I had been looking forward to doing this event for a long time, So after receiving a personal invitation from Kevin Craft the rally master to come and play in his event. That was enough to prompt me to go and get my passport in order and place the date on the calendar to run in the 2010 event.
The Rendez-vous Rally is a young event of only 3 prior runnings, But it pulls in Iron Butt rally veterans and the finest in Canada's long distance riding community to play for 12 hours in not only Quebec but New England also, This means to be competitive, you must cross international borders in addition to everything else you will face during a rally.
This sounds like fun to me.....
Let's get to Quebec !
I feel that any morning that you can get up and not go to work, Yet still have a job. Is a great morning even if it is raining and foggy out.
I decided to go to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu QC via the state roads in the Adirondack mountains thinking that there should not be much traffic on a friday after Labor Day weekend. Yet I find myself stuck in throngs of people from Old Forge to almost Raquette Lake. They are all here
to enjoy The Adirondack Canoe Classic, '90-Miler' One big event from what I could see. I quickly remembered that one of my friends has run in this event for years, And by pure luck I see his support vehicle by the side of the road as I head up to my competition in Quebec. I wish him good luck as I pass.
Near Saranac Lake NY
Once I got back underway I only stopped for gas before I crossed the border.
I had prepared a way to keep my paperwork in order so prior to getting to the Customs agent it would be easy to access, First issue, I can not get it with my gloves on! So now I am fumbling in front of the Customs officer. I need to change that system for the Rally
After crossing into Canada, I found the Auberge Harris easy and then got over to the Rally office and checked in. Of course they need your mugshot for your photo memory card. This shot is used to make sure that the camera is set to the correct resolution and that the rally staff can read the card.
Then out to the parking lot to see who's here and do some tire kicking until we get our rally books at the dinner tonight.
Nova Scotia, Thats like, 1000 miles from here !
The bike, Honda ST 1300 belongs to Allen Archibald
Jay Whitney's Ninja and Jennyfer Audet's Blackbird
Jay ran this event without a GPS.
Not your normal rally mounts !
Folks arriving at Rally HQ
Jacques Titolo sitting on his bike next to Perry Karsten's tricked-out FJR1300
The new Honda VFR with clutch-less shifting, This bike was being ridden by a journalist who has never done a rally before and had a film crew running around with him.
A very good looking bike
I spot a familiar bike near my room, This BMW belongs to Sanjay Dixit. I had met Sanjay at the Minuteman rally earlier this year, I had found out later that he had won this great bike from BMW.
Earlier in the week all the participants were sent a e mail with a group of coordinates and point values for all the bonus locations of this event. I had spent some time putting a basic plan together at home before arriving at the event. One of the reasons for not spending a lot of time putting a detailed route together prior to getting the rally book is that you do not know what the time constraints are. And the other reason was that the largest point value available for this event was located near the rally hotel. What is the rally master thinking ?
The Rally Master was thinking BIG !
That is the theme of this event,
After a nice dinner we get our rally books and our rally flag. A paper plate with Christmas wreath design on it. This is the first year of photo bonus locations for the rally and the rally master wanted to level the playing field for those who had never run photo bonuses before. So after some question and answer time we are off to our rooms to plan our route.
I had already had all the bonus locations loaded into my GPS so that I would not have the issues I had at the Minuteman rally.
I was able to work with the route that I been thinking about prior to getting the rally book plus the mystery of the largest point bonus was that it was available during daylight hours only. I also make a checklist together so all I need to do is follow my list and ride my plan
I set my multiple alarms and go to bed before midnight.
Let the Games begin !
The alarms get me up at 4 am, and I wonder why in gods name am I waking up at 4am on a Saturday morning ?
I load up the bike and head over to breakfast, Then get over to the riders meeting to get our wildcard bonuses and check on any last minute changes. The wildcard bonus was to get a Mr Big candy bar and a picture of your bike in front of anything marked Walmart, Walmart being the worlds largest retailer.
I then go about taking care of the non riding points bonuses, The first is to get your drivers license sealed before you leave the start, If you return with your license sealed it is worth a lot of points The next is to submit your route plan to the rally master prior to leaving, You are still free to change your route on the fly if you need to. This helps the rally staff find you, should you come up missing. Nothing left to do but get the bike in the starting line and wait for 5:30 to come so I can get this show on the road. I enter the code for my first bonus location "SUP"into the GPS and I leave the start and head towards the highway a few blocks away.
I start noticing something is not right with the bike, I can not quite figure whats is up until I fail to negotiate the on ramp to the Autoroute, I keep from going off the pavement and pull over before the end of the on ramp . I shut the bike down and go about diagnosing why my bike will not turn in corners. Great, I am sitting on the side of the road 5 minutes into the rally with a nearly flat front tire. I had checked the bike over closely last night, what's up with this ! I get my self back together and put my air compressor on the tire and start to fill it with air, While the tire is being re inflated I inspect it for damage and cannot find why the tire went down. I get the pressure back up to where it needs to be and get myself back into rally mode . I make a mental note to check the tire at the next stop.
Back on the road again...
I head towards Montreal to catch the Autoroute 30. That will take me to the Trans Canada. The bike feels fine and I like the pace of the morning traffic as I skirt the eastern edge of Montreal. As I turn east on the Trans Canada the sun is coming up and I am heading into a beautiful day.
I note a bonus coming up on my GPS screen that was not on my list, I see that it is alongside the highway and is an easy off and easy on to get back on the highway, and I am still slightly ahead of schedule considering I was stopped for 5 minutes with my tire issue.
My first points of the 2010 Rendez-vous rally
The giant egg along side the Trans Canada in Saint-Hyacinthe Quebec
+ 41 points.
On to the next stop
Parked at the Lovely Rang Du Moulin-Rouge I needed to get a picture at the back of the monster truck.
+71 points and the first of my three part big truck combo bonus.
As I head back to the highway I see a gas station sign that states they speak english, I head over and ask about a Mister Big candy bar. Well my French is as good as the clerks English but I get what I need.
A Mister Big Bar
I bought 2, one to bring home and share with my wife.
I check my front tire again and find it has not lost any air in the last 2 hours.
That makes me feel a lot more comfortable about my ride.
As I pull out I see a two up team on a V Strom pulling in to the Moulin-Rouge. This is the first rally bike I have seen yet, Is my route the hot ticket ?
My next stop, Asbestos Quebec ...
This is where you get to learn something about the areas we get to ride to.
So off to find the Asbestos mine in Asbestos Quebec. After negotiating thick fog I find the mine and the truck.
Add 75 points to the tally and the second of my Big truck combo bonus.
Off to find the big cow. The fog is still thick and is just like running in the rain, My gloves are starting to get cold and wet but I know that I am nearing my location, As I pop up above the fog we are now running down a dirt road going up into the hills near Saint-Georges-de-Windsor
249 points left on the table ...... Here. I will explain later.
This is an observation deck that gives great views of the mountains around the area.
My task at this location was to write down what was on the sign board describing the mountain views
I write down what I see and head back to the bike.
The next stop is in Sherbrooke, I did not take a picture of the big tow truck, as I was slipping a little on my time, I wrote down the information in my rally book and head to the gas station I passed on the way in to get my fuel bonus,
This rally book read very clearly to get no more than 10 liters before 11:30 am, Pump in the max amount and check my receipt
+56 points +Big truck combo bonus points + Fuel bonus
And head to my next location.
Coaticook pedestrian suspension bridge. Longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world.
Take a short ride over to my next bonus
The rally book noted to make sure the bulls large Testicles were in the picture.
This is my last stop in Canada, I am off to New Hampshire to get to Chutter’s General Store in Littleton.
If I planned correctly I should be at Chutter's near 11:45 am, I still have to get across the border first. The first of the two wildcard's in my plan.
Great news is; nothing to report. I was able to get my documents out with my gloves on, and the border agent was very cool about my bike, and seemed like a genuinely nice guy.
U.S. Border crossing, less than 10 minutes.
As I get closer to Littleton, New Hampshire. I spot another bonus location pop up on my GPS. I get to wondering why was I passing by it on my way to Chutter's. I decide to get it now because I was ahead of schedule this would just help move things along.
Worlds largest syrup can. St. Johnsbury, Vermont
+52 more points
Turn up the road and head to New Hampshire and I get to Chutter's easily. I walk in and all there is in the place is tourists. I look and the line is 4 deep, all I need is a Rally special ! Then one of the girls calls to me and say's I know what you want !
I am dumbfounded, How does she know I want a Rally Special ?
I guess that, when you never have seen an LD Rider before, and now at least 20 of them have been in your store. You can pick one out in a crowd.
The place was cool and the staff fun, and I am running ahead of schedule.
Off to Cabot, Vermont next.
I had plotted a back road route that would shave some time off by taking some dirt roads, I had many views this day but I did need to stop and take a tourist picture.
And arrive in Cabot, Vermont.
Our task at this location was to find the rusted tractor in a certain parking lot and count the stuffed cows around it.
At this point as I was finishing Sanjay Dixit pulled in so I stop from putting my helmet on and we chat for a few minutes, As I am leaving I see Jay Whitney pulling in.
I am heading for Middlesex, Vermont to find a grave stone.
I find the headstone and get my picture.
As I head down the dirt road away from here, I see Jay coming up the road. I think to myself How did he get here this quick ?
My next stop is Ben and Jerry's in Waterbury, Vermont.
I get there and see Sanjay there, we decide to look for the task together and go and look for the giant ice cream carton. As parents grabbed their small children and I did hear one tell their kid not to stare at us.
Too funny, A couple of LD riders is scary.....
I take Sanjay's picture and he takes mine.
Did I mention that Jay pulls in right behind me when I got there. I am really wondering how this guy is making up time like that.
Next stop is Shelburne, Vermont .To get a picture of a giant Jack. Other than the big cow bonus, I have never had to go far from the bike to get my bonus. This time it was out of view from where I parked. And the GPS say's its right here. I wander up to the main road and walk about 200 feet and I see it. As I am putting my Christmas plate on the giant Jack, A group of ladies out shopping ask me if I would like them to take my picture.
Ends up I parked next to the ladies Suburban, we had a neat chat about what I was doing that day, while we walked back to our rides. They thought what I was doing was a riot.
Last stop in the USA, I must be back at the rally headquarters by 5:30.01 or I incur penalty points till 5:45. After that, Then it's DNF, Did Not Finish.....
All right, Lets turn and burn....
Then I start thinking..... I have a half an hour cushion. Lets do a Walmart / Rest combo. Get a bathroom break in, eat something. I punch in a Walmart search in my GPS and I find one on the route heading north to Canada.
I then seek out a place for my 15 minute rest break, I had put a search in the GPS for a Dunkin Donuts and it shows one in the same area as this Walmart, I drive to where the GPS says the DD is but I can not find it, I then see a Quizno's and take my rest break. I get a sandwich and a drink, use the bathroom and organize myself for the last leg.
I receive my receipt for my lunch and get rolling, as I fight traffic to get back to the highway I see that I am at a time deficit to get back to the finish in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Plus I need to get two more bonus stops done. The 15 minute break has turned into 35 minutes !
Heading back towards Canada I get passed by a group of cars with Quebec plates on them that are running at a pretty good pace, I fall in behind them and watch the estimated time of arrival to the Rally HQ get back down to 5:30, I can not be any later than that.
I get to the border and have no issue with retrieving my passport with my gloves on, I get through with no issue and I am at most stopped for 5 minutes.
So I am back to being 5 minutes behind again, I am running north thinking about how fast I can go here, when a girl on a VFR with Givi cases blows by me. When in Quebec, Do as the locals do, I tuck in behind her and hated to pull off to get my next bonus.
I must get to my next and last stop quickly, My heart is racing and if I make any mistakes now.....
The First spike memorial
As I am mounting up, I see other bikes that had left before me rolling in, If I am late to the finish, They are even later .
The finish is only a few blocks away and I must navigate through city traffic to get there.
After a very stressful run to the HQ, I arrive at 5:31 pm One minute after my planned arrival. I find out my official start time was 5:34 am so I had some 4 minutes spare time, But this felt very close.
If you think crossing a border crossing is stressful, You should sit through a scoring interview.
All that is missing is the bright spotlights in your eyes, and hand cuffs. I can not put into words the nervousness I felt during the scoring process.
My scorer was Bob Collin, IBR veteran and Maine 400 Rallymaster, A genuinely nice guy who went through my paper work very carefully, and after showing me my mistake at Big Cow bonus,
I finished with 4873 points good for 7th position .
Back at the Big Cow bonus I did not write down the elevation of the mountain that I had to Identify, To be honest I did not even see that information, But I have no doubt that it was there. The good news is that those points would not have moved me up to 6th position.
We then get together for our fine banquet and I get to hear how others did during this adventure.
This was my first 12 hour rally, and I am very happy with how the my ride went from the planning stage to the ride and my final score.
I would like to thank Kevin Craft and all the volunteers that helped to put on this event.
It was great fun and I hope to return to do another again !