1999 Capitol 1000 Endurance Motorcycle Rally June 11-13, 1999

..a rookie’s perspective…”                                         

The Capital 1000 is an endurance motorcycling rally held on the East Coast. The basic premise this year was a 850 mile base route where the rider must visit, in no particular order, Wheeling WV, Charleston WV, and Charlottesville, VA. Along the way Larry Fears, the rally master, had selected different sites and towns as “bonus” locations with different point values. These bonuses were handed out at 8:00pm the night before the rally. Each rider then planned their route and the ride began at 7:00am the following morning. Only two rules were important; you could not ride over 1250 miles or be gone over 24 hours without incurring point loss penalties. Other than that, the object was to get as many points as you could. Whoever collected the most… won.

Often times you set out with one plan and change it midstream, resulting in a much different outcome. Usually when you change a good plan something in your head murmurs “Danger Will Robinson… Danger!”

When I changed my plan in midstream in this years Capitol 1000 Motorcycle Rally it made sense to me. Of course that was at 2pm outside of Charleston, West Virginia on a hot, sunny day where the thermometer would climb into the mid 90’s. Now at 2am as I was going down a small road in Maryland in the midst of a “gully washer” headed toward the southernmost tip of the Western shore, the murmurs were loud and dancing in my head. But then I just rationalized them away as only applying to this Will Robinson guy and kept motoring along at 45 mph…

The Preparation

The preparation and start of the rally had been fun. I casually made my way to the State Line Inn in Hagerstown, MD early on Friday afternoon and spent the time getting checked in, meeting new folks, and going through tech inspection. One of the new friends I met also rode a Honda Pacific Coast. As a matter of fact, Pauline Ralston and her partner, Richard Smith had just ridden the length of Canada just the days before on their “4 corners” tour. Before that she had done a 100CC, crossing the United States twice on back to back runs!

During the technical inspections, Larry’s staff had taken our licenses and registrations from us and placed them in a sealed envelope. Bringing them back to the finish unopened by a law enforcement officer was worth 500 points! At around 8pm, Larry had the riders meeting and handed out bonus packs. Shortly thereafter the parking lot was empty as riders huddled in their rooms going over potential routes.

I had hosted a get together at my house the week prior and had a chance to meet some new friends who had, at one time, been on the DC Cycles Mailing list for area cyclists.  Leon Begeman,  Louis Caplan, (see his website) and Mark Elledge, all top ten finishers last year, were the core of the experience.

The group

They shared these experiences with Harry Greenspun,  Todd Peer, and myself; all who were rookies to endurance rally riding. Dale and Tracey Horstman  were also there, acting as the “captains” by directing a route planning effort. Dale’s LDR credentials include a recent SS2000, two 1,000-mile days back to back! And lastly, Hugh Caldwell joined the group at the last minute on his VFR.

Now, at the hotel, everyone was at work plotting bonuses and starting to look at routes. Harry and I retired to his room and turned all of the bonuses into GPS waypoints. We brought these back to the room and provided them to the group. They had paper maps on the walls and were busy exploring options.

All of the possible bonuses available

In this mess of potential bonuses, we had to find a route that was doable. Retracing our steps to his room and Harry and I came up with our own route. After marking the maps, I left his room at about 12:30 am, returning to make my route cards. I hit the sack at 1:15; way too late.

We knew even though we would ride the same route, we would be riding it alone as we wanted the individual experience and two… well, Harry is just a better rider.  🙂

Our route

The Ride

The starting waves…


… do I really want to do this? 🙂

Photos by Harry Greenspun

At 7:09 the next morning, I left as the first rider in the third wave and headed west crossing the Appalachian Mountains for the first of two times that day. The sun, growing bolder in the east, painted the landscape with soft pastel kind of colors. I saw approaching riders in my mirror as first Art Holland on his ST and then Elsie Smith on her bright yellow BMW motored on past. I twisted a bit harder and paced behind them for about 20 miles but my gas needle was dropping too rapidly and the faster riders eased off the front.

The first leg to the first bonus…

As I was getting ready to turn north for the first bonus of the rally I saw one of the rally riders discussing road conditions with a State Trooper alongside of the road…I further slowed down. At this point Harry caught up with me on his BMW RT and I followed him off the exit and into some twisties toward the Friendship Hill National Historical Site (Bonus). I came up on a small one-pump station and quickly stopped to fill up. With my limited 4.2-gallon capacity, I had vowed to fill up before I ran out and wasted valuable time sitting on the shoulder of the road waiting for gas.

I then pulled into the site a few miles further and headed toward the parking area and visitors center – my first mistake. I learned later from Harry the answer of who the house was dedicated to was on the entrance sign. – Albert Gallatin, a Swiss emigrant who served his adopted nation during the early years of the republic. This gentleman is best remembered for his thirteen year tenure as Secretary of the Treasury during the Jefferson and Madison administrations in which he reduced the national debt, purchased the Louisiana Territory and funded the Lewis & Clark exploration. Built a nice house too!

I drove across the meadow and found this very answer and then headed north on Rt. 166. I missed a 90 degree unmarked turn but my GPS told me I was going in the wrong direction so, I did a 180, found the turn, and headed toward Wheeling, WV, a city established in 1769.

Wheeling was once known as the crossroads of America due partly in fact to their early suspension bridge over the Ohio River. It also had the distinction of being the first capital of West Virginia before it was moved to Charleston.

The leg through Paden City toward Ohio

Grabbing the mandatory receipt from an Exxon station in Wheeling, I now headed south on Rt. 2 toward Paden City, West VA to claim the bonus for determining which American Legion Post is located there. (Bonus #37 worth 162 points) It was starting to get hot so it was welcome relief to pull under the roof at the Legion to record the answer. For the last hour I had been hearing this ringing in my hears and thought my earplugs were not in right. But when I stopped to record the information I clearly heard the ringing coming from my tank bag.  My screaming meanie was going off on the medium setting! The meanie, which can be bought at truck stops, is a very LOUD alarm clock timer device.

Paden City was a nice town, situated on bottomland near the river. Originally named for Obediah Paden, an early frontier settler, Paden City is now home to glass and pottery manufacturing plants. I passed many of them along the way. Paden City also still makes glass marbles, one of the last remaining manufacturing centers.

The next planned bonus was in Ohio and it wasn’t until I was halfway there I realized it was potentially a sucker bonus; at least for the route I was running. A sucker bonus is one that looks promising from a point value or location but may cost you more time getting there than one might expect. As I headed toward I-77, John Laurenson on his FJ passed me and quite a bit of traffic in a series of smooth flowing moves. By the time I reached I-77 he was no longer in sight and I never saw him again. Back at the hotel I felt I was in a FJ sandwich as I had Ahmet, who rides an FJ was on one side of me and John a bit down the row on the other.

To Ohio then back to Charleston WV…

As I approached the Ohio River town of Gallipolis, it was clear I was having geographic dysfunction as I crossed the river on the Rt. 35-bridge back into West Virginia.

Gallipolis was first founded in 1790 by the Ohio Company that hacked out the settlement from the shores of the Ohio River. After a tenuous start, the settlement flourished using the river trade routes as it epicenter. I know the founding fathers knew where Ohio was, but I was lost at this very moment and not getting any closer to the bonus on the north side of the river.

Yes… I was bonus hunting for an Ohio based bonus in West Virginia – maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the fuzzy planning at midnight earlier. It wasn’t until my GPS said the bonus with to my right and the all I could see was the river that I realized I was not thinking clearly. I did a U-turn and headed back across the river into Gallipolis proper. I drove to the western edge of the town where I located the Chevrolet – Oldsmobile dealership owned by Gene Johnson. (Bonus)

As I had come through town the traffic was backed up eastbound and I was dreading the return trip to get to the only bridge out of town. I pulled into a shaded gas station, asked about a possible shortcut, but got blank stares from the attendants. After a coke and a Cliff Bar, I headed eastbound deciding to play the lost tourist bit. I put my left turn signal on and headed down the center lane. Never could find the turn I wanted and after 3 miles pulled back into the lane and across the bridge into West Virginia!

As I rode to what was once the nearby home of Daniel Boone, Charleston, West Virginia, in the increasingly wilting heat, I decided to change my plan. Although I felt I wasted time on this last bonus I was still ahead of schedule. But I was not exciting about getting the two small bonus stops after Charleston in the heat. I began to think about getting the elusive Maryland Western shore bonuses with the time I would save with skipping those bonuses.

Sitting outside of the Exxon in Charleston after obtaining my gas receipt worth 750 points, I looked at the maps once again and committed to changing my route. It was 3:00pm and I estimated I could be at the Charlottesville by 7:00pm and Hampton by 10-11:00pm giving me plenty of time to get to the western shore. Now to execute the new plan!

Heading east on I-64 I saw the exit for the two bonuses and although my mind told me to keep going straight, my hands turned the bars and I took the exit. Pulling up to the stoplight behind a small line of cages, I realized that I had not arranged the cue sheet or the map to actually get to the bonuses easy once I had decided to skip them. The longer the light remained red, the more I though this was a dumb idea so when it turned green I did yet another U- turn and headed toward Virginia, leaving the bonuses unclaimed.

After negotiating two tolls booths along the interstate, I decided to eat my first food other than energy bars at a combined Subway / Shell Station. Pulling into the station I walked into the Subway section and ordered a 6″ sub asking the guy to make it while I pumped the gas. After clearing the pump I went back in and ate the sub in probably about 3-4 minutes. Luckily there was no one with eyesight of this food consumption orgy.

Route out of West Virginia into Virginia…

As I pulled back on the interstate, a black ST glided past me in the left lane. A wave from a familiar dressed rider confirmed it was Mark Elledge. I pulled in behind and we began a ride down into Virginia that would provide the fondest memories of the entire rally. Just as the sunrise had washed over the mountains this morning, the sun setting over our shoulders provided a repeat performance. After climbing up and over the mountains for the second time it was a two hours of blissful riding on open roads toward Charlottesville. It was like we were floating down the mountains and is a scene I will remember twenty years from now.

This idyllic setting was taken away as we gained I-81 north as traffic increased dramatically. Mark took a shortcut to save miles, but not knowing where he was going I stayed on I-81 to I-64 where low and behold he showed up again in my mirrors as we neared the cities’ exit. We chose a Texaco this time and the clerk verified that other riders had been through going the other way and that his register receipt did in fact say Charlottesville, Virginia.

Charlottesville is a college town, home to the University of Virginia. “The town was founded in December 1762, when the General Assembly passed an act which established as county seat a town located on the “Three Notched Road, which was at that time the main route between the Shenandoah Valley and Richmond. This new town, more centrally located in the County, was named Charlottesville after Queen Charlotte-Sophia of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the young bride of King George III of England.”

I didn’t know this history at the time… all I knew was that it was a mandatory stop worth 750 bonus points!

Mark and I took a break at a picnic table alongside of the station so he could evaluate his route, and I could switch to the night riding mode by changing from tinted visor to clear and add a heavier top under the stich.

While we were there, Terry Smith on his RT and Peter Withers rolled in and gassed up. Terry and Pete would finish tied for 2nd place. I also watched Harry and Mike Chesnoe roll by on their RT’s looking for gas but did not get their attention. Funny how when you have been on the road for over 12 hours and 700 miles you keep running into the same people.

Mark left ahead of me and I wished him good luck. He was riding the DC cycles route and had many long miles ahead of him. It looked like a possible winning run depending on the subtraction of points for being over the time and over the 1250-mile cap limit.

Crossing the state to the Eastern Shore…

I left shortly thereafter, heading south on I-64 through Richmond VA, bound for Hampton. After Richmond, the sun set and with a new moon, it quickly got very dark! I had ridden about a mile before I realized it had started to rain very hard; must have been in a zone… The first clue was when cold water filled my crotch and I did not remember having the need to relieve myself. Eck! I had left my side pocket zips open for air and my molded hip pads were funneling in the rain quite nicely!

From there until Hampton it was heavy rain shower followed with brief interludes of dry pavement followed by the next heavy rain shower. Throw the construction in to boot and it made for some of the most dangerous riding I had experienced. I thought at least 2 times of pulling over but that seemed as dangerous as continuing with the heavy traffic headed east. At one exit, a car to my right almost collided with a merging car and all I could do was inch to the left as applying the brakes would have caused me to take a slide for life without ABS.

When Exit 263 reared up, I was ready to get off. I pulled into a Shell gas station under a large roof and slowly took off my wet gloves and filled the bike. Surprisingly, it was not in the best section of town. One group of kids in a car with a boom box looked my way but after seeing a big guy in this big red suit with a frown on my face, decided not to say anything to me and continued on their way.

As I was getting ready to leave Terry and Pete again pulled up so I shut off the motorcycle, mostly to delay my departure back into the rain showers I had already driven through once. We chatted for a while and I almost thought about riding with them but Terry was getting a cup of coffee so I wished them well and told them I would see them at the next bonus.

At this point my plan to go to the southernmost tip of Maryland was not looking particularly good. Although I had considered the danger of deer, I had not thought it would rain. I decided I would take the Interstate back to I-95 north; get off at Exit 104 and access whether to go for it or return to my original route and get the Morton BMW bonus in Spotsylvania. Going this way vrs Rt. 17 would miss two big bonuses, but I felt it was the safe thing to do.

Changing routes in midstream…

New route

As I gained I-64, now heading west, I heard a honk to my left and no one other than Harry rides by, lifting his arm in a high five salute as he roars past. He signals me to follow and I take off after him. Thinking we would pull over at the rest stop and I could present the new plan, I stayed behind him. Then his taillights started to get smaller and smaller and finally he was off the front. I would not see Harry again until the banquet at noon!

Around Richmond before picking up I-95 I started to get the nods and yawns. These kept up until I pulled off at Exit 104 and into an Exxon station. At this point I had to make a critical decision; go for the bonus on the western shore or head north on the original route. My original route would take me by my house that had a tempting allure. But after a hot French vanilla cappuccino at 1:00am, I decided to go for the extra bonuses.

Heading up Rt. 301 I passed through the Army Post of Ft A. P. Hill. Like most army bases, there is a large amount of forested land available for training soldiers. Driving through AP Hill was like driving through a nature preserve. As I switched on the high beams of my 80/100 headlamp, I literally saw deer lining the road. All stayed put except for one young deer headed to its’ mama, but I was able to brake from 55mph to about 25 mph and move into the left lane as it ran to my right. After this experience, I now subscribe to the Dale’s Wilson’s theory on the preservation of Cevidae family of mammals.

Leaving the deer behind none too soon I came across the Harry W. Nice Bridge. It was raining and windy as I passed over its apex but it was crossed without incident. Turning on to Rt. 234 to begin my journey to Point Lookout MD and its lucrative bonuses, I encountered one heavy rain shower after another. Most so heavy that I had to dim my lights to get the best view of the road. I slowed to 50 mph for the entire 40 miles, only increasing my speeds as I got nearer to Scotland, MD when the skies finally cleared.

As I entered Scotland, MD, I was looking for a Post Office. (Bonus #5 – 311 points)  Since the town was so small I knew its Post Office must be miniscule.   Driving along at 30 mph, I caught the word “Post” out of the corner of my eye and braked hard in the middle of the road.  To my left was a small one room white Post office with green shutters.  I was only interested in the color of the shutters   to answer the bonus question!  After recording the answer I headed farther south to Point Lookout looking for a memorial to confederate soldiers.

After about 2 miles of slow riding I saw the monument, pulled in, went up the stairs and tried to find a name. Its creepy when you have your helmet on as it cuts down your side vision and hearing. I tried to find the name for about 5 minutes in the dark with my headlamp. Terry , Pete and now, Todd Peer, drove by missing it on their first shot. I waved my flashlight at them but they were gone; I knew they would be back. I was sort of hot and tired at that point and took my helmet off to concentrate better. When the group returned, we all realized I was not looking at the right plague and once we found the right one; it was easy to locate the name of FEARS of Company H, 2nd BAT, MS. (Bonus #4 – 263 points)

The group had gone by the Post Office on the way in so they went ahead to record their bonus while I followed in a minute or two. At the Post office we discussed our situation. It was 3:30am and as the crow flies, we were 165 mile from the finish according to my GPS, it was raining off an on, and we had to be back in Hagerstown by 7:00AM. Pete did a quick calculation of the miles via roads on the map can came up with a more accurate figure – about 170 miles… either way we had to move. We all took off with Terry in the front with his V1 radar detector clearing the way.

Terry selected Rt. 4 north past Solomon’s Island and we made good time in the rain with only one police car that latched on to us from the rear, decided we were mostly harmless, and did a U-turn opening the route to the beltway. On occasion I would drop off the back, but I caught up at the fuel stop we all needed. From there, Todd and I left first and cruised to the beltway where Terry and Pete caught up. Once on the beltway, Todd twisted his grip and was never seen again by me! 🙂 There is a trend developing here…

Somewhere before the beltway I thought about simply resuming my original route with the two big bonuses under my belt but dismissed it and never considered again, except when Terry slowed and exited off I-270 to get the Comus MD bonus. At that point it did not register with me exactly that this would have been a good plan…:-) My GPS was telling I would arrive back at Rally HQ by 6:30am, 30 mins within the time limit, so I stopped to refill my tank outside Hagerstown for the ride home later that day. I pulled into the hotel parking lot at 6:40 am for the final odometer check. I enjoyed a bagel and a banana as I cleaned up my rally book and handed it in to the volunteer.

I went around to my side of the hotel, fell into bed, and slept soundly until the screaming meanie (alarm clock) went off at 1145. Feeling pretty refreshed, I showered and repacked the bike, heading over to the banquet when the call went out. We sat with Todd and Brent from York PA and Bob Voll.

Larry ran a good banquet, keeping it short and sweet. I found I had finished in 25th place out of 54 riders with 1200 miles and 3,629 points in 23 hours and 40 minutes. Days later as I evaluate my decisions I see what could have been…:-)  Not getting those big bonuses enroute to Scotland was costly. At any rate with my original goal as a safe finish, I was pleased with my standing as a rookie in the pack.

With awards handed out, Harry and I saddled up and headed back a crowded highway back to the beltway riding through showers the entire way home. There ends my first endurance motorcycling rally; more to come!

Footnote:  I found that rallies are challenging, both physically and mentally.  Good and bad decisions will be made and the rider will live the result.  The key is to make the best decisions possible while riding “your route” within “your abilities”.  After this rally there was discussion on the LDR mailing list about “leveling the playing field” and “riding your own rally”.  The playing field will never be level… just as it is not in most sports.  Someone will always be stronger physically, have a better motorcycle, have better navigation equipment, or have more experience to make better decisions. As for “riding your own rally”… I rode alone, I rode my own rally, and had a great time in the process..



25th Place out of 54 riders

1200 miles (1193 GPS miles) (winner had 1169 miles)

23 hours, 40 mins

3,629 ponts (winner had 4463 points)