight, which is exactly when I came rolling in, only about a week and a half after leaving.
The rules I set for myself were simple: everything stays in the garage, and keep interaction to a minimum. I hugged my wife and dog (he seemed wobbly but OK, which did my heart well), and they then went back uptairs to bed. I disrobed in the garage, leaving almost everything there, took a shower and brushed my teeth in the cellar bathroom, and spent no more than 15 minutes finalizing tomorrow’s route and hotel before crashing out on the sofa with my alarm set for two hours.