PHOTO PAGE - with captions
Quito, MS? Where the hell is Quito, MS? So ended my first day of riding in the Buttlite II.
What follows is an account of a different kind of motorcycle rally from the perspective of the rider. First, some background. The Buttlite II is what is called a Long Distance Motorcycle Rally. Here is the basis of how this rally works. At the onset of each leg of the rally, all riders receive a packet with lists of "Bonus Locations". After these are handed out the riders can leave on their ride to the next checkpoint. The riders must be present at each checkpoint during a specific two hour window to gain points for that leg of the rally. At the end of the two hour window, the next bonus packet is handed out to the riders and the process starts over again. There are four legs to the rally. The final checkpoint is back where the rally started. Simple as that. This is pretty much the same as the Ironbutt Rally that you have probably heard about. This is not a race. Speed can be an enemy on this ride. It is all about thinking, planning and knowing your limits.
The Base route and checkpoints are as follows:
This rally is hosted and run by Team Strange, a long distance riding organization. The rally masters are Adam Wolkoff and Eddie James. Eddie James is the guy all riders love to hate. You see, it is Eddie's job to make the rally as fun as possible. It is also his job to make this rally as challenging as possible. He does this job very well. There were many times that I was screaming at the top of my lungs to the night sky "I HATE YOU EDDIE". Eddie is THE master at creating "challenging" bonus routes. Both Adam and Eddie, along with a list of volunteers, worked together to create an event that was fun, challenging and a truly class A event. Anyone considering an organized long distance rally would do well to start with one of the Team Strange events. Now, back to the event.
The start of the rally was in Reynoldsburg, OH, just east of Columbus at 7am on Monday, August 28.
I arrived in Columbus. OH from New Hampshire on the Friday prior to the start to get prepared. First thing that needed to be done was to go to dinner with the other early arrivals. The pre-pre-rally dinner was held at a place in downtown Columbus called Buca di Beppo. Great Italian food served family style. I knew this event was going to be weird when, during dinner, an anonymous woman came by our table and yelled, "HEY GUYS" then flashed her breasts. We did not exactly look like the "biker" types so what gives?
Most of the riders were veterans of other rallies. They were a friendly group of riders, willing to share ideas and tips.
All bikes must undergo a technical inspection and an odometer check. The odometers are checked by taking a reading and having a lead rider take you on a specified 60 mile ride. Another reading is taken and compared to the original reading. This allows the team to accurately calculate true miles ridden. The technical inspection includes, among other things, a sound level check and a check of auxiliary fuel cells and mounts.
My ride is a 2000 FLHT Electraglide Standard. I added a tour pack, oil pressure gauge, $60 radar detector and cruise control to make touring easier. For the rally I added a 5 gallon Summit Racing Fuel Cell to the passenger seat. The only other equipment that I had on the bike was a count down timer to show me the hours remaining to the next checkpoint.
This is my bike prior to the trip. Note the black fuel cell on the back seat. Also note the spare tire and a ton of camping gear.
Walking around the parking lot over the next two days I began to feel inadequate. Besides the common fuel cells, there were bikes with CB radios, GPS units, $500 radar detectors. Some riders had cassette radios built in to the bikes. Some of the BMW's even had 6 disk CD changers stored in their side bags. Many of the riders were carrying Laptop computers loaded with route planning software, maps and E-Mail. Some had CD players that could play the new electronic MPG music files. These riders had CD's loaded with all kinds of "mood" music. Good, loud, fast biker music to keep them alert. Most were carrying cell phones, some of these were wired into the bikes so that they could be used while riding. And lights, lots and lots of lights. Flood lights, spot lights, 100's of watts of added light for driving those dark back roads. I'll bet you could track the riders' nighttime progress from the moon. This was my first rally and I must say, I felt intimidated.
Lights, lights and more lights
Every doodad known to man.
Not all the rides were rolling examples of modern technology. Bill Davis, rider #281, was definitely riding something "different". A few months before the ride, Bill put together a Rigid Frame Pan Head. This was listed in the rally as a 2000 HD Self Assembled/Hardtail/Panhead. This bike looked and sounded different. The dry, exposed clutch and primary chain sounded like a cement mixer. The bike was quiet enough to pass inspection, barely. His gear was just bungeed to the backrest. The only special equipment I could find on the bike was the thermos for his coffee. There were no electronics on the bike. There was no windshield. There was no rear shock. There was no way he was going to finish. Other riders were placing bets as to whether we would see Bill at the first checkpoint.
Here is Bill Davis on his "2000 Hand Built Harley Davidson Rigid Frame Panhead. He deserved the standing Ovation.
Bill Davis was also unique among this group of riders. Most of the riders had Aerostich riding suits, racer style riding boots, gloves and full face helmets. Bill owned a rain suit and was carrying a helmet. That was as far as it went. He was definitely sporting the "mountain man" look. He was always smiling though. As the weekend progressed and the other riders began to get to know him, some of the riders began to reconsider their bets. They could see that this guy was determined to finish. If any one could finish on a bike like this it would be Bill.
That night we all sat around the pool drinking beer until well after midnight. This is called personal athletic training.
This is Eddie James' bike prior to the event. The balloon says Eddie Sucks. Obviously one of the riders has ridden in one of Eddies rallies before. That fuel tank is eleven gallons.
And after some midnight athletic training more practical jokes are pulled on Eddie. That's Skert on the bike.
Any late arrivals showed up this morning for the final round of technical inspections. If you didn't show up on time for your tech inspection, you could not participate in the rally. There were bikes of seemingly every brand and style. The Breakdown was as follows:
I began to see that I was not the only rider who was participating without all the electronics. There were even some bikes without fuel cells.
Here is a big BMW tour bike. Look behind the rear fender. That big "box" is actually an auxiliary fuel cell.
Buell Photo 1
Here are two photos of the Buell. Notice that the right side and left side of the bike are different colors. Look at the Fuel Cell on the rear seat, It is made out of a Sportster Fuel tank.
There were also a few notable riders. Doug Stout entered the rally with a Kawasaki 250 Ninja. Small, cramped, low power and uncomfortable. Not a typical rally bike. He was determined to do well even with this little bike. And we can't forget Skert. Skert (Carol Youorski) was driving a BMW R1150GS. Now, for those not familiar with the GS, the GS is an extremely tall bike made for off road as well as on. It is heavy, much of the weight up high. This bike can be a hand full for a tall guy like me, but Skert is not a tall woman. Frankly, she is rather short. To see her handle this bike as well as she does could make the worst chauvinist believe that any woman really can do anything. (Something I've always believed.)
Doug Stout on his 250 Ninja
Skert on her BMW R1150GS
One Harley Rider I met was Pauline Ralston. This woman was quite short, yet she was able to handle her FLHTC Electraglide Ultra with style and grace. Frankly, she handled everything with style and grace. A wonderful woman that made you feel very comfortable from the start. I felt I was her friend the minute I met her.
The riders were all very sociable, but all so very different from each other. They come from all walks of life and all areas of the country.
A lot of riders use the windshield for note taking. Using a china pen or grease pencil, they write reminders to themselves. Many put photos of their loved ones in their map holders to remind them that they have a reason to ride safe. Some riders receive sponsorship for their rides. Todd "Harley Trash" Witte had his sponsors' names painted on his 2000 Road Glide fairing. It said "Sponsored by Mom, Dad and Karen. Karen, his wife, let him leave for the rally despite questioning him as to why her name was last. I hope he brought flowers home.
Sponsored by Mom, er Karen
All the Harley Riders. That's me on the right.
All the riders together at one time. I'm on the left, back row.
That night there was a Pre-Rally banquet. Everyone had a great time getting to know each other some more. Eddie and Adam gave us some important tips and told us some great stories. Then, it was time for the rider packets to be handed out. As each packet is handed out the Rally Masters would tell some embarrassing story about the rider. Remember, you are paying for this rally and expecting to be abused. Adam and Eddie are very good at abusing you.
The Riders packets consisted of some pins and stickers and other paraphernalia. It also contained the riders flag. This flag has the rider's number on it to be used in any bonus point that requires a photo. If you lose this flag you cannot collect any bonus points that require a photo. The last thing in the packet is the first of the Bonus List sheets. This is given early to give you some time to plan your first route and see how they are put together. It also helps increase the stress factor.
Each rider has a different technique for not losing their flag. Some write notes on their windshields, some make sure they put it in the same spot every time. Rob Nye, a rider from New England, told me he had a 50 foot piece of string attached to the flag with the other end tied to his belt. For the rest of the rally all I could picture is Rob cruising down the road with a towel flying around 50 foot behind him.
After all the packets were handed out, the riders dispersed to make last minute preparations of their bikes or gear. The stress really starts here. Some sat at their computers planning their next days ride. All tried to sleep, but of course few did. All except Bill Davis, who was welding his broken oil tank mount on his Hardtail.
All the riders were gathered for the pre-ride briefing. After a quick talk and a reminder from Eddie to be careful, riders packets were distributed. These packets consisted of three more bonus sheets. This really added to the confusion. You now had to select between the four bonus sheets to decide which is best. Never having run a rally before I chose what appeared to be the easiest. I really studied the others but chose not to use them. I had not made a detailed plan the night before, thinking I would wait to see what these other sheets had in them. Ahmet Buharali then told me that is a common beginner mistake. Oh great, the rally started 2 minutes ago and I already made a big mistake. Time to next checkpoint open, 29 hours. Quickest route, 977 miles.
My odometer read 29,029 when I left. The first bonus I chose was at the AMA Museum a few miles away. The problem was that they did not open until 9am. Starting a rally and then sitting and waiting for two hours was not easy. I was itching to go. The museum opened 20 minutes early. The photo was supposed to be of a plaque dedicated to Fran Crane put up by the Internet BMW Riders Organization. It turns out that there was no plaque. A lot of BMW riders donated money for the plaque but the IBMWR never submitted that money to the AMA. We were told to take a photo of anything else in the museum to show we were there. Many riders took their photos and left. I waited until 9am Rally time. The instructions said you could take the photo any time after 9am. Any one taking the photo early did not get the points. Eddie was parked at the entrance to the highway recording who was leaving early. You could hear his maniacal laugh for miles.
The next stop was Hamilton, OH to take a picture of the statue in honor of Colonel Simms. This is a guy who believed the earth was hollow, that you could get into it at the north and south poles and that people lived in the center. Why any town would want a monument of this guy is beyond me. The instructions said to take a photo of the statue. It also had a paragraph describing what this guy believed in and in the middle of the paragraph it said "Where was this guy from, anyway?". I caught this but noticed that no other riders were putting down the answer to this hidden question. The next day I could hear many riders saying "I hate you Eddie".
The next stop on the way to Baton Rouge was Metropolis, IL to take a photo of Superman. I wrote my directions along with exit numbers on my windshield and I was off. Somewhere in Indiana I started looking for my exit but there was no exit with that number. I had not put anything in my directions about states. I was in the wrong state, I still had to cross Indiana and exit in Illinois. This was not the last time I screwed up simple directions. I finally got to Metropolis and then headed for the next stop. It was over 90 degrees out, sunny and muggy.
The next bonus seemed simple enough. Go to Tiger Tail, TN and copy down the numbers exactly as they are painted on the bottom of a certain bridge. Sounds easy. The key word here is exactly. Some riders could not find the bridge or did not copy down the numbers EXACTLY. Of course, it doesn't help that Tiger Tail is not on most maps.
Next was Quito, MS. Here, it is rumored, is the grave site of the famous blues singer Robert Johnson. The directions were simple, the cemetery is at a certain church just west of town center. Hah! First, the "town" consists of a couple of buildings with no sign. The "just west" means drive behind an unlit building. You had to guess you were in the right place by looking at the map and measuring off 6 miles south from the last "town". It didn't help that I tried finding the cemetery by memory and headed EAST on an actual road rather than down a dark alleyway to the west. I finally did find the cemetery and the grave. I hate you Eddie. It took a couple of tries to get a photo that was barely readable. Did I happen to mention that it was midnight?
Midnight in Quito, Mississippi
That was the last stop of the night. I met up with another rider, we introduced ourselves and decided to share a room in Jackson, MS, a few hours away. We got to the hotel and I got a good 3 hours sleep. The other rider opted for a little more. Riders receive 517 points just for getting three hours or more sleep on this leg. Easy points.
I was up before first light. There was only one stop before the next checkpoint. This was Hot Coffee, MS. The problem with this bonus point was that it was not on any map I had. One of the other riders had a map with it but it was not very detailed. My strategy was to get nearby and ask. I found the town and the store we were supposed to go to. This was a scene from some cop TV show. I arrived on the "scene" to find motorcycles lining both sides of the street. And there, in the middle of the road" is a rider laying down, with his bike next to him. There are flares on the road. Everywhere you look there are emergency vehicles. Cop cars, fire trucks, ambulances, rescue squads. All of it. I parked and went in and bought my "special" Buttlite item. This was a coffee cup. This was an important stop because riders received 250 points for this leg and also every other leg after this, assuming you don't break the cup.
Oh yeah, the cops. Well, it seems one of the riders tried doing a U-turn on the severely crowned road. He lost balance and tried to save the bike but ended up breaking his knee instead. Well there were only 50 or so riders watching. How embarrassing. Apparently not a lot happens in this town for such a small event to attract so many emergency personnel so early in the morning.
On to Baton Rouge, LA. I got there in plenty of time and got a little sleep on the floor of Hebert Cycles, the sponsor of this checkpoint. Hebert Cycles did right by us. They had some great food and drink set out for us. They had places to sleep (concrete floor) and mechanics to work on bikes. It was hot and miserable outside but the air conditioner was on full blast inside. Thank you Hebert Cycles.
A row of Long Distance Rider's bikes at the Baton Rouge checkpoint.
Bob is still smiling in Baton Rouge.
Waiting for scoring
The bikes lined up and ready to go
Some do it the hi-tech way
At the checkpoint we were all blessed with watching Skert change from her riding gear into, what else, a skirt. Don't get too excited, she does this with skill and shows no skin. I was in 22nd place at this point. This was not especially encouraging.
Eddie and Adam held a quick riders meeting, reminding us about how important reading comprehension is. You could hear the riders mumbling "I hate you Eddie". Then the bonus points were handed out. We all settled in to our planning. This time there were three route sheets. I was so frazzled by the heat that I couldn't think. I saw that one route has BIG bonus points in Los Angeles and then in Point Reyes near San Francisco. I saw this as a simple ride, no planning, just a lot of miles. Something approaching 3,000 miles. I had 55 hours to do it in so it was not impossible. While sitting still in traffic outside of Houston, in 110 degree heat, I finally figured out what this rally is all about. I pulled out my grease pencil and wrote "Have Fun" on my windshield. I then pulled into an air-conditioned McDonalds to re-plan my route. I picked a good route but did not plan in as much detail as I should have.
Sometimes you gotta be reminded.
I talked to other riders that started out to California before rethinking their decision. Only one rider actually attempted the ride. Ron Ayers made it to Point Reyes Lighthouse but got stuck in traffic and could not make it in time. He did not finish the rally. Big points mean big consequences.
The contrast between riders and their strategy showed up here. Some of the riders, like me, had paper maps strewn across the ground. Highlighters and notebooks were the only high tech tools. Other riders were sitting at their computers plugging in routes and letting the computers figure out the best way to get the bonus points. These routes were then downloaded into the GPS units and the riders were off. Some did not even have good state maps. The only map I had was a AAA travel atlas.
One big mistake that I made was mis-understanding one of the rules. There was one big bonus location that you had to stay at for an hour. The directions said this one was open until 8pm. I thought that I had to finish my hour by 8pm. I could get there by 7:30 but I thought that would be too late. This bonus location was the Live Oak Resort. This is a "Clothing Optional" resort with a pool, hot tubs, a masseuse, and all kinds of activities available for the riders. There were women that wanted to get their pictures taken with you and everything. From what I was told, some of our riders are still there. They couldn't "bare" to leave.
My final strategy on this leg was to pick a generic route and adjust where I was going to go after each stop. This proved to be a mistake. I thought I was doing poorly so I was not going for the big points. I could have gone to Tulsa, OK and picked up 600 points then come back to the route I had planned but I was trying to get to the Denver Bonus points by the next day. I was not planning far enough ahead.
I took my sleep bonus at 3:30 am at a hotel in Quanah, TX. The lady at the office was still asleep while she was talking to me. She asked me four times if I wanted smoking or non smoking. I think I could have given her my library card instead of my credit card and gotten away with it.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation says to "Know yourself, your bike and the environment and ride within those limits". These limits change from minute to minute. This is especially true of endurance riding. You can not ride safely if you are falling asleep. You need to know, in advance, at what point you will fall asleep and stop well prior to that. Some riders forget this principle and end up struggling to stay awake long enough just to make it to the next exit. Remaining clear and rested is the only way to do well.
I got a good 3 plus hours of sleep in Quanah and obtained my sleep bonus receipts. Next stop, Groom, TX for the tallest religious structure in the US. If you have ridden Rt 40 across the panhandle of Texas you have seen it. It is a huge silver cross. Hard to miss but I missed it anyway. I rode into town and asked a local where the world's smallest church was. He looked at me like I had two heads. Oops, that was a different bonus sheet. This stop was the cross.
Not an easy thing to miss.
After this I went to Can'on City, CO to take a photo of the Royal Gorge Bridge. This looked like a trick but as it turned out it was easy. The description made it sound like there was a huge climb to get to the viewpoint, but in fact, it was just off the road.
Royal Gorge Bridge
From here my lack of planning proved to hurt my standings. I wanted to get the points in Colorado Springs then I planned to get the bonus points near Denver and then head towards Salt Lake City this night. When I realized I could not do both Colorado Springs and Denver this night I just headed for Denver. I should have gotten the Colorado Springs points then tried for the Denver Points the next morning.
I got to the Denver area with just enough time to get one of the two bonus locations. I was on what was called the Oh My God route. Hence the religious structures. My next stop was to take a photo of Central City, CO from the Oh My God road. I got there just in time before sunset. The Oh My God road was a long, bad dirt road. Not the last one on this trip I might add. I got my photo and went back to Idaho Springs. After looking at the map and realizing I had a ton of time, I decided to stay there and get the other Denver points the next morning.
I got a hotel and went out and had a real sit down meal. A bad one, but what the hell. I got over eight hours of sleep that night.
I was up early and got a gas receipt in Denver. Then I rode to the Mother Cabrini Shrine. We were told to climb the staircase surrounded by gardens to the top, where we would be treated to a wonderful view of Denver. This place is 10 miles away from Denver. The only way to get a "Wonderful View" of Denver from here is to be very, very high up. I'm a Sea Level type of guy. I am not made for high elevations. This shrine must have been at 7,000 feet elevation and there were 385 steps to climb. Not only that, but someone had to take the picture of you so you could not be alone at the top. I was looking for the oxygen bottle by the time I got to the top. All along the stairs you could see riding gear on the benches, cast off by exhausted bikers, to be picked up on the way back down.
Oh My God this is high up. The Mother Cabrini Shrine somewhere near the clouds.
The next stop was to get a gas receipt in Hot Sulfur Springs, CO then on to Salt Lake City, UT. There was one stop, in Salt Lake City, prior to the checkpoint. The shrine to the Virgin Mary in the park. A branch of a tree was cut off and the sap that leaked out created an "image" that looked sort of like the Virgin Mary. Or just about anything else your imagination could dream up. The tree is now considered "Holy" Oh well.
The Virgin Mary Shrine and the "Image" in the tree.
I arrived at the Salt Lake City checkpoint at 5pm, a few hours early. It was very hot and the sun was beating down. The Folks at Perry Motorsports went out of their way for us riders, with mechanics on duty to take care of any maintenance or problems. They had food and drink available as well. There was a huge pot of coffee available to the riders. The shop personnel were a little surprised to find out that few Long Distance Riders (LDRiders) actually drink coffee on a ride. One of the problems with coffee is that after it wears off you will become very tired. It also can make it hard to sleep when you need to. If you don't sleep when you need to you will eventually start to hallucinate or become so exhausted that you can no longer think correctly. This creates a very dangerous situation. LDRiders are very concerned about safety.
Bob lathered up with sunscreen in Salt Lake City.
Hours to next checkpoint open, 34. Quickest route, 1,150 miles.
My standing at the end of leg two was 13th. I was pretty excited about that at first but none of that mattered after the riders meeting. During the riders meeting, prior to the handing out of the riders' packets, we received news that would make the standings seem unimportant.
Adam and Eddie informed us that Pauline Ralston was involved in a fatal traffic accident near Panguitch, UT. Witnesses reported that Pauline was apparently run off the road by an automobile while it was attempting to pass her. The auto then left the scene. Pauline was riding with her friend when the accident happened. The pair had gotten plenty of rest, recently stopping for a 6 hour rest. The accident was not LDRider related but was just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pauline loved life and loved motorcycles. In the short time that I had talked with her she became a friend of mine. This accident brought a dark cloud down upon all the riders. It took each of us time to overcome this and continue with the ride. Continuing with the ride is what Pauline would have wanted. Continuing with the ride is what we did.
I chose a route that would keep me farther south on my way to Fargo than some of the other routes. There was another route that looked good but it was too far north into the wildfires of Montana and Wyoming for my taste. As it turns out, the riders that chose that route did not get delayed by any fires but they did get dumped on by rain. Probably the first significant rain that part of the world has gotten this year. My route had me go across the southern side of Montana and into South Dakota and Nebraska before heading to Fargo.
12:30 AM. My first stop was a gas receipt in Little America, WY. A rider with a fuel cell pulled up and asked me if I want to share a room. I said sure. We check in and get to the room. A quick shower and I hit the lights. Then, it occurred to me that I had no idea who this guy was or if he was even in the rally. I said "by the way, my names Bob, you ARE in the Butt aren't you?". You gotta wonder what someone in the next room would have thought about that statement.
Three hours sleep and I was back on the road. On my way to Medicine Bow, WY I got pulled over by the police. 77 in a 65. A $76 ticket. He notices the Fuel Cell and asked what that's for. "Oh, I ride a lot at night and you know there is not much fuel at night out here" I said. He says "uh huhh". "You're the third volunteer this morning, but the others were going significantly quicker. You guys in some sort of Poker Run?" he said. "Uh, no, I'm just out for a ride" I said. "Uh huhh" he said, and smiles. "I think I'll hang out right around here for a while today, could be interesting" said he. And off I went, leaving Officer Happy there to collect some more funds to fill the local coffers.
In Medicine Bow I rode down a bad dirt road to get a photo of some windmills then over to a house built entirely of dinosaur bones, fossils of course. I hit a few other bonus locations on the way to my next stop.
This house is made of Dinosaur bones
The monument to the Ames Brothers.
Lusk, WY, population 1,504. Here I was supposed to find the Mother Featherlegs Monument, the only known monument to a prostitute in America. The directions are simple. Go west out of town 1.3 miles, turn left after the small rest area down the town road. First, the small rest area was being rebuilt so the riders could not be sure this was the right rest area. Second, this "town road" is a badly washboarded dirt road, if you want to call it a road. So I took off. The big Harley does not like this stuff. I found, though, if I raised my speed to 50 mph or more the washboard didn't bother the bike much, it seemed to skip over the tops of the bumps. There are two problems with this. First, this was open range country so there were cattle everywhere. Second, I had to slow down for curves. Slowing down causeds the bike to vibrate like it was attached to a jack hammer. Well, my warranty is up in a few months so this was a good "shake down" run for it.
At one point there was a fork in the road, one way looking like a cow path. I took the other way, which turned out to be the correct direction. Next was a sign saying "Hunting Club Members Only". Now I was not sure if I would ever get home alive. Finally, after ten miles of this stuff I saw it. It was a four foot tall, stone monument placed there in the 60's. Nothing special, it looked like a tall gravestone. On it is the story of Mother Featherlegs, her life and her death. In case you are wondering, she was named Featherlegs because the costume she wore made her legs look like some fancy chicken.
I've got a few questions. Why did they erect a statue to her? Why out here of all places? And most importantly, HOW DID EDDIE FIND THIS PLACE!?! Of course, you know what I was screaming, "I HATE YOU EDDIE!"
The Road to Featherlegs
Mother Featherlegs, it was worth it, even if the photo sucked.
My next planned stops were in northwest Nebraska and southwest South Dakota. My plans went awry and I was not able to hit any of those that I had planned to, but I did hit Carhenge in Alliance Nebraska. This is a bunch of cars piled up just like Stonehenge, and painted gray. It is believed that some ancient culture placed these here to more accurately predict the seasons. At this point, I'll believe anything.
Re-planning on the fly is one of the most important skills to have in this kind of rally. I have the skills to screw up any one of my plans on the fly.
Carhenge - Definitely built by an ancient civilization.
It was getting dark and I had around 700 miles to go to the next checkpoint. I had to be there by 8am and I knew I would be needing sleep sometime before I got there. Piece of cake. Oh yeah, it's a different time zone so it was actually later there than where I was. There were deer every where on the side roads. I couldn't wait to get to the super slab. About half way through my ride I hit the fog. It is extremely heavy. My speeds were cut down considerably. I tried to follow the trucks but they were all getting off the road to avoid the fog. I decide then that it was a good time to get some rest. Adam has a saying, "You need to take time to make time". What this means is that if you don't take the time to get enough rest you will start to make dumb mistakes and will not be able to keep up your present pace. Besides the fact that you could become a danger to yourself and others. Resting, even a little, can really rejuvenate you and help your thinking and planning skills.
I got almost four hours of sleep. When I got up the fog was just as bad if not worse, but somehow it seemed easier to deal with after a rest. I got to Fargo in plenty of time.
Seeing the other riders come in, wet and cold from a night of riding in the rain and wind made me glad I chose the route I did. I stayed completely dry except for some moisture from the fog. Bill Davis was still in the rally with his Hard Tail. Bill was shivering from the cold but he was still smiling. His mood never changes. He had some electrical problems after his oil tank mounts broke again and shorted against the starter. This fixed he just kept on going.
Ma's Cycles in West Fargo made sure we were welcome. They were having an open house as well as hosting our checkpoint. The local fire department provided a great breakfast for us. This was much welcomed by the riders as they tried to warm up. Walking into the dealership you could see bodies scattered between the bikes. The carpet was the most comfortable bed many of these riders had seen in days. Triumph was there with their demo fleet. I asked if I could take one of their bikes out for a test ride. I promised to have it back in a couple of days. I even promised to change the oil when it was due. They declined my request.
Gary Eagan, on his Ducati, arrived in a pickup truck. He was travelling at 85 mph when his rear tire shredded. Gary is a very good rider as evidenced by the fact that he did not drop the bike.
Back in Salt lake city I talked with Paul Pelland about his bike. It was making some very strange noises. He wrote "New Motor" on his windshield. Sure enough, somewhere in Montana his BMW K75 died, probably due to the extreme Texas heat of a few days prior. He had his bike towed to a Honda dealer and traded what was left of it for a Honda Hurricane. This sport bike is definitely not a good rally bike. Paul, in good LDRider never say die tradition, duct taped a large Plexiglas windshield to the front of the bike. Since the bike had no throttle lock he would ride with his left hand controlling the throttle when his right hand got tired. Not easy to do when your leaned over the tank in typical crotch rocket fashion.
The king of duct tape modified his "new" Honda Hurricane
The rally masters impose a 10,000 point penalty for switching bikes during an event. Paul's goal is to finish the rally with a score greater than zero.
The rally sheets were handed out. This time there was only one route sheet. But there were over 80 bonus locations scattered across the country. You could go to Memphis, TN or Washington, DC. Or just about anywhere else. You had 52 hours to make 1,014 miles. You could achieve this by averaging 19.43 MPH. Not a difficult task. But, you would not enter a rally like this if you were just going to ride straight to the next checkpoint.
Waiting for instructions in Fargo
My chosen route had me getting a quick bonus in Fargo then off to St. Paul Minnesota. There, I was supposed to go see an animal psychiatrist and buy him a cheese on a stick. This sounded fishy. It turns out that it was the Minnesota State Fair. The traffic on the way to the park was bad and the crowds at the fair couldn't understand my urgency to get through the crowd. I found the proper location and found the animal shrink. He was an LDRider volunteer. I bought him his cheese on a stick and asked him where I could buy a shirt that says "I hate you Eddie". He said why don't I just ask Eddie, who was standing across the road. I waved and yelled "I hate you Eddie!". He just smiled. I could hear his insane laughter for miles.
Roger Maris' Grave in Fargo
The next stops were a blur. Take a photo of the New Germany, MN Post office. Buy a Chilito at a Mexican restaurant in Mankato, MN and a number of others. At the post office another rider was there. He asked me to lead him out of there towards the next bonus point because he did not get lost. He don't know me very well, do he? I can get lost anywhere. As it turned out, I didn't get lost but he left his towel at the post office. He called the Sheriff's Department who sent someone there just to get his flag. New Germany was not exactly "on the Sheriff's way". No rider lost his flag but another rider came close to losing it. He had set up his flag outside a restaurant and took his photo, then he went in to eat. About halfway through his meal he looks up and sees a cowboy holding something with a number on it. Yep, it was his flag.
I stopped in Rochester, MN to get my sleep bonus. I stopped at a hotel and got a hotel receipt. I looked at it and it looked fine, it had the time and all the information required. I slept six and a half hours, three more than I wanted. I got my end of sleep bonus receipt at a gas station nearby, since the motel office was closed. This was when I realized that my motel receipt would not work. The receipt I got when I checked in had a time that was five minutes earlier than the time on a gas receipt I had from 100 miles before I got to the motel. The hotel time was off by more than an hour. That meant, not only did I waste three hours sleeping but I blew this sleep bonus. This was the last time I had planned on sleeping during this ride.
I hit a bunch more blurry bonuses. Read a plaque that said something about gold tacks in Zumbrata, MN? Took a photo of a sign at Eddie's home town. Then a photo at the Laura Ingals Wilder Museum. I took a photo a photo of the Starship Enterprise at the FUTURE home of Captain James T. Kirk in Riverside, IA. I helped out another rider in Riverside who was looking for the Enterprise at the wrong town park. I got lost half a dozen times at least. I found out that Carl Sandburg is buried in his own back yard. Took a photo of a 15 foot tall steer next to an even larger cowboy. All kinds of very important stuff.
Eddies Home Town
Laura Ingals Wilder Museum
The "Future" birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk
Carl Sandburg, buried in the back yard
Who builds these things?
And I can't forget yet another one of the World's Smallest Churches. There seems to be a lot of these in this country. How can they all be the smallest?
This is one twisty road! ! ! !
I rode into the night, stopping to take a photo of the population sign at Danway, IL. It says "Population 15 +1 +1 -1 +1". That adds up to 17. I had to contemplate what caused the minus one. I stopped at one of only two White Castle hamburger joints that is located in a gas station in the US. I had to get a receipt for the purchase of a cheeseburger. I made the mistake of actually trying it, yuck.
Population 15 +1 +1 -1 +1
There were two more chances to yell "I hate you Eddie". First was to go to a tower in Indiana that was once used by the government to look for UFO's. The only real information was that it was on Rt. 100W which crosses the main highway, which was easy to find. The problem is you can't get there. Even the locals didn't have a clue. After riding around corn fields and hitting dead ends at 3am I finally gave up. Others did find it but I never did. I almost parked my bike on the highway and climbed the hill so that I could walk to the tower, hoping it was near the highway.
The second chance to scream at Eddie was a bonus location in Franklin, IN that taxed my reading comprehension. There are two Franklin's on the map, over 100 miles away from each other. I had planned my route to the wrong one. It was not until it was too late that I looked at the route sheet to find I was way off the mark.
The last stop was in Newark, OH, just past the final checkpoint. The directions were to "head east on a certain road and take a photo of the building. You will know which one". It was hard to miss a ten story building in the shape of a picnic basket, but some riders did.
How could anyone miss this place?
I got to the final checkpoint early enough to get my three-hour sleep bonus, making up for my mistake two nights earlier. Finalizing my bonus sheets prior to handing them in I noticed I had not answered one of the questions. The information was on an informational sign. I had a photo of it but the picture was too small to read. That's when I got the idea to turn my binoculars backwards and use them as a microscope. I had to read the plaque letter by letter but I got the information. Had my flag been 6 inches to the left I would have missed it.
Not all the riders had as uneventful of a ride as I did. Do you remember Doug Stout on the 250 Ninja. His bike crapped out someplace in South Dakota. Doug "traded" his ruined Ninja for a 250 Honda Interceptor. At that point there were two riders, each trying to be the first to score above zero.
Here is the author at the finish after a hot shower. The question now is: Where's the beer?
Yes the Hardtail rider made it. Here is the bike at the finish. Not bad at all. Notice the can of Old Milwaukee?
The results were not given out until the banquet that evening. As each rider was called to receive their rally shirt, either Adam or Eddie told a funny or embarrassing story about them. If they didn't have a funny story about a rider at the beginning of the rally, they did now.
As Bill Davis was called, the room broke out into a spontaneous standing ovation. LDRiders know how difficult this ride is on a modern bike. To finish this rally with that Hardtail, well, that's something few of these riders would even attempt. Bill had his share of problems but was able to perform the necessary roadside repairs to keep his mount going. Bill finished 44th, gaining the advantage over four other riders.
Mark Kiecker won the rally with 21,732 points and 7,759 miles. Mark won by riding very smart and very efficiently. Mark led almost every leg of the rally. Every time I saw him he looked relaxed and rested. A very cool customer.
Doug and Paul, the two bike switchers, were neck and neck for last. Paul was the only one of the two to break into positive numbers with a score of +771, compared to Doug's -1,026.
Here are the top ten winners, at least those that could be rounded up for the photo.
The following lists the bikes of the top ten finishers. The percentages are the percentage in the top ten compared to how many entered. Ex. 27 BMWs entered, 5 were in the top ten = 19%:
Eddie and Adam, along with a slew of volunteers, ran a first class rally. I am looking forward to entering more of the Team Strange events. I know I will be screaming "I hate you Eddie" for years to come.
I had one last laugh for the Rally Bastards at the post rally banquet. When my name was called and I went up to the head table to receive my award, all the riders started laughing and taking photos of my back. Eddie and Adam couldn't understand what was going on, I said I couldn't either. Then, when I turned away from the table, Eddie could see my shirt. It said "I HATE YOU EDDIE". It was the first time I have ever seen Eddie speechless.
Butt, then the Rally Bastards had one cruel joke left to play on the riders. Every one who finishes in the top ten gets a trophy. This trophy was a large, fragile, glass trophy. Have you ever tried to pack anything large and fragile on a bike? Eddie and Adam are still laughing about this.
Me, I finished seventh, with 18,877 points, riding 6,976 miles in seven days. That was 2,855 points behind the leader. This was my first rally and I rode it very conservatively. Had I not made the many mistakes, I may have had a chance to have won it, but there is a big stretch between seventh and first. Besides, I was not the only one to make mistakes. I am hoping to get into the big rally, the Iron Butt Rally, next year. The Iron Butt Rally is an 11day, 11,000 mile ride.
The morning after the rally I left Columbus, OH to go to Salt Lake City to pick up my girlfriend at the airport. We were scheduled to take a vacation ride up through Yellowstone, but that is another story.
More information and photos can be found on the Team strange web site: www.teamstrange.com.
Other Long Distance related sites:
Iron Butt Association
Long Distance Riders Organization