Tuesday, July 30, 2019

1:Iron Butt Rally 2019 - The Focused Path

This series of posts will describe my experience with my rookie attempt at the 2019 edition of the Iron Butt Rally, an 11 day endurance scavenger hunt on a motorcycle.  Since my first taste of long distance (LD) riding back in 1985, I have been hooked on swinging my leg over a motorcycle and chasing the sun across the sky.  That first ride, from Lyons, CO to Ft. Worth, Tx aboard my beloved '83 Yamaha Venture, instilled the passion for seeing the most that I could see in just a single day.  It was on that run that my riding partner, Will Ferrick of Rider Magazine's Touring Association, introduced me to the Iron Butt Association.

Image result for iron butt logo

Only years later, and a couple of wives, did I finally make the effort to run my qualifying SaddleSore 1000 to become an official member of the Iron Butt Association, #42146.  Since that time, I had it in my mind to run the Iron Butt Rally but life always seemed to get in the way.  Fortunately, in 2016 my situation settled into a pattern where I could make an effort to qualify for the IBR.  2017 was out of the question so I set my sights on the 2019 edition.

I knew that the motorcycle that I was riding at the beginning of 2016 was not suited to the sport. I had used it in my first scavenger hunt rally, the Run for the Hills event in Kingsport, TN in October of 2015, and it was clear that a Triumph Rocket III was simply too large and used too much gas to be a competitive mount.  So in January 2016 I picked up a left over 15 model Triumph Trophy and proceeded to add all of the items (aka farkles) that a well equipped rally bike normally has.  It was a full 3 year project to get all of the farkles the way that I wanted them.

To qualify for selection to the IBR one has to build a riding and rally resume.  The 2016 season consisted of a focus on the Tour of Hour rides and building up on "cert" rides including several SaddleSore 1000 (1000 miles/24 hours) and a couple of BunBurner Gold (1500 miles/24 hours)  rides. For 2017 I switched my focus to scavenger hunt rides so I signed up for some of the "sprint" rallies including the Rock-n-Ride Rally and the Mason-Dixon 20/20 rally.  I scored a 2nd place finish in the RnR and a 5th place in the Mason-Dixon, a fantastic start for a rally rookie.

Since the checkpoints for the 2017 IBR were in Allen, TX, less than 40 miles from where I grew up, I made a point of being at the checkpoint to soak up information about what happens.  I was an awesome experience seeing the riders arrive.  At that point I was sure that I was ready and would throw my entry into the hat for the 2019 IBR a few months later.

It seemed like it was a really short time and the application window opened for entering the 2019 IBR.  With a silent prayer I clicked the Submit button and my entry was sent.  Now to wait...and wait...and.

On April 1st (yeah, April Fools Day) I was in the middle of a SS1000 ride for the Tour of Hour when a VIP email notification popped up on my phone.  A bit eager I opened the email while rolling down the highway.  I'm sure other motorists were surprised to see a fatboy jumping up and down on his motorcycle at 70 mph rolling down Interstate 81.  I'd been selected!!!

Now the fun really begins.  Although the rally would not be for another 14 months, I got started right away on my prep.  "Practice your routing method" was a mantra we received from the Rally Master Lisa Landry.

I also wanted to participate in as many other rallies as I could.  Next up was Rock-n-Ride 2018 followed shortly by the Mason-Dixon 20/20 over Memorial Day weekend.  The real test would be the Butt Lite IX rally based out of Lexington, KY in July.  It would be my first true multi-day rally as it is billed as the 6-day version of the IBR.  If we believe that you learn from your mistakes, boy I had a lot of lessons learned from Butt Lite.  Lastly in 2018 was the Void Rally based in my hometown of Fredericksburg, VA.

As 2019 rolled around, things started to get serious and more of my time was dedicated to rally prep.  My Father passed away in March which re-directed my attention for a while. Not a month later my Mother fell and broke her hip.  I'm grateful for my brothers and sister who were able to help her as I am 1200 miles away.  I was able to run Rock-n-Ride in April but had to sit out the Mason-Dixon 20/20 as my wife retired from the school system that weekend.

Retirement Party over, it was time to focus on me again says Karen.  I had just a few weeks to get things together and pack.  I sent out multiple emails at work instructing people to not call me because I would not answer.  Karen and I got wills, advance directives and powers of attorney signed off on.  I was ready to go.

6: Iron Butt Rally 2019 - Results and Aftermath

Finish Friday June 28

As one would expect most riders spent the day Friday sleeping after completing check in and scoring.  I know that I hadn't placed very high but I was good with that.  Finishing was this year's objective.  That evening everyone gathered in anticipation of the banquet where the results would be announced.

After a few announcements, Lisa Landry took the stage and began announcing the finishers.  In all there were 25 riders that DNF'd (Did Not Finish) which seems oddly high compared to recent IBRs.  It stood testament to the difficulty of this year's rally.  Finishers started with 71st place and as each rider was called, they would come forward to receive their finisher plaque and have a picture taken.  I was so happy to hear my name called in 55th place.  I'd done it and had the proof to show for it!!

IBR Finisher!

When it came time to recognize the Top 10 finishers, Route Master Jeff Earls took the stage and called forward the Top 10 riders in no particular order.  My good friend Steve Gallant and fellow Trophy rider Paul Meyer were both included along with long time big dawgs Jim Owen (2x winner), Eric Bray, and Wendy Crockett.  Paul was announced as the 8th place finisher followed by Jim Owen at 7th.  Eric Bray took 5th.  The question remained did Steve hold on to his lead position after Leg 1?  It wasn't meant to be.  Despite a massive Leg 2b run and a couple of missed bonus opportunities, Steve took 3rd place in his rookie season.  It was so awesome to be there and cheer his success.
Now there were only two, Mike Heitkamp and Wendy Crockett.  Excitement filled the air with the possibility of a first time female winner.  The room erupted in joy and ovation as history was made and Wendy Crockett secured the win with an epic final leg.  It was an honor to have witnessed history being made in our sport.

2019 IBR Winner Wendy Crockett and her Yamaha FJR

 The Day After - June 29

Saturday broke bright and sunny promising to make today's ride home a steamy affair.  Karen and I made our way downstairs for breakfast and farewells to the people that made this such a wonderful experience.  Karen's cough that she had had for 3 months was bothering her a bit more today.  And for the first time she expressed concern that she was having trouble catching her breath.  This allergy season had been particularly rough on her and she had already been through one round of antibiotics for bronchitis.

Packing up I bid farewell to my trusty old riding boots.  Karen had brought my other pair down to the finish so instead of stinking up the car, we just left them in the room.

I hopped on the bike and Karen started up her car and we hit the highway for the trip home.  It was mostly uneventful and we made it home safely.  Karen said that she was going to go back to the doc on Monday so we retired for the evening.

The Aftermath - June 30 and on

Waking up late Sunday morning we went out to breakfast and Karen was really having a hard time breathing.  She kept insisting that it was bronchitis due to her allergies.  I said enough is enough and we went to a nearby satellite emergency room associated with our main hospital.  The ER Doc came in and said her lungs were clear sounding, her BP and heart rates were good and that they were going to send her home with more antibiotics.  I spoke up and told Karen to tell the doctor about the pain she felt in her calf and her groin.  When I said that the doctor's eyes looked like saucers and immediately ordered sonograms and a CT scan.

A few hours went by as the tests were run and finally a nurse came in with a syringe. "Is that an antibiotic?"  Her reply was, "Oh no. You have a blood clot in your lung and this is heparin."  Shortly after the ER Doc came in and told us that Karen had blood clots in both lungs and up her right leg.  Double Pulmonary Embolism and Deep Vein Thrombosis, she called it.  She informed us that Karen was being immediately transferred by ambulance to the main hospital downtown and a cardiologist was waiting for her.

I jumped in the car and ran home to get some supplies for her hospital stay.  Arriving at the hospital they had her in the cardiology unit.

The next day Karen was wheeled down to the surgical unit for a catheterization procedure.  3 leads were inserted into her neck and run down into both lungs were a fairly new drug was used to break up the largest of the clots.  She spent 2 days in the Intensive Care Unit but as you can see she was in good spirits.

The Cardiologist who performed the procedure came in the day after surgery and explained to us that the one clot in her right lung should have killed her.  She was extremely lucky.

Obviously, the IBR was the furthest thing from my mind during this time.  As Karen jokingly said, "It was about her now that the IBR was over."  The rally, the trophy, the accolades meant nothing. Getting her well was the only priority.

After 3 days in the hospital Karen was able to walk out, a little sore, but well enough to walk out of the hospital.  I'm grateful to say that her recovery is going quite well but most likely she will be on blood thinners for the rest of her life.  No reason was found for why this happened.

Not to be outdone, it was my turn.  A week after all this happened I ended up in the same ER thinking that I had a kidney stone or a blocked gall bladder.  Tests and scans revealed everything was in order except for my diverticulosis was acting up.  I missed a few more days of work before finally being up to move around.  I've been seeing a chiropractor as well to deal with back pain brought on by the IBR.

The first time I really got to celebrate finishing the IBR was when a small package arrived in the mail.  This made it real.

There are so many people to thank that I could fill up pages and pages of blogspace.  Mike Kneebone, Lisa Laundry, Jeff Earls and all of the IBR Rally Staff made this rookie effort so memorable.  Congratulations to old friends and new friends on completing such an awesome rally.  If all goes well, I hope to make another run at the IBR in the future where I won't be that wide eyed rookie being conservative.

Thank you, Reader, for taking part of your valuable time to read my text.  Safe travels everyone.

Monday, July 29, 2019

5: Iron Butt Rally 2019 - Leg 2b

Day 8 - Kennewick, WA to Telluride, CO

Way too early it seemed the alarm went off so that I could make my way downstairs for the 4 am check out with Lisa Landry and IBR Staff.  This completed the requirements for the 23k+ bonus points for returning to Kennewick.  Since my ride plan was not too ambitious, I had allowed time for me to return to bed for a few more hours of sleep.

Waking up a few hours later I made ready to depart.  Part of the routine is to reinstall all of my tech gear on the motorcycle including the GPS units, my iPad and my Spot device.  The Spot is a satellite tracking device used by the IBR staff to keep watch over all the riders and means to provide assistance should the need arise.  Significant bonus points are awarded for having and using this service.  My routine is usually to install the Spot device first, plug it in, and turn it on which I did.  I continued with my other devices and made ready to leave.

The goal today was to simply get to Telluride, CO where I would be staged for collecting some time restricted bonus locations the next day.  Leaving Kennewick I headed east on I-84 towards Salt Lake City, UT.  About 200 miles into my journey I check my dash to make sure all is well and notice that I had neglected to start the Tracking feature on my Spot device.  Ugh!  I was hopeful that the IBR Staff would allow a 200 mile gap out of a 10,000 mile journey.

View of Southern Idaho from the bike

Nothing real exciting happened most of the day.  I did have my first fan photo taken somewhere in northern Utah. Cool.  As I reach Salt Lake City, it is approaching the evening rush hour and sure enough the pace slows to a crawl. I'm certainly missing that California lane splitting about now.  The heat is taking its toll and I get a case of the nods.  I really scared myself as I drifted off for only a second and shocked awake to see the rear bumper of the car ahead getting real close.  The shock woke me up and I was able to make my way out of the city and catch my turn on US-6 south of Provo.  US-6 merged with US-191 which would take me into southeast Utah where I would turn due east for the transition over to Telluride.

By now it was dark and being a bit paranoid of critters, I slowed my speed down to a comfortable pace.  I arrived at my destination about 11 pm and found my room key and documents in an envelope at the front counter of the small hotel.  The room was large and comfortable and made for an excellent rest stop. I took the opportunity to do a little repair work on my riding boot.  Several rounds of duct tape worked wonders and would allow the boots to make it through the rest of the rally.

Total miles for the day ended up being just over 950.  It felt good to be staged for the next day's effort.

Day 9 - Telluride, CO to Carlsbad, NM

The big bonus of the day was in Silverton, CO with the time restriction beginning at 11 am.  This allowed me to get a few more hours of sleep which I desperately needed.  Leaving the hotel about 7 am, I made my way into Telluride to capture a bonus picture of a unique train used back in the day.

I had to laugh as the Garmins are telling me that Silverton is only 12 miles away.  Being familiar with the area, I knew better than to fall for the trick as Black Bear Pass is about as treacherous as one can get.  Google Maps even lists the road as closed from Jan-Dec (when is it open?).

View of Black Bear Pass looking down on Telluride, CO
So I turn around and exit Telluride back to the west before turning north on CO-62 bound for Ridgeway.  It is an absolutely gorgeous sunny morning with cool temps as I enjoy the pristine asphalt leading out of the area.  Arriving in Ridgway I turn back south on US 550 (aka the Million Dollar Highway) and head towards Ouray.  This is one of my favorite places in Colorado as it has a rich history, an awesome hot spring fed pool and sits at the end of a box canyon where the highway goes practically straight up.  As I am passing through town I'm looking for a breakfast spot but decide against stopping as there is not anything resembling a level spot to park anywhere.  Also, this is the tail end of Colorado's "mud season" and the road is covered in a layer of dirt that could be a challenge.

Leaving Ouray you ascend the San Juan mountains to reach the 11,010 ft Red Mountain Pass. The scenery is beautiful.  The descent from the pass ends in the town of Silverton where my next bonus is.  I'm a few hours ahead of schedule so I take the opportunity to go in a local restaurant for a big sit down breakfast.  What joy it is to have some real food.

As I finish up breakfast, some other riders are starting to show up for the bonus.  The requirement was to take a picture of the Durango to Silverton Steam Train at the Silverton location.  The bonus allowed an alternative if the train had not arrived by 11 am. A rider could obtain a receipt from a local business at 11 am and then take a photo of your motorcycle in front of the area where the train is supposed to be.

As 11 am rolls around most of the other riders and I take the option to get a receipt and move out.  Fellow rider Steve Snell hung around for the train (the rally book as a little ambiguous about the receipt alternative) as a safety measure and reported later that the train didn't arrive until 11:50 am.

Now is time for a big confession. I'm embarrassed to report it but it explains my weird spotwalla track.  When the rally poster was first shown on the Saturday before the rally, I noticed the bridge in the middle and recognized it as the Royal Gorge Bridge that I've visited several times growing up.  From that moment I had it fixed in my mind that we could be going to the Royal Gorge sometime during the rally.  It just so happened that my plan included visiting the RGORGE bonus.  Without taking much notice of my GPS units, I hopped on the bike and made my way back over Red Mountain Pass into Ouray and Ridgeway before turning east on US-50 which would take me directly to the Royal Gorge.

After about 2 hours I notice that my gps units are saying that the RGORGE bonus is several hundred miles away but I know better that the Royal Gorge is only about 60 miles in front of me.  I pulled into a rest area on the large Gunnison River Reservoir for a bio break and decide to check the rally book.  It took a minute for it to click as I read over it several times as the bonus said Rio Grande Gorge.  What?!  I've never heard of the Rio Grande Gorge.  It's down in New Mexico due south of me and here I am heading east to the wrong gorge!

Fortunately, this was not too terrible of a mistake as I calculated that I had only really lost about an hour of travel time.  Just silly to have fixated so much on the familiar that I completely forgot to run the rally.

Trying to recover from my mistake I make good time down to the real RGORGE bonus.  It requires 2 photos.  The first is a marker located up in the rest area near the bridge and the second requires a short walk out onto the bridge for an overwater photo.  Anyone that knows me well that I don't do well next to edges and I'm absolutely terrified in the photo.

Now my bonus locations are complete for the day and I need to get to Carlsbad, NM.  The Garmins had me go east about 15 miles into Taos where I could pick up NM-68 south and get back to US-285.  As I'm leaving Taos traffic comes to a stop with NM Highway Patrol blocking the highway.  Apparently there was a fatal accident up ahead and it will be hours before the road is open. Trying an alternate route the gps was showing a gravel road up ahead, however, the road abruptly stopped with a 100 ft drop into a dry creek bed. No warning.  Just 4 short posts at the end of the road. Backtracking into Taos my second option was to take the Taos High Road towards Sante Fe.  Beautiful but a real time suck.

Rolling into Sante Fe I got a little bit of Interstate before peeling off to continue south on US-285.  At Clines Corner I stopped for a delicious and nutritious gas station hot dog (x2) that I stuffed into my jacket pockets and ate on the road.  After what seemed to be forever I pulled into Carlsbad about 12:30 and got a good receipt in case I wanted to use this as my rest bonus.  The hotel across the street looked like it catered to oil field workers but was otherwise comfortable.  Getting a shower and crawling in bed was a blessing.  Total miles today was near 755.

Day 10 - Carlsbad, NM to Houston, TX

Since Carlsbad Caverns wasn't open until 8 am, I was able to get a few extra hours of sleep before heading out.  The hotel breakfast was sorely lacking but I had to make do.  About 7:45 am I rode back across the street for a rest bonus ending receipt and headed out to the Caverns.  It's barren desert and not my favorite landscape.  Pulling up a small hill I veered into the parking lot where, amazingly, there was motorcycle only parking and several machines that I recognized.  Steve Snell, Nancy Lefcourt and the pride of Lindale, TX Bill Cumbie were waiting at the door.  As the doors unlocked our group hustled to the ticket office to learn that the first elevator down in the Caverns would be at 8:30 am.  I forgot to mention that the bonus for Carlsbad Caverns was a lot of points.  To get it, the rider would have to make the 3/4 mile hike through the Big Room to the far end to take a picture of the marquee for the Bottomless Pit.  Of course, the return trip was also 3/4 mile back to the elevator.  The 4 of us chatted and enjoyed the air conditioning until we were transported down.  With the task complete we all said our good-byes and headed our separate ways.

My original plan at this point was to make the long journey across Texas to Galveston where I would overnight and capture the Bolivar Lighthouse bonus at dawn.  However, as I pulled out of Carlsbad I punched up the nearest bonus locations and saw that Presidio was only about 160 miles away and that Big Bend would not be far off as well.  I made the command decision to drop the Lighthouse and add the 2 bonuses in southwest Texas.  Heading south I made good time towards Presidio.  With the heat building I stopped for fuel at Van Horn and was going to grab a Wendy's burger but the line was way too long so I again settled for a couple of gas station hot dogs stuffed in my jacket.  Just a few miles south on US-67 I saw my first Border Patrol truck sitting on the side of the road.  Not soon after I spied a CBP blimp off in a field.  I know that I'm getting close.

The Presidio bonus was really easy as it was a picture of the Post Office with my motorcycle.  Now to head east along the border towards Big Bend.  Farm Road 170 parallels the Texas-Mexico border between Presidio and Lajitas.

It was interesting in places where I could look down into the gorge made by the Rio Grande River and see the tall grass on the Mexico side.  Every once in a while would be a path cut out in the grass for passage down to the river where one could walk across with ease.

In the picture the cliffs to the right is Mexico and the green path in the middle is the Rio Grande River.

The temps were really starting to soar so I stopped at the Lajitas General Store for a bio break, some water and most of all some air conditioning.  The ladies running the store were so nice and accommodating as they said that a lot of motorcycle riders stop for the same thing throughout the summer.

Back on the road I rolled through Terlinqua made famous by their Chili Festivals and the restaurant chain Chili's.  Not much to see but now I can say that I've been there.

Entering Big Bend National Park the speed limit drops to 45 mph.  WTH?  There's nothing for a hundred miles and the limit is 45?  You've got to be kidding.  I tried my best to keep the speed down and only got flashed by a Park Ranger once to slow down.  Ugh.  Arriving at the bonus location Boquillias Canyon Overlook, a couple of hikers agreed to be my muses and hold my rally flag for the bonus location.  Hopping back on the bike I noticed the temp gauge reading 105.  Wow.

I have to say that growing up in Texas our family never made the trip out to the Big Bend.  I can say with confidence that I have been there and never need to go back again.  Just my opinion.  I want my trees.

The final objective of the day was to get back up to I-10 and haul buns across Texas and get at least to the east side of Houston before stopping.  Moving on I-10 was not too bad in the heat until I hit the Texas Dry Line near Kerrville.  It was like someone hitting me across the head with a baseball bat.  The humidity instantly went from 10% to 85% with the same temps.  I soon hit some moderate rain with lightning popping all around.  Looking at my iPad I saw that I would be out of it before hitting San Antonio so I continued on.  After San Antonio I was really starting to hit the wall so I called my brother Scott and talked to him for almost an hour as I continued moving eastward.  He suggested a few places for hotels and I was able to book a Motel 6 in Channelview which would put me on the east side of Houston and set me up for the run tomorrow.  I arrived at the hotel about 2 am for a much needed shower and sleep.  I covered about 1044 miles today.

Day 11 - Houston, TX to Greenville, SC

This is it. Day 11 of my rookie IBR.  Feeling good and ready to finish this sucker.  I got a quick shower to wake me up and loaded up the bike for departure just after 7 am.  I had made the effort to get to the east side of Houston so that I could avoid rush hour traffic.  As I pull onto the service road for I-10 my heart drops as the traffic eastbound is at a standstill.  Looking at my iPad I see that there's no way around as I-10 crosses the Houston Ship Channel just a few miles up the road.  Sticking to the service road I'm able to weave my way up a good bit before I'm forced onto the highway just short of the bridge.  Slowly, ever so slowly, I make my way up the bridge and descending on the other side I see what the problem is.  Someone on the west bound side has stopped their car in the middle of the highway and is threatening to jump from the bridge. Law enforcement is everywhere including a helicopter above.  Saying a prayer for the troubled person I'm finally past the situation and able to get back to highway speeds.

Moving into Louisiana the temperatures are rising as fast as the humidity.  I exit in Lafayette and head south to the home of Tabasco Hot Sauce for a fairly large bonus.  The requirement was to take a photo of the pressed penny machine AND make a pressed penny with the Tabasco logo on it.  There were 4 options for the pressed penny and only 2 of them had the Tabasco logo!  As I finished my photo I wandered back into the main room of the general store and the a/c hit me.  I just had to invest 5 extra minutes just to cool down.  It was wonderful.

Back on the road I was heading for my last bonus of the rally.  The reward was over 9000 points but it involved riding south to the very, very end of the Mississippi River delta where the road simply runs out.  I saw several riders including my friends Lisa Rufo and her dad, Martin Cover, and Ken Andrews heading back north from the bonus.

Venice Marina is a very popular deep sea fishing port and there was a crowd sitting nearby enjoying seeing all the farkled motorcycles stopping by to photograph the fish cleaning station.  At willing volunteer helped me out to hold my rally flag.

Heading back north I was amazed at looking up at the cargo ships docked on the other side of the large levee holding back the river.  My gps told me that I was riding on a road that was 5 ft below sea level so I was thankful the levee was doing its job.  I passed by a beautiful new high school building and had to stop as it was unique in having been built up on stilts.  You do what you gotta do, I guess.

Unfortunately, I was going to hit New Orleans right at 5 pm and get caught in traffic.  As I'm standing waiting for traffic to move, the temp gauge on the bike reads 100 degrees.  It's absolutely miserable.  I finally make it through the traffic but notice on my iPad a line of nasty looking thunderstorms moving south towards Mobile, AL.  It's going to be close but I'm trying to get there and around the storms before they hit.

It wasn't meant to be.  As I exited I-10 onto I-65 a new cell had formed right on top of the highway and it was delivering everything it had.  Torrential rain had me slowed down to about 45 mph and the wind would first blow me to the right and the next second blowing me to the left.  I haven't ridden in that harsh of a thunderstorm in many years and thankfully would only last a short time.  Punching out of the storm the daylight was starting to fade as well as my energy.  I had until 8 am the following morning to reach Greenville, SC and the finish line but I needed to stop and stop soon.

I stopped a few times to fuel and stretch but after making my way through Atlanta I just had to stop for a short nap.  Eyeing an empty parking lot to a Best Buy, I exited I-85 and circled around to check into the Iron Butt hotel for a break.  Setting times on both the phone and iPad I laid down next to the bike and instantly was out.  30 minutes later the timers did their jobs and roused me from my slumber.  Not feeling totally refreshed, nevertheless I swung my leg over the bike and continued on.  My goal was oh so close.

About 4:30 am I made the exit for the hotel in Greenville and the reality started to hit me.  I was going to finish the Iron Butt Rally, a decades long goal.  Crossing over the highway I moved to the right lane to turn down the parkway for the entrance to the hotel.  The tears are already starting to flow.  I need to focus and not get ahead of myself.  I made the turn for the hotel entrance, passed the Michelin Man welcoming all of us home, and turned down the lane to the finish line.  A small crowd is out front with signs and cheering.  I couldn't hardly hold it together.

After having my time and odometer reading recorded by IBR staff I made my way over to an open parking area and shut down the bike.  I've made it.  As I step off the bike Karen is there and I can't hold it in any longer.  I literally sobbed for a good 5 minutes. I was so relieved to have made it back safely.  My first goal was achieved by making it back to Karen.  Now it was time to achieve my second goal and successful get through scoring.  Today's effort encompassed 1,130 miles of very hot weather riding.

Packing up my materials I headed inside to prepare for scoring.  I took a quick shower as Karen placed my destroyed riding boots outside the room door as the funk was just too much.  As she drifted off to sleep I gathered my materials and headed downstairs for scoring.

I was assigned to Pat Blewett for scoring and sat down to go through my list.  First thing Pat informs me that I was being denied my tracking bonus due to my lapse of 200 miles on Day 8.  Ouch, that was 4500 points.  At that point I was thankful that I had changed my route and captured the Presidio and Big Bend bonus locations.  Everything else was good and I finished with 88,274 points and had an adjusted distance of 10,040 miles.


4: Iron Butt Rally 2019 - Leg 2a

Day 5 - Kennewick, WA to Arcata, CA

As the title suggests, there was a bit of a surprise in store for the riders at the 4 am riders meeting.

Before I went to sleep last night I got my routing workstation set up and ready for the task that would follow the riders meeting the next morning.  Jumping up to the 3:30 am alarm, I slipped on my checkpoint clothes and headed downstairs for a quick breakfast and staked out a place in the lobby for the meeting.

At precisely 4 am, Route Master Jeff Earls climbed up on a step stool and dropped the bomb that there would not be a Leg 3 in this year's rally and that all the information needed for the remaining 7 days would be in the rally packet.  Returning to Kennewick on Sunday night (as previously described as checkpoint 2) would be entirely optional.  However, in order to NOT return to Kennewick riders would have to either 1) collect a bonus north of the 60th parallel, or 2) collect both the CAPED and ROSIE bonuses prior to the finish in Greenville, SC.  What???!!!  Also, the McKenzie Pass bonus would be worth 0 points as it was closed due to snow.  Rally packs were then distributed and the mad dash back to our rooms commenced.

First thing after getting back to my room was to get the electronic files from my email.  When I logged in, there was no email!!  Oh crap, am I having a problem with my email?  After 10 seconds that seemed like 10 minutes, the email popped up in my inbox.  OK, this rally pack is a lot thicker than Leg 1.  Whereas there were only 70ish bonus locations on 26 pages on Leg 1, this time there were nearly 200 locations with numerous combination bonuses thrown in.  After pasting in the bonus list I had to hand enter all of the point values.  Then remembering that the coordinates supplied in the electronic files didn't necessarily correspond with the actual bonus location, I set about going through the entire list and hand entering the adjusted coordinates (really, really dumb move). This, of course, took nearly 2 hours.  In highsight I should have laid down a base route then adjusted only those locations I planned to go to.

As I'm importing the edited bonus list into Basecamp I start hearing motorcycles firing up and riders leaving.  Panic level rises as I scan the map and try to make sense of it.  Alaska is out of the question for me as I'm trying to be somewhat conservative.  That means I need to plan to return to Kennewick in 2.5 days for the massive point value associated with it.  Thus the reason for referring to this Leg as 2a.  It simplified my list to what I could reach and get back to the "checkpoint".  (More bikes fire up and tear off)

By now I'm overwhelmed with my options and settle on a route to northern California and down as far as Alice's Restaurant before turning back north.  Little did I know that I would hit most of my route but nowhere near the same order.  About 9:30 am I said enough and start loading the route onto my gps units.  The Zumo loaded right away with no problem.  However, I couldn't get the Dezl to recognize the route.  WTF??  Fiddling with it for 10 minutes I had to let it go and move on to the iPad.  What?  It won't take the bonus locations?  What's going on?  Ok, I have to leave and I need to leave now so I'll have to work with the Zumo until I can figure out what's going on with the other two units.

I'm packed up and heading out of the parking lot about 10:15 am and notice that the lot is awfully empty.  Ugh...not a good start to Leg 2.  I'm frustrated with my tech gear and just don't have my head on right.  Tracking down into Oregon I focus on my first bonus, Smith Rocks, just to get my head back in the game.  Captured I continue south and stop in Madras for some lunch and re-focus.

Back on the bike I begin thinking about my next bonus, MCKEN.  Not thinking real clear I didn't make the connection that it was McKenzie Pass which Jeff Earls had announced as worth 0 points.  Being somewhat familiar with the Redmond/Bend, OR area due to repeat visits to Sunriver Resort, I had a vague idea where the bonus was.  Cutting through back streets of Redmond I jumped on the McKenzie Hwy heading towards Sisters.  Thinking about my tech issues I totally blew by the turn to the eastern approach to McKenzie Pass and continued westward.  By the time I realized my mistake my Zumo was insisting that I continue forward and basicly ride around Mt Washington and make the western approach to McKenzie Pass.  As I reached the turn off, I was greeted with a very dubious looking gravel road.  The value of the bonus just wasn't enough to endure miles of gravel road so I made the decision to move on.  At no point during this entire escapade did it ever hit me that I was chasing a 0 point bonus.  What a dumbass!!

My next planned bonus was Crater Lake but that would mean that I would have to go back eastward to US 97.  Since my plan had me returning on 97, I decided to try and capture it on the way back north.  So based on my current location it was better for me to continue west and catch I-5 and head south to California.  By now I was totally disgusted with myself and really starting to question my ability to finish this rally.  Out of the blue I get a call from Dave Arkle.  He had helped me before the rally with a mechanical issue so I started to unload on him about all my screw-ups and trouble with my gps units.  Thank God that Dave let me vent and he calmly got me back to working the problem.  This took a while and slowly I settled down and got back into the game.  Dave recommended that I stop at the next convenient McDonalds and take the opportunity to get on their wifi and to try replanning my route and reloading the gps units.  Agreeing to follow his suggestion we hung up and I was feeling better.  Not two minutes later I'm dropping down a pass in northern California at sunset and off to my left is the most brilliant display of Mt Shasta imaginable. The sun was hitting just the mountain and it was a golden fire in color.   Just stunning and one of the most pleasant parts of the entire IBR to have the privilege of experiencing it.  The picture below is similar to what I saw.

Image result for image mt shasta sunset
Copyright: Pictorem.com

A few miles further I exited the highway and did as Dave suggested and pulled in to a McDonalds to replan this leg.  While wolfing down a burger the points on the map started to line up and a plan came together.  The new route promptly loaded onto both gps units with no hiccups.  I didn't bother with the iPad so all was well and I felt a whole lot better.  This was going to be an OK leg.

Fortunately, I was at the exit I needed for heading into the remote Northern California wilderness to capture the Forks of Salmon bonus.  As I turned west onto Sawyers Bar Rd, the last rays of the sunset started to fade.

The road narrowed down to a single lane as shown at left.  No guard rails. No markers.  Just every lumen that my motorcycle could muster to light my way.  Others made this 40 mile trek in the daytime and said it was very nerve racking.  And, here I am doing it in pitch darkness.  In hindsight it may have been beneficial that I couldn't see all the dangers which helped me stay focused on the road.  (btw, can you believe that Google Maps has a Street View of this road?)

 I reached my destination 2 hours later.  The Forks of Salmon Post Office is in such a remote location that they do not have electric service to the building.  When the postmaster needs to use the computer, she has to fire up a small generator to provide the necessary power.  When I turned my motorcycle off and looked around, I could not see a single artificial light anywhere.  Only the stars provided any sort of illumination.  As I was admiring the sky, I got an itchy feeling that something could be watching me.  Yeah, I'm dead smack in the middle of mountain lion and bear country and I'm gazing at the stars.  I quickly made ready to go and fired up the motorcycle to hopefully scare away anything that was higher in the food chain at the moment.

Now my quest was to get back to civilization and find a hotel.  I was in the window to collect the Leg 2a Rest Bonus and was really looking forward to it.  Leaving the Post Office I continued westward on Salmon River Rd.  This road was also a single lane variety only much worse.  Parts of the road had slid off into the river and the highway dept had only installed 2 small posts at each edge of the road.  Being only about 5 ft wide, I could squeeze through but I don't think a car would make it.  No sooner had I made through that bottleneck, a skunk decided that he would jump out into the middle of the road and lead me down the mountain.  What do you do when you're on a single lane road following a skunk taking a late night jog down the lane?  You let it!!  After about a 1/2 mile the skunk decides he's had enough exercise and turns off into a gully.  Whew.  That woke me up a bit.

Just before midnight I completed the 16 mile run in a swift 45 miles (not!) and got back to a real road and headed towards my planned stop in Arcata, CA.  Grabbing a receipt to start my bonus at a Chevron, I pulled into the Motel 6 to check in.  Oh boy, there sure are a lot of motorcycles in the parking lot.  Turns out a outlaw m/c club was staying the night and 2 prospects were roaming around providing security.  We chatted for a few minutes and they said they would make sure nothing happened to my bike.  After a quick shower it was off to bed about 3 am.  Total miles for the day was about 740.  Not bad given my late start and too frequent long stops.

Day 6 - Arcata, CA to Fortuna, CA

This would turn out to be the most interesting day of the rally for me.  I got to experience more variety in scenery than one can imagine.  The main focus of the day was to reach Alice's Restaurant south of San Francisco during a very short time window in the afternoon.  I needed to have my picture taken with a veteran IBR finisher and he was only at the bonus from 10am to 2pm.

Knowing last night that I needed to allow for time getting through SF, I cut my rest bonus to the minimum of 4 hours and got back on the road south.  It finally dawned on me that I would be on the famous Pacific Coast Highway (CA-101) for most of the day.  Parts of the road was a divided 4 lane, others a simple 2 lane highway, and some parts narrowed and slowed down to a slow speed lane that weaved its way through the magnificent redwood forests of northern California.   It was turning into a really warm day as I approached San Francisco.

Checking my time I stuck with the plan and exited the highway at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge to capture the Pt Bonita Lighthouse bonus.  There were several other IBR riders at the bonus at the same time.  We all arrived within minutes of each other.  This bonus would prove to be the most physically challenging bonus of the rally.  From the cliff top parking lot it was a 3/4 mile hike down a trail to the Lighthouse located near the water level.  Going down was a bit rough on my bad knee.  Reaching the objective,  I needed to capture 2 photos per the rally book requirements.  The first was of the large metal door leading into the base of the lighthouse.

The second was an attempt to capture the Golden Gate Bridge from the lighthouse location.  Of course, there's some fog to deal with but you can just make out the bridge in the background.  Now it's time to climb back up the trail.  Here's where my total lack of conditioning takes it's toll.  The other riders had long since left by the time ol' fat boy reaches the parking lot.  To make things more interesting, my trusty old riding boots give up the ghost at this point and split open.  Great.

Now I needed to reach Alice's Restaurant which is south of San Francisco.  I do my best to cross the Golden Gate and deal with traffic on the way to the bonus.  I pulled over and made my Call In bonus successfully and continued south.  Exiting I-280 at Woodside I sighed relief as I knew that I would make the bonus window.  Pulling into the parking lot, there were motorcycles everywhere along with anything you could imagine as far as exotic cars.  I even saw an uber-rare Ford Pantara.  Several other IBR riders are there including my friends Lisa Rufo and her father, Martin Cover.

Walking up to the front of the restaurant I'm met by Jerry White who congratulates me on making the time constraint.  Per the requirements of the bonus, I have my picture taken with Jerry.  While I had my helmet and jacket off, I took the opportunity to break out my computer and look over the rest of my Leg 2a route while drinking prodigious amounts of water.  My plan was looking good.  I'm packing up just as 2pm approaches and an IBR rider pulls into the parking lot and runs for the front of the restaurant.  Jerry announces that he had just made the cutoff by 15 seconds!!

Leaving Alice's Restaurant, I miss a turn and end up descending the mountain on a seriously twisty road that took FOREVER to complete.  I wasted at least an hour trying to get back to I-280.  Back on the highway heading north I need to transition San Francisco again and go north on the Pacific Coast Highway (basically retracing my steps earlier in the day).  As traffic became more and more congested, I made a move that I swore that I'd never do.  I inched over to the line diving the far left and the middle lanes of the highway and proceed forward between the cars.  Halla-freaking-luya!!!  You would have thought the Red Sea parted as the cars and trucks instinctively moved over in their respective lanes to make room for me to slowly pass.  Holy cow, it was beautiful.  When necessary I repeated the maneuver several times until I reached the Golden Gate Bridge and traffic thinned out.  Oh what a time saver!!

Free of the urban area I'm back again on the PCH making good time heading north.  Energized by my positive experience lane splitting, I really am enjoying this day.  Miles north of San Fran I exit the highway and take to back roads to capture the bonus located in Corvelo, CA.  It is a remote town that sits in a small valley deep, deep in the backwoods of the state.  The town is surrounded by mountains on all sides and reminds me somewhat of Burkes Garden in Virginia.  The heat is starting to suck my joy out as I make my way back out to the PCH to continue north into hopefully cooler temps.

The Garmins have me exit the PCH in the Humbolt Redwoods State Park in order to take the road out to the aptly named LOST bonus.  The Mattole Campground sits on the coast of California and claims to be the most remote part of the state.  I believe that their claim is true.  The rally book warns that the roads are in rather poor condition and I can safely say that was the understatement of the year.  Like the previous night, the last rays of the sun pass as I cross under the PCH onto Mattole Road and head west.  The pristine asphalt weaves its way between enormous redwoods and betrays what is to lay ahead.  As I exit the forest the road condition deteriorates rapidly.  Patched asphalt turns to limestone gravel with pot holes that could swallow a bus and bumps that threatened to toss me and the bike over the cliff.  I cannot explain in words how bad I was being tossed around.  This goes on for 40 miles into the wilderness.  I keep noticing large boulders across the middle of the road like they were put there to keep cars out.  Really out of place and is freaking my out by now.  (Little did I know that I was riding over the epicenter of a 5.6 earthquake when it happened)

I'm again relying on my lights for the only illumination in the area as it appears that the electricity is out at the various homes that I pass.  Approaching the turn to Lighthouse Rd the local fire station is also blacked out.  Weird.  As I make my way to the campground I pass the shell of an old school bus with a big For Sale sign painted on it.  Must be California.  I reached the campground and captured the bonus photo of the campground sign.  It is pitch black and I can hear the roar of the ocean hitting the beaches below in the darkness.

Heading back out of the campground I reached Mattole Rd and a decision point.  Do I go back the familiar way for 40 miles to the highway for a 65 mile trip to my hotel or do I take the left turn on unfamiliar territory for the 50 ride to the hotel?  Looking at the pristine pavement leading off to the left, I decided to give it a try.  In all my motorcycle riding years, I would not face a more terrifying ordeal than what I am about to experience.  Words cannot describe the fear and desperation to make it through to the other side.  I'm tired. I'm alone.  It's pitch black. And I have little idea of where I am.

Mattole Rd passes through the small village of Petrolia and turns towards the coast.  Don't let the picture at right fool you, the pavement was no where near this condition.  Breaking through the coast ridge I was met with gale force winds coming off the ocean and was blown to the edge of roadway several times.  I'm only going about 30 mph as it was the max that the wind and the road conditions would allow.  Without warning the roadway would turn to the same limestone gravel that I experienced earlier in the night.  I approached a one lane bridge over a river outlet and literally had to duck walk the motorcycle across to keep from being blown over the side.

As I reached the northern edge of the coastal section, the road made a sharp 90 degree turn and started up the hill.  Being only able to see a few hundred yards in front, it was difficult to make out the series of switchbacks that I would encounter over the next 15 miles.  On a steep 10% uphill grade, the pavement gave way to the most awful section of limestone hardpack imaginable.  I'm standing on the pegs trying to control the beast.  Swerving from road edge to road edge in the dark with a large unguarded drop off to my right, I notice a pickup making its way downhill.  The good samaritan stops and pulls over close to the side to let me have as much room as possible.  The gentleman shouts, "You got it, boy.  Good luck!!" as I pass him.  I really needed that encouragement to make it the next 1/2 mile to the summit.

Reaching Ferndale, CA the roads got back to normal and I made my way to Fortuna where my hotel bed was waiting.  I had missed my chance to improve on my rest bonus as I arrived at the hotel after midnight.  Knowing that the next day was important to make it back to Kennewick by 8pm, I settled into bed after a good shower for a quick 5 hour rest.  Today's effort netted out to about 750 miles and a lifetime of experiences.

Day 7 - Fortuna, CA to Kennewick, WA

Today's goal was to capture the one remaining big bonus in the area and start making my way back to eastern Washington. It was imperative that I reach the "checkpoint" hotel by 8 pm in order to capture the massive amount of points associated with it.

Heading out a little after 5 am, I made the short ride south to the turn off to CA-36 for the 100 mile ride east to the HYAMP bonus.  To reach the bonus there is a northern and a southern approach.  I had heard that the northern approach was terrible so my plan was to use the southern approach.  Heading east into the rising sun I was immersed in beautiful California back country.  Passing a small country store I caught a glimpse of a motorcycle parked in the shade.  About 20 minutes later Wolfe Bonham comes roaring past me and makes short work of the twisties and disappears into the distance.  About a half hour later I noticed Wolfe laid back on his bike catching another quick nap.  Not long after I get the nods and have to pull over.  Wolfe leapfrogs me again while I'm resting.

Nearing the turn off on CA-3 for Hayfork, I passed through another grove of majestic redwoods. What a sight to behold.  Little did I know that Wolfe had pulled off into the trees for another quick cat nap.  I turned north on CA-3 and made it to Hayfork for the turn back west on Hyampom Rd for the 22 mile ride to the bonus location.  The road was quite twisty which kept speeds down below what Garmin said the pace should be.  Reaching the Hyampom General Store, I snapped my picture of the store sign and decided to close my eyes for a short rest.  Not 10 minutes later a local rides his bicycle up and starts chatting.  Obviously there's not a lot of conversation going on in Hyampom because this gentleman was going a mile a minute with his rambling.  Resigned to the fact that he wasn't going to leave me alone I start making my way back to the bike.  At that point the gentleman trundles off on his bicycle just as Wolfe pulls into the parking lot.  Surprised that I had passed him again we chatted for a few minutes before I took off back down the 22 miles to Hayfork.

Back out to civilization I continued east on CA-3 to Redding, CA where I picked up I-5 for the ride north near Mt Shasta.  At Weed I took the exit to US-97 for the trek north across Oregon.  Reaching Klamath Falls, I needed something to eat and remembered that I could collect an "R" bonus receipt here.  It was again a warm day so the stay at the McDonalds lasted a bit longer than planned as they had the a/c cranked down low.

Concerned about time I hopped back on the bike and continued my journey north.  The Garmins are showing an arrival approximately 7:15 pm which was cutting it closer than I wanted.  I toyed with the idea of making the run up to Crater Lake but I simply didn't have the time.  Around Bend, OR another IBR rider caught up with me and we stayed together as we wove through some of the small towns.  Not much later I spied Wolfe Bonham again catching up to me.  We let Wolfe take the lead and we made pretty good time the rest of the way up to our turn on I-84 at the Columbia River.  I saw Wolfe turn off for some gas and somewhere along the way I lost the other rider.  I had enough fuel to make it back to the hotel so I continued on.  I rolled into the Hilton Garden Inn in Kennewick approximately 7:30 pm.  IBR Staff said to just park and go inside to check in with Lisa Landry.

Credit: Tobie Stevens

Not a terribly productive day but I did what I had intended.  Total mileage was about 715 which would be my shortest day of the rally.  After eating a quick dinner it was upstairs for a shower and to plan out my Leg 2b.  Looking at my current points, I was able to lay out a very manageable plan to reach finisher status with about a 10% cushion.  I finally laid down about 10 pm for some much needed rest.

Friday, July 26, 2019

2:Iron Butt Rally 2019 - Countdown T-4,3,2,1...

T-4  Disaster averted

The morning of June 13, 2019 arrived and it was time to head south to Greenville, SC for the start of the Iron Butt Rally of 2019.  Little did I know how stressful this day would be.  The odometer on the Trophy read 56891.

I left the house just before 8 am so that I would miss rush hour traffic going through Richmond.  As I pulled out of the driveway, the clouds were dropping a bit of drizzle but nothing too bad.  20 miles south on I-95 and I was out of the wet and riding into bright blue skies.  Passing through Richmond was a breeze as I continued south to hop on I-85 south of Petersburg.  I had looked on FB earlier and saw my friends, Marty Cover and Lisa Rufo (a father/daughter team from up in Maryland), had hit the road a little before me which would put them about 2 hours behind me.

Everything was going great as I passed into North Carolina and passed Durham where I-85 and I-40 join up for the run west to Greensboro.  I needed gas and a bite to eat so I pulled off the highway to stop at a Flying J Truck Stop that had a Denny's attached to it.  After filling my tanks I went inside for some breakfast and some coffee.  Boy, were they slow this morning.

After eating I went back out to the bike and got all my gear on and proceeded to pull out of the parking lot.  As I got out onto the road I went to upshift to 2nd gear and nothing happened.  My shifter had none of the normal resistance to it.  Since I was rolling I went ahead and turned onto the on ramp to the highway and pulled off on the side.  Upon inspection, I found that the shifter pivot bolt had broken off.  Ok, I can deal with this.  Call the nearest shop and see what we need to do to get this taken care of.

First call was to Triumph Raleigh. The parts manager told me that they didn't have any of the shifter pivot bolts and a search of the Triumph parts system revealed that none were in the United States and would have to be ordered from England.  Full panic is now setting in.  A second call to my regular dealer, Moto Richmond, confirmed the same issue.  No bolts in the USA.

I am devastated.  All this time and thousands of dollars spent to be sidelined by a $10 bolt.  I sent an email to Lisa Landry, the Rally Master, indicating that I was having a problem and may have to drop out.  She responded with having none of that and to work the problem (She is well known for her abilities to help desperate riders solve problems over the phone).

I was ready to call AMA Roadside Assistance but for some reason chose to send my friend Lisa a quick FB Message describing my problem.  She asked where I was and for my phone number as she knew of a resource nearby that could possibly help me.  10 minutes later I get a call from Mark at MotoMark1 asking for directions to where I was.  He was less than 5 miles away and within minutes he was pulling up with his trailer and his son to assist.  We got the bike loaded up and started heading to Greensboro as that was where the closest Triumph dealer was located.

We pulled up to Select Cycles of Greensboro and spoke with the Service Mgr and nonchalantly said that sure, they could fix it.  I asked if they had the correct part as 2 other dealers said there were none to be found in the USA.  He let me in on a secret and every Triumph on the showroom floor has 2 of the same bolts on them.  Triumph, in its infinite wisdom, assigns different part numbers to the exact same item if it is on a different family of bikes.

So up on the rack the bike goes and the tech starts removing covers to get to the bolt.  He has to drill into the sheared off bolt and extract it using a specialized drill bit made for this purpose.

Two hours later I'm back on the road to Greenville.  I'm just overwhelmed at the generosity and willingness to help a fellow rider in distress.  Lisa saved my IBR.  Mark went out of his way to get me and the bike to the dealer.  The dealer knew what they were doing and got me fixed up right away. I just don't have the words to express how grateful I am that it all came together to keep my dream alive.

Arriving at the start hotel, I take a few deep breaths and try to relax and be thankful that I'm here.  After a quick apology to Lisa Landry for the drama, I collapsed in my room to wait until dinner time with some of my friends.

I have to also shout out to fellow Trophy owner Dave Arkle who talked to me at length and kept me from freaking out.  He had several of the necessary part and was willing to overnight them to me if I needed them.  Dave would continue to be a calming and valuable resource throughout the rally.

T-3  Getting some quiet before the storm

Friday at the hotel was spent relaxing as much as possible.  I got my room setup for the routing session that would happen Sunday night.  For lunch, the folks at Michelin North America invited us to stroll across the parking lot to visit their headquarters and have a pizza lunch. It was nice of them to do that and Michelin definitely got some feedback on what we would like in future products.  Chief among all of the suggestions was longer tire life.


Later in the afternoon I took a dip in the pool and enjoyed some quiet time.

T-2 Registration and Tech Inspection

Saturday dawned and it was time to get down to business.  Multiple tasks needed to be completed in order to be properly registered for the rally.  First was to pick up the registration packet and collect my rally swag (t-shirts, hats, etc.).  Then is was outside to line up for tech inspection and odometer check.  I had spent hours at home getting all my documentation in one folder so that there wouldn't be any issues.  Unfortunately, that would not be the case.

After standing in a short line, I was paired up the IBR Veteran Cletha Walstrand for my tech inspection.  We stroll out to my bike and I removed the cover.  We started with documentation: drivers license, insurance, bike registration....registration....where's my registration card.  Oh crap, I had left it upstairs in my hotel room last night when I was "re-checking" the folder.  I dash off as fast as a fatboy can dash, wait for the elevator, upstairs, room, grab registration card exactly where I left it, back to elevator, wait, down, and dash back out to the parking lot.  Cletha is waiting for me and has already completed the rest of the inspection.  After presenting my registration card she signs off on the rally registration form.  Rookie mistake 1 of many.

Next up was the odometer check.  I get my gear on and fire up the bike to head over for the start of the odo run.  The route was pitifully simple this year as a straight out and back to a specific exit on I-85.

I made my run without any issues and got the sign off by Rally Staff.  All the outside work is done.  Now for the fun stuff.

I got in line for the videod liability release exercise.  I sat down with IBR veteran Pat Blewett in one of the conference rooms.  As another rally staff member started the video camera, Pat read off the liability release form and I had to verbally respond with 'Yes' to each statement.  If a mountain lion attacked me at a bonus location, I had just promised that I nor my family would sue the Iron Butt Association.

Last was a room with several stations.  I got a sign off that my SPOT tracker was working properly. Next up was having my camera SD cards confirmed as formatted and the timestamp was correct. Three SD cards were marked with my rider number and my photo was taken on each one.  All clear.  Lastly was my MedJet Insurance check.  I gave my card to Ed Otto and he said that it was expired.  Crap. I had forgot to put the new card in the folder.  Ed allowed me to call MedJet and confirm my coverage. No problem and got the sign off.  I was done for the day as my final sign off would be during the rookie rider meeting the next morning.  The rest of Saturday was spent relaxing as it would be my last chance for the next 2 weeks.

T-1  Rider Meetings and Banquet

Sunday morning broke with the definite rise in tension among the riders.  After the breakfast buffet (Marriott always serves the best bacon!!) the rookies were herded into a conference room where Route Master Jeff Earls gave us a sobering reminder of what we had signed up for.  He reminded us that this was probably the most selfish thing that we have ever done. We've put our families at risk, our own lives at risk, and still moved forward with attempting this ride.  And he was absolutely correct.  After some other rally business we recessed and had our registration forms signed off.  Last task was to present our registration packet to Lord Kneebone for his final sign off.

Next rider meeting was at 2 pm so I took the time to get my room situated for rally planning that evening.  After playing around with various ports,  I was able to get my MacBook to display on the large TV.

At 2 pm, the general Riders Meeting (vets and rookies) was held.  We were instructed to bring our rally computers to the meeting.  Hearts stopped when Dale Wilson produced a roll of duct tape hidden in the podium.  Would we be planning this rally on paper maps??  Sighs of relief were heard across the room when he placed the tape back in the podium.  Dale told the riders that he would be the one to look for at the checkpoint in Kennewick, Washington.  Next up was Jeff Earls to answer various questions such as "What's the definition of Daylight Only?"

Following the Rider Meeting we were shuffled outside and across the very hot parking lot to the steps of the Michelin building for the official group photo.

Now was the wait for the 6 pm banquet where we would 1) get our last full meal for quite a while, and 2) get the rally packs to start a long evening of planning.  Rider number assignments were ordered by the rider's current IBA number.  Rally veterans of course were first as they had already been assigned their 3-digit number.  Rookies would get higher numbers and I fell roughly in the middle with #82.  As they called you up you were given your rally pack for Leg 1.  Hmmm....this is an awfully thin rally book, I noted.

After all packs were distributed (my buddy, Steve Gallant, was the last one called as he had the highest IBA number) we were allowed to open the packs.  OK, the pack was for Leg 1 only which differed from the last 2 IBRs.  There were only 26 pages consisting of about 73 bonus opportunities.  Following the Road Less Traveled theme, the gps coordinates given in the book and the electronic files did not necessarily get you to the exact location of the bonus, a point I didn't grasp right away.  For instance, the BTH (Beartooth Pass Vista Point) bonus coordinates were followed with instructions to "ride soutwest on US-212 for 62.9 miles to Beartooth Pass."  The bonus was actually an hour and a half away from where the provided coordinates were.

Riders were released to head back to their rooms for rally planning.  Electronic files would be waiting in our mailboxes.  I sat down about 8pm and laid out a fairly conservative route with a target around 21,000 points which would put me a little bit ahead of the 16k minimum suggested to be a finisher.  Satisfied with my plan, I uploaded the routes to my GPS units and iPad and hit the sack around midnight.