LowCal 250 Motorcycle Rally to Benefit PKD

2008 LowCal 250 Rally Master's Report - Results - Homepage
Friday, April 25, 2008

I was following John Austin's wireless blog updates and decided to intercept him on his way to checking in at the Ramada in Kearny Mesa. I had a few last minute tasks to do, but managed to swing by in time and catch him on the driveway to the hotel. John played a big part in encouraging me to develop this rally and has gone out of his way for me and Lisa on more than one occasion. img_2245e.jpg (92377 bytes) Once he landed safely in paradise (having plodded earlier through 17F weather coming down from Reno) I took off to check on some last minute registrations.

A lot of rallies cut off registration much earlier, but being a fund-raiser and not having any wide reputation to fill the ride weeks ahead, we anticipated gathering up some last minute local riders. Of course not everyone knows their schedules far in advance, but from a planning standpoint you can really appreciate the early adopters and my thanks go out to the out-of-towners like John who as a group made very early commitments. Sadly at this point we were already aware that two early sign-ups, Hal Risser and John Williams, had to withdrawal from the rally... but they happily transferred to the generous donor list instead.

Lisa and I returned to the Ramada in the evening to find Tim Bates, Doug Barrett and John Austin ponied up to the restaurant bar. They were torn between continuing to watch the local talent emerge from various limos (for a banquet party on the premises), or strolling down the road for food. In the end we ordered some light dinners from the hotel restaurant, and caught Irl Sanders and Sam Kaufmann walking in just about the time we were calling the meal quits. With an early start in the morning, it didn't take much coaxing to put an end to the evening.

Saturday, April 26, 2008 
Riders Briefing

Lisa and I showed up to San Diego BMW Motorcycles early to help get situated for the rider's meeting. Gary Orr and company were already rolling motorcycles off the showroom floor and setting up food and coffee for the riders. As riders arrived, the pre-registered rider packets distributed quickly, and we had time to record everyone's odometers (instead of random checks). Riders were instructed to read the rally  instructions (just one page) and affix a LowCal 250 number label (generously donated by Lasting Impressions Print Shop) to their wind screen or fairing (or store in their map holders). Tim Bates was looking like a DNS at that point and offered to jump in to give me a hand taking over the odometer checks. Randy Lazar (President of San Diego Adventure Riders) had no pre-knowledge of the rally layout and had the option to participate, but he selected to help out instead as well. I had about 7 new riders applications to process on Saturday morning (including one after the riders meeting), but it went smoothly as we had extra packets prepared ahead of time.

At just a few minutes after 7:00am we gathered everyone together for the riders' briefing. p4260286e.jpg (75399 bytes) I explained how in a rehearsal meeting I had tortured Lisa with an extended explanation of the rally, followed by a thorough review of each and every checkpoint -- so riders this morning would fortunately be spared that train-wreck today! I began by telling them that they had been asked to read the rally instructions in order that we can keep the meeting brief for those that understood the concept. I hoped to release the experienced rally riders to begin planning their routes quickly, then I would resume to entertain questions in further detail for those that remained. I mentioned that Rick Clemson Photography would be on South Grade Road this morning and not to be startled, or for that matter "pose" for the photo. I passed around a recent photo of one such rider who posed and ended up low-siding and getting spun around to chase his bike down the pavement headfirst. It was a round-a-bout way of also warning folks that this is Saturday -- and it tends to be a popular day on the mountain roads.

It should be no surprise that quite often it's the people that know the most who are also the ones asking the most questions. George Zelenz (Spank Rally) sought a number of clarifications that I know benefited everyone. One such point was that the rally was really starting at C1, "Checkpoint One". In order to get everyone out of town at a safe pace and in an undistracted fashion, riders had to liaison (or sometimes referred to as "transit") to the gas station fuel pumps at Barona Casino to start their own 8-hour clock sometime between 8:00am and 9:00am. Besides the start and finish, there would only be one more required checkpoint during the day -- the XL gas station in Borrego Springs.

The unofficial theme for this rally was highlighting the best of East County's most popular motorcycle roads and some of their equally enticing but forgotten off-shoots. The Barona start got the riders going north of town and just beyond bus traffic, while the Borrego Springs checkpoint ensured they would make it up and down at least several spectacular grades to the East.

2008bonii.jpg (161610 bytes)Twenty-seven (27) bonus checkpoints of varying value were available for hunting after C1. In the spirit of the LD rallies that offer points for resting, the LowCal 250 even included a self-determined location for a "sit-down" lunch. The lunch points were calculated to offer as many or more points than most riders could acquire in forty (40) minutes of riding:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
Lunch Break - 1400 points 

Take a 40-minute lunch break. Show receipt for restaurant items. Foodstuff items obtained from grocery stores, mini-marts, or 7-11 type stores will not count.

Location _____________ Receipt ___

Time ___:___ Odometer ______ Code: LB 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Of course this was completely self-serving for me, as people signing up for organized events often ask, "is lunch included?"

"Sure is," I was able to tell them, "As much as you can eat!"

Feedback about the lunch break was very positive. Ed Seeber blogged:

"I had a chance to eat, drink some Gatorade, refill my camelbak, recheck my route, all without worrying that I was losing points. With the temps as hot as they were, it really added to the safety factor."

Saturday, April 26, 2008 
The Top Five

Gary and Heather Orr (Third Highest Score, non-placing as "Event Sponsor") were the first to start their clock at 8:13am, returning to C3 (San Diego BMW Motorcycles) 7h:55m later -- no less than 5 minutes to spare. They were the first to report encountering several delays due to accidents; the most severe delay was due to emergency crews accommodating a helicopter ambulance on Montezuma Grade near Borrego Springs. I also learned that I inadvertently sent everyone who hunted IF (Indian Flats) on a little hike, as a seasonal gate had been locked since I last audited it in February.

It should be noted that a few riders got their fuel upon arriving at C1 (Barona), and then continued to chat it up or tweak on their routes before leaving. The fuel transaction started their 8-hour clock once the receipt was printed -- costing a few novices up to 15 minutes they could've saved had they waited to fuel just before being ready to depart.

Ed Seeber (Overall High Score) was the last rider to start his clock at 8:53am, and finished the rally with 17 minutes to spare. It was in the morning Ed made a unique move to get up to Mother's Kitchen (a bonus so valuable only one pair of riders opted out of taking it).

Ed explained, 

"I decided to take Nate-Harrison Grade (the old-school dirt accent up Palomar Mountain) mostly for LEO issues. We all know the tight side can be quite a CHP trap, so I figured to take Nate's. Unfortunately, I figured it would only take me about 5 minutes more to use Nate's, but when I got to the top of Palomar and saw how far ahead some of my competitors were, I realized I really lost about 15 minutes going Nate's. I actually thought I was in big trouble at that point giving away that much time."

Ed's morning route was:

C1/HV 21 0:28
HV/LW 17 0:22
LW/MK 29 0:57 (via Nate-Harrison)
MK/PO 05 0:18 (some walking)
PO/MG 22 0:29
MG/C2 33 0:38
C2/LB 01 0:04 (assume arrival)
LB 0:40 (estimated)

"My route didn't really come to me until lunch time in Borrego. I had bagged some good bonuses, but was concerned that I had skipped the Warner Springs bonus, so I sat down at lunch, looked over the remaining bonuses and the route appeared before me. Scissors Crossing, Wynola, Mt Laguna, Engineers, Boulder Creek, Lyon's Valley, and Otay as an option, depending how long it took me to get to Lyon's Valley. Once it was all set in my head, I just let Big Bird have the reins and we were flying."

Ed's afternoon route:

LB/SC 19 0:20 (estimated)
SC/VG 11 0:25 (assumed departure)
VG/KP 17 0:23
KP/EF 13 0:18
EF/EP 08 0:27
EP/LV 33 0:36 (via Boulder Creek Rd)
LV/OM 18 0:30 (ascended Minnewawa TT)
OM/C3 34 0:45 (descended west on Otay TT)

Ed set a great precedent on this rally -- using his knowledge, ridership, and tapping some good fortune for the day. Although no one broke out a laptop to assist in routing, 2008boniiEd.jpg (171604 bytes) it's doubtful those tools would have facilitated beating Ed's performance. For example the cluster of bonus EF (Engineers Favor) and EP (Eagle Peak) were not as valuable if you "backtracked" out. EF was 5 miles into an 12-mile dirt road -- hence it paid to just continue south on Boulder Creek Road. Some mapping software does not connect this road correctly, nor would it indicate where the pavement resumes. Ed knew this information and made good time heading south -- enough time to warrant attempting the bonus on Otay Mountain.

Ed bagged 16 locations in all (checkpoints and bonuses); the highest of all the riders. The top five riders all shared EF, MK (Palomar Park), PO (Palomar Observatory), and SC (Scissors Crossing) in common, and four out of the top five did KP (Laguna Breeze), LB, LW, and MG (Mesa Grande). Ed was the only rider to bag OM (Otay Mountain). "I just let Big Bird have the reins," he said. Indeed.

Another late starter, Geoff King (Second Highest Score), caught up to Gary and Heather Orr on their leg to Palomar and he mirrored their course for almost the entire rest of the day. Though he was short three bonuses that Gary and Heather got first thing in the morning, Geoff wasn't due back as quickly and bagged one more bonus that was worth more than their first three -- giving him enough to move him one slot ahead of his rally tutor! Nice move Geoff! Plan it that way? It should be noted that although it did not change his place in the standings, one of Geoff's bonuses, HV (Highland Valley), was rejected because he failed to record the time and his odometer. 

George Zelenz took Fourth Highest Score along with the distinction of being first among the Alien Class (non-county residents). George was the highest scorer to skip the lunch bonus, and also the rider with the highest miles ridden (354); substantially more than most (the median rally miles ridden was 256). George was the only rider to bag BP  (Desert View Tower), thus he was also the only rider to leave the county during the rally. 

Jim Minta topped off the runner-up list as the Fifth Highest Scorer and number two for the Alien Class (runner-ups for Expert Class were forfeited, as no qualifying locals competed as such). Jim deserves special distinction for his steady yet deliberate performance. He placed within the top five on a 1999 BMW F650. In addition he broke the convention on thinking clockwise and worked his way in a direction opposite of most of the other riders. Jim is active-duty Navy and stationed in Washington (state). We're fortunate Jim's ship just happened to be in San Diego (with his F650 aboard) to share this rally with us!

Saturday, April 26, 2008 
The Pack

Everyone did an outstanding job of safely navigating the county throughout the day. Even though a few started out saying they would just be happy to finish, they all picked up in the spirit of competition and gave it their best efforts. 

It was a very novice friendly rally and I wanted everyone to have a great time while they learned the ropes, so taking someone's points away at the scoring table was a bit difficult for me (as you wonder how much of that reflects on the Rally Masters inability to communicate the tasks). In several instances no standings were affected.  In one case a rider lost his chance of placing in the top five. In another case a rider moved down six positions. It was great talking to George Zelenz afterward, because he really reinforced the need to "run your own rally" In this case I wanted to educate riders, and my mantra was:

"It is more beneficial for riders in the long run if they lose points and get 'sent back' to hone their routing and execution skills... rather than capitulating to them and giving them the false sense of security that they can win by lobbying at the score table."

That was the philosophy for me. In short -- compete on the road, not in court. The toughest cut to deliver was the 44 minute time penalty to Klaus, Mimi and Kohle Thiele. img_2261e.jpg (86319 bytes) They had fixated on an instruction I had highlighted in the riders meeting about calling in if you could not return by 5:30pm. This was a safety requirement and had nothing to do with when individual riders were "due" back. 

Their 4400 point penalty put them dead last among the finishers, but probably moved them to the top of the list for getting the most out of the rally. Later, Klaus would email me photos they took on their "hike" to the Indian Flats bonus and compared that with a prior rally where he had time for only one quick gas station break... 

"This time we enjoyed walking down into this great area of the Lost Valley Park. I consider myself local since I've lived here for 18 years, but we did not know about this campsite. Those photos might have cost us a 4000 point penalty, but it was worth the whole first rally for us."

"My wife enjoyed it so much, that she actually told me 'next time we will do better' since we now know the importance is 'Miles per Minute'. There I was stunned about her competitiveness when it comes to motorcycles, unknown before to me."

Mimi added...

"I had an enjoyable time Saturday, discovering some hidden treasures right here in San Diego County! We really needed to actually stop & smell the proverbial roses (!) in these places, instead of just flying {sic} past them!"

And of course Kohle added...

"Woof, woof... ruff!! 
(which of course translates:  Hey, hey ...look at me!!)

John Penrose added a touch of class to the rally by showing a strong performance on his '93 Airhead, finishing in the sixth position. The strong running R100GS was noted for being both the oldest and highest mileage motorcycle in the rally.

In the late morning, when all seemed to be running smoothly at rally central, Lisa and I offered a consolation ride to Tim Bates to find lunch somewhere out on the trail. Not the wisest move for the Rally Master to go out for a spin during the day, but Randy was on call as an emergency contact so safety was well covered.  We worked our way through the scenic backcountry, spotting Gary and Heather Orr, Geoff King, Ed Seeber, and Graham Warren along the way. bn_gps.jpg (74731 bytes) We chatted a bit with John Austin, Doug Bassett, and John Penrose at Mother's Kitchen where we stopped for lunch. 

Talking with John Austin, he had apparently experienced one of the pitfalls of GPS navigation by waypoint. Coordinates for the front door of the store at Bates Nut Farm were provided in the instructions. The road leading up to the store is technically a driveway on private property and when the GPS looks for the closest "road" it finds one just behind a tall private fence to the north, where naturally John ended up ("so close and yet so far away").bn_addr.jpg (74378 bytes) Had he used the street address (also provided) it would've put him at the correct driveway. The rest of the story is hilarious, but better conveyed by John in person sometime. See John Austin's Report for more photos and some fun reporting.

Riders I didn't come across during the day included Stan Fleener, Irl Sanders and Sam Kaufmann (Irl maintains a regional dual-sport calendar on ADVrider.com), Jonathan Hughes and Dustin Nies, Graham Warren, Brian Hayashi and Jon Silvertooth (Brian is active on My2Wheels.com).

Saturday, April 26, 2008 
BBQ and Thanks

Tim Bates and Randy Lazar did Time and ODO sign-offs as riders arrived back at San Diego BMW Motorcycles, and then sent riders in to prepare their answer sheets and receipts for scoring. Each rider sat briefly with Rally Master who called off the valid bonuses to Lisa who compiled and instantly calculated them on a pre-programmed spreadsheet. Lisa was also able to instantly show riders the delta to their scores that were incurred from lost bonuses or time penalties. 

As we began to process the last remaining riders, Michael O'Keefe (co-owner of San Diego BMW Motorcycles) opened the food line and everyone enjoyed a some tasty European fare. Once the scoring was complete Randy and I raffled off a number of items donated by some local San Diego County motorcycle shops including Cycle Gear, Moto Forza, North County Yamaha, San Diego House of Motorcycles, GP Motorcycles, Santee Cycle Supply, Quincy Powersports, Kontiki Motorcycles, and Southbay Motorsports

We announced a preliminary count of about $2600 total donated to the PKD Foundation, including the matching donation of $1150 from the event host San Diego BMW Motorcycles for the participants in the rally (final count was $3280 including BMW's matching donation of $1300). Marjorie Blanchard, San Diego Chapter Coordinator for the PKD Foundation spoke briefly about the research and extended a warm thanks to all the riders. Additionally she invited everyone to attend the Kidney Kasino the following weekend here in San Diego.

Three runner-up prizes were handed out for riders Geoff King (novice class), George Zelenz (alien class), and Jim Minta. Gary Orr and Heather scored 3rd overall, but a special award had already been prepared for Gary as the event sponsor, and he had preemptively disqualified himself from placing in the rally when he signed up. The overall winner, Ed Seeber, received a hand-made plaque with a resin-cast of San Diego County in topographic relief. 

Thanks to all who participated: Riders, donations, services and materials in kind. You made this a great event and I hope to see you all again soon. 

Want to Know More?

Read Ed Seeber's Ride Report and then download the Abbreviated 2008 Rally Instructions and give it a try on paper... and maybe even go out and run your planned route to see how close you come to your plan!

Rally Logistics, Back-Country Recovery Assistance and Bonus Location Verification was provided by 
San Diego Adventure Riders



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John exiting the freeway madness at last!

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Rally ready FJR1300

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Obligatory accommodations photo. FYI, no food after 9pm.



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Stan & Brian ponder & plot

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Ed: From Paper to Glory

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Brian heads for C1

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Retro & High-Vis

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Doug on Palomar

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John P. double checks

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Gary & Heather -- truly in a class by themselves

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Marjorie relays a thanks from the PKD Foundation

The sponsor, San Diego BMW Motorcycles, provided dinner and covered all the costs of operating the rally. Because of this, everyone's "entry fee" was a 100% deductible donation to the PKD Foundation (donations were between $25 and $250). Additionally, to mark our first year using a rally format, the sponsor matched everyone's donation - doubling the funds raised by the rally for PKD* this year!

* Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) affects 600,000 Americans and 12.5 million children and adults worldwide. Visit PKDcure.org to find out more about the only organization worldwide dedicated to promoting research to find a cure for PKD and improving the care and treatment of those it affects.

LowCal 250 - Twice the Adventure, Only Half the Petrol!!