Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Twisted Kern County

I was so excited to be going to the 2013 Discover Kern County (DKC) Rally.  I attended the inaugural rally in 2011 and also the 2012 rally.  Each one got better and better and I saw new and different things on each ride.  Kern County really has a lot to offer - don't let the freeway drive by fool you.  Kern County has a plethora of good, unique stuff to see.  And, ever changing scenery and terrain.  Yes, I was excited to get there for the 2013 rally.

The DKC Rally is a fund raiser for the Brain Aneurysm Foundation with all proceeds going to the charity.  Matt Pflug, our esteemed Rally Master puts on this wonderful event.  He spends countless hours scouting bonus locations and garnering sponsors.  This year was absolutely over the top fantastic!!!  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Eric and I left our home in Southern Utah on Friday. We stopped a scant 30 miles from home to have some breakfast and try our luck at the slot machines and Blackjack table.  We didn't last long as Lady Luck really wasn't with us.  I hoped that wasn't to be the case at the rally :-)  Our route to Bakersfield, CA was not exciting.  It was a slog down I-15, turn west on California Hiway 58 and roll on into Bakersfield.  Fortunately, the weather was kind and the traffic not too bad.  We arrived at the Howard Johnson Motel around 5pm and met up with several other rally riders who were also staying there.

Well, I really wanted my cocktail (hey, it was cocktail hour after all!) and the pre-rally dinner was about a mile away.  We NEVER EVER EVER drink and ride so I had the foresight to call a cab.  Several of us hung outside the motel and had our beverages waiting for the cab.  Six of us piled into a cab and made our way to the restaurant.  Bonus....riders were treated to a hosted dinner the evening before the rally.  This gave all of us a chance to meet each other and renew old friendships.  We had a wonderful time.  After dinner it was another cab ride back to the motel and off to bed.  After all, we had a big day ahead of us.

Saturday morning came way too soon and into our gear and onto the bikes, we headed to the Rocket Shop Cafe for the rider's meeting before the rally start.  We got checked in, filled out and signed the release forms and waited for the rally packs to be distributed.  Promptly at 7 am, the rally packs were handed out.  I was rider number 5 and Eric was rider number 6.

I quickly scanned the rally pack, got the gist of the types of bonus locations and points and then took a good, hard, long look at the map that Matt provided with all the bonus locations identified.  Well, looking at that map I decided to hone in on the area with the most bang for the buck and quickly wrote down the bonus numbers in the order I thought I should go.  This gave me a nice loop to ride in an area I hadn't been before.  A whole new area of Kern County!

I wasn't concerned about "winning" the rally.  I just wanted to have a great ride, find new stuff and go on unfamiliar roads.  Yes, I did want to be a finisher and that was always on my mind.  So, I go back to my seat and discuss my proposed route with Eric.  He was good with what I wanted to do.  We were going to ride together and have a fun time.  Whoopee!!  To be a finisher, you had to ride a minimum of 200 miles in 8 hours. Pay attention, this will be important later :-)

We had plenty of time to get ourselves prepared and ride ready since I didn't really plan anything but a fun ride.  8 am was the start.  We were number 2 and 3 out the gate and headed to our first bonus, the Mill Creek Water Wheel in Bakersfield.   Only worth 4 points but an easy grab on our way out of the city.

Eric's camera takes such better pictures than mine!  So, I'll post both or just his, since we went to the same places :-)

From there we headed to another Water Wheel bonus, the Hart Park Water Wheel.  Easy peasy since we had been to this park last year on the rally.

Interesting, huh?  Same place, totally different photos.  The most unusual thing about this bonus was the feral cats.  There must have been at least 30 cats here.  Someone had placed wet and dry food and water outside the fence for the cats.  My goodness, they were everywhere.  However, because of the good samaritans, the cats looked fat, sleek and healthy.  Just kind of weird.  I should have taken a pic but didn't think to do so.

This ended our city bonus hunting and we headed off into the wilderness of Kern County.  A lovely ride that took us through a few oil fields and then into the golden hills with twisting, winding roads studded with fantastic rock formations with the sun shining down on us....oh bliss...this was wonderful.  Big sweeping curves, a decent speed limit and gold everywhere.  We ended up riding down a dead end road to End of Pine Mountain Road looking for a number on the gate at the end.  Here is what we found.

Yup, the answer was Number 11.  Got it :-)  We met up with a trio of other riders here that we had been leap-frogging with, Andy Mackey, Don Beaton and Jim Lerer.  Some awesome riders.  I figured if we're on the same route as these Big Dogs, then I must have selected a good route, hahahha!

Next bonus was the Granite School House.  That was a quick ride and easy photo.

On to the next bonus, a fun sign along the road of Poso we made our way there, the roads just got twistier and twistier with golds and browns and bright blue sky.  No traffic to speak of and fun, fun, fun!  We found the next bonus with no issues.  The bonus required answers to the questions of the population (a "few") and elevation (2,950) of Poso Heights.  Easy :-)
We then moved on toward the next bonus location.  Still riding remote country roads with golden fall colors and no traffic.  Yep, I loved this ride :-)  Poso Heights also has a school house no longer in use - our next bonus location.

Dang, you can see how much better Eric's camera and his picture taking ability is than mine.  Oh well....funny thing at this stop.  I pulled in across the street where there was a large parking, turn around area with two ranchers shooting the bull.  They looked at me and then I u-turned and u-turned again and ended back in the same parking area to take my pic.  Hahaha, bet they were wondering what the heck is going on here????  Anyway, bonus captured and off to the next.

Moving along, riding another wonderful twisty, turny, golden road, we came upon Glennville, CA and the Saddle Sore Saloon.  We pulled up and got out our flags to take the requisite pictures.  While we were there a local Sheriff pulled up.  We had already taken the pics and were putting stuff away, stuffing earplugs in and getting ready to roll, when the friendly Sheriff wanted to chat.  Apparently, he is an enthusiast and rides some foreign bike, oh yeah, a Moto Guzzi :-)  He wanted to know all about our farkles and so on.  I finally told him what we were doing and we need to move on and he was most gracious.  Cudos to Kern County Sheriffs!!!  Here is the bonus...

Moving along on the same beautiful road our next bonus was the Fulton Hot Shots Sign in remembrance of the 19 Firefighters killed in Arizona this year.  This was an easy score.
At this point we were riding California Hiway 155 which is a flippin fantastic ride.  Twist, turn, twist, turn and do it all over again.  The fall colors were magnificent.  It was so cool to watch Eric in front of me parting the path of fall leaves on the highway.  The sky was blue, blue, blue and the trees were golden and green.  The twisties were tight and all was good.  I actually scraped my right peg and toes on one turn.  Yippee!!!!  So wonderful, this kind of ride is what it's all about.

On to the next bonus, we rode over the mountain to Wofford Heights to cop the Antique Store bonus.  We had to answer a question - What happened here?  The answer was "Absolutely Nothing!".  Here are some fun pics of the bonus location.  We also ran into a half dozen other rally riders here.
 This was a very fun stop at a place full of crazy silliness.  My kind of fun :-)

From here we rode around Lake Isabella (sad that so much water is gone and it's not much more than a pond.)  However, the ride around the lake was awesome!  We stopped for a not so quick lunch at Mickey D's and then off to the next bonus.

A quick scoot along Lake Isabella brought us to our next bonus, a land locked boat for sale.

Backtracking (my bad) we then headed to the next bonus.  Up a goat trail of a road.  I seriously thought this might be an out and back because the road was a tiny, twisty no line road up, up, up, up, up the mountain.  More twists and turns and very SLOW!  I was worried about the slow but that's where the bonus was.  We got up to the top and over to the next side.  Seriously?  Surely this was a sucker bonus?  Nope, there it was.  Our next bonus,  Momma Bigfoot & Babies.  Well, we slowed waaayyyyy down to like nothing and couldn't find this bonus.  We were on top of a mountain with nothing around but a few worn out ranches.  We couldn't find it!!!!  We continued down the mountain of more twisties and curves and turns and finally reached a flat area where we parked and discussed this bonus.

Eric turned around and went back UP the mountain to see if he could find it.  I waited, and waited and waited.  No love.  He came back and said he couldn't find it.  Oh well, on to the next bonus.  Turns out that everyone who went for this one couldn't find it.  We all determined that the ranch had been put up for sale and apparently the old owners had taken the Sasquatch and babies away....darn.

Moving on, we were still on this wonderful twisty, colorful, rural road taking us to the next bonus, the Havilah School House.

Bonus grabbed and off to the next one!  Man oh man, this was a fantastic road full of fall colors, twists, turns, rural scenes and blue sky.  The temps were perfect and I was having a ride of a lifetime.  People pay big money to have this experience and we were doing it on a rally :-)  Good stuff.  So, moving on...our next bonus was the Stutz Fire Engine and Hydrant bonus.  Easy peasy - well butt for the gravel and not so nice exit with ruts and grunk and stuff that I HATE!
 At this point, we are still high up in the mountains with lots of slow, twisty roads ahead of us.  We were more than halfway through the rally and I was looking for an exit in case time got short.  Well, we were in the mountains and there were no exits!  So,off to the next bonus :-)

We enjoyed our ride, nothing but rural Kern County with lots of golden fields, awesome rock formations, fall leaves and blue sky.  We headed to the Smiley Face Tank and found it quick enough.

I should have taken a pic but didn't.  Stopping here, a rancher, covered with paint (he'd obviously been painting something!), came up to the gate to ask how our Scavenger Hunt was going.  I'm guessing he had encountered a few other riders that day :-)  We had a nice chat and really enjoyed talking with him.  He made a point of saying how much he enjoyed our stopping by and not making a ton of noise like some of the other bikers do (not pointing fingers or anything here).  It was a good stop and photo op.

Okay, on to the next bonus.  The roads were perfect, traffic pretty much none and we were having a grand time in the twists and turns.  Yes, our route was slow due to the twisty roads but man oh man it was beautiful!  Picture fall leaves in the road on a nice twisty road.  The rider in front parts the leaves as they fly up and away and all is golden with shadows here and there.  Oh my, it was hard to concentrate on the ride with all the beauty of fall in front of me!

Butt, concentrate I must because these roads were twisty, turny and tight!  From our last bonus, we moved on to the Twin Oaks General Store.  Where we had to answer the question, "What Happened Here?"
From here we were directed onto the Caliente Canyon Road.  I should have realized from all the cow patties on the road that there might be cows.  Oh, yes!!! Lots and lots and lots of cows on both sides of a very, very narrow, twisty, winding canyon road that follows a river.  Although a fantastic road it was extremely slow both because of the turns and twists but even more so for all the cattle.  It was a beautiful time suck!

At this point I was starting to worry about getting back to the finish on time.  There was no grace or penalty window.  If you arrived after 4 pm, you didn't finish, period!  We finally got to the end of the cow road and made our way to Railroad Tunnel #2 where we encountered a few more rally riders.  The bonus asked the question, "How long is Tunnel #2?"  Answer 219 feet.

We then picked up the Caliente Historical Marker where we had to answer what year the Southern Pacific Railroad established construction headquarters in Caliente.  Answer 1875.

We were now pushing our envelope to get back to the finish on time.  We aimed toward California Hiway 58 and booked on toward The Chalet Basque Restaurant in Bakersfield which was the finish location.  We had to pass up our final two bonus locations as time was just too short.  Oh well.....that was 42 points we didn't get.

Oh, remember, we also had to have a minimum of 200 miles to be considered a finisher.  As we got within a mile or so of the finish location, I realized I needed a few more miles.  Hahaha, slog up and down the freeway a few miles in each direction and then we headed to the barn.

My Kern County ride was indeed TWISTED!!!  I finished with 7 minutes to spare and had 201 miles on the odometer!  Our final score was 579 and we placed 14th.  Had we scored the last two bonus locations we would have only moved up one spot.  I have to laugh at how few miles we rode and we did ride all day but for a lunch break.  Well, I choose a route that was all tight, twisty, meandering, mountain roads and it was a blast!  We saw yet another part of Kern county that we hadn't explored before and once again we were amazed at all the cool, wonderful stuff we saw.  Our efficiency was 2.88 points per mile and the winner, Erik Lipps rode 3.39 points per mile.

Matt Pflug put together a fantastic rally with many, many choices of places to go.  His bonus locations were creative and fun and everything was straight forward.  No riddles or games, just ride and grab the bonus photo or answer the question.  Scoring was quick and easy.  We self scored with the top five being audited.  Everything went smoothly and all riders were safe and accounted for.

The finish dinner was awesome.  A Basque meal served family style that we all enjoyed.  Following our meal, it was raffle time.  Many of us bought raffle tickets for some really cool prizes.  Although I didn't win anything I had a lot of fun checking my ticket numbers and cheering for those who did win.  After the raffle was an auction and I was lucky enough to be high bidder for a new waterproof Nikon Cool Pix camera!  Yippee.  All proceeds from the raffle and auctions were donated to the charity.

Finally it was time to call the winners - Erik Lipps in first, Jerry White in second and Ted Bosch and his wife LeThanh were third.  This was Ted and LeThanh's first rally together and they rocked it!  Jerry White rode a great rally and was only three points away from the win!  Erik is having a fantastic year winning and placing on the podium on several rallies.

The Discover Kern County Rally is just a whole lot of good, silly fun.  This year we had at least half a dozen or more newbies along with half a dozen Iron Butt Rally vets.  The DKC Rally has something for everyone and it packs a lot of fun into 8 hours!

A great, big THANK YOU to Matt Pflug, his lovely bride Andrea, Wendy Crockett and all the volunteers and sponsors for putting on such a high quality event.

Click here for photos taken by Matt of the pre-rally dinner and start.

And click here for finish banquet and award photos provided by Matt.

You might want to put the DKC Rally on your calendar for 2014.  It's sure to have something for everyone and lots of fun for all!