During the first week of July 2014, I participated in my first multi-day rally, the Butt Lite 7. Due to the length of the ride, this report will be coming is sections. And of course Willi G nome was along for the ride! Here is the story on the trip out to the start in Minneapolis MN.
This was my first multi day rally and overall the fourth rally I had completed. I have made some big mistakes during past rallies and have learned much from them. I knew the Butt Lite would be a physical challenge due to the distances involved, but I did not realize it would be a mental one as well. I did my 100 CCC in March 2014 as a test to see if I was up to the challenge of stringing multiple 1,000 mile days together and I was surprised at how I was able to rise to the occasion. I thought that would be a good comparison of what to expect. Boy, was I wrong!
Before I go into the details I want to highlight two individuals who got me to the start of the rally. If it were not for their generous help, this report would be a completely different report. Instead of a rally report it would be a report of disappointment and of my wandering about MN on my bike until the last day of the rally. I should have been a DNS (Did not start) due to a catastrophic failure of the rear sprocket on my bike. I want to publicly thank Chuck from Bikes Built Better in Horsham PA and Brian from Mid Ohio Harley Davidson. Both came to my aid on July 4th with the parts I needed to get back on the road and make it to registration for the Rally. Please, if you are near their businesses stop in and support them. They bring a new meaning to customer service and going above and beyond what anyone has a right to expect.
Wednesday July 2 – Trip out, Day 1 – Willow Grove PA to Breezewood PA – 180 miles
This report starts with the trip out. I left Wednesday July 2nd after work so I could get some miles done as the trip out was 1200 or so miles and I wanted to have time for some Tour of Honor stops. Of course I had a late meeting so I was unable to leave early, and we had some nasty storms come in just before I was ready to leave. My departure was delayed until 9:30 pm so I was only able to make it as far as Breezewood PA. At least it was 180 miles and 2 ½ hours I did not have to ride on Thursday. The trip to Breezewood went smooth, although I did have a few lingering showers and a cool light show. Had some concerns that my auxiliary fuel tank would not feed properly but it was working perfectly. Things were looking good for a smooth trip out and a smooth rally. Got in around midnight
Thursday July 3 – Trip out, Day 2 – Breezewood PA to Minneapolis (err Springfield OH)
Was up and out of Breezewood at 5:45 am. Had 1,100 miles planned for the day and that included picking up 5 Tour of Honor memorials along the way. All was going smoothly and the miles clicked away. Stopped in Zanesville OH for a Tour of Honor stop and got that done.
As I was getting back on the road I noticed a slight shudder but everything was smooth after that. I shrugged it off as a tar snake and kept going. I should have stopped …
Approximately 100 miles down the road as I was passing by Springfield OH I saw a Harley Dealer and thought about stopping, but I had enough shirts and was on a schedule. Again, I should have stopped …. A short 5 miles down the road at around noon I heard a loud metallic clatter coming from the rear of the bike and I instantly chopped the throttle, pulled in the clutch, and pulled onto the shoulder. I walked around the bike and the first thing I noticed was my drive belt drooping. Odd I thought, since if it had broken it would have simply fallen off. Then I saw the problem, my rear sprocket was cracked and broken in several places around the bolt holes that hold it onto the bike, and there was only one bolt remaining and it was hanging. Took a closer look and realized the bolt holes in the wheel were all elongated and the threads stripped out, with what appeared to be one bolt broken off inside the wheel. I spent a few minutes trying to get the bolt to bite so I could get the sprocket attached to the wheel so I could get off the highway and get to the dealer, but it was pointless. As I was giving up and thinking of my other options, namely calling the dealer or HOG (Harley Owners Group) and asking for a tow, a truck with a bike trailer pulled up and the driver asked if I needed help. He was on his way to look at a bike and offered to take me to the Harley Dealer, Mid-Ohio Harley Davidson. I graciously accepted and a short time later we were dropped off. Unfortunately, in the time that has elapsed I have forgotten his name.
The dealer got my bike right in and on the lift. Shortly thereafter they confirmed my wheel was toast as well as the sprocket.
Here is what they look like:
To make matters worse, they didn’t have the parts in stock. After some searching they found a sprocket at another dealer not too far away and made plans to have it shipped to them with a Saturday delivery. That took care of the sprocket, still needed a wheel. I called the shop that inspects my bike, Bikes Built Better in Horsham PA and discussed with them. They agreed that if my wife dropped of a wheel they could confirm it was the correct one and could ship it with a Saturday delivery. That was the best we could do. Since I had to be in Minneapolis for tech inspection on Saturday, and the rally started Sunday at 8 am, I thought my rally was officially over before it began and I would make the best of it by roaming around Minnesota and the surrounding states for a week.
However, I got a call that turned out to be a ray of hope. Chuck from Bikes Built Better called me back and said that he had a wheel, tire, and sprocket for a 2007 Sportster that would fit, AND he would deliver it to me in Springfield OH! I was flabbergasted! I confirmed that I was hearing correctly, and he said yes and that I should get some sleep since he’d be there around 1am. I was back in the rally!!!
I got a ride to a hotel from the General Manager of the dealer. He offered his card in case I needed anything and I settled in for the day. I had a thought that perhaps the sprocket for a 2007 would not fit since at one point they changed to a narrower belt and sprocket but could not recall the year. I put a post on the XLForum asking the question and dozed off. A few hours later I checked and sure enough, a 2007 sprocket was only 1 inch wide and my belt was 1 1/8 inches wide. Called the GM of the dealer back and asked were the sprocket was and if we could go get it on Thursday (July 4th). Unfortunately, that dealer was already closed for the holiday and would not reopen until Monday. A narrower belt would also solve my problem, however they did not have one. Then I got the second shock, the GM told me he would call me back. About 30 minutes later he called and informed me that he would go pick up the sprocket from the other dealer and bring it to me on Thursday (July 4th). Once again, I was flabbergasted. Here this dealer was going out of his way on a holiday to personally pick up a part approximately 40 miles away from another dealer who was also closed, and was bringing it to me at my hotel. Talk about supporting stranded riders! With that, I dozed off.
Sure enough, at 1am Chuck called and he was close. He picked me up, we went and got my bike, and brought it back to the hotel. We tore it down and replaced the wheel. We checked to see if the sprocket he brought would fit my belt and as expected it did not. At 3am we were all set, except for a sprocket. We decided there was nothing else to do but sleep, so that’s what we did.
Friday July 4 – Trip out, Day 3 – Springfield OH to Minneapolis MN
At around 11:00 am the new sprocket arrived. We got that installed, and the bike was ready to go by noon. I thanked Chuck profusely, and we were off in our own directions. Time down was 24 hours. I had 700 miles to go to Minneapolis.
I decided to bag the Tour of Honor stops and headed straight to the host hotel. The ride was uneventful, and I got in around midnight. Saw a group sitting in the lobby that were obviously part of the rally and they greeted me, however they were out of beer and the bar was closed, so off to bed I went for some much needed rest.
Saturday July 5 – Registration and Tech Inspection – Minneapolis MN
Awoke, gabbed some breakfast, and went to register. Registration went quickly and smoothly, and I was off to Tech Inspection. At Tech Inspection they confirmed that my registration and insurance were current and matched the VIN number on the bike. I was running my stock exhaust so no sound check was required. Since I had an auxiliary fuel tank they confirmed it was securely attached to my bike, and did a quick volume check to confirm I was under the fuel limit. They also commented that Willi was nice and secure! With that done, I was all set. What a trip it had been so far, and the rally had not even started!
Here is the sporty amongst a bunch of strangers
More of the competition
Bikes came from most manufacturers. A very high percentage are BMW’s, with Goldwings and Yamaha FJRs also being popular. Very few Harleys in the mix, I think I saw 1 or 2 modern Ultras and believe it or not a 1970’s FLH of all things.
I had some free time so I went for a ride and got some supplies to eat on the road. Also headed to St. Paul for the Tour of Honor memorial there so I got that one as well.
Then it was back to the hotel for the rookie meeting where we got to ask questions from two Iron Butt Rally finishers, and then the rally meeting. Reviewed the basics, how they wanted the score sheet completed, etc. Then it was dinner and finally the moment we were all waiting for: We received our rally packs. A review of the rally book revealed a checkpoint in Austin TX on Wednesday morning from 4-6 am. At 6am penalty points begin to accrue, and at 8am we forfeit all bonus points for leg 1. Bonus locations stretched from I-35 west to California. From there we were off to plan our routes and sleep.
Sunday July 6 – Leg 1, Day 1 – Minneapolis to Great Bend KS
The day started with an odometer check and rider’s meeting. And of course it was raining!
At the rider’s meeting we were handed an additional bonus sheet. I checked the new bonus and while it was 500 points it was off my route and I decided to skip it. Of course I now had an extra page to keep track of since it was considered part of our bonus pack. We were released at 8am and we were on our merry way.
Getting out of Minneapolis was much more difficult than it should have been. It seemed that all of the South bound highways were closed due to construction. I picked my way through detours and finally escaped Minneapolis. I’ll always wonder if the rally masters planned that! All was going well as I sped south. Needed to take a quick break so I ducked into the Iowa Welcome Center to use their restroom. As I got off the bike I stuck my finger in the ring of my key ring so I would not lose the key since my raingear prevented easy access to my pockets. When I returned to my bike a few minutes later I noticed my key was no longer on my finger. Uh oh, not a good start. I did have my spare in my pocket but still, how could I lose it so quickly? I retraced my steps twice and nothing. Then I had a thought, maybe it got stuck in my rain gear. Stripped it off and there it was! Of course, I had just spent over 20 minutes on what I thought would be a 3 minute stop.
From there I continued on my way and bagged the Iron Butt Iowa bonus in Webster City IA.
From there it was off to Osawatomie KS for a photo of the John Brown statue. During the ride I was checking my GPS for any close by boni along my route. One popped up that was fairly close and only add 45 minutes to my ride. I knew I had a hard time of 9pm-9:15pm for the full points for the Keeper of the Plains bonus in Wichita and by adding it I still would get there by 8:55. Made the decision to add the Whispering Giant in Troy KS. Modified my route and was off to Troy KS for the Whispering Giant bonus which I got with no issue. I was proud of myself for making the extra stop (temporarily)
From there it was off to Osawatomie KS for a photo of the John Brown statue. I got to Osawatomie KS and got the picture of the statue.
Then I got to the next bonus in Independence KS at 7:20 and realized it was only available until 7pm! OOPS! So much for my brilliant move in picking up the extra stop! I had added a 197 point bonus to my route that cost me a 844 point bonus! Not good planning on my part and lesson learned, have the time restrictions of all boni handy so I can factor that into my decision making.
Shrugged that off and I continued on until I arrived at the Keeper of the Plains monument in Wichita at 9:05 and saw the flames were lit meaning I could grab the full value of this bonus. I also noted that there were several other riders present which I thought was a good sign. Got my photo and was off.
I booked a room in Great Bend KS and while en-route was being pelted with bugs. I saw another bonus not far off my route and adding it would add 45 minutes to my ride. I opted to skip it since my plan was to stay conservative for the first leg. I arrived in Great Bend without incident around 12 am. Total miles ridden was approximately 900.
Monday July 7 – Leg 1, Day 2 –Great Bend KS to Comanche TX
Awoke and was off by 6:30 am. Other than getting a later start than planned the day went according to plan and was pretty uneventful in the beginning. I headed to the first bonus which was close by in Pawnee Rock KS
I bumped into another rider there and ended up follow her for a bit even though the pace was a little faster than I liked on state highways. Sure enough, I saw a KS state trooper going the other way and after he passed us he turned around and pulled me over. We chatted for a bit and he asked some questions about why I had two GPS units and wanted to know about the Spot tracker, but after a check of my license he let me go without a citation which I was happy about. How many times have I told people to ride their own ride when doing a group ride? Now it was time for me to listen to my own advice!
Next bonus was the Sod House in Cleo Springs OK. I had to laugh when I saw this as a bonus location since I had visited there many years ago when I was a kid. I had family in the area but unfortunately no time to stop. Got my photo and was off
Next up was the MT Scott bonus. When I got off the bike to hunt down the bonus I felt a little light headed and recognized it as a sign that I was dehydrated. Got the photo and worked my way down the mountain
And the view from the top of Mt Scott
Once down I stopped at the first gas station and drank two bottles of Gatorade and sat inside to cool down for 30 minutes. From there it was off to Wewoka OK for the Seminole bonus
From there it was an uneventful ride to get the IKE boni in Denison TX, LEMON bonus in Wortham TX, and the DRPEPP bonus in Dublin TX
Stopped for the night in Comanche TX around 12:00 am with another 900 miles down.
Tuesday July 8 – Leg 1, Day 3 – Comanche TX to Austin TX (Checkpoint)
This day was the big day for this leg with a planned 1200 miles. I was set to leave the hotel around 5:30 am and as I took a look at my rear tire it seemed like it was more worn than it should have been. A quick check of the tire pressure and it was down to 15 PSI. Great! Pumped it up to 40 PSI at the gas station across the street and was on my way. First stop was the BALLINX bonus in Ballinger TX. Took the photo of that and was on my way.
Then it was on to Iraan TX and the OOP bonus. It seems the creator of the comic strip Alley Oop was from there. Got that bonus down and continued on
And this is what the road to Iraan TX looked like
I was making periodic stops to monitor the tire pressure and it seemed to be slowly losing air. I continued to monitor the tire pressure and added air as needed. Since our checkpoint was at a BMW dealer I would see if they could replace it for me. Next stop was the MCKAVET bonus in Ft McKavet TX
Things were clicking along fine and other than my thoughts of what I was going to do about my rear tire everything was fine. I ran into some traffic in Laredo TX after I-35 ended and it took me a bit to pick my way through it. Made the CHAPS bonus in Zapata TX without issue and continued on my way. This is a memorial to four Chaplains who lost their lives in WWII. I have seen other memorials to these four individuals around the country. Their story is a moving story and is worth reading. Here is a link.
I noticed that it seemed like every other car was border patrol, TX State trooper, or local police. I cannot recall ever seeing so many law enforcement vehicles simply driving. Had a short rain/thunder storm that lasted about 15 minutes. Picked up the ELCHRISTO bonus in South Padre Island TX and turned back north to the check point.
Now one more to go and I was off to Austin. Got to Goliad TX for the GOLIAD bonus and took my photo
Now I was on my way to Austin. I had the AUSBAT bonus in Austin on my list, however I opted to skip it for a few more minutes of sleep. Arrived at my hotel at 4 am which was several hours later than expected and was also the time the checkpoint opened. Not being sure if I could leave the checkpoint, I opted for a quick hour of sleep before I headed over.
Wednesday July 9 – Checkpoint Austin TX
Checked In and picked up the ARDYS bonus which was at that location. This was a photo of a very tired rider and the Iron Butt Rally flag for Ardys Kellerman. Ardys was in her 80’s and had well over 1,000,000 documented miles on motorcycles until she was killed in a motorcycle accident last year
Believe it or not I actually felt pretty good at that point. Most likely I was running on pure adrenalin!
I then finalized my paperwork and was scored. All was going well and I was confident I had everything I needed. To date in my vast experience of rallying (all three rallies!) I had yet to lose points at the rally table. Sure, I had made mistakes but I had always caught them prior to scoring. I was proud of that and even recall commenting on it to my scorer. Of course that all changed when he checked the rally book and stated that the Ballinger TX bonus called for recording “To whom was this marker dedicated” I of course, had taken a very nice picture of the marker. So nice in fact, that had I reread the requirements before going to scoring I could have answered the question. Instead, I had lost 370 points. My total miles ridden in this leg were 3,075.
Once scored I found the owner of the dealership and inquired about getting a new tire. He said that should not be a problem. We were informed there was a riders meeting at 8:45 am and we could leave before then if we desired as long as we made it back in time. I headed back to the hotel for another hour’s worth of much needed sleep. Returned at 8:30 for the rider meeting, and spoke to the dealer about my tire. Unfortunately they did not have a 16 inch rear tire in stock, however one of the staff used to work for the Harley Dealer and called and made arrangements for me to head straight up there once released and they would do my tire.
At the rider meeting we were updated on the top ten riders, status of those who were out, and were given our rally books for the second leg and released at 9am. I went straight to the dealer and they got me right in. I decided to spend the time waiting for my bike to be fixed planning my route. I saw there was a large 2500 point bonus for bowling near Addison TX that was between 12 and 3pm. I decided that if they finished my bike in time I would head straight up, however if they didn’t I’d stay and finish my planning. My bike was rolled out at 12:30, and there just was not enough time for me to make the bonus so I spent another hour or so finishing my plan.
Wednesday July 9 – Leg 2, Day 1 – Austin TX to Lanoke AR
I left the dealer between 1:30 and 2:00PM after finishing my planning and eating a few hot dogs. Due to the late start this was to be a short day of around 500 miles. I made one bonus, the location of the Branch Divideon compound in Waco. My stop was uneventful however I heard other riders were chased off.
From there I had a 5 mile ride on a gravel road which was a joy, but after that it was clear riding. Next bonus location was a Whispering Giant bonus, which is essentially a 20 ft or taller wooden carving of an American Indian. This was located in a riverfront park in Little Rock AR. Got off the interstate around 10 PM and there were police and people everywhere. Every turn resulted in a blocked road. Finally made it to the area of the park, only to be greeted by someone telling me I could not go down into the park since it closed at 10pm. I had already spent too much time in that city and was too tired to try and negotiate my way down, although in hindsight I should have tried. I skipped that bonus and made it a few miles down the highway and stopped in Lanoke AR around 11:20 PM. Distance traveled was about 500 miles and I was able to only get one bonus.
Thursday July 10 – Leg 2, Day 2 – Lanoke AR to Steubenville OH
Left the hotel at 5:40 am and headed east. First stop was a small roadside cemetery where I had to record the dates on a specific grave and the name of the Brown who was born in 1776 and died in 1860. Recorded that information and I was on my way to my next stop, Kentucky Stonhenge in Munfordville, KY.
Picked that up without incident and was off to my next two bonus locations in Sugarcreek, OH. One was low to moderate at 199 points but there was a second across the street at 1023 points where I had to take a picture of a large cuckoo clock. I was tired so I made an extra stop or two so I could rest which cost me some time. This was a hangover from getting 2 hours sleep before the Austin checkpoint and a hard lesson learned because I had to drop 2 500 point bonus locations because the cuckoo clock was time limited and I had until 9pm to take the photo. Plus it had to be while it was in action and that was only every 30 minutes. Got there in plenty of time to take a photo of the monument, answer a question from a relatively long newspaper article that was part of the monument, and got the cuckoo clock in action.
From there it was off to Hopedale OH for a photo of a motorcycle memorial. This memorial was on the property of an American Legion post. Sounded like a relatively easy one, NOT!!! First, I had trouble finding the memorial. GPS coordinates so far have been spot on. For this one, my GPS wanted to take me up someone’s driveway and thought it was a road. I could plainly see the driveway and house, but no memorial unless it was in the living room and I thought that unlikely. There was a construction site next door and I checked that out, nothing. Was about to phone the Rally Master but had a thought. My GPS did not recognize the street I was on as a road. This had happened in the past and I drove for a bit and the GPS “found itself” on a road. I went ¼ mile down the road and I saw an intersection and a sign for the American Legion post and the memorial. Followed that road to the building and nothing. Drove around the building and noted a small gazebo on top of a hill so I went to it and eureka, I found it. Got the photo and then I noted that I also had to record the nicknames of three riders who were memorialized on bricks on the ground. Now of course there are 100’s of bricks and I needed to find three specific ones. Found one right away and recorded the nickname as “KMRO” Thought that was odd but shrugged it off. A few minutes later I got the next one. Then it was a loooong search for the final one. Could not find it! Looked again, literally going brick by brick in the dark looking for it. Along the way I found a second brick for the first rider so I crossed out KMRO and wrote down “Photo Taking Hillbilly” That was more like it and I was sorry I didn’t know the story of that nickname since I am sure it was a good one. After what seemed like forever I finally found the last one.
From there I should have gone to Morgantown WV, but realized that would take me 2 hours I really didn’t have because I knew I had a big day ahead of me for the final day and would need more rest, so I dropped it as well. I was now heading towards Pittsburg for my hotel which would set me up for 4 bonus locations close together for the following morning. Then my tired brain started thinking it would take me an hour or two to get there and I would get 4 hours sleep before a 24 hour ride to the finish. We had a variable bonus for the sleep bonus and could get as many as 3600 points for 6 hours sleep. The 1200 points I would get from two extra hours of sleep was slightly more than the bonus locations I was going for in Pittsburg, plus I could start my day an hour closer to the finish. After taking 3 times longer than I should of I made the call to skip the bonus locations in Pittsburg and find a room closer to the next bonus location in East Liverpool OH. I stopped in Steubenville OH around midnight. Total miles were about 900.
Friday July 11 – Leg 2, Day 3 – Steubenville OH to Minnetonka MN – Final stretch
This was it, the final stretch. I had a big one planned, about 1300 miles and 24 hours to do it. Of the 21 bonus locations I was claiming on this leg 15 were on this day. However I was tired, had been on the road 6 days, and after I loaded the bike my mind decided to revolt and said no, I am not leaving. I spent almost an extra hour in the hotel because I just could not get myself to leave. I had a good breakfast and just sat there contemplating my ride. This cost me big time at the finish! I finally got myself motivated and out the door at 6:45 am. Once started, the day went smoothly. First up was the BEGIN bonus in East Liverpool. This was a cool one as it was a location used as a reference point to map out the entire US (except Texas since they must be different). Got my photo and recorded the distance to the original location of the reference point
From there it was a short ride to two bonus locations which were close together, both historical markers. One of which was the location where Pretty Boy Floyd was shot during an arrest attempt
From there I was off to a rest stop on I-80 near Farrell, PA for a Whispering Giant bonus. Recorded the information I needed to and headed to Kent State to record the conclusion from the president’s commission who investigated the shootings. Their findings, they were “unnecessary, unwarranted and inexcusable”. Kind of an understatement in my mind. That done, I was off to get a Whispering Giant location in Akron OH and record the names of the chiefs to which the statue was dedicated. Got that and was off to Cleveland for a photo of the leg lamp in the window of the house from the movie Christmas Story. My brother loves this movie so I just had to take a photo for him as well. Unfortunately, there was a lot of reflection in the window because it was a bright sunny day but you can make out the lamp. As I was walking back to my bike I realized nothing said the photo had to be taken outside, so I went back to see if I could go in for a quick photo. I guess the tour had started since the door was locked and no one was visible inside.
And the house
Now it was off to Lakewood, OH for a photo of a statue for a small dog that was adopted by US troops in WWII and is credited with being the first therapy dog.
Got that without issue, and was off for some giant bats in Toledo, OH. These were baseball bats as part of a stadium. Found them with no issue
Got my bats, and headed for Brock, OH for a photo of the grave of Annie Oakley.
Things had been clicking along nicely all day and other than some traffic around Toledo and Kent State I had no issues. After Annie Oakley I was riding on state highways through OH and IL to Chatsworth OH where I had to record the number of deaths from one of the worst train wrecks in US history. 85 people died in 1887 when two trains collided and caught fire. Here is what the roads looked like that I was on
Then it was off to Campus, IL to record how many men had died in mine accidents in the ghost town of Cardiff. From there it was off to Wedron, IL for the crash site of a young Charles Lindberg. This was a mile or so off the state highway on a country road. Turned down a dirt road and followed it to the end (it ended on the same road I had been traveling on) and I had missed it. Turned around and my lights just caught the granite marker. Got my photo and was off.
I was getting close to the end of my bonus locations as I only had three more. Two were Whispering Giant locations which would give me four and would qualify me for the combo bonus of 100 more points for each Whispering Giant location. I headed towards Ottawa, IL for the next bonus and when I got there I opened my rally book to find out what I had to do. There it was, plain as day, Daylight Only! Looking at the street lights, the darkness around me, and the time being around 11pm, I did not think I would be able to honestly claim this one. Scratched it off my list as well as the next one since I could no longer claim the four required for the combo bonus. I then headed to my final bonus in Rochelle, IL. This was a location where two main railroads cross and there were so many rail fans that came to watch the trains they built a park at the location so they could do so safely. I had to either take a photo of a train passing the park where the tracks cross, or wait in town for 1 hour. Waiting was out since I had limited time, but just in case I stopped for a bottle or water and a receipt. As I was coming out I heard a train whistle. Figures, I was going to miss it. I followed my GPS to find the park and passed one, but it was the wrong park. I came around a corner and saw a train crossing the road. I thought hey, I may get this and pulled up to the railroad crossing and then I saw someone saying the park is over here. I looked at him and said “huh?” or something similar. At the same time I am thinking, who is this clown out in the middle of the street at 11pm and how does he know that I am looking for a park? Then I looked into the park and see two bikes and it clicks, he is another rider and he is there for the same reason I am. I pulled in and parked next to the bikes, then realized I had to go to the far end of the park where the tracks crossed for the photo. I walked/stumbled to the far end and tried to take a photo. It was so dark I could not see the tracks. And I could not see the train in the photo since by now all of the box cars had passed by and only low yellow flatbed cars were left. I took several photos hoping one would come out. That yellow streak in the middle of the photo is actually the rail cars going by. Honest!
And that was it, I was done! All I had to do now was ride 370 miles to the finish and I had 6 hours to do it without incurring any penalty points. But I was now tired, really tired. I had been on the road for 18 hours so far. I headed off towards the finish and figured I had plenty of time to rest if I needed to. Well I did, and it didn’t take long. I made it maybe 50 miles and was getting off the highway for a break. Bumped into one other rider and we chatted for a bit, then he was off. I got some caffeine and relaxed for a few minutes, and then got back on the road. I didn’t last long and probably 40 or so miles down the road I had to pull over again. This time I was at a closed gas station so I simply laid down on the ground next to my bike and closed my eyes for a nap. A few minutes later I heard people talking and noticed the police had someone pulled over in the lot and were speaking to them. Thinking they would want to talk to me next I got back on the road. I repeated the process of stopping every 30 minutes or so all the way into the finish in Minnetonka and ended up being 44 minutes late.
Saturday July 12 – Finish Minnetonka MN
I got off the highway and raced down the street to the hotel. Turned into the lot expecting the check point to be up by the hotel but it wasn’t. It was right at the entrance to the lot and I almost blew right by it! Checked in and gave them my ending mileage and flag number. But there was one thing missing, my wife! She had flown out to meet me and was nowhere in sight. I pulled up in front of the hotel to see if she was there and she wasn’t, so I parked the bike, called her to tell her I was there, and gathered my stuff. She came out to meet me and explained that my spot tracker had stopped working about an hour or so before and said I was still in Wisconsin somewhere. OOPS! But I had no way of knowing since my spot tracker is mounted in a location where I cannot see it. Something else to change.
I went up to my room for a much needed shower and finalized my paperwork. I log each bonus as I go so there wasn’t much to do other than review each one to confirm that I recorded everything, scan the rally book to ensure I didn’t miss any easy points at the finish, and then headed down to be scored. My scorer was the same one who scored me at the checkpoint and when he entered my ending time to calculate my late penalty he laughed, which is never good. My late penalty, 880 points! But, I finished and was in one piece so I did not regret it. In hindsight, rather than piecemeal my breaks like I did I probably should have taken a longer one when I first stopped and actually closed my eyes for 10-15 minutes. Again, lessons learned. The rest of scoring went rather well, and I was happy that I didn’t lose any more points at the scoring table. And with that, I was done! Total miles ridden in this leg were 2,631, and 5,706 for the entire rally.
In the end I finished 28th out of 49 finishers. I was more than happy with that given it was my first multi-day rally, I should have been a DNS (Did not start) due to the issues I had heading to the start, and my loss of a huge bonus due to my being stuck in a Harley Dealer waiting for a new rear tire. I learned a tremendous amount of information which will help me in future rallies, I saw some really cool stuff that I probably would have never found, and I had fun with some really great people! What more could one ask for? That night we attended the banquet and simply relaxed. I chose to leave my bike at a friend’s house in MN and fly home after the rally. I was unsure what kind of condition I would be in after riding almost 6,000 miles without a break and figured I would not be able to ride straight through. That would mean traveling on Sunday and Monday, and then taking Tuesday off to recover before going back to work. In my mind that was just too much time away from work.
The trip home
Saturday July 26 – The trip home, day 1 Minnesota to Danville IN
I flew out Friday July 26 and was picked up at the airport by my friends and had dinner in a small bar in Minneapolis. Spent the night at their house and spent the morning chatting. Decided I’d better get on the road around 11am and I was off. The trip home was more of a relaxing ride and I had planned on making as many Tour of Honor stops as possible. As a result, much of the first day and part of the second day were off the Interstates.
My first stop was at Soldiers Field in Rochester MN
From there I continued on to the Veterans Memorial Monument in La Crosse WI. Had an enjoyable but uneventful ride, up to the point it started raining. Rain was light and didn’t last long and I didn’t bother putting my rain gear on.
I then continued on to Lansing Iowa for the Mt. Hosmer Veterans’ Memorial. This was on top of a hill and was difficult to find only because my GPS thought there was a road where in actuality there was a path with a set of steps going up a steep hill. Maybe at one time there was a road, who knows. Found my way to the park entrance and this was the view of the Mississippi on my way up:
Got to the memorial but unfortunately I had no cell service so I could not verify this was correct. I was a little unsure because there was another memorial about ¼ mile away. Fortunately I got the correct photo
Next was the Veterans Memorial Plaza in Dubuque IA. This was a little tricky to get to due to my missing an exit off the highway. It was a cool memorial that covered all major wars the US was in and included a Cobra gunship mounted on a pole. Somehow I forgot to take a photo of the Cobra
And now it got interesting. The roads got smaller and were two lane county highways. Really enjoyable and saw some cool countryside. Next stop was the Apple River Honor Role in Apple River, Illinois. This was a postage stamp sized town and the memorial had been originally built for WWI vets from Apple River.
On my way through town I saw a sign that made me stop and do a double take. They were having Lawn Mower races at their MOWtor speedway. Gotta love small towns!
As I was heading to my next stop which was for the Cherry Mine Disaster in Cherry, Illinois, I got so see a cool sunset. Photo does not do it justice.
Made it to the memorial and it was dark. Had to use the lights on the bike to illuminate the monument and a flashlight to light up my flag, but I got enough to count.
From there it was on to my last stop of the day, the WWII Memorial in Pontiac IL. This was at the courthouse and there were a few other monuments at that location, however I was getting tired and opted to not spend the time checking them out.
Got on the way and started looking for a hotel. Opted to ride for a bit more as I was feeling ok, but stopped around 1 or 2 am in Danville IL, near the IN boarder on I-74. Total miles for the day were about 600 for the day, and other than about a total of 1 hour it was all on non-interstates.
Sunday July 27 – The trip home, Day 2 – Danville IN to home
Awoke at 5am with the intent on an early start and hopefully meeting friends who were teaching Search and Rescue for Civil Air Patrol in Columbus IN. Realized that there was a fairly heavy storm outside so I opted to go back to sleep until it passed. Got on the road around 7 or 8 am and saw that the storm was tracking my path toward Columbus IN. Not wanting to ride into it and needing to make up time for the late start I opted to skip my friends as well as the planned Tour of Honor stop near there, and headed to my next stop which was the Veterans Memorial in Montezuma IN. Much of this ride was back roads as well. I also saw a sign for an Ernie Pyle memorial, however it was the opposite direction from the way I wanted to go and I opted not to make the detour. Once I got home I remembered he was a journalist in WWII and was killed in combat in the Pacific. I wish I would have stopped. Got my photo in Montezuma without suffering the wrath of his revenge, and moved on.
My next stop was the Union County courthouse in Liberty IN. Had some more great small roads to ride and enjoyed it immensely
Made my way to Liberty and found the courthouse. It looked more like a church to me and unfortunately I could not get the entire building in the picture. Got my photo and was off.
Next stop was a fair distance away north of Columbus OH. Unfortunately my time of riding small roads was coming to an end and I was heading for I-70. My next stop was the Fallen Hero Memorial in Sunbury OH. Made my way towards Columbus and got on the bypass to go north of town and saw that the sky was rather dark and ominous looking. Continued north and about 4 miles from the location the sky opened up. Put the rain gear on and the storm seemed to be getting stronger. Decided that I would leave this for another time and turned around to get out of the storm. The storm was moving east quickly and I did ride out of it, but traffic on the bypass was moving slowly due to the storm and there were at least two cars on the other side of the highway off the road in ditches, presumably due to high winds.
I was now done my stops and was heading home, with about 8 or 9 hours of steady riding ahead of me. I ran into the storm again and the rain was fairly heavy but manageable. However, it was disheartening to see bright sunshine and clear skies to the south of me. I figured I could ride through the storm but after a while I decided to pull over and take a look at the weather radar on my phone. What I saw was a huge storm and I was just at the tail end of it. In the middle were all kinds of nasty colors that I did not want to see personally, so I opted to sit and wait for 30 minutes or so for the storm to pass. Sure enough, after 30 minutes I was greeted by clear skies so I took the rain gear off and got on the road. Stayed in the clear through the rest of OH and into PA, but saw that I was catching up to the storm again on the PA Turnpike near the Allegheny Tunnel. Pulled over, put on the rain gear, and got back on the road. Enjoyed a significant drop in temperature when I exited the tunnel so I turned on my heated gear. Rain was light and did not pick up a while. I ended up riding 3 ½ hours in the rain, with some very heavy rain coming in the last 50 or so miles. Got in around 11:30 PM tired, wet and hungry. Total miles for the last day were around 900, with a total trip mileage of 8,700 miles. Overall, even with the difficulties I had it was a blast. As they say, a bad day of riding beats a good day at work.