A girl, a bike, and an open road

Up at 5am, feeling refreshed - amazing what 3 hours of shut-eye can do for your attitude and mental acuity.. I hopped in the shower for 60 seconds, had a snack, and was rolling by 5:20am. I wonder what the motel night clerk thought of me, a single lady showing up at her humble establishment and only staying 2 or 3 hours…

I really did need to stop. As a side-effect of growing up in the woods of New England, my brain plays a trick on me at night where I.. well, not hallucinate, but more like my brain assumes that there’s forests on either side of the road, that I’m traveling down a highway through a wooded, leafy tunnel. I can almost… almost… see the trees. This is an initial sign for me that I need a break. The second sign that I need a break is getting a slight optical illusion that convinces me that I’m traveling slightly downhill when I’m not. It’s peculiar, but when I get tired, I will swear that I’m actually descending a really gentle slope, and every light from passing houses, vehicles, reflectors on the road, they all confirm what my inner ear is telling me. At this point I don’t feel tired at all, and I know I can still ride for another 3-4 hours before exhaustion forces me to stop, but learning and paying attention to these subtle hints from your body are really critical to make sure you’re staying safe and making good choices on these long days and nights in the saddle.

Dawn didn’t waste any time painting the horizon in front of me a milky hue, and I joined in with the really early commuters heading into Buffalo - the bakers, baristas, landscapers, etc. Traffic was fairly light, so I opted to take the cutoff over to the Buffalo Skyway which runs along the waterfront south of the city. I’ve been to Buffalo a number of times for conferences and work events, and have spent a lot of time wandering around downtown, and have always loved it’s architecture, buildings of huge blocks of local stone, built from the wealth of a now past boom era of canals and lake shipping.

17) APR62 - George Washington - Buffalo, NY - 600 pts

It was early, so no one was around except me and a surprising number of local police. I ended up waiting at a number of stoplights along with said officers of the law to get to the bonus location, fidgeting at the delay, waiting for non-existent cross traffic.. but I wasn’t going to make work for local traffic enforcement, not today.

I forgot how stringent parking rules are in Buffalo, and it took me a couple minutes to find a place to park that was even hand-wavingly legal. As I stopped, I put a foot down in some sand and almost lost the bike to a tip-over, groaning with effort to keep it from crashing down. That would’ve been the last thing I needed.. just get to the checkpoint, Kerri. Take it easy. You’re fine, you’ve got plenty of energy to make it through today, just don’t make dumb mistakes. Visions of DNF’ing because I cracked a cylinder head while dropping the bike at a stop haunted me as I jogged over to snap a photo of the next George Washington statue.

This being my second George Washington statue in a row, I would not increase my multiplier for non-GW bonuses an additional 75 points, but for 600 points, it was worth getting regardless.

This segment: 107 miles, 1h00m
Total: 107 miles, 1h00m
Time Remaining: 14h38m
Points scored: 28,886

18) ACR20 - Susan B. Anthony & Frederick Douglass - Rochester, NY - 280 pts (+450)

After a slow stop at a NY travel plaza for gas and a bio break, I ended up in this quiet little residential corner of Rochester at quarter to 8, waving to another rider who was just leaving. If you stop and think about it, this shouldn’t surprise you, as proximity to a checkpoint increases, so does the likelihood of route convergence.

This was one of my favorite bonuses of the leg, 2 lovely statues of Mr Douglass and Ms Anthony having tea and, one imagines, debating the finer points of the realpolitik of universal suffrage. Douglass had argued against including women’s suffrage in the 15th Amendment (ensuring the right to vote) as he felt it would make passage impossible, losing the chance for suffrage for former slaves for a generation or more. This disagreement caused a rift in their friendship that took years to heal, which the statue commemorates. I find it a gentle reminder that rights are not zero-sum; one person gaining more rights does not impact my own freedom, so why shouldn’t I want to expand liberty and enfranchisement?

I wish I had more time to stop at the Susan B Anthony House Museum here, where she was arrested in 1872, but they don’t open until 11am, and technically I’m in a rally, so I shouldn’t dally, even though I’ve got plenty of time…

This segment: 76 miles, 1h25m
Total: 183 miles, 2h25m
Time Remaining: 13h13m
Points scored: 29,616

I’m not sure I’ve ever been into Rochester proper before, but this was the time of day to do so; 8am was perfect for traveling against traffic, and soon I was back out on good ol’ I-90. I travel its western portions constantly, and have criss-crossed NY state numerous times, enough to recognize “good exits” vs “bad exits” and the occasional landmark. Indeed, it all looks like “home” (either of them.. Vermont and western Washington look strikingly similar) and I started playing around with the GPS to see if I could squeeze in the bonuses in Albany, NY and Bennington, VT; I had time, but it’d be close, and as I kept repeating to myself - Keep It Simple, Stupid. I had a plan for this route that had plenty of extra time in it, don’t go messing with it, get wrung out and exhausted in the first leg. Stick to the plan.

19) APR72 - George Washington - Clyde, NY - 570 pts

Except… I did have time, and messing around with the plan on the GPS, while I didn’t do anything with it, broke the seal on my brain, opening me to the possibilities of adding stops.. so when I got of I-90 to turn north to the next bonus in Clyde, NY, and I noticed that it was only 5 miles south to Seneca Falls, NY and the Women’s Rights National Historic Park.. well, they have stamps there for my National Parks Tour, and it’s “only 10 minutes” of a detour, and it’d get me another state…

Of course, it being a tiny New England village, it took longer than 10 minutes down and back.. and I got into a lengthy conversation with the park rangers about the Dobbs decision.. as federal employees, of course they couldn’t comment, but one who was off-duty in her street clothes, who had only just stopped by to drop something off, was more than happy to chat about politics with me.. meanwhile, the phones were ringing constantly and people stopping by, all worried and fearful and looking for reassurance.

…so my little “only 10 minutes” turned into 45 minutes.. time which I had in the bank to spend, but wasn’t the most rally-disciplined choice to make. Still, I got my stamp!

Clyde itself was another cute little hamlet, smaller than Seneca Falls, but nearly identical in that it is just like every other village I grew up around. Their statue of ol’ George was a quick snap and back to the highway for me. My non-GW bonuses are now worth +450, and I’ve crossed a critical threshold - less than 12 hours until penalty time!

This segment: 67 miles, 1h46m
Total: 250 miles, 4h11m
Time Remaining: 11h27m
Points scored: 30,186

20) ACL14 - Goethe & Schiller - Syracuse, NY - 499 pts (+525)

Waze took me right through a rather run-down and slightly sketchy part of Syracuse to a parking area at the top of a steep street, with a tiny little 2.5 car parking area and a small walking trail leading off into the park. I nosed in next to a minivan, and faced my next challenge…

Hardly Mount Olympus, but something about it just felt like a kick in the pants. Can you believe the kind of crap rally masters make us do, knowing we’re going to relentlessly chase points?!

There were some kids loitering around, but they ignored me for the most part. The minivan driver left while I was up the stairs, so I had plenty of space to turn the bike around, but should probably do a little 3-point turn and… shit. Between the weird camber of the road, the pea-sized gravel and loose pavement chunks, once I’d nudged the bike forward, its nose pointed downhill into a thicket of blackberries. I couldn’t roll it backwards, my feet slipping, and going forwards wasn’t going to work… and putting down the side stand was dodgy as well.. shit shit shit!

I was able to get just a few inches back, and ended up executing a gorgeous 29-point turn, at one point hopping off the bike so I could more securely wiggle it free and get it at least pointed towards pavement. It took me 5 or 6 minutes of doing, but I finally got it done, breathing hard and sweating like a pig. The kids had long-since stopped whatever they were doing and just stood there, silently watching me like vultures waiting to swoop in and pick me and the bike clean of loose farkles and leftover beef jerky.

I’ve never been happier to put a rally bonus behind me. 😆

This was also the third and final bonus of the 3-part Goethe & Schiller combo, netting me an additional 7,000 points!

This segment: 50 miles, 1h00m
Total: 300 miles, 5h11m
Time Remaining: 10h27m
Points scored: 38,210

Before counting my rest bonus, as well as any other rally-wide “meta” bonuses like using Spotwalla correctly, getting paperwork done on time, etc, I was at 37,705 points, well ahead of the recommended minimum pace of 32,000 for “finisher” status. I knew for sure once I added those additional points I’d be well ahead of that low bar… but how far ahead? Still, knowing I had time on the clock and plenty of points in the bank right now, I breathed a bit easier and started to relax going into the last few bonuses of this leg.

I merged back onto I-81 south for about 30 minutes before exiting in Cortland, NY onto NY-13 towards Elmira, NY. NY-13 dropped me right down from a bluff overlooking Cayuga Lake into downtown Ithaca, NY, where suddenly everything just stopped. Traffic was at a dead standstill for 4 or 5 minutes, so I took the time to check my route through this small city. Waze and Garmin of course disagreed, and Waze came up with a different route every single time I poked it to recalculate. Traffic started inching forward at last, and there’s my turn and… there’s the train crossing bars descending and the long train slooowly inching along.. and then stops. We’re not going anywhere.

If I were on foot, I would’ve just hopped the rail bed, but with no real options, I instead turned down an alley and wiggled quickly through the downtown grid and… stopped still again. 5 minutes… 10… emergency vehicles go screaming by.. this is no good. I look for alternative routes, but none appeared that were viable options, especially if this opens up again anytime soon. I had passed a dairy bar a couple hundred yards back, so broke out of traffic with a u-turn and parked. I went inside, bought a gatorade and used their bathroom, sitting in the shade for 15 minutes waiting for traffic to start moving again.

When it finally did, I packed my snacks, got my gear on, and… crap! Now the bike won’t start! Again, the weird issue with the bike seeming to need a jump start, even though the battery has plenty of juice in it… I haul out the jump pack, remove the plastic panel, jump the bike, get everything all secured again.. and back into traffic, now flowing like nothing happened. I couldn’t even spot where the accident had been.

Another random 30 minutes off the clock, with nothing to show for it. Good thing I have all that extra time, eh?

21) AED11 - Simeon Benjamin - Elmira, NY - 299 pts (+525)

Elmira, NY might not be much of a town, but gosh was Elmira College fancy! Parking was severely restricted around the campus, so I finally shrugged and just parked on what seemed like was probably a quiet side street, only slightly on the wrong side of a No Parking sign, and hoofed around the large Harry Potter-looking buildings trying to find this one dude’s statue. GPS was only sort of helpful here, and I was definitely starting to feel a bit wrung out from the heat, wandering around a fancy college feeling unwashed and road-weary. When I got back to the bike, a landscaping crew had parked in front of me, and one of the guys asked if I were a surveyor… which makes sense, I’ve got a phone, clipboard, paperwork in my hand, wearing my motorcycle gear…

This segment: 93 miles, 2h41m
Total: 393 miles, 7h52m
Time Remaining: 7h45m
Points scored: 39,034

I took a couple minutes and decided I had enough time to add a bonus, AEX91 in Wellsboro, PA. It was sorta on the way, only adding 45 minutes to so. It hadn’t caught my eye originally, but with the stacking GW bonus, it was worth a total of 730 points, so maybe it was worth the detour.

Out of Elmira and back into rural NY, following NY-328 to the Pennsylvania border, where it turned into PA-287 past the Tioga Reservoir and some really gorgeous rural country. The road was flowing, but I got stuck behind a couple large tractors who were on there way to rake a field somewhere.. I didn’t mind. The day was good, I felt good, I had points and time in my favor. The flip side of “embrace the suck” is to recognize when it isn’t sucking, and enjoy that moment, because who knows when everything will go FUBAR.

22) AEX91 - GW Sears “Nessmuk” - Wellsboro, PA - 280 pts (+525)

The cemetery was one I would’ve loved to explore a bit more, sporting a number of older monuments. Wellsboro, NY must’ve had some history, judging by the stonework, but I started to have visions of a dinner at the checkpoint hotel and a shower, so onward we go.

I haven’t shared all the “flavor text” that is included in our rally books, but here’s a sample of what little nugget of history and context we get as riders for a location:

George Washington Sears (1821 – 1890) was a sportswriter in the 1880s and an early conservationist. His stories, appearing under the pen name, “Nessmuk” popularized self-guided canoe camping tours of the Adirondack lakes in open, lightweight solo canoes and what is today called ultralight camping or ultralight backpacking. Sears wrote Woodcraft, a book on camping, in 1884, that has remained in print ever since. Mount Nessmuk, in northern Pennsylvania, is named after him.

This segment: 44 miles, 1h02m
Total: 437 miles, 8h54m
Time Remaining: 6h43m
Points scored: 39,839

I made somewhat poor time heading down to Jim Thorpe, PA; I had to make a couple high-priority pit stops to pee, as well as a gas stop that was very delayed by a busy rural gas station, but hey, plenty of time to burn… right? RIGHT?!

23) AXX20 - Jim Thorpe - Jim Thorpe, PA - 3000 pts (+525)

The whole story about how Jim Thorpe’s remains came to be interred in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, a town he had never visited and had no connection to, is a sad one, as is the story of his life and career outside of his achievements in sports.

The rally master had some fun here, as well, making sure that reading comprehension was a skill we were bringing as part of our rally game.

Take a photograph of the statue of Jim Thorpe carrying the football

Because, of course, there were 2 statues of Jim Thorpe flanking his tomb, one with a football, and one with a discus.. and guess which was closest to the parking area?

There were a couple riders here (including at least one of the 2-up teams) and while I was doing paperwork, others arrived. One hopped off a running bike, snapped a photo of the discus statue, then hightailed it north. A couple riders seemed confused about which statue was which… so I helpfully said “Just remember - reading comprehension is a skill!” with a smile and got going. Nothing now but highway between me and the scorers, a meal, and a shower.. in that order!

This segment: 142 miles, 2h55m
Total: 579 miles, 11h49m
Time Remaining: 3h48m
Points scored: 43,364

It was a relatively tame 140-miles or so west along I-80 to the Hilton Garden Inn. Thanks to some kind of snafu at the hotel, I had been moved to a different hotel just down the street; a minor inconvenience, but an annoying one, to be sure. I rolled into the portico at 7:34pm, nearly 90 minutes to spare.

I got signed in, and sent over to scoring where I confirmed that I had in fact lost points for that first bonus on day 1, costing me a place in the standings. Still, I’d met all my goals for this leg:

  • finish safely
  • finish feeling strong
  • finish in the top third

Coming in 15th out of 49 was perfectly fine, and I wasn’t too upset about it. I wandered over to the restaurant and joined some folks at the bar, choosing from a fixed menu they had set up for us ahead of time.. pretty clever, since it meant we got nearly instant service! I opted for the meatballs, wanting some protein that wasn’t cheese or jerky, and after some light socializing made my excuses and headed back down the road to my hotel. I was parked, secured, checked in, showered, computer setup for morning routing, and head-on-the-pillow by 9pm.. setting my alarm for 4am, for the 4:30am riders meeting.

Leg A: 58,724 points -- 3,510 miles

Onward to Day 5 ➡️

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