The 2015 Iron Butt Rally was my first IBR, but hopefully will not be my last. Going into it I had no idea what to expect but at least I was fortunate to already realize that after my experience in the 2015 Butt Lite rally. I did know I was in for a lot of riding, and that the competition would be top notch with a mixture of IBR veterans and rookies alike. The rookies were hardly slouches as they had to demonstrate to the rally staff that they could complete the IBR just like I did. My goals for the rally were simple. I would be satisfied with myself if I: 1) made it through the entire rally and arrived at the finish line, 2) Had enough points to be a finisher, and 3) was not last. Not stated but included of course was to remain safe. This of course was paramount.
Like many of the other riders, the rally would push the limits of my tires. I realized that I could not ride the 2,000 miles to the rally and then ride 11,000 miles in the rally, and then ride home. I chose to solve this problem by shipping an extra wheel with a new tire to New Mexico and swapping it out prior to the rally. I’d then ride home on whichever tire had the most tread. In addition to that, I was planning on doing an oil change and some other maintenance items. Fortunately I realized that I had a Facebook friend in Albuquerque and she graciously agreed to letting me do work on my bike in her garage. Much better than working on the bike in a parking lot.
I left home Wednesday June 24 and rode 200 or so miles to Breezewood PA that night to get a head start. I awoke on Thursday and the weather showed a storm heading east along my route, so I detoured south to get around it. I should have dropped down to I-40 in Tennessee but I didn’t, I chose to head west to St. Louis and then turn southwest on I-44 to Tulsa OK where I’d pick up I-40 to my destination. As I was headed north towards St. Louis I ran into a thunderstorm so I got a room in some small town in Indiana for a few hours. At 2:30 am on Friday June 26 the storm had passed and I was back on the road. I ran into another storm when I got to St. Louis and basically got rained on until I got to Oklahoma. From there it was clear sailing until I got to New Mexico where I ran into another storm so I had rain through most of New Mexico all the way to my hotel. I got in around 10:30 pm and promptly unloaded my bike and grabbed a beer.
Saturday and Sunday were billed as registration days and we were told they rally essentially owned us. It turned out to be not that bad and I got done around 2pm on Saturday. I headed to my friend’s house and took care of some maintenance items. One thing I wanted to do was change my rear brake pads as my rear brakes were low. Unfortunately I could not get the pads out due to s stuck bolt and I did not have the tools I needed. They would have to wait until the first checkpoint . I got a call from my buddy Brad saying he was an hour away from my hotel and was coming in to visit. Unfortunately I was 30 minutes away and the bike was in pieces. I got done as quickly as I could and headed back to the hotel around 6:30. Of course along the way the sky opened up and I got soaked. As I walked back into the hotel around 7pm I heard someone laughing and saying that was hilarious. I turned and realized it was our rally master laughing at me squishing through the hotel leaving a trail of water. I got changed and dad dinner and hung out with Brad. Sunday I went back to finish changing my rear wheel. All was going well until I broke the tool I needed to mount my brake rotor so a trip to the store was in order for a new bit. I finished around 1:30 and got back to the hotel around 2:05, 5 minutes late for the mandatory rookie meeting. All was well but every staff member I saw asked me how my new rear tire was. Point taken, I won’t be late again J
Sunday evening was what we were waiting for. First was the riders banquet, followed by the distribution of the rally packs with the bonus listing. Prior to the dinner all the riders were studying the rally poster for clues to the theme. It was apparent to many that the theme had something to do with National Parks and many went out and bought a National Parks pass. I was not convinced …
After dinner was finished the rally packs were distributed. Sure enough, the theme was National Parks. The rally staff had reviewed all of the National Parks and identified 350 or so which could be visited by motorcycle. The object was simple. In order to be a finisher one had to complete a National Parks Tour by visiting 50 parks in 25 states. However, instead of having one year we had 11 days! The room was silent as this sank in. In addition, all but two of the parks were daylight only and some had even more restricted hours. All preconceptions of riding in a rally went out the window. Night riding would now be limited to riding to the next group of bonus locations to set up the next day. No points could be collected at night with the exception of Denali in Alaska (more or less out of reach) and Yellowstone. With that, we were dismissed. Rookies could hang out and seek advice from the rally staff, however I wanted to see all the bonus locations on a map so I headed back to my room to load the bonus locations into my mapping software and see what I could come up with for a route.
I spent a few hours planning on a route and I settled on one that had me going west to Arizona, and then north through Salt Lake City into Wyoming and then Montana, then heading east to North Dakota before heading south through South Dakota, Nebraska, and Colorado and then back to Albuquerque. With that I went to bed around midnight. I had to be up and at my bike by 8am to get it into final position, have my odometer read by 9am, and then at 10am we were off.
Leg 1 – Albuquerque to Albuquerque
I awoke around 6am, got breakfast, packed, and loaded the bike. Hung out with other riders, had my odometer read around 9am, hung out some more, and then we had a rider meeting at 9:30 where we were briefed by the police since we had a police escort from the hotel to I-40 West. And then it was time. My plan for the day was to visit Petroglyphs National Park just a few miles down the road, El Malpais National Monument in Grants NM, Petrified Forrest National Park in Chambers AZ were they were taking a group photo, Hubbel Trading Post National Historic Site in Ganado AZ , the Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Chinle AZ, and Canyonlands National Monument in Moab UT.
At 10am, the bikes started leaving.
Fortunately I was towards the front so I did not have to wait long, but it took a good 5 minutes for all 80+ bikes to leave the parking lot. The wait must have been endless for the last riders. My first stop and the first stop for about 1/3 of the riders was Petroglyphs National Park. I pulled in, got my photo of the visitor’s center, and headed out and continued on my trek west on I-40.
My next stop was the El Malpais National Monument. I got there with no issue and realized I was ahead of schedule so I decided to add the El Morro National Monument. This was a few miles off of I-40 and the roads to and from this park were fantastic. I turned out they were just a taste of what I had in store for the next 11 days. I stopped at El Morro in Ramah NM and continued on. I started getting hungry so I stopped at a small gas station/laundromat/general store and got a hamburger that had been cooked within the past few days. I had 2 or 3 bites out of it as I walked outside and walked off the curb. I fell flat on my face and the burger went flying. At least I didn’t break anything! I continued on to the group photo at the Petrified Forrest National. Being that Arizona does not recognize daylight savings time I was an hour or so early for check in. Had I realized this I may have skipped it, but too late. I spent an hour sitting in the gift shop snack bar talking with some of the other riders until it was time to head out to the photo location. As we were getting ready to take the photo the skies to the north turned dark with an approaching storm.
Our photo was taken and we were off before the storm hit. My route to the north caught just the edge of the storm. My next stop was Hubbel Trading Post National Historic Site. This was the oldest operating trading post on the Navajo reservation and it looked like I was stepping back in time.
I went inside, bought a few bottles of water, took my photo, and headed on my way. Next was the Canyon de Chelly National Monument where we had to take a photo of a scenic vista.
It was pretty cool and even though it started raining briefly I enjoyed my brief visit. I had one more stop for the day, Canyonlands National Monument. As I was getting close I realized it was unlikely I would get there before dark, so I dropped it and headed to Arches National Park which was right on my route and also in Moab. Got there just in time and took my photo of the visitor center. Looking around I saw that there were hills all around me.
From there it was an uneventful ride up to Salt Lake City where I was spending the night. Got in around midnight, checked in, at a sandwich I had picked up at a gas station, took a shower, and went to sleep. Day 1 done. Total miles were about 800.
I awoke around 5am and as I was getting up I had a revelation. I had a friend, Dec, who had moved from New Jersey to Wyoming a few years ago and he had recently retired and started a motorcycle repair business. I mistakenly thought he was close to Jackson WY which was right on my route. He’d be the perfect person to fix my rear brakes. I sent him a Facebook message and texted my buddy Brad to give Dec a call and tell him I needed his services. My plan for the day included Grand Teton National Park and the John D Rockefeller Jr Memorial Parkway in Moran WY, Yellowstone National Park, and Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Crow Agency MT.
I was slow to get moving and by the time I was out of the hotel I thought it was too late to stop at Timpanogos Cave National Monument in American Fork UT that was 15 miles behind me. I headed north towards Wyoming and was treated to some fantastic roads and views. Along the way I heard from Dec and he was waiting for me. He was not in Jackson WY like I thought but was in Dubois WY which was 50 miles off my route. It didn’t matter, I needed to get my rear brakes fixed since they were now gone and I was riding in the mountains of Wyoming.
I got stuck in traffic in Jackson WY where I lost an hour or so but finally made my way to Dubois, pulled into Dec’s garage, and we got started on the brakes. This should be a 15 minute job including removing and installing a saddlebag. The pads were in within 5 minutes and the brakes were still low. We tried to bleed them and nothing. Uh oh! We tried for a while longer and then concluded the issue was with the master cylinder. He happened to have a spare so we put that in. Nothing. We tried with a different caliper to see if that was the issue and still nothing. Then Dec did something above and beyond what I expected. He pulled the master cylinder off his bike and installed it. 15 minutes later the bike was done and I was geared up and on my way. However the entire ordeal including the lost time in Jackson cost me over 5 hours. I had planned on making Little Bighorn as my final bonus for the day, but that was no longer an option. Due to the size of the bonus, 3000 points, I did not see that as an option.. I elected to modify my plan and pick up that bonus first thing in the morning. With that decided, I continued on to my next two bonus locations, Grand Teton National Park and the John D Rockefeller Jr Memorial Parkway. From there I headed into Yellowstone for a photo of Old Faithful. I could tell I had just missed the eruption due to the sudden increase in traffic and the rider or two that passed me going in the opposite direction. I got to the geyser, waited 90 or so minutes, got my photo, and headed back to my bike.
I found the windshield pockets empty and stuff missing from my tank bag. Some of the stuff from the windshield pockets was in my tank bag which was odd. I concluded that kids must have been playing around. Then some other tourists came out and told me that crows had opened my tank bag and windshield pockets looking for food. Missing was several pieces of beef jerky and my chap stick. Stupid birds! From there I headed up north through Yellowstone and into Montana.
I stopped in Billings MT where I spent the night. I have a cousin that lives near there but alas, no time to say hello. I got in around midnight, got a receipt for a rest bonus, checked in, ate a sandwich I had picked up, showered and went to sleep. Day 2 done. Total miles were a mere 600 for the day due to the time lost. In hindsight I should have skipped it and stayed on plan and skipped Little Bighorn.
I awoke around 6am. I got to sleep in because the Little Bighorn did not open until 8am. My plan for the day was to visit Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Crow Agency MT, Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora ND, Devils Tower National Monument in Devils Tower WY, Jewel Cave National Monument in Custer SD, Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in Harrison NE, and Scotts Bluff National Monument in Gering NE.
I headed out and got to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument around 7:30am. There were about a dozen other riders along with a bunch of other tourists waiting in line for the park to open. We chatted for a while and when the park opened we all got our photos and headed out. I picked these up my next stops, Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Devils Tower National Monument without issue and continued to my next stops which were Jewel Cave National Monument, Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, and Scotts Bluff National Monument.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Along the way I rode on roads that I had traveled 5 years ago with my friend Brad when we were on our way home from Sturgis. I laughed and took a few moments to take pictures of some locations that we had previously stopped at.
One room schoolhouse south of Sundance WY
Near New Castle WY
I got to Jewel Cave National Monument and was greeted by a closed gate. I checked and the hours for this park and the next two were more restrictive than the “daylight hours” most of the parks I had stopped at so far. At the time I did not realize it, but I had made a critical mistake in not dropping Little Bighorn because I was digging myself a hole that would be tough to get out of but I did not realize it yet. I continued on and spent the night in Fort Collins CO. Day 3 done. Total miles for the day were approximately 1100.
Day 4 started like the rest. My plan for the day was to visit Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park CO, Fort Union National Monument in Watrous NM, and Pecos National Historical Park in Pecos NM. I was out the door around 5:30 am and headed to my first stop, Rocky Mountain National Park. Wow, the scenery was breathtaking and the roads were fantastic. I got there, took my photo, and continued on to Fort Union National Monument. This park involved a 15 minute walk to take a photo of some ruins. Not what I had in mind but I had the time so I did it. With the help of a park ranger I got my photo.
From there I headed down the road to Pecos National Historical Park. Took that photo without issue and continued towards the checkpoint. I had considered adding one more park, Bandelier National Monument in Los Alamos NM but that would add about 2 ½ hours to my route. I opted to skip the park and got into the check point around 6 pm, 2 hours before penalty points start to accrue. Of course along the way I had to fight rush hour traffic and deal with high winds and rain. Such is life riding in the IBR. Day 4 done. Total miles for the day were 600.
Scoring went well with no points lost. Total miles for leg 1 – 3,000 Total states were 7 and total parks were 15
After scoring I hung out with some of the other riders and went to bed. We had a riders meeting at 6am.
Leg 2 – Albuquerque NM to Kingsport TN
No sooner did I lie down than my alarm went off. I got up, went down for breakfast, and at 6am the rider meeting started. We were given a few updates and the results for leg 1 were posted. Then the point values for leg 2 were distributed and we were dismissed. I went up to my room and checked the point values. All of the values east of the Mississippi had changed (they were all 1 point) and some of the others had changed as well. I entered the point values into my spreadsheet and planned a route that took me to parks in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and then Tennessee. Total states were 10 and total parks were 15. However, I was still planning my route based on point values and not trying to maximize the number of parks or states. By the time I was ready to leave it was approximately 10 am.
My plan for the day was to visit Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument in Lake Meredith NRA TX and then Washita Battlefield National Historic Site in Cheyenne OK. When I went outside I saw most of the riders had left. I packed up and was on my way east. After an hour or two on the road I got tired and needed a short break so I pulled into a rest stop and laid down for 5 minutes. As I was stopped one of the other riders saw me and called my cellphone asking if I was ok. It had disconnected from my blue tooth headset so I did not hear the call and by the time I did get it he had turned around and come into the rest stop to check on me. We were both headed in the same direction so we started riding together. We got to Alibates Flint Quarries and Washita Battlefield without incident. Again the sights were great however the roads tended to be rather straight which was fine with me.
Just north of Reydon OK
We made our way to I-40 and the other rider needed fuel so we parted ways. I continued east on i-40 towards Fort Smith AR and as I neared my hotel I noticed I had just missed a severe storm and I had no complaints. I checked in and went through the normal routine of showering and eating whatever I had picked up for food along the way. I spent 2 hours or so going over my route and finally went to bed around 2:30am. Day 5 done. Total miles traveled were 795.
On day 6 I awoke later than planned and headed out on my way. My plan for the day included Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs AR, Arkansas Post National Memorial in Gillett AR, Poverty Point National Monument in Pioneer LA, Tupelo National Battlefield in Tupelo MS, Nathez Trace Parkway in Tupelo MS, and Brices Crossroads National Battlefield Site in Baldwyn MS
As I was going through my pre-ride check I noticed the rear mounting tab for my seat was loose. I checked and it had come separated from the seat. It was only held on by two rivets and they had broken. Nothing I could do for it at the time and it was not serious enough for me to stop to pick up the pop rivet gun I needed to fix it. Fort Smith National Historic Site was 10 miles behind me but had a low point value that I decided to skip since I did not want to back track. I headed towards my first stops which were Hot Springs National Park and Arkansas Post National Memorial. Hot Springs turned out to be a big tourist location attracting lots of people as it was the 4th of July. I found a place to pull over for my picture of the visitor center and then continued on to Arkansas Post without issue.
Again I was tired due to staying up late working on my route so I took a 5 or so minute break every hour or so for the first few hours. After Arkansas Post I had planned on heading to Poverty Point National Monument in Pioneer LA. This involved a dogleg down into Louisiana and by skipping the park I could save 100 miles off my route. Since I had 3 parks in Mississippi that I would likely be too late for if I went into Louisiana I opted to skip it. I continued on to and made it to Tupelo National Battlefield, Natchez Trace Parkway, and Brice’s Crossroads National Battlefield without issue and bumped into a few riders at Brice’s Crossroads. We hung out for a bit but I decided to move on since it looked like rain was coming. I had a 220 mile to my hotel in Pittsburg TN. Along the way I had some rain off and on but it wasn’t too bad. I was treated to a pretty cool sunset though.
I checked in to the hotel, did some route planning, and went to sleep around 3am. Day 6 was done and the total miles traveled were 780. However I was confident I was going to do well as I was staying in a Holiday Inn Express!
On day 7 I awoke and headed out around 6am. My plan for the day was to stop at the Russell Cave National Monument in Bridgeport AL, Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park in Fort Oglethorpe GA, Kennesaw Mountain National Monument in Kennesaw GA, Kings Mountain National Military Park in Blacksburg SC, Cowpens National Battlefield in Gaffney SC, Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, Andrew Johnson National Historic Site in Greeneville TN, and then into the 2nd checkpoint in Kingsport TN. Russell Cave was 15 minutes away. I got there and took my photo and it started to rain.
I continued on to Chickamauga and then Kennesaw Mountain as planned without incident. At Kennesaw the park was mobbed but I found a place to park and walked over to take my photo of the visitor center. As I did so I noted another rider who was taking pictures and on my way back to my bike I realized he was taking pictures of me. I had found someone who was just hanging out at the park hoping to come across a rider from the rally. I said hello and headed out on my way. I realized that if I stopped at Kings Mountain I was likely to miss the group photo at the Andrew Johnson historic site so I decided to skip it. I got to Cowpens without incident and then went to the Carl Sandburg Home. When I got there I came across some event so there was a fair amount of traffic. My GPS took me passed the parking lot to a gate marked for authorized use only. As it was locked I returned to the parking lot and opened the rally book. I was to take a photo of the house which was a fair distance away so I opted to skip it so I could make the group photo. My route took me through the mountains on a great winding road but the travel was slow as the road was wet from a recent rain.
Near Marshall NC
Along the way I got passed by another rider which was fine. As I neared the site it started to rain and traffic got heavier and slowed. The rain got much heavier and I came across a roadblock due to flooding. I followed the cars around the roadblock and got to the site with a minute to spare. I hoped off the bike and walked/ran to check in, just in time. Went back to the bike, shut off the ignition, grabbed my flag and we waited until 5:30 when it was time for the photo. At 5:20 or so we all lined up for the photo in the rain. After it was taken we all got on our bikes and headed towards the checkpoint which was about 40 minutes away. I got into the checkpoint around 6:15, had my odometer read, parked, and went in to stop my clock. Day 7 done. Total miles were 525.
Scoring went well with no only 10 points or so lost because I had made a correction on my scoresheet. Total miles for leg 2 – 2,100. I had visited 8 states and 13 parks this leg.
Total miles for the rally – 5,100. Total states were 15 and total parks were 28.
After scoring I went out to see what I could do about my seat. I had called a friend of mine who was coming down to the checkpoint and asked if he could grab a pop rivet gun and some rivets for me. He had done so and I got them and went to work. It took about an hour or so to get the seat off and fix it. I went back to my room and roughed out a route for leg 3 and had something by 11:30PM. My planned route took me to parks in North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Colorado. As I already had a park in Colorado I had 10 new states for a total of 25, just enough to finish. As we had a riders meeting at 6am the next day I went to bed.
Leg 3 –Kingsport TN to Albuquerque NM
Again, no sooner did I lie down than my alarm went off. I repeated the routine of a few days ago of getting up, going down for breakfast, and attending the 6am rider meeting. As before, we were given a few updates and the results for leg 2 were posted. The point values for leg 3 were distributed and we were dismissed. I went up to my room and checked the point values. Some had changed but most were the same. I went over my roughed out route and finalized it with some minor changes.
I left the hotel around 9am which was 90 minutes later than planned. My day had me going to Blue Ridge Parkway in Lowgap NC, Booker T Washington National Monument in Moneta VA, Bluestone National Scenic River in Nimitz WV, New River Gorge National River in Fayetteville WV, Gauley River National Recreation Area in Gauley Bridge WV, Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Chilicothe OH, and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Wilberforce OH. My plan was to continue to Elizabethtown KY. However things did not go as planned …
I made it to the Blue Ridge Parkway but it took a few minutes to find the visitor center that I was supposed to take a picture of.
Got that and moved on towards the Booker T Washington National Monument. Along the way it started raining for a bit, then quit. As I got about 10 miles away it started to rain again. I was in a foul mood due to the rain and for leaving the hotel late. I started thinking that I could save about 30 minutes or more if I skipped this stop. When I looked over my shoulder and saw sunshine in the opposite direction, I made up my mind and decided to skip this stop. I continued on towards my next stop and when I saw a sign indicating that West Virginia was 42 miles away I looked at the distance to my next stop which was also 42 miles away. I then had a sickening thought that I had skipped my one and only stop in Virginia. I had also lost track of how many states I needed and was unsure if I now had enough to finish the rally. I couldn’t take it anymore and I pulled over at a gas station to check. I looked and sure enough, I did not have any more stops in VA. What’s more, I had Illinois on my list but the park I thought was in Illinois was actually in Indiana. The good news, I did not have North Carolina on my list but the stop at the Blue Ridge Parkway was in North Carolina. However, I was indeed short a state. I was devastated and knew I had to re-plan my route to ensure I was a finisher, however now was not the time to do that. I continued on my way and made all of my stops without issue until I got to my last stop, the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument. As I was getting near I noted it was getting dark. I was growing concerned that I would be too late to qualify as daylight. I pulled into the driveway of where I thought the bonus was and it turned out to be a private home. I did not have time to waste so I turned around and found the parks across the street and about 100 yards down the road. I took my photo and looked around and noted that up and down the street was rather dark. The definition of daylight was one could see details at a distance. To me, I could not see details up and down the street. I was concerned this bonus would not count but there was nothing I could do about it. I had to get on the road so I did. My original plan was to spend the night in Elizabethtown KY, however I was behind schedule and wanted to get into a hotel so I could look over my route and see what if anything I needed to change. I opted to stop in Mason OH, about 175 miles short of where I planned. I got into my room at 10:30PM. I went through my routine and sat down to go over my route. At 2:00am I had a route that now included, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Colorado. Day 8 done. Total miles for the day were 720.
Day 9 started when I awoke at 5:00am. The plan for the day was to stop at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park in Hodgenville KY, Mammoth Cave National Park in Mammoth Cave KY, Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Lincoln City IN, George Rogers Clark National Historical Park in Vincennes IN, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (aka The Arch) in St. Louis MO, Ulysses S Grant National Historic Site in St. Louis MO, and the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch IA.
I was out of the hotel at 5:30am and made my stop at the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace and Mammoth Cave without issue. As I got to Mammoth Cave it started to rain. My route to the next stop turned out to be mountain roads which would have been a great ride if it were not raining, and if I were not on a tight schedule. Along the way I had to take a short ferry ride across a small river.
It was slow going and I lost about an hour I did not have. My stops at the Lincoln Boyhood Home and George Rogers Clark Parks went without issue and I continued on to my next stop in St. Louis. Growing up driving out to Oklahoma to visit family I learned navigating St. Louis can a nightmare as there are several Interstate Highways that intersect there and one wrong turn could result in a significant loss of time. I successfully navigated the roads and got off at the correct exit. Then I noted that the entire park surrounding the Arch is torn up and the location where the GPS was sending me was not accessible. I spent an hour trying to find a place to park where I could get a good photo and after an hour and a trip back and forth across the Mississippi river I found a spot and took my photo.
The Ulysses S Grant National Historic Site came and went without an issue and then I had a long run to my last stop for the day, the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch IA. I was traveling a state highway which I enjoyed and making good time, however the delays of the day were too much and I realized I could not make my last stop during daylight hours so I dropped it and continued on to my hotel in Prairie Du Chien WI. I got in around midnight and went to sleep. Day 9 done. Total miles for the day were 1020.
Day 10 started when I awoke at 5:30am and I headed out around 6:00am. The plan for the day was to stop at Effigy Mounds National Monument in Harpers Ferry IA, Pipestone National Monument in Pipestone MN, Missouri National Recreational River in Crofton NE, and the Homestead National Monument in Beatrice NE. Again the roads were great and I made it to Effigy Mounds without issue. .
The scenery was good and there was a light fog in the low lying areas.
My next stop was Pipestone where I saw what I thought were the bikes of two other riders but they were nowhere to be seen. I then bumped into one of the riders and it became obvious she was not in the rally. She offered to hold my flag for me and offered me water. I politely declined thinking she was another person simply hanging out at parks looking for IBR riders. I then saw the other rider and he commented they were killing time until the 3rd checkpoint opened. As I pulled out I heard them talking and heard them say my name and comment they never expected to see any of the riders at that location. When reading the rally report for the day I saw that they were IBR staffers and I actually knew one of the riders. Oops!! Sorry Paul and Maura, I guess I was more tired than I thought I was! From there it was an uneventful ride to the Missouri National Recreational River, Homestead National Monument and then to my hotel near Kansas City MO. Day 10 done. Total miles for the day were 1005.
Day 11 started when I awoke at 5:30am. My stops for the day were the Harry S Truman National Historic Site in Independence MO, Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka KS, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Strong City KS, Fort Larned National Historic Site in Larned KS, Nicodemus National Historic Site in Nicodemus KS, Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site in Eads CO, and the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Mosca CO.
My day went more or less according to plan. It seemed like for the first time all rally I was finally in rally mode and things were starting to click. A little late! The Harry S Truman National Historic Site, Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic, and Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve came and went without issue. I got to Fort Larned and my GPS did not quite match the roads for the park. I bumped into another rider and he commented that the visitor center we needed to take a photo of was on the other side of a grove of trees. We crossed a foot bridge and walked over to where the visitor center was supposed to be. No sign! We finally saw a small A-frame sign that said visitor center but it was on the wrong side of the building from the photo in the rally book. I took a picture of it, then went to the other side of the building and took a photo from the approximate location in the rally book. That was the best I could do.
From there it was off to Nicodemus which went without issue. I was tired so I took a short break there, and then continued on to the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site. Again I was on state highways and the scenery was breathtaking.
I caught the edge of a storm cell and had heavy rain for about 20 minutes. Along the way I saw quite a few abandoned buildings and other places I normally would have stopped at, however I kept going. I got to the road to the park and started down. It turned to dirt and it was washboard like with a layer of loose dirt. I went about 100 feet and stopped. I was not comfortable on this road and was convinced that I’d likely go down if I continued. I also noted that I was doing about 15 mph and at that speed it would take an hour to make the round trip to the park which would cause me to miss my last stop. I decided to skip the park, however I had lost my one park cushion. I now had a total of 50 parks and one of those was questionable. I had to pick up another park somewhere or risk not finishing. There was one down the road on my route that I was planning on skipping since it had more restrictive hours and I could not reach in time. I decided to give it a try so I headed towards Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site in La Junta CO. I arrived at 5:45pm, 15 minutes after they closed. It was on to Great Sand Dunes National Park and I made it with about 30 minutes to spare. Again, the sites at this park were magnificent.
Due to my concern that one of my parks would not count I had to add another stop. The only practical one was Bandelier National Monument in Los Alamos NM. I set my sights on Los Alamos but had no cell signal so I could not book a room. At the next town I got gas and booked a room in Los Alamos. My route there was a US Route and would have been a fantastic ride in the daytime. Along the way I saw lots of jack rabbits hopping about on the side of the road and even a coyote who was probably looking for a meal. I got into my hotel around 11:30pm and went to sleep. Day 11 done. Total miles for the day were 1040.
Final few hours
I awoke at 5:00am and was out the door at 5:30. I had to travel through the town of Los Alamos and came to what looked like a toll booth to me. I asked how much and I got a strange look. I asked again and he said he needed to see my ID and not to try and give my money away. Again, I was more tired than I thought. I continued through town and on the far side saw lots of lab facilities. I passed an old guard shack that was probably left over from the 50’s and continued on. The visitor center for Bandolier National Park was down inside the canyon and again it was a great ride. I got there, took my photo, and was done.
Now all I had to do was get to the checkpoint before 10am to finish, 8am if I wanted to get in before penalty points accrue. I had an uneventful ride down the mountain and towards Albuquerque. As I neared the city traffic started building as it was morning rush hour. A rider who I knew passed me so I ducked in behind him. We pulled into the parking lot with 5 minutes to spare. We ran inside and checked in to stop the clock. I walked outside and got back on my bike for the final odometer check. My wife was there and she asked if she could touch me. She was greeted by a chorus of NO from the rally staff as they said I needed to move my bike to make room for other riders coming in. I moved my bike and shut it down for the last time. I was officially done riding in the 2015 Iron Butt Rally! Now all I had to do was to get scored.
Final hours were complete. Total miles were 115
I went to my room, took a quick shower, changed, and finished my paperwork. I copied my photos to my laptop, and went downstairs. A few friends of mine were there and welcomed me with a much needed beer! Two actually! I ate breakfast as I was waiting to be called for scoring. Then it was time. I went in to be scored and found that I was being scored by a friend of mine. We went through my photos and when we got to the one I was concerned about she said it was fine and she could see plenty of detail. The only issue we had was I had corrected the time on the start receipt for my rest bonus because it was 30 or so minutes slow. I was told we could not correct the time on a rest bonus receipt so I thanked them for the extra points. Of course I lost 20 points because the time on the receipt did not match the time on my score sheet, but I was still ahead about 100 points. And that was it. If I had counted correctly I had 51 national parks in 25 different states and I was a finisher of the 2015 Iron Butt Rally. However, I was still nervous that I had made a mistake and would not be a finisher.
Total miles for leg 3 – 3900. I had visited 10 states and 23 parks this leg.
At the finishers banquet we ate dinner and then it was time for the results. Before they started, they honored one of the riders who was a DNF during the 2013 IBR and had his bike break down and was a DNF for the 2015 IBR. The entire room gave him a standing ovation. Hopefully he will be back for 2017 and will finally finish. Then they read the results. 75 riders had finished and I had no idea if I was one of them. Then it came, my name was called. I was the 62nd rider to finish the 2015 IBR. I was relieved that the previous 11 days had not been for nothing. However at the same time I was bothered by the fact that I should have done so much better but due to the mistakes I made I was riding to simply finish rather than for a higher position. I looked at my wife and she asked if I was going to apply for the 2017 rally. I said it was up to her and she said yes. And there it was confirmed that I will be applying for the 2017 IBR so I could apply the lessons learned and try to finish higher than 62nd.
And with that, the 2015 IBR was complete. I had ridden 8744 miles and stopped at 51 parks in 25 states. Hardly a stellar performance, however I had finished! Here is the route I rode
In summary, I made quite a few mistakes that cost me and cumulatively resulted in my switching to survival mode and simply going for parks and states just to finish. My first leg was planned primarily based on points when it should have been based on parks and states. With a few tweaks I could have added another state or two or added a couple of parks. If things had gone as planned it would not have been bad, but things seldom go as planned during a rally. Also during leg one I refused to drop Little Bighorn because of the number of points. Had I dropped it I likely would have made the 3 parks I had missed later that leg which would have given me a net of two more parks and two more states. In leg two my main mistake was one that plagued me throughout the rally. That was not getting out of the hotel soon enough. I should have been out of my hotel when leaving the checkpoint several hours sooner and should have left Fort Smith several hours sooner so I could have made it to Louisiana. And then there is leg three. How on earth could I not know how many parks/states I had so far and needed, and how could I have dropped the one and only park in Virginia. Then there is my route for leg three. I had a huge number of parks within a day’s ride. I should have planned a route that took me up I-81 into PA and then turned west picking up parks in VA, WV, MD, and PA, and then continuing west picking up many of the same parks I had on leg three. And lastly there is the fact that I never fully made the switch to rally mode. I should have been out of my hotel and waiting at the first stop of the day when the sun came up. But, as one of the staffers stated, Shoulda – Coulda – Woulda. From day one of my deciding to enter the IBR, I had never planned on this being a one and done deal. Fortunately I have a wife that allows me to do these things.