A girl, a bike, and an open road

This post, like my Day 1, is a long one.

Life is like a hurricane here in Duckburg
Race cars, lasers, aeroplanes, it's a duck-blur!
Might solve a mystery
Or rewrite history!

Why yes, my alarm tone is in fact the theme song from the Disney show Ducktales..

Just be glad you (likely) have never had to share a room with me.

I slept really soundly, and headed down around 4:15am for the 4:30am rider meeting where we’d get our rally packs. We were warned under no circumstances to be late, and I decided being awake and chipper and early at this hour of the day would be a fun little mind game.. not that I’d stoop to such trickery, no sir!

My assigned seat was near the front, I assume so Paul could keep an eye on me. I promised him “No Shenanigans” after the prank I pulled during the 2022 Heart of Texas, but I’m sure Paul operates on a “trust, but verify” policy. I like sitting up front, anyways, and I did my best to sip the hotel coffee and make small talk with my neighbors, but I think we all were starting to feel the anticipation starting to build.

Look, but do not touch! Not to be opened until we were given the OK, these classy rally packets, sealed with wax, sat in front of us, just tempting us to peek..

Soon, the lights dimmed, and a video started playing…

CALLED IT! "Founding Fathers"... of course, that and a $1 will get me a coffee at McDonalds.. but it was a fun little mental fist-pump at 4:35am.

The video faded, as did our applause, only to be renewed as Paul strode in, dressed as George Washington!

🎵 Here comes the general! 🎵

We laughed and cheered for our first president, but we’re here to rally! Paul gave us the nod, and we were allowed to tuck into the rally packs. Inside each pack was a spiral-bound printed rally book for Leg A (Cheyenne, WY -> State College, PA), our ID badges with emergency contact info (to be worn at all times for the next 7 days), a USB thumb drive containing electronic versions of the rally book and some support files, and our patriotic rally flags, each with our rider number thereon. One nice touch that I didn’t find out until I read Steve’s rally report was that the silhouette on the flag was gendered for the gender of each of the riders!

We quickly got down to it. We would be leaving at 12 noon today, giving us 6-7 hours to plan our Leg A routes. We would need to be in State College, PA by 9:00pm (local) on Tuesday the 28th, with only an hour of penalty time. Typical for a Paul Tong rally, late penalties would be severe; arriving even 10 minutes late would lose you enough points to virtually guarantee a last-place finish.

The bonuses all had to do with “Founding Fathers” and as the intro video (linked above) explained, the definition for this was quite broad, including not just the political founders of our country, but also the scientists, writers, Native Americans, sports, and other figures who have left their mark on this country. Six combos around this theme were available:

Goethe & Schiller Combo Obtain all 3 Goethe & Schiller bonuses 7000 points
Fifteen Washingtons Combo Obtain 15 of the George Washington bonuses 9000 points
Native Americans Combo Obtain all 6 Native American bonuses 10000 points
Sports Figures Combo Obtain all 3 Sports Figures bonuses 12000 points
Civil Rights Figures Combo Obtain all 6 Civil Rights Figures bonuses 16000 points
Science Figures Combo Obtain all 6 Science Figures bonuses 8000 points

Additionally, Paul’s outfit wasn’t just a gimmick; the “puzzle” or twist for this leg took 2 entire pages to explain, but was basically this: in the rally, there were 33 George Washingtons statues we could visit, which we could visit for both bonus location points as well as for the Fifteen Washingtons combo. Additionally, for each Washington bonus we visited, we would receive an additional 75 points for each non-Washington bonus location we visited AFTER that particular Washington statue.. as long as we visited a non-Washington bonus in between Washingtons. Multiple Washington bonuses would stack, so visit 1, each bonus thereafter is worth +75.. then visit a non-Washington or two, followed by a second Washington, and now that bonus for non-Washington locations rises to +150.. and so on. It’s a little confusing, but it was basically a pot-sweetener for stacking up visits to Washington bonuses. The rally book included a better description, of course, along with an example scoring sheet to show us how it worked, and individuals with additional questions could followup on their own, but we need to get through a lot of information now so we can all get to planning!

Paul kept the meeting moving

Several other important topics came up - rest bonus scoring, receipt requirements, definition of daylight.. the usual rally stuff. We were given a target of 32,000 points for this leg, and we finally were released around 5:40am, scattering quickly back to our rooms to plan. I cracked open the data files and ran them through a spreadsheet that applies different icons to them in the GPX file so I can sort by point value and daytime-only availability, and stared at this…

🟢/🔵/🔴/🟣 = Low/Med/High/Extra High value
🟩/🟦/🟥/🟪 = Same, but Daylight only
Triangles = Same, but George Washington bonuses
🐾 = Checkpoints

How about those combos? They’re pretty valuable, where are they? Do any of them inspire any routes?

Fifteen Washingtons Combo (9,000 points)

First, let’s look at just the George Washington bonuses, to get a sense of where they are.

Mostly in the east, I could see someone stringing together enough of them to claim this bonus, and it would have a nice synergy with the stacking bonus.

Goethe & Schiller Combo (7,000 points)

A nice little spread along the south side of the Great Lakes, and 7,000 points for only 3 bonuses, that's pretty good efficiency.. I do see they're in metropolitan areas, so that might lead to some congestion.

Native Americans Combo (10,000 points)

I know from experience that getting up to the bonus location in Oregon is going to take a good deal of time, and from there you want me to swing into the southwest, up to Cape Cod, then back to the checkpoint? For 10,000 points?

Sports Figures Combo (12,000 points)

12,000 points for 3 bonuses is a really nice efficiency value, and 2 are wicked close together, which makes things easier (usually!)

Civil Rights Figures Combo (16,000 points)

A huge bonus, but I'm seeing Dallas and Atlanta at the very least, possibly a NYC route and maybe a cross-Canada bit? That's a lot of risk; is 16,000 points worth it?

Science Figures Combo (8,000 points)

Decent points, keeps you out of the deep south, but still fairly spread out for the points offered.

Lots to think about.. while I chewed over various routing options, I hopped into the open Zoom call that the rally staff had set up. What a great idea this was to have! It let them quickly answer questions instead of forcing us to wander down to the makeshift office they had set up to ask in person, saving everyone time. Even if you didn’t have a question, it paid to sit in the call with the camera off and your mic muted, so when someone did ask a question you’d benefit from the answer.. who knows, maybe you hadn’t encountered the issue that the questioner was inquiring about…

I pretty quickly threw out the South; I simply didn’t want to deal with the heat. I also decided to pace myself, as this rally was a test-bed for not just the bike and its new farkles, but for me to figure out a good pace for myself in a rally lasting more than 3 days. I came up with some really aggressive routes, but wanted to start Leg B feeling like I still had a huge reserve in the tank, so to speak. With that in mind, I put together a route that focused on collecting the Sports Figures and Goethe & Schiller Combo, but wasn’t terribly aggressive otherwise, focusing on an easy Leg A and a spot in the top 20 (top third) of the field, netting around 60,000 points.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t second guess this decision, and after loading it into the GPS and doing my usual note taking for secondary routing tools (Waze, POI Viewer..) I headed down to the breakfast area and ate a high-protein plate while casually shooting the breeze with folks. I was pretty relaxed, and feeling pretty good about the world, good enough to drag my feet a little while packing up the bike. I had put off gassing up until this morning, so once the bike was ready I topped off both tanks, pulling a DBR in case I decided to file for any certs, and parked in the start area on the east side of the hotel, 6 or 7 bikes from the front of the pack. Nancy Oswald scanned me in, and I took advantage of the water coolers and ice made available to fill my 1-gallon water bottle.

Ignore the laundry.. I had washed it the night before, but it still wasn't dry! 🤣

Nothing to do now but wait, nervously check and recheck gear, weather reports, whether the Spotwalla is tracking me, and maybe a little time to look at everyone else’s bike. Everyone seemed ready, no one was doing any major last minute packing or repairs, and a sort of intensely focused excitement was in the air. I swapped phone numbers with a couple people, knowing that nothing picks you up than a friendly voice.

Soon enough we were rounded up for the rider’s meeting ~11:40am, where we went over the usual reminders about safety (always appreciated) as well as the logistics for exiting the parking lot. Although it was only a short distance to I-80, and only 1 or 2 signals, Cheyenne PD had generously offered to help keep us moving. While this was going on, a murmur went up - Ian McPhee (IBR finisher) and Wendy Crockett (2019 IBR winner) rolled in, and a whisper of “oh what does THIS mean?!” went through the crowd, but they had just decided to show up to watch the circus. “I really better not stall, or worse, drop my bike!” was the only thing it meant to me!

5 minutes to launch, everyone mounts up. 2 minutes to go, bikes are fired up, and we sit there nervously fidgeting, checking last minute details. This is more or less where I’ll sit for the next 7 days; there won’t be time to make major adjustments, so be sure everything is in place, snaps snapped, straps cinched, zippers zipped. There’s no second-guessing now, the flight plan is filed.. the tickets are bought, now it’s time to take the ride.

1) AEX85 - Buffalo Bill Cody - Oakley, KS - 1152 pts

I didn’t stall the bike! I smoothly joined the pack of riders heading west, and after only a couple miles turned south on I-25, one of only 3 or 4 riders to turn south. Everyone else set their sights north and further west it seemed, but no - I’m not second guessing anything! I set a pretty brisk pace through Colorado and across Kansas to get here, stopping in Goodland, KS for gas.. hey, wait, I’ve been at this gas station before! Ah, right - Jo and I stopped here on our 48/10 last year.. the joys of LD riding!

The weather was near perfect until shortly before I got off I-80, when the wind really decided to make itself known. I parked in the gravel lot and got the best photo I could without hiking right up to the statue, deciding to practice a little of that “shoot-n-go” style of bonus claiming…

“Hey, did you see the email from Paul?” I got the call about an hour later, saying that scorers were going to be very strict on photo bonuses, and I immediately suspected that I was going to be denied points for this bonus because I wasn’t close enough.. and sure enough, that did end up being the case. Frustrating, given that my photo pretty clearly documents I’m there, I’m just out of the wind, it matches the angle and distance of the small sample photo, and honestly given the other photos I’ve seen that other people took in the rally… but in the end, I wasn’t going to argue about it. Paul told us to match the photo, and by god that’s what I did at every single location for the remainder of the rally, to the point of obsessive paranoia about whether or not I got it to match exactly. It cost me time, but by god, my photos all matched!

Honestly, I’m not sore about it, but in the moment… oof. It didn’t feel like a great way to start this rally!

C’mon, Miller.. get your head in the game!

This segment: 344 miles, 4h48m
Total: 344 miles, 4h48m
Time Remaining: 75h12m
Points scored: 😭

2) APR50 - George Washington - Kansas City, MO - 1802pts

I was still chewing on the bonus possibly being denied (although I knew, somehow, that the email was about me..) when I pulled into a rest area for a break from the hot Kansas sun and the wind. Getting back on the bike, the big old BMW boxer refused to start, chugging in that way that was a complaint about power, so off the bike, dig for the right Torx bit, unscrew the battery cover to jump start… what the hell is going on with this bike? This keeps happening! It’s charging fine, what is going on?

I noticed before clamping on the jump pack that the ring connector on the negative lead to the radar detector was horribly corroded, and when I poked at it with my finger, YEEEOUCH that sucker was hot! I gave the wire a gentle little tug and it popped free as the connector crumbled into dust.. a connector that had only been on the bike 2 weeks. :sigh:

I cleaned up the remnants of the connector and detached the positive lead, and the big fired right up! Perhaps some kind of short in the wiring someplace, a parasitic drain of some kind, clearly.. (Note from future Kerri - months later, even after I rewired with high quality connectors and soldered connections, this happened to me again..)

Well.. that’s 15 minutes I’ll never get back… one kind cowboy sauntered over to offer help right when I was finishing up, offered in a really respectful sort of “you look like you got it handled but just in case I better ask” manner that I really appreciated.

The omens were starting to stack up here..

A couple hours later, right as the sun was setting, I stopped in Abilene, KS at a truck stop for fuel and to take today’s meal break. Like most Paul Tong rallies, our rest bonus for each leg is worth 4 points per minute, up to 8 hours (480 minutes.) However, each 45-minute meal break that you take (and successfully document..) exponentially multiplies that per-minute value.. so if you claim all 3 meal bonuses for a leg, you score 32 points per minute.. 15,360 for sitting and eating a burger and getting a break? Heck, I’m in rally mode - you give me enough points, I’ll go anywhere and do anything.. and tonight it involved an Arby’s.

Getting back on the road shortly after 9:10pm, the last summer sun setting on the prairies of Kansas dimming behind me, Topeka ahead of me, when I noticed that the ditches on either side of I-70 were coming alive, sparkling with waves of pulsing fireflies. Mile after mile, hundreds of thousands, millions of lightning bugs sparks and burned in the grasses, a phenomenon I grew up with, but see so rarely as these luminescent beetles don’t live west of the Rockies. If my day had so far been kind of shite, here was Nature raising a million tiny flares to light my ride and bring me some comfort and support. Rally magic, if ever I’ve seen it.

I rolled into Kansas City, MO around 11:40pm and wiggled through city streets that were quiet and devoid of much vehicle traffic, but populated by college kids wandering around enjoying life. I parked next to another rally bike and traded a few words with the rider who was just walking back from where the statue sat upon its massive granite base in the middle of this urban park. As always, I apologize - outside of a few people, I have a hard time recognizing y’all with your gear and helmets on as we shout at each other.. I think he said something about it being “college game night” which explains the roving bands of students. Even as I took the photo, obsessively matching the sample, paranoid of dropping more points, a group of them wandered across the park towards me and I skedaddled; I’m sure it would’ve been fine, but my Spidey Sense was tingling a little bit, so I decided to get a move on.

700 miles and 11 hours to my first actual scored points… oof.

This segment: 354 miles, 5h55m
Total: 698 miles, 10h43m
Time Remaining: 69h17m
Points scored: 1,802

3) ASP06 - Stan Musial - Springfield, MO - 1956pts (+75)

I quickly got out of Kansas City and headed south, soon finding myself crossing rural Missouri after midnight. I kept an eye on my speed, as I passed through a seemingly endless series of small towns. I had to stop to answer a call of nature, and unable to find any late night outposts of civilization open at such an hour, I found a quiet corner behind a closed gas station, strategically parked the bike, and did what needed doing. So ladylike of me!

South of Clinton, MO, I passed over a 3 arms of the Harry S. Truman Reservoir, the tunnels of dark trees suddenly disappearing and replaced with a darker emptiness on both sides of the pot-holed bridges. Somewhere in here I saw the first distant flashes of lightning, and I began to keep an eye on the radar. A long storm front full of angry red and yellow was freight training its way across Kansas and northern Arkansas, and it looked like I was going to be in for it if I dilly-dallied. I picked up the pace and made it down to Springfield, MO and the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame around 2:20am, where it took me a few minutes to find the exact statue of Stan Musial to photograph. I munched a handful of M&Ms and considered my options for the storms moving in, when a security guard rolled by slowly in his 2-door hatchback with the little yellow light on the roof slowly circling. It was time to be moving on.

A quick stop on the north end of Springfield for gas, and I tried to get back north as fast as I could, but I only made it about 50 miles before the lighting was getting close enough that I could start to see individual bolts in the distance. I stopped at a convenience store for snacks and a drink while I figured out my next move - gut it out? Change route? Find someplace to hole up for a while? Sitting on the stoop of a Kum & Go at 3:30am in rural Missouri probably wasn’t the best plan, so I grabbed a hotel in Bolivar, MO and decided to give it 3 hours; I could use a rest.

50+ miles to get through this storm front? I'd rather take a nap.

This segment: 226 miles, 3h50m
Total: 924 miles, 14h33m
Time Remaining: 65h27m
Points scored: 3,833

Tomorrow will be better.. I can feel it.

Onward to Day 2 ➡️

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