This was originally published in Thunder Press, a Harley rider oriented magazine.
I have been interested in the Iron Butt Association (IBA) for some time. They hold an endurance competition called the Iron Butt Rally (IBR) every other year that runs for 11 days encompassing an average of 11,000 miles for the top ten finishers. To enter the competition you must be a member of the IBA. No amount of money can make you a member. To become a member you must complete one of the IBA challenges. The challenges range from the ultra light weight Saddle Sore 1000 which is 1,000 miles in 36 hours, to the slightly more challenging 50CC run. The 50 CC run is a ride from one cost to the other in under 50 hours.
I was going to be in Philadelphia for a week in September for work, leaving on a Friday morning. The following Thursday evening I was due in Indianapolis, IN for the Meeting of the Minds (MOTM) run by the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF). MOTM is a gathering of leaders and concerned members of States Motorcyclist Rights organizations where strategy and concerns are discussed. The AMA and the Federation of European Motorcyclists Association (FEMA) send representatives to this gathering. Those at the conference are the people who are working to maintain our right to ride on public roads. Without the dedication of these groups we might not be riding today and we would surely not be riding tomorrow.
I am off my soap box for the rest of the story. I promise. I decided this would be a perfect time to join the IBA. I do a lot of long distance riding so I decided to try for something I have never done before. The Saddlesore 1000, 1,000 miles in 36 hours? Not even worth thinking about. The Bun Burner 1500 ,1,500miles in 36 hours? Do it all the time. I chose the Bun Burner Gold, 1,500 in 24 hours. Since I had a starting point and plenty of time to tour I took out my map and drew a circle 1,500 miles radius. I looked for a ride that would get me near somewhere I wanted to go. I chose the route towards Denver. I have always wanted to go to Idaho, if for no other reason than my map with the routes Iíve taken has a blank spot around that area. I have a friend in Denver so this was perfect.
The trip started off by getting a notarized witness form to show that I was really in Philadelphia when I said I was, then a computerized gas receipt to show when I left. I hit the road at 10:30 am EST. Traffic jams and an 18 wheeler accident blew my time in the first half of the daylight hours. Construction blew my time in the second half. By dark I was far from my intended goal. I rode into the night. This is when I started getting hung up behind trucks. When you are really trying to make up time, getting stuck behind 50 MPH trucks on the interstate becomes very frustrating.
As the night wore on the road opened up. Then my speed increased. Earlier I was in the middle of nowhere, now I couldnít even finds signs directing me there. Gas stops became frequent due to the lack of stations. Who wants to be stuck out here out of gas at 3am. That would really kill my time. Then I thought I was seeing things. I felt like I was in a Star Trek episode moving at Warp 8. All these white lines streaking past me like the stars past the Enterprise. These were very large Moths? shining in my headlight. I hit a few, I thought they were asteroids. Eventually, although I did not feel tired I started having trouble focusing on these passing stars. I decided to check into the Iron Mutt Motel. The IB motels are every where and the price is right. You roll into a gas station or other lit, public place and either lie on your bike or on the ground. My preference is to lie on my bike with my head on the tour pack. I had a sleeping bag and tent as passenger so I just put my hands on my speedometer and my head on them. It is best if you have a loud alarm to wake you before an hour is up. I chose a loud motel so I didnít need one. 45 minutes and I was as good as new. The charge for 45 minutes at the IB motel? About 60 miles.
The rest of the ride went fine. Two hours before my time was up and I had ridden only 1,400 miles. The last leg was important. I had to get 1,500 miles AND get a computerized receipt to show that I got there in time. The exits were spaced such that this could be tough, plus few of the stops had computerized receipts. I exited the highway at 10:20 EST, by my watch, in Goodland Kansas. Four gas stations, none with a computer. Uh Ohh. One had an ATM. I withdrew $20, the receipt saying 10:22 EST. 8 minutes to spare. The odometer reading 206,916, 1,545 miles in 23 hours 52 minutes.. Not bad for a well worn 1991 Harley and a well worn rider.
.The rest of the trip was simple. I rode to Denver and found out that my buddy was busy until 4:30pm. I took a nice ride up to Estes Park, CO for some beautiful twisties and equally wonderful scenery. I got to my friends house around 5:30 and was immediately handed a beer and a hammer. He was in the middle of building a garage for his bikes. Many burgers and beers later I crashed for the night and slept VERY soundly.
Sunday I rode out to Dinosaur park and camped in an absolutely fabulous canyon down a long dirt road. This canyon had everything a camper could want. river, hikes, canyon walls, stars. Everything that is except other campers.
Over the next few days I rode out to Utah, then up to the Sawtooth range in Idaho, over to Craters of the moon, ID and down to the Tetons. I left the Tetons before light and as I was riding over one of the passes, with the light getting better, I noticed the ground. The ground was covered with snow. The roads appeared wet. I appeared nervous. I was.
Later this day I hit my third traffic jam since getting to Colorado. I was traveling down some narrow back road, lost again. As I was rounding a curve I saw a guy on a horse just standing beside the road. Strange. Then I saw the traffic jam. Sheep. Lotsa sheep. As far as I could see, sheep. And manure. You wouldnít believe how much these little guys can put out. I slowed to 20 and plunged through where I assumed the road was. The sheep moved to the side, unfortunately the sheep that moved to the left decided they wanted to be on the right and vica versa. This was hectic enough but then I entered a clear area. No sheep for 50 yards. I thought about my camera and realized I had shot the last frame and hadnít reloaded. Then it happened. I think someone cried wolf, because the sheep changed direction. They turned to face me and ran. These suckers can move. They had to be going 20 MPH. I was going 20 MPH. Public school taught me that this is equivalent to hitting a sheep at 40. All of a sudden they did not look so small and cute. The lead sheep would move out of the way but the one behind him could not see me Ďtill he was out of the way. Did you know sheep can say "Oh Sheeet!"? After I passed them all I saw a car in the road with orange flags hanging out the windows. The car was in the middle of the road, blocking both lanes but with no one in it. Do you think they were trying to tell me something? Where was the driver? Trampled by sheep Iíll bet.
The other two traffic jams I hit were a half dozen cow and about 8 Rams. The rams were something else to watch, banging heads together and all. Except the one that kept looking at me. I think he was trying to figure out what part of my bike to hit, just like a taxi driver.
That night I stayed with friends in Rapid City, SD, planning on hitting Indianapolis the next day. Unfortunately I didnít look at the map until 8am the next morning. Did you know it is over 1,100 miles from Rapid City to Indianapolis. I made it before the bar closed. 5,135 miles in 6.5 days. A nice leisurely vacation for a change.
Unfortunately after all this I found out that the registration for the IBR for 1999 has been closed. There are over 400 people on the waiting list just in case a flew epidemic wipes out every one on the list before the run. I guess I will have to try for 2001.
The details of the IBR can be found on the Iron Butt Association Home page at www.ironbutt.com. For a real flavor for the rally read "Against the Wind" By Ron Ayres. Ron Ayres tells it from a riders perspective like no one else can. It can be purchased through White Horse Press, North Conway, New Hampshire. 603-356-6556
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