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Date: Wed, 29 May 2002 16:06:27 EDT
Subject: LDRider: Nancy's SS1K
About two months before the Mason Dixon 20/20 Rally, I asked my girlfriend, Nancy, if she might be interested in running the rally to earn her SS1K. I'm not sure of her exact words, but it was something along, "What? Are you friggin' nuts?" Though she has always been very supportive of my riding such events, she was also very convinced that anyone that would even think about riding a bike for a 1,000 miles in 24 hours, is not quite right in the head.
A month later, when she brought the subject up, I literally fell off my chair. She apparently had given this some thought and had decided to give it a shot. I was sworn to secrecy with all our friends in case she failed to make the 1,000 miles. But with that, the planning began.
One of the main difficulties for Nancy was the limited range of her bike. She rides a farkley-challenged 1999 Honda 750 Magna with a comfortable range of about 100 miles, that has been pushed to 124 miles on one occasion. Other than a windshield, the bike is fairly stock. Rick Miller, the MD Rallymaster, had offered Nancy the use of his beloved Connie for her ride, but she would not even consider it. It was the Magna or nothing.
Once the bonus locations were released, I sat down and began looking for a route with decent bonuses, but would also allow a fairly easy SS1K. Mindful of the limited range of her bike, we also tried to keep the route near interstates late at night, where gas would be available. As an added precaution, we packed a siphon-hose to transfer gas from my bike to hers, if needed. We went over the route and any other things that might come up on the ride. Before this attempt, Nancy's longest ride had been just over 500 miles, though she has ridden through some of the worst weather possible. She was once asked if she ever rides in the rain. She replied, "Oh, yes. Almost exclusively!" She can be one tough rider.
We made the short trip to the rally start in York, PA, without incident. The night before the start, we met up with old friends. Everyone discussed his or her strategy for the rally. Nancy received encouragement and well wishes from other riders. She was still hesitant about making the ride, but was gaining confidence that she would be successful.
As we got ready the next morning, we again went over our route and any final preparations. We packed the bikes and rode over to the start to get in line. We received our rally packages and after one last speech from Rick, we were ready to go.
Things did not start well though. About two minutes before the start, as we sat on our bikes in the start line, a friend came up behind Nancy to wish her luck one final time. Unfortunately, Nancy was trying to adjust her helmet at the time, and-.well, one thing led to another and over the bike went, in what had to be the world's slowest tip-over. I'm sure there are probably more embarrassing times to drop your bike, but I would hard-pressed to think of one. She handled it pretty well though. We got the bike up, and a couple minutes later, at 6:00 AM, we were off with the other 78 bikes in the rally.
Now my only jobs on this venture was to navigate, give moral support and advice and to follow her along the route. You would think that with that limited role I could have gone longer than 30 minutes before getting us lost. The route I had planned was around 1250 miles with numerous bonus stops. I knew we would be skipping a lot of these bonuses as the rally went on. I transferred the bonus locations into the Streetpilot III for what I thought would be easy navigation. Unfortunately, as we slept the night before the rally, someonebroke into our hotel room and changed the coordinates of the first bonus location. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.
We ended up about 15 miles north of the bonus location. After about a half-hour of asking directions and guessing we made the first bonus. Our first bonus was Jim Young's grave at Fort Indiantown Gap,PA. Jim was a friend of ours and I believe he probably got a good chuckle about us getting lost on the way to visit him. Jim had been plagued by similar navigation gremlins at last years Mason Dixon. After paying our respects and telling him about Nancy's attempt, we were off. The next few hours went very well and without incident. Though we were thrown out of a bonus location in Jim Thorpe, Pa. Apparently, words had been exchanged with some earlier riders, or maybe people at that diner just didn't like people dressed in space suits. Either way, we noted it and moved on.
Our pace was great, averaging about 43 mph overall, well above what was necessary with lots of interstate ahead. We then encountered the nightmare known as the Tappan Zee Bridge that crosses Hudson River, north of New York City. Once again, the moron navigator had failed in his duties. I had been over this bridge numerous times with only slight delays. Who would have thought that traffic would be so heavy on a holiday weekend? Doh!!
We sat for 2 and a half-hours trying to get across the bridge. Another half-hour and we would have had our rest bonus while sitting in traffic. I watched as the GPS counted down our average speed to 31 mph. I started trying to gonculate the speed necessary, with fuel stops, to get back to the required 41.6 mph average. Things were not looking good.
After making it through the Tappan Zee quagmire, we eliminated nearly all bonus stops, even though we would pass with just a few miles. We focused only on large bonus locations, near interstates that could be coordinated with fuel stops. Slowly, our average speed crept up, but with each fuel stop, it would retreat. It quickly became a case of two steps forward, one step back. After 12 hours, we had gone just over 440 miles. My public school education told me this would be insufficient to make 1,000 miles in 24 hours.
We hit Brattleboro, Vermont for a large bonus and headed back south. Ever so slowly, our average speed crept up over 40 mph. After picking up a bonus in Pawtucket, RI, we headed for a large bonus at the end of Cape Cod. About 100 miles from the bonus, Nancy started expressing some doubt about going all the way to the end of the Cape. Some additional gonculations showed that if we turned around now we could reach the finish in York before the 6:00 AM deadline with a total of around 1,050 miles.
Nancy quickly chose the direct route back to the hotel. We made our way back through Conn. and for the first time since early in the ride, our average speed made it about the dreaded 41.6 mph number. I started to calculate our arrival time in York and once again demonstrated why I am not a professional navigator. I mistakenly read the time to York as an arrival time instead of the duration of time to destination. I informed Nancy that we had an estimated ETA in York of 3:30 AM when in actuality we had 3 hours and 30 minutes of riding time left to York.
Based on this error, we decided to stop and pick up a bonus in Stamford, CT. After the stop, I found my error. With great hesitation, I radioed Nancy of my error and that now our ETA to York was 5:15 AM, not counting stops and we would need at least two additional fuel stops. She took this pretty well. I think her only reply was something along, "Well, that sucks."
We gassed up before entering New York City and watched our ETA climb to 5:30 AM. We made it through New York and into New Jersey for what we hoped to be the home stretch. I started trying to figure our last fuel stop that would get us into York with no other stops. We were also aware that open gas stations had become few and far between. We started noting the open ones in case we had to double back.
With 117 miles to the hotel, we decided to stop and fuel at the next open station. Unfortunately, this was still in NJ, where you cannot pump your own fuel. As I finished filling my bike, I noticed Nancy and the attendant were in a heated exchange. He apparently was reluctant to fill the tank further and she was insistent that she needed more gas. She normally fills the tank almost to the top of the neck and we were going to need every drop. After some more words, the attendant finally put in an additional half gallon of gas. Nancy still wasn't thrilled, but we needed to move and not argue.
As we left the gas station, our ETA had grown to 5:45 AM, only 15 minutes to spare. And of course, it started to rain. Fortunately, the rain was short and light. We did slow down coming into York to make sure there were no last minute mishaps.
We pulled into the finish line at 5:50 AM, riding 1,023 miles with 11 fuel stops since the morning of the start. Nancy had also picked up 2,508,859 bonus points, good enough for 30th place in a field of 80 riders. Not too shabby. As she pulled out of finish area and into a parking space, the bike ran out of gas. The odometer read 116.5 miles since the NJ stop.
She still thinks we are all nuts, but if you happen to see a small red Magna with an IBA plate at next years Daytona party, find Nancy and tell her she is now officially as nuts as the rest of us. And if anyone runs into Bob Higdon, tell him that Nancy said "I threw my dirt on it, now I'm going home." He'll understand.
Nancy and I would also like to thank Rick, Todd, Brent, Jean, Louis and the other staff members of the Mason Dixon for the excellent rally they organized. Every year it seems to get better and better.
IBA and other stuff.