Butt Rally – A Newbie’s Perspective
Early in 2004 I knew I had been drawn for the ’05 Iron Butt
Rally. My ’03 FJR needed only
minor additions to be ready.
Unfortunately at the Utah
1088 later in June I crashed my FJR on Nine Mile Canyon Rd., totaling it. The rush was on to find a new bike and get
it rally ready. After being screwed by
the local Yamaha dealer along came the great folks at Sunnyside Yamaha a
perennial IBR checkpoint. Dan Denchel agreed to sell me the ’05 FJR he had ordered for
himself. In addition Dan took my
crashed ’03 in trade for a Honda XR650R with the goal of rebuilding my bike
to become his daily rider.
I took delivery of a Galaxy blue 2005 FJR1300 at the
beginning of September 2004 and the real rush was on to get this bike ready
to ride the following year.
I learned a lot from my previous bike and crash and knew,
to an extent, what worked and what did not work for me. First I talked to Dean Tanji
about one of his remaining tanks. I
learned that he was now running it sans fuel pump strictly by gravity
feed. I placed an order for one of the
two remaining original tanks that had been modified to lengthen the filler
neck. Next up I placed an order for Hella HID, FF200 style driving lights from rallylights.com. SuperBrace, crash
guards, radiator guard, bar ends, throttle lock, FJRGoodies
shelf, and a taller, wider screen were next.
My custom Rich’s seat was swapped and I let Dan have the new ’05
seat. I installed an auxiliary fuse
panel under the seat for the various additional circuits and disabled the
auto-retract windscreen and tossed the solenoid activating the lock for the
fairing pocket. My Garmin
GPS and Valentine One radar detector were installed on the shelf and finally
an Autocom system tied together the various audio
sources. Later I added a CB mounted to
the handlebars as well as universal hyperlights in
the rear and custom blinker/running lights on the fork legs. Suspension mods
included new fork springs and rear shock courtesy of a Warchild
arranged Wilbers group buy. As the last farkle
unit purchased during the MTF group buy was mounted to my Givi
Many dollars and miles later my new FJR was IBR
ready. As a tune-up and proof of
concept ride I got together with a couple of buddies, Mike Bobbitt and Mike
Ledbetter, and rode the MTF 48+ to Hyder and
included miles necessary to complete a 10/10ths as well. For this ride I also bought an EZ-Pass and
after I got home also bought an I-Pass. In June, after HyderSeek,
I used the Cal24 as another shake down for all the additions and
modifications. The bike set up worked
well for both events and I proclaimed the bike ready to go.
Getting to Denver
Early on it became apparent that I was not going to get
away for this event without taking my wife Linda. Together we made plans to haul the FJR from
Oregon to the start in Denver in our Dodge Dakota pickup. We could haul “lotsa stuff” and Linda would have transportation
while I was gallivanting about the country.
As the designated departure time approached we began
gathering together the essentials for the trip. Roger Van Santen loaned me an FJR ABS rear
wheel (thanks again, Roger) that I mounted a new Avon Azaro
ST46 onto. I had purchased a ReadyRamp to facilitate loading and unloading the
motorcycle and it could also be used as a bed extender. A box was loaded with necessary tools, oil,
and filter for checkpoint maintenance.
The night before we left my son came over and we loaded the FJR and
tied it down for the trip.
We left Stayton and hit the road after work on Wednesday
the 17th of August. Our
plan was to drive to Lakeview for the night and get up early and head east on
OR140 to US95 to pickup I-80 in Winnemucca.
This was a scenic route I’ve ridden a couple times and I knew Linda
would appreciate the views. Once on
I-80 we had to sit through a 2 hour parking fest as a tourist rolled their
travel trailer and tow rig several times blocking both eastbound lanes. Eventually a rubber tired front end loader
made its way down the shoulder to push the carnage into the ditch and restore
traffic flow. At Salt
Lake we headed south and then east
to catch I-70 into Denver
as part of the plan. We short stopped
the day in Rifle, CO at the Winchester Hotel and finished up on Friday
arriving at the Denver Doubletree just before noon.
Several riders were already present and the parking lot
began to fill as more arrived. Dean Tanji had found some shade under the parking lot ramp in
the back of the hotel and Linda and I stopped there to unload the FJR,
enlisting Dean for help, after checking in and making several hauls to our
room. With Dean’s assistance we rolled
the FJR off the truck and I attached the panniers and other removable
items. I fired it up and rode back to
the front of the hotel to find a bike parking spot.
For Linda’s amusement and connectivity (Star-Traxx monitoring) we’d brought her home computer complete
with printer/copy machine for the long stay in Denver.
We set that up and paid the $45/week for internet access and she was
good to go.
After some exploring and kibitzing in the parking lot we
called it a day and retired to the room.
Tomorrow, Saturday, would be the first day of tech inspections. As a volunteer tech inspector in 2003 I knew
there would be a crowd and rush as inspections opened and sure enough the
next day a line formed and riders waited in the hot sun. I did not.
I figured that, as in the previous IBR, the crowd would thin and the
line would go away later in the day.
Saturday & Sunday – August 20-21 -
Tech Inspection and Route Planning
Linda and I went looking for a dealer and a couple small
cans of Plexus. We found them in south
Aurora at a
Yamaha dealer, Vickery Motorsports. Across the street we ate lunch outside at Caldonia’s Roadside BBQ where their slogan is: “We smoke
anything.” The buffalo burger was
excellent and we would have loved to try some of their other specialties as
this placed catered to the biker crowd.
Unfortunately for me I got an early schedule sheet that
was later corrected so when I began and finished tech inspection after lunch
I could not attend the media orientation until Sunday as the new schedule
pushed it ahead and I had already missed it.
After completing tech inspection Tom Austin approached and asked if my
Holeshot slip-ons had been sound level tested (they
had not except at the IBR Pizza party in ’04 during Bike Week) and proceeded
to test them again. The Holeshots passed easily.
Several trips to Walmart for various odds
and ends and Saturday was in the bag.
Sunday was spent making final preparations, taking photos,
sitting through the media orientation emceed by Ira Agins,
attending the rider’s meeting, and nervously awaiting the pre-start banquet.
The banquet is a hazy memory. We were in a big room full of tables, we
sat. There was food, we ate. There were Mike Kneebone
and Lisa Landry and Bob Higdon at the podium, we listened. Eventually there were rally packets
and rally flags distributed. I was
rider number 78. There was a big map
of the US and Canada
with many, many destinations circled, we looked. We retired to our rooms for planning,
routing, and what little sleep we could manage.
Route planning help was available from rally veterans for newbies but I headed to my room where there was a
computer, copy machine, and internet access.
H Marc Lewis and Roger VanSanten came by to
help although Roger was requested downstairs to advise newbies. Linda and I began by marking bonus
locations on a large map thinking that a route would present itself. After some time it became apparent that
there were three potential routes discounting the “sucker” bonuses that were
all but impossible to acquire. Large
bonuses were available in New Brunswick, Canada, and Key West, Florida. Many more, smaller bonuses were available
in the west. I could either ride
northeast or southeast for large points, or west with a more meticulous route
for more but smaller bonuses. The
theme of the rally was also apparent after reading the bonuses for leg
one. Water, falls, canals, rivers,
bridges, ferries, lighthouses and other related maritime locations were all
listed as bonuses.
It became apparent that I suck at route planning in this
situation. I know I can ride the miles
so I opted for the lighthouse in New
asked HMarc to play devil’s advocate and talk me
out of it since it was about a 5000 mile round trip to make it back to the
first check point in Denver. He could not. Downstairs we went to let Roger take a look
at my choice and to see if he could persuade me otherwise. He could not. Roger called over Ross Copas
a previous IBR winner and Canadian resident.
He convinced me that NB was out of the question and that I should head
to Key West. What he said made sense, it was somewhat
shorter, there were no border crossings, and point values, with a stop in North Carolina, were
similar. I had a plan and a route. Would I be able to get any sleep?
I guess so! All
riders were requested in the parking lot at 8:00am Monday morning and I was
up about 90 minutes before that after a really good night’s rest. It’s amazing how well you can sleep when
your plan and route are in the bag.
After a shower Linda and I made our way down to the first floor for
breakfast and finally to the impound area.
We were to have our ID cards punched by a special punch and our final odo reading was taken.
The official start was at 10:00am.
Monday – August 22 – The Start
Even at 8:00am the parking lot was swarming with riders,
spectators, and bikes. It did not take
long for Dale and crew to record mileage and punch the rider cards. Some rider and bike jockeying for start position
was squelched quickly before we were called together one last time for a
final word from Mike and Lisa and to get our final start instructions.
Riders would be leaving from the north side of the parking
lot starting with the riders on the south side of the lot. Arrangements had been made with the city
cops to close roads and stop traffic as we left. Cool deal!
It seemed like it took hours to reach my spot near the north end of
the lot. Finally I was underway as I
followed the line of bikes north toward I-70.
At I-70 I headed east and wicked
it up to cruising speed gradually overtaking many of the riders that had
gotten out ahead of me as we crossed the eastern plains of Colorado.
Into the Kansas
plains we rode as riders strung out for miles. The wrecking crew was on the road as was
Vicki Johnson and a partner. We
leapfrogged positions for many miles but I, not
having a completely full tank and cell, needed to stop after about 300 miles.
was a blur. Early evening saw me
through Kansas City and into Missouri.
Full dark had descended as I made my way across Missouri
to St. Louis. I believe I passed Mark Kiecker
in St. Louis
before crossing the big river. A wrong
turn after the Mississippi
put me off the interstate but my GPS quickly routed me back and I was on the
move again. Illinois
and Kentucky turned into Tennessee.
Somewhere along the way I had passed John Ryan and Mac
MacFarlane. By now I was beginning to
get tired and I was surprised. Here I
was less than 24 hours into the big rally and I was already hitting the wall.
As I gradually slowed, fighting fatigue, I noticed a pair
of headlights gaining on me. John Ryan
went around me like I was standing still and that was the boost I
needed. I felt a tug like a locomotive
pulling freight and suddenly I was awake, aware, and ready to compete. In Nashville
I headed south and John (ahead) and Mac (behind me) went east toward Knoxville. Immediately I questioned my plan but
pressed on figuring I would bag the big bonus in Key West and if something went wrong could
pass on Fontana Dam. Between Nashville and Chattanooga,
in the wee hours of the morning, the rain began and I pulled up at a rest
area for a quick nap.
Tuesday – August 23
Back on the road and into north Georgia
dead on the morning rush I plowed straight through keeping to the HOV
lane. Just about to pop out the other
side of Atlanta
a GSP officer rousted me from the HOV lane with a stern look, pointing
finger, and a quick blast of siren and lights. I did not take the time for questions and
pressed on one lane removed from the car pool lane scratching my head in
In south Georgia at Lake
Park, around 11:00 am on Tuesday, I
stopped for gas and ate a Whopper phoning Linda to give a progress report and
asking her to get me a reservation for the evening in Key West.
All fuel tanks full I headed south once again on I-75 toward the
Florida Turnpike which I intended to ride all the way to US-1 and the Florida keys.
Several thunder showers later I exited the turnpike for the slow ride
to Key West
as evening was turning to night. At
full dark I pulled into the Days Inn on Key
West, a perfect choice by Linda for a reservation,
and checked in to begin a sleep bonus around 9:00pm eastern right after scarfing another burger from the attached Waffle
House. The lighthouse bonus was only
available during daylight hours so I knew I had a good rest coming.
Around 6:00am I woke and moseyed over to the Waffle House
and spied Mac MacFarlane eating breakfast.
I introduced myself and joined him learning he’d gotten in around
midnight after bagging the Fontana
Dam bonus. I ate and as the day began
to get light checked out and headed the couple miles to the Key
West lighthouse. Several riders
were already there; David Smith and Morris Kruemcke
were trying to rest. I parked and took
a couple photos testing the daylight.
Neither was good so I waited a while longer to finally get a good picture
before saddling up and heading north.
Wednesday – August 24
By now it was Wednesday morning as I retraced my tracks
northward. A handful of showers later
I once again crossed the Georgia
border under blazing heat and dripping humidity. Back in Key West, the night before, the weather
channel had shown a hurricane, Katrina, approaching the keys from the
east. I was glad to be headed north.
In Macon I-475, the Macon
bypass, was closed due to an accident.
All traffic was routed onto I-75 through the middle of town and the
backup was many miles long. It took
several hours before I was clear of the tie-ups and northbound at a mile
During the many daylight thundershowers I encountered I
had taken to running my Hella HIDs
with the covers on as visibility for other drivers was less than
optimal. This made me more visible, a
good thing in sight limited conditions.
North of Macon, almost to Atlanta,
I smelled electrical smoke. Damn, I
hope that’s the car in front of me, but it was not. My HIDs were out
and there was no time to troubleshoot, besides it
was daylight, so I pressed on without them.
(I ultimately ran the rest of the IBR without my auxiliary lighting.)
Around the east side of Atlanta
on I-285 to I-85 to I-985 toward Gainesville
and Fontana I
rode. Little did I know I was headed
into the twilight zone.
North of Gainesville
I was feeling the effects of a couple days in the heat and humidity. I flipped up the front of my Symax helmet just to get some air on my face and cool down
some. By now it was full dark and as I
was cruising along I noticed a gigantic flying insect high above and ahead on
an erratic and wobbly flight path.
Suddenly the flying goo bomb dove for the
ground and into my path somehow smashing itself to liquid bits on my face under my glasses. I slowed rapidly, having the use of only my
left eye, and tried to wipe yellow-green bug snot from my face. I was not successful as I opened my right
eye to a curtain of yellow film and string cheese. At that moment the area became lit from a
convenience store and gas station.
Abruptly, I decided to stop to complete the eye and bug clean-up,
restore the use of my right eye, and gas up although I was not low. Little did I know I had just entered the
After cleaning the slimy goo
from my eye I proceeded to top off my tanks, first the main tank and then the
cell. While the hose was in the cell a
small car pulled in next to me and stopped quickly. Two arms flew out the driver’s window and
unfurled a banner that read “Go Doug”.
I was flabbergasted and stunned as I forgot to monitor the cell and gushed gas out the filler neck. Replacing the nozzle on the pump I turned
around again as the pump dinged not realizing that the bell signaled an input
request for yes/no on the receipt.
Trying to make sense of the scene it seemed this fellow
looked familiar but I was in north Georgia, who the hell did I know
around here? Then I saw the sabmag
logo from the web site SabMag.org
and it began to dawn on me. Trying to
keep to my routine and record keeping I ran inside to grab a duplicate
receipt and record necessary data in my fuel log. According to the receipt I was in Lula, Ga.
and I am sure I heard banjos playing, faintly, in the distance.
Once the logging was accomplished I was able to talk and
discovered that David Hill, a sabmag list member, had been following my
progress, along with other list members, via the Star-Traxx
web site. David had guessed, correctly,
my intended route and decided to try an intercept. His intention had been to set up on the
road somewhere before I went by but I had beaten his schedule and we’d just
missed each other until he saw me at the station filling up.
I decided then to take a break and talk as Fontana Dam did
not open until 9:00am the next morning and I already had, hopefully, a
reservation close by. A Subway was
convenient so David and I went inside to grab a sandwich. His version of the intercept, including
pictures, is here: Twilight Zone Encounter
or alternately, here.
After a foot-long sub and some downtime I called my wife
and confirmed a reservation in Robbinsville,
NC at the Microtel and
proceeded to suit up for the run into Robbinsville. I thanked David for the diversion and
headed north again into cloudier skies with intermittent light showers. Making my way without my auxiliary lights
was difficult and I constantly kept watch for critters as I dropped my
aggressive pace to something appropriate for the time of day and conditions
which in these parts includes quite a few twisty bits. About midnight I was checking in at the
Microtel, which incidentally was surrounded with Harleys and clones, after
passing through Franklin and Stecoah, NC
and traversing a large part US-19, NC-28, and Sweetwater Road into Robbinsville all
in the dark. I wish it had been
Thursday – August 25
Thursday I woke up around 6:30am, packed up and headed
out. Some of the Harley crowd were there and of those several made comments or
asked questions about my FJR. I
answered enthusiastically being the only bike around with more than a couple
cylinders and was amazed by the incredulous responses although I did not
mention the IBR. Soon I was headed out
toward Deal’s Gap before the rest of the crowd was up and about. Fontana Dam opened at 9:00am, the store at
the Gap at 8:00am, I was early for both so I stopped at Deals Gap and played
tourist but not totally as I left the digital camera back in Denver. When the store opened I bought a few
t-shirts and breakfast. The distant
rumble indicated the motel crowd was on the road and headed this way. Finished, I remounted and headed east on
US-28 toward the dam.
Finding the Visitor’s Center at Fontana Dam, after a wrong
turn miscue, I rolled in to see Paul Meredith and Bill Shaw already
there. I’d heard from Mac in Key West that what we
wanted was not inside but actually outside and asked both if they’d heard
that. Neither had but we soon spotted
the information we were after on the sign outside and when the visitor’s
center opened we took several more confirming photos from inside. Mission
In the parking lot I inquired of Paul and Bill if I could
jump in behind them as we headed west.
After an affirmative response the three of us headed west toward the
famed Dragon, US-129, 318 curves in 11 miles, barely a blip on the radar
screen of the IBR.
Both riders had radios and it was nice to be able to
communicate with other riders as we pounded out miles. Before long, somewhere on I-40 westbound
between Knoxville and Nashville, after a gas stop, Paul Meredith
left Bill and I as his pace was a bit faster than Bill’s. I chose to ride along with Bill as I was
headed for the barn with no plans for further bonuses on this leg. My only goal was making the first
checkpoint and at this pace there was no way we would be hassled by law
The drizzly morning turned to afternoon and then
and St. Louis
were behind us. As we neared the
outskirts of Kansas City Bill radioed that he was going to stop for
rest. I decided to push-on. The only rest I wanted was next to Linda at
the Doubletree in Denver.
Through KC and as darkness fell the weather band on the CB
reported severe thunderstorms across Kansas
just as the first drops of the next shower spotted my windshield. It had been a long day so I stopped for gas
and to eat another sub before continuing toward Denver.
Later I stopped at the IB motel for some rest and noticed some model
of BMW already there. The table I
would have picked was already occupied so I moved to the next. When I woke some time later the BMW was
By now, in central Kansas,
the rain was falling in earnest.
Lightning seen in the distance was now all around. Between the wind, blowing rain, and
lightning I was feeling a bit uncomfortable and did not seem to be making any
progress at leaving the storm behind. One
sharp gust had blown the face shield off my helmet when I flipped up the
front to wipe my nose. I had a mantra
as I watched the lighting crashing down on all sides of me, “Please let me
live, please let me live…” As I passed
under an overpass I saw the BMW from the rest stop parked and the rider
pacing. At that point I decided to get
off the interstate, install a new shield, and wait out the storm. The BMW rider had remounted and was also
following me off the exit and into the nearest service station.
Beverly Ruffin, the BMW rider, and I both stopped,
introduced ourselves, and proceeded to unwind after being totally amped up with the storm conditions. We watched and listened as cars stopped
with stories of far reaching storms and similar conditions for miles in the
direction we were heading. After 30
minutes or so and some discussion we headed out again and within 15 minutes
or so there was no longer lightning ahead of us and soon we were past the
line of thunderstorm cells.
Riding into the plains of western Kansas
and eastern Colorado
and relieved of the stress of passing storms fatigue once again crept
up. After another quick stop at a rest
area, this time sleeping on the FJR while on the center stand, and before
was shaking me awake.
As dawn crept over the eastern horizon with the sun close
behind we found ourselves approaching Denver
so once again we stopped to top off tanks for the ride into the Doubletree.
Friday – August 26
The checkpoint did not even open until 7:00pm but I
planned to get a real rest after riding all night. I had 12 hours to rest, eat, change oil and
rear tire, and troubleshoot my lights.
Linda was already up when I got to the room and as I showered she ran
down to the lobby and bought a sandwich so I could eat before hitting the
rack for much needed sleep.
Around the middle of the afternoon I woke up and headed
down to complete maintenance tasks.
George Zelenz had arranged for a couple FJR
list and forum members, Bob Vail and Craig Larson, to come to Denver and change his
wheel. Since Roger VanSanten
had loaned me the back rim from his FJR I jumped on that wagon and when I got
to the parking lot there were a couple guys already at work putting my rim
and new tire back on so I proceeded to stupidvise
and change my oil. Thanks for your
help guys, really appreciated. Those
tasks completed the pit crew moved on to George and I took a look at my
lights looking for the relay but I had hidden it too well and could not get
to it without removing too much plastic.
I resigned myself to running with no extra lights.
The checkpoint would be opening soon so I double-checked
my bonus sheets and paperwork and organized everything for scoring making
sure to visit Mike Kneebone and Lisa Landry to stop
the clock with my rider number on my IBR ID.
When the checkpoint opened officially I was awarded all the points I
had gone after, the lighthouse at Key
West, Fontana Dam, a rest and a gas bonus for a
total of 25,166. Thoughtfully the IBA
had provided a spread so I took a plate back to the room on the fifth floor
and it became my dinner.
By 9:00pm, back downstairs, the crowd grew as anticipation
of the bonuses for leg 2 took hold.
Just as quickly, like a wave rolling back to the ocean, the crowd receded
as packets were distributed.
Leg two was a short leg, a transition leg to Maine. We were advised to arrive in Maine well
rested. Back in the room HMarc Lewis and I looked over the bonuses
and I decided to play it safe and map the quickest most direct route to Maine and see what
bonuses presented themselves. That
route took me north on I-25, northeast on I-76 to I-80
east to I-90 and then finally the
Mass pike to I-95 and Maine. Several good bonuses were available without
much difficulty, a ferry in Wisconsin, a museum in Ohio, Niagara Falls and an
Erie Canal park in Tonawanda, NY and a falls farther south in Trumansberg, NY.
This route would get me there with time to spare, points for my
troubles, and plenty of rest. I loaded
the intended bonuses as waypoints in my 2610 and mulling over my plan I spent
time repacking to add my laptop and necessary gear. We would not be back to Denver until the finish. I kissed Linda and headed out shortly after
Saturday – August 27 - Leg Two
I made great time at first but was not looking forward to
a boring ride across Nebraska and before
daylight I got the nods and was contemplating a stop to nap even though I had
slept well in Denver. Not having much luck at resting I saw a
single headlight go by so I got back on the freeway to discover Bill Shaw and
I hitched up my FJR again but before long he too was stopping to rest. Continuing onward I battled drowsiness
until daylight crept into the eastern edges of the horizon.
I came upon another FJR rider (or vice versa) I did not recognize and we made
similar miles for awhile. Near Iowa City I turned north, stopped for gas at Liberty (which would haunt me later in the rally), and
then took secondary roads to the Merrimac ferry in Wisconsin where I got the required photo
of a sign. On my way out I passed the
same FJR rider coming in from the other direction. This was to be my one bonus for the day as
I fought traffic through Chicago before
stopping to eat at a service plaza in Indiana
and stopping for the night in western Ohio.
Sunday – August 28
The bonus in Ohio was the
Inland Seas Museum
in Vermillion, OH. This was a daylight
only bonus as I recall, a photo of an anchor on the
museum grounds. I got a later start
than I had hoped but did not have far to go and was soon back on I-90 making
tracks for Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Sunday traffic on the two lanes of
eastbound I-90 was thick in New
York state and drivers love to park in the fast
lane no matter what. The FJR makes
quick work of these situations so by midday I was looking for a place to park
to get my photo of Niagara Falls.
Weather since Denver
had been perfect, no rain, very few clouds, and decent temperature. At Niagara
Falls it was just a tad warm and tourists were in
full swarm. The normal parking areas
were full to overflowing as cars idled by slowly so I pulled up and talked to
a park service employee monitoring the parking lot. Begging that I would only be there but
minutes had absolutely no effect. On
the opposite corner an independent vendor was selling dogs and burgers and
parking the odd car on private commercial property. I sidled up and asked the kid parking cars
if I could park for a short time only and would he watch my bike. The $10 I offered did the trick.
A couple minutes later and I was off for the short walk to
the water and bonus picture. A very
nice lady held my rally flag while I snapped a couple quick pictures with the
American and Horseshoe falls in the
background. I hurriedly hoofed it back
to the FJR, geared up, threaded my way through the tourist crowds, and made
for Tonawanda to score the Erie
was just a short ride away and right on the corner by the arch to the park I
passed another FJR mounted rider on a 2003 model. That rider turned around and Toby Stevens
and I parked around the corner, walked back to the arch, and took each others
pictures holding our rally flags. Toby
and I talked for a couple minutes and then he decided to ride with me to
Trumansburg to grab a photo of Taughannock
Falls before hightailing it to Maine.
We both took off back to I-90 and a couple hours later
exited south between Seneca and Cayuga lakes, two of the finger lakes, toward
Trumansburg. Along the way we came up
on a car decked out with lights and antennas and safety stickers. The car itself was a wreck. The driver was cruising slowly below the
speed limit intent on his driving.
Toby and I had to follow for awhile as the two-lane road and traffic
did not permit a safe pass. Once in
the clear I zipped around the car only to have him jerk to the right as if he
was totally surprised. As I completed
the pass I noticed the driver pull out a cell phone.
Toby was held up for a couple minutes, long enough for me
to get out of sight, before he was able to complete the pass. I made a turn and saw Toby ride by as I
waited so I turned around and caught him and we took another road to the
park. We both had a laugh about the
vigilante driver and wondered if he was on a first name basis with the local
Normally Taughannock Falls
looks something like this, but this part of NY state was in a dry spell as
evidenced by the crispy brown looking conifers. The bonus pictures we took barely showed
water dripping slowly over the lip of the precipice.
That was it, the last bonus we were after on this leg, so
we headed south to Ithaca
and from there ripping the secondary roads southeast to I-88 near
Bainbridge. I-88 was a well worn
concrete road surface and the expansion joints reminded me of I-10 in Mississippi and Louisiana
as the regular rhythm became annoying.
Luckily traffic was light so we could travel whichever lane was
smoothest until we finally hit new pavement.
One more gas stop was required but both of us could reach Maine on this fill up.
The skies had clouded by the time we reached I-90 again in
the Schenectady/Albany area and the daylight in the east began to fade to
gray. By the time we crossed the Hudson and entered the Massachusetts toll system on the Mass pike
it was full dark and the clouds were hanging low as we rode in and out of
drizzle and intermittent showers.
Some 75 miles outside of Boston we hit a major traffic tie-up that
had all eastbound lanes plugged solid and moving at less than 10mph. We did the best we could slicing and dicing
the lanes and traffic until I-290 where we could have got off but missed and
did not get off until I-495. Traffic
continued, but in packs, as we exited north onto I-495, at a much higher rate
of speed with several more lanes of highway than the Mass. pike. We would have open highway until we caught
a pack and then we’d have to slice and dice our way through the moving
freeway jam and once clear the road would open up again until we caught
As traffic from I-290 merged onto I-495 we merged with a
BMW rider that we found out later was Homer Krout. The three of us continued ripping the packs
apart until a particularly hot, low slung coupe of unidentifiable origins
went by the three of us. We hitched on
and let ourselves be towed into New Hampshire
and just before crossing the Maine
border we lost him.
Have I mentioned how really wonderful the EZ-Pass and
I-Pass are? There is nothing like
rolling through a tool booth with nothing but a grin on your face as you
recall the bygone hassle of paying tolls on a motorcycle. All through IL, NY, and MA, NH, and ME on
I-90 and I-95 the transponders saved me loads of time and annoyance. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to buy
a SunPass for Florida.
Earlier on Sunday I had called Linda to reserve me a room
close to Reynolds Motorsports the second checkpoint. She found me a room at the Holiday Inn on
the Maine pike in Saco
which just happened to be adjacent to Buxton Rd. Toby decided he’d try for a room there as
well. Near midnight we checked in and
went looking for a gas receipt for the rest bonus and also a bite to
eat. We found both at a nearby
convenience store and returned to the motel for some sleep. The checkpoint opened at 9:00 am and was
only 9 miles away so we had plenty of time to rest.
Monday – August 29 - Maine
Rain had followed us to Maine and Monday was a wet and gray
day. Reynolds Motorsports
was already crowded with bikes and riders when we pulled in shortly before
9:00am. First things first we ran in
to stop the clock showing our credit card sized IBR IDs. The usual suspects were in evidence as I
sat down to go over paperwork and grab a quick breakfast from the hot food,
fruit, and juice provided between the dealer’s buildings. Thanks to Reynolds for all their trouble.
With my paperwork in order I got in the scoring line and
was sitting before a scorer in no time at all. This is where I discovered my first mistake
on a receipt. When I’d stopped for gas
in Liberty, Iowa I’d checked the receipt for the
correct info and found only the town listed, no
state. Without thinking I wrote down
the state, Iowa. It just did not dawn on me that adding the
state required verification. What I
missed was getting the phone number of the gas station. There went my 1000 point gas bonus for this
leg. Nevertheless everything else was
good and I got the points for the rest of my bonuses.
In the parking lot Brett Donohue’s sportster
looked worse for wear, Rick Morrison was having chain and sprocket problems,
someone’s K12LT was being pushed into a building for some maintenance, and
quite a few rider’s were checking over their mounts while others sat and
checked their receipts, etc. The
dealership’s service bay looked busy with a few LD bikes as well. Ira Agins was
taking photos as were a large number of spectators.
Time ran quickly and soon the crowd was gathering around
Mike and Lisa in anticipation of bonus packets for the final leg. When I received my bonus packet I did not even bother to open it. I’d arranged for a late checkout at the
motel so immediately geared up and rode back to the Holiday Inn in Saco to do my route planning from the comfort of my
room. I had maps and my laptop all set
up just for that purpose.
This was the third and final leg. I had taken it easy up until now in
anticipation of a big push for a higher scoring final route to the
finish. I was ready.
Back at the room I opened the packet and began reading.
This was the largest packet so far in the rally and I wanted to take
my time deciding where I was going to be riding for the next several
days. Right on top, the very first
bonus listed, was the Cape Disappointment lighthouse in Ilwaco, Oregon
with the highest bonus value so far in the rally. This was tempting but I kept reading. Soon enough it was proven, once again, that
I suck at efficient and meticulous route planning. I could head west and grab what I could
along the way there and back or I could plan to hit a multitude of locations
in the east by riding a thoughtful and careful route. I planned to head west. The remnants of Katrina were headed north
along the eastern and central sections of the country. I planned to head west.
Checking with Toby, who’d already made one western swing, it was clear that we would part ways. Around noon I saddled up, headed across the
street to air up tires and top off tanks, and headed south on I-95 and
retraced my steps from the night before.
Southbound in New
Hampshire on I-95, just prior to the I-495 exit, I
caught up to George Zelenz and through universal
sign language learned he was headed west also. We hooked up for a short distance but I
lost George shortly after we merged onto the Mass pike as we sliced and diced
the turnpike traffic. I passed Mike Berlien in upstate New
York and we talked for a moment at a service plaza
as we gassed up. Mike was also headed
Traffic was fairly heavy all the way through Massachusetts
and New York on I-90 but the EZPass made short work
of tolls and by nightfall I had retraced my path across I-90 and was in
Ohio. A tractor-trailer combo decided
to shred a tire next to me just before Indiana
and I slid left and accelerated as a shower of sparks and an accompanying
squall pierced the night. At another
service plaza I ran into Marty Lier and Andy
Mills. Andy was not as forthcoming on
their destination but at this time of night, this far west, there could be no
doubt. A couple hours later I pulled
up and grabbed a room for a rest and an early morning assault on
Tuesday – August 30
I did not get as early a start Tuesday morning as I had
hoped, but it was still dark. No
matter now as I headed west, I was going to hit early morning rush hour
traffic, like it or not, around Chicago. Traffic was bad, just too damn much
construction, but passable. I played
hopscotch with Harry Kaplan a bit before seeing him last in Iowa.
While crossing Iowa
on I-80 I had plenty of time to think about my route. One thing I did not want to do was cross Nebraska again. It seems, for the last several years, I
have crossed Nebraska
at least a couple times each year.
Boring! I was not going to do
that again if I could help it. Routing
and mapping on the fly I discovered that it was just as far to stay on I-80
to I-84 to the lighthouse as it was to go north through Sioux Falls, Spokane
and Seattle on I-90 to Ilwaco. I also figured that the northern route
would have fewer vehicles and higher speed limits.
Outside of Omaha I went
straight onto I-680 to the junction of I-29 and then north toward Sioux Falls and the
falls bonus there.
I reached Sioux Falls late
in the afternoon on Tuesday and, after a quick peek at a map, had no trouble
finding the falls at Falls Park. A couple
of Polaroids later and it was westward ho one more
time for the haul across South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana
before reaching Idaho and Washington.
About 75 miles outside of Rapid City a long series of
clouds signaled the approach of a low pressure system and the NOAA radio
channels were reporting another round of severe thunderstorms. The wind had picked up and was blowing,
generally, south to north and increasing in velocity the further west I
got. NOAA was reporting 50 mph wind
velocities with higher gusts and predicting no let up until early morning. As the last of the light faded in the west
act two of the ongoing lightning show increased in intensity. I was still able to make progress and could
safely pass a car at a time until I caught a line of slow moving
traffic. With the strong gusts I did
not feel comfortable passing more than a car or two at a time.
As I reached Rapid
City I was tired of fighting the hellacious
crosswinds and decided to hole up, grab a rest bonus, and wait until the
winds began to die before resuming my westward trek. After a few hours prone with very little
sleep I hightailed it once again although, from the
motel parking lot, I could not tell that the wind had died out. Back on I-90 it was obvious that most of
the real wind had moved well passed me to the east, now it was just cold. The longer I rode the colder it got. Finally, I stopped at a rest area and put
on all my cold weather gear, Gerbing liner, winter gloves, and covered my roadcrafter on the outside with my rain jacket. I rode on.
It was still cold!
Wednesday – August 31
Wyoming I had to get off the
interstate to both warm up and rest. I
found a not yet open Star-Mart, pulled around the back, put the FJR on the
center stand, and slept head down on the tank bag for 40 minutes before
continuing. The temperature was still
cold and I was still quite tired, dragging actually, but I knew it would be
daylight before long.
Somewhere in Montana,
not long after clearing the Little Big Horn, as the sky lightened in the
east, I spied a single headlight coming up behind me. In no time at all George Zelenz was going around me as I cruised along slowly. Again, this was the spark I needed, and I
took off after him with new found focus.
I had been cruising carefully as I was low on gas and wanted to make Billings before stopping
but that was out the window now. As I
caught George I tried to let him know I would be stopping for gas in Billings and tried to
get him to stop but he did not need to or did not understand and when I
exited he kept going. George and I
would pass each other several more times on Wednesday.
My goal was to make the Cape
Disappointment lighthouse before dark.
That would be tough. I pressed
on after a combined quick gas stop and breakfast snack. Outside of Missoula
to the east I passed George at a rest stop and when I stopped for gas at the
US-93 junction outside Missoula
to the west I am sure he passed me. I
knew, with this fill-up, I should be good until somewhere in western Washington but that did not seem to matter as I crested
and headed down into Idaho.
It was at this point that I realized cumulative fatigue was creeping up on me. I knew I was going to have to stop and soon. I began making plans to stop and a few miles later, in Kellogg, Idaho, I did just that.
I did not need gas but there was a Subway shop just off
I-90 and I pulled in there. Tired,
sure that making the lighthouse today was out, I went inside, noticed the
long line waiting to order, and went back outside. A quick phone call to update Linda back in Denver and I was back
inside to order lunch in a shorter line.
It is amazing to me how often fatigue is exacerbated by
hunger. This was not the first time I
had experienced this phenomena and I was real happy this was one of those
times. After lunch I felt like a new
man, my optimism re-ignited, I hit the road confident that making the
lighthouse today was not out of the question but I needed to spend all my
time sitting and twisting.
With more time to think, and a much clearer head, I
devised a plan that kept me out of the Portland
areas during rush hour. By combining
the results from a “fastest time” and “shortest distance” routing calculation
on my 2610 I decided to head for Yakima to ride US-12 over the Cascades,
jetting south to Longview/Kelso on I-5, and then picking up the route to
US-30 and Astoria. I had never ridden
US-12 here but figured it would be much like other two lane highways over the
Cascades and being a weekday I figured traffic would be lighter than the
interstates. I was not wrong.
I gassed up in Yakima
and resumed my migration west over secondary roads. Temps were cooler and traffic remained
light so I made really excellent time.
By the time I was through Longview and
headed west again toward Astoria and the Astoria bridge the sun was casting long shadows and
sinking slowly into the Pacific Ocean.
Crossing the bridge north back to Washington, Morris Kruemcke, headed south, passed me going the other
direction. I was worried now. I still had to get to Ilwaco,
park, find the lighthouse, and walk three quarters of a mile out and still
get a picture using natural light.
I should not have worried.
Riding into town I new I was not the
first. Several cars of the local law
enforcement were plainly visible but otherwise occupied although they cast a
long look as I went by. Through town,
left, and then follow signs and I was into the parking lot. A single BMW was already there as I doffed
my ‘stich and grabbed my camera and extra
film. After a short trek up and down a
hill, through the woods, here came Tom and Rosie Sperry down the driveway to
the lighthouse. I was huffing and
puffing with no riding gear on and here they were still suited up. After a quick rest I continued to the top
of the hill and clear of the trees found plenty of daylight left for
As I completed my photos Jim Owens and Eric Jewell made it
up the hill and I jawed with them as the light fell. Walking back to the bikes at a much slower
pace I was glad someone (not me) had the sense to bring a flashlight as I
followed Jim and Eric out of the woods.
Tom and Rosie were still there when we returned and we all spent a few
minutes catching up. As we talked
George Zelenz rode in and immediately hoofed it to
the lighthouse. We all figured George
was too late and would have to come back in the morning.
A short time later George returned, apparently
successful. Guaranteed, no one else
would be bagging this bonus tonight.
Jim, Eric, and George all stated they were headed south to
collect further bonii. Tom and Rosie were headed for the
finish. I decided to ride east, back
until I was tired and it was closer to midnight. Another rest bonus was
available but it needed to start on Thursday the first of September. Vancouver,
Washington, southbound on I-5,
was as far as I could get in that direction before deciding to get a room and
some dinner. It had been really
tempting to buzz home, an hour away from here, to spend the night, but I
resisted. After collecting the
required gas receipt, finding some sandwiches, and checking into the motel
room for the rest bonus, it was lights out as I slept the sleep of the dead.
Later, this sentence from the rally pack would come back
to haunt me: “When you are out there
bonus hunting, remember, the bonus
is not bagged until you complete the paperwork!”
Thursday – September 1
Once again I did not arise as early as I had planned but
being on the final leg with nearly 24 hours to reach the finish I was not too
worried either. A quick pack up and
check-out and a fast once over of the bike and I was on the road headed for
I-84 and points east. The day was dry
and traffic, although building as I rode south to the I-84 junction, had not
reached its peak and most was motoring toward Portland as I turned away.
The Columbia Gorge, always scenic, was
especially so today knowing that I had only another day on the
road. I was making very good time as
Cascade Locks, Hood River, and the
Dalles all fell behind the
FJR’s mile eating pace.
Somewhere near Arlington
I saw another blue FJR and was surprised to find George Zelenz
also headed east. He was barely
traveling the posted limit having listened to too many horror stories about Oregon and its lower
limits. Instead of making tracks south
last night he’d spent the night in Astoria,
at a motel under the bridge, leaving a couple hours earlier than I. We fell in together for many miles
eventually climbing out of the gorge and stopping for gas in Pendleton. It was just about 11:00am and we decided to
take advantage and grab some brunch at a nearby Arby’s. We also attempted to get hold of Mikey Ledbetter an ldrider that
George and I both know and a friend with whom I’ve traveled many thousands of
miles on two wheels. A quick phone
call found Mike out on a job (of course) so we lunched alone.
Back on the road we continued our climb and before long LaGrande, Baker City, and Ontario
were behind us as Idaho
lay ahead. Crossing Idaho we stopped for gas one more time
before the I-86 junction. In Utah, after the I-15
junction, the daylight just beginning to fade, we stopped on the shoulder
when George’s 2610 fell off in his lap, the mount completely broken.
Later, as the fading daylight turned to full dark and the
heat of the day had escaped, we made another stop at a ranch exit to don cold
weather gear before crossing the high plateau that is interstate Wyoming. Another stop in Green River for gas and to
collect the 23 point bonus for a gas receipt was required and George decided
he would get his last rest bonus here after missing it in Astoria the night before. After a sandwich and drink I pressed on.
With the finish in sight and the end of eleven days on the
road looming large in my brain I relaxed a bit. Wrong move.
Before long I was in that funk that only a profound fatigue can
initiate. Wyoming stretched out ahead of me and kept
growing. I started looking for places
to rest and stopped outside Laramie
at the Happy Jack rest area after climbing the grade east of town. Although I was tired I could not
sleep. I tried to rest but could only
manage a few minutes of real sleep, at the most. It was the boredom and monotony of the
highway that was lulling my brain to sleep while riding, yet I could not
sleep once stopped. After 45 minutes
spent trying to will my body to sleep I moved on.
Friday – September 2 – The finish
By now it was past midnight and, as I limped past the
outskirts of Cheyenne
looking for the I-25 junction to head south, I knew I would have to stop again. Once I made the exit south onto I-25 south
there just happened to be a Flying-J truck stop at the next exit. I did not need gas, in fact I was hoping to
cross the finish close to empty to make loading for the trip home easier, but
I did need to stop. In the parking lot
was a black, highly modified goldwing. I went inside, somewhat in the zone,
trying to decide what to eat and/or drink.
I noticed Morris Kruemcke in the restaurant
sitting at a table by himself. I asked Morris if I could join him and
after an affirmative response ordered steak and eggs for breakfast.
Morris had already eaten and was sorting through receipts
and paperwork. He’d lost a key receipt
and was fruitlessly trying to find it.
He seemed to be suffering from the same sort of fatigue as I was. After scarfing
the big meal I just knew I would be able to sleep, but again, not true. The lure of the ever closer finish line was
too strong. Before we left I asked
Morris if I could tag along with him to Denver. Morris said fine but don’t crowd me, he
disliked being followed closely.
Knowing who I was behind and his reputation I had absolutely no
intention whatsoever of following too closely.
We geared up and headed for I-25 but as we approached the
on-ramp Morris kept riding straight ahead.
Not able to raise him on the radio I got on the ramp and headed south
on I-25 while watching my mirrors expecting Morris to overtake me within a
few miles. When that did not happen I
You don’t have to go south in the dark on I-25 very far
from Cheyenne before you realize you are approaching a major city. The lights and artificially bright sky
as well as any roadside sign. In the
vicinity of 5:00am traffic in Denver is nowhere near peak and after merging onto
I-70 it was just a few short miles until exit 278, Quebec Street, and the
Doubletree Hotel Denver and the 2005 IBR finish line.
In preparation and anticipation of the Peter Hoogeveen bonus I had stashed several six-packs in the
cooler in the back of my pickup which Linda was using to save trips to the
store. I made a quick stop there and
grabbed a six before making my finish official.
The Doubletree parking lot was not yet crowded although
there were already a goodly number of bikes there. There were plenty of people about, even
before the sun was up, but there would be many, many more later
as the contenders finished.
For now, I was done, an IBR finisher, and the beer running
down my throat tasted gr-r-r-eat! I ran upstairs and woke up Linda but she
wasn’t quite ready to greet the day so I showered and changed clothes and ran
back to the parking lot to swill another beer and watch as other riders
The lot began to swell with more finishers and more spectators
as 8:00am came near until there were only a very few not yet back. Dale and crew were ready for those last
entrants to finish and be steered inside to stop the clock. It was not long before everyone was
accounted for and the clock for the 2005 Iron Butt Rally was stopped.
With the rally over it was time to be scored so I gathered
up my paperwork, sure I had procured a gold medal finish, and got in the
scoring line. I had already spent time
going through my gas log and receipts with a sharp eye after losing the gas
bonus in Maine. I also double checked my bonus sheets for
the bonuses I was claiming. Everything
was in order and I said the same to Dennis Bitner,
my scorer for the last leg, when asked if I was ready. No changes from this point forward.
Gas log was in order, no problem there. The Cape Disappointment lighthouse and Sioux Falls bonuses
were good. Then, when things appeared
to be going well, Dennis looked up and straight at me. I started to sweat. Below our gaze, on my
bonus sheet, was a missing time for the last rest bonus I had taken in Vancouver. I had written in my ODO reading but held
off on writing in the time until I had a valid, time-stamped receipt. I had never gone back and written in the
time. I could have done that anytime
until I sat down here, but I’d missed it.
I was instantly bummed and I was sure everyone was staring at my red
face. My gold medal finish dropped out
of sight as 4501 points were denied even after an appeal to Tom Austin.
I had ridden a gold medal ride but would only be credited
with a silver medal finish. Clerical
errors killed me on this rally.
The rest of the day was a blur. Linda woke up and came down. At some point we ate breakfast (steak and
eggs again for me) with Eric Vaillancourt. I know I slept some, but I don’t remember
when or for how long. In no time at
all the day had slipped away and it was time for the banquet and finishers
Stay tuned...more coming...