When Turkeys Fly… Mini Mason Rally – Oct 9, 2004

Coming through the corner sweeper in home territory outside of Smithfield VA, I lay on the feeble horn of the ST on this Sunday morning….the turkeys start to rise from the road, lumbering upwards to get airborne.  I crouch down behind the windscreen to avoid what will be a certain collision.  The turkeys just clear my helmet…   I am not a hunter so I had no clue that turkeys can fly up to 55 mph for SHORT distances.  I am glad they can fly….

I was just returning from the Mini Mason rally… riding 457 miles, scoring 12,000+ points and finishing 9th out of 36 or so riders. The weather had been near perfect, the roads fun and challenging, and the leaves just starting to change throughout Virginia.  Great people from throughout the region participated and we had a fun banquet…all great.  My first rally with Rick Miller and company and I like his style.  Professional, no wasted time at rider’s meetings, and well organized.

Rallies that give you the locations a week in advance to plot your route are sometime more difficult than when you get the bonuses the night before or even at the start.  You always seem to spend too much time finding the “perfect” route for you in terms of points, miles you want to ride and how much time it will take.  I went through “numerous routes” before deciding on one I knew would be a top ten run if completed.

The Proposed Route


My goal is always so simple… ride safe, finish safe, NEVER leave points on the table, and have fun while being casually competitive.  I left Hampton VA for the start on Friday afternoon, stopping in a small town when I saw a sign for the “Chosin”.  After having spent two years in Korea, I pulled up next to it to find out it was Korean gift shop in the middle of VA and dedicated to Lt Col Don Faith, A Company, 32 Reg, 7th Infantry Division who had lost his life in the Korean War on Nov 27th, 1950.  World events touch all parts of our great country.

Korean Gift Shop in VA

The Ride

Arriving at the rally site, check in was quick, painless and efficient.  I shared a room with Mike Langford on Friday night and enjoyed his company. We would be going in opposite directions when we awoke at 4:50am the following morning.  After a short riders meeting where the wild card bonuses were handed out, Rick announced we could start as early as 0645 if we were ready….wow, big bonus, as my route as plotted was 15 minutes over the 10 hour time limit.  I already had the bike ready to go so I walked out, saddled up, and rode over the starting area in the dark.  With my bike mileage recorded I departed at about 6:47am…about the 4th rider out.

Fall has come to Virginia!  The temperature was about 51 degrees on the bike when we left so I cranked my trusty Widder vest on it highest setting and motored east towards Appomattox with Leon on RT 460, toasty warm.

Crisp early morning at Appomattox

Answering questions from historical markers was mainly the order of the day…they make good bonuses from the aspect that they are mostly permanent but not so good bonuses from the aspect some of them can be posted on along highways where it is dangerous to stop to read them.  One new piece of equipment I might start carrying are a set of small binoculars where you could park somewhere safe and read a sign or marker from afar to answer the bonus question! That is not such a bad idea! The morning went ahead of schedule with 3 stops ending in Scottsville where I visited the local museum right as Roy Collins was leaving.

The community museum

After the 3rd bonus, it was time to make a beeline for the mandatory checkpoint in Goshen where we had to get the license plate off what is described as a Gold Wing.  See the picture below and judge for yourself.

A Gold Wing? Even Dale smiles…

The area around Goshen was clearly the prettiest of the entire rally with beautiful rivers, hills, and great roads.  As I was coming into Goshen at 9:45 for the opening of the checkpoint at 10:00, I rounded a curve and found about 50 “Harley” riders at a pull out on a group ride.  I gave them a toot and continued on, reaching the checkpoint with enough time to rest before taking off right at 10:00 when Dale gave  the “go” sign.

The next portion down RT 42 was the highlight of the rally for me and maybe changed my thinking about rallies for the future.  It was a great road with little traffic and put me in a great mood. I decided on that road on that morning that I had come to relieve stress not induce stress.  When I reached RT 250 to turn to West Augusta that was on my schedule there was a steady stream of motorcyclists and cars heading west also as it was a perfect day for tourism to watch the leaves. I knew if I joined the line I would be within 8-10 mins at each bonus of being time barred. I was not in the mood for that this day and smiled and continued north on RT 50.  My mood improved even more! While that cost me 4 places on the finishing roster, it was a turning point in many ways…more on that later.

Bridgewater was next then…

As I reached the historical marker near Bridgewater, another rider, Scott Wilson on a black Honda ST was there also and we bird dogged each other for the next 3 or 4 bonuses and then at the very end.  As we were headed east on RT 33, he was in the lead and performed a rather intricate braking maneuver to get into a BBQ place that had surprised us to claim a bonus. His ST did not have ABS and mine did… enough said!  🙂 While we were there, Jim Owen passed through.

To claim and ascending wild card bonus you needed to get a lottery ticket (proceeds to a charity), a leaf of the kudzu plant, and a menu or business card from a BBQ place.

The Kudzu is everywhere…this is where I got mine!

Yes, I said the dreaded kudzu leaf. When Rick first said this in the rider’s mtg I almost ignored it because I thought it was a pretty subjective bonus and finding a particular plant growing wild in VA might be pretty hard and time consuming.  Little did I know I would find it in early in the rally…it is EVERYWHERE.  Check out the hyper link, do a search of Goggle or here is a short primer:

“Kudzu was introduced into the United States from Japan in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, where it was promoted as an ornamental and a forage crop plant. From 1935 to the mid-1950s, farmers in the South were encouraged to plant kudzu to reduce soil erosion, and the Civilian Conservation Corps planted it widely for many years. Kudzun nicknamed “the vine that ate the south,” was eventually recognized as a pest weed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and, in 1953, was removed from its list of permissible cover plants.”

With the wild card bonuses in hand, the day went well, staying about 30 mins ahead of my “schedule” throughout the afternoon. Ride, record, twist, punch GPS buttons, see neat things I cannot take the time to stop and explore was the order of the day.  I saw an occasional rally rider, mostly at stops, and had light traffic.  It is amazing how I can pull up to an abandoned Baptist Church from 1898 in the middle of nowhere and by the time I have the kickstand down, two other bikes pull up from “opposite” direction to also claim the bonus. Even though I am a big guy and the ST is not that big, when you put it on a poor gravel road and try and do a 3 sided turn, it is a beast.  I envy those BMW LT and Goldwing drivers who have reverse….

Reverse is nice…

Another RT rider then arrived…

The Bonus

As I completed my last bonus in Cartersville, I celebrated by eating breakfast at 3:30pm, a brown sugar cinnamon pop tart that was stuffed in my bag around my water cooler… breakfast of champions. As I rolled on back toward Lynchburg, Scott, who had gone missing for the last few hours (at least to me), pulled alongside of me on RT 460 and we went into Lynchburg for the last bonus before the finish.  We ran down Florida street almost in a haze…no time crunch, the road almost took us right to the bonus, no traffic, and soon we were jotting down the answer from a  marker in historical down town.  The as Scott said, “OK, Mr. Garmin, take me home”, our GPS’s led us back to finish at about 4:25 pm, 35 mins before the cutoff. Back safe and mission complete.  I had ran my headlight modulator all day to be seen and I know it stopped at least 2 cages from pulling out.  I tallied up my bonuses, double checking everything, and went to the scoring table where Dale Horstman did the judging.  I turned in my HUGE Kudzu leaf, but alas, did not win the contest for the biggest leaf…:-), a fellow rider beside me at the banquet did and we had fun with that accomplishment.


Unpacking next to John Atkinson’s bike. John and I had ridden a 2003 rally where we had met. I like his bike!

The banquet was actually pretty entertaining with the tales of woe and conquest…there was a couple of pretty darn funny characters there. I sat with Gary and Sam Stipe,  having just arrived back from Korea this summer after two rallyless years. I could relate after a similar posting through 2002.  Getting an early start the next morning I followed my PIAAs all the way across VA in the dark.  The moon was crescent and Venus and Regulus are aligned just under it… inspiring.  No challenge except for a low fuel light at 6:00am on a  Sunday on back road in VA!  I found a station just as I started to get worried.

Gas just in time Sunday early am…

A quick fill up and I was soon home a short time after completing my flying turkey challenge. I had some time to think on the ride back and have elected to jot some of those thoughts down in a separate piece since they have nothing to do with this rally. You can find those thoughts here.

Although we lost the FITE for this year, we gained certainly a suitable replacement for 2004 and the community owes Rick, Jean, and his band of brothers a thank you for hosting the event.  I am sure FITE will be back in 2005 as I really enjoyed riding it in 1999.

First page of my route cards

My Route Spreadsheet

























West   Augusta












Brandy   Station



















1st Page of my Route Cards