Leg 2: Allen, Texas to Allen, Texas.
By 04:00 the room was full of riders expectantly awaiting the next set of bonus points and anticipating a multiplier rule change for the second leg. There were a few corrections to the book, e.g. where someone had removed a dragon as they were remodelling the area, and a few reminders of what was required to claim bonuses. This time we could string together 4 bonuses in a row of different types (e.g. Air, Water, Land, Prehistoric) and the 4th bonus value would be tripled. Again the obvious strings were stymied by the Rally Designer’s devious mind and it wasn’t easy to find good strings with the 4th one having high points.
On this leg the sleep, call-in, tracking and check-in bonuses had all increased from 1000 points to 1500 and the rest bonus was 6 points per minute. The bonuses were anything from 1 to 4283 (for a picture of Yoda in California).
Around 09:00 we were packed and ready to go. Our route wasn’t great but it was better than our leg one effort and you can sit all day trying to get the perfect route then not have enough time to ride it. Our route took us into Dallas along the busy highway but that wasn’t a problem as motorcycles are allowed in the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) ‘express’ lanes.
Having gone wrong at one intersection we were getting back on track when I got a strong smell of petrol which was quickly followed by “We’ve just died” coming over the intercom. Sure enough the engine had stopped. We coasted to the narrow hard shoulder at the edge of the road and as I looked down there was petrol pouring over the hot engine. I don’t think I’ve ever got off the bike so quickly!
Standing there with cars shooting off the highway taking avoiding action at the last moment as they spotted us was very scary. I stepped over the barrier and Kevin did so as well after activating the ‘OK but need assistance’ button on our Spot tracker. It was a very busy intersection and there was no chance of Kevin being able to safely walk the bike off the interstate so we were a little unsure what to do. Shortly afterwards Troy Martin came past us then screeched to a stop. After we explained what had happened Troy’s advice was to call Rally HQ to let them know why we’d stopped and see if they could muster some help. Troy was in 7th position at the time and it was very good of him to stop; thank you.
We advised the rally team who said we should call our recovery agents. We were less than impressed by Towmaster’s response which was that we were in an unsafe position so they couldn’t help us. Their advice was to call 911 which I somewhat reluctantly did. It felt really wrong to call the equivalent of our 999 service but when the police arrived they confirmed that was the correct course of action. There was a slight lull in the traffic at one point while we were waiting for the police which allowed Kevin to move the bike into a safer position. If nothing else it moved the bike to somewhere that a car hitting it wouldn’t be having an accident right next to us.
The police called another recovery service who took us to a local Yamaha dealer – Richardson Motorsports (thanks to our Spot Watcher, Richard, for looking the dealer up for us). They were very helpful and were straight on to the bike trying to figure out what was wrong. Their verdict was the retaining clip from the main fuel line was missing and we needed a new fuel line because the connector was damaged. This had caused the fuel line to become disconnected so petrol was being pumped straight on to the engine. The Ténéré is apparently not a popular model in the US so they had no Ténérés in stock they could take the part off to get us back on the road. They went through several parts list to see if any of their stock bikes had a comparable part they could use, which was extremely good of them, but unfortunately nothing there would fit. New parts were ordered with next day delivery, one from Georgia and one from Japan as that was where the only available stock appeared to be, but we were warned they probably wouldn’t arrive then.
I’m not sure we should confess this but we had mixed feelings at this point. Kevin had really struggled with fatigue during leg one and, in one small part of our minds, the thought of not having to keep doing that was a bit of a relief. On the other hand, the overriding feeling for both of us was one of frustration as if our rally was over we wanted it to be because we’d decided that was the case not because of a broken bike.
The rally team were absolutely great. They arranged for us to be picked up and we returned to the hotel, booking another night in anticipation of being there until at least the following day. Reviewing our options it looked like we could still complete the leg if we got going tomorrow, assuming the parts would be fitted by lunch time. There is always a minimum suggested number of points required to be a finisher and Kevin worked out a route that would get us those points despite the late departure. Even if we missed the leg entirely we could still claim tracking, call-in and rest bonuses so wouldn’t end the leg with no points.
In the meantime, the rally team were looking at options to get us back on the road and by early evening we had a running bike. We really appreciated the help the rally team gave us, especially Eric Vaillancourt, a fellow Ténéré owner, who managed to cobble together a temporary fix that enabled us to get rolling again; thank you all.
We hadn’t anticipated leaving that evening so didn’t have a suitable route planned. I thought we should take the eight-hour rest break that night in the Allen hotel and head out in the morning to ride the route planned based on leaving Friday lunch time. Kevin felt a lot of people had worked hard to ensure we were ready to go earlier than that and we should go ASAP. He spent a short while working out a ‘sh!t or bust’ route and at 19:30 that evening we finally rolled out, heading East, having lost over twelve hours of riding time (subsequent events would prove that Lyn’s assessment of the situation was 100% correct and I should have listened – Kevin).
Our first bonus was a delightful lit up 19 foot tall dalmatian in Shreveport, Louisiana. This night-only waypoint was a bonus for us as we would not have been able to do it with our original plan; we can see silver linings in every cloud :). As we’d been up since 03:30 we decided to find a motel and get some sleep. Booking.com is our friend and found us somewhere. Again, with hindsight, any of the many motels we passed on our way to the one we had booked would have been suitable but we had our UK mindset which doesn’t appreciate just how many motels are available in the US.
Early the next day we stopped at the quirky celebration of the ‘Frog Level’. According to the accompanying placard a town meeting was called to name their town. The frogs were ‘hollering’ in a nearby pond and a man from Alabama jumped up and said “Let’s name it Frog Level” and thus a legend was born. The town was later renamed to Rodessa after the daughter of a Kansas City Southern Railway president when the railroad came to town.
We rode further east through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia gathering points as we went. As we approached the Stegosaurus waypoint we saw another rider leaving which later discussion showed was Margaret Peart from Tasmania.
Our next stop was a pelican in Pensacola. Kevin was commenting on the heat and humidity and I asked him what he expected when in Florida. “Florida? What the hell are we doing in Florida?!” he exclaimed then started laughing. (This isn’t quite verbatim, there was more alliteration in his original!). When Kevin’s planning routes he’s just looking at waypoints, distances and bonus values without much thought as to which states we might be visiting so it was quite a surprise to him we’d ended up there.
We experienced something of a language barrier in Jack, Alabama, when we stopped to get fuel for the bike and for us. The lady behind the counter was perfectly understandable but, while we were quite sure the other residents were speaking some form of English, our brains couldn’t turn what they were saying into words we could understand. Nodding politely and smiling seemed to get us through.
Our next waypoint was in the vibrant university town of Birmingham, Alabama, which was absolutely heaving with people out enjoying the evening. This was an ‘any time’ bonus which was rather fortunate as it was very late. Kevin parked the bike right next to an enormous storm drain and I’m quite sure both bike and he would have disappeared down it if the bike had toppled over. Apart from some short breaks as Kevin needed them or we’d needed to eat we’d been riding for around 18 hours and the next waypoint on our agenda was some 560 miles away.
The short breaks for rest, fuel and food we’d taken, coupled with the traffic, had eaten up two of the three hours we’d set aside for a rest during this period so we were somewhat short of time. We stopped a couple of times so Kevin could try to get a short power nap but he just couldn’t get to sleep and some seven hours later he hit the figurative wall. It would have been dangerous to try to continue so we abandoned the planned route and stopped in a motel in Heth, Arkansas, for a few hours. That’ll be ‘bust’ then.
From that point on our only real option was a direct route back to the hotel but we did manage to stop for some rather nice ice creams in the small town of Gurden. after capturing the ‘Order of the Hoo Hoo’ black cat monument.
The weather was the star on the last section of this leg. We’d seen some evidence the night before of storms but on the way back through Texas the sky got darker and darker. It was still hot but seemed like a good time to batten down the hatches and close our vents. Almost as soon as we’d done this the heavens opened up. Neither of us had ever been in rain like it. It was just like someone throwing buckets of water at us while lightning lit up the skies and thunder reverberated around us.
All the cars slowed down and put their hazard warning lights on. Many cars pulled off the road on to the hard shoulder and stopped for reasons we’re not sure of but we were grateful to them for opening up the road for us. For 17 miles we were bombarded with water. I just tucked in behind Kevin for a while but eventually ventured out to take the video below. The waterfall slowed to a downpour, then for another 20 miles or so it was just raining.
I know we call our Sat Nav Mrs Sat Nav sometimes and swear at ‘her’ often but I’m sure it’s sentient and has a sense of humour. Whilst we were riding through this downpour the Bryan Ferry track ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ came on, much to our amusement. A couple of tracks later it was America’s ‘A Horse With No Name’ in which the singer ” felt good to be out of rain”.
We got back to the hotel in brilliant sunshine and completely dry. We were pleased to see all the other bikes safely back and there was a welcoming party for returning riders – thanks to all those who turned out to cheer.
Our leg was as bad as we’d feared and we dropped to 83rd place with 600 fewer points than the recommended total for legs one and two combined (I told you Lyn was right – Kevin). We had a total of 24,448 points having ridden 4,595 miles.
We were going to have to pull out all the stops on leg three to qualify as finishers.
Remember Eric who got us going again at the start of this leg? Not only did he get us, as well as some other riders, going again after breakdowns he was also part of the rally scoring team. After he’d finished his scoring duties he came out to our bike and fitted the fuel line retaining clip he’d picked up for us and replaced the vent pipes as he wasn’t happy with how they were fitted. He’s a star!