House - Motorcycle Trip Reports
The Cap1000, 1999
June 12th & 13th, 1999
I originally decided to run the Capitol 1000 Endurance Motorcycle Rally several months ago, though the reality of it really didn't hit me until I looked at the clock at 2 a.m. Thursday night and realized I simply had to be well rested for the weekend (no playing the usual sleep catch-up on Saturday morning!) I had never run an endurance rally before, though I had done a lot of long-distance rides on my own. I finally managed to drop off sometime between the Ronco Rotisserie cooker and the Time/Life Sounds of the 70's. It was a fitful 5 or so hours of sleep, but I woke up refreshed and anxious to get the workday over so I could hit the highway pointed towards Hagerstown and leave Alexandria in the dust. It is only a 12 block commute but I decided to pack up and leave from work rather than head home after work and get lulled into checking voicemail, then e-mail, then making a quick meal (and before you know it, it is 9pm and the sun is down.)
I managed to sneak out an hour or so early hoping to beat the Friday afternoon traffic but of course spent over an hour travelling the first 20 miles along with all the others that had fled various offices with the same idea. As I hit the HOV lane on I-270 I opened up the throttle a bit and finally was able to forget about work and start thinking about what in the world I had gotten myself into. Although I had long ago decided simply to run the minimum route to earn my Ironbutt Saddlesore 1000, I started entertaining thoughts about trying to get a few bonuses if they were on fun backroads. As I later found out, this is how the LD Riding sickness usually starts.
I won't get too far into preparations for the rally as I basically hadn't really prepared for it other than stuffing my tankbag full of Balance bars and wedging two 1-liter bottles of Evian on top of each hard bag. Earlier in the year I had bought and learned to use a Garmin GPS III+. I must say aside from my riding gear this was the most useful thing I had with me. It is an amazing little device that in one screen will show you exactly where you are on a high-definition rolling map, your average speed, trip (Rally) timer, total distance traveled and the time of day. There are actually many more data screens from which to select but these are the ones I felt provided the most valuable information to me. At any time during the rally I could simply glance over and instantly know where I was, how much time I had left, how far I'd come and how efficiently I was travelling. The unit also keeps a trak log and at the end of the rally I was able to download most of my route directly into DeLorme's Street Atlas 6. If you have SA6 you can download and view the Bonus Stops I made during the rally. I'd have to add quite a few "Via's" to make the any of the routing choices resemble the actual route I took, but with the exception of 28 south out of Franklin to 39, and 39 west all the way to Gauley River, the "Quickest" function is closest.
As I pulled into the parking lot of the Stateline Motel I got a sudden jolt of anticipation. It was full of motorcycles, many prepped with various fuel cells and driving lights. It was at that point that I realized I was fully outclassed and wholly underprepared and that only by pure luck and a little knowledge of local roads would I be able to place, much less finish. Before I even had the kickstand down a rally volunteer was handing me a check-in sheet and giving me instructions on running the quick odometer calibration run. Just as soon as I had pulled in, Gary Harris and I were off for a quick 10 or so mile loop, then back to the Stateline to make sure our odometers were within a reasonably accurate.
With my odometer certified I was instructed to produce the required items all riders had to have, among other things a first aid kit, a tool kit, road flares, and a tire repair kit. After showing that I was outfitted with a DOT-approved helmet, leather gloves, Aerostich (or other such rainsuit), and riding boots I was instructed to take the check-in sheet into the Rally HQ. As my drivers license and vehicle registration were sealed in an envelope I was given an instruction sheet and rally timetable and reminded that if I returned with the envelope still sealed I would receive a 500-point bonus.
I ran over to check into the hotel, unloaded my gear and made my way out to join the throng of riders milling around in the parking lot. After pizza was served Rallymaster Larry began the riders meeting. While the speech was peppered with humor and good-natured ribs, he was quite serious about several things most revolving around riding safely and within limits. Larry made it a point to emphasize correctly filling out the Rally Books (incorrectly filling out the books or not correctly answering the bonus questions correctly could mean not having the bonus points counted.) The rally packs and maps were handed out and most of the riders headed for their rooms to plan out routes and get some sleep. I hung around the Rally HQ as Larry and the other volunteers had hung maps on the walls with the bonus locations highlighted for the riders to use. I quickly transposed the locations onto the maps Larry had available for the riders and headed back to my room.
As I flipped through the Rally Book my desire to simply run the basic route began to fade as I realized many of these bonuses were on or near some of West Virginia's finest, twistiest roads. I decided then to ride as many twisty roads as I could, grab nearby bonuses, and generally simply have a good time earning the Saddlesore 1000. I sketched out a quick route that included the legendary Routes 33, 250 and 39, then set my alarms, had a shot of whiskey and hit the sack.
The phone rang. I got up and answered it expecting a human at the other end, but only heard the computerized voice announcing that I was awake and have a nice day. It was 5am and in two hours I would be sitting on my black BMW K1100RS ready to start the 24 most challenging hours I've ever spent on a motorcycle. I quickly shook out the cobwebs of only 4 hours of sleep and hopped in the shower. I had anticipated not being able to sleep well so before setting the alarm clocks and arranging a wake up call I completely suited as if I were ready to walk out the door, then starting at the door, undressed in a line to the bathroom door. It was easy then to towel dry and by the time I got to the door I was completely dressed and ready to go (though I did forget the two alarm clocks :)
I made it down to the parking lot expecting to be the first one out only to find it full of fully clad riders doing last-minute adjustments and excitedly discussing the routes they had spent the previous evening creating. Larry called out the rider order and as rider number five I was instructed to line up with riders one through four to be the first wave of riders started. He took my mileage, checked his watch and with a sweeping wave yelled, "It is 7:02 am be back within 24-hours!" I zipped out of the parking lot heading for the southbound entrance to I-81 the rally had begun.
First stop was the Belle Boyd House in Martinsburg for the bonus question, "How old was Belle when she shot the Union Soldier." After hastily scribbling the time, mileage and answer (17 years old) in the spaces provided I shot down route 9 to Charles Town for the date John Brown was tried at the Charles Town Courthouse. There was a direct line of several bonuses along two excellent 2-lane country roads all the way to Culpepper. Hoping onto 340 I hit Front Royal for the name of a used car dealer, then continuing on 340 to Luray for the dates on a statue. Larry must have been thinking of the roads as it was but a short hop over the Blue Ridge Mountains on the finest stretch of Rt. 211 to Sperryville for the "Appetite Repair Shop" bonus. Continuing on Rt. 522 through the sweet smells of early summer morning in the Virginia countryside I reached Culpepper for the oldest house in town limits. It was there a two-up team on a BMW R1100GS pulled up behind and rider and old friend Michael McDaniel flipped up his shield and asked how I was doing. We chatted a few minutes and were off for the Morton's BMW bonus. Michael is from the area so I decided to ignore the route I had drawn up for the several bonuses on the way to the first mandatory check-in at Charlottesville and simply tuck in behind the red R1100GS.
A quick hello to old friend Karl Rosenbaum as I jotted down "10/13/96" under the answer for Morton's BMW and we were off through the Wilderness Battlefield for the Locust Grove bonus (Robinson's Tavern?) Following Michael was a real pleasure as not only is he a very smooth rider he knows all the rolling and winding farm roads in the area. In short order we had taken down the Montpelier Bonus (the Montpelier Supply Co.) the Louisa Bonus (The Roundabout Plantation) and finally stopped for a gas receipt in Charlottesville. As we gassed up at the Amoco/Blimpies I tried to convince Michael to join me in the run up the amazing Rt. 33 to Franklin, VA but he deferred instead to continue his plan on running down to Lynchburg, Wyethville and Bristol. I gave a wave as he pulled out and went back to quickly devouring a corn dog and egg roll that would be the last real (if that's what you want to call it) food for 12 long but incredibly enjoyable hours.
I jumped onto I-64 to I-81 north up to Harrisonburg where I hopped into Rt. 33. Rt. 33 is truly one of the finer motorcycle roads in West Virginia. It rises up and over two separate mountain ridges on the way to Franklin with an excellent mix of both tightly banked curves, long and slowly curving sweepers, and the occasional breathtaking vista. In Franklin I jotted down the man whom Franklin was named after and headed out on 33 for yet another phenomenal road, Rt. 28. Rt. 28 is far less traveled than 33 but is equal in quality and quantity of curves and views. In a scene reminiscent of The X-Files, gigantic white satellite dishes hundreds of yards across suddenly rise out of a hidden valley as you pass by the National Radio Observatory. As an aside, there is a tiny town off of Rt. 28 at the very end of a forest road called "The Pig's Ear" that I have always wanted to check out maybe next time through when I have more time (and a GS handy :)
Many years ago when I first started exploring West Virginia (before GPS's :) I had been out for a day fly-fishing and had become utterly lost. I remember coming across an historical marker titled "The Birthplace of Rivers" and shortly thereafter finding my way back to a major road. For years I remembered that sign and that road as I rode around West Virginia but was never able to find it again. Last year I shot down Rt. 28 bypassing the lower Rt. 219 (which had become a favorite of mine though was at a standstill due to an accident) only to once again find lower Rt. 28 and the "Birthplace of Rivers" sign. Since then when I have been out that way I have always taken 28. It is a lovely, deserted road with great views and lots of slow sweepers.
I followed Rt. 28 down to Rt. 39. In West Virginia, the mountain ridges generally run north to south roads that run north/south are generally rolling roads that follow valleys through farms and pastures whereas the east/west fields generally cross over the ridges and are filled with tight curves and great views. Rt. 39 is one of the latter roads. Though I missed the easternmost (and oldest at 250-plus years old!) part I was able to follow it's sinuous twists and rolls for a hundred or so miles west straight through to Gauley River Bridge. I picked up the Pearl Buck birthplace bonus on a short sidetrip on US 219 she wrote 85 books!
In Glen Ferris I noted in my rally book that Presidents Hayes and McKinley were commanders at Fort Reynolds, a long overgrown though extensive at its time Civil War encampment across the river from the Glen Ferris Inn. I had actually stayed in the Glen Ferris Inn a year before, on a trip that saw me riding many of these same roads. It was quite popular in the 1830's though fell into disrepair in the middle part of this century. Apparently in the 60's a Danish Mining Company bought it and renovated it so their execs would have a nice place to stay when in the area inspecting their mines. It was a wonderful place (and at $70 a night quite reasonable for a 150+ year old inn!) and I was sorely tempted to hang up the Rally and stay for the night. Just then a blue K75 went zipping by and I was instantly back in the swing of things. I finished Rt. 39 and hopped on Rt. 60 for the short run to Montgomery and the name of the residence hall at the West Virginia Institute of Technology.
From Montgomery I headed up to Charleston for the second required stop. I found the same Chevron that many other riders had found, but arrived as the owner was locking the doors. Several bikers sitting out in front of the hospital across the street gave me directions to a nearby station right on I-77 and gave me very sound advice make sure to take Ohio Rt. 7 instead of West Virginia Rt. 2 up the Ohio River to Wheeling. As it turns out, Rt. 7 is nearly deserted and marked at 55mph whereas the West Virginia Rt. 2 is heavily lined with small towns and 35mph speed limits. Fresh with a gas receipt I decided against the Galipolis, Ohio bonus and hopped on Rt. 77 toward Marietta. Upon reflection I could have easily gotten Galipolis, but I guess hindsight, as they say, is always 20/20. I was using a West Virginia Map to look at Galipolis and it as maps often (infuriatingly) do, the Ohio detail along the border was greatly lessened and I simply did not see till later on looking at the route in a mapping program that Rt. 7 went from Galipolis, right through Marietta (where I later hopped on) to Wheeling.
I-77 is truly a wonderful road and as I followed it up and through the empty mountains I was fortunate enough to witness an amazing sunset. It was deserted for the most part and one couldn't help but make excellent time just keeping up with the 18-wheelers. It looked as though the highway had replaced an older, smaller road as every once in a while, far away from any exits or other visible signs of connection to the outside world, a big abandoned farm would appear by the side of the highway. One hand painted sign I saw earlier in the day along Rt. 33 said it all: "At What Price Progress?"
When I hit Marietta I crossed over the Ohio River to Ohio and made my way up Rt. 7. Across the river I could see miles of chemical plants lining the river. In the dusk all the lights that lined various pipes, superstructures, smokestacks and elevated walkways that popped out from the side of the tangled mess and dissapeared just as quickly gave off an errie feeling, sort of like a cross between Mad Max and the neighborhood Christmas light display. Interestingly enough I only smelled the plants once, right by two gigantic cooling towers (like the ones at nuclear power plants) - not very reassuring :)
I began to run quite low on gas and began to notice that the early closing of the Chevron in Charleston was not an isolated incident as I passed station after station that had closed for the evening. I jumped over to West Virginia to get gas and the bonus in Paden City (American Legion Hall 89.) Looking at the map I had remembered taking the exquisite Rt. 250 up to Wheeling a year or so before on the way to Columbus, Ohio and figured that I could jump over the relatively straight Rt. 7 to pick up the Hundred, West Virginia bonus then take Rt. 250 up to Wheeling. On the map it looked to be only about 70 miles to Wheeling though I had remembered 250 to be a very twisty and quite deserted road. Just as I finished polishing off a Balance bar Lou Kaplan pulled up behind me. We exchanged a quick wave and he was off into the night.
I jumped back onto Rt. 2 north then turned onto Rt. 7 east. I should have known right away as I immediately came across a few deer grazing on the side of the road I slowed and honked the horn and they scattered as I passed. I stopped counting deer on Rt. 7 at 31, and that was less than halfway to Hundred. I would be willing to bet a year's salary that deer far outnumber humans in that part of West Virginia. After an hour or so traversing the 30 miles of Rt. 7 I arrived in Hundred and was promptly directed by a young couple leaning against a car to the "right" Mountaineer.
There are two Mountaineer shops within 100 yards of each other one the Mountaineer Gas station and one the Mountaineer Deli, both with ice machines out front. The same couple had directed several riders and I took a minute to try to explain why in the world riders were zipping into their small town, stopping at the Deli, pulling out funny blue books and writing down the name of the company on the Ice Machine out front. The concept of the event escaped them and they soon went back to inspecting each other's dental work. The shopkeeper was kind enough to fill my thermos with coffee for a whopping $1.21 even though I took the whole fresh pot, and sternly warned me to go back Rt. 7 to Rt. 2 up to Wheeling as Rt. 250 was far too dangerous at night. Talk about feeding fuel to the fire!
I lit out of Hundred on Rt. 250 and spent another hour or so on the 30 miles to Rt. 88 and the short hop to Wheeling. Rt. 250 is an amazing road the towns that spring up around tight corners are mostly abandoned. In Belton I stopped across the street from what at one time was an impressive corner bank. Every building on the short main drag was empty and every window in the huge stone bank building was broken out. Looking through I could see fine old hardwood furniture and shelves strewn about. It was a little sad, as I am sure at one time it was a thriving small town yet now seemed empty and forgotten.
Continuing up 250 I saw more and more deer and the road became more and more exciting. I finally began seeing houses and in no time I was on Rt. 88 with Wheeling lighting up the horizon. As I passed a car on Rt. 88 it suddenly occurred to me that I didn't see a single car the whole length of Rt. 250.
I got directions to an Exxon in downtown Wheeling from a police officer parked in an empty parking lot. Turns out he is a wing rider and wanted to know about the new BMW K12LT. He could see I was anxious to get rolling so he sternly warned me to go slow and sent me on my way. As I pulled into the Exxon I once again ran into Michael McDaniel. Even to this minute I am amazed about that. As we were both beginning to show the signs of the long day we decided to finish the rally together with a run along Rt. 70 east to Rt. 79 south, over Rt. 21 to Rt. 166 and the Friendship Hill Memorial bonus. As we pulled into the park parking lot I could see two heads shoot up from the back seat of a parked car. The windows were fairly fogged up but as we stopped a few steps away and pulled out our rally books they managed to get the car going and took off out of the parking lot. Having been there I would have felt bad had I not been so charged to get back to Hagerstown.
We got back on 166 south and hit I-64 east. We stopped for gas and some coffee as we both needed a little refresher. The lady behind the counter mentioned we were the first customers in over as hour, then without prompting suggested that the highway was as empty of police enforcement as it was cars. She was quite correct that I-64 was almost completely empty and we made good time. Soon the 100 or so miles had passed and we were on I-70 just 30 minutes or so from Hagerstown. Looking down at the GPS I was startled to see it read only 985 miles. It suddenly occurred to me that I might have to pass Hagerstown just to put on miles to exceed the 1,000 needed for the Saddlesore 1,000. Then I really started to panic because the clock on the GPS read 6:15 am. Since Michael was riding steadily a little under the speed limit, I passed him and made a beeline for Hagerstown.
It must have been a bit further than I thought because I was still a mile or two from the short hop up I-81 when at the same time the GPS rolled past 1,000 miles the sun broke over the horizon and provided an instantly invigorating and vividly colorful sunrise. I looked back and Michael was right behind (he later admitted that he had found a groove and thought he had plenty of time to get to Hagerstown he was right.) We looped up around exit 1 and swung into the parking lot of the Stateline. After not seeing much evidence of life for the last several hours it was quite refreshing to see volunteers busily checking newcomers in and weary riders buried in rally books taping receipts and finalizing answers and bonus listings.
I was quickly checked in, ordered my bonuses and handed in my rally book. We were warned in advance that incorrectly or sloppily filled out books could mean bonuses left uncounted so I made sure to double and triple check everything. I spent 30 minutes or so talking with fellow riders as that last cup of coffee wore off and after enthusiastically taking Richard Bernecker up on the offer of the spare bed in his room I was out like a light. At 11:30 Richard roused me so he could check out and I ambled over to the banquet.
Larry had truly done a fantastic job with the banquet the food was plentiful and excellent (it IS a steakhouse after all!) As the awards speech began and Larry started naming the riders I kept expecting to hear my name. He ran through the 40's, the 30's, the 20's and finally got to the top 10. Unbelievable I had made it to the top 10! At number 8 my name was finally announced (with the later re-scoring I dropped to number 10, still far better than I ever thought I'd do!)
After the banquet people started heading off and while I ambled about for a bit I was anxious to get home and sleep in my own bed. I said some quick good-byes and pointed the K11 south towards DC. I was home before I knew it and as I dozed off after a quick shower I replayed the ride over in my head. It was indeed a fantastic time. Gary Harris had mentioned to me before he left to ride back to New York that he was glad I ran it and asked me if I remembered the previous year when as I volunteer I responded to his question about why I wasn't running it that I didn't think I could do it. I told him I didn't remember saying that, but on the ride home I did remember. As I crossed over the American Legion bridge it occurred to me that where last year it seemed nothing more than a bunch of people riding 24-hours straight, this year it was a great adventure and an excuse to see and ride some truly exceptional roads.
I big note of thanks goes to Larry Fears. I know firsthand the incredible commitment of time and energy it took to make the Cap1000 the success it was. I am truly indebted to him for one of the better riding experiences of my life.