I have looked forward to the Ramble in the past. It is a great way to start the season, despite its propensity for foul weather; it’s traditionally a fun ride.
Normally, I am a very conservative route planner. I leave myself the options to pick up points rather than being forced to drop them as I go. Rarely has this method failed me.
I had hooked up with Bert Shuler, a SC local, who has done very well in past rambles; we had planned to ride as a team- hey if the rallymasters are giving free points, I’m taking.
After the locations were posted, we independently developed almost the exact same route- a good sign. I had also plotted out several alternate routes, just in case we got “curveballs” in the rallybook or the weather wasn’t cooperative. Our best route was a 14,000 pointer into the mountains, with an optional 2,500 points, plus all the freebies. Our best coastal route was 12,500, plus 3,000 in optionals and the freebies.
Friday night’s surprises included getting up to 5 motorcycle dealers at 300 points each and getting all 5 armed forces at 600 points each. Hey, I ride a Honda, I don’t need to know where the dealers are until the frame cracks. The Columbia yellow pages tell me where the local dealers are, so I make up some notes to find them if we have time. I know where the Harley shop is from last year; it’s right off the I-26 exit for the motel.
Saturday’s riders meeting brings us the “poker hand” surprise bonus, get 1000 pts a card up to 4 of a kind for 4000; get 4 face cards, get 5000, but you have to have them all. There was a fair amount of confusion on how this worked, but it eventually straightened itself out. This totaled 8500 or 9500 points for those riders who have good local knowledge. I was riding with Bert- he’s a local.
After the meeting, Bert and I are looking over our plan. He’s convinced that we can get all 5 dealers and all 5 services (there’s a very small marine base just east of Columbia and a Coast Guard Station at the Battery in Charleston), plus guaranteeing the “four of a kind” in Myrtle Beach where the streets are numbered.
So we were gambling that our giving back the 2000 point difference between the coastal route and the mountains could be covered by getting all 5 dealers, all 5 services and the 4 of a kind- we’d probably need at least one of our optional boni as well. As is, we get the 8500 points, plus the 3200 in freebies, the 1500 fire truck and our 12,500 points for our route, which totals over 26,000; if we get all of our optionals we’re close to 30. Sadly, now over half our points are for “non-riding” points; I thought this was a endurance rally, not an "observation ride"?
For this to work, we needed it all.
The good news, it’s an easy ride; only some traffic to worry about. Just as we are about to leave, Bert’s glasses break; not a good omen. I was ready to do an Art Holland then and there, but he persevered by retrieving his reading glasses.
I’ve never purposely thrown a very good plan in the toilet before logging the first mile in place of a gamble; this was very exciting and a big step for me in my riding career.
We head east, miss a turn, miss another turn, take a “detour”, run the coast get every thing we can, slog our way to the Battery, slog our way to Folley Beach (the local fire company is begging for money, slowing traffic to a crawl at four intersections- hey boys, have a pancake breakfast next time) and we wind up late 15 minutes to grab the optional loops, but get everything else on the way back.
Total count- 2 dealers, 3 forces, not happy campers.
I think it was still worth the risk, considering the huge payoff for the “local knowledge” stuff- I have no clue why we couldn’t find dealers; you see bikes all over South Carolina, they had to come from somewhere. If we’d have run the table, it works out to Top 3; throw in our optionals, well, you can do the math. On the other hand, heading to the mountains would have locked a top 10.
“Sometimes you are the windshield; sometimes you are the bug”- Mark Knopfler,