Adam Wolff’s Buckeye 1000 Ride Report
Maybe I’m just a sucker for titles like Biggest, Tallest, Most, etc., but somehow running the Saddle Sore world record attempt was too attractive for me to pass up. The run was simple enough, just hop on and follow the directions. It was a blast, and I made the route with hours and hours to spare, but I still couldn’t help but think I could’ve done it faster. And, hell, I could’ve picked up a few bonus locations too. Maybe, I thought, I ought'a try a real rally.
Enter the Buckeye 1000. A month later and at 6am Thursday and I sooooo could’a bagged on the office and just hit the road. But no. I’ve gotta hang onto those vacation days. And an overnight run is always kinda fun anyway. I’ll grab a nap at home in the evening, before I head out. Sure you will.
Since I’m still just a little leery of running solo overnight and nailing a deer, so on the “strength in numbers” theory I post asking if anyone else is heading down tonight. Another local rider, Dave, responds that he is leaving just about when I was, so we decide to do the run together. As a plus, Dave has lived in the Ohio area, and swears he can get us through central Chicago much faster - and with fewer tolls - than the west side way I’d been planning.
So after the all the times that I’ve come home and crashed hard on the couch for an hour or two, only to be up and alert all night long, this is - of course - the one time that I can’t get a wink. Figures. “No problem” I says to myself “I’ll just grab a good nap tomorrow afternoon in the hotel”. Sure you will.
At 11, I bid farewell to the wife & cats, roll out of the garage, grab a tankfull at the corner, and I’m off to meet Dave. We’d decided to catch each other at a parking area by the river near downtown St. Paul. I got there first, and of the three cars in the lot, the occupants of at least two were engaged in some sort of auto-gymnastic endeavor. Note to self: Footprints on the windshield show up real well under sodium arc lighting.
Dave rolled up, we introduced ourselves, and I got to see the results of his last overnight rally run; one cracked fairing, one bent highway peg, and one DOA Bambi. I told myself that it was a good thing to ride with a guy who’d just had a deer strike. Odds were against him, and thus me, nailing another so soon. Did I mention that I never took a stats class? So, basically feeling hardcore, we hit the highway. He set a pretty good pace - apparently convinced that as he’d killed one deer, word had gotten out among the rest - and we rolled out of town for the overnight run to Columbus.
Nothing much to say about the interstate from the Twin Cities to Milwaukee. The road is OK, traffic light, and the coffee sucks. Oh, and just because its July, don’t put that electric vest too far away in the saddlebag.
Now, Dave has cruised this run about a thousand times. And he knows the St. Paul-Milwaukee-Central Chicago-Indy route by heart. And swears its faster than the I-90 tollway. But one or two people must’ve moved into Chi-town since the last time he passed through. Traffic was moving pretty good, and it wasn’t all that hot, but damn that’s a lot of extra road to cover to save a few tolls. Ah well.
Do not stop for food at tollway oasis (or is that oasii, Adam?). The (not)fast-(hardly)food operator there has no competitor across the street, and the customer can’t swing off the road without paying another toll, with all the predictable benefits. “McTollway’s - We Don’t Care, Because We Don’t Have To!” From there to Indiana, and on to Ohio and Columbus - the interstate is what it is. Flat, straight, and hot. Note to self: Every third car in Indy and Ohio is a cop. Drive accordingly.
On the Indianapolis loop, the collar clip on my Platypus tube popped off, and I managed to pinch the bite valve against the tank. The ensuing siphon effect, wind blast, and lucky placement of the valve made for a hell of good impression of a fuel line having let go. For a giddy moment, I though I was being covered in 93 octane. Thank you for not smoking. Note to self: Lemon-Lime Frost Gatorade spilled on a hot exhaust smells like bubble gum. Delightful.
I got to the Lenox Hotel/Start Finish Line with about an hour to spare before the Friday mileage check and dinner. I’ve only been up for 36 hours. Who needs a nap anyway. I’ll just get a good night’s sleep tonight. Sure you will.
I gotta say that the museum/dinner was way, way cool. Chicken, pork samiches, ribs, beans, ‘tater salad, all kick ass stuff. Eddie James - and you’d never guess this by looking at him - knows his food. And the AMA museum is pretty neat. If you like that sort of thing - y’know, motorcycles. If you missed this, you better hope he gets permission to do it again next year. Adam did his rules speech on video - something about his wife’s sister getting married and his wanting to sleep in the house this winter kept him from attending. A TV & VCR was set up in a conference room, and a tape of Adam was playing continuously. If you’d turned down the volume, though, it would'a looked like a POW confessing.
So we get our packets of bonus locations. All three pages of them. Now I’ve heard of the Team Strange ways - big bonus packet additions the morning of the rally. But I wanted so badly to believe that this was going to be simple. “Great” I says to myself “I’ll be able to route this rally tonight, and just add in a few things from the packet tomorrow morning. I’ll be all set.” True to form, the experienced folks just ignored the first packet and got some sleep. Me, well, I did the smart thing and stayed up till 12 obsessing over the possibilities. So that’s 42 hours I was up. In case you were wondering, that is when you’ll do your clearest thinking. Sure you will.
I decided on essentially a big figure eight route. From Columbus, I’d go north, then loop around east and drop south, the shoot west, arriving back at the hotel for my layover bonus. Then, rested, I’d ride overnight south, head west, and the turn north and end up coming east back to the finish. I had a couple of spots I could add in if I felt I had time, and a couple to pass on if I got behind. All in all a reasonable way to try out this rally thing.
Saturday came way too soon. I was bleary, cranky, and a little gassy from the BBQ beans. I fit right in. We got more rally packs, and all the hard core types marched straight back to their rooms to do their planning. I peeked at the new spots, added a couple into my route, but just could not get myself to deviate from the plan I’d made the night before. We had almost an hour to get ready, which seems like a while, until you start trying to plot 20 or 30 little spots from Atlanta to Buffalo. Too soon, it was time to scoot.
I booked out pretty much right at the 10:30 start time, and headed north on I-71. This beginning was a little like the Group Saddlesore I’d done at the MN1K. I was in a pack of fast, pretty skillful riders. This might be what I like most about these rallies so far, riding with a small group of experienced, considerate riders who use speed judiciously. Its as close as I’ll ever come the being in the Blue Angels.
All the way to my first stop I was with two other riders - a couple on an ST1100 and a solo rider on a Honda. I hoped they were experienced, and that it indicated that I was on the right track, route-wise. Then we went opposite directions at the very next intersection. I hoped that they were inexperienced, and that it indicated I was on the right track, route-wise. The rest of my daylight riding was over and through some beautiful, hilly, winding, pastoral Ohio backroads. Note to self: Move to Ohio. Get R1100S and part-time job.
Getting back to the hotel, I was again feeling a little ragged. Dinner, a shower and a nap made it all better, and I headed out for the bigger half of my route - the overnight run. I had decided to hit a bonus at a really small town church deep in the hillbilly part of southern Ohio. I figured that was part of what this was all about, sneaking around on obscure back roads in the middle of the night.
I sure got what I was after. These roads were so remote that they were not marked on my map, no signs marked the town, no “Incognitoville - 14” highway signs. Nothing. After riding in circles for about an hour, looking for a turnoff, I finally rolled into a pizza place just as they were closing up and asked directions. As soon as I mentioned the town I was looking for, the guy behind the counter asked if I was looking for the church. Apparently I was not the only one trying for this one.
I got pointed in the right direction, and headed out. Now I know you’ve all been on back roads before. The kind where you get out behind a small town and the road narrows to about a lane and a half, and roadsigns of any kind disappear? Well, this was smaller and backer. And it was getting foggy. And it was cloudy, so the night was really dark. And every crest in the road came before a sharp, second gear, off camber turn. The trees grew right up to, and for long stretches, right over the road. Ever half mile or so I’d pass a ramshackle house with a swaybacked barn - I’d have sworn they were abandoned except many had a single porch light burning. Very, very creepy. Very Stephen King.
Finally, the town and the church came up around the bend. I stopped long enough to get the info needed, and hopped back on the road. I was going to backtrack to the highway, and needed to make some time, so kinda hot shoed down the road. Very Dumb Idea. I got into a left a little fast and bam!, there was the outside white line right in front of me. I knew I could lean through a little steeper, but in the dark couldn’t see through the curve to line it up, so I stood the bike up and got HARD on the brakes. ABS = Ah Been Saved. I got slowed enough to let off and just kiss the outside of the road. No shoulder, no runout, no margin. Yikes. That one’ll be slowing me down for years. Note to self: Get a set of PIAAs right away.
From there, I got back on the I-state, ran hard south into Kentucky, then flipped north back to Cincinnati. Getting gas in Cincinnati at about 2am - where I could have picked up a bonus - I had Brain Fart #1. But I have an excuse. Just as I was topping up, a Bronco came flying into the station, skidded to a stop next to my pump, and a woman jumped out the passenger side, the driver hot on her heels. He grabs her by the arms, and starts hauling her back to the truck. She’s screaming, and I’m dumbfounded. I did the manly thing, and got the hell out of there, forgetting the record my odometer and the time. No bonus for this chicken. I hope somebody called the cops.
Brain Fart #2 came up quick. After the gas station, my next stop was a town just outside Cincinnati. I had it in mind that it was further out than it actually was, and just blew through. By the time I realized it, I was twenty-odd miles down the road. At the time, it seemed waaaay too far to go back. Oh well. Now on the home stretch, I figured I was all set. Then I saw the first lightning on the horizon. “Oh well,” says I “it’ll pass before I get up there.” Sure it will.
The lightening got more frequent. Then the thunder started. First in the distance, barely audible above the wind. Then louder. Then lightening all around. By now, it’s around 3am, and I’m at another bonus stop getting a gas receipt. Its raining, but only moderately. Just as I’m getting back on the bike, the sky just opens up. Big, hard raindrops falling straight down. It’s the kind of deluge that puddles immediately, and the drops are so big the splashes make it look like its raining up from the ground. Visibility is about 10 yards, at best. “Oh well,” says I “rain this heavy oughta pass pretty quick.” Sure it will.
Back on the road, through the rain. I’ve slowed from 70 to 60 to 50, finally plowing along at no more than 40, I can’t read the clock on the dash through the rain, but I know I’m way behind. I can hardly see the road, water has pooled deep enough to cover the reflective lane marker tabs, and I'm looking for a historical marker sign by the side of the road that I can’t even see through the rain. And then, one cue, I run into road construction.
I’ve never had more fun.
After vaguely spotting a couple of roadside signs, spinning quick 180’s to put the headlights on ‘em, only to be disappointed, finally I find the marker. Now I know the answer to the bonus question, but if I pull the paperwork out it’ll just get ruined. A mile or so further down is a tractor dealer with a small awning that gives me just enough shelter to bump up a cub height sidewalk, pull under, record my bonus, and contemplate my next move.
I drove up onto a narrow sidewalk in along the front of the dealers building, and as the rain continues undiminished, I know I can wait out the storm - the storm that by all my Midwestern summer thunderstorm experience should have passed half an hour ago - and risk being time barred at the finish, or I can get back out into it. Its not like I can get any wetter, and I’ve already made it up this far in one piece, so back into the dark and stormy night I went.
But by the time I’ve decided to get going again, the gravel & dirt parking lot has turned into a muddy lake. And its just getting deeper. So now I have to ride off the edge of the sidewalk I’m parked on, slowly, and its too narrow to get a good angle on. Great. Figuring my feet are about as soaked as they’re gonna get, I start walking along in the mud and puddles, trying to find a solid spot to drop over. I find a couple of holes by stepping in up over my ankles, but no hard spots. Ah, hell, I’ll just go for it. I get started, take a deep breath, and plop off into the muck. The K11 handles perfectly. Whew.
Slogging back to the interstate, I finally caught a break in the rain. Long enough to stop for coffee at a truck stop and gather my thoughts. A few sideways glances and half-wit humor (“Sayuh, didja notice it were rainin'?” was the highlight) from the truckers, and I have to think so far so good. One semi-near miss, two stupid mistakes, and I’m not really that far behind schedule. I’m not even as soaked as I’d thought. The ‘stich didn’t leak so much as the rain just flowed in over top of the collar, I have more gloves, my feet are wet but warm, and the sun is just starting to come up. As the saying goes, I feel like a hundred bucks. Now just a long blast down the interstate, a couple quick stops, and I’m done. Cake.
Back to Columbus, I stop to count corn (if you were there you know what I mean, if not there’s always next year) where I run into a group if riders, the first I’ve seen at a bonus stop since the very first one. We’re all heading to the same bonus, a timed half-hour stop, so we spin up in formation. Just as I pull into the lot, I realize that essentially its all over, and I get that little sad feeling that always comes over me on the return flight from a vacation, that slight deflation that equally balances the high of heading out on an adventure.
And then I realize that there are about two dozen wet, tired, smelly rally riders milling around with the same dazed, goofy grins, all talking a mile a minute about where they’d been and what they’d seen. The mood was infectious, and just the thing to send me off to the finish with a grin. So now the rain has let up, the sun is up, I’ve got a tummy full of coffee, and a charge from the group vibe. All is well. Until, rounding a cloverleaf I come upon a riders ST1100 being righted from beside the guardrail by a bunch of motorists. He’d run into a huge patch of what looked like spilled diesel, lost it, and low sided into the barrier. He’s fine - just a little shaken up. But his bike, that I’d been admiring the day before at the start, is a little dinged.
Scraped, displaced bodywork, a busted mirror, and mud made it all look a lot worse than it turned out to be, but what a sad sight is a beat up motorcycle. Reminds me of the half paralyzed face of a bar customer I’d had years ago. But, happily for today, the bike didn’t dribble fluid out one side the way old Frank had. Turns out two more would go down in the same curve before the rally ended. One even got ticketed for crashing. That, if you ask me, is an asshole with a badge in action.
Back at the finish, I get checked in and all I can think of is a hot shower and a dry bed. In an effort to win over the scoring judges, I shower and brush my teeth before I belly for the mandatory denial of points. I sit down, having been told umpteen times that once your ass hits that chair, its all over but the crying. And the judge notes right off that I’ve forgotten to record my finishing odometer. Shit.
The minty freshness must’ve worked, cause he gave me a pass. I dash out, scribble down the mileage, and come back. I claim everything I had, and get everything I claim. Much happiness. Then I start to hear what some other folks have gotten, think of my two missed bonuses, and just as I’m going to kick myself in the ass I remember that this is supposed to be about having some fun.
A quick nap and its time for the award dinner. Again, Eddie James is a man who ain’t missed a meal lately, and we were all the beneficiaries of his appetites. After 24 hours of gas station food, just seeing vegetables was enough to get my mouth watering. Yum.
So I didn’t win a plaque, but I was in the top half of my class. And if I’d have grabbed a couple more stops that I passed on and not blown the couple I screwed up, I’d have been right in there. I had a blast, and got a few new stories to tell, which my friends will be glad for. I got home in 13 hours flat, including lunch and gas stops, I rode 2600 miles from Thursday night to Monday evening, and learned a few more things about rallying. Mainly, this is harder than it looks. After the MN1K Saddlesore, I posted a message thanking Adam and Eddie, and noting that I’d found myself thinking about running the Buckeye. Adam responded that “…the hook is set.”
Back to Ride Reports