Monday, June 30, 2014

Time... it's an Illusion!

Let the countdown begin!  Upon logging into a social media site early this morning I saw one of those on-line clocks that one can set to a certain time.  It figures out the amount of time between now and the time you prescribe.  This clock is set to Monday, June 29, 2015 at 10:00:00 (Albuquerque, NM). 

Already know what this refers to?  Yep, the 2015 Iron Butt Rally.  While a rider needs to be on-site several days before the start, this is the published start date/time for the rally.

That's less than one year away!!!  And no, I am not prepared, but I'm working on it.  On the "to do" list is getting the bike gone over inch by inch.  George with Beemer Uber Alles was and will be my go-to guy.  He is not only a VERY talented BMW mechanic, but he also gets long distances on motorcycles.  During one service he felt the most minor of clicks when he spun my front wheel.  Diagnosis?  The extreme early stage of ball barring failure.  For most riders this would be no cause for action, but George knows I ride a bit and so replaced the failing part saving me for a potential roadside fiasco.

I also need to practice routing and "seeing" connections between boni to make the best route I can safely run.  There's routine to this, but there's also a bit of art.  Will taking a rest at 9pm and getting the daylight only bonus tomorrow be the best choice or should I travel on for a little longer, leaving the daylight bonus behind for other stops ahead?  There may be a "right" answer, but road construction, fatigue, mechanical issues may make that impossible.  Knowing what to do as the "next best option" is what rally routing can often be all about.

As a refresher, I'm going to go back to my rookie IBR run and see what I can learn.  The stories archived from the summer of 2011 are still here in this blog.  I'll be looking at those and invite you to do the same and share your thoughts.  There are also a few fun pictures from the rally to laugh at as well.

Cheers until next time...

“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.”
― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Dirty Truth.... supplemental photo/video evidence

Thanks to our hosts and especially Steve Anderson who was the photographer of the day.  He's skill with a camera is phenomenal so I can't wait to see more on the Morton's BMW facebook page (  Steve was kind enough to email this shot to me directly.

Just after traversing our introductory mud pits, the road got a bunch better (yes, it's still sloppy, but in comparison, this is a highway).  Just about when I saw Steve I realized I'd forgotten to lower the chinbar on my helmet.  It made me that much more nervous, but you can just about see the sweat dripping off my nose!

Earlier in the day one of our fellow riders (thanks Stephen Creamer) offered to take videos of folks on one of the drills.  At first I declined as there were so many folks falling on this one.  But then, what the heck.  It might prove to be a good laugh. So, here ya go.  If you listen just before I start to come back down you'll here me remind myself to look up and ahead.

The Drill:
Start on a slight incline from a stop to go up to the first set of cones.
Stop with feet down.  From stop go to final set of cones.
Stop and turn off bike (yes, for me on the tall bike that meant feet down and a hand off the bars!).
Once the bike is off, with bike in gear use the clutch only to back up and to the side to get perpendicular to the hill.
Move the front tire back and forth to get the bike pointed down hill.
Turn on bike and head down hill.

Lesson #6:  When going up hill move weight to the front of the bike by leaning up and towards or even over the handlebar.  When going down hill move weight to the back of the bike by leaning butt over back of bike.
[Why I know this is important - watch the video... I made it.]

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Getting Dirty on the Longest Day of the Year!

It was a long day, but by the end of the day...

It was, for the most part, a cool day for June, but it was a bit wet.  At 8:30ish the riders started to gather at Morton's BMW in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  Unlike a lot of parking lots where long-distance riders meet, folks weren't really hanging out checking out the bikes.  I think I wasn't the only one a bit nervous about the day as the line for the restroom seemed pretty constant.
JRobersonAfter a bit of milling around inside the shop, we gathered around to hear how to get out to the farm where we'd be riding all day.  Past readers of this blog know that I'm no stranger to miles on pavement, so the 20 or so minutes to the course site was fairly uneventful.  I did manage to lock my rear tire thanks to the knobby tires, but no real drama... that didn't come until I looked at the drop off from the road to the gravel and sand we had to ride down just to get to the farm!

From here on out you can take the lack of photo evidence as a sign of just how wrapped up I was (more on the actual photographer later).  So you'll have to trust me.  The drop off was canyon-like and the road was nearly impassible.

AND THEN we had to drive through a field of wet grass with gooey fresh cow patties everywhere!  So, please excuse my REALLY wide and starting a second line of bikes.  I asked, "you want a second line, right?" to the ride leader when he gave me a questioning glance when I pulled up behind him.  What's a girl to do?

There was a bit of "classroom" instruction before we suited back up and let the air out of our tires.

LESSON #1:  When preparing to travel and maneuver off-road, bring your tire pressure down to between 18-15 psi.
[Why I know this is important - I was smarter than the "Road Closed" signs during the 2011 Iron Butt Rally and decided that I could find a local way around instead of the multi-mile detour signed for my convenience.  Perhaps, just perhaps, if I'd lowered the pressure in my tires from the max rating, I might have made it down the freshly graveled route the road crew directed me.]

LESSON #2:  Stand on your pegs when riding off-road.  This lowers your center of gravity significantly.  They also said you need to keep your arms loose and your grip on the bars, "like holding baby birds."  Well, I don't know about that as no baby bird I've ever held bucked that hard!
[Why I know this is important - I'd heard it before and on the same mishap in fresh gravel chronicled above, I kept yelling at myself to keep my arms loose as I sat plopped in the seat... that lasted a few miles before nerves got the better of me and I tried to muscle the bike.  It was shortly thereafter that the bike took a very long dirt nap.]
Course instruction commenced with ye graceful dodging of hay bales and floundering around orange cones... it was not pretty, but we got it done.  The drills continued with uphill/turn/downhill runs and locking the rear break to induce a skid.  So, here's my first confession.  It took me three tries to lock my rear.  Turns out I was more about doing a burn-out because I wasn't letting out the clutch.  On the third go I was so determined I grabbed the clutch and stomped on the brake and then skidded until the bike was headed sideways (okay, not really that much, but it sure felt like it.)  By the time we took a break for lunch I was tired, but knew I was learning too.

LESSON #3:  On solid surfaces, going at speed, a rider counter steers.  Off-road, a rider counter balances, putting all the weight on the outside peg and leaning counter to the turn.
[Why I know this is important - remember when I couldn't get the bike in line with all the other ones at the first part of the day?  Well, when we headed for the tent for lunch I purposefully chose the tight right turn, jeopardizing my borrowed bike and some other poor saps as I hung my bum WAY out to the left and lifted my right boot off the peg... with the voice in my head screaming, "LOOK WHERE YOU WANT TO GO!"  Turn made without the slightest scratch.]

To say I was guzzling water would be an understatement.  I also devoured my ham and Swiss on wheat and unashamedly said, "yes" when offered a second cookie.  Little did I know that after lunch the real work would begin.

Dear reader, while there are some shots of early in the day, during this second half of the day, even our intrepid riding friend who shared his photos didn't get many shots.  Those will come from our hosts for the day... and believe me, if they got the shots I think they did, there should be some good ones.  Needless to say, I'll share what I can when they are available.

But what you all want to know is... did Kirsten take a swim in the myriad of mud baths provided for our "enjoyment" on the trail?  Allow me to set the stage...

I have never ridden a dirt bike before this weekend, it rained a ton this week and again just before we arrived.  There was no anticipation that the beginners/novice group would ride on the trails.  In fact some sections of the trail were closed or rerouted because even the instructors couldn't make it through... so, why in the HELL we all enthusiastically told Andrew, our instructor, we wanted to go out on the trail is beyond my comprehension, but you know I was one of the folks saying I wanted to head to the woods.

It was a simple "butt hanging out to the right" left-hand turn out of the field, a quick trip down the "impassible" road from earlier in the morning (ha, I got this now) and BAM, the first bike bogged down and sank deep in the mud and water after wiggling like a snake wriggling out of a ten year old boy's hands.  It happened so fast.

Andrew had said, "follow me" and the first two bikes did and then no more.  As the bikes bunched up around the first real challenge, a ten foot mud pit a good 6 inches deep, Andrew and the two riders who "made it" came back to extract the swimmer.  We THEN got our lesson on how to drive through mud.

Lesson #4:  When riding through mud or sand, pick a point beyond the obstacle (i.e., DON'T look down) and keep a steady throttle and clutch.
[Why I know this is important - I was the next rider lined up to go through the pit and I was on the deep side of the hole.  Engaging the friction zone with the clutch I fixed my eyes down the road and pulled into the pit.  I glided through the mud (I don't think there was any traction) and felt the bike wriggle as I exited, but I resisted looking down.  With heart thumping I gingerly scootched to the side of the seat to get a foot down before giving a whoop of joy.]

Not a quarter mile down the road there was another pit and then another.... when I finally saw an open field ahead I gave a loud shout of joy.  I'd made it through.  As I learned later, many had not and got their first baptism in mud.

When a rider covered in mud came up I asked if he'd caught a fish.  He replied, "I think there's a salamander in my helmet."
Rolando, "I think there's a salamander in my helmet!"
Rolando wasn't the first to go down that day.  There were folks who went down during the drills.  The worst that could happen there was to land on a cow paddy.  They were soft, if smelly, but you didn't get wet.  There were logs you couldn't see while you were finishing a sharp right-hand turn and more mud.  Lots and lots of mud.  Then there was the "easy" way back.  Let's just say that the folks who went around the large loop around the field caught up with the riders who headed straight back.

As it turns out, we caught up because on the route back there was a section that had a few embedded logs at precarious angles across the trail.  More than one bike got caught up on them and had to be coaxed  across by Andrew.  I nearly got a mud bath from the roster tail the bike in front of me spewed as it see-sawed trying to get over the limbs.  When it was my turn, ...head up and eyes forward ...up on the pegs ...ease into the friction zone ...loose grip on the handlebars ... and I was through!

The "single track that's kind of narrow with a few slick spots" turned out to be a triple black diamond romp through the forest dodging trees.  I still can't believe I didn't hit one.  There was a tricky spot where I hadn't left myself any wiggle room (not that there was much).  I was sure I was going to clip the tall holly with my right mirror (ask Jennifer about how crazy focused I get and notice small things like the species of a tree I'm about to smack), but it didn't happen.

Then came the "snot" pool.  There was a seasoned rider from a local trail club stationed at this point, but it was once again clogged.  It took three people to get one bike out of the 0.1 mile stretch of slick substrate that went up a slight rise to the left and then immediately turned to the right.

After getting some help to get the bike off of its sidestand, remember, it's just a wee bit tall ;)  I was behind and to the right of the next guy to go through the slip-n-slide.  As we watched the legitimate trail rider duck-walk part way along the section, not one of us was sure we'd make it.  The fourth guy in line said next year he'd bring a dictionary so they could look up "beginner" and "novice" before sending us along our way. At the beginning of the day we'd been admonished to move a bit beyond our comfort zone.  At this point I declared to my fellow beginners, "my comfort zone has already put in for a change of address!"

I just wanted it to be done... there was no going back.  So, when the guy in front of me seemed to hesitate, I asked if they'd like me to go ahead.  I knew if I went down there would be someone there to help me up and then I could do my own duck-walk across the pond.  The guys seemed eager to let me go, so I cranked up the bike and ambled forward a few inches.

I went down on Saturday, but this was NOT where it happened.  With my own sense of shock and relief, I heard the cheers coming from behind.  I'd made it.  There was no one in front of me so I just followed what I figured had to be the route.  Another mud slide and some more sand and ruts and I rolled through the left-hand turn back into the training field.  WHAT A DAY!  And that canyon-like drop off and impassable road to the course field... it's a piece of cake.

So, the mud that's on the bike, it's all from kicking up crap as I rode through it!


Lesson #5:  Riding is both a mental and physical sport.
[Why I know this is important - I'm rather sore today, but I know that with more strength training I can be stronger.  The endurance running I've been doing helped me stay strong all day.  And the mental thing, that's the point... during a rally I need to not only have the skills to ride smarter, but the knowledge to know I've already done it.]

Oh, and about that drop.  It was when we did an "extra drill" where we locked our rears to start a skid and then applied the front brake to complete the stop at a cone.  I was the fourth rider to go through the drill when Andrew started shouting, "No, no, I want everyone to put their feet down when they stop."  So, when I stopped he said, "put your feet down."  Resigned to my fate I tried to find a purchase for my left foot, there was none.  At a complete stop I did a slow lean that turned into a heavy lean and, well, you know.  When Andrew asked if I'd like help lifting the bike I said no, but in the end, as in so many endeavors, I didn't do it on my own as Andrew gave a gentle heave to help me up.  I ended up with a little grass on the left foot peg and that was it :)
Andrew Lacy and me

Super special thanks to James Roberson for the majority of these pictures.  We rode back to the barn together and he told me he'd actually gone over a couple of times in the mud (you could barely tell).  He looked like a natural on the course.  Much thanks James!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Going Off the Beaten Path!

It's BIG, really really BIG...
well, it's not really big....
It's TALL, really, really TALL!!!

I'm headed out to do something I've needed and wanted to do for some time, participate in an off-road course.

Morton's BMW has for several years offered the course, but it just hasn't fit until this year.

One of my biggest hurtles (sorry, pun intended) was only having street bikes.  I've had the R1200RT on plenty of gravel roads (with me nearly panicked the entire time), but I don't really want it out on the course.  This year a buddy with whom I've done some demo rides offered his BMW X-Challenge.

Without thinking, I drop the course fee knowing I'd have a ride.

Roll forward a few weeks and I go to retrieve the bike.  Well, let's just say that a kitchen counter has nothing on this motorcycle's seat height.  I could barely get my leg over it.  And forget tip-toeing.  I'm alternately balancing from one boot tip to the other.  I needed help just getting the bike upright.

So, now I'm headed off to the course.  I'm just glad to know picking up a bike is part of the training!

Stay tuned to find out not IF I drop the bike, but how many times... are there any bruises involved... how long will the bike have to be in the shop...  To find out these and many other thrilling mysteries join us back here tomorrow! 

Off to go have some TALL FUN!!!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

It MUST be Genetic - Thinking of Father's Day


For those that know a bit of my story, you likely know I did not grow up with my father.  It's been years of gathering stories about him to learn that some Mendelian geneticists have got it right, IT'S IN THE GENES!

Thanks to those who knew my dad, I've learned that this crazy pension I have for just getting out there and "doing it" has a history.  He may have left this earth as a Navy pilot, but his exploits as a bit of a daredevil started when he was a young boy.

So, here's to a man I never knew, but who clearly has given me a sense of who I am - thanks dad!

Making it Official

Okay, I've delayed posting this, but I'm making it official.  I was drawn for the 2015 IBR and am planning on running the rally (lord willin' and the creek don't rise).

So, I'm going to add a bit here and there to this blog.  I'll chronicle my preparation for the ride and give some insight into what I've experienced.  For those that have been following along in the past, you know I value the input and truly appreciate the well wishes.  As with so many endurance sports, a good bit of this is mental.

Up until May of this year, I have not run any rallys since the 2011 IBR ... so, I'm both a good bit out of shape (I've been running, but back issues have gotten significant) and, amazingly, technology has changed in the past three years.


Next weekend I do something I've wanted to do for a number of years to enhance my skills.  Thanks to a riding friend (yeah, that's you Scott) I have a bike (BMW x-challenge) to ride during Morton's Off-Road Training ( ).  Finally after years of "opps, Garmin, why am I going down this abandoned logging track on my RT?" kind of moments, I hope to gain a few skills in the dirt.


So, more later and thanks for the support - LOVE hearing from you all!