Friday, May 3, 2013

Cape Fear 2013 - April 17th - 21st

Once April gets here, all eyes in the long distance motorcycle community turn to Wimington for the annual Cape Fear 1000 motorcycle rally and 2013 was no different.  I was fortunate to be selected for my 6th year in this incredibly fun and well run event.  This year I chose to start the rally from Union City, TN (in northwestern Tennessee about an hour from the Mississippi River as the crow flies).  Given the fact that I am currently doing three additional rallies this spring (Big Money Rally, Tour of Honor, and Grand Tour of Georgia), I decided to start the Cape Fear ride a little early this year and took off on Wednesday.  I figured that I could hit a number of BMR, TOH, and Georgia spots along the way, then spend the night outside of Nashville, figure out a route in the hotel room, and then ride into Union City by midday on Thursday.

Historic Floyd County
A Lyerly Twofer - BMR and Georgia Tour!
Like always, getting out of Athens was later than I was hoping for, but I managed to get out of town a little after 12 noon and settled in for a good 450 miles of riding.  Fortunately, it was a quick journey through Atlanta traffic and up I-75 towards a few Georgia courthouses that I am collecting along my various journeys this year.  The Floyd County courthouse is actually an historic structure now with a modern version just down the street.  With three courthouses down (now have 26 of 159), I head towards a couple of Big Money Rally bonus spots. The Big Money Rally is a "do as time permits" between January 1st and the middle of May.  You have to score 144 points to be considered a finisher and I am slowly making progress towards that end.  The first two bonus packets focused a lot on fire stations, national forests, great places to eat/hot dog stands, and ski areas.  Just my luck, my route through NW Georgia and NE Alabama was peppered with all of them.
Menlo, GA Fire Station
Cloudmont Ski Area in Alabama!?!
Huntsville Veteran's Memorial
Overall, traffic was extremely light and the weather was just about perfect but the temperatures continued to tick upwards into the mid and upper 80s throughout the afternoon ride.  I started getting frustrated with the heat - however, in hindsight I would have love to have that weather back.  Once I got closer to Huntsville, AL, I was able to snag a few Tour of Honor memorial locations.

The Tour of Honor is also a "do as time permits" rally with all of the proceeds going towards the Wounded Warrior Project.  They do a great job with this rally and the locations of the memorials are always very interesting and very reflective of the past events which they honor.  The first TOH stop along the way to Union City was the Veteran's Memorial in Huntsville.  I had the wrong coordinates for the location of the memorial typed into the GPS, but the size of the memorial made it a couldn't miss. A quick U-Turn pulled me right into the center of the site.  After a brief conversation with one of Huntsville's Finest about my mid-block U-turn maneuver (he actually was very cool and liked hearing about the Tour of Honor and appreciated the fund raising aspect of it).  I got to explore and snap a few pictures of the memorial.  While there, Rick Bailey texted me that the Cape Fear rally books were released and I should get busy.  Well I still had about 2 1/2 hours of riding ahead of me, so I tried to put the anticipation aside of the routing portion for a little while longer.

Ardmore, TN Welcome Center
Elkton, TN Fire Station
After leaving Huntsville, it was a quick stop north of town for a (former) hot dog stand through stop and go traffic around Alabama A&M University.  Aside from the jackass who  decided to shoot across three lanes of traffic to do a quick left-turn directly in front of the vehicle in front of me, the travel out of Huntsville was uneventful and the farmland was actually quite pleasant to get lost in as the evening started to approach.  Crossing into Tennessee allowed my to quickly stop on I-65 for another TOH monument at the Welcome Center and then another fire station in Elkton, TN - which is located on top of a small hill in the center of "town" with the most unstable gravel driveway I have been on for quite some time.

After Elkton, it was time to settle in for an easy ride up I-65 towards Nashville before cutting over to I-40 on the recently completed TN-840 route.  TN-840 travels through some beautiful countryside and was the source of quite a number of lawsuits and compromises.  In the end, it is a great road with some great vistas and hopefully remain some sort of gem in the Tennessee road system - as long as the exits don't become havens for every chain. I rode into the Dickson Super 8 motel a little after 6 pm ready to route! Incidentally, the Dickson Super 8 is a real gem of a motel - especially for the Super 8 brand.  Not only was it modern, clean, it is family run and the owner and his extended family are extremely welcoming - all of this for $40.  Needless to say, I enjoyed spending the night there.

The routing did not go as great as I had hoped.  Given the pending storms on Thursday night and Friday morning, I was having difficulty in picking a direction to head from Union City.  I landed on due east and became fixated on getting the Mount Mitchell bonus stop as part of my routes.  From there, there were over 4500 points available near the coastal town of Edenton that was a must have.  So with the wildcard bonus point locations and activities, I was looking at a 35,000 point ride (about 17,500 for wildcards and 17,500 points of riding to bonus locations) in 1200 miles. Happy with it - not escatic but it seemed to be very doable even with a 6 hour rest bonus.  Rick texted me shortly before 11p.m. saying that he was looking at a 20,000 point ride.  For the life of me, I couldn't see it.  So I decided to go to bed and revisit the routing in the morning.  

The morning routing exercise did not yield any epiphanies, still stuck on about 17,500 points by way of Mount Mitchell and Edenton - how in the heck is Rick doing this?????  A quick look at the weather indicated it was going to be a windy day as the stormfront headed into Tennessee from the west.  I figure that I will have plenty of time to get to Union City before the rain hits, but I don't want to daudle in Dickson for too much longer.  So I pack up, check out, and hit a local print shop to print out the rally book and other needed receipts.  While there, I was speaking to the technicians about the rally and the fact that I was headed to Union City and she immediately let me know that her husband is from there and gave me an alternative route to go instead of I-40.  After the short interaction, I was out on the road heading due west into a 30 mph head wind.  Yeah, this is going to be fun!

Union City, TN TOH Memorial
Big Sandy, TN Fire Station
There were still a few more TOH and BMR stops that I wanted to hit along the way, so after the fire station detours in Big Sandy and Henry (why are rural fire stations located on gravel roads any way????), I arrived in Union City just after 1 p.m. and headed over to the courthouse for the TOH memorial.  After the courthouse, I made my way over to the Hampton Inn where most of the riders were staying.
Henry, TN Fire Station
This was another really well run hotel with a great atmosphere and super staff.  Upon checking in, I decided to try and do some more routing.  After some tweaking, I was up to about 19,000 points for the route, but still shy of the 20,000 that Rick had.  I just didn't think it was possible to hit Mount Mitchell as well as the Edenton area.  Well shortly after 3 p.m., Rick and Barbara show up and he enlightens me what I am doing wrong.  It was simple he said - Forgo Mount Mitchell and focus on the southern border of Virginia.  Ahhhhhhh, now I see it.  Thanks Rick.  So now I am set.  Wait a second, no I am not.  I can do better!  So I tweak a little more and find another 1500 or so points that can be obtained.  So now I am up to 21 bonus stop locations for a total of 21,443 points in 1190 miles and an additional 17,500 wildcards.  Good to go.

Now that all of the routing is completed, all is left is to wait out the pending storm and have dinner with many of the other riders at the adjacent restaurant.  The pre-rally dinner is always fun in talking to other riders about their routes and meeting up with old friends. Once dinner was over the rains started and it came down hard for a few hours. Man it rained hard so I used the time to relax a little while I finish the last minute preparations for my route.  Once the rain stopped, the temperature dropped pretty fast so that it was in the low 40's by the time the morning came and the rally was about to start.

Obrion County Library
Eugene Lewis Crypt in Nashville
9:00 a.m. CDT comes and I am at the gas station that Rick scouted out yesterday afternoon that gave good receipts.  Although we can start anytime between 8:50 and 9:10, I chose to stick close to 9:00 a.m. to keep math simple.  I now have 29 hours (3:00 p.m.) to be in Wilmington.  Immediately down the street is the first bonus stop - a public library.  An added twist this year was to collect pictures of up to 4 public libraries (without you, your bike, flag, or riding partner).  So the majority of riders hit the Obrion County (Union City) library before leaving town. From there it is a relatively straightforward ride down to I-40 over to Nashville for the first bonus location in a cemetery.  Cemetery boni can be tricky, finding a specific gravestone can be a real challenge if it is not an unique gravestone.  Fortunately for us, this one is a giant pyramid with two sphinx lions in front of it.  The only problem is that there are two cemeteries right next to one another and they are not interconnected.  I get confused and head into the wrong cemetery and drag Rick and Barbara with me. Since you can see the pyramid from the "wrong" cemetery, I say screw it, park the bike and walk over to the bonus location and snap the correct picture.  One down, 20 to go!

Spring City School Bus Crash
From Nashville, it is a quick ride toward Knoxville, but before there I dip off I-40 to Spring City, TN where a tragic and deadly railroad/school bus crash happened in 1955.  They have a beautiful monument to recall the tragedy in the center of town.  I can't fathom how this crash would have impacted this rural community in 1955. After a moment to look at the monument and to look over to the crossing, it is time to move on to Buffalo Mountain Church in Laurel Fork, VA. However, I had forgotten that it was going to be almost 300 miles of interstate travel without any bonus stops - so I settle into a five hour ride listening to the satellite radio as I watch the scenery of the mountains of eastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia.  I make great time and I notice that once I get closer to I-77 the temperature is quickly rising.  So no longer am I in the low 40's but it is in the mid-60's!!! But that only means that I am catching the storm front.  It is clear that it has rained all over the place, but for now it is still ahead of me and I am enjoying the dry warmth.

After hitting a couple more library locations and navigating 2 miles of an uphill gravel road, I pull up to the Buffalo Mountain Church which is an absolutely beautiful church which is on a paved road.  I snap the required picture and decide to try my luck and follow the paved road down the mountain since I was not looking forward to trying the gravel road on the downhill path.  Fortunately, the paved road drops me right where I need to be and I point the bike east on US 58 and follow the VA/NC border.  Coming down from the Appalachian Mountains, I pass a beautiful overlook called Lover's Leap just outside Stuart, VA.  It is a breathtaking vista of the surrounding valley and the patchwork farm fields getting ready for the upcoming season creates a gorgeous view as the sun sets behind me. Shortly after I pass through Stuart the rains start and I am hopeful that it will be short lived.  Well I can at least hope.

Junkyard Dinosaur Halifax, VA
US58 is a really good east west roadway, much of it is four-lanes with ample passing locations in the areas that are still two lanes.  So I am making really good time even though I have been running in a steady rain from about 8:30 on.  After skirting around Martinsville and a quick gas stop in Danville, it is up to a couple of night bonus stops.  I love riding at night but I have never really liked my ability to take good night shots so I have recently switched rally cameras to one that takes much more clearer night shots with a variety of settings.  Plus I also bought a high powered spotlight this spring to light up whatever the RM throws at me.  Fortunately, the few night locations are extremely well lit so with the exception of keeping the camera dry while snapping the shot, the night bonus locations were easy to snag. After hitting the last bonus stop a little after 11:00 p.m. (right on schedule), I had about an hour to get down to the hotel I reserved in Roanoke Rapids.  Good thing too, I was getting tired, I was fairly dry given the waterproofing that I applied on my jacket and pants, but the gloves were soaked and the glare off the rain really was getting to me.  Ms. Garmin told me to head due south on the two lane state route - VA46 and that was the straightest shot, but I knew it would be slow going so I headed due east to I-95 and then down from there.  A great choice and it got me into the gas station to start my rest bonus at 12:13 a.m.  After a quick check-in at the Super 8, I get into the room start laying everything out to dry.  Then before turning in, I spend a few minutes going through my receipts and notes for today's ride and make sure everything is good to go for Saturdays route.  Since it will be 15 stops, I don't have a lot of time to spare on Saturday.

The Cape Fear has really increased the bonus points associated with rest bonuses and the structure of it now is it is a minimum 4 hour rest with extra points (50 points a minute) up to six hours.  So it really is tough to not take the full 6 hour bonus.  I set the alarm for 5:45 a.m., get a quick shower, load up the bike (no more rain!!!) and head back to the gas station for an ending receipt.  With that accomplished, I am back on the road at 6:15 a.m. and heading over to the boyhood home of Paul Rose (founder of Rose's stores - I remember when Blacksburg had one while I was there and there used to be one here in Athens as well).

From Seaboard, NC, it was a criss cross path along the northeastern portion of  North Carolina as I pick up
American Legion Tribute - Aulander, NC
the Halifax Resolves in Halifax (NC this time) and then over to the American Legion Tribute stone monument in Aulander before up to Ahoskie and the 4-H Historical Marker.  Glancing at my route cards, I notice that I am actually ahead of schedule by about 45 minutes and I am looking at a 1:50 p.m. arrival time.  So I can start to relax, enjoy the sights of a Saturday morning in this part of the state instead of feeling rushed.  I make it over to Edenton and bag the two bonus location located at the same park - Battle of Albermarle Sound Civil War plaque and the Edenton Bell Battery.

Roper (NC) cemetery
Edenton (NC) Bell Battery
Leaving Edenton, I pass over the Albermarle Sound - it is an impressive body of water as I head towards another cemetery in Roper NC.It seems like a fairly straight forward gravestone.  However, when I arrive at the site there are actually two black granite grave markers - one for the Swain family in general and one for Burl Swain.  The instructions say take a picture of the Burl Swain grave stone.  However, the description of the gravestone in the rally pack matches the general family marker.  So I take a picture of both markers and resolve to figure it out later.  However, I get a mile down the road and it dawns on me that I could really cover my bases and snap of picture with both markers in a single photo.  So I swing back and take that picture. It served me well since I bagged that bonus without discussion at the scorer's table.

Blue Crab, Chocowinity, NC
Croatan National Forest - BMR
Upon leaving the cemetery, I noticed that I almost an hour ahead of schedule now and start to think about stopping to get something to eat since the morning muffin and glass of milk at the hotel wasn't much of a breakfast.  Driving through Washington, I am certain that I could find something, but alas I must of been routed through the less traveled path since I barely even saw a gas station.  So I moved on through and hit the large Blue Crab in Chocowinity. I continue to head south on US 17, through New Bern, and amazed as how little traffic there is out on this Saturday morning.  When at the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of a National Forest sign.  Hey, I need those as part of the Big Money Rally!  Just down the street is the Ranger Station for the Croatan National Forest.  I quickly pull off US 70, change out the flag for the BMR placard and snap the necessary picture.  Hey, that is 3 more points!

9-11 Memorial, Havelock, NC
After that quick BMR stop, I start to think if there are any additional ones along the way.  Sure enough, there is a diner down in Morehead City.  So, I add that to my itinerary.  But in the meantime, it is two more Cape Fear bonus locations - the Diamondbacks A4-M Skyhawk plane and the 9-11 Memorial both located in Havelock.  As I enter Havelock, the road is peppered with fast food joints.  So I quickly pull off the highway into Wendy's for a quick burger to last me until I pull into Wilmington. The rest of the Havelock stops go off without a hitch and I remain on schedule for a 2:00 p.m. arrival.
Els Drive-In Diner, Morehead City, NC
I continue to make my way down US70 into Morehead City for the Carolina Sounder monument dedicated to the commercial fisherman.  It is a simple monument on the edge of the harbor.  While making my way into town, I notice the Els Diner that is part of the BMR on the opposite side of the street, so I make a mental note to stop on my out.  Easy in and easy out for that BMR bonus and I collect another 3 points.Good thing that I grabbed a burger just a short time ago, the place smelled wonderful and I was very tempted to grab a sandwich, but knew that I needed to keep moving.
Otway Burns, Swansboro, NC

So I follow the coast over to Cedar Point, NC.  Hey I haven't been here since my first Cape Fear in 2008 when the Masonic Octagon House was a bonus point.  This time, the Rally Crewe has us passing through Cedar Point and over the Hampton Bay bridge right into a parking lot overlooking the Bay and am greeted by Captain Otway Burns.  I grab the necessary statue picture and move further south.  It is now a little after 12 and quite frankly, I am getting done with the Rally.  I really shouldn't be complaining it has been a relatively easy Saturday morning ride along the coast.  But I still have about 80 miles and 2 more bonus stops to hit before the Greentree Inn.  So I just change the channel on the satellite radio (how did I ever ride without one?????) and settle in for the next 2 hours.

The next two stops were just off US17 near Sneads Ferry, NC.  The first was a question that had to be answered in front of the library about the flagpole and the second was a picture of a large shark located outside a swimwear/beach store.  Both were easily bagged and I headed into Wilmington.  A stop for a cold six pack just before the hotel allowed me to pull in at 2:20 p.m. - still about 25 minutes ahead of schedule with about 1,194 mile according to Ms. Garmin (according to the bike =1,220 miles)  traveled since 9:00 a.m. CT yesterday.

With the ride behind me, all that is left is to organize the receipts, pictures, and rally book.  Since I refuse to fill out any "official" paperwork while on the bike during the rally, my system is actually pretty clean and efficient.  I pull out the index cards and plug the camera card into my computer to be sure that I can clearly see everything I need to.  I recorded each one and count up the total number of points to be 21,443 for the bonus and claim the full rest bonus, fuel log, beverage, and all four wildcard boni for 17,500 which lands my 38,943.

Scoring goes fairly smoothly.  The only real hiccup was at the very beginning when the scorer's computer could not read my camera card.  It just worked!!!!  Nothing will sink your heart faster than a technical failure at the scorer's table.  But blowing on the card and reinserting it brings all my pictures up without any problems. After a thorough review by the scorer of each bonus, she signs off on my total and credits me with 38,943 points.  I leave the table a happy camper and head to check-in for the hotel room and a much needed shower.

While the scoring is being finished and dinner begins, I begin to notice that I seem to be at the upper end of the point totals for Union City.  That would really be something if I was a podium finisher at the Cape Fear.  Alas, when the results are read - I am fourth out of about 35 Union City participants.  But wait! One of the top three riders believes that his score is incorrect and believes he should not have scored that high.  So the final results will have to wait until Jim can audit the scores after the rally.  It did turn out that there was a scoring error and I wound up in 3rd place!  Yes, I am very happy with the result and the ride that I pulled off, but there still is a lingering sense of doubt in my skills since Rick suggested that I forgo Mount Mitchell for a better route.  I sincerely thank Rick for the advice.  In the end, it really is not about the plaque and more about the friendships that exist and are fostered during these events.  So, again, I thank Rick for his suggestion.

At first I had thoughts of trying to hit several more BMR stops along the way home from Wilmington NC, but I decided that if I beelined it home, I could be productive for a few hours so that is what I did.  I did use the time to hit three more Tour of Honor memorials since they were exactly on my way - Wilmington, NC, Marion, NC, and Columbia, SC. I pulled into the Athens driveway at at 2:00 p.m. ready to cut the grass and so some yardwork!  All in all, it was about 2,200 miles since Wednesday afternoon and a great time.  As always, my hat is off to the Rally Crewe for a great adventure.  Here is to next year!

Wilmington Flame
9/11 Memorial in Columbia, SC