This rally is not like the Sturgis Rally or ROT Rally in Austin, TX -- where there's a lot of LOUD bikes with scantily clad riders/passengers that may or may not wear helmets and the main activities seem to revolve around alcoholic drinks.
There's another culture out there where motorcycle riders, fully clad in protective gear, participate in rallies that are something of scavenger/treasure hunts on motorcycles. These types of endurance motorcycle rallies emphasize riding safe while strategically plotting routes that will allow you to visit the most bonus locations in the specified amount of time. The rider with the most bonus points wins.
We will be getting our introduction to rallying in the 10 hour Mini Rally. Many rallies are closer to a 24 hour time frame with about 1,000 mile average. Some are 36 or 48 hour rallies. The ultimate rally is the Iron Butt Rally (IBR-The World's Toughest Rally) held every other year. It runs for 11 days and averages 11,000+ miles. Very few get selected for the honor of entering the IBR.
Back to the Cape Fear Mini Rally...
A few days before the rally, we get a list of 73 general bonus locations across four states (GA,SC,NC,VA) with point values ranging from 190 to 2,750. The start time is listed as 6:00am and the end check-in time is 3:30pm -- major penalty points start accruing for every minute after 3:30pm and anyone checking in after 4:00pm is DNF (Did Not Finish).
There is a riders' meeting scheduled for all participants Saturday morning at 5:30am. At this meeting we will be given our rally packet with the exact GPS coordinates of the bonus locations, any last minute bonus locations, and wildcard bonus locations. Oh yes, and any bonus timing information -- meaning particular bonus(es) that can only be collected during a certain time frame. With rallying on our minds, we head south on I95.
Traffic moved along fine for about 125 miles, but then we found ourselves mostly at a standstill. Traffic was barely moving and backed up for several miles near Emporia, VA - just north of the North Carolina state line. We took the next exit, fueled up and decided to stay on US301.
Skippers, Virginia sets on US301 which runs parallel to I95.
The chance to earn points started a few weeks ago with complying with the requirement of faxing proof of insurance on your motorcycle to the Rallymaster. Check. Done. 500 points already logged. Next chance to earn points is to show up with a cold six pack of your favorite beverage. As we pull into town, we start looking for the a place to top off our fuel tanks and collect that six pack. Check. Done. 1,000 points.
We pull in to the Greentree Inn parking lot, check into our room and go scope out who we can find in the parking lot. We find out that the Rallymaster has decided to have the riders' meeting this evening at the welcome reception rather than wait until the morning. Mini Rally bonus packets were handed out at this meeting. We arrived 5 minutes too late. Every contestant had taken their Bonus Packet and bee-lined to their room to work out a route. No wonder we didn't see many folks wandering around the parking lot and conference room. We turned in our six-packs, collected our packets, got the quick review of the meeting then heading to our room to select a route that we think will get us enough points to have a respectable finish, but not risk taking on too much in the allotted time that we risk a DNF next to our name in the final tally.
New last-minute twists revealed:
*There is a progressive bonus point schedule for riding certain ferries -- more ferries ridden, the more points collected.
*The high point bonus located in Wilmington cannot be obtained until after 11am.
*Having the oval Cape Fear Rally sticker placed in an obvious and visible place on our motorcycle when checking in will earn additional points.
*Flying a pirate flag from our motorcycles when entering into the check-in area will earn additional points.
*You can get an earlier start than 6am, but it will cost you a point penalty: 500 points to leave at 5:30am or 1000 points to leave at 5:00am or 1,500 points for a 4:30am start.
*The Thunderbird Air Show is in town and some main roads will be closed in the afternoon for their fly-overs.
After staying up too late checking and re-checking routes, we finally fall asleep with visions of routes and bonus points dancing in our heads.
The back of the long sleeve shirt included in our packet.
To collect the photo bonus points, a photo of the bonus and your assigned rally flag (I'm rider #110) must be clearly visible in a photo with a date/time stamp. These photos will be reviewed at the scoring table at the end of the Rally.
Rider Log Bonus: Each stop we make must be logged into our rider log showing date, time, odometer reading, location, reason for stop, and number of photos taken (if any). Another 50 miles later, we find the next bonus location, the John Wright Stanly House in New Bern.
In Washington on the Pamlico & Tar Rivers, we stop at the North Carolina Estuarium for another bonus photo. http://www.pamlico.com/nce/
In North Carolina's oldest town - Bath, the bonus location is the Bonner House. Bath is located in the Inner Banks of North Carolina and is where it is believed that Edward Teach, better known as the pirate Blackbeard, took his 14th (and last) wife. The Governor of North Carolina is reported to have given him a pardon, so Blackbeard settled in Bath when he grew tired of pirating for a living.
This is the view from in front of the Bonner house looking out from Bonner Point where Bath Creek and Back Creek flow into the Pamlico River.
For all the librarians out there... Another bit of library trivia. Bath is the location of the first public library in North Carolina established using about 1,700 books sent from England by Rev. Thomas Bray.
There's another Grand Tour(s) going on... We are also participating in the AMA's (American Motorcycling Association) "Talk Like A Pirate Grand Tour" and "World's Largest Grand Tour" that will run from Apr 1 to Nov 30, 2008. So every once in awhile we will feel compelled to stop to take a photo with the AMA Tour Flag in an effort to gather points for those tours. This pizza place claims "ARRRR Slices are Great!"
Just outside of Bath is the community of Whitepost. I couldn't help but to stop and take a photo of the Whitepost General Store.
Our next bonus points are claimed by obtaining a receipt from Greenville, NC. Time for a fuel stop anyway. Verify that the receipt shows: date, time, location, and gallons to qualify for bonus points.
The clock is still running and closing in on check-in time, but this is the first time we stop long enough to remove our helmets, take a potty stop, and get something to drink. Sure enough, as we gear up to go...a fellow comes up and wants to talk. He a pleasant older fellow that voiced his opinions... He thought it was great to see us riding and wearing FULL GEAR. He said he just doesn't know what to think of some of these, mostly young sport bike riders. What are they thinking ... zooming around without even minimum gear on? He said all he can think about is the road rash they are inviting in the event of a crash! We agree with him, but try to rush along to get geared up and back on the road.
Somewhere along US264, I see a flea market type place where a couple roadside vendors have tables set up selling stuff. Luck of it is ... I see some flags flying and one is a replica of pirate Calico Jack's flag. I motion to Sylvia to follow me as I do a U-turn to go back to the gravel parking lot where the vendor is set up. Yes, he sells them. But the one flying is his last one. I pay the man and he lowers the flag and folds it up for me. I stick it into my topcase and we are back on the road. The whole episode took less than 5 minutes.
The next bonus was a bit more of a challenge. First problem was locating it. We are looking for the Duck-Rabbit Brewery. This is what we found ... There was no sign to confirm that we had found the right place. We rode by it the first time and continued searching several blocks before we went back to take another look.
Coming from the other direction, we saw the van parked back near the loading dock. Upon closer inspection, we see the bumper stickers on the van are a strong clue that we had indeed found the Duck-Rabbit Brewery!
SO is the logo a Rabbit...or a Duck?
It's after 12:30pm when we find the Whirligig Farm bonus near Lucama. Here we meet up with another rider collecting points.
We've made it to our farthermost point and have now turned to loop our way back to Wilmington.
We make quick work of collecting the Mt. Olive bonus.
Turkey is the first bonus stop on our final leg as we start to close our loop and head back to Wilmington.
We are on the "home-stretch" now coming in on I40. Time to start making some decisions. Check the time against how many miles left to go and do some quick calculations. There's 60 miles left to go with 1 hour and 15 minutes before penalty points start. (Late penalty points are massive - You don't want them!) Sylvia will need another fuel stop before getting back to the check-in. I will need to stop and somehow attach my pirate flag to fly as I ride into the check-point. We have two more bonus stops, but we are running out of time to collect them.
Sylvia says that she will stop for fuel and I can ride on. I wave to her as she pulls into the gas station at the corner of hwy 24 and I40. Once I get merged into traffic and up to speed on I40, I start editing my GPS route. I look at my ETA, then delete the very last stop. Then I note how much time this gives me on my ETA and decide that I will try to make the other stop since it appears to be a very quick and easy stop off I40.
My last bonus stop: World's Largest Frying Pan
I have 50 minutes and 45.1 miles with only one stop left to attach my Pirate Flag. Shouldn't be a problem. How many times do you think one can check the ETA on the GPS in 40 miles?!
I pull into the Greentree Inn parking lot and stop to attach my flag. And don't forget to log this stop (with all required information) into the rider's log! I stick one end of the flag into the topcase and let the weight of the lid hold the flag for my short trip to the check-in at the very back of the Inn.
Official time in: 3:21pm
Sylvia beat me in by 6 minutes. She didn't get a full tank of gas...just enough to get her back to Wilmington.
I get my arrival receipt from the check-in official and park the RT. Then gather my paperwork and camera and head in to complete my next task -- find an official to download the photos from my SD card in my camera. After the download is complete, I look around to find Sylvia. We make our way to a table and start trying to make sense out of the paperwork. "What do we fill out?" "Where do we sign?" "Do we fill this part out now or wait until we are sitting down in front of the scorer?" Sylvia gets her paperwork turned in before me. (I feel the need to double check it ... then check it again.) I finally get my turn to sit down at a scorer's table to be scored about 6pm. I'm nervous, but it turns out to be rather painless. I got all the points I hoped for. It seems that this is where many rallies are won or lost--at the scoring table. You keep your fingers crossed and hope you read all the requirements correctly and submitted your paperwork in proper order.
Everyone milling around either working on paperwork or waiting to hear their name called to the scoring table to be scored.
After getting scored, I went back to the room to get showered and changed for the catered BBQ awards banquet.
Final tally: Mini Rally had 24 participants, 3 DNF
I came in at 13th place with 11,875 points and Sylvia was right behind me in the 14th spot....both happy to have successfully completed our first rally.
The winning score was an outrageous 17,030.
(I'm pretty sure he took advantage of the earliest start and went for the high-point bonuses far away!)
Second place was 13,980 points and third place was 13,675 points.
The next morning at 4am, we were awakened by severe thunderstorms. This went on until about daylight.
But by the time we were getting everything packed and loaded the sun was coming out. Looks like it might be a nice day...at least in Wilmington.
Barb, from Texas (who came in 11th in the Mini Rally), decided to join us on our ride back north. She was going to Norfolk to see her 6 month old grandson after the Rally.
Enroute north, we stopped in Rose Hill at the "World's Largest Frying Pan" for AMA Grand Tour photos.
After a fuel stop in Magnolia, we continue on to Wilson, NC for our next stop.
This is reported to be the largest replica of the largest lighthouse.
(Hatteras Lighthouse - Fleeter Log #16 May 2006)
However, Barb reports that she saw a larger one located outside Kinston. We'd already passed Kinston, so we didn't go back.
It's after 1pm so we decide to have lunch at the Carolina Cheese Co. before getting back onto I95.
While eating our deli sandwiches, we watched huge black clouds working their way across our path of travel. Looks like we may be catching up to those 4am thunderstorms!
We make it about 75 miles further, watching the black clouds the whole while. But it seems that we are catching up to the storms. We get off I95 and catch US301 to show Barb the Good Earth Peanut Company in Skippers, VA. Before we get to Skippers, we are in a heavy downpour where water is puddling on the highway. Rain is pouring and thunder is booming so we decide to make a rain stop for pie at the Simmons Terminal Truckstop Restaurant. The rain got ahead of us again while we ate pie. At the next exit, Barb takes US58 to Norfolk and Sylvia and I continue up I95 the last 130+ miles home.
It isn't long before we are in heavy downpours again. The XM traffic is flashing SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING on the GPS screen. That warning wasn't new to me, but the next one was ... TORNADO WARNING. Tornado warnings were active in the five counties surrounding us as we rode the last 65 miles home.
But we made it....soaking, but home.
Report on the rain worthiness of my riding gear:
My jacket did a great job. There was a bit of dampness coming up my sleeves, but I never switched to gloves with gauntlets. My leather gloves have a perforated leather section at the back of my hand. Water was entering there and coming up my sleeves.
My pants did good until we were in stop and go traffic around Richmond for several miles in heavy rain. When not moving, the rain ran right down and puddled in my saddle. When sitting in water, the water leaked into the seams at the crotch of the pants.
My boots have goretex liners. But with so much water poring in...yep, my feet were wet by the time I got home.
BUT, my helmet kept my head dry!
Riding gear is all hanging up in the garage to drip dry.
The Cape Fear 1000 Rally Summary
Distance: 1,061 miles
Time on Road: 3 days