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And now, Part II

April 26, 2016

Note:  This is a long post.  Pack a lunch…

Due to a time-consuming side project (plotting world domination) I haven’t had much time to finish off the two-part post I started last, uhhh, off hand I can’t even remember when I posted the first half.  Let’s just go with last year.

As we left the last installment I was about to talk about a motorcycle rally that both my brother and I took part in.  The rally was the Menage-a-Trois Rally, starting in Salt Lake City, UT at the end of last August.  The three or four of you that actually read this blog may remember my mentioning it once or twice.  If you are unsure about what this rally is all about, feel free to read up a bit here: 2015 Ménage-a-Trois’ Rally Information.

As I mentioned above, this rally started in Salt Lake City, Utah.  My brother and I shared a room for the event.  I was really hoping that sharing a room with my brother on this trip would go much more smoothly than in years past.  There was a time, many years ago, when we shared a room.  Some days were better than others in that shared room.  I don’t remember many specifics, but I have a general recollection that some of the nights just weren’t peaceful.  I’m sure that our parents can back me up on this.  At any rate, we shared a room and our parents will be glad to know that as we both approach the half-century mark, we can finally share a room without waking up the whole neighborhood.

The first night, a Thursday, was spent catching up with my brother and meeting the other participants.  This event brought people from all over the country, each of whom had a different level of riding experience.  In our other rally together, my brother and I were both riding in our first long distance rally.  This time was much different – this time we were both in our second rally.  We were experienced…

I’m not sure what my brother thought, but after talking to several of the other riders, I didn’t feel that my “experience” was going to be worth a whole lot in this event.  Actually, I’ll take that back a bit.  I did have a general feel for what was going to happen and knew, this time, how much I didn’t know.

MaT-Rally-Towel

My Rally Towel

Friday was spent prepping our bikes, finishing up administrative stuff, and, if there was any free time, getting a bit ahead on our sleep.  The admin stuff included picking up our rally packets, filling out forms, completing our mileage checks, and making our rally towels.  For this rally we were given a blank white golf towel along with instructions to make a towel that was uniquely ours.  My rally towel is shown on the right.  Yes, that is all my own design and development work.  Some of us were better prepared for this step than others…

The last admin step was the rider meeting.  It was at the meeting that we learned that riders who had signed up for the 36 hour rally were also eligible to participate in the 24 and 12 hour rallies, but they would be able to use all 36 hours to gain points for the shorter rallies.  This annoyed (yeah, I’ll stick with “annoyed” even though it doesn’t really do the actual reaction justice) a few of the riders that were signed up for only the shorter rallies.  My brother and I thought it was great.

Without looking for the actually schedule of events, I think the rider meeting took place at 6 pm.  At 8 pm we were free to leave the hotel and start the rally.  The time in between was spent first at the rider meeting and then in our room planning our route.  We had the list of bonus locations, and now we needed to figure out where we were going to go.  I mentioned earlier that I did a lot of researching.  Much of the research was looking at bonus locations from previous rallies and planning possible routes.  Based on the bonus locations in our rally packets, it turns out that almost all of that time was wasted…

It also turns out that while my brother and I generally have a great time riding together, we make a terrible rally team.  First off, neither one of us want to be subordinate to, or take direction from, the other.  That was obvious pretty much from the start when I wanted to take off north to Glacier National Park and he wanted to head to the sauna…  OK, he didn’t really want to go into the sauna, he just didn’t want to head north.  I guess that his thin southern-border blood just can’t hang with my thick Wyoming blood (Little bro, I realize that I just called you out, but this is my blog and my story.  You want your version posted?   Write it up and I’ll post it…).  As the clock approached 9 pm – an hour past start time – we were still in our hotel room doing a north vs. south version of this:

Finally, I realized that with my bigger fairing and heated hand grips, my bike may be a bit better equipped for colder weather than my brother’s bike, so I gave in.  No glaciers on this trip.  That decided, we left the hotel and headed off into the sunset towards what, during daylight, would have been the most boring part of the ride – the Bonneville Salt Flats.

The flats weren’t our destination, just something we had to cross as a part of the initial loop of our route.  This loop would take us west along Interstate 80 as we skirt the southern shore of the Great Salt Lake, across the Bonneville Salt Flats, and into Nevada.  One nice thing about crossing the flats at night is that because it is dark I can at least pretend that I am riding past something worth looking at.  Another is that there is very little traffic, of any kind, on the 40 mile stretch of interstate that is straight as a ruler and sports a posted speed limit of 80 mph.  I think I have mentioned it in other posts, but cruise control comes in very handy along this stretch.

Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah

This is a picture from a previous crossing of the flats while riding a bike I owned a while ago.  As you can see, there just isn’t much to see.  To further demonstrate the desolation of the area, I was standing in the middle of I-80 when I took this picture.  I had time to take several pictures without worrying about traffic.  Back to the rally…

Once we crossed the salt flats we stopped at a casino in West Wendover, Nevada so we could try to get our first real points from a bonus location.  In this case the points would be from a keno ticket or lottery ticket.  We tried to find a parking place close to the casino entrance but couldn’t find one.  We ended up parking a bit farther away from the casino than either one of us really wanted to walk.  We also spent the next ten minutes or so trying to decide if we were going to go in or head down the road and get those points somewhere else.  The fact that it took longer to decide what we were going to do than it would have taken to just go in and get a keno ticket just reinforces my feeling that we just don’t make a good rally team.  In the end we left without any keno tickets, got some gas, and continued on into the night.

About thirty miles west of West Wendover is an interchange that, on a map, looks like a small town called Oasis, Nevada.  We didn’t see a town.  We turned northeast onto highway 233 and headed towards Idaho while bucking an increasingly strong crosswind.

This was a relatively uneventful stretch of road, mostly because we could only see what our headlights were illuminating, and that was just the road ahead.  We crossed back in to Utah at about 11:30 pm with about 180 miles under our belts.

Somewhere around 1 am on Saturday morning we turned onto a long, empty, flat, straight stretch of road with the wind to our backs.  I’ll give you a few seconds to put that all together.  Yep, race time.  For those of you that are worried that we participated in an illegal drag race, rest assured that to the best of my knowledge we only raced to to posted speed limit.  My brother’s bike got off the line first and took an early lead, but my newer bike with more horse power stole the show with a top speed of, uhhh, 70 mph or so.  Yeah, we’ll go with that.

With our brief childish folly behind us we pulled in to Snowville, UT for some fuel and then continued on towards Malad City, Idaho.  Again, this part of the trip was largely empty and dull, though at one point I had to hit the brakes hard as I rounded a curve in order to avoid three small deer that were lounging in the middle of the road.  We hit Malad City about 2:30 Saturday morning.  This is one of those towns that just rolls up the sidewalks at night.

After Malad City we hit Interstate 15 and headed back to the hotel in Salt Lake City to finish the first loop.  Fast and smooth, this leg got us back to the hotel by about 4:30 am for a few hours of sleep.  The first loop took us seven and a half hours and covered about 420  miles.

BMW-Shop

The real Saturday morning would be the start of what we considered to be the main part of our rally.  Friday night had been mostly about padding our miles to ensure that we got the 1632 miles we needed to cover by the end of the rally.  The sun was now up.  We wiped the sleep from our eyes, jumped on the bikes and headed towards the first bonus location of the day – a shooting event not far from the hotel.  Without going into any details, we got our bonus points and then went to breakfast.  After breakfast we stopped at an independent BMW motorcycle shop for some more points.  At this shop I had my first lesson in making sure that I have all of my stuff before leaving.  As I was climbing on my bike my brother asked me if I planned on grabbing my rally towel before we left.  It was still hanging on the side of the building after I took the bonus picture to prove that I was there.  Leaving my rally towel behind would have been a big problem.  I’m glad my brother noticed that I didn’t have it.

From this point on the ride becomes mostly about riding.  We left the Salt Lake City area and headed towards the southeast part of Utah via Provo, Price, Green River, and Moab.

A little side note here:  Riding in this part of the state in late August gets a bit warm.  In order to beat the heat (and to get a few more bonus points) we both purchased LD Comfort riding skivvies.  I was wearing the Long Sleeve Top and the Men’s Riding Shorts.  I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical at first.  Wearing a thick long sleeve shirt under my full windproof riding gear on a hot day didn’t seem right.  After riding all day in temperatures approaching 100 deg F and following the instructions provided with the garments, I can say that they work as advertised.  Thumbs up from G26 MotoBlog!

While I am on the subject of the weather, I need to add that the weather for this ride was much better than it was when we participated in the Land of Enchantment 1000 Rally back in 2008.  During that rally I would estimate that we had some form of precipitation during about 600 of the 1000 miles we covered.  Some of the rain was very heavy.  It was much cooler then as well, with daytime temperatures ranging from the high 50’s to the low 70’s instead of the mid to high 90’s.

Shortly before pulling in to Moab, Utah, we took some side trips to grab a few more points.  This time we needed pictures of our rally towels with the Canyonlands National Park sign and the Arches National Park sign.  Although I have been to Moab several times, I have never stopped at either one of these two parks.  Honestly, I still haven’t REALLY spent any time at either park because all we did was stop, take some pictures, and go.

Two-Bikes-Canyonlands-Sign

I was going to post the actual picture that scored points, but I just realized that I have barely mentioned either of the bikes we rode, and don’t have any pictures of the bikes up other than the one at the top of the post, and that doesn’t show much.  I was riding my 2014 Yamaha FJR1300 – the red bike.  My brother was riding his 2007 Suzuki Bandit 1250.  Both are great bikes that are well suited to riding long distances, though my FJR is just a bit better.

Once we made it past Moab we continued south to Monticello, Utah and then headed east to Cortez, Colorado (state number 4 if your are counting).  Somewhere between Moab and Montecello I was able to take the picture below.  This shows my brother on his Bandit riding south on U.S. Highway 191.

Lonely Road

We stopped for fuel in Cortez and almost made it out of town without having to mention it again until we had two conversations in the gas station parking lot.  I had the first conversation with a guy that parked next to us on his motorcycle.  The conversation made little sense, and after it was over my brother was wondering if I was actually having the same conversation as the guy I was talking to.  More interestingly, however, was the fact that he had a small pet carrier strapped to the back of his bike.  Something was in the carrier, but I could never see what it was and I didn’t really want to ask.  All I know is that whatever was in the kennel would sit quietly for a while and then move around frantically for a bit, and then calm down.  It could have been a small dog, it could have been a small chupacabra

The second conversation was between my brother, me, and a local.  It was more of the “We don’t like your kind around here” and “Don’t get caught around here after sunset” type of conversations made famous by cheesy westerns.  The conversation was civil, but the two sentiments listed above were present, though veiled.  In retrospect, he could have been implying that chupacabras are in the area and can be dangerous after dark, but I doubt it.

Fueled up, confused about the critter on the back of the first guy’s bike, and not really caring what the other guy really meant, we headed southwest out of Cortez to the Four Corners National Monument.  We made it to the monument at about 5:30 Saturday afternoon.  While the approach to the monument is paved, the parking lot is not.  Both of us were hoping that nobody spilled a box of screws that were now hidden in the gravel.

Four-Corners-National-MonumentAs I have mentioned several times, my brother and I make a lousy rally team.  Aside from the fact that we can’t seem to agree on anything route related until we absolutely have to, we also generally end up just being brothers out for a ride.  That means that it is difficult, at best, for us to stop, do ONLY what needs to be done, and then get going again.  We always seem to end up doing some sight seeing, taking pictures, or some other type of goofing off.  This is great for general purpose riding round, it’s not so great for timed rallies.  As evidence, I present the photo above.  This had nothing to do with the rally and I didn’t need to take it, and yet, here it is.  I will give two points, redeemable for absolutely noting, to the first person that can tell me which state my brother is standing in.

We left the Four Corners Monument and continued west into Arizona, bringing our state total to six by adding New Mexico and Arizona in short order.  Again, riding around this part of the country is a bit dull and monotonous, more so if you are used to this kind of landscape.  Our plan was to, or at least my plan, was to go past Lake Powell and then run up past a few of the National Parks in southern Utah before heading north to Salt Lake City.  Somewhere in Arizona we figured out that we weren’t going to have enough time to take that route and make it back to the hotel in time to qualify as finishers.  About 80 miles into Arizona we decided not to worry about the points and just get back to the hotel in time and with enough miles to be considered finishers.  At Kayenta, Arizona we turned north on U.S. 163 and heading back into Utah.  This route would take us through the Monument Valley.  At this time it was 7 pm on Saturday.  It was still light out but we weren’t heading into the sun.  The roads were still long, generally straight, and empty.  We were making good time as we passed Mexican Hat, Utah and were a few miles from reentering Monticello, Utah.

I was the lead bike and crested a hill about three miles south of Monticello.  At this point it was about 9 pm and mostly dark outside.  We had been riding without problem for some time now and were fairly liberal with the throttles.  I don’t remember how fast I was going, but I am confident I was going all of the posted 70 MPH, if not more, when I saw a fresh, full-sized deer carcass sprawled across my lane.  Between the speed I was traveling and the short distance between me and the dead deer I didn’t have any time to swerve around the deer.

dungeywinThe description of the next few seconds is a mix of “I think”s from my mind and descriptions after the fact from my brother, who was following me.  First, let me step back a bit and say that I spend a lot of time riding my off-roadish bike, a 2009 Kawasaki KLR650, off road.  I have learned how to occasionally adapt to unexpected obstacles, and recover from unstable situations.  “I think” that some of this knowledge came in handy as I hit the deer.  I would like to think that I slowed down as much as I could before hitting the deer, then stood up on the pegs and leaned back a bit while I goosed the throttle to lighten up the front wheel.  What I do know is that I hit the deer at a good rate of speed, went airborne with the bike, and did a heel clicker over the finish line as flames shot out from the finish line banner supports while the crowd went crazy.  It was awesome!!

Wait, that doesn’t seem right.  That may have been the ending of the last Supercross race that I watched.  The fact that we had been riding for a while mixed with the eight months or so of time between…  Anyway, I remember now.  I did hit the deer. The bike did go airborne, though only eighteen inches or so (that’s still about eighteen inches higher than an FJR is supposed to go), and I did land on two wheels.  How?  I don’t know.  The running commentary in my head went something like this:

I see the deer, “What’s that?”

I approach the deer, “Shit!!  Oh Shit!!”

I hit the deer “Ouch, it’s gonna get worse…”

I land again, “Don’t crash, don’t crash, don’t crash…”

I don’t crash, “Wait, what??  DUDE, I ROCK!!”

At that point I pulled over to continue rocking on two feet instead of two wheels (or in the air), and to check out the bike to make sure it wasn’t damaged.  I didn’t see any major damage but I wasn’t quite ready to ride.  My brother suggested that we try to move the deer out of the road so some other idiot doesn’t hit it, too.  We rode the bikes back up to the deer, parked in an entrance to a side road, and illuminated the deer with our headlights.  Before we could move the still-intact deer off the road a car crested the hill and turned the deer into a pile of goo.  My brother ended up grabbing the deer by the ears and pulled it off the road.  I couldn’t find any other solid places to grab, so I let him do all the work.

The car that hit the deer didn’t fare as well as I did, suffering some body damage as well as some damage to the suspension of the right front wheel.  Neither person in the car was injured, but the car was going to need a ride home.  A state patrol officer happened to drive by the scene and checked on us.  After we assured him that I was somehow OK and didn’t need to write up an accident report he went to check on the car.

In later conversations, my brother would tell me that he saw the back end of the bike go up in the air, come back down on two wheels but also leaning hard to the left, wobble left to right a bit, and then straighten out.  He didn’t see the deer until I had hit it.  Fortunately, he didn’t hit it as well.

Front-Wheel-Fur

Lower-Fairing-Fur

Rear-Wheel-Fur

We left the scene and went into Monticello, where we stopped so I could finish unpuckering.  I checked the bike over again and found lots a hair and some blood on the bike.  The only damage I found was a small crack along the bottom right side of the fairing.  The smell of burning fur stuck with the bike for some time, however.  While we were looking for damage on my bike we happened to take a look at my brother’s rear tire.  The tread along the center of the tire was gone and metal strands were starting to show through in a couple of places.  Concern shifted from my what-could-have-been to my brother’s what’s-going-to-happen-with-this?

I though we were done with the rally at that point.  I wasn’t sure I really wanted to go on, at least not at the pace we were riding in the dark.  Eventually my pucker-con (compared to Def-Con) returned to normal and my brother decided that as long as we stopped to check his tire out every fifty miles or so he would be fine.  Against most forms of logic we decided to head off into the night.  Before we left we decided that we had probably lost too much time to get the full 1632 miles necessary to “finish” the 36 hour rally, but we could still end up with an Iron Butt Association Bun Burner 1500 certification as long as we completed over 1500 miles in the 36 hours of the rally.  Game on…

The route we chose would take us back up through Moab to I-70, and then west on I-70 to I-15, and then north back to the hotel in Salt Lake City.  That route would cover about 460 miles.  It was 10 pm, we had about 10 hours to make it back, we had to stop periodically to check my brother’s tire, and we were already pushing sleep boundaries.  Logic?  We don’t need no steenkin’ logic!  Let’s ride!

Aside from the periodic tire checks we didn’t have any problems.  In daylight, parts of I-70 through Utah are gorgeous to drive through, as long as you stop in either Salinas or Green River, Utah for gas.  These are the end points of a 110 mile, or so, stretch without any services.  This doesn’t come into play on this trip, I just mention it because it’s there to be mentioned.  The sun started to come up on Sunday morning as we approached Provo, Utah.  This has historically been when I have the hardest time staying awake.   We were stopping more often now, both to stay awake and to check on my brother’s dwindling tire rubber.  It was showing metal threads through the rubber more that half of the way around.

We made it back to the hotel at 7:10; we had 50 minutes to spare.  The odometer check as we checked in told us that we didn’t have enough points to be considered finishers in the 36 hour event, though we did have more than 1500 miles, so the Bun Burner certifications and the shorter rallies were still good.  We were able to get a couple of hours of sleep before we hit the scoring table.

I mentioned a rally we participated in back in 2008.  The end result of that rally is that I came in next to last, while my brother came in next to next to last – just ahead of me.  During that rally he ran out of fuel and I had to double back to give him a hand.  The way that rally was scored meant that because I had more miles than he did, he had a better score even though we had the same amount of points.

After the scoring we got some more sleep and then went to the rally dinner to see how we did.  This time around, due to different ways that we chose to apply our similar points, I came out ahead of my brother.  I ended up in fourth place for the 24 hour rally and my brother came in fifth.  That, alone, was worth everything we had gone through.  OK, that and the fact that we had fun and somehow made it back safely, but mostly it was finishing in front of my brother…

Back-Tire

At some point on Sunday we loaded my brother’s bike on the trailer he used to bring it up.  In hind sight, that was a great plan because his rear tire would not have made the ride back to his house.  I loaded my stuff on my bike and headed home to Wyoming.  That was a measly 200 mile daylight drive on the interstate, hardly worth mentioning after the ride we had just completed.  My brother spent the night in Salt Lake City and drove home in relative comfort the next day.

Now that some time has passed, we have both received our Iron Butt Association Bun Burner certifications.  Over the course of the ride we each covered more than 1,500 miles in less than 36 hours, visited 6 states, saw many deer, and just generally had a great time riding with each other.  I’m sure that as time passes the stories will get better.  In fact, I fully expect the dead deer that I hit to become a live elk, or even moose, sometime in my next 15 to 20 years.  The weather is surely to go from fairly warm to either “well over 120 degrees and not a cloud in sight” or “worst blizzard ever, and in August no less”.  By then I may even have hit the moose/elk and gone airborne over an oncoming RV.  I will be approaching 80, so I may even believe it myself…

BB1500 MaT0001

I know it’s been a bit of a journey reading this thing.  Thanks for sticking with it.

G26

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One Comment
  1. Mike permalink

    I’m glad Mr. G26 (my brother) remembered so many details of our route and the rally in general because it’s all a blur to me. Regarding the choice not to attempt a run to Glacier National Park, I do remember as we planned our route, asking him several times to look up the forecast temperature for Glacier, and not getting an answer. So I finally looked it up myself and saw something like 18 to 25 deg F (in August!). That explains why he didn’t answer. Sorry, I packed for a summer ride, and even with my coldest cold-weather gear, I wouldn’t knowing ride at 18 deg for very long.
    Incidentally, after the rally, we talked to a couple of riders who did venture up there and said they wished they hadn’t.
    G26’s Rally towel was nice, I’ll grant that. My plan was to write something like “Rider number 5245” on mine with a sharpie. Since he had some spare iron-on printer paper (and an iron), I felt compelled to do a bit more. So I designed a pretty decent spur-of-the-moment Yacht Rock themed towel. Unfortunately, the image gets reversed when ironed on to the towel, and I didn’t have software handy to pre-unreverse the image file, making the final result even more incomprehensible.
    As for us being a bad rally team, I don’t think we’re all that bad. We have finished two out of two 24 hour rallys, and beat several other riders who failed to finish, in addition to getting 1000 and 1500 mile Iron Butts.
    And the riders who beat us didn’t so much beat us because they planned a better route, but because they rode many many miles. Compared to the contenders, we take too many food breaks, bathroom breaks, sightseeing breaks, and rest breaks. And I wouldn’t really want to change that. My only goal going into this rally was to achieve the 1500 miles in 36 hours Iron-Butt, and we did that. Having reached that goal, I don’t know if I’ll do any more of these rallys. Pressure to make time riding through the night on deserted state roads is just a recipe for disaster – or at least near disaster, eg Evel Kneiveling a dead deer. Also, that time pressure made us gloss over the beautiful scenery we were riding through.
    Speaking of the deer, we should have known better on that, since there was a lighted billboard on the side of the road as we entered this stretch that said something like “200 deer strikes this month”.

    Like

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