LowCal 250
April 23, 2011
San Diego County, CA
Monday April 18th started out just like any other day.  I am sitting at my computer checking my e-mail and drinking a cup of coffee.  I am thinking about riding and where I should go next when the LowCal 250 pops into my head.  "Hey, I should check and make sure when that is."  I say to myself.  I check the web site and find it is April 23, 2011.  Oh Crap!  That is this Saturday!  Make a quick phone call to my wife to make sure I am clear to go.  I call San Diego BMW to make sure it is not full.  They say I am good.  Print out the entry form, write a check for my donation to the PKD Foundation and drop it in the mail.  With any luck Craig (Rally Master) should get my entry by Thursday.  Thursday I get an e-mail from Craig saying I am in.  Cool!

This is the 3rd LowCal 250 I have participated in.  In 2009 I rode with my friend Mike.  I was on my Harley Ultra Classic that year.  We rode together and I finished 14th.  In 2010 I rode with my friend Rodger.  I was on my BMW, which at the time had a little over 1000 miles on her.  I finished 17th.  Both of these finishes were middle of the pack finishes, not too bad for a rally rookie I didn't think.  This year I was going to be riding alone on a motorcycle I have put over 20,000 miles on in the last year.  This was going to be my 5th rally total and my goal was to finish in the top ten.  I finished 10th in the Cal 24 last year so I thought this was good goal.

My plan was to leave Friday around noon and non-stop it down to San Diego.  I had a reservation at the Hampton Inn which was just around the corner from the BMW shop.  I arrived at the hotel around 1630 after getting a bit of a late start after having had lunch with my wife.  Checked in and rode over to the BMW shop.  Walked around there for a minute or two, did not see anyone I recognized so I went on the hunt for fuel as I did not want to have to mess with it Saturday morning.  Found a Chevron not too far away, filled the pig up and went back to the hotel.  When I parked at the hotel I called my wife from the parking lot and was standing by my bike while I talked with her.  I looked down at the ground and there was a heads up penny.  Good luck, I don't know, but it went in my pocket and stayed there!

Next up was food.  As I was riding around I did not see anything within walking distance that sounded good.  Dennys was not my idea of a good pre-rally dinner.  From my room I could see the Ramada Inn and a sign that said Restaurant.  Well, I thought I would give it a shot.  I thought I remembered Craig saying something about the Ramada in one of his e-mails.  I went down to the front desk and asked about the food at the Ramada.  The desk clerk said they just hired a new chef and they had just changed the menu two weeks ago.  He had not eaten there so he did not know how it is.  I figured I would give it a shot, plus they have a bar!

I figured I was in for a hamburger and some cold fries from a hotel restaurant but maybe I would get lucky.  Lucky I did get!  The name of the restaurant is "Proud Marys" and the chef, well he would be Frankie the Bull from season two of "Top Chef".  I had one of the best meals of my life!  It was not busy and I was sitting at the bar, not knowing who I was talking to, going over the menu.  I am a big fan of a well prepared Ribeye.  They have one on the menu.  I asked about it, but was told the filet is better tonight.  I said, "Cool, cook it up!"  And he did!  What a fantastic meal!  I would recommend "Proud Marys" to anyone knowing they are going to get a fantastic dinner!  Below is my dinner and me and Frankie.
I got to bed fairly early and had my morning all planned out.  Up at 0530 and go load the bike and put all of the electronics back on.  Be at breakfast in the hotel by 0600.  Be at San Diego BMW no later than 0645.  I walked in the doors of the shop at 0645.  So far, so good.  Everything was going well.  I checked in and was given my rally pack along with my rider number 41.  I found me a chair to sit in and started going over the rally pack.  Nothing out of the ordinary here.  As I was looking through it I heard a voice behind me say something about uploading the bonus locations in your GPS.  My ears perked up at that.  This would save me a whole lot of time.  Went over to the table and asked about it.  Sure enough if you want they would load the bonus locations in your GPS for you.  Okay, here is mine.  Let me know when you are done.  A couple of minutes later my GPS is brought to me with all the locations in it.  Yes, just to be on the safe side I confirmed a couple of them.  I have heard a story or two about Rally Masters!

One of the nice things Craig does for the LC 250 is he puts all of the bonus locations on a map and this year he marked the base route.  Hmmmmm something must be up with this.  I don't remember him doing this in the previous two years.  I took a look at it.  Seemed easy enough, but I knew if I just rode the base route then I would just finish with everyone else and be in the middle of the pack again.  I did not want that!  Top 10 finish was my goal!  I went and got my computer and put the bonus locations in it and started working a route.  I plotted one out that I thought might win but it was over 500 miles long.  That would be really tough to do in an eight hour rally.  Dropped a couple of the bonus locations and was in the area of 400 miles.  Still a lot of miles!  I am looking around the room and I know there is at least one maybe two guys here doing the IBR this year.  I am thinking to myself, "I know they can do 400 in 8, why can't I?"  "Maybe it is because you don't do this much and you have know idea what you are doing."  Oh, good point brain! 

At this point I was getting a little flustered and just wanted to get out of the shop and ride.  I packed up my computer and put my papers away.  I thought if I got out of the shop and on the road I would be able to figure it out.  Made it about 4 blocks and my music went dead.  I have to have tunes in my helmet.  Pulled into a parking lot to figure it out.  Sorted it out in about a minute and was ready to get back on the road toward my first bonus loction, the Aztec Calander located on the SDSU campus. 

I get pretty close to the bonus location and my GPS starts telling me to do stuff that is really not safe and really against the law.  Go the wrong way on a one way street.  Ya, I don't think so!  You're going to have to recalculate that one!  I took a nice tour of SDSU and finally ended up going the right direction on the one way and located the bonus.  Answered the question, took a picture (not required) and was preparing to leave when a guy on a BMW K1200LT pulls up and parks next to me.  This would not be the last time I saw this bike today.

Keep in mind this is just "my ride report" and I used a few of the 80 plus pictures I took that day. The pictures in this ride report may or may not have been the ones I used during scoring.  They are just the ones I like the best and represent part of what I did.
Because I really did not have a plan or a route at this point I figured I would just stay on the base route and see what pops up on the GPS as I start getting closer to bonus locations.  My next stop would be the Pacific Coast Trail marker at the California/Mexico border.  Dirt roads, Border Patrol and Mexico, no problem!  Turns out it was no problem.  The dirt roads were in fantastic condition thanks to the Boarder Patrol.  Graded and watered with no washboarding.  Very nice!  Made it to the marker no problems.  In this one you had to have a picture of your helmet "on the ground in front of the monument."  Well, three pictures later I remember the instructions said, "on the ground".  I had pictures everywhere but on the ground.  Put my helmet on the ground and took another picture.  Bonus complete!
Next up would be "Salvation Mountain".  I knew this would be one of the longest legs of the rally between bonus locations on the base route at about 106 miles.  I had not seen any other riders yet except for the LT.  Sometimes I let that play into my head!  Am I doing the right thing?  I can not be the only one hitting this bonus!  Little stuff like that and it was way to early too be getting all jumbled in the mind.  I worked my way back out to the 8 and put the twist to the right grip.  I overtook a couple of Harleys and saw a few BMW's and what not headed west.  This meant I was way behind everyone or way ahead.  Turns out I was right in the middle of the pack.  Go figure!  When I was getting close to the bonus I kept looking for something that resembled a mountain out in the desert.  Upon my arrival at the bonus this is what I found.  Oh, and the LT was in the parking lot getting ready to leave.
Salvation Mountain, pretty interesting looking place.  This place was built up by a guy by the name of Leonard Knight.  This is his second creation as the first one crumbled under all of the weight of cement and paint he put on it.  This one is made from adobe and over 100,000 gallons of paint.  I did not spend a lot of time here.  We had to find a plaque from the "Folk Art Society of America" and find out whose name is on the plaque.  It was easy to find if you asked someone who already found it!  I went over and wrote down the name and it had to be spelled correctly so I took a quick picture of it just to be sure when I was doing my scoring.
As you can see, the name on the bottom is a little difficult to spell.  After collecting this bonus I went back to my bike and some more riders were coming in.  There was another bonus called the "Paper Map".  Had something to do with the movie "Torque" (which I have never seen) and Ice Cube holding up a paper map in front of his face with two hands while riding in formation down a desert highway.  Under the discription was a line that stated, "I did not do this, or any other unsafe acts during this rally."  Well, I figured the way to collect the bonus was to get someone to take my picture while on my bike, sitting still, holding a paper map in front of my face like the picture in the rally pack.  I busted out my beat up San Diego County AAA map and asked someone if I take your picture holding the map will you take mine.  He said sure so my plan was set in motion to collect this bonus.  I took his picture no problem.  He came over to take mine, I slide my helmet on and go to stand my bike up so it does not look like it is on it's side stand.  I am parked on a bit of a slope and can not get her over enough to get the stand up.  I start leaning to the right trying to get her up.  I got her up and over onto her side.  Oh well, not the first time and not going to be the last.  I pick the pig up off of the ground, get on, get straight and he takes this picture.
As you can see my gloves are still on the ground from the little tip over.  Turns out this picture was worth 0 points.  All I had to do was check the box on my Rally Pack indicating I did nothing unsafe during the rally.  Oh well, better safe than sorry!

My next planned stop was at the "Whistler Mud Pots".  The Rally Master claimed this to be, "One of the last of the nanny-free zones in California."  I do believe he is correct.  No warning signs, no walk ways, no fences and no paved roads.  Open mud pots bubbling with geothermal activity and Carbon Dioxide.  COOL!  It was just a short ride over to the mud pots from "Salvation Mountain".  I arrived and saw the road out to the mud pots was drivable so away I went to collect this bonus.
The next bonus I was going to go after was called "Sabertooth".  I had never been out this way and really had no idea what the area I was going to was called.  Turns out it is the Borrego Springs area.  While I was fighting some serious cross winds, one gust move me from one side of the road to the other.  Snapped my head so hard I thought I had pulled a muscle in my  neck.  Not a whole lot of fun and I knew that by trying to keep my speed up in the wind was really knocking down my gas milage.  I was hoping for a gas station to just spring up out of the desert.  On the ride out there I notice these metal sculptures along the way.  Turns out "Sabertooth" is one of those sculptures.  I did a little research while writing this a found out they are Gomphotherium free-standing art structures.  They looked pretty cool.  I hope to get back out there one day when I have time to poke around.  As I was passing through Borrego Springs I saw a gas station on the east side of the round about in the center of town.  Figured I would hit it on the way out.  I found the "Sabertooth" bonus and grabbed my picture(s).
After grabbing the pictures I headed for fuel.  Now I typically put Chevron or Shell gas in the pig. She seems to like it best.  However, right now was not the time to be to picky.  I pull into the gas station and the first thing I notice is there are no credit card readers on the pumps.  Oh great!  This is not going to be a very fast fuel stop.  I get off the bike and start to walk up to the front of the station figuring I had to go inside and pay.  This guy stops me and tells me to go ahead and pump my gas.  I can pay for it when I am done.  When he said this I was almost confused.  How does this work?  Pump first and pay second.  Did I hit a time warp coming across the desert?  After contemplating this for a few seconds I finally figured it out and got my gas pumped.  8 gallons was $39.00.  I handed the guy two 20's and hit the road.  Turned out it did not take all that long.  I am pretty sure I was there less than 5 minutes.

My next bonus was to get a picture of the "Saddle Sore Trail" street sign.  Punched it up on the GPS and headed back into the wind.  After a short while I had arrived.  Jumped off, snapped my picture and started riding towards "Butterfield Ranch".
The wind was still blowing but it seemed to be letting up a little bit.  At "Butterfield Ranch" you had to purchase something and get a receipt and take a picture of the Fire Engine.  I had not eaten anything while on this ride and I was out of water so I was looking forward to taking a short break. I went into the store, grabbed a bottle of water and a bag of chips and headed to the counter to pay.  There was nobody at the register.  I clear my throat a couple of times and I guess the clerk heard me and came out of the office.  He rang me up and I paid him.  I then asked him for a receipt.  He had to hand write out a receipt.  I think I was still in the time warp!  I start to shove my chips in my mouth and drink a bit of water when the LT comes pulling into the parking lot.  I really did not pay too much attention to him until I noticed he was getting ready to pull out.  I finished up my chips, dumped my water into my Camel Back and hit the mens room.  The LT was gone. 
It is getting late in the day and I was running out of time.  I punched up the BMW shop and saw that I could make it there with about 20 minutes to spare.  That sure is a lot of time.  There has to be a bonus I can get.  I start looking through the rally pack and my GPS for something I could hit on the way in.  I decided "Mount Whitney" was going to be the last bonus.  I put it in as a way point and pressed go.  The GPS told me I would arrive at the BMW shop at 1629.  That is exactlly 8 hours after I started.  If I was a minute late I was going to be loosing points.  I figured I needed to make up two minutes between "Butterfield Ranch" and "Mount Whitney".  If I could do that I would have time to get my pictures and get back on the road.  Off I went!  I have no idea where I am going, what the traffic is going to be like or how long it is going to be before I hit a straight road.  This leg has to be perfect or I will be late.  I did have a bail out location if I started getting behind.  I start doing some serious GPS watching as I am headed to "Mount Whitney".  Everything goes perfect and I pull up to the bonus with 2 minutes to get things done and get on the road.  I jump off and start taking pictures.
The first half of this last leg went perfect!  Everything worked out just how I had planned.  Now I had about 33 more miles to cover and get back to San Diego BMW before 1629 hours.  The Zumo is saying it can be done, to the minute.  But once again, everything has to go right.  One wrong turn, a crash on the freeway, anything that would slow me down and I am going to be late.  I get the bike turned around and start heading to the 15.  So far, so good!  No traffic getting to the 15.  I hit the on-ramp and start twisting and watching traffic for any hint of a slow down.  The Zumo is now saying I will arrive at 1628.  Cool, made up a minute, a little less pressure.  Still need the traffic gods on my side.  I start to come up on the area where the "Express Lanes" split off from the main lanes of the freeway.  I start thinking to myself about getting in the express lanes.  I have never ridden in them before and I don't know if there is a toll booth or something that might slow me down or cause me to stop.  I make the right call I think by staying out on the freeway.  Traffic is flowing pretty good and looking ahead everything looks clear.  The Zumo is still telling me I am going to make it with a minute to spare.  Now I am thinking about my start this morning and the one minute difference between my clock and the starters clock.  He said it was 0828 and I said 0829.  I did not check to see which time he wrote down.  So, now of course I start to panic again!  After worrying about that for a minute or two I look down at the GPS again and it is saying I will arrive at 1627 hours.  Okay, if I arrive at that time it will not matter what he wrote down.  I will be in time.  My off ramp is coming up and the distance is clicking off the GPS.  I am really going to make this.  The traffic light is green and I have one more mile to go, I pull up into the parking lot of San Diego BMW at 1627 hours and check in.  This one is in the books!

I park my bike and get all of my papers together, go inside and start filling out my score sheet.  Not counting the start and finish as bonus locations I only hit 8 bonus locations plus the points for the "Paper Map" bonus.  I am thinking to myself at this point that I would be lucky to finish in the middle of the pack again with that number of bonus points.  I told myself I should be happy with the fact that I did finish and had a great time out on the ride.  I still had to ride home so I figured I would stick around and enjoy the BBQ and maybe pick up a cool prize during the raffle.  I take my stuff up to the scoring table and sit down with Craig to get scored.  In the end all of my bonus points were good.  No mistakes!  

After getting scored I wander around the shop looking at the all the cool stuff I wish I could afford.  I have been wanting an electric jacket liner for a long time and they had some nice "Gerbing's" in a really nice display.  I kept gravitating towards the display, but kept telling myself, "NO!"  I found a nice pair of GS Pro Gloves and bought those thinking it would cure my gotta buy something fever.  It did for the most part!

The guys at San Diego BMW BBQ'd up some good eats and everyone had a little something to eat.  Craig then started the raffle.  Now, I am one of those people that can buy a hundred raffle tickets for one item and the person next to me can buy one ticket and win.  Just lucky that way I guess.  Craig had some pretty cool books and other swag that I would have like to have taken home.  He kept calling names and the cool stuff was being snatched up and hauled away.  I figured he would call my name pretty soon.  There was cool hat left that I would like.  Not to be.  He kept calling names and none of them were mine.  Finally, last name called, mine.  I got a nice Ducati T-shirt.  Cool! 

I was starting to get a little restless because I wanted to get on the road.  I still had a 4 hour ride to get home and it was starting to get a little late in the day.  Craig started the awards ceremony and called up the 3rd place finisher, Eddie Frowiss.  Eddie rode without the aid of a GPS.  Next up was second place, William Drew.  William was the rider of the LT I had been seeing all day long.  He seemed to be a step ahead of me everytime I saw him.  Good for him!  Looking at the clock and thinking about when I would be getting home Craig was saying something about how the winner this year had combined bonus locations from two different routes and had come up with the winning score.  He said something about how many times the winner had riden in the LowCal 250 and how they had respectable finishes in the past.  Then he said, "The winner for this years LowCal 250 is Matt Pflugh."  No Friggin Way!!!!

Craig had these nice little boxes made up with the LowCal 250 logo on them as the prizes for the winners.  Inside the box was a nice little something extra provided by San Diego BMW.  Before I left I had a very nice Gerbing's electric jacket liner and all the excessories that go with it.  Gotta buy something fever.....cured!

The LowCal 250 was the first Rally I ever participated in and it is the probably the most fun a person can have in a full day of riding.  Craig puts an extrodinary amount of effort into this Rally and I can not thank him enough.  San Diego BMW is a fantastic host for this event.  They even had an Open House event the same day and handled it all very well.  It is amazing how the showroom can be full of motorcycles one minute and you turn around and all the motorcycles are gone and tables and chairs have been set up and the food is ready to be served.  Thank you to San Diego BMW.  This whole event is in support of the PKD Foundation and all of the "Entry Fees" are donated to the PKD Foundation.

After all was said and done in San Diego I headed home.  Fours hours later at 2303 hours I pulled into my garage.  Total milage for the weekend, 920.1 miles!

Thanks for reading my ride report!  If you are interested in learning more about the LowCal 250 or the PKD Foundation check out the LowCal 250 Web site.