Saturday, July 12, 2014
Snapshot of a day....
Night before last I had serious doubts about my routing decisions for the final leg. No matter how I played with the numbers, the routing software kept coming up as too many miles to make the daylight bonus deadlines in time and too much time to make it back to the finish. I decided in the wee dark hours of the night to collect a handful of Chester, IL bonuses, head to St. Louis for a couple of bigger bonuses there and then play it safe and slog up the interstate to MN and call it done. After all, it's only my first multi-day rally and only my second rally ever. Finishing, in and of itself, is success.
So, I started yesterday in Chester, IL collecting photos of Popeye character sculptures and then headed out to the middle of nowhere, nearby on Kaskaskia Island, to get a picture of the "Liberty Bell of the West". Standing there looking out over the landscape, in a beautiful place I've never been, I realized that there were more beautiful places I've never been....
I started playing with my GPS. Apparently, when I was using the computer and getting "impossible to do it" numbers, there must have been an extraneous route point plugged into the routing software adding in about 250 extra miles. According to the GPS, under the shade of a big old tree, I actually could just barely make the daylight only bonus that I needed to make the northern route worth risking a late arrival. Further, by dropping a couple of indirect bonuses along the way, I'd get in later than I'd hoped but well within the arrival window and probably before the penalty window.
Decision time - head for the barn and be happy to finish or go for it and know I'd brought everything I had even if I didn't make it back in time?
I swept north. There were beautiful places I hadn't seen yet that needed seeing.
The Capo ran great - we'd found our sweet spot.
I made it from Chester, IL to Ottawa, IL via St. Louis's beautiful Calvary Cemetery and a bread trail of bonus locations and gas stops. Ottowa was the bonus I needed to put together a valuable combo. I'd made it with time to spare - two hours before sunset and "only" 450-ish miles to go for the start of the 4 a.m. Finish Window. Breathing a sigh of relief, I took a moment to just sit by the river and appreciate a beautiful place I'd never been to, that I wouldn't have seen if I'd guaranteed my finish and headed for the barn from St. Louis. In fact, I'd have been on the outskirts of Minnetonka around that same time had I done so.
Instead, in that moment of quiet, somewhere across the river, an a cappella quartet starting singing old, old hymns. My heart was lifted and my spirit soared as their voices drifted across the river. Here was an unanticipated reward of far greater value than an arbitrary bonus. I was so entranced, I just sat a spell and let the magic wash over me. I was reluctant to move forward into the sunset, both of the ride and of the day, not because I was tired - in that moment I was not the least bit tired - but because I was content. I knew, in that moment, that there was no other place I needed or wanted to be. So, I sat for a bit and just enjoyed it, the peace, the grace.
Of course, I did move on, collected another bonus. But, I also took the time to take a picture of a couple of orange barn cats who were wondering what this silly motorcycle person was doing at their barn. I also took a picture of a scarlet sun sinking into an emerald field in yet another beautiful place I had not seen before as I finally turned toward my last bonus of the day. I spent yet another hour sitting around the train tracks in Rochelle, IL, waiting for a train, talking to the train spotters before journeying through the night towards dawn.
The surprisingly rally worthy non-rally bike, a 2006 Aprilia Caponord, ran steady and strong delivering me safely at 5:03 a.m.
It was a very, very long day but, what an amazing, amazing ride.
Thank you all for being a part of it, even virtually. You've no idea how valuable it is in the wee dark hours of self-doubt to know that friends, even ones you haven't met, yet, are out there, in the darkness, as part of a greater web that connects us all to an inner strength we didn't even know we had.
Also, a big thank you to the organizers. What an incredible gift you've given us.