May 4, 2012

2012 cape fear 1000...

the cape fear 1000 is over and i'm finally getting around to telling about it... in an earlier post, i wondered what i got myself into. well, now i know...

before i get into the details about my experience, let me shed some light on what this rally stuff is all about. or at least this particular one. it's a scavenger hunt. it's a long distance ride. it's a puzzle. all put together. the rally master puts together a set of locations - more locations than you could ever visit in the amount of time you're given. each location is assigned a number of points based on a set of criteria, including difficulty in obtaining. the rider's objective is to get an many points as possible in the allotted time. of course the rally master likes to keep it interesting and will throw in mandatory stops or time restricted locations.

the cape fear 1000 had two types of rides, a twenty nine hour ride, starting in three different locations and ending in wilmington, nc, and a ten hour mini rally starting and ending in wilmington, nc. this years twenty nine hour rally started in arcadia, fl, paris, tn and jamestown, ny. my wife an i chose to ride in the ten hour mini rally. since this was my first rally, my goal was to just finish...

the fun actually began the wednesday before the rally when the rally master sent out the rally book - the book containing all the locations, the requirements for the locations and any time restrictions. i worked with my mentor to establish a route that would give us the most bonus points. i worked on a northern route and they worked on a southern route. through e-mails and phone calls, they took the northern route and tweaked it to get maximum points. the thought and methodology that went into coming up with the route was amazing - a great learning experience.

friday arrived and it was time to head to wilmington. the weather for the weekend was calling for rain. although it wasn't raining friday, they were calling for some rain saturday and a lot of rain sunday. my wife decided to take the cage. and threatened not to ride on saturday if it was raining. i could only hope it was an empty promise!!

the ride to wilmington was uneventful. there were a couple knuckleheads as we got closer to wilmington. but having my wife run interference helped. we attempted to catch up to my mentor on the ride to wilmington. through a mix up in communication, we ended up at the hotel and they ended up at their nearby beach house. but they'd make it to the hotel in time for us to do final planning before the meeting friday night.

did i say final planning before the meeting friday night?? uhhh, yeah, the meeting friday night. always known for the rally master throwing a wrench into the planning. for us it was a mandatory odometer check, an optional speed challenge and a mileage cap. oh, the mandatory odometer check - time restricted!! so much for planning before. after the meeting it's time to re-plan the route, adding in the mandatory odometer check, throwing out stops that might push us over our time limit or mileage limit. always weighing the time spent trying to maximize points against trying to get some sleep before heading out in the morning.

sleep that night didn't quite work out. between the anticipation of the ride in the morning and the worry of oversleeping, we didn't get any sleep. on top of that, there was a light outside our window that was shining through the window. i'd roll over, see the light, panic and check the time to only find it was two o'clock in the morning. i must have done that five or six times through the night.

finally, saturday morning is upon us and it's time to ride. we pack up the bike and head to the starting line - the end of the starting line. it's a cold, foggy morning. mileage on the odometer is confirmed and we're off...

first stop was just down the street and it was for bonus points. the requirement for this bonus stop was simply a picture of a bbq joint. this was a good first stop. it was early and gave us an idea of what we needed to do at most of the stops. the requirements for most stops is a picture of the location with your rally flag showing your rider number. since we were riding two up, my wife was required to be in the picture as well. we got there at 6:02am and were in and out...

next stop was up the road a few miles in surf city and we arrived at 6:35am. this stop required the driver to be in the picture as well, as you can see below. luckily we were with my mentor and getting this picture wasn't as difficult as it could have been. mental note for future rally's, pack a portable tripod...

then is was off to half moon to get a picture of the volunteer fire department. when we pulled up at 7:15am, it looked like the fire department was getting set up to have one of their bbq plate fundraisers. i'm sure they were wondering who these motorcyclists were, pulling up, taking some pictures and rolling out without even buying a plate. we had no time to waste. and i picked up another time saving tip - whenever possible, park the bike so that i can get the rider and flag in the picture without them having to to dismount. two stops down...

next it was to pink hill to get a picture of a replica lighthouse in the middle of pond. arrived at 7:52am. ironic that we had to get a picture of the lighthouse and it was so foggy. luckily visibility was enough that we could actually get the picture of the lighthouse. i was getting better at locating the item and positioning my bike so that it was easy to include in the picture.

we arrived in wallace at 8:29am to get a picture of the battle of rockfish memorial. when we turned in to the memorial, the parking lot was gravel and wet grass. taking care to turn the bike around carefully, i wasn't thinking of lining the bike up with the memorial to get the picture. hopefully my wife wanted to stretch her legs at that point.

then it was just down the road to rose hill and the world's largest frying pan, arriving at 8:49am. we'd been here before and knew exactly what we were looking for and where to park.

now it was time for the odometer check in warsaw. this was a mandatory and time restricted stop, from 9am to noon. we timed getting there about perfectly, arriving at 9:09am. this stop would be used to verify your odometer and check it against the mileage limit. the rally master decided to throw in an optional speed test bonus. this required you to obey the speed limit and all traffic signs. for example, coming to a complete stop at a stop sign instead of a california stop; not trying to beat red lights. this was scored based on the average speed of all riders. if your speed was within a certain window of the average, you got maximum points. if not, you lost points. to make it worse, and to keep the message that these rides are not only supposed to be fun but safe, you were penalized even more points if you were faster.

i decided i would set my speed based on the gps and not the speedometer on the bike. when times starts, you have to put on your helmet, gloves, mount the bike and go. my gloves were wet from the morning and were difficult to get on - i felt i was losing a lot of time. i finally take off, make a complete stop at the bottom on the hill, and head towards the stop light. as i approach, the light is red, there's another motorcyclist stopped. i start braking, the light turns green and i'm able to go without stopping. out on the highway i maintain my speed, thinking, watching my spacing between other bikes. i get to the ramp, stopping completely during my turn around and head back to the checkpoint. as i'm approaching, my mind starts thinking too much. should o slow down?? what are the chances that others didn't have to stop at the lights?? more likely than not, there is some wait time at the light. i didn't have any. what about my speed?? too fast?? just right?? if i'm going to lose points, i'd rather come in slower than faster. all the thoughts running through my head were crazy - i just kept telling myself to ride as i would and it will all work out.

i pull up to the checkpoint, get my odometer checked, get my time and am given a card with all the vital info. as i stuff the card into my windshield bag, the guy tells me don't lose this, you need hand this in when you get to the finish line. no card, no finish. yikes!!

with the odometer check and speed challenge out of the way, it's time to head to mount olive and the mount olive pickle company. on the way there, along the highway in loads of congestion, we're passing a fifth-wheel camper. as we're about twenty yards behind it, i smell burning rubber and start getting pelted with little bits of something. i realize the tire on the fifth-wheel had blown out and shreds were flying everywhere - and, because of the congestion, i have no where to go except the left shoulder. i start ducking and tell my wife to duck behind me because pieces are flying everywhere. my biggest hope is that a huge chunk doesn't come flying at us. thankfully none did.

as were approaching mount olive it hit me - we successfully completed the only mandatory stop on the ten hour rally. at this point, we could head for the finish line and be successful. i knew this kind of riding isn't for my wife. so i told her at any point, she just had to say the word and we'd head to the finish line. no matter what happens from this point on, we'd finish successfully, i'd finish with her riding with me, we'd be successful and i'd be happy. at this point, my wife was all in, she wasn't about to stop. she said we're going to finish what we started according to our plan.

we arrived at the mount olive pickle company at 9:54am, line up the bike and get our picture. here i learn the value of having a rider along with you. while frantically scanning the rally book, i mistakenly read the requirement as taking a picture of the sign at the corner of park avenue and cucumber street. i would have take a picture of the street sign. my wife knew to take a picture of the mount olive pickle company sign at the corner, not the street sign!!!

next stop bentonville at 10:21am. a quick stop here, lining up the bike for the photo. at this point i felt we had a rhythm with our stops and pictures. in between stops, she'd keep me in line with our next stop and the requirement.

we rode in to smithfield at 10:47am for a picture in front of the ava gardner museum. i've been through smithfield many times so i knew where this one was - although i wasn't so sure about parking. we had to park across the street, which meant dismounting, lining up for the photo, making sure i didn't get hit while standing in the street to get the photo - all taking up time.

heading out of smithfield i needed to get gas. i wouldn't have enough to get me to sandford, which was a stop that required a gas receipt. with a fill up in sanford, i should be able to make it all the way back to the finish line without needing to stop again.

so after spending what seemed like too much time finding a gas station in smithfield and filling up, we were on our way to erwin and the averasborough battlefield. we got there at 11:21am and it took us a few minutes, precious minutes, to find the marker. there were a lot of displays up around the battlefield so we weren't sure where to look or what we were looking for. after taking a little time to read the displays, we finally found the right one.

now it was on to sanford for our gas stop and then to carthage for our next stop. the stop in carthage was time restricted, nothing before 12:30pm. our timing was pretty good as we hit the cornwallis service station at 12:50pm. this was a cool mural and i wish we could have spent more time finding out about the place.

then it was on to southern pines for another time restricted stop. we rolled in there at 1:12pm. the requirements for this picture were a little more complicated - you needed four red lights from the train signal, the southern pines sign and your rally flag. and, in our case, the rider. after spending a couple minutes getting the right shot, it was time to get back on and head for the next stop.

our original planned had two more stops after southern pines, one in lumberton and one in elizabethtown. being so far from the finish line, we were concerned about time and, for me, mileage. we were already cutting it a bit close on our time getting in. and as i've mentioned before, my goal for this rally was to finish successfully. i'd be kicking myself if i didn't finish because i tried to squeeze out a couple extra points. then there was the mileage. with the additional mileage, i may have to make one final stop for gas. of course i only need a gallon or so, but it's cost time.

we decided to pass lumberton and make the stop in elizabethtown. this was the longest part of the trip. we were a few hours away from the finish line and only one stop left. the previous part of the day had been filled with shorter rides and more stops. now we were heading back with nothing but road and one stop before the finish.

my wife took advantage of the longer ride to catch up on some sleep. i knew she would be out when she laid her head on the back of my shoulder. when we got to elizabethtown at 2:33pm for our final stop, i had to wake her up. she was in a pretty deep sleep. the hum of the road and the passing of the painted lines lulled her into a good sleep. the problem was when we got there, she was still half asleep - i was having problems getting her to hold the flag up for the final picture. finally i told her just hold it in front of your face. she did, we got the picture and back on the road.

now we're heading to the finish line, about an hour out. i have to admit, at this point, i was tired and my butt was getting sore. i decided to stand up, stretch my legs and give my butt some air. when i stood up my wife started started hitting me. i know she doesn't like when i do things like stand on the floorboards. but she's never reacted like this before. so i quickly sat back down. my wife then explained that my move cost us our papers!! i didn't realize she had tucked the papers between me and me seat. when i stood up, they blew away. lucky for me they were only our notes and nothing critical that we needed for the scoring table.

we rolled in to the finish line at 3:37pm. enough before the 4pm deadline to be comfortable and feel good about dropping the one stop and not adding the extra time and mileage.

getting the scoring package together and waiting to be scored was a little stressful... did i have everything together?? were the pictures good enough?? did i have the receipts?? the waiting gave me more to to think and worry about it. then came my turn to be scored. i was asked if everything was in the envelope that needs to be there - once the envelope is opened, nothing cane be added. as far as i know, everything is in... in the end, scoring wasn't painful at all - not as bad as i had built up in my head.  and when it was all over, we scored good enough to finish tied for sixth. not bad for my first rally. especially considering my goal was to simply finish.

i learned a lot during the rally and will most likely share those thoughts in another post - this post is long enough already.

before closing though, i have to throw out some thank yous...

to jim, the rally master, and the krewe - thanks for the time and effort putting the rally together. i know there is a lot of planning and coordination that goes into making this a wonderful rally. also to the krewe for making a newbie feel welcome. they knew this was my first rally and took the time to talk to me before the rally and ask me what i thought of the rally when it was over. thank you.

to tim and julie. tim for being my mentor. not just for the rally but in motorcycling for the past few years. when i became an instructor, tim guided and encouraged me. tim has also been a mentor to me in getting into long distance riding - which eventually led to this rally!! and thanks to julie and her mad-mapping skills. sharing her thought process and methodology behind planning a route. it was amazing getting a peak in to the process. while i learned a lot, i also realized i'd never be as good as julie - my mind can't hold any more than about five three letter location codes. after that they all blur together and i'm making up my own codes. thank you tim and julie.

and a huge thank you to my wife. she's not keen on long distance riding - especially on my road king. when she does go on long rides, she likes to stop and do some sightseeing. and she doesn't like to ride in the rain. or the cold. this rally seemed to have all that. well, maybe not so much the rain, but it was foggy enough in the morning that we got wet anyway. but when the rally started, she was right there, giving it her all. even when we had the opportunity to finish early and still be successful, she wanted to stick with the plan and complete the whole ride. for weeks before and leading up to the rally, she kept trying to find reasons not to ride. i just kept telling her that i couldn't be successful without her - we (i) signed up as a two-up team, we both needed to be there. but that's only part of the truth. i'm successful because she's in my life. she's always there beside me, encouraging me. i'm thankful for every day that i get to share with her. thank you honey...

finally, here's a look at our route...