Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Iron Butt Association's Daytona Bike Week "Pizza Party" and my ride north.

After enjoying a great ride to Florida it was time to enjoy what brought me south in the first place.

Back in the day the finishers of the Iron Butt Rally would get together in Daytona for a pizza party. This was an intimate gathering as back then very few people had finished the Iron Butt Rally.  As an aside after 17 editions of the Iron Butt Rally only 543 riders can claim to have finished the IBR.

As the IBA grew the party also grew and was relocated to Jacksonville.  Regular members were invited and events were added to make it a great place to be for those who like to ride a lot of miles in a short amount of time.

The dinner is Friday evening; it was the reason I made the trip.  I started the day with a ride down to Daytona to visit my former co-workers at the Yamaha tent.  Track management must have changed, not only were all the vendors gone (relocated to the strip) but Yamaha got screwed and was forced to set up their entire multi truck / tent display on dirt and carpet rather than the promised pavement.  I visited with old friends and made my way back to Jacksonville via the Tamoka State Park.

Along the way I stopped at the Bulow Plantation.  Bulow used to be ground zero for all things BMW during Bike Week.  It was a "no host" campout hosted by the Space Coast BMW club.  It was a fantastic time but the operators of Bulow decided the bikers (BMW was a small section in a sea of straight pipes) had to go.  I found it noteworthy that RV's bikes and even tents were back.  It made me wonder what if, but that's one of those things that even if recreated would never be as good as it was.

Back in Jacksonville it was time for happy hour (fun) and dinner.  Dinner was as good as one gets in a banquet room and the company was even better.  This year's presentation was interesting with the theme appearing to be If your spouse / partner won't let you ride ditch em, followed by staying home because traveling is dangerous means you'll get killed by a mattress on your commute.

I could be wrong, I believe both the presenters and the audience had a pretty fantastic happy hour.

Jacksonville to Baltimore 

My oldest son is a grad student studying Bio-Chemistry at Johns Hopkins and yes I am very proud.  It was a scary moment when he said he wanted to go to grad school; thankfully it was followed up with "Dad they pay me".   Thank Dog.

I don't know about the other parents out there but I savor the opportunity to see my fully launched child; if I get a phone call the world stops so I'll be damned if I'm going to do a east coast swing without a stop to put my eyes on my son.  Our plan was to get together for Sunday brunch on my way north.

I had discussed riding north with others but they really wanted to stay off the interstate as much as possible; for me if I was going to be in Baltimore for Sunday brunch I was going to have to put down some miles on fast roads.   I was up for working in some of the BRP and perhaps even the Skyline but to do that I'd need to beat it up toward Charlotte.

Jacksonville to Fancy Gap is 488 miles and I was there for lunch.  A reasonably fast ride on slab with a departure at 04:30.

After lunch I jumped on the Blue Ridge heading north.  I felt I had plenty of time and when I reached Meadows of Dan (home of Willville, a great MC only campground) I realized I was near the spot where an old friend bought some property and had built what appears to be a very nice home. Thanks to social media I knew chances were high he'd be out on his tractor so I decided a surprise visit was in order.  I had to do a little digging to get the exact coordinates but after a few messages I was on my way, happy to be forced to ride some of the roads connected to the parkway.

After 40 minutes of fantastic twisties I arrived at his gate only to find it closed.  A check of my phone revealed my surprise was a bust; my buddy was in bed with the flu.  I felt glad the gate was closed; rather than keep me out it was keeping his virus in which was fine with me.

I went to leave and as I backed my bike I felt the back end going down.  Being a GS rider I eased clutch and added gas.  Being a GS rider on a street bike that failed miserably and I ended up stuck in a ditch.

All that beautiful body work, what's a guy to do?  Fortunately GS riders have mad recovery skills so I was able to extract the bike without scratching it or dropping it on myself.  I did burn a bunch of calories I was planning on using to ride.

After the extraction I made my way north, rejoining the BRP at Peaks of Otter.  I'll admit I was tired and I wanted a nap. This created a dilemma because the only way I would be able to nap would be to find a spot in direct sunlight, otherwise I'd freeze  but I also needed daylight to make tracks north and get off the parkway before dark.

Take time to make time is one of those sayings used by endurance riders and I decided I really would benefit from a nap.  I pulled off, found my spot and set my alarm for 20 minutes.  I dozed quickly, woke in 10 minutes and felt great.  A true power nap.

I continued north and was having a fantastic ride.  I felt confident I could make it to the northern end of the parkway before dark which is where I would find a room and meal.  I felt this was perfect as I would be right around 200 miles to Baltimore with is an ideal distance to do before brunch.

I found a overlook and pulled off to grab my phone and make a reservation when I received the text no rider wants to receive:

Granted the 14 miles is what the GPS said before I pushed GO, i.e. 14 miles as the proverbial crow flies.  In road miles it almost doubled which is why I was in the area in the first place but it would have been nicer to be a little quicker to the hospital.

If you ride a lot and you have friends that ride a lot too chances are you've been hurt or been with someone else who has gotten injured as a result of riding motorcycles.  Either way it sucks, it sucks to see a friend hurt almost as much as it sucks to be hurt.  Thankfully the damage is to fingers, vs all the horrible scenarios that could have happened however we still have a rider hundreds of miles from home who cannot ride.

Every organization can mobilize help through social media and the Iron Butt Association has been doing it since the days of dixie cups and string.  By the time I arrived at the hospital others volunteered to store the bike and get the rider to the plane.  All I was left to handle was dinner, rooms and move two bikes a few miles which I did with pleasure.

Such a relatively minor injury for a motorcyclist but will keep him off two wheels for a while and it's his writing hand.

After some ethnic take-out we both went to bed.  I had one more day of riding, a brunch in Baltimore and a forecast of rain to look forward to.  Two out of three is pretty good and I slept soundly.

Sunday morning I work up, confirmed it was raining lightly and geared up for a ride to Baltimore. Here's a photo of oldest son and his girlfriend.  If only I could get him to ditch the smokes...

We enjoyed a great brunch which I followed by Sunday combat on the 95 corridor and the Jersey Turnpike.  Knowing how politics can make crossing the Hudson a challenge I looped north to the Tappan Zee to 684.  As a recent transplant to the Hartford Ct area I chose 84.  Bad choice and noted for the future.

After 4.5 riding days on a six day trip I made it home for Sunday dinner.  Total distance was just under 3,000 miles and I am delighted to say I am fully bonded with the new RT.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Daytona Bike Week 2016

There are many ways for a Yankee to get to Daytona Bike Week and I've sampled just about all of them.  I've put my bike in a trailer, on a trailer, in the bed of a pick up and I've even gone without a bike and flown to Florida.  A few times I've even ridden my motorcycle end to end which given the unpredictability of the weather has always made me feel lucky to make a run up and down the I-95 corridor unfrozen.

Up until a few days prior to departure my plan was to put the bike in the sprinter and head to a friend's place in Charlotte, North Carolina.  It's an easy ride to Jacksonville and as an added bonus there is a pretty nice way to avoid the slab.  It's still pretty flat and straight but the scenery is better. This always works well as Charlotte is far enough south that one can be confident of not freezing and far enough west that at least part of the trip can be free of I-95.

As I continued to watch the weather I decided I could forget about the truck and ride the bike.  As an added bonus a few years ago on the return I worked out a way to include some of the Blue Ridge Parkway into the ride; I figured I could do the same on the way south.

Tuesday morning I pointed my new to me 2015 BMW R1200RT south.  This was the first time I had actually ridden the bike.  I purchased it from a gentleman in Florida who rode it 1100 miles before deciding due to back issues it was time to stop riding.  I purchased the bike to set it up for LD Rallies and while all sort of wonderful things are still to be installed at the least I had my lighting all set up.  I had enough confidence and in my shop (tech gave it a test ride when it arrived) to go for it.

My riding partner for the day was fellow Iron Butt Rally vet and Minuteman 1000 staff member Robert St. George.  We met at my house and due to a traffic delay decided to meet our third traveler in Front Royal, our target for the first day. My plan had been slab to Front Royal followed by Skyline Drive to a hotel in Waynesboro; between creative routing and trying to meet up we made it to Front Royal.

Front Royal to Waynesboro

The Skyline Drive is one of those iconic roads that everyone should ride at least once.  It's very pretty, has great curves, way too many deer and to top it off it's a Federal Road posted at 35 mph.  But everyone should ride it once.

As wonderful as the Skyline is my plans for the day did not include spending the first three hours on a road posted for 35 with a natural rhythm of 20 faster patrolled by park rangers who have no humor and love to write big tickets.  I had no real plan for the day but with the mountains stretched out in front of me I planned a departure of 04:00 which was another reason to stay off Skyline.  Instead I chose SR 55 west out of Riverton to 678 south to 675 to 615 to Luray Caverns.  From there it was more back roads to Elkton where I picked up the Skyline to its southern end in Afton.  A wonderful route that was an hour faster.  As an aside the bike has the best lighting of any bike I've owned.  Amazing light color, intensity and reach from two sets of Clearwater LED lights and special mounts.  The bike will be described in detail in a future post.

Afton to Fancy Gap

Blue Ridge Parkway at its finest.  A fantastic ride on a beautiful day. Great pavement and no traffic. Virtually the same road as the Skyline but posted at 45mph.  Still Federal but on this road the difference between 35mph and 45mph is huge.  Sadly I forgot some parts required to charge my phone at home so I made a slight detour to the BMW dealer in Roanoke to a Powerlet socket.  Nice store and a very friendly and helpful parts guy.  Fancy Gap has a nice spot for a meal and it is perfectly located as the jumping on (or off) point on the Blue Ridge if you need to get to Florida on slab. At this point I could have been in Jacksonville for a late dinner but I was riding a new to me RT so I decided to continue south.

Fancy Gap, NC to Newport TN.

On the way to Fancy Gap I was contemplating my options.  The weather was fantastic, I was really enjoying my new bike and I had no reason to be in Jacksonville before dinner Thursday; affording me over 36 hours to play.  Why not work in Deal's Gap?  I did some calculations and determined I could get to the closest hotel town near the Gap by dark.  This meant leaving the Parkway for a more direct (and higher posted speeds) route.   Still twisty, fun and fast but Johnson City was an inconvenience.

I got to the hotel just as it got dark and enjoyed a cheap sandwich from the fabulous "hotel bar."

Newport, TN to Jacksonville, FL

Day three.  I never planned a day three for this ride nor had I ever imagined that the weather would be such that I would be considering riding the Dragon on the way to Bike Week, but here I was starting day three heading to Deals.  I planned my departure to arrive at Wellsville at sunrise which was a fine ride.  Looking back I could have worked in Foothills Parkway but at the time I was focused on the Dragon and being in Jacksonville for happy hour.

The Gap at sunrise is wonderful; I rode it at a comfortable pace with little worry of slow cruisers or hyper squids harshing my mellow.  Even then one must be on their toes in the Gap.  Sure enough at the first turn I found a jeep with two serious flats and no occupants.  Flashers were blinking bright so it had not bee there for long but the occupant(s) were nowhere to be found.

A little further down the road and the skid marks tell the tale.  Looks like the 318th turn on the 11th mile did this one in.

Note added illumination from fog/driving lights 15 minutes after sunrise.

Finally one can't pass the Tree of Shame without a photo, especially if nobody's around.

From the Gap I went south on 28 through Fontana Village while singing "Bad Boys, Bad Boys whatchya gonna do when they come for you."  This is a song near and dear to many BMW riders hearts as we got to hear it played from a helicopter when the local sheriff confused a BMW rally with a Clam Jam and spent the weekend harassing Doctors and Lawyers.  Sheriff is gone and put enough of a spike in his career from this and other events that he committed suicide a few years later.  Bad Boys, Bad boys...

28 is a great road and while the Dragon gets the attention there are many roads that are equally technical without the infamy (or craziness).  From 28 I picked up 23 to Hollywood.  At this point I have Jax on my mind; we have tentative plans to meet up and head out to a fish camp for dinner and I want to be there. I used the GPS to find somewhat direct roads and much to my surprise I find myself on Route 1, aka the Boston Post Road.  I didn't expect this and with just under 200 miles to go it isn't what I want.

My ride was saved when a rider I passed earlier came up and asked me if I was heading to Daytona.  I said yes and asked how we was getting there.  "Back roads through GA" was the answer and considering he was riding a Yamaha FZ1 I figured he would have good taste in back roads.  I followed him and sure enough he bailed on RT1 in a mile so I followed him onto SR 17.  When we got far enough away from RT1 that the GPS no longer included it in a recalculation I gave my new friend a wave, passed and went on my merry way.

From there I continued south.  Not knowing the back road approaches to Jacksonville along with timing having me arriving near rush hour led me to decide to join 95 in Townsend, GA, I was (and still am) pretty amazed that I was able to avoid 95 from Hartford, Ct to 58 miles north of Florida and I still made it in time for dinner at Clark's Fish Camp.

The Return Leg.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Finish

Finishing the Iron Butt Rally is an experience unto itself.  After over a year of planning, months of training, thousands of dollars spent and a little over 10 thousand miles of riding in 11 days it's over.  It is also a bit strange to see such a crowd hanging about.  From the rider's perspective it can be both welcoming and a bit jarring; who are all these people and why are they cheering?

When I finished my first Iron Butt Rally the parking lot was pretty quiet and I was just happy to be there after wrecking my bike in Utah.  When I finished in 2005 I was completely spent, having made a slight routing error that forced me into riding 1500 miles in the last 24hrs.  To say I was "meat on a stick" would be kind, I was all done.  In 2007 I returned to the finish 14 hrs early completely defeated as I did not have enough points to be a finisher after loosing my rally to a mechanical issue in Edmonton.  I was determined after all the heartache and drama of 2007 that this one would be different.

I have been through a lot of changes in the last six years; a divorce, death of a parent, re-marriage and the bankruptcy of my employer of 21 years forced many changes, some welcome and necessary, others not so much.  I wanted to have fun, be safe and most of all drama free for my friends and family.  As I approached the finish I felt I had achieved all my goals, except I didn't think I would top my best finish.

My route on the last leg was conservative and enough fun that I'd do it again.

Unlike the riders focused on points I didn't dip south after Vancouver.  I had a great ride through British Columbia and Montana, so great that tomorrow (8.13) I'm packing up the truck with the bikes on the trailer to head back.  My wife (she of the real job) is flying into Denver and we're going on a 11 day tour.

There are many different motivators for riding the Iron Butt Rally.  It really is the Mt. Everest of street riding; this time almost a third of the riders who attempted to finish the rally did not.  To be a finisher of the Iron Butt Rally is to accomplish something that fewer people have done than have climbed the real Mt. Everest.  For others it is the competitive aspect, which thanks in part to the Internet and the easy publicity it brings has been on the rise in recent years.  While it is great to watch the riders in it to win it at work, it gives me pause when a first time rider takes this approach.

Then there are the folks such as myself who know full well we are likely never to stand on the podium yet we keep coming back for more.  For us the Iron Butt Rally is one of the greatest games on two wheels.  It is incredibly well managed, fair and so much fun that multiple riders with no chance at a prize enter time and time again.  The friendships made and camaraderie shared through the common experience are enduring.

In my case it was to put away the sting of the DNF in 2007.  I was in that rally to be on the podium and my approach was not unlike how I prepared sailboats for national championships.  At the end of the day I was more prepared to win than to deal with mechanical issues and ultimately that's why I did not finish.   At most Iron Butt Association events there comes a time when they introduce folks that have finished the IBR.  The speaker will start by inviting everyone who has finished the IBR to stand, then remain standing if you've finished two, then three until there is only one rider standing.  Every time I attended such an event and had to sit at two it was like picking at an old wound.  This year the man most often the last standing did not finish the rally due to a mechanical gremlin; I can imagine how he feels.  The other painful memory of 07 was meeting Chace at the finish.  She got to see me at my lowest and I know it wasn't any fun yet she still married me.  It was very important to me that the finish of 2013 would be a wonderful contrast.

This is what I thought about often during the rally; the finish and some happiness for both of us.  When I starting getting too ambitious, or hard on the equipment I thought of how much it sucked for her to have to deal with such a wet blanket in 07.  It is why I ran such a conservative rally, this was not the year to worry about points or beating "that guy" whoever it may be.  This was the year to finish and get a big hug.

Love and Happiness

I was thinking about this hug previously as I rolled down the Pennsylvania Turnpike looking for 200 point receipts.  I didn't want to get to the hotel too early as I'd wake Chace up and I didn't want to get there too late and be so tired that I'd sleep all day.  As I tried to nap on a bench I couldn't help but think that while one more receipt might move me up one place It would put the hug at risk.  Now in reality one more receipt wouldn't have prevented our happy reunion but after 11 days we tend to fixate on the improbable.

A rider I know, admire and respect beat me by 173 points to finish 30th, which means I finished 31st.  He burned up one of the highest mileage tires known to man on the first leg, another on the second and yet one more on the third.  He rode 2,711 miles more than me and if not for rather big mistake he would be have finished in the top 12.  That's the evil nature of the IBR often it comes down to not making mistakes.  This year mistakes kept many favorites off the podium and into the DNF column.  I got lucky with traffic, ferries, hotel rooms and weather all of which allowed me to ride a virtually mistake free if not very casual rally.  I know I feel much better having used my experience and limited skills for the hug and a 31st than if I had gone for the win and ended up 30th.  The difference between 10th and 30th can come down to one receipt.

I got scored with little stress.  I didn't pay too much attention to my final score other than I was pretty sure it was good enough to be a finisher.  It wasn't until they started reading the results that I got nervous.  I figured my score would put me in the bottom third, so when they got to 35th I started to get concerned, then they finally called me at 31st!

One thing I've always said is once the banquet is over nobody cares how you did in the rally, only if you finished.  Since the rally I've run into folks who have offered up congratulations to which I've replied  "What did I do?"   I think it shows how incredible the Iron Butt Rally seems to "normal" people and that only those of us who play the game can really appreciate the accomplishment of those who finished in the top ten or on the podium.  While I know what it takes to win the IBR, I also I know I don't have it and I salute the riders who do.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Leg Three

Leg Three

There are certain types of bonuses that I prefer.  These are generally isolated or so incredibly obvious (a lightship for example) that they are easy to find.  Even better is when there is parking available where I can hang my flag on the case for a quick stop; producing a wonderful points per minute figure along with a nice rush.

Somewhere much lower on the list are markers in parks or a cemetery.  This can be a time sink but it is all part of the game; as in make one wrong turn while walking around and you might read 20 markers instead of 5.  This was where I found myself shortly after leaving the checkpoint, in a public park looking for a bronze plaque.  This was after my first bonus which I found with no problem, except when I went to insert my leg three memory card in my camera.  When I turned the camera on it asked if I wanted to format the card.  No, No and for the love of God No!, so I traded that request for a message indicating a "card error."  I powered off the camera, removed and reinserted the card, did a little itguy chant and turned the camera on.

Card Error.

I have to say that unlike the well discussed Old Faithful meltdown I remained remarkably calm.  

I did one more itguy chant along with a second reboot and the card worked.  This was good because while I am sure there was some way to deal with the issue and lose a bunch of points I had no idea what it was and I sure as hell didn't want to call the Rallymaster to ask.

Earlier that morning I awoke feeling refreshed.  Not quite full of piss and vinegar but awake, alert and excited to get going on the final leg.  Before the rider's meeting IBA President Mike Kneebone entered the room and requested that every rider who visited a specific bonus to form a single file line in the hall.

This is never good.  It can mean there was a problem with the bonus.  Each rider was going to have a meeting with the top guy and for some it could quickly turn into a really bad time, depending on the circumstances.  This also delayed the release of the books.  For the last 7 days I'd been making daylight bonuses by under 30 minutes so I commented to the folks at the table that we were losing time.  Considering it was the longest leg of the rally I was doing this to poke a little fun more than anything else, after all the wait as the same for everyone plus I wasn't one of the guys standing in the hall.

When Mike Kneebone entered the banquet room he was not happy.  The issue at the bonus involved people trying to get a cog train to start early and when it did one rider apparently jumped off after getting his photo.   So that's what the game is coming to.  Not only is it cheating but it's really dumb.  Perhaps it's just rose colored glasses for the past but the thought of jumping off a train is completely alien to me or anyone I've ever seen in the rally.   We did the rally for the thrill of it and the challenge of being a finisher.  I could go on about how this was before fuel injection and computers, when men were men and distance was measured either by string or cigarette butts however this would imply that the modern technology somehow makes it easier.   I imagine the 29 riders who did not finish would disagree, however it is different.  Earlier riders had to combat fatigue, mechanical gremlins, crappy headlights and darker roads.  Modern riders continue to combat fatigue (but they seem to lose more) and techno confusion brought on as the game has evolved.  Yesterday's game required the ability to adjust a carb to make it up Pikes Peak (which was dirt) whereas today one must be proficient in loading up a point and shoot GPS while processing a bonus list quickly. Jumping off trains and racing around car dealerships does us no good.  Additionally if people start getting that competitive against each other then I fear the fun of the game will be harder to find.  Part of the thrill of the rally is seeing another rider at a bonus and sharing a little "intel." about what kind of evilness the rallymaster has in store for us.  I hope that I never enter an event where we can't say hello and have the rider on their way out give the rider on their way in a little tip on satisfying the requirements of the bonus.

People have asked me what we get for finishing. "A plaque" is my answer and when they ask what does the winner get I say "A bigger plaque."   I'd hate to be the guy who jumped off a train or tried to cheat for a bigger plaque.

I don't remember exactly what time it was when we were told we could open our bonus packages for the third leg.  Through the process of elimination I had a map file with all the bonuses that had not been used highlighted and had reviewed it before the meeting.  This showed all the locations in British Columbia along with two in Alaska that were unreachable. I had told my wife before the checkpoint that I was definitely not going to Alaska but I really wanted to go to Vancouver and B.C. if I could make the points work.

At this point it became obvious to me that the rallymaster had made a terrible mistake. The problem with going north was that each bonus needed to be worth about 15% more.  Not only was there no obvious play north but with daylight restrictions, ferry routes and sunsets at close to 10pm it was quite a puzzle.  I loved it.  I had banked some extra points on each leg and I took it on faith that if I found the magic string the northern route would not only be fun but I would easily get enough points to be a finisher.

The games in your head are one of the beauties of the Iron Butt Rally and one of the things the rallystaff does very well.  Consider that you're given a book with 50 or so locations spread over most of North America and you have as much time as you want to think about the many ways you can try to solve the traveling salesman's problem, or how to get as many points utilizing the most efficient route possible.   If this isn't enough one can then think about the people who set up the rally.  They wouldn't put BC in unless it would work, would they?

This is classic leg three stuff.  It looks like it should work, by all accounts it makes sense but by golly it sure does look like there are more points to be had on the "vanilla" route along the southern border.

I shrugged it off because I had already decided before seeing the book that I wanted to go north yet I was mildly disapointed that the points were not there.  I felt the southern route would be easier in terms of collecting points but the heat could be tough.  The big challenge with going north was what to do for the third day.  If you went for maximum points you could find yourself having to ride close to 3000 miles in the last 48 hrs of the rally; one thing I was sure of is I didn't want to have to finish the rally with a BBG (Bun Burner Gold / 1500 miles in 24hrs) as I did in 2005.  I had to decide between trying to move up or ride where I wanted to go.

My magic number for this leg was 22,746.  That was the number of points I would need to collect to reach 60,000 points which was what we were told would be the minimum number of points to be considered a finisher.   I felt pretty confident I could continue to ride the way I'd been riding and come up with 23,000 points.

 Between the minimum rest, the call in bonus and the tracking bonus I could count on 5920 points leaving me 16,826 necessary to be a finisher.  These numbers probably would have been good to know while planning my leg. 

I had my outline of a plan and set off.  Little did I know that some of the top ten riders were also taking it on faith and also heading north, however they went to San Francisco first.  While it worked out well for me, it didn't work out well for folks who were paying attention to their results.  Every rider in the top ten who went north dropped a spot or two.  I dropped three, more on that later.

After finding the marker I started north.  It was hot and I was starting to have serious doubts about my plan to ride north.   The more I looked at it and the more I thought about it the more I realized the points just were not there.  I also started to consider how much time ferries can take plus I didn't have the schedules sorted out.  I decided to pull over for gas (early) and try to make a decision.  I decided to turn around.  I was "only" 100 miles north of Sacramento and I was thinking it was better to admit a big mistake now than in five days.

Before I got one exit south I got cranky.  One thing I planned on not doing was spinning in circles while trying to make a decision and here I was moving up and down the same stretch of highway.

I turned around again and went back to the same gas station.  For the first time on the clock I looked at the internet.  I also punched in a route into the Zumo and low and behold it showed me a ferry that was not shown on Street Atlas or the BC Ferry website.

The Zumo and me, we have a funny relationship.  For navigation when compared to any previous generation of GPS, the Zumo comes up painfully short.  As a point and shoot GPS it's very good.  I call mine the entertainment center as my primary use is for satellite radio, weather and the laugh that comes from watching it repeatedly state that that a four lane road with malls and stoplights will be faster than the interstate three blocks to the west.

This time the Zumo came through.  I motored north, still a bit concerned that I hadn't seen any signs of other riders.  It was also very hot with temps indicated in the high 90's.   I was so happy to have my cooler.  For the first time I decided I was going to carry a cooler on the rally and I am so happy I did.  This was part of my casual approach and desire to be comfortable.  There's nothing like a cold shot of something other than water at a bonus or when getting gas.  Being able to carry it on the bike encouraged me to stay hydrated and saved me a bunch of time and money.  It was also set up so I could reach back and get a cold bottle of juice.  I had a pair of climbers chalk bags on my tank bag to use as food and beverage holders.  Intake on the left, garbage on the right.

Plus there's nothing like a cold bottle of beer after a long day of riding.

I continued on thinking that at the very least I was going to be out of the heat soon.  I just wasn't mentally prepared for serious heat.   I was getting tired and quite happy to be closing in on Mt. Shasta.  It's the first mountain with snow, which for an east coast guy is a visual treat.  It's also a point where the interstate rises enough so the air cools off, in this case as much as 20 degrees.  I decided this would be an excellent spot for an afternoon nap so I pulled over, found some shaded grass and slept like a baby for 35 minutes.

In most motorcycling circles The Eisenhower Interstate System is referred to as "The Slab" which is short for Super Slab.  It is not a term of endearment, however out west the slab can actually be quite enjoyable.  The pavement is better, the scenery is incredible and often geological features will force the slab to be anything but straight, flat and boring.

It was in such a section of the slab that I encountered the Big Silver Mercedes.

I really don't think I was going *that* fast and in reality I wasn't but as I came up on this big Benz the driver was waving and fist pumping and gyrating all the hell over the place.  I was amazed he wasn't weaving all over the road but the Mercedes was tracking straight and true.  He must have popped for the "autodrive" feature.  I approach with almost extreme caution, the last thing I need is some  homicidal one-percenter knocking me into a ravine when I realize he is waving at me to go faster. Then I notice the only blemish on the Big Silver Mercedes is an Iron Butt Rally plate frame.

Giving me the big thumbs up was none other the Bill Watt along with Maura Gatensby.  Bill hails from Vancouver, is a wonderful guy and the architect of the Trains Planes and Automobiles theme; Both Bill and Maura are rally veterans and were helping out at the checkpoint.  I think Bill was so happy to see me because it meant that at least one rider was going north.

We exchanged pleasantries and I motored on.

Bill you'll always be number one in my book

Speaking of Bill Watt, he spent close to six years setting up this rally and collected over 500 great locations for us to visit.  As a rallymaster I can tell you that 500 bonuses is about 350 too many but the result was we got the best of the best.  The effort that went into putting together this rally was impressive to say the least.  A big reason why I was going north was because in addition to just wanting to I was counting on something special courtesy of Mr. Watt.

Finally I got to Oregon and headed west to the coast and the Columbia lightship which is now part of a museum near Astoria.  I wasn't going to make the other daylight bonuses that would take me through Seattle so I changed my plan to head to Port Angeles to get a room and await the first boat across to Victoria.

After bagging the photo of the lightship I ran into Paul Pelloquin at a gas station.  We said hello and had a quick chat about our plans for the next 24 hours.  I always enjoy meeting another rider and chatting about how it's going, the weather or where we're headed.  In this case it was getting dark and we determined we were both planning on riding the same ferry in the morning so we decided to ride together to Port Angeles.  In true rally fashion this led to our sharing a room.

I should have asked him if he snores.

 The next morning we made the boat with plenty of time to spare and were joined by Greg and Pat Blewett on their Gold Wing and a gaggle of other riders on random sport bikes.  I had a great nap on the ferry and I was able to get some 5 minute epoxy to address a small weep from my aux tank.

I was asked how I could possibly sleep so well on a ship with all the vibration and noise.  I remarked that it was like going home; I love sleeping to the constant hum of a big diesel and no matter how sound asleep I am if the motors were to stop I always wake up.  I thought about this while I was riding and figure it must have something to do with why I love the boxer twin so much and I find inline fours and sixes so bland.

We got off the fist boat with 45 minutes to get across Vancouver Island to the other boat while stopping to photograph a helicopter for almost 6,000 points.  While it sounded close Mr. Watt didn't disappoint and it was easy to do with a minimum of fuss.  It was while waiting for the second boat that traveling with other riders who happen to be medical professionals came in very handy as my earbud came apart, leaving me with the cone stuck in my ear.  I had the pliers and Greg had the skills to save the day.  I wish I had a photo of him going at my ear with my muti-tool.  We were also joined on the second boat by John Coons.  It's always good to have a top ten rider show up, it makes one feel wicked smart.

90 minutes after boarding we were off the boat and headed into downtown Vancouver to photograph another Big Boy Locomotive.  My plan was to head to the Northeast the others were going south.

It would be difficult if not impossible for me to describe the day I had after leaving downtown. I took the TCH to Malawaka, then over to PH95 and down to Cranbrook for the night.  The scenery is stunning in every direction, the roads follow the rivers and speeds are high.  This was the money day of the rally and I had a ball.

For this rally the rest bonuses worked out very well for me.  They would have a requirement to start anytime on a specific calendar day and if you started it before midnight you could include time to the next morning.  Rather than define the amount of rest time we were given a point per minute value.  To claim the bonus we were required to get a computer generated receipt with a time stamp to start the rest and another to end it, with the two receipts ideally coming from the same place, if not they can be a reasonable distance apart.  I took advantage of this by getting a start receipt at as close to 00:00hrs, sleeping my planned amount and then getting another start receipt as close to but not after 23:59.  Whichever rest turned out longer was the one I claimed.  For leg three this meant I could claim either the five or so hours I was sharing a room with Paul or the close to six hours I got in Cranbrook.  Over the first two days of the third leg I got 11hrs in bed and a 30 minute afternoon nap to boot.  That should be good for a golden pillow award.

When we were on the boat we all broke out our various tablets and laptops to plan.  The problem was points, time and mileage.  We had plenty of time, not enough points and depending on how many points you wanted a big helping of mileage.  I figured I'd motor east, see what I could get out of the Chicago string and then mop up low hanging fruit near the finish.  While Paul and John were not going to Cranbrook because it was too far from other points I figured that if I went there I'd arrive just before midnight and get some sleep next to big points.  I reasoned that no matter what direction I go I'll be ready for my nap at midnight anyway, why not say in BC just a little longer and sleep near points was good enough for me.

I exited BC into Montana.  Montana... What can I say other than Montana rocks.  Speed limit signs full of bullet holes and "Reasonable and Prudent" still carries the day, especially off the interstate.  There's a special feeling of being alive when riding two lane blacktop with closing speeds of 180 or more with a dually towing a fifth wheel horse trailer.  Yippie ki ya...  I stayed off the slab, did my best to beat the heat and made great time east.

As I made my way east I started to get optimistic that I could run the string from Superior Wisconsin down to a cemetery in Chicago, with a swing by Sparta, Wisconsin and the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.  The cemetery closed with locked gates at 5pm SHARP (emphasis from the rallybook) so it was a day with little slack, so little that when I went into a Subway sandwich shop at lunch I couldn't wait in line.  If I had I would not have run the string as I made it out of the cemetery with under 10 minutes to spare.

From there it was into downtown Chicago to photograph the sign indicating the beginning of Route 66.  I wonder if the rallymaster knew about the street festival that closed 8 square blocks near the start of Rt. 66. Good times.

It is now close to 6pm, it's hot and I'm in downtown Chicago with approximately 500 miles and 13 hours of rally left.  If I'd been anywhere else I probably would have found a nice patch of grass and taken a good nap, instead I joined the hordes of commuters heading south and grabbed some more points in Dyer, Indiana.

In Dyer I stopped at a large gas station / convenience store, my favorite kind of place.  I felt like my rally was complete, I had a good ride, a great time and all I needed to do was ride 430 miles in the next 12 or so hours so I relaxed a bit.  I found myself talking to a bunch of men who claimed to be riders; I was a little put off on the number of guys coming over to comment, then I took a good look at my bike.  It was a mess. Between the bugs and flies of British Columbia and the 20 miles of fresh chip seal in Montana my bike looked like hell.  I hadn't showered or attempted any meaningful hygiene since the checkpoint nor had I checked a mirror but I figured I probably didn't look much better than the bike.  I went down the street and other than at the second checkpoint ate my first meal at rest since the start of the rally.  All in all I spent a little over an hour in Dyer.

Over the years the last 12 or 24hrs of the Iron Butt Rally have defined the top riders.  From not getting a six pack of soda to mechanical failure 100 miles from the finish the last 12hrs of the rally is a great place to witness the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.  Often there are some easy bonus points to be found within a few hours of the hotel, often it will require riding past the hotel to get more points.  Mid pack and the weak throw in the towel as soon as they can smell the barn, others like my friend the late Eddie James will ride right up to the last possible minute.

I had spent a lot of time in the rally thinking of Eddie and how in 2005 when we both realized how far we had to go to the finish we split tracks with me making it back with two hours to spare and Eddie coming in with about 10 minutes left and 2000 more points.  I decided to give one more nod to Eddie.  I'd go past the hotel and run down some points along the PA turnpike by visiting the rest stops and making a purchase.

But first I felt a little nap would be in order.

Nap completed I ran the turnpike and passed the hotel at about 1am.  The rallymaster had mentioned they'd have the checkpoint open at 4 so it would be downright embarrassing to get there three hours before that so I started down the turnpike.  Each rest stop represented 125 or 200 additional miles and I had seven hours before the penalty window.  I thought I could get two or even three however to get the third I'd have to be able to use the employee lot which is connected to the local roads.  This could save close to 120 miles.  While you can't drive from the employee lot to the pumps you could walk to the convenience store, or so I hoped but in this post 9/11, homeland security world the rest areas are surrounded by high fencing, barbed wire, video cameras and you need a swipe card to walk from the employee lot.

Ah nuts, time for another nap.  For this nap for the first time in the rally I went for the quick and uncomfortable Iron Butt Motel style spot on a wrought iron bunch that was too short and too narrow.  After about 10 minutes I said to myself "you've been relaxing and living to be comfortable for the entire rally, why change it up now for 200 more points and by the way who are you going to beat and does it matter?"

Indeed.  So I got up and rode to the finish.

The finish

Monday, July 22, 2013

The bike

The bike

The Iron Butt Rally can be very hard on a bike. From taking Sport Tourers down goat paths to running an over-loaded dual sport on western interstate the rally offers plenty of opportunities to make a new motorcycle old in only a little over a week.

Fortunately I had no significant mechanical issues during the rally.  I used an acceptable amount of motor oil and the only challenge was a weep from a fitting on my auxiliary fuel tank.  I addressed this on the ship using some 5-minute epoxy I begged from one of the crew.  Sailors care for their own  and they were happy to help.  My biggest frustration was the fresh chip seal I enjoyed for 20 or so miles in Montana.  It got everywhere and made a bike that started the rally with around seven thousand miles look like an old wreck.

Eww.  This was the last night.  I didn't look much better.

The bike is a 2012 BMW R1200 GS Adventure.  The Adventure model comes with a little taller suspension, crash bars, aluminum panniers, fog lights, upgraded wind protection and best of all a large (8.9) gallon fuel tank.

This is the bike I love to ride.

That's important because to enjoy the Iron Butt Rally you have to love your bike.  I've heard it said that the best rally bike is one you love enough to ride for 11 days but not so much you're unwilling to take a drill to the fairing.  Fortunately I found a way to ride a bike I love too much to butcher *and* the bike is a perfect platform for the rally with very few modifications.

My goals for the bike were reasonably simple and in no particular order.

Post rally daily rider

For the issues above I addressed comfort with a custom seat from Rocky Mayer.  This is actually a seat he made for a previous GS which I would not sell with the bike.  It won't go with this one either.  I also added a removable Touratech locking windscreen spoiler.  I chose this one because it is removable.

Between the seat I already had and the spoiler I made the bike almost LT like for interstate work *and* I didn't have to spend a ton of cake!

Auxiliary lights were ordered from Future Vision, FV90's to be precise.

Everything else was simple and bolted on or plugged into existing mounts.  The fuel tank required the removal of the adventure rack (a rather heavy item) with the tank using the same mounts for a very clean installation.   The storm case is mounted to the top of the tank.  The tablet is on a custom mount that clamps around the handlebars.

As an aside some might say extra fuel on a bike that already holds almost 9 gallons is silly, however I was usually getting fuel with between .2 and .5 gallons remaining so the extra capacity directly translated in to stopping less.

Electrically the only additions were the connection for the HID lights for which BMW provides taps and the installation of a Curt Gran FUZEBLOCK under the seat.  There are a few sources on the GS for switched power, one was tapped for the FUZEBLOCK.  One switched 30amp circuit off the FUZEBLOCK fed the equipment in the storm case.  This included the power supply for the tablet, six USB sockets (not all used) phone and camera battery chargers.  There were two wires into the case.  The GPS units were wired to a factory connection and were switched.  One benefit of this design is there were only two additional rings on the positive terminal of the battery and four connections to BMW plugs. There are no splices or cuts to the wiring harness anywhere on the bike.

I had mentioned that the bike I rode in the rally would be returned to stock trim as a "woods weapon" and that's I'd be in the woods with it the weekend after the rally.

It took a few days and I'm still not done but on Thursday I posted a the photo below.

The rear wheel has been cleaned of the chip seal, front has not.  I think you can see the difference.
True to form I did get into the woods over the weekend however it wasn't on this bike.  For reasons not completely known, I spent Friday riding a new water boxer, rode K16GT home friday night, only to return with the GT Saturday morning to grab my GS Adventure Hack (sidecar) and take *that* for a few hundred miles including a jaunt down a class IV road in the woods of New Hampshire, but as they say that's a story for a different campfire.

 The dealer behind the bike

It's not possible, nor would it be polite for me to talk about the bike without mentioning the dealer who makes it all possible; after all I'm still buying new BMW's even after 2007 and it isn't because a member of the Quandt family sent me a Christmas card.

Ergo my dealer must be pretty good.

I met Max Stratton of MAX BMW MOTORCYCLES on day 7 of my first Iron Butt Rally.  I had crashed outside of Moab, Utah and done quite a bit of damage to my bike.  Because of the crash I made it to the checkpoint with less miles than I expected and decided not to get tires.  At the time there was a guy known as the Tire Nazi doing mobile tire service.  We had a deal, him and me that I could call him from the rally and he'd meet me "anywhere."

I called him on my way north and he told me "anywhere" had to be off I-95 south of DC as he was heading to Florida for a girl.  As an aside I'm not sure if we ever saw him in New England since, he was a true flash in the pan.

Now my tire plan is blown.  Thanks to being an early adopter to the cell phone in the helmet I made a bunch of calls and had a buddy meet the Tire Nazi for a rear off his truck, go to my house for a front and meet me.  The question was where?  I was too close and would be too late if I used my regular dealer in Rhode Island and I wanted to avoid Boston if possible.

Max had been open just under a year in North Hampton, NH as the area's first exclusive modern BMW corporate endorsed store.   I called and heard the party line from a service manager that didn't want to get involved in doing something "today" with tires he didn't sell, spewing bullshit about insurance and crap.  I played every card in the deck and told him that I'm quite confident that after I speak with this Max fellow we'll be good to go.

Upon arrival my buddy took over, separating myself from the hysterical service dude who was pissed that his boss had never actually heard of me, yet told him to help.  He was pissed at me for getting pissed at him as after his initial rant I said, screw it we'll to go Gorham, to which he replied "you can't leave."    I doubt to this day the service writer has any idea how close to death by mugabmo he was.   Peter guided me to a patch of grass, pointed and said sleep.  Every time the mechanic wanted to wake me up to tell me yet another reason why my bike should be put in the dumpster out back he guided him back to his lift. This was a great example of having the right friend at the right time, the 'Shagger was able to convince all parties of what needed to happen now, even if they didn't necessarily agree.

Max arrives and inquires about the dead guy on the lawn.  I wake up, we're introduced and I tell Max all about the Iron Butt Rally.  His reply was to ask me if I'd like a shower.  Short of a steak and some showgirls at that moment in time there was nothing that could possibly top a shower.  Turns out Max races almost anything with wheels and a motor so he took to the idea of riding bikes for 11 days immediately.  He's also smart enough to consider the benefits of multiple customers riding their bikes 11k in 11 days although for this he'd need a bigger lawn.

I arrived to the Maine checkpoint on a motorcycle that shouldn't be there, looking like I had not a care in the world.  IBR scribe Bob Higdon's first question to me was "What are you doing here?"

From 2003.  Big antennas and mustache.

Since meeting Max I've had even more fun on two wheels.   From building LD Rally bikes,  racing HP2's, vintage in the woods, Rally Moto and simply having a great time with my wife and friends on motorcycles MAX BMW MOTORCYCLES has been am amazing shop to work with.

Since their start over a decade ago MAX BMW MOTORCYCLES has grown to be the premier BMW dealer in the Northeast.  With locations in New Hampshire, New York and Connecticut and a fleet of Sprinter van MAX BMW is the place to go for all things BMW Motorcycle.

But wait, there's more!  If you're a fan of LD Riding in New England, Max is for you.  He sponsors the Minuteman 1000, a really neat 24hr rally, a new 10hr ride and a bunch more.

Visit Max's website or sign up for his E-Rider on his events page.

Thanks Max!


Leg Three

Thursday, July 18, 2013

CP2: Oh Captain, My Captain

Oh Captain, My Captain

The Iron Butt Rally is designed to be a test of the rider and machine.  In the early days of of the rally simply getting a motorcycle to the finish with three mandatory stops along the way was was an achievement worthy of being a finisher.  This was known as a base route ride.  As motorcycle design has progressed to the point where spooling off Saddle Sore 1000's for 11 days on the interstate is no big deal the organizers dropped a checkpoint and made the requirement to be a finisher points based rather than on miles ridden.  This eliminated the ability to ride a base route.  As in almost every Iron Butt Rally held, the degree of difficulty along with the point values go up in the final leg.  With this in mind I was determined to have a good stay at the second checkpoint.

Get scored, attend to bike, get sleep.

A few hours before arriving at the second checkpoint I was feeling pretty good.  I was starting to see other riders and that's always good for a boost. This is when I started to worry about getting stuck in a scoring que and tried to do a "splash and go" for a fuel stop.  A "splash and go" is a short tank, filling the main tank until the trigger pops.  No aux fill and no top off.  Because I was running a tracking device I did not need to keep a fuel log.  For the second leg I went all in on this bonus and didn't bother keeping receipts for fuel.

Other than costing me 30 minutes looking for my whiz bang super speedy gas cap that both my wife and dealer told me I'd loose it was a great idea.

While I looked for a small black cap that I heard pling off the bike at speed I had plenty to time to remind myself that it's really easy to be stupid on the IBR.  Thankfully it happened at a time and place where the potential to minimize the impact of my dope move was very high as one of my last stops for points was to be A&S BMW.

I made an intermediate stop and rolled into A&S as the mechanic as getting ready to leave.  They were open on this Sunday afternoon by appointment for IBR riders who needed tires and service.  While they didn't have an aftermarket cap they did have a '12 GSA on the floor.  I heard the bike telling me to take anything I needed.  The mechanic heard it too and before the GM could come up with a reason not to help me out the fuel cap assembly and an ignition key to the bike was in my hand and my card was on the table.  It's not rallying if you're not ready to throw down a VISA card before hearing the balance.

Back on my way to the checkpoint I was ready to reveal my secret weapon, my ace in the hole or more to the point a complete stranger I recruited off the Internet.  Adventure Rider to be specific.  Three weeks before the rally.  The rider's version of speed dating

On the 18th of June I sent the following request to "Capt. Ron."

Good morning,

I saw your gracious offer of help to a rider in the upcoming Iron Butt Rally and I'm wondering if I could also ask for a little assistance.

Specifically I need a friend I can ship a set of wheels to.  Ideally this friend would receive the wheels and bring them to the hotel on the afternoon of the 7th along with a torque wrench and if possible a small jack.

If you could help out I would be grateful and gladly send you a nice bottle of your favorite hooch or perhaps some genuine real Vermont maple syrup.

My direct email is xxxxxxxxxxx and my phone is 401 xxx-xxxx

Thanks very much.

- Rob Nye

A rider couldn't ask for a better "pit stop."  Also another example of my keeping fine company.

That PM generated a welcome station the envy of riders near and far.   After the first checkpoint I was a little less inhibited about asking for help and Ron delivered.  It went from "Did the tires arrive?" to "Are you any good with a wrench?" about halfway from Pike's Peak.  Thanks to Ron I was able to sit and prepare for scorning while he changed both wheels and replaced a bulb on my GS.   This was a vast improvement from the first checkpoint and I got scored with no issues and even managed to get a plate of food.  I even moved up a few spots in the standings which I sort of expected.  I figured my float level for the rally was in the mid 20's or so and if I kept riding error free and executing my plans I'd be ok.

Leg 2 as ridden.

In addition to painless scoring and the excellent service on the bike I got to spend a few minutes with some of my LD Riding friends from the west.  It was great to get a high five and chat with you guys and gals; thanks for coming out.  I can't say I blame you for never coming east of Denver.

I had looked forward to the California checkpoint.  I love riding in the west, I have some great friends to visit and if I do it right I'll be ready for the final leg which I figured will be the best riding of the rally.  I felt that if rested I could make a choice, ride hard for points and see how much I could move up or go for a great ride.  I was hoping one could combine the two; as I drifted off to sleep I looked forward to getting the book in almost 8 hours.


The Bike

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The second leg

The Second Leg

The Leg 2 book was distributed at 06:00 on Friday the 5th of July.

We had until 20:00 hrs PST on Sunday July 7th to present ourselves at a Marriott hotel in Rancho Cordova, California.  If you left the hotel the second you got the book and took the direct route you'd have 65 hrs to do 2,465 miles.  This would require an overall rate of advance of 38 mph, which is quite sedate.

Most riders will have an anticipated mileage for each leg of the rally.  The variable is the overall rate of advance or VMG (velocity made good).  In my case I use 47 to 48 mph, so my potential mileage cap is right around 3100 miles.  With the straight line route taking almost 80% of my potential mileage it became clear that something like a repeat of Key West would be a sucker play.  Leg 2 was shaping up to be what I'd call a Squadron Run, with everyone staying mostly to the same route with timing and options making the difference.  I also felt that given the nature of the leg the rally would follow tradition and there would be plenty of opportunities to gain spots on the final leg, if one was ready to go when they got the final book.

One thing I was not ready to do when I got the second leg book was go.  For the first time in the rally I needed an alarm to wake up and I was a bit groggy.  I tried to sleep as late as possible so the bike was not packed.  Other than change the tire I didn't do any of the housekeeping items I had planned, however none were super critical.  I digitized the book and went upstairs to plan my leg.

Leg 2 Bonuses 

One great thing about color coding the waypoints is it can help identify strings or clusters.  In this case the green flags are the Pony Express bonuses and the four red flags in Colorado represent Pike's Peak and a few others.  While the front runners were ready to go I was thinking a mid-day nap under a tree would be fantastic.  I figured the Pony Express combo wasn't for me so I headed west planning on the easy stuff with an arrival to Colorado early the next day.

Did I mention I blew the checkpoint?  I did all sort of little stuff wrong and didn't get my electronic files set up properly.  I got my first few bonuses, then found myself at the Air Force museum spending almost 30 minutes for 100 points.  This was no way to rally so I took another 15 minutes, got my plan back on track and continued west.

The Race is On

Now the race is on and here comes pride up the back stretch
Heartaches are going to the inside
My tears are holding back, trying not to fall
My heart's out of the running
True love's scratched for another's sake
The race is on and it looks like heartaches
And the winner loses all

-lyrics by Don Rollins

Much has been written about the Iron Butt rally as being a race.  I have said it's not a race until you're not on the bike. Since my first rally it seems people have really taken this a bit too seriously.   I noticed that there were some people who were ready to sprint to their motorcycle seconds after receiving the book.  Jim Owen made a quick departure the thing to do on his way to winning the IBR and the trend of using mostly time or daylight restricted  bonuses makes the idea of getting going quickly appealing, so long as one knows where to go.  Then there's the business of collecting bonus points.

Most bonuses will require a photograph of a specific object.  Sometimes this may be of a train at a specific stop, or a natural event such as a photo of Old Faithful.  For almost every photo your rally flag must also be in the photo and to further complicate the issue some photos require you to include your motorcycle in the picture, or if not possible to take a second photo with your bike.  On top of all this you may also be asked to return with a receipt or specific item too.

Like many riders I have a routine to make this process as efficient as possible.  Ideally I can park the bike just so, hang the flag on the bike and get a quick photo.  Log it in, close up the case and I am off to the next bonus.  Where things get a little trickier is when we're instructed to do something like ride a tram with specific open and closing hours.  One of the core rules of the rally if the book says something opens at 9 and you get there at 8:45 and it's open that you wait until 9 to take the picture.  It's also pretty clear that if the instructions state to ride a train, you must ride the train its entire length, not jump off as soon as you get your picture.  Apparently both events happened on Leg 2.

This gave me a chuckle and pissed me off.   If I planned a 600 to 750 mile day and I'll need to shave a minute or two by jumping off a train my chances of success are dim.  The IBR is about doing your best; at the end of the day your biggest competitor is yourself.  I've learned from experience getting all amped up because you're around other riders and now it's a "race" is a great way to loose not only points but important items (like a gas cap).   It pissed me off because we spend a huge amount of time explaining how we're not racing on public roads, which is true.  We set our routes based on what we feel we can accomplish and then try to execute it.  People who have been too ambitious spend more time talking to Law Enforcement than getting points.  People who jump off tourist trains reinforce the misconception that we race around at crazy speed for 11 days.  For the record I did this years rally with no radar detector and I received no tickets.  Lovely!

If you're inclined to enjoy yourself one of the real treats of riding the Iron Butt Rally is the rally book proper.  Not only does it contain the instructions but it will include a little bit of information on the location we're to visit.  The rally will have a theme, this year it was Trains, Planes and Automobiles.

Having the ability to search and read the rallybook on the tablet was a huge benefit, if not for my performance then my enjoyment of the rally.  While many were scribbling "chevy dealership, photo mural inside" or such on an index card I was able to read the actual book, over and over.  Here's the listing for the "Chevy dealership"

HCD 204 points
Hare Chevrolet
2001 Stoney Creek Road
Noblesville IN
40.03023 -85.9982
Mon - Thur. 9:00 am - 8:00 pm,
Fri - Sat 9:00 am - 6:00 pm

The United States longest-lived family-owned vehicle retailer Hare Chevrolet has been
in business for over 160 years, giving them the title of the "Nations Oldest Transportation
Company". The saga began in 1847 when Wesley Hare started building wagons,
carriages and buggies out of his log cabin in Noblesville, Indiana. His primary market
was the steady stream of Americans heading west to California to pan for gold.
Take a photo of a portion of the 90-foot long mural inside the dealership depicting the
company's journey.

Here I am riding my motorcycle all over North America and I'm going to stop in at the "Nation's Oldest Transportation Company."  How cool is that?  As I arrive it's just like I imagined; a big Chevy store in the heartland.  I walk in and ask the receptionist if they mind if I take a few photos.  As I unwind a small crowd gathers and the ladies excitedly tell me "You're in FOURTH PLACE!"

I said it isn't a race to which they replied that from the way the first three acted it sure seemed like one.  I really felt like a tortoise at that point, with the hares racing ahead while I chatted with the son of the current owner.  I asked if along the way any of the sons had six daughters before a son.  This got a chuckle and the explanation that & Sons part of the company had been dropped a few generations ago but it was still family owned.

Hare Chevrolet

From Hare I headed west, taking an interesting route that avoided Indianapolis and St. Louis putting me a few hours east of Colorado Springs for some quality rest.

My sleep plan for the rally was simple.  Get plenty of it.  Don't make stupid routing mistakes, forget my flag or break the bike.  The clock doesn't stop for any of these issues so when they happen the first thing to go is time to sleep.  More sleep = more fun.

Another concept I embraced is while you cannot bank sleep you can conserve energy so I worked on being efficient and not getting worked up over the issue of the moment.  I burned a lot of unnecessary energy at the checkpoint and I didn't want to repeat it.

Like the choice of the bike itself sleep and rest are topics that few two riders approach the same way.  For some a series of short power naps broken up by the rest bonuses and time at the checkpoints is plenty, with sleep found on benches, tables and for some, even on the parked motorcycle.  Having done it the hard way I decided that I was going to use hotels more often than not, get at least 5hrs in a bed and allocate the time for one mid-day power nap if necessary.

To accomplish this every evening at around sunset I'd figure out where I was going to be in a few hours.  I'd select a budget priced hotel and give them a call.  Once we'd get over the less than perfect connection you can expect from making a call on a bike I'd get a reservation for a ground floor room as close to the desk as possible with a promise to hold it until I arrived.  I'd explain I was on a bike and couldn't get to a credit card so they'd hold it on a verbal agreement.  This worked great, I was usually off the bike and in a room quite quickly.  When combined with the long days I was able to reduce my time riding in absolute darkness to a minimum which worked out to under three hours per day.

I made it to Pike's Peak a little later than I would have liked.  It was Saturday morning and everyone and their brother wanted to ride to the top.  There was quite a line to the toll.  Too much heat, too much incline and too much traffic meant that caring for the bike was the major concern.  There was a Vespa club that was running to the top, however down here there were Vespas along the side of the road at every turn.  Apparently every Vespa with a rider greater than 200lbs was having clutch issues.  Go figure.  While in line I got passed by a two up couple, they bullied their way to the front and I decided to drop in behind.  The set a great example of how to be "from out of town."  From the que to go up the hill to getting a beer at the finish party they come from a land where they have even less tolerance for waiting than a Gingerbomb from New England.  Cutting the beer line?  Really?

It's all in good fun, while their passing was limited to the parking lot I enjoyed a good ride up the hill getting to the summit while the train was unloading.  14,000 feet of elevation on day 6 was getting to me a bit so I got my second photo, closed up and headed down.  I received quite a nice hello wave from a ranger along the way,then saw my new friends clutching along behind a pickup truck at about 10mph.  Satisfaction indeed.

The train at the summit of Pike's Peak

I snagged the other red flags in the Denver area and went north to capture a photo of a really big locomotive.  I decided I was going to maximize the rest bonus so I splurged for a room at a Hampton Inn for 7 hours of high thread count bliss.

I awoke feeling pretty darn good for the morning of day 7 of the Iron Butt Rally.  It's a reasonably direct shot to the checkpoint and I have all day to do it.  Before going to sleep I decided I might add in the Golden Spike Bonus, this is the location where the transcontinental railroad was joined.   It is a small National Forest Service monument with a few buildings located in the middle of nowhere, Utah.  It opened at 9 and I arrived around 8:20, giving me plenty of time for a nap.  Todd and Dianne LeClair rolled in a short time later so we had a nice visit before taking our photos.  It was great to see them as they were doing very well and made me feel like perhaps I wasn't being a complete dope with my routing.

As I approached the check point there were still a few bonuses to get, one being the monument on Donner Pass.  I started seeing more riders and got caught up in the race mentality enough that I made a critical mistake.

One of the modifications I made to my bike was to remove the stock BMW (keyed) gas cap and replace it with a threaded cap.  Both my wife and my dealer said I better tether it or carry a spare or I'd loose it.  Sure enough in Tahoe I forgot to screw it in and while I heard it fall 30 minutes of searching didn't fine it.  Doh!  What a dope.  I was focused on getting to the CP early to avoid a repeat of Leg 1, but now I had to figure out a gas cap.  Fortunately for me A&S BMW was a bonus and I was able to talk than into giving me an assembly *and* key from a new bike they had on the floor.  Thanks A&S!

I also took the time between Tahoe and A&S to remind myself that it isn't a race and I am not competing against my friends.  We ride our best rides and get scored against each other's rides.  There is nothing you can do to change this, trying to shave 60 seconds or beat another rider to a bonus has no benefit, especially when it can lead to careless errors.


CP 2 

Oh Captain My Captain