Saturday, December 25, 2010

2010 SPANK Rally

Note:  This report contains short video segments that I shot while on this trip.  They are NOT professional quality and may not even make sense, but I was having fun making them.  I have no idea what speed/bandwidth your internet connection should be to see them,...... good luck.


Getting SPANK'd doesn't begin to tell my story. I screwed up so bad, I thought I was actually doing pretty good. It's a good thing rallies are soooo much fun, cuz I would have quit this nonsense long ago.

Very poor reading comprehension and spectacular stupidity, can really sink your airplane.....or crash your boat.....or bury your motorcycle...... but I digress. First things first.

Thank you George Z., along with Mr. Hickey and of course Cletha (Queen B), for a great event. Even with the mega blunders on my part, it did not lessen the fun. I am proud to have participated.

This year's SPANK rally was to start in Amargosa Valley, Nevada and end at the IBA National Meet in Denver, Colorado. It was a good plan. I was really looking forward to the whole thing.

Since my disappointing DNF at my first IBR attempt in 2007, I knew I needed to pay some more dues in the LD game. The 5-Day SPANK for 2010 was just the ticket.

Monday, August 2, 2010 08:00 Kingston Massachusetts

It was already 96 degrees with a matching dew point, which is pretty damn warm for New England. The forecast and my destination, would only call for more heat. It was going to be an uncomfortable ride.

As tempting as it is to collect State Welcome signs, it is some kinda dangerous.

I didn't do it too often.

I planned to give myself 4 days to reach Amargosa Valley. Just take it easy, enjoy the ride. As it turned out, it was a very wise move. The heat was very fatiguing. I was sweating so much, if I pee'd my pants, I doubt I would even notice. I adjusted quickly to a routine of 04:00 starts with an Admiral Arthur Afternoon Nap (AAAN) later in the day. (Which really works.) I found I was much more comfortable riding into the evening.  A few hours after sunset, I'd call it a day.

Tuesday,  August 3,  2010   04:00   Erie  Pennsylvania

With a short mileage day yesterday, I hoped to cover more ground today. Early morning start was a little cooler. But it wasn't long before I was back in the heat. Lots of traffic around Columbus, then Indy was worse. I was losing time/mileage badly and the heat was killing me. My bike is air cooled, which means you can only imagine the added discomfort I was facing with additional heat from the old V-Twin billowing over me, (Well, maybe you ST guys can relate).

Finally through St. Louis and into Missouri. It was late afternoon and I was taking longer and longer fuel stops. Of course, I should point out at this time, that I did, in fact, have a cooling vest nicely tuck away in my tour pak. I have no good explanation for why I was not wearing it.

It was just after sunset when I saw a sign for a Red Roof Inn in St. Roberts, Missouri.

End of Day Two.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010   04:30  St. Roberts,  Missouri

As I was checking out of the hotel, I noticed a small sign on the counter top. It warned guest that St. Roberts was a military town and the hotel catered to a lot of soldiers on Weekend Passes. Sometimes the noise level could be slightly elevated. The hotel policy was to accommodate the soldiers as much as possible.

Good for you Red Roof Inn.

On down the road.....

It was still HOT as I passed through Oklahoma, but the cross winds were really more fatiguing than the heat. Hey, it's Oklahoma, it's always windy. I stopped for gas somewhere around Clinton.

Later in the afternoon, I stopped in Texas for my AAAN.

Continuing across the panhandle, I had ridden by this cross a couple of times in the past.  This time I decided to stop. It's pretty big. Very similar to the cross in Effingham, Illinois. (drove by that one too).

 Groom, Texas

It was still very hot, but I was feeling good as I approached New Mexico.  I decided to try and shoot some action video.  The wind noise is annoying.

I stopped for gas in Clines Corners, New Mexico.  I remember stopping here for a bonus location, back during the 2001 LOE rally.  It hadn't changed much.

I phoned ahead to reserve a room in Albuquerque.  It had been a long day.

Thursday,  August 5, 2010  04:00  Albuquerque,  New Mexico

Up untill this point, I had been riding on Interstate I had ridden many times.  Today, I was finally going to cover new real estate.  For me, I was finally entering "The West".

The temps were nice and cool on this a.m..  I actually had to stop to add the liner for my Darien. What a pleasant change.  I treated myself to a nice breakfast in Grants.  Two eggs over hard, wheat toast and OJ. Anything more than that and 30 minutes down the road,  I'd find myself  asleep in a ditch. Keep it light.

Not my first visit to Arizona, but my first on the bike.
Passports.....we don't need no stinkin' Passports.

Temperatures were much more reasonable now.  It was down right comfortable.  I tried to cover some ground.  It was going well.......untill Flagstaff.

Construction delays leading into Flagstaff.  Construction delays in Flagstaff.  Construction delays leaving Flagstaff.  I was getting nowhere fast.  Finally, I see the sign, "END ROAD WORK".  Hallelujah ! ! !
It was at this point I realized how hot it was getting again. I mean really HOT. At least I was moving.

My plan was to exit at Kingman and head for the Dam.  I had read about the new bypass bridge to take the vehicle traffic off the dam.  On this trip I knew this would be my only chance to ride across the Hoover Dam before it was closed.  The check point backup wasn't nearly as bad as I had expected.  I stopped for a quick photo.

Is it just me or is the water low?

After I creeped across the dam, trying my best not to hit any of the bazillion pedestrians darting all about, I finally made it to the Nevada side.  I was very disappointed to discover that all the parking areas for photo ops were closed off....sadly, I was unable to obtain the photo I really wanted:

[ Photo: Kyle Nishioka ]

Next stop: Las Vegas.

Date: August 5, 2010
Time: 3:30 pm
Temp: 110° F

I didn't stay long.

 My first visit to "The Strip"

The danger at this stop is the fact that the parking area is not that big and HUGE tour buses roll in and out of it without much regard for inconsequential things like MOTORCYCLES ! ! ! !

I cruised North up the strip, then hooked a left onto West Sahara Boulevard and found I-15.  Found the exit for US 95 and points West.  I was now anxious to reach the host hotel and get settled into some A/C and perhaps a few adult beverages......

Rally HQ, Amargosa Valley NV

It was about 6:00 pm on Thursday, August 5, when I arrived.  Pretty much on schedule.  Still very HOT.

If you are still reading this, thanks for hanging in.

The hotel and staff were very nice and loved hosting the rally.  It truely is out in the middle of the desert, but that's what made it interesting.  It was all new to me.  I was glad to be there.

SPANK Rally begins, ( we just didn't know it ).

Waiting for ODO check.

George had all the riders line up in the hallway outside his room (Rally Central). Everyone in full ATGATT , I wish I had a picture. ( I'm sure someone does ). Three at a time, we would check in and leave for our odometer runs.  Upon returning, our bikes were now considered impounded.  I didn't think much about it at the time. We all found out later how significant a policy it was.

During the banquet, George kept quiet about the Saturday start time.  After distribution of Rally Packs and Rider Aprons, George again declined to confirm a starting time. After all bonus questions had been answered and folks were ready to break up and retire to their rooms to plan, George, at the last minute, declares we all have been on the "clock" since 6:00 pm ! ! ! !


No mass ascension in the morning. Just roll out when we were ready.  I'm not sure why, but I really liked this policy.  It was different.

My Route Planning - Not so fast there, cupcake.

I was not to realize this for three more days, but the one Big, Who's Bobo?, Wicked Stupid, Rally Killing Mistake, I made was commited even before I read the first bonus. For the want of a simple calendar, I doomed myself.  Someday, I'll get it together.......

While I was so excited to start route planning to bonuses I'd like to go to, I failed to cement in my plans, the one place I NEEEDED to go to......

The one mandatory Checkpoint was to be in Bluff, Utah, 11:00 am, August 10, 2010.  Which of course is a TUESDAY ! ! ! ! ! 
For some demented reason, I lock it in my head, that August 10th was on Monday......
So it ain't hard to realize now how screwed up my routing was, when I was going to be 24 hours too early and totally screwed my chances at bigger bonuses farther away.

I needed a drink........

My Plan:

Leg One -
Go through Death Valley early,
Collect Bonuses going North to Reno and Gerlach,
Cross Nevada at night, try and bag bonuses in SLC area the next day,
Venture South to Grand Canyon and make Checkpoint in Bluff,

Leg Two -
Go through Colorado, via bonus in Durango and then points North,
Collect dino bonuses in N. Utah and then Green River, WY,
Collect more bonuses in Wy, then South to Colorado.

Not a winning route, but a good route for me.  Too freakin' bad it was so time flawed ! ! !

Now let's see what I actually did:

DAY ONE:  Saturday

Leave Rally HQ at day break.  Head for Death Valley.  First task: find gas. 

My first return to California, since I bought the bike in San Diego, December 1979.

I had been advised to gas up in Shoshone before entering Death Valley.  Seemed like good advise to me.
The station was closed but pumps were on.

Photo receipt.

The weather was perfect, and I had a nice shaded ride to Badwater.  This was my first ride through Death Valley.  It was way kool, as evident by my stary eyed reaction on the video.

First Bonus:  The Badwater Low Point to go with the Mt. Evans High Point combo.

After Badwater, my next bonus was to be The Eureka Sand Dunes.  An easy photo but it was not to be.

GZ had listed, on the route sheets, any info about unpaved roads we were to encounter.  He rated them as 1, 2, or 3.  A dirt road rated a 3 was the worst.

The route sheet made no mention of the road to Eureka Sand Dunes as unpaved, but of course my map did.  But I naturally paid no attention to the map and when I got to the turn off to go to the Dunes, it was gravel.  I knew I was in trouble when the road sign had a "JEEP" logo on it, indicating 4-wheel drive is recommended.

This road was not for me....... I   H-A-T-E   D-I-R-T.

Back to Scotty's castle and out of Death Valley.  I needed to be in Gerlach by 6:00 pm.

A little hot, but a nice ride North on US 95 to Fallon and then over to Gerlach. 
The bonus was to obtain a photo with Reno John and a plate of the famous ravioli.  Then a photo at the IBA Memorial.

This would be my first visit to Bruno's. 

It was also my first meeting with Reno John.  Nice guy, and a good sport for enduring being a bonus subject.

My actual bonus photo.  I may never dine with Kings, nor ever date a movie star, but I HAVE been to Bruno's and enjoyed the ravioli.

The second part of the Reno John bonus:

Too many stones.

A parting shot for some easy points and I'm on my way.

Before leaving the IBA Memorial,  Dave S. (the other H-D driver in SPANK),  Reno John and myself, spent a few minutes just enjoying the quiet and solitude of the place.  It was my first visit.  I didn't want to rush through it at a "rally pace".  Thanks John, for suggesting we just take our time.

But there is a rally to ride.  I said goodbye to Gerlach.

As I headed South, back toward Fernley, it was now late evening.  The darker it got, the more I was thinking my headlight must be dimming with age.  By the time I reached Fernley, I was in the dark.  No headlight. No high or low.  No spare bulb.....I knew this day was done.  I trolled around using my fog lights and found a hotel.

I had upgraded my stock sealed beam some years ago, and was now using an  H4 CANDLEPOWER headlamp conversion.  I was not sure if an H-D dealer would have a spare bulb.  Perhaps I was limited to some proprietary bulb from CANDLEPOWER.  What I did know, was an H4 from Walmart was not going to work.

It was late Saturday night and the bike shops were closed.  Tomorrow is Sunday, and they will still be closed.  So now, my second rally adjustment, was to NOT cross Nevada at night.  Get a room and wait for daybreak.

Day Two:  Sunday

At first light, I made my way out to my bike.  Another H-D was parked there also.  I was surprised to find out it was Dave.  I thought he would be long gone.  We chatted for a bit, and we both enjoyed a cup of coffee while I adjusted my rear chain.  Dave left to continue on his rally, while I finished packing up.  I had a long day across Nevada, with little hope of finding a spare bulb.  I stopped and looked in every major town, but nothing.  I concluded, I would not have a headlight untill Monday.  At least I was able to salvage a few points for the day with the Thunder Mountain bonus.

There is way too much going on with this bonus.  You will have to Google this to appreciate the whole concept.

My plan was to get as close as possible to the checkpoint before dark. Remember, I mistakingly think I have to be there Monday at 11:00 am.

I actually shot video here, but will spare you all from the agony.

Into Utah and now to cross the salt flats for the first time.  Kool, but not as kool as Death Valley.

It was late Sunday afternoon when I arrived in Salt Lake City.  I still needed a headlight bulb, so that was my focus.  I'm sure there are plenty of bike shops in SLC, but none that were open.  I still wanted to get as close to the checkpoint as possible before dark.  My target was Price.  Of course, if I knew that I actually had another 24 hours before reaching the checkpoint, I would have gone to Sheridan, Wyoming, to bag the one bonus I really wanted to experience - The Trebuchet Watermelon Launch.  Damn, I hated to miss that bonus because of "stupid", (and it was worth 21,786 points ! ! ! )

It was a beautiful ride from SLC to Price on US 6.  I reached Price just at sunset and stopped for the night at the Super 8.  This "no headlight" thing really sux for rallying.  Even for a lightweight like me.  I do get a good night sleep as I have to wait for daylight. 

Day Three:  Monday

So, do I go shopping for a headlight bulb or go straight to the checkpoint?  At this point I'm not even thinking of bonus hunting.  Too bad, because I rode past some easy points and didn't even know it.  Clearly my rally is in deep do-do.  But one thing at a time.  I chose to hit the checkpoint directly, then go shopping for my luminary device, then get back in the rally.

Another beautiful day weatherwise.  I was really impressed with the Moab region of Utah.  Would like to go back someday to spend more time.  I bought fuel, and continued on.

( It wasn't untill after the rally that I realized I'd ridden right past a nice bonus at the Arches NP )

It was now mid-morning as I approached Bluff.  It is a small town along the San Juan river.  Very pretty country actually.  As I cruised along slowly, I was looking for a gathering of moto's.....but nothing.  Weird.
I rode past the checkpoint, then U-turned and approached again.  When I pulled into the parking lot, not only was there no one else around, but the host restaurant, The San Juan Kitchen, was CLOSED ! ! !

Clearly there was a deep chasim in my reading comprehension.  The checkpoint was scheduled for TUESDAY.............I am such an idiot ! ! ! ! !

So after confirming the correct date, I made my daily call-in.  I gave full disclosure of my blunder to GZ.  I figured the Rally staff could share a good laugh at my stupidity.  Now to get serious. 

I located the closest H-D dealer......Durango.  So I make my way East.  I stopped for lunch in Cortez. As I'm getting ready to leave, a young couple stops to chat.  They, of course, are about to ask me the number one question I have answered many times on this journey.  If you are riding a Harley, and it is August: " Hey mister, you goin' to Sturgis?"

I always remain courteous, and answer with a quiet, "No."   A dissappointing look always forms on their faces.  I cannot confirm this, but I always get the impression that these folks want me to say "Yea, I was in Sturgis, but I had to jet early, 'cuz I got all crank'd up with my Hells Angels buddies and we busted up a place and killed two cops."

It's like they want to be able to brag to their friends that they met some biker outlaw and survived. 

Perhaps not.  But it makes me chuckle inside.  Maybe next time I'll give the answer they want.......

I find the H-D dealer easy enough, so I head for the parts counter.

The parts guy was very helpful.  I handed him my old bulb and asked him if he had a replacement.  Keep in mind, my bulb has the CANDLEPOWER name all over it, with their own number.  I was sure H-D would not have the same bulb.....( how different could it be? ).  The parts guy (wish I got his name), looks at it and without saying a word, turns around, grabs a bulb package off the rack and opens it up.  He then starts to laugh.  I'm thinking, "see, it ain't the same."  He hands me the new bulb.  It has CANDLEPOWER written all over it.

Cool.   At $12.95 each, I said, " I'll take two".

New bulb.  New day.  New plan.  Time to get back in this thing. 

It is now about 3:00 pm.  I have about 20 hours before the REAL checkpoint window appears, so I head toward the Grand Canyon to grab what bonuses I can.

Next stop: Navajo National Monument.

It was now late in the day and I wanted to try and bag the Powell bonus in Page, AZ before sunset.

( Again,  I realize now that I have ridden past a juicy bonus in Cortez ...... TWICE.... I really do have a routing problem. )

As I approach Page, the sun is on its way out.  My GPS takes me right to the bonus with just a sliver of twilight left.  I just squeak out a bonus photo.

Without flash.

Page AZ actually had two bonuses at the same spot. The dino footprints and the Emma Dean.

With flash.

There is nothing like bagging a couple of bonuses to help a rider ease back into rally mode. 
Next stop: The Grand Canyon.

It was way after dark by the time I reach the gate to enter the canyon park.  The booth was unattended, and the sign said to "travel on".  So I did.

There were two Grand Canyon bonuses I was attempting to claim.  The first was the Watchtower and the other was The Powell Memorial.

I found the entrance to the Watchtower parking area and stopped for the night in a quiet corner of the lot.  Time to grab a room in the IronButt motel.

One of the plus side effects of such HOT weather, is the fact that the concrete sidewalks absorb a lot of day time heat, and stay quite warm into the night.  I cocooned myself with my bike cover and layed down for some shut eye.  It had been a long day.  But at least I had a few points to show for it.

Day Four: Tuesday

Sleeping on concrete SUCKS.  Even if it is warm.  I did manage a few hours of sleep, but it wasn't pretty.  I was actually awakened by the sound of tourist walking by me.  SHIT, it's already daylight ! ! I need to grab this bonus photo and get going......

I had estimated that I would have just enough time to grab the second Grand Canyon bonus before I needed to beat feet back to Bluff and make the checkpoint, ( for real this time ).

The 18,643 point bonus called for a photo of the large granite Powell Memorial at the end of Hermit's Road.  Sounded easy enough, untill I got there.  You see, what the route sheet didn't mention was that Hermit's Road is closed to traffic in the summer.  The rider would have to park his bike and take a tour bus to the sight.  Which now explains the high point value, but I just did not have the time to expend.  I back tracked all the way to US 89 and then onto Rte 160, headed back to Bluff.

Well, after a fabulous ride through Monument Valley, I arrived at the checkpoint at 11:18 am.  I finally made it.  Oh and yes, the parking lot  was full of moto's.  A wonderful sight.

After checking in, I had lunch, and chilled with the other riders.  Everyone was scattered about with laptops a blazing and GPS's humming.  Me, I went back outside to check over my bike.  I discovered that my right footboard had a broken mount and was dangling precariously from the frame.  I removed it completely.  Hey, gain a headlight.....lose a footboard.....that's about right.

It is amazing how uncomfortable and how unnatural it is to ride with no place to put your foot.  I'm glad I had hiway pegs mounted on the front crash bar.

At 12 noon, George handed out the Bonus Pack for Leg 2.  Since all the Leg 1 bonuses were still in play, this did not change my plans much.  Hell, I was still playing catch up.  In hindsight, I should have done the Castle Thread.  Oh well.

First stop: Durango for the SKA beer bonus.  And yes, I did pass through Cortez for the THIRD time and still did not claim the Mesa Verde NP bonus.  I'm sure glad I'm solo and not in a team, cuz I'd be dead in a ditch somewhere by now. 

After Durango, I head North to Grand Junction.  Everyone knows the ride from Durango to Grand Junction is awsome.  So I was really enjoying the rally now.  I made a quick stop at Red Mountain just to look around.  Since I had such a lousy night sleep and I really needed to stop and try to make a better plan, I stopped in Ouray for the night.  I treated myself to a good meal and comfy bed.  It would also be my 6 hour Rest Bonus. 

Inside the motel office was an ATM machine.  I figured to use this receipt to document my Start and End of my Rest Bonus.  It was now around 8:00 pm.  I got a good receipt.  I planned to come back about 3:00 am and get an early start for the day.  Using this ATM was NOT a good idea.

The major flaw in this little plan was the fact that the ATM was INSIDE the office lobby, which turns out NOT to be accessable 24 hours ! ! ! !

When I returned at O'dark something, the office is dark, locked and a sign on the door, " Open 8:00 am "

Holy crapaloid..... there was no buzzer to wake anyone, there was no night staff, no nothing.  So I waited.

Finally, about 8:20 am, a staffer opens the office and I quickly get my receipt.  Could I have gone somewhere else for a receipt?  Perhaps, but I'm pretty sure the rules state that the Start and End receipts must be from the same place.  So the lesson here boys and girls is; make sure you have access to wherever and whenever you need to properly document your Rest Bonus.

Time To Get Going.

Day Five:  Wednesday

My new plan was not really any better than my old plan.  I still missed two good size bonuses in Wyoming that I just didn't recognize.  Too bad, it would have allowed me to completed another Thread and mucho more points.

From Ouray, I would go North to Vernal, then Flaming Gorge and onto Green River, Wyoming.  Then head South to make sure I made the Mt. Evans bonus first thing Thursday morning in order to reach the finish in Denver by noon.

My first bonus stop for the day was Driggs Mansion, off Hiway 141. This bonus required an easy photo of the ruins of the dwelling.

What I really enjoyed about this bonus, was the beautiful ride in and out of this location.  I couldn't resist shooting some video.

Next up on the duty roster was Vernal, Utah, and the "cowboy dino bonus".  Well, at least that's what the route sheet said.  "TAPOT T-Rex dino swathed in cowboy garb."

I found the T-Rex, but all he was wearing was a string of old Christmas lights.  I took the photo and moved on my way.

From Vernal it was another nice ride to the Petrified Dunes of the Flaming Gorge area.  I was glad it was daylight.  What an awesome sight.  It sure is different than the Massachusetts coast I grew up on. 

Finally, I was scooping bonuses in the manor I should have been doing all along.  Sometimes it takes me a little longer to get geared up.   Onward........

Next up was a double bonus in Green River, Wyoming.  The waypoint lead me right to the Island Park and the stone marker commemorating the starting location of the Powell Expeditions.

There were other riders there, and one could sense we were in our final stages of the rally. Most all were making their way toward Denver with a few remaining bonuses to bag.

Across the river was the Water Park Bonus.  This was guaranteed to be WET.  The rider had to obtain a photo of their rally apron tied to the center pole, and snap a picture with water falling.  Just dive on in, there was no way to stay dry.

We certainly gave the locals plenty to talk about.  One women commented that she and her husband go riding with their buddies all the time, but never do fun stuff like this.  To which I have to respond, "You just aren't riding with the right people."

Parting shot:

Just when things are going so good.  I should have expected a gremlin, and I got one.  After I had completed all my paperwork, and was feeling pretty good about the whole thing, I went to hit the start button and nothing.  Just, click - click.  Great.  Now I've got some sort of starter problem. 
After concluding the battery was ok, I moved on to the starter solenoid.  With a small screw driver, it is an easy "jump" to activate the starter.  It works.  I'm on my way. 

It was now late Wednesday afternoon.  I decided to make my way toward Denver.  I traveled East on I-80, and once again, in what has become a distrubing pattern, I completely ignore two close bonuses in Wyoming.  I turned South on Hiway 789 and made my way into Colorado.  I stopped for the night in Craig.

The plan was to claim the Mt. Evans bonus as early as possible Thursday morning and reach the finish on time at the National Meet.

I was not prepared for how windy the top of Mt. Evans was that morning.  Almost blew me off the mountain.

I had originally not planned on claiming the Kneebone with Extra Cheese bonus.  But now I thought I would have just enough time to reach the Pizza bonus and make it to the finish at the Marriott Hotel.  The problem was, I had not entered the appropriate waypoint into my GPS.  Without looking at the Bonus Sheets, I had remembered the bonus was at BeauJo's Pizza. So I used the GPS POI function to find the Pizza Shop.  BIG mistake.  As I'm riding along, I realize that I seem to be heading in the wrong direction.
As I reached the location, I noticed the parking lot was void of any guessed it.  I was at the WRONG BeauJo's Pizza Shop.  How was I to know there was more than one.  My GPS only had this location listed.   LESSON:  Always check the Route Sheets, READING COMP.......READING COMP. they say in Hollywood, "That's a wrap".  I arrive at the finish with little time to spare.  It felt good to be done.  Even with all my mistakes, I had a great time. I knew my score would place me near the bottom. But that's show biz folks. 

After scoring, I returned to the parking lot for some much needed refreshment and post rally tire kickin'.

National Meet folks were starting to fill the parking lot.  I was able to see old friends and meet new ones.  Single malt and a fine Dominican cigar was the plan now.

I finished second to last, but I recieved this awesome finisher's plaque, hand painted by George Z., and this beer glass.  Pretty cool.

The IBA National Meet was fantastic, but that is a whole seperate report.....

Time to head home.

Somewhere in Eastern Kansas, my engine decided it was tired.  I stopped to investigate the hideous noise comming from my engine. But first I have to wait for the engine to cool down before I do anything.

Thanks for hanging in there and making it to the end of this report.

Please remember to support an LD rally near you.

Mark Collins
Kingston  Massachusetts