Day 6: Escape from New York!
New York cont.: Before I get into Leg 2, I should say a couple of things about the scoring process at the end of Leg 1. The scorers (from what I could tell) were all IBR veterans. I was very impressed with how much they knew about the route. I guess riding in the IBR one or more times teaches you a lot about roads! I don’t remember the name of the guy who scored me, but he was very, very smart. He checked my photos against lots of examples (and verified that the photo resolution was correct on each one), he carefully studied each receipt, and then he poured over my passport book. Everything went into a shreadsheet and I was required to sign off on my provisional score. I can’t imagine a more thorough and fair system. These guys really know what they’re doing.
I was happy with how my scoring came out. I didn’t leave any points at the table and there were no surprises. Whew! After being scored I ate something and went to bed.
At 4:00am we had a rider’s meeting and received the list of capital bonuses for the next leg of the rally. I was in 46th place after Leg 1 – right where I wanted to be. I knew that this was likely to fall because some of the riders had skipped capitals to do the four corners, which they wouldn’t get credit for until the end of the rally.
Heading out of New York at 4:30am it was wet. Not a really heavy rain, but there was a lot of water on the road. One rider (John Coons) who had won the IB5000 last year apparently hydroplaned coming out of Buffalo a few minutes behind me, which ended his rally. Later, I heard that another rider from a different rally died in a crash along this road. Both riders who went down were VERY experienced, well rested, and smart. The organizers decided not to tell us about these incidents until the Florida checkpoint so that we wouldn’t dwell on them during our ride. There was still a lot of gossip about it whenever I ran into riders at various gas stations, rest stops, or bonus locations.
After riding for a while, I finally reached eastern New York. I decided to grab the capital Albany, which wasn’t worth many points, but it was right on the route and there was almost no traffic this early in the day. Maybe it was the fact that there was a TV crew in front of the capital, or perhaps it was because the capital is located on a hill, but I nearly dumped my bike TWICE stopping to get the capital building photo. I was a little shaken when I finally pulled out of there. It’s amazing how much your confidence ebbs and flows during a rally. No amount of telling yourself to be calm, or that everyone has such highs and lows, can help.
Vermont: Riding into Vermont, the road was a little twisty and more rural (I think I took route 9 from Albany and then hit Route 7 in Vermont). It was a little foggy with a light rain, but it was still a fun ride. Still, the going was slow, with lots of small towns and RVs to contend with. I remember being worried that I would pass through Vermont without a receipt, so I stopped at the first gas station I passed. It was TINY. I figured the receipt would be bad because the pumps looked about 40 years old, but it turned out fine. Of course I passed about 20 gas stations rightwards.
New Hampshire: Entering New Hampshire, I stayed on Route 9. At some point I stopped at Wendy’s and justified it as a way of getting a receipt (in case my planned visit to the capital didn’t work out). In the back of my mind, I KNEW that Wendy’s never has good receipts (they don’t list all of the required information), but I guess I really needed a break. It’s also worth mention that New Hampshire was the most heavily police-patrolled state I’d been in. The cops were hiding around every corner and at the entrance to every small town. The state motto might be “Live Free or Die” but it was more like “Live Free, but We’re Watching You!”
Heading into Concord, NH the weather finally started to improve. It was now a hazy, sunny day. As I pulled up in front of the capital building there were other rally riders there and a group of locals. The locals had been following the rally and they offered to help with anything we needed. I was tempted to ask for directions, but figured this would count as outside assistance (grounds for disqualification), so I just smiled at them. As I was backing out to get back on the road, a local yelled out that I could avoid the traffic by pulling up over the large sidewalk (more of a pedestrian mall) and riding over to the side street. This made sense to me (there was no one else but riders around), so I pulled up and started to ride over……and then a cop came around the corner, saw me, and flashed his lights. I had no choice but to pull out right in front of him, which didn’t seem to make him any happier. I knew what was coming, so I immediately pulled over, and took off my helmet. Hmmmm…..this might not go well…..
Well it turns out the cop was a nice guy. He asked me if the other bikes were with me and I replied “sort of….we’re riding to the same places, but not always together.” Then, seeing them start to pull away, he asked me if they were going to wait for me. Not really thinking clearly, I replied, “not really. They’re like that.” I think he felt bad for me because he immediately told me he would just check my ID for outstanding warrants and let me go on my way! After a few minutes, he returned and we chatted about the capital building for a few minutes. I then exited the long way through town and took the short ride to Maine.
Maine: I lived in Maine from 2000-2001, so in a way I was heading into familiar territory. The capital Augusta is also familiar to me, so it took a LOT of self-discipline NOT to ride there and collect the heap of bonus points that were offered on this leg. Knowing I had to ride through Boston near New York, and having been slowed down in Vermont and New Hampshire, I just didn’t want to chance it. The weather was also crappier to the north, so that made the decision easier. Instead, I stopped in Kittery, Maine and got a receipt at an Irving Oil gas station (a privately-owned Canadian chain). I managed to get turned around somehow and wasted 20 minutes getting back onto I-95 heading south.
Massachusetts: Not much to report here. As usual, the Garmin voice (set up for the Australian accent) calmly told me to head directly for DOWNTOWN BOSTON. I think not! Instead, I routed myself around an outer ring road and steered west. A few toll plazas later I was past the worst of it. Boston would have been nice for the points, but there was just too much chance to losing two hours in traffic.
Rhode Island: I was pretty worried about missing this state, and looking at a map I had decided against going into Providence. However, after gassing up the traffic didn’t seem bad, so I had a change of heart and decided to bag the capital. I ran into two other riders at the site and easily got my photo.
Connecticut: I honestly don’t remember much about this part of the ride other than it was getting hot, and traffic on the Interstate was heavy and FAST. I know I stopped in Mystic to get a receipt because I remember staring at the receipt and thinking that it was a great name for a town. Traffic was god-awful at this point and rather than get back on the Interstate I killed 20 minutes chatting with a guy who showed an interest in my bike. He is a painter, but assured me that all of the paint on his hands was dry when he reached out to shake my hand. Upon learning I was riding through the lower 48 states, he started taking pictures of my bike and he phoned someone to let them know. He was clearly excited and, like a LOT of people I ran into, seemed mixed with awe and disbelief. It was fun to chat with him.
New Jersey (passing through NY again): Passing back into New York state, traffic got even crazier. How do people live like this!? It’s traffic H-E-L-L. There was a LOT of industry around, and at one point I witnessed a BAD accident on the other side of the highway. I just hoped that my side would keep moving, and other than miles and miles of badly grooved pavement, everything kept flowing. At one point I passed by a rider named Brian riding his Suzuki SV650. Brian was both the youngest rider (at 24 I think) in the rally and one of the quietest riders I had met in Seattle. His perpetual smile made him someone really fun to be around, and his sense of optimism seemed endless. Brian also has the distinction of having hit a BEAR in the IB5000 rally last year, and he has the blue tape holding his fairing together to prove it. His bike’s subframe also seems to have a slight twist to it, which makes is obvious that’s it’s him you’re following. We took turns passing each other for a while and eventually he dropped back out of sight (we were going just over the limit, but were absolutely mowed over by faster-moving vehicles). I had planned a LONG ride to the west and through the middle of New Jersey in order to avoid the heavy traffic around New York City. I don’t what which way Brian and the others went, but I wouldn’t see another rider until the following morning. I’m sure I gave up some time doing this, but I figured it was better to be moving than to risk hours and hours waiting in traffic. Having an air/oil cooled bike means that you can’t spend more than 10 minutes stuck in traffic without shutting down, or bad things can happen. It’s always in the back of my head when I’m sitting in traffic. If there’s an up-side it’s that I rarely hesitate to maneuver around stopped cars – thinking that I have a good excuse if I ever get pulled over for it.
At dusk, I caught a look at New York City off on the left (at least I think it was New York). It was fantastic. Very cool feeling. I then crossed an ENORMOUS bridge and within a few minutes I was in New Jersey (I might have already been in New Jersey….I don’t quite remember). Not too long after that I stopped for gas and started thinking about a hotel. With so many people, I figured that hotels might fill up fast. I was ready to stop anyway and I felt good about my ride. I had ridden the plan and it was still working.
I ended my night at a nearby Holiday Inn Express. Compared with the $25 fleabag motels I had been staying at on Leg 1, this place was paradise. The only problem was the three flights of stairs between my room and the parking lot. I got the last room, so I didn’t complain. Before heading to bed I decided to spend a few minutes re-routing. I was feeling a bit cocky having conquered the traffic and reaching the mid-point of the rally so I decided to add back in some juicy capital bonuses in West Virginia and Georgia (Atlanta). Heh heh, maybe I could break the top 25! Things were going well and I was definitely staying a little ahead of schedule. I drifted off to sleep dreaming of a high-place finish!
Day 7 (New Jersey cont....): SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT …… x1,000,000. I woke up on Day 7 having overslept by over TWO HOURS. The sun was already coming up and I had someone overslept my alarm. Usually I set two and get a wake-up call, but having never overslept in my ENTIRE LIFE, I figured one was plenty. It figures that the one time I set only one it didn’t go off. After jumping around the room for about a minute, I FORCED myself to sit down and re-plan for five minutes. My dreams of adding extra bonuses in West Virginia and Atlanta were now GONE (I was soooo pissed about that), and I fought to reconstruct my original route. A quick calculation showed that I could still ride the original plan, but no more. ARGH!
Down in the parking lot, things were taking FOREVER. My bike had some trouble starting, everything was covered in dew, and when I flipped on my bike the fog light and 2nd GPS were dead. Lovely. Now I’m late AND battle electrical demons again.
New Jersey cont.: Despite cursing myself out 100 more times, I fought hard to push down my self-loathing about sleeping in. I went through pretty much all of the stages of grief – ending up with a rationalization that I must have needed the extra sleep and that I would benefit from it later. Yeah, right. I forced a smile and rode carefully in the morning fog. At least traffic was light.
I must have passed 30 deer that morning in New Jersey. They were EVERYWHERE.
Delaware: My memory is pretty fuzzy here and I wasn’t long in Delaware. The highlight was passing John Young on his Triumph just as I hit a toll booth. MY GOD. That guy is STILL was the rally! He looked absolutely terrible (soot all over his face and he was slumped over the controls), but he was STILL GOING. When I rode by I let out a huge whoop and I nearly scared him off the road. I felt bad, but I couldn’t help myself. Apparently he had been up all night repairing his bike. Every time I saw John it gave me the biggest lift. If he could come all the way from England on a hopeless bike and manage it – I could surely do it on a fully-equipped riding lounge chair! I was pulling so hard for John to finish that it hurt. What if….what if….naw he probably didn’t have a chance.
Maryland: I didn’t see much of Maryland. Going around Baltimore proved easier than I thought it would, and I stopped near Frederick for gas. I remember eating a six pack of cinnamon buns and taking off a couple of layers as the sun really started to beat down. I felt like I was getting back on track at least. There's nothing like a couple of hundred miles to calm me down.
West Virginia: Not much to report here either. I probably crossed somewhere near Harper’s Ferry (I was there in November to visit a friend and it looked familiar) I got gas and kept riding to Virginia. I do remember hearing very distinct accents at the gas station and having to make a tough left to get back on the road.
Virginia: I-81. More I-81. Still more I-81. I spent most of the day riding down this piece of godforsaken interstate. The wind picked up and it was pretty awful the whole time. I also noticed a pile of storms creeping toward me on the radar. Most of the afternoon was spent worrying about when the storms would hit and how bad they would be. I ended up very lucky because I managed to slide between several bad ones, and never even got wet. Back in West Virginia things looked really BAD on the radar. I consoled myself with the fact that my original plan would have had me battling extreme weather all day, and I think I might have ended up bailing out short in any case. As fate would have it, oversleeping had put me right in the best window to avoid the weather. It turns out that at least one rider dropped out of the rally because of the storms to the northwest, and another rider to my south ended up in bad storm that nearly knocked her bike out of the rally. The highlight of the day was running into an ADVrider "inmate" on a 650GS. We chatted for a while. He was heading home from a meet-up, and he knew all about the IBR. Nice guy.
Kentucky: I had been reminded at Checkpoint #1 that I had not done Kentucky yet (the recommended ride route had Kentucky on Leg 1). No worries I told my scorer – I would be grabbing it on Leg 2. The scorers looked worried, which made me worried. Had I made a terrible blunder?
Nope! The ride from Virginia up to touch Kentucky was AWESOME! Just as I turned off I-81, both Dan (oil change guy from Checkpoint 1) and my dad phoned, which really lifted my spirits. The road to Kentucky was also twisty/sweeper madness, and I laughed like mad as I tore through the valleys. SWEET! It was even better than the map had shown, and I could feel my energy level going back up again. As I hit Kentucky, I looked madly around for a town, and found only a little village at the foot of a HUGE mountain. I raced into the gas station, grabbed three bottles of water, and got a receipt for some snacks (I don’t think I got gas – I honestly don’t remember at this point). The accents were total Kentucky, which made me laugh out loud. Oops! I offended the locals. No matter, they were staring pretty hard at me in my spacesuit. When I asked “am I in Kentucky?” and found out I was, I jumped up and down pumping my first. Everyone stopped and just stared. Yup. I’m a freak.
Tennessee: The good roads continued into Tennessee. When I reached the border and got gas, I decided to phone ahead for another hotel. I had a little trouble with my phone, and some locals kept asking questions, which slowed me down a LOT. Finally, after 25 minutes of messing around outside of a gas station, I was free.
I ended the ride for the day at dusk. The sky was still clear and I had bagged another room at a Holiday Inn Express. Top floor of course. I dined on food from a nearby gas station and rapidly drifted off to sleep. Tomorrow I would reach Florida, and checkpoint #2!
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