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Sun Sep 01, 2013 10:56 pm
Leg-2        

IBR '13 - Leg Two
Run to Sacramento

After a fair nights sleep and restocking from my supply stored at the hotel everyone, myself included, headed to breakfast for the leg two brief. I learned here the importance of getting a low floor. Waiting on the elevator while an entire floor is attempting to get to the same place can take time.

We knew going into this leg that we would have 58 hours to cover a minimum of 2500 miles. This was roughly the same as my CC50 which was completed in March. When you consider the eight hour rest bonus, roughly 39 hours of travel, a 20 percent time cushion that would leave eight hours for riding off the base track for bonus collection. I planned on taking the eight hour rest bonus and perhaps a couple of 40 minute naps but not much more, the naps would mean bonuses not collected.

In my preparation everything that wasn't related to keeping the motorcycle moving forward would be replaced by something that would, the motorcycle cover was replaced by a quart of oil and extra chain lube. Extra cables, socks and towels would stay behind. All the remaining bars would be packed into the camel back.

A little past 0600 breakfast came out .. late and we were anxious to go. We received the bonus packs and a quick brief. We'd need 11,000 points to stay on track. The rest bonus was 2880, tracking bonus was 1500 and the call-in bonus was 1500. Getting to 11,000 would require a mere 6120 points, we were almost half-way there and all we had to do was sleep and be on time. Anyone who was behind had a huge opportunity to make it up. The next wrinkle in the brief was the disclosure of the pony express combo bonus, 10,500 in additional to collecting all the PE bonuses. Everyone departed to begin planning their routes ... again the advantage of a first floor room was apparent, as the back up at the elevator grew, I found the stairs. As soon as I was able I made a quick analysis of the pony express route. 54 hours of riding which didn't include adjusting for daylight only stops. This wasn't a bonus that would be viable for me.

Feeling good that I had not wasted a lot of time trying to work an impossible bonus, I concentrated on my original plan. Shortest route get the points I needed. Pikes Peak was the largest single bonus for the leg. At 8666 points it was the only bonus necessary to have a decent leg. I pulled Pikes into my plan. The key to the Pikes peak bonus was that the COG Railway train needed to be in the photo with your motorcycle. A quick review of the train schedule revealed that it would arrive at the peak only 4 times a day, with the first arrival around 1030 AM. My route was pretty much set at that point. At all costs I'd arrive for the Pikes Peak bonus the next morning. Any bonus that would significantly delay that arrival was dropped. An early arrival at Pikes Peak would also mean that I could have a relatively leisurely ride into Sacramento with options to make off route trips for bonus collection. The route loaded into the GPS I headed to the parking lot. I was headed out at approximately 800 AM.

I've pictured my leg two options:
The red route was the rejected Pony Express Plan. The magenta route was the shortest point to point plan, and the green route was the Pikes Peak plan.

The weather was cloudy, cool and threatening showers. The bikes in the parking lot were also wet from the evening's rain. I was expecting localized heavy rain but was hopeful that it wouldn't be as heavy as day one or at least wouldn't last as long. I was also pretty pleased at the speed which I had settled on a route. I had figured I really wouldn't be ready until 10 at the earliest. When I arrived in the hotel parking lot I was surprised to see that roughly half of the riders had departed already. This gave me a sense of urgency that I was running a bit behind.

The first bonus on my track was the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum bonus. At 403 points for leg two it was a decent bonus. However, it wasn't available until 10 AM. I passed the exit for it at 830 AM it was the first bonus to be dropped. I wouldn't spend an hour and half waiting for the bonus to open and delay my arrival in Colorado.

Lindy?s Landing Marker in Moundsville WV was a short five minute detour from my base route. I made my way through Moundsville the location was easy to find. Not only was it on the main route two other riders were there as well as the local welcoming committee. They welcomed everyone to West Virginia and offered to take everyone's photo with the marker. It was a great way to start leg two. They warned us to keep our speeds reasonable heading back to the freeway as the local Constable was looking for revenue. I passed Jon and Ande heading to the bonus, they also provided a warning but I had previously sighted a state trooper on an overpass clocking everyone. So even though I was moving past the locals quickly I was still under the speed limit. I was headed back on route just before 10 AM, well ahead of schedule.

The next couple of bonuses on my direct route were the AMA Museum and Eddie Rickenbacker's Grave site, both in the Columbus OH vicinity. The AMA museum bonus required a photograph of a BMW R47 and a receipt. I had considered dropping the AMA Museum simply because I didn't know how long it would take to find the motorcycle, although at 750 points it was a significant bonus.

A light rain started to fall about a half an hour out of West Virginia. The rain increased as I approached Columbus but was never heavy enough that it penetrated my jacket. Traffic was also fairly light and I realized again that I didn't mind riding in rain as much as I disliked riding in the rain on a freeway with other vehicles around to kick up a spray. I was ahead of schedule and when I reached the end of the off ramp for the AMA Museum. There were two other riders with me. I figured at the very least we'd all have the same difficulty finding the BMW. We didn't get very far into the Museum. They had taken the motorcycle off display and let us know as soon as we had paid and gotten our receipt. They had also coordinated with the rally staff and had a photo copy explaining that the BMW was off display. It turned out to be a quick stop.

I was very interested in stopping at the Rickenbacker Grave site but it was only 152 points. Rain had started again and I didn't fancy searching a grave yard in the rain and made the decision to drop it. Thinking back on it, I probably should have stopped, I was in the middle of about 20 riders and given the advance notice of our arrival that each stop had so far, there would probably have been someone at the site.

My next stop would be the Big Foot Museum in Hazelwood MO. It was a low point bonus but only 30 seconds off my base route. I arrived there at 630 pm ready for a short break off the bike. We had another welcoming committee and I had left the rain behind in Ohio. I was still ahead of schedule and feeling very good with my next planned bonus being Pikes Peak.

The ride from Hazelwood on I-70 across Missouri was unremarkable. The weather was good and by the time I reached the Kansas turnpike it was dark and I had meet up with Connie Gabrick riding her Victory Vision. We were entering Kansas City. She opt'd for the to stay on I-70. I saw the toll plaza backing up and made a quick decision to take the I-470 loop around the city. I'm not sure how staying on I-70 worked out I wouldn't see Connie again for a while. I did not see another vehicle on bypass and entered the toll plaza with no other vehicles around. I had entered the turnpike in the I-pass lane so the toll worker and I had a brief conversation about Ez-Pass not being accepted in Kansas ... I paid the full fare, four dollars and rejoined I-70. Pulling in to a turnpike plaza I meet Jon and Ande getting gas; we chatted briefly, I had my evening meal at McDonald's, a chicken salad and free wi-fi to check my progress.

Kansas passed in the night. Connie passed me several times, I'm not sure how I managed to pass her but the tail lights on her Victory gave me a comforting feeling that I wasn't too far off schedule.

Around 3 am, Keith Keating on his 1994 BMW K75RT-P started riding with me as we headed toward Limon Colorado. Keith had a pretty good driving light setup which was also causing me some night blindness, which was adding to my fatigue. At one point I pulled off the freeway on an exit just to allow him to go by me. When I came back down the on ramp and he took position behind me again. I finally pulled off for fuel and just asked him not to ride behind me anymore. We had a nice chat and moved on with Keith leading.

I-70 heading to Limon is a significant uphill stretch of freeway and really the beginning of a climb above 4,000 feet. An altitude that I was aware that I would experience some power loss and a fuel milage drop. 30 miles or so outside of Limon I felt the engine hesitate and begin to stall. I knew I was running out of fuel. I switched to reserve and dropped my speed. As I watched Keith continue on I recalculated my distance to the gas station in Limon. The last time I was in this position, I miscalculated and ended up on the side of I-10 seven miles short of the gas station. I pulled into the Limon Shell station much relieved.

Limon was the turn off of I-70 and onto CO-24 to Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak. The sun was just coming up and my all night ride across the the plains had put in in a good position to make my Pikes Peak goal. Heading into Colorado Springs, Connie passed me again. Only this time traffic and traffic lights slowed her enough that I could catch her and pass around slow moving trucks. We traded spots several times until she turned off; I assumed she was headed to the The Airplane Restaurant bonus which we were less than a mile from. I was fixated on Pikes Peak and would come back for the The Airplane Restaurant after Pikes Peak. Her route was more efficient ... mine had a safety factor built-in that I would end up needing.

I had heard that the ride to Pikes Peak was one and one half to two hours depending on traffic. With an 8 am arrival I shouldn't have any difficulty reaching the peak to catch the first tram at 1130.

I had tested the Ninja at altitude during the 2012 IBA International meet going over several passes that were over 12,000 feet. Even though the power reduction required several down shifts to maintain speed I hadn't experienced any real difficulty with the altitude. As a result I did not give the altitude at the peak much consideration.

The first error I made getting to the peak was following my GPS. Garmin had done a great job of finding a short cut to the peak using a service road. It was gravel but hard packed easy riding, no traffic and a locked gate. You would have thought that the lack of traffic and passing the road sign that basically said "turn here for Pike's Peak" would have clued me into the fact that I was on the wrong path. Myself and at least five other folks were focused on getting to the peak ... not thinking. The was a 40 mile round trip detour and back track to the entrance. Ok no sweat, I had a built in time cushion. I arrived at the entrance to Pike's Peak traffic wasn't too bad yet and the line was only about six cars deep. I got in line paid the entrance and headed up. Checking the time, it was clear that I wouldn't be there at 1030 and may even miss the first tram. No matter, I'm here until I collect this bonus, even at the expense of all others. The ride up to the peak was interesting, passing through the various levels of vegetation getting shorter as I climbed higher. Matt Watkins passed me at the half way point. I was down on power and in 5th gear. It didn't make any sense to attempt to keep up ... slow and steady. Above the tree line I dropped into forth gear. At around 13,000 feet I dropped into third. The engine began to back fire on occasion. I had switched to E85 and was glad at this point. The lower ignition temp might have been the only reason the bike continued to run. Within a quarter mile of the peak the engine was so starved for air that I thought I might have to push the rest of the distance to the top. I was certain the train would be gone and I'd be waiting for the next one. When I crested into the parking lot at he top the tram was still there ... my lucky day ... and so was Matt. I followed Matt off the pavement to get a clear shot around all the people and the tram whistle blew, it was preparing to depart. I quickly got my shot. Matt offered to help me get the shot and it was then that I realized that the altitude was effecting me as well as the bike. It had taken a good 20-30 seconds for me to process Matt's offer and by that time I was packing everything up and he had headed down the mountain. For the first time I was experiencing altitude sickness. I needed to get to a lower altitude as quickly as possible.

As luck would have it I got behind a down hill bicycle tour that had a chase vehicle slowing traffic to bicycle speeds. It was probably just as well as this kept me at a fairly slow pace coming down the mountain. Around 13000 feet the bicycles pulled over to allow traffic to pass. I picked up the pace but not a lot, as I didn't trust myself to react quickly.

Finally off the mountain I headed to get some gas and pick off the Airplane Restaurant Bonus. Still suffering the effects of the altitude I wasn't thinking clearly and was blindly following the GPS instructions. The voice would come into my helmet "turn right ... " and I'd make an immediate right turn. This was followed by "recalculating." I turned too early. After about 20 minutes of riding in circles I found a gas station and took a moment to eat, drink and clear my head. finding the Airplane Restaurant bonus became much easier.

The next two bonuses were in Denver, a short hour ride away. I would take I-25 North straight into downtown. It was a Saturday afternoon. I recalled the traffic in Denver from the IBA International meet a year earlier and quickly decided to route myself on the outer loop going around the city. I took US-85 to the I-470 loop west. An afternoon thunder-storm was forming in the mountains around I-70. This resulted in a 10 mile stretch of rain as I headed into Golden Colorado. I hadn't realized that Golden Colorado was the place for the folks in Denver to head to on a Saturday afternoon but there were plenty of pedestrians out to keep my relatively short trip through down town Golden interesting. I rolled into the Colorado Railroad Museum Bonus while another rider was there. Got my photo and headed to the next bonus, the The Forney Museum. The museum is located next to the Denver Coliseum so this bonus had the real potential to be hairy if an event was scheduled. Fortunately by the time I arrived there wasn't anything going on at the Coliseum and the streets were abandoned. I got in, nabbed the bonus and got out easily.

My base route continued on I-25 north to Cheyenne Wyoming and then west on I-80 to Salt Lake City. Cheyenne had two easy bonuses Big Boy 1 - Engine 4004 and The Iron Horse. They weren't worth much in bonus points but were in my direct path so there was no excuse not to get them. While at the The Iron Horse bonus I had dropped my key in the grass. I noticed it was missing as soon as I sat on the Ninja and attempted to turn the key. I retraced my steps a little searching in the grass and the key was back in my hands. It was 5 pm, dinner time and I needed to asses my progress which I felt was good to this point. There was a McDonalds on my route back to I-80 so I had what was becoming a staple, Grilled Chicken Salad, Smoothie, and free wifi. There were several good bonuses on US-287 which runs almost parallel to the north of I-80. Most of the bonuses were daylight only. I calculated that I'd only get one or two of them before I'd lose sunlight. In the end I made the decision not to attempt those bonuses and opted instead to head to Salt Lake City to commence my rest bonus.

Wyoming passes mostly in the dusk until Rock Springs. The sky had been threatening rain almost as soon as I departed Cheyenne. Near Rock Springs the wind picked up, I could smell the dust in the air that almost always is followed by rain. The gusts started at around 20 mph, the traffic alert signs warned that high profile vehicles shouldn't continue and that the gusts were near 50 mph. The rain came too, driven by the wind. At least it kept my face shield clear. I pressed on to Covey's Little America where stopping for fuel seemed like the prudent thing to do as the altitude and winds surely reduced my fuel milage to something below 50 mpg. I met several other IBR riders here getting fuel, we made small talk about the wind, no one seemed bothered by the rain. The pump I chose wasn't issuing receipts so I headed into store to see the clerk. She gave me an odd look and asked where I was heading. I mentioned Salt Lake City, she handed me my receipt and gave me a warning about dust storms on I-80. As I headed back to the Ninja and back on to I-80 I thought well dust or not I was pretty much hiding behind Tractor Trailers which not only would block the wind but also had the added effect of acting as elk shields. The wind continued to gust hard until I reached Echo Canyon. There wasn't much dust but large bits of what I assume was dry sage brush (tumble weeds) filled the air. I was wide awake and using all my concentration on staying in my lane and on the road.

At the base of Echo Canyon I could see what appeared to an endless line of vehicles climbing into the sky. I traveled this section going east in the daylight which doesn't give you a good appreciation for how high the road climbs into the Wasatch Range. The line of lights seemed to go up beyond sight. By the time I had reached Echo Lake the temperature had dropped significantly, I pulled off the freeway to add glove liners to keep my hands from getting too cold. It was very dark on the off ramp and having a wildlife encounter was high in my thoughts. I got back on the freeway as quickly as possible after determining that I wouldn't make Salt Lake City by midnight which was the end of the Rest Bonus start. It was roughly 11pm and I needed to find a motel quickly. I recalled on trip out that there were several towns before reaching Salt Lake City that had motels. Around 1140 I took the exit for Coalville. I wasn't hopeful that I would get checked into a hotel before time expired. As luck would have it there was a Best Western at the end of the off ramp. That was the exact hotel that I had made a mental note of 10 days earlier. I parked pretty much in the doorway to the hotel got to the front desk ... no one around ... ring the bell ... ring it again. A woman came out; at least it was clear that I hadn't woken her up. She got me checked in quickly, I could start my rest bonus 43 hours after getting up in Cranberry ... still not tired. By the time I showered and set my alarm it didn't take long to fall asleep.

I woke without the aid of the alarm, a little foggy. I made a cup of hotel room coffee, packed and checked out. It was still dark and surprisingly chilly for a July morning, but I knew the sun would be up soon enough. The ride across Nevada promised to be warm.

I bypassed my first bonus opportunity, the Great Salt Lake City Pony Express Station. It was downtown and I didn't want to deal with traffic in downtown. I had long since lost track of what day it was and didn't realize it was Sunday and that the likelihood of traffic downtown was minimal. No matter, it was a low point bonus. Continuing east on I-80, I once again met Connie Gabrick on the road. We both needed fuel before heading across the salt lake and made the same exit to get gas. It was interesting seeing her again and know that we were on roughly the same track and timeline. We would see each other again at the next bonus, the Bonneville Salt Flats. We talked, she hadn't planned on stopping for it as it was another low point bonus. I think I convinced her that it wasn't that far from the base route to not go for it. Bonneville Salt Flats was a fun bonus and something that I've always wanted to see. Besides where else do you find a flat straight section of road that isn't patrolled. The salt flat was flooded but still cool to be there.

The ride across Nevada was bonus sparse. I didn't have any planned stops until the Black Rock Desert bonus which was still on my maybe list but it appeared that I would have time to make the four hour detour. Heading west on I-80 I had my first bonus alert come on my GPS. I had entered all the legs bonuses into my GPS. I was approaching The Ruby Valley Pony Express Station bonus and it appeared directly on my route. During my route planning I had discarded the Pony Express bonuses in their entirety and had not gone back to see which ones would make sense to capture. I made the quick exit into Elko and got the bonus, a quick 300 points. The temperature was rising but it felt good. I did notice that it was very dry and increased my water intake proportionally. As I continued toward, Reno Pat Ford & Becky
Martinez, a father daughter two up team passed me easily. I noticed Becky tapping Pat; they slowed and came along side while Becky shot some photos or video of us heading down the road. After a bit Pat got back to his task and they disappeared in the distance ahead of me. I was focused on my arrival time in Sacramento and noticed that my safety was dropping off quickly. I switched the GPS to review traffic situation and sure enough I-80 in the area of Donner Pass showed red due to an accident. The accident was at the on-ramp for the Donner Party Memorial in Truckee. I wondered and hoped that it didn't involve an IBR rider. As the traffic delay increased I made the decision to drop the Black Rock Desert Bonus. It was a big bonus but If I was late it wouldn't make any difference. I stopped at a rest area just east of Sparks Nevada to reassess the ride to Sacramento. One of the nice things about rest areas near large cities is that they sometimes have free wifi and this one did. Reviewing Donner Pass, three accidents were being reported. It was pretty clear that traffic going over the pass was heavy and would pose a challenge to reaching the check point on time. Remembering that I neglected to review the Pony Express bonuses I did a quick calculation of the bonuses through Carson, Tahoe and over US-50 which took me straight to the check point. Sure enough there were actually more points in this section than there were in my original route and there were no traffic alerts. I sucked the last bit of water from my camel back as the new route loaded into the GPS. I needed to ensure a refill soon. The temperature was over 100 degrees but I didn't feel it; I was focused on the next bonus, the Carson City Pony Express Station Marker. There was a bit of walking around with my GPS in hand to locate the Carson City Pony Express Station Marker as I didn't know exactly what I was looking for.

The next bonus, Friday's Pony Express Station, was on a corner of a busy intersection. I ended up parking in an area that I'm not quite sure was a parking area. Basically, almost on the side walk. As I was finishing this bonus three other riders came in to collect it. Surely seeing the bike parked awkwardly gave them a good marker to identify the bonus location. I waited for the light to change and the four of headed for the next bonus. As we made our way through South Lake Tahoe it occurred to me that I was the only California rider in the group, I thought for a moment about lane splitting as I was pretty sure no one else would remember that it was semi-legal in California. Traffic was heavy so as soon as we crossed into California I immediately went in between the cars; two of the other riders followed. They had larger bikes however and I thought I might be able to squeeze through a few areas they couldn't. Later I would over hear one of the riders mention that he was thankful that I started lane splitting because he had forgotten that it was acceptable in California.

I continued picking off Pony Express bonuses on US-50 until I was near the check point. I wanted to pick up the A&S BMW bonus as one of the higher value bonuses in the area. I had met up with Jon and Ande again. It was good to see them. I calculated my time into the check point and figured that I had enough time to get one more Pony Express Bonus. I picked it up and headed for the check point. I arrived with 15 minutes to spare. Everyone seemed excited to me. I was feeling good about my afternoon and headed in to stop the clock and prepare to get scored. Rather than conduct my preparation in the scoring room as I had on the first leg, I checked into my room and completed my scoring. With that complete I headed to check in for scoring plenty of time I figured I grab a bite to eat and let the scorers catch up as I started maintenance on bike. My first challenge was that the hotel staff had taken away all the food for the riders. When I asked them to make a plate for me they said sure and disappeared ... I didn't see them again. I was called into the scoring room. Scoring went quickly ... especially since I forgot to claim my tracking bonus. 1500 points down the drain. Still I had a decent leg and moved up 4 places to 54th. The 1500 points would have pushed me another four places.

Scoring complete I ordered a calzone from the bar and headed to the parking lot to conduct maintenance. Assessing the performance of the motorcycle and checking the chain and tires, I made a decision to only change the oil, filter and spark plugs. I had also discovered that my right fork seal had been leaking. I was a little concerned about fork oil contaminating my brakes, otherwise I would just have to back off on my corner speeds a little. Alex Ciurczak, another rider, is a forum admin for a Ninja 250 list. I asked if he would send out a note for assistance to 250 riders in the area. If possible I would swap forks with someone. If it wasn't possible I'd just live with it. I finished the maintenance around 11:45 and headed off to bed for an early start the next morning.

Leg 2 Plan.jpg

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