On my way to the totem pole I hit reserve, so I opened up my fuel cell to transfer gas to my main tank. I had a
little trouble locating the totem pole (it looked more like a telephone pole with a hat on), so by the time I arrived
my fuel gauge should have been showing about half a tank of gas. It wasn't. I looked in my fuel cell - yep, still
full. I opened and closed the transfer valve a few times - yep, I'd had it in the open position. Then I grabbed my
flashlight and peered into my main tank. Gas was happily bubbling up into the tank. Huh. Maybe I was just
being impatient. I'd give it some more time before I got too worried. The road to the next bonus was a fun ride,
but I started getting concerned when I was showing 45 miles on reserve and the fuel gauge still had not come up.
This is officially way, way longer than the transfer should take, so I decided I'd better investigate further before I
flat ran out of gas. This time I looked into my main tank first. Just as I suspected, no fuel was transferring. Then
I took the cap off the fuel cell and gas started happily bubbling into the main tank. Ah-hah - I had a venting
problem. A quick inspection uncovered an occluded vent hose, probably pinched when I was in a hurry to
reinstall my tank the previous day. My first load of aux fuel had probably transferred better because the tank had
only been half full to begin with. Pleased that this was an easy fix, I pushed on to the old bridge bonus. It took
me a few tries to find the right pull-out from which to view the bridge, then it took me a few more minutes to
come up with a way to get my flag in the picture, but ultimately I got a good picture and pushed on to Weaverville.
Alex Ciurczak and I pulled into Weaverville at the same time and got
to work tracking down the town's four spiral staircases. We found
three right off the bat, and I agreed to model both flags while Alex
manned both cameras. Now to find that fourth staircase… We
walked up and down the street a little ways, with no luck. A lady had
been sitting outside a nearby bar and she appeared to be laughing at
us so, speculating that she may know something we didn’t, I headed
toward the bar. I poked my head in the swinging doors and asked if anyone knew of a fourth staircase in town. There was
quite a bit of laughter and discussion before someone confirmed that we were not the first to be inquiring after the mysterious
missing staircase that day. The spokesman for the bunch stepped forward and said that for as long as he’d lived there, more
than three decades and counting, there had only been two spiral staircases in town. Uh, two? “No, I’ve already found three
staircases. One right next to us here, and two straight across the street.” Blank stair. “Huh. OK, three staircases, I guess.
But yeah, there aren’t four. For sure.” That did not instill in me a great sense of confidence, so rather than blow this bonii by
not turning in the four required pictures Alex and I decided to spilt up and scope out the town. A few laps later we were still
empty handed. I’d even looked for anything sneaky like a sign with a spiral staircase on it, but without success. I wasn’t
getting any younger so I decided it was time to move on, fourth staircase or no.
While I chugged towards Redding I took a closer look at rest of the second leg.
Zumo was still showing my estimated arrival to be within the checkpoint window,
but it was getting dark fast and I knew the deer would be out in force as I began
climbing into the Eastern California mountains. I decided the wise choice would
be to cut out a couple of the bonii that didn’t offer a very good point-to-mile ratio.
They were way up in the twisties and not worth very much, so if I limited myself
to the closest two mountain bonii I could book back to the interstate and hopefully
hit the checkpoint with enough time to salvage my Leg Three. I quickly found the
Sundial Bridge in Redding and snapped my picture with the little bit of remaining
daylight. From there it was off to Lassen Volcanic Park.
When I reached the front gate I found Alex there pondering the specifics of the
bonus. We needed to get a picture at the Visitor’s Center, but the only one shown
on the park map was on the complete opposite side of the park. Not a big deal,
except the road was closed just ten miles into the park. We poured over maps and
newspapers, but we couldn’t find anything definitive. The written bonus directions
had been pretty accurate so far, so I found it hard to believe that they would send
us this way if we couldn’t reach the intended bonus. We decided to go for it, and
our leap of faith took us all of about a half mile down the road to a large and well-
marked visitors station. After all the hemming and hawing, it took mere moments
to get a picture of the seismograph building and get back on the road.
After Lassen I had planned on grabbing one more bonus up the road before
heading for the checkpoint. After chatting for a minute, Alex decided he would be heading that way as well and we set off
into the dark night. Alex got a bit ahead of me, so I was a little concerned when I came around a corner and saw him stopped
in the road. He said he was OK, but he was second guessing his plan to head this way. We compared notes again, and we
both decided to turn around and make a beeline for the checkpoint. It seemed like there were deer around every turn, and the
best case scenario if we continued through the mountains would put us at the checkpoint around 1:30am, not including time
for bonii procurement or venison-related delays. With a bit of backtracking and some good, deer-free, high-speed roads, I
rolled into the checkpoint in Oroville about half way into the window. I had a Clif Bar and some water while I programmed
my last leg. It was once again looking like a solid run at the base route was all I had time for, so I focused on getting as many
points out of it as I could. I had to cut out a few stops in order to make it to the finish line in time, but at least now I could
figure out which ones I wanted to scrap ahead of time rather than just dropping the last bonii on the leg as time ran out. I felt
good and alert and had come to terms with my lackluster routing, so after throwing a couple handfuls of trail mix in my pocket
I cranked up some tunes and got myself back on the road.
My next bonus was the Colusa Casino, where the bonus listing
instructed us to score a chip from inside the casino. At the end
of the listing it also said that if we had a gambling problem or just didn’t feel like going into the casino you
could opt to pick up the points by taking a picture of your bike in front of the casino entrance. I took full
advantage of that option and was in and out of there in under two minutes.
The next stop was an historical marker in Suisun City. As I gathered my camera and flag, a cop drove by.
As I put my stuff away and splashed a little water on my face out of my hydration system, he drove by
again. Not wanting to invite trouble, I decided I’d better get
moving. I pulled out of the parking lot and the cop appeared from
around a corner. I was behaving myself, but I still wasn’t surprised
to see his lights flash in my mirror. I pulled over immediately and
came to a stop. The cop slowed down, crept past me, then sped
around another corner and killed his lights. I’m pretty sure he was
just testing to see how I reacted since I was skulking about downtown in the wee, wee hours of the morning. Fine by me – that
was about the best kind of LEO interaction one could hope for.
By the time I reached the next bonus at the Livermore fountain, the sun was
starting to come up. From there I nabbed the post office in Sunol, then
wrapped things up with one last stop at Corrie Glass. I wasn’t in great
shape to be doing complex mental mathematical calculations at this point,
but as near as I could tell my corrected mileage would be coming in at 20-30
miles under the 1,000 mark. I strongly considered doing a lap around town
so I could hit 1k, but it was evident that I wasn’t going to be able to do that
and still make it to the finish before penalty points started accruing 7am. If
I had any intention of putting in for a Saddlesore I would have done it, but
in the end I decided that it really wasn’t something I cared about too much.
For better or worse, I rolled across the finish line with time to spare. I
gathered up my fuel log, my pictures and my meager bonus submissions
and dragged myself to the scoring line. Mark was pretty gentle, probably
because I didn’t work him too hard and I was only about the third person
to make their way to the scoring table. My laughable attempt at counting
the windows at the Benbow Inn was a confirmed failure, but I was pleased
to learn that there were actually only three spiral staircases in Weaverville
so I would be receiving those points after all. I was disappointed in myself,
to say the least, so I didn’t even bother to pay much attention to the value
of the bonii I'd visited or my final score or anything. All I wanted was to
go up to my room and go to bed, which was probably my first and only
good routing decision of the entire rally. What’s done is done; I’d find out
how awful I did at the banquet a few hours later.
My husband showed up at some point while I was sleeping, and later that afternoon
we headed down to the banquet together. I’d forgotten our banquet tickets, and after
retrieving those I realized I’d forgotten my raffle ticket as well. I only remembered that when
they started giving away raffle prizes, so it was too late to run up and get it. I do remember my number being called, probably
for something totally awesome. Figures. When Tom started awarding plaques, I was honestly surprised that I wasn’t last. I
had a loose idea of what my third leg bonii were worth, I knew how much the Super Secret Bonus was worth, and I knew the
value of the bonii I had bypassed on the second leg. Basically, I didn’t have any concept of what my score might be. Every
time Tom called a name that wasn’t mine, I was happier. Then he got to the top ten and I started thinking I must have been
disqualified. I was floored to hear that I had finished in 6th place with 985 corrected miles and 4,562 points.
A lot of people have made comments about triumphing in the face of
adversity and inspirational gook like that; I think of it more like, even a
broken clock is right twice a day. I didn’t do anything right, at all. I
made about every mistake in the book and I somehow finished in 6th
in spite of my efforts, not because of them. This was a great rally for
me because virtually every one of my previously unrealized rallying
fears came to pass and I still made it through to the finish. I think my
rally experience would have been more actively enjoyable if I had felt
like I was giving it my best effort, even if I’d finished way down the
ranks. I spent the entire day feeling like I was tripping over my own feet and the fact that I probably couldn’t
have planned a much more successful route was total, unadulterated, dumb luck. But you know, sometimes
you’ve got to take it where you can get it. I’ve learned some valuable lessons for next time, starting with not
changing anything on my bike in the weeks before the rally. The only thing I installed in the last month that didn’t
give me any trouble were my new Kevlar shoe laces. (And incidentally, I never did end up using my heated gear.)
The Zumo replacement was unavoidable, but I should have given it a more thorough run-through before I declared
it rally-ready. The fuel cell leak was kind of a random occurrence after it had been leak free for weeks, but I
should have updated my basic tool kit with the right size tools to work on the cell should the need arise.
On that note, I think it’s time to wrap things up and get ready for the Utah 1088 next weekend. All I have to do is
install a couple new tires. What? Aw, come on - they’re just tires. What could possibly go wrong?