Sunday, July 23, 2017

IBR 2017 - Rally Wrap Up

There is an excellent café just a couple miles from Rally HQ-Minneapolis called, Good Day Café, Bad Day Bar.  They got a lot of our money this month.  After all our friends had parked their bikes, and Kirsten and the pups were tucked in for an afternoon nap on Day 11, I went over to pick up some of their fantastic salad and homemade bread.  When Kirsten rolled out at the start, she had told me that she was looking forward to another meal from the Good Day Café at the end.  I had been thinking about that café for the past 11 days, concerned when I thought I might have to fly to Reno instead of drive back to Minneapolis.  But there I was, sitting in a big comfy chair, with a lovely latte, when the woman brought over my bag of to-go deliciousness.  I nearly cried.  After 11 days of rallying, it was such a relief to have this meal, and some calm.  

Kirsten, Jennifer, and Lisa Landry at the 2017 IBR banquet.
By the evening, the calm had been replaced by excited anticipation as everyone gathered for the IBR 2017 banquet.  Rallymaster Lisa Landry and I had “a moment” when we saw each other.  I’ve never talked to her so much during a rally, and I know she won’t be offended when I say, I never want to talk to her that much during a rally again.  There is nothing like strolling through the lobby with all these amazing riders, hearing snippets of stories, and seeing the smiles through the soreness.  “...Did you go to the giant grasshopper group photo bonus?”  “…and then I realized that I could ride 500 less miles and get 2,000 more points and I thought, well I should do THAT!”  “...When Jim called to let me know he’d be back over an hour into penalty points, I said, wellll, are you ok with that?  And he said he thought he’d be fine…” There was a group of new Iron Butt riders from Michigan who bought banquet tickets and organized a Saddle Sore 1000 just to be in the room for the finish. 

The banquet started off with Mike Kneebone calling Kirsten to the podium, waving her SpotTracker, wondering where she was.  Of course, Kirsten was getting ice cream, so I started to walk up saying, “well, I know where her Spot is…”  But there’s no getting around Mike when he’s on to something – and in this case, it was relaying, from his perspective, Kirsten’s adventures in the Nevada desert and offering a very special award.  A singing outhouse to commemorate her night in the vault toilet- a whole new form of Iron Butt Hotel.

An assemblage of Kirsten's rally memorabilia, including the special award for the 2017 IBR.
There were other mishaps.  Jon Kerr was there with his broken leg – having ridden to the finish with said leg in a cast.  Asked how he managed it, he said seriously, “the last 1200 miles were really tough.”  Troy Martin, 1st place to Kirsten’s 2nd place in last year’s Butt Lite, shared pictures of his totaled bike.  “Where are the handlebars Troy?” I asked.  “Oh, somewhere back here.”  I looked at his wife Amanda.  We both sighed.  Our spouses were in the room, and we were all standing there together in Minneapolis.  ‘nuff said. 

The evening concluded with Bob Lilley and Jim Owen on the podium.  Safari master Jeff Earls drew out the drama saying, “And in 2nd place, on a R1200…..” we all waited.  Both Bob and Jim are on R1200 BMWs – but which one?  “GSA,” said Jeff.  Bob’s bike, in 2nd place.  Jim and his R1200RT, who were only 20 minutes from a DNF at the final checkpoint, instead finished in 1st place making him the only person to ever finish in 1st place in two Iron Butt Rallies.  Legend.  And friend.  If you haven’t already, you can view the official final standings of the 2017 Iron Butt Rally on the rally site:

Jim Owen, becoming the first person to finish twice in 1st place for the IBR. 

Riley and Bela welcome Bill and Diane 
Eight days later, we gathered with local friends and riders at Morton’s BMW who hosted a celebration.  IBR 2017 finishers Tina Venters, Eric Bray, Chris Comly, and Kirsten shook hands, told stories, and looked at each other with that look – the look of success, frustration, pride and exhaustion that finishers of the IBR understand.  In fact, Tina and Mike were still on Leg 4 – arriving for cake before they had even made it home.  True to form, when you tell the long distance riding community there will be cake, they come from 5 states, battling the horrendous DC metro Saturday traffic, to participate.  Bill and Diane Dunlap arrived in Spotsylvania to make sure that we, the pups, and the bike had all made it back just fine.  They had helped to load the RT into Chase Van 2.0 just the weekend before.  Rick Miller, a Top 10 IBR veteran and MD 20-20 rallymaster arrived to poke Kirsten in the ribs, making sure she was in one piece.  Nick Byrnes welcomed the pups and I home – thanks for being an avid blog-reader!  Several friends from the Fredericksburg area came to have a bite and hear a story.  It was a wonderful day.  Our thanks to Steve Anderson and Jeff Massey and the whole crew at Morton’s who always make us feel right at home.   

Upcoming Events: Tina Venters, Chris Comly, Eric Bray and Kirsten consider their next adventure after finishing the 2017 IBR.  Celebrating with cake and friends at Morton's BMW.

We are now 2 weeks post-rally finish, yet the experience lingers.  There still have been a couple moments where I’ve woken up and wondered where I am.  The pups walk through the house to make sure we are both here, if not in the same room.  Kirsten is restless and scrolling the posts for new bikes.  The insurance claim has been made for the war horse R1200RT – a bike that has been THE rally bike for many years and 185,000 miles.  Yesterday, we went to Beemers Uber Alles  to bring home Mr. Happy, the rubber duck, the Bead Rider, and other rally farkles.  Kirsten is currently riding the F800ST, but despite creative thinking about modifications, it’s just not going to work for a rally bike.  (Soooo- the ST is still for sale!)  We’ve gotten MANY helpful suggestions from all over the country about the next bike, but leaving the RT at the shop still leaves a sore spot.  Her mom, who says her vote counts more than others, votes for 4 wheels.  Kirsten thanked her for suggestion she get two bikes for those 4 wheels.

Rally scribe John Harrison wrote in the IBR Epilog post, “Emerging from that depth of focus can be unsettling.”  I know that’s true, for riders and for everyone who has held that depth of focus for rallying, while continuing with daily life.  I’m sure that rally fans are still trolling through social media, bored with more political posts and missing the steady progression of reports from a multi-day rally.  Lisa Erbes, 2017 IBR finisher as part of the two-up Team Winterer-Erbes, primed the pump a bit by posting the date that registration will open for the 2018 Butt Lite (midnight, CDT, September 9).  Rallymaster Randy Gabrick invited us to come and participate in next year’s Minnesota 1000 , which will be the last that he and IBR 2017 finisher Connie Gabrick will host.  Bill Watt told Kirsten and I to just come and visit him in Vancouver next year.  I was thinking that scouting bonus locations for IBR 2019 sounds like a good plan.  We’ll see.  Meanwhile, I had several more perfectly good posts in draft for this rally that I never got to use due to Kirsten’s adventures.  So perhaps the coming weeks will be sprinkled with some catch-up rally posts on the blog.  It’s good to have a plan. Meanwhile, back at work, Kirsten’s staff discovered a Civil War-era unexploded ordinance this week.  Never a dull moment.  Perhaps the post-rally plan should be to look for the next adventure.  As the Butt Lite page says, “Light fuse.  Get away.”

Friday, July 7, 2017

All In

The RT's bug screen (i.e. windshield)
There’s something about watching the Spots you’ve been watching for 11 days materialize into actual people.  Riders that we know and love who have ridden what only a few on earth have done.  The bright moon over the Rally HQ bike parking last night lit a path to the final check point in the “Star of the North” – Minnesota.  By 6:00 a.m. – the flow of riders into the lot became steady as the group aimed to be in before the 8:00 a.m. penalty points.  

IBR 2017 Finisher photo of Kirsten and Mark
to add to my collection
Wendy Crocketts’s daughter Tess, sporting a T-shirt that says, “My mom is tattooed and awesome,” cheered her mom in with purple pomp poms and crawled right into her lap after the odo was taken.  Troy Martin, who totaled his bike on a sandy corner in OR, borrowed a Harley to drive back to finish the rally.  Eric Lipps was holding an adult beverage at 9:00 a.m. this morning in his clutch hand that was injured during Leg 2, which we all took as a good sign.  Tina Venters had a huge smile when she exited scoring and Mike has made OFFICIAL rally spouse rank with his bright purple vest reading, “Tina’s Emotional Support System. Don’t Pet Me, I’m Working.”  Mark Crane gave me a smile and nod as he made the curve into the Rally HQ parking lot, right on the nose.  He told me he only saw two deer on his trip across the UP.  Ken Meese rolled in with most of the front of his bike missing from a deer strike. Wolfe Bonham came in just as I got an OK message from Kirsten's Spot as she picked up one last bonus. Her last bonus, grabbed with about 20 minutes remaining, was worth about 50 points.  She didn’t loose any points at the scoring table on any leg during this rally.  Jim Owen, arriving 1:40 into penalty points, gratefully grinned and laid down on the ground next to his bike.  He’s back. And they’re all in.

The rest of the day will be for showers and sleep.  The banquet is tonight at 6:30 p.m., and any story not told yet, will be told there.  Watch the IBR site later tonight for the final standings.  For now, all of us spouses and spectators are just happy to see a full rally bike lot again with the side stands down.
Kirsten's final bonus photo, with her rally flag and the RT

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Day 11 – A Yawn, a Checkpoint Finish Line, and a Ticking Clock

This morning, I really needed a cup of coffee.  I’m sure that many of you out there really need a cup of coffee.  I’m sure there are some bikes out there that would love a cup of coffee as they beat feet to the final checkpoint in Minneapolis with less than 12 hours to go.  Penalty points begin at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.  

Last night, a sign in the campsite next to me said, “Where friends and marshmallows get toasted.”  It could have been a reference to tomorrow night’s IBR 2017 banquet.  Friends are coming in on 4 wheels and 2 for the dinner, and to hear the stories of what happened from Nevada to Newfoundland.  Several more riders who started this safari 11 days ago are now out of the running with stories of heat, broken bikes, and missed checkpoint deadlines to tell.  There's a handful of Spots lined up to ride in the next 12 hours what I drove in the last 2 days (with a lot of flower sniffing).  There will be people outside Rally HQ all evening welcoming riders in.

Rally pups Bela and Riley and I completed our trek to Rally HQ- MN this evening.  Not to be left out of the fun, along the way we ended up on a county road, past an elk farm and two sandhill cranes (safari spectator bonus points for live interesting animals!), until we got diverted by a road closed sign, and then slowed by a bevy of scooters.  Once back on the highway, a huge piece of plastic from road construction got blown in front of Chase Van 2.0 from the semi in front, and ended up flapping under the van despite evasive maneuvers.  That required a quick tug to dislodge the plastic, and carry on through the 96 degrees / 97% humidity that is coating the northern Midwest right now.  A safari indeed. 
Non-IBR scooters scooting slowly
down a WI road.

A quick call with Kirsten during her rest break last night had her sounding, well, fine.  The bike is running well with some added oil and she got some needed rest.  The rally clock is ticking, but as the Spots converge once again on Minneapolis, we are looking for safe arrivals for all the riders.  After all, I know there will be coffee at the finish.  There might even be marshmallows.
Your blog scribe at the "Finish" of Mizen Head (the southernmost point of Ireland) in May.
We're now at Rally HQ - MN waiting for the riders to roll in.  We'll leave the light on for you.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Long Night

[7/6/17 Corrections: It’s hard to get the details together, especially over broken cell phone connections lasting a few minutes here and there.  That being said, I feel like I need to post a quick correction.  Kirsten wasn’t taking a short-cut, nor was she following a brilliant suggestion from her GPS.  She was following the actual signs to the state park, and that brought her on that road – which by itself makes me wonder about the sign plan!  Regardless, we can now confirm that the R1200RT can stand well by itself with it wheels deep in sand, and keep on ticking.  One other correction pointed out by the honorable former IBR scribe, Mr. Higdon (I'm honored sir) - it is in fact Smokey Bear.  Not Smokey the Bear.  In my defense, even though everyone thinks park rangers work for the US Forest Service, we do not - the National Park Service is within a different Department entirely.  Smokey is their bear.  We have Buddy Bison.]

Well friends, it’s been a very long 24 hours. Kirsten started Leg 3 fairly refreshed and a few spots up in the standings after Checkpoint 2.  Days 7 & 8 found her riding through some of her favorite parts of the country.  But last night, trying to make a tight window for a daylight only bonus, she took a back road that turned into more of what I’d call a rutted mess.  She was out of contact for 11 hours.  I’ve been out of contact with her on many rallies, sometimes for well over day; but it has never started with the red “needs assistance” Spot message pinging my phone and e-mail for an hour.  To keep a long and sleepless story short, I’ll say that Kirsten found herself in the dark, having wrestled the bike up from one sand pit only to be tossed into an embankment as the bike found yet another pit of deep sand and a rock for the front tire.  For those of you playing along at home, that’s four get-offs – one pre-start and three underway.
The SAR team assist, including propping the RT up with some of the abundant rocks.
Being smart, strong, and resourceful, she hiked nearly 4 miles to her planned bonus location knowing that there would be people there in the morning.  She did the hike in the company of one rattlesnake, one scorpion, and one otherwise vacant road.  She took shelter on the concrete floor of a vault toilet – warm and scorpion free.  In the morning, the SAR team provided an assist to get her back to her bike, and get the bike back to the “good gravel.”  She rode out under her own power on 30+ miles of gravel to arrive gratefully on a solid piece of pavement.  
Blessed pavement and war horse RT

When she rolled into the closest town, it happened to be in the middle of a 4th of July parade.  She and her war horse RT were only a few spots behind Smokey the Bear!  With her helmet up, she waved and wished a Happy July 4th to everyone on her way to a water and food stop.  I'm not sure how many people can say they were involved in a SAR and came out in a 4th of July parade, but I can’t make this stuff up.

From this side of the keyboard, I can only say again how grateful I am for rally staff, skilled responders, family and cell towers.  And pavement.  She is rested and the bike, now looking pretty ugly, is running well.  She is making her way back to the barn with high attention given to self and bike care. And I’m pretty sure there are a few bonus locations within her path of travel.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Day 6 and It’s All Unicorns and Rainbows

Big miles are always part of Iron Butt rides, but in the Rally, points are primary for competitors.  You can ride all you want, but the points DO matter.  Rally math says lower miles plus higher points equals more efficient routing.  Leg 2 was a routing challenge for a lot of riders.  Sometimes you just don’t “see it” and don’t pick the winning route.  But once committed, it’s hard to make course corrections without the pile-on potential of making an error and loosing even more points.  Riders chant the mantra, “plan your ride; ride your plan,” but when you start to feel the plan isn’t the best, it’s hard to keep the motivation up to keeping riding the plan.  IBR rally reports from the past couple of days tell the tale.

Kirsten and Wolfe at the Start Line, MN
And then sometimes rally karma just sneaks in and takes over.  Wolfe Bonham had a birthday surprise when he got into a tank slapper that had him underway one foot on the peg and one foot on the seat.  He has a sticker from his dirt days that says, “When in doubt, give it gas – it will either fix it, or end the suspense.”  So he gave it gas, got back on his seat, and carried on.  Kirsten, who hit some diesel fuel on an off ramp yesterday had the tank slapper problem, but the opposite conclusion.  When she gave it some gas to straighten up the back tire, the front tire found a huge crevice in the road and slapped the handle bars for a hard left landing.  The result was three lanes of stopped traffic and immediate assistance to get the bike back up and on the road.  But karma is sometimes funny – she was already on the way to the shop for a rear tire.  Guess if karma is going to put you into the pavement, it’s better on the way to the shop.  So, she was able to strap the left light back on and pulled in with a few other items for attention.  She’s fine, no helmet dings.  Her middle finger on her clutch hand is tweaked (take that as you will).  After talking with her from the shop, I gave the Rallymaster a call.  Lisa’s wise response: tell her Advil is a major food group.  
The RT's left light, needing some repair.
The Leg 2 checkpoint opened at 5:00 p.m. local Texas time, with Kirsten presenting herself for scoring.  Now’s the time to maximize rest and regroup for Leg 3.  It’s a rally now my friends.  And it's all unicorns and rainbows. 
Ron's repairs to the RT

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Checkpoint 1

 The Leg1 Results show that Kirsten has ridden a monster 3,395 miles over the past 3 days, but the point spread is not what was hoped.  Checkpoints are quick-moving places.  Especially when you get in “on the bubble” as they say and have to stop the clock, get yourself ready for scoring, find something to eat, and prepare to rest.  Then route your Leg 2 and get underway.  I spoke with her briefly while she was at Rally HQ – TX and the overwhelming feeling was: it’s a good day when the air doesn’t hurt.  She hit temps of 122 degrees on Leg 1 and melted through more than one 10 lb. bag of ice (i.e. motorcyclist air conditioning).

The trusty R1200RT, which has carried her through many thousands of miles in many rallies, is running well. One huge shout out to George at Beemer Uber Alles (a.k.a. the motorcycle whisperer), who got the RT all tuned up a few weeks ago for this ride.  She began on Monday with over 174,000 miles on the odo.  She had to put some oil in, but Mr. Happy, the duck, and the Irish sheep are keeping watch as the miles roll on.   

Those of you joining me in watching the Spots descend last night noticed a few tracking in right as the clock chimed 8:00 p.m. in Allen, Texas.  Kirsten came in 3 minutes, and 30 penalty points, after the final chime.  We’ll take it.  She didn’t lose any points at the scoring table – and that’s cause for celebration.  Also celebrated, the comfy air conditioned room at Rally HQ…. however too much comfort makes it that much harder to climb back into the saddle.

Friends and supporters at the checkpoint report a range of other issues for riders on this leg – Spot Trackers on the fritz, a tire that needed to be plugged, and Mexican Felipe Salman got blown over in high winds, breaking his windshield.  He has a new shield and was in good hands with a checkpoint parking lot install to get back on the road.  He completed 2,753 miles on Leg 1.  And experienced rider Rob Nye has announced that he’s pulled the plug on this rally at the checkpoint after completing 2,658 miles.  This safari is keeping everyone on their toes.

So Kirsten was in, and now she’s off onto Leg 2.  Her mom had me tell her, “If your knee is still sore, kick butt with the other leg!”  Penalty points for Checkpoint 2 will begin at 8:00 p.m. Texas time on Saturday night.  Here’s hoping for a second leg to stand on.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Birch Trees and Squeaky Cheese

After the rider pack left Minneapolis on Monday, we’ve watched the ebb and flow of Spot Trackers move, literally, to all points of the U.S. and part of Canada.  If you’ve been playing along at home (and I know many of you are because the Public Spotwalla link on the IBR site keeps blinking out), you’ve watched this movement and thought – what are they seeing?  For those who headed east and north from MN, like I did, wonderful signs of the delicacies abound – pasties, cranberry wine, and my favorite ~

The weather was also nice and cool, with a few rain sprinkles.  The national weather map over the past 36 hours has shown severe storms and brutal heat in other areas where our riders are.  Among the birch trees in the UP (Upper Peninsula of Michigan), rally dogs Bela and Riley were proud to sniff out a hotel with a large concrete moose!  Safari bonus points for us! (I’m sure you too are collecting rally watcher bonus points by photographing huge roadside animals where you live. Admit it. You know you're seeing them everywhere now.)

At the moment, we are about 60 minutes away from penalty points for the end of Leg 1.  All the Spots not already parked at Rally HQ – Texas are lined up on the approach.  Kirsten (as usual) is cutting it very close.  So tune in and watch as they descend, or read today’s official rally report.  Because really, what else do you have to do in the next hour on a Wednesday night?
The Straights of Mackinac, and Mighty Mac!  (The Mackinac Bridge)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Starburst – IBR 2017 Launch

Jeff Earls popped the anticipation balloon on Sunday night with the words, “You are going on a photo safari!”  As the poster foretold, animals of all varieties, but all of them undoubtedly huge and along scenic American roadways, will capture the attention of our IBR riders for the next 11 days.  There are a 107 riders on this rally.  And when they all started their engines yesterday, co-safari master Karen said, “Isn’t it amazing to have 100 bikes start up and barely be able to hear them.”  One must be stealthy on safari…
Kirsten and Routemaster Jeff (sporting his holstein fleece) 

The rider field is about 50% IBR veterans and 50% rookies.  It is an international ride, as the World’s Toughest Motorcycle Rally should be, with riders from Switzerland, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Africa, Portugal, Japan, Mexico, Tasmania, and Texas. :) But the start is in Minnesota, Team Strange Territory.  And the honor of the 01 flag was given to our friend and 2011 IBR winner Peter Behm.  His wife Paula accepted the rally flag to a standing ovation.  “Ride your ride!” she said.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.    

All the waypoint locations for the ENTIRE rally were given on Sunday.  (You’ll find more details on the rally and the full rider list in Sunday’s official daily report.)  The points for each of those locations will likely change, and increase in future legs, if past rally protocol continues. IBR veteran Chris Purney exclaimed, “Well, they pretty much cover entire North America.”  After a night of plotting, and a morning of bouncing on their toes, the riders rode out of Rally HQ at 10:00 a.m. on their way to – everywhere.  You can watch the starburst pattern of riders expand from the IBR Public Spot page as they spread across North America to ride their ride here in Leg 1.  

Always aware that safety is a priority, rally staff have admonished riders to go dark on all things social media – no e-mail, no live streaming, no live reports.  Riders need to be focused on the task at hand.  Rally watchers, who love our riders as much as the entertainment they provide, understand.  Therefore, I will not be providing much detail about Kirsten’s ride while she is underway.  She is doing well and in good spirits.  She was excited yesterday morning, and it made me think of another start line we were at (with considerably less pressure) just last month. 
Jennifer and Kirsten at Malin Head (northernmost point of Ireland) along the Wild Atlantic Way

In May, we rode an incredible trip with several other IBR veterans, organized by IBA – Ireland President, Chris McGaffin.  In addition to seeing incredible views and from the pillion seat of a BMW GS, I was constantly amused by the spring crop of lambs that wandered the Irish roadways.  Whenever they’d hear the bikes coming, they’d jump and twist and kick up their heels, running to find their mama.  I don’t know if there are any huge sheep boni in the IBR rally pack, but riding along with Kirsten now is a small fuzzy lamb.  It’s a little Irish talisman to keep the way clear.  The little lamb rides near her MD 20-20 rubber duck (from her very first rally) and Mr. Happy (still smiling after all these years).

MN Rally HQ is packing up for the next few days to relocate to the Leg 1 checkpoint in Texas.  Penalty points begin for tardy riders at 8:00 p.m. Wednesday night.  We are now 24 hours into this rally and likely the first 1,000 miles of the famed 11 days, 11,000 mile ride.  Oh the critters they’ll see.
Kirsten heading out on safari at the launch of the IBR 2017

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Dialing It In

Life looks better with a new foot peg.  And a longer fuel cell vent hose.  And for Erik Lipps, a planned new tire, and an unplanned but now also new shock, brake pads, and some electrical wiring. The weekend before rally start (and preferably BEFORE tech inspection) is full of tweaks, jiggers and sometimes all out replacements on bikes, gear, and supplies as riders finish dialing it in.

Kirsten in her tech (Trek) inspection shirt
Kirsten was at Leo’s South before the doors opened. They completed the foot peg replacement and gave assurance that the scrapes were only cosmetic.  Then it was back to Rally HQ to begin the multi-stop process of final inspections. The day turned longer than planned when staff realized a paperwork problem and she had to make a trip to the notary, after running the odo check twice because her GPS didn’t zero out the way it was expected.  She wasn’t the only one. UK riders and IBR veterans Kevin and Lynda Weller also had to run the odo route twice because of a snafu but were relaxed and ready at lunch. (The odometer check compares the actual mileage of a known route to a bike’s odometer reading to see if a bike runs high or low on mileage – key to determining close standings and efficiency at the finish.)  Japanese rider Yohinori Ishii, after receiving some engineering assistance getting his scooter’s fuel cell up to snuff, followed a staff member through the odo route. The written directions were a challenge without having the time to translate.  Ishii is already drawing fans among rally watchers for attempting this on a Bergman 400, never mind the language barrier.

Mark Crane arrived by mid-day to begin his check-in process, everyone exclaiming, “Mark!  You’re a day early!”  His infamous leisurely pace through past check-ins preceding him.  Nancy Lefcourt, adjusting to the time difference, took advantage of some extra sleep and cruised through the check-in by mid-afternoon.  After they came out of the final check with Rally Route Master, Jeff Earls, Troy Martin and Eric Bray exclaimed, “Well, I’m as ready as I’m gonna be.”  Lisa Erbes (a.k.a. Rally Master of the Butt Lite) is READY to roll.  Her dream to ride the IBR for the first time about to come true as co-pilot with Jim Winterer, who is a multi-time IBR and Butt Lite veteran.

Tom Loftus rode to Minneapolis with the intention of starting his 10th Iron Butt Rally.  The ride out however convinced him that his body, just a few weeks after surgery and recovery, is not quite up to 11 days in the saddle.  He’s looking at routes to the Texas checkpoint, and planning ahead for an international ride in a few weeks.  You can’t keep a great man down (although I did promise to hold his arm on Monday as the riders launch).  Long-time rally veteran German Gerhard Memmen-Krueger gave rally dog Riley a pat on the head yesterday.  (See more photos at the IBR Start Photos link, including a shot of rally ambassador Riley.)  Gerhard’s characteristic wide smile is fully in place as he looks ahead to Monday.  Aussie Olaf Moon arrived with his bike repairs made early Saturday morning.  He was last seen grinning and striding purposefully through the HQ lobby with after completing his check-in process.

The rookie riders’ meeting is happening now.  Later today is the required all riders’ meeting.  And tonight, the full rally pack and the bonus locations for the first leg will be released.  There is A LOT of speculation around Rally HQ about the theme of IBR 2017.  Looks like animals, real, imagined, and extinct are all part of the plan for this journey – leading some to try and google small butterflies in the poster to see what their native range may be for a routing clue.  All will be revealed.  And in the meantime, just make sure you know where your towel is.    

Friday, June 23, 2017

Rally HQ – Minneapolis

Anyone who has been on social media for the past month could not help but notice the buzz as riders prepped for the Big Dance.  With Eric Bray posting helpful reminders like, “Keep Calm, Only 14 Days to Go!” who could forget?  He was one of the first to arrive at Rally HQ.  Irishman Chris McGaffin is on his way, after riding the 1,000 mile loop around Lake Superior.  It’s only fair as he just hosted our loop ride around his native Ireland (more on that fantastic rally-prep ride later).  Tina Venters made a trip to MN a few weeks ago, dropping off her bike in preparation to ride her first Iron Butt Rally (YES!!), making a smart trip to the start this week via airplane.  Troy Martin, after being trapped by flooded roads at work, then adeptly stuffing his 10 lbs of crap in his 5 lb. bag and driving all night, has arrived.  And Chase Van 2.0 arrived this afternoon after passing an IBR rider with a tell-tale high vis helmet (faded on the top) outside Madison, WI (I’ll get your photo to you!).

We had a small kerfuffle off-loading the bike, which now requires a new right front peg and an inspection of the valve cover, though it just looks scraped with no leaks.  We’ll take care of that in the morning.  Leo’s South said they will grab a peg off an RT they have; and we’ll be there bright and early.  However, we are currently icing Kirsten’s knee (which I’m SURE would not be happening if I wasn’t here) while enjoying a cup of coffee and a ginger cookie (which probably would occur regardless).  
The R1200RT with a shiny sheared off peg.
In the spirit of getting bike troubles done early, sounds like Aussie Olaf Moon is making progress on his bike repairs.  As of 3:00 p.m. Friday, he’s hoping all will be complete and he’ll arrive at Rally HQ early Saturday morning.  We are pulling for you Olaf!  And in KY – Jeremy Loveall has Plan B all loaded up on the trailer and ready to bring out if needed.  There is another bike waiting for him in Minneapolis if needed and Hammy had Plan C ready in Philly.  And just as we were discussing options in the Rally HQ parking lot tonight, another rider loading his bike on a trailer mis-judged and road it off the end.  Ten or more rally riders ran over to help stabilize him and the bike, avoiding another top-down dump (check out today's IBR report for another tale of woe).  Deep breaths and strong backs got the bike back on the trailer and settled…and a scrape on Jim Owen’s elbow for his helpful efforts.  You guys, springing into action to assist wherever you are, doing whatever you can….somethin’ in my eye already….

A few riders are still filing in and the parking lots of the Minneapolis Marriott and the La Quinta have sprouted motorcycles.  IBR staff and volunteers are prepping for the big day tomorrow – packing the swag bags, tech inspection dry runs and the million other things that need doing.  Like every pro sport – it’s the staff that make it work for the rest of us!

And the official daily reports have begun T minus 3 days out!  Friend and IBR veteran John Harrison is this year’s scribe.  To follow along with the Iron Butt Rally 2017 dailies, visit the swanky new site with loads of good info:

Thursday, June 22, 2017


Things are always interesting the night before heading out for a rally.  This Tuesday’s conversation: “Do you want to go out to dinner, or I could make something.  I don’t want to disrupt your preparation flow,” I said. 
“Ha, what flow?” she said.  “It’s more like desperation.” 
Well, preparation by another name….

Actually, we’ve been preparing for weeks. Important things, like getting the bike serviced, completing electrical work in the bathroom to change out three light fixtures, cleaning out all the stuff under the kitchen sink and installing a water filter… you know, rally prep.  This rally (which we’ve been thinking about since the end of the IBR 2015 if you review our retro post!), had to be tackled a little differently.  For one – with our Chase van off to new owners, we devised a new method of temporary transport for the rally bike, pups, and myself (for the first time) to the IBR start.  Also new this year – Chase van blogging!  I’ll be in transit throughout the rally, a change from my usual stay-at-home rally spouse location.  Along for the ride in “Chase Van 2.0” will be Bela (new to the family) and Riley (aka pro rally dog, a veteran of many Mason-Dixon 20-20s, Jacksonville, Denver, Red Lodge Unrally and the 2015 IBR in ABQ).  There was a lot of tail wagging as the van was loaded – including Kirsten’s excellent ride up the ramp with a duck of the helmet at the door to bring the rally bike onboard. 

All the rides loaded into Chase Van 2.0 for the trip to MN
This year’s Iron Butt Rally (IBR) will begin in Minneapolis, MN on Monday, June 26.  Between now and then, there are many things on the To Do List: tech inspections start at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday after rally registration; vehicle insurance, registration, personal / medical information needs to be checked, as do SD cards for rally cameras; confirmation is needed for emergency contacts; and there will be the usual eyeing of other rally bikes, fuel cells, cockpits, and gear.  Speaking of gear – Kirsten will be riding with cushy new gloves, newly refreshed (i.e. TechWash and waterproofed) pants, and a brand new jacket that arrived the day before we left after several tries for a replacement for the old red rally jacket (which carried her through well over 100,000 miles!)  A new phone and new GPS complete the kit, although all the old equipment is also onboard as functioning backups. 

Still – gathering all this together to “stuff it in a sock” on that last evening required several trips between staging areas in the house and garage.  As I was making the pasta, I heard her mumble on her way by, “I’m getting all my steps in today going up and down these stairs… why do I reinvent the wheel every time?”
“On the plus side,” I said, “you’re writing my blog post for me.”
“Oh.  Crap.”

As this first blog for IBR 2017 is posting, some riders are already at the start hotel…wondering what they got themselves into if social media can be believed.  And there are a couple riders already having issues GETTING to the start hotel who hope to make it in time for tech inspection.  After all, desperation is rally preparation by another name.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Featured Retro Read (original post date July 18, 2015)

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.