Saturday, July 3, 2021

Go Your Own Way

The morning after the Iron Butt Rally finish is a decidedly calmer time.  Folks have slept for one thing.  The thousand-mile stare is gone, replaced with an almost wistful look.  It will be two more years before many of these folks will gather again.  Realization hits home.  The conversation turns to routes "back."  Chris Comly will be heading East, by way of California.  Steve Snell and his wife Ginger will be visiting friends as they make their way home with the rally bike getting a well-deserved rest on the trailer.  And as easily as one may ask, “do you take cream or sugar?” Eric Bray asked Kirsten, “are you heading back on 70 or 40?”  (I-70 through Denver and Kansas City or I-40 through Albuquerque and Memphis for those of you who don’t regularly think in thousand-mile distances.)  

But last night, the talk was all about The Ride(s).  Miles, points, combo bonuses, regrets, and satisfaction.  Many folks who came to finish did exactly that, achieving the coveted three-digit Iron Butt Association number that signifies an Iron Butt Rally finisher.  Tom Southwood planned his route, rode his plan, got smart rest, and finished solidly with a Bronze.  Gerry Arel was all smiles and shaking hands, having completed a great ride that was first inspired at an IBA Meet years ago.  He told Kirsten at the start that a conversation he had with her at that Meet meant a lot to him, and him saying so meant a lot to her.  There were
61 finishers, who took routes as varied as their minds, skills, and software could dream up.  Have some fun and turn on this music and watch the Full Rally Animation provided by Jason, the father of Spotwalla. You can read the IBR daily reports, and even view the finishers’ scorecards, for some excellent insight into the many routes to the finish that Rallymaster Jeff Earls provided.

After riding 12,524 miles, Kirsten achieved a Gold Medal finish in 12th place!  The top ten includes friends and IBR veterans, including the winners of 3 previous Iron Butt Rallies.  The top 4 included 3 rookies, and for the first time in 20 years, the winner of the 2021 Iron Butt Rally was a rookie rider, Mike Brooke.  Mike held onto his first place standing from the end of Leg 2, and added huge combo bonuses to finish over 14,000 points ahead of 2nd place Ben Ernst.  (Ben attended the banquet wearing a t-shirt that said, “I LOVE it when MY WIFE let’s me ride my motorcycle”...looks like that has worked out well for him.)

After the drama of the final standings, you could hear a lot of talk about 2023 in the room.  That’s always a good sign.  This rally had something for every rider, and it was appreciated.  There were several IBR vets back to see old friends that started to think they may toss their wheels back in the ring.  We shall see.

Tomorrow Kirsten and I will head for home, with some stops to visit family.  I’ll be flying, covering my 1700 miles with United.  It feels like cheating, but I love flying across the country on July 4 after a rally and seeing all the fireworks from above.  Kirsten will head out on tires she swapped yesterday after making it through the rally without a tire change.  Although the group Spot tracker is no longer live, you can envision one more burst out of Provo.  Karen Earls said this morning that the rally staff loved watching those Spots at the beginning of each leg, “It’s a perfect firework!”  Indeed. Here’s to safe travels home as these riders, once more, go their own way.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Dawn Breaks in Provo ~ Day 11

The first grey light of dawn found IBR riders #1 and #8 at the same bonus location North of Salt Lake City.  It was a daylight bonus, so Kirsten (#8) arrived early and took a nap next to her bike.  When she got up, she saw one other rider - #1, Wendy Crockett.  There’s something special about the last morning of the rally, and for these two amazing riders, to have that moment together was pretty cool.

Meanwhile, back at Rally HQ-Provo, the gaggle had formed by 4:30 a.m.  With penalty points starting at 8:00 a.m., riders were lined up in the early hours to head into the barn, or to scoop the last 80 point bonus on their way through Salt Lake City.  I came out, coffee and my nieces’ signs in hand.  Within minutes, a roll of duct tape was found to post some final encouraging words as riders entered the parking garage to park. at. the. finish.

In those late hours of the rally, riders start to rethink their routing as they prepare for final scoring.  At 10 p.m. last night, Kirsten was still considering her options.  It’s a conversation we’ve had many times before, but it bears repeating.  In the evening of Day 10, all the previous days no longer matter.  At that point, it’s a 10 hour rally - you gobble up the points in front of you and come in.

Other spouses and friends had similar conversations yesterday evening and this morning - some of them just talking their riders in as fatigue sits heavily on the last day.  In a marathon, we always say it’s that last .2 mile that will get you.  A huge part of rally riding is the stamina it takes to finish, with enough mental wherewithal to still calculate your points and get yourself through scoring.

For Kirsten, Leg 3 was filled with soaking rains, then heat, then chill in the damp evenings.  On Tuesday morning, she let me know that as she rode into Mississippi, there were two rainbows, one on either side of her.  She took that as a sign and at the next gas stop, pulled her boots off and dumped about a cup of water out of each one and then wrung another ½ cup out of her socks.  The Houston, TX bonus was a boost for both Kirsten and Eric Bray, who happened to be there at the same time to take a photo of their bikes with the replica space shuttle.  Soon after, an IBR follower showed up, rolled down his window and said to Kirsten, “have a great ride!”  They introduced themselves and he paused a minute and then said, “you’re KTS!”  She said, “yes - thanks for coming out!” and was on her way.

She rode on an “amazing” road coming out of Douglas, AZ on Wednesday and said she had seen some crimson red sun rises because of the storms (sailors take warning).  She maxed her time at the highest point value rest bonus yet, and turned over 11,000 rally miles somewhere on Thursday.  Her description of traveling through Window Rock, AZ to photograph the memorial to the Navajo Code Talkers makes me want to go.  Rally packs frequently become future travel destinations for rally families.

Between about 7:15 and 8:45 this morning, spouses and families were all smiles as the SPOTs turned into riders coming up the hotel lane.  Kirsten arrived with nearly 30 minutes to spare.  About 20 minutes into penalty points, there were still 6 outliers showing on the Spot tracker.  One of them was Jim Owen, riding in hard from Colorado losing 20 points per minute.  However, if he was able to grab the big points he was after, that 1800 or so point penalty probably won’t hurt too much as scoring.  He’s been here before.

Tonight is the Finisher’s Banquet where the results will be revealed.  Between now and this evening, riders are finishing scoring, eating, and getting some much needed rest.  We can all use it.  Although, Wendy’s daughter Montessa informed me that she had to go practice her diving in the hotel pool.  Mom is in.  All is well.  Time to go swimming.  

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

A Moose, Kitty Hawk, and Friends Along the Way

There are moments between scorching heat, the battering of tropical storms, and the glichy nail biting tension of fussy routing software that are just, well, nice.  On Leg 2, riding in the full moon light in the Vermont mountains, a young moose wandered onto the road.  Kirsten stopped.  The moose stopped.  She put her foot down.  The moose looked at her.  “Holy crap!” she said into her helmet and started laughing because the moose looked so confused.  He was huge and gangley, probably a teenager wandering away at midnight for a snack.  After nosing grass along the side of the road for a few minutes, he finally went back into the woods and she was on her way.

Her route took her past home at the end of the leg, just in time for the rest bonus.  As the rally pups and I have decamped to spend some time with family elsewhere, I texted friends close to home to see if they could come up with a surprise.  Being skilled at marathon race sign making, a friend whipped up this fantastic sign, with lights!, and had it waiting at the door when she rolled in.  She had a quick bite and a restful rest bonus and was her way before anyone else knew she had been through town.  Inspired, my mom and nieces sketched additional signs which we sent via text to her at Checkpoint 2… and the signs might just may make an appearance in Provo. 

Sunday morning found a gaggle of DMV locals (from DC, MD, VA) gathered at Kitty Hawk for the opening of the bonus.  What do IBR riders who find themselves in the company of others do while awaiting a bonus window to open?  Tell stories and fuss with their routes.  Later, Kirsten told me that somehow in the conversation a state bonus came up and she saw Bob Lilley busily rerouting on the way out of Kitty Hawk.  “Lilley owes me a beer for that state!” she said.  {Me thinks this is why Jim Owen just smiles and nods if anyone ever sees him at a bonus for more than 2 minutes.}

Along the way, Kirsten’s R1200RT decided to give up its headlight to the cause, having her rolling with aux lights only.  She sent me a text for help.  With a few additional cross-state texts to confirm the type of bulb needed, IBR veterans Cletha and Eric Vaillancourt were on the mission to bring the necessary bulb to the Huntsville checkpoint.  Kirsten rolled into AL with minutes to spare, and within minutes I got a photo of her arrival (thank you Lynne Carey!) and soon, of the offending bulb being replaced.  It takes a village.  And rally spouses appreciate this community of friends and riders as much as the riders.

Leg 3, as promised, has been challenging.  There were several bikes still in the lot hours after one would normally expect to see them depart.  Rally gremlins have been gnawing on the ankles of several of the big dogs.  Bike issues, computer issues, and then Tropical Storm Danny decided to sit over the Southeast.  If you’ve been reading daily reports this week, you’ll see that some riders have paid the toll and are out of the rally for one reason or another.

Tomorrow morning will find me and several other spouses and families flying over riders across the country on our way to Rally-HQ Provo.  Tonight is the Leg 3 rest bonus, and for many, it will be an all-out haul to the finish Friday morning.  Penalty points begin at 8:00 a.m.  It’s hard to describe being at the IBR finish on Thursday night – it is quiet, full of anticipation as riders come in all night long.  There are people to greet them at all hours.  This is our 10th anniversary of the IBR with Kirsten riding in 2011, 2015, 2017 and 2021.  After 11 days of hard miles and hard SPOT watching, the final night as Day 10 turns into Day 11 is one of the things I love the most about the rally.  This year, with all of the separations caused by COVID challenges, it feels extra special.  Ride hard my friends.  See you at the finish.