Getting to the IBR

I left for the rally on Weds June 21.  I decided to ride straight through for the 1330 because my friend who I was sharing a room with was also getting in on Thursday.  I also wanted to make it a certified ride (1,000 + miles in 24 hours) and of course use it as a test to see what riding shape I was in since I had barely ridden in the past few months.  That trip was fairly uneventful and I made good time until I stopped for a few Tour of Honor memorials.  I spent 30 minutes speaking with another Long Distance rider at the US Airforce Museum and lost some time sightseeing along the way so I ditched the rest of the memorials.  I did stop for a cool sunset photo in LaSalle IL.  Of course the photos do not do it justice

The funny part is a friend passed me as I was sitting on the side of the road and thought I was having issues.  As he looked for a place to turn around he called another friend who saw me post the photos on FaceBook and told him I was OK.  Long Distance riders seldom ride together.  Five of us can be at the same place and decide to go somewhere and will all leave separately and probably take separate routes to get there.  Anyway, the reason the sunset looked so cool was due to a large storm system to my west.  I was watching it on radar and I did catch the corner of it on my way into Minneapolis.  I got into Minneapolis and even at 3:30 am traffic was terrible due to construction and an accident.  I eventually found the hotel and got in around 4:00 am. I had covered 1330 miles in 23 hours.  Not my best ride but I will take it.

 After a few hours sleep I felt human again and ventured down for breakfast.  Thursday we had breakfast in the hotel restaurant and it was great.  We then simply hung out all day talking with other riders, staff, and those that came to see the start. I had grand plans to visit my company’s office in the area but they evaporated due to rain and me being lazy

 Later in the day the rain stopped and we ventured out to check out the bikes.  Most were standard LD bikes, BMWs, Honda Goldwings and ST1300/1100’s, Yamaha FJRs, a handful of Yamaha Super Teneres, and a few others.  There were a total of 5 Harleys with my Sporty being the only one (of course).  There was one bike I was looking for a Suzuki GT750.  This bike was special to me as it is the bigger brother to my first bike, a Suzuki GT550.

As I continued to wander about I heard a familiar sound that I had not heard for over a year and was unmistakable, the sound of a 2 Stroke. Yes, the 1974 Suzuki GT750 had arrived. 

 

 I knew one had entered but did not really expect it to make it in being ridden.  I expected it to arrive on a trailer.  And it was sweet looking with no visible rust on the wheels or exhaust.  It was a shame it was going to be abused by being ridden for 11 days and would likely die a horrible death.  If you check out the photos, you will see an aux fuel tank AND if you check out the photo of the right side you will see the second fill tube for the aux 2 stroke oil tank.  He could carry enough oil for about 3,000 miles.  I spoke with the rider and he said the bike had been all over and he had ridden to Alaska on the bike.  I guess it had a chance after all. 

 Friday it got a little busier.  I started having second thoughts about my aux tank passing inspection so I asked if it could be looked at Friday.  Sure enough, they were not happy with my vent line and I had to move it to the lowest part of the bike which was behind the license plate .  I made a quick trip out to the store to get a case of water (one bottle was $4 at the hotel), some wicking shirts from a Sporting Goods store, and some 1/4 fuel line from an auto parts store.  15 minutes later the vent line was fixed and I was good to go.  The rest of the day was more laziness of hanging with friends, checking out bikes, and of course doing what all bikers do – tell stories.

 Saturday was busy with registration, inspections, riding a 25 mile odometer check course, waivers, etc.  It took approximately 3 hours to complete.  After that we hung out and laughed at those who did the odometer check 2 times because they missed a turn and laughed even harder at one poor sole who did it 3 times.  Each of us were secretly glad it wasn’t us. Saturday night we had a dinner where we basically hung out with everyone, met the new riders, and got reacquainted with some of the experienced riders.  There are riders from all over the world and this is normally the only time many come to the US.

 Sunday was a down day and I was plain lazy.  No energy to go anywhere and the only reason I was up early was due to my sharing a room with someone.  At 2pm we had a rider’s meeting.  At this meeting we were given the bonus locations via email and covered some basic topics.  Once we received the locations the meeting was over and each of us scoured them for a clue as to what the rally would be like.  What we saw did not surprise us as there were bonus locations from Key West to Newfoundland to Dan Diego to Anchorage AK.  Sunday night was the rider’s banquet and after dinner the rally books were handed out.  The flag for one rider who had passed last year was ceremoniously given to his wife and he was flag #1.  From there it was the two teams (one two and the other three), a family of 3 who was riding a Road King with a side car, and then the two up teams.  Next came the veterans in order of their highest finish, followed by the rookies.  Rules were discussed, and the twist for this rally was discussed.  During leg 1 we could form “strings” of 3 different bonus locations and if we did so then the point value of the 3rd location was doubled.  Also this rally was different than 2015 in that to finish one needed to accrue a minimum level of points.  The points to shoot for on this leg were 10,000 points.  And with that, the meeting was over, the point values were given to us (hard copy and email) and off we went to our rooms to plan.  It took me a few hours but I came up with a route that I was happy with that was around 15,000 points.  And with that I went to bed as we had to have our bikes in position by 7am.

Start of the IBR

Monday morning came fast.  We had been briefed on the start process the day before and we were cautioned not to mess it up as always happens.  Bikes had to be in position by 7:00, odometer check at 8:00, riders meeting at 9:45, and we were off at 10:00.  Failure to follow the simple instructions would result in that rider starting dead last and being featured in the daily status report. The only thing worse would be dropping your bike at the start which would be recorded on video and posted on Youtube for generations to come. And of course one rider did drop his bike with one minute to go before the start.  I haven’t found a picture or video of that event yet, but I know it’s out there.

 I was up and out of my room around 6:45.  We had to have our bikes in position by 7:00 and while we had positioned them the night before we wanted to be sure they were in the correct place. The bikes were fine and the next 45 minutes was spent loading the bike and talking with friends.

 

 

 Around 7:35 I needed to get some food in me so I ducked inside to get some breakfast.  A friend of mine who was not riding was there and I sat at his table.  I did a time check and it was 7:45.  At 7:55 I checked the time and headed for the bike but made a short pit stop at the restroom. I saw a message on my phone that we were the first bikes for the odometer check so I ran to my bike but too late, they had moved on to my friend’s bike.  I got “that look” from the staffer who is responsible for getting the bikes out on time and knew I had screwed up.  I was destined to be mentioned in that day’s daily report. I was told to be near my bike and that my odometer would be checked after the rider’s meeting.  Around 9:30 I went back to my room to get my helmet and riding jacket and found they were coming back to my bike for the check.  That was taken care of and I was set to go.  At about the same time, another rider was sent to the “penalty box” for not following simple directions.  He had parked in the wrong are and when told to move his bike he moved it to the front of the line.  This was frowned upon by the staff so he was told to move his bike next to mine and he was informed that he was to leave after me.

 At 9:45 we had a riders meeting and we were informed the police had the intersections blocked to allow us to get out onto the highway.

 

 At last the start was here!  We all got on our bikes and received the signal to start our engines. 

 View from my bike as I am ready to go

 

 And then it was time, a finger was” pointed at the first bike, the sidecar rig, and they were off. However so they would not slow down the other riders they simply did a lap of the parking lot and then pulled to the side to let the other bikes go.  One by one, in rapid succession, riders were pointed at and given the go signal. With 106 bikes in the lot it took 5 minutes for them to move out. After all of the other bikes left, the side car rig left, leaving me and one other rider who goofed worse than I did.  Then, nonchalantly, I was given the signal to go and I was off at 10:05. 

 

 It turned out that the only impact my transgression had on my start was I had to wait for the sidecar rig to leave so no big deal. About a mile down the road we were on the highway and I was able to get around the sidecar rig. 

 Leg 1 Day 1

For Leg 1 and all subsequent legs we scored points for taking a rest (up to 8 hours in one place, no other points can be earned in this time), calling in (calling in within a prescribed time window and leaving a message with our current location, last bonus, and next bonus planned), tracking (satellite based tracking system allowing the rally staff to identify where we are and where we have been), completing the finishing process of checking in to stop the clock and being ready to score in one hour, and from meeting the requirements for a bonus, typically taking a photo and/or obtaining a receipt to show we were at the location. Each leg would have a group photo bonus which was usually given a rather large point value.  In addition, if we put together a string of three like bonus locations (Air, Land, Mythical, Prehistoric, Water) the points for the 3rd bonus in that string would be doubled.  This was something that was seen as a “nice to have” by many of the riders but not necessarily the core of planning a route. However, THEY WERE GIVING AWAY FREE POINTS.  This was key and those that did not take advantage of it placed themselves at a disadvantage kind of like not doing the extra credit work in school.

My leg one ride plan was to head northwest to several bonus locations including a group photo bonus and then I was turning southeast heading for a large bonus in West Virginia. Because I was unable to put together a string for the photo bonus I picked up what I could on the way and was 15 minutes early.  I ducked into a general store/gas station across the street to use the rest room and grabbed a post card for a friend of mine who collects them. Once the group photo was taken I turned generally southeast and picked up a bunch of bonus locations without putting together any strings.  I had extra time so I decided to try and add another stop in, however I realized I somehow had missed adding a large number of bonus locations into my GPS so I was stuck with what I had. I continued on and my last stop for the day was in Wisconsin and as I was leaving my friend Kevin who I had been sharing a room with before the rally showed up.  We were headed in the same general direction (south) so we decided to split a room.  Our next bonus was two hours to the south so we picked the midpoint in Duluth IA as a good place to stop and headed there.

 Group Photo bonus

Other bonus photos I took on day one

Leg 1 Day 2

Day two came and we went our separate ways.  I was headed southeast into Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, and then called it a night in Morehead KY which was right off I-64.  I saw some cool stuff along the way.  In Louisville KY I had to take a photo of a troll at the Troll Pub which was under a bridge.  Also, at the Northern Kentucky University I had to take a photo of a Stegowagenvolkssaurus, which is a mythical creature that is a cross between a dinosaur and a VW beetle.  At some point I had opened my tourpak and when I did the retractable cord that kept the lid from opening too far and falling broke.  Somehow the lid did not rip off but it did bend the hinges so I no longer had a good seal and if it rained everything would be wet.  I searched for a Harley Dealer on my route and found one so I made a quick stop and decided to make my call in bonus there.  Unfortunately I have no idea where that was.

My last bonus was the largest one of the leg in Point Pleasant WV, which was Mothman. Once I found Mothman and took my photo, and then headed southwest towards Texas.  Traffic was a nightmare as they were doing construction so I lost about 45 minutes.  I stopped for the night in Morehead KY. 

Leg 1 Day 3

As usual morning came quickly and I was on the road around 3:30 am heading towards TX.  I stopped at the University of Kentucky to take a photo of their wildcat statue, and continued west on I-65 approaching Nashville traffic was simply terrible.  As I was sitting in traffic the bolt securing my left auxiliary light failed and the light fell off and was dangling by the wire.  Fortunately I was going slowly so there was no damage to the bike or the light.  I pulled over and secured it as best I could with a handful of zip ties and eased back into traffic.  My GPS had me get off onto US-31W and it was almost as bad but was at least moving.  After losing 45 minutes or so I got into Nashville and took the photo of some dancing polar bears from a long bulldozed ice cream parlor and then fought my way out to I-65.  I continued west on I-40 picking up the rest of my bonus locations which included a praying mantis at a library and a flying catfish above the sign for a restaurant in Memphis.  I had a bonus or two on the way that I dropped so I could get in earlier.

I got in around 6:45 or so and checked in.  I found my buddy Kevin who I was splitting a room with and got my key so I could shower and go over my documentation before I went to scoring. A friend from the Sportster Forum I frequent was kind enough to drop off my spare wheel/tire and his lift so I could do a wheel swap and get fresh rubber on the rear which was sorely needed. I found a place to store the wheel and lift and then went to scoring.  The process went quickly and I didn’t lose any points.  I then did my wheel swap and went to sleep around 10 pm. utterly exhausted! Total miles ridden in Leg One were 2,606

Leg 2

Leg 2 begins with the riders meeting at 4am, so the alarm was set to 3:30.  I made it down to the banquet room, grabbed breakfast, and sat at a table with friends from the rally. At 4am, the meeting started.  It was announced that there was a string for this let, but rather than it being 3 of the same type resulting in the doubling of the point values for the third bonus in the string, we had to get four different types and the forth was tripled.  This sank in and a few other points were discussed and the top scoring leaders were announced.  We were handed hard copies of the point values for the leg and were done by 4:20 am.  We also were sent an email with the point values for the leg so we did not have to manually enter them.  The standings were posted and I happy to see that I was 30th out of 104 riders.  While I was happy with that, I also thought I could do better as I realized I made a routing error by going to the group bonus and could have possibly scored more points.

I went back to the room and sat down to plan.  First I renamed all of my bonus locations to include the point value and timing restrictions as I did for the first leg and imported them into both GPS units and my mapping software. As I played with the mapping software I used a route emerged where I was essentially making a full circle around Dallas.  I was heading due south out of town picking up one small bonus in Dallas along the way, then turning west for a bit to pick up another, then working my way south and east, heading through Houston on my way to South Padre Island for a large bonus, and then turning north through Texas and into Oklahoma for the group photo before turning back south to head to the checkpoint in Dallas by 8pm 3 days later. Once I was done with my route, I had to break it into day long legs to import into my GPS and I was ready to leave around 8:30 am or so.

Leg 2, Day 1

My first stop after leaving the hotel was a Home Depot a short distance away to pick up a bolt to reattach my left auxiliary light because the bolt holding it on had failed on the way into the checkpoint. Of course this took way longer than planned, but now my light was firmly attached to my bike rather than being held on upside down with zip ties and facing off to the side.  I then needed gas because I had not topped off the night before so I took care of that.  I got turned around a bit because I made a left instead of a right coming out of the gas station but I eventually was on my way by 9am which was the time I had planned on.  Traffic was somewhat heavy because it was a Thursday morning and the real world had to work, but I got through it.  I made a quick stop in town for a bonus which consisted of three frogs on top of a restaurant. I took the photo shaking my head and got back on the highway.  A few minutes later I had the fun of dodging a car that decided they wanted to occupy the same space I was in, but that is par for the course while riding a motorcycle. I finally got free of the traffic and had smooth sailing, right up to the point where traffic in front of me came to a sudden stop for no reason.  Traffic on either side of me was whizzing by at Interstate speeds and the truck that was 4 card in front of me was stopped.  Finally I saw the reason he had stopped, he wanted to change lanes to take an exit and was waiting for traffic to let up so he could make the exit.  After I swallowed my heart and muttered some choice words I was moving again.

My next photos were of a large dung beetle and a couple of dinosaurs in a dinosaur park.  These came and went without issue, however the heat was becoming unbearable and on top of that I was having trouble staying awake which could have either been from dehydration or from being tired.  I took a few breaks as needed but then the heat just became too unbearable so I stopped at a McDonalds at a rest stop and got something to eat and drink.  Once cooled off I felt better and went back into the oven of southern Texas.  These delays took their toll and now I was heading into Houston TX at 4pm on a road that was under construction.  To say traffic was terrible would be an understatement, however with the format of the rally skipping the next bonus would have a huge point loss.  I fought my way into town, found the huge long horned armadillo, took my photo at 5pm, and then fought my way out of town. My next bonus which was another dinosaur an hour away and it was behind a fence in a park next to a bridge.  However there was construction work going on and contractors were using the park as their staging area and had it fenced off.  Not wanting to trespass I took the best photo I could and then took a photo of the no trespassing sign on the fence, however I saw a few construction workers if I could take my photo inside the fence and they said sure, go ahead.  One asked me what was going on as I was not the first one to take a photo and I gave him the 30 second explanation of the Iron Butt Rally and then suggested he look it up online if he had any further questions. While this sounds like it took a long time, it was probably not much more than 5-7 minutes and was a welcome break.  As I left there it became obvious that I was not going to make my next bonus in time which was a daylight only bonus, so I stopped at a large gas station/general store/restaurant and got something to eat as well as a bottle of Gatorade. I relaxed for 15-20 minutes. I called a friend of mine who was also riding in the rally and we chatted for a few minutes, and then I was back on the road feeling much better.  I stopped for the night in Freer TX which was the location of my next bonus which was daylight only.  I was debating on whether this would be my rest bonus so to be sure I rode down to a gas station and got a receipt just in case. I found some food at the gas station and checked into my hotel around 10:30 pm, showered and re plan my route My revised route looked nothing like the original route and I had to drop the Group photo in Tulsa OK..  I decided that I could make this my rest bonus and take the full 8 hours to maximize my points since the revised route included several 24 hour boni at the end of the day as well as a large night time only bonus in Shreveport LA.  Once I was happy with my revised route I loaded it into both GPS units and went to sleep around 1:15 am.

Photos from Day 1

Morning came and I was up loading the bike around 8am. This was to be a long day of approximately 20 hours riding so the extra sleep was welcome. I actually stopped in for breakfast for the first time during

the rally and then hopped on the bike and made the ½ mile trip to get gas to end my rest bonus.  I then went and took my photo of a giant rattlesnake for my next bonus and made my call in bonus.  From there I headed south for my next bonus in Hidalgo TX for a giant killer bee, east for a short distance to South Padre Island for a giant shark, and then turned north for Rockport TX for a giant crab.  Heading north to Lufkin TX I was run off the road two or three times as the road was one lane in either direction and cars were passing long lines of cars headed south.  The first time was the scariest and I was fortunate that the shoulder of the road was wide and paved as I had to make use of it.  After the third time I turned on my auxiliary lights hoping that there brightness would alert oncoming traffic to my existence and maybe they would not be in my lane.  I had no more issues after that but traffic was also lighter so I am unsure if it worked, but it didn’t hurt. After taking a photo of a giant road runner at Angelina College in Lufkin TX,  I continued north to my next bonus in Paris TX.  I was seeing lightning in the distance and the weather radar on my GPS was showing a storm cell with my next stop right on the edge of the cell.  I was hoping I could make it in time however I ran into the storm cell about 10 miles from my stop.  I had some nasty wind and rain but was able to continue to the stop.  It did let up somewhat but I was in a steady rain when I got to my stop to take a photo of a dragon at the Paris Junior College in Paris TX.  Here I had some trouble getting the photo because the dragon was dark, on a white base, enough lights around to confuse my camera but not enough to light up the dragon, and the dragon was too high for me to easily shine my headlight and auxiliary lights on it.  After a while I was able to park my bike on a slight hill so the lights shined up a little so there was some light on the dragon and used a flash light to light up my flag.  Once done I pointed southeast to Shreveport. I ended up riding in rain for all but the last 20 minutes of the 3 hours it took me to get to Shreveport. I got there at 4am and there was another rider there so I waited for him to take is photo, and then I took mine and was off to my hotel. I got in and they were a bit puzzled that I was checking in around 4:15 in the morning. They had to re-enter my reservation since it was dropped, but I finally got my key and headed for the elevator.  It opened and out walked another rider who was also puzzled why I was checking into a hotel at 4:15 am.  I replied that I had been riding for the past 20 hours and needed the sleep. He said goodbye and I said good luck.  It did not occur to me to warn him about the rain and he ran into it about 5 minutes after leaving the hotel.  I collapsed on my bed for a wonderful 4 hours of sleep.

Photos from Day 2

 Leg 2, Day 3

This was it, the last day of leg 3.  I had a relatively short ride today of 600 miles since I had to be at the checkpoint by 8pm to avoid losing penalty points. The plan was to head west past Allen to Abilene TX for a photo of a Lorax sculpture of Dr. Seuss fame, jog north to take a photo of a giant steer, and then east to Allen TX to close out leg 2. I stopped and got breakfast again since it was a buffet and smelled great, and was on the road by 9am.  I had an uneventful ride to Abilene and when I took my photo I noticed an entire park full of Dr. Seuss statues so I took photos of them all and texted them to my wife to show my grandkids since I had the time.  I rode the 70 or so miles north to my next bonus and took my photo of a giant steer.  Giant is an understatement, as I first saw him about ¼ of a mile away when I crested a small hill and hit the brakes since I thought he was close by and in the road. I stopped for my photo and an suv pulled up behind me.  I thought they were checking on me but it turned out they saw the steer and decided to stop for a photo.  From there it was a straight shot of 170 miles into Allen on US 380 which was enjoyable for all but the last 30 or so miles due to some heavy traffic. 

Photos from Day 3

 I got in around 7pm and stopped the clock, got my room key, and repeated the ritual of showering and reviewing my paperwork before heading down for scoring. Scoring went by quickly and once again I lost no points at the scoring table.  Total miles ridden for Leg Two were 2,330 and total miles for the first two legs was 4,936.

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