The Merriam -Webster dictionary give us this description for the word "Perseverance."
To Persist (As in a undertaking) In spite of the difficulties.
Little did I know that this would become my personal theme of this event ....
It all started long before I packed the bike to head to Statesville NC in mid August to participate in this years Beast in the East event. On my way home from the Minuteman Rally in May, I had discovered some major problems with my 2006 Buell Ulysses. I had waited a few weeks after that event to get to sorting the bike out for the Beast in the East rally.
What should have been routine repairs turned into a parts availability nightmare that went all the way up to three weeks before this event. The situation was so bad that I was starting to prep my retired LD bike in a last ditch effort to make the start of this event. This was to be my first multi day rally, five days to be precise and because of the perfect alignment of certain stars in the sky I was able to participate in this event and I did not want to miss my first shot at the next level of Long Distance riding events.
The Buell 3 weeks before the event
Fast forward to August 13 2011 and I am on the bike heading to Statesville North Carolina, It is a nice day, the bike feels great, I feel great and things just could not be any better until the weather starts to warm up to what is considered normal in states south of the Mason-Dixon line. That would be temperatures in the upper 90+ degree range with 95% humidity.
Then it happens, I start to get very uncomfortable in the seat of my bike, The distance I need to cover today is only 700 miles and as a test of myself and the machine I had put a 1050 mile day in two weeks before. But here and now I am in serious discomfort on a short ride to the rally hotel the two days before the biggest ride I have ever done in my life.
I arrive and check in, then head over to the early arrivals banquet, I go through introductions and get some of the great food the rally organizers had set out for us. I sit in the back of the room and listen to the other riders try and get clues and hints from the rally masters about our upcoming adventure, the rally staff was having fun toying with the riders and it was a pleasant and fun atmosphere. I receive my information about where I need to be and when for the official check in to the rally for Sunday and I retire for the night.
Sunday, I go through odometer check, This is to see how far your odometer is off from a perceived value, I know from doing other L.D. rides my odometer reads an extra 50 miles per thousand so if I were to run 5000 miles that would add 250 extra miles to the odometer that I did not actually travel. Plus we did the regular paperwork that is normal for these events. After this I set out to find what is causing the extreme discomfort in my bikes seat. After thinking about how this has only happened one time before and strangely enough it was also in August, in Georgia of 2010. I set out to find an auto parts store. I find what I am looking for, Heat reflecting tape...
And I line the underside of the seat, where I sit ...
The extreme discomfort was me getting mild 1st degree burns on my butt. It only happened one time before and I never put it together what the cause was.
Like sitting on an air cooled engine in 98 degree heat at 80 MPH
This falls under NOT GOOD but I am going to run anyways, I have come this far and I will go until I can not run any longer is what I tell myself as I face the prospect of five days of riding sun up to sun down with my butt on fire...
As I am working on my bike another rider asks me about my impromptu modifications, His name is Alan Hatcher, we kind of joke about the situation but little did we know that later we both would have so much in common by the end of the event.
First Leg Bonus listing
After yet another great dinner we get our bonus lists and a thumb drive with the rally data on it, The event so far is routine like a 24 hour event. The only difference is that we are given a fuel log sheet that we are told will come into play in the second leg of the event. The requirement of the fuel log is to get receipts from 16 states or provinces and yes Washington DC did count as a state. I plan a conservative route up the coast to Delaware and then back down to the check point in Surrency, GA.
After having my GPS unit act up again, I can not load the information with my lap top computer. So after manually inputting all the latitude and longitude in my primary GPS for the locations I want to collect I settle in for 3 hours of sleep.
At 5 am sharp we are off ..... Note to self ..
This was my plan and notes about the states I needed a Good fuel receipt for my leg two 16 state bonus.
My first bonus location is near Lacama NC. It is Simpson's Whirligig farm. This is a 195 mile run from the start of the event and all is well...
This is why I do this, is to see unique things like these huge wind driven machines built from old car, truck and tractor parts. This was an incredible sight.
I get all my paper work together and plug in the next location on the GPS, As I exit the site I meet Todd and Diane LeClair rolling in on their Goldwing.
Hum...I Think...Another bike coming to the the same location, Am I on to something ???
They are coming in as I am heading out. There are not a lot of bonuses out here along the coast of the Atlantic ocean. But all of the bonuses that are out here are hi point value.
The next bonus was the The Hammock House, The oldest home in Beaufort N.C. dates back to approximately 1700 and Blackbeard headquartered out of what was shown on ancient maps as the "white house" which was located on what is now Taylor's creek, overlooking the inlet to the Atlantic Ocean at Beaufort. After nearly 300 years, things have changed. Today the house is known as the Hammock House,
This will be a 2 1/2 hour 130 mile ride up the coastline.
Who by chance do I end up riding with in the last 50 miles in to Beaufort N.C. with ? Todd and Diane again.
I get to admire how the Goldwing soaks up bumps and watch Todd skillfully direct that huge bike 2 up towards our destination.
Strangely we make different turns to this house, I get there and think, How can you see this from the sea, It's in a cul de sac.
I reread the directions and do my paper work, I point out the house to Todd and Diane as they are pulling in as I am loading up to get to my next location.
A Replica of the Cape Hatteras Light house in Columbia N.C. This was to be some of the best 3 hours of riding up the Atlantic Coast I have ever ridden. As I make my way out of Beaufort, Todd and Diane catch up to me in traffic and I am only guessing that I am going to the same place as they are.
We ride for a long time together, At times I lead, at times Todd leads, but it is a wonderful ride through rural North Carolina, I got to laughing in my helmet as it looked like Diane was doing yoga on the back of that bike, Right leg hanging of the bike, then left lag up in the air, then big stretch to the left, Todd just kept that bike steady and smooth... About 45 miles from the location Todd pulls ahead then slows and takes an off ramp . I Think about following him, but remind myself to ride MY plan. I stop for ice and fuel on my way to the replica light house, so I meet Todd and Diane just leaving the location.
I get the picture I need and set the GPS to send me to one of the most unusually named places I have ever been to ...
But first we need to go across The Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel, I have never crossed here before and I was amazed at the 17+ mile complex.
Ocean going ships ready to cross over us in the tunnel sections of the bridge.
And again I catch up with Todd and Diane on the twisting back roads leading to.....
A Better picture of the Assawoman Church in Assawoman Virginia
So at this stop I finally get to talk to Todd and Diane, We commented on it looks like we have the same route. We compare notes and find we are only going to one more location in common.
That location is the Maryland WW 2 Memorial in Arnold Maryland. But first I need to head due north to the Delaware state line and get a fuel receipt. At the gas station I realize the lid to my cooler has fallen off after I left Assawoman VA.
I contemplate stopping at a Walmart and getting another cooler, but I need to get to the WW 2 Memorial
before 8:30 PM or I will not be able to claim the daylight only bonus. So I press on without my drinking water supply. On my way out of the gas station I see Connie Gabrick heading towards me and we exchange a wave. 800+ miles and I am still running into other riders.
I arrive at the WW 2 Memorial near 8 pm. Moments later Tim Pawlowski pulls in and we go up to take pictures, I take Tim's picture and he takes mine.
Tim and I converse while packing the bikes about where we had been and were we are going and he quickly speeds off. I stand and look at the place we had just taken pictures of and something is not right.
Nowhere does it say it is the WW 2 Memorial. So I walk up to the stone rail and look down.
There it is... behind what I had just taken pictures of.
I feel real bad that Tim may have just got the wrong location, but I had learned from a mistake I made in the Minuteman event earlier in the year that If you have any amount of doubt about the bonus. Go walk around a little bit, You would be amazed what you might find.
As I walk back up from the WW2 Memorial to my bike I see Todd and Diane again, This will be the last time I see them until the Check Point in Surrency, GA.
From here I am done bonus hunting for the night, I need to get a Maryland and Washington DC fuel receipt and start heading south to take my rest bonus somewhere in Virginia.
I start to feel the need for sleep as the Thunderstorm I am riding in is getting difficult after 20 hours in the saddle. I find a Ramada with 3 gas stations around it, I stop in and ask about a room, The clerk tells me that they have only 3 rooms left. I ask him if any of the stations are 24 hours so I can get a receipt to start my rest bonus. I go to that station and what happens? A bad receipt. The rules state that a receipt for a rest bonus must have Date, Time, Street Address. There can not be any alterations or corrections to a rest bonus slip. I go back and get a room, I then try the ATM in the lobby, Bad receipt, I mount back up and go to the next 24 hour gas station and yet again no street address on the slip. I head farther away from the hotel and look for a bank machine when I come across a McDonald's and I buy a juice, finally a good receipt and 35 minutes of my limited rest time lost.
I set my Screaming Eagle timer for 2:45 and I fall asleep quickly.
I wake up with out the aid of the alarm, and I have a real bad feeling about this.... I bring my watch up to my face and I see that it is a little after 5 am .........
A unseen force blasts me out of the bed and out the door to my bike
I fire up the GPS and check my arrival time to the mandatory check point in Surrency Georgia, It says I will be late, really, really late.
In what I would call a near panic I load the bike and get to the McDonald's to get my ending receipt, I try and choke down a small coffee but I am just to panicked to finish it. I hop on the bike and head south on I 95.
After about an hour on the bike I tell myself that I need to stop at the next rest area, and do my pre trip inspection on my bike plus I realized that there were 2 bonus locations on the route to the check point that I need to see what happens if I eliminate them from the route.
I find that eliminating the two bonus locations will give me a 1 hour cushion to travel the 606 miles to the check point. A large wave of relief sweeps over me and I just settle in and ride down I 95 to contemplate how a small mistake like not arming an alarm clock can make for such a huge problem and loss of potential points. But I am still in this thing !
Leg 1 Checkpoint: Ed's Last Resort
Ed Tillman put on a fantastic spread of food, Plus we had a opportunity take a shower, sleep and plan the next leg.
And enjoy the August Georgia weather
The First leg scores are posted and I see that the two locations I needed to drop to get here on time have hurt my overall position. I am in 8th position at check point 1, Should have been 6th.
The next bonus list will not be released until 7:pm so after scoring, eating and showering I spend some time talking with the other riders and play with Ed's dog Mack.
Just after the Rally packs are handed out another rider rolls in, It's Allen Hatcher. It seems that there were a few complications to his first leg and he now is getting set to start leg 2 with no points in the bag.
What amazed me was that he was absolutely OK with his situation. Just looking forward to doing good in the next leg. All the riders were given 2 rally books and 2 sets of coordinates. A "B" route and a "C" route. Allen who was sitting next to me decided to try routing the "B" route and I worked the "C" route
After some time he tells me he has a route and we compare notes, With the need to get to 9 states to score the big 16 state bonus the "C"or combinations route will not work for me. Allen heads off to find a room I am now the last person here planning my route again with the "B" book
I put a route together that was somewhat aggressive but had multiple bailout points so I could at 4 places on the route check my progress and had a alternate plan in place at each of those bailout points to get back to the finish on time.
At a few minutes before midnight I have the bike loaded and parked under the canopy next to Ed's Moto Guzzi.
I went in the house and grabbed a bunk and PROPERLY SET MY ALARM for 2:45 am.
I again wake up without hearing the alarm, But unlike in Virginia it is 2:44 am and I turn the alarm off before it goes off.
Loaded up and ready for a strong leg 2, I feel great, my butt is feeling better from the burns and I have a well thought out plan in place.
My plan takes me to 9 states, 13 bonus locations and will cover 2650 miles if I do not run into any major problems.
The first bonus location is 63 miles away and I am happy to be starting the 2 half of this adventure on time and well organized and just feeling good.
First stop, Mud Cat Charlie's a highly regarded local restaurant in Brunswick Georgia
The rally book instructed us to take a picture of the front of the restaurant, As you can see there is a gate blocking my path. I double check the rally book, and confirm that this was a 24 hour bonus.
The rules state that if a 24 hour location is blocked by a gate, You need a picture of the gate, plus another of a nearby sign.
And then a gas receipt from a nearby gas station. So I put a search in the GPS for a gas station and find one a few miles away. I top off my main fuel tank and start heading to Florida, But as I am leaving the gas station it is starting to rain, Big,Big,Big rain drops, the ones that sound like hail on a helmet.
I ride in this huge down pour to get back to I 95 and drive out of the rain once I am on the highway.
Welcome to Florida !
In someways I got to do some other things during this event that I always wanted to do... Like ride my bike from New York to Florida. Check that one off the list .....
Of course that great feeling did not last long when ...
Disaster Strikes .....
I am just past the large inspections area, that looks a lot like a international border crossing when my bike just pops back through the intake and just dies near the end of a construction zone. I spot a place where I can pull the bike off the roadway and slot it in between the barrels that are marking the traffic lane and as I grind down in speed I release the clutch so I can shift the bike out of top gear and it burst back to life. Running fine, No check engine lamp on, everything just fine. I hop off the bike and give it a visual inspection and do not see or hear anything unusual. I ease the bike up to 55 mph and it has some hesitations but they are intermittent and not near a violent as when the bike quit. I am near my exit off of I 95 so I pull into a gas station to look at the bike again and to purchase some kind of dry gas. The way the bike is acting is like it got some water in the gas. I come to find out that dry gas is not a common item in Florida like it is in NY so I get some STP fuel treatment ( Must have some dry gas in it ) and put it in my bikes tank.
As I cut across on two lane road from I 95 to I 10 the bike is running good again, it still has an occasional hiccup but seems to be running better. Now I wonder how much water did I get in my fuel, and will it cause any fuel injection issues down the road.
Get on I 10 west bound and it starts happening again, Popping back through the intake, then back firing through the exhaust. All very brief but very noticeable.
I continue on for about an hour trying to put a pattern to the issue, no pattern, just random. It might do it one time in 20 miles then do it 5 times in a row then be fine for 25 miles.
The sun has come up and I decide to pull into a rest area to look for a cause to this issue.
Sunrising over the Osceola National Forest
At this point I am thinking that it is not a gas issue anymore and is most likely an electrical issue.
I had lined the underside of my seat with heat reflective tape back in Statesville NC and maybe I have a electrical short developing now.
For 2 hours I inspect every ground point, electrical connection, and inspect the wiring harness and find nothing wrong, plus when I run the bike to shake and jiggle the wire loom, the bike runs just fine
At this point I have gone as far as I can go, I call the shop that I work in and ask them to locate a Harley dealer to the west of me. I am told that Capital City HD is about a 100 miles to my west just off I 10.
I put the bike back together and add some extra electrical tape to some places that might be rubbing on my seat bottom. And I start heading west again. I also clear my second trip meter to note the how far till the bike acts up again.
For almost 50 miles the bike is fine... Then it starts all over again... Then stops for a while, as I near Capital HD in Tallahassee the bike seems to be fine again but just as I near the stores off ramps the bike gives me a big back fire and jerk and pop through the intake so I get of the road again and stop in to see if I can get some help.
First I see no Buell sign at the place, But after I went into the service reception area I was told that they had been a Buell store and the Buell tech was working that day.
John Sands the service adviser was first rate with me, I explained my situation and I was given immediate attention.
My thinking was that water might have got into my cam position sensor area, But I could not get the rivet's out without a drill
We found no water in the cam sensor area and the tech Bill Elert agreed with me that it was either water in the fuel or the cam sensor that could be the issue, Bad news was they did not have a sensor in stock.
After making a small change to my bike that allows access to my cam sensor I thanked the crew at Capital City HD for their great service, and pointed my bike west again.
Well, That is westbound I-10 in the background and that is a DEAD Buell in the foreground.
After what could be best described as a significant event, Consisting of flames out the exhaust and the tachometer making 6000 rpm jumps and the bike shutting down completely. I pushed the bike up into a rest area. I then realize I knocked the gel pad off my seat back on the highway. So, I walk back the 1/4 mile I had just pushed the bike, to retrieve it off the road. In nice comfortable 98 degree weather.
I find a nice place to set up my office while I figure out what to do next.
I call Capital City HD back and explain that they should be able to find the issue real easy now, and I was advised to wait for a call. As I am still catching my breath from pushing the bike in the heat. I get a call from Dothan HD/Buell in Dothan Alabama asking about my issue, I explain whats going on and they advise me to arrange for towing, seems that their truck was out for service that day.
I call the AMA road service number and give them the particulars and they advise me that I have a truck on the way, At this point I call Rick Miller again advising him of my situation (update # ?)
As I am on the phone with Rick, My truck arrives.
I help the driver get the bike on the bed of his truck and he ties it off well.
I then call the folks in Dothan to advise them I am in route, and will make it there before they close for the day.
We arrive at the dealership and unload the bike, At this point my 30 years as a mechanic makes me push the starter button and..... The bike starts right up, and I ride it into the service reception area.
Harley-Davidson Of Dothan
That Buell sign is a beautiful sight !
I hang out in the waiting area and a few minutes after 5pm the owner of the dealership and the service manager come and get me and we go back to the shop and to my bike. They can not find anything wrong, all components test fine. I talk with the tech and the owner and service manager and explain I would like a Cam Sensor put in anyways if they have one, The tech goes back to parts and comes back with a shiny new cam sensor in his hand. I accepted all responsibility so if I was wrong I would not blame them but I also stated that lets leave the bike here for the night and install the part in the morning because I did not want to have a failure in the middle of the night.
Bill Holland the owner of the dealership gave me a ride to the hotel and gave me some great suggestions on where to eat dinner, On my way to dinner I stop and get a ATM slip and start my rest bonus.
What the hell, I am not riding so I might as well claim the 6 hour bonus.
At 8:30 am Bill picks me up and I get my ending slip from the same ATM and back to the shop we go,
At this point I have a new route plan that will work if I am on the road by noon,
At noon I get my bike back.
A beautiful sight !
And I still need to put all my stuff back on and they want me to ride the loop road around the shop for a couple of laps to be sure we are fixed.
Just about 2pm central time I am at the gas pumps and about to go back on the clock, I call Rick Miller and advise him I am back on the road again and I hope not to talk with him until I see him in Statesville NC. I have a "Hail Mary" route planned and I hope to be at the checkpoint in 24 hours with some points in my hands.
Next stop is The Stagecoach cafe in Stockton Alabama, I have heard about this place from the LD Rider list, This place has been used as a meeting place for LD Riders for years.
Now I have been riding in the south for nearly 4 days, but when I got off the bike here I was hotter with my gear off than when It was on. Before I left home I put a thermometer zipper pull on my suit.
I stopped in and had a few large glasses of sweet ice tea and a dish of ice cream to cool off and then hit the road to Biloxi ...
On the beach, Biloxi Mississippi, That cool gulf air feels great !
The bonus location I was seeking, The Biloxi Lighthouse
Next stop, Hot Coffee Mississippi
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Hot Coffee, Mississippi is an area in Mississippi, according to a National Geographic journalist, "about halfway between Jackson and Hattiesburg ... Hot Coffee isn't a quaint little town; it's not even a town. Instead it's a tiny community of farms, homes, and businesses scattered along two-lane Highway 532. The 12-mile stretch known locally as Hot Coffee Road runs from the town of Mount Olive to a crossroads that dates back to pioneer days. There, according to local lore, a resident [J.J. Davis] opened an inn in 1870 and sold coffee to passersby. Apparently the drink was the only memorable thing about the place.
The next and last stop is 300 miles of mainly back roads away in Cherokee Alabama
A video about this place.
I had some trouble finding this place, First the GPS put me about 6 miles away on the Natchez Trace Parkway. I walk in the woods with my flashlight wondering were it is. I then dig the rally book out and see that the GPS location is off, so I punch in the new location and go a mile up the parkway and still do not see it. So I read the clue completely and use the driving instructions to get to this location about 12 miles away. It is way off the beaten path and a great place for a coon dogs final resting place.
I pack up the camera and the Rally book and then I am just stuck thinking, It's over....
I punch in the route back to rally HQ in Statesville North Carolina 530 miles to go and 8 hours to get there.
Sunrising in northern Alabama
This will be the last sunrise I will see from the seat of my bike, I had seen the sunrise on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and now Friday from the seat of the bike, And it has just hit me how fast it all went by.
From here it is a push to make the finish, It will be close getting there by 3:00pm or I will get some penalty points. Every gas stop puts me behind and I make some time up on the road. I am glad there is only 2 gas stops to get to the HQ for the finish. I am blessed with no traffic delays over the 530 miles it took to get to the end of this rally for me.
My GPS at the finish
That is from Dothan Alabama to the finish, My last leg of the event. The real total time is 24:17 because I had a 60 minute stay at the IronButt inn on my way up to the Coon Dog cemetery and I turned the GPS off during that time.
I am very pleased to be only 2 minutes late to the final check point and to come in as a finisher after all the things I needed to overcome.
After scoring I find I have come in 10th
Alan Hatcher who had no leg one points came in 9th
The rider who I took the wrong picture of, Tim Pawlowski ended up the winner of the event
To Persist (As in a undertaking) In spite of the difficulties.
In spite of all the issues I had, I had the best time competing in this event, If it was over when I broke in Florida I still would have been pleased with all the cool bonus locations I had been to and the experience as a whole. But toughing it out to the end just made it a never to forget experience.
I hope life offers me a chance to do another one in the future.
Thanks for reading my ride report
Carl van Kesteren