2024 Heart of Texas 58 Hour Rally – Boomtown

Paul Tong delivered our rally packets well in advance of the start to this year’s Heart of Texas Rally.  The rally book was over the top and filled with history of oil discovery and production.  I enjoyed studying it and learned a lot even though I have spent my whole life in Texas and grew up in the oil country of the West.  We had plenty of time to consider multiple routes in the major oil fields of Texas.  Probably too much time.  My brain hurt a bit…

The scoring concept was a bit unique as bonuses fell within 4 major categories and our overall score would be based on the category “silo” containing the least amount of points.  This complicated routing as a balanced category score was needed rather than only looking for high value bonuses.

I decided on an efficient but not a high score route focusing on the eight mandatory oil region bonuses and some high point meal stops (more about this later).  Finishing a rally is my first objective.  Riding where I want is second.  Maybe finishing somewhere in the middle of the pack would be nice.  This rally would take me through some places where I would not have chosen to ride, but it was necessary for finishing.  Timing would be critical, especially in the Houston area in order to avoid traffic.  This factored into my decision to keep the route simple to allow time for delays.  This rally was a shotgun start and Palo Pinto would be my first bonus to ride counter-clockwise around the state.

April 24, 2024

There’s no lodging in Palo Pinto, but Mineral Wells is very near.  I timed my ride out of the DFW area Wednesday to avoid traffic and arrived in ample time to enjoy a really tasty burger at Woody’s.  Woody’s is inside of a 1940’s Quonset hut, which is understandable considering its proximity to the former Army site of the WWII-era Camp Wolters.

April 25, 2024

Dawson Lamp was pulling away just as I rolled up to my first North Texas oil field DER(8) bonus – the Palo Pinto County Historical Museum.  I recorded my start odometer in the “old-school” bonus claim form and uploaded the bonus photo and odo reading in the LD Rally app designed by Paul.  The claim form is useful at the finish in case there is a question regarding bonus stops.  I have never run into any major issues using the app other than in lousy cell data areas where I had to text a bonus photo to Nancy Oz a few times.

There were multiple bonus stops around the Thurber, Ranger and Eastland areas.  I have seen the Thurber chimney so many times in our trips back and forth to our home town of Abilene, but I had never walked up to the historical marker until this rally.

There’s a chance that Debbie’s GG Grandfather stood on the same ground where I recorded my Gunsight bonus.  John Flanigan was one of the first settlers in 1858 of what is now Eastland County.  His farm across from Merriman Baptist Church (not far away) was chosen as the county seat and then moved a couple of years later to the city of Eastland.  The Cottle No. 1 marker in Moran details oil production by the Texas Company in 1909.  My father was a Texaco owner/operator from the early 1960’s into the 1970’s.  I spent many hours in his service stations growing up…

As far as I can recall, I have never been on Hwy 601 southeast of Albany, but It might have been possible during my late-night rambling drives with my high school friend Ron.  Albany was a frequent stop while traveling around with my dad, and later with Debbie to avoid the interstate while traveling east/west.

The high-value DRI(1) bonus west of Albany concerned me a bit while I was planning my route.  It was not the 2 miles of caliche off of Hwy 180; it was the half mile of two-track clay through a cattle pasture.  With any substantial amount of rain, this would be a horrific adventure on a heavy moto.  But thankfully the trail was dry to the historical marker for the 1936 drilling rig still standing there.  I came across a nice old Texaco station in Stamford.  I most always stop to record the Texaco star signs.

I rolled into Rochester, TX at 10:53 AM before they opened.  Matt Hube was already parked in front of the Hole in the Wall Cafe.  Shortly after 11, Matt and I started our meal timers in the LD Rally App.  By the time I left, there must have been eight or more rally riders grabbing lunch.  Why?  This particular location was worth an additional 4,000 points on top of the substantial multiplier that was offered for 45-minute meal stops.  Paul emphasizes rally safety with rest stops (and speed monitoring).  The meal stops are not required, but he makes them very enticing for maximum point accumulation.  BTW – Paul loaned Matt his old Gold Wing for the rally after Matt had a major mechanical issue with his moto.

After heading north a bit towards Matador, it seemed that riding was becoming a bit more comfortable.  That could only mean one thing, the typical Texas south wind was picking up.  As I headed west after the Bob’s Oil Well bonus, my prediction was confirmed as I leaned left into the relentless wind.  After a fuel stop in Lubbock, riding south felt like I was doing 100 mph.  Midland is not one of my favorite places to ride through, but it was made worse when I believed one of my routing applications saying I should exit I-20 right near my bonus, but there was no exit ramp, only road construction.  This caused a 20-minute delay due to having to ride further down the highway and then through Midland rush hour traffic and accidents.  I was happy to get out in the desert past the oil field traffic.  But the wind…

I like Big Bend country.  The next few bonus stops were on the periphery, but close enough to be in the neighborhood.

I wanted to ensure I got to the Iraan derrick bonus with plenty of afternoon light since it was within an RV park and might be difficult to sufficiently illuminate after sunset.   I made one last stop of the day at the historical marker for the first producing well in Crockett County.

It was dark as I arrived in Ozona for my rest stop, but I was well ahead of the 10:00 cutoff for points accumulation.  Rally rules stated a mandatory four hour stop each day and we would accumulate points for up to eight hours of rest.  Note the photo of my moto outside of my room; more about that later…  I took a look at Jason’s Spotwalla site that showed the current positions of HoT riders.  Identities are hidden and changed up each day.  On Thursday I was Acrocanthosaurus.

April 26, 2024

Weather was coming through at 3:30 in the morning.  I was awakened by thunder and heavy rain on the metal roof of my room.  I would have ridden after the storm passed by, but I still needed to stay at the same geo position until 5:30 AM for maximum points accumulation.

Friday was a commute day from West Texas to the Southern Coastal oil fields.  My only bonus for the morning was to be in Austin before a meal stop at the Texas Chili Parlor.  But after chasing the storm line that formed on top of my motel earlier, I did not want to encounter it again in Austin as the radar futures were predicting.  So I decided to drop the 1,000 point meal bonus in Austin and would go around San Antonio to pass south under the storm line.  I still needed a meal stop for the day and that would be a hearty breakfast at Isaack’s in Junction.

The Luling Oil Derrick was an important stop being one of the eight oil regions.  I ran into Steve Wilson at the Rafael Rios bonus in Luling and followed him off and on into the Houston area.  The outer tollway would be a good idea to maximize speed and minimize traffic to get into Tomball.  And it was around 2:00, so no problem, right?  No, traffic is often a pain in Houston.  I ran into two dead-stop jams on the tollway around an accident and construction.

At the Spindletop Park bonus, I reviewed an email sent out regarding rider speed violations.  I thought I had been really diligent around speed management in this rally and I don’t spend much time above speed limits anyway.  Paul sent out a follow-up message that the previous email was sent to all riders as a reminder, so that made me feel a bit better.  How does he know, you might ask.  Our satellite location devices send our position on a regular basis and thus speed can be derived through time and distance.  Paul has developed an automated system that informs him of riders violating speed limits for specific road sections over a period of time.  I don’t know what that period of time is and it really does not matter to me.

The Beaumont area stops went off OK and the Neo-approved giant fire hydrant was fun.  I was seeing more and more riders.  This was not surprising considering the oil region mandatory stops where there were several regions having only one derrick bonus to claim.

I arrived at my motel a bit after 8 PM with plenty of time for a walk to dinner next door.  I knew it would be good food as there were three Sherriff squad cars outside and a firefighter was also inside along with the officers.  I reviewed a daily rally email, this time from Nancy.  She described that 4 or 5 riders messed up the previous night’s rest bonus photos.  There would be a points penalty for this at scoring.  I knew I was one of those since I used a method in previous HoT rallies to document rest start and end times with dated business receipts rather than a simple photo of my rally flag on the moto in front of the rest location.  Duh…

April 27, 2024

I was awake early in the morning again and could have ridden since I arrived very early the night before.  But there was a meal stop in Coolidge worth an additional 4,000 points, and did not open until 11:00.  So it would be a chill day of riding without worry of possible traffic delays until Dallas.

Paul holds a special place in his heart for College Station, likely since he spent some time there during college.  That must have been the reason behind the high points WOR(4) roughneck bonus there.  I continued collecting bonuses along the way and saw more and more rally riders.

I mentioned the LD Rally App that Paul designed.  It made documentation simple while on the road and scoring for the team much more efficient.  The process was to pull the desired bonus from a pick list which then showed the example photo for riders to match.  Notes to the rally team could be added if needed (odo at first bonus was mandatory).  Geolocation data was also sent to the team for confirmation of our visit to the bonus of interest.  The back-end system sent a confirmation email back which gave us a warm fuzzy that the system was working correctly.

I was still ahead of my planned arrival to Mookie’s for a meal break.  This situation does not win rallies, but makes for more relaxed rally riding.  I collected the Wortham Oil Boom bonus and worked my way to Coolidge.  There was time available to review my documentation for the finish.  The only challenge was to find some shelter from the menacing wind.

When I arrived, there were already four other riders milling around.  By the time the doors were opened, there were at least twelve of us ready to eat and document our meal bonus.

Corsicana was an important stop for me to document my last oil region derrick.  The wind was still vicious and the required angle of the photo would be difficult.  But Robert Long was right behind me and we helped each other with handling our rally flags.  Just down the street was the WOR(5) worker bonus that would help balance out my category scores.  And, of course there’s a street festival surrounding the bonus location.  Luckily it was not a long walk and a festival goer helped me with holding my rally flag.  My final bonus was in downtown Dallas, the 1934 Pegasus.  This was the symbol of Magnolia Oil, which was folded into Mobil in 1959.  I used to see it all the time on top of the Magnolia Building until it was removed in 1999 and replaced by a newer version Pegasus.  But after a renovation that was finished in 2015, our beloved original Pegasus now has a new home near the ground at the Omni Hotel.  I ran into Danny Dossmann and James and Bobbie Jackson.  Other riders arrived as we headed to Irving at typical Dallas NASCAR Freeway pace for self preservation purposes.

It was nice seeing new and familiar smiling faces at the finish hotel.  After I checked in with Chris Hopper and Kimberly Walling, Tara Tong greeted me in the NYLO Hotel and gave me additional information for the scoring.  Scoring was simple as always in the HoT.  Tara presented my scoresheet and I compared the final score to my planned route.  Subtracting the penalty for my lack of reading comprehension around the first night’s rest stop documentation and my dropped 1,000 point Austin meal bonus, everything matched perfectly.

I settled into my room briefly and went down for a social hour.

We had a great dinner and Paul started the award presentation.  The rally team was recognized for their amazing efforts including Jeff Konicek who works with my son-in-law.  LD riders are a rare breed and knowing one of them through family is a bit rarer.

Steven Wilson received the New Rider Award.  He did quite well in this rally and did not lose any of his claimed bonuses.  Mike Best received the Heart Award for stopping to help Nichole Meuse find a bonus even though that stop would cause him time.  And Nichole received the Tim Harkins Award for persisting through challenges before and during the rally.  She had time available only to plan a single route, and then had a deer strike on the way to the rally, a bent front brake rotor from the deer strike, computer issues trying to build a second new route, tornado warnings during the rally, finding some bonuses (remember Mike Best?) and rerouting during the rally which ultimately caused a DNF by missing a mandatory East Texas derrick bonus.  I think I would have given in much earlier…

Jennifer, Lucy and Samuel Johnson did the rally as a family on two motos.  John Anderson took first place by a narrow margin over Ben Ernst.  I think they are still friends!

2024 HoT Boomtown Efficiency PDF

This was another amazing Heart of Texas Rally!  My thanks go out to rally master Paul Tong and his always supportive wife Tara, Nancy Oz and all the other team members that make this event a success!




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2 Responses

  1. Liz Burton says:

    Great read Richard. Congrats.

  2. steve gallant says:

    Thanks for the great report and photos Richard! Sorry to miss yet another HoT – this looked like a great theme with interesting history and bonus locations. Nice riding.