Wednesday 31 August 2016

Lobo Loco: The Birds & The Bees Rally

You couldn't possibly hit them all,
so route selection is key.
It's a sleepy, summer, Saturday morning in Elmira.  The few locals that are already up are walking dogs and taking it slow, but the clock has just ticked over to 8am and we've begun our first long distance motorcycle rally.  We fill up, get a receipt showing our start time and place and text to the rally lead that we've started.  We rode over to Elmira to start because this is a target rich environment with over 1500 points on tap.

How did we get here?  My buddy Jeff met Wolfe Bonham, the creator of this rally, at Lawrence Hacking's Overland Adventure and they became friends on Facebook.  When Wolfe announced the rally on there Jeff asked if I wanted to give it a go and a rally team was born!  A week before the event you get a rally book pdf emailed to you with various locations in it.  You've only got eight hours to connect as many dots as you can and it would be impossible to hit all of them, so you've got to be crafty and find the best route from where you are to where the rally ends in Brantford.

The theme of this rally was birds and bees, so locations had some kind of connection to that idea and included everything from apiaries to bird statues.  Since neither of us enjoy urban riding on hot summer days, we plotted a route that would take us cross country and out to the shores of Huron before looping back around to Brantford.  Being new, we were afraid we'd bite off more than we could chew; we did anyway despite reducing our route goals half a dozen times.
The morning clipped along as we knocked out 1600 points in Elmira before 8:30am and were in Lucan by mid-morning.  Things started to go sideways when we had to navigate miles of sandy cottage roads before eventually getting to Kettle Point on Lake Huron.  Turning around from there at noon we were getting tired and the sun was relentless.  One of our key goals was to try and get to a bee beard happening at Clovermead Adventure Farm near Aylmer.  This only had a twenty minute window and was worth big bonus points.  We caught a few more locations before hopping on the 401 and pushing to Clovermead, making it (thanks to a very helpful gate keeper) in the nick of time.  Our cunning plan was to use the 401 as a pressure valve if we ran out of time, and it was already doing the job.

The bee beard was brilliant, as was Clovermead in general.  A rally like this shows you all sorts of local spots you’d otherwise have no idea about.  I was thinking about this as we got out to the bikes only to be told by Google maps that we were an hour away from the finish line with an hour to go!  Perhaps the bee beard was a trap!  We’d been tired but adrenaline kicked in again, the race to the finish was on!  We got back to the 401 and flew on down the 403 elated that we'd made the bee beard bonus but anxious about getting to the finish.  The traffic light coming off the highway felt like it was red for an hour!  We pulled into King's Buffet parking lot, already full of motorcycles of all shapes and sizes, at 3:56pm; that's tight!

Staggering into the dimness of the restaurant I felt sun-blind.  We drank lots of water while we wrote out a clean copy of our rally sheet that had to show times and odometer readings for each stop along with a photograph showing us and our rally flags in each location.  A rally volunteer then checked off each photo making sure that it fulfilled the criteria.  Most people hadn't eaten during the day so the all you can eat buffet went down well while we handed in scores and had our photos checked.

Our goal was to not embarrass ourselves at our first rally so we were hoping for a mid-pack result.  When the numbers finally came in we were 17th & 18th out of 34 finishers.  To top it off Jeff won most miles covered and I won the most bee related points trophy (thanks bee beard!).

The camaraderie of the riders is infectious at the end of an event like this.  There are no class distinctions between types of bikes and this rally had everything from big Harleys and the latest BMW adventure bikes to a 200cc Yamaha TW200 (which he took over the Burlington Skyway!).  Tales of daring do were shared and the overall feel was one of a celebration. Everyone there felt like they'd achieved something difficult and there was a real glow to the competitors, though that might have been sunburn.  

Everyone cheered and clapped as trophies went out for everything from the person who got most lost to the top scorers.  Riders were awarded for smallest bike, 2-up and most efficient route as well as a raft of other prizes.  The top riders scored almost double the points we did, showing real navigation and riding mojo.  Afterwards lots of handshakes and names were exchanged and a lot of new friends were made.  Revitalized after a big buffet dinner and all that good cheer, Jeff and I saddled up and waved to everyone as we  rode into a welcome evening rain.  I was only an hour away from home, but Jeff, after already riding almost 600kms, was going to put another 200kms on going to his cottage in Kincardine; that guy’s a machine!

Wolfe Bonham, the creator of this rally, is keen to put on more.  As he said in the introduction to the inaugural Birds & Bees Rally, if you're interested in doing more than just riding to a coffee shop and would like to discover new and interesting locations, long distance rallying might be just what you're looking for. I, for one, prefer to ride with purpose, and this certainly gives you one.  You can make this as hard or as easy as you'd like and the sense of satisfaction you get at the end is infectious.  We're already aiming for a possible October Hallowe'en themed ride that's in the works, maybe with a slightly shorter route this time.  Hope to see you there!

Think this sounds like a good time? Keep October 15th open, there is another!

The rally website:

Want to sign up for October?  It's HERE!

Photos From the Rally (anything with a rally flag in it was actually used for the rally)...
Our first stop 500 feet down the road from the gas station we filled up at.
By 4pm we were over 500kms covered, but we also went further than anyone else.

I had no idea this was on the way to Stratford.  I intend to go back and have lunch!

Ya gotta hit a lotta apiaries to win top bee keeper!

How to hold a rally flag down at a windy big bird on the Avon in Stratford - no swans out yet though, so no swan bonus :(

A welcome sign to a town starting with B!  100 points!  The grass was all trampled down around the sign, we weren't the first.

The closest I got to a bee beard.
Another spot I'd like to return to.  Some prime objects d'art for the garage in there!

The last stop before our final highway bombing run to the Brantford finish line.

One of only a couple of stops that were biological rather than rally targets.  Jeff's Super10 and my Tiger were flawless.

The difference between these patches and others you might see is that these patches denote
hardcore motorcycling skills over astonishing distances and times.

The good cheer was infectious after the rally.  It didn't matter what you rode, only that you rode it.

Wolfe Bonham, the author of the inaugural Lobo Loco Birds & Bees Long Distance Rally.

Jeff never says no to free gas!  We plotted the longest route, but we spent very little time looking at traffic lights.

Iron horses of many colours - you'll find everything from the RTW adventure bike to big cruisers and tiny nakeds on a long distance rally.

He's been everywhere man, he's been everywhere.

After riding hundreds of kilometres during the rally, everyone saddled up for the last ride home (or to a hotel - a number of riders travelled up from The States to participate, including one who did an 800 mile ride the day before to get there!).

From tiny Yamaha WT200s and KTM 390s to 1600+cc cruisers... there is no 'right bike' for a long distance rally.

We all rode off into the twilight as rain started to fall lightly between lightning strikes.  A suitably dramatic finish to an epic day.

We bit off more than we can chew, but still made it in with four whole minutes to spare!

It now has pride of place next to the wine rack, and has left me looking forward to future rallies.

The Inaugural Lobo Loco Birds & Bees Summer Rally Final Results
Jeff does more burn outs than me, so he got longest route.

We were aiming for mid-pack.  It doesn't get more mid-pack than 17/18 out of 34 finishers.