Another fun Cal24 on the books! Big thanks to Tom and team for pulling together another fun weekend for us to run around California and neigboring states on our favorite motorcycles. Like last year, the start was at a different location than the finish, which allows for greater variety of roads. Signups this year were a little slow, which always baffles me given the amount of fun that gets crammed into the weekend; I look forward to it all year. We met in Gerlach, NV on Friday afternoon to get signed up and go through tech inspection.



I picked up a new bike a few months ago, and this rally would be its first real test. The ride up from the bay area to Gerlach was uneventful, but I really enjoyed the wide open roads as I got closer to the destination. Though I've heard of Gerlach countless times from other LD rider types, this would be my first time there in person. The landscape is great, it really is out in the middle of nowhere, hours away in every direction from any highly populated area. Most folks, though not all, had also arrived for Friday check-in, which means they wouldn't have to take care of it early in the morning. Bob and Sean helped go through my paperwork and checked the bike out, and I was on my way to do the odometer check. First scary moment was when Bob told me I had no headlight, which could have DQ'd me on the spot. The new bike has a unique projector lens, that is bounced off of a mirror for continuous aiming, and it has an extremely sharp cutoff. So in the daytime, if you're looking at the light from above, it looks like it's barely on. It's only when you bend down and put your face right in the beam of light, that it's now apparent that it's in fact quite bright. This ride was the first one that I was on twisty roads all night, and the BMW system that rotates the light into the turn while the bike leans works very well. I completed the odo check (reset trip meter, ride out to a given marker 10 - 15 miles away, turn around and come back, share trip odo settings), and it looked like mine was reading a bit low from standard. This means that for every mile it says on my odometer, I'm actually traveling a bit more real miles. This helps if you're going for a saddlesore and only show 985 miles on your odo, but true miles are 1000+ and change.

While on the odometer check, I was looking for Guru lane, as I knew it would be a bonus. I didn't see it, even though I had a tentative waypoint for it, so when I completed all paperwork, I asked if anyone would ride out the 2 or 3 miles with me to point it out. A rider on a gold wing had been there that morning, and said sure. We rode out together, and this time he pointed out the entrance to the gravel road, and I saw the small street sign a ways off the pavement. I marked it as a waypoint on one of the GPS's, and now I knew I'd be able to find it going forward, whether day or night. Rode back to the hotel, and checked in to my room. Bruno's is, let's say, sparse. But the room was certainly more than good enough for a 1 night stay, and the location can't be beat.

By dinnertime most folks had trickled in, and the buffet dinner was held in the back room behind the bar. Stories were swapped, tales were told, and food was eaten. I sat next to Meese, and chatted quite a bit about bike selection. We both have picked up BMW K16's, and are both prepping it for rally duty in the Iron Butt Rally 2013 next summer. His is a little further along, and I appreciated the tips. After dinner, the rally team held a riders meeting. Most of the information about general rally rules was known to most participants, but there were a few tidbits, like the number of checkpoints, which ones were mandatory, and something about a potential rest bonus. Allan also clarified what would be posted on the USB sticks that some (most) riders provided for GPS locations. The waypoints wouldn't correspond to any of the bonuses, all they would be was a complete list of every town that was listed in the instructions. So for example, if something was "find the statue in between Sacramento and Roseville", both of those city names would be waypoints, but the statue might not be close to either one of them. The intent is to make sure that a GPS isn't required to run the rally, and people with maps alone have a chance. As there were zero riders who showed up to run the 2012 rally without a GPS, I'm optimistic that this can be taken into account in future years. The three exceptions to that planned location fuzziness were the two checkpoints + the finish. Those waypoints were guaranteed to be rock-solid, and right where you needed to be. Here is the team:

Tom (Rally President), Jodie (Rally Scorer), and Allan (New RallyMaster for the 2012 event). (Pic is missing Sean Smith, who pre-rode the rally for Allan)



After the meeting, we only had 1 hour before the 12 hr "bottle to throttle" rule in place for this rally, and the bar was lightly attended. I met a rider new to this rally there, and it turns out he's going to be a rookie in the IBR next year as well. Back at the hotel nearby, there were a few folks outside on the porch with a few minutes left before 10, so I stopped in and made use of those few minutes with a last rally beer. It was good to chat with AndyM, Matt Watkins, Don Beaton, and a few others about how things were going in the LD space. When that broke up, I headed back to the room to pack and get ready for the morning. Since the morning riders meeting wasn't until 9 AM, we were able to sleep in quite late compared to some years past. I woke up before 6, and had to will myself back to bed until a bit after 7 just to grab as much sleep as possible. I had first intended to work on my routing the next morning in my room, but since the internet was unusable there, and there wasn't much time anyway, after chatting with Matt I changed my mind and planned to work in the banquet room right after the meeting.

Bruno's cooked up a perfectly passable breakfast, and we were ready to go at 9. I had the laptop out, the internet was working reasonably well, and was eager to hear about where we were going on the rally. Right about this time, my cell phone started going crazy because this site (www.cal24.com) had run into a strange server error, which was kicking notifications out to my phone every few seconds. I didn't have time to effectively fix the site, so I just powered my cell down and would only turn it on if I needed to make a call. Allan had everyone's attention as the meeting kicked off. The theme for this year was to be Wars and Battles. There were in fact two checkpoints, but only the second one was mandatory. At the second checkpoint, there would be a rest bonus available. The terms were that if you arrived at the checkpoint within the window, you had the option of taking a 1 hr rest from the point you arrived. For that rest, you'd receive a good number of points (turned out to be 550), and the 30 minutes of penalty time at the end of the rally would be waived, so you could come in up to 30 minutes late with no penalty. This means you only lose 30 minutes of rally time, and get a decent amount of points as well. We also learned of a verbal bonus, which has become a bit of a tradition here at the Cal. For this bonus, a rider needed to get a picture of a person with a dog. The dog must be on a leash or be held by the person. The person must be holding the rally flag, not the rider. The bonus is not available in Washoe County (the ride start), or Santa Clara Country (the ride finish). The person must not be affiliated with you or the rally, it must be a non-participant. The first dog would be worth 100 points, the second 150, and third 200. If there were two dogs in one picture, they counted as two, you didn't need to have 3 separate events. And with that, we could grab the rally instructions at around 9:20 or so, and we all frantically went to work. We could leave the lot at 10 AM, so there wasn't going to be much time.

When I opened the rally pack, I realized this was going to be quite a challenge. There were 6 pages of the base route, and 10 pages of extra bonuses. (or maybe the other way around, my brain is still a little hazy). But there was no difference between those two lists, as they were both simply a list of things with points assigned. The base route would take people on a little more of a prescribed route, while the other bonus sheet was in what seemed to be random order. With the amount of bonuses on both sheets, less than 40 minutes to plan, and GPS waypoints that weren't reliable, there was a lot of work to do in very little time. There wasn't any large thread, where we sometimes have to get a large group of similar items for progressively higher points. There was the dog bonus, and there was a linked bonus to get to both the top and bottom of Highway 49. I quickly put a route together, stringing in both Crater lake at the very north, and both of those highway 49 points, and realized that it was infeasible to get to the finish in time. I then was looking at some of the other higher point value bonuses, and made sure that I had exact or close enough waypoints for them. This included Crater lake, Mad River Burgers out on 36, Rick Mayer's place, and a few others. Any of them that had exact addresses or intersection listed in the bonus, I didn't bother wasting any time on the computer with them as I knew I could program them in on the fly. It was now past 10, and we really needed to get on the road soon. I was routing with Mark Coulter, and we planned to ride together. At 10:15 or so, we had a rough outline of the plan to get to the first checkpoint and a bit beyond, and I loaded up all three GPS's (2 of mine, one of his). We packed up, got on the bikes, and were underway around 10:30.

Once underway, much of the stress and excitement comes down a bit, as the riding can be quite relaxing. It was a long way to the first bonus at Centerville. Remember that Guru lane bonus? It was in fact there on the last bonus sheet, but I completely missed it as it wasn't that high a point value, so we unintentionally missed a doable bonus only 3 miles from the hotel. Mistake number 1 of many for the day. While riding from Gerlach, I realized I was putting some distance between myself and Mark. I slowed up a few times for us to stay together. For a given amount of rider attention, the new bike clearly cruises at a somewhat higher pace compared to my old mount. But - I also remembered that while I was somewhat quicker on the bike, Mark was quite quick when off the bike and actually grabbing the bonuses, so it all tended to even out without penalizing either of us too badly. When we got closer to the first bonus on the main route, we picked up a couple of other bikes. This was a "count the license plates on the barn" bonus, and we luckily ran into a couple walking their two dogs!



We then continued on, with the next bonus on the base route somewhere in Newell near Tulelake. In hindsight, we missed some obvious bonuses along the way in Alturas and Canby, but it comes down to some pretty weak planning on our part. While riding to Newell, we met up with Matt Watkins and joined him in chasing that bonus. It turned out to be very easy to find, and we quickly answered the question and were again on our way, aiming toward Klamath Falls. At this point I was calculating a few routes on the fly using the GPS, and trying to see what time we'd get to the first checkpoint if we went to Crater Lake. Even back at the first bonus, it looked chancy, and by now it was confirmed. If we went to Crater, we wouldn't get to the 1st checkpoint until close to the end, which would handicap us the rest of the rally. So we went to the Klamath bonus, and got the required picture. We also found another dog on the way!



The next bonus we were looking for was at a resort at Hyatt Lake. The road from Klamath to Hyatt (Green Springs Highway, OR 66)) was one of my favorite all day! I can't remember being on it before, but if I was, it was long enough ago that I forgot anyway. We got the necessary receipt, and picked up another dog picture for good measure, as it was right there:



At this point we realized that we had missed some pretty obvious bonuses, including 1 large point one, and 1 smaller point one that we drove right past. Nothing we could do about it now, other than self-flagellation. Now we were aiming for the Checkpoint 1, and it looked like we would get there about 3:30, 30 minutes after it opened (and 1.5 hours before it closed). This was decent timing, as I knew that we had some hard riding right afterwards if we were to chase Mad River on 36, for its 600+ points. Mark and I were separated in traffic, but I knew that he had the Checkpoint programmed into his GPS, so I was confident he'd be pulling in a few minutes after me, and that's exactly what happened. I had the computer out, and planned a bit more for the rest of the rally. At this point I confirmed that there was no way to get both the top and bottom of 49, so that combo bonus was out. Mad River was still quite doable, but it would mean skipping some things on the base route. Looking at the base route points at that time, it seemed a reasonable tradeoff. There were a couple of bonuses to grab on the way though, including a store at Coffee Creek.

After some food, some drink, and some rest off the bike, it was time to get going again. After only a short time on I-5, we were on to the much more interesting CA-3, which I always enjoy. On that road I was making good time, and had lost sight of Mark awhile back. I stopped at the turnoff for Coffee Creek with my bike in view, and waited. I saw some other riders coming up from the turnoff, so I took pictures of them:



While I was waiting, a pickup truck came up to the intersection right next to me, blocking me from the main road. Which was exactly the time that I saw Mark approaching, so he didn't catch me while he was riding up. I tried to honk the horn, but my bike was off. I waved both my arms, but on the other side of the pickup it wasn't doing much good. He zipped by at good speed, and I realized I'd have to chase him. I started the bike back up, got turned around, and was on the road less than a minute behind him, and I gave chase at pace. But after 2+ miles, I still hadn't caught up to him, and I really didn't want to continue riding that much past the Coffee Creek bonus as it was worth some points. So I turned back around, and headed to the turnoff. I knew he had his GPS programmed, and I hoped we'd meet up later in the rally. When I arrived back at Coffee Creek, I ran into Sanjay, who I had passed earlier on Hwy 3. We found the store together, and took the bonus picture:



From here, the next bonus was near Weaverville on the side of the main road. We had to find this marker, and then identify the color of the unique stone on the back of it. I went with Peach, which was accepted. (along with Salmon and a few other similar descriptions)



The next large bonus I was going for was now Mad River on 36, but on the way there was a smaller bonus off of Wildwood Road. I thought I had been on that road years ago on a MSMC group ride, but I wasn't 100% sure. It runs parallel to 3 between Hayfork and 36, and is a fantastic twisty one-lane almost the entire way. It was so much fun, it reminded me quite a bit of 229 near Paso Robles ("Rossi's Driveway"). Like 229, it felt as if there was no earth moved at all to build the road; instead they just laid pavement every which way up, down, left, right, and often appropriately banked! I found the bonus about halfway down that road, and it was pretty straightforward as Allan had given us an intersection description.

Now it was on to Mad River. I made my way to 36, and saw a sign for Red Bluff, 57 miles east. I was heading west, about 30 miles or so. At this point I had only used 1/3 of my tank, but the miles to empty didn't look great. My calculations had that as 60 miles out and back, and then another 57 miles before guaranteed gas, or about 120 total. My bike was reporting 120 miles range left at that intersection, so I was a bit hesitant. But - I knew that I could stretch the mileage a bit, and I also knew that there was potentially some gas near Platina if I really got stuck. So I aimed east to Mad River, and tried to keep the revs down, while still making good time. I just love 36, which is why I was partial to this bonus, and enjoyed the whole ride out. I did see a number of deer both in and near the road, and some were close enough to require heavy braking. It was a good limiter to keep the speeds somewhat reasonable. Once at the Burger Barn, I found the answer to the question, and saddled up for the ride back west. At this point I was deciding to get back on the main route, or look for larger bonuses instead. Since I was just at Rick Mayer's place a few weeks ago, I had a perfect waypoint already in the GPS, and I pointed directly there from Mad River to see what it looked like. It surprised me that it was only 79 miles, and I knew I'd be able to get gas near there. At this point my bike was still reporting over 100 miles of range left, so I knew I was in the clear. I did realize that it was taking me up and over Platina road, which I also enjoy, in the daytime at least.

Platina road at night, however, is no joke. Narrow, twisty, unpredictable, a bit dirty in spots, and cliffs immediately on the side of the road that would allow plenty of time for expletives before hitting solid ground. The BMW lighting that directs into turns was a godsend on this road, and it really made it much easier and safer than it would have been on my prior bikes, even with mongo lighting, that was pointed straight ahead. This road is really in the middle of nowhere, about 25 miles of extreme twisties with no property or anything else along the way. So I was quite surprised when out of the darkness I come up on this scary looking gentleman walking in the road with 1 arm. I came up on him so fast, and the sighting was so strange, that it took me until after I passed him for me to realize whether it was real or not. This was right about halfway on this road, so there is a 10+ mile walk for this guy in either direction, with absolutely nothing in terms of civilization the entire way. I went back to applying the necessary concentration on the road, and continued on to Rick Mayer's place. When I arrived there, I saw Sanjay just leaving. Here's that memorable wagon wheel, along with the box for birthday wishes for Rick's wife:



Now I had to figure out what was still doable, and still get myself to the 2nd checkpoint near the early part of the time window. It was open from 2 - 4 AM, and I planned to take the hour rest bonus, so I really wanted to nail it very close to 2. Of the big point bonuses left, the covered bridge off of 49 stood out. 450 points or so, and it didn't look like it would be too hard to find. I also plugged in both Vinton (top of 49), and a few other bonuses to see what the timing looked like. From Rick Mayer's place, if I went straight to the checkpoint, I'd get there before 2. If I went to the covered bridge, then the checkpoint, I'd get in a little after 2. If I did Vinton, the timing took me close to 4 AM. I instead plugged in the Washington bonus, which was big points, but that + the bridge would get me to the checkpoint sometime around 3:15, and that bonus looked like it might be somewhat harder to find quickly. So I confirmed the covered bridge, and went for a ride. 99 wasn't particularly memorable, but 49 certainly was. I like that road in the daytime, and it turns out I like it at night as well. The bike was really performing well, and I was enjoying myself the entire way. The route was 140+ miles of fun, including CA 149/Hwy70, Hwy 162/Oroville Dam Blvd, Miners Ranch Rd, Oroville Bangor Hwy, Loma Rica Rd, Marysville Rd, and finally 20 miles on 49 to just get to the bridge. All fun roads, very little slab, and almost zero traffic the entire way. The only creatures sharing the road with me were the occasional deer, but none were too close for comfort.

The covered bridge was an experience. It's off the road aways, set back in the trees. There are no lights for miles. It's after midnight. The bridge is going over a small creek, and it's not only covered, but it's completely contained with no windows or any other openings to let light in. I left the bike's lights running on the one side, while I walked across on foot to find the answer to the question (how many reflectors are on both sides of the road barrier on the east side of the bridge). I make it across with my trusty flashlight, confirm there was only one, and walk back across. As I'm getting my paperwork together, I notice someone approaching me. I had my helmet off but earplugs in, so I'm surprised I heard/saw anything in the dark in that direction. I shined my flashlight on him, and figured I'd say hi. He asked me if his car was still in one piece on the other side of the bridge, I guess it was disabled, and I confirmed that I had seen it. Wished eachother a good night, and he was on his way back into the darkness. 2nd freaky night-time encounter when you don't expect or desire to be surprised by someone.

Back on the bike, I tested a few other bonuses to see if timings had changed, but unsurprisingly, they hadn't. I aimed to Checkpoint 2, and expected to pull in around 2:20, which went right to plan. The rest of the trip down 49 continued to be entertaining, and I really was enjoying the ride itself. A&S was easy to find, and I said hi to Sean who checked me in at 2:24. I chose to take the rest bonus, confirmed that I didn't have to actually sleep, but just couldn't leave until 3:24. I whipped out the laptop, and started planning for the last leg. With an hour to plan, and only a few bonuses left in range, it was pretty easy to calculate an optimal route. The Junction and Mt. Hamilton precluded the 300+ point Gilroy bonus, along with 2 or 3 other achievable large points, so it didn't seem worth it. I did include Fiddletown in the plan, which I hadn't been to before. My plan was Fiddletown as a bonus, the 4 main route bonuses, and that last big Gilroy bonus. That one was as simple as going to an address and taking a picture of a fence, for 318 points! Tom and Allan weren't kidding about the points being both larger and easier at the back half of the rally, so it paid to be rested and have enough saved time to grab as many as possible.

I made it to Fiddletown on some more fun roads, found the stack of bricks, and then needed to identify the organization or person who was listed twice on all those bricks. It took me *much* longer than it should have to realize that the Rotary club was listed twice, but I eventually found it and was back on the road. On the way to Fiddletown, I finally experienced something that had taken me all these years to confirm, yes, sometimes birds don't get out of the way of your helmet. I'd hit them with the bike a number of times, but this time it smacked me right above the faceshield, hard enough to knock my head back a bit. Certainly woke me up to full attention quickly! After Fiddletown, I saw I was traveling through Copperopolis, remembered there was another bonus there, so picked up one I hadn't expected at the open air park:



Now the home stretch was clear, and I in fact came up on Dave and Alan at the courthouse in Mariposa. We were then on to the large statue at the Ag Ec museum. I was making some good time, and when I came up on some slightly slower bikes, went by only to find that the bonus was moments away, so we all stopped at the same place anyway.



The next bonus was in a parking lot between Pacheco Park and the nearby Reservoir. I wasn't able to find it on the GPS, but I put a point that would be pretty close, and that was what I was aiming for. I was riding with Andy Mackey and another rider on a GS I believe, and we found ourselves directly behind a Sheriff for a good stretch up the highway, keeping speeds well in check, and allowing plenty of time to stretch on the bikes. We were on 152 heading toward that bonus, when I had a complete brain fart and rode right past it. I had it in the GPS that I have voice prompts turned off for, which in hindsight was not a smart move. Even worse, the next turnaround was over 6 miles down the road, adding 12 miles just to get back where I needed to be before continuing on. The timing was getting close enough for the finish, that I didn't want to take that 15+ minutes for the 150-ish point bonus there, so I re-aimed to that final large bonus in Gilroy for 318 points. That one was easy to find, with the hardest part finding a place to safely park the bike on the particularly hilly street, though it certainly doesn't come across in the picture.



At this point all that was left to do was get the bike back to home base, and it was an uneventful trip back up the highway. I pulled in a few minutes before 10 AM, so with my 30 extra minutes, it turns out I could have gone back to grab Dinosaur point after driving past it, but the coulda-woulda-shoulda doesn't ever seem to make me feel better. What I knew was that I had run an OK rally, but certainly not a great rally. There were many points that I left on the table that really shouldn't have been left, and I know that it's important to get my head in the game early on in these things. It seemed I hit my groove after the 1st checkpoint, and even more so after the 2nd checkpoint, so it's clear that with enough time to do adequate planning, things work out better for me. Not that that would be a surprise for anybody, I guess. I just need to lobby for more planning time at the beginning of these things, and perhaps I can get just a little bit closer to the sharp end of the field.

On that topic, the banquet was fun as always, and Tom MC'd the countdown of the finishing positions. A few people DNF'd by missing a checkpoint or choosing to withdraw, so the number of finishers was down to 18. Of those, my ride was good enough for 6th place. It was a good meal with friends, and Annie and our newest little one (Ethan) were also able to join us at the hotel. The rally came off without any major hitches for anyone, with no accidents or even incidents. Even those who were unlucky enough to be pulled over were lucky enough to have received warnings! The karma was good with us this year, which certainly has something to do with all of the good will (and direct support) this event is able to drive for Polio Plus. Bob from that organization was entertaining as always at the finish and the banquet, and there were even more on-the-spot donations to the cause during the door prize lottery.

All in all, I had a good rally, but an even better ride. So many of the roads were ones I've had great fun on in the past, and many of the new ones turned out to be great finds, and I'm thankful for Allan's routing us in the right direction to find 'em. Big thanks to Allan for taking the time to lay out a fun rally, Tom for running the whole shindig, Jodie for all of the support on scoring and the SPoT technology, and every other one of the volunteers who take their time to allow the rest of us to have a great time the entire weekend.

Here is what my full route looked like, 1,118 miles of fun according to the corrected odo: (click for full-res)



All of my pictures are available in full-res in this gallery, and piles of other people's pictures are up in this shared 2012 gallery. The final scoring results are posted up here.