Saturday, July 18, 2015

Is it the End or ???

T Minus 97 Weeks to IBR 2017

The week after the Iron Butt Rally is always a little weird.  In 2011, we sat around the house re-watching “Hard Miles” and “Hard Miles II.”  That done, we watched “Long Way Around,” “Long Way Down,” and finally, “Race to Dakar.”  We called it re-integration.  I think it was withdrawal.    

This year, we went to a mineral springs spa with friends north of Santa Fe and soaked out the stress… and then got on a plane (Riley and I) and back on a bike (Kirsten).  Then, bam, back to work for me.  I was restless.  Feeling like I should post another blog update.  Starting to refresh my notes for a rally spouse article I’ve been mulling around since last summer.  Watching, again, the little green motorcycle move its way back across the country.  By Thursday, I wanted to ask one of my slugs (a.k.a. DC commuters) to drive my car home for me – I was exhausted.  The rally time warp had finally caught up to me. 

Kirsten rode out from ABQ Monday afternoon, stopping to see ranger friends at Ft. Union, and then Iron Butt-ed it through terrible rain (it never ends) the length of TN and into VA.  The total: over 16,000 miles, from the Mexico border to Canada and nearly everywhere in between, in 24 days.  She rolled in after 2 a.m. on Wednesday, then slept for two days.  After getting new brakes (the RT, now with the 2011 and 2015 Iron Butt Rallies under its wheels, is just shy of 150,000 miles), Kirsten wiped off the red grease pencil calendar from inside the windshield and washed the rally grime off the bike.  And tonight, just for fun, she is going to do an evening run in town.  Because, you know, she wants to try and finish the Race Timing “Grand Prix” series of foot races this year.  Also, she needs to jump back into her training for the Marine Corps Marathon this fall – rally miles unfortunately don’t count as foot miles in that training program.

Re-integration also means gathering with those who do understand, or at least who have been SPOT watching for weeks and are also trying to re-integrate with life.  Gaggles (prides…hurricanes….?) of LD riders are eating delicious BBQ all over the country this weekend.  People are already posting about the IBA regional meet in TN this fall.  We looked at our calendars and started thinking about the next trip.  I always take that as a good sign- return from a trip and immediately start planning another. 

In ABQ, some people took off their helmets at the finish and said: done.  Some people took off their helmets and said: maybe.  We are already thinking forward to the next rally, you can’t help it.  But it’s two more years of “what if,” two more years of “where?” and two more years of “what would I do differently?”  I don’t know if we’ve got another IBR in us, but I’ve also learned to never say never.  Plus, just LOOK at where this rally took her!

65 parks – 26 states + the trip out and back

It’s hard not to get excited thinking about the other places you might see, the other stories there might be.  On Thursday night last week, as she was riding in from Duluth, she said sadly, “but when I get there, it will be over.”  I saw many similar sentiments in the IBR reports.  It’s a wide world with so much to see.  And I hear that 2017 is the 150th anniversary of Canada…think of the rally possibilities. 

People wonder how LD riders can ride these distances.  This is a big part of it – they’re explorers to the hilt.  So much to see.  So many places to BE.  It’s a slow roll back to the work-life/ play-life balance.  I’m travelin’ down a road I’ve been on before… thinkin’ about my home. We’ll get there, but not in a hurry.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Saturday - Ahhhhhh

We slept in today.  But it’s hard to turn off rally mode.  By 8:00 a.m., most riders were finishing up breakfast and making plans for the day.  Some had already left.   Kirsten was hurrying through breakfast and then took a breath and said, “oh yeah, I don’t have to eat in 5 minutes.”  We lingered over breakfast and coffee, talking with friends that we only get to see once a year if we’re lucky.  Out came the stories about the rides within the Ride.  What happened in New Orleans, Minneapolis, New York, Houston, DC, Kansas City, Yellowstone…..  this is Saturday morning after the Iron Butt Rally.

Most of you have probably read last night’s IBR report by now.  While we were taking pictures and shaking hands, Chris Cimino was pushing the button to upload knowing the thousands of people waiting for the news.  Eric Jewell is the 1st place finisher of the 2015 IBR.  The room erupted in cheers and hollers for this wonderful man who has been SOOO close so many times.  And this one was a close call too – his bike was having electrical troubles and literally stopped just miles from the finish on Friday.  With a little help from his friends, he got it started and rolled in with minutes to spare.  The bike is currently at the Honda shop for a full diagnosis. 

Kirsten is a Gold level finisher in 14th place.  At the end of the day, she finished with 83,083 points, 11,805 miles, 65 parks and 26 states.  Eric’s finishing stats are 106,653 points, 11,087 miles, 108 parks and 25 states.  It was a hell of a ride all the way around.  There were big pushes in Leg 3 and some saw the routes that brought them premium points both riding out from TN and into ABQ.  Kirsten was one of the few people that collected points Friday morning on the way in. For a few of those that didn't, it cost them a standing or two.  Every rider runs through the “if only I would have….” scenarios, and will for days (weeks).  But the other thing I heard loud and clear last night and this morning is that people loved the ride.  They really enjoyed the beautiful roads to the parks.  They were impressed with the genuine excitement that they found in the park staff they encountered.  It was a good rally - lots of people want to revisit parks, now that they’ve had a taste.  Well done IBR staff – Lisa, Tom and Mike – you’ve earned your Junior Ranger badges.

We’re going to relax and visit with friends in ABQ for the next few days.  Kirsten’s going to take some time off the bike before starting the ride back home.  I’m going to sign off the blog for a bit.  Thanks for following along, it’s been great hearing from you and sharing this experience with you.  And if you’re wondering what you’re going to do with all the free time you’ll have now that you’re not reading and refreshing your SPOT tracker – I suggest a walk in a park. 

Mark Crane and Kirsten at the 2015 IBR finish.
(To add to my collection of Mark and Kirsten rally finish photos.)

Friday, July 10, 2015

Final Day, Zero Hour

At midnight, they were taking orders for food.  The group in the parking lot at Rally HQ, watching SPOTs, waiting for riders, cheering and helping the tired and weary roll into a safe space in the bike corral.  Wendy Crockett, Mr. Wendy Crockett (LOVE that picture from 2013 IBR), and little Tess were welcoming friends in.  IBR winners for 2011 and 2013 Peter Behm and Derek Dickson were welcoming riders in for hours, helping them get settled, saying a few quiet words.  Class and grace in the quiet midnight streetlight.  Voni, the lady in red, was hugging and cheering at nearly 1:00 a.m., and was there when I got back to the corral at 6:30 this morning.  Tonie was in – after powering through tire troubles in Leg 1 and fuel tank troubles in Leg 2 – she finished strong.  Then came Allen on his loaner.  He parked and gave a roar – YEAH!  He was in.  “Sometimes you have to be open to the zen and it will come to you.”  And bring you a bike to ride to the finish with great thanks.  [See great photos on FB at IBR Magazine.]

I kept dipping back into the lobby to refresh my SPOT screens – all three of them.  Kirsten was close, but on our 3:30 a.m. phone call this morning, she had decided to go see the sunrise at Bandelier and get the points.  I told her, “Go for it.  I’ll see you later.”  When at 7:15 I saw her SPOT in ABQ, I called her.  “Are you riding in now?”  “I’m in Petroglyph – I’ll be there in a few minutes.”  So – after a monster ride which began in Duluth on Thursday morning at 6:30 a.m., with 2 more parks under the tires on the final morning, she rolled in at 7:30 a.m. to cheers and cowbells.  Riley was very excited; we haven’t seen Kirsten in over 3 weeks.  She picked him up and he gave her a huge lick across the face.

As she went in to get ready for scoring, Mark Crane, Eric Jewell, and Jim Owen pulled in with minutes to spare.  Then Jon and Ande and that left just a few people in the field after 8 a.m., including Jerome who continues to impress me and everyone else every year with his love of riding and his tenacity to keep it moving.  This is the man that once rode in at the end of a rally holding his windscreen after it tore off and the duct tape quit working.  Everyone is now in or accounted for and it’s quiet around HQ as people are eating, sleeping, and some, working on their bikes.  The banquet is at 6 p.m. this evening – the final hurrah of the Rally.  Lots of people had monster rides and Leg 3 is always a game changer.  So many people with that long glazed look got off their bikes this morning and even as they were being congratulated, shook their heads saying, “it will be interesting to see how this all sorts out.”  Indeed.  But mostly, I'm just glad they're back.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

It's Gettin' Interesting Up in Here - Day 11

The weather in ABQ is just fine.  Roadrunners are running, coyotes are yipping (we heard a few last night), and the jack rabbits are scrambling across the arroyo.  Riley likes New Mexico – the Chihuahua has apparently come home. 

The SPOTs on the public page are lining up along the big roads back to ABQ.  Ride reports from the past couple days have shown that folks are still finding little ways to provide encouragement to riders at parks – a sticky note on a wayside, a sign along the road.  And one of my staff called me on Wednesday from their fieldwork along the Potomac River in DC to say they had just talked to someone in the rally- ‘Hey man, are you riding the Iron Butt Rally?’ And he said, yeah!’ (I may have mentioned the IBR once or twice and maybe I’ve shown them a refreshed map now and again.) 

Kirsten took a short cut off the reservation yesterday through Canada and is now heading south.  She and two other riders saw each other in northern MI a couple days ago and have been on a similar route since.  Kirsten said she had been through the wash cycle several times as she drove in and out of soaking rain storms.  At one park, the entrance road was partly flooded when she went in and by the time she came out, there was a huge snapping turtle crossing the road.  But the skies in Canada were bright and clear (I suspect that Bill Watt had something to do with ordering up the sun – showing off the hospitality of our northern neighbor and all that.).  After riding wet through 45 degree weather for hours, she was shivering and her feet were pretty white by the time she got to a hotel.  Hot shower, sleep, and fresh socks did the trick.  I told her to keep doing some yoga stretches and she said, “Actually, I feel really good.  I’m just driving around looking at parks.  Sometimes I feel like, ‘when is the Iron Butt Rally going to start?’”  I took that as a good sign- after over 10,000 miles, she’s feeling relaxed and excited for what’s next down the road.

Because at this point in 2011, it was a very different story.  On Day 11 then she was riding at night through Donner Pass and felt like she wasn’t tracking the turns in the mountain road very well.  She had to pull off and take a micro nap to get re-focused.  Then, with all her heated gear on, she came out of the mountains and had to beat feet to the finish in southern CA heat.  Rally watchers may remember that nail-biting finish by Kirsten and Mark Crane with only seconds to spare.  I asked them both not to do that to me this year.

And there’s so many things coming in at once here on Day 11 – FB posts, blog replies, e-mail, phone calls, texts – all encouragement and excitement.  Rally HQ is hopping with people lingering outside along the entrance, inside the lobby, hugs, smiles, SPOT watching.  I have to give a shout out to the Motor Maids who are at their 75th convention right now in New Brunswick!  They’ve set up a place on YouTube to post notes to “Iron Butt Motor Maid Kirsten” – so cool.  This is an amazing group of talented women riders in the oldest women’s motorcycling club in North America.  The Golden Life Members have been riding for over 50 years – true legends.   

Finally – a friend shared this helpful link.  We know that Day 11 can be a mixture of dragging and adrenaline, so we thought we’d share in case someone needs a reminder of how to get back to the final checkpoint….  

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Riley's Blog Post

Riley keeps hearing about all the Big Dogs sniffing around the kennel.  He’s decided it’s time to go see what this is all about.  So – we’re packing and getting on a plane in the morning… relocating to report live from Rally HQ: ABQ!  This is Riley’s first plane ride.  He’s pretty excited (so am I), because honestly, he really hasn’t been that much help in keeping up this blog.  When I get home and immediately start checking my phone, he crawls up on my lap and pushes his head between me and the screen.  (Sometimes I think he’s more cat than dog … but don’t tell him I said that.)

Riley is also no stranger to motorcycles, or miles.  His ears perk up when he hears the BMW start up. If Kirsten looks at him while she’s putting on her helmet, he turns and runs immediately to jump into his bag.  He rides all zipped up on the pillion seat.  When she opens the zipper and he pops out to sniff around, all heads turn.  IBR friends from  Morton’s BMW Open Houses and from this year’s Mason Dixon 20-20 are also on his cheer list.  (He heard there were pom poms at the TN checkpoint.) Also, he's a Junior Ranger, so he felt like it was his official bark duty.  So we’re off – will post more from ABQ!  

Oh – and Kirsten – she’s still riding.
Riley helping Jennifer with the Demo Rides at
Morton's BMW

Monday, July 6, 2015

Dancin' Shoes - Leg 3 Begins

Wes - breaking the bead
in the Rally HQ parking lot
Leg 3 of the IBR is where you find out if your dance partner has the moves...or just steps on your feet.  After a tire change at the TN checkpoint, Kirsten’s dance partner has a new set of shoes to start, and a change of oil and final drive fluids.  The report from the road is that the RT feels SOOOOO good today.  It’s always wise to keep your dance partner happy- a big thanks to George and Wes!

The riders departed TN to head back to ABQ by whatever route seems to get each rider what they need.  Some still need states, some need parks, and some are hoping to efficiently route around the country dragging a bucket to scoop up all the big points typical of Leg 3 in the IBR.  The competitive standings have been known to jump 15+ places in Leg 3.  The final rider’s meeting was at 6:00 a.m. this morning.  Somewhere shortly thereafter,  the standings were announced to the riders and she didn’t believe it.  Mike Kneebone said Kirsten had moved from 27th to 5th and she said, “no!”  Apparently she had a similar face to Curt Gran, who also had a similar reaction after the standings were read at the Leg 2 checkpoint during the 2011 IBR (still one of my favorite pictures of our dear friend).  I think Curt was laughing down this morning.

Curt Gran at the end of Leg 2 of
the 2011 IBR
So this is Leg 3.  Everyone knows the whole field can easily shuffle again.  Craig Brooks apparently already has (and he’s the only one) all the states and parks he needs to be a finisher, so he can just ride around for the next 4 days wherever he wants to!  The IBR is such a solitary pursuit that the only thing to do on Leg 3 is to keep riding your plan.  Kirsten rolled out in overcast skies at a nice 71 degrees this morning…. to go over some of the same roads she was on yesterday.  Remember that the full field of bonus locations/ parks is open on every leg, but the points may vary.  And if riders re-visit a park, they can keep the points, but don’t get to double-count the same state nor the same park in their overall tally.

One more moment from the road - in the blur of heat, then torrential rain, then cold, then flooding of Leg 2, she told me about one very cool image that stays in her mind.  She and another rider happened to be leapfrogging between bonus locations in TX.  At one point, he was in front of her on a classic long open road of the TX landscape when off to the side, there was a huge burst of fireworks.  She said it is a beautiful picture in her minds-eye.  Bike, road, open space, fireworks.  She also had two road runners run out in the road in front of her just like the cartoon.  But I’m not sayin’ there’s a connection between the two…
7,000+ miles on - smooth but not sparkly

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Friends All Along the Compass - 

End of Leg 2

I happened to be on the phone with Kirsten when she pulled into a bonus location.  Here’s how it went – push the OK button on the SPOT (which lets me know at home that she reached a bonus, or a rest bonus if it’s that time of day), read the bonus information, take two pictures, check the pictures, log it in, turn the page to the next bonus, read the route, and go.  I said, “You never got off the bike did you?”  She never even put the side stand down.  It frankly took me longer to type the process out for you than it did for her to make the whole stop before she was off to the next bonus 200+ miles away.

For those of you who have been following along, you might have noticed the KTsRidin image – a beautiful graphic that was created by my good friend Rebecca Goulder.  
It combines our love of travel, moto rides, and a piece of art that is hanging in our dining room with the cardinal and ordinal directions.  To us, the compass reflects traveling and finding your way home again.  I’ve been sending out stickers to the KTsRidin pit crew, and Kirsten is also carrying some stickers with her that have this fantastic graphic on it.  I know some of you are planning to be at Checkpoint 2 – TN tonight.  Pit crew support also includes a hug (if you can stand to get that close on Day 7 of the Rally)!  She’s pretty tired and soaking wet today, but she’ll give you a sticker if you ask – she said to remind her.  (And thanks to William Moose, who has been very successful traveling with his stickers!)  All in all, between texts, e-mails, FB and Blog replies and so much more from the LD riding community and friends and family in three countries – you are amazing. 

Kirsten took a minute when the light was with her a couple days ago to capture a wave to you all – watch her shadow.  And she got to the photo bonus at ANJO with 60 seconds to spare.  She, and a gaggle of other riders, are now rolling up the highway to Kingsport to close out Leg 2.  THIS, she said, is so rewarding after the last few days!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

It's Genetic

Sometimes people wonder what makes rally riders tick.  Why – people ask – would they want to ride from NM, to CO, to SD, to ND, to WY, to WA, to OR, to UT, to NV and then back to NM in 4 days for what was it – bonus points?  My feeling is that genetics has something to do with it.  Here, on the 4th of July, just a few weeks after Father’s Day, I want to tell you about Kirsten’s father.  George Francis Talken was a US Navy pilot during Vietnam, and died there when she was three.  For as long as I’ve known her, her family have said things like, “that is just like your father.”  George Francis was the kid that his brothers always goaded into all sorts of mischief with, “let’s get Francie to do it.” 

Kirsten’s mother Marion met George at a stop light when they were both cruising Virginia Beach Blvd in 1963.  Very soon they were dating.  On the day she was driving from Richmond to Virginia Beach to meet his squadron for the first time, George flew his plane low over the highway, and she knew it was him.  She was so excited to get there.  When she got to the club on base, everyone was pretty quiet, and George was a little late, but walked in calm as could be.  Only later did she find out that the plane had stalled out near Oceana and he had to do a water landing and “step out.”  His team mates said he had landed a “swamp bird.”  He had dealt with the plane and rushed to meet Marion, never telling her much because that was her initiation to Navy Aviation!  They were married within 4 months.

Marion on three wheels
Kirsten’s grandmother Edna (George’s mom) was a motorcycle rider, long distance RV driver, and a Chico California Rosie the Riveter who also had that adventuresome spirit.  And Marion has been known to move along on some wheels too!  Marion remembers the "training runs" that George and the other pilots used to do when they were stationed in Jacksonville, FL, “They used to do crazy stuff, like fly up to Maine to pick up lobsters – from Jacksonville!  They’d say they needed to empty a tank of gas.  So they’d come back, you kids were all in bed, and at midnight, we’d be cooking up lobsters in the backyard with the neighbors.  Your dad would be sitting in the high chair with a lobster bib on and a bottle – a beer bottle!  You’d just call it a training flight – got to go get lobsters.”  Or, as Kirsten is doing today, a few more states and bonus points. 

Most rally spouses have similar stories about their loved ones, who just seem to be wired a little bit differently than others.  It's that ability to take the long miles alone in the helmet in challenging conditions, while maintaining mental alertness, even on bad days.

Today, was a rough day in the saddle.  Kirsten burned an hour in a 7-Eleven waiting for a good receipt due to a miscalculation, then she was battered by a hail storm, delayed by a road detour, lost and recovered her rally flag, and was hit in the helmet by a bird strike.  It’s the crap days of Leg 2.  She’s about 3 hours behind where she planned to be and feels like she’s riding her plan but watching the ETA on her GPS get later and later.  The countdown clock to the checkpoint is not helpful.  And loud.  It’s days like today, and every rider has them, when you have to be reminded of the strong stuff you’re made of.

Kirsten's R1200RT with her dad’s squadron stickers on the fuel cell.

Friday, July 3, 2015

"Not What Muir Had in Mind"...But I Bet Mather Would Have Loved It!

I had to steal Monday’s IBR report title because Park Rangers LOVE to quote John Muir.  And as if to prove the point, I was looking up something at work, mistyped, and got this error message.  This is funny on so many levels, especially if you know Kirsten’s IBA number.  

It's true, I don’t think the IBR was what Muir, or Albright, or even Mather had in mind.  But I bet that Mather, who was known to tour parks via motorcycle, would have loved the idea.  The NPS founding fathers probably could never have anticipated visiting THIS many parks in such a short amount of time.  To refresh your memory (and for those just tuning in), to be a finisher of this year’s Iron Butt Rally, riders must at minimum, visit 50 parks in 25 states within the time restrictions.  (You’ll see the tally has begun in today’s IBR report.)  Normally, the Iron Butt ride of this nature gives riders 365 days to complete, but during the Rally, they will have 11 days.  The National Park Tour is apparently the most started IBA ride, with the highest number of non-finishers.  And our intrepid rally riders have just begun Leg 2. 
As you can imagine, Kirsten got her fair share of ribbing and knee-slapping and wan cries of “unfair advantage” at the launch.  Lisa Landry’s droll response, “what, is she going to have people in the national parks do the ride for her?”  Now, at the end of Leg 1, riders are reporting national park staff in multiple sites have heard-tell about this rally and its national park theme and are providing their own encouragement.  Tom Loftus showed up at a park to claim his picture, and a ranger came out of the visitor center saying, “You’re here!  I’ve been watching a SPOT moving towards us for a while!”  At other parks, staff are coming out and bringing snacks to riders in the parking lot, some saying, “This is the most visitation we’ve had all year!”

I think it’s fantastic that the IBR choose national parks as the theme for this year – getting into the spirit as the centennial of the NPS is launched.  By 2016 – 100 years after the establishment of the NPS- it will be all national parks all the time- especially for those of us in the agency.  It’s an honor really.  I hope that our LD community is enjoying the ride.  We’re a small agency with a lot of spirit (just 21,000 permanent staff; for comparison, that’s the number of people who commute to the Pentagon daily).  To my NPS family – all your encouragement of the riders means A LOT to them!  Keep it up! 
Mather riding in YELL, 1923
Now to make good on a couple of my earlier promises – the story about Glacier, and explaining the NPS alphabet.  For Kirsten, even though there are many, many parks on this ride that she has never been to before, each time she rolls up to an arrowhead, it’s like coming home again and again.  (It’s like that for all of us in the NPS family.)  However, there is one major park that she has yet to visit - Glacier NP.  What – you say – never been to Glacier?  Glacier was my first park and you always have a soft spot in your heart for your first park.  I spent 2 summer seasons and a fall season at GLAC.  I left in early October in 1996 in the middle of a blinding snowstorm on my way to my first winter seasonal park of El Morro National Monument (just a few miles from ABQ).  All of this was before I met Kirsten, and I told her many years ago that I wanted to go back to Glacier and I’d love it to be on her first visit.  Kirsten is very literal.  She took that to mean, when it showed up as a bonus location in a rally YEARS later, that she was not allowed to go.  For YEARS I have heard, “you know, I hear that Glacier is nice.  You know, mountains, pretty roads… can’t really say…I’ve never been there.”  As it turns out, she opted not to go to GLAC on Leg 1 this year either – but I swear it’s not my fault! 

And by now – you’ve probably figured out the NPS alphabet.  It's the 4-letter acronym that all parks are known by, and a fun game we play to test our NPS knowledge.  The acronym is created by the first 2 letters of the first two words of the park name, or the first 4 letters if the name is one word – GLAC is Glacier NP.  Every rule has its exceptions, take Carlsbad Caverns NP in NM.  No one wanted to work at CACA, so it’s known as CAVE.  I spent a winter season at LAME and we all loved the name, “That’s a LAME dam!” for instance.  But Lake Mead NRA is now known as LAKE.  It’s handy to know this shorthand because you can #findyourpark online anytime by typing and your favorite 4 letter name.

One last note for rally-watcher rookies who want to know how you prove you’ve been to a park.  Here are two pictures from Kirsten’s Leg 1.  Riders must always clearly have their rally flag, with the number CLEARLY visible, in the photo at the bonus location.  And they must also follow any other rules for each bonus (sometimes riders AND flags need to be in the picture, etc).  These pictures were for Pecos NM.  The picture on the top is bad, the picture on the bottom is good.  If she hadn’t checked and rode away from Pecos with a bad picture (i.e. could have been anywhere on any desert road without the sign clearly visible), she would have lost the points at scoring.  As it turns out, she got all the points she planned at the end of Leg 1.  Ride On.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Leg 1 - Completo!

Was this classic tune going through your head today as you watched all those SPOTs begin their decent to Albuquerque?  Apparently, it is one of Chris Sakala’s favorites, and Kirsten has been known to sing along to The Partridge Family too.  

But my 3 minute afternoon conversation with Kirsten went more like this:
Me:   “How are you feeling today?  I saw your spot outside Great Basin this morning.”
K:     “Yes, I slept there last night.”
Me:   “I saw the SPOT, but there’s not that many hotels near Great Basin.”
K:      “I know – I slept in the parking lot and when it got light enough to take the picture, I took it and left.”
Me:    “Wait, so you’re telling me you slept in the parking lot at Great Basin last night?”
K:       “Yes – I used my cover stuffed in the bag for a pillow, I took off my boots, and I kept my gloves on because it was a little cold, and I slept right on the tarmac.  Man, I slept hard too!  It was so serene, but those birds were so loud this morning!”
Me:     “Sooo – you’re going to be really happy to be in the hotel tonight.”
K:       “You have no idea.”

And that, Rally watchers, is what you call an Iron Butt hotel.  

Which did help to recharge her batteries because she made excellent time here on day 4, picking up parks and her 12th state this leg on the way to the barn.  The 103+ degree weather yesterday really wiped her out and she finished off (aka “slammed”) the rest of her V8 and Gatorade and then a Subway sandwich to try and balance out the electrolytes and calories.  Apparently, an impromptu soaking in the sprinkler system at a never to be named in public park yesterday made her feel EVEN MORE BETTER!

As of this post, she’s back at Rally HQ in ABQ, readying herself to present for scoring.  Then food, a bit of route planning for tomorrow’s launch of Leg 2, then big sleep.  You know the mantra – big roads, big rocks, big sleep, big fun.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Cooler Skies and a Surprise

A very helpful directional sign,
which we captured on vacation in FL earlier this year.
Today’s brief ride report actually came in three parts over about 45 minutes as the cell phone kept cutting in an out of range.  The good news is the weather has gone from over 100 degrees to 54 degrees in less than 8 hours.  Kirsten had to finally pull over and put her warm layer on.  Altitude anywhere will give you cooler skies.  She saw a bald eagle this morning and then, what did that sign say?  99 more miles of twisty roads?  Um, awesome.  So for about 160 miles she rode through incredible country on twisty roads and thought, “sometimes this ride is a slog, and sometimes it’s a vacation.” 

As for me, I had a nice surprise today.  A lovely “serene” lily arrived at my desk, with a note thanking me for holding down the fort (we love that pun now around our house).  It does get a little crazy in the pit crew sometimes and the plant made me smile.  I also want to thank all of YOU for your comments and for following along!  I read Kirsten your comments and it really helps when things get tiring.

Tomorrow ends Leg 1.  Stay tuned to the IBR Ride report and watch as that sea of SPOTs makes their way back to base.  Kirsten's in there somewhere thanking you for following along!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tuesday- Brought to You by the Letter “U”

For Ungulates!  Kirsten’s morning report was that she has encountered all manner of ungulates in her travels since leaving ABQ.  Or as we like to call them in the NPS – charismatic mega fauna. A herd of elk held her up at the entrance to a park yesterday afternoon.  And this morning, she saw something light-colored flashing off the road to her side before it disappeared around a hill.  She slowed down and sure enough, an antelope popped out from behind the hill, stopped in the middle of the road, and stared at her.  The antelope eventually moved on, but she had to finally honk at some deer that tried the same stare-down in the middle of another lane.  In fact, while she was talking to me, there was a brief – “oh look – there’s another antelope!”  At the next park, there was a huge dark rock…that wasn’t.  You know where I’m going – she said it was the biggest bison she had ever seen.  (And we got some seriously up-close shots last summer visiting our friends at Tallgrass Prairie NM on our way to the IBA Meet.)  The daylight driving is allowing her to SEE these ungulates (and they her).  But always cleverly thinking ahead – she’s actually more worried about bison chips in the road– they can be very slippery.  

Bison at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, KS (TAPR) 
At last check this evening, all is well and she was heading to a park that it would just be a darn shame to miss on this IBR.  Looks like she’s going to have some company there tonight.  She said that with all the parks she’s been in, not one person has seen the “America the Beautiful” motorcycle sticker-pass on her windshield.  Funny, because that was of the reasons that she bought her pass from the National Forest Service office in ABQ- about 3 miles from the hotel.  (Teaching moment - the US Forest Service is a Bureau in the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Park Service is a Bureau in the Department of the Interior - very different missions.  Park rangers and forest "rangers" are not the same.  And they've got Smokey.)  In addition to the sticker pass, the USFS office also took credit cards.  If you read yesterday’s report, you’ll note that many other riders nearly cleaned out PETR of passes.  Uh...was I not supposed to type out load that the NPS person didn’t buy her pass from the NPS site?  Ah well, it’s all in the federal family.  

Monday, June 29, 2015

With All Our Friends Around Us- Leg 1 Begins 

Sometimes you find yourself right where you are supposed to be at exactly the time you were meant to be there.  For me, that was yesterday morning’s church service.  With so many friends and family traveling this week, I had a lot to be thankful for and a lot to offer up.  Then, during the second reading, this is what I heard, “And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something—now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means.”  And there you have it.    
So many friends are wearing the Big Girl Pants this year - Mark, Tom, Jim, Chris, Tonie, Lynda and Terry, Connie, John and Andie, Allen, Hammy, Bob, Scott, and so many more - thus begins watching dots and spots and tracking friends.  And blogging.  It is also the time when, as an earlier IBR report said, over 50,000 members devour the reports of the rally goings-on.  I watch the reports and FB pages of other friends, spouses, and riders (who are ONLY reporting at check-points, if even then, lest they distract themselves and earn the wrath of rally staff…or worse, end up in an IBR daily report).  So, if you’re ready to do the deep dive into the IBR 2015 viewing party over the next 11 days, here are some public sites you might want to watch:

Iron Butt Magazine’s FB page:  a.k.a. reports, commentary and pictures!

Bob Rippy’s blog:  a.k.a. Never have so many, ridden so far, to see so little.

Chris Sakala’s blog (kept by Nancy):  a.k.a. Co-creator of BeadRider – which some call the single best investment to improve comfort on long rides.

One good friend not at ABQ is Paul Pelland, who regaled us last summer at the Denver IBA Meet with his amazing story of riding the IBR in the “hopeless class,” which resulted in his standing on his pegs and screaming at the top of his lungs “I WILL NEVER GIVE UP!!”  He didn’t, doesn’t, and is still amazing, and still riding, with MS.  He got just got home yesterday after a monster ride to AK, which included, on his last leg of the trip, 3300 miles in 59.5 hours.  His site is:

If you’re a facts-n-figures kind of person, you might like to look at the many ways to split the numbers provided by the IBR Finishers and Records page.

And if you were watching the public IBR Spot Tracker page around 10:00 a.m. ABQ time this morning, you saw pretty quickly that the field divided as each person made their routing decisions.  

 Kirsten, with Rider flag #2, shared a picture of her starting GPS.  She said that folks were cheering as they rode out of ABQ with a police escort.  She sounded super excited and eager in the 2 minutes I had her in her helmet, and then… game time.  At last report (7:00 p.m. ABQ time), she’s making good progress although a rainstorm surprised her with her vents open and she got pretty wet.  It was a quick dry once she was out of the storm, but she said the winds were so strong she had to keep moving to keep the bike upright.  Those western winds won’t blow her off course.  She’s got a plan and she’s sticking to it.

The sign on her office door at FOMR on her last day before leaving for ABQ.  

Sunday, June 28, 2015


On the Sunday before the launch, it starts to get a little mental.  Sleepless nights; THINKING about what might be found in the rally pack later today; double, triple-checking batteries and flashlights; filling gas tanks; checking tires.  And then there was the little post, almost in passing, in yesterday’s IBR report that Lisa was trying to find secure accommodations for 80 laptops to hold in ABQ…. WHAT?!  Are the riders going to have to leave their COMPUTERS at the hotel?  Minor panic.  More speculation.  Until it was revealed tonight that you can’t believe everything you read on the interwebs.  This same report, I will note, did have a mention of Kirsten.  If you’re going to end up in the daily report, you’d rather it be for nice than not.

Kirsten, like several riders, spent the day finishing laundry, checking e-mail before her social media blackout while riding, and bringing all the Garmins back to the room to be ready for the rally pack release.  She also got her special Smurf Karma card from Jerry White – insuring that she will have Smurfy Karma throughout the ride (i.e. if the bike breaks down, at least there will surely be someone there to help).  

She also found her lost mercat!  The mercat was a gift from Motor Maid friend Gayle who cracks up every time she rides behind Kirsten and sees her pop up to stand on her pegs and look around.  The mercat rode the 2011 IBR with Kirsten and we couldn’t find it before she left VA.  Turns out, he had tucked himself into her side case and is now properly re-mounted in the cockpit (upper right).  Every little bit helps.

Others found another way to mentally prepare for tomorrow’s launch – hair painting.  

Cletha and Eric took their task seriously, cutting out wax paper patterns so that people could have custom paint jobs.  Eric Bray, grinning after his star application, told Kirsten, “It’s better if it’s in direct sunlight.”  Indeed.  The winner of the best paint job gets to roll out first tomorrow – with their head still painted.  Kirsten, warily snapping pictures, saw Higdon and Warchild come out and point in her direction, prompting her to exit stage right and enter the hotel via another door…. See mental alertness is key.

Just about an hour ago I got a quick excited call that they have received all of the rally locations for this year, and in fact, there are over 250 national park sites.  She said, “I can’t even tell you how excited I am!  And yes mom- Fort Monroe is in there!”  Of course they won’t know the point value or any other restrictions until later.  Leg 1 is released tonight.  There's still a lot to process, so I told her to keep mentally on track.  Have fun, and stand up now and then to just look around.  

Saturday, June 27, 2015

You Are Now Free to Move About the Country 

There is now a satisfying swarm of Spots centered on ABQ.  And, disconcertingly, still a handful of Spots from riders who are still several states away.  And here it is check-in/ tech inspection day.  Oh dear.  A few days ago, I was on the phone with Kirsten as she crossed mile post 0 in TX and the NM state line - “There’s cholla all around!  There’s one blooming.  And sunflowers.”  We’re no stranger to NM, but the last time we were in ABQ it was March and very cold - not the 100+ degrees of June.  We bought a Mexican blanket, rigged it with some rope, and she wore it as a blanket belt all the way back to VA to help keep her legs warm and the ice off.  Desperate times.  I don’t think that will be an issue this trip; in any case, she did not pack the blanket in the top case.

This is a good time to introduce new IBR followers to the publicSpot Tracker link and the daily reports on the official Iron Butt Rally 2015 page.  This is Ground Zero of IBR reporting, coming from the staff at Rally HQ as it moves from ABQ to the first check point in TN, and back to the final check point at ABQ.  The first report (up yesterday!) provides an excellent primer into the “how does it all work” question behind 11 days, 11,000 miles.  

Just a couple days ago, as Kirsten was getting a brand new set of tires for Leg 1, she started texting me – Jim Owen just walked in the waiting room (at the BMW dealership).  I sent back a smile.  Then – Chris Sakala is here too.  More smiles, and before you know it, it was a “the boys are back in town” moment as everyone was deep into their final bike-readiness. 

And the IBR 2015 theme poster was revealed!

Kirsten and Jennifer Ridin'
Thank goodness Kirsten picked up her “America the Beautiful” pass in ABQ.  That would have just been embarrassing.  Contrary to popular belief, National Park Service employees do not get free entrance to national parks, national forests, or even dog parks, oh wait, maybe that one’s true.  Still – the poster is more of a tease because the riders won’t get the rally packs until Sunday night.  So they still don’t know where they’ll be going over the first 4 days of Leg 1.  But, she has my permission to go to Glacier National Park if it’s on the list – I’ll tell you that story later.  And I promise, if there are lots o’ parks in those rally packs, I’ll help translate the NPS alphabet for you- YOSE (Yosemite NP), GLAC (Glacier NP), GRCA (Grand Canyon NP)...Get your pass and #findyourpark this summer too!  Looking forward to this rally – and with tech inspection complete and good news all around – we are now free to move about the country.  

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Leaving Out

When the phone rings 20 minutes after your Iron Butt Rally rider leaves home, you just say, uh oh.  Sure enough, my first “rally call” was on Sunday when, within 2 miles of home, one of Kirsten’s GPS units bounced out of its cradle as she was leaving out I-64.  She caught it, and (smoothly and safely I’m sure) made her way to the side of the road to place the GPS back in the cradle and screw down the pins.  Whew!  Happily, she had an uneventful ride that day (we’ll call it Leg 1A - getting to the launch in Albuquerque).  She went about 600 miles on Sunday to stay with a good friend in Tennessee.  Thinking she had arrived only a few minutes early they got down to visiting, when Kirsten saw the clock in the house.  Actually - this part of TN is in Central Time, and she was an hour early!  Add that pesky time zone map to the list of things to get into the top case!  Rally watchers know how much an error in your time zone, time, date, day, or all of the above can mess up your rally and cost you big points.

Considering that Leg 1A was shaping up to become a true shake-down cruise, I was doing a little clean up at home and found this fortune sitting under a stack of Aerostich catalogs and IBR magazines - 

No truer words.

The rest of the trip to Albuquerque (bonus points if you can actually spell that correctly on your first try- I’m going with ABQ) included very hot weather, dodging storms, and yes, even locust!


Then BaseCamp crashed that Garmin.

And everyone offered spares, and backups, and tech support, and even to take shifts to be on the phone reading directions off of Google maps.  (That’s just how crazy YOU all are!)

But then, the Garmin got reloaded and the maps came back.  And the headset works in the helmet to call ahead to reserve the hotel.  And the Spot Tracker showed that she has made it to ABQ.  And in the next post, we’ll tune in for the pre-rally fun at Rally HQ.  While the locust swarm.....

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Can You Hear Me Now?!

Anyone know where this phone is?  I've answered a call - have you?
So, you’re headed out to who knows where and there are folks back home who want to know where you are and that you’re doing okay.  In the past we found a pay phone (remember those?) and stopped and made a call.  Now that we have cell phones people no longer stop to make calls.  On a motorcycle it’s not exactly the easiest or safest thing to whip out your phone, unlock it, dial a number, and then jam it into your helmet and close your face shield hoping the person on the other end can hear you…. and look out if it goes to voice mail.  Some folks have used wired communication systems to make calls from their motorcycle.  I could never get mine to work well enough.  So, how make it so Jennifer does not rip her hair out worrying about me as I travel?
SPOT – see spot ride!

This is a GPS-enabled tracking device that allows folks to follow your travels.  To help make this device even more valuable there’s SpotWalla, provided by a fellow rider.  This site makings it easier to connect and share your information.  During the Iron Butt Rally there is a public page that anyone can watch (check out this quick video of the 2011 IBR riders, 11 days condensed into a couple of minutes =  Not everyone shares their tracks as you’ll note none of the riders who when to Hyder, AK in 2011 are shown on this video.  To help with safety, a rider’s identity is cycled so that only the rally organizers know who’s who.  More on sharing tracking information in a bit.
An example of how the SPOT played a roll in the IB 5000
 Back to communication when you’re underway.  Via a bit of trial and error Jennifer now gets emails and text alerts from my SPOT.  I share my SpotWalla feed on, just looks for the links on the right side.  You’ll be able to follow my progress towards rally HQ in just a week!  And if you want to check out a few older feeds (like the 2011 ride) click on those links.

But perhaps the “greatest” upgrade for this rally is the non-wired communications system.  Finally, there’s a fairly reliable crop of Bluetooth enabled devises for motorcycle riders like there are for four+ wheeled vehicles.  Unlike a car’s system, these are battery powered so developing strategies for recharging while underway are important for long-distance (LD) riders.

Here’s how I’m set up.

My phone is connected to my GPS unit.  This gives me a heads-up display of who’s calling and gives me a one-touch “call home” button to dial “the Lovely One” – for anyone that read the 2011 rally blog you should know Jennifer did all of those updates via mostly nightly 60 second phone calls.  This go around I’ll be able to check in a bit more, but my main goal will still be safety while underway.

So, what does all this connectivity give us… well, if you’re the rally organizers it can be a bit of a headache.  As alluded to above, rider safety and security are essential.  To that end, the whereabouts of riders in any type of “real-time data” available to the general public is a bad thing.  Also, there’s a chance that if someone knows where you are, checks traffic/weather and sees an issue along the rider’s route, that person can call and re-route the rider.  This is NOT allowed.  Assistance can be provided (i.e., a person can help make a hotel reservation for you), but it cannot influence the route of the rider.

Once the rally is underway it looks like interested folks will once again be able to check in on the “big picture” of where all the riders who have anonymously shared their location are at the moment.  On the Iron Butt Association 2015 Iron Butt Rally page ( there’s already a link to the public Spotwalla.  As you’ll seen if you go there and click, the page isn’t up yet… come on, we still have a few days before this crazy parade kicks off:  T-minus 13 days!!!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

What happened to 18 months…

… seriously.  Wasn’t it just yesterday that I got the following:

Congratulations!  Your application was drawn for entry in the 2015 Iron Butt Rally!

I remember thinking to myself that I was both elated and nervous.  There are top dog riders who profess to no preparation prior to the rally.  That’s just unfathomable to me. Time to get crackin and get all the preparatory work done well in advance.

And yet….
Here it is, less than a week from when I need to hit the road and I’ve just figured out that the program I’ve been using with all my legacy GPS units keeps crashing.  Yep, nothing like learning a new system days before you have to employ it in the most challenging event you’ve ever done.
So, when I was preparing for the 2011 IBR I made sure I got lots of good sleep before the rally.  This go around I’m up until one or two in the morning working on learning Basecamp.’s actually got me rather nervous on top of the usual jitters.  But I’m playing the mental games with myself saying I don’t have as much to do as before to get everything ready (i.e., I’m not putting on a new auxiliary fuel tank – oh wait, I did just add a new tank).  Anyway, it's a week before I hit the road.  Time to put the hydration system back on the bike and dial in a few last things.  All the grandiose plans I had for updating this or that are out the window now.  There are only three changes on the bike, along with the new auxiliary fuel tank and top case, I pulled out the AutoCom and replaced it with a wireless system (more on that in a later posting) and I now have in excess of 130k miles on the '09 RT... she's a keeper!

Artwork by Becca -
A while ago I was asked if folks could “contribute” to my ride.  Well, for the folks who’ve read Jennifer’s most excellent blow-by-blow of the 2011 ride, you know just how much of a contribution your well wishes and kind thoughts were along the way.  Even so, I continue to be asked about giving money to help out.  So, if you’ve already done your charitable giving and are looking to buy a poor fool a gallon of gas or batteries for the SPOT so you can keep watching, here’s the skinny.

On the upper right side of this page (mobile users, click the "View web version" at the bottom of the site) is the button to send funds. Donation sites charge a processing fee on TOP of what PayPal charges, so it was recommended that I just go straight to PayPal.  You don’t need an account to send funds.  If you do have an account, by using the “send to family & friends” link, there’s no fee for bank donations within the U.S.  Please be sure to include a mailing address as I want to send along a thank you for your help :)