It wasn't long after I had been reading information about long distance riding that I ran across various articles about the Waltz across Texas Rally. Apparently, based on reading articles, it was an annual long distance ride that was based in Texas. Hmmm, seems close enough, I better check into this. I finally found the website which helped explain the ride. Once I had read several articles describing the fun had over the past few years, I decided to sign-up. I registered in November, although the rally wasn't until April 28, 2001.
The "Waltz" is basically a 24 hour scavenger hunt for 75 pre-registered motorcycle riders that are required to ride a minimum of 700 miles to complete the rally. The rally master (referred to as the rally bastard) spends most of the year planning the potential points that we will choose to obtain throughout the rally. Each year the "Waltz" is based in a different location and this year it was based in Longview, TX. There were 4610 (roughly) potential points at 70 plus various locations. The objective is to obtain the most amount of points traveling the least amount of miles (points per mile).
The rally master is Jack Tollett and he organizes the "Waltz" to raise money for the Scottish Rite Hospital. There are MANY hours involved in the research to plan such a large rally and Jack does a great job. He even stated during the banquet that there wasn't ANY way he would consider conducting such a rally if it wasn't for the very worthy cause. I'm amazed that he would spend that much time researching it also. Although he raised over $8000 in this year's rally it must have cost him many hours and personal dollars in preparation.
With months of anticipation under my belt, the fourth week of April was upon me. The first order of business was to have my insurance and drivers license verified. They are very strict about having everything in order. You are even required to wear a helmet for safety. They also have a designated person to check speeds with hidden radar guns during the rally. High speeds aren't promoted or tolerated. It requires persistence in the saddle, but not excessive speeds.
Three days before the rally I decided to check my "mandatory" item list. I noticed I was supposed to bring a rubber chicken. Not a problem? I went to the Collin Creek Mall in Plano and dropped in a toy store to inquire. They said my best bet was Spencer's at the new mall in Frisco, why didn't I think of that? It seems the scavenger hunt has already begun and I haven't even left home yet!
The odometer check begins at 12 noon on Friday and lasts till 6. I had to attend a class on Friday morning and decided to leave around 1 pm. I could get there by 4 and that would give me plenty of time to check this deal out. While I was in class, my dad brought me a new lawn mower to use. I decided to try it out for about 45 minutes before leaving. Just enough time to get my allergies stirred up for the trip through east Texas. I get smarter every day. Anyway, I have an uneventful but enjoyable trip to Longview to the Park Ridge Motel, except for those damn itching eyes. What is that about?
I arrive about 4:30 and observe several bikes parked on the front lawn and a small reception group sitting in chairs at the entryway to the motel. I pulled right up to the "man in charge as exemplified by the long cigar and the tilt in his chair. Sure enough, he directed me to my parking space and advised me to take my insurance, license, required maps, and rubber chicken inside the motel for further registration. Inside they gave me the proverbial rubber stamp and told me to be back at 7:00 for a riders meeting and check-in at the lobby for my room. The lobby attendant told me I wouldn't have a roommate for the night. Good news, because I will probably be able to rest better that way. I went back into the parking lot and mounted my ride for a quick odometer check. I guess they have to compute your mileage to create a correction factor to equalize all the odometers? I make a quick loop to Hallsville and back to register about 14.3 miles. All done.
I check into my room then make my way to the parking lot to check out the competition's power (they'll need it). I'm amazed at the gadgetry that is mounted on these bikes. I've flown airplanes and never had the equipment some of these scooters have. This must be a tougher project than I thought? After all, I just brought my four required maps. I continue to wander around and look at the various makes of bikes and it varies dramatically. The one that surprised me the most was the Yamaha Vmax (not pictured). This bike just doesn't appear to be a good rally bike. He had a fuel cell mounted on the back along with two luggage bags. He had a saddlebag thrown over the gas tank for additional carrying capacity. He also had a gps on the dash for navigation. The weirdest part of all was that his wife was riding with him. This was a very tough couple. Don't ask me to ride a rally on one of those two-up!
I ride down the street to have some dinner, it might be my last real meal for a while. And, it's a good time to think about what the hell I've gotten myself into.
The meeting starts promptly at 7 pm. Jack sits at the head table and reviews all the "do's and do not's" of the rally. It is mandatory that we stop to help out any other motorcycle rider (even if he/she is not in the rally) if they are stranded and need help. We should
Ok.....should I be overwhelmed and just throw the "rally book" back at the rally bastard and tell him thanks for the opportunity to donate, or should I hit the ground running and decide if I could make since out of all this. Well, I opted for the later with the mindset that I would just take it with a grain-of-salt and just ease into it. I wouldn't try to break my neck, just make a good ride. While walking back to the room, I dialed up Joy and had her enter some waypoints into the computer to get the jest of the route. I had her enter Vicksburg, MS, Memphis, TN, Russellville, AR, Guthrie, OK, Ft Worth, TX and back to Longview. Joy plugged that into MS Streets and Trips and came up with 1374 miles. Well, if I attempted that it wouldn't leave any time to stop and pickup points. After throwing that out, I just decided to come up with a pretty close round robin trip that would include Russellville, AR and Denison, TX (these were mandatory stops).
After returning to the room, I cut the bonus points pages into smaller pages that only contained one bonus point per page. I then organized the pages in order and stuffed them in my tank bag, so I could retrieve them in order as I went down the road. I also folded the maps and stuffed them behind the bonus points pages for easy reference. I took the excess points and put them in my bag for easy grasp after reviewing the info. Just in case I happened up on something during the route. There were many locations that I couldn't locate on the map, so I had to throw them in this group. It would have been handy to have a computer if you sure enough want to nail this deal.
I'm off to bed by 11 pm, I'm not going to stay up ALL night just to get it perfect. I believe I can do a pretty good job just from my seat-of-the-pants. After all, I've got to soak my left forefinger in ice before going to sleep, apparently I had jammed it earlier today on my auxiliary gas tank. If I get a good night's rest that will probably be more important. I finally got to sleep around midnight, after rehashing the route numerous times, only to hear someone BANGING on my door at about 12:30 am. What the hell is this? Apparently they had given me a roommate after all. Well....that's fine, but where the hell has he been all night? He said, he'd been down planning his trip. I hope the hell he wins!
After spending about another hour trying to get to sleep, I'm up by 4:30 am taking my shower getting ready for the day. Who needs sleep anyway? I had to be down on the scooter and out-front before 6 am to get my odometer logged for the official take-off. At the riders meeting, Jack gave us some additional points and advised us that we had to keep our rubber chicken exposed for the whole trip. If caught without our chicken, we would be asked to leave the rally. Oh....also, there was a checkpoint in Louisiana, that if we got our picture taken Naked, while "choking our chicken" there would be an additional 50 points available. The only catch was, the 50 points that were available were cumulative for the whole group. So, if one person did it they would get 50 points, if 10 people did it they would just get 5 points each. I thought that was a crazy proposal, but they advised me that numerous people took him up on it last year? I'm about to get the picture of the people that I'm riding with. It wasn't pretty either.
We all lined up in front of the Pine Ridge motel for the 7:00 departure. I wasn't sure how this was going down either. I was expecting to line up and everyone take off a few minutes apart in an organized manner, but it was simpler than that. At 7:00 you could just leave as you wanted. There was no official start, such as a gunshot to the sky or nothing. I just noticed a few bikes leaving so I asked the guy next to me what the process was. He said, after 7:00 just go as you want.
I just eased out of the parking lot and headed toward Hallsville , no one else seemed to be following me.(Why would they?) I went to Hallsville and headed north on FM 450. As I turned north on this cool east Texas morning, I realized why I came to ride. That was to enjoy some new territory, and that's what I have. This road was rolling, winding, and full of pine trees. I was thinking, I doubt if I would have ever ridden that road if it hadn't have been for this rally. This road is what motorcycling is about.
After about 25 miles, I hadn't found my first check point. The first check point was only worth 15 points. I couldn't afford more that 15 miles to attain 15 points, what was I thinking. Oh, I know, my first checkpoint was originally Marshall Pottery, and I didn't figure it would open till 8 am, so I decided to waste some time and build in another small stop. Well, I happened up on the first checkpoint which was a BBQ joint in Jefferson, TX. (Bullshit, it was 15 miles from Jefferson?)
My next checkpoint was Marshall and I knew exactly where that was. Although, it didn't help me a damn bit, because they don't open till 9 am. That damn rally bastard had already got me twice and it was just 8 am.
The next stop was the Horseshoe Hotel to get a gambling chip Thank goodness something would go well for a change. I desperately needed to change the trend, cause things weren't starting out too well. I was fortunate that there was another rider just ahead of me at the horseshoe, because I would need him at the next stop to take my picture. I hope he goes that way. After attaining my chip and hustling back across the bridge then north on hwy 71 toward Texarkana, I ran up on the fellow rider. Good, according to my bonus sheet, someone needed to take my picture at Fouke, AR. This is the town they named the Fouke monster after. In fact, Hollywood had made it famous by creating a film about it. I was concerned that this other rider might not stop to get his points there, so I passed him before reaching it to make sure he turns in behind me. I think it might have been difficult finding someone in Fouke, AR before 9 am at the local monster frame. I was right and we got the picture.
The next stop was Texarkana. I hadn't noticed but one or two people at the first couple of stops, so maybe I would get lucky and everybody happen to go toward Dallas. I felt better about making the point locations without others being there. I could probably get in-and-out quicker. Well, I didn't happen to be as lucky on the next stop. Jack said there was a courthouse/post office that sits downtown Texarkana that is split halfway between the Texas and Arkansas state line. There was a white line drawn down the middle of the sidewalk and we were supposed to get our photo with our bike halfway across that line. We could get additional points by having the front of our bike on the "right" side and the butt of our bike on the "wrong" side. Well, as I ease around the corner to the courthouse and I see about six or seven bikes. It looks like a "cluster" from here. I loop around to position my bike to pull up on the correct side. There are three riders in front of me, the others have already taken their picture. After sitting there for a minute the rider in front of me got anxious and pulled up beside Bruce on the right side. He missed an opportunity to get good footing and he fell over between the two bikes followed by his bike. I jumped off to help along with a rider that was ahead of us and a security guard that had been watching the circus (our circus). After picking his bike up and getting him back upright, I walked back over and sat on my bike. I couldn't help but wonder what was taking Bruce so long. I mean he's already smoked a cigarette, scratched his ass, reorganized his whole pack. What the hell is taking so long? The guard even walked up to me and told me how rude he was for not moving on so that everyone else could get their picture. I finally got finished with that and pulled up to log my entry when the "layover king" asked if I would take his picture next to the confederate soldier statue across the street. I answered yes, but I was thinking I should get the hell out of there. I took his picture (and now that we're buddies) he took mine.
I finally sped away. Damn, just give me some solitude for awhile! Well, as I'm scooting down 30 toward Hope, I decide to throw out about 4 stops. Hell, I need to ride hard for awhile (that's not going to happen). I stop in Hope to get fuel and go by under-the-table Clinton's childhood home to get another photo. You guessed it, large group.
Ok, I'll go up through Hot Springs and on to Russellville. This will give me just one stop and I can get some air-time. I remember going by lake DeGray and Hamilton. These are very beautiful lakes, that must be why EVERYONE else is driving by at the same time. I finally work my way through Hot Springs to the Tower for my next checkpoint. I obviously don't know the shortcut! I finally make the top of the hill and lucky enough to get to pay $5 to ride the elevator to the top of the tower for my photo session. The ticket counter girls must have been impressed with my hairdo and motorcycle suit, because they kept staring? A slow ride to the top of the tower got me in position to take the photo. The only bad part was, I can't hold my number towel and take the picture at the same time. I request some help from a nice lady with three kids, she looked like she could use the relief. The photo is here.
Finally, can I just ride for awhile? I jump on scenic 7 going north toward Russellville. It's one o'clock and I can use something to eat. I guess I can pick something up at the gas station in Russellville. 7 was nice, but there were a lot of work crews along the highway cleaning brush leftover from the ice storms of this winter.
Sure enough, I got some chicken planks at the gas stop. There are no points associated with Russellville, it's just mandatory to document that you'd been there. From Russellville, you have the choice of going to Booger Hollow, Harrison, Gilbert, Little Rock, Memphis, or Branson. Hell, I chose Ft Smith. I was already deep enough into this scavenger hunt, I just wanted out. Going west would get me toward home. I stopped in Ft Smith for two check points: Hanging gallows and bordello. Too bad it's not open for business, I'm talking about the hanging gallows.
I continue on west on the interstate to milemarker 278 in Oklahoma. I hadn't planned on going this direction, but somehow I ended up here? I turn south on 2 heading toward Robbers Cave soon after I stop to check-call with the Waltz base. Jack had informed us that if we didn't call within two hours of our designated call-in time, our next-of-kin would be notified that we are missing. The line was busy? It reminded me of the time I met the Civil Air Patrol in Oklahoma.
I was flying from OKC to Pratt, Ks. I was IFR even though I was in clear skies. The Kansas City ATC (everybody else had gone to bed, it was about midnight) advised me of a very bad storm that was coming across Oklahoma. I had been watching it since I had left OKC, the lightning had the sky lit up. Anyway, I had decided to land at Enid to wait-out the storm. When I was on approach, ATC advised me that the Enid Tower had shut down and I should close my flight plan with KC. Well....I thought I had closed the flight plan with Kansas City Center? I landed and the winds were strong and I could anticipate the bad weather. I drove up and down the ramp looking for a safe place to park the small plane. I noticed a light coming out of a hanger door. I walked inside and sure enough there was a gentlemen doing some late night service on his plane. He said he didn't know of hanger space available at such a late hour, but he would move his planes around and I could back mine in with his. Sounds like a great plan. He asked if I needed a ride into town, but I was only planning on taking a nap long enough to let the storm pass over. I opted to wait with the plane. I slept till about 4:30 and peeked outside. It was still cloudy, but the heavy stuff was gone. I opened the doors, pushed the plane out and taxied down to the terminal to file another IFR flight plan. When pulling into the terminal I noticed several cars and a few men walking around the terminal. Damn, seems early for all of this activity. I also noticed them pointing at my plane? Wonder what this is all about? As I was getting out of my plane they asked where I had been. I was curious why they wanted the information, but I just figured they were curious how my plane escaped the hail that had fallen the night before. I advised them that I had been sleeping in a hanger up the way. They instructed me to follow them inside, there was someone in there that wanted to see me. They said, they had been looking for me all night. Wonder why? As I'm ushered around to the terminal I start to shrink. By the time it had sunk in what all had happened through the night while they were out looking for me, I had shrunk to the size of an ant. I was so small they had to use a megaphone to yell down at me. I must say though, it was all self inflicted. They were the nicest people I had ever met, and they were extremely grateful that I was alive. They had searched too many cases where that's not the outcome.
As I pass through a small town called Whitefield, I recognize the name from somewhere? I stop and look through my "extra" points slips. Sure enough, Whitefield is on there as a home place for Belle Star. It's a good thing, I needed some extra points. I've been screwing them off all day.
Continuing south to Robbers Cave is definitely a beautiful drive and it's exactly why I ride motorcycles. It can be very rewarding. I pull into Robbers cave to find my next checkpoint and greet the Valkrye rider that had been at the Ft Smith Checkpoints. He's from a local group in Dallas and seems real nice. As he's riding off I'm looking for a telephone, I guess this damn cellular doesn't work right. Sure enough I couldn't get through again so I call Joy, I know she'll be there to help. Well.....guess again. Joy's out, so I call my mother. I had to first explain what I was doing (she was impressed with that), then I ask her to keep trying to call Jack. If Jack is not notified soon, then he'll be notifying you!
I'm off again, but I stop in Wilburton to get some gas and some more chicken planks. They're easy to eat going down the road, but I'm sick of them already (especially that convenience store type). Continuing south on 2 just gets better, it's my damn itching eyes that's getting worse. As I go past Yanush I remember passing through this territory the past summer and seeing a lot of Choctaw indians. I recall an "extra" checkpoint at the Choctaw headquarters. I pull out the slip, read the info, and search the map. It appears if I take the next left, I'll be there. After taking the next left I notice two buffaloes fighting in a pasture. You can't get this view sitting behind a computer! Well.....maybe you can.
The trip from Clayton to Antlers was the worst part of all. My allergies were absolutely killing me. I couldn't hardly see out of my eyes. The sun has gone down and I'm riding next to a river. The bugs are at their best. I guess the plants are having a lot of sex too, why else would my allergies be killing me. I would hold my hand over my eyes one-at-a-time to give myself some relief. I would try riding with my shield open for a while to get some air, then I would close it trying to stop the pollen polluted air. Damn, nothing helps! I stop on the edge of Antlers at a convenience store to get some Visine. It helps a little. Where's the limo when I need it?
I head out on the Indian turnpike down to Hugo. I'm headed to a cemetery. It seems appropriate at this point. I might as well look for a plot. I couldn't find it very easy. It was supposed to be behind a new elementary school. It can't be hard to find? I finally ride out of town so I can see the radio towers that it is supposed to be next to. When you are close to lights you just can't notice much; but once I got out of town, it was easy to look back and see the towers. It seems there are two hwy 70's going through Hugo, just my luck. After gathering the necessary cemetery photo, I call my mother (9:30 pm) to make sure she got in touch with Jack. Well.....not exactly. So I call Joy to make sure she will follow-up (she finally came home-she must have been worried about me?). She said she hadn't been able to get through either. I ask her to call information, confirm the number, then try again. She said she would, but she wanted to know where I was going to stop and get a room for the night?
After leaving Hugo, I headed south to Paris. There were more points in Paris, but damn I need more air-time and less picture-time. I continue on to Bonham. The trip from Paris to Bonham was the most peaceful that I had all day. It seems ironic being how I was just looking for a cemetery plot. Things change. There was something about the night air, the solitude, and the purr of the engine. I stopped off at the Sam Rayburn Library to take a brief photo of Sam.
I took 82 across to 69, then northwest toward Denison. I had never been on this road and was looking forward to it. All I can say is "rough". I met several bikes. I assume they were heading back to Longview to call it quits. Entering Denison led me right to some "Eisenhower birthplace" signs. Just follow the yellow brick road. His birthplace was closed but I was able to get a picture of the entrance. I was surprised at the "neighborhood" the house was in. I guess he was a man of modest means. I can relate to that, too well. I had to stop and get a gas receipt (according to the rules) to document my stop in Denison. The first station had pay-at-the-pump, but the receipt that kicked out didn't have "Denison" on it and they're closed. Damn! I go to the next station that has pay-at-the-pump and they're open. Ok, I force a few more cents into the tank to get my documented receipt. Damn, that receipt doesn't say Denison either. Well, no problem, I'll go inside and cure it. I can just see my neighbor laughing at me now.
I go across 82 to 377 and south to Clarks in Tioga. There were a couple of other opportunities, but no need in adding to the list at this point. I find Clark's alright but it is too late for BBQ.
I continue south on 377 to Denton and stop at the local Honda shop for some more points. What idiot bought the wrong film for the camera? No problem, I go to the local Albertson's and get that corrected. After all, I'm not in a hurry?
Cruising down 35W to Fort Worth, I pick-up a couple of "front doors" to help me squeeze the clock. It was a damn good thing I had the "front door", because the highway patrol was on it. I hated to make the sacrifice, but better for them than me.
I was arriving in Ft Worth at 2:30 am and thinking my timing was perfect. Bars close at 2:00 and everybody would be in bed by 2:30. Ok, then what's this traffic jam on North Main? It appears that the kids had nothing better to do. Something was telling me that I was not welcome either. I slide around the corner and went the back way down toward Exchange and walked down to the White Elephant for my points photo. I had been in the White Elephant many times when I was younger while working at Hobbs Trailers down the street. I had already served my time there, and I just needed a photo and I can haul ass. This rally takes you to a lot of neat places, you just can't spend any time there.
Over to Dallas for a couple of quick stops at the Scottish-Rite hospital and Dealey plaza seemed easy enough. I saw three more bikes at Dealey plaza. I hadn't seen any since Robbers' Cave. I thought most had already returned to Longview, but maybe not.
I'm out to I-20 to hustle back. I cruise to Canton for my next stop. There were some points available in Gun Barrel City and Grand Saline, but I'd had enough. I can make one more stop at Canton to pick-up a breakfast burrito for the Rally Master and pick-up some more points (burrito must be fresh to qualify). It'll be a good time to get something to eat also. The man and woman on the V-max were already there. Boy, they should have returned a long time ago. They are tough!
The short distance between Canton and Longview was VERY tough. The cold had set-in and I was chilled to the bone. I arrived back at Longview at 6:09 with a 7:00 cut-off. I appeared to be the first one back, although I found out that a bunch of them had already returned and had gotten a room. Looking back on things, I should have spent that last hour at Wal-mart buying some donation items that would have gained me additional points. After going into the rally headquarters to have my documentation reviewed by staff members, I tried to lay around and snooze. It was too difficult because there were too many people coming and going. The banquet wouldn't take place till noon, so I decided to go to Jefferson and enjoy some roads and have breakfast. I arrived in Jefferson about 9:00 with my eyes in pain. I found a park bench and laid down for about 1.5 hours. As I was returning to Longview the intense pain in my eyes forced me to a parking lot. After stumbling around for about 30 minutes, I walked to a store nearby and bought some Benedryl. Within 15 minutes I was able to ride.
I rode to the parking lot of Johnny Cace's Seafood restaurant for the banquet. The restaurant was normally closed, but they opened it especially for the rally banquet. I arrived a little late, but in-time for some food. Everything went well. I didn't win, but I placed in the top 10-15. They gave away many prizes (to everyone but me). When I walked out in the parking lot, my eyes were hurting so bad I was afraid to ride. I spent another 15 minutes in the parking lot debating on my next move.
I rode out of the parking lot and toward home. I got to the next town (Gladewater) and noticed a quaint little cheap motel (the best kind). I pulled in and asked what the rate was for the next 5 or 6 hours. He said it was $30 for the whole night, there were "no" discounts for less time. Wonder what hookers do? I called home to advise Joy, but no contact. She was too busy worrying about me to answer the phone. So, I called my mother again and asked her to tell Joy I would be home later. I didn't wake up until 10:00 that night. I was up long enough to phone home then back to bed. I didn't wake up again until 7:00 the next morning. I guess it's a good thing I'm without a job.
I enjoyed the experience, but I don't have the burning desire to do it again. I like riding real hard, but I don't like the picture taking and documentation that it requires. Here's my trophy (?).