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.
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.
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.
In 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 others 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 things, 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. When 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 picture 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. This 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 moved 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 a 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 grabbed 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.
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.
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.
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 already 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 heading 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.
At 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.
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 this time I had figured out that I could get the 2nd of the packer bonuses thus bagging the multi point extra bonus which made it 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.
Mosby, 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.
Great 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.
The 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 bonus 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.
In 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.
Near 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.
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.
When 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.
With 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 bagged 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.
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!