In the Beginning
About midway through the 2015 Big Money Rally, RenoJohn announced that he'd be putting on a three day rally which would be based on the same concept. This rally, entitled the BMRx, would have the same scoring and feel as the BMR, but instead of several months to leisurley complete the rally, you'd be on the clock. 66.6 hours to be exact.
An unique aspect of this rally would be the multiple start and finish locations spread across the country. Riders were able to pick from 9 locations to start from - three each from three "triangles" set up across the country. (West, Central and East) I chose Bend, OR, on the West triangle which proved to be very popular.
The next twist was you wouldn't receive the bonus listing until one hour before the start - which was at 4:15 am Pacific Time on June 5, 2015. In fact, the only information riders were given about the route was that to be considered a finisher, you must complete the following:
- Start and finish at the same location, within 66.6 hours
- Ride to each corner of your triangle
- Take two rest bonuses, minimum time stopped of 4 hours. (Additional points were given up to 6 hours)
Do this and you'd be a finisher. Additional bonus locations would be available one hour prior to the rally start.
With as much fun as I was having on the BMR, I was really excited about this ride. I've said before that if I was going to run a rally, THIS is what I would do. The scoring system that RenoJohn has developed is second to none.
Head to Bend
On Thursday June 4, 2015, I made the easy 5 hour ride from my place in Lacey down to Bend. It was a beautiful sunny day and a very pleasant ride. I had made reservations at the Super 8, and soon met up with Dan Legg and Bill Lynes. The plan was to head over to the Deschutes Brewery for dinner. Once there we met up with several other riders and had a really nice meal. Most of us were key to turn in for an early night seeing that most of us were planning to be up very early to get the bonus listing.
Ready Set GO
True to his word, at precisly 3:15, the bonus listing was available on the BMRx site. I quickly got everything imported into BaseCamp then started in on my Day 1 plan. Based on my preliminary planning, I knew that I needed to take my rest bonuses at, or at least very near, each corner bonus to keep on schedule to arrive back in Bend on time. With that in mind, I had decided to only plan out the first day's ride this morning. The first decision I had to made was whether to go to Tooele, UT or Ridgecrest, CA first. (i.e. go clockwise or counter clockwise) For whatever reason, I was leaning towards Tooele first and upon looking at the bonuses, the route there seemed to be the most clear in my mind. Tooele here we come.
Bonus values were pretty simple - values of 1.1, 2.2, 3.3, 4.4, 5.5, or 7.7. In a nutshell, the farther away the bonus was to the most direct route between the corners of the triangle, the more points it was worth. Looking at the waypoints, it was pretty easy to see this.
It really only took me about a half an hour to come up with the route. While I passed up some 5.5 and 7.7 point bonuses to the north, I simply didn't see how I would have enough time to get these bonuses and still have time to get to Tooele. The route through Boise and Sun Valley just seemed to make the most sense. In hindsight, I'd probably route exactly the same way again.
With my route decided and loaded in the GPS, I headed over to the start location - the Deschutes Brewery Brewhouse. At 4:26, I took my start picture and was officially on my way. As I was leaving, Matt Watkins pulled up for his start. Hey, I was ahead of Matt! That wouldn't last. Matt definitely had his game face on, so I didn't bug him too much and headed out towards my first "optional" bonus.
First location of the day was a sign on the side of the road on the way to John Day. There was no cell service at the site and I managed to screw up the bonus code, so I was greeted by the infamous red rectangle of death - meaning you did not earn points for the bonus. The good news is that because the scoring on this rally is so quick, its pretty easy to recover from a dumb mistake like this. Also lucky for me, RenoJohn is a forgiving soul and after realizing my error, I resubmitted and I was able to get points for the bonus.
I had printed out three sizes of rally placards prior to the rally, one small, one medium and one large. I also had one taped to the inside lid of my tailbox. After going through a few bonuses I found that the medium size was the best compromise between being able to hold it easily and being able to read it in the picture. I had placed each one in the map pocket of my tankbag. That is until a gust of wind somehow liberated the medium sized placard out of the pouch. I'm still not exactly sure how this happened, but for whatever reason, it did. I turned around and tried to find it, but no luck. Stopping and looking simply wasn't worth it. I had backups and would just need to use them. Dammit.
After picking up another 3.3 pointer I headed towards Boise on I-84. After getting off the freeway in Boise, I made a mistake that could have been very costly. One of the additions I'd made to the bike for this rally was an iPad mini. Prior to leaving Bend, I had transferred all the picture bonuses over to my Dropbox account. Obviously, this is only accessible if you have internet access, which I do on the iPad and my phone. However, upon leaving Boise, I forgot that I needed to look at the picture bonuses before I left cellular range. Upon leaving Boise and entering banjo-country, I soon noticed I had no coverage. I had two choices, turn around, or hope that I came through a town that had service. I only had a fleeting memory of what the bonus location was and needed to be able to see a picture of the location to make sure I matched it precisely. In the end, I had to stop on the side of the road, pull out the computer and write down description of the bonuses. As soon as I made it back to a coverage area, I "favorited" everything my rally Dropbox folder which stores it to the local device. In the end it only cost me about 15 minutes, but it pissed me off that I had made such a stupid mistake.
The remainder of the day was really uneventful, for the most part. Once I got into a groove, I was able to enjoy some beautiful roads through central and southern Idaho. As I made my way towards Utah, it became very obvious that I was going to get wet. Very wet. As I approached the Bear Lake County Courthouse, two very dark thunder cells stood in my way. I managed to skirt the edge of the storms however, I did get a very cool/scary cloud to ground lightning show from about a mile away.
After that bit of excitement, I settled in for the evening run. I hit one more three point bonus and then headed for Tooele. Looking at a map, Tooele looks like its just to the the west of Salt Lake City. In reality, its a bit more than that. I had a reservation, so I wasn't too worried, but the last hour just seemed to go on for ever. I got there just before midnight. I recognized another riders bike, but I quickly found my room and got into bed. After a 21 hour day, I'd say I'd earned it.
I awoke refreshed and feeling decently good. By the time I got dressed and down to the bike, the other rider had already left. It was sunny and nice - not too warm yet. I fueled up and headed over to the corner bonus location, which was just down the street from my hotel. I remembered to take the requisite two pictures of the corner (one for arrival and one for departure) and was soon on my way south on secondary roads.
In fact, the vast majority of today would be on secondary roads as I snaked my way down into southern Utah. This has always been one of my favorite parts of the country and today I was in for a real treat. On the 5 'n Dime Rally, one of the last bonuses that I went to was (supposed to be) Utah Highway 12. However, Garmin decided to optimize my route and took me on a faster and completely boring route. I didn't know it at the time, but I had missed one of the most beautiful roads in the country. Highway 12 is simply stunning. From the wonderfully curvy roads to the gorgeous iron oxide rock formations, I was simply in awe. At one point during the ride I thought to myself, "Even if I DNF this rally, the ride today will make it worth the trip." All this was BEFORE I rode through Bryce Canyon!
The weather was not great, but it held off long enough to get through most of the twisties. I then road through shower after shower - just spaced far enough apart to dry off in between.
Riding into Kanab near the Arizona border, I had my only (confirmed) siting of another BMRx rider. As I was riding to the bonus at Kanab, I saw a rider on a red FJR with a pony tail. It was none other than Bill Lynes! We stopped and traded war stories for a few moments then headed off on our way.
From Kanab, my plan was to head down to Flagstaff to pick up a meaty 7.7 point bonus with two 5.5 bonuses along the way. By now, the rain had dissipated and it was getting downright HOT.
After stopping at the Marble Canyon Lodge for 2.2 points, I had one of the first two minor issues with fuel on this trip. I get anywhere between 150 and 200 miles to a tank. After stopping the bonus, I had somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 miles left on my tank and didn't think twice about the gas station next to the bonus. As I crossed the Colorado River, I started looking up the next town that had fuel. I fairly quickly came to the realization that it was more than 50 miles away and WASN'T on my way. After searching in vain for fuel within my current range, I pulled over and resigned myself that I would need to turn around and go back. Total delay was about 45 minutes. The worst part of it was about 20 miles past where I turned around was a gas station that was not in my GPS. Oh well, northern Arizona was not exactly where I wanted to be stranded on the side of the road.
The two 5.5 point bonuses were apparently located right next to each other and seemed like it was going to be a veritable point bonanza. Unfortunately, I'd missed the email from RenoJohn that there was an error in the rally pack and one of the bonuses was in the wrong place and had been deleted. Oh well, shit happens. Time to put it behind me and ride on. I got my 5.5 points then continued south towards Flagstaff.
By the time I reached the 7.7 point bonus in Flagstaff, I was beginning to seriously doubt my route for the day. To get back to Bend the following day, I needed to get to Ridgecrest, CA that night. This was not negotiable. If I didn't get to Ridgecrest, I was going to have to cut out a lot of bonuses on Sunday and ride straight back. After Flagstaff, I had planned to pick up two 3.3 and one 1.1 point bonuses. Upon leaving Flagstaff and heading into the setting sun on I-40, my ETA in Ridgecrest was somewhere around 3 in the morning. Not good. I punched a route into the GPS that went directly to Ridgecrest and got the ETA down to around 1:00 am. More doable. It basically came down to the rest bonus. A stop of 4 hours earns 100 points. I stop of 6 hours earns 108 points. I didn't need my CPA to figure out that forgoing 6.6 points was worth 2 more hours of sleep and 8 more points!
I did end up trying to get one of them, but quickly changed my mind when the road was closed shortly after I exited the freeway. After a moment of swearing, I was back headed west into the night.
The wester I went, the hotter it got. ("Hmm, so that's why the call it the Mojave Desert.") By 11:00 it was over 90. Luckily, once I reached Barsow and started heading north, it cooled off a bit. At 1:30 I rolled into Ridgecrest and my hotel for the night. I quickly got my gear secured and sent in my bonus picture to start my rest bonus as 1:46. I think I was one of the last riders to turn in for the night as I got the following message from RenoJohn after I sent in my bonus: "Quite a long day Justin, get rested."
I agreed. Wholeheartedly.
I awoke 30 minutes before my alarm went off and wasn't able to get back to sleep. I ended up just getting up and having a Clif Bar for breakfast, then planning my route for the day. After I got dressed and everything packed up on the GS, I had a decision to make. It was now 7:00am and those of you who can subtract will note this was only 5 hours and 15 minutes since I started my rest bonus. To get full points for the bonus, I wouldn't be able move my bike until 7:46. I decided to wait until 7:16 to leave so I would at least get the points for 5.5 hours of rest. Sitting on my bike for another 17 minutes proved rather annoying and at 7:17, I snapped my picture, uploaded it, and was off to the Maturango Museum to take my two pictures for this leg of the triangle.
Pictures taken, I was on the road for real by about 7:25 and headed north on US-395 towards Lone Pine and my first stop of the day. From there, US-395 took me north to US-6 which would take me into Nevada. 395 wasn't exactly the most exciting road in the world, but the scenery was at least interesting to look at. From Warm Springs I headed to Benton to take a picture of a gas station, and made a mistake that would cause me a bit of stress later in the day.
When I arrived at the station, I had about three quarters of a tank of gas. I didn't need to get gas. You probably see where this is going. Thinking nothing of it, I took the picture and headed out towards my next stop, Mina, NV.
My usual strategy for gas is to start looking for a station is to plan the next stop once I get down to around 100 miles remaining on the tank. This ends up being just over half a tank on my GS. Looking at my GPS, I saw that my next stop in Mina would be just about the right time to get fuel again, and my Garmin 660 showed a gas station right across the street from the bonus location I was heading towards.
I confidently rode north on US-6 to US-95, then into Mina. This was going to work out perfectly I thought. I had about 30 miles of fuel left when I arrived in Mina and the gas station shown on my GPS which now had weeds growing where the pumps used to be.
I have 30 miles of fuel left. According to my GPS, the only fuel within 30 miles is in Hawthorne. Hawthorne is 30 miles west. I need to go east. There were two 3.3 point bonuses on my planned route that I wouldn't have time to get to if I went to Hawthorne for fuel and backtracked to them. Gabbs, NV, where I had intended to go, looked like a big enough to have a gas station was 40 miles away, but given my GPS' pertinacity to LIE I wasn't going to chance running out of fuel. While foregoing the points might make me lose a few spots in the final standings, running out of gas would mean not finishing. It didn't take me long to decide to head to Hawthorne, which the GPS showed had multiple gas stations.
I was however VERY mindful of my fuel as I continued on US-95. I kept my speed around 60 and ended up getting into to Hawthorne with about 10 miles to spare. After getting fuel, I pulled out my laptop and began to regroup and replan my route. I wouldn't have time to get either of the 3.3 point bonuses I'd planned to get, but there were two 1.1 point bonuses along my way. This made things a little more bearable and I headed out to salvage 2.2 points, instead of my planned 6.6.
In Fernley, NV, I resumed my planned route and headed towards Nixon and Pyramid Lake, where I later learned, many years previous my in-laws got their RV stuck in the mud around the lake. The gas station in Nixon only had 87 octane fuel, but at this point, if it was at least mildly flammable, it was going in my tank. I continued up through eastern Nevada to Gerlach for a juicy 7.7 point bonus, then northwest into California. When I came back into cell phone range, I started looking at the scoreboard on my iPad. Holy crap, I was in third place. Matt Watkins and Erik Lipps were duking it out for first, but third place was up for grabs between Tim Hayosh, Nancy Leftcourt and myself. I mentally counted up my remaining points and then looked where Nancy and Tim were in relation to bonuses. I figured I at least had a chance.
As I crossed into southern Oregon, Nancy posted her completion pictures and had finished the rally with just over 1110 points. I had calculated that I would finish with somewhere in the neighborhood of 1113, so I knew I would be no worse than 4th and possibly 3rd depending on what Tim had in mind. He was in Porterville, CA headed towards Ridgecrest for his finish. I figured he would need to get around 3-4 additional points to finish ahead of me - something that was doable looking at the map. It all depended on how much time he had left.
After picking up the last few bonuses I had planned to get, I rolled into Bend about 10:15 where I saw several bikes parked next to the Deschutes Brewery sign. I was greeted my Bill Lynes, Matt Watkins, and Gary Jarl who had all just finished as well. After a few more refreshes of the BMRx scoring page we discovered that Matt and Erik had TIED for first place and I had finished 3rd (albeit well behind them).
We decided to get something to eat and headed towards a local restaurant to get some much needed food. On the way, I got a nice call from RenoJohn congratulating me on my finish. After a nice late dinner I headed back to the Bend Super 8 for the night. When I got to my room, I thought, "Man, this room has a weird smell." Then I realized it wasn't the room that was causing the smell...It was me. I decided a shower was in order before bed.
In the end, it was a really fun rally, and I hope RenoJohn decides to put on a second BMRx. The concept was great, the bonuses were well planned, and the scoring was a breeze. Thanks to John for a wonderful 66.6 hours.