Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Taste of Anticipation & the Final Tally

“Oh I can just feel the anticipation in the room,” said Rally Master Lisa Erbes when she took the podium at last night’s finisher’s banquet.  Indeed.  The room was full of excitement as riders, family and friends gathered.  This was the largest Butt Lite rally masters said to cheers from the room.  There was illness and lots of mechanical issues that riders overcame during the week.  And just 130 miles from the finish, a deer decided to take Marty Cover out of the running, totaling his bike.  But Marty and his daughter and rally partner Lisa Hecker got themselves together, rode two-up on her bike for a bit, got a tow truck, and got back to the checkpoint in time for Lisa to finish and get scored.  Marty was fine and present for the rousing cheers he got at the banquet. 

Aussie Ian McPhee helped a bird move along on the circle of life.  At highway speed in between bonus locations a small bird smacked Ian head on, slamming his face shield shut.  “Thank goodness it didn’t get caught in between your face and your face shield!” I said.  “No,” Ian went on, pointing to his lap, “it landed there!”  He tossed the bird off, wishing it well on its next path, grateful to not have gotten bird beak in his eyes.  ATGATT (all the gear, all the time) my friends - despite the mishaps, these committed riders rode the safest Butt Lite yet.

Riders really liked this ride.  Miles of twisty roads, incredible scenery.  I heard many times, “this was my best motorcycle ride, let alone rally, ever.”  And it was a challenge.  Rally master Bart Bakker said he tried to throw it all in, challenging rides, tempting bonuses- this was one of the toughest rally packs they’ve put together and they were so pleased that riders enjoyed it.  

An interesting note in the Butt Lite VIII final standings (which will undoubtedly be analyzed by rally-watchers for weeks to come) is that there were both combo bonus-getters, and those who rode for big points and no combos in the lead at the end.  The top 20 finishers were an international crowd and the top ten were a group of competitors that looked at each other and thought – heck, it could go any which way. 

The Top 10 Finishers, Butt Lite VIII, waiting to see where the trophies will go.

But in the end, the top two remained the top two, with shifting in spots below.  Troy Martin rode an incredible Leg 2, finishing with 10,000 more points than rest of the field in 1st place.  Kirsten finished with 6,660 miles (a hell of a ride) and 49,757 points in 2nd place.  Later, after the cheers and photos, in the quiet of the lobby, Troy said he kept thinking about the 2,200 points separating him and Kirsten after Leg 1 and rode as if she was on his tail.  She said that every time she’d get to a bonus and find out he had been there she just shook her head knowing he was having a great run.  And that is another great thing about this group of highly skilled riders, there is a genuine excitement for the ride they are on and the good rides of their competitors.
Troy Martin and Kirsten, #1 and #2 Finishers

Things are quiet now; Rally HQ has disassembled.  The rally van with the Team Strange crew left early this morning.  By breakfast, half of the rider parking had cleared out.  We walked to a delicious breakfast down the block, and then came back to more lobby story-telling as the final few are packing and taking aim for routes home.  We have a couple days of flower sniffing here in the Denver area, and the skies are clear and the mountains have snow.  And the mental debate about 2017 rattles around.  Top 10 finishers have an automatic spot in the 2017 Iron Butt Rally.  We hadn’t planned on 2017, but… we’ll see.  For now, it’s a good day for a ride and I brought my gear.  I can almost taste the anticipation.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Denver Baby!

By 4 a.m. the rider parking was filling in and most of the SpotTrackers were satisfactorily lined up along I-25 North and South on their way into Denver.  Rick Miller came in at about 4:11 after hoovering up bonuses on his way up from Texas.  Greg Lenentine was playing leap frog with Kirsten on the highway north from Colorado Springs.  Josh Mountain and Eric Bray, looking fit and fresh, were set up on the other side of the table preparing to score their first riders.  Terry and Lynda Lahman were done scoring by 4:45.  Connie Gabrick was in, happily pulling items off her bike while noting that her fuel pump has made a strange sound since Leg 1.  Wolfe sidled up to Kirsten in the breakfast room ~ so do you know your score?  Brian Walters came out of the room and said, "well I gave away some free points."  John Coons came in with his thumb down saying, “hey 5,000 points, pffft!” Kirsten gave away 1,100 points for a transposed number.  Crap.  Points were leaking out of the scoring room this morning. 

Kirsten got in at 5:15 a.m., while her SPOT said that she was still in Aurora.  She only felt bad that there weren’t any bonus locations closer in with 45 minutes to spare – wasn’t quite enough time to get up to the Boulder bonus and back before penalties.    

Scoring and breakfasting done, most riders are now sleeping.  We’ll get up in a few hours and head out to get that rear tire taken care of.  BMW of Denver Motorcycles is grilling burgers for all the riders coming to get post-rally work done.  These guys are great and were pretty excited to see everyone when I spoke with them yesterday.  This is the in-between time.  The time after scoring and before the banquet filled with little things like sorting through the gear left in the gear check room, taking a well-deserved shower, and speculating about the final standings.  As predicted – Leg 2 was a game changer with the bonus combos.  We’ll see how it all sorts out in a few hours.

Kirsten and Greg Lenentine parking at the finish, Butt Lite VIII.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Friday News Roundup

Some bonuses are worth more than others.  Leg 2 started with a bonus that brought riders to the Iron Butt Memorial in the Nevada desert.  The stars have never aligned properly for Kirsten to get to Gerlach so it meant a lot to her to be able to go during a rally.  She said it felt right, but also hard to see the names of so many riders.  Friends like Curt Gran, who finished 5th to Kirsten’s 6th on the 2011 IBR and said at breakfast the next morning – “at least I didn’t get beat by a girl!”  I still miss his wit and humor.  Where two or three (or forty) gather – there is memory.  It was a moment of rootedness to start Leg 2.  And then they were off.

The 40-50 temps of her Leg 1 have given way to days at 100+, with a couple nights at 103 too.  Today she was riding by cholla, occatillo, and then, “hey what’s that in front of me?  I mean I’m in the fricking middle of nowhere and there’s no civilization anywhere to the horizon – I can’t believe I have cell service!  Oh – they’re century plants – they are 15-20 feet tall!  Amazing.”  Last summer she rode national parks; this rally has brought her to several national forests.  The most recent took her from 90 degrees, up the mountain through winding roads (i.e. look over your shoulder to make the turns), to 50 degrees with snow on the side of the road and pelting rain.  She had to stop the bike for a minute to let the rain subside in order to see to continue.  Wolfe Bonham was there, their rally flags in each other’s shots.  They made short work of heading back down the mountain and saw each other again at the next bonus.  This time, they were moving on to separate paths.  Kirsten wished him luck and told him to take a picture of the wrong thing.  J

I always seem to talk to Kirsten more in the last 24 hours of a rally than in all the days before.  These are some of the toughest hours for riders when their brains rethink, well, everything.  If I knew I was going to miss the daylight only bonus by 20 minutes yesterday and have this ride today, I would have ridden yesterday differently.  I’m going to need a new rear tire when I get to Denver. This is supposed to be my Ms. PacMan leg, but I’m not sure I’m getting enough of those dots. Why is the first song in my helmet this morning So You’ve Had a Bad Day? Oh Paul McCartney – Long and Winding Road – that’s hysterical I have to call Jennifer.  Man it’s hot, I’m glad I filled up with ice and water instead of waiting for 2 hours to fill it up. Mmm, dinner tonight from che’ tank bag– V8 juice at desert temperatures, so tomato soup with cheese crackers..... And on.
Because she was waiting for first light this morning, she ended up with a longer rest break than even on her rest bonus; which is good because now, it’s about a 10-hour rally.  This is the cue for the rally spouse to say, all that has come before is done.  Now it’s time to ride your best and get back before penalty points.  Which begin at 6:00 a.m. Denver time.  Some riders are in already, and you can see the spots slowly starting to converge at the final checkpoint.    There are still a lot of miles to go before they sleep.

Meanwhile, here at Rally HQ, we had a lovely dinner at the Indian place down the street.  And I think there were only 3 or 4 calls to the rally staff, who are now prepping for the final scorers meeting.  The rider’s breakfast buffet starts at 4:00 a.m. and riders will arrive through the night.  The checkpoint window closes (and any stragglers will be a DNF- did not finish-) at 8:00 a.m.  The sky has been a bit stormy today and the sunset in Denver is a lovely blue, grey, pink, and yellow affair.  See you at the sunrise ~

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Gone to the Dogs

Regular blog watchers know that every rally, Riley gets a blog post.  Some of you have met Riley, who loves to ride on the R1200RT in his traveling case.  When Kirsten makes a stop, she unzips his bag and out he pops – making everyone laugh.  He has not ridden on a rally yet, but Riley’s been thinking about one of the bonus locations that Kirsten grabbed on Leg 1 – for Shep, the faithful dog, in Fort Benton, MT.  (For a musical rendition of the story, listen to Jack Gladstone’s version of Old Shep!)  Riley figures he is at least as dedicated as Shep, and at this point, he has scouted enough bonuses to make his own rally.   

It started with a visit to the war dog memorial at the National Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, VA. 

Then he found this fantastic GIANT Chihuahua in the Albuquerque, NM airport after he came out to meet all the big dogs of the 2015 IBR.

This past fall, he went to Niagara Falls, on the Canadian side, and thought, heck, this bonus scouting isn’t so bad.
So- Virginia, New Mexico, Niagara Falls, and Old Shep in Montana – that should be good for a couple solid legs right?  Add in some extra rest bonuses (more points if you find a sunny space on a warm deck), a few hundred points for bringing home a newspaper, and a thousand points for the best peanut butter treats you can find, and you’ve got yourself a rally! 

Riley with Kirsten, IBR 2015 Finish
For the next couple days, Riley will be scouting locations with a friend in DC.  As for me, I'm packing it up to head to Rally HQ Denver to report on location ~ Until then, keep your noses cool, wet and clean.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Leg 2 Launch (v. 2.0)

** Updated with new information from the rally blog - see the fine print below.

In honor of the Butt Lite 8 (BL8), Kirsten got into Reno at midnight, just missing the early check-in by seconds.  Sigh.  She proceeded to get 5 hours of HARD sleep and feels better today.  Not 100% she said, but better.  She spent the last couple days freezing in 40-50 degree temps.  When she got to the gate at Banff National Park, there was sleet in the air and snow (yes snow!) swirling around her helmet.  And a rainbow – the strongest rainbow ever and it just stuck with her as she rolled in.  The young woman at the gate was very friendly, noting that there had been a few other motorcyclists coming through.  After a minute, another woman came to the window and said, very deadpan, “Are you with Team Strange?”  Hah!  Hard to hide the adventure.
View from the cockpit at the gate at Banff NP on Leg 1.  The grease pencil note is a reminder of the upcoming days on Leg 2: WTFS…. but after staring at that for a few thousand miles, Kirsten came up with an alternate shorthand….

Speaking of adventure, here’s a Leg 1 Flash Back from the IBR 5000 in 2010.  At the end of Leg 1 then, she had rallied her way back from a really bad tire kerfuffle – with a LOT of support and assistance from the LD riding community—and happily arrived at that checkpoint in very last place.  These are the kinds of things that we post (AFTER the successful finish of this Leg 1, we all have our little superstitions) to remind us how fickle rallying can be.  One bad tire, or one county in Montana without power so you can’t fill up with gas (seriously?!) and a good ride can go very bad. 

As Kirsten presented herself for scoring this morning, our friend Andy Kirby leaned in saying that she was a little greedy with her bonuses in Canada.  But after scoring, she was just happy to have gotten all the points she was aiming for.  Rally-watchers know that if you end a Leg with no points left on the table, it’s a good day.  
Raven scoring Kirsten’s Leg 1 in Reno.
**At the rider’s meeting, the current spread was announced and has now been posted on the Butt Lite rally site.  Readers must remember what we said earlier - the combo bonuses may bring some riders a windfall of points at the end of Leg 2.  Also remember that the final leg of the rally generally means all kinds of shifting – only a few thousand points currently separate the lead riders.  But as of the beginning of Leg 2, with all due full qualifications stated above, Kirsten is currently (whispering…so as not to draw attention from the rally gods….) in 2nd place.

Moving on – the animal viewing tally now includes: antelope, moose, Sandhill crane, raccoons, coyotes, chubby sheep in a field, and black cows in the middle of the open range road with no warning signs (she thought of you Jim and Heidi Frens as she did a hard brake and swerve!)  Because she got into Reno later than planned and decided to sleep rather than route (a spouse approved decision), she is riding off into Leg 2 with a generally good idea where she’s going (i.e. aim for the first bonus and then take it from there).  Thus begins Day 4.