The Road


A Rookies View of the 2007 Iron Butt Rally

My first IBR! Winning the lottery is the first step. While the odds may not be in your favor, that is actually the easy part. The hard part is committing the time, energy, and resources (financial and physical) that are required. According to Maslov's Hierarchy of Needs I should be at the self-actualization stage of my life. I guess my Iron Butt Association endeavors are my form of fulfilling that need.

I set out on the rally to achieve the following:

  1. Be safe. I injured myself in the ButtLite IV and did not finish (DNF). I wasn't about to let that happen again.
  2. Have fun. If you can't have fun why bother at all.
  3. Finish. A bike breakdown (yes, the infamous final drive failure) in this year's "Quarter for your Thoughts" Mason Dixon 2020 had afforded me my second DNF. Not a pleasant experience.
  4. Be safe. Just worth repeating is all, something you don't want to forget.
  5. Finish well. I am very competitive but I am the typical brilliant underachiever ( looking for the easiest means to an end; some call this being lazy). Also, I have learned enough about myself over the years to admit that I make mistakes. Couple this with "lazy" and you end up with "Why drive yourself to extreme ends just to screw up the paperwork or some such, end up last, and have wasted all that effort?"[You will see what I mean as you read about my performance]

Getting There

I departed Raleigh, NC at approximately 0200 hours (AM) Saturday morning. This departure allowed me to work the last day of the week, transit the 850 or so miles to St. Louis, and arrive in time to complete the rally check in process. The quick route across the heartland of the United States is interstate and that was my choice. Having traveled this route many times I was very familiar with the sights and smells and my mind was free to worry about the rally. I used the time effectively.

Slightly less than two weeks prior I had run the only practice I would have before the rally, a business trip to Tampa, Fl. During this jaunt I chose to go via Key West and try to maintain close to a Bun Burner Gold pace, over 60 miles per hour. I rode about 1400 miles in about 25 hours. This shakedown trip to and from Tampa didn't leave me with a strong sense of my abilities. I was fatigued, hot, and had a sore butt along with other aches and pains. The thought of sustaining this kind of performance for 11 days in August weighed heavily. Upon return from Tampa, I had a full week of work work, and a full week of fixing the bike. A new Soltek driving light, a new shock absorber, and a long list of sundry to do items would keep me up well into the wee hours the entire week.

Here I am now, two days before the rally start, riding a mere 850 miles to St. Louis and I don't feel prepared at all. The bike is as good to go as it ever will be but I am stressed beyond belief. Will my Cycle Solutions seat serve me well enough? Will I be able to sustain multiple days with minimal rest? The final drive on the bike has been replaced but will the transmission go out now? Will my butt hold up (I'm only 500 miles into my trip and the aches and pains seem almost unbearable)? The list of questions, concerns, and worries just grows like a cancer eating at my brain.

In retrospect, I now see that this was pre-rally stress. It is much harder to ride long distances when you are not "in the game".

I arrive at Rally Headquarters at about 1400 hours with plenty of time to check in, run my odometer check, and get the tech inspection. All goes without a hitch. The parking lot is filled with bikes, riders, and spectators. I am intimidated by the IBR "big dogs", the folks that have been there, done that. I am here with them now but won't really be a peer unless I am with them two weeks from now. Although I'm a nervous wreck I am enjoying the socialization with comrades who share a similar form of insanity. I am especially awed by the fact that I am part of something big.

Rally Start

The opening banquet and riders meeting was Sunday evening. L3 (Lovely Lisa Landry) the rally master gave us a briefing and closed with a very moving and stern lecture about what was important. She said it wasn't the trophies or accolades we might get from being in the rally, she held up her notebook with our emergency contact information and said "the names of your friends, relatives, and loved ones that you have transcribed onto these papers is what is important! Don't do something stupid and make me have to call them." I don't know about anyone else in the room but my eyes were misty and I vowed to follow my rule number one and not make her call Patty.

We received our flags, and rally packs were distributed and opened at 2000 hours (8PM). Mike Kneebone, the IBA president, was having a briefing on route planning for IBR rookies. I attended and picked up some great routing tips as well as a good plan for acquiring bonus points. This was time well spent.

At about 2030 I retired to my hotel room to begin the tedious process of entering the bonus locations on my tentative route into the mapping software program. The rally pack was 38 pages with over 100 bonus locations! I thought I was saving my work but naturally I discover AFTER the program crashes that the last 60 or so points I had entered (most of what I needed for route planning) were gone! CRIPES! Nothing to do but start over. As I finished up about 0100 hours I hadn't even started route planning and I was tired. It had been a hectic day and I just couldn't concentrate. I decided to get some rest and see if I could do better in the AM.

Due to a misunderstanding of the schedule I got up way too early, so I would start the rally at 1000 with a sleep deficit. Many time sensitive and daylight only bonuses complicated the planning process and I decided that the best course of action was to pick the general direction and then plan the route on the fly (as many do). This was my first major mistake. I should have just relaxed and planned my route even if it meant missing the big exit planned for the start. As I later learned, the old axiom "if you don't have time to do it right, how will you find time to do over?" is even more true as you get fatigued. Little did I know how stressful the first leg was going to be.

Leg 1

Leg 1 Actual

I'd like to say that the route shown above was well thought out and planned before I left rally headquarters but, alas, I cannot. This is the actual route I rode. In the unstressed and rested state I'm in as I write this report, I find that I easily missed a LOT of points on this leg. With just a bit more planning and foresight up front I might have had a much better score. Armchair quarterbacking sure is easy!

I only had three bonus locations planned at the start, a 1900 mile run to Perce Rock for 33,000 points, with intermediary stops at the St. Louis Arch for 3500 points and at Hoagy's Heros near Wheeling, WV for 5000 points. Other points on the outbound and inbound trip would be planned along the way. According to Mike Kneebone's newbie training, this plan would garner enough points to qualify one as a "finisher", the tertiary goal on my list. I grab up the bonus at the Arch just after the 10AM start. There is a long line of riders and other visitors going through the security checkpoint (just like the security check at the airlines). Having visited the Arch before, I know there is another entrance to the visitors center but, as much as I hate to stand in line, I am enjoying the company of the other riders and just assumed that the other entrance would have a line also. I should have walked around and picked up the 20 or 30 minutes this would have saved.

Day 1 & 2 8/20-21 Patty's View (1 entry)—21297 points, 1580 miles.

Notice that little triangle on the left of my route? As I head east out of the Gateway Arch, I see the bonuses slightly southeast, near Paducah, Ky. and back up through Louisville, Ky. These look like good options and I head southeast. Over the next half hour, more of this "on-the-fly planning" reveals the error of this thinking. What looks like a short distance with a large map scale translates to hours; I will not be able to follow this route and make it to Hoagie's Heros in the time window. I head back north suffering a 90 minute waste of time. Between this and the Arch error in judgment I have lost almost two hours and I am as fresh now as I will be for the next two weeks.

Somewhere east of Terra Haute, IN. it starts to rain, the remnants of tropical storm Erin. I zip up the vents and continue east as the rain continues. I had planned the Honda bonus near Maryville, OH but the clock tells me I need to press on to Hoagie's. The rain intensifies. I arrive at Hoagy's along with two other riders about 2300 and find that there are several already there. Hoagie Carmichael's was a literal port in the storm. He gave the IBR riders not only a warm welcome, but warm food, hot drinks, and an even hotter stove. I was chilled to the point of shivers, and soaked to the bone. With boots full of water, gloves wet, hands (and I am sure other parts of my body I didn't expose) prune wrinkled, I asked the other riders, through chattering teeth, if they were as wet. They said yes but I think they were lying! Nobody would subject themselves to this torture, IBA or not. Those in the LD community will understand when I say I had "hit the wall". That's the point where you say "what am I doing?, why am I here?, do I really need to do this?". I was ready to quit and head home only a little over 12 hours into a 264 hour rally. I suppose the only reason I didn't was because of my LYING fellow riders. I mean, how can I quit when they are just as cold and miserable as I am? After partaking of Hoagy's generous hospitality I head back into the dark and stormy night.

At about 0200 I have to stop. I take the next exit off of the Pennsylvania turnpike. There are motels but all I can think of is getting dry. At a convenience store right at the exit I ask if there is a laundromat nearby, "yep, straight down the road about 1 mile". I quickly locate the facility, rapidly doff my riding gear into a dryer, add about $2 worth of quarters, and survey the place for a napping spot. The laundry table for folding is nice and sturdy so I unroll my bed mat and stretch out for a 2 hour nap. I wish I would have snapped a photo of what I coined the "IB Motel of the 07 Rally".

Some 3 hours later, nice and dry, I head back into the rain. By daybreak I'm soaked again. The delays at least made it possible to grab the daylight bonuses in York, Pa. I knew both of them from my MD2020 rally experience so this went quickly. My eastward journey continues in the pouring rain, and as I near the New Jersey metropolitan area I start searching the GPS database for a shopping mall. A Home Depot shows up along the route so I detour (almost 2 hours total) to find, purchase, and don a rubber rain suit. It goes on over my wet undergarments and under my First Gear riding outfit. I'm not dry but at least this keeps me warmer. It took me a while to get on the Garden State Parkway. The GPS insists on routing you through NYC over the George Washington Bridge. Even after getting on my chosen route, Garminé (which I pronounce with a soft G and a french accent to mimic a ladies name "jarmeen") continued to try to get me into NYC. I have missed the window for the Buxton, Me bonus, but am attempting to reach the Bath, Me bonus while it is still daylight.

Somewhere in the late afternoon as I am entering Maine, the rain stops and some blue sky appears. What a joy! I never thought seeing some blue sky with no raindrops obscuring it could be so beautiful. It has been over 24 hours and around 1100 miles of non-stop chilly rain.

The sun is rapidly descending as I pass through Brunswick, ME. I quite accidentally spy the Udder Place Coffee bonus, only 456 points but it is right there. I struggle for over 15 minutes to capture a decent photo in the waning light and decide that by the time I drive another 20 minutes or so to the Bath bonus the light will be long gone. I decide I have to drop those 1888 points. I grab a quick snack and a receipt across the street from the Udder Place to validate the time of my photo and continue North. [sidebar—at the scoring table I discovered that Lisa's "liberal interpretation of daylight" meant within one hour of sunrise or sunset. I could have easily obtained the Bath, Me points].

At 2330 I stop in Medway, Me for the start of my rest bonus. 6 hours must fall on "on Wednesday, August 22, 2007". I get a pretty good rest (the first of the rally) and capture a fuel receipt at 0630 to document the end of the rest. I now only have a few hours to obtain the 33,000 point Perce Rock bonus. At least as the sun comes up it reveals a clear warm day, much appreciated after the previous 36 hours. Maybe I will dry out before the end of leg 1 (I didn't).

Day 3 8/22 Patty's View (1 entry)—36014 points, 1000 miles.

The requirements for the Perce Rock bonus were very strict. "This bonus requires two photos. Photo #1: Take a picture of Perce Rock from the bottom of the stairway. This photo must show that the tide is out! Depending on weather conditions, you may access Perce Rock for approximately 2 hours before and 2 hours after low tide. Photo #2: Walk out to Perce Rock, place your flag on the rock and take a closer photo. WARNING: This bonus requires a short walk across the ocean floor; however, the footing is treacherous and should not be attempted unless the water has subsided during a low tide. Tides in this area are extreme and fast changing, rising 6 to 8 feet per hour!" I have a 4 hour window centered on 1400 and "Garminé" is telling me my estimated time-of-arrival (ETA) 1430. This is tight! I have to cross the border, clear customs/immigration, navigate two lane roads in a foreign country, and maybe even purchase fuel. Any delay could be disastrous.

The border crossing went fairly smooth and after negotiating some construction areas I was soon moving at highway speeds. As I pass a very large sign that reads "Entering Atlantic Time zone", I panic and slam on the brakes, I'VE JUST LOST AN HOUR! My cell phone is not well integrated into my sound system and I have to call my wife. Patty reassures me that Perce is in Eastern time and I am ok. I continue on, somewhat in disbelief, how can I be moving northeast and not get deeper into a time zone? As this thought muddles it's way around my fatigued brain I remember that I am looking at a flat map that isn't really flat, longitude bends around a circle you know. Still, I closely monitor the time of arrival on my GPS and my low grade panic increases as each slowdown increases the arrival time. Garminé's ETA is now 1435!

As I happen upon some traffic backed up for a road construction stop (and the clock continues to tick) I notice some bikes at the head of the line and roll up alongside them. They are fellow IBR riders—at least I'm not alone in missing this bonus. I recognize the familiar Goldwing of my good friends Jim and Donna Phillips and pull alongside them. I know they are experienced IBR riders and I'm not in too much trouble if I am with them. They are riding with Stephan Bolduc who is from Quebec. We chat only briefly before the road crew allows us through and I fall in behind Stephan and the Phillips. They are running a little faster than I would have attempted alone in on foreign soil, but it is within my specifications. I figure this is Stephan's neck of the woods, and he knows what he is doing. In short order the ETA drops a few minutes taking my stress level down with it.

As we approach a turn, I realize that Stephan is not following the same route as Garminé. He heads for Campbellton, a bonus I was planning on getting on the way back. I figured he knew what he was doing and continued to play follow the leader. We pass through Campbellton and take a bridge across the Chaleur Bay through Pointe-À-la-Croix. I am in sheer joy as 30 minutes falls away from my ETA. Thank God for road construction. It was this fortuitous event that allowed me to hook up with Stephan, Jim, and Donna. Stephan may not have saved my day, but he certainly lifted a yoke of oppression from my shoulders. We would end up crossing paths and sharing the road several more times on leg 1.

Getting to Perce Rock was stressful but very worthwhile. Riding the shoreline of Gulf of St. Lawrence along the Gaspé Peninsula, on a clear and warm sunshiny day, was one of the most beautiful and enjoyable rides I had ever experienced. This is fantastic country and I hope Patty and I can visit and take some time to savor its unique beauty. See for yourself at THE GASPE PENINSULA, CANADA.

After bagging my photos for the bonus, Stephan, Jim, and Donna went on as I stopped to organize and fuel up. I began my journey back to St Louis planning on picking up Campbellton, Niagara Falls, and whatever else fell across my path. I encounter Stephan, Jim, and Donna at Campbellton where they have stopped for dinner. We are all headed to Niagara Falls and I continue to ride with them. At a rest area somewhere before Montréal, I can't go on, and stop at the IronButt motel for a 2 hour nap. Stephan gives me directions for the best route to Toronto and they continue onward.

Day 4 8/23 & 5 8/24 Patty's View (entry 1, entry 2)—9114 points, 950 miles

Daybreak finds me coming into Montréal in moderate traffic. I motor on towards Toronto. Somehow this stretch of road—which I had ridden in the '05 Mason-Dixon—is depressing. Perhaps it's the overcast day; or the thought of navigating the racetrack called QEW (Queen Elizabeth Way) around Toronto; or the fact that I've lost my cigarette lighter and have to stop to light a cigarette; no matter what the reason this leg is definitely a low point of the rally. The rain starts just outside of Toronto. Garminé points me to a Canadian Wal-Mart where I pick up a replacement lighter. I head on down the QEW for Niagara Falls. As I enter the parking lot for the Skylon Tower, I am amazed to find Stephan, Jim, and Donna. It seems they didn't go much further than me before they stopped at a motel for 5 hours. They head out while I am riding the "yellow bug" to get my "falls" picture.

My next stops are all in Ohio and are daylight only. I will need to press hard to get to the FREE Stamp Sculpture in Cleveland before dark. I can't quite dry out, my boots are still wet and about the time my pants and jacket start to lose most of their moisture I encountered another thunderstorm. It was pretty dusky by the time I got into downtown Cleveland. I easily located the FREE stamp, and took the photo. Since the photo didn't clearly show daytime, I stopped at a nearby hotel to get a receipt documenting my time of arrival.

Next up is to take a rest break and then capture the Twistee Treat Ice Cream in Clyde and the Honda motorcycle factory in Marysville. I decide to drive on to Clyde for the motel rest. The long ride to this point was taking its toll and I direly wanted to go to sleep. Thankfully, the motel check in was quick and I was able to get a good long rest before sunup. I was up in time to be at the Twistee Treat Ice Cream parlor waiting for sunrise and enough daylight to take my photo. The journey across northern Ohio was great. It was a clear, mild day, one perfect for observing the rolling hills and the immaculately landscaped and maintained farm houses. I had never been in this neck of the woods and marveled at how American's, while largely the same, can be so diverse in building and landscape architecture. Coming away from the Honda factory I decide to take a back route to the major highway and stumble upon a new, yes new, covered bridge. This is so unique I thought it might be a good bonus location, and stop to grab a photo to share with my rally master pals.

After riding for some time it warms up and I decide to unzip everything to see if I can get dried out. I even loosen the bootlaces. Approaching rally headquarters in Chesterfield the sky become ominous. I soon realize the storm seems to be centered over rally headquarters and I am not going to be able to skirt it. I stop on the freeway and button everything back up, it doesn't help much. By the time I pull into the hotel lot I am again soaked through and through. My arrival is around 1500, a full 2 hours before the checkpoint opened.

Scoring was uneventful [Patty's View]. I didn't make any documentation errors, obtained the 10,000 point fuel log bonus, and managed to walk away with 75425 points, having covered around 4000 miles. Not a great showing, but within striking range of qualifying as a finisher and I had learned a lot. I would later forget this score, and this forgetfulness would lead to one of my lowest points of the rally.

Arriving at the checkpoint 2 hours early gave me 13 hours to get scored, shop for some needed items, perform some needed maintenance, and rest. Oh, the problem is you have just spent long hours and days by yourself and the need for human interaction (at least for me) is overwhelming. I finally tore myself away from visiting to head to the nearby WalMart (yes, my favorite store) to get oil, a new bite valve for my hydration system, and other sundry food and supplies. It's dark by the time I am back in the parking lot to perform my fixes. Earl and Melody Smith, acquaintances of mine who had ridden in from the east coast just to be spectators, offered to assist. While Earl and I poured oil into the LT and checked out the non-functioning Soltek HID (draining the water fixed it), the adorable Melody graciously sprayed Scotch Guard on my riding suit. By the time I finished up it was 2200 or later before I hit the bed. The Screamin' Meanie stirs me at 0330, I dress and head for the 0400 riders meeting. So much for catching up on some sleep during this forced layover.

Leg 2

The rally books get distributed and I forgo the Kneebone rookie session, opting instead to head straight to my room and get my route laid in. There are some sucker bonuses, but it becomes pretty clear that you can either choose a northwest CONUS route or a southwest CONUS route. Clusters of bonuses in San Francisco and Seattle lead me to choose that path. Bleary eyed, I begin the tedious task of entering the way points in the mapping software. Even though I meticulously am saving my work, the task is difficult in my foggy mental state. In hindsight I probably should have gone back to bed for 2 hours. [sidebar—as I write this I realize that an even better option, once I saw I was going to Olathe, KS would have been to have beat feet to my Mom's house in Kansas City and finished the route planning there] I finally get a route planned and check in with Jim, Donna, and Stephan to see what they have come up with. I should have visited their room earlier. Not because of any sage wisdom they might have imparted, but because they had one of the few smoking rooms in the hotel. I had made many trips outside to partake of my nasty unhealthful habit (I'm using those adjectives in the hopes that it will preclude unsolicited advice about how I should quit). Our routes are similar, so I know I'm not out in left field. I head back to the room to pack and go.

The following is not the original plan but the first half is pretty darn close.

Leg 2 Actual

Day 6 8/25 Patty's View (1 entry)—9821 points, 940 miles.

As I am loading up the bike I see that David Derrick (leg 1 top scorer) is still in the lot making his final preparations. Since we are both headed I-70 west, he and I agree to ride together as long as we are in sync. David and I are both IBR rookies but he is a top performer in all of his previous rallies. I have had the privilege of being in these rallies with him but this will be the first time we've actually ridden together. He is headed straight for Garmin in Olathe, KS and I tell him I am going to grab U of Mo bonus in Columbia, he opts to join me for that.

David and I get separated before Columbia but as I am dismounting to grab the bonus he rides up. We capture the Corinthian Column photo and head out again. His riding style is a bit hot for me and we are soon separated. As I pass through KCMO my route takes me within 5 minutes of my Mom's house. I'm hungry, not having had any breakfast, and seriously consider making a lunch stop. I finally negate that idea, which was probably a good decision based on subsequent timing.

Surprisingly, David again rides into the Garmin parking lot as I am finishing up. We ride on to the Wizard of Oz Museum somewhat together (I am behind him naturally). Leaving Wamego, I have to fuel up and we part ways. I hadn't planned the Chalk Canyon Monument Rocks but seeing its close proximity to my route I make the detour. This time David is there and he waits while I grab my photo in the waning light. He is tight on fuel and wants the company back in case he runs out of gas. We are likely the last folks in there that evening as it got dark rapidly. David has hotel reservations in Denver and invites me to join him. We press on westward in the darkness.

While I had been fatigued during leg 1 and had fought some drowsiness I had never pushed beyond my comfort level. Following David into Denver, I went well past my stop point. This was my first, last, and only time I felt like I was outside of a safe zone. I could see David was fighting it as well since he was having difficulty maintaining a stable speed. [sidebar—Red Bull does give you wings. David made a rapid stop at a convenience store, grabbed a Red Bull, and slammed it down. I didn't even get off the bike before he was rolling again. Wow, did that wake that man up! I had a hard time keeping up.] In retrospect, I should have foregone sharing a room with David and stopped before Denver. I was well outside my comfort zone and pressing on did not actually gain any advantage. I vowed that I would not be in this state again.

Day 7 8/26 Patty's View (1 entry)—9539 points, 914 miles.

David's meanie went off before mine and I shut mine off. I decided to catch a few more winks while he was working at his route on the laptop. I glanced over from time-to-time to make sure he was still working and not packing up. The next time I glance up daylight is streaming in the window and David is long gone. David's departure without me was no big deal since I had decided our styles were too different, but I had just overslept by at least 2 hours! I packed up, grabbed a bowl of cereal from the Day's Inn crappy breakfast bar, looked over my route, called Patty for a check in, and finally got back on the road around 0830, well behind plan.

I was headed for Bristlecone Pine Forest, the 18,500 bonus daylight only bonus, with via points planned for the Steve Canyon Statue in Idaho Springs, CO, Tennessee Pass, Independence Pass, and Dinosaur National Monument, Utah. With my late start, Garminé was telling me my ETA at Bristlecone was around 1930. There is little room for error. Coming down from Tennessee Pass heading into Aspen I have my first and only BMW failure of the rally; my heated hand grips are stuck on in the high position. As temps were passing into the 80's the welcome warmth of these grips in the mountains was becoming uncomfortable. Knowing I was headed into much higher temps I had to stop and call Patty for support. I didn't have my owner's manual so couldn't identify which fuse to pull. She came back to me later with the info and that problem was solved. I would have liked the heat several times later on but couldn't afford the stop time knowing it would be another stop to unplug the fuse.

During the fuse discussion with Patty she is worried about me making it to the Bristlecone Pine Forest and recommends that I drop the Dinosaur National Monument. I reluctantly agree with her assessment since this does put 2 hours back into the ETA. Later on, as Garminé is telling me I am nearing the exit towards this way point, I reconsider my decision and almost turn off. After all this is 9000+ points I am passing, but I've learned that second guessing your decisions in a fatigued condition is usually not a good thing to do, so I don't make the turn. Later on I will learn that the second guess on the second guess would have corrected my most major mistake of leg 2.

Several hours later as I am nearing my turnoff of I-70, I notice a message from Patty. Since I can hear the cell phone, just not talk, I listen to the message. It is a critical warning that I am AFU (all fouled up, you didn't think nastier did you?). I stop at Salina, UT. for fuel and call in. Well it seems my son had been reading the IBR daily reports and said "I don't think Dad is headed to the right place". Yep, I'm going to Bristlecone Pine Forest on the west side of Nevada instead of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest on the west side of California (those dastardly rally masters) a mere difference of 350 miles. In my bleary eyed state of entering way points I had missed that critical adjective. Putting in the correct way point Garminé tells me the ETA is well into the night so I replan. Patty's View (blog)

I still need this bonus but I have blown off the only good intermediary point, Dinosaur National Monument. The only thing remaining is to put Las Vegas into the route, get some rest at Beatty, NV, and be at the right forest at daybreak. I am totally dejected; this mistake puts me in a position of playing catch up. The only bright spot in this dungeon is driving across Utah. I will borrow from what my grandpa always said about Texas, "there ain' t nuthin' in Texas but miles and they got miles and miles of miles." Now I don't think he was being complimentary (although factual) so I loosely borrow when I say there ain't nuthin' in Utah but red and they got miles and miles of red. What incredible beauty. I had enjoyed Utah on my National Parks Master Traveler quest several years back but this was my first opportunity to travel the I-70 I-15 corridor. Being a geology buff, and feeling like I had totally screwed the pooch, I decide that I can salvage some of the situation by doing some sightseeing and shooting some photos. I stop and the digital camera comes into play on leg 2. You'll notice there are no leg 1 photos in my album but quite a few for a timed rally from leg 2. I took a break at the roadside historical marker for the San Rafael Swell and continued to shoot personal photos the remainder of leg 2. I really liked driving the Virgin River Canyon on I-15 and in searching out a link I now see why, this is near and part of one of my favorite National Parks, Zion. Here is a nice Youtube video showing you what I saw.

The leg into Beatty from Las Vegas was interesting. As I got out of the Las Vegas metropolis area the road narrowed to 2 lanes and traffic subsided to virtually none. The landscape outside of the tunnel I was digging into the night with my HID was illuminated by the soft glow of the almost full moon. Cresting a hill, I spied a sign warning that I was in open range and to be mindful of cattle. This put me on alert and within one mile I happened upon a herd—of deer. I slowed significantly and a long blast of the LT's horn disbursed them from the roadway. Not seeing any more deer lurking on the sides I sped by and maintained a close watch for other nighttime critters. Sure enough, it wasn't long before one of the denizens of the night ran right into my path and I nailed it dead on. Thank God it was a mouse.

The landscape of this area is eerie. One can imagine that the orb whose reflected light is illuminating this barren land might not be all that different. I notice a storm brewing to the north and somewhere between Amargosa Valley and Beatty the crosswinds become extremely strong across my mostly westward direction. Unlike many riders, I like crosswinds. I find the sudden gusts which can blow you out of your lane to be exhilarating. I smile as I enjoy the challenge of keeping the bike in it's proper position. The wind gets worse and I am no longer having fun. One hand has to come off the handlebars to keep the tank bag, that contains all of the fruits of my labors, from blowing away. I slow as I try to maintain lane position and keep my belongings in place. The traffic I have passed over the last several miles overtakes and passes me. I finally turn northward and can regain two handed control. I have a newfound respect for gusting crosswinds. Beatty brings a motel and a good rest. I depart the motel at about 0315 to arrive at Bristlecone at daybreak and find Vicki Johnson sitting by her bike making notes. I later learned that she was riding with Chris Sakala. They had come in after me and since I had to get fuel were on the road ahead of me.

Day 8 8/27 Patty's View (entry 1, entry 2, entry 3)—48112 points, 750 miles.

Rally masters pick bonus locations for a variety of reasons, one of those reasons is that the road to get there is a good ride. Entering California I find I'm on this beautiful canyon road, in the night, and think it is a shame I can't appreciate the beauty I know is lurking outside the beam of my lights. Fate must have decided that this road was too good to pass up, she let me ride it two more times in the daylight.

Going down and out of this canyon I passed a motorcycle going up and wondered why this rider was not headed towards a high point daylight bonus. DOH! It never dawned on me that he was doing the same. I should have stopped and researched why one of us was going the wrong way. It was only after I had reached Bishop (where Garminé has placed the way point) that I read (misread) the directions "ride approximately 13 miles east on CA168". I turn WEST out of Bishop and ride 13 miles. At 13 miles the only road turns south not north per the directions. Darn, I am supposed to be going the other WEST!. I ride back to Bishop and continue east on what I thought was 168. A few miles later I realize this is not 168 and I read the directions again, "From Big Pine, ride approximately 13 miles east on CA168". Holy Crap! I was at Big Pine 20 miles south. I retrace my route and get to ride up this beautiful canyon road the second time. The sun has now clearly breached the Sierra Nevada's. To give you an idea of the delay I have just suffered, I pass Vicki Johnson coming out of the location as I am just starting in! Much later in the day I will direly miss this lost time.

At the turnoff from paved to gravel I find Chris Sakala repairing a flat and stop to chat with him briefly. I ask if this is the right road and he says "yep, about 12 miles in and 12 miles out. Figure at least an hour and watch out for the sand about 4 miles in." I confirm he doesn't need any assistance and head into the wilderness. This is a challenging road but not worse than I have ridden before (I'm thinking of the Lokiel, AZ bonus in ButtLiteIV). The big difference is the sheer drop offs at the edges of the hairpin turns. I keep my eyes to the inside of the turns to avoid "hitting what you look at". With only a 2 mile detour (I didn't trust my interpretation of the directions and retraced to a previous turn) I managed to capture this bonus. Here is my photo of the 4500 year old "Patriarch Tree". As I was exiting, I passed a dump truck filled with dirt. No doubt the road grader I had seen was going to smooth out this road, with DIRT. I was glad it was dry. I learned later that the grader did indeed smooth out the road. Those that rode it beforehand had some rugged terrain, those that rode it after (but before the rain) enjoyed a fairly nice road, and I don't even want to think about those that rode it after the rain! We certainly earned those points. After riding CA168 out of the canyon for the third time, I stopped at Big Pine to check in with Patty and report my screw up. The sun was high in the sky.

Yosemite was beautiful and slow. I hate riding in National Parks on a rally. Law enforcement is strict (speeding is a federal offense), speed limits are ridiculously low, and tourist traffic is dense and generally running well below the posted limits. While I greatly enjoyed the view at Glacial Point I was very grateful to exit the park some 100 plus miles and many hours later.

I am headed to Mono Hot Springs, I need to make my call in bonus and there is no cell service. Doing a quick computation I realize that I can't be sure I'll be back in cell phone range before midnight and opt to borrow a phone at an auto service shop in Bass Lake. This is more delay. I'm now reading reports that there are riders who have been to Mono Hot Springs and swear they will never go back. I won't go that far but I will say that I won't ride a motorcycle in there again unless it's worth a lot of points and I'm not sure 12667 is enough! The destination is okay. It's just that the road is, shall we say, one of the most challenging paved roads you will ever ride. The destination looks like a really nice place to kick back, swill some beer, and maybe even get high. The residents appear to be 60's hippies. As I arrive, ready for what I consider to be a well deserved break, there are 3 other riders getting ready to depart. As much as I want to stop for a bit and get some hot coffee, the idea of an outbound riding partner is more appealing, especially considering the setting sun. I ask the remaining rider (Greg Marbach I believe) if he would mind waiting 90 seconds while I grab my photo. He graciously agrees and I am extremely thankful. Being true to my commitment to be safe I have been riding well inside of my capabilities. Following another rider allowed me to be more comfortable and I cut about 20 minutes off of my exit time for the one lane stretch. By the time I get back to the main road at Huntington Lake it is very dark. I know I need to go southwest and turn right, Garminé tells me to turn around but I know I'm going the right direction and tell her to shut up. So 20 minutes later I'm back at this intersection and Garminé is saying "I told you so." I'm not so kind with what I have to say to her now.

It is dark, my vision is blurred by hours of wind, sun, and vibration and I'm riding well below my normal limits. This is the point at which I dearly would have loved to have the time back that I had lost earlier in the day. Yes, it was nice riding that road 3 times, but it really wasn't necessary! The journey back to civilization takes forever. I call Patty as soon as cell service returns and she is beside herself with worry, it has been 12 hours since she had heard from me and she had had plenty of time to investigate my route so was quite worried. I stop at Madera for a meal, my first of the day and then go on to Los Banos for a motel and the rest bonus. I didn't reread the rest bonus! I knew when it had to start but recalled the wrong duration. I thought 6 hours (it was 5). It is 0630 by the time I'm up, the bike serviced, and back on the road. Two hours lost to poor time management and reading comprehension.

Day 9 8/28 Patty's View (entry 1 )—58337 points, 750 miles.

This is paycheck day. If I can ride the plan I will rack up 50614 points from Lick Observatory, Centennial Light, Christopher Columbus, Cupid’s Arrow, Lombard Street, Palace of Fine Arts, Sutro Baths, Golden Gate Bridge Huge Coca-Cola Cup, Independence Rock, Kneebone Headstone, and Bridgeport Covered Bridge. The Lick Observatory is another severely time restricted bonus but I am in good shape. Riding from Los Banos into San Jose in the early morning, the rush hour traffic begins to build and I have a blast riding the HOV lanes and splitting traffic. Approaching Lick Observatory, which I can see above me on the mountaintop, I am again proceeding cautiously up the narrow two lane with the precipitous drop offs. I arrive 15 minutes ahead of the 0900 opening. Coming out of the Lick Observatory Garminé is telling me to turn left but a sign at the intersection is saying Livermore to the right. A fellow IBRer turns right and I quickly decide to follow. This turns out to be an interesting road, challenging but not with the severe drops offs found on the road in. Following who turns out to be Tom Melchild, I again am able to push myself and we make pretty good time to Livermore, maybe as much as 10 minutes faster than backtracking to the freeway. There certainly was no traffic.

My San Francisco bonus chase was a wonderful whirlwind tour of the city netting some 16,000 points in less than two hours. I chanced upon Greg Marbach at the Palace of Fine Arts and we snapped some photos of each other and again at Sutro Baths. Greg was also gracious enough to point me towards Cupid's Arrow, which I had been unable to locate on the map. Kudos to him for helping me pick up the 1415 points. This kind of assistance is above and beyond what one would expect from a fellow contestant.

Century Light in Livermore, Coke Cup in Sacramento, and a quick sit down meal in Sacramento quickly fall into history as I make my way to Grass Valley. This turns out to be a challenging bonus to locate. The directions say "8 miles north of junction of CA20 and Pleasant Valley Road. This junction is approximately 8 miles west of Grass Valley, CA". I clearly read and interpret "8 miles west" but somehow seem to overlook the "8 miles north". I poke around wasting time and finally ask for directions to the "covered bridge". I grab the photo, log the entry, and (as is my procedure) turn to the next bonus and read the directions. Shucks, this is in the exact same spot—I just have to find the cemetery. Nobody is around who knows where it might be. Coming back from searching I encounter Alan Barbic who is also looking for the cemetery. He is on the phone, with Lisa I suspect. As I continue my search (I had gone back to get my camera for a shot of some deer), I see him riding up the path for "official vehicles only". I dart back to my bike and follow his path to the cemetery which is directly off of the highway. We chat a bit about routing. Alan is headed north; I am headed east and we part ways. Getting back to the junction of CA20 and Pleasant Valley Road, I see Chris Sakala and Vicki Johnson at the side of the road studying maps. I pull alongside and ask if they are looking for the Covered Bridge. No, they have been there, they are looking for the cemetery! I say it is right next to the covered bridge. I know this didn't make them feel good but for me it was a bright spot. Imagine an IBR rookie giving routing advice to such seasoned hands as these.

Darkness and spotty rain join me on my eastward trek and I seem to have done a poor job of fuel management. I worry whether or not I can make it to the next location where Garminé says I can find fuel. I pulled into the service station at Truckee, Ca with little reserve, either in my fuel tank or my body. I was spent. I can vaguely remember driving through Reno, NV. At some point later on I know I stopped for a motel rest but for the life of me I can't remember where or when and will have to look through the Mastercard bill when it comes. I do recall that I didn't even doff the riding gear as I fall into the bed. I awake 30 minutes before the 3 hours set on the meanie and head out. The next clear memory is having a great "sink" omelet for breakfast at Winnemucca, NV. They named it "sink" because it had everything but the kitchen sink in it. [sidebar—Cisco has a "k" in their code naming convention which is "kitchen sink" also meaning it has ALL feature sets].

Day 10 8/29 Patty's View (1 entry)—14428 points, 1000 miles.

It was still very early when I nailed Wendover Will and headed across the Bonneville Salt Flats. What an amazing place, so white and so flat and so far. I am maintaining my normal less than 10 over limit when I realize that in all likelihood this area is unpatrolled. I mean they can't even turn around. I consider bumping the cruise control up to LTO (LT optimal). I sure would like to stop and take some photos of this incredible view but the rally clock ticking in my head prevents that from happening. Soon the traffic stops due to an automobile accident, which provides me with ample opportunity to shoot some photos. As I am dismounting I am joined by Matt Watkins. We shoot photos of each other and get a trucker to take a photo of us together.

These chance encounters with other riders are some of the great moments in the rally. You drone out miles and miles rarely seeing another rider, sometimes for days. You are on a journey alone. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, another rider appears. It is very reassuring. Riding along alone you can't help but question your decisions. Am I doing the right thing? Is my route viable? Will I get there on time? Where am I? What am I doing? Am I in a rally? The longer you ride on alone, the stronger these doubts become. Then you spy another rider on your path and, for the brief instant in time you are together, your concerns fade as quickly as hoarfrost in the breaking daylight, only to return almost as quickly when you part ways. I love this game!

I snatched up the photo of the decorated bull in Salt Lake City and was making good time to the bonuses in Wyoming. I exit I-80 onto 220 and again am awestruck by the beauty of the landscape. Rolling planes with outcroppings of geological formations, a beautiful road in beautiful country, shoot this is one of those that just must be driven more than once. About 80 miles up this road I decide I just have to turn around and drive it again. Yep, in my infinite wisdom of just dropping way points in their general locale with the plan of tuning them "on-the-fly" and then forgetting to do so, I had driven 55 miles past Split Rock and was 25 miles past Independence Rock. Gee whiz I've got to learn to get my head out of that darn GPS and look around. I head back south and realize that my fuel management was based on a fuel stop in Casper. My distance to empty was reading 100 miles and I was off on a 145 mile detour! No way could I make it and maintain the average speed I needed. I slowed down and prayed that I could find fuel. I didn't recall seeing anything since I-80. There was a station open at Muddy Gap and I breathed a sigh of relief. After refueling, I managed to grab the next three bonuses and purchased fuel again in Casper to document my Hell's Half Acre arrival time as being in the daylight window. Suffice to say it was heavy dusk when I shot the photo.

This detour put me well behind my plan which was go get into Nebraska before dark and pick up the Mount Rushmore bonus. In fact, this horrible mistake and delay left me very few opportunities for points in the time remaining.

Day 11 8/30 Patty's View (blog)—11750 points, 1020 miles.

I needed to get on down the road and as far into Nebraska as possible, but shortly after exiting I-25 onto US26 I knew that a rest stop was in the near future. Crossing the Nebraska border I began to look for motels. The first town had quite a few but they all appeared to be in the "rustic fishing camp" style. I don't have a problem with that, I just felt like they would be pricey. Garminé tells me there is a motel in the next town and I continue. I am fighting drowsiness as I make my way to the address only to find that this motel appears to have been converted to apartments. The next motel is 22 miles and I know I can't make it. I pull to the curb, drop my head onto the tankbag and IronButt motel it for about 45 minutes. I awake refreshed and alert, start the engine and roll on. That lasted about 15 miles into the 22 mile trek and the motel was a welcome site. Again, I crashed into the bed without undressing.

Three hours later I am headed out to cover the remaining 1000 miles and capture the only points I can acquire in daylight: Scottsbluff National Monument, Chimney Rock National Historic Site, Carhenge in Alliance, NE, and the Big Pump in King City, MO. It's a long and boring day. My route takes me through Kansas City and my Mom's house is only a 15 minute detour. I decide that this would be a good layover for food, rest, and paperwork organization. I give her a call and naturally receive a warm welcome. At 2145 I pull into the driveway. This is a great opportunity to get a good rest before the final scoring. I am only a little over 3 hours out of Chesterfield and have a good 10 hours before I have to arrive.

While I'm grabbing a bite to eat (well, they said I wolfed down all of their leftovers, but I'm sticking to my story) my Mom willingly agrees to transcribe the info from my fuel receipts onto my fuel log. At about 2330 I head off for a nap and deliberated on what to dial into the meanie. I was starting to get jitters about finishing. Patty was keeping the total and was assuring me I had enough points, so now I was worried about getting there. What if I have a flat? What if the tranny decides to fail? What if, what if, what if, my mind churns. I decide to give myself some wiggle room and set the meanie for 3 hours. The nap was fitful. I am a relatively short distance from Chesterfield but I am worried sick. So close and yet so far. Two and a half hours later I awake from this dissatisfying nap and depart. In my stepdad's words, "like a thief in the night".

I didn't have a flat; the transmission didn't fail; the oil stayed in the bike; the engine kept running. In fact, nothing bad was happening at all and as I near St Louis the realization sets in that nothing now stands in the way of me finishing an Iron Butt Rally! Yes, it is over! My vision blurs as the tears well into my eyes. I have done it! I am going to finish an Iron Butt Rally. In the years and miles I have ridden in my lifetime I have experienced glorious beauty, wonderful scents, exhilarating roads, adrenaline pumping excitement, stark fear, sheer panic, bone chilling cold, sweltering heat, debilitating aches, and disabling pain, but I have never experienced this emotion. I get it now. I understand. I grok the IBR.

I roll into Rally Headquarters about 0530 and am one happy biker. See for yourself—photo.

Scoring Patty's View (blog) + 12000 points, Total for Rally 9,349.

My plan was to fill out my paperwork, get scored, and get some rest—HA!

Off in my hotel room I spread out my paperwork and began the process of transcribing the info to the rally pack, ensuring that each bonus was marked and properly documented and that each photo and receipt had the correct information on it. Turning to the fuel log, I verified that each entry had been completed and that the receipts were in order. I packed it all up (and I mean packed it ALL up, every photo and every scrap of paper—even the trash—goes into my bag and accompanies me to the scoring table because you can't go fetch it after you sit down) and was off to scoring. First the fuel log, in a small town the receipt showed the street address but not the town, I glanced at the GPS and transcribed the name of the town onto the receipt—minus 1000 points. You have to include the phone number when penning this info. The last fuel log entry has a rookie mistake—price per gallon vs gallons purchased—minus 1000 points! Yep, I checked over the fuel log my Mom had filled out but I didn't validate what she had written. My Bad! Paperwork errors for -2000 points.

The bonus scoring went perfectly, adding 12,000 points (8 for the fuel log and 4 for the IDcard) to my score, and I willingly signed agreement to the score. I wasn't sure, but the 169,099 seemed like I had done okay.

With objectives one and two completed I went off to get some rest. The excitement of being finished, and the crowds in the hotel and surrounds pretty much squelched the resting part. I just couldn't pass up the socialization. This camaraderie is a major component of the rallies. Amazing how you can keep going with so little sleep. Being on the road and in the game provides a low level of adrenaline on a constant basis; being at the finish and having lots of people around for the first time in days gooses that adrenaline up. There was no way I was going to sleep. The finishers banquet was ONLY 8 hours off.

The Finish and Home

What can I say about the finishers banquet and festivities? The wealth of photos you can find on the web (links to the left) pretty much say it all. I enjoyed the company of Ardyss Kellerman at the dinner and soon the formalities began. I don't hear too well and was also pretty tired, so I am unclear on the process and what is going on. Lisa starts reading off names and scores and presenting each finisher with a plaque. My recollection was that the first scores called were in the 190,000 range. Each name called yields a slightly higher number and I finally decipher the process. I am trying to remember my leg one score, I remember I was really worried about getting enough points but the rain had slowed me down. I had a vague recollection of somewhere around 35,000. As the names and scores pass thru the 225K range I'm thinking I sure didn't have over 50K in leg 1 and a degree of dejection begins to grow. Bronze and Silver finishes have been awarded and Lisa says "our first Gold Medal finisher, in 27th place with 242,060 points is Rick Miller". I've been in several rallies with Rick and his performance is to be envied. He is a superb planner and executes his plan flawlessly. The dejection is pretty firm at this point. I guess I didn't have enough points in leg one to finish; I could have got the Dinosaur bonus; I could have checked the doggone way points; I shouldn't have taken so many breaks for meals; I shouldn't have done so much sight seeing; I should have made the second call in bonus; I should have checked the fuel log; woulda, coulda, shoulda fills my head. Imagine my shock, awe, and amazement when the next name was called. I really had dreamed for this result but it was outside of my hopes (recall my intro). In all honesty, I sat at that banquet and listened to 50 some names being called out thinking I wasn't a finisher. I was overjoyed!

When I called Patty to report these results she was not particularly surprised. She had maintained the totals and the targets and had been assuring me that I was doing okay. What a supporter! That is an even longer story, so you will just have to trust me when I say without her I would be nothing.

My socialization continued to almost the wee hours of Saturday. I finally packed it in around 2330, having been awake for over 20 hours on top of the previous 11 days of sleep deprivation. I was looking forward to a good long sleep but was quite surprised to find myself wide awake and rearing to go before 0700. I wanted to go home, a mere 850 miles away. Quickly packing up, saying my goodbyes, and separating myself from my comrades, I hit the road around 0900.

I am well aware of a high-risk mental state called "get-home-itus". I have seen it rear it's ugly head many times over the years, and have seen it cost lives. I've got a bad case, so I am even more cautious on my trip home. I roll into the garage and the welcoming arms of Patty at 2315. I'm home, the rally is over, and I am a finisher. Goals 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 knocked down and scattered as pins at the end of the bowling alley.


For me the rally didn't end on 8/31. It continued for several weeks past, and I can't say for sure that it is really over. Maybe I don't want it to be or maybe it is an experience that, if I am lucky, will never end.

The first two days home I slept soundly, but then the dreams started. For at least 10 days, I rode that rally every night, sometimes struggling for bonus points in the Colorado Rockies, sometimes riding the Utah Canyons, frequently dreaming of oversleeping. It seemed like it might be coming to an end when I arrived at a bonus not too far from the endpoint and Mike Kneebone and Lisa Landry were there. They said that given the current time there was no way I could get back to Saint Louis in the time window and that I should just go home now. I bolted out of a sound sleep on that one. As I pen this report and recall the events of the rally (some sharp and vivid and some just a dull hint) the dreaming has resumed.

I have become a member of an elite group, one that has fewer than 400 members. The irony here is that there are scant few who understand what we have done, and even scant fewer who understand why. To paraphrase (and update) Bob Higdon's eloquent foreword to Ron Ayers' book Against the Wind, in response to "why?"...
"When you turn off the key for the last time, there aren't 400 people on earth who can seriously appreciate what you have undergone. About 90 of them will show up at a hotel west of Saint Louis, looking as pounded as you do. The are the only ones who can really know. The rest of us can only guess. You ride this endless ride to be one of them."

Credits and Accolades

These are the folks that come to mind. I am sure there are more and for those that I may have missed, my sincere apologies. The mind gets foggy with age and even foggier during the IBR.

Highs and Lows

Today's List. I reserve the right to update as I recall more events.

Meeting up with other riders on the trail Constipation
Getting advice from rally veterans Engine vibration
Giving advice to rally veterans Rain and cold
Riding canyons and mountains Boring interstate highways (most interstate highways are boring)
Getting lots of bonus points in a short time Feeling like you have screwed the pooch
A whirlwind tour of San Francisco Killing a critter or two
Moonlit landscapes riding past your limit (only the one time)
Getting directions from another rider  
Having a rider lead the way on a rugged road  
A rider that waits for you just because you want company  

Lessons Learned

There are long lists of IronButt lessons to be found on the web and I have gained a wealth of knowledge from my predecessors. I will only add the things I either learned on this rally, didn't remember before the rally, or feel the need to reiterate. Again, this is today's list and I reserve the right to update as I recall more lessons.

By the numbers...

This is just a list of some interesting numbers I was playing with.

Total trip uncorrected odometer mileage (including to and from St. Louis)
Total trip GPS mileage (including to and from St. Louis)
Total Rally GPS mileage
Sum of direct/indirect expenses
Leg 2 GPS mileage
Leg 1 GPS mileage
Dollars for rally preparation
Dollars for entrance fee
Dollars for gasoline
Dollars for per-diem expenses (lodging/food)
Wasted mileage (backtracking and off-route trek by comparing route software mileage to GPS mileage
Gallons of gasoline
% of tire wear
Cents of cost per rally mile
Rally average speed (based on total available rally time)
Leg 2 efficiency (points per GPS mile)
Overall Efficiency (points per GPS mile)
Leg 1 efficiency (points per GPS mile)
Traffic incidents (semi-trucks changing lanes on me, in both cases, I anticipated their maneuvers and easily avoided any problem)
BMW failures (hand grip heat stuck ON)
Law Enforcement encounters
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