The night before
I made it to Bethlehem the day before the start. I went to the local Sheetz and put some gas in the tank. The pump was a minute slower than my phone, but the receipt had the right date, time and location. Perfect for the start. I went and checked into the Holiday Inn. I went over the route again, grabbed a shower, and got a nap. Dinner was supposed to be at 6pm, so I headed out at 5:50p. Chuck was in the hall and we decided to wait for his girlfriend, Dianne, and all go to dinner together.
There were 2 full tables of rally riders. They made some room and I got to hear about half of the conversations. The restaurant was loud and I didn’t know anyone, but started talking to the people near me. The food was okay but I really enjoyed hearing the stories from other riders. The funny thing about a pre-rally dinner… right after the food was eaten, everyone wanted their bill and to get out of there. Nobody was looking to hang out! Everyone wanted to get some sleep!
At the hotel, Chuck and I tried to get our communicators to work together. I have a Cardo Packtalk Bold and Chuck has a Senna SM-10 . We got them to work once, but when we did, the Packtalk wouldn’t talk to the phone. It would only connect to Chuck. Nope. Not gonna ride THAT way!
Friday morning we rolled out with plenty of time. All my crap was packed in what I thought would be a good setup. Clothes and stuff in the left pannier, tools in the right. Snacks and essentials in the tank bag, rain gear and rally stuff in the trunk.
It was colder than I liked so I made sure I was wearing my new-to-me heat gear. We weren’t the first bikes to arrive at the Sheetz for the start, but before the start, there was about 10 bikes. We saw a lot of the same people from the night before. At 7:01 am I got gas in the tank, a receipt, circled the start time, wrote my rider number and mileage, and texted a picture off to indicate my start.
“K” was the reply and we were off!
Our first stop was an hour and 50 min away in Milton, PA. We needed to get a photo of the statue of Chef Boyardee. Did you know he was a real guy? I didn’t! Chef Hector J. Boiardi! We pulled in the parking lot and drove around a little but didn’t see the statue. I told Chuck I was going to check the rally book, but Chuck saw a security guard walking towards us. Chuck started riding towards him and before Chuck got within ear shot, the security guard started pointing at the front of a building. The Security guard knew what we were looking for and was pointing us to it without us asking! There must have been a lot of riders in front of us!
For the rally, when we stopped, I would get my flag and take the picture. Then I would log the date, time, and my mileage on the rider log. Usually Chuck was done way before me. Then I would email off my photo.
I understand this isn’t the way things had been in the past, but this year there was an opportunity to submit photos on the fly via email. Chuck elected to go with his point and shoot camera as he has always done. I was afraid of having yet ANOTHER point of failure, so I signed up to do the photo submission. I have 2 cell phones with me and both of them would do great sending the photos.
One phone was my primary GPS phone. On it I had Pocket POI with all the bonus locations. It was super easy to tap a bonus and have it open in Waze.
The other phone was my Primary entertainment and Photo device. On it I had my camera app, my photo size reducer, and my spotify and audio books.
BOTH phones had all the apps. I could have just as easily switched the role of the phone or had one phone do everything.
I found it too me a minute or so longer than Chuck at each stop. Taking the photo, then reducing the file size, then sending was longer than snapping a pic and rolling out.
Chuck had me leading to the first bonus. Having never ridden with Chuck, I was never sure if I was going too fast, or too slow, or being annoying, or what. I think that we were used to each other by day 2, but I really was worried about screwing him up the first day!
I had chuck lead to JBJB, which was 223 miles away. Traffic in PA was pretty light and not many people camped in the Fast Lane. During the ride out I heard the tone that said my Cardo was low on battery. What? I charged it last night!! WTF?!? I put my battery pack in my breast pocket and ran a cable up to plug in my Cardo on the fly. It wouldn’t charge. At the next fuel stop I looked at the Cardo I found out that the charging port on the Cardo was bad. This is a common problem and Cardos is replacing the units where this happens. The problem was I wanted it for this ride, not in 6-8 weeks.
I called my son and had him start looking for a new unit any where on our route. I put a message out in the Iron Butt Facebook group asking if anyone knew where to buy one in stock in Cleveland or Youngstown. I got a reply that Cycle Gear was in Cleveland and they might have one. I called my son and he said that they were out of stock. It turns out that Chuck had called his girlfriend, Dianne, and she had done the same thing. She called Cycle Gear and had them hold the only one they had in stock. Chuck told me this and I had my son call to verify. Yes, they did have ONE Cardo packtalk bold, and it was being held for Jim. SWEET.
Jib Jab Hot Dog Shoppe was another quick stop in Youngstown. It was RIGHT off the interstate, so it was quick to get back on the road again.
We were off again and headed for Cleveland to pick up HOTS. It was a barbecue joint that made its own hot sauce. Before hitting HOTS, we had an opportunity to get a Blue Plate Special bonus. We had two regular Bonii, so now we threw in a Bob Evans. Good to pick up points down on the farm!!
For the Blue Plate Special, the instructions were to take a photo of the restaurant that clearly identified the restaurant and had your whole bike in the photo. DONE!!
There was quite a bit of surface streets involved in getting HOTS and a lot of them through not so nice neighborhoods. I saw a dude handing off a bag of what appeared to be fresh green herbs and receiving some money. Nice to see entrepreneurship alive and well!
By the time we collected HOTS I was done with my heated gear. I packed up the heated gear, logged the bonus, sent off the photo and we were back on the road.
By this time we were over 30 min ahead of our estimated times. Cycle works was 20 min off the trail, so we would be 10 minutes behind after going to cycle works. Worth it in my opinion, but I felt bad about putting more pressure on Chuck.
Chuck assured me that it wasn’t a big deal and he was more than happy to go to Cycle Works. In retrospect, he said he should have gone to the next bonus and waited for me. That way if we tied on score, he would beat me on efficiency. I wouldn’t have begrudged him that!
We made Cycle works and I went in and threw my plastic magic card on the counter. She handed me my new cardo and I was out the door. Even though this new cardo was an up model JBL edition, it still snapped into the old holder and worked with my ‘non-JBL’ speakers. I figured I would do the upgrade some other day. Right now, ROLLIN’!!
It was 2:13 pm when we rolled out of Cycle Works and headed for JMSM, a stop at the JM Smucker farm. This had some back roads and good weather. This didn’t feel like a rally, but like a nice fun ride. The stop was pretty cool and we had to take a picture of the arch over the drive way. Chuck took one side and I took the other. At 3:14 we were done at Smuckers and off for our next stop!
With HOTS and JMSM down, it was time for another Blue Plate. A quick stop at a Cracker Barrel fit the bill. I pulled up in front of the restaurant, got out the flag, and got ready to take my picture. I dude came up and said “I wouldn’t park there! I parked there and someone hit my bike. Park somewhere else!” I thanked him, took my pic including the front of the building and my whole bike, sent it off, logged the bonus, then rolled out!
We had a longer ride to get to DIAT, a train and then JMSM. We grabbed DIAT up a gravel hill and headed for Columbus, OH to get JMSM.
The sky started getting dark as we were rolling to JMSM.
JMSM was a pretty cool stop. It was in the Columbus, OH city propper down some cobble streets. JMSM is the Schmitts Sausage Haus restaurant.
There was a bonus for getting your picture in the cutout. After I took a picture of Chuck and he took a picture of me earning us the COUT (cut out) bonus, people asked us what we were doing. Chuck is a great ambassidor for rallying and explained the “scavenger hunt” that we were on.
One impressed lady wanted to take our pictures. Hell, we’re good looking dudes. I wasn’t surprised. She asked if she could take our picture together so we said sure! Then she wanted to use our phones to take the pictures. She didn’t want a picture of us. She just wanted to take a picture of us using our phones. I don’t understand why, but we let her.
That was two more stops! Blue Plate special time. We hit an Applebee’s on the way to Cincinnati. I think I was starting to get tired at this point.
That was at 6:02pm. I logged it, sent it, and we were off again, heading for SKYL, a Skyline Chili restaurant in downtown Cincinnati.
As we were riding out, traffic got heavy. It started to rain. I started thinking…. Somethings wrong. You’ve been with me so far, do you see what I screwed up?
SHIT! I took a pic of my flag and the restaurant for the Blue Plate Special! I was supposed to have MY WHOLE BIKE in that pic!
I called Chuck. There were tons of chain restaurants along the route and I needed to hit one before SKYL if I wanted points! Chuck elected to continue on to SKYL so he could then book a hotel for our manditory rest and I would grab a replacement for my screwed up Blue Plate Special.
At 7:16 I made up for my failed shot with one that would count and submitted it before hauling butt in the rain and heavy traffic to SKYL.
I caught up with Chuck at SKYL and got my pic.
We were behind schedule. We had planned to get SKYL and get our 6 hours rest right starting at 6:15. It was 7:42 when I got the pic. The hotel we thought we would stay at was already full. We had to do some hunting and ended up finding a Super 8 that would work.
Even though we had made good time, the rain was starting to pick up and our next stop was down some twisties. Chuck is serious about finishing with time for paperwork, so we elected to cut our rest short. We would be losing points, but we didn’t want to risk a DNF. Some of this was my fault with the Cardo detour and some of it was heavy Cincinnati traffic. We found a gas station to get our rest start and I went in to see if they would be open at 2 am for us to do our rest stop receipt. NOPE. They would be closed, but the lady at the counter ASSURED me I could use Credit at the pump and we could get gas WITH a receipt if we used our credit cards after hours.
We went to the Super 8 and I ordered us a pizza. Chuck and I ate pizza and tryed to figure when we needed to leave to get back on schedule. After a couple slices, Chuck took a shower and I fell asleep with the lights and TV on.
After a shower, I started to load the bike. It had moved from sprinkle to rain outside. It would remain raining until the last few 4 hours of our rally, all through KY, WV and into VA. at 1:30 am we got our Rest End receipts and hit the road.
Our first stop after the rest was Rabbit Hash General Store. At 2:00 am the twisty and wet road was enough to make me keep off the throttle. Soon we started seeing deer… not just a few, but A LOT. We saw well over 40 deer. Herds by the road, on the road, in the field. I kept thinking that KY needs to issue more deer tags to their hunters! Rabbit Hash General Store was super cool. I wish it would have been light when we were there! We got the pic, got it logged, and I got it submitted, then we were off!
With SKYL and GNST out of the way, it was time to get a Blue Plate Special. We were heading to Frankfort to get Rick, but we need to stop by a Pizza hut on the way. This was probably the longest stretch of road for me. It was great road. Empty. Fast. But it was raining… and I found out that my used waterproof riding boots were like sponges. They soaked up water. My feet were freezing! My gloves were soaked, but my feet were the worst. Every time I readjusted my feet, the cold water would circulate around my feet. Finally we stopped for gas. I got out dry socks and went in the store. I begged some store shopping bags from the nice lady and put on my dry socks, then put my feet in the shopping bags, then into my boots. It was still cold. Eventually my feet got wet again, but for a few hours I was moderately warm again.
Who makes electric heated gloves that aren’t waterproof?!?! Gerbing! That’s who. My gloves gave out during this stretch of road as well. Every now and then there would be just a touch of artificial warmth in the finger tips, so I kept them on!!
At RICK we saw our first Void Rider. I didn’t know him, but he gave Chuck some crap, so I guessed they knew each other. I was just in a hurry to get my photo done and submitted. I had taken to writing the NEXT stop in my log so I had it handy when we got there. It bit my butt this time as I sent in the RICK picture with the subject SALT, our next stop. I realized my error as soon as I hit send. I RESENT the same photo with the correct RICK subject, then at SALT, I sent the correct picture with SALT CORRECTED as the subject. The people doing the scoring got it. I guess I am not the only one to get foggy out there.
After SALT, we decided to get a little side action. Both Chuck and I are doing the States of Confusion Grand tour and our route for The Void was taking us PASSED the front of Moorehead State University. It was just too good to pass up. It’s a big point stop for SoC and only cost us minutes.
With RICK and Salt done, we were off to hit a Blue Plate Special. We hit a Denny’s on the way to the next stop. The wind was blowing and I took about 8 photos of my bike and flag before I realized that I wasn’t getting the Denny’s sign in the picture. After another 8 pics of my flag blowing around, I got a decent pic.
Next stop was the Central City Cafe (CCCF) in Huntington WV. The rain kept falling and I was having trouble seeing out of my helmet. It was like riding without my glasses and only looking through one eye. After a minute I realized that there was condensation on the inside of my visor. If it had been daylight, I would have caught that quicker, but in the dark and rain, I just didn’t grasp it. Once I figured it out, I ran my wet leather glove across the inside of the visor and I could finally see!
After CCCF, we had the longest ride of the route, 245 miles, to get to PCVA, the Pink Cadillac in Virginia. As we rolled into Virginia, it stopped raining and got light out. I was like I had a full nights rest and a cup of coffee. Everything looked better!!
One stop left. SILK. We took beautiful back roads through the Virginia countryside. I used to live in Virginia and it made me miss it! I turned on my helmet cam to show the awesome landscape to my wife when I got home. I will convince her and we’ll retire to southern VA!
There were 4 bikes at SILK when we pulled up. They left and 3 more rolled in while we got our shot and headed for F’Burg finish!
We had about an hour to do our paperwork and get to stop the clock. Since we had been working on our logs the whole way, it wasn’t tough and only took about 10 minutes. Chuck and I double checked each others math and headed down to scoring.
Chuck got called in 10-15 min before me. For my first scoring, it went amazingly well. The benefit of having emailed in my pics was they had already gone over all my pics before I got there. The only one I had an issue with was SKYL. I had taken a picture of the Skyline sign above the door instead of the one freestanding in the parking lot. DUMB JIM!!
Waiting for scoring I had an opportunity to hear great stories and meet some super interesting people. Some of the people I wanted to meet were busy with other things. I did get to meet the two people I was hoping to meet, Lance and Gerry. I got to spend some time chatting with them before scoring and then some more during the banquet.
The banquet was everything I hoped it would be. Scott was hilarious and, even though I missed some of the inside jokes, I had a great time.
In the end, the SKYL cost me two places. I would have tied Chuck on score and beat him due to a more accurate odometer! I am glad I didn’t beat Chuck. He was a trooper out there. He was patient with me and taught me so much! I also got passed in points by another guy. That’s what happens when you don’t read the rally book!!
I finished 8th out of 24 riders who started from Bethlehem. WAY better than I would have done had I not had Chuck helping me out! I was just looking for a finish, but I am psyched that I finished so high in the rankings.
Oh! Crap!! I still owe Patch breakfast at Waffle House!!
Next blog post: Lessons Learned and the Long Ride Home. Yeah, I was in the back of a cop car during my ride home…..