Date: Fri, 31 May 2002 21:57:43 -0400
From: Gary Stipe <gstipe@cox.rr.com>
Subject: LDRider: MD 20-20 - Reflections of a Rookie (Zulaski-ish proportions)

There sure is a lot of stuff that the Rally organizers and volunteers have to do to make this thing run was one of my first thoughts as I checked in at the Holiday Inn in York, PA on Friday afternoon. I was excited and at the same time a little apprehensive as to what I was really getting myself into with this rally stuff. I checked into the hotel, got my room, unloaded the bike and then went to the check in table to see what I had to do. Louis Caplan gave me the in processing brief along with the check sheet of stuff I had to do. Next was the odometer check. As I pulled up to the tent, Brent gave me a set of directions for the route to ride, marked down my initial odo reading and I was off for a short 15 or so mile ride to see just how inaccurate my odometer was. When I got back, Todd took the final reading and I took off to refuel.

A lot has already been written on the list about how much fun the rally was. I whole heartedly concur with those sentiments. That night at the dinner, after the briefing from Rick, Todd, Louis, et al, where we were enlightened as to just what constituted a "rest bonus" and other equally esoteric equivocations, Lisa Landry and Dean Tanji presented the IBR show which can be purchased at the IBA e-store on CD for $11. After seeing the presentation I'd have to say it would be a bargain at twice the price. By 9:30 we were done and folks were heading to their rooms for last minute planning and sleep. I spent about 20 minutes going over my planned route then turned off the light and was out.

Not being one to trust the hotel alarm clocks (I've been burned before on business trips). I set the Meanie for 4:15. I woke up just before it went off. I had mine set for low volume, but 10 minutes later the guy in the room next to mine had his go off and I'm pretty sure it was on HIGH! I could have left mine turned off and still been up on time. I don't know who it was, but it took almost 10 minutes for him to turn it off. I've heard of sound sleepers, but that's ridiculous!

The rider's meeting started at 5:15. The crew handed out the rally packets and Rick asked that we not open them until told to do so. Visions of those standardized tests from high school where the "proctor" gave the exact same admonition started through my brain. How much of this was going to be on the "test"?

After all the instructions were dispensed we got lined up and we were off. My first rally had started! My first stop was at Jim Young's grave at Fort Indiantown Gap National Cemetery. I made good time and was leaving there on time from my original route plan headed for Shanksville, PA. I had no idea what to expect until opening the rally book and finding that this was the site of the temporary memorial to Flight 93 from the events on Sep 11. I was following close behind a couple of riders on Connies and I figured that we were all headed in the same direction. I got on to PA Turnpike and recalled that the receipt would be one of my wildcard bonuses. Just before exiting the turnpike I stopped for fuel and bought 5 scratch off lottery tickets a wild card bonus and put them in my receipt pouch. As I exited from the turnpike I wrote my odo reading on the back of the receipt and put it in the bottom of my tank bag. Lesson #1 don't put receipts in different locations than you've planned because you will forget about them when you finish. I found the receipt as I was cleaning out my tank bag after arriving home 330 points not awarded.

I caught up with the Connies again as we approached the turnoff to go to the memorial. My GPS indicated that we had about a mile to go before the turnoff when they turned around. I guess they were thinking that they had taken a wrong turn or had missed one. I got to the memorial and was impressed with what had been constructed since September. I spent more time there than I needed and as I was leaving, the two Connies were arriving. This was the first time I ran into Michael and Caroline McDaniel. It would not be the last.

As I left and was approaching the highway I told the GPS to route me to the next location. It chose a route different than I had planned using MS Streets and Trips. So I took a right and followed the GPS route instead of the MS S&T route. It was longer and I learned Lesson #2 don't second guess the routes you've worked on previously because the GPS says you should take a different road. By the time I got out to the I-68, I was behind both the Connies and the McDaniel's. I caught up with Michael and Caroline in about 20 miles and figured out Lesson #2. I had chosen a sequence of two bonus locations that did not maximize the use of the interstates. Lesson #3 minimize the time between locations if possible. I got to my third bonus location, spent about 10 minutes looking for it and hit the road headed for my #4 point. As I was exiting town, Michael and Caroline were entering having already been to my next stop. Clearly, my choice of routing could have been better. I was once again behind them on the route. The next location was easy to find and I was on the road again headed for St. Albans, WV. I caught up with Michael and Caroline just outside town and road in with them to the diner. I missed it because I was looking on the wrong side of the road and had to make a u-turn. Paul Pellard and his girl friend Christine were already there and getting ready to leave. Again, I spent more time there than I really needed to get the answer and satisfy the requirements. As we were getting ready to leave we asked a couple of ladies about a short cut that could by pass Lexington. They explained that it would probably save about 45 minutes over actually going into Lexington on the interstate before turning south. With that firmly in mind I headed out for Knoxville and the Memories diner. I stopped for fuel and lost contact with the McDaniel's.

As I was arriving at Knoxville, the GPS paid for itself. I routed me right to the diner and after determining that it was closed and for sale I eventually ended up in the back parking lot. At some time earlier, the yellow tape closing that parking lot had been torn down. Therefore I played ignorant and parked in the back, got out my rally book, answered the question and was getting ready to leave when one of Knoxville's finest pulled around the corner and slowed then stopped just outside the parking lot. I waved and continued putting my helmet back on. I guess they figured that I wasn't vandalizing the place, but they waited until I pulled out and left the area before continuing on their route.

My next point was Hickory, NC. The route I had chosen from Knoxville was I-40 through Ashville, NC. One of the best routes with sweepers that don't make you work, but still give you the enjoyment of riding a motorcycle is between Knoxville, TN and Ashville, NC. There are tunnels, and curves galore. A real satisfying ride. It started getting cooler so I pulled into a rest area and put on my electrics. I hadn't planned on real cold weather so I hadn't packed my gloves mini-lesson pack them, you might need them. Fortunately, my heated grips (hey it's a K12LT, what do you expect'<G>) were sufficient. As I finished suiting up a guy on a Goldwing stopped and asked where I'm headed. We chatted a little and I explained that I was doing the MD20-20 and expected to put on about 1600 miles before evening. He looked at me and asked "You one of those IronButt Guys?" I just kind of nodded. He went on to explain that he had been riding in the back roads around there all day and had found himself on some dirt and mud tracks that his wing was not really suited for. He'd put in about 500 miles that day and was headed back to Winston. He suggested that we ride together. I agreed, but cautioned him that I wasn't exactly traveling in a sedate look at the scenery kind of manner. He didn't figure that would be a problem. So we took off. I was feeling a lot better now that the suit was heating up and noticed that he didn't have any problem staying right with me as we ate up the miles. After about 40 miles though, we ran into some traffic and as I moved through it we were separated and I lost sight of his light in my mirror. I gave a mental wave and a thanks for the company and continued on to Hickory.

I got to Hickory and made the turns as specified by the GPS and headed for the next bonus location. Oops, I got forced onto a different road because I was in the wrong lane. No problem, the GPS will recalculate and get me back on track quickly WRONG! For the next 20 minutes I phfutzed around trying to get back on track. Unfortunately, I had not printed out a hard copy map of the area hey, I had a GPS! Lesson #4 do your homework and make hard copies of your locations with routes into and out of the locales the GPS may not have a map set that is responsive to your requirements. I got back to the main road and who should I see Michael and Caroline. We decided that we were about a mile away from where we wanted to be and set out for the diner. We found it, answered the question and went across the street to re-fuel. I guess I have a smaller tank than their R1150GS because I was topped off and done with the restroom shortly after Michael was done pumping. We exchanged a couple of comments about where to stop for a rest and I decided to push on to Mocksville for the next bonus. My plan was to stop in Winston for the night (so to speak).

With all the difficulties finding addresses specified by the Rally Bubbas that I'd had so far, I still hadn't learned my lesson. I road past the bonus location 4 times before I decided to stop and get out my flash light and try to find it on foot. Sure enough, the address was not visible and there was a historical plaque with the answer to the question in the rally book. Not at all what I was expecting. Reading comprehension is not optional it's MANDATORY!

Finally, I was on my way to Winston for a rest stop. I planned on getting a hotel for the 3+ hours so I could actually sleep. I know decadent! Unfortunately there was some sort of gathering in addition to the holiday tourists in town. "Do you have a vacancy?" "No, and I don't think anyone else does either." Was the response I heard 4 or 5 times. Finally I was giving up and heading out of town when I spotted a seven story Hampton Inn and decided to try it. Sure, they had a bunch of vacancies. I checked in at 1:20 and set the meanie for 4:15. I was suited up and headed out the door at 4:30. When I asked the clerk if I could have a receipt with both my check in and check out times on it, she looked perplexed. But went in the back room and tried to get another receipt. When she returned she said that she'd learned something new. She never knew that you could get a receipt with both check-in and check-out times on it. I wished her a good day and headed out the door. It was 4:55.

The next stop was Wirtz, VA and the World's Only Ass Kicking Machine. Again, the address was not obvious and so I went to a convenience store to ask directions. As I was coming out the door who should ride up Michael and Caroline. They had received the same directions the clerk had given me and were returning for more clarification. So Michael went back and got a physical description of the device. We had both passed it multiple times but since the address was not displayed on the mail box we had no real evidence that this gazebo looking thing was what we wanted.

They left, I suited up and headed to Bedford, VA and the D-Day Memorial. I stopped for fuel and demonstrated that I had yet to learn the utility of asking the locals for directions. As it turned out, I re-fueled about a half mile from the entrance, but expected some indication (like a sign, or something) that I would be approaching the memorial. After about 30 minutes of riding all around the entrance, I finally found a small sign that pointed to the location. Although I had been exposed to Lesson #5 at Wirtz, I clearly hadnt learned it Ask the locals for directions! The security guard came out and told me that they wouldn't be open for a couple of hours. I thanked him and finished making my entry in the rally book. Then I headed back out to the main road and promptly started learning Lesson #6. As I headed out of the D-Day Memorial, I stopped at the road and punched in the next waypoint. The GPS promptly displayed the route I had just ridden to get to Bedford. Okay, stop route, find waypoint, etc. No difference, it displayed the current route to Bedford. So I looked at the small map I had printed out and started making my way to White Sulfer Springs, VA on my own. Not a really good idea.

After about 10 minutes I started getting a really uncomfortable feeling so I tried the route to waypoint function on the GPS again. This time I hit the buttons correctly and realized that previously I had been reactivating the old route instead of routing to a new waypoint. I was now about 15 miles in the wrong direction. Unfortunately I told the GPS to route me via the quickest route and it did (given its set of assumptions on the trafficability of the various roads of course). I needed to get to VA 43. The route specified was along VA 643. This is a nice little country back road that in most places is wide enough for two cars, but at others is clearly a single lane road used for local access only. I was wondering if I would ever get back to civilization when I found VA 43 and turned north. VA 43 goes up the mountain to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is as challenging or more than anything along Deals Gap. It just isn't as long. I was working! I got up to the Parkway, road along it for about 5 or 10 miles and got off on the north side again on VA 43 going down the mountain. This is a great ride. I just wasn't enjoying it as much as if I had actually chosen it in advance and had all day to play. But I got down and headed up VA 220 towards WV. As I was heading up I-64 towards White Sulphur Springs, I passed Michael and Caroline returning from that bonus location. They had not gotten lost and played on the back roads leading up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and down the far side.

I stopped at Bev's Diner, opened the door looked for the coat rack and this little old (actually very ancient) lady pointed at the coat rack and the three turkeys perched on top. I headed back out to the bike and was on the road again. I wasn't sure about my time so I started considering eliminating the Frost Diner in Warrenton. The best way in was on US 17 and out US 29, but it would take about 45 minutes to do that trek. I figured that I would make the call after I hit the Comet Diner in Front Royal, VA. As I pulled up to the Comet Diner (or more correctly, what used to be the Comet Diner) I saw that they were closed, under new management and would be opening soon. Well, I couldn't answer the question, so I went next door and bought a pack of gum for evidence of having been there. I also wrote down the contact information of the POC who was handling the reopening.

I left Front Royal about 10 minutes ahead of schedule and figured that I would stop at Warrenton. When I got to the exit for US 17 though, there was a line of cars waiting to exit. Something had happened along that route and I quickly determined that I wasn't going to go there. So I called my wife to see if she wanted to meet me at the Tasty Diner in Fairfax then follow me back to York for the finishing banquet. She said sure, where is it. So I talked her through finding the diner and continued along to US 123 and the turn to the diner. As I pulled up I saw her parked in the parking lot. The really nice thing about this lady is that she not only loves me, but she also rides. Now all I have to do is get her addicted to LD Rallying; I went into the Tasty Diner and looked for the message below the clock "YCJCYADFTJ" was written below the clock. The question in the rally book was. "What is the message below the clock?" Now, having been there before I knew what those letters stood for, but to make sure I got complete credit I asked the waitress what it meant. As I was reaching for my wallet she replied "Your curiosity just cost you a dollar for the jukebox." I gave her the dollar and asked for a receipt. She was a little surprised, but started writing out a receipt. When I asked if I could get a computer generated receipt, she just looked at me and said "This isn't McDonald's you know"  So I took my hand written receipt and put it with all (or almost all ) of my other receipts, put on my helmet and headed back out to I-66 with my wife following closely behind.

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. I rode with the flow of traffic along the beltway to I-95 N then to I-695, then to I-83 back to the hotel. This is where experience would have paid off. There were 3 bonus locations that I passed between the Tasty Diner and the hotel. I hadn't expected to have time for them so didn't consider them in my plans. As it turned out I would have been able to get them maybe. Second guessing what could have happened is never a good thing. However, had I been more experienced, I could have recognized the option to include those bonus locations on my way back to the finish. They were worth an additional 50K points or so. In this case, that wouldn't have changed my standing in this rally, but the ability to compensate for changing situations is a factor of experience and I gained a lot on this rally. Lesson #7 then was to be prepared for changing conditions and have backup plans that would allow me to make modifications to the plan on the fly that would compensate for conditions along the way.

As I came into the finish, Todd motioned me in under the tent and took my finishing odometer reading and gave me my official ending time. I had successfully completed my first rally. What a feeling of exhilaration. I turned in my wild card bonus lottery tickets and headed for my room to make sure I had all the stuff for the final tally. Louis checked me out and I headed over to get my rally shirt. Then to the line where we all waited for Rick to double check our entries and point totals. Once that had been accomplished I headed for the room for a short nap.

At the banquet we shared stories about the people and places we visited. I can honestly say that I went places that I would never have consider before the rally. Now, there are places I'd like to return to when I have more time to truly enjoy the sites and sounds. I have to admit I was curious where I had ended up in the overall standing. Because of my fiasco with finding places and getting lost I figured I'd be lucky to be mid pack. But it didn't matter. I had FUN and this would not be my last! As Rick got up for the presentations he started listing the mileages of some of the riders. 2200 miles and a BBG! What a ride that must have been! Then he started with the top 20 and their points. #20 had fewer points than I had. I was amazed. I had made the top 20. What a thrill. As he continued to read the points and names I found that I had come in 11th overall. Then as he was making some special presentations I also found out that I had been the top finishing Rookie! Again, what a rush. I was really glad that my wife had decided to come to the banquet. Her support in my hobbies is just indescribable. Along with the top Rookie award came a plaque and a free entry into next years MD20-20. Now all I have to do is figure out how to get back from Korea next Memorial Day and come up with a bike that I can ride in the rally. Life is full of challenges. However, the rally showed me that challenges have solutions!

If you want to experience the only multi-day rally on the right coast, this is it! Mark it on your calendars, Rick, Todd, Brent, Louis, and the crew are going to have you well entertained. Thanks guys for the time of my life!

Gary Stipe US Army (Retired) 
K1200LT "Heat" 
AMA Life, MOA Life, RA, (BMW)2, IBA 
"Life Is Uncertain ~ What's Important To You?"