Sunday, December 30, 2012

RTE: The Last Ride of the Year

While reading the LDRider email list a couple of months ago I stumbled on a Ride To Eat (RTE) in Stockton, Alabama. Without even looking it up in Basecamp I knew it was a doable ride. I checked with Reagan and she was interested so we planned it as an overnighter. As the weekend neared we ended up with 2 other motorcycles planning to come along. The plan was simple, ride over to Mobile, Alabama on Saturday and check out the USS Alabama along the way. Then attend the RTE on Sunday and hustle home so we could be at work on Monday. No problem.

When Saturday (December 29th) finally came so did winter. It was 34 degrees at the gas station where we all met at 7am. I had planned our first stop to be for breakfast in Orange, TX which was about 2 hours away. Shortly after 7 we pulled away from the Exxon and headed north on Hwy 59 and then took I-10E out of Houston. This was a super slab trip, we didn’t really have the time to take a more scenic route as the day’s mileage was a little over 500 miles and we didn’t want to get into the hotel too late.

I-10 was I-10. Nothing special there. I did see a Texas state trooper running laser, which I don’t see very often. They usually like to sit comfortably in their cruisers when looking for speeders. I wasn’t concerned about my speed but my trusty Valentine One let me know none the less.

We arrived at Gary’s Café & Family Restaurant in Orange, Texas at 9:15. Just about like I had planned. I was comfortable for the most part as was Gary (not the owner of the café). However, it looked like Reagan, John & Terry were a little cold. Once inside we found a table in back and ordered hot beverages to warm up. Breakfast was OK, just OK though. This won’t be one of my top 10 spots to stop in the future. But if I’m headed through Orange around breakfast time I might stop there if I’m not in a hurry. While we were there a few wardrobe changes were made for Terry.

With breakfast finished Reagan decided she had had enough of the cold and wind and decided the short 2 hour ride home sounded better than the 400 miles or so we had left for the day. That left us with 3 bikes and four people; Gary, John & Terry and myself. We resumed our trip east on I-10 heading across Louisiana.

About 70 miles later, John popped in on my Sena Bluetooth system to say they had had enough of the wind and cold. They were going to turn around and head for the house. It made complete sense to me as they were riding a Harley Fat Bob which didn’t really have much in the wind protection department, and they were riding without heated gear. They were certainly tougher then me. So I bid them a safe trip back and radioed to Gary that they were turning around.

With a little over 300 miles left in the day, Gary and I picked up the pace and started nocking out the miles. We had ridden together before and knew how to get in and out of gas stops quickly. In Baton Rouge, we stopped for gas and I thought everything was good. I checked in with Reagan to see that she made it home. As I was leaving the stop to resume our travels east Gary explained to me that his credit card hadn’t worked at the pump and the lady inside wasn’t able to do anything about it. So we stopped at another gas station where his card did work and I had a chance to visit with another LDRider on a gold wing who was headed to the RTE.

Riding along I-10 isn’t very exciting but the ride was made a little easier for me because I had managed to get my cruise control installed earlier in the week. Oh, how I love my McCruise system. Sure it cost a couple of bucks when I bought it last summer, but with their great support I was able to move it from my 2005 GS over to the 2012 GS with minimal costs.

We stopped again for gas in Moss Point, MS and this time there were no problems at the pump for either of us. So we filled up and kept moving. It was 3:27pm when we completed the stop. I had resigned myself to only getting a picture of the USS Alabama as admission onto the ship stopped at 3pm.

We pulled into the USS Alabama Memorial Park and put the side stands down at 4:07pm. The park was supposed to close at 4 so there wasn’t anyone at the gate to charge us for parking and there weren’t any barricades up to block our entry. So I pulled up as close as I could and snapped some photos. Gary and I decided not to stand around too long though because even with the temperature up near 50 degrees the wind was really making it chilly.

We left the park and head north to I-165 and then north on I-65 to the Econolodge in Saraland, Alabama. The front desk clerk was sweet as ever and got us checked into our room. Gary and I unloaded the bikes, got out of our riding clothes and into street clothes. Dinner was had across the street at Ruby Tuesday. I was really surprised with their menu. Good stuff! The walk back to the hotel was COLD!!!


Sunday we weren’t in a hurry. Neither of us set an alarm, we just got up when we were done sleeping. It was a little after 9am when we left the hotel and headed up to Stockton, AL. and the Stagecoach Café for breakfast. Gary was planning to head back a little earlier than me so we went inside and enjoyed a great breakfast buffet. My only mistake was eating too much that I wasn’t hungry for the lunch buffet they would be serving a little bit later.

After breakfast we looked around at some bikes and then Gary left at 10:30am hoping to get home in time for dinner. Meanwhile, I kept walking around looking for other GSes and LD bikes to get ideas. I talked with a few folks, one of whom was a BMW dealership owner out of Pensacola. I like talking to dealership owners who are also motorheads and motorcycle enthusiasts.

The crowd was really diverse, there were several LD veterans there like Greg Rice, Eric Vaillancourt, Cleetha Walstrand and John Ryan just to name a few. Then you had the polar opposites with the bar hopping cruiser crowd. Plus every sort of rider in between. I walked around quietly striking up conversations when I could and just looking and listening. People quickly keyed into the “11,000 miles in 11 days” Iron Butt tags and many of the comments were of complete disbelief. Even the “5,000 miles in 5 days” tag for the mini Iron Butt rally generated comments of shock and awe. It was entertaining to listen to people.

As noon approached I noticed the LD crowd seemed to be thinning out and the cruiser crowd was building up. I had planned to stay until around 2pm but as I was starting to get bored I decided it was time to point the bike toward the house. I managed to get out of the parking lot just as a big group of bikers rolled in and blocked a lot of people by paying no attention to the fact they were parking in a lane.

It was 12:06PM when I pulled out of the parking lot. With no one else riding with me I only had to worry about myself concerning gas stops, bio breaks and food stops. The GPS told me I could be home by 7:30. That seemed like a good time so I called Reagan to let her know I was on my way and to start thinking about going out for dinner.

Thanks to a driver who cut me off in traffic, I found a “rabbit” who I followed across Mississippi and much of Louisiana. My gas stops were about every 150 miles as that’s all I can get with the current 5.3 gallon fuel tank. I pulled into my driveway though at 7:07PM having ridden 518 miles from the café.

Not too bad of a ride to eat breakfast. I think I’ll do it again next year, and maybe catch the December 31st RTE down in Florida while I’m out that way. We’ll see.

UPDATE: It looks like I made the YouTube video

Friday, December 21, 2012

End of the World SS1000

Planning for this ride was minimal, other than to decide that I was going to take the day off work and go do it. However, I had lots to do to the new bike to get it ready for it’s first LD challenge.

Rule #5 of the Iron Butt Archive of Wisdom says “Avoid adding accessories or doing maintenance immediately before a trip.” Well I broke that rule with abandon.

I had been piling up all the things I wanted to do to the bike since I was looking for the right fuse block. Finally I found the Blue Sea fuse block that would fit under the seat and I figured out how to wire the bike so it could be split in the event of serious engine/transmission work. So the work began in earnest the 2 weeks before the ride. I fabricated a new shelf for the radar detector, Sena SR10 and Spot. Then I started wiring things up. I simply ran out of time before the trip to get the cruise control installed along with some safety lighting options. I buttoned the bike up Thursday afternoon.

Friday morning I woke without an alarm clock. I got up, checked the weather and prepared to leave. It was just after 5am when I finally made it out of the driveway. I wasn’t in a hurry, I knew I had a long day of riding ahead of me but I expected to be home before 10pm.

I rode down the street to my favorite nearby gas station, topped off the tank and got my starting receipt. The receipt read 5:12AM, I was on the clock!

I headed south on Hwy 59 and immediately my temperature gauge was flashing 35 degrees. It seems the BMW instrument cluster does that for temps below 36. I guess it’s the Germans’ way of telling me to watch out for ice on the road. I was expecting the temperature to warm up so under my Klim suit I had on my gerbing electric jacket and beneath that just my normal LD Comfort base layer. I wasn’t even wearing my heated socks, just the new coconut socks I bought this past summer.

Near Hungerford, TX the speed limit climbed to 75 and I raised my cruising speed according. The farther south I went the colder it seemed to be getting. By the time I passed El Campo I was starting to wonder if I should put on my electric pants liner. But the thought of taking off my pants, to the put the liner on seemed more chilling then just toughing out the cold. Besides, I was expecting the temperature to rise when the sun came up.

When I pulled into Goliad, my gas gauge was telling me I would likely not make it to Beeville, so I whipped into the Exxon station which I thought would be a quick gas and go stop. No such luck, the pump was out of receipt paper so I went in for a receipt. Upon filling out my log, I noticed I had only travelled 133 miles while consuming 4.3 gallons of fuel. Hmmmm, my plans to go 160 to 180 miles per tank wasn’t looking so good. Now I had a few extra gas stops to contend with. I put things away and got moving again.

The temperature was now down to 30 degrees as I left town and the sun was coming up. I felt a little chilly but with the Gerbing on high and the heated grips on high I was still OK. The speed limit in south Texas is pretty much 75 everywhere so I kept the speed up at the expense of fuel mileage. I figured I just had enough to get down to Laredo for my next stop.

As I approached Laredo I decided I’d take the loop around town to avoid a traffic jam that my XM traffic was reporting. I stopped in at the Shell station on Hwy 59 at Loop 20. Fueled up and got my receipt. 5.097 gallons and 154 miles. My miles per gallon was hovering around the 30mpg mark. Definitely not what I wanted with only a 5.3 gallon tank. A quick dash inside for a bio break and I was back on the road.

While cruising on Loop 20 I tried to pull up Del Rio on my Zumo 550. As I went to search for City and spell the name, the GPS would reset. I tried it a couple of times before giving up. Apparently there’s a bug in my firmware or a problem with my maps. I’d have to deal with that later.

After a quick ride up I-35 toward San Antonio I was back on 2 lanes heading northwest on US 83. Traffic was minimal and the posted speed limit remained at 75mph. The temperature had finally started to climb out of the 30s into the 40s.

In Carrizo Springs I picked up US277 and saw my first mileage sign to Del Rio. According to the onboard trip computer I had just enough fuel to make it. So I kept the wheels turning.

When I got to Del Rio I stopped on the east side of town for fuel as my trip computer had said I was out of fuel. I’ve learned with this bike that when it tells me I’m out of fuel I can usually get another 20 to 30 miles out of it. Well I put in 5.131 gallons so I didn’t have much left in that 5.3 gallon tank. I recorded the stop and headed through town. I knew from my notes that I had 210 miles to go until I reached Ozona where there would be fuel. With the sort of mileage I had been getting on this trip I needed to stop before I got to Dryden to top off the tank.

Comstock, TX was the filling station I had in mind so just 33 miles after leaving Del Rio I stopped again and topped off the tank. This put me closer to the 170 ~ 180 mile range to get to Ozona. A few miles down the road I realized I could have stopped at the station near Judge Roy Bean’s place which would have definitely insured I made it to Ozona. As it was I figured I’d be easing up on the throttle anyway when I headed north from Dryden so I’d be fine.

I had planned to get a receipt in Dryden to mark the corner of my route but as I rolled into town it was pretty much deserted. The station said it had gas but I didn’t see any pumps nor did I see a large fuel tank around back. The place didn’t even look like it was open. So I turned north on TX 349 and kept going.

The speed limit on TX 349 is 60mph. And I opted to stay closer to that for a few reasons. First of all I was saving a little fuel. Second, there were deer, lots of deer. Third, no cell service in the area and very few people traveling on the road. The whole time I was on the road I only passed 1 vehicle. So I kicked back and enjoyed the twisties at a moderate pace.

When I got into Sheffield, I saw a sign pointing to the right for Ozona but the GPS told me to go left. It turns out the sign was for a route on 290 which would have cut out a couple of miles while the GPS wanted to take me up to I-10. I followed the GPS.

The trip computer told me I had plenty of range left on this load of fuel so I cranked up the speed and enjoyed the 80mph posted speed limit. I stopped at the Chevron (a.k.a Stripes #269) in Ozona and fueled up. 4.87 gallons and 170 miles since the last stop. I was now back into the 35mpg range.

My next planned stop was going to be Kerville, TX. So I motored down the road. By now my radar detector was giving me problems due to the excessive bouncing it was suffering. It turns out my new custom made shelf needed a little extra bracing to stiffen it up. So I turned off the detector and kept going. It wasn’t like I needed it any way with an 80mph speed limit.

As I rolled through Junction, I paid particular attention to my speed and watched to see what sort of exotic traffic enforcement vehicles the city had this time. I didn’t see any, I guess they were on break.

When I got to Kerville, I decided to try an east bound Exxon on the west side of town. It’s at exit 505. Pay at the pump didn’t work. I had to go in just to get them to turn on the pump. That was one line to wait in. Then after I finished I went back in to pay. That was another line to wait in. Finally I get my receipt and I leave. I won’t be using that station again, it’s a serious time suck and the receipt is sketchy at best. It shows the city and state, but no address.

By now I was starting to get hungry. It was around 6pm when I was getting to San Antonio. I’d had 2 cliff bars, some juice and a couple of carrots. I was thinking a quick dash into a McDonalds would be in order when I got to the other side of San Antonio. Traffic was horrible, in the other direction. I was lucky and sailed through town without much effort. I was going to take the short cut through San Antonio by jumping onto I-35N over to I-410S to I-10. But as I approached the exit I saw cars backed up on the exit ramp so I stayed on I-10 all the way through town.

I called Reagan to let her know that I’d be home around 9pm. She said she was going to see a friend and would be home a little bit after me. When she asked what I had to eat, I knew I was in trouble. She reminded me to eat something.

When I left San Antonio a surge of energy hit me. I was in the home stretch. I only had 1 more fuel stop. I figured I’d get something to eat then. So I watched my trip computer and kept going. When I got to Schulenburg I stopped for my final gas stop. The only problem, no McDonalds. Nothing fast to speak of at all. As it was 7:38pm and I knew I’d be home by 9 I just kept going and planned to eat when I stopped.

The traffic between San Antonio and Houston is always on the heavy side and this evening was no different. I just kept the bike moving and tried to stay relaxed. When I made it to the greater Houston area I-10 opened up to plenty of lanes and it was smooth sailing to the BeltWay 8 toll road and then back around to Hwy 59 and to my start/stop gas station.

When I got to the Exxon I just put in a small amount of fuel to get an end receipt, I expected to take the tank off the next day to work on some electrical items. The receipt read 9:00PM. I had completed 1,074 miles in 15 hours 48 minutes. Not bad for a ride with 8 gas stops. I went across the street to the Taco Cabana to celebrate.

As I mentioned there was lots of farkling done to this bike to get ready for this shake down ride. Here’s a list of what worked and what didn’t.

- Sena SMH10 Headset, went 16 hours w/o needing a recharge
- Sena SR10, worked w/ the Valentine 1 radar detector except for a ground loop

- My custom shelf over the instrument cluster, needed more bracing
- Bicycle water bottle mount (my juice holder), left the bike @ 85mph on I-10
- Highway pegs, need to be extended outward and angled in

Of course, I need to get the auxiliary fuel cell built to extend the range a bit. But this ride showed me that when I’m out west with higher posted speed limits I’ll be limited to a range of 330 miles with the extra capacity. That of course is still better than the range I had on this trip.

Here’s the link to my Spotwalla page for this ride.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Let the farkling begin!

Today, I wanted to install a few things on the new bike so it could move from sitting in the corner of my garage to being my daily driver as I start to dismantle the old rally bike.

The first thing to install was the new Hepco-Becker engine and tank guards. I had these same bars on the old bike so the installation went pretty smoothly. The instructions were in German so it took me a little bit to remember which bolts went where but once I got everything oriented the installation went pretty quickly.

While I was working on the tank guard, I decided to pull off panels and look into the plumbing situation for my auxiliary fuel tank. Hmmm… the first thing I discovered is that I can’t remove the side panels with the tank guard installed. Well that was a problem. Not yet, but it will be when I start wiring up lights anyway. I’ll have to remember to install a plug near the top so the wiring can be easily disconnected when I need to move the tank guard out of the way.

Next thing I discovered is that the new tank only has one access plate and real estate on that plate is pretty scarce. It does look like I might be able to splice into the return line though. Due to height issues though, I think I’ll be using a transfer pump again on this fuel setup. More research and planning will be needed before I get to the actual plumbing stage of a new fuel cell.

After I put everything back together I turned my attention to the rear of the bike. I moved my Givi topcase over from the old bike. This will give me enough waterproof cargo space to carry my laptop to jobsites. If I can find the old parts I took off the old bike I’ll put them back on the tail section, otherwise I’ll move the now useless tail parts from the new bike.

Next I removed the BMW side bag mounts as they won’t be needed for the Micatech cases. I think I’ll install the BMW mounts on the old bike to add an extra bonus when I sell it.

I wanted to install the new HID bulbs I had purchased but time was running out for the day. So I turned my attention to the Fastway pegs. At first I thought it was going to be as easy as popping off the releases and moving things from bike to bike. Well it turned out the spacer situation between 2005 and 2012 changed. In 2005 they tack welded the spacer to the mount on the frame. In 2012 they tack welded the spacer to the foot peg. Hmmmm, that meant I couldn’t use the 2012 stock pegs on the 2005 bike and it also meant I needed to figure out something for a spacer to use the Fastway pegs on the 2012 GS. Washers to the rescue! I had a bag of washers that were just the right size when I stacked two together. So I cleaned up the old Fastway pegs as they still had crud on them from the Haul Road in Alaska. A little dab of grease and they mounted up just fine. I was able to find the stock pegs for the 2005 GS so it has pegs again.

So that’s it for the day. I installed new crash guards, foot pegs and a rear top case. That’s enough to move the bike into my daily driver. Now I can start disassembling the  2005 Rally bike to harvest things like the cruise control, riser bars, GPSes and J&M CB. I’m starting to have second thoughts about the J&M equipment though. Currently I use my phone connected via bluetooth to the Garmin GPS and then it’s hardwired into the J&M. I’ve finally determined the bluetooth stack in the Garmin devices is the problem so a bluetooth helmet solution may be in the works next. Sena is getting great reviews and I can get a set up that will work with earbuds. More research is needed.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Autumnal Equinox 2012: The Rally

The rally started at 10am, with a riders meeting at 9:30. Needless to say I wasn’t rushed to get out of the hotel room. I checked out my bike, headed over to Wal-Mart for a few extra things and then went to the rally master’s house for the meeting and the start.

NOTE: This was a quadrant rally, Oklahoma and surrounding states were divided by the I-35 and I-40 highways. No 2 bonuses could be collected consecutively inside the same quadrant.

There were a few new faces, since not everyone had shown up the night before. We had the riders meeting and then waited around for 10am to arrive. At 5 minutes until the start, a warning was given and everyone started toward their bikes and began donning their gear.

At 10am, we were sent out 1 at a time just like they do at the Iron Butt Rallies. I knew several of us were headed to the same bonus but with traffic and such within a few miles of leaving the start I was riding alone. I started to wonder if I had taken the long way or what?

By 10:56 I reached the first bonus, Clear Creek Monastery. Two of the other riders that I knew were going there had already arrived. I quickly figured out how easy the balloon flag was and grabbed my picture. I then left the area ahead of everyone thanks to the gravel road. I was 20 minutes ahead of schedule already.


The next bonus was in the south eastern quadrant 174 miles away. So I settled into a pace that would keep me from dealing with any more patrol officers. I arrived in Hugo, OK a little after 1:30pm, rode into the Mount Olivet Cemetery and found the Circus City bonus. When I left this bonus I was 43 minutes ahead of schedule after only 2 bonuses. I was trying to find a water tower for the IB Tag bonus but before I did the tag got changed to a park bench.


The next bonus took me back over to I-35 so I could get something in the southwest quadrant. The Fort Arbuckle Monument was just a few miles off of I-35 so it was a quick and easy bonus to grab. I reached the bonus at 4:17pm, I was now only 41 minutes ahead of schedule.


On my way to the FAM bonus I managed to capture an IB tag bonus by finding a picnic table (aka Iron Butt Motel) and followed that up with a big rig getting fuel.

ibptag-captured  ibptag-new

Dealing with those photo tags is why my time ahead of schedule dropped getting to the FAM bonus, but I had managed to add 1,000 points to my score sheet so it was worth it.

The next bonus was at the Sacred Heart Mission near Konawa, OK. It was only worth 132 points but it was part of the MONK combo bonus which gave me an extra 593 points. Plus it was on the way to a big bonus up in the northeast quadrant. I logged this bonus at 5:21pm, 41 minutes ahead of schedule.


The POPS bonus was a timed bonus that didn’t open until 7pm, at my current pace I was due to be there earlier than the open. So even though I was running back roads where it’s easy to gain time I settled into an easy pace and moved along the back roads enjoying the scenery. I reached Pops 66 Soda Ranch at 6:43pm, so I fueled the bike, took a bio break and got some ice to go in my drink cup. Steve Bracken was already there when I arrived.

We both waited patiently for 7pm to arrive and when our cameras confirmed it we snapped our pictures. Steve was heading south and I was heading west, we wouldn’t see each other again until the finish.


My schedule only had one more bonus before I was to jump into a hotel room for the mandatory SLEEP bonus of at least 4 hours with additional points for up to 6 hours of rest. The Comecos Cemetery in Granite, OK was a fun bonus to visit and easy to get up to on the bike. The photo had to include the cemetery PLUS the Will Rogers mural to the northwest. Thank goodness for all of my auxiliary lights. I collected this bonus at 9:30pm which meant I was still 43 minutes ahead of schedule.


I was pretty far west in the quadrant, and my next bonus was on the other side of I-35 in Gene Autry, OK. I had planned to stay in Lawton, OK on the way over there. But since I was feeling good and I knew I would be back tracking through Lawton again to get another bonus in the southwest quadrant I opted to pass through town, being sure to scope out places to get stop and start receipts for the SLEEP bonus.

I arrived in Gene Autry, OK and got a picture of the museum sign as listed. This bonus was used in the April Fools rally earlier this year. I took a couple of extra minutes here to stretch my legs and handle a biological need. I was over an hour ahead of schedule by this point.


On my way back to Lawton, I stopped for gas at an Exxon station just west of I-35 in Springer, OK. Their receipt printer didn’t work so I snapped a photo of the pump. Hmm, I’m supposed to be able to carry 11 gallons of fuel. I had a little over a gallon to spare but after midnight in this part of Oklahoma I didn’t want to chance it.


I got into Lawton a little after 2am with my start receipt showing 2:10am. I checked into the Quality Inn where they were waiting for me. And I got a few hours of sleep. I ended the rest bonus at 7am just down the street at an ATM machine. I opted to turn as much of that “ahead of schedule” time into extra points.

I headed west to Frederick Cemetery in Frederick, OK. Being as it was Sunday morning traffic was non-existent. And I was heading west as the sun rose behind me. I collected the bonus at 7:48am and boogied back toward Lawton.


I wasn’t really working off my my schedule any more. Instead, I had maximized my points for the SLEEP bonus and gave myself only an extra 20 minutes to collect all of the remaining bonuses.  As long as my Zumo 550 said I would reach the end point before 2:00 pm I was happy.

On my way up to Oklahoma City I passed the 1,000 mile mark so I stopped at the Phillips 66 in Chicasaw, OK to get an ending gas receipt to document my Oklahoma SaddleSore 1000. I pulled into the station at 9:20:30am and by 9:23:38am I was moving again. A 3 minute gas stop is all business!

The Zumo was telling me I had 10 minutes to spare after the fuel stop. I still had 4 bonuses to collect. I expected things would be tight. As I headed toward OKC I thought about possibly dropping some stops but decided not to.

I collected the 45th Infantry Museum bonus at 10:00am. That means I had ridden 1,120 miles in just 24 hours AND gotten almost 5 hours of rest to boot. That’s a solid OKSS1000. According to my notes I still had 4 hours and 37 minutes of riding to do. I snapped the picture as well as ones of my GPS odometer and the bike’s odometer. I didn’t take the time to log anything by hand. When I got back to I-35 heading north the GPS said I hadn’t delayed my arrival time by even 1 minute.


Now I needed to collect a bonus in the northeast quadrant and as I had planned I went right by Pops 66 again to bag the Red Barn bonus. This too was in the April Fools rally but this time the requirement was to take a picture of the big red barn. I snagged the photo at 10:18 and then snapped the GPS and bike odo. Another sub-one minute stop.


I hopped back on I-35 north bound and started checking my GPSes to see if they were in agreement to the next stop. They weren’t. The Zumo 665 wanted to take me up to the north, the 550 wanted to bring me in from the south. So I opted for the one with the shortest time. That was the 665. That’s because the 665 had the gravel roads option checked. When I got to the exit and crossed over the over pass, my eyes lit up as I saw the hard packed gravel. I knew I could make some time and I did. I collected the Riverview Cemetery bonus in Three Sands, OK at 11:33.


I turned around and headed back to I-35 the same way I came in. When I reached the interstate my Zumo 550 now told me I would arrive at the end with 20 minutes to spare. Yeeehaw!!! I had picked up some big time and I only had 1 bonus left to collect. That was the Corporal Jared Shoemaker grave site bonus. Again, one that I had visited in April so I knew exactly where it was. I rode into the cemetery at a very slow and respectable speed. I walked to the grave site and collected my final bonus of the rally. It was  1:29pm and I was only 10 minutes from the end.

IMG_3618  IMG_3620

On the way to the end, I decided to stop at a gas station and fuel up so I’d be ready when it was time to head home later in the evening. I topped off the tank, checked over my rally paperwork, basically I was just letting the clock run down.

I arrived with 5 minutes to spare and was the last one in. I had ridden 1,350 miles according the bike’s odometer and 1,362.5 miles according to the Zumo 665. Either way I had time and miles to spare since 1,400 miles was the mileage cap.

After a little visiting, I went inside to compile my score sheet and make sure I recorded things correctly. I then added up my score sheet and discovered I had a total of 10,491 points. Great. Then I heard the rally master tell another rider that his score was 11,000 and something. Hmmm, maybe not great. I sure hoped not too many others had that high of a score.

When it was my turn to get scored I sat with the rally master, we reviewed my score sheet, verified the pictures, confirmed the combo bonuses and then totaled the numbers. After a data entry error on his part we agreed that I had indeed scored 10,491 points and lost NOTHING at the scoring table. This was a monumental accomplishment for me. Now I didn’t care if everyone else got 11,000 and something. I planned my ride, rode my plan, and kept every point I went after. I had won my own personal challenge.

We enjoyed a great dinner of BBQ and talked a lot about how we planned our routes. It was interesting to hear how some others went about digesting the rally pack. I shared what I had done as well.

Finally Michael came out with the scores and announced how Pandora’s Box affected each of the riders. What’s Pandora’s Box you ask? Simple, there were a select group of bonuses where you could collect the points and in doing so the other riders lost the same amount of points. I collected 2 such bonuses so those 500 points meant that other riders lost 500 points. Some riders collected several of the Pandora’s bonuses and we each lost over 1,200 points per rider as a result.

Michael announced our ranking before Pandora where I came in 4th out of 8 riders. He then announced the rankings and scores post Pandora and I moved up to 3rd place. I was happy with that because I had already won my own challenge in my mind when I walked away from the scoring table keeping all of my points.

In hind sight, I had the extra miles to go after some bigger Pandora’s box bonuses, plus on that final run up I-35 I could have picked up 2 additional bonuses that I didn’t even consider when planning. That mistake in my route planning cost me 742 points, 474 of which were Pandora points. Was it enough to put me into 1st or 2nd place. Not by itself it wasn’t. But it certainly would have given me an 11,000 something score at the scoring table.

This rally was the best rally I’ve ridden all year. I can see a definite improvement in my time management and my route planning now. I still have lots of room for improvement but I’m certainly pleased with my progress. I learned that I need to adjust a few things on my bike such as cell phone placement and water jug. I also want to work on my cell phone calls while on the bike, the person at the other end tends to have lots of problems hearing me, even if I’m stopped so I think it’s more of a Bluetooth issue rather than a noise issue.

I certainly ended my 2012 rally season on a high note. I get to prep a new bike this winter but I can’t wait to start the rallies next spring!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Autumnal Equinox 2012:–1 Day

This rally has seen less planning than previous rallies on my part. I believe that’s partly due to the fact that I’m having to figure out less and more stuff is just ready to go. Plus this week was filled with the bike retrieval from Boston. NO, the new bike isn’t going on this rally.

I left the house a little after 9am and headed north through Houston. The plan was simple, take 59 up to Nacogdoches, then follow 259 up into Oklahoma so I could go ride the twisties above Broken Bow, OK. The ride was great. One thing I noticed however, was the abundance of LEOs patrolling the roadways. Before I reached Nacogdoches I think I saw more patrol cars than I saw on the entire Butt Lite 6IX in August.

When I got up into Oklahoma and my favorite twisties I detoured onto the Talimena Byway to double check the GPS coordinates of a bonus submission I had sent in. They were good but I collected a closer set of coordinates just in case.

I was trying to make it to the rally master’s house by 6pm because that’s when dinner was supposed to be served. With all the traffic enforcement I had seen I really wasn’t pushing it hard at all. I was just following the prompts of my GPS and watching the road.

Just after 5pm I was cruising along the Muskogee Turn Pike going a few miles over the post speed limit of 75mph. I saw an Oklahoma State Trooper on the shoulder so I moved to the other lane and kept going. I had my cruise set and I didn’t think much about him. Within a mile of so I come to an Oklahoma toll booth. To say the signage is busy at their toll booths would be an understatement. I see a speed limit decrease warning sign, then 200 feet later it’s 65mph, 200 feet later it’s 55mph, 200 feet later it’s 45mph, 200 feet later it’s 35 mph and then 100 feet later it’s 30 mph. Plus in between the 35 and 30 mph signs there’s a radar sign telling you to slow down if you are going to fast. It was telling me to slow down which I was doing.

As I go through the actual toll booth proper, I look in my rear view mirrors to see a police cruiser about to run me over with his lights flashing. Unsure exactly if he’s going somewhere or if he’s after me I quickly cut across the lanes of traffic past the booths and pull over. He followed so I decided he was interested me. I turned off the bike, put my side stand down, raised the front of my helmet so I could clearly be seen and waited.




[insert photo of Oklahoma State Trooper Jacob Smith Badge # 299 Troop XB ]

I’ll just say it didn’t go so well. I was happy not to have been shot or thrown into the back of the patrol car. Bottom line, I felt like Officer Smith was disrespectful toward me and treated me as one of America's most wanted criminals when all I had done was exceed the speed limit by 5mph, a margin that most officers in most states wouldn’t even talk to you about. Maybe he just had a thing against motorcycle riders who wore all the gear because it seems almost no one in OK wears anything more than a t-shirt. Or maybe there was some other outside factor affecting his day. But the interaction with him did not seem consistent with my infraction.

With the citation fiasco completed I resumed my travels heading to Broken Arrow, OK. The rest of the trip was uneventful and I arrived just after 6pm. Several other riders were there so we visited for a while. There were some new faces as well as those I already knew.

I think dinner finally came off the grill a little after 7pm and then we received our rally flags, I mean rally balloons. At first I was sort of disappointed, after all part of riding the rally is so that you’ll have a cool flag to hang up to remember it by. Well not this time. We had balloons, which I would later come to appreciate for the ease of use during the rally.

We were also told about the game changer bonus in this rally, as if Pandora’s box wasn’t enough already. We had the chance to gain 1,000 points for each Iron Butt Photo Tag post we successfully made. Photo tag what???? The premise was simple, join in on the pre-existing Iron Butt Photo Tag Facebook site and collect photos of things while you were on the rally. You had to get a picture of the current tag, and then you could post a picture of a new item to be the tag. I initially blew it off because it seemed like it was going to be too distracting during the rally. Plus the current tag was a National Park. The rally master said he would accept the National Cemetery just 45 minutes up the road. My route was tight enough that I wasn’t going out of my way to play the game.

With no more new information dropped on us, it was decided that we should probably get to our hotel rooms for a good night’s sleep. I stayed at the Quality Inn a few miles away and was very pleased with the establishment and staff. It’s definitely where I’ll stay for future rallies. Plenty of food in walking distance, plus a gas station, and the Wal-Mart is just down the road.

Tomorrow the fun begins.

UPDATE 9/28/2012: After a few days and several calls to both the state of Texas and the court in Oklahoma the matter of the ticket has been resolved. I feel I’ve learned a valuable lesson when riding in other states. As a Texas resident I have the privilege to take a defensive driving course (a.k.a. traffic school) if I get a speeding ticket that’s under 10% and if I haven’t taken the class in the last 12 months. However, other states may not extend such privileges to out of state drivers. In that case, I would have a ticket on my record that can count against me in the Texas Drivers License points system. Not to mention the potential impact to my insurance. The bottom line is to pay closer attention to those speed limit signs in other states because out of state tickets won’t always afford the same level of forgiveness.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bringing the new bike home

On Labor day weekend I managed to get the winning bid on a barely used 2012 BMW R1200GS. When I say barely used I mean, 122 miles of use with 4 miles of that being the dealership itself. The amazing thing was that I was the only bidder on the auction. That was fortunate for me but not so for the seller as I was able to win the auction for the minimum bid which was about $4,000 below cost if I went to a local dealership and bought one with only 2 or 3 miles on it.

There was a delay in going to pickup the bike because the seller had to payoff the bike and get the title from BMW. During the whole time Phil, the seller, did a phenomenal job of keeping me updated. When it finally looked like the title was on it’s way I booked a 1 way flight to Boston and he agreed to pick me up at the airport as it was close to his office.

The day came and I was up at 2am. Reagan took me to the airport at 3am and I got on my plane just before 5am. It was a very early morning indeed. The flight went well, the connecting flight went well also and when I got to Boston so did my 1 piece of checked luggage which had all my riding gear, tools and a dry bag to ride home.

Phil picked me up outside baggage claim and we headed toward his place. Along the way we stopped for lunch at a local eatery. Conversation was good as Phil was a fellow Texan. It seems no matter where you go, when you meet another Texan you can find something in common pretty quickly.

When we got to his house the bike was just as described. I looked it over and then proceeded to mount my GPS and battery connection to charge my phone. Then I installed a Bead Rider seat cover and the bike was ready to make it’s 1,800+ mile journey back to Texas. Phil and I completed the transaction and made copies of things. And by 2:30pm EDT I was pulling out of his driveway on my spiffy new blue GS.  Oh, I forgot to mention, this was a factory lowered version which meant it didn’t come with the fancy, and expensive, ESA shock system. To me that was a plus because it meant I could use my HyperPro shocks from my current GS. But that also meant it came with the special BMW extra low seat. Ouch!!!

About 10 miles down the road I decide to pull into a gas station to add a little air to the front tire as the onboard Tire Pressure Monitoring system told me the front was about 8 lbs low. While I was stopped I also filled up the tank so I wouldn’t have to worry about the gas possibly being stale.

With a full tank of gas I headed out onto I-495 heading north up to I-90 where I then headed west. The GPS prompted me to head south on I-84. I just followed the GPS while I enjoyed the music I had loaded onto my cell phone for the trip.

In Hartford, I picked up I-91 south until I got down to Hwy 15. For some reason the GPS wanted to route me onto a non-commercial vehicle roadway and I was fine with it since it seemed like a tollway without tolls. This road essentially parallels I-95 but with less traffic. As I approached New York City I picked I-87W and went across the Tapanzee bridge. It was rush hour but traffic seemed to be moving pretty good considering.

Eventually the GPS took me to I-287  down to I-78. I had completely bypassed the heart of NYC again. Eventually I-78 ran into I-81 and I knew I was on the final stretch of road down to Virginia where I’d get the bike serviced in the morning.

I stopped for gas a few times along the way. At one station, in Connecticut I believe, Abdul wanted to pump my gas because that’s the law there or something. I wasn’t going to have anything to do with that crap. I told him he wasn’t touching my new bike unless he wanted to write me a check. He could stand there and supervise me if he liked or he could go take a break. He stood there like I was a child, but after a few minutes he did seem to want to help and asked if he could wipe my windshield while I finished filling up.

As I crossed into Pennsylvania I pulled into a rest stop to investigate a burning oil smell I had noticed intermittently through out the ride. It turned out the left valve cover was leaking oil VERY slowly. Really just enough to make a mess but not enough to cause a problem. This I suspected was a result of when the seller had dropped the bike in his driveway. The drop wasn’t a surprise as it had been disclosed in the ebay listing and the photos didn’t indicate anything serious, Phil had even ordered a replacement valve cover but the dealership sent the wrong color so I didn’t get to install it before the trip home.

The final hundred miles or so in Virginia I was met with rain. Not just a light sprinkle, no this was a full on down pour. I was keeping my eyes open for Noah’s Ark. My Klim gear was working great. My Held gloves were doing great. My right boot was fine. My left boot, not so much. I could feel the water seeping in from the sole. I made it to the hotel in Roanoke, Virginia just after 2am. I had travelled 600+ miles and was ready for some rest as I have been going for 23 hours at this point.

Tuesday – more rain, lots more.

I had made an appointment with the BMW dealership in town to get the 1st service done to the bike and that’s where I went a few minutes after 9am. On the ride over there I didn’t wear my ear plugs and the first thing I noticed was the volume of the exhaust compared to my old GS. It was a little bit louder at idle and had a throatier sound to it.

The dealership got me in and out pretty quick. They looked at the valve cover and determined it was likely just a mis-alignment issue and remounted the cover. Later in the afternoon I discovered they were wrong as the oil continued to leak. There was a tiny crack in the underside of the cover and it only opened enough to leak when the engine was up to temperature.

With the service done I hit the road just before 11:30AM EDT. Of course, as I was getting my gear on the sky opened up again and I left under much the same conditions as I had arrived the night before, a torrential down pour. I worked my way out of town and headed south on I-81 again.

In Knoxville, I picked up I-75 south for a while and then in Chattanooga I got onto I-59. It was a little disconcerting on I-75 to see signs for Atlanta. I kept thinking, “No I don’t want to go to Atlanta.” But when I got onto I-59 I knew I was headed in the right direction. Of course I had to ride through Alabama and Mississippi which seemed to take forever as I was cutting across the states diagonally.

When I finally made it down to I-10 at Slidell, I pulled over to book a room at the Motel 6 in Baton Rouge which was about an hour away. The ride today had been a little more difficult on me, especially my posterior. Oh how I missed my Russel Day Long seat. I was only good for about 100 miles and then I really needed to stretch.

When I got to the motel I was happy to get off the bike. BMW seats aren’t known for their comfort but the extra low seat also caused cramps in my hips as my legs were bunched up tighter than normal.

Wednesday – the sky clears!

I didn’t bother to set my alarm clock, I figured I’d be up early enough with out. I was almost wrong. I packed, emailed my dealership in town that I’d be stopping by for a state inspection and headed west on I-10. It just so happened Baton Rouge has rush hour traffic at 8am. Imagine that.

I made one gas stop along the way and made it to Wild West BMW just a few minutes after noon. They got me in quickly and inspected the bike. By 12:45 I was heading for home.

I stopped by the house to unload some stuff and grab the checkbook, then it was down to the tax office to pay for the vehicle registration. Unlike the last out of state bike we purchased, I didn’t want to pay a late penalty on this one. It was just after 1:30 when I walked out of the tax office with registration paperwork and a Texas license plate.

It took about 48 hours, 1,800+ miles and 1 oil change to bring the new bike home. But even with the 2 nights in a hotel and gas, I figure I still saved more than $3,000 on this purchase. Especially when I discovered it has the option to disable ABS and ASC on the fly. That was a pretty pricey option by itself.

Since I have a rally to get ready for this weekend, I snapped a picture of the bike as it was when it came home. Then put it in the garage, where it will pretty much stay until I begin the build up process in the coming weeks.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Out for a Sunday ride with new gear

So the new Klim (it’s pronounced like climb) gear came in on Friday and I was itching to test it out. Saturday was spent doing maintenance to the bike and taking care of an exhaust issue on the truck.

Sunday morning, I was up bright and early. I only had 2 things on my list for the day. First I was to meet some guys for breakfast in Fulshear, TX at 8:00am and then I had to be home before 2:30pm which is the time I expected Reagan to be home.

I decided to try out the new gear as if I was riding in a rally or doing a LD certificate ride. So I started with the LDComfort undergarments top and bottom. Coconut socks on the feet. Then I put on the Klim Badlands pants along with my trusty Dainese Gore Tex boots. The new Klim Badlands jacket covered the top half of me. And finally with my HJC helmet and mesh gloves I was set.

The ride up to Fulshear was calm and uneventful except for the bicyclists. OK, I have to drop off on a tangent here. I recognize that bicyclists are people too, heck one of my good friends is a bicyclists when he isn’t riding his motorcycle. But those dang fools need to remember that they have zero protection and the world does not bow down at their feet when they are riding on the street. If they are going to ride our public roads they need to abide by the same traffic laws that cars, trucks, SUVs and motorcycles must abide by. For instance, a red light means STOP, it does not mean you can blast through it while turning right and go all the way across the lane into the oncoming turn lane because you were going so fast. Plain and simple, when you come to a red light you stop. I don’t care about times, pace, rhythm, cadence or anything else. Red lights mean STOP. If a bicyclist can’t understand that GET OFF OUR PUBLIC ROADS!!!!.

One other thing. Unless the bicyclist is Lance Armstrong or one of those other world class athletes that ride in that race over in Europe, chances are the rider won’t be able to go the posted speed limit. In fact in most cases bicyclists are traveling 2 to 3 times SLOWER than the posted speed limit on rural roads. So for their safety as well as their engine powered bigger siblings (aka motorcycles) I simply ask you to move over to the shoulder and definitely don’t ride 2, 3, 4 or more abreast while taking up the whole lane. Stay on the shoulder! Bicyclists need to remember they have zero protection against the front grill of an automobile or semi truck. So get out of the way for your own protection!!!

OK, enough on that tangent. Not a single bicycle rider will probably ever read that and if they do they’ll post some sort of excuse as to why they do what they do. I don’t care, they are causing a safety issue and should know better. OK, now I’m really going to get back to the day’s ride and the gear.

The temperature on the way to Fulshear was in the high 70s and the first thing I noticed about the new gear was that I didn’t feel the cool air as much as I expected. I decided that was more a function of the LD Comfort top than the Klim jacket. I’ve noticed the same thing before with the LD Comfort even when wearing my Olympia AST jacket which definitely vents the air. Even though I didn’t feel the cool breeze on my upper torso I wasn’t hot.

At breakfast I took the jacket off and was comfortable in the LD top. We visited for over an hour and I really didn’t notice any discomfort at all in what I was wearing. When I got up to pay the bill I definitely noticed one thing about the new jacket, it’s quite a bit heavier than my old one. Shipping weight on the pants and jacket was 17 pounds.

Afterwards, I found myself headed north out of town alone. It’s easier that way, especially when I really don’t know where I’m going. I rode Racer Road, and then headed to Fayetteville. The gear was working great although I felt a few degrees warmer than normal. I poured some water in my lower sleeve vents and that seemed to help a bit.

I left Fayetteville on FM1291 heading north. I really wasn’t sure where I was going but I was aiming toward some storm clouds. A few miles outside of town I stopped at a farmer’s gate under a tree. I took off the jacket, soaked the sleeves of my LD top and put the jacket back on. Now I had a nice cooling affect while rolling down the road.

I was looking for rain clouds, the nastier the better. Before I knew it I was at Hwy 290 so I turned east toward Houston and got a chance to see how the gear worked at normal freeway speeds. Pretty good would be the rating I’d give it.

When I got to Burton I took the more scenic FM390 and thought I was finally going to catch those rain clouds I’d been navigating toward. When rain drops started to hit my faceshield I discovered my first problem. I wasn’t familiar with all the new zipper locations and they were a little stiff. So I pulled over to sort things out and resumed my ride in less than 5 minutes.

I no more than got things zipped up and I rode out of the rain. Fortunately FM 390 came to an end at Hwy 105 so I took that up to Navasota toward the rain clouds. I managed to find a very light and brief shower, and this time I was able to zip up while riding. And once I got through the shower I was able to unzip as well. The new gear was working fine.

When I got to Navasota I decided to ride FM3090 only to discover that a good stretch of it had been recently covered with gravel. That certainly wasn’t the sort of twisty road I was looking for. When I got to the end of 3090 I headed east and started to make my way back home. First through Anderson, then Plantersville and on over to Magnolia. From there I cut back to the west to pick up FM 362 down through Waller and Brookshire. I continued to work my way south through the back country roads until I got to Hwy 36. The whole time the temperature was rising, it was now in the 90’s. Yet I didn’t feel any warmer in my gear than I had earlier in the day.

When I finally made it to Hwy 36 it was a short ride over to Hwy 59 and then I pointed the bike toward home. By this time it was in the mid 90’s and I was still very comfortable. One thing I noticed at about this point was that nothing was rubbing, scratching or irritating me in any way. That was nice, new gear always seems to bother me at the neck or around the sleeves.

As I pulled into the drive way, I noticed Reagan pulling up behind me. I had beat her home by mere seconds. But I was home before she got home. Second objective for the day accomplished.

So what’s my take on a $1,500 2 piece riding suit? It fits my needs nicely. For a rider who is serious about protection and climate flexibility I think this is a great solution. Are there other options out there? Sure there is. Of course there’s the old standard made by Aerostitch which may be a couple of dollars cheaper. But the wash/care instructions of the Klim gear certainly trumps it, I mean there’s no need for special chemicals or treatments. Just wash it in the washing machine and then toss it in the dryer on the medium. I don’t think you can do that with a ‘stitch.

What about my Olympia gear? It’s still good stuff. I think I could have gotten by with the jacket but the pants were another story. I didn’t have the venting options in the Olympia pants without giving up the rain protection. For general touring where it’s no big deal to pull over, take a break and put on rain gear. I feel like the Olympia stuff is great. And in the winter time the ranger pants are water proof so there’s no need to pull over even. Just zip up the jacket.

I’m satisfied with my investment in the Klim gear. I’m looking forward to seeing how it works in a 30 hours rally next month. Since January I’ve changed out all of my gear except my helmet in the quest for the best gear possible to meet my needs of comfort and protection in all conditions. After my credit card cools off from these recent purchases I’m going to have to look at other helmet options. Again ventilation and keeping water out will be my major criteria.

The Olympia gear will probably go on Ebay once I get it cleaned up.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

IBA International Meet 2012

So when I finished the Butt Lite 6IX in Denver I found myself at the Iron Butt Association’s 2012 International Meet. OK, it wasn’t a surprise or anything. I had already registered for the event months earlier and Reagan had made her travel arrangements to meet me there.

This was the first such event either of us had been to and frankly we didn’t know what to expect. Well the small group of 300+ people were the exact polar opposite of a clique. We couldn’t find people there that weren’t friendly and happy to visit with us. After all everyone there was into long distance riding and motorcycling, we instantly had a common interest.

With the Butt Lite stuff out of the way on Thursday, we had Friday and Saturday to focus on the IBA meet. Well that is except for worrying about the clutch master cylinder that had failed toward the end of the rally. I tried calling 2 different BMW shops to take a look at it. Finally BMW of Denver was able to look at it and picked it up on Friday. Sure enough, they confirmed my suspicions that the clutch master cylinder was shot. The only problem was they couldn’t get one until Tuesday and I really didn’t want to stay in Denver until then. So I called the folks at Max BMW in New Hampshire and with 15 minutes to spare Drew got the part out the door, Fed Ex Saturday delivery. Thank you Drew!

Now I was able to focus on the seminars. Yet somehow I managed to run into people in the atrium and we’d start talking. Thus I missed most of the seminars, but I got to talk to lots of people and make new friends. Remember this event was an “ANTI-clique” of people.

The dinner on Friday was good and the keynote speaker was Lee Parks. That guy seems to really understand the mechanics of riding a motorcycle but it was clear from the tale of his SS1000 that long distance riding really isn’t his cup of tea. None the less, it was a great story to hear. After dinner though I was exhausted and skipped spending time at the bar.

Saturday, I was able to catch a few seminars before I found out that my bike was fixed. Hoooray!!!! I had a way to get home. Steve Aikens and his wife, a couple I had met just that weekend, graciously gave me a ride in their rental car over to the dealership. It was only 3.2 miles away but trust me, that would have been one long walk at an elevation of 5,000+ feet.

Upon returning to the hotel, I shed my gear and got ready for the afternoon sessions. These sessions were all about the 2013 IBR. First there was a Rookies Only session where we had a chance to talk with 2 rookie finishers from the 2011 IBR. That was great but my mind was trying to process everything they shared with us and I wasn’t able to formulate too many questions.

The next session was with ALL 2013 IBR participants. That meant they let the big dogs in. And that’s when the tone of the staff made a very obvious change. No longer were they the kind, gentle, helpful group of people. Instead we got the message that they were in charge and this was their rally. Of course we also found out where and when the check points are. They are going to be at ………

Really??? Did you think I was going to tell you before I and all the other participants had gotten their hotel reservations. Nope. I can say that the first check point and the start point are at the same place so that’ll make staging gear and stuff a little easier. The staff also clarified the use of Spot trackers instead of fuel logs. Hoooray for no fuel log. That helps to cut my fuel stop times down.

With the meeting done, we all went to the bar. Some of the best visiting was done at the hotel bar. And with $3 pints of beer who could complain. It was great to see the who’s who of past IBRs walking around; Jim Owen, Ken Meese, Dave P, Kirsten, Bob and others. If you saw someone with a name tag and a 3 digit number you knew, they were a finisher of a past IBR.

Saturday night’s closing banquet was fun, 2 guys from “across the pond” entertained us with their talk about getting ready for the 2011 IBR. It was very entertaining. The surprise at the end though was totally unexpected. Two members of the group got married, right there at the International meet. That was pretty cool. After the celebration though I was beat and retired to my room.

Sunday I was up early and got packed so I could leave around 7:30am, just after Reagan left for the airport. After being off the bike for a few days I struggled to get into my routine. Finally I thumbed the starter and pulled out of the parking lot. The GPS wanted to take me east on I-70 but I knew I-25 south was the better ride so I ignored the GPS and headed south.

The first hour of the ride, I felt wobbly. When I stopped for gas I thought I was going to drop the bike. It wasn’t anything wrong with the bike, I just didn’t seem to have my balance. With a few hundred more miles though that feeling disappeared. I finished the 1,050 mile ride home just before midnight on Sunday. So that was a SS1000 in 15.5 hours. Funny thing now, riding a 1,000 miles in a day just doesn’t seem like anything special.

I almost forgot to mention, after riding in the Butt Lite I had made up my mind that I was giving up on the Olympia gear. I planned to go with an Aerostitch 1pc suit. After all that’s what it seemed everyone wore. I mentioned this to someone I really respect and he agreed that the product was really great and that he owned a 1pc and a few of their 2pc sets as well. He surprised me though when he said if he bought something new today, it would be from Klim. Lucky for me they were there as title sponsors. And what about Aerostitch??? Not there…..

I’m now the proud owner of their 2pc Badland Pro gear. I was really impressed with the technical features of the gear. And Reagan was impressed with the laundry instructions for it. We were told to toss it in the washer on the gentle cycle and then put it in the dryer on medium. That’s right in the dryer on medium.

All in all we had a great time at the meet and met a bunch of wonderful people. It’s definitely on our list of events to attend in 2014.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Butt Lite 6IX–Ride Report


While riding around the country I had time to think about how I wanted to layout this report. I could list it by day like I do with normal trips or I could put the entire 6 days of riding into one long report. I’ve decided to go with the single long report because frankly the word “day” got blurred more than once in this rally.

In the morning before the start, things were going well for me. I had my route planned and was just waiting for 8am to arrive. I visited with a few other riders and hints were dropped as to where people were headed. I enjoyed a nice breakfast and then just tried to stay as relaxed as I could. As it got closer to 8:00 though there were last minute things to do like fill up the camelback and visit the restroom. We had one last riders meeting at 7:30.

Shortly before 8:00am EDT everyone was at their motorcycles and when the signal to go was given it seemed like everyone was rushing for the exit to the place. I wondered what all the neighbors in the area thought about 50+ motorcycles taking off from the lodge all at once. When I got to Hwy 515 to head to Atlanta it was tempting to really wick up the throttle but I set my speed to my normal cruising speed. A few other riders succumbed to the temptation of higher speeds but fortunately “Johnny Law” wasn’t around.

The first several bonuses were in the Atlanta area and it was prime-time morning traffic. My first stop was Eddie’s memorial bench to record the quote on top of the bench. The GPS led me (and others) to the back of the cemetery which led to a pretty good hike up to the top to the bench. The quote “Far away is only far away if you don’t go there” stuck with me through out the rest of the ride. At least that’s what I think it said, I don’t have my answer sheet any longer and I didn’t take a picture. Note to self, take pictures of these things.

IMG_3510  IMG_3511

From there I  visited some historical spots in Atlanta before stopping by the Waffle House Museum where I got to meet John Ryan who is known for his record setting ride from Prudhoe Bay to Key West, FL in 5,191 minutes (3 days 14 hrs 31 minutes).  I didn’t realize just how quickly he had traversed the route or I might have been in a little greater awe. But at the time, he was a guy dressed in an Aerostitch and signing my mug for bonus points.

Just one more stop on the south side of Atlanta by the airport and then I headed south to Macon, Georgia  to visit the gravesite of  Berry Oakley & Duane Allman. The two other bonuses in the area were the location of these men’s motorcycle crashes. Hmmmm, motorcycle crash locations as bonuses on a motorcycle rally.

IMG_3512 IMG_3514  IMG_3515  IMG_3517

Leaving Macon I was headed northeast to a church to visit the grave site of Blind Willie McTell. In hind sight this wasn’t a good choice for 66 points as it put me behind for the rest of the day. On the way down to Savannah I went through Statesboro for gas and bagged a bonus just by collecting a receipt there.

IMG_3518In Savannah as I was getting a picture of the Great Dane at the Great Dane Trailer Company I met one of the executives who was very interested in what I was doing there. When I told him IMG_3519others would probably be stopping by as well he was ready to open the office up so folks could use the restroom, get water, etc. I thanked him but said everyone would probably be in a hurry.

Getting through Savannah was a little challenging but as I was headed to Tybee Island, I passed riders leaving the area. That told me two IMG_3520things, I was on a similar route as others and that I was running behind. When I got to the Hucapoos bar to find the sticker on the bar, the patrons already knew what I was looking for and helped me while telling me to hurry up because I was late. LOL!

I backtracked to Savannah and then headed north to I-95. I hadn’t really thought about it at the bar, but those guys were right. I was about 45 minutes behind schedule and had to blow off two daylight bonuses worth 133 points. IMG_3521When I got to Mars Bluff, South Carolina I snagged the BOMB bonus where the USAF accidentally dropped an atomic bomb (without fissionable material) on the home of Mr. Walter Gregg. Oooops! That’s one tough case of friendly fire. It was just after 9:30pm EDT when I left the bonus.

In Raleigh, NC I bagged the ACRN bonus which required photographing a IMG_3523picture of a large acorn in the city park in the middle of town. This proved slightly challenging as the area was surrounded by bars and it was getting close to midnight so drunk people were all over the place. I just rode up on the side walk to get my lights on the target, snapped the photo and left.

My route was taking me to Virginia for a large time restricted bonus. I figured it would be better to stay in North Carolina if I wanted to get a less expensive hotel so I stopped in Roanoke Rapids, NC for the night. I got a receipt at the BP station and went next door to the Quality Inn only to discover they didn’t have any rooms. Then I went across the street to the Motel 6 to get some sleep. This was the first of 2 planned rest stops. It was 8/11 1:17am EDT when I stopped.

About 6 hours later I was back on the motorcycle feeling pretty good. I didn’t return to the same gas station as it was across the street and there was a BP next to the Motel 6. I guess you can’t have enough BP service stations in that little town. With the end receipt for the rest bonus collected I was headed north again on I-95. I encountered some rain along the way and had to stop to put on my Frogg Togg pants (that’s got to change).

When I got to Emporia I headed east to Portsmouth then over to Fort Monroe. IMG_3524This was a time restricted bonus from 10:30 to 1:30 and I had worked it out so I was there just before the window opened. OMG!!! This was the best stop of the entire rally, Jennifer and Kirsten had laid out an incredible spread of food and drinks. The “Park Superintendant” turned out to be IBR 2011 6th place finisher Kirsten. It was really a great stop. Thanks ladies!

The next stretch of my route is where I lost real time and I never really got it back. I took I-64 toward Richmond. Unfortunately presidential candidate Mitt Romney was also travelling up I-64. Guess what, candidates are treated as royalty and the common man is tossed aside or ran over. In my case, Virginia law  enforcement essentially closed the freeway as the campaign vehicles rolled by. If I didn’t like political figures before, I certainly didn’t like them now.

The stretch of I-95 from Richmond to DC didn’t have the problems caused by Mitt but it was still seriously congested. Once I got to DC however, things IMG_3525moved well and I was able to get around quickly. The next bonus was in Frederick, MD for 99 points. It was 2:45pm EDT when I bagged this bonus. Based on my planned route I was 45 minutes behind schedule at this point.

The Canfield War Vet Museum in Canfield, Ohio was neat but I was equally happy to mark off Ohio as a state I’ve now ridden in. From there I opted to head north to bag the Waffle House in Austinburg, OH since it’s known to be the northernmost Waffle House. I had some pretty hard rain on the way up and I was happy to get inside for a steak sandwich.

With food in my tummy I headed over to Toledo and then up into Michigan. I had originally planned to get the statue of Gen. Custard in Monroe but it was a daylight bonus and the sun had set hours before. I continued north into Michigan following the Lake Huron coast. In Ossineke, MI I found Jesus holding IMG_3526a globe. It was 8/12 3:27am EDT when I bagged this bonus. I was definitely ready for another rest bonus. The problem however was that I couldn’t find a hotel and gas station combo along the way back down the route. When I reached Saginaw, MI it was 5:46AM and I got my start receipt before checking into the Motel 6. The clerk didn’t believe me when I told her I’d be long gone before the 11am check out time.

At 9am I had filled up my tank thus getting my end receipt for the rest bonus. I IMG_3529grabbed some breakfast from McDonalds before heading back down to Monroe for the Custard bonus. From there I headed west on I-80 picking up bonuses along the way. I had a few issues with my EZ Pass at some of the smaller exits but I learned how they deal with tags when they didn’t read, then it was easy sailing.

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I stopped by Notre Dame to get the Touch Down Jesus bonus. By this point I was starting to understand how the rally masters thought so when I didn’t see a bonus at first I’d put my bike on the gps coordinates and then look around. Touch Down Jesus for instance was behind me.

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When I got into Chicago things got challenging. There were road closures which the GPS was not aware of and the detour signs were poorly marked. But with perseverance I managed to get to all of the planned stops. Bagging the 1604 bonus at Wrigley Field was cool. I got there shortly after the game ended. It was 8/12 8:00pm EDT when I got this bonus. I still had 8 hours and 524 miles to go to get to the check point.

IMG_3540 IMG_3541 IMG_3543  IMG_3546  IMG_3548  IMG_3549  IMG_3551  IMG_3554

Leaving Chicago I bagged a few more bonuses before reaching the interstate. Just outside of Minneapolis I dashed into a Weigh Station which was closed. I pulled around to the back, parked next to a small oak tree and checked into the Iron Butt motel. I just laid on the grass with all my gear on. It’s amazing how comfortable a helmet is as a pillow.

About 40 minutes later I woke up from my phone’s alarm, jumped back on the bike and kept going. That short nap made a significant difference and I was able to make it the last 113 miles into the check point. I arrived 30 minutes early totally exhausted.

Scoring of Leg 1

Even though I was exhausted I felt like I’d do well in scoring. I found out I was wrong. The start receipt from the BP in Roanoke Rapids was no good. It didn’t have the business name or address. It did have a store ID on it but without even a store name it was useless. That cost me 650 points for the Saturday rest bonus. Then there was the Touch Down Jesus bonus, everything was good but I failed to write down the time on my answer sheet so I lost another 70 points. I walked away from the table with 8,639 points and an extra 3106 miles on the odometer.

I managed to lay down in a corner upstairs but it seemed just as I drifted off to sleep I heard everyone moving downstairs for the riders meeting so we could get the packet for leg 2.

Leg 2 begins

With the rally packets handed out we all went to our computers to quickly figure out where we were going. As I expected there were some high point time restricted bonuses not far away. So after investing an hour converting the data and loading it into my GPS units, I headed back to Minneapolis for the second “Secret Celebrity” Bonus. This time it was at a coffee shop and most of the other riders had already bagged the bonus so it was easy to find the celebrity. The celeb was Adam Wolkoff of Team Strange. I got the smaller JAVA bonus which just required me to buy something from the coffee shop and bring in the receipt and item. I visited with Rex for a while at the bonus before I decided I needed to get into a hotel for some rest. I found a Motel 6 on the north side and got myself over there.

While in the hotel I planned a route, got a shower and some sleep. I had set my alarm for 4 hours but after 90 minutes of sleep I was awake so I gathered my stuff and left after only being in the room for 4 hours and 20 minutes. It was 6pm CDT when I headed north to Lake Superior.

The first bonus was down a short gravel road which seemed to set the tone for the leg’s route. While getting the answer to the bonus a young couple popped up out of the bushes. I wasn’t sure what they were up to and frankly didn’t care except the guy was carrying a large rock.

The sun had set as I rolled into Duluth and the temperature was dropping. I had IMG_3556already stopped to put on my Gerbing jacket and Held gloves. I stopped at the next bonus which was a historical marker for the first townsite surveyed in the US section of the North Shore of Lake Superior. I took a few extra minutes to stretch my legs and then continued north.

The ride up to Grand Portage was slow and there were several deer spotted along the way which encouraged me to keep my speed down. I was also starting to feel exhausted and realized that 90 minute nap at the Motel 6 hadn’t been enough. I stopped (8/13 10:45pm CDT) at a wayside rest area and grabbed a 45 minute nap on the ground next my bike. The temperature was great, it was VERY dark and I had the sounds of a small creek very close by.

I resumed my ride up to Grand Portage, I finally got there around 1am CDT. After collecting the bonus information at the monument I opted to take another nap on one of the benches. An hour later I was up and headed south.

After 2 and half hours of back tracking I turned east onto an even smaller road to cut through the woods. I was thankful for the large gas tank because nothing was open in the little towns I went through. The farther inland I went the colder it got, and at one point I was looking to get off the bike but couldn’t find a decent stopping spot. I crossed paths with Peter Behm (2011 IB winner) who had to have another bike brought to him as his stator had gone out. I was just glad to see he wasn’t hurt or anything. I pressed on through the night. I wasn’t very happy with the 20 mile gravel detour that I encountered after seeing Peter. I’m not sure if him telling me about the detour was a good thing or a bad thing. But I kept going.

It was 5:46am CDT (8/14) when I reached my bonus in Ely, MN. As I left town IMG_3557heading west I was looking for a place to catch another quick nap. The park in the middle of town didn’t look good to me as the sun was starting to come up and I didn’t want to explain to the locals why I was taking a nap in their park. So I found a gravel driveway that looked like it went to a deer camp or something. I pulled up in there and got a 30 minute nap on the bike. Afterward I felt better.

The ride across Minnesota was uneventful, no boring would be a better description. Rex caught up with me at one point and we both stopped at a gas station. But when I came out he was gone. I got the bonus at Carp, MN and then headed west toward North Dakota.

IMG_3560At the Walhalla bonus I was greeted by a very excited woman who was curious about what all of these motorcycle riders were doing. I talked to her as I completed my bonus and then wished her a good day. On the way back into town I realized I had a problem with the clutch. It seemed it wasn’t disengaging/engaging properly.  I called the folks at Wild West BMW who thought it could be air bubbles forming in the line. For some reason that diagnosis didn’t seem to fit the problem but I figured if I could find some mineral oil I’d bleed the system when I stopped for my rest bonus. In the mean time I adjusted the lever so it had a longer pull and things seemed to work.

The MYST bonus was at the site of an artist who had created his own version of Stone Henge. I was sort of expecting something bigger. But it was neat. From there I headed south to Verendrye, ND to find the David Thompson monument. The problem with this monument was that it was surrounded by miles of gravel roads. To make matters worse the route my GPS was trying to take me in by had a washed out bridge so I had to back track around it. Luckily I followed Dan (my cabin mate from Thursday night) and we found it.

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I knew time was ticking and I had to be in a hotel before 9pm to get the first of 2 rest bonuses. I stopped at a rest stop where a bonus was supposed to be. I’m not sure if they had mentioned it in the riders meeting at the check point or what but the monument we were supposed to take a photo of had moved. I didn’t completely read the bonus description and took a photo of the wrong thing. Before leaving I decided to call ahead to get a hotel room. This turned out to be a challenge but I managed to get one of the last rooms in Bismark, ND for a mere $130. My start receipts (I got 2 just in case) showed a rest start time just before 9pm.

The plan was to stack both 3 hour rest bonuses back to back. Just after 3am I got my end receipt for the bonus and headed west on I-94 toward Montana. I picked up the CHAT bonus along the way in Medora, ND. Somewhere about IMG_3567this time I had figured out that I could get the 2nd of the packer bonuses thus bagging the multi point extra bonus which made itIMG_3569 worth 1199 points. I thought that could possibly get me to a top ten position (It wouldn’t have) so I blew off the next bonus in Locate, MT and headed for Circle, MT and the Sen. George McCone bonus.

IMG_3570Mosby, MT was next and a photo of the Kerchival City historical marker. There was no city any more, it was just a rest area. And boy was it windy. It took a few attempts before I was able to get a picture of the marker with my rally flag.

IMG_3571Great Falls was my farthest west bonus and I could tell the clutch was getting worse. I just kept hoping it would make it to the finish. I made sure to get the bike into neutral when I was coming to a stop.


IMG_3573The ride south on I-15 was fun with all the sweepers. In Helena, MT I stopped to get the photo of Thomas Francis Meagher and then kept heading south on I-15. In Dillon, MT I stopped to get a IMG_3574bonus photo of an old dugout canoe replica. I was thankful the rally masters had picked a bonus with an adjacent restroom. Thank you RMs!

Since getting on I-15 my Zumo 550 had the finish location on the GPS with a route which included the packer multi bonus. It showed me getting to the hotel just before the penalty window started. I was trying to make up time to give myself a little extra room.

IMG_3575In Idaho Falls I got the Eagle Rock Ferry bonus and then headed east on Hwy 20. While in Idaho Falls I encountered my first truly stupid driver of the trip. An elderly couple who probably shouldn’t have been driving turned left in front of me at an intersection. OK, this isn’t unusual except that the old guy in the passenger seat was waving at me while his wife was turning the minivan in front of me.

The pace on Hwy 26 was definitely slower but once I got out of town I was able to wick up the throttle a bit. When I reached Alpine Junction the road turned left and I found myself on a twistier road. Even on the 5th day of this rally I was happy to see curves like this. The curves continued as I picked up HWY 189 east.

IMG_3577Near Daniel, WY I picked up the MASS bonus where Father De Smet said the first Holy Mass in Wyoming. It was just a sign on the side of the road now. I adjusted my riding gear and checked my route time. I was still on track to pull off the packer multi bonus.

In Rock Springs, WY I got onto I-80 east and expected to pick up some time. The sun was setting quickly and the wind gusts were increasing. And then there was the construction. Between the wind gusts knocking me around and the construction I was getting worn out quicker than expected.

In Laramie, WY the GPSes sent me south on HWY 287 which was also under construction. This time when the sign said loose gravel they meant it. I’d guess they had just finished covering the road with gravel that day or the day before. I stopped at a rest stop for a few minutes to stretch my legs but opted not to catch a nap because of some unsavory looking folks in an old van.

Looking at the map after the fact, it would have been much better to go down I-25 and cut over to Ft. Collins at Hwy 14. When I got into Ft. Collins I found more construction at the bonus site. After 45 minutes or so I found the marker for Annie the Railroad Dog, then a short ride around the block took me to the second of the Annie bonuses.

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I headed south out of town on 287 to Loveland where I picked up Hwy 34 going west. By now I was really exhausted and needing a break. This was one time I wasn’t happy to see mountainous curves. A few miles outside of Estes Park I pulled over at a “slow vehicle pull out” and grabbed a 20 minute nap.

IMG_3581When I got to Estes Park I found the statue of Sampson before moving on. I was really hoping to find a bathroom in this tourist pit so I could have a few moments of reflection. That didn’t work out as they were all locked up in the middle of night. Geeesh, someone might want to use the facilities at 2:30AM.

I continued west toward Rocky Mountain National Park. When I got to the entrance I saw I sign that said to keep going so I did. When I got to the Hidden Valley center I pulled in looking for restrooms. There was a sign at the gate that said no overnight parking. Since it was already night, and I didn’t plan to stay there until morning I thought it would be OK. The place was pitch black when I turned off the bike. I walked over to the restroom and to my joy I found the men’s door unlocked. As I stepped inside the lights came on as did the heater. It was an oasis which I seriously thought about not leaving for the next hour or two.

IMG_3583With my business done I considered grabbing a nap on a picnic table but saw a sign talking about not feeding the bears. I didn’t want to be bear food so I kept moving. Just before I got to the Alpine Visitor center I encountered the herd of Elk. A few miles later I reached Milner Pass and collected the bonus.

By now I realized there was no way I’d be able to get to the second packer bonus and that the combo bonus was out the window. This made things tough. I was tempted to just head to the Marriott and see if I could get into my room a night early. I knew without looking at the map I didn’t have enough time to bag any of the outlying bonuses and honestly I was pretty worn out. I decided to backtrack rather than continue through the park so that’s what I did. At one of the scenic view pull outs I parked the bike and grabbed some sleep. This was a high class Iron Butt Motel with a view in the park although not as nice as the Hidden Valley area. It was 4:15am MDT when I stopped. At 4:55am I awoke very cold. I realized I had stopped at too high of an elevation. Even my electrics on high couldn’t get me warm for a while.

As I was leaving the park, Ken Meese zoomed by me heading for the Milner Pass bonus. With that last nap I was charged up enough to make it to the end. I IMG_3584bagged the SHEP bonus in Broomfield as the sun was starting to rise. This helped my energy level as well. I noticed my clutch lever was really starting to fade. I had to be quick on getting it into gear and when I was coming to a stop at a light I needed to get myself into neutral instead of first gear.

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I certainly had plenty of time before I needed to be at the time restricted packer bonus so I went out to Idaho Springs for the Charlie Taylor bonus. As I rolled into the little town I realized I had been here before several years ago when Reagan and I were traveling to our first BMW rally together in Wyoming. I found the bonus location, answered the question about Charlie and headed back to Denver for my last bonus. Now the clutch was really getting difficult, I didn’t want to stop if I could avoid it.

Wouldn’t you know the last bonus is in the suburbs of Denver just a few miles from the hotel. I was trying to use my clutch as little possible in hopes that it would last to the finish line. Like many so many other riders I arrived almost an hour early for the final secret celebrity bonus. Some riders had figured out that it was Bob Higdon and thought he would be a real stickler for signing our mugs so they were trying to figure out how to get their bikes and themselves into the cemetery. I stayed on the outside until everyone else had finally found an open gate. I walked to the gate and entered the cemetery as Bob arrived. He wasn’t at all like the riders had feared. He was a good guy with positive things to say.

The ride from the last bonus to the hotel had me on the edge of my seat. I felt like every time I squeezed the clutch lever in it might be the last time it worked. When I got to the hotel, there was a line of riders waiting to get checked in. I pulled up alongside so I was technically on the hotel’s property and waited to get checked in. I told one of the volunteers about my problem and he assured me that I was at the finish and he’d help me push the bike over to the parking area if need be. The bike stayed strong and got me around to the parking area. I had finished the second leg with 2,994 miles.

I had finished the Butt Lite 6IX!!!!


A visit to the scoring table

No rally is complete until you visit the scoring table for the last time. I felt good by the time I got off the bike. Correction, I felt relieved when I got off the bike. I knew I had a problem with the bike but it could wait until I was done with scoring. I went through my score sheet, checking each photo, checking each odo entry and checking each date and time entry. It was all complete. My rest bonuses were properly documented and I made sure to take both of my start receipts just in case.

As I was getting in line for scoring I found Reagan waiting for me. I was thrilled to see her but wanted to get through scoring so I could relax. She took my stuff and went to check us into the hotel. Meanwhile I ended up in front of Rick Miller as my scorer. He’s really not such a bad guy. We talked about things as he went through my rally pack. He found one mistake, I had taken the wrong picture at the SEA9 bonus location. It turns out they had moved Seaman back to his original spot about 2 miles from the rest area and I didn’t realize it at the time that Seaman was a dog. Maybe if I had paid more attention to history in school. That mistake cost me 297 points (worth 1 place). Rick accepted my well documented rest bonuses and we discussed the pros/cons of combining 2 rest bonuses. I don’t think I’ll combine them again.

With my scoring complete it was time to kick back, get some rest, tend to the bike problem and wait for the finishers banquet.

At the banquet they started announcing the finishers from the bottom up. I knew my score was in the 21,000 range and as they got higher in rank the gap to my score was closing in. I was tickled to death to hear I had place 16th with a score of 21,212 and 6,100 miles. That exceeded my goal of finishing in the top half of the field. Reviewing the list of finishers later I discovered that had I not given away the 1,017 points at the scoring table it would have only increased my finish by 3 places. My hats off to the top 10 finishers, they rode one heck of a ride.

I had a great time during this rally. There are lots of things I can improve on before next year’s IBR. I want to sort out the fit of my ear plugs so they won’t cause any pain after 4 days of use. I want to work on my helmet so it doesn’t irritate my ears either. And I’m changing my riding gear. The Olympia stuff is fine for touring but I need something with a greater temperature range as well as better water proofing while still providing me with ventilation.

I can’t wait for the next rally. Thanks to the Rally Masters for a great time!