Leg 3 began the same way Leg 2 began, with the riders meeting at 4am. Once again the alarm was set to 3:30 and I made my way down to the banquet room for the last time. At 4am, the meeting started. It was announced that there was a string for this leg, but rather than it being 4 different types resulting in the tripling the point values for the forth bonus in the string, we had to get a full house, or 3 of one type and 2 of another. If we did so the fifth was quadrupled! This sank in and a ton of questions were asked, 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 4:30 am or so. 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 had moved up to 22nd out of 93 riders. While I was happy with that, I also knew I would have a hard time staying in that position. This was the biggest leg, 6 days long, and the point values were higher plus the quadrupling of the last bonus in a string of 5.
I went back to the room and sat down to plan. I looked at the points and since I had the high point values in red they were easy to spot. I had a choice, go east into more familiar territory but with more traffic, or go west where I was not as familiar with the territory, things were further apart, but the speed limits were higher and traffic was typically lighter. I flipped on the weather channel on the TV and it showed the eastern half of the country as green and a high chance of rain. Since I did not relish the idea of running several days of the IBR in the rain I chose west.
As I played with the mapping software I used a route emerged where I was essentially headed generally west through New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada, northeast through Utah and Colorado, North through Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, and then east through Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota and into the finish at Minneapolis.
I had set a planning goal to be out the door by 9am and I was well ahead of that, until I started having second thoughts about my route and tried to make a change. When I did so my brain simply shut down and I could not be sure I was dropping the correct bonus locations to achieve what I wanted to achieve. I had to leave the room and head to the lobby for something to drink to clear my head. Once back in my room I completed the task I was attempting and found that the change was no better than what I had originally planned. Frustrated that I had just wasted an hour or so, I got everything loaded into my GPS units and headed out at 9:30 am, 30 minutes later than planned.
Leg 3 Day 1
Once on the road my day went as planned. I headed west to two bonus locations I had picked up on the last day of Leg 3, dinosaurs in Glen Rose TX and a giant steer in Throckmorton TX, then some mammoths in Lubbock TX. The dinosaurs were tougher this time because they are located in a popular state park and it was a holiday weekend so I waited in line for a bit to pay the park entrance fee and get in. After Lubbock I continued west to another dinosaur in Albuquerque NM. I passed a few other riders as I was leaving and stopped for fuel. I bumped into a rider I knew and we chatted for a bit. By that time we were all aware that several riders had decided to go for broke and head to Newfoundland for some monster bonus locations there. We discussed who we thought they would be and I joked that I was surprised he was not with them since he was from Canada. He laughed saying if the Canadian wasn’t going that was a because he knew how bad the ferries are and if one did not already have reservations they would not be getting on one. We said our goodbyes and he headed west to San Diego and I headed North to Santa Fe NM to take a photo of a burro before heading back to Albuquerque for the night. I got to Santa Fe, got my bonus, and headed back to Albuquerque and checked in around midnight.
Photos for the day:
Leg 3 Day 2
Morning came fast and I was out early. Today I was heading generally west through New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada, and then turn northeast into Utah. After a short jaunt west on I-40 I turned off onto some backroads. I was enjoying my ride, covering some back roads in the absolute middle of nowhere with the only sign of civilization being the road I was on. I came to a small town, cross roads really, and saw a cell tower and took the opportunity to call my wife and text her a photo I had taken. And then the cell signal was gone and I was alone again. I approached my first bonus, a horse in Springerville AZ at their Heritage center, and … nothing … no horse. I rode up and down the street, nothing. Took a long look at the photo in the rally book and looked at the roof of the building and they matched so I was sure I was in the correct spot. I noticed a fresh concrete pad with bolts sticking out of it in line with the angles of the roof and realized that was where the horse should be. I took a photo of the empty pad and the roof line, the sign for the Heritage Center to show where I was, and then got a receipt to prove I was in Springerville. Shortly thereafter I was back on I-40 pointed west. Before I continue let me say that throughout the rally I was having a blast. Sure I was tired, but I was feeling good, doing better than I expected I would, and things were going smoothly. It was a welcome change from my maintenance issues in the spring.
Photos of the day
Some of the nice roads I was riding on. Glad I didn’t break down there. The nearest town according to my GPS was Cubero NM, but I never saw it
And then, I looked down at my speedometer. I saw the red low voltage light was on and my heart sank. I was crushed, devastated. I pulled over, shut off the bike and restarted it and the light went out. I got back up to speed and pushed the speed a little more and then the light came back on. I slowed down a bit and it went off. Ok I thought, I’m ok for now if I keep my speed at a certain limit and I can keep riding. But I was going to be riding in some pretty desolate areas later in the day and in the following days and I don’t want to do that with a sick bike. My problem is likely a bad voltage regulator, which of course was new in March and had at this point 10,000 miles on it. While a voltage regulator is not normally a big job, I had upgraded my charging system with an aftermarket one and I could not simply stop at a bike shop and buy one off the shelf. Heck, it was a longshot that a Harley Dealer would have a stock one. And to fix my bike I needed both a regulator AND a stator which is another part that rarely goes bad so it is not likely stocked. My mind was racing like mad and part of me was thinking I should drop out and nurse my bike home rather than risk riding in a desert with a sick bike and likely no cell signal. But, I could not do that. I had a very uneasy 100 or so mile ride to Flagstaff where I decided I would stop at the Harley Dealer and see what I could do to fix my bike.
I got to Flagstaff and pulled into a gas station for gas. As I did the low voltage light came back on and would not go off. I topped off and then headed across the highway to the Harley Dealer. I realized they looked familiar as I had stopped there before but they had been closed. And when I did get there … they were closed on Mondays, and today was Monday … July 3rd … and they were likely closed tomorrow … July 4th. I’m done!! It will likely take me a day to fix my bike leaving me with almost no time to get more bonus locations and make it back to the finish. Sure I could finish, but I’d likely be last. I came up with a plan, head to Walmart and buy a big car battery and use that to power my bike. Learning from others who did this I’d also buy a charger so I could charge the battery since new they don’t have a full charge and if needed I could recharge it throughout the ride. I made my purchase and decided to call a friend who is a parts manager at a Harley dealership I frequent to make what I thought was a normal sounding request, email me the location of every stator and regulator in the US. My plan, see if any were on my route so I could fix my bike. I made the call and spoke to his son who works the parts counter at the dealership. He asked a few questions and said he’d get right on it. I guess they expect unusual requests from me? Then I got a call back from my friend asking what the issue was. I told him and we discussed locations where I could get the parts. The closed dealer down the road – had both parts of course. He also said that one dealer in Phoenix has the stator and another has a regulator. That was something, however I was doubtful that I could get there before they closed.
I checked into a hotel right on old US 66. Since I was planning on making this my rest bonus I stopped for a receipt. I charged the battery, installed it, and then charged the bike’s battery. I called my friend Brad in Phoenix and he mentioned that he could pick up the parts after work and bring them to me. I suggested I head down there to work in his garage. I made a few calls to verify the dealers had the parts and the good news was the dealer with the regulator confirmed they had it. The bad news, the dealer with the regulator could not locate it. However, Brad had a sportster as well and I asked to “borrow” his regulator. He did not ride much in the summer due to the heat and agreed. And thus a plan emerged …
I waited for traffic to let up and then headed south from Flagstaff to Phoenix. It’s a 140 mile ride which should take 2 hours. As I was riding I shut off and restarted my bike 5 or 6 times and the low voltage light stayed out so I was running on the alternator again which was good news as I had no idea how long the car battery would last. Then as I got about half way to Phoenix I saw traffic was at a standstill due to an accident and there is no other choice for roads so I was stuck. I eventually made it around 10 pm, an hour late. I stopped for another receipt for my rest bonus since the last one was no good due to my ride to Phoenix and then pulled into Brad’s garage. We tore my bike down and were making great progress. I was down to the last nut before I could remove my stator, a whopping 1 – 3/16 inch nut. I mistakenly asked for a 1 – 3/8 inch socket and that was too big. I then asked for a 1 – 3/16 inch socket only to hear something along the lines of “I don’t have one” We tried a wrench but there just no way it would work. I was stuck.
One thing I love about the Iron Butt Rally is the staff. They are fantastic, including the rally master Lisa. Sure, we joke about her conjuring up swarms of locusts, hurricanes, road closures, and other events to make the Iron Butt Rally even more challenging, however when you need her she is there. In fact, she is there no matter how major or trivial the problem even if it is to point out “there are other bridges” when you call her to tell her a bridge is out. I had been speaking with her during the day letting her know what my status was and each time she asked how she could help. Now it was time where I needed help and being a self-sufficient person I really really hate asking for help. I sucked it up and made the call, stating “now I need help”. Her voice sounded strange and then I realized that it was two hours later in Dallas which made it 1:30 am there and she was likely asleep. I could not have been more wrong! I told her the problem and she said she would do what she could. In the meantime, we were off to check the local truck stops to see if they had a socket, but came up with nothing. Lisa texted suggesting we check Walmart so we did, but nothing. It was now midnight and I was getting tired so we headed back to Brad’s place for some sleep so we could be waiting at the various home improvement stores when the opened at 6am. Then my phone rang, it was a gentleman by the name of Matthew who I knew from Tour of Honor stating he was too far away to help but he would start waking people up … at almost 1am. When I objected he essentially said he wasn’t asking me and was calling them. My thought, they were his friends … and who was I to look a gift horse in the mouth. Around 1:30 am I got another call from a gentleman named Alex who said he did not have the socket however he was planning on meeting his friend Scott at 2am and he likely would have one. I thanked him and was simply puzzled at these calls. Who were these people that don’t sleep? I checked Facebook and sure enough in one of the groups frequented by Long Distance Riders was a post from Lisa indicating a rider in the Iron Butt Rally was in need and included my name and cell number.
At 2am I got a phone call from Alex stating he had a 1 3/16 inch socket in his hand and where was I. My friend gave him his address and told him how to find us and 30 minutes later, at 2:30 am, I had in my hand the socket I needed to fix my bike. I was speechless. Having been up for 24 hours straight at this point and having the emotional highs and lows of the day I was in no condition to work on my bike further so I thanked Alex and Scott profusely. They were heading out into the dark of the desert to play with new lighting on their bikes and once they left I promptly fell asleep.
After a few hours I was up and back at my bike. I removed the stator and regulator that was on it, installed the new stator which is tough due to the need to run wires through some very tight places, removed the regulator from my friend’s bike and installed it on mine. I took a quick test ride and everything was working. At 10 am, on the 4th of July, approximately 24 hours after I first saw my low voltage indicator. But, I had no place to go since my old route was not ridable due to my loss of a day. I quickly showered and sat down to plan a new route. I came up with something that took me west to Las Vegas, north east through Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, and North Dakota, the east through North Dakota to Minnesota before heading south to Minneapolis. I did not even bother to look at points as compared to what I would have had because it was not relevant. My goal was to finish with as many points as possible.
Photos for the day
Extra cable attached to my battery
Routing of wires into my tourpak. Thin black wire is for my XM radio antenna, blue hose is drinking water
Car battery in my tourpak. Note extra drive belt just in case
My clothing now relegated to riding on my luggage rack. Bike was just a bit top heavy!
Primary drive removed to access the stator
Leg 3 Day 3
I’m back! At noon I rolled out and headed to Walmart to return the car battery I had purchased. I then got gas and a 10 pound bag of ice to stuff in my jacket, along with a receipt to mark the end of my rest bonus. I got on the road and enjoyed the scenery, but it was HOT! 110 degrees HOT! The wind hurt. My black brake and clutch levers were HOT! Everything was HOT! How do people live here! I made it an hour and could not stay awake. I also did not feel right and noticed that I had the initial signs pf dehydration. I stopped at a fast food place and got some food. When I took the 10 pound bag of ice out of my jacket it was now the size of a softball. I put a bunch of salt on it, something I don’t normally do, due to the amount of sweating I was doing. I also drank 4 32 ounce cups of lemonade. I was back on the road about 45 minutes later feeling much better. My next stops came and went, and I found myself in downtown Las Vegas. Traffic was slow and I lost 45 minutes there. I proceeded on and got to Saint George UT near where my next bonus was but it was dark and the bonus was daylight only. I got a room for the night and simply crashed.
Photo for the day
Leg 3 Day 4
Morning came and I was out just after daybreak. I picked up the bonus and was headed northeast through Utah and Colorado and into Wyoming. My day went pretty much as planned however I did hit some light rain in Colorado. My route had me in the mountains on nice winding roads and I did not want to press my luck but did make decent time. I picked up my last bonus in Casper WY around 11:30 pm. I found a hotel in Douglas WY an hour later.
Photos for the day
Leg 3 Day 5
This was the last full day of the rally. I headed north out from my hotel and picked up a few bonus locations on my way to the group photo in Lefor ND. Along the way I was enjoying the scenery and had a bike pass me and I recognized it as another rider. That woke me up to the fact that I was still riding in the IBR so I got around the cars in front of me and followed the bike to the next bonus. I was not sure who the rider was since half the riders were on BMWs, but once I saw the rider doing calisthenics on the bike I knew who she was. We made the next stop and saw a few other riders there and then headed for the group photo. We got there with 30 minutes to spare and hung out with all of the other riders. We talked about the group that went to Newfoundland and narrowed it down to 5 riders and there really were no surprises. Once 2pm came our photo was taken and we were on our way. My route had me heading north for a short period of time before turning east. My route had me going in to Minneapolis around 1 am or so. I was planning on getting a room around midnight wherever that may be and stopping for one more bonus close to the finish that was daylight only. My day went as planned with nothing really unexpected. I did note the bugs changed as the day wore on, they went from juicy splats to painful stings. At one stop I ran into a friend of mine and he offered to hold my flag. I guess he felt left out since he had lost his during the rally and was relegated to taking selfies. I started looking for a hotel and came to a revelation, there were none. At all. Zero anywhere near my route where I would want to stop. It was either stop way early which I did not want to do or sleep at some convenient rest stop. As I was picking my way south I spent a few hours riding in areas where there was little sign of civilization. There were no lights, and the sky was mostly clear. The moon was almost full and that gave everything kind of an eerie look to it. I rode on wishing for a place to pull over and laydown to look at the sky. But there was no place to stop, not even a shoulder. Eventually I came to a 4 lane road and soldiered on. Never saw a place I could stop for any length of time so I stopped when I could and closed my eyes for 10 minutes or so. I eventually got my second wind and kept riding south. I made my bonus stops and around midnight had to take a photo of a large otter and there were no lights on it, however in the background there were lights which caused my camera to not want to cooperate. I eventually got the correct combination of flashlight, background light, and camera flash to get a viewable photo and another rider showed up which is always nice we said our greetings and I was off to my last planned bonus, the largest tiger muskie in Nevis MN. As I was done the rider from the last bonus showed up. Hello and goodbye again, and I headed south.
Photos for the day
Leg 3 Day 6
Eventually the sun came up and it was daylight. I had not stopped for the night but to me daylight signifies a new day. This is the last few hours of the rally. At 8 am penalty points accrue, and at 10 am game over, thanks for playing. You did not finish. As I was riding I decided not to add the bonus I was considering since it was daylight only and it was a 2 hour ride to the finish which would get me in around 7-7:30 am if traffic held. However, Minneapolis seems to be the road construction capital of the world and I would be hitting town at rush hour. Not some place I wanted to be after being on my bike for over 24 hours, plus I could end up getting in late and losing points. Doing some looking I found a bonus that was on my route into the finish and would not add any time to my ride. I pulled in around 5am and took my photo. As I was finishing up another rider came in and was trying to take her photo. She has having some difficulty with her flag so I told her to hold her flag and took her photo for her. From there I had a nice easy ride in to the finish and got in around 6:30 am. Even at that hour there was a crowd there cheering as I pulled up. The high that one gets when pulling in after riding for 11 days is indescribable. Plus, more importantly my wife who I had not seen for close to 3 weeks was there. Before we could talk I had business to take care of. First it was suggested that I put my kickstand down before I fell over (I must have looked worse than I felt). Then I had to state my rider number and show my ID card which is not a simple task after riding for 11 days including riding the last 24 hours straight through. And finally provide my odometer reading. From there I moved my bike to the parking area and was smothered by my wife. I enjoyed riding in the IBR, however I also have to say I enjoyed being finished the IBR!
My windshield at the finish. Almost all of this is from the previous 24 hours
It ain’t over till the paperwork is done
I gathered my things and headed into the hotel to my room. I showered which is customary for me when I finish a rally as I feel better and I certainly smell better. Anything to get on the good side of the scorer! I went over my paperwork to make sure I had everything recorded. Losing a bonus for taking the wrong photo or forgetting to call in is one thing. Losing it for not recording that you did it correctly is another. I confirmed that I had dates and times filled in, I had odometer readings filled in, I compared dates and times from my rest bonus receipts to the entry in the log, everything was good. I went down to check in or “stop the clock” and then headed over to present myself for scoring. I went in right away, they copied all the photos off my camera card, they were reviewed quickly to ensure there were no extra unrelated photos, and then I waited for an open scorer. One opened up and I sat down for scoring. We went over my photos and other paperwork and completed the scoresheet. And then I was done with no points lost. From there I went to my room and went to sleep
Total miles ridden in leg 3 were 4,150 with 9,085 during the entire Iron Butt Rally. This is over 10 days since I lost a full day due to my charging system.
My entire route ridden
After I woke around 1pm I went down stairs and spent the rest of the day talking to everyone. The 5 riders that went to Newfoundland, all made it in with the last rider coming in with 20 minutes to spare before he would have been disqualified. Stories were told, congratulations were given, drinks were drunk. The banquet started and we all got our food and sat down to eat. In all the excitement one could almost forget why we were there, to hear the final standings and where everyone finished. Then it was time to call names and present plaques. Starting with number 87, one by one riders were recognized as they came up and were presented their plaques. I knew how many points I had scored and as the numbers kept getting smaller I got more and more excited at how well I did. Then it was my turn, number 31. I had set an ultimate goal of being in the 20’s as far as finishers go and I missed it by 2. To say I was elated is an understatement. I had never dreamed I would finish that high given my loss of an entire day. And of course there were a few hours on July 3rd that I thought I would not finish period. But there were 30 more riders to go. We listened to them being called one by one, until they got to the top 10. Then the top 10 were all called up at the same time. And no surprise all of those that went to Newfoundland were in the top 10. Their names were read one by one until they got to the last two, Bob Lilley and Jim Owen. The tension in the room was palpable as the next name was called out slowly. Bob Lilley was second and Jim Owen had won his second IBR, the first person to win twice. Afterwards more stories were told, congratulations were given, pictures were taken, and of course more drinks were drunk. The evening continued on but ultimately it came to an end as we all headed to our rooms which for many would be the first good night’s sleep since the rally started 11 long days before. And that many includes the friends and spouses of the riders as many of them didn’t sleep either.
And thus concludes my story of the 2017 Iron Butt Rally