Sunday, June 10, 2018

That Good-Natured Midwest Sense of Humor

Kirsten's RT... next to a sleek rally wanna-be ride.

This is a kinder, gentler rally.  There is no trickery.  The hidden bonus location for Friday night was on the front page, first paragraph of the rally pack.  Yet this morning, the Rallymasters wanted to know if 125 bonus locations for a 24-hour rally was enough.  After some uncertain nods, they said, “Well, come on up.” Just in case, they had added a Saturday morning special bonus, with some common Rallymaster reminders.  Your rally flag must be in every photo.  If you are one of the two-up riding teams, one of you must be in the picture.  “It doesn’t matter who, you can switch if you like,” said Connie.  “Do we get extra points if the most attractive person is in the photo?” asked Mikala of the two-up Goldwing team of Chris and Mikayla.  Absolutely! the gathered crowd answered with hoots and claps while the Rallymasters shook their heads.

But the clock was already ticking towards 8:00 a.m.  After a coordinated rider launch, I hopped into the mobile Rally HQ to hot foot it over to said bonus location, only for us to pull up as most of the riders were already pulling out.  Still, after taking some photos of the smallest museum in St. Paul, we enjoyed our bonus points with a side of delicious coffee and pineapple zucchini bread.  These Rallymasters know how to coordinate a bonus location for maximum benefit as the small museum is right outside the fantastic Workhorse Coffee Bar
The Saturday “take over” of the smallest museum in St. Paul features the MN1K!  

 This rally is bringing riders to a collection of the strange and interesting.  Not to be left out, this morning mobile Rally HQ made a stop at another Minnesota classic…um, how to describe it…. surplus shop.  The Ax-Man Surplus Shop has a female mannequin riding a rocket hanging from the ceiling, next to a plaster horse head and a bin of glass transistor bulbs labeled, “Worst Anniversary Present Ever, $9.45.”  Around a corner with posters of the “Ladies of the 80s” and red and yellow bins full of blue and black cables, was the bobble head Jesus.  Coons made me take a bonus photo next to him.  I think I’m starting to understand this wry Midwestern humor…..   
“Be EZ on Jeezy”
Dan Roth pre-launch at MN1K Rally HQ.
 The good people at Rally HQ– Motoprimo Motorsports, MN always make a donation to this event to support the purchase of shirts and such, which allows the MN1K to make a larger donation to the Lustgarten Fund.  Fighting pancreatic cancer is a cause near and dear to this rally family.  Motoprimo also has a large showroom, with plenty of space to share with riders and easy access to I-35.  Which is handy.  Even though about half the ramps and some entire sections of the interstates surrounding Rally HQ have closed this weekend for the short window that MN gets to do summer roadwork.  [Rally watchers will remember that this was an issue last year for some non-Waze riders during the Iron Butt Rally 2017 whose HQ was smack in a spaghetti bowl of highways.]  

Tonight, as grey clouds and rain have passed over HQ, we’ve been watching big weather blobs on the radar.  There are tornado warnings in Iowa.  It could be a wet 24 hours.  Randy has received only a handful of calls from riders today, who spread throughout the available locations in the Midwest.  One rider called just to say he’s loving this rally and to thank the Gabricks.  That’s a welcome note as the dark comes on and riders start to consider their options for the minimum 3 hour rest bonus.  Scoring will start at 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning.  Riders need to be back at Rally HQ by 7:59:59.  Those who misjudge the timing will DNF at 8:00 a.m. 
Analog GPS routing
Kirsten’s Spot is making steady progress.  When she called this afternoon, she had already stopped for gas twice.  She checked her tire, and with another 400 miles on it thus far, it still looked good (i.e. no glittery spots).  The rain was holding off, but the fog was thick and the stop and go traffic kept her attention as she made her way to a daylight-only bonus.  Heading into a busy downtown location, Kirsten said, “we’ll see – this could turn into a flower-sniffing ride.”  She had just come from the Museum of Torture (“I swear I’m NOT going in there - I don’t care how many points it’s worth”) and got a tip from an employee at another spot (“the guy before you said he had to have his flag in the photo”).  Too bad for one rider who left his flag 100 miles behind him.  His face will become his flag for the duration.  And tonight, riders will be looking for the pieces of calm between the storms and the bonus locations to line up a path to the finish.

Saturday, June 9, 2018


If you push the seat alll the way back, John Coons will fit in a Prius.  Well, mostly.  His knees kind of fold up against the dash.  After driving 1200 miles to Rally HQ for the Minnesota 1000, rally dogs Bela and Riley and I were happy to have a local co-pilot for a driving tour along the river road to the Friday night bonus location. 

Rallymasters Connie and Randy Gabrick have put together an epic rally for their swan song.  After handing out the rally packs for the Minnesota 1000 last night, Connie started the evening by stating, “Ok, this is a big rally.”  Randy concurred, “It’s HUGE,” (after observing the look of dismay from the collective riders, he modified), “well ok, not huge, but it’s large.” After going to sleep at 4:30 a.m. Friday morning, apparently Randy and Connie got up 2 hours later to “finish it up” and get the rally pack to the printers…. Mmm we love the smell of fresh ink on a rally pack.

Normally they provide about 50-60 bonus locations for this 24-hour rally. But this year’s 32 riders have a smorgasbord of 125 bonus locations to choose from.  Riders immediately got to work looking through the selections, noting values, and quickly suiting up to catch early pre-rally points in the special Friday night bonus.  The first must-get location was a group photo on the Mississippi River at 8:45 p.m. last night.  The photo may have in fact set a new record for having three rally dogs present, including Lisa Erbes’ 4-legged rally pro Jake.  There was general sniffing and prancing as the big dogs nodded their heads and scouted the best spot to stand in the group photo.  The riders were there too.  Most had not even finished loading all the bonus locations from the red dot or blue dot flash drives.  So, photo taken, riders scrambled off to finish route planning.  There was a lot to process between last night and the 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning start. 
An unofficial preparatory photo of the Friday night photo bonus - Mississippi River.

John Coons, Kirsten (prepping her rally pack) and Brant Moteelall
Team Strange is a tight group, and it’s nice to be in their home territory.  They have a system that needs little discussion.  In passing out the rally packs, Connie noted, “if you’re new to Team Strange, see Brant.”  Randy’s dad came out – he and I had a nice talk last summer at the Iron Butt Rally where the seeds of a MN1K trip were planted.  And a big shout out to Karol Patzer who appeared at Rally HQ to wish Kirsten and the riders well last night!  When I asked Lisa Erbes how things were going, just weeks away from the launch of Butt Lite 2018, she said that it’s all pretty smooth.  They recently ordered the shirts with very little discussion she said.  “Maybe we’re all one brain now.” 

In the family spirit, Team Strange and the MN1K use their powers for good.  Riders were able to get early early points (as long as they don’t forget to claim them at scoring on Sunday) by making a donation in support of Arlene’s fund.  Arlene Liska, a pioneer in long-distance riding, rode from Alaska to the tip of South America with her husband in the 1960s, and a few years later, rode from Norway to the bottom of Africa.  Now in her 90s, Team Strange has declared this the year of Arlene, with an opportunity for points-for-donations at every sponsored rally.

As riders pondered their options over BBQ last night, they also considered those things that float through a rider’s brain hours before go, no-go.  One rider is riding a new-to-him 1600 GTL Exclusive on its first rally.  One rider is having pretty irritating back pain.  Dan Roth, lately of the MD 2020, got a flat just a few dozen miles away from home on a fairly new tire.  It had a clean slice, which he was able to patch to carry him through the MN1K.  Kirsten is keeping an eye on her own rear tire.  While routing late last night she mumbled under her breath, “if I hit that one…. Well maybe going this way…. I don’t see a mileage cap….”  It just made me shake my head because I remember a silvery-sparkle on a rear tire after another rally a few years ago – not something a spouse likes to see!  We may be looking at a post-rally tire change to get us home, but in Team Strange territory – there’s no shortage of friends and family! 
Kirsten, Lisa Erbes, and Lyle

Monday, May 28, 2018

Fade to Black

Kirsten and other riders stopping the clock under the canopy of Rally HQ.

The 2018 Winner of the Cheesedick Award!
And the rider in first place for the Mason Dixon 20-20, and the winner of 3 academy awards for his productions during the rally, is Rider #45, James Alton.  Riding just over 1400 miles in 32 hours, and with 75,902 points, he also wins a free draw to the 2021 Iron Butt Rally.  Finishing in 7th place, with 1464 miles and 71,988 points, and the winner of the academy award for the “Soylent Green Remake,” starring Miss Piggy, is Kirsten.  With 1375 miles, and finishing her first rally in 4th place is the two-up team of Donna Attanasio and Jeff Wilson.  Winning the much anticipated Cheesedick Award, after his snarky reply to the Rallymaster before all this fun began, is Bruce Edwards!  And riding 840 miles for 35,778 points, and the prize of the “Groundhog Day” academy award (for their loop ride in Pennsylvania, re-taking the same bonus picture every two hours), are Lisa and Paul Turner.  Just before the award dinner, the skies over Rally HQ opened up with drenching rain, thunder, and strobe lighting in a midnight black sky…. 

[Screen fades to black as the rally blog computer is pressed into service at the finish to compile the award standings by the academy….]

[24 Hours Ago]

The fickle rally gods frustrated one rider’s finisher attempt late Saturday.  After successfully sending in several bonus photos with his flag, the photos started to come in with no flag but with the rider as stand in.  Having lost his flag, he was gamely carrying on according to protocol, when his cell phone bounced out of the holder while on the road.  He watched it fly over his shoulder, land on the road behind him, and promptly get run over.  After 2 hours spent at a Verizon store getting a new phone, he realized he’d be too late to make the wedding bonus, and decided to call it in to the Rallymaster.  As we were finishing up dinner that night, Rick was heading over to assist the rider in getting his gear out of the storage lock-up so he could head home.  To Florida.  We wish him well on his return trip.

Two other riders later caught the attention of the fickle rally gods.  Todd Lampone broke both of his tires on a block of wood on the road.  Not to let an excellent BBQ (that was already paid for) go to waste, he rode a different bike back to the finisher’s banquet where he received a hearty round of applause.  Dave Arkle, unfortunately, did not make it back for the BBQ, although his bike did have a taste of cow.  Dave apparently saw the first cow on the road, which he missed in time to slow down and hit the 2nd cow.  When the digital rally watchers inquired, “did everyone make it back to the barn?” Dave replied, “Not quite all – I think I did it wrong.  Cow -1, Dave -0.”  For his troubles however, and for being the only actual cow boy during this rally, Dave was awarded in his absence the “Space Cowboy” academy award to a rousing cheer from the assembled BBQ eaters.
Winner of the "Space Cowboy" award - Rider #2, who plans to heal for a few weeks and ride the Butt Lite in July...
on a different bike.
Nearly all of the MD 20-20 riders rode over 1000 miles, despite having to stop on occasion to wring out gloves, dump out boots, and generally shake the steam out of their jackets.  There were 39 finishers, some of whom, late into the night, were still shaking their heads that there wasn’t an “Easter egg” in the rally book.  Chuckling, Rick said, “I told you there was nothing hidden unless you made it up yourself.”  To which several replied, “But you always say that!  I had to stop at the [rest area, Waffle House, my rest bonus at 1:00 a.m…..] to re-read the whole book again because I just couldn’t believe it!”  Yes my friends, the 2018 was a straight forward rally with built-in complexity from the production combos. 

Next year’s Penultimate (i.e. 2nd to the last) rally will bring riders the leftovers, which Rick said he hopes we all enjoy.  Knowing that he has a 6” binder with every rally pack from the last 19 rallies (but without any power point slides), this rally watcher thinks 2019 could bring the best hits, or maybe all those bonus locations he STILL hasn’t had a chance to use, or even a re-do of the diner tour requiring that any leftover sausage is presented at scoring.  If you love leftovers, keep your eyes peeled to the casting call for the 2019 MD 20-20.  You might even make it past Groundhog Day and ride out of Pennsylvania.   

[Fade to black.  Roll credits.]

This production of the Mason Dixon 20-20 was brought to you by: 

Casa Shambles Productions
TWOONGSA Productions
Alan Smithee Productions
Shade Tree Productions
and 404Found Productions, a Division of Outhouse Media
with many more...