24 Hours of the Spyder

Or, how Sev learned to stop worrying and love the tryke.

by Sev Pearman

This month’s test ride is different. Rather than sleeping in and posing at coffee shops, we put a Can-Am Spyder to our toughest test ride ever: entering and finishing in the 2008 Minnesota 1,000.

Road rallies are both fun and challenging. Despite the name of the event, you do not have to ride 1,000 miles. Simply stated, you have to find and claim as many bonuses as you can in a 24-hour period.

Riders do not learn any of the bonus locations until the Liar’s Banquet the night before the start. It is up to you to plot a route that maximizes your points. Then you actually have to ride your ride. There within lies the trick.feature105_1b

This year, there were over 60 bonuses in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, and Nebraska. It is physically impossible to collect them all. I topped off the Spyder and loaded the trunk with maps, my route sheet, Gatorade® and snacks.

If everything went as planned (it never does) my counterclockwise route would sweep through six states. I headed down I-35 riding alongside MN1K Rider #1, my friend Mark. Mark’s trusty Honda Trans-Alp kept the Spyder and I company until he split off on I-90. My first stop was in Dows, Iowa. I rode into town and quickly found the bonus. As I was leaving, I was pleased to see 2007 Iron Butt winner, Marty Leir, arrive on his BMW GS. This was a good sign!

From Dows, I pointed the Spyder toward Des Moines. I needed to confirm some writing on a war monument at the Capitol. While there, other MN1K riders bombarded me with questions about the Spyder. It is tough to be inconspicuous on one of these.

Continuing south, I skipped a bonus in Winterset (birthplace of John Wayne) in the interest of time. My goals were to finish in time, pile on 1,000 miles and earn points, in that order. You have to stay focused and stay on track. Each bonus eats precious time.

Continuing south, I claimed bonuses in Thayer and Garden Grove before entering Missouri. In Bethany, Missouri I needed to get a gas receipt that had “Bethany” printed on it. I avoided the sucker station off the interstate and drove into town. My receipt clearly read Bethany. Success! I made a mental note to claim this both as a bonus, and to include it in my fuel log.

Departing Bethany on US-136, I got a nod of the head from an Amish buggy driver. I took that as another good omen and continued toward Plattsburg, Missouri. In Plattsburg, I needed to find a date on a marker in the town square. I double-checked my answer on the bonus sheet and headed west on MO-116. MO-116 is one fantastic roller coaster road. Two-lane, no traffic and stomach flips at every crest. I highly recommend it.

The next stop was over the border in Atchison, Kansas. You had to find a statue of aviator, Amelia Earhart in the International Forest of Friendship. You were supposed to find a map near the park entrance, go to the statue and record the writing on some pavers. I expected this to be a time-eater, and I wasn’t disappointed. Rallymaster Bart had set this up so that you had to first find the International Forest of Friendship within the park, and then find the statue within the Forest.

While driving around looking for the map that would pinpoint the statue, I ran into a friend, Paul, on his Buell Ulysses. We found the forest together, climbed the hill to the statue, and headed back to our bikes. That bonus ate 27 minutes; a very inefficient use of time. I checked my mirrors and wicked it up a bit.

I left Atchison and headed for White Cloud, Kansas with only a 1/4 tank. I had about 40 miles to go so I chanced it, hoping to combine a fuel stop with a bonus. I reached White Cloud and found the marker about piggy banks but was now out of fuel. A friendly local told me the nearest gas was six miles to the west. Having no other option, I pointed the Spyder to a casino and hoped for the best.

I fought off looky-loos at the gas station and reeled in the eight miles to get me back on track. I had just lost another half an hour to poor planning. I would now have to throw out at least one, maybe two destinations to make it back in time.

I crossed into Nebraska, toward US-159 in order to pick up I-29 and set myself up for a 5-bonus combo. If I could get all five bonuses, I would earn a premium. Had I looked at the bonus sheets, I could’ve continued north and bagged a bonus in Auburn, Nebraska. A straight shot east and I would’ve been on track to get the combo. These rallies are won and lost in your head. You cannot make mistakes like this and expect to place.

I left I-29 and headed to Logan, Iowa. While fueling I ran into Mark again. We shared how much fun we were having. He asked if I had been to the Indian statue/overlook bonus. I said no. This economical exchange revealed that we were running the same route but in different directions. I was stoked, as this reinforced my route choice. I wouldn’t realize the weight of Mark’s question for a few hours.

With waning twilight, I departed Logan with a full tank of gas and headed northeast to find a hilltop overlook near Pisgah, Iowa. I knew this would be a time-eater with plenty of unmarked and unlit gravel roads to slow the unsuspecting rider.

Thankfully, the Spyder’s headlights are decent. I rode with high beams when I could. These provide excellent ditch coverage. Serious rally riders may add auxiliary lighting but the stock lights are more than adequate for the recreational rider. As I expected, the gravel roads had poor signage. I made the most of my wrong turns by testing the ABS on the Spyder. When I had to double-back, I’d stomp on the pedal and enjoy the chatter of the wheels on the gravel. Then it’s a quick 7-point turn and we are on our way.

I found the bonus, wishing that I had been there a half-hour earlier in order to enjoy what must be a magnificent view. I again cursed my poor fuel planning back in Kansas.

Just as important to solid planning is a “never say die” attitude. All riders make routing mistakes. You have to persevere and hope that others make more errors than you. I set my jaw and pressed on to Smithland, Iowa. I quickly found the bonus and headed southwest toward Decatur, Nebraska.

Leaving Decatur, I started to see deer. No biggee: run the brights when able, add 5% to your safety margin and keep your eyes moving. I turned north toward Macy, Nebraska, the fourth of five bonuses within the combination. The Spyder was running great and I was well-rested, alert and ahead of my schedule.

In Macy, I knew I was supposed to find a bronze highway marker on the east side US-71. I drove through and didn’t see it. Drive back and check the west side. Pull over and re-read the bonus. Check both sides of highway again. Become convinced that Bart meant Main Street. Drive Main Street. Re-check bonus sheet for the third time. Go up and down US-71 three more times. I have now been trolling none-too large Macy for 35 minutes. I check the sheet one last time and weigh my options. Is the bonus sheet incorrect? Am I wrong? Am I tired?

If I can’t find it, not only will I lose the points for Macy, I’ll lose the points for combination. I re-read the sheet again, deciding to check the fifth bonus. Maybe I will find a clue there.

The description of the fifth bonus reads…WHAH?!?

Daylight hours only.

The words took the wind out of me. I have blown it. Even if I can find the Macy bonus, I cannot collect the combination. Mark’s earlier question came back to haunt me. Undoubtably he knew that with my “backward” route, I couldn’t earn the combo.

I finally gave up on both Macy and the fifth bonus. This was the first and only time in 14 years of rally riding that I have not been able to find a bonus; and it was crushing. Not only would I lose the five bonus combination, I would lose the second half of the “aviator’s” combo. With these mistakes, I knew I would not score well. I was in a black mood.

Remembering Never say die, I decided to head north to Sioux City. While there, I refueled and regrouped while I had a coffee. I was still several hundred miles from home and needed to complete a motorcycle review. I tucked in behind a lone cruiser rider on US-20 and motored east. The moon rose, beckoning me home. And then the skies opened up.

The cruiser rider quickly slowed to 45 mph. I moved over and passed him. I used this opportunity to test the Spyder’s rain manners. I decided to set my speed based on feel, not the speedo. I settled in at a speed that felt solid, limited only by the rain on my visor. Checking the speedo, I was roosting along at 70! With its three meaty tires and traction control, the Spyder makes an excellent rain ride.

On my death slog home, I missed points in Correctionville, Iowa. In addition, I could’ve modified my route to bag Peterson and Spirit Lake, IA. The only combination I would be earning was that of fatigue, poor planning and lack of flexibility. You have to be willing to change both your route and plans. As events unfold, there are other bonuses to be had.

feature105_1aI am happy to report the Spyder performed flawlessly. It delivered a steady 32 mpg, didn’t buzz, rattle or shake off any parts. The VSS® kept the bike planted in both the gravel and the rain and the projector headlights kept the forest rats at bay. It did everything I demanded of it, which was bordered on abuse. Final tally: 1,198 documented miles and 7,820 points.

EPILOGUE I lost points by not claiming my fuel log. I had filled it out completely and correctly; but didn’t claim it on my score sheet. Even though I stopped for two naps, I didn’t structure it so that I could claim the sleep bonus. I literally drove past bonuses in Auburn, Nebraska and Correctionville, Iowa. Further, I could’ve altered my return route to pick up other bonuses. Shoulda-woulda-coulda.

No matter; my score was good for a mid-pack finish in the Expert Class. While unhappy with my placement, I had met my goals: have fun, finish on time and be the first to ride a documented 1,000 miles in 24-hours on a Can-Am Spyder.

Thanks to Teamstrange and Leo’s South for this ride. See you next year!

For further information about the Minnesota 1,000, go to www.teamstrange.com

M.M.M.

 

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