Our 2014 5 and Dime Rally Ride

This year's rally was a little different in that riders were given the option of starting from Salt Lake City or from their homes. To keep things fair, the choice had to be made known to the Rally Bast^H^H^H^HMaster prior to the release of the bonus location list. 30 days prior to the start of the rally we were provided with the complete list of all the bonus locations to be had during the rally. Being allowed to plan every step well in advance not only created a lot of discussion on the MERA list, it also allowed folks to plan the perfect vacation. For most folks, especially those traveling from the east coast, a 10 day rally turns into a two-week event at the very least.

We chose to start from Salt Lake City. In our minds, part of the fun of an event was the 'before rally' activities and socializing and mind-gaming with our fellow competitors.

As it turned out, we are apparently the only ones to think that way. The only other rider to start from the hotel in Salt Lake City was a guy who lives in Salt Lake City. Oh well...

Day 1 (or is it Day 0?) Thursday, 26 July 2014

One big point bonus was a rest stop. Required proof of the rest stop was a receipt and a photo of the hotel worth 5,000 points per stop up to 10 stops total. As with prior rallies, all photos required the inclusion of our rally flag. Knowing full well that even the best laid plans can go wonky, we started the rally at 1000 on Thursday by bagging the rest bonus on the off chance that we might have to end the rally with a mad dash for miles and not have time to get all of the allowed rest bonuses along the way.

Our next bonus was not a photo bonus. We rode downtown to a gun range. It was my first opportunity to shoot an AK-47 and it was quite the hoot and worth 2,569 points!

Getting out of SLC was difficult, at best. First there was a crash that closed down the northbound lanes of I-15. After that we came over the top of a hill and saw a column of black smoke and about 40 vehicles at a dead-stop about a mile ahead of us. About that time the 55 gallon drum of Xylene the burning truck was carrying decided to explode. Fortunately it was far enough in front of us that I had time to cut across the median and find an alternative route around the ensuing madness. 55 gallons of Xylene makes one hell of a pretty orange fireball. Sorry, no pictures.

Next stop was Virginia City, Montana. Part one of a two-part bonus. Virginia City, MT and Virginia City, NV. Get both or get bent. Both pictures were good for 6,023 points. Getting just one netted nothing more than the experience of having been there.

At this point our Day 1 plan was pretty well shot. With all the delays getting out of SLC we were way behind schedule and our next planned stop, the "creature" at the Madison Valley History Museum outside Ennis, MT, was already time-barred (aka: closed) and we had to skip it and its 4,099 points and continue on to Butte to try to get back on track.

Next on the list was part one of yet another two-part bonus. The grave site of Evel Knievel. Having been to this site in a prior rally, finding it was very easy.

Between Butte and Twin Falls was yet another bonus and another 3,999 points we had to skip in an effort to get back on track. It was too far off the Interstate through lots of two-lane deer country through the dark.

We got into Twin Falls pretty late (around midnight) but not too much later than our original plan. We used the Priceline App to snag a room at a pretty good rate, checked in, and hit the sack. Day 1 was done. We were already down several thousand points but we were safe and mostly sound and raring to get going again the next morning.

Day 2, Friday, 27 June 2014

Day 2 started well before sunrise with a picture of the hotel for another 5,000 point rest bonus. I have no idea who Dr. Killion is but apparently he's a pretty big deal in Twin Falls.

First on our list for the day was to grab the second part of the Knievel bonus by grabbing a picture of the marker memorializing his failed attempt at "jumping" the Snake River Canyon in a rocket.

I've been across this bridge a hundred times over the years but I never realized this was where he failed. I always pictured something like the Grand Canyon and could understand why he failed. After seeing this little gap in the earth that he failed to clear using a rocket I was rather amused. Anyway... Grabbing this picture completed our two-part bonus and netted us another 5,678 points.

Kurly's Sports Bar and Grill in Mountain Home, Idaho was next on the list. A picture of the sculpture on the wall in the alley was worth 4,987 points. This sculpture is made entirely of pennies. It wasn't until just now as I was reviewing the photo for this report that I noticed all the other pennies below the sculpture. Apparently people like being part of a "thing".

By this point we were pretty much back on track. Only a few hours behind the schedule I hoped to keep and feeling pretty good. Things were looking good. <foreshadow>Shoulda known better...</foreshadow>

Other than a jaunt into Washington to pick up a state-visited bonus for 1,500 points. between Mountain Home, Idaho and Portland, Oregon there were no bonus locations but there was a LOT of rain, a LOT of traffic, a LOT of stupidly slow Oregonian speed limits, and a LOT of enforcement of those limits. Mostly, however, it was the thunderstorms that were the difficulty.

By the time we got to Portland we hadn't made up any time what-so-ever. Portland traffic didn't make it any better.

Having 'scouted' the bonus locations via Google Earth and Street View, finding a vantage point to get a picture of the Union Station in Portland was very easy. Using my Patent Pending Rally Flag Extend-O-Rama device meant we didn't even have to get off the bike to get the picture.

Union Station in Portland was worth 5,500 points. A healthy sum in its own right. It was, however, only a small part of a major bonus that was on our list. In the west there were five Union Stations on the bonus list. Each worth 5,500 points. Getting all five added an additional 7,205 points to your total. Getting all five meant raking in 34,705 points.

In addition to the five stations in the west, there were five more in the east with the same point structure for another 34,705 points.

Here's where it gets exciting... If all ten stations were captured, there was an additional point value of 33,333 points. Getting all ten stations gathered a grand total of 102,743 points.

This thread of bonuses was one of a few multi-part bonuses that made up the ground floor of our planned route.

Next up was the meager remains of a B-17 Bomber mounted on pylons worth 1,689 points. The map and the bonus listing claim this bonus is in a different town other than Portland (Milwaukee, OR). While that might be technically correct, in my not-so-humble opinion, one cannot travel from one town to another without passing some trees, or grass, or open fields, or some other such things that create a line of demarcation between said towns. I didn't see any such demarcations so in my feeble mind, the train station, the bomber...

...and this Dust-Off Chopper (technically in Canby, OR) were all in Portland.

After leaving Portland and heading south (next bonus was deep into California) we ran into even more rain, low clouds, and fog. At one point we suddenly broke out of the overcast as we crested a pass. It was the last time we'd see that much cloud cover for several days.

We were still well behind our plan and between Portland traffic and the weather by the time we got to Roseburg, OR we still had over two hours before escaping Oregon's stupidly slow speed limits and I was beat. We needed to stop for the night and regroup.

Tamara, of course, was in her usual happy mood and eagerly posed for another rest bonus picture for another 5,000 points. We ordered a pizza, paid single bed rate for a dual bed room (under the express agreement we wouldn't touch the second bed) in the single level section of the motel. I worked that deal with the proprietor because it ensured we would have parking lot level access to the room with the bike a few feet from the door yet ensure we wouldn't have someone with happy feet stomping around above us all night.

Day 3, Saturday, 28 June 2014

Day 3 started early and we were on the road around sunrise. We were headed into California and after parts one and two of a three part bonus.

Along the way we grabbed a couple In-n-Out Burger receipt bonuses. We also encountered the first sign of bad things to come. At a gas stop in Redding, California I was repositioning the bike to clear the pump at a very busy gas station. As I rolled to a stop out of the way I hit the engine cutoff switch and instead of the engine cutting off, the starter motor engaged. Even though I knew it was 'impossible' for the starter motor to engage if you hit the Start button with the engine running (there is a cutout that prevents that) I thought that was what actually happened. That I accidentally hit the wrong side of the switch. So I tried again, ensuring I was actually hitting the "STOP" side of the switch. Sure enough, the starter motor engaged again. I left the engine running, we got on the bike, and left.

Our next stop was part of another All-or-Nothing multi-part bonus. The three tallest bridges in America. Capturing all three bridges would reap 27,899 points. The Auburn-Foresthill Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge in California and the Verrazano Bridge in New York were our intended targets. As it turned out we were only able to get the first two.

After getting this relatively easy picture we headed into the depths hell. In retrospect I am sure there are a lot of easier ways to get a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge, but hey... where's the challenge in that? After 30some miles of lane-sharing in street-level temperatures reaching 100 on a bike quite a bit larger than the last one I rode through California traffic, we finally made it to our picture vantage point.

Again, I'm sure there was an easier way to get this picture and I fully came to that realization somewhere in downtown San Francisco as I was trying like hell to keep from stalling the bike with a clutch that never seems to have the friction zone in the same place twice in a row. By this point the starter motor issue was really gnawing at the back of my mind and I wasn't so sure I'd be able to get the motor started again if I did stall it...

As it turns out, that gnawing was correct.

As we were headed to Bakersfield, CA then on to Los Angeles to eventually end up in Las Vegas that night, we pulled off to refuel and grab a bag of ice for our water bladders in Santa Nella, Ca. Still wondering about that starter motor engaging when I hit the cutoff switch, as we rolled down the off ramp I pulled in the clutch and hit the cutoff switch. The engine shut down as if nothing was wrong. It wasn't until I hit the START side of the switch that things went to hell. A slight "Wirr" sound was all I heard. I tried again. "Wirr" was the only response.

Since we were still rolling I shifted into third gear and bump started and rode on into a huge, mostly deserted, truck stop parking lot.

Several more attempts to start the bike with the starter switch were to no avail. The starter would engage, rotate for about second, then stop. Other than the lack of the classical clicking of a starter solenoid, the symptoms were indicating a dead battery. Even though the GPS was indicating normal voltage, I know there are failure modes that batteries can have that show proper voltage yet cannot provide full current.

We looked around and saw a Motel 6, a Jack-in-the-Box, an In-n-Out, a Taco Bell, and several gas stations and figured this could have happened at a worse location. Downtown San Francisco, for example.

After a quick look at Priceline we reserved a room for the night (as it turned out, at the wrong Motel 6) and settled in for the night.

Day 4, Sunday, 29 June 2014

The next morning I loaded up the bike with the high hopes that whatever was afflicting our steed had cured its self over night and we'd soon be on our way.

No such luck.

Still just "Wirr"

I spotted an older gentleman rooting around in the back of a white cargo van that appeared to be full of handyman kind tools. Perhaps a jump start was all we needed. After all, there is a BMW Dealer in Bakersfield and even though they weren't going to be open until Tuesday, if we could get it jump started, we might be able to find a battery somewhere along the way. At the very least the Beemer dealer would have one.

Jump start: Failed. Apparently whatever was wrong with the battery was bad enough to suck all the power from the van as well and not allow enough to get to the starter.

A quick scan of the GPS showed there was a Wal-Mart nine miles away in Los Banos. With the promise of some fuel money the man with the van was willing to give me a ride so I could buy a new motorcycle battery. After a few quick measurements of the still installed battery off we went.

I found one that I thought would not only fit but also had enough power to suffice and a charger to charge it and we returned to the motel.

After saying our thanks and goodbyes, the man and his wife piled in their van and continued on their way back to Phoenix.

It wasn't until after I had the battery filled and charged several hours later that I realized it was about " too thick and wouldn't fit into the battery bay.

After visiting a few of the gas stations in the area I found one that had jumper cables. (...and one local resident that was willing to drive 10 miles home and 10 miles back to get me a set to borrow because he didn't have his with him).

So I disconnected the OEM battery and using the jumper cables connected the replacement and hit the start button. "Wirr".

Damn...

We have bigger problems than just a shot battery.

By this time it was starting to get pretty hot and checkout time was looming. It's Sunday. The nearest BMW shop was in Modesto 45 miles the wrong direction. They didn't open until Tuesday. The next BMW shop along our intended route was in Bakersfield 175 miles away but they were open on Monday. Either way we were likely down and out at least until late Monday if not Tuesday. There was no guarantee that if we did make it to Bakersfield they'd even give us a second look. This time of year is usually pretty busy for bike shops and getting a drop-in service appointment is asking a lot. Often times even something as simple as getting new tires takes an appointment in advance. If they couldn't help us we'd be another 175 miles further away from Rally HQ (and the after-party) and still broke down.

Waiting until Tuesday to try our luck in Modesto didn't seem to be a much better idea. Even though I thought our chances in Modesto were likely better since I go way back with them. I bought my first BMW from them and even before then, bought all of my motor accessories from them when I was stationed in Stockton.

With Choice A and Choice B mulling through my mind, I settled on Choice C:

Monday morning we would make an attempt to push start the bike. If we got it started we'd ride straight through to Salt Lake City without shutting down the bike and hole up as close to BMW Motorcycles of Utah as we could and be on their doorstep when they open on Tuesday morning. The line of thought was that if we made it back to SLC, even if we were completely out of the rally, at least we'd be within a taxi ride distance of the banquet and the after party. If they were able to get us back on the road again quickly, we'd still have a chance to pick up some bonuses and make the minimum required mileage to finish the rally.

Day 5, Monday, 30 June 2014

Early Monday morning I loaded everything but Tamara on the bike and positioned it at the top of what seemed to be the highest point in the parking lot. After a quickly agreed upon set of instructions and communication protocols, we gave it a shot. With Tamara pushing as hard as she could we got the bike up to top speed and I eased out the unpredictable clutch into second gear.

It started.

After quickly grabbing the requisite photo for the rest bonus, Tamara hopped on and we fueled up and headed for the Interstate.

It was about this time we were wishing we brought the fuel cell. Had we brought the fuel cell we could have made it back to SLC with one fuel stop. As it was, we had to stop twice. Normally a fuel stop isn't that big of a deal, but when you are fueling a motorcycle with the hot engine still running it gets a bit scary. I didn't dare shut it down because I couldn't be sure we'd be able to get it running again. I figured as long as it was running I wasn't going to change a thing until we got to SLC.

Several hours later we made it to Salt Lake City. We located the BMW shop and used the Priceline App to snag a room a few blocks away. We parked the bike on top of a hill and headed in for a good night's sleep.

Day 6, Tuesday, 01 July 2014

Getting to sleep in pretty late we were at the BMW shop about hour before they opened.

I simply cannot say enough good things about BMW Motorcycles of Utah. We show up on their doorstep on a Tuesday morning smack in the middle of riding season with their service schedule full. We tell them a sob story of being on a timed ride and having a busted bike and instead of saying something like, "We'll take a look at it if we get time." they say, "Go have a seat and a cup of coffee." then commence to roll it in the shop and start on it right away.

Something really wonky went wrong with the bike somewhere. Apparently it kept causing their diagnostic computer to shut down and restart. After several attempts and a couple hours they pronounced the battery as "Perfectly Healthy" and declared it was "something else".

Some time around 1700 the Service Manager came into the lounge for the umpteenth time that day to update us. "The good news," says he, "is that I've decided to go against corporate's decision and replace the starter under warranty. They say that there must be some other problem because the starter simply cannot be bad but I'm convinced it's the starter. The bad news is that there are only six starters in the country and none of them are here. We might be able to get one here some time tomorrow. Even then, there is a chance that it might not solve the problem."

At this point I was starting to calculate how much it would cost us to have a taxi carry us and all our stuff across town to Rally HQ and call it quits when suddenly I was hit by a spark of inspiration. "You wouldn't happen to have a loaner bike we could borrow, would you?"

I am convinced he knew what we had planned but couldn't come right out and agree so he went off to "figure something out". After a few minutes he returned and said with a big smile on his face, "How about a 2014 K16GTL demo bike?" My response was "Well, the intro shouldn't take too long." (for those unaware, we have a 2012 K16GTL)

By this time we were beat from doing nothing all day so we decided to fall back to the hotel and regroup. I ran the numbers and realized that we still had a chance to make the minimum mileage to finish the rally IF we made full use of this demo bike. So we got some rest and planned to leave at sunset and start slogging out the miles between Wendover and Tooele, Utah. The benefit of this plan was that it consisted mostly of crossing the Salt Flats so deer weren't a concern. It is also posted at 80 mph the entire way so building the miles would come easy.

Nothing can be that easy, however.

As we approached the area of the airport in SLC I noticed one of the dynamic highway signs saying simply "I-15 CLOSED AT 32"

I wasn't really sure what that meant but I knew that if we got out there near what I assumed the sign to mean mile marker 32 and the Interstate was closed, there was very little chance of getting turned around and we'd be dead in the water, so to speak. For those who have never been through the Bonneville Salt Flats it is a very interesting place. Somewhat amusing are the numerous places along the Interstate where someone apparently thought their 4-WD could drive out onto the flats only to find the salt crust to be very thin with a great thickness of mud below. I'm sure some of the marks are folks who drifted off the road, but not all of them... I knew we wouldn't be able to make a quick escape like we did on Day 1. So we spun around and headed south on I-15. Once clearing Provo the speed limit hits 80 mph but now we had to contend with oodles of wildlife and truckers who seem to think it no end of entertainment to travel side-by-side for miles at a time stacking up traffic behind them.

Day 7, Wednesday, 02 July 2014

Some time mid-morning the BMW shop called to tell us they had the starter in hand and were in the process of tearing the bike apart to get it swapped. Part of the process for replacing the starter motor includes, "Remove Intake Manifold". It is quite a job.

Around 1600 we were back at the shop having taken the demo bike for a 529 mile "test ride". As nice as the 2014 model was, we decided to stick with the 2012 model. After all, the starter motor was working once again. We proceeded to add another 600 miles to our total before shutting down for the night.

Day 8, Thursday, 03 July 2014

Back in the game with LOTS of miles yet to go and a few "local" bonuses to get that we missed the first time around. I guess I forgot to mention earlier that we were not allowed to get any bonuses that we didn't declare prior to the start of the rally. So any deviation from the original plans couldn't get bonuses that weren't declared. This twist makes recovering from situations like this a lot more challenging. We couldn't simply go out and start collecting bonuses just because they were within reach unless we declared them before we started.

So we turned north and went to the Museum in Ennis and grabbed the Creature for another 4,099 points.

This one was a lot tougher than it looked. As we entered the museum we were greeted by Her Majesty the Ruler of the Museum. When I described to her why we were there she first insisted we sign in before she would discuss anything further. After "Tom Jones" from "Nashville" signed her logbook she proceeded to escort me to the display but warned me that photos were prohibited in the museum.

"No museums allow photographs of their displays" says Her Royal Highness.

"Really?" says I. "That's isn't my experience and I have been in some of the biggest museums around. Perhaps you have a sign around here somewhere that says that photographs are prohibited? I would like to take a picture of that sign, if I may."

"Of course" she says, "Follow me."

She points me to a sign that says, in essence, "No Flash Photography"

"Okay" says I. "I won't use my flash. Tamara, if you will... *click*"

I spotted this guy as we were passing through Twin Bridges. After explaining what we were doing (a big scavenger hunt) and what I wanted (a picture of an LEO holding our rally flag) he agreed. BINGO! another 5,377 points in the bag!

After that, off to the "Get Over It" bonus that we passed over between Butte and Twin Falls the first time through. Cha-Ching, another 3,999 points in our column.

Then the "Get a picture of a sunset" bonus for 5,131 points.

Day 9, Friday, 04 July 2014

With all of the reasonably accessible bonuses on our list claimed, we settled into just making the miles. Looking over the text message conversation between Steve and I on this day at 1830 we still had "about 2k to go". It wasn't looking good. After rerunning the numbers, at 2200 we still had 2,100 miles to go. 2,100 miles to cover in 36 hours. We are really going to need that deer-free 80 mph Interstate between Wendover and Toole.

Day 10, Saturday, 05 July 2014

We checked out of our "Base Camp" hotel at 1100. We had 23 hours before being time barred at 1000 Sunday morning. We had 1,500 miles left before we could be considered finishers. We had a long row to hoe. Completing a 10-day(ish) ride with a Bun Burner Gold in less than 23 hours? Sure... Why not? No sense taking the easy way out.

Sunday, 06 July 2014

We arrived at the finish line at 0930. With 30 minutes to spare we completed the ride with a corrected mileage of 7,610. We exceeded the minimum mileage by 110 miles. We made it.

As it turns out just by finishing the ride we won the couples class by default. None of the other 10-day couples were able to make it to the finish in time with the necessary number of miles.

We'll take it.