Here is my story. I did not put any real time into it, mostly just writing down notes from my tape recorder so don't be surprised if it is not super smooth.
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I have been trying to get into the Ironbutt Rally for at least six years. The event only happens every other year and it took me quite a while to finally get around to finding out how to get in. Even then, it is all about luck since riders get into the rally through a drawing. I did not get selected through the drawing this year and almost gave up on getting in. I was on the waiting list but did not really expect to be called. This morning I sent out an E-Mail to a bunch of my friends saying that I was waiting impatiently for a call saying I was in the rally. The fact of the matter is, I had no intention of accepting an invitation at this point, even if I got one. I was supposed to be substituting for someone at work for the next three weeks and have two vacations planned for later in the year. This made it impossible to enter the rally, due to cash and vacation time constraints.
I had just moved into a new apartment. My phone number had changed and I had not had a chance to check my private E-Mail for quite some time. I was having problems accessing my private E-Mail from work so I was getting no messages.
When I got home today I finally checked my E-mail in the slim hope that I got THE message. I was shocked to find THE message sitting in my box. Apparently it had been there for some time. I did not know if it was too late but I called Mike Kneebone, the president of the Ironbutt Association. I got Mike as he was walking out the door. He said if I could put it together and have myself and the bike ready in time that I was in the rally. This was 6pm. I told him I could put it together. After I got off the phone, reality hit me. There was no way I could be ready.
I had to get the bike and myself ready for a fourteen THOUSAND mile trip in about four hours. I had to clear everything at work, make sure that both my work and the work of the guy that I was substituting for was going to be covered. Make sure all finances (rent etc) were taken care of and prep the bike.
When my girlfriend came home, she found me to be a basket case. Picking up piles of stuff and putting it down, moving those piles to other piles, then back again. I was trying to load the bike and put the fuel cell (extra gas tank) on the rear of the bike at the same time. Finally, I stopped, had a shot of Tequila and slowed down. I made a list of what needed to be done and checked things off when I did them. My girlfriend and a friend of mine convinced me to take a cell phone that belonged to my friend's mother. I am not a cell phone kind of person. I put padding around the phone and put it in a Tupperware container. That is where it stayed for thirteen thousand miles.
I was able to finish the preparations in about four hours. I had about twice as much stuff packed as I would need and forgot some things that I did need, but I was ready. Did I mention that I had to be in Alabama by Friday night?
I did not get much sleep that night, jumping up to pack that one last thing or add one more thing to my To-Do list.
I was up early, easy to do when you are not sleeping anyway. I worked from 7am to 9am. Trying to be sure everything is arranged for two weeks away is never easy, but to do it in two hours with no prior warning is tough.
I left work and had to go to the banks to move money around. I had to go to stores for supplies and to the AAA office for maps. I always wonder what they think when I tell them I am going away on a two week trip and I ask for maps of all areas of the US and Canada, including Alaska.
I left the Nashua, NH area at 9:30 am with 46,633 miles on the odometer.
I had a great ride down. I arrived in Alabama at 3am EST today with 47,810 on the odometer, just under 1200 miles.
I got up early and scrambled to change my oil and get my tires changed. I brought the bike to a bike shop for the tire change. It took one hour from the time I drove up to the time I got the bike back. Any time I have taken the bike to a Harley shop it has taken four hours. I've paid more to have one tire changed at Harley shops than it cost me this time to have both tires changed. So much for dealers.
Then I had to get the odometer check. For the odometer check they have you ride a set route and then see how many miles your odometer reads. This is used to correct your mileage for the records. The odometers on many motorcycles are as much as fifteen percent off. Later I had the official technical inspection done. Then I changed the Front brakes and all kinds of little details that need to be done to make sure the bike will make the trip without problems. Not what I would call a relaxing day.
Today was a day of rest and relaxation. Uhh, right. I scrambled to get every thing packed, unpacked and repacked again. I eliminated about 50 pounds of gear. I still ended up taking way too much stuff. I studied maps and fiddled with the bike. I found it easier to prepare the bike than to prepare my mind. I was having trouble getting my brain to think in Rally mode. This was a problem that plagued me through the entire rally. Speed vision was there interviewing riders and videotaping the bikes. Mandatory meetings were held to ensure that we would all behave. Video interviews were taken of us for the records. More mandatory meetings were held for us newcomers to make sure we understood that this is not a race and that we should be conservative and behave.
One point that is stressed is that the rally is all about comfort control and mental alertness. Planning and time management are the most important skills. Many riders practice by timing their gas stops and working on accuracy and clear-headedness at stops. Speed is never a benefit. Getting sufficient sleep is always a benefit.
At the opening banquet, Mike Kneebone stressed that this rally was about Alaska. He showed that the T-Shirt picture had Alaskan symbols and showed the Alaskan Wilderness.
There were a number of oddball bikes in the rally. There was Paul Pelland on his 2001 Ural motorcycle. This is a Russian version of a 1930's vintage BMW. There have been few changes since the days when Russia captured the BMW plant and started making bikes. He was put into what became to be called the "Hopeless Class". Also in this class were three 125 cc motorcycles. There was a tiny Honda 125 which looked just a little bigger than a moped. Keith Keeting, a Big guy and former marine is riding a Suzuki GN125 the same as the training bikes the MSF uses. All dressed up in his riding gear he kind of reminds you of a circus bear on a tricycle. Then there is Paul Meredith on his Cagiva 125cc two stroke. Paul has a spare engine stashed in Chicago and plenty of spare parts scattered around the country. There is also a 1934 BMW from Germany. In the somewhat hopeless class is a Honda Reflex scooter and a 500cc single cylinder.
Not to be forgotten in the hopeless Class is a 1946 Indian. This is the fourth Ironbutt that this bike has been entered in. It has yet to finish. The owner/rider, Leonard, is a lawyer/accountant. You would never guess that looking at his picture. He is quite a site and quite a character.
Senator Dave Zein was there with his 1991 Harley Davidson FX with 500,000 miles on the odometer. The bike chose to break during the odo check. He will be hard pressed to get the bike back into service in time.
There was another Indian entered in the Hopeless Class but that team withdrew. They did not receive the entire rule book and did not realize that support trucks were not allowed. Due to the SNAFU they were allowed to continue. After seeing the kind of determination in the other vintage bikes, all solo efforts, they decided that their planned ride would not be keeping with the spirit of the event. They were not prepared to complete the ride unsupported so they withdrew. I expect we will see them in 2003 with a properly rally prepped bike.
The Nice Mike Kneebone spoke with us for some time. He was called away and then we met the Evil Lord Kneebone. The Evil Lord Kneebone stressed that we must be good boys and girls on this rally. He was going to be watching. We would get away with nothing.
A song was played, "I can see clearly now the rain is gone". Apparently this is the theme of the rally. It was never truly clear to me how this song fit. Mike asked who was prepared to go to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska if they had all the time in the world. Those that stood up were told to sit over to one side of the room. I was one of those people.
The Rally packages were handed out. When we were finally allowed to open them, we saw that there were huge bonus points for going to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska straight from Alabama. There were 113 riders including two riders that have passed on. There are flags for them that will be carried on the rally by riders.
After much discussion and talk, Mike finally let us go. He kept us up very late. I believe this was done on purpose.
I looked at the Prudhoe Bay bonus. There was no guarantee that going there would get you in the top ten, there were major risks of either not finishing the rally or only getting a relatively few points. The biggest thing keeping me from doing it is that anyone going there would be effectively out of the rest of the rally. This is my first rally and not only did I want to finish but I wanted to "experience" the rally. Going to Prudhoe would not allow that. I chose to not go there.
Jim Frens and I decided to ride together for part of the rally. We left at 11:35am with 47,911 on the odometer. My original plans had me going to three different locations today before sleep then a bunch more before California. I skipped the other locations and rode with Jim to Fort worth, TX. It turned out to be the right thing to do since it would have been taught to get to the other locations in the time I allotted.
I was getting a little worried when at 40 miles into the rally I was only just starting to pass the hopeless class. I was even more worried when I was still passing them at 100 miles. Then, at 287 miles we passed Paul Meredith, still only passing the hopeless class.
Almost all the HD's had problems prior to rally, Senator Zien did not get his bike fixed in time to ride the rally.
Someone decided that Paul Pelland's URAL was an acronym for U R A Loser
On the way to Texas we hit one hellatious thunder storm it went from 95 degrees and 100% humidity to about 75 degrees then right back up to 95. I was soaked before I could pull off. It did not take long to dry off in this heat.
Going through Dallas really sucked. Every time I have been through there I have gotten caught in heavy traffic due to construction, accidents or whatever. We did the north of FT. Worth bonus, a photo of Mike Kneebone's old bike. After Fort Worth I decided to split up with Jim and went north. I prefer riding alone for the most part, although if I was going to ride with someone I could not pick a better riding partner for the IBR. I headed north towards Amarillo and Jim headed south across Texas and the 10. I got properly lost, well, actually I was heading the right way, I just forgot to ask how far I should go to get to the next highway. I thought I missed it. While studying the map, a cop stopped and helped me. It turned out I was only a few miles away from the turn.
Stopped in Wichita Falls, TX for a sleep at~48,700 miles. I asked the lady at the counter if I could leave my bike out front. She said fine, then, just as I was falling asleep she called to say that I could not leave it there. I got up, rolled the bike backwards into a spot. Before it was facing uphill. Now it was facing downhill. Just as I was getting to sleep the phone rang. Remember, this is about 3:30 am. The phone is almost as loud as my Screamin' Meanie. She tells me that she could smell gas inside and that my bike was leaking, a lot. As it turns out, I spilled fuel all over by leaving fuel valve on. I would say I lost about a half gallon or more. What a mess.
Got going easily. Once on the highways out here I found out that my Cruise Control only goes up to 87 mph. This can be dangerously slow on some of these roads. Then I started passing Hopeless Class again.
I kept spilling fuel on the ground at every gas stop. I kept leaving the fuel valve on or I kept overfilling the fuel cell. I figure there is going to be a HazMat team named after me.
I was just leaving a rest area after looking at the map. The weather had been perfect. I saw Mike Kneebone. After talking for a bit he pointed in the direction I was going and said there was a thunderstorm in that direction. Sure enough, there was. I know he created it. It was not there a few minutes ago.
I had decided to go to El Morro Nat Park then to the petrified forest. There was some construction on the way in. That's when I found out I had no rear brake. I don't know when it stopped working. I don't really use it anyway unless I am in the dirt. I had the same problem last year about the same time during the Buttlite Rally. At that time I replaced the brake pads, even though they really did not need to be changed. Later in the rally I changed the fluid in the brakes and they were fine. I have an aftermarket brake pedal that does not allow for a lot of pumping. If the brakes get a little squishy the pedal hits the fiberglass lowers. I will fix that by cutting the end of the pedal.
The temps are around 100 degrees but dry. A lot more comfortable than it was in Alabama at 85 degrees.
I stopped at Flagstaff HD for brake fluid and an oil filter. I think I have visited this dealership more times than people that live here. Every time I go through here I have to stop for something.
I got a gas receipt in Kingman, AZ, it was a real bitch to get, tried three times before I finally got one that said Kingman, AZ on it.
My next stop was Boulder City Nevada, near Vegas. This sucked, way too hot. Vegas is ugly and horrible. I have never liked the place and I swear it gets uglier with time. I ran into another rider who is doing a slightly different route. I keep meeting the same people at bonus locations even when they are not doing all the same ones.
At 7:45pm I stopped in Barstow, stayed at crappy hotel @ 50,002. Got lots of sleep.
Got up at dawn and went to the painted rock pile to take a photo of a poem. This is where army guys paint their emblems on rocks. This is at the Ft. Irwin National training Center, where the Army guys train. On the rocks was a rally flag #113. I later found out that it belonged to Todd Witte. The last stop prior to the checkpoint was the Widder Electric Clothing factory. I got there at 50,235. Pat Widder had cots available and food and all kinds of things waiting for us. Most of us were in kind of a hurry to get to the checkpoint to avoid any nasty Las Angeles traffic so we did not make good use of these amenities.
I got to the first check point early with 50,345 on the odometer at 5pm est. The Ural did not make it to this checkpoint. Apparently it broke down only a few hundred miles into the ride, and quite a few times after that. Paul was trying to get things going and I bet he will make it.
17 riders went to Alaska from Alabama. They may not all be going to Prudhoe, but a lot of them will try if the weather permits.
I was 33rd at this checkpoint. That does not include the people that went to Alaska.
Rode to the Devils Post Pile that night. It's near Yosemite National Park, but has a separate entrance. Amazing road into there, tight twisty curves. A hell of a lot of fun at 2am. Slept in the bathroom in the park. It was very cold, the ride up to the park was a VERY twisty road.
Somewhere during the ride my lid on the right side bag opened for more than 100 miles but I did not lose anything.
My Meanie went off long before it got light out. It didn't matter though, I had woken up prior to it going off due to the cold. I had a nice bright flashlight, which I was shining at the ground as another rider and myself walked up the trail. I should have been shining it at the signs on the path because we missed the sign and ended up climbing up the wrong way up then had to wait for sunlight. The climb almost killed us but it warmed us up and woke us up.
I was not sure if I should go for one or another of the bonus locations on the other side of the park. I met up with Jim Frens and we decided to go through the park to one on the other side of the park (Yosemite). Glacier something or other. Awesome roads. Super twisty. Great views. Good riding following Jim. He will is a slightly aggressive rider, so we made great time. Using him as a way of seeing around the curves helped me move pretty quickly too.
After that bonus we went back through Yosemite and headed towards Reno Nevada. We saw Mike Kneebone on the way towards Reno. In Reno, we stopped at a Casino and the Fish tree, which is a tree carved in the shape of, what do you think? Reno is a sucky town, hot miserable and run down.
Our next stop was a town called Gerlach. Middle of nowhere. An IBA member has sort of a shrine set up there. An event called Burning man was happening a few miles up. Very hot and dry. Lots of old hippies and losers camping out in the desert.
We took somewhat of a long way to get to Oregon. Missed a gas receipt that was worth a few points and was right on our way. We stopped at a hotel in Grants Pass at 51,487
We were headed to a dentist's office in Salem, OR to pick up a special Ironbutt Dental Dam.
We got a slightly later start than we had planned, although it turned out to be much earlier than necessary. We got 5 hours of sleep last night.
I find that I have trouble riding with others on a rally. I have trouble paying attention while riding with others and I feel off balance somehow. I can't focus on the mission.
I feel great except that I have developed a pimple on my butt, right where I sit and I got a severe cramp in my leg last night as I slept.
I tried different route to the dentist than Jim. Got there 9 minutes earlier than he did by following what his GPS said to do. The dentist had muffins and other food, and bananas. He is an IBA member that could not make the rally this year.
Stopped for a gas receipt at the Dalls which has a Big dam. I figured out that this was the Dam Tour.
There is some incredible scenery around here and beautiful roads. Got to the Sunnyside checkpoint early. We were in Sunnyside by 2pm local at 51,941 I needed to work on my brakes and other stuff. I made a two gallon drink holder for the bike with tubes to drink from. It worked but it was a pain in the ass and I ended up drinking way too much. I got rid of them as I emptied them.
Karen and John Bolin were at the checkpoint as were Mike Hutsal and his riding buddy. Mike helped Jim and I with our route. Unfortunately we did not follow their advice and go to Northern Alaska.
Left Sunnyside at 8:50 local. I was riding with Jim Frens again. We were shooting for Hyder, AK and possibly going up to upper Alaska, Fairbanks and possibly Prudhoe Bay. Shortly after we left I almost got us lost because I read my notes wrong, we got off the highway and had a hell of a time getting back to it.
We crossed the border at the Sumas,OR crossing and got a Hotel in Hope, BC
It rained for the first 180 Miles or so.
Jim Got a Ticket in Cache Creek going too fast into town. I left him for a while. He caught up to me and passed me then later I caught up with him. We basically rode the whole day together.
Beautiful day. Beautiful ride up there. Tons of Black bears on the sides of the roads especially on the way into Hyder.
We got to Hyder, AK in the cold rain sometime around 10pm local with 53,111 on the odometer. We got our pictures. We stayed at a hotel in Stewart, BC.
There was a couple of drunk girls from Smithers, BC at the bar where we got our photos. One was getting her picture taken with all the riders. She said she wanted an interesting picture and then jumped in my arms. Made for some interesting pictures.
Leaving Hyder I dropped my electric vest controller on the ground and dragged it for quite a while. It died. I then had to keep plugging it in and unplugging it to adjust my heat.
On the advice of some Canadians I picked a route across Canada. It was the shortest mile wise. I would later regret this decision.
There were even more Bear than last night on the way out of Hyder. Also on the roads were lots of Tent Cities scattered around. Some looked like big cities, some were just small camps with tent restaurants I think they are Salmon Fishing villages. There was fresh Snow on the hills, the snow was not there last night.
The ride through Jasper national park is unbelievably beautiful. Lots of snow on the peaks and animals everywhere. I also saw lots of mountain goats including babies.
At 9:30 local time I came upon Dennis, one of the riders, who hit a deer. I got there just after it happened. He was OK but went to the Hospital just in case. The deer was dead as was the bike.
I stayed at a hotel in Edmonton 54,005 because I needed a sleep bonus, but I was not yet tired. I could have ridden a little while longer but I had to start the sleep bonus before midnight.
I left Enmonton at 7am est. I regret asking for advice because this Canadian route sucks. It is slow and boring and windy. I could have made better time going through the US.
I was getting cold and tired while going up Rt 11 so I slept on side of the road at a closed truck inspection station at around 3am. It was 38 degrees when I went to sleep, I woke up when it got cold. I woke to heavy fog. Just what I want when I am riding at night and tired and cold.
I am taking the northern route - route 11 through the James Bay Frontier area. Definitely in the middle of nowhere.
This route has a ton of traffic delays, I had planned on stopping at home but I would not even be close. Every one at home is mad that I have not called to let every one know where I am. It's hard to keep in touch while traveling like this. It seems like you just called home even though it may have been six days ago.
Getting through Montreal was a trip, high speed, curves and heavy traffic. Not a lot of fun.
I found a motel in Burlington, VT at 56,406. Yesterdays ride was 45 miles shy of a BBG (1,500 miles in 24 hours. It does not look like I will even get a 10/10ths award.
Good start to the morning, I had to bump start the bike on flat ground because the battery was dead.
I went to Brattleboro for a newspaper then rode to Maine.
At the Maine checkpoint at 56,731 I changed my rear tire although I did not really need it. I was not sure if I would have been able to make it home from Alabama on the tire. I replaced battery and oil. On the way to Maine I saw the GN125 being blown all over the place by the wind on the highway.
The first bonus location was to get a newspaper from a certain location in downtown Portsmouth, NH. It was right behind my favorite brewpub. I ended up getting lost getting there. I was concentrating on traffic and my plan for the rest of the ride and missed all the exits for Portsmouth. Had to back track.
Afterwards I went towards NYC. Chose not to go to Long Island as I originally planned. It was too risky.
I hooked up with another rider on the way to NYC. We went to Harlem for a photo of the Apollo Theatre at around 2am then down to Wall street and got a photo of the Wall Street Bull. There was a woman there sitting on the bull, I had her hold my flag. We had a bitch of a time getting out of the city.
Later in the morning, about 5am, I stopped in New Castle Delaware at Mikes Famous HD Shop for photos of David Barrs bikes. Got 2.5 hours rest outside the gate until the sprinkler went on then went inside the gate and slept another 1.5 hours before getting the bonus. I hooked up with Todd Witte for a while. We had a plan to ride together to some big bonuses but I left him after a while. We were just a little off sync. Neither of us rode the planned ride. I got to near the checkpoint and chose to head for the barn rather than get some meaningless, but large bonus points. It turns out that they would have done nothing for my standings anyway.
Todd rode up an down the highway near the checkpoint until he got 11,000 miles so that he could honestly say that he rode 11,000 miles in 11 days. I would have had to run at 130 mph to get enough miles to say that.
A lot of riders were there on Thursday night. We hung around and drank some beer, then around 2am I went to bed.
The next time I get in the Ironbutt I am going to go all out for the win. Well, I REALLY don't expect to win, but by shooting for that, I should do as well as possible, or not finish at all.
This rally I finished in 22nd place out of 93 finishers. If you remove the riders that went to northern Alaska, I would have been in the top ten. Of course, if those riders had not gone to northern Alaska, they would have still gotten far better scores than I did, but dreams seldom hurt anyone.
Every Harley that left the starting line finished. A lot of the BMW's did not finish for various reasons.
Paul Pelland made it on his Ural. Leonard made it with his 46 Indian Chief. Ahmet Buharali loaned a German rider a bike so that he could finish. The German was a total stranger. Ardis Kellerman, 69 years old Finished. This was her 5th try and her 4th finish. 9 people were successful in getting to and from Prudhoe Bay in time. 3 made it to Prudhoe for 3rd leg, two of these were too late by a few hours. Honda Reflex motor scooter made it to Denali. In leg 1, 17 made it to Denali, 8 made it to Prudhoe. In leg 3, 26 made it to Hyder, 9 to Denali, 1 to Prudhoe He hit Ice and snow on the way. One guy saw a Grizzly and almost hit a baby grizzly. In leg 1 an ST1100 made it to Prudhoe.
I kept getting advice from people on what routes to take and what bonuses to go for. Most of these people with advice tended to be those that finished lower than I did. I need to remember to ride my own ride, not someone elses.
At the finishers banquet, dinner included Baked Alaska for all those that went to Alaska.
I was talking to two guests of the Motel. These two women were wives of members of the 151st engineers. They were having a reunion. They were originally stationed in Alaska building runways, later they were stationed in the Aleutians then Europe. They complemented us on being the quietest group they have ever shared the hotel with. An interesting coincidence that the other group at the hotel would have ties to Alaska.
I ended the rally at 58,011 at 10:15 am on Thursday, I started at 47,911 at 11:35 am on Monday. That's 10,100 miles for the rally in 10.5 days or 962 miles per day average. I got plenty of rest and felt very good the entire rally.
I left Madison, AL at 58,011 at 10:15 am
I arrived home at 5:45 am at 59,196. I had stopped at a rest area in NY for a couple of hours sleep during the night. After a few hours sleep at home I was fine. The trip consisted of 12,533 miles.