Saturday, April 28, 2012

Cape Fear 2012 - April 19th thru 24th

The 2012 Edition of the Cape Fear Rally started off easy enough (or so we thought).  At 5:30 PM, the Rallymaster sent out the Rally Packs and we all got to work.  I really don't look at the locations in the rally packet, I just start trying to get the coordinates into Streets and Trips. The first thing that most of us noticed was that unlike previous years you could not cut and paste the coordinate information out of the pdf document.  So instead of hand entering them (I would definitely transpose something along the way and find myself in some deserted place at 2:00 a.m. miles away from the correct location), I printout the book and start to rescan the pages into an OCR program.  The coordinates are getting into a decent format and about 20 minutes into it, the cell phone rings.  Another rider is calling me to ask if I thought the rally book was right.  Why wouldn't it be?  I did notice high point locations near the start of the rally but really didn't give it much thought other than a lot of them were duplicates from last year.

About an hour into it, I think he is right and something is up with the books and not in a good way.  I try to continue to give the Rallymaster the benefit of the doubt and just then we all get an e-mail saying stop what you are doing.  We have the wrong books the correct ones will be sent shortly.  It is now about 7:00 p.m.  No big deal, I will wait patiently.  7:30 p.m. still waiting, so I will do the dishes.  8:00 p.m. - still waiting, so I will load up the bike.  8:30 p.m. still waiting (not so patiently anymore).  9:00 p.m. - F*ck it, I'm going to watch TV.  Of course, 9:05 p.m., the e-mail comes with the correct book.  Time to get back to work.

This book allows you to cut and paste the pdf document, so it takes only about 45 minutes to get the raw data coordinates uploaded into Streets and Trips.  Routing may begin.  The first thing that I notice (after the mileage cap) is that there are some decent bonus locations in Southern Ohio.  I have always wanted to ride there and now is my chance.  It will require some high mileage (about 1300 miles in 23 hours), but I think it is doable given the forecasted weather and the amount of interstate riding that I will need to do.  So in about 2 hours, I draft out a decent route with 8 boni locations that should get me about 39,000 points including the six-hour rest bonus and odometer check with the time, speed, odometer component.  Off to bed.

The beginning of the actual ride was like other years.  I left the house a little early to hit a few spots along the way to Paris, TN that are locations on other tours that I am doing this summer.  This year I am focused on two - Grand Tour of Georgia for Eddie's Road and Tour of Honor for the Wounder Warrior Project.  So leaving Athens, I wind up in Rome in just a few hours to hit the Romulus and Remus statue in front of City Hall.  The ride over was not bad, but the grey cold morning that I started with in Athens never really left.  Riding from Rome, I pass by Berry College (pretty) and I head over the Cloudland Canyon portion of Northwest Georgia.  I have never ridden over here and was looking forward to it.  The weather did not get much better and I spend a good deal of time riding either in low lying clouds (hence the name) or heavy fog - I am not really sure.

The minute I get over the pass, the skies part and a beautiful day is upon us.  So it is a quick ride in to Trenton, GA for a metal art piece and then over to Rossville, GA for a Civil War Memorial.  The detail on the Iowa monument was really incredible and I appreciated the stop as part of the Tour of Honor.  Leaving Rossville, I really don't have any other plans other than make my way up through Nashville and over into Paris, Tennessee to meet up with the other riders.  That is what happens, almost like clock work and I roll into the hotel at 4:00 p.m.

Dinner and discussion with the other riders was fun at a pizza place next to the hotel.  This year a number of new rally riders were encouraged to sign up with a mentor.  So the dinner was neat as we listened to the new riders talk about what lies ahead. We have all been there at one time, but I had forgotten the level of anticipation that these new riders brought to the mix.  In listening to the other riders, I stayed pretty confident on my route choice, even though most thought it was too many miles and I was crazy to try and bag a North Myrtle Beach bonus.  But I stayed unswayed.

Friday morning is filled with the typical impatient doings - a breakfast at the hotel, a quick ride to scout out a good starting location for a gas or otherwise starting receipt, and to try not an tweak with the route.  I succeed on the first two, but fail on the third.  I lay out two possible options to tack on Saturday morning depending on how I am feeling.  The first is a relatively simple 900 point bonus location that is not really on the way, but may be worth the time.  The second is a more ambitious two stop location that has a time requirement that both most be collected after 12:01 p.m.  I am not going to commit to either right now, that decision is not needed for 24 hours.

9:04 Central Daylight Time (10:04 EDT) finally gets there and I'm off.  I am one of the last riders out of the BP station.  I don't know if that is a good sign or not, but I figure that I need as much time before the DNF starts.  So as it stands, I need to be in Wilmington, NC at 3:04 p.m. on Saturday.  Let the fun begin.

My first chosen stop is 200 miles down the road in Hodgenville, KY- the birthplace of Abe Lincoln.  I really hate to start a rally droning out miles on the interstate, but that is what I am doing.  I quickly get into a routine up from Paris and past Murray State College.  As soon as I get on Carroll Purchase Parkway (also known as I-69), a police car pulls up beside me.  I am thinking, come on I am only going about 75 mph in a 70 zone.  I glance over and he hits his lights.  It might be a long day, but he is not pulling me over he is using the median break to do a U-turn.  Somehow, I think he is just messing with me.  Anyway, I pull into Hodgenville right on schedule and get the necessary picture of Abe sitting in the center square.  One down.

Second stop is in Harrodsburg, KY for a World War II memorial - I arrive minutes after 10 or so other riders.   I am now 288 miles into the ride and things are looking good.  From central Kentucky, I part ways with most of the riders as I head north to Southern Ohio. 
I travel through Lexington and then up into Cincinnati.  No trouble until I hit early rush hour traffic at 4:00 p.m. just outside the city -I think Atlanta rush hour traffic is more bearable believe it or not.  I pick up another Cape Fear rider and we dart in and around the traffic for the next 20 miles (about 40 minutes) and we pull into Bowersville at about the same time.  The wind blast from the surrounding trucks play a little havoc with my flag at the birthplace sign but I get a good one and head out with 465 miles down in a little more than 7 hours of riding.

As I make my way over to Lancaster, Ohio, Ms. Garmin keeps telling to go north into Columbus and then head out south.  No way.  The farm roads of Southern Ohio are usually well kept and straight so passing shouldn't be a problem.  I peel off I-71 and head due east. The ride over is beautiful as I pass through a couple of small farming towns, but mostly the rural farming charm of Ohio.  I pull into the Caboose bonus location at around 6:30 p.m with 540 miles down.  I am feeling really good and enjoying this ride.  So I continue to press on eastward towards a small town called McConnelsville.  I have to back track a little through Lancaster, but traffic is light so I am making good time.  Until I get to the eastern part of the city.  There must be 50 vehicles pulled over to the side of the road ahead of me.  The travel lane is still open and clear, but something is up ahead.  As I make my way to the front of the queue, I realize that they are all queued up for the gates to open for the Drive-In theater.  A truly midwestern experience.  The rest of the trip over to McConnelsville is easy and I find the World War I statue just outside of town without delay.  Again, I am impressed at the small, simple nature of another rural town.  By now, it is almost dark and I am 600 miles into the madness.

From McConnelsville, my plan is to head over to I-77 and down through West Virginia.  I really don't like riding mountains at night so I figure staying on I-77 is going to be a safe bet.  Though Ms. Garmin really doesn't want me to hit I-77 until I go through Marietta and Parkersburg.  I buck her directions and make up my own route over the low lying mountains of Southern Ohio.  Although she stays mad at me the entire way and constantly recalculates the route, by the time I hit I-77, Ms. Garmin realizes that I really haven't lost any time. and she says I should be in Beckley, WV for the next stop a little after 10:30.  So I settle in for a simple zip down the interstate.

Just before I reach Beckley, I peel off I-77 to head over to a miner memorial statue in Oak Hill, WV.  The instructions for the memorial are very specific and you must have the miner, the mine cart and the base of the statue in your picture.  So after fiddling with the camera settings and positioning my bike to light up as much of the statue as I can, I wind up with the following picture.  I think mission is accomplished.  From Oak Hill it is back on I-77 to Wytheville, VA and the Super 8 Motel that I have reserved.  I still get a lot of grief for reserving rooms for my rest bonus before the start of the rally by many.  But it works for me, and I enjoy the fact knowing that a room and bed are awaiting me when I get to where I need to be.  The process has only really bite me once when I reserved a room too far out during last year's Cape Fear. The rest bonus has to start after 12:01 am.  So my schedule has me pulling in at 12:16, seems just about right.  I arrive with 853 miles down and I settle in for a nice 6 hour break.  Sleep doesn't come easy, but after an hour it does and I sleep soundly until 5:30 when the alarm goes off.  I take a quick shower, reload the bike, and grab a ending rest receipt for 6:13 a.m. - so that means I have a 5 hour and 57 minute rest.  I will lose 150 points for not taking the full 6 hours.  I hope that doesn't come back to bite me.  Probably should have gotten another receipt, oh well.

Just before 7:00 a.m. I am routed onto the Blue Ridge Parkway for the Blue Ridge Chapel bonus.  Getting it is easy, but the route Ms. Garmin sends me to get back to I-77 is not for the faint of heart.  Thankfully, it is daylight and I can see where I am going and to stay off the dirt roads that she wants me to explore.  I know many riders probably hit this late last night.  I am glad I can see where not to point the bike as the road seems to simply send me falling off the mountain. All is fine and I settle in for a beeline of interstate travel to the required odometer check on I-40 just past I-95.  I pull into the odo check right on schedule at 10:00 a.m. and complete the 19.2 mile odometer check in 19:12.19.   Part of the challenge was to do the odometer check with the same time as the average for all riders.  Though I followed all laws and speed limits, I caught the traffic signal coming off the ramp and feel that I may have finished a little quick. I have now completed 1,140 miles and suspect that I have about 200 more to go before 3:04 p.m.

Now it is decision time, I have time to hit the two higher point locations northeast of the odometer check or I can head south towards North Myrtle Beach.  Although I feel that I can and should do the higher locations, I decided to stick with the ride plan since it has worked so well for me so far.  Off towards Elizabethtown I head. Elizatbethtown is the home to a Space Shuttle pilot and they have a beautiful mural painted in his honor.  From there it is back roads into North Myrtle Beach.  The thing about the Myrtle Beach area is to know how to get around without being on US 17.  Before the rally started, I found out that the bonus location was located on US 17 - but near a brand new crossing of the intercoastal waterway.  So I figure I can stay inland until the crossing hit the bonus and head back out without seeing much traffic.  That is exactly what I do and I hit the putt-putt course actually ahead of schedule at 12:50 p.m. and 1,250 miles into the ride.

The ride up into Wilmington is simple enough (thank goodness for Hickman Road) and after a quick stop for a six pack for the dinner.  I arrive safe and sound at the Greentree Inn at 2:04 p.m with 1,335 miles.  I have never ridden so many miles in a 29 hour rally before and yet I still leave 60 minutes on the clock.  I probably should have done the other locations, but am very pleased with my ride.  I did everything that I wanted and now I will be scored to see how things progress.  Scoring is easy - everything is in order and I wind up with almost 39,000 points.  I did lose 150 for the rest bonus being less than 6 hours and another 180 for being too quick on the odometer check.  I wind up 13th of 42- unlucky or not, I am happy with it.  I do lose to Rick and Barbara - who rode about 200 miles less than me.

There are a lot of would've, could've, should've discussions over dinner.  But it is fun seeing so many friends and comparing notes.  Really the dinner at the end of the event is really what these things are about in my opinion and I linger longer that I probably should trying to say hi to as many people as possible that I have come to know over the years.  There is never enough time to see and talk to everyone.  One thing is for certain - Jim and the rest of the Rally Krewe put on a great event and one that never disappoints.  Thank you Jim.

I head out first thing on Sunday (in between rain showers - it is Cape Fear after all) to spend a few days with Mom in Southport before heading back to Athens on Tuesday.  On the way home, I hit another Tour of Honor location in Augusta so I am now 3 down with 4 to go.  This is turning out to be a great tour with some really incredible looking memorials.

Overall, it was a good 10 days of riding- due to a number of reasons, I haven't gotten to ride much this spring and it feels great to put over 3,000 miles on the bike in such a short time.

The satellites seem to keep up with me fairly well over the days (including the training ride the week before) and can be seen at this link :

which kinda looks like this: