Sometimes, your words will come back to haunt you. Several weeks ago I made the mistake of sending an E-mail to Rick Miller, Rallybubba of the MD 20-20, with "Tentative 2002 MD 20-20 Winner" as my signature. Karma can be tough sometimes as I was soon to learn.
The MD 20-20 is the East Coast’s only multi-day Long Distance Motorcycle Rally. The ride occurs over the Memorial Day weekend, and Boni have usually consisted of placing flags or visiting war memorials. This year the Rallybubbas added a different facet…The D.O.A. Ride. Bonus locations were released two weeks prior to the rally with point values. This year, three routes of possible boni would be available, North towards Maine (Route D), South towards Florida (Route O) with a round trip to Key West in 36 hours as the crown jewel of the rally (only one person bit, and did not make the 36 hour window) or West towards Michigan (A). The routes D, O, and A stood for Dumplings, Okra, and Applesauce.
Friday, evening was the rider check in and odometer testing at rally HQ in York, PA. I got to see some of the LD locals that I have met before, and meet some new friends. At a pre-rally dinner meeting, we were all introduced to Don Arthur, who just completed a Four Corners ride in 4 days 10 hours…the competition was going to be tough. During announcements, my picture was shown on the overhead, with the caption "Tentative 2002 MD 20-20 Winner", Rick told everybody that they could just go home since I was already known to be the winner, thanks Rick. Now the pressure was really on! The mysterious D.O.A. was then explained. It did not stand for Dead On Arrival, but Diners Of America. It appears that we would be visiting some fine local eating establishments over the next 36 hours as well as the traditional war memorials.
O.K., rally packs are distributed Saturday morning at the 5:15 am (yuck) riders meeting. The descriptions of our boni are available to us now. I picked the Southern (O) route with stops in PA, West Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia with points totaling a bit over 3.8 million and 1944 miles in 35 hours including 3 hour sleep bonus *IF* I could do it. I was pleased to find out that my first stop would be the site of the Flight 93 memorial near Pittsburgh and my last would be the worlds only "automatic ass kicking machine" (question was how many assess per minute could it kick/answer was 100 apm per the Horkster)…this was going to be fun! At 6 am we were off.
I made my first stop at Shanksville, PA 20 minutes ahead of schedule. I was tempted to linger and use the cushion I had built up just taking in the magnitude of the site. It was amazing how much emotion an empty field, some flowers on the ground, and some notes scrawled on a plasterboard wall could inspire. I met another rider just as I was leaving, pointed him to the location of the answer to the first question (who was Flight 93’s First Officer) and went on my way. I was headed for US-219, which would take me from PA to I-68 in Maryland for my trip to Fairmont, West Virginia. I quickly made it to a diner in Fairmont for my next bonus. This seemed to be going too easy, I was gaining confidence about my difficult route. I COULD do this!
On to Grafton West Virginia to find a war memorial. The question was which war did it Commemorate? I would never find out. I was traveling on some nice 2-lane roads and making good time. I was supposed to be on US-250, but did not see a road sign for a few miles, so I pulled over to the shoulder to check a paper map. The shoulder was tightly packed gravel, at a slight bank to the guardrail. I put the Connie up on its centerstand, I had just got fuel and the bike was heavily loaded for the rally so it was not easy but up it went. I pulled a map from my tank bag, and noticed the bike start to fall away from me…..and over she went! My beloved Connie was on its side leaking gas from the top of the tank, I could have cried! I used to laugh at people who say they cannot pick their bikes up, I will no longer do it. I did get it up, but then again I am 6’6" and 300+ lbs. The bike was up against the guardrail on its side and sloping downward. I had no room to get any leverage so I picked it up in two stages. First, I picked it enough just enough to lean it on the guardrail. Then I straddled the bike and put it upright (on its sidestand this time). This was the embarrassing part. Many cars had stopped on the road assuming I had wrecked and offered help. I was so embarrassed that I just wanted everyone to go away. I assured everyone that I was all right and needed no help, but it was tough to convince those people. I would have to say that the West Virginia people have to be some of the nicest I have met; they almost beat me into accepting help! Bystanders gone, I then started to inventory the damage. I could see that the glass in my right mirror had shattered, no big deal there. Here is where I praise a product that I absolutely love:
John Hildebrans highway pegs saved ALL of my plastic! I had a small scratch on my RH saddlebag, my mirror, and behind the highway peg bracket. That was it! So, they are comfortable on the highway, allow the use of jackstands for tire changes, and protect your Tupperware in the event of a drop! Thanks John!
Now, for the real problem. My front brake lever broke off. Not in half, but it was gone! I was going to try and JB weld it together, but one key piece remained hidden from me. I was in real trouble and I knew my finishing the rally was now in jeopardy. I passed a Harley dealership a few miles back so I thought I would give them a try. The Bike was flooded, but a little choke and she started right up. Back to the dealership without too much trouble (I didn’t realize how much I use that right brake). Took the broken lever in, and asked if they could help me. When I said I was on a kawi, the lady said there was nothing I could do (they sold Buells, and it looked like a standard part, but that was it). I borrowed a phone book and called several Kawi dealers locally to no avail. Special order only, no one stocked the lever. I sometimes wonder if any dealer has any parts in stock for the Concours as I have never NOT had to order one I needed. I thought about the aggressive ride I had planned, the hour I had now lost and knew my ride was over. I did not feel safe attempting another 1600 miles (a couple hundred 2 lane) with no front brake and expecting to make mistakes when I grew tired. SO, I began to remove the plastic to look for deeper damage. My right hand highway peg appears to have its main mounting bolt bent, and I could not tighten it any longer. Other then the previously mentioned damage, that was it.
As an aside, I worked on that bike in the Harley parking lot for at least an hour, and not one person approached and offered assistance. The place was packed with people meeting to ride or trailer their bikes to the Rolling Thunder rally going to the Wall in DC. A few guys approached me and made a couple of choice comments about my Jap Bike breaking down (after they loaded their bikes onto a trailer for the 250 mile ride to DC). I made the appropriate comment about trailering vs riding bikes and let them know I intended to ride my scoot back to Harrisburg, PA (farther than DC) sans front brake. I also let them know I had over 350 miles on the clock today and it wasn’t even noon. I then asked if those dressers they had just loaded on the trailer were TOURING bikes? Point made, they went quietly away.
Plastic back on, and made an uneventful ride back to Harrisburg (about 325 miles). I did meet up with a group of HD riders heading to the wall at a Cumberland Maryland Burger King. After some conversation with a guy who had 10,000 miles on an ’02 883 sportster (talk about an Iron Butt!) I headed out with the Harley group. We rode together on I-68 till Hagerstown Maryland, where I waved and headed North on 81 while they continued towards DC. I was glad for the opportunity to ride with some true bikers who respected the rider regardless of the ride.
Heading up 81, I remembered that there was a bonus at Ft. Indiantown Gap National Cemetery. I knew it was just off the interstate and close to my house, so I decided to go for it. Several members of my family are buried here, and I will also be when my time comes. It is a beautiful cemetery that just exudes patriotism and a sense of duty. I nearly cry every time I visit. The bonus question was to determine the birth date of a fellow LD rider who passed away during the 2001 TT rally. Jim Young was an MD 20-20 veteran, committed LD rider, and all around great guy. When I approached his grave, I saw flowers framing his marker. Rick Miller had handed out flowers to lie at Jim’s grave at the rally start. The number of flowers here suggested that visiting Jim was more than about points in a rally. This made me realize that I had made the right decision to come home rather than ride an unsafe machine. I recorded the appropriate information and went home.
The next morning, I bought flowers, and went back to the Gap (in my car) to lay them. I felt bad about visiting the day before with nothing to offer. When leaving the cemetery, I noticed a couple of Rally riders, so I stopped to chat. Apparently, one of their group lost a fuel pump on his GW and had rode pillion on another’s bike while they waited for them to return. I left them my phone number, and told them my uncle down the road had the same bike and I would scavenge his pump to get them going if they couldn’t find one. They thanked me, assured me they would call if need be, and I was on my way.
I intended to make the rally banquet one way or another. I then figured I had ridden a good number of super slab miles with no front brake, so the 15-mile down I-83 to York from my house should be doable. I would not win the rally, but I would indeed finish it. I then realized that I should get a receipt for a (nearly) mandatory rest bonus. So, I rode to a local convenience store, bought a paper and got a MAC receipt. Went home, read the paper, went back three hours later for another receipt and then back to York.
As I rode up to the Start/Finish line, I noticed that Todd (Harleytrash) Witte was manning it. For those of you who don’t know him, he is a great guy who is generally full of crap and bad manners. So I rode up to him with a sense of urgency and stated I won this thing, and did anyone else beat 4 million points. He said not that he knows and took down my odometer reading. He looked shocked and said my odometer was busted. "John, it says you only rode 700 miles!" I let him know what happened, pointed out my non-existent front brake and told him I just wanted to avoid a DNF.
I went inside to be scored, and came up with almost 1.7 million points. I surely didn’t win, but I didn’t lose either. But, I was where I wanted to be. Stayed at the start/finish watching all of the others come in. I was so happy for them and jealous of the great rides they told me about. One tiny young lady ended up going to Daytona and a few other choice boni on a VFR! She did a BBG, totaling 2200 miles in approximately 35 hours including the 3-hour sleep bonus. What a great ride, incredible when you consider that she could not touch both feet at the same time while on her bike.
The awards banquet was a bunch of fun. I took a bunch of good-natured and well deserved ribbing from my buddies about not fulfilling my predictions. Only one person gave me a true hard time. She accused me of being a wimp for giving up the 2 lane roads with no front brake, and stated that she rarely used hers. I smiled and said I had nothing to prove and if you felt safe canyon carving with rears only…then go for it. I am a generally thick-skinned guy, but this person really rubbed me the wrong way. I have never felt pressure to ride beyond my abilities by any other LD rider, and I did not welcome it here.
Rick presented the awards, Don Arthur rode an amazing ride (again) and won the thing hands down and received a non-draw entry into the ’03 butt (look out everyone else who makes the cut, he is one tough competitor and rider). Some great stories were told, and some good food was shared by all.
I have learned a few lessons about packing spares, centerstand usage, and Karma. I would like to thank Rick Miller, Todd Witte, and the other Rallybubbas/volunteers who consistently put on a quality event. The MD 20-20 is a great rally and I strongly recommend trying it out. Now, if I can just win this years Buckeye, I may be able to redeem a bit of pride.
John "Lurch" Shingara
’01 Kawasaki Concours