By John Parker
This was my first time in this event by the Fastour Riders Group of Arizona. It is the 2nd annual running of this event. Organizer Doug Banfelder did very well for such a new rallymaster. The event was very laid back and didn't have the strict rules of the more established rallies like the Utah 1088. This may change with experience, as I can see that the "true" competitors will probably use their easy many to exploit the rules to their advantage. Too bad, because it is a refreshing change to ride in such a low key event as this. That's just the nature of the endurance rally scene, unfortunately.
The host hotel and HQ for this year's rally was the Grand Canyon Travelodge in Flagstaff, AZ. There was a very small turnout for a western rally. This year, there were only 20 entrants, but all were very enthusiastic. I hope that Doug and Fastour Riders can make this an annual event. I arrived early at about 1330 on Friday. There were 3 or 4 other riders there already, but others started arriving in ones and twos. Most license plates were Arizona, but I did see a couple of Colorado, a California, and one Illinois. And, of course my Oregon plate on Blue Thunder, Becci's 94 ST1100. Most were the usual grizzled LD lot, but there were a few young'uns thrown in to keep us oldsters honest. The only rider I recognized from other events was George Zelenz. George is in his 2nd year of competition, and this only his 4th endurance rally. He is very competitive and the "Big Dogs" will soon have to take notice of him. Doug showed up late, but quickly made everyone feel welcome at the pre rally dinner in the diner adjacent to the motel.
After a tasty meal of fish 'n' chips, the riders were invited to check out the available rides highlighted on maps in the restaurant lounge. As advertised, there were three 1000 mile routes and one 1500 miler, the "BBG", laid out. The 1000 milers were named "Colorado", "Utah", and "Arizona/New Mexico" to reflect the Four Corners theme of this year's rally. I glanced at all of the routes and made mental notes of their approximate courses, but the Big Dog ride, the "BBG" was the one I was enamored with. From Doug's prior emails, I knew there would be a BBG 1500 in this year's ride; therefore I was looking forward to it. After doing a BBG 1500, 1000 miles events just seem too mild ;-} All of the routes stayed on the same roads for the first several hundred miles then took off in their own directions to their namesake states. The last common bonus to all of the routes was, quite appropriately, the Four Corners Monument. After a while Doug and his crew gathered us all on the grass near the pool for a riders' meeting. The meeting set the tone for the weekend and the event in general with its low key and laid back demeanor. The bonii for each route were handed out and the usual warnings and safety talk were given. Doug and Bill gave us a brief overview of some of the roads and a few of their individual hazards that they observed when pre running them a few weeks ago. Doug then opened the discussion up for questions and got the usual barrage with regard to discrepancies and omissions in the rally packs. As usual the "Soap Box Derby" crowd jumped on the opportunities that the loose rules allowed by omission. George Z managed to get the Rallymaster to agree to a variance on the "Four Corners" bonus to allow for riders to bag it after hours. If this was the Utah 1088, young Georgie would have been holding a rock for asking that question. Unusual for endurance rallies, but understandable for a new event, the bonii were written very loosely. That is to say that they were simply descriptions of various places and the evidence needed the bag them, but without the lengthy qualifications usually found in the bonii descriptions of "established" endurance rallies like the Utah 1088, Cal24, Northwest Passage, White Stag, or the Iron Butt Rally, to name a few. It is the norm in these events for the Rallybastard to go to great lengths to describe a bonus and the qualifications that must be met to bag that bonus. For example, there are often certain times of day and/or dates that a bonus may be bagged by a rider. Also, there are many times a statement is included as to which bonii may be bagged by riders on different routes. Not to mention that there were none of the threads, or combination bonii that make route selection by the competitors so "interesting" in other rallies. Well, it is refreshing to ride an event like this, and I am glad Doug did it like this (intentionally or not). I believe Doug's co-host, Bill, stated their philosophy best when he said that they wanted a "riding rally, not a reading comprehension test." A bold goal in this day and age. When asked who was doing the BBG, only one rider raised his hand. I quietly withheld my commitment as a pre-race ... err rally poker strategy. Even though I knew that I would ride the BBG regardless of who else would. I liked the challenge that I believed it would provide me with its mostly two lane roads and many miles of mountain twisties.
After the riders' meeting I hustled back to my room and began my pre-rally procedure. I first entered all of the mandatory bonii into Mapsource to get a preliminary route. Then I entered the location of all of the optional bonii as waypoints. I then looked at the three 1000 mile routes for possible extra bonii that were near enough to the BBG route to be doable. I knew from prior experience that, with the pace necessary to complete a BBG 1500, I wouldn't have the time to stray far from the main route. I found one bonus on the "Colorado" route that was very close to a bonus on the BBG and entered it as a waypoint also. I then let Mapsource calculate the route and uploaded it and the waypoints into my Garmin Streetpilot GPS. I had previously loaded all of the relevant maps onto the Street Pilot's data card. I then printed a color map of the route on my HP 420 color printer/fax/copier for reference use later if the GPS failed for some unexpected reason. It's good to have contingency plans when so much time and effort is invested. I also always carry a full set of paper maps for the same reason. So far, in the 5 years I have been using GPS's for competitive rallies, they have had a 100% reliability factor, but I still feel better with a "hard copy" in this age of software and computers. Probably comes from being a computer tech for 35 years.
After a good 5 hours of blissful slumber I awoke on my own before the Screemin' Meanie's plaintive cry, and loaded "Blue Thunder" for the next 24 hours of fun and adventure. I packed fairly light taking along a few tools, first aid kit, electric heated gear, cool vest (the desert has WIDE temperature extremes), and some "Zone" bars and "Turkey Jerky" for sustenance. At 0600 sharp the BBG1500 riders were off into the dawn looking for beautiful roads and high value bonii. The other BBG rider and I would have a 1 hour headstart on the ss1000 riders.
Traffic was light as we motored north out of town on old Route 66. The first bonus possible was a big one of 25 points (the max available), for a photo of the "Sunset Crater" sign at the Cinder Hills Overlook in Sunset Crater National Monument. The other BBG rider and I arrived at the same time and got our photos. He left before me on his Concors and I never saw him again until the next morning. I bagged another 25 pointer at the nearby Wapatki N.M. then zoomed up hwy 89 north, blowing off a 15 pointer at "Little Colorado River Gorge," because I felt I needed to get my average speed (AVS) back up if I was to complete the 1500 miles in the 24 hours allotted for a BBG 1500 by the IBA. I got one brief Ka Band radar hit on my V-One just after leaving Sunset Crater. The AZ State Trooper was playing with "instant on," but didn't have a chance against Mr. Valentine ... this time.
My route turned east off of the 89 onto hwy 160. 160 is a magnificent motorcycle road, and once out of the town of Tuba City, AZ, it is perfect for getting the AVS up. There are plenty of curves and elevation changes, but it has many loooooong stretches of open road with excellent visibility. I've used this road on several other rallies and rides to get across the Navajo Nation with very good results. It was still cool on this morning with temps in the mid 50's. Wildflowers covered the landscape on both sides of the road and filled in the normally sandy tan desert palate with brilliant orange. The Navajo National Monument just west of Kayenta was a 20 mile side trip, but worth 25 points, so well worth it. Besides, as I found out once there, it is a beautiful spot and one I would like to visit again when I have more time to explore it fully. I did get my National Parks "Passport" stamped though. The female ranger looked a little puzzled by this big "white eyes" in the blue snowmobile suit and an m/c helmet that swooped in and out of her visitor center like a Kochina. A few more miles east on the 160 I visited the "Code Talkers Museum" in Kayenta (REALLY Uncle Sam!! Don't the Code talkers deserve a REAL museum???). I also collected the mandatory "Fuel receipt" before leaving this little pueblo.
Hwy 160 turned a more northerly direction at Tec Nos Pos (famous for their amazing Navajo woven rugs). Four Corners Monument came up on the left soon after making the turn. This Monument is run by the Navaho Nation, and it is the only place in the US where one can stand in 4 states (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah) at the same time. I blew on past it and its 25 points with the plan to return later on my way back to the finish line when it was closed. I'd been here several times in the past and knew that sometimes the lines could be long and the tourists frantic. A ruling was secured from the rallymaster by George Z at yesterday's riders' meeting allowing us this option.
The next bonus, worth 10 points, was 20 miles before Cortez, CO at "Yucca House National Monument." Unfortunately, as we heard later after the rally, Yucca House was torn down years ago, and the Federal Government hadn't gotten around to building a monument yet. Oooops! Gotcha Doug!!
Cortez was a real mess around noon, when I got there. I putted excruciatingly slowly behind a sewage truck with the name "Le Pew" on the back. All manner of strange and un-appetizing mater was falling from this truck, so I blasted around it much to the driver's consternation. He angrily blew his horn. Apparently people pass this rolling stink bomb regularly, and the driver feels he should always lead the crowd. Just as I got around the stink wagon, I saw the next bonus location. There were two bonii to be bagged at a Dairy Queen for a receipt and a photo worth a combined 10 points. I enjoyed about 1/2 of a small cone then dumped the rest in the trash and hit the road. I had miles to go before I rested. The teenagers working in the DQ were totally un-phased and stoic by the presence of this big gringo in the blue snowmobile suit and m/c helmet zipping in and out of their store. It was like they had seen my act every day and twice on Sunday. Kewel!
On the way out of town, I found "scenic SR 145 and headed north-east toward Telluride, CO via "Lizard Head Pass." About 1/2 way to Telluride, I caught "Le Pew" and blew by him so fast; I don't think he realized that I was the same m/c that he honked at back in Cortez. Ten miles later, I bagged the 5 point "ride up" bonus at Lizard Head Pass and was back on course and up to speed in less than a minute. Telluride is a small Yuppie/New Wave ski resort that sets in the western Rocky Mountains at about 8700' in elevation. It's a crowded little place, even in the late spring, and I was happy to bag my mandatory "Fuel receipt" and get away from there.
After about 25 miles of playing with the motor homes on 145 north of Telluride, I turned off onto the scenic and curvy SR 141. 141 follows the San Miguel River as it twists and turns back on itself through a spectacular red rock canyon that meanders for some 92 miles through the Western Rockies to Grand Junction, CO. Due to the unusual amount of snow the West had this year, and the unseasonably warm weather we had been enjoying the past week or two, the rivers were all flowing at max cfm and bank to bank. The water was the dark red/brown that gave the state its name. A few miles into this canyon and I had to stop to collect a 5 point bonus with a photo of a sign that read: "Motorcycles Use Extreme Caution." The rest of the ride on 141 was motorcycle Nirvana, as the big SPORT-tourer scraped a few more mm of metal off the peg feelers and tip over wings. Yippee!!! The "Texaco Star" bonus was MIA, so I cruised on to Grand Junction, CO where I picked up the mandatory fuel receipt. By Grand Junction the terrain of Colorado opens up into a high desert plain. The altitude is around 6000', but the air temperature was still in the low 90's as I motored in a generally westerly direction on hwy 340 to the Colorado National Monument in Fruita, CO. After a spirited and invigorating 30 minute ride in the Monument, I had the two bonii that were hidden there and was off north to Dinosaur country.
The route I had chosen to the Dinosaur National Monument was a combination of very quick farm roads with a bit of mountain twisties thrown in for fun. I bagged a "ride up" bonus at Douglas Pass since it was on the way. The farther north I rode the more "prehistoric" the terrain and place names got. The twisty mountain roads reminded me of central Oregon around the John Day Fossil Beds with their similar stepped valleys and arroyos. The towns along the way have names like Stegosaurus and Mastodon. I may have even seen a pterodactyl or two … or maybe not. But, if not, they sure have some big vultures in this part of Colorado. At the Dinosaur monument, I snapped the requisite Polaroid of the Brontosaurus and my bike for the bonus, then back tracked the 25 miles of park service road to the town of Dinosaur.
My next "mandatory" checkpoint was in the town of Vernal, UT. This was about 35 miles along hwy 40 (taken as a whole, one of the most scenic roads in the lower 48). I knew from previous experience that this section of highway was well watched by revenuers. This day was no different as my V-One sounded its plaintive cry half a dozen times during the short hop. One of the times was just after crossing into Utah from Colorado. The terrain was wide open high plains, and the highway was the typical rolling two-laner. The Sun was high in the west; just high enough that it wasn't directly in my eyes as I guided "Blue Thunder" in the direction of its inevitable setting. I was cruising at an efficient rally pace when I caught a glint of sunlight reflecting off the glass of a vehicle parked on the side of the road 2 miles ahead. In my infinite wisdom, I realized that this could be a gendarme at work protecting the highways of the "Beehive State" from nasty speeders. The conditions were perfect for just such an encounter of the revenue kind. I had just crossed over a state line, and the road undulated in such a manner that the trooper would be hidden from approaching vehicles by the slightly hilly terrain until too late to react to his Ka band "Stalker" RADAR. I began decelerating about 1 mile out while still beyond the range of his technology, and as I came over the top of the hill one dip east of him, Mr. Valentine squawked the double "braaaap braaaap" indicative of LEO enforcement RADAR. He was using the low power, instant-on, feature of this powerful microwave emitter on another vehicle, and I was still out of range of him, but well within range of my ECM (electronic counter measures). As I dropped into the dip just before the hill he was concealed behind, I double checked my speed indicators (speedo, Sigma BC 800, and Garmin Street Pilot III GPS) to insure I was below the posted limit. When I came out the other side of the dip and the hill faded away to reveal the white Ford Crown Victoria with the golden beehive emblem on the door in all of its glory at less than 100 yards, I was totally legal when he hit me with the nano pulses. I tapped the mute button on the front of the V-1 and motored on by the steely stare of the B&L bespectacled trooper totally unscathed.
It was late afternoon as I slipped into the enigmatic little town of Vernal. I had been through this place during past rallies and knew the layout fairly well. I collected the "mandatory" fuel receipt as prescribed in the route directions and continued on north on hwy 191 toward the Wyoming border. I was very familiar with 191 and knew that I could make good time on it during daylight hours. There were a couple of tight spots near Flaming Gorge Reservoir and Dutch John, but the rest of the 100 miles to Green River, WY was very fast road. The ride through the Gorge was fantastic on this afternoon. The Sun was just low enough to light the surrounding cliffs and put them in high relief. I made the turn at Green River, WY and headed south on hwy 530 back to Utah. As I crossed over Black's Fork Bridge, the Sun was low in the sky, and I knew that I would be cutting it close on my goal to be out of the Gorge before dark. I pulled into the town of Manilla, UT just as the sun dropped behind the mountains surrounding the Gorge. There were two bonii available in Manilla, but with the switchbacks on Red Wall ahead of me and the Sun only a memory, I blew off the 20 points in the interest of safety. The ride up the peg scrapping Red Wall was an exercise in concentration. The magnificent beauty of the Gorge beckoned like the Sirens of Helena, while the serpent-like twisty tarmac and sheer drop offs demanded my full attention. Once on top, I stopped for a moment at the overlook and filled my soul with the sight of Flaming Gorge in all of its spectacular glory in the golden sunset's fading illumination.
In less than an hour I was back in Vernal, and riding past the war memorial at city hall. It was now dark, and I set my sights on my next goal at Moab, UT. I retraced my route of this afternoon back to I-70, and then turned west to pick up hwy 191 at Crescent Junction. A quick check of the GPS computer showed that I was still doing better than the requisite 62.5 mph average speed that is necessary to achieve a BBG 1500. This was good news, as I had expected the first part of this route to be the slowest as it meandered through the twisties of the Western Rockies for much of the time. I was confident that, though the next 10 hours or so would be in the inky black, dark as Osama's heart, night of Utah and Arizona, I could keep a BBG pace. This confidence came not only from dozens of like adventures under these same conditions, but the assurance that only the "Eyes of God" HID headlights of "Blue Thunder" can instill. Once away from other vehicles and turned to full power, the EOG's provide "stadium-like" illumination of everything out ahead for ½ mile, or more, and a hundred yards on each side of the road. All manner of critter from the demure Kangaroo Mouse to the horrid, and thoroughly hated, "Forrestus Rattus" AKA, Bambi, are revealed by the omnipotent three million candlepower. Bosch D2S HID capsules, painstakingly focused, in the "exorcised" and recoated reflectors of the ST.
It was well past the dinner hour when I rolled into Moab. It had been over 24 hours since I had eaten a square meal. The "Zone Bars" I had consumed during the day were just enough to keep me going, but were now loosing their appeal. I am always prepared to travel without meal stops on my LD rides, as sometimes the dynamics of the ride just don't allow enough time for the luxury of a sit down meal. This night, however, my GPS computer showed my "Overall Average Speed" to be a decent number over BBG pace. I had only 400 miles to go to the finish line and plenty of time to complete them. I looked for my favorite fast food joint, Subway, but couldn't find one and settled on Mc D's. I know. It's not the best food for maximum performance, but my body was telling me it was time for a break, and the Golden Arches were "where it was at" that night.
After a relaxing and refreshing 30 minute stop in Moab, I was now on my way south again. I collected the "mandatory" fuel receipt and set my sights on the next bonus. As I stated earlier, I blew off the 25 point bonus at Four Corners earlier in the ride to collect it later, after hours, as the Riders' Meeting instructions allowed. So, my next stop would be to collect that bonus. On the way I counted the number of "Deer Warning" signs between Monticello, UT and Blanding, UT for 10 bonus points. There were six signs. The road was good and the traffic light, so I arrived at Four Corners in excellent time. I parked "Blue Thunder" in such a way that the HIDs lit up the sign that we were told at the Riders' Meeting would be needed to be in the Polaroid to collect the 25 points. While I was fiddling around positioning the bike and snapping flash photos, two bums and their dogs came hustling out from behind the locked gate. Thinking back on it, the sight of all of that candlepower combined with the periodic flashes from the camera, must have been quite a sight to someone not expecting, nor understanding, it. It must have looked like an alien spaceship landing to someone who had been slumbering for hours peacefully in the pitch black night.
Back on hwy 191 and headed south toward the final bonii of the rally, I felt good. My bike was running good, as usual, and I was feeling relaxed and cognoscente (not always usual that time of night, after that many hours). I was in the Navajo Nation and traffic was very light, so I could use the full power of my HIDs to illuminate my path. My only worry at this hour was drunk drivers. The bars were closing, and I new what the reality of that occurrence meant. Two good friends of mine were killed by a drunk driver on a desolate country road much like this one, and at about the same hour of the early morning.
As I was cruising past the Rock Point Trading Post, I spotted two rallyists at the gas pumps in the all night station. I knew I would need fuel before the final checkpoint in Holbrook, AZ, so I pulled up to the pump next to them. It was Bob Smith, from Yuma, on his Honda ST1300 and David Edblom, from Las Vegas, on his HD Road Glide. They were both in good spirits, though looking extremely tired. The many miles and hours had taken its toll on them. They were riding a different route than me; the ss1000 Colorado Route, to be exact. I hadn't seen many other Twist 'n' Shout riders during the past 20 or so hours (as is usual for many LD events), and I chatted with them for a bit. Bob and David finished their break and pulled out of the station headed south while I was still suiting up. I knew from our conversation that they were headed for Canyon De Chelly National Park to collect a 25 point bonus there. That was my plan also, and I was shortly back on the road behind, but not in sight of them. It was just 50 miles to Canyon De Chelly. I wicked "Blue Thunder" up to "rally nominal" and powered ahead, expecting to catch up to Bob and David in short order. David was on a Harley, after all! Amazing to me, but not Bob and David I'm sure, I didn't catch them 'til just a few miles from Canyon De Chelly. I got ahead of them a bit and pulled into the visitor center to bag the 25 point bonus located there, for a Polaroid of a Navajo Hogan. Unbeknownst to Bob and David at the time; there were bonii from two different routes in close proximity to each other. As per instructions at the Riders' Meeting, I knew that I could collect bonii from routes other than the BBG route I was doing. During my pre-planning on Friday night, I found only one bonus from the other 3 routes that was close enough to my route to bag for extra credit. That was the bonus Bob and David, and the other ½ dozen riders I saw that morning were out to bag. It was an extra 25 miles out of my way, but a nice 25 extra points for my effort. Eventually, I arrived at "Massacre Cave" and the "Two Fall Off" Overlook where a short hike revealed the answer to the bonus question. Back in the parking lot, several other ss1000 riders came and went while Bob, David, and I made our "nature calls" and got ready to leave on the last leg of our rides. As I was leaving, I stopped Bob and asked him if he would like to earn an extra 25 points. Of course he did! I was pretty sure none of the other riders in the ss1000 rides had figured out that the BBG bonus was so close. So since they were nice enough to chat with me that night, I told Bob about the BBG bonus he could bag with a photo of the Hogan at the visitor center, and motored off into the darkness.
The next stop was a "mandatory" rest stop at the Hopi Truck Stop on I-40 just east of Holbrook, AZ. The GPS showed it was 117 miles away. The road was good, the traffic light, and I was feeling reasonable fresh. I brought the ST up to rally nominal for the short run, settled into the ultra plush "Stealth" Travelcade seat, and tuned in Fox News on the XM Radio to see if they had caught Osama yet.
There was a bit of emergency services action as I neared Holbrook on the I-40. One AHP trooper got on the interstate behind me with his emergency lights on. I knew he wasn't after me so I slowly accelerated back up to a good cruising speed and his lights faded in my rearview mirrors. I pulled into the Hopi Truck Stop shortly before 0300. There were already about ½ dozen other bikes there, but no Doug. Doug said at the Riders' Meeting that he and Erich Van Sanford would be at this mandatory checkpoint to look everyone over and make sure we were all looking well enough to continue the last 100 miles into the finish in Flagstaff. Sounds like a good idea, but without any checkpoint workers, some in the crowd became a little restless and left. I had a hot cup of coffee and topped up the fuel, then after about 45 minutes of "cooling my heels," I started to leave. I was just about to leave the parking lot, when I spotted Doug with a sign saying something about a rally and waving his hands franticly to attract my attention. I told him everyone was over by the gas pumps waiting for him. I must have passed the "Rider Wellness" test, 'cuz he let me leave.
As I motored along at a brisk pace west on I-40, I was glad I had put my Gerbing Jacket liner on back at the Rock Point Trading Post. My outside air temperature gauge read 39 degrees for most of the time. I rode through the Route 66 town of Winslow, AZ and, 50 miles later, finally began the climb up into the Coconino National Forest to 7000'+ Flagstaff.
At 0528, I rolled over the finish line at the Grand Canyon Travelodge in Flagstaff and officially completed the BBG1500 route of the 2005 Twist 'n' Shout Rally. "Blue Thunder's" odometer showed I had ridden 1524 miles and the dual timer showed 23 hrs 28 min total time.
Total miles: 1521
Driving average: 74.2
Overall average: 64.8
Driving time: 20:30
Stopped time: 2:57
Total time: 23:28
I quickly took my paperwork and rally "evidence" back to my room and sorted through it to make sure all of the bonii and mandatory checkpoints were properly documented and organized. I then took everything to Bill LaBrie for scoring. I had good documentation, and it was all in reasonable order, so I scored all of the bonii that I attempted.
Though my body was numb from fatigue, I watched the other riders arrive at the finish line and BS'd 'til the Closing Banquet at 0800. It is the earliest I have attended a closing banquet, but hey, the eggs were a great change from the Zone Bars and Turkey Jerky of the previous 24 hours. The results were:
1st Place : John Parker - Grants Pass, OR - ST1100
2nd Place : Dennis O'Neal - Brigham City, UT - Kawasaki Concurs
1st Place: George Zelenz - Joshua Tree, CA - Yamaha FJR 1300
2nd Place tie: Bob Smith - Yuma, AZ - Honda ST1300
David Edblom - Las Vegas, NV - HD RoadGlide
Finally, I wish to extend my sincerest gratitude to Doug Banfelder and all of his crew who volunteered their time to make the 2005 Twist 'n' Shout Rally a real hoot. I'll definitely be back for more great roads and fine folks next year.
Bill LaBrie: Tech inspection, BBG route scouting, registration spreadsheet and Fastour.US website guru
Mike and Sheila Kannitsch:
Mike: IBA Witness
Sheila: TNS Finisher Certificates
Erich Van Sanford: Rider Wellness Checkpoint staff / photographer / critical odds n ends
"B" Banfelder: Rider Check-in, scoring
Amanda Whelan: Scoring