Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Waltz Across Texas Rally

The Story

Damn It! Why do I feel like I'm forgetting something? What is it? Can it wait until I get back? REVEAL YOURSELF!!!! Ahhh To hell with it anyway. I've everything I need - bike, camelback, jerked beef, maps, GPS, radar, clothes, rain gear, tools, spot light, a modicum of attitude, yada, yada, yada. I think I'm missing it somewhere between one yada and another. Besides, I've been planning since about 3 hours ago. That's plenty of time to make a list and check it twice or something like that.

Oh. Howdy. I'm getting ready for my second competitive rally The 2002 Waltz Across Texas Rally. I've plenty of time to get to Fort Worth and get through the odometer check, but my brain, like usual before a big trip, is sensing that it's forgetting something.

That's right! The Polaroid and film! Got it. Let's rock.

The Days Inn is right by the Colonial. Too bad I don't have enough time for a round of golf. Too bad I'm not a member. Too bad I don't even remotely know anyone who's a member or a friend of a member or the member's gardner or... Stop It! They would never accept me anyway. Too good looking.

Perfect timing. I arrive at the Days Inn without causing a stir of any kind. Not too early and not too late. I check in and meet a few folks while in line. I don't know what to expect, but I'm happy that at least the majority of folks have a smile on their face. That's comforting. I figure everyone else is wearing their game face and these are the people I need to watch and learn from.

OK. West on 30 to Cherry something road. Turn around, ride back and stop on the yellow line. Okey-dokey. ... ... Done. No one looks at me like I've taken a wrong turn or gone too far or not far enough. Looks like I took the right Cherry something exit. Cool.

Where's the pizza?

The bed is pretty good for a Days Inn.

Great parking spot for the bike.

Hey there's someone I know. Did I mention that I don't know just about everybody? I see Curt Summers first, but I called him Gary. We got that straightened out quickly. Curt introduced me Matt Lillemo from Minnesota (At least I think it was Matt L from Minnesota). Then I see Mike Gragg. Then Ron McNary and Wally Nichols - two of my fellow Palmetto Ramble riders. Then Ken Clark from North Carolina. And I met my neighbor, Russ. I reckon I know a few people after all.

Where's the pizza?

The TV is a little cheesy, but it does have two redeeming qualities - a remote and The Weather Channel.

The pizza has arrived, plates are full, mouths are full and everyone's anxious to get their hands on the rally books. I'm not too sure what to expect from this rally book thing other than where I need to go and what I need to do when I get there. Goddamn! I hope it's nothing too embarrassing. I've heard some rally masters are real bastards. But apparently, Jack isn't over or under sexed because everything was in order and pretty straightforward. Shouldn't be anything too embarrassing here unless I happen to lose my rally towel and have to take every picture with my massive melon in the picture. I've just one question. Are my arms long enough to get a recognizable part of my noggin in the picture while still being able to identify the location? Please don't make me find out.

I wonder how much sleep I'll get?

OK. Stop screwing around. Let's plot all of locations on a map and figure out where the hell we're going tomorrow. Two mandatory checkpoints in Uvalde and Victoria. Have to get a receipt in each in that order. There's also a bonus location in Uvalde. Don't be a dumbass and forget to pick that one up. OK. That helps. I draw a line from Fort Worth to Uvalde to Victoria to Fort Worth. I pick locations along these lines and go further away from them if the points are high enough.

I'm sleepy and I don't feel like going through an entire route analysis process. Tommy want sleepy. I figure there are 24 hours and plenty of time to figure things out along the way. I write down all the locations I want to visit in the order I want to visit them on a piece of paper and download the waypoints to the GPS. Its 11:30. Done.

I wonder if wake up calls work in this place? "Hello? Yes, may I have a wake up call at 5:15am tomorrow morning? Thanks." Weather looks relatively good for tomorrow and Sunday. Start off with some minor sprinkles in the DFW area and turning hotter than a two-peckered billy goat in the south. I'm ready to sweat. But sleep now.

Huh? Where the hell am I? What's going on outside? Holy sheep dip, my neighbor's locking in his saddlebags, its 5:45 (rackin-frackin-wake-up-call-p-o-s). I hop in the shower for 5 minutes, get dressed, pack up what I'm able to and go to the 6am riders meeting. Some new bonus opportunities, but no new locations like I expected. There is this one bonus opportunity that involves a fat, stinky pussy. Live, dead or stuffed... Please let this be a cat!

I don't have to rework the plan. That's good since there wasn't much of one anyway. Let's get packed and haul ass!!!

It's 7:15 and I'm headed to Weatherford. I figure I'll do my route planning on the fly from one location to the next. The night before I just picked Weatherford as the initial stop. Straight down the list after that. Between the GPS and Texas Gazetteer it shouldn't be an issue. It wasnt. Just a couple of minutes extra at each stop.

The entire day was one stop after another. I saw a lot of other riders at the first few stops, but it started to thin out with each one. Attributable to the differences in our routes. That's cool. I'm glad I'm not thinking like everyone else. But that only means I'm either ahead of or behind the curve.

The hill country of Texas is a dream to ride through. There are a lot of bikes on the roads, but they're easily passed and waved at. Just a few cops that the trusty V1 catches without any hiccups or flashing lights. A few deer playing dead along highway 16 north of Fredericksburg. No problem there.

The bonus stops are just flying by one after the other. I see a sign that indicates I'm close to San Angelo and Abilene. Jesus Christ!! I'm going too far west and not enough south. I screwed the pooch on this one. I'll never make it!

No problemo. I added the stop in Llano to the list because I was too close to ignore it. Plus, the smell of Cooper's BBQ would permeate the nostrils for a while after that. It was worth the time for sure. I almost stopped for lunch, but I had plenty of jerked beef. Close enough in a competition.

That two-peckered billy goat must be constantly pitching a tent because it's hotter than hell and I'm sweating my ass off. But I'm staying well-hydrated and the heat doesn't take its toll as it's done in the past when I was a little less prepared.

I took an extra 10 minutes in Uvalde to perform a head check. Looks like I'm doing OK. Just keep riding the route, get to Victoria around midnight and everything will be cool.

Next stop Panna Maria.

Where the hell is 791 off of I-37??!?!?!?!?!? Son-of-a... I stop and look at the map. It's right here! But where am I? This must be a sign. Skip Panna Maria (I heard she's a real bitch anyway).

Next stop Goliad. Swift justice and the hanging tree!! My kind of town. I wonder how the technology industry is here?

I really didn't know how long it would take to get back to Fort Worth. I hit Victoria around midnight, fill up with gas and take a good look at the map to determine the best route. I felt like I should forgo the bonus locations south of Austin unless they were on highway 183. I would try and pick some up north of Austin depending on the clock.

I stopped at Black's BBQ in Lockhart. That was an easy one. The signage will take you straight to the front door. It's funny. Even at 2 or 3am the entire block smells like some damn good BBQ. After being a jerked beef and granola bar kind of guy the entire day, I had thoughts of ramming through the door and throwin' down a slab or two of ribs. With my luck, I'd be tried in Goliad and hanged. I decide to ride on.

I'm in Austin. It's around 3am. My sister lives no more than 3 miles from here. I know she's still up. But I must move forward. Sorry, Shari.

I've time for two more locations and a stop by the store for some fat, stinky pussy food. So I pay my respects to Ernest Tubbs and the children at the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital, stop by the store and I'm pulling back into the Days Inn parking lot around 6:45am. Not too shabby.

I got all of the pictures in order and checked over the gas log. Cool. Everything looks to be in order. Let's giddyup over to the scorer's table. Not many comments from the scorers. I heard, "wow, you visited a lot of places." I could only muster, "Yep. I rode my ass off yesterday." I'm not sure how well I did. And I figured there was no sense in worrying about it until the banquet. First things first. Go home and take a shower cuz I know I'm getting a little ripe!!

I'm home. The couch is lookin downright comfortable and inviting. Who am I to deny it the pleasure of comforting me? It's imperative that I lay down.

Huh? Where the hell am I? What time is it? Son-of-a... it's 11:30! I hop in the shower, get dressed in something and am headed to the banquet. Get there around 12:30 and all of the meat is gone. I'm thinking, "Goddamn! Didn't you guys eat yesterday?!?!" I've just confirmed the old adage, "you snooze, you lose." That's cool. There's more food on the way and plenty of tea. Besides, Jack is starting to announce all of the winners.

I don't know how well I did. I just don't want to suck. I rode a good ride and hoped that it would garner a spot somewhere between 1st and 15th. Jack says he's only announcing the top ten. Well, there it goes. I may as well wait for the result sheet after the banquet. Number 10, 9, 8, 7, 6... oh come on already! Number 5 is Jason uh Jonas. Well I'll be damned. The ol' boy did alright. Good job, buckwheat. I couldn't believe it myself.

A nice little plaque for a wall I'll never find, a certificate for a frame I'll never buy and a picture from Mark Johnson that is sure to embarrass me for years to come.

I can't express enough thanks to Jack and everyone involved in the Waltz. With your help, patience and guidance, I had a fantastic time and look forward to dancing again next year. Thanks for the memories.

The Route

Here's the route I rode and the stops I made:

click to enlarge
Stops

Weatherford
Acton
Glen Rose
Kopperl
Norse
Pottsville
Democrat
Santa Anna
Mozzelle
Brady
Llano
Fredericksburg
Comfort
Bandera
Medina
Vanderpool
Uvalde
Bigfoot
Poteet
Goliad
Victoria
Lockhart
Crisp
Dallas

The Lessons

One of the things I like about all of this is that I've a lot to learn. Every venture out on the road always provides a lot of feedback. I'm not sure if I'll learn anything from it, but there's hope.

These are things I learned:

  1. Detailed route planning is not mandatory. Given the amount of time you have, I wouldn't even recommend it. Plot the locations on a map, determine the mandatory check points and go from there.
  2. A good night's rest is more important than staying up all night planning. Staying up for 24 hours isn't an issue, but beyond that, the barriers come one after another. I went through one sleep barrier around 1am north of Victoria. Nothing major at all.
  3. The heat can be your friend if you are your friend first. If you don't have a hydration system, get one. Being able to hydrate yourself while on the road is imperative. I keep a camelback in the tank bag along with jerked beef...
  4. Just like a gas-up procedure, you must develop and adhere to a bonus location procedure. I kept the camera and rally towel in the tank bag. Dismount the bike, get the towel and camera, verify the location, place the towel, take the pic, store the towel and camera, log the stop, verify the pic, store the pic, figure out where I'm headed next and haul ass.
  5. I kept all the logs and other important stuff in the trunk top. Easy to get to without things falling out, stable platform for writing...
  6. Bring a spotlight or some other high-powered light. This was the saving grace early in the morning while trying to locate the Ernest Tubbs memorial and provided adequate light for the picture too.
  7. Number your receipts. Number your pictures. Keep your logs up to date while you ride. It's all part of maintaining a process and reduces errors. This will make it easier at scorer's table.
  8. Don't trust a wake-up call. It's your bacon. You do the fryin'.
  9. Keep your pace, procedures and processes deliberate and methodical. This reduces stress and will help maintain an even keel throughout the rally.
  10. Push your limitations while respecting them. Listen to your body and do what it says without being a wuss. :)

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