Down I-65 Again – Horizons Unlimited North Carolina

I love HU events. I really do. They are entertaining, the people are cool, and getting to hang out in the smokies is usually a pretty good time.

In 2017, due to scheduling things, Horizons Unlimited had two events going the same weekend. That isn’t usual, and I had been planning on going to the Ontario event (rather than the NC one). A few things happened, kinda last minute, and going to NC worked out better. Also, when I switched, I was keenly aware that the weather in North Carolina in the fall is generally better than the weather in Ontario (sorry, but true).

I had spent a lot of time on I-65 in 2017, and I was getting a little tired of it. Normally I’d get off the interstate and look for some state roads, but I had a lot of work going on at the same time in Milwaukee, and the extra few days away was going to be a struggle. So, the interstate, but I kept my eyes open for things to stop and look at, which I might have passed on other trips. One was Danial Boone’s Tavern in Kentucky.

Looks more up-scale than I'd expected

A quick note, I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy shooting film. On this trip I brought a Koni-Omega Rapid from the late 50s or early 60s. It’s a “press” camera, which I think has more to do with form than anything else. Well, and it can shoot a roll of film very quickly. I don’t usually go that fast when shooting film, since the process is supposed to slow me down.

I don’t exclusively shot film while traveling, though, since I also have an iPhone and it takes some pretty good pictures. During this ride report, the pictures in black and white images from film, and the color are digital. So, now you know.

I’d stopped at Boone’s Tavern in Berea Kentucky. There was a conference going on, and the place was fancy.

I didn’t see a lot of people, only the signs for where things were going to be. Actually, the whole town was pretty dead. I guess there is a university right next to the ‘tavern,’ (which didn’t appear to actually have a tavern inside), but even that didn’t have a lot of people about. Maybe it wasn’t in session yet. The few blocks around the tavern had a little shops, including a sweet dulcimer place.

I don't know how to play a dulcimer, but I like how they sound

It seemed like an oddly niche market, but it also looked like it had been there for a while. I hope it still is.

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Not Really Racing To The Finish – Mountain Madness 2017

I checked the bike over in the faint light of the morning, and it seemed to be in good shape. I hadn’t dropped it the day before, so I wasn’t expecting damage, but it just seemed prudent. When I’d gotten back to camp the night before it’d been dark – that really deep dark you get when there are no lights anywhere and the sky is covered in clouds. Honestly, I felt a little bad riding back in, even though Rabbit isn’t a loud motorcycle (as motorcycles go).

With the bike checked I headed to the casino. Since we’d worked out our ride plan the night before, we hoped to get a lot more miles in today, and Jeff (one of my team) was going to be bringing some subs for our lunch (Thanks Jeff!).

The day was bright and sunny this time, which meant the trails were going to be drying out – which was good. While Mike and I loitered at the start, he started to get text messages that Jeff couldn’t find he keys. The allowed start time kept creeping closer, and finally we got news he’d found them and was on his way.

While we were waiting, we learned one of the riders had to withdraw the day before after hurting his back. W offered the other half of that team – a guy named Carl –

the chance to ride with us, if he wanted. One of the HUMM rules is no one can ride alone, so we thought this would let him get out on his bike. Carl agreed, but waiting until Jeff was there to get geared up (So Jeff could have a say on his coming with), and then it turned out that Carl – who hadn’t expected to be with a team – didn’t have any gas in his bike…so we did end up being a little late out of the gate. Being in first place had put some pressure on us as a team, but I wasn’t too worried about it. I hadn’t expected to win, and was just trying to have fun. Once we were riding, everyone relaxed and we started to just enjoy the day.

One of the tags we near an old graveyard, overlooking a valley. Some of the graves (which still even had markers) dated back to the 1800s.

When we were getting ready to leave this tag a group of riders, two-up on harleys, appeared. They stayed up the road for a few minutes, watching us, and I wondered if they were okay. Eventually they left their motorcycles and went into the bushes for a bit, all in a bunch.

Now, the road to get up here wasn’t what you would expect the average “biker” to be excited about.

Carl, who was kinda from the area, mentioned to the rest of us that he’d seem some mushrooms growing other there which sold for crazy money in local markets. The other riders were probably worried we would raid their patch, and maybe they relaxed when they saw none of us had local plates.

We found s nice spot for lunch and sat talking for a while – I guess we forgot about that whole “need to get points thing,” and were just four riders out on a day ride. I don’t ride with groups, I mentioned that in the previous post, but this was actually okay.

One thing that was on Jeff and Mike’s todo list was a water crossing. There were bonus points at a few of the tags for a picture of one of the team riding across a nearby river, but when we’d looked at one the day before it was moving pretty fast and deep (since it had been raining like crazy). Now the streams looked a little safer, and they decided to have a go.

Mike First

Then Jeff

No, I didn’t ride across. I was a long way from home, and have done enough water crossings they’ve lost some of their luster – especially when there is a perfectly good bridge right there.

We arrived with some time to spare at the casino for scoring. A few other teams were also already back, cleaning up their information before taking it to the scoring table.

Steve photobombing

We’d maxed out the bonus points again, so it was going to be a matter of waiting to see what the other teams had done during the day. The scores were going to be announced at the closing dinner, so I had time to kill after the last of the teams came in. The people staying at the hotel showered and changed, which I could really do since I was camping, so I watched some of the teams who’d trailered their motorcycles load up – I might have been hoping for excitement but I was out of luck.

It's a good thing smells don't go through the internet

With our entry, the casino gave us all a coupon for $10 to gamble. To get it, you had to sign up for their player’s club, which gave a bonus of money money (I think I got $7). I had to kick in a dollar of my own, but then I played some slots. When I was just short of $50 up, I ran out of time and had to head back for the dinner. I’d like to claim some sort of skill, but all I did was sit there and hit a button – if there was more a situation of beginners luck I don’t know what it is. Maybe the machines are nicer to you when just start, just to get you hooked?

Back in the room we’d been using for planning and scoring, there was now food.

And soon it was time for everyone to load up and eat.

The winners were announced, and we were in second place. It had been close, but the second place team had gone for higher value tags on day two, and had learned from day one and maxed out their bonus points (which had been the difference on day one). By strange coincidence, they were also at our table, so we could threaten them with violence and other fun. In truth, it meant we didn’t have to carry the cool-but-not-small trophies home with us. And we had a good time, so I am going to say it all worked out.

Also, cake. Well, Tiramisu

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We can’t be lost, we haven’t gone far enough – Mountain Madness 2017

I slept pretty well, considering, and the bike started right up. I’d made sure I had a full tank of gas, not wanting to be “that guy,” and headed back to the casino. It was foggy, and there was a chance of rain in the forecast. Rain and dirt roads. yay.

These two were there for the HUMM

These guys weren't

At the casino, there were already some bikes. A fair number of people were staying in the attached hotel, which made sense. You didn’t have to ride again after the event, and could just relax. Being able to shower and change before the evening stuff would be nice too, but the camping was soon much more affordable. All well.

In the morning we were given a few last minute instructions – mostly review – and then were given our maps and binders with the locations. All the teams got them at the same time, so being there early didn’t help anyone. Next was planning out a route for the day, though at least one team just hit the road, planning to work it out on the way.

The other members of my team were Jeff and Mike. Jeff had taken the off-road training course offered right before the HUMM, so he knew the area. He was already pretty good with map reading.

Most of the other teams also took some time to work out a plan before taking off. Usually, I think I would be on the “just worry about it later” camp, but I don’t usually ride in groups and (to be honest) am not a fan of doing so. Taking some time in the morning let me get a sense of what Mike and Jeff were wanting to do with the weekend.

For those of you who have read my recent posts and know about my film photography, this event I was shooting digital. I was posting a lot of pictures online, and wanted to have them be as close to live as I could.

We decided to limit ourselves to the easier roads. Jeff was on a F700 and Mike on a old KLR. While I was on Rabbit, I am not a fan of struggling on hard roads, and we all needed our bikes to get home. With the plan in place, we headed out of the parking lot, and Jeff (leading) immediately took us down some crazy goat trail “short cut.” We all survived, and back on navigable roads we headed for the first tag.

At the tags we quickly developed a system. We had set the binder up with the tags we wanted to get, in the order we’d planned to ride them. We would all look at the picture, and then look for the location while riding. Some of the location pictures were taken from the other direction, so we had to look in out mirrors. Other times (often, actually), we caught other teams at a location, and everyone tried to help each other find the actual tag.

It was nice to see other riders from time to time, since it let us know we hadn’t wandered completely off track. The GPS teams probably had that a little easier, I guess, though they were also more competitive. For my part, I was just enjoying the ride and trying not to slow the rest of the team down.

All the teams had to be back to the casino, checked in, and scored by 5pm. The late penalties were pretty harsh, so we made sure to be back early. Even though rain had been in the forecast, and it had been occasionally cloudy, we hadn’t had a drop until heading back. We noticed the roads were wet and we caught a short, hard rain. Once parked, and inside, we learned it had been pouring at the casino all day. Other riders, who’d taken a different direction, were also coming back soaked and covered in mud. I don’t like riding in mud very much, so I was glad to have missed it.

mmmmm - bling

None of the teams were allowed to take the maps or binders from the room, so everyone took extra time after being scored to work out a riding plan for the next day.

This meant that, tomorrow, we would get a full day of riding, rather than having to take time in the morning to plan before getting on the road. While we were looking over tags and the maps, scores for the first day were posted and somehow we’d gotten into first place in our division –

What the...

It was the bonus items that had carried us – social media posts and collecting trash. We’d maxed out both of those. Just to give you an idea of how the more competitive groups were going, look at the difference in the scores –

So, it’s not like we were lighting up the score board.

For dinner, I got a pizza at the casino ($6! I guess casino food is cheap) and headed back to camp.

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Off to the Mud – Mountain Madness 2017

When I got home I worked on a seperate project – taking pictures of a triathlon team while they were training, and then completing their tri – so I didn’t do an special, particular motorcycle travel. I did ride around a lot, since I like riding motorcycles and my camera gear fits into the luggage (which might have been a requirement).

Horizons Unlimited was having it’s first east coast USA Mountain Madness event in Maryland during August, and I was going to “compete” in it. I put the qoutes on because I am not very competive, and even less so when I am riding challenging roads. If you didn’t know, the Mountain Madness event is an off-road scavenger hunt, similer to an Iron Butt rally (though with much lower daily miles). Before the event, someone went and rode around, placing small (1 inch by 1/2 inch) tabs at locations around the event HQ. Pictures were taken and approximate GPS coordinates were noted. This information was put into a very nice binder to help people find them.

The HQ Location was nice. They gave me money for the casino.

The roads were rated from one to five. Ones were the easiest, poor pavement rather than gravel. Twos weren’t much worse. Fives were where the roads that caused the guy placing the tags (who is a motorcycle instructor and apparently extremely good off-road) to fall over. There weren’t many fives.

Mountain Madness is a team event, so no one rides around in the woods on their own. This is a good thing. I was going to have a team, but everything fell apart not long before the event. This wasn’t a problem, since there are other solo riders. In my case I was added to a team with other solo riders. There are also two sub-classes. You can use a GPS or only maps, and the motorcycle were split between single or multi-clyinder machines. You had to pick one of each, so there were four groups. GPS/Single. GPS/multi, Maps/Single, and Maps/multi (which didn’t have any entrants for my event).

Before riding the event, I had to get there. I’d just done a long trip on my SR250, but for the Mountain Madness event I was going to bring my CSC RX3 –

I took a slightly different route, swinging through Pennsylvania on the way

Once I was there, I set up camp and headed back for tech inspection. Yes, tech inspection. Mostly they were concerned about spark arrestors, since we would be in state and national forests and no one wanted any accidental fires. My Roxxie (named White Rabbit, or just Rabbit) has stock exhaust, so it’s a non-issue, but since the bike is still a little uncommon it gets some extra attention.

Okay, technically I was the only bike in the tech area at the time, so there wasn’t anything for the people to do other than stare.

Eventually more bike started to roll in –

I totally wanted some of these guys to go

Okay, I’m kidding. It’s a nice riding area and attracted motorcyclists of all types.

where are you going to put that stick Mark? WHERE ARE YOU GOING WITH THAT STICK!!???

It's supposed to be like that.

There were a few people who did last minute bodges, but it wouldn’t be an HU event with a few interesting modifications.

Since I was through tech inspection early, and watching people have their exhaust pipes probed is only fun for a while, I relaxed until the evening program.

Definitely a nice location.

The evening (Friday) was going to cover how to use the binders and maps to find the tags, how to record the tags to get points, and other ways to get points while at the event (social media posts, picking up garbage, etc). No one was going to be able to get all the tags, so you had to pick and choose based on what roads you wanted to ride and the time available. Tags on harder roads were worth more, but they took more time to get so you couldn’t get as many of them.

We're going to talk, but it gets better.

Doomed, you're all doomed.

After all the rules stuff, we were sent off to our beds. A lot of the competitors were staying at the hotel/casino, but I’m cheap and had a tent site in a (very) nearby campground. I went to get a decent night’s sleep so I wasn’t too awful in the morning.


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