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By the evening, the calm had been replaced by excited anticipation as everyone gathered for the IBR 2017 banquet.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