Another Rookie Went to Alaska

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Day Trippin'' started by 72 Yamaha RD350, Jan 3, 2020.

  1. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    This is my first and likely my last rally. I enjoyed the experience immensely, learned some things about myself, and met some wonderful people. Ultimately though, I didn’t do enough in the first half(?), two-thirds(?), or three quarters(?) [whatever percentage it was] of my marriage to build a relationship with my wife and, having figured that out and gotten it on track, I’m less inclined to spend my limited free time with a bunch of Strangers. Don’t get me wrong - Team Strange (the people who put this event on) is filled with legitimately nice guys and gals and some went out of their way to engage me in conversation and help me feel among friends. While there are a few women and young riders, the rally demographic can be largely described (or stereotyped) as “OWG” - “Old White Guy” or “Overweight old White Guy” I can honestly say, while I had a very positive rally experience overall - all negatives were purely on me. Regardless, the most enjoyable time of the Rally was the time I spent with Mrs.RD before the Friday night Rider’s Dinner.

    I planned this weekend a month ago. I needed a computer to process the GPX file and plan a route but I did not want to take the computer with me on the entire ride (for multiple reasons). Mrs.RD agreed she would drive down to the hotel (70 minutes away in rush hour traffic through Minneapolis) and spend the night so she could bring the laptop and any other unwanted/unneeded items back to the house. It turned out that we arrived early enough to spend an hour in the (indoor) pool which was a welcome relief from the week of Phoenix-like temperatures we’ve had the last week. Afterwards, I attended the Rider’s Meeting and returned to the hotel where she assisted in route planning by looking up weather forecasts for specific route areas.

    This “Chronicles of Elvis” is the story about my first rally experience. If you’ve never done an IBA-type rally - this will give you some insight. If you have - then it’s just my story of riding 960 miles in 20 hours to go see the Egyptian Pyramid and Dutch windmills in northern North Dakota. Ok. It's not really Egyptian nor Dutch... but that's what came to mind as I stood in nowhere North Dakota looking at what I had ridden to see.
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  2. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    One of the old timers asked me on Friday night what my expectations were for the rally. I had thought about that beforehand and settled on two goals:
    i) Don't Crash
    ii) Come in last place
    I jokingly told them I'd be very disappointed in myself if I failed at the first and in the entire group if I failed at the latter. I've said previously, I look at life as a competition against myself - not others. These people are remarkably good at long distance rally riding. It would be naive to think that I could be competitive.

    Similar to planning my trip to Alaska, I set certain bounds on my rally engagement. The registration fee was $110 - something I was totally willing to absorb if the weather was cold and wet. I’m just not willing to spend hours riding in a cold rain. Been There. Done That. (Hats off to those who are that dedicated to riding.) What I didn’t expect was a record breaking heat wave the entire prior week. Living in Phoenix for fourteen years taught me that my body handles heat well - what it didn’t teach me was that my helmeted head doesn’t handle the heat well when air is flowing around the big windscreen in front of me. This became relevant when the Bonus Pack was handed out.

    I had previously downloaded all the prior years’ MN1000 rally maps before registering for the rally last month. Every year has a different set of Bonus locations - generally co-located within an ellipse pattern or a quadrant centered at Minneapolis extending into adjacent states.. It was rare for the map to be a random scattershot covering all directions. It was not uncommon for the maps to include points in northern MN or along the north shore of Lake Superior - some of the prettiest landscapes and best riding areas in the state. With the heat wave I talked myself up to ride to Duluth, along the north shore to Silver Bay, up highway 1 to Ely, and across to International Falls [because, hey, who doesn’t want to see the place that ends up on the nightly weather report as the coldest place in the nation].

    My heart sank as I read through the Bonus listing and instantly recognized nearly all the points were in South Dakota along I-90 and in North Dakota along I-94. This was not what I was expecting or hoping for. I spend a week nearly every year traversing both states on those interstates - last September was the latest. The last thing I wanted to do was a blast across I-90 to Rapid City - and even less with temperatures forecasted in the mid-90’s. The alternative was a blast across I-94 to west of Bismark. Those were the clear paths to maximizing points and scoring well. Less obvious was a valuable point in Niobara, NE and adjacent high value points near Sioux Falls and Sioux City - but again, the forecasted high temperatures.

    The only alternative to those high temperature routes was four points near Langdon, ND - about twenty miles from the Manitoba border. That route would be temperature comfortable riding. The problem with that route was there wasn’t enough points to tie together to make it competitive. Clearly the rally master wanted the best riders to get to Aladdin WY or Alexander ND. [I briefly considered Alexander ND as it would get me a quick visit with my oldest daughter - but she and her hubby were in MN this weekend.]

    Here’s the bonus map I color coded for point value.

    Red < 200 points

    200 < Yellow > 300

    300 < Dk Blue < 600

    600 < Purple < 700

    700 < shades of Green < 2500

    Light Blue is bonus combo where all 13 points are required - the point value with the combo averages out to 280 points each (but if you miss one or more the point value is only 50 each).

    upload_2021-6-13_21-18-42.png
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  3. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    I’ve always remembered the mantra - “The root of unhappiness is expectation”. I vented my unhappiness Friday night to Mrs.RD. I don’t hold the rally master accountable for the weather but I expected a more varied point map than this. Granted, a lot of riders come to the MN1000 from other parts of the country and they don’t “get to ride” across the Dakotas as much as us who live in the neighborhood. [I have it on good authority that the number one cause of motorcycle trailer sales is riding across the northern Great Plains a second time.]

    I worked three hours Friday night trying to piece together something of interest and then laid awake another hour churning the sequence over in my head. I was going to Langdon but I wasn’t happy about it. I fell asleep shortly after midnight with my route plan unsettled but rose at 5:00 am to finalize it: Eight bonuses plus one optional. It took me until 6:45 am to document my plan. The number one piece of advice read given all new rally riders is - “Plan your route. Ride your plan.” The most competitive riders continually revise their plan in route with multiple GPS units - one for the Plan and one for What If ideas that arise en route. Just as in my Alaska ride I chose not to mount a GPS display in front of me - just Google Maps speaking to me through a Bluetooth headset (so I can hear where the Ms.Google is telling me to turn but I can’t see whether it is really where I want/need to turn). The GPS decision was of no consequence in my finishing order. I might have saved 10-15 minutes total time over the course of 20 hours with a GPS - not enough to make a difference for my particular route.

    I arrived at 7:00 am for the Rider’s Briefing, ate one donut, put a granola bar in my jacket pocket and grabbed a 32 ounce water bottle to supplement three frozen twenty ounce water bottles in my panniers. Aside from a packet of peanut butter crackers I picked up at 4 pm - that was my nutrition for the day.

    One of the coolest experiences of the rally for me was pulling out of the parking lot together as one big band of brothers - each a knight of the round table departing to slay his own dragon. [Aside from work, I don’t have experiences in my background that map well to tight cohesion - such as high school band or a sports team so this a unique feeling for me - to be a part of something bigger than me.] As each rider filed onto I-35 in front of me he/she accelerated into oblivion. I regret not wearing my GoPro for the start and recording this event that I will probably never repeat.

    rally_start_1.jpg

    rally_start_2.jpg
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  4. jdfog2

    jdfog2 Been here awhile

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    I was gonna say "in" (like I subscribed to this thread") - but then I realized I already AM subscribed to this thread - oof !

    Anyhow - I am still pretty interested - good reading thus far.
    I have NEVER been in this type of rally but I have a good friend that is a die hard Iron Butt Association member and he's getting ready to attempt "THE" Iron Butt Rally for the 3rd or 4th time. So I get some of the concepts on bonus selection/route planning, etc.

    Also, I AM in the all summer long "Grand Coddiwomple" Rally which is a BMW MOA thing (not timed, just a "get so many points to count as having completed" kind of thing.

    Hope to read more tomorrow !

    Jay
  5. jdfog2

    jdfog2 Been here awhile

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    "The root of unhappiness is expectation"
    Dear old Dad told me once - "Son, there's two kinds of rings in marriage, the wedding ring and the suffeRing"

    For many I think these two are not necessarily unrelated or incongruent at various points in life.

    I have been married once - for almost 36 years so I am not sure I can relate.
    My Dad was married a couple of times MORE than once (three total to be precise) and also had a long term live in kind of thing so he had a different reality I suppose vs. my experience.

    :)
  6. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    @jdfog2: Mrs.RD and I will have our 33rd wedding anniversary this year. We're very honest with each other that we both had false and unreasonable expectations for decades. I view a little bit of expectation as a good thing - but an overabundance of expectation will put you and possibly everyone around you in psychotherapy for the rest of your life. We each admit our faults and have lowered the bar to a healthy level. We have a really good time together now. To think that it could have been this way all along induces regret but we are thankful for where we are now.

    There will be more... it's written... it will just take time to post with the pictures.

    I'm not sure I'll get back down your way this year but if the Hoosier crew swings deep north into Michigan or Wisconsin - let me know.
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  7. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    My first Bonus location was a nearby mural of Prince. He’s a big deal in these parts. So is Bob Dylan. Don’t even think of saying anything critical of either. Both are Gods in Minnesota. I’m largely indifferent on both. Dylan was a decade before my time. Prince was in my era but I wasn’t a fan… except for “Manic Monday” which he wrote and the Bangles recorded. (There’s some family connections and pulled strings in there if you dig into it.) Whatever - I was in a sour mood and this mural wasn’t helping. Flag. Picture. Log. Load lat/long coordinates into Google Maps, pick a route and go.

    I forgot to take a picture of the mural with my iPhone. (The rally keeps the scoring pictures.) Here's a picture of the mural off the internet.

    Prince.jpg
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  8. radianrider

    radianrider Adventurer wanna'be

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    Sounds like too much planning to me. :lol3

    Couldn't find 40 more miles to get the 1000?

    Good report and I'm enjoying it.
  9. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    @radianrider: The absence of 40 miles will be explained at the appropriate time. Glad you had a great ride on the KLX.
  10. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    I forgot that I had taken a couple still photos before the start. I have added them to the post above.

    A volunteer for Team Strange was roaming around taking photos. I know I was in a few. If they publish any of them on their website I'll copy them here.
  11. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    My choices were to backtrack seven miles to the I-494 loop around the westside of Minneapolis (which has a construction zone with bad pavement joints) to link up with I-94 or to take the same route I use to get to this outer southwest suburb from my house. (The arboretum is down here and there's decent riding.) This latter route leaves me riding some of the same roads I ride all year. I’ll pass within a few miles of my house. I paid how much for this? I rode how far in city rush hour traffic yesterday to the starting point just to end up at the exact same place I ride every weekend? Why am I even doing this? Maybe this map/route falls within the bounds of DNF. I’m definitely not feeling it.

    I dutifully soldiered on to the next point knowing that I had the option of bagging the rally at that point and heading straight north to International Falls and riding My Ride. LWT, or Lake Wobegon Trail, is 90 minutes away in Holdingford MN. I mull my options the entire way.

    As background, Mrs.RD and I moved to MN partly out of (sort of) necessity (change in employers) and sort of due to Garrison Keillor’s radio program, A Prairie Home Companion. I heard it the first time in 1983 driving down to Evansville IN my freshman year of college and listened intermittently until we had children when listening to “the news from Lake Wobegon” became a weekly ritual. I eventually acquired a dual deck recorder and have a couple dozen shows on tape. (One of my favorites is the Alaska show which partially inspired me to ride there). Having lived here for nearly twenty years I can say his stereotypical characterization of his tribe is reasonably accurate… which is why the natives without a sense of humor dislike it. [“Catholics drive Fords and Protestants drive Chevrolets” even seems to have some truth to it.]

    I needed gas regardless of where I was going next. I pulled up to a pump at the station in Holdingford. While filling my tank I spotted this yard sign across the street. I readily grant any man the right to fly his freak flag whatever the cause may be. The yard sign, however, was unsolicited political commentary I could do without. My attitude was already in the toilet and now I was subjected to expert pandemic advice from a rural Minnesota genius. No disrespect to those who have lost loved ones in the pandemic but I haven't liked our society's response to Covid-19 any more than anybody else. In my formative years Americans were cautious about disclosing their ignorance in public. The internet seems have comfortably destroyed that wisdom in the span of my lifetime. If the last year has taught me anything it's that there's going to be a whole lot of dead stupid people (regardless of political persuasion) if a pandemic with a truly high mortality rate ever hits.

    Trump.jpg

    I pulled into the LWT trailhead parking lot. The LWT is a paved rails-to-trails bicycle/walking path. The lot was full of cars with empty bicycle racks. (Cycling is the single largest religion among Minnesotans, exceeding both Catholics and Lutherans.) I immediately began looking for the sign I needed to take a picture of - I had walked right past it. Instead I walked to the Soo Line caboose painted with Keillor’s images of Lake Wobegon - a fictional town on the prairie. It was the touch of inspiration that I needed. It helped that the road to Holdingford contained hills and curves. Somebody had thought this through from a rider’s perspective. I wasn’t fully onboard mentally yet but the needle had swung enough in positive direction that I charted course for Fargo.

    In retrospect, LWT is the perfect example of the personal problem I have with competitive rally riding. The photo bonus was a sign at the front one could photograph and log without ever seeing the murals on the boxcar or the largest piece of petrified wood ever found in Minnesota just a few feet away. I want to see those things. There's no rule that says I can't but neither are the rules designed to encourage it (such as 100 points each for a photo of the boxcar and the petrified wood instead of a meaningless sign)

    LWT1.jpg

    LWT2.jpg

    petrified wood.jpg
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  12. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    One of my personal struggles with rallies is structure. If you are going to do well in a rally you need to be disciplined and methodical in your ride - exactly the things I don’t want any part of my rides. As I’ve mentioned before - my professional life is overly structured. Riding is one of the few whimsical activities in my life. I want it to remain that way. So even though I mentally committed to stick with the rally I saw an old church while passing through Freeport that I had to check out. It was obviously of late 1800’s or early 1900’s construction. At first I didn’t get off the bike but then I noticed a unique photo opportunity.

    As stated previously - I’m an atheist but my dear friends, Ural and his wife, are devout Catholics. I snapped a picture for them and sent it before setting my phone in airplane mode to conserve battery life.

    I had ridden all morning sans music but decided to fire up my iTunes library for the next riding segment. The Atheist was now on a mission from God. [The theme for the recently held 2021 Heart of Texas Rally was the Blues Brothers. Each rider was on a mission from God to collect money (i.e. bonus points) to save the orphanage.] [Coincidentally, the first song that came up was Bonnie Raitt’s "Angel from Montgomery". I highly recommend it.]

    The last picture is of the church cemetery. Recall that I often ride toward someone, living or dead. It doesn't even matter whether I know them.

    I probably spent 8-12 minutes at Sacred Heart. Out of 20 hours of riding it was the best use of 8-12 minutes. Not that churches mean anything special to me [1] but that momentary spark of creativity was worth riding 20 hours to capture that one picture.

    I think there should be a bonus (equal in point value to the highest non-sucker bonus) in every rally that is available to only one person - the rider who brings back a photograph of a non-bonus subject that is judged by the Scorers (blind scoring - Scorers don't know who took each photo) (and possibly riders) to be the single best photograph taken. That would cause riders to expand their focus while on and off the bike. Categories (landscape, on-the-bike/off-the-bike, people, vehicles, etc...) could add variety to every rally.

    [1 - I get no spiritual value per se out of church buildings. What they are to me, particularly when one has an adjacent cemetery, is a monument to the devotion and commitment of the people residing in the cemetery and to the skill and craftsmanship of the builders. Some of that commitment was undoubtedly excessive but even with appropriate points deducted the resulting balance is still positive.]

    sacred_heart_Freeport.jpg

    IMG-0278.jpg

    sacred_heart_cemetery.jpg
  13. Bruincounselor

    Bruincounselor North Plains Drifter Supporter

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    Great tale. "Angel From Montgomery" was written by the late, great John Prine. Bonnie's version is good, but his original is excellent.

    Looking forward to the next segment.
  14. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    Yea, I know it was written by Prine and I’ve written about him previously. I’ll go back and listen to his version but I’ve always favored Raitt’s cover.

    More to come. This train is barely out of the station.
  15. Argyle

    Argyle Citrus freak Supporter

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    Incredible RR - appreciate your style and mindset. I have never owned a Harley but have always loved the style of the RK. Part of me feels like when I get one for myself, it'll be where I stay. Thank you for sharing your story, and keep it coming!
  16. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    @Argyle: Thank you. There will be several more installments. We're only at hour four - there's still sixteen more hours of riding left to spin a yarn about.
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  17. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    With my adjusted attitude I joined I-94 at 11:30 westbound for TWC - The Wood Chipper - 158 miles away at the Fargo-Moorhead Visitors Center. I rode into a steady 30 mph headwind typical of the northern plains and watched my projected fuel range drop dramatically. Of course, the wood chipper referred to is the one used in the Cohen brother’s movie, Fargo. Once there I received conflicting directions from Ms. Google and spent a couple minutes dead reckoning. (Similar to Mrs.RD - she needs to work on her timing.) I was met by a nice retired couple manning the desk. I had a pleasant conversation with the man while his wife performed some duties in the adjacent room. He knew exactly what picture I needed and took my picture next to TWC. My favorite Cohen brothers’ movies are Raising Arizona and Oh Brother Where Art Thou, but Fargo is a good mix of the hilarious and the macabre with a dose of Lake Wobegon thrown in. Flag, pictures, and log completed, I loaded the coordinates for Cavalier ND - 160 miles north, mostly on I-29.

    TWC1.jpg

    TWC2.jpg
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  18. LeMaitre

    LeMaitre Been here awhile Supporter

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    Hello,

    You managed to get my profile and the GL1200A in one of the pictures. Each one of us has to ride their own ride and hopefully meet our personal goals.

    -Mark

    IMG_20210612_074346377_HDR.jpg
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  19. Argyle

    Argyle Citrus freak Supporter

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    All in, man. Love it.
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  20. 72 Yamaha RD350

    72 Yamaha RD350 Followed the Wrong God Home Supporter

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    @LeMaitre: You are the guy who rode in from Lutzen, correct? If so, I met you at the hotel on Friday afternoon. Where did you ride?
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