Fri Jun 24, 2022
Sometime after seven in the morning, I headed downstairs for some coffee and breakfast, which was set up on a raised dais area in the rear half of the large lobby room, specifically for the LDX crowd. The buffet was typical fare: eggs, meats, biscuits and gravy, etc. Other riders drifted in to sit, and we had a nice morning meal together.
Today was rally check-in day, and it should be a breeze, since we had already covered most of the registration paperwork electronically before even leaving home to get here. We just had to run a short odometer-check course, sign an AMA waiver, and that should be about it until the informal dinner tonight. The key word there being “informal” – that’s what suggested to me that Paul would not be forthcoming with rally books until our mandatory rider meeting at 0400 tomorrow morning.
Despite several informative emails being sent out about the rally in months and weeks leading up, Paul had craftily withheld key scheduling information and created a bit of uncertainty and tension for the riders (at least this one). Case in point – we hadn’t been told what time we would be leaving in the morning, the time for arriving at the checkpoint on Tuesday, nor the time of the finish next Friday! The rallymaster was certainly playing things close to the vest, which was a bit different than my experiences in the Iron Butt Rally (so far), where the rally schedule is made clear months in advance.
The biggest question in my mind was whether we’d be routing on the clock tomorrow morning, or starting formally as a group. In other words, would we receive the rally packs and then be told we could leave at any time – simulating an IBR checkpoint? Or would there be a group start at an appointed time, after we’d had some time to cobble a route together?
Routing on the clock is an acquired skill and must be experienced to fully understand the stress and how you will react to it. Even that doesn’t really help! I know the LDX is intended to partially serve as a stepping-stone experience to the IBR, so I thought this might be likely.
These thoughts and more made up a great deal of the conversation at the breakfast table this morning…oh what fun to speculate!
In another rally first, every rider had had to pre-select a time slot for their odometer check. This was actually kind of nice, as it meant not waiting in any lines! Ken and I had both chosen the 10:00 slot, so after a leisurely breakfast, we headed out front to watch the action.
Odo calibration courses are used to help measure odometer discrepancies for each motorcycle. Staff volunteers would record their mileage from odometer and GPS, to match against the known mileage of the route. Due to the appointment format, riders were departing and returning from the short course chosen by the rallymaster in very well-spaced intervals, so it was actually pretty quiet out here.
The weather forecast and radar showed some storms in the region that would probably be hitting Cheyenne dead-on later in the afternoon. The weather was hunky-dory at the moment, though windy as usual. Eventually, we wandered around back to look at the motorcycles and uncover our own bikes in preparation for our run. It was just a very chill vibe that morning.
I went back to the room to gear up, then met Ken back down at the bikes, where we took our time getting prepped since we were still early for our time slot. We reported to the staff back out front, where Lisa Stevens took down my name and mileage figures. Jeff took Ken’s while Toby kept snapping away, documenting the event for us all.
We had to wait a few more minutes since they were trying to maintain even spacing between the riders out on the course, but they eventually gave us the OK and away we went!
The route was a simple out and back deal, hopping on I-80 just around the corner from the hotel, heading west for some 23 miles or so, turning around on an overpass, and returning back to the hotel. It felt great to be on the bike again, even for a short ride. The weather was still beautiful, with the rain clouds still far off on the horizon, and the wind only blowing a mild gale once we were out of the city.
There are a lot of wind turbines dominating the grassy plains outside the city, so at least they’re making use of an abundant resource. Other than that, not really much to see on this stretch of interstate. I mused back in time to when I-80 had been the only road in the state of Wyoming that I’d experienced. My opinion of the state hadn’t been very generous back then, until I’d experienced the incredible scenery in other parts of the state. I was looking forward to more of that and hoped the rally bonus layout would be cooperative towards that goal!
Ken and I chatted via headsets while we rode, though careful not to get too distracted and miss the exits, which would mean a do-over.
After checking back in, we headed next door to fuel up in preparation for tomorrow’s start (whenever it might be!). I also picked up some brake fluid to top off my clutch reservoir, which had been leaking somewhere ever so slowly over the past year or so. It had been fine all this time, but of course right before a rally, you start second-guessing every little thing. We again pulled round to the side of the hotel and headed in to complete registration.
Final paperwork was being handled in one of the banquet rooms at the rear of the hotel lobby, where a local notary had been contracted to witness all of our signatures. In addition to the legal notarized waiver, a staff member walked us over to another table to obtain our signature using a faux quill pen, alongside all the other riders, on a poster-size piece of parchment paper that was hidden under a cover except for the signing area.
Since we couldn’t see what we were actually signing our names to, I mockingly protested that I never sign anything without reading it first. Nancy replied that we were just signing ownership of our bikes over to Paul after the rally was over. Haha, the rally staff likes their little joke. 😃
But hmmm, what could be up with this…? I was thinking it was most likely something to do with the rally theme, but what exactly? I couldn’t help wondering if it was an agreement to not use computers or GPS during the rally. 😬
We headed back out to the lot to put the bikes to bed, and do some more chin-waggin’ and tire-kickin’. Several of us admired the slick aqua paint scheme of the Handleys’ 2022 Goldwing, as well as the tail-dragger tanks that seem to be getting more popular on rally Wings these days.
I topped off the clutch reservoir and double-checked everything on the bike in preparation for a quick getaway tomorrow, if needed. The storm clouds were getting closer, so I covered it up for the evening, then headed up to my room to get things organized for the following morning. While working on the laptop, getting Basecamp and spreadsheets prepped, I could see the wind and rain outside as the storm finally rolled in.
I got all my clothes and gear as packed as it could be, and prepped a small bag of un-necessaries to leave behind during the rally. Around 15:15, my phone rang and I could see that it was Paul Tong…uh oh, this can’t be good.
Paul got right to the point: “Steve, do you have a black Honda ST 13 parked around back?”
“I’m really sorry to tell you this, but your bike blew over in the parking lot. Someone’s already picked it up…”
“Aw man, really? It blew over? Wow. I’ll be right down, thanks!”
Oh man, what the hell! I knew the wind was strong here, but really? Blowing over a bike that currently weighs well over 800lbs with full fuel tanks and mostly full luggage?! What kind of damage would there be? With the crash guards, the ST generally does OK after a tip-over, but there was always the possibility of hitting something, like someone else’s bike. I was a bit tense (understatement) as I got into the elevator with a couple other guests and headed downstairs.
It had been raining when the weather hit, but was just barely sprinkling now that the main front had passed by. The ST was standing upright when I arrived, and the cover had been bunched up and stuck between the aux tank and top box. I could see one of the black stretch straps on it had snapped completely off and was still hanging on the left footpeg. The motorcycle had obviously gone over on it’s right side, as the mirror cover on that side was dangling by the electrical cords and the mirror was smashed. Oh. Fudge.
I noticed some new crazy-looking scratches on the right saddlebag as well, which surprised me considering the beefy crash guards I have to protect them. At least it wasn’t broken. Thankfully, it appeared that the bike hadn’t hit anything else – the force of the wind must have just really knocked it over hard enough to roll around a bit on the crash bars, enough to cause the scratches.
The gentleman who had picked up the bike (thank you whoever you are!) came over and explained how he’d seen the wind fill the bike cover like a sail and just brought the bike right over. I thanked him as I checked over the bike, thankfully not spotting any further damage. He suggested heading down to the nearby Walmart to see what they might have as a temporary mirror replacement to stick over the broken one.
The wind was still gusting hard and clouds were rolling around all over the sky, and my adrenaline was flowing. It felt a bit like the earth was a bit less stable, when something like this can just happen. My next thought was to make sure the bike would start and to get it moved out of the wind. Thankfully, she started right up.
I grabbed my helmet from the room, then moved the bike around front of the building and out of the wind. I started looking up glass repair places on my phone, and found a couple in town. They looked to be closing soon, however, and I didn’t think this sort of repair would be something they’d be able to take care of last-minute. Looks like Walmart to the rescue – I hope.
I went back upstairs to take a few breaths and don my gear again. Dodging sprinkles from above, I mounted up and headed for the local Wally World, just a couple miles away. My mind was racing as I ran scenarios in my head regarding what options I might find to work with in the big box store. I watched the broken mirror as I rode and knew that it could turn into quite a distraction for me during the rally. At least it was the right mirror rather than the left, which I tend to use more often.
Finding my way to a parking spot in the busy lot, I headed in and located the automotive section. A helpful employee pointed me to what they had for mirror repair/replacement. I purchased a reflective sheet that you can cut to size, as well as a small stick-on convex mirror, not being sure yet which might be the better solution. I also picked up a small cheapo pair of kids’ craft scissors, to be able to cut the reflective sheets.
I dodged more sprinkles back to the hotel and set about removing the mirror assembly from the bike to take upstairs with me for surgery. Once tools come out in a rally parking lot, riders tend to flock over to see what’s up, and a few gathered around wanting to hear the story.
I asked for advice to whether I should try removing the broken mirror glass first, not knowing what lies behind it in terms of structure. The recommendation was for using the adhesive sheet cutout solution right over the broken glass. It was great to have a supportive, experienced community of riders close at hand to reassure me that all of this has probably been dealt with before, and nobody died from it. 😉 Thanks to Paul, Danny, Lew and whomever else offered moral support!
Back in the room, I dried everything off and read through the instructions carefully…twice at least. Then I proceeded to trace the shape of my mirror on the reflective sheet and cut it out….INCORRECTLY! Ack, I’d traced on the wrong side of the sheet! Oh well, now I have a spare for the LEFT mirror! 🤦♂️
Luckily, there was just enough room to trace another template on the sheet (correct side this time!) and cut it out. I used the included double-sided tape to firmly adhere the cutout on top of my broken mirror. The result ended up being a bit convex and wavy due to the broken glass, but the surface was generally reflecting an uninterrupted view of whatever it was pointed at. It should be good enough to get me through the trip.
I hopped online and immediately ordered a replacement Honda mirror, so at least I’d be able to swap it quickly after returning home. Then I headed back to the lot and re-assembled the mirror and cover, ensuring that everything seemed secure and the blinkers were still working – all A-OK. The faux mirror certainly looked deformed, but at least I could see behind the bike when sitting on it now and it would function fine for lane changes and such. Crisis mitigated!
By now, it was time for the scheduled rider meeting to learn about the LDX rally app, so I headed in to join everyone in one of the banquet rooms. I felt pretty well-versed in the app after running the Heart of Texas in the spring, but it never hurts to get a refresher and maybe glean a few new tidbits.
The app is covered pretty well in my HoT rally posts, but to recap: Paul created a custom mobile app just for rally bonus lookup, submittal, and scoring. When working properly, the app greatly speeds up the bonus stops for the rider and the scoring process for the rally staff. It is a great time-saving advancement for the endurance rally process in my opinion, though I also look fondly on those long scoring sessions alongside a real person, when you’re tired and sweaty from the rally, while looking over the photos and collected bonuses together. I’m sure the scorers don’t feel the same way. 😀
I had upgraded my phone since HoT and the app was functioning much better than on my older Samsung S7, especially where it mattered on the bonus selection screen. Paul gave his spiel and walked us through as much of the setup and scoring process as could be done without having the true rally book or bonus listing.
After most questions were asked and answered (or deflected), it was time for dinner. As promised, it was an informal affair with cookout food, namely burgers and dogs, served buffet style in the same rear lobby area where we’d eaten breakfast. There were no official announcements as we ate, leaving us to our own nervous energy and thoughts, wondering exactly what we’d be faced with at 0400. We speculated on the meaning of the mysterious parchment document we’d signed and what that might mean for our near futures. Weather’s always a topic, like the crazy storm that rolled through today. I recounted the tale of my bike’s tip-over and damage report, as well as the scramble to repair it.
After the meal and sobremesa, I decided to maybe pack it in a bit early. I stopped out at the bike to grab my thermos and noticed that the Yeti hydration mount seemed very loose, where it bolts around the rear footpeg. Turns out the threaded brass inserts in the bottom of the mount had pushed free of the plastic when the bike went over so hard. Luckily the inserts had pushed inward so the u-bolt was still loosely attaching the mount. Crap! I’d have to get this fixed tonight to ensure I don’t lose my hydration system in the middle of the rally.
Out came my tool bag again as darkness fell, and I removed the hydration mount from the bike completely. Luckily the inserts and u-bolts were all still intact and seemed re-useable – they’d just broken whatever bond had been holding them into the plastic mount bottom (read more on my hydration mounting solution in this post). I decided to keep it simple and try hammering the inserts back into the plastic to see if they’d hold. Under normal conditions, there’s not a lot of stress being put on this attachment since gravity holds it in place.
As I worked, the cheap flashlight from my tool bag kept flickering on and off, and then finally died. I was out of AA batteries, and took a break to walk down to the convenience store, but they had just locked up for the night. I didn’t feel like going up to the room to grab my other lights, so I lugged the tools and parts over to work in the lights by the hotel entrance.
There was a whole squadron of cruiser motorcycles parked here under the port cochere now – evidently an MC club of some sort was bunking here for the night. A few of the bikers were hanging around, so I chatted a bit with them while I banged on stuff. They were coming from the San Antonio, Texas area, and heading for South Dakota, if memory serves. They asked what kind of group all the other bikes were from, so I explained a bit about the rally, to their amusement/amazement.
They finally left me to it, and I managed to seat the inserts pretty securely back into the mount using a large wrench as a hammer. I reattached everything to the bike and secured the mount with an extra nylon strap. Everything felt solid, and I was no longer worried about any it coming off the bike at least. Mini-crisis #2 averted. NOW it was time to get upstairs for some rest!