2022 HoT Rally – Days of Thunder

April 28, 2022
Paul Tong has a vivid mind.  Paul acquired the Heart of Texas years ago from James Stovall.  James created a great rally and Paul has expanded on James’ brainchild.  This year’s theme was race tracks.  But, it was not simple as running all around the state and collecting points from track bonus locations.  One would have to “fill up their tank” with credits obtained from a pit stop before claiming bonus points from the tracks.  The pit stops were comprised of vintage gas stations.  I have a heart for old gas stations since I effectively grew up in one.  My father was a Texaco owner/operator in Abilene, TX.  I learned a lot from him about the mechanics of transportation, and I had a lot of lab time with tools and service bays at my disposal.  I love seeing the old stations while I am journeying about.

Paul also has an evil mind.  We received the bonus packet several weeks ahead of the rally.  Now, one would think this is a nice thing; well in advance of the start which would provide ample time to plan a nice route.  But… it just created havoc in the brains of those who over-analyze options to the finish.  Seven iterations later, I had what I felt was an efficient route taking some roads of my liking that might place me in the middle of the pack.  And that route would also get me back will ahead of the drop-dead time 36 hours after the start, so I could pull out my camera for photos of others.  Fine by me.

I left mid-morning Thursday for my start location of Shamrock in the Panhandle, riding through Oklahoma in order to pick up some Tour of Honor locations.  My father served in WWII, beginning his tour in North Africa and ending in northern Italy.  Visiting these memorials has been interesting and enlightening.

Dinner was at Rusty’s on Route 66.  Seeing police cars outside a diner is a sign of good food.  This time it was motorcycles…  Yep, the food and character was good.  I stayed at the Shamrock Country Inn, which was a decent motor motel.

April 29, 2022
It’s always a struggle trying to get adequate sleep the night before a ride.  My mind is racing through the next day already.  The start time was 5:30 AM for this start-anywhere rally.  I had scouted a gas station with an accurate time printed on the receipt the night before.  The first one I visited was 6 minutes slow.  No bueno…

I stared at the time slowly moving by and waited until 5:31 to top off my tank.  If there were seconds of error on the wrong side of 5:30, I’d have to do it all over with something else, which would waste valuable rally time.  The first pit stop was PITS5 on Route 66, a Conoco station built during the hard times of 1935.  Paul did excellent work on the rally book – way beyond what was necessary to share the info needed for the rally.  Paul has this trait in most everything I have seen him do.  Even the method of submitting bonus photos and the subsequent scoring is over the top.  We used an app to send photos to rally staff linked to the locations we documented.  It took a bit more time at each bonus, but it was so much easier at the scoring table later.  I saw multiple riders at the first pit stop, which was of no surprise given the high points available in the Panhandle.

The next pit stop was only 21 miles west of Shamrock.  This Phillips 66 opened in 1929 and was renovated by a local Route 66 preservation group in 1992, which claimed it was the first old gas station restored along the “Mother Road”.  I now had 2,960 credits in my “fuel tank” to claim racetrack boni.  My pit stop tank would deplete as I visited racetracks where I would have to hit more pit stops to fuel up again with credits.  After the McLean stop, I hit the Viper Speedway, Route 66 Motor Speedway, Silver Dollar Speedway and the Amarillo Dragway to actually accrue points for the rally.  Some of the racetracks in the rally are still functioning, and others are no longer.

Now, let’s talk about wind…  Lots of wind… Crazy wind…  I don’t remember ever being in this much wind for so long on a ride.  And it seemed to always be at my side or head no matter which direction I was riding.  My bike typically has a 260-mile range, but I saw that drop to 190 miles with this incredible wind.  At PITM3, Bob’s Oil Well in Matador, I was struggling with holding my rally flag for the photo, and finally strapped it to a highway sign where it flew horizontal.  I proposed that the name of the rally be changed to Days of Wind…

My route took me to the Lubbock Dragway, West Texas Raceway and Lubbock Motor Speedway.  There were other boni available around Lubbock, but my pit stop credit was now depleted to a point that I could not claim the over 1,000 points available on the west side of Lubbock.  My option would take me southeast on Hwy 84 and claim RCP02, the now defunct Chaparral Raceway.  My pit stop credit was now down to 55.  I continued on to Snyder to take a meal break.  Here’s another wise thing that Paul has incorporated into his rally.  Rest…  There was a 45-minute meal break available both Friday and Saturday that had points tied to them.  The meal break points built upon the amount of rest time taken between Friday and Saturday.  There was a mandatory 4-hour rest to be taken between 7:30 PM and 6:30 AM, otherwise a DNF.  One could claim points up to 8 hours of rest.  The meal breaks were optional, but one could not make up enough points by continuing to ride.  Good job, Paul!

Right around the corner from my meal break was PITS6, the intriguing restored 1935 Sinclair station in Snyder.  Lynn Fuller purchased the property around 2010 and has been working on it ever since.  See the video below by Ronald Erdrich from the Abilene Reporter-News documenting his interview with Lynn in 2018.

Abilene is my home town.  When I was a teenager, I’d practice my dirt track skills on my Hodaka Ace 90 on a circle track just outside of the Abilene Speedway.  And when Deb and I would travel back to visit her parents, I’d slip off with a cooler on Saturday nights and sit in the stands to watch the local drag racers at the Big Country Raceway.  So these two boni had a bit of my history embedded…

It was in the 50’s earlier in the Panhandle, but the temperature reached 100 degrees when I arrived at PITB8, the Magnolia Station in Buffalo Gap.  I had water on the moto, but I was looking forward to a stop where I could grab a cold drink.  As I rode further south in the afternoon, the temperature slowly dropped to a manageable level.  My last few stops of the day would be pit stops, so I could gain fuel credits before claiming racetrack boni on Saturday.  The Sinclair station in Coleman had been converted into a bakery.  I took another short break at a fuel stop there in Coleman where I had a cold can of iced tea while talking to the local kids on bicycles.

The roads leading into San Saba were enjoyable, and the temperature continued to drop.  I stopped at PITS3, an old Humble Oils station and PITJ1, a nicely restored Mobile station in Jarrell.  The last 30 miles or so before my rest stop were on I-35, which I despise.  Sometimes one has to use the interstates…  I was well ahead of schedule for my rest stop.  My Basecamp route schedule had me arriving just before 10:00 for the XSLP1 rest bonus, so my ~9:00 PM arrival at the motel in Temple would give me plenty of time to stay on schedule for a 6:00 AM start on Saturday to claim the full 8 hours of rest bonus.  Literally next door to the motel was Sol De Jalisco-Gen Bruce, a really nice Mexican restaurant where I had a light meal.  I looked at the Spotwalla group site and saw riders were scattered all across Texas, likely at their stops for their rest as well.

April 30, 2022
I slept well and awoke at 5:30 AM to head over to the gas station to document the end of my rest bonus.

This day would be a relaxed day of riding since I wanted to arrive at the finish almost 3 hours before the DNF time of 5:30 PM.  In Temple, I was only a couple of hours from the finish, but I took a circular way riding a bit over 300 miles to the finish in Irving.  There were a number of boni around the Waco area, where I spent time at Texas State Technical College pursuing a degree in Biomedical Electronics.  My first stop of the morning was the Heart O’ Texas Coliseum.  The instructions for the documentation stated to take a photo of the large steel marker, which was built by TSTC.  Go figure…  The Gulf station pit stop in the center of Waco was amazing.

I continued to collect some bonus points around the Waco area and began riding northwest through Meridian, where I stopped for a meal break and up rolls Jim McCrain for a fuel stop.  After my leisurely brunch of crackers and cheese, I continued to Glen Rose to document the Outlaw Gas Station, which was built out of petrified wood and brick.  This is a fascinating ruin built in the 1928.  Prohibition added another product to Ed Young’s gas station, moonshine.  There might have been more bootleg liquor sold here than gasoline.

My rambling return to Irving took me through Stephenville, Weatherford and finally to the Texas Motor Speedway north of Fort Worth.  Matt Wise checked me in at 3:00 after initially wondering why I rolled up to his post.  It’s been several years since I have ridden in the Heart of Texas rally.  Typically I am doing photo work for the finish, and Matt just figured that was the case again…  I parked my moto, grabbed my overnight bags and camera gear, and checked into my room.

Meet your rally master (most always serious…) and scoring team, Nancy and Jeff!

Chris Hopper took time off of his bike to drop by rally headquarters to help out.  Matt Wise and Paul’s daughter were working the check-in tent.

Riders continued to filter in with “rush hour” a bit before the 5:30 DNF time.

The Texican courtyard was an inviting place to socialize and tell stories from the road.

There was a mischievous note from Paul’s mom presented by Kerri to claim a rest bonus.  More of that vivid mind thing…

Paul laid out the finishing order.  Yet another fine rally and time to visit with long-distance friends!

Photos of the finish:  https://photos.app.goo.gl/rEpmjzBNudAeHYER6
Photos of my ride:  https://photos.app.goo.gl/bXEi3MH4V9Dsinba9
Tracklog – To Shamrock:  https://www.alltrails.com/explore/recording/2022-04-28-tracklog-a0ae155
Tracklog – Days of Thunder Rally:  https://www.alltrails.com/explore/recording/20220429-30-heart-of-texas-f8e9184

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