Mike Senty, Rider 29, Buckeye 1000
I’m still a rookie at LD rallying, although I have been riding for more years than I want to admit. At the time I signed up for the Buckeye 1000, I had participated in two Minnesota Team Strange events. Being this was to be my third LD rally, I decided new country was in order (been there, done that). Of course, in Team Strange fashion, Eddie and Adam announced a group Saddlesore attempt for July, 2001 from Minnesota. I couldn’t miss that! Consequently the Buckeye become my 4th rally. I’m no big dog, I’m still a rookie pup.
I wanted to get into the southeast, namely TN, SC, and other opportunities east and south of Ohio. Unfortunately, the Weather Channel was forecasting flood warnings for TN on Saturday. Being an experienced motorcyclist, I go for fair weather whenever possible. Heck, why not, I live on the North Shore of Lake Superior, where the temperature is always 40 degrees, (either 40 above or 40 below). Besides, this is Ohio. Eddie was trying to schedule 95 degrees and 95 percent humidity. He screwed up his order on that one, and it came one week early, before the rally.
My trip south, from north of Duluth (east of Duluth as we locals say) was uneventful. I went through the UP of Michigan, saw lots of deer, and crossed the Mackinaw Bridge in total calm with no wind. Wow, do those drivers in the Michigan UP and on I-75 travel fast! Good to know.
When I need to move along, I travel with the faster drivers, and I use the rabbit method of following someone at a prudent but not ridiculous speed, following about 1/4 mile behind...
It got a bit nippy on I-75 at 1 AM, so on with the electrics. After a few hours, I noticed a flicker in my 170 watts of headlights/driving lights as my 120 watt jacket cycled on and off. Wonder what my total amperage draw is on the 400 watt alternator on my ‘91 K100LT?? No voltmeter on this bike, bummer... Need to find a 700 watt alternator if I want to run all this stuff. Time to reduce current draw. What is most critical? Electric jacket on, driving lights off. It was a full moon, and the 4 lane is free of Bambi’s.
Lots of CB chatter in Ohio about smokies. Looks like the LEO is serious about the speed limit. Glad those truckers are on the lookout, as I am naked with no Valentine.
Arrived in Columbus about noon, checked into the motel, and took an afternoon nap. I carefully parked my bike on the center stand, on the hot afternoon tar, hoping it would stay standing until I woke up again. I figured this sleep plan to be a good one, since I have in the past stayed up close to midnight planning routes. Along with my two stops at the Iron Butt Motel on my trip south to Ohio, I would get in my 8 hours.
Set the digital motel clock for 4 hours, the Meanie to go off 15 minutes after the clock, just in case. Exactly 3 hours and 45 minutes later, I woke with a start. What a nightmare! Eddie was walking past the bikes at the motel. Mine was still standing on the center stand on the hot tar. He looked at the bike, and asked his trusty right hand man, “Bubba, whose bike is this?” Bubba, having met me for the first time that morning at the AMA Museum, “Mike Senty, from Minnesota.” Eddie, “Mike who?!? Look at that center stand on the soft tar! It’s too well designed! It’s not even sinking into the tar. That bike will NEVER tip over. There’s not enough adversity on that bike. He’s out of the rally!” I woke up in a sweat!
Later, ran the mileage check, starting at Eddie’s mansion, and ending at the AMA Museum. I ended up leading three other riders on the last leg of the mileage check. What a bunch of fools, I was as close to lost as they were.
The AMA museum is a must see! Indian motorcycles all over! That era represents the time when motorcycles were the affordable motorized transportation, prior to the Model T and the assembly line, and well before the current recreational era of motorcycling. I also enjoyed the collection of bikes representing the transition from bicycle, to motorized bicycle, to motorcycle.
Adam presented his rules talk on video tape. I was surprised how all the riders were so quiet and respectful, since he could not hear or see us. Maybe Adam emits an aura of respect that Eddie or Bubba need to develop. Maybe it has something to do with the “bon*” word. Maybe someone knew the room was bugged. Does the Valentine beep when the room is bugged? Maybe that is why everyone listened so intently. Maybe his talk is important. I listened too.
During the actual bike inspection, Eddie put me in the Expert class, or that is what I thought I heard. I wasn’t really concerned and didn’t question him. One nightmare is enough, and besides, this is Eddie, you know, a big dog... He doesn’t even know who I am, and besides, by riding Expert class I did not need to worry about placing. It was not until the end of the event, just prior to tallying bonuses that I was able to inquire and find that I actually was in the Touring class. There is a requirement that all entrants posses a working knowledge of the English language, and that reading comprehension is rewarded. What about speaking/hearing comprehension? No need to chance getting kicked out of the rally before it starts.
Finally food, rather the feast, the talk by Eddie and Bubba, and the rally packets. What a joke the packets were. All the low point bonuses, not many big point bonuses. I can see the Saturday packet is going to be something significant. How significant? Or could it be this IS the whole rally, knowing Eddie... (what’s the phrase Bubba? I hate you??). I highlighted all the locations on a regional map, and noted the point values on the map. Look at those Ohio points, 101 at one place, 102 at another corner of Ohio, 103 points at another corner, and so on. Would Eddie have us obtain those in chronological order? What a routing nightmare. Who’s the sick one here? Time to go to bed.
Saturday, up, breakfasted, packed, and listen to Eddie talk. Eddie announces there will be no gas log. Gee Eddie, I hate you... I finally have a system set up for sleep deprived idiots so every single gas log entry receipt is correct. Three LD rallies completed, and the third rally is the first time I get my gas log bonus. This one could be my fourth.
Finally, the Saturday rally packet. Flooding was still forecast for TN, so I had a preference to go in the other direction. I highlighted the rest of the bonuses on my map, and routes started to take shape. By then I was at least 30 minutes past the rally start time, and a lot of riders had already left. Planning is important, so I turned down the volume on the panic button. I was considering a route through Niagara, but I decided to head for the Mackinaw Bridge, since it was big points, the highway speeds in MI were good, and I had some better options along the way. I planned to go through Hell, MI for the first time, and back to Windsor after the bridge. At Windsor, I’d reevaluate my position, and pick up some Ohio locations, and hopefully finish reasonably well and on time. It was the highest point option for the mileage I thought I could do.
I planned to pick up a gas slip in Toledo for my first bonus, only 100 or so points, but by the time I realized my route bypassed Toledo, it was too late. No big deal, Hell, here I come.
Where the h*** is Hell? I had to get directions, since the route sheet directions were less than perfect. It’s interesting how nice looking local young women say “Hell”. The route sheet said to pick up a souvenir to show I was there. First thing I see, a postcard. Went to the counter, and at the last minute, I purchased a patch with “Hell, MI” on it, just in case the postcard doesn’t pass as a souvenir. Postcard, $.50, patch, $4.00. The judges accepted the postcard, so Eddie got the postcard, I got the patch! Boy, Eddie, I hope you don’t hate me! You probably already have a patch anyway. If not, get your own!
Off again. Fill up with gas north of Ann Arbor on I-75, pay inside, and get going again in less time then it takes a caravan of two cars and one van to load up all the teenagers into the vehicles. I’m pretty efficient!
Continued on, past Flint, and along I-75 at a good pace with the faster traffic. I have both a CB and an FM/cassette radio. I listen to radio a lot, country music especially, plus the truckers. Eventually, I was hearing announcements that the southbound lane was closed near Flint, and northbound down to one lane because of a 5 mile traffic backup due to an accident. Glad to have missed that pileup. I wonder if there are many other riders tangled up in that backup.
Eventually, I hooked up with Drady Hendley, who was headed for the Bridge. We rode together, and I asked him if he missed the accident in Flint. He told me he got through just after it happened. He said there was a lot of help there already, but the accident consisted of a van full of kids that had hit and bounced through the center lane. There were youngsters thrown out of the van. Some appeared seriously hurt. He was thinking about that accident a lot, and I started wondering if those were the same kids I had seen at the gas station north of Ann Arbor. We both thought about them a lot.
On to the Bridge. Darkness arrives. Drady on the radio, “How is the bridge for crossing, is it windy?” Me, “It was perfectly calm when I crossed Friday night, but I’ve been over in a pickup in lots of wind.” Me, “Looks pretty calm right now.” Southbound trucker on the CB. “It’s windy on the bridge.”
It was, both the cables and the road surface were moving. We were both leaning west and heading north. Hopefully the wind did not suddenly gust, throwing the bike into the guardrail on the east, and me into the drink...
I was toying with the idea of continuing to Parry Sound... I’d been thinking about it for the last three hours. It was probably do-able for me. Big points. Still undecided... I’m no big dog, I’m still a rookie pup, so I better continue with my original plan. Why chance a DNF? Or should I? Big points! I could place high!
Back south I went, toll receipt and gas receipt in my folder, and on to Windsor. A good decision? I’ll never know.
We both continued south on I-75 to Windsor. Chatted on the CB about motorcycling, radar detectors (he had one), and I listened to country music and later public radio from Ann Arbor. By the time we crossed into Windsor, I was getting beat. It was late. I also needed to plan the rest of my rally. We picked up a gas receipt across the street from a strip bar in Windsor, and I got out my maps. Both of us needed to plan the rest of our route. I chose to also take my “stay in one place” bonus in Windsor. I spent an hour planning the rest of my rally, and found a park (thanks to the friendly station attendant) and an Iron Butt Motel (Not the strip bar. It was past bar time and closed). I bring an insulite pad (big enough for only one person), and I was out in no time. Drady was not so sure about sleeping in the middle of a big city, he’s from Atlanta. Me, a country idiot with no city common sense... besides, I was sleepy and this is Canada. The Meanie woke me sooner than I thought it should. Off I went, back to the same all night station. I bought the attendant his favorite treat, and I kept the receipt. My “stay in one place” bonus was documented.
South I went, and picked up the Toledo gas slip I missed going north. I then rode to southwest Ohio, and picked up a bonus in Greenville and learned where Annie Oaklie was raised. It was raining from the time I entered Ohio, but not hard. With a full fairing bike, the Stitch, and full helmet, I had no problems. I tried out the new Rider Wearhouse three finger rain gloves, although this weather was not a real test. They worked fine.
Time was running down, and I wanted to make sure I was not late for the finish. Back to Columbus and pick up some points at the fish hatchery. We had to read a sign there, something about when the first fish were hatched or something like that. I copied the information, in the rain, and off I went. Back to the finish and the rally was done.
I finally have enough experience to compare with my past experience, and evaluate what I am doing. I plan my route using paper maps, no computer or GPS. I think paper maps are an excellent way to go, as a rookie pup. I mark all the bonuses on a regional map with a highlight marker, which is the major time consuming part of planning. While doing that, routes start to take shape. Having bonuses on one map is a good visual for planning, or for re-evaluating your plans later on. I calculate out various options, and the points they give me.
I think I’m going to play around with a GPS and mapping program in the future, but I am not positive it will make a tremendous difference. It may help with initial route planning, but I do like the visual paper map with the bonuses highlighted on it. I’m not sure how a mapping program will fit into that scheme.
I use a Rand McNally trucker map, which has a huge mileage chart. It also has the main truck routes highlighted, which tend to be better roads. In addition, I use a dividers to determine mileage on side roads to bonuses off the main highway. I know I can comfortably ride 1200 miles in a 26 hour rally, and also take the “stay in one place” bonus for a rest. Planning your route before you depart is very important.
From the rider perspective, the most important item for me is to recognize I am not a big dog. I am not trying to get first place or even place, although I did place in the Minnesota 1000, which was a bonus to me. It is very important to learn how to ride 24 hour and multi-day rallies and keep alert and safe. Safety is very important to me, along with the challenges and the ride. When do you need to stop, to eat? How do you manage hydraton? Does the heat or does the cold tire you out more? What about rain? How is your mental attitude? How well do you deal with the low mental points? Are you having fun? How good are your planning, mapping, and navigation skills?
I also have a personal comittment to not ride at speeds that my wife would not approve, the general public would not approve, and that are unsafe. Have I ridden over 75? Yes, well above, but in the right state, time, and location. I believe you can do well on these rallies without speeding beyond that of the faster traffic by using efficiency and good planning, and just keeping the wheels moving steady.
My first LD rallies I rode a BMW R80-RT. Good comfortable bike, but the charging system is anemic, as is true with all boxers. I upgraded to a low mileage ‘91 BMW K-100LT last fall. This bike has saddle bags and a large trunk. I added Motolights to the bike, with 50 watt bulbs. I’m happy with the lights. I may try some higher wattage bulbs, and experiment more with them.
I have always used an electric jacket, not a vest. The Corbin that came with the K-bike was horsesh**, so I redid it with a Rick Mayer seat. I have a few comfort issues with the saddle, and I still need to get them worked out. I did add a custom built set of highway pegs to the bike, which worked great. A full fairing K-LT does not offer much for changing rider foot positions, but that’s true more or less with all full fairing bikes. I also ran my music into my helmet with a Cycle-Com CB unit. The CB is still more important in my mind than a Valentine. I worry that being stopped with a radar detector in place will guarantee a performance award, while not having one gives you a chance for receiving only the lecture. It’s not off my list by any means though. I also have the Fuel Plus installed, which is a great fuel management tool available for the K-bikes. It monitors fuel consumption, time, and mileage, and among many things, tells me how many miles are left in my tank at my current gas mileage.
Thanks a lot to Eddie, Adam, and even Bubba (the chicken man). You guys got me hooked on LD motorcycling. I guess I really don’t hate you guys. I know I am as sick as any other LD rider. I will pay you guys the entry fee to have me do all those things again. Thanks especially to all the volunteers at the start and the end, and behind the scenes. I’ve been in the volunteer position in other events, not motorcycles, and your efforts do NOT go unappreciated.