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: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Iron-Butt-Magazine/215472378531?fref=ts  a.k.a. reports, commentary and pictures!

Bob Rippy’s blog: http://mls2go.blogspot.com/2015/06/iron-butt-rally-2015-pictures-from.html  a.k.a. Never have so many, ridden so far, to see so little.

Chris Sakala’s blog (kept by Nancy): http://www.beadrider.com/2015-iron-butt-rally/  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: http://www.longhaulpaul.com/

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. http://www.ironbutt.org/ibrfacts.htm

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 = https://youtu.be/giUyMna0EPo).  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 ktsridin.blogspot.com, 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 (http://www.ironbuttrally.com/IBR/2015.cfm) 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. 

http://www.garmin.com/en-US/shop/downloads/basecampIt’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 - http://cargocollective.com/rlgoulder
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 :)