Leg: 01-04 July 2013
Following the evening meal we were presented with our bonus packs and after what seemed like an interminable series of questions were released to go to our rooms to work out our routes. In previous years bonus values had increased for legs two and three. With that in mind we intended to work out a route that achieved the suggested minimum 11,000 points and left us rested and ready for leg two.
Many of the waypoints were limited to daylight only or specific times and it took us a while to work out a suitable route which would fully utilise the riding time we had available. Around midnight we had something we were satisfied with and went to bed for our last pre-rally sleep.
At around 07:45 the next morning we wandered downstairs ready for the final odometer reading. Once that was done we stood around chatting and making last-minute adjustments until the rally start. By then it was raining quite hard and we were debating whether to put our waterproofs on (we hate wearing them). In the end we decided not to. We did put them on later for a short time but as they made us steamy we didn’t keep them on for long. Just before 10:00 we were all sitting on our bikes, engines running, ready to start.
The start was orchestrated by Dale ‘Warchild’ Wilson and we had strict instructions to “Go when I point at you”. Everyone was hoping not to stall or even worse, drop their bike. Everything went OK and we were all on our way in around four minutes which is pretty damn good.
There were several routes away from the hotel and we saw a few other bikes going our way including our fellow-European, Robert, on his hopeless class Honda XBR 500.
One of our early stops was the Johnstown Inclined Plane which is the steepest vehicular incline in the world. It is approached by a series of roads that had obviously suffered a great deal over the Winter and were being repaired; quite a few of them were closed and others were potholed and full of gravel. We went round and round in circles for a while until we found a way through. Eventually we were at the lift and were enchanted by the old-fashioned equipment. We rode onto the car, were transported down the slope and within minutes we were safely at the bottom and on our way again.
It rained on-and-off all day long but our new kit proved to be waterproof. It was quite warm so we didn’t get cold even with the rain. Towards the end of the day we headed towards a transport museum in the tourist town of Hershey, of Hershey Kisses fame. Milton S. Hershey, the company founder, decided to build the first modern US chocolate factory here in 1903. Not content with building a factory alone he also built a town for his employees (there must be something about chocolate manufacturers and philanthropy as the Cadbury brothers did something similar in Bournville, England, about ten years earlier). We had no time to stop in Hershey but that did look to be an interesting roller-coaster. All the street lamps were shaped like Hershey Kisses.
The Rally theme was transportation: planes & helicopters, cars, engines, sites of historical transport significance etc. This is why we found ourselves driving round a very busy New York at midnight, looking for the Grand Tier Building on Broadway. This was the starting point for an epic journey across the country in 1909 by 20 year old Alice Ramsey and three female friends. After that we rode 60 odd miles to Long Island to photograph a F14-A Tomcat fighter jet which, even in the pitch black, was a very impressive piece of kit.
The next day was a whirl of bonus collecting including canal gates and a cog railway steam engine called Peppersass. We found ourselves on a ferry which was a rather unexpected surprise and were really lucky to get there before it shut for the evening. There were no problems as we crossed the Canadian border just before it got dark. We were running late so checked into a motel near our next waypoint which was daylight only. A quick re-plan saw us dumping a high value any time boat lift bonus but there was some consolation in that the Canadian Canoe Museum, a daylight-only bonus we had expected to pass at night, was now open to us.
Canada was very beautiful.
The following day we had a lovely ride through Canada in the early morning mists. After the calm of the Canadian countryside we found ourselves surfing through the Toronto Expressway. What a road! The instructions being given to us by the SatNav made no sense at all until we realised it thought we were on a parallel piece of road. We made a couple of errors which saw us exiting the road and coming back on again but it was good fun; a bit like the Parisian Peripherique but not quite so manic (Kevin has always enjoyed riding the Peripherique but I’m not so sure…). The traffic on the Expressway was moving very quickly and it was quite exciting. I’m sure it’s a nightmare during the rush hour.
One of the more spectacular bonuses was the Aero ride over the whirlpool at Niagara Falls. We went all the way there and I still didn’t get to see the falls. A return visit before we head for home is a must.
We took advantage of the full 8 hours rest bonus then made an early start. There’s nothing better than riding in the early morning before the traffic starts and, over here, before it gets too hot.
We’re not very big fans of large towns or cities, especially when we’re rallying. You can always rely on them to cost you lots of time as you get caught in traffic, or get lost. However, there were a few large bonuses in Detroit so we planned to go there despite our reservations.
We hit the city just before 8 am and were expecting to be fighting our way through the rush-hour traffic. Wrong. Where were all the cars? The place was deserted. It was quite spooky and felt like we were in a zombie movie!
There were a few people around, mostly joggers and cyclists, then we realised it was the 4th July and obviously most people had stayed at home for the celebrations.
There were a pair of bonuses here which were either side of the river. We bagged the first one then followed the SatNav’s instructions to a tunnel ‘to Canada’…Canada? We hadn’t realised the other side of the river was in Canada! Unfortunately motorcycles are not allowed through the tunnel, although we’ve no idea why, so we had to find our way to the bridge instead. It’s big enough to see but we went round and round and round trying to find the entrance while the SatNav kept giving us instructions back to the tunnel, despite being told to detour, which was very irritating. In the end we just kept the river to our left until we saw a way on to the bridge. This time our passage into Canada took ages as we (as usual) joined the wrong queue. Two or three cars from the other queues went for every one on ours. Never mind, we bagged the bonus and were quickly back on US soil ready to carry on to the Henry Ford Museum where we had to find and take pictures of 25 unique vehicles.
Our last bonus of the day was a quirky ‘Amish ATM’.
Finally we were back at the Marriott in Pittsburg at Checkpoint One ready to present ourselves for scoring. We were pleased not to lose any points for technical errors and found ourselves ‘mid-pack’ in position 47 with 15826 points having ridden 2742 miles.
After a good nights sleep we were up the next morning at 06:00 ready to receive the next set of bonus points for leg two.