2004 UTAH 1088

By John Parker

2004 UTAH 1088


Thursday June 24, 2004: At 0530 I boarded my wife Becci’s 1994 Honda ST1100A “Blue Thunder” and left work from Fire Station 80 at LAX for Salt Lake City, Utah and the start of the 13th annual Utah 1088.  This would be my third year participating in this world renowned event, and I was looking forward to it with great anticipation.  Along with the anticipation was a healthy dose of anxiety.  After two starts and two finishes (not easy feats in themselves), the best finish I was able to muster was 31st place.  In 2002 I did one of the alternate routes because I wanted to try a BBG 1500 (1500 miles in less than 24 hours) because I had never documented one before.  So, 1564 miles and 23 hours later, I had visited Cheyenne, WY, Denver, CO, Santa Fe, NM, and Durango, CO.  I collected a few bonuses, but the BBG 1500 was my key goal, and I garnered a 33rd place finish.  Last year, in 2003, I had several BBG 1500’s and a 50 CC Gold (L.A. to NYC in 49 hours) under my belt, so I decided to ride the “main route.”  Unfortunately, I made a rookie mistake, and tried for a “sucker bonus” at the Mountain Man Museum in Pinedale, WY early in the ride and missed the second checkpoint and a bunch of bonuses between there and Checkpoint #3 in Cedar City, UT.  Though I had a great ride through some excellent scenery, I finished a middle of the pack 31st place.  This year, I decided to try the main route again, but hopefully learning something from my past 1088 experiences, I would finish higher in the ranks.


I arrived in Saltlake (as the locals refer to Salt Lake City) in the early afternoon and checked into my room at the Holiday Inn (Rally HQ). It was a balmy 72° with blue skies and puffy white clouds as I rode to the Rallymaster’s house for the traditional Pre-rally BBQ.  Steve and Jeniel Chalmers have always put on an excellent BBQ, and this year was no exception.  The dessert was absolutely worth the 800 mile ride by itself!  The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent renewing old acquaintances and kicking tires. 


The next day Friday, was a leisurely process of tech inspection/ODO check (with the usual few who completely rebuilt their rides).   I kept having the feeling I was forgetting to do something, as I usually have something to buy or fix before a rally.  One unlucky participant reported that he had lost his wallet, along with his credit cards and cash.  I could personally relate with this poor sot’s plight as I had lost my wallet on both of my previous 1088’s.  Steve Chalmers showed his compassionate side by loaning the unfortunate one some cash to be able to finish his ride.  Steve offered me the same kind consideration in my prior calamities.  Don’t let this get out or it will ruin his well cultivated crustaceous demeanor.  Promptly at 1900 hours, as Steve HATES tardiness, the rider meeting began outside in the breezy Utah evening.  The Rallymaster quickly established his supreme authority for anyone who might be impetuous enough to challenge him.  A certain renowned rallyist was conspicuously absent from this year’s event, and things went pretty smoothly for the Crusty Curmudgeon.  Only a few of the more vociferous were made to hold onto the “Rock of Dumbness” to signify their propensity to bloviate and obtusivate.  Steve, the thoughtful soul that he is, gave everyone something to dream about by announcing the alternate routes.  You could see the wheels turning in their heads as several in the crowd seemed more than mildly interested. “ Big Dog”, Warchild was especially deep in thought.  It was to be a long night for some of us….


Saturday June 26, 2004:  At 0600 all riders attended the mandatory rider meeting and received their rally packs.  When I got my pack, I returned to my room where I had previously set up my computer and paper maps to plan this year’s route.  We had approximately 45 minutes to read the 23 pages of route instructions and bonus locations, decide on the best route, then map out (or load the route into my GPS as I did) the route and bonuses we thought possible/desirable.  This year I had previously decided to stick to the main route and collect bonuses along the route based on conditions and circumstances during the ride.  I loaded the main route and a few big bonuses into the GPS and set off on the ride at exactly 0700.  There were several bonuses near the start, but I decided to forgo them until Sunday when I figured I could pick them up on my way back to the finish line if I had time (I know..that didn’t work last year either….but, maybe this year would be different).  So, I rode East on I-80 to US-40 while keeping a scan out for a Highway Patrolman.  Er…actually this was a 2121 point bonus that needed to be collected BEFORE Check Point #1.  I settled into a nice easy pace and enjoyed the scenery.  Along USH-248 I counted “Deer Cross Walks” for 317 points, and in Tabiona, UT on USH-35 I circled the Sage Brush Café several times looking for an old fireplace for 534 points.  BTW, USH-35 is one beautiful motorcycle road between Woodland, UT and Tabiona as it traverses lush green valleys and pine forests in a continuous series of sweepers.  Finally, descending USH-208 in a beeline through the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation to connect with US-40 a few miles west of Starvation Reservoir, the route turned onto US-191.  After many miles riding from canyon to canyon reading information signs for clues and counting the number of bolts holding a mile marker sign to its post, I realized that Checkpoint #1 was drawing near and I still hadn’t gotten my “State Trooper” Bonus.  I was within 10 miles of the checkpoint and an hour early.  I was looking at my rally instructions and verifying with my GPS that I could collect “The Biggie of the Rally” bonus by going past the checkpoint, then backtracking before it closed, when the V-1 screamed its Ka Radar band alert through the Autocom into my Etymotics in-ear speakers  BruuuuupBruuuuuuupBruuuuuuuuuuuup!!!  A quick check of my speedo revealed I was well below the posted speed limit.  I watched as the white sedan with beehive on the door USHP car passed in the opposite direction and pulled off onto the right shoulder ½ mile behind me.  Normally, I would count my blessings and give a quick thank you to Mr. Valentine, but not this time.  I had a mission to complete.  So, once out of sight of the trooper, I snapped a quick U-turn.  I rolled up on him a few minutes later, flipped up my Schuberth chinbar, and in my most non-threatening voice stated that I was on a “charity ride for crippled children and needed his photo for our scavenger hunt.”  Amazingly, he put on his “mountie” hat and smiled while I captured his image with my trusty Polaroid.  While I was waiting for the image to develop, he told me that I was the 4th person who had asked for his picture this morning.  As the image appeared on the 600’s paper, and I saw that it was good and my 2121 point bonus was secure, he told me that the Nine Mile Canyon Road was good all of the way to the end, and the other 3 riders were going that way.  I thanked him and continued on toward the Checkpoint in Price, UT.  Nine Mile Canyon was the “Biggie of the Rally” bonus I was checking out before the “Trooper” bonus stop, so I continued past the checkpoint with still about 45 minutes before it opened.  This would be a good chance to get 6161 points and get a bit ahead of schedule.    I traveled the 40 miles (16+ of it gravel) to get the bonus photo and headed back to the checkpoint.  On my way in on the gravel road I passed the 3 other riders that the trooper told me about, on their way out.  I made it into the checkpoint 40 minutes after it opened, and handed Steve Chalmers my paperwork for verification of the trooper bonus and the checkpoint. It was 1140, and a quick look at the bonuses listed after the checkpoint revealed two bonuses off route that I thought possible with the time I had before the next checkpoint closed at 1715.


As I headed south on USH-10, I calculated the possibilities for bonus points in my head.  There were 1004 easy points along USH-10 that I collected on my way to I-70.  I knew from previous trips through this part of Utah that I could collect the 1888 point bonus in Capitol Reef National Park and possibly the 1717 points at Hanksville, UT if I took a short-cut I knew of via USH-72 to USH-24.  There were two other off route bonuses in the area (Natural Bridges National Park and Arches National Monument) that were worth over 10,000 points combined, but after some en-route calculations, I determined that I would be late for the next checkpoint if I tried for either one, let alone both.  This turned out to be a good decision as I ascended USH-72 into the Fishlake National Forest and passed beneath the summit of 11,600’ Mt. Marvine.   The clouds ahead bode an evil attitude, as streaks of lightning from the jet black clouds danced around the road ahead.  The road itself was as twisty as the lighting, and sure would have been a joy on a motorcycle if it weren’t for the rain, hail, and fresh Utah Tar Snakes that striped the tarmac.  After about 50 minutes of solemn prayer, I was through the worst of the weather and riding east on USH-24 toward Capitol Reef National Park and Hanksville, UT.  Traffic was heavier than I remembered it from previous trips, and by the time I got to Torrey, UT and passed the Diablo Inn (famous for their Rattlesnake appetizers), I resigned myself to the fact that the Hanksville bonus might be beyond my reach.  In about another ½ hour of traffic, I was at the Hickman Natural Bridge trailhead in Capitol Reef National Park.  This bonus required a hike up hill for about ½ mile, but the 5320’ elevation and full riding gear made for about a 40 minute stop.  I saw one other single rider and a couple (the woman pillion took the hike) collecting this bonus.  Interestingly, I never passed another rallyist on USH-24 that day.  Maybe they all returned to I-70 to avoid the traffic.  Back at my bike I recorded the bonus with my odometer reading and time and filed the photo evidence in my tankbag.  I then quickly calculated that the 50 mile round trip to the Hanksville bonus would put me in jeopardy of missing the #2 checkpoint.  It was 1430 and the checkpoint closed at 1715.  I didn’t want to miss this checkpoint (I missed #2 last year, and it threw off the rest of the rally for me), as it would severely restrict my options for the second half of the rally.  I wanted to have the option of “blowing off” the 3rd checkpoint if the opportunity of a big off-course bonus presented itself.


On the ride back west on USH-24 I hit “frog strangler” downpours and hail, and even a friendly but tenuous little encounter with one of Utah’s finest.  Eventually, he sent me on my way with a warning.  I believe he felt sorry for me, as, by then, I looked like a wet puppy that had been left outside all night.  Once on my way again, and while negotiating the traffic and mother nature’s wrath, I checked the time left to the next checkpoint and was floored by the computer readout of nearly 200 miles to go.  This didn’t seem right.  It looked like I would have a “hard time” doing this distance in the 2 hr 15 min I had ‘til the checkpoint closed.  I was demoralized.  This was terrible.  All of the great strategy I had planned was out the window!  I rode with this notion in my mind for about 45 minutes until I recalled from reading the route instructions the night before, that one of the checkpoints was in Delta, UT.  Now, I knew that Delta wasn’t 200 miles away.  Further scrutiny of the GPS route revealed that in the rush to load the route that morning, I had somehow transposed checkpoint #2 with #3 which was way up on I-80 and USH-36.  I quickly did a “go to” for Delta, UT.  It came up only 80 miles away!  Yippee!!!  Now, I knew that 80 miles in 2 hr and 15 min was no problem, and I could even pickup the remaining 2 on route bonuses of this leg on the way.  My attitude was instantly lifted.  Nothing like going from the emotional equivalent of the bottom of a deep dark hole to the elation I was feeling then.


I cruised into the Delta, UT checkpoint with 45 minutes to spare and checked in with Dave McQueeney at the park.  Since I was back on schedule at the halfway point of the rally, I decided to take a few minutes and look over the rest of the bonuses and route for any possible “rally winning” off route variants.  After a few minutes, I found what I thought looked like a winning combination (at least a top ten).  If I blew off the 3rd check, I could collect the “Obligatory Las Vegas Keno Ticket” in Primm, NV for 5879 points.  Then, with a couple of big bonuses on the way back to the finish, I would have a great chance to score well.   I quickly added up the points possible on the main route, and they were considerably less unless a 300 mile side trip was accomplished.  It was 1700 by the time I munched a bit of turkey jerky and trail mix and was on my bike headed south toward the first bonus of this leg at Milford, UT.  I had 16 hours until the finish line closed in SLC and about 1000 miles to go.  Very doable, but it would take an earnest commitment on my part.  I’d done this kind of ride before and knew what to expect.  I’d ridden these roads many times under many varied conditions.  It would be a long, mostly boring, run down the Interstate and back again.  But, with the several large bonuses along the way and a chance to complete a BBG 1500, it would be worth it.


After collecting a 3802 point bonus in Milford, UT, I continued on to USH-130, and off the main route, on my way to Primm, NV.  Along the side route I had chosen there were 2 bonuses equaling about 7800 points between them.  Since I was coming back this way later on my run back to the finish line, I decided to defer these bonuses ‘til then.  The bonus in Primm required that the Keno ticket had to be purchased on Saturday the 26th.  I knew from past experience, that Primm, NV was about 4½ hours from Delta.  That would leave me 2½ hours of cushion at the other end.  I didn’t want to make a 10 hour detour only to be time barred from scoring it.  My next stop would be the gas station in Primm, NV. 


By 2130 I had my Keno ticket with the numbers 20, 04, 10, 80, and 8 on it, and it was still June 26, 2004.  Mission accomplished!  Now all I had was a long “super slab” ride to the finish.  I had 660 miles to do and 11 ½ hours in which to do it.  It was still very doable, with just boredom to overcome.  But, hey!  That’s what LD riding is all about…at times. 


At a little before midnight, I turned off the I-15 and headed toward Hurricane, UT.  Then it was onto USH-59 to Colorado City, AZ (“This town… can best described as having some unusual marriage practices.”) for a photo worth 5892 points. On my mind was a warning in the instructions not to dwell too long as “These folks don’t play well with outsiders.”  I got my photo and got out of there quick!  It was Sunday June 27, 2004 at 0030.  I rejoined the I-15 at Toquerville, UT and made the short but chilly ride through the hills to Cedar City, UT.  By the time I arrived in Cedar City, I was cold and starting to feel the effects of the early hour and the long day before.  I purchased a six pack of LD Rider “Kool-Aid” (Red Bull) and downed two in quick succession.  After some calisthenics and the donning of my Gerbing’s electrics, I was on my way to Cedar Breaks National Monument for 1709 points.  The clerk (a high school kid) at the AM/PM said it was about a 40 minute trip.  At 0215 I had my photo of the entrance sign and started back down the twisty forest road.  It was 29 degrees F. according to my Radio Shack thermometer.  I knew there were a lot of deer along this road, as I had seen a number on the way up, and was riding VERY slowly and cautiously on the way down.  At one point I spotted several deer crossing the road ahead of me and slowed to nearly a crawl.  Just then I sensed some movement in the corner of my peripheral vision, and I glanced to my right and was staring face to face at a large 4X4 buck Mule Deer standing next to the road less than 3 feet away!  Whew!!!  Now, that REALLY woke me up!  For the rest of the ride back to Cedar City I had no problem staying alert.


Things were very dark and quiet in Cedar City as I passed through there around 0330.  It reminded me of my hometown of Grants Pass, Oregon.  You could fire cannon down Main Street at that time of the morning and not hit a soul.  This was quite a contrast to the Las Vegas I passed through only a few hours before.  The rest of the ride up I-15 was very uneventful.  My only test occurred while trying to down 2 more Red Bulls while riding.  This is quite a trick on a motorcycle, even with the flip-up chinbar on my Schuberth Concept helmet.  The beverage is in a very small can that must be consumed behind the windscreen, or the wind blast will blow the contents of the can (very sticky, with a taste that I imagine is like carbonated cow pi$$, though I’ve certainly never tasted the cow stuff) all over one’s face and coat the inside of the faceshield to boot.  A straw would certainly help, but was not something that is easily dealt with under the above conditions either, especially with heavy gloves on.  I’ve been having thoughts of a 3 liter Camelback filled with the stuff, but I am put off by the $2.50 price for each 8.3 oz. can.


As I motored on North on I-15 through Beaver, Fillmore, and Nephi, UT my mind played back memories of the many times I have been up and down this same route in past years.  There is something very different about this road at this time of night toward the end of a rally such as the 1088.  It is the combination of lack of traffic, chill of the night air, and familiarity.  It lends itself well to contemplation.  The miles roll by almost effortlessly.  Even though fatigue is always a factor for me during a 24+ hour rally, especially during these hours just before dawn, I am able to cope with it well along this stretch of highway.  I made several stops to refresh myself and maintain my mental alertness.  Though my body was bushed, my mind stayed alert.  Around 0430 I saw the first telltale signs of the approaching dawn.  Gradually, the inky darkness gave way to the Sun’s warming glow in the east.  By 0600 the sunlight hadn’t touched the road’s surface due to the looming presence of the Wasatch Mountains, but the surrounding landscape was illuminated well enough that the PIAA 910’s weren’t needed any longer.  The air was still crisp, so I kept the Gerbing’s gear on just high enough with the Heat-Troler for comfort.


As I watched the surrounding area of Provo, UT wake up this Sunday morning, I contemplated my coming actions.  Now that light had replaced the darkness that I had been riding in for the last 10 hours, sleepiness was no longer a problem for me, and I planned for my “end game.”  Saturday afternoon, when I decided on the “Obligatory Keno Ticket” variation to my Main Route ride, I reasoned that I could pick up the previously skipped two large bonuses near Salt Lake City in the morning and still have time to make the 0900 cutoff at the finish line.  One was worth 1943 points.  It was on Antelope Island, about 60 miles north of the finish line.  The instructions stated that the bonus was available at 0700.  At my current pace, I would arrive at about 0630.  PERFECT!  I cruised along the deserted Interstate through Salt Lake City toward my turnoff near Layton, UT.


I approached the entrance to the Island on USH-127 at 0625 and was amazed to see approximately 30 other riders parked in front of the locked gate.  It is somewhat of a shock just to see other rallyists at all between the start and finish of one of these events, but this large of a contingency was quite unusual.  I’m sure that the Rallymaster , Steve Chalmers, was chuckling over his Eggs Benedict that morning, as I’m positive that he planned it that way.  I pulled into line and switched off “Blue Thunder’s” ignition and joined the nervous throng at the gate.  There were lots of good stories being told amongst the crowd, and it was apparent that everyone, though tired as hell, were having a blast.  At 0700 sharp an official SUV pulled up to the gate and unlocked it.  For several minutes total pandemonium swept over the mob as several riders blocked the entrance while trying to grasp the park entry requirements with their “burnt meat on a stick” rally ravaged brains.  I already had my $4 out and ready, so I paid up and made my way with the lead pack to the bonus location.  The access road to the island was a 5 mile long two-laner built up on a levee with the Great Salt Lake on both sides.  The lead pack made good time on this otherwise deserted road.  After getting the obligatory Polaroid of the Painted Buffalo Statue, I punched the coordinates into the GPS for a second bonus that was also on Antelope Island.  This bonus was worth a whopping 3333 points, and was obviously overlooked by more than half of those who entered the island for the Buffalo Statue Bonus.  It was listed out of order on the first page of the Rally Instructions.  Here was another example of Steve’s pitiless techniques to keep the group honest.  It worked as only about a dozen of us began a mad dash for the GPS bonus after the Buffalo.  Some consternation was experienced because time was getting short to find this bonus and still get back to the finish line before elimination.  Brain fried rallyists flitted from road to road looking for access to the road that their GPS’s showed led to the Latitude and Longitude coordinates of N40° 59.625’ W112° 12.156’.  After several unsuccessful tries, a gate was finally unlocked by island authorities, and the faithful few of us left made our way along paved and dirt roads to the bonus and collected the required evidence in the form of a Polaroid of a trailhead sign.  It was now 0720, and I had 1 hour and 40 minutes to ride the 60 miles back to the finish line and turn in my paperwork.  A simple prospect at first look, but nothing is ever a sure thing in the 1088, so I set off for The Holiday Inn with mixed feelings.  I had ridden a good, smart rally so far, and I was sure I would place fairly well in the final standings, but I also knew that “It wasn’t over ‘til it was over.”  I couldn’t relax until I had crossed the finish line and turned in my paperwork.


Back on the Interstate I headed south at below the posted limit, the V-1 was bleeping Ka radar every mile, or so it seemed, as every USHP, “County Mounty” and city LEO was up and looking for weary motorcycle rallyists to err on their throttle control.  With two LEO’s on my six, I decided that it was a good time to get off the Interstate in Bountiful, UT and get a splash of fuel.  My last fuel stop was over 400 miles previous in Cedar City, UT, and the ST was getting desperately low on gas.  “Blue Thunder” carries 11 gal with the aid of a Ron Major Fuel Cell.  It was a thankfully needed stop, as it gave me a chance to take a look at all of my paperwork and bonus evidence to make sure everything was in order.  I also used this opportunity to collect the final bonus of this rally; the 382 points for a 6-pack of COLD MGD for the finish line celebration.


Shortly after eight in the morning I pulled up to the finish line where the “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” Rally Master Chalmers verified my arrival time and ODO, and Dave McQueeney certified my 6-pack bonus.  I collated my paperwork and bonus evidence and turned it all in at the rally table, officially ending my 2004 Utah 1088.  My Street Pilot III GPS trip computer showed that I had traveled 1552.7 miles in 25 hr 08 min.


After a well deserved 4 hour nap, I arose and went to the Post Rally Banquet.  There the usual fine buffet that we have come to expect at the 1088 awaited the 73 finishers and their guests.  Rallymaster Steve Chalmers again officiated over the gathering in his own unique style.  Door prizes and finisher awards were alternately handed out mixed with humorous and, at times, moving commentary by Steve.  Of particular note are Steve’s clearly strong emotions when awarding his annual RPM award.  This honor is bestowed upon a person who has performed above and beyond the call of duty in the motorcycling community during the past year.  It is given in the name of the late beloved Long Distance Riding legend Ron Major, who died while riding the 1997 Iron Butt Rally.  Many of us who were close to Ron are still moved to emotion when thoughts of him return.  No RPM award was bestowed this year.  In the final standings, Big Dog Jim Owen finished 1st by a large margin, followed by “Big Dog” Dick Peek in 2nd.  I improved my past placements with a “lucky” 13th, a result with which I am very happy as a “little pup” in the midst of all of these “Big Dogs.”  Also, I didn’t lose my wallet this year or collect a “performance award.”  I can honestly say this is the best organized 1088 I’ve ridden and will definitely, Lord willing, be back next year.  Thanks for another great 1088, Steve.


John Parker