Capitol 1000 Rally - 1999

(Photos from the rally are now online. Click here.)

Somewhen in the winter of 1998/99, as I was poking about aimlessly with Netscape, I came across yet another interesting-sounding lond-distance rally -- the Capitol 1000, based not real far from its namesake, Washington, D.C. I decided immediately that this was the really for me, primarily because most of the others were based so damned far from Detroit that I'd have to use 4 days' vacation or more just to get to the durn things.

Sometime in early 1999, the rallymaster, Larry Fears, shot out the initial message for registration. Needless to say, I jumped on that "reply" button right-quick. Or maybe I went to the revived web site or something, but you get the picture. Not too much later, I had a check in the mail, followed later by confirmation. Oooooh, planning! I was going to run a real long-distance endurance rally. (Damn, son, that's pretty stupid of you!)

After various plan-changing events, the plan became to ride out there with semi-neighbor and co-worker 4-years-removed Airyn Darling, stay the night somewhere cheap, and get to tech inspection with heaps of spare time on Friday. It basically worked, except that Airyn's bike took a shit Thursday morning, so she wound up driving this dirty little Civic CX with squeaky doors. (Hey, it runs, it's cute, it's a hatchback, so shutup already.) We got to Pittsburgh around 10:30pm, where Airyn had arranged to stay with fellow LDR-type George Mastovich. While I always reserve some trepidation at meeting new folks on their turf in a situation where I already owe them something, George put that to rest almost immediately, first with an invitation -- actually more of an instruction -- to sit my tired ass down, followed closely by his lady Candy offering a beer -- I forget the brand, but it was an excellent local lager. A couple of beers and much bullshitting later, it was time to sleep.

The next morning, Airyn needed to book it to Hagerstown to get used to Richard Bernecker's tricked-out BMW K100RS, "Bordello in Red," but I sort of wanted to poke aroun Pittsburgh a while, since I'd never really been there before. I followed George's directions into downtown, and eventually got further directions from a slightly scary guy -- who was either homeless or just a grad student -- to the Warhol Museum. Per George, this was Andy's hometown, and since I have an interest in pop art and the general subversion of pop culture, I figured the museum would be a good place to stop and visit. After some adventures in parking, I made my way into the museum, had a reasonable lunch, and poked around a while. The most fun was the Silver Clouds installation, where jungle-trance music plays while a small batallion of swivel-head fans push around a fleet of rectangular, silver balloons. Truly the most involving bit of art-fluff I've ever gotten to walk through! Perhaps if I ever move into a warehouse, I'll try to duplicate it for myself...

I eventually pulled myself out of the museum and hit the road for Hagerstown. Things went great for a good mile of interstate, at which point it stopped almost dead, then dragged on for 2 miles in the heat to the entrance of some tunnel or other. I like tunnels. No heat, no one changing lanes, and the sky is very, very close. or maybe it was the fumes, but I still liked it. (The only tunnel I know of in Michigan goes into Windsor, and the bastards don't let motorcycles through it.)

After checking in to the (actually very nice) Econolodge sitting on the edge of the Mason-Dixon line, I got to work on the bike. Larry acknowledged my e-mail stateing the speedo on the Concours was dead, and he said he'd accept a bicycle computer, though I couldn't win, place, or show. (No problem with that, I thought. Little did I know...) Perhaps 30 minutes before registration ended, the Sigma Sport Targa computer was mounted and functional. A quick measurement of the wheel yielded the calibration factor it needed, and I was off on the odometer calibration portion of the rally. I rode 25.6 miles or so, at an average speed of 102.3mph. Okaaaay, maybe the calibration constant was off a bit, since the run is supposed to have been a bit shy of 16 miles. A couple of calculations and 15 minutes later, and I had the Sigma tuned to a level acceptable to Mr. Bernecker, who was doing my tech inspection. After sandwiches and a few messages from our host Mr. Fears, and it was time to hit the room with maps and rally book in hand.

(State Line Motel is at the top right of the stand of buildings at left. The Econolodge is the left-center buliding in the same stand.)

And I sat on the bed and scribbled on maps for a while, marking all the bonus locations with their numbers and point values. And then I stared at all this, and decided I'd ride clockwise, hitting a bunch of bonuses in Virginia, then some out-of-the-way big points in Maryland, then hit the interstates to get the mandatory checkpoints, largely by starlight. I got to bed by midnight, and to sleep by 1am... It's nice that I got enough rest; it's too bad I didn't spend another 30 minutes thinking rationally about the whole thing. Basically, I figured i'd do most of the specific route planning on the fly. This worked, but only to a certain degree.

Saturday morning came, I took a buncha pictures of other people looking busy and getting ready. Mostly I just had to click the radio in place and eat a complimentary banana from the Econolodge office. I was slated to leave in the fourth heat, which left at 7:10am. Three of the five people in the heat turned west at I-70, I continued south with another person from my heat. I was wrong, but again I'm getting ahead of myself, here.

Various bonus locations were found and checked and enjoyed, and the roads were good. In Spotsylvania, after an enormously fun road called "613," I pulled into the BMW dealership for another bonus. A brief chat with another rider yielded that I was more ambitious that at least one person in the rally, who was planning (along with I'm guessing 15 others) to do a SaddleSore 1000 via the Fears-approved SS1k pre-planned route. Again, I'd have been better sticking with this gentleman, since I'm quite sure he finished just fine in the points.

I then hoofed it to Point Lookout, where scary Confederate sympathizers lay waiting, wishing to propagandize or something. Already my brain was clouded with rally, and I was glad to have two other riders to run interference with these costumed folk, since I was in no condition to converse on such matters. After much backtracking, I hit another couple of out-of-the-way bonuses, not including the coveted Hampton bonus. If you can believe it, I actually paused at the Robert E. Lee Birthplace to check my situation. It seemed that going to Hampton and then hitting nothing else but mandatory checkpoints, I'd be over the 1250-mile cap. Thus, Hampton was easily scratched off the list. Unfortunately, this meant I'd think I had spare miles later in the rally...

En route to Charlottesville, Virginia, I stopped in Louisa for another bonus. The road from I-64 to Louisa is short, but damn is it nice. Aptly named "208." "22" to Charlottesville was also nice, and I even found a nice gas station tucked away off exit... uhm, off some exit, there. Another look at the maps and I thought it would be good to get the Franklin and Hillsboro, West Virginia bonuses. I wouldn't be going much out of my way versus the interstates, and it looked like better riding. I could hit Franklin by daylight, but I knew Hillsboro would be in the dark.

The squiggle along the bottom of the image is US-33 at the VA/WV border. Even in the dark, I think this would have been fun. Luckily, I hit it right before dusk.

Boy, was it. And I'm basically a wuss, so I can't ride real fast on curvy roads in the pitch black with my crappy headlight, even behind a psycho-Ford Explorer driven by a local. By the time I was back on I-64 to Charleston, West Virginia, my second mandatory checkpoint, it was, uhhhh, late. I stopped at exit 124, the last exit before the toll road. And slept on the on-ramp for about 15 minutes. Oh wait, that's what I set my pager's vibrating alarm to. When I actually woke up, it was 45 minutes later. I'm sure I was hallucinating little spacey-Roswell sounds when I closed my eyes. Most peculiar.

After a bit of riding on the toll road, I think I got to Charleston. Clearly all gas stations were closed, but I managed to get one with a 7-11 on the way out of town. It was 3:30am at this time, and I still had to get to Wheeling, WV, then back to Hagerstown. I calculated that an average of 70mph would get me back before I got time-barred at 9:10am Sunday morning.

Foolishly, I tried to do it, mostly because an automatic sensor-controlled traffic light was goddamn ignoring me at goddamn 3:45am in the goddamn morning. Or so went my brain functions. Have no fear, the instant I passed out of the reach of street lights, my above-70mph speed dropped to well below 65mph. I just can't ride fast when I'm tired, it's dark, and the highway is curvier than the most interesting roads in southeast Michigan. I turned around at the next exit, backtracked a couple of miles, and got on I-79 to go straight back to Hagerstown and take my DNF for missing Wheeling.

Somewhere in there, I slept another hour-fifteen on another on-ramp, crudded around in a couple of rest stops, and ate a "Big Breakfast Deluxe," slowly, at the McDonald's off exit 115 or so. By 10:30am, I was back at Hagerstown. No one had gotten my 7:30am message that i was a doofus, so Richard (Bernecker again) was a bit worried about me when I got in. (I did beat Bruce Barge back to the ranch...) I assured him I was dead tired and didn't need to check in, except to say "DNF," so I went straight up to the room and had a hot shower, a hot bath in which I may have slept an hour, followed by sleep in a real bed for a couple of hours before the banquet.

I'm sure I had all sorts of points, but without the Wheeling checkpoint, it naturally didn't matter. Thus was my lesson not to over-extend myself during long-distance rallies. I should be able to apply this knowledge at the Midwest Fest in late July.

The evening of the rally was fraught with beer drinking, bullshitting, and bike sniffing around the old State Line Motel. The hangers-out included Ahmet, Airyn, John Laurenson, Art Holland, Smitty and Pauline for a while, Mr. Barge, and myself. And maybe others I've forgotten -- do tell me, if so. Clearly people with nothing better to do than drink beer on the porch of a cheap motel in the middle of nowhere. Huge fun, I tell you.

Monday morning, Ahmet, Airyn, and I had a splendid meal of stuff they cook at Waffle House. Our bacon was made free after Ms. Darling responded honestly to the waitress' question, "something wrong with the bacon?" I believe the bacon remaining was then fed to the sous-chef in-training at the grill, to teach him that you just don't bloody well cook bacon like that and expect people to eat it.

Ahmet took off his way, Airyn and I headed to Baltimore -- Atomic Books in Baltimore is one of few independant distributors of the new magazine MotoMuffin, plus I'd decided that besides the weather looking bad between Hagerstown and Detroit, I really did want to ride more in West Virigina, et al. Thus the bike was dumped ceremoniously in the Baltimore-Washington International airport Blue lot for retrieval after a week or so.

I then became a car passenger for the first time in a while. Not too surprisingly, I'm comfortable as a passenger with someone who rides a bike. Most drivers really do enforce my thought that I've become a bad passenger over the years, but Ms. Darling's 80-90mph clip did nothing to make me nervous. Though I do find it appalling that a car can run 80mph average through mountains and still run 420 miles on an 11 gallon tank. It's just obscene. (Mostly I'm jealous because I've never owned anything with such a long range. Yeah, that's it.)

Thanks to all involved, I had a great time! Yes, I DNF'd, but it doesn't matter (this time around), since the riding was so spectacular. Additional thanks to Larry Fears for running the thing (so much work!), Richard Bernecker for being a perfect gentleman and being absolutely gracious both as tech inspector and electrical tool-loaner, Airyn Darling for driving my tired and lazy butt back to Detroit from Baltimore, despite the extra wheel time it meant, Smitty for the tire plug kit so I could actually run the rally, George and Candy for the gracious hospitality in Pittsburgh, and all the people with whom I yakked about bikes, riding, and everything else, for helping make this such a fine experience.

Next stop, Baltimore. The plan is to fly back to BWI, grab the bike, and re-ride Franklin and Hillsboro in the light! Then turn north and ride US-219 all the way north to Buffalo, followed by a left turn and a lot of boring riding through southern Ontario, primarily at night, so as to dull the pain.