Heart of Texas 12-Hour Rally
April 29, 2011
Bo spread the news early in the year about the Heart of Texas Rally headquartered in Brady, TX. This is a single-day event starting at 6:00 AM and ending 6:00 PM in Brady. The object of the rally is to collect as many points by visiting bonus waypoints during those 12 hours. It did not take long to decide to do the event. It sounded like a good way to spend a lot of ride time on a Saturday. I told Deb I would not be away long, since I first thought I could start very near home, and then return back from Brady before noon on Sunday.
I prepared a rally flag for the photos, and considered some of the possible bonus point start locations that organizer James Stovall released in March. Paris was where I thought I might start, but when James delivered the final bonus point list, I knew I would have to travel Friday for a start somewhere near one of the route bonus locations in order to get the doubling points for completion of all 5 for a route. So, I started to work laying out a route, and once I decided, I sent the itinerary to James for a 200 point bonus.
Friday afternoon I left the metromess to ride up to Childress, in the Panhandle. The wind was vicious from the south, and as I neared Vernon, the smoke from wildfires was getting thick in front of me. And then the traffic stopped on the highway. US 287 was shut down completely about 20 miles east of Vernon. We crawled of the highway at near walking pace to be detoured around the fire on a small farm market road. The big rigs were having problems passing each other on the narrow roads, as well as the tight corners.
Parts of the detour looked like a dust bowl photo from the 1930’s with sand and dust blowing across the road. It took 45 minutes to travel 15 miles, and I was rolling once again. The wind was blowing from the south like crazy. I leaned into it while taking the straight road, careful to not anticipate the gusts that could blow me off line. Once I arrived in Childress, I hunted for a service station that had a reliable receipt printer with the correct time. This was an imperative step for Saturday morning to prove my starting point and time. The first stop had a time that was over 2 hours late. The second stop I made looked good. I noted the pump number so I could roll up at 6 AM to top off my tank for the all important receipt. Then to the room for a great shower, and quick chicken sandwich, and sleep.
April 30, 2011
The wind sounded different as I arose. I turned on the TV and the weather showed 47 degrees not too far from where I was. The temperature was falling in Childress with the strong north wind. Crazy weather… I put my things together and packed up the bike. My test pump on Friday proved well for the coveted Saturday morning start receipt, showing 6:02 AM in Childress, TX. I made sure I had the receipt clipped for security in my tank bag, for without this one, all bonuses until another fuel receipt meant nothing. I rode further northwest on 287 in the gusting side wind and pre-dawn darkness to Turkey for the first bonus. I took the FM road southwest, and as I neared Turkey, a bird flew up from the side of the road and hit my right hand square on. My fingers were numb, and I started checking to see if everything was moving as expected. All OK, thank goodness.
This Phillips 66 cottage style gas station was built in the late 1920’s. It looks much better now after some obvious renovation since I last saw it a couple of years ago. My requisite photo as per the instructions that James layed out was worth 300 points.
I fueled in Spur, and kept my receipt logging the mileage and my rally number, which combined with two other fuel stops would gain me 200 points.
Not far out of town, Highway 208 was closed due to a bridge being out. I followed the detour for a bit, and looked on the GPS to see how far it might take me. It looked like an extra 15 miles, so I opted for the first county road heading straight south to parallel my intended road. It was 5 miles of gravel, clay and sandy ruts, but I was still able to keep up a good pace, and likely saved some time from the detour route.
I headed on south towards Snyder, slowing for wild hogs and deer crossing the road. Somewhere north of Snyder, I met a rider in a bright green jacket heading quickly north. I saw two GPS’s, and lots of gear in his cockpit. Obviously an IBA rider, and I questioned if he was part of the HoT Rally, but he was headed the wrong way. Hmmm…
My second bonus stop was in Snyder, at a H-C Sinclair station built in the 1930’s in a triangular shape, to match the lot it occupies. I shot the required pump island and rally flag, recorded my time, odometer and the 200 points.
Whataburgers were on the general bonus list, worth 25 points for each receipt. I stopped at the store in Snyder for a breakfast taquito and coffee. I was impressed with the service I received, and the warm breakfast and coffee tasted great.
I was in Tye refueling when a large group of riders roared south on the road. I watched the crowd for the familiar bright yellow BMW R, and sure enough, there was Keith. They did not notice me. I finished up, and chased the group down, catching them at a stop as they turned onto Hwy 277. I rolled up to Keith, stopped beside him, and when he looked over, he asked “What the heck are you doing in our rally?”. I responded with the HoT 12-hour rally ride, and took off to head to Buffalo Gap.
My third stop was the Texaco in Buffalo Gap, built in 1926. I took my photo of the sign, recorded my odometer, time and the 125 point bonus. I started riding south on my familiar bicycling route around Lake Abilene, my old stomping ground for dirt bikes, and hiking the hills with my then girlfriend and now wife, Debbie.
As I was leaving the Gap, I remembered the group photo bonus and hit the brakes. I did a U-turn, and went back quickly into town to find the riders for my group photo. At least 10 riders gathered around me for photo that earned me 250 points. Woo hoo!
San Angelo was next on my planned route. The Celebration Bridge was not on my gas station route, but fairly easy pickings with not that many extra miles to gather the points. I passed over the river, and stopped to read the instructions for the photo documentation. It stated to photograph the mermaid from the bridge. I looked all around and found no mermaid, but then looked down on the water and saw a foot bridge. That had to be it.
Sure enough, a bronze nicely-appointed mermaid statue was near the bridge, built just above the water. Bam, 200 points!
The Pioneer Rest Cemetery in Menard was another bonus easy on my route towards Junction. I rolled through the gates under the sign that I needed to photograph, and came across two other obvious rally riders gathering the same evidence I was. The cemetery stop picked up 75 points.
It was a bit of a haul on down through Junction, and it was getting hot. As I was dropping out of the hills nearing Junction, I saw a sign warning of emergency vehicles, and another later of an incident ahead. I started wondering what the incident might be, and then noticed more smoke rising from the hills south of me. I passed a graded area where there were many empty trailers, and other fuel trailers.
I kept riding through Junction towards my turn-around bonus point at Telegraph. I saw more and more fire trucks, police cars, and citizens carrying water for the fire fighters. Three helicopters were making passes from the Llano river to pick up water, and then quickly dropping their payload on the fire that was less than 10 miles south of Junction. This was serious business. I started wondering if the road might be closed ahead before I reached my bonus point destination. If the road were closed, I would lose the 75 points for its stop, plus the 775 points that all 5 stops would give. I slowed where there was a lot of work going on, and finally made it to my sixth stop at the old Gulf station and general store.
This store was built in 1900 before it served as fuel stop. The town got its name by serving as a telegraph station that connected military installations.
Returning back through Junction, I found the South Llano bridge, and pulled under it for the required photo of rally flag, bridge and the beautiful river for its 75 points. I picked up fuel in Junction, documented my stop, and kept riding through the 100-degree heat towards Brady.
I started seeing more and more rally riders once I was in Brady. They were all converging on the final bonus locations of the day.
My last gas station bonus point location was not far north of Brady, in the semi-ghost town of Placid. This was a Conoco that served the town’s peak population of 100. Now, it’s worth 75 points on my log sheet.
I rode on east to pick up my last major bonus points at the Regency suspension bridge. I was not ready for what I saw. This bridge was built in 1939, and is truly suspended by cables holding the bridge frame, and its wooden slats with nails jutting all about. I rolled off of the gravel road bed and a bit onto the bridge and just stopped. I was wondering if it was safe enough to ride across on. I saw car tracks on it, so I kept going, trying to avoid the nails that were rising above the wood. I circled around the far side, and then rode back to the center and stopped again. This time, I got off of the bike to take the required photo, and immediately felt the bridge swaying to my body movements. Wow, this was a bit trippy. The Spyder rider came across later, and we talked for a short while, and then a BMW car pulled over the bridge. Now I could really feel the bridge moving. This stop at the bridge was worth way more to me than the 125 points I recorded on my log.
Brady Butane was the last general bonus point stop where I ran into Bo and a couple of other rally riders. My photo of the happy spherical butane tank was worth 50 points.
We all headed for the rally headquarters at the Best Western, where James logged my finish time of 5:08. I was handed an envelope to put all of my receipts, bonus log, and rally flag along with my camera’s memory card to prove all of the stops I have made on my route.
The cool air inside felt good, and the riders all around were wasting no time finishing up their work prior to the 6:30 deadline. I completed my final exam, packed up all of the evidence, and handed over the envelope. My total mileage was 628, and I accumulated 2,750 bonus points. All that was left to do now was to shower, and grab some BBQ at the Hard Eight.
Many rally riders showed up at the Hard Eight where some were surprised at the method of ordering your meal, which was comprised by pointing to meat inside of the pit, and then getting it cut and slapped down on wax paper on your tray. I had a turkey sandwich and sausage, and mass quantities of iced tea.
We all convened upon the motel parking lot to await the results. Iron Butt stories were the major topic, along with outfitting the bike for the marathon riding. James finally appeared with the results, and started naming off the top finishers. Bo had already told me his points earlier in the day, so as I heard the names and points of the top 10, I knew he was in there. Mark Smith, the rider I met going my opposite direction way up in the Panhandle, finished 10th. The first place names were called as a tie, with Glenn Copeland out of Austin visiting 7 Whataburgers in his ‘hood, since he intimately knew their locations. Bo’s choice of starting in Lufkin worked well for him, collecting the alternate start bonus points, following the state park route and picking up numerous other bonuses along the way.
May 1, 2011
The weather report looked grim for the return ride, with temperatures dropping into the 40’s by the afternoon. I packed up after breakfast and was riding by 7:45.
Hwy 2005 was a pleasure as always, but as I approached Hamilton, I noticed water on the road. I tried to bring up a radar image on my Blackberry at the fuel stop, but never could. The temperature was already dropping, and the clouds were getting dark, so I put on the rain suit. It was not more than 5 miles out of town the bottom fell out, and it rained for almost 100 miles, sometimes very hard. The roads dried thankfully as I entered the Dallas traffic, and I made it on home to take of the still wet gear and to be greeted by our Border and my wife, and actually in that order. It was great to see both of them, and the warm house felt great in the strangely cool May weather.
My 12-Hour rally route: https://www.alltrails.com/explore/recording/20110430heartoftexasrally-photos–20110432
The complete weekend route: https://www.alltrails.com/explore/recording/20110429heartoftexasweekend–20110430