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.