Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011 Iron Butt Rally Part 5

The Vulcan was comfy and performed flawlessly. I left Vega in the dark and made it to Albuquerque where I stopped for about an hour to figure out how I was going to finish this thing. I took my Zumo 550 GPS with me, but I didn’t have a power source for it so I only had enough juice for a few hours. I planned to turn it on only when I needed it. I planned to stick to the interstate. The biggest thing I had to do was hit the four corners to get CO and UT. I got a couple hours west of Albuquerque and rested for a few hours before pulling off I40 to head north to the four corners. It was daylight at this point and the ride to the corners was about as windy as it gets. I made a mistake as I approached the four corners. According to the rules, I only needed to take a picture of the four corners monument to get CO, UT, AZ, and NM. I wasn’t thinking straight and thought I needed to get receipts in each state so I did an extra 100 miles scrambling around the area to get receipts. I passed the monument twice and never stopped. Whatever.

Once I finished in this area I made my way through Arizona to get to that southern tip of Nevada to get a receipt. It was about 10:00 at night on day 10 when I got to Nevada. As soon as I crossed into Nevada it was party party party. Casinos and people all over the place. I pulled up to a gas station and got the strangest looks from people. I guess I can’t blame them for staring. I looked like I got run over by an oil tanker. I had dirt and grease all over my Aerostich and my face was looking pretty grimey too. From there it was back on I40 and the ride west to Ontario. Around 1:00 am and 100 miles east of Ontario I started to feel the need to rest so I pulled into the Iron Butt Motel for a couple hours. It was a popular spot because there were two other IBR riders there already and when I woke up at 3:00 there were two more bikes. The rest of the ride was simple. I took it easy because I knew I had plenty of time and pulled into the hotel around 5:00 am. Voni Glaves was the first to congratulate me and gave me a hug. A few others were standing around. I parked, got into my room and slept for a few hours before scoring.

I was happy with the ride, but really bummed about everything falling apart on me in Vega. The penalty for changing bikes in the rally is half your points. I knew I wasn’t going to be competitive, but at least I was allowed to be a finisher. I finished in 72nd place out of 76 finishers and rode 10,044 miles. If I had been able to complete my route on my own bike, I would have placed 11th. My friend Dan Roth finished 11th and I would have bumped him down to 12th had I finished on my own bike. I think I did alright. In hindsight, I would have hit it harder on leg one. That’s about the only thing I would have done differently. I have so many people to thank for helping with this adventure. I have thanked them all individually so will not list them here, but if you are reading this…Thank you all for the help and support during this adventure. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

2011 Iron Butt Rally Part 4

...the bike began to sputter and twisting the throttle made it worse. It was in Vega TX. Luckily I was able to pull off the highway and found an abandoned gas station with some cover from the sun. Vega is a forgotten town. Not much going on there. I sat on the bike for about five minutes in disbelief that I had gone this far only to break down and DNF. I started the bike and the fuel pump was screaming at me. I thought "ok, I can still ride with a bad fuel pump, but why was it bogging down?" I called Darrell from 2nd Wind BMW in NH and he immediately knew it was probably a clogged sock in the tank which was causing the pump to work extra hard to push the gas through. He had some recommendations to keep me moving ahead, but he and I both knew I couldn't finish the rally like this. I stood there and realized it was the end of my rally fun. I walked around the bike and then I noticed the second half of this disaster. There was gear oil dripping from the final drive. I probably had about 10 miles left on that final drive before it completely failed on me. Now I knew it was over. Ugh. I called the Rallymaster and told her what was going on. She was pissed (not at me, but at the bike). She suggested reaching out to the community to see if anyone could help me. The LD community is unbelievably generous and I thought there was a chance I could borrow a bike to finish the rally. I had about a 1,100 miles to finish if I didn't do bonuses and just touched each state along the way to the finish in Ontario CA. I had my netbook with me so I sent an email to the LD rider list and posted on a couple forums. My cell phone rang within 15 minutes of sending that email to the LD rider list. I had an offer from someone in Lubbock TX to loan a bike to me.

Bill Norris offered his darkside 1997 Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD. He knew exactly where I had broken down and left his place right away to meet me. I started to receive calls and emails from a bunch of other people offering assistance. It felt great to know this support system was in place. LD riders know what it means to be an IBR finisher and they all wanted me to be able to finish. Bill rolled-up on that Kawi cruiser and I was like "no way is this thing going to make it to the finish." Bill said "it may not look like much, but it will give you 80 mph all day." I rode it around the block to get the feel for it and decided to roll with it and see what happens. Bill has this bike set-up for LD riding. It had a fuel cell, cruise, highway pegs, and some extra lighting. Once I got used to the rear car tire, it was a smooth ride. Very different from the RT. I am 5'10" and can't put my feet flat on the ground when I'm on the RT. When I got on the Kawi it was like I was riding a hammock. My knees could drag on the ground with that thing. The RT was towed to Sandia BMW in Albuquerque NM (more on that later). Bill's wife came in their car to pick him up, we said a prayer, and I was on my way. I had about 1,100 miles to go on the Kawi.

Friday, October 14, 2011

2011 Iron Butt Rally Part 3

I felt great in Jacksonville. Everything seemed to be going my way at this point. The bike was running perfectly, I was well rested, and I was doing well. After scoring, I landed in 21st place. Moving up 20 spots was huge. The routine in Jacksonville was similar to Buffalo, but everyone looked a little more burned-out at this point. They decided to dish the final leg bonus listing at 10:00 at night. My plan was to arrive in Jacksonville tired enough to fall asleep after scoring and then wake-up right before the bonus listing was handed out and then leave in the middle of the night fresh.

Everything was going according to plan. After scoring, I crashed hard and only woke up twice. Once, right before 10:00 in order to head to the lobby and receive the bonus listing and once about an hour into my sleep there was a knock on my door. It was Cletha. She was knocking on the wrong door and was so apologetic for waking me up on accident. I only mention it here because she was so apologetic for waking me up that it was hilarious. I would bump into her a few more times during the rally and she would apologize again and again.

There were no surprises with the bonus list. At this point, we all knew our game plans. I just needed to go back to my room and make some sense in how I wanted to tackle the next few days. I had a few options and looked closely at heading to Austin for some big points, but then I wouldn't be able to make it up to Carson City and Sacramento in time. I also wanted to try and do most of my riding at night through the boiling hot southwestern states. I left the hotel at 11:30pm not completely knowing where I was going. It wasn't cool outside, but it was cooler than the middle of the day by about 10 degrees. I'll take what I can get. A few of us left the parking lot at the same time and headed for Tallahassee for a few minor points, but along the route heading west. I then went up to Montgomery. I bumped into Tom Loftus (7th place finisher) at the capitol. This guy is a pro. He has everything arranged in his top box so when he opens it, his flag just pops open nice and rigid and ready for a quick pick and on to the next. On the way to Montgomery, I had decided to head toward Baton Rouge instead of Nashville, but Nashville was the bigger bonus. I got about 50 miles west from Montgomery in the dead of night and decided to turn around and head to Nashville instead. I ran a bunch of calculations on the GPS and figured that I could do it so I turned around. In a 24 hour rally this would have been a huge mistake, but in an 11-day rally you have some wiggle room to change your mind. The sun was starting to come up at this point and I was feeling great. Got to Nashville with no problems and headed toward Memphis. It was raining through the whole state of TN. I passed my Canadian friend Perry Karsten somewhere between Nashville and Memphis. In the pouring rain, we tried to chatter on the CB, but they weren't working. He's one of the smartest rally guys I know. Always thinking of the angles and so it was good to see him on the same route. From Memphis I went south through Mississippi to touch the corner of Louisiana. This was really strange--as soon as I got across the border in Louisiana there was an empty field with nothing but a drive-up ATM machine. It was perfect. Got a receipt, turned around and headed north. My SPOT does not even show me going into Lousiana because I was there for about 10 minutes. After the rally a few friends said they were going to call me and tell me I missed Louisiana. They thought I may be fatigued at this point and just forgot to go.

Somewhere around here I started to get tired and found a little family owned motel and stopped. I was way ahead of schedule so I decided to bust out the laptop to run some numbers and sleep for about five hours. I brought all my stuff into the room and went to work then realized I didn't have my cell phone. I freaked. I thought I left it at the last gas station or dropped it when I was putting it back in my pocket. I was frantic. I was able to get online with the laptop and found a Verizon store about 20 miles away on the way to Little Rock and decided to get a phone there. I was so crazed by this that I couldn't sleep. I tried to get it out of my head, but kept thinking about all of the information lost and all that data in my phone that I couldn't even think about sleeping. I got up, got dressed, and packed the bike. Before I went to check out, I was walking across the room and kicked my phone. It was on the floor of the room the whole time. I checked out anyway and moved on. $50 for an hour of losing my mind.

Little Rock was next. Bagged with no problems. Started to head to Oklahoma City and pulled into the Iron Butt Motel for about an hour. I was running on very little rest at this point, but actually felt pretty good. Curt Gran (5th place finisher) and I were at the capitol in Oklahoma City at the same time. We rode side-by-side through town and chatted for a bit. He looked fried. I told someone that story recently and they said Curt looks that way all the time so I guess it was a normal look for him. Steaming west on I40 across the top of Texas. It was mid-day and broiling. It was dry and hot and miserable. You could see those heat vapor thingys wafting across the highway. There is not much to see along I40. It felt good to see a few cars as I went through Amarillo and I was feeling great about the rally at this point. Only a few days left and the plan was coming together for me to have a monster leg. I had those day dreams of being on the podium at the finish. Things were about to change. I got about 30 miles west of Amarillo when....

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

2011 Iron Butt Rally Part 2

In Buffalo, I saw a few familiar faces as soon as I arrived. Bob St. George pointed me to a place to park and several IBR vets were hanging around. I wanted to check into the hotel first before I got in line to go through scoring. While checking in, Kevin Craft stopped to say hello. Kevin is the Rallymaster of the Rendez-vous Rally which I will be participating in next month. I got to the room and got all my stuff together for scoring. I was a little nervous for some reason. It was my first time scoring for the IBR and I thought for sure I did something wrong, but everything went well. I made one mistake with my rest bonus. I thought the max you could claim was four hours, but I was wrong. I lost a couple hundred points by not resting long enough to collect the maximum points. Not too much of a big deal. They served Buffalo wings for dinner after scoring. I was sick of Cliff bars and road food so I chowed down. Lisa Landry came up to me and said “you’ve got a little something on your chin.” When I got back to the room I looked at myself in the mirror and my whole face was covered in Buffalo Wing sauce.

I got a good amount of sleep before the early morning riders meeting to get the next leg’s bonus listing. We were also given our standings for the leg and I landed in 41st out of 86 riders. I’m not going to lie, I was disappointed, but I knew exactly why I was in the middle of the pack. I rested a lot during leg one and did not bother with many of the state capitols. That was all going to change in leg 2. I got the bonus listing and went back to the room to start planning my leg 2 route. I knew I was going to be going right by my apartment during the leg so I budgeted one hour. Planning did not take very long. It was basically hit every capitol on the leg except Albany. I knew the Albany stop was about an hour out of my way and I wanted to make sure I had that hour to stop at home.

The leg started in some heavy rain. I headed straight to Montpelier VT. Once I crossed into VT, I felt like I was home already. It was a fun day riding around roads that I have been on many times in the past. I didn’t see too many riders along the way. I think most of them stopped in Albany. I saw Chris Sakala again in NH. About 30 miles north of Boston I was riding with Eric Jewel. We were stuck in some traffic and chatted for a bit. I pulled away from him when I got to Chelsea. I stopped at home and Les was ready for me. She had a fresh supply of food for me and a few other items I needed. I dropped off some dirty clothes, ate lunch, kissed Les, and hit the road again.

I chatted with Roger Sinclair over the CB on the way to Providence. I was congratulating him on a great ride he had so far. We were both planning to go to Hartford. I lost him somewhere in traffic along the way and didn’t see him again until Jacksonville.
Trenton was the low point of the leg. The GPS had me taking an alternative route that runs parallel to the interstate, but has traffic lights and traffic. It took me an hour to go 20 miles. I was pissed. All of this for a lousy 36 points. I was dodging potholes all over downtown Trenton. It was like Beirut in the mid-80’s.

One of the recurring things I kept thinking about during the rally was doing everything I could to avoid urban traffic and rush hours. In hindsight, I should not have allowed that to dictate the times I was going to go through major cities. It is something to consider, but not something that should control your route. I was somewhat obsessed with this. I spent way too much time trying to think of ways to get through Atlanta before rush hour traffic starts. I was able to get through there at 4:00 in the morning after riding through the night. However, it messed-up my sleeping schedule. Once I got through there, I found a rest area and slept for a few hours on a picnic table before making the final push to Jacksonville. There must have been a state patrol shift change around 9:00 that morning because I saw Georgia State Patrol pulling people over about every three miles. I was able to avoid getting pinched.

I pulled into Jacksonville with a huge smile on my face because I knew I had a good leg….

Thursday, July 21, 2011

2011 Iron Butt Rally Part 1

The 2011 Iron Butt Rally is in the books. The picture is me at the start of the rally. I left Boston for the start of the Rally in Seattle on June 14th. I decided to do what is called a SaddleSore 3000 on my way out to Seattle. That's 1,000 miles per day for three days. That ride went off without any problems. In fact, I can't even remember much about that ride. I started from Boston with a friend from work riding a Harley. He was going to ride with me to South Dakota and then he would head south to go to San Diego to visit his son while I continued west to Seattle. We got about two hours outside Albany NY when he broke down on the side of the road. Luckily he was on a Harley and there are dealerships in nearly every town in the Northeast. I waited with him on the side of the road for the tow truck, but then I had to keep moving because I was on a schedule. I was planning to stop for a few hours in Cleveland to visit with a friend and thought Skip would have time to catch up to me if he could get his bike fixed. The dealership didn't have the part he needed so he had to spend the night there and then he said he would just turn around and head home from there. The next day, his bike broke down again. I made it to Cleveland and had an early dinner with my friend Steve.

I got to Seattle on Friday and made arrangements with the BMW dealer (Ridewest BMW) to get the bike serviced including new Metzeler ME880 tires which I planned to ride the whole rally on. Once the weekend started, the riders had several tasks to take care of before the start on Monday the 20th. I wanted it to be a stress-free weekend because I didn't want to panic before the start. It wasn't too difficult, but it wasn't stress-free either. I had a problem with my fuel cell. My cell is mounted on the rear seat of my bike. This is within regulation, but the cell cannot move around. Most cells are bolted to the frame of the bike. Mine moved around a little too much for the tech inspector so I had to rush around town and try to find some straps to secure it to the bike a little better. I got it taken care of, but I was freaking out for a little while.
There was a lot of speculation about the theme of this year's Rally. Nothing is revealed to the riders until the riders meeting/dinner on Sunday night. However, there were clues around the hotel like posters, lanyards and t-shirts worn by IBR staff. It looked like it was going to be a 48-state ride based on the clues, but you knew there would be a twist. At the dinner we were given our rally packs and rally flags. Tom Austin was the mastermind behind this year's theme and it was indeed a 48-state ride. The rules were very basic. Ride to all 48 states within 11 days and you will be a finisher. The base route for this was only 8,500 miles. If you wanted to be competitive and improve your position in the standings, you could visit state capitols and take a picture of your rally flag at the capitol buildings. Each state capitol had different point values. The capitols along the base route were of minimal value, but the further from the base route, the higher the point value. Plus, as the rally goes on, the point values increase so the points in the first leg are considerably less than the points in the third leg.

We knew ahead of time there would be three legs in this rally. The first checkpoint was in Buffalo NY, the second checkpoint was in Jacksonville FL, and the finish was in Ontario CA. Only certain capitol bonuses were available during the individual legs, but you could visit any state on any leg. Additionally, bonus points were available for resting and calling-in to the IBR staff during certain time windows. This was a drastic departure from the tradition of receiving a 50+ page bonus listing and spending half the night before the rally trying to plan your route. Once all was revealed in Seattle, I went back to the room and only spent about an hour on routing. I decided I was going to take it easy and stick to the base route and maybe hit a couple capitols along the way, but not go crazy and do a ton of miles on the first leg. That didn't last long. We left the hotel on Monday, June 20th for 11 days on the road. I went to Olympia WA, Salem OR, and Boise ID on the first day. I stopped for the night north of Boise before heading into Montana. I thought for sure I would see several riders in Boise, but I only ran into Chris Sakala. This was encouraging because Chris is one of the top riders in this game. I thought I was doing something right by seeing him there. My plan was then to go through Montana, dip into Wyoming, and across North Dakota. I spent the second night in Bismark ND. I did a lot of miles on day two. The speed limits are high through Montana and North Dakota so you can cover a lot of ground. The ride across North Dakota was brutal. It was heavy rain, wind, and cold temperatures. I had my electric vest working overtime. At one point, I turned my head to the left and rain was stinging my neck. It continued to burn so I thought a wire popped out of my electric vest and was burning my neck. I turned off the vest and when I got to the motel for the night in Bismarck, I looked at my vest and it was fine. The rain was like wet fire I guess. From Bismarck, I went south to South Dakota and then east through Minnesota. It was somewhere in here that I decided to change my plan. I was feeling really good about the ride so far and I was getting plenty of rest. This was likely going to be the last time I was going to be able to do this so I decided to crank it up and ride as hard as I could for the next nine days. I hit almost every state capitol left on the leg; WI and PA were the only ones I missed. I passed right by my mom’s house in Minnesota and all I could do was wave. The highlight for the leg was Kentucky. I did about two hours of back roads in Kentucky on some of the nicest twisty roads with beautiful landscape. I really want to go back there for a couple days and ride those roads again. I made it to Buffalo with a couple hours to spare.

Part 2....

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rally Prep Continues

It is getting close to the big show. I leave for Seattle on June 14th and the Iron Butt Rally starts on June 20th. I have done a couple rallies in the past few weeks. I did the Minuteman 1000 two weekends ago and the Mason-Dixon 20-20 last weekend. I was happy with my results on both. The Minuteman is a 24 hour rally. I did it last year as well. It started in Northampton MA and had a checkpoint nine hours into the rally at Max BMW in North Hampton NH. I had a flawless first leg of the rally sweeping a truckload of bonuses in CT before pulling into the checkpoint right on time. I felt great at that point. The second leg started well, but as I got into the middle of Maine and it got dark, things started to happen. My camera crapped out on me and a I missed a couple of the bonuses I wanted to go to. I rested for about an hour on a picnic table in a little town in Vermont. I woke up to a scratching sound and as I opened my eyes I saw dog licking my Aerostich suit. He just looked at me and then ran away. Part of the surrealness of rallying in the middle of the night. Anyway, things picked-up after that and I nabbed a bunch of big bonuses in NH and VT. I pulled into the finish with only nine seconds to spare. I hate cutting it that close. I placed fourth. The Mason-Dixon rally is a 32 hour rally that starts and ends in Hagerstown MD. There is no checkpoint midway through on this one. We received the bonus locations a couple weeks before the rally started so I kind of knew where I was going to go before I got there. There were 62 riders in the rally and many of them were IBR riders using the rally for a final shakedown before the IBR. I knew it was going to be competitive. You had two choices in this rally. You could either go to a bunch of bonus locations with very little point value and try to build enough points to be competitive or you could go for 3-5 high point value targets and do some big miles to get them. I decided on the 3-5 big bonuses. My route was Hagerstown MD, D.C., Manhatten, Indianapolis, and back to Hagerstown MD. It was actually a very leisure ride with only a few stops. It was just long. Riding across Ohio on I70 is probably the most bored I've ever been on a motorcycle. Luckily the satellite radio signal was strong the whole time so I could keep myself entertained. I knew I was going to be in Indiana by 10:00 or 11:00 at night and I had to wait until 5:30 Sunday morning for the Indianapolis bonus to open. It was Indy 500 weekend as well so that made things interesting. All the hotels within 50 miles of Indianapolis were booked so I found a Motel 6 right across the Ohio/Indiana border which is about an hour from Indianapolis. It was perfect. I got there around 10:00 and was sleeping by 11:00. I got a good five hours of rest before starting again at 4:00 in the morning Sunday. The bonus was a photo of the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500 sign. Sunday was race day. I thought it would be quiet at 5:30 in the morning, but it was party central. Cars and people everywhere. I jumped off the bike, took the shot, and took off. Some kids asked if I was on one of the pit crews. I guess my one piece Aerostich suit looks a little pit crewish. Getting out of there was a breeze, but once I got back on the highway, I realized I may not have taken the correct photo so I went back and took another picture. That burned about an hour of my time so what was once an easy ride back to Hagerstown ended up being a rush to get back on time. I wanted to stop at a couple little bonuses along the way, but there was no time for that. At the scoring table I found out that my original picture was fine. Doh! I ended up in 6th place, but if I had the extra hour to collect a few more points it may have bumped me into the top 5. That's ok though. It was a great training ride for the IBR. The bike performed without any issues on both rallies. The left speaker in my helmet blew out. I mailed it to J&M yesterday to get repaired. I leave in less than two weeks so I am hoping they get it back to me before I leave. I have a backup plan though. The two rallies helped me realize that the camera I have for the IBR sucks. I ordered a different one today. Besides the helmet and camera issues, I have a couple little things I need to do on the bike and I'm ready.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Slush Ride

This past weekend was the Yankee Beemer ride to close down Gould's Sugarhouse in Shelburne MA. There are two rides to Gould's every year. They are only open during the winter months so there is a ride in the fall for the opening weekend and a ride in the spring for the closing. It is an odd business model, but I guess it works for them. It is usually one of the better rides of the year since that part of MA has some of the best backroads in the state. This past Saturday was some of the worst weather I've been in on a bike. About a dozen bikes met in Orange MA. It was raining with slush and snow on the ground which made for a surreal start. Going further west we hit more snow so it was a basic ride along the main highway 2. We had breakfast and took off east to head back to Boston. Three of us broke off and went for a little extended ride to Moto Market in Acton MA (picture). All in all it was 220 miles of rain and slush all day. It was a great training/test ride because I had all the gear on the bike and put it through the water test. Everything held up except for the shelf on the bike. One of the screws popped out and now the shelf is flopping around. It is an easy fix. I'm glad it happened now.