Friday, September 19, 2003

Iron Butt Rally

Madness Sets In

Madness set in December of 2002 when I received an email from Mike Kneebone that began, "Congratulations!" At the time I was bed-ridden in a Houston hotel room with a herniated disc in my lower back. I was worse off than that though. Back in October during the odometer check of the Land of Enchantment Rally I broke my left wrist when the rear end of some lady's Saturn had the nerve to hit the front end of my Goldwing! The bitch came to a complete stop in front of me on an entrance ramp to I-40. I still feel like an idiot whenever I think about it because, when all's said and done, it was totally my fault and there was no way to get around that fact. Not being able to ride because of a broken wrist is bad enough, but having a herniated disc was the icing on a shit cake. I hadn't eaten for 3 days and I only got out of bed moments before pissing myself because of the excruciating pain involved with reaching the edge of the bed - not to mention getting up, walking to the bathroom, doing the deed, flushing the toilet with my knee and getting back in bed. When I received Mike's email I couldn't get up and jump for joy like I wanted. I just laid there and thought to myself, "You gotta a lot of fucking work to do before August, loser."

When I was well enough to travel back home to Dallas I saw my doctor and told him my plans for the upcomnig summer. I assured him I was willing to do whatever it took, regardless of the cost, to get my back healthy. You see, I was planning on putting all of my belongings in storage and living on my bike for the summer. I wanted to run the Waltz Across Texas Rally, go to Arkansas for the MTF Poker Run From Hell, attend Hyder Seek, tour the Alaskan interior, run an Ultimate Coast to Coast, scour the northeast coast, run the IBR and take my time getting home afterward. Sure, my doctor had a "Are you fucking nuts?" look in his eyes as I was telling him all of this, but I assured him I would pay all of my doctor bills before leaving in May.

We decided the best course of action would be a series of cortisone injections. Minor out-patient surgery, but I wasn't too hip on going under the knife as it was a totally foreign experience to me. However, getting my back better was more important than practically anything in my life at that point. Thankfully, after the first injection my back responded extremely well and we decided that another injection wasn't required. I continued my rehab and all is well even to this day.

My wrist was already on the mend and it was just a matter of time before it was completely healed. I broke one of the worst bones in the entire body - the Scaphoid bone. It's a small, seemingly useless bone until you break it. The blood flow characterics of the Scaphoid are unlike any other bone in the hand as blood flows from the fingertips, through the Scaphoid and toward the elbow. The blood flow through the bone itself is limited which makes for a long healing period. It all sounded right to me. The first bone I break in my entire life and it's the worst one. I couldn't help but think that God was getting me back for some bloody reason. But what could that reason be?!?!?! I'm a good boy - honest.

When the cast came off about mid-January my wrist was so atrophied that I thought it was still broken. My doctor told me to wait and see what the x-rays reveal. When he walked back in the room with a glint in his eyes I couldn't tell if it was because my wrist was healing or dollar signs at the prospect of continued treatment.. The optimist in me was over-joyed when he said there was significant growth and that I wouldn't need another cast. Had the news been any worse, both the optimist and pessimist would have joined forces in abruptly telling the world to go fuck itself.

The shit cake was tastier than a broken wrist with a herniated disc on top. I purchased a shiny, new R1150GS Adventure prior to the LOE and my unfortunate accident. The GS sat in the garage with 214 miles on the odometer and all I could do is sit on it and make vroom-vroom noises. And that's exactly what I did from October until mid-February. On the upside, I had plenty of time to get a custom seat. After emailing Rocky at Bill Mayer Saddles he assured me he could satisfy my butt. I told him I can put the hurt on any seat and that he may want to wait for the pictures of my large mass of ass before making such a claim. We had a cyber-chuckle and within 3 weeks he sent me back what appeared to be a well-made and satisfactory seat. It sure made my vroom-vroom sessions more enjoyable.

Toward the end of February my back was still a bit fragile, but gaining strength each day. My wrist continued to gain strength as well and life was getting better. My contract in Houston was over a month early because of budgetary concerns. That meant my summer was going to start a little earlier than planned. The MTF 50cc/100ccc event was being held the next week. My body felt good enough to test the waters with this ride. I won't bore you with all of the details here, because I documented all of them in my 100ccc trip report. Over all, the ride went extremely well. I broke in the GS on the ride and confirmed that my back and wrist, while still a tad tender, were on the downside of the mend and ready for the rest of the summer.

I tell ya. Life has a peculiar way of working out if we give it enough room.


Since I was going to be on the road May through August, I had little time to properly equip the GS. In the end, I ran out of time and opted for the simple, easy way out. I already had PIAA 520 Fogs and Jesse Panniers installed and the only other essentials were the V-1 and Street Pilot 3. I rigged up a wiring harness and used the 12V power outlet on the GS. Simple, but effective even to this day. Hmmm... Maybe I'm lazy after all.

Mentally, I know the IBR is a long way away in both time and miles. I wasn't even thinking about strategies or anything like that when I threw all my shit in a storage unit and left home in May. Instead, I was concentrating on the rides ahead of me. Namely, spending the next week roaming the Ozarks with some good friends at the MTF Poker Run From Hell; attending Hyder Seek and seeing some friends successfully complete their 48+ run; and running the Ultimate Coast to Coast. Other than the IBR, the UCC was a big challenge for me. I wanted to experience the James Dalton Highway (aka Haul Road) before it's paved all the way to Prudhoe. It was an incredible journey. There were a lot of reasons to ride this summer. I racked up a little over 43K before arriving in Missoula and the start of the IBR. The GS was well-broken in and ready to rock on.

I got to Missoula a few days prior to the start so I could get some new skins on the GS. The folks at Big Sky BMW were professional and, considering I didn't have an appointment, most accommodating. They allowed me to change my own oils in the parking lot and provided a drain pan. Their kindness was appreciated. While there I had the pleasure of meeting a few other riders like Bill Shaw, Sean Gallagher and Marsha Hall who I remember from a special on the 2001 IBR and her unfortunate tardiness at the finish. We didn't talk about that for long. I needed to scrub the skins in so I decided to run Lolo pass. I had never made the run before and I don't think I could have scrubbed on a better road in the area.

The first leg's bonus list was handed out after the rider's banquet. As I perused the locations for the sucker and high-point bonuses I realized they followed a natural order from north to south. Combined with a familiarity of the western states this was an unexpected and appreciated advantage. In last year's Butt Lite III multiple bonus lists were handed out for each leg and the bonuses were listed in random order. Additionally, the rider could only choose a single bonus list to develop a route. This meant riders had to put forth more mental effort to determine an optimal route for each leg. I liked that mental aspect of the BL3 and expected the same or worse from the IBR. I can't comment on the red pill riders, but for those that chose a blue pill we were given one bonus listing per leg and the vast majority of bonuses followed a natural order. It was a huge and unexpected mental advantage.

So I went back to the room, plotted all the points in the GPS and easily spotted a good route. I didn't want to over do the first leg. I was shooting for modest points and a safe, successful arrival in Primm Valley to complete the first IBR leg of my life. Before going to bed I trimmed my gear to the bare essentials. The beginning of a dream come true was nigh.

Leg One - What the Fucka?

The entire morning was fraught with the painful anticipation of gearing up, mounting the bike, turning the key, pushing the starter, pulling in the clutch, dropping into first gear, trying to ease out the clutch and crossing the starting line without embarrasing myself. I felt like I was presenting a calm, relaxed facade, but internally I couldn't contain myself. I walked around, talked to friends and quietly told myself to chill out and take it easy. Ya. Right.

There were quite a few folks from the Motorcycle Tourer's Forum in Missoula cheering on all the riders. I can't express my appreciation and heartfelt thanks to everyone that came out to witness and be part of the madness. I've had friends meet me out on the road while riding big rides before, but having these folks at the starting line of the mother of all endurance rallies provided priceless inspiration and a much-needed soothing calmness.

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The MTF Family
Photo Courtesy of Tony Higgins

Alan Leduc and I talked about and agreed to ride the first part of this leg together. I first met Alan two and half years ago when I started posting on the MTF. Alan and I had an immediate connection. Most people let life live them while others take advantage of this short, precious period of breath and wakefullness and live life with few to no regrets. Alan is one of the latter and this was the spark between us. We started long distance riding about the same time and we always wanted to ride in the Iron Butt Rally together. The 2003 IBR started out as a pipe dream for both of us. But over the next two years that dream turned into reality. I felt extremely blessed to have an opportunity to share this moment with a friend like Alan. It's something I shall never forget and I'll cherish until the day I die the time we spent together on the first leg.

As the clock slowly wound toward 10a riders began to position their bikes at the front of the line. I, along with about half the riders, needed something to do so I pushed my bike off the centerstand and positioned it in line with the others. Of course, at the end of the rider's meeting 15 minutes before the start Lisa announced that the starting line was changed to the opposite end of the parking lot. That's about right. As the riders were released I made it over the starting line without embarrassing myself and found Alan waiting for me on the side of the road.

Alan and I decided to run Lolo pass, then head into Oregon for some points before heading to Gerlach. The ride over Lolo was amazing. The rain a couple of days prior to the start had cleared most of the smoke that inundated Missoula the week before. The sun was bright, warm and the sky was clear and blue. A perfect day for a ride. We were off and our deam was reality.

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Alan and Your's Truly
Photo Courtesy of Alan Leduc

At the Palouse Falls bonus we had a couple of hours before the location opened. Alan was reviewing the route on his laptop and mentioned we may have time to stop in Winnemucca for gas on our way to Gerlach. When I reviewed the route the night before I had thought Winnemucca would be doable. At the time though, I only thought Gerlach and Winnemucca were separated by 30-40 miles at most. As it turns out this was a gross underestimate on my part and it would prove to be a critical error.

After the falls we set course for Sunnyside, Washington - just a hop, skip and a twist west of Kennewick. When Alan pulled his motorcycle into the shop I thought we suffered our first mechanical casualty. Apparently, Alan was concerned about a tire with a few less pounds of air than it should have had. Phew! As we were pulling out of Sunnyside we saw Jack Tollet pulling in. Jack was at Palouse Falls and he looked like he was having a blast. I remember him commenting about the burger, fries and shake he had prior to Palouse. I know we were only a few hours into the rally, but goddamn that sounded good!!

The sun began to set as we cruised through southern Oregon. We were both headed for Winnemucca and two measly points. Along the way we saw the requisite number of Oregonian Kojaks with Kodaks, but we both noticed something different this time - Kojaks using X-band radar. Of course when you're out in the middle of B-F-Anywhere you react to any radar signal. But we were just happily cruising along and in no danger of becoming a recipeint of any kind. Somewhere in Oregon Alan decided to check-in with his wife, Brenda. I stopped with him and he told me to carry on and that we'd meet in Gerlach or somewhere in between. I know how these things go so I bid my friend farewell and carried on toward Idaho and US-95 south to Winnemucca. It was a splendid evening - cool, crisp and cloudless.

After about an hour of droning down the interstate I see headlights coming from behind. I thought it was just another rally rider and that we'd share a wave and carry on, but it was Alan instead! We shared a wave, a smile and pulled off at the next exit. Alan, for reasons that the man himself may reveal to the world at some point, said Brenda asked him to catch up and ride the rest of the first leg with me. I was happy to see my friend and over-joyed to share the road with him again.

Alan has made these reasons known to the world in his 2003 IBR Report.

The ride south on US-95 was uneventful. We stopped near Burns Junction for an hour of sleep at an abandoned weigh station. I wasn't really ready for rest as I was anxious to get to Winnemucca and then sleep in Gerlach before the bonus opened at 7a. But hey, at that point I took full advantage of the hours rest. And Alan's a machine so I know when he says he needs to stop for rest that he really needs to stop for rest.

We arrived in Winnemucca around 3a, gassed up and looked at the map. Here's where the casualty of my route planning technique occurred. When I plan a route I visualize the entire route among all the locations. I don't over-analyze it. Exact mileages and specific roads mean nothing to me at that time. I see it and I ride. At each location I take a detailed look at how to get to the next location. And here's the causalty. When I punched in Gerlach and saw that it was 110 miles from Winnemucca all I could think was, "What the fucka we doing here?!?!?!" Two freakin' points and well beyond the 30-40 miles from Gerlach I had mentally calculated the night before. Had I realized it was 110 miles I would never have gone to Winnemucca. I would have went straight to Gerlach from Sunnyside. To top it all off, that 110 miles is the shortest route and covers some 100 miles of dirt road - Jungo Road. A road that was explicitly mentioned in the bonus list as not recommended for riders on large touring rigs.

This would not be the last time I thought, "What the fucka!"

I told Alan about Jungo road and we decided to go to the start of it and get a taste. We traveled about the first mile and stopped. I wasn't too concerned about the road itself. There were some nice big rocks that looked a little jagged in the moonlight, but I had seen my share of dirt and rocks this summer with the ride up to Prudhoe Bay and various stretches of treachery in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Colorado, Utah and various other regions of North America. I was more concerned with Alan and him being on his wing. I wasn't too concerned about Alan's ability to handle the road, but didn't know if he was willing to put his wing through the torture of the next 100 miles. I knew what the answer would be when I asked him, "There's 100 miles of this shit. Do you want to continue?"

There were some wheel ruts to keep in, but even the ruts were covered in little jagged rocks. Getting out of these ruts typically meant you were either in more rocks or a dirt/gravel/sand mixture that was anywhere from one to four inches deep. We carried on for about five or six more miles and I stopped again. I thought Alan has gotten a good taste of what the next 90 miles would be like and I wanted to see if he changed his mind. "There's 90 more miles of this shit. Are you sure?" The expected answer came and we were off.

The ride was going extremely well. While we weren't in a huge hurry, we were keeping a pretty good clip. I reckon I was running steadily between 30 and 40 MPH. I'd occassionally lose Alan's headlights and stop and wait to see them coming over the next hill or around the last corner. We weren't riding close to each other, but I never lost sight of his headlights for too long. I figured he was just back there chillin' and taking the road at a comfortable pace for himself and his wing.

At one point I stopped to wait on Alan's headlight, but it never came. I decided to turn around and head back to check on him. I went about a mile or two back and found his headlights. The sun was just starting to come up. The eastern sky was turning a dark purple and the western sky was still bathed in bright, white moonlight as the full moon began to set over the desert mountains. Alan said he was taking some pictures and we sat there and talked about the glory we were witness to that evening. Another special moment shared with a special friend.

Not more than fifteen to twenty minutes later I lost Alan's headlights again. I stopped and waited a few minutes, but again his headlights never appeared. I thought to myself, "I better not catch him taking more pictures! And if I catch him taking pictures off his bike I'm going to kill him!" I left my camera in Missoula. I figured if I had time to snap a few pictures, I have time to ride. In retrospect, I wish I had brought it for those two or three moments I wish I had one. I'm digressing though because what happens next is one of the worst feelings I've had in a long, long time.

The sun is beginning to brighten the sky to a point where headlights are of no use. As I crest a hill I see Alan's wing on the side of the road and he's off the bike. As I get closer I realize that his bike is laying on its side. I hoped Alan stopped to take some pictures and his bike fell over, but as I got closer and closer it was obvious that this wasn't a typical tipover and that's when I thought, "What the fucka?!?!". As the horror set in I almost threw down my bike, but I managed to get the sidestand down. Alan was walking around. He already had his jacket and helmet off. We still don't know how that happened, but I assume he took them off himself. I got off the bike and asked Alan what happened and if he's alright. He looked OK until he spoke.

"Jason, where are we and what are we doing?"

"We're about 20 miles from Gerlach and we're running the IBR," I replied.

Alan layed down in the ditch near his bike while I inspected it. The bike was fucked. The windshield was shattered, the side mirrors were destroyed, the saddlebags and trunk were hanging there, the bars looked bent and I could smell gas from a leaky fuel cell. Despite the destruction, there was a brief moment in time where I thought if the bike will start, we can ride into Gerlach and put all of this behind us. No one the wiser.

You'd be laughing as hard as I am right now if you had seen the bike.

Then Alan spoke again. "Jason, where are we and what are we doing?"

"We're about 20 miles from Gerlach and we're running the IBR," I replied again while mentally repeating "what the fucka, what the fucka." And that's when reality set in. Alan's bike isn't going anywhere. He has obviously sustained a major blow to the mellon and has a concussion. He wanted to get up on his feet and I walked over to give him a hand. He reached up to grab my arm and was in major pain. More reality. Possible broken shoulder, bruised ribs, broken toes and a blistering desert sun on the immediate rise. I didn't know what to do at that moment.

Alan spoke again. "Jason, where are we and what are we doing?"

"We're about 20 miles from Gerlach and we're running the IBR," I replied again while internally racing through the different scenarios of getting help to my friend. Do I strap his ass to my bike and haul ass into Gerlach? Surely I can't leave him here in the desert with a concussion and absolutely no protection of any kind. After a few minutes of absolute mental toture I decided the bottom line is that I can't do anything for him here and the likelihood of someone driving by is practically nill. So I marked the coordinates in my GPS and hauled ass into Gerlach.

And I was hauling ass! I almost lost it once and decided the absolute worst scenario is getting myself hurt and stranding us both. I made it to Gerlach in about twenty minutes and saw my good friend, Patrick. My brain was still freaked out by everything and I needed someone else to calm me down and help make some temporary sense of all this. Thankfully, Patrick went to the phone and dialed 911 for me. I spoke to the operator and told her the situation. She asked me where Alan was located and I told her on Jungo Road about 20 miles east of Gerlach. She was trying to locate the road on her map and then I asked if GPS coordinates would help. She said yes and I ran to the bike to get the GPS and give her the coordinates. I was on the verge of tears at this point. Thoughts of friends and family past who have lost their lives or were in need of emergency help filled my thoughts. I didn't want to think this was happening again. Dreams that just came true not more than 24 hours ago were shattered before our eyes. I asked Patrick to let Joe Denton know what's going on and to call Lisa Landry to let her know what's happening. I hauled ass back out to Alan to take care of him until Care Flight arrived.

When I got back to the accident site Alan wasn't anywhere to be seen. All I could think was that he was out wandering the fuckin' desert with a major concussion, no water and with the sun on the rise. My heart sank. Did I do the right thing when I left him in the desert? Thankfully, I found Alan a few hundred feet from his bike. He was laying in the ditch in the shade and I thought to myself, "At least he's well enough to find some shade."

Alan was coming around then too. I told him I went in to Gerlach and Care Flight was on its way. He wanted to get up and walk around. As I was helping him up my eyes began to tear as thoughts of past tragedies filled my mind again. All I could tell Alan is that, "This just ain't right." He got to his feet and he seemed much more lucid than before. About ten minutes later Care Flight flew straight over us and began a circular descent. The pilot told me the GPS coordinates were indispensable in finding us quickly. At least I got that one right. They put Alan on a stretcher and loaded him up. It wasn't too long after that when he was pumped up on some good drugs and in a lot less pain. He called me over before they departed and said, "I love ya, man." Seeing my friend there was such an emotionally crushing moment. I could only reply, "I love you too, Alan" before losing it all together.

I watched Care Flight whisk Alan away over the horizon. All that was left was mental, physical emptiness. I stood there in disbelief for about twenty minutes before walking over to Alan's bike and clearing some of the debris from the road. In looking at the road and trying to determine the sequence of events it appeared Alan crested a hill, ran into three to four inches of dirt/gravel/sand and lost the front end. Other than Alan's injuries and the bike damage, everything else is pure speculation.

I rolled back into Gerlach to update Joe Denton on Alan's status. Joe asked if I was ready to go ride around the playa, but my heart just wasn't into it. I thought about having breakfast, but told Joe I was going to head straight to Primm - the first checkpoint. I wanted this leg to be over so I could try and put most of this behind me.

On the way to Primm I stopped at a park on Walker Lake to get out of the sun and rest for an hour. I had plenty of time to get to Primm and there wasn't any reason to push it. It gave me an opportunity to reflect on the previous day's events and get some needed sleep. When I awoke I got on the bike and thought, "I should have had breakfast in Gerlach."

When I arrived in Primm one of the first people I saw was Fred Droegemueller. I told him I was planning on getting a room after checking in with Mike. He told me not to bother and offered me his room where I could shower and catch up on some needed sleep. After scoring I went to the room, showered away Jungo Road and fell into a deep sleep. So deep that I over slept the rider's meeting by an hour. I quickly put on some clothes and ran down to the meeting not knowing if anyone would still be around or what the ramifications would be of arriving late. As I entered the room Mike said, "Get up here Jason and decide what pill you want. People are ready to leave." That's nice. What pill do I want? I missed the first hour and, likely, the most important part of the meeting. And that's when I looked straight into Lisa's eyes and said, "I'll take the blue pill." With the blue pill I knew the rest of the rally would be like a typical rally - route sheets, route planning and riding. I had no idea what the red pill would entail other than Mike and Lisa sending folks through hell. I wasn't ready for hell. I had been through hell and back on Jungo Road.

Leg Two - Smooth Progress

After getting the bonus list I went back to the room to plot the points and visualize my route. As I familiarized myself with the bonus locations I realized that I've been to the vast majority of these places before. I didn't need to plot everything in the GPS. I was able to visualize my route from the route sheet itself. I decided to grab another couple hours of shuteye and begin a nice, honest run to Lake City, Florida around 3a.

I'm not sure if motorcycling gets any better than riding through a moonlit desert evening and witnessing the birth of a new day. As the sun begins to turn the eastern night sky to a deep purple there's a brief moment when we pass through the realm of all possibilities. For me, entering this realm feels like the earth is taking its first breath of the day. This is the single moment of the day where the cosmos can turn our intentions into reality. I take a deep breath and throw out my intentions when I exhale. My intention for this day is to ride through the familiar lands of southern Utah, nothern Arizona and Colorado while picking up honest points on my way to Florida.

Out of all locations I visited through the four corners and central Colorado regions there was only one location I hadn't been to before - Kolob Canyon in Zion National Park. I'm glad I went there as I found plenty of excuses to go back and explore the Kolob area. From Kolob I headed to Zion, Lee's Ferry, over to Monument Valley, up through Moab and over to Grand Junction, Colorado where I collected a rest bonus. I've a deep and special affinity for the desert southwest. I cannot nor do I feel a need to explain it fully. It's a spiritual connection for which I am blessed to have found in my life. On my way from the monuments to Moab I ran into a brief, but cleansing rain that helped wash away the debilitating thoughts of the first leg and reveal what's most important to me in my first IBR. Sure, I want to place well in the end, but I want to ride smart and most importantly, I want to finish. Knowing how fragile life is and seeing firsthand how quickly a ride can come to an end, I want to get a successful, complete IBR in the record books. I knew I wasn't immune to the tragedies of the road - no one is at anytime - but the competitive mindset I had at the beginning was somewhat dulled in comparison to what matters most.

The next morning I wanted to spend a good part of the day collecting Colorado bonuses. The road from Aspen up to Indpendence Pass is amazing. I love that ride! Nice, narrow roads through aspen-covered mountain sides that keep your eyes wide open and the hair on the back of your neck at attention. Then there's the ride up Mt. Evans along the highest paved road in the US. There are no guard rails on the road. If you're squeemish or afraid of heights, this isn't the road for you. When I got to the top the wind was blowing at a good clip and I found a fellow beemer rider to hold my rally towel. He and a friend made the ride up from the Denver area and we spoke about the rally for a couple of minutes. Toward the end of the conversation I told him there will likely be a good number of IBR riders up here. Sure enough as I was leaving several riders made their way into the parking lot. I left with a smile on my face knowing my rally towel was likely not the only one he posed with on that windy day atop Mt. Evans.

I rode through the night into Texas. On the way from Amarillo to Dallas I saw various riders. Some I recognized and others I didn't. I remember seeing Jim and Donna Phillips on their LT go by. Donna was likely catching some shuteye while Jim kept a good pace toward their next destination. I saw Jim Frens while heading through Wichita Falls. The last time I saw Jim was heading through Lolo Pass. Somewhere south of Wichita Falls Jim peeled off and I had the entire road all to myself again.

Most of the bonus hunting occurred the previous two days and I set my sights for southern Lousiana to meet some Wild Pelicans before heading to Lake City. On my way to Mamou, Lousiana I didn't know what the weather would hold. Well, except for hot and humid. I just didn't know to what extent the tropical depression in the gulf would affect the area weather. I ran into some good showers around Alexandria and I thought it would be like that for a while, but it cleared the other side of Alexandria and the ride into Mamou was a typical hot, humid southern Lousiana ride. I got to the bonus right at 6p when the location opened.

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Arriving in Mamou - Rick Sauter & Your's Truly
Photo Courtesy of Wild Pelicans

There were already a large number of riders there and I was a little concerned about this bonus taking a long time to get 'processed.' But the Wild Pelicans did a superb job of taking care of everyone. Someone asked me if I wanted to have a bite to eat and while I desparately wanted some of whatever was responsible for my olfacotry ecstasy, I reluctantly declined and told her I just didn't have the time. I reckon this is just a good excuse to head south again. It's 6:04p and I'm rolling again. Many thanks to the Wild Pelicans for running a proper bonus location.

That evening I stopped at a rest area for a while somewhere in Florida for a little shuteye. The checkpoint opened at 6a and when I arrived, put the kickstand down and lifted my leg over the seat I felt like I put together a good, honest leg the past couple of days. It was a good feeling and it was topped off by sharing that moment with good, familiar friends. Jim Bain boosted my spirits when he told me he had a 25 year old bottle of scotch and offered his room for sleep and a shower. I needed that. And Jim, that bottle of scotch was absolutely marvelous!! Many thanks to you and everyone else there supporting the riders.

Leg Three - East Coast Mental Gymnastics

I have a serious hangup about riding in congested areas of northeastern United States. It's something that I definitely get to work out of my system. Being in that kind of traffic under those conditions doesn't bother me, but rather being in those conditions for the length of time it takes to traverse from, say, Washington DC through the other side of Boston, Massachussetts is what bothers me. Actually, it just plain pisses me off because with more people comes more cars and with more cars comes more idiots. My brain tells me it's one humungous pain in the ass and it's best to get through it all in the most expeditious manner. My experience with the area tells me my brain is spot on.

Along with the mental gymnastics the mellon was playing on me came decisions, oversights and outright excuses that cost major points. Out of the gate in Lake City I filled up the tank and forgot the damn receipt. There goes the gas bonus for that leg. And of course, I didn't realize the mistake until the next checkpoint in Buxton, Maine. I also talked myself out of all the New York City bonuses. The excuse? Blow 'em off. You're doing fine without them and you know you don't want to put up with New York City after all the crap you dealt with behind you!

From Lake City I traveled north through Atlanta. The plan was to attack the southern Appalachian bonuses and then ride into the northeast for one or two modest bonuses. While riding through Atlanta I fell in behind Jim and Donna Phillips. I saw them on the last leg blowing through Texas in the wee hours of the night. They blazed a nice path through Atlanta so I kept close behind until they pealed off on the north side of Atlanta. I later saw Jim and Donna at the Marrysville bonus and finally decided that I need to meet them. I mean, if I'm going to keep seeing them, I may as well know who they are.

Joe Colquitt arrived at the Maggie's Valley location when I did. We walked into the museum together and took a picture of the wrong doggone airplane! I didn't think we had the right picture, but this airplane-car-looking thing was the closest thing we could find. We asked the curator where the Harley Davidson plane was located and he, of course, pointed us right to it. We both got a propper picture. As we were gearing up to leave the parking lot Joe asks me if I can give him a push off the centerstand. You see, Joe has one of the 11 gallon Touratech tanks on his GS. "I just filled up and this thing's a bear to get off the centerstand, " he told me. As I gave him a good push I couldn't help but think how the hell he got the bike UP on the centerstand with a full tank in the first place. Joe was headed to scour the Blue Ridge Parkway for a few points while I was headed to the northeast.

From Maggie's Valley I headed toward the northeast. I wanted to get a few of the more remote bonuses in the region and avoid the dense areas along the northeastern coast. I had been spending a minimum of six hours in a hotel the past couple of nights. This was inline with my new outlook on the rally and what mattered most.

When I finally managed to get close to the Boston region I had some bonus locations in site. First, Plymouth Rock. I knew it would take forever to get there, but I wanted to see the damn rock. Cool rock. From there it was on to Salem where witches were burned at the stake. It took me FOREVER to find that damn bonus. Was it my fault? Absolutely. I rode by that son of a bitch probably ten times. Finally, I said fuck it! I'm not wasting anymore time on this damn thing. I wanted to mosey up Mount Washington before heading to Buxton and Salem was the last location before going that direction. But when you invest the amount of time I did in finding the Salem bonus, it's difficult to just let it go. I stopped the bike and took a deep breath before trying one, last time. Wouldn't you know it. That damn bonus had been right in front me all that time.

I spent a lot of time in Salem. Too much, actually. I didn't feel I had enough time to make it up Mount Washington and get to Buxton before the checkpoint opened. Since I wasn't in the hunt I felt content with a liesurely run to Buxton. There were many friends there to greet all the riders and, once again, it was good to see them all. For some of us, we've carried on a cyber-relationship over the past years without meeting each other face to face. I'm grateful for having met these folks. It's nice to be able to put a face with the name and it sheds light on the unwritten humor and meaning between the lines of their posts.

I managed to get about an hour's sleep in Buxton. I was more tired than I thought. When the bonus listing for the final leg was passed out I was eager to get going.

Leg Four - Go West, Young Man

Again, I managed to convince myself to stay out of the New York City area. I left some awesome points behind between the last leg and this one. I have no regrets, but I know I have to battle through the mental gymnastics in the future. It won't happen again. I stopped in New Jersey on my way to the flight 93 memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The memorial was a somber reflection of what transpired that fateful day of September 11, 2001. People sacrificed their lives for what so many of us take for granted. These people are heroes in my book.

I saw Jim and Donna again at the memorial. I couldn't decide if I wanted to go to Colorado Springs and climb Pike's Peak or head up to northern Minnesota and stop at Donahue Harley. Jim and Donna seemed intent on making it to Colorado. For me, Colorado wasn't all that bad, but the thought of droning through Kansas didn't appeal to me at all. Minnesota, here I come. Along the way I stopped in Chicago for a couple of bonuses and eventually made it all the way to Monticello, MN to spend the night. On the way into the Milwaukee area I saw a billboard that read:


This was a friendly jab at Harley Davidson from BMW. At the bottom of the billboard it read, "Congratulations Harley Davidson on 100 years." I got a good laugh out of that one.

The next morning I stopped in at Donahue Harley-Davidson in Sauk Rapids, MN. This was another example of a well-run bonus location. Brett and the rest of the bunch really took care of the riders stopping in for a picture. Many thanks to Brett and the entire Donahue HD crew.

Donahue Harley-Davidson Stop
Photo Courtesy of Brett Donahue

During those long days in the saddle I keep a steady, comfortable clip and I'm always on the lookout for obstacles, hazards, idiot drivers, etc. One hazard I don't mess around with are 18-wheelers or any over-sized vehicle pulling a trailer. When approaching my senses are heightened and I begin to listen for tire condition, smell the air for rubbing breaks or tires and look for anything dangling that wants to make an escape. I don't take my time passing these vehicles either. I get in the left lane and look into their side mirror to ensure they see me, get into the left third of the lane to give a wide berth and get around them as quickly and safely as possible. Several miles before Medora, North Dakota I see a cattle-hauler. It's empty, but the typical smells are present which only serve to make the pass even more desirable. I make all of the normal moves before passing and begin my approach. About the time I reach the tail end of the trailer the interstate makes a right turn and as we begin to turn a flood of watered down piss and shit comes spraying out of the back left corner of the trailer. Son-of-a-bitch!! I just got shit-sprayed. I needed gas anyway so I pulled over and cleaned up a bit, but the smell stayed with me all the way to Missoula. If someone thought I smelled like shit in Missoula, they were right. As I was filling and cleaning up I thought about the likelihood of having to pass him again. And I did, but with the usual results this time.

I thought I'd be able to hit Bear Tooth Pass and make it to Cooke City before the location closed, but I would have had to push a little harder than I was willing to push. Again, finishing the IBR and getting a successful one under my belt was key at this point. I knew I would cut it close, but when I reached the other side of Billings I decided against riding to Cooke City because of time. It was too far away yet so I opted to stop in Butte for the evening, wake up early and ride into Missoula.

When I got to the outskirts of Missoula the next morning I knew I would finish even if I had to push the fuckin' bike across the finish line. I was only a few miles away. The final drive failed me during the Ultimate Coast to Coast run earlier in the summer. I'd be lieing if I said there wasn't a little bastard-voice whispering in my ear the entire ride. I'm not sure I could accept a mechanical failure at this point. I'm lucky though. I had my dealer, BMW Fort Worth, detail the bike during my summer pitstop in Dallas. They replaced several suspect parts - including the alternator belt. I think going home for a couple of weeks to have them detail the bike was one of the best moves I made the entire summer. Many thanks to everyone at BMW Fort Worth.

When I crossed the finish line in Missoula I felt a real sense of accomplishment. I knew I didn't do as well as I probably could have, but I knew I did as well as I chose. To think or believe any differently would be a disrespecting slap in the face of all the other riders who finished ahead of and behind me and I have too much respect for them as well as myself to make excuses that belittle their accomplishments. Just as in the beginning, there were plenty of friends there to support all of the riders. Jon brought me another bottle of scotch. Combined with Jim's bottle, it only meant one thing - time to catch a buzz and enjoy the company of good friends.

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Another Bottle of Scotch and Shootin' the Shinola with Friends
Photos Courtesy of Rick Martin

I'd be lieing if I said I didn't regret anything during the last eleven days. I don't question why some things happened or why some decsions were made. I'm content with them and I know I have a few things to work on. I was able to acheive the ultimate goal of riding in and finishing the IBR. When I truly think about it though, I can honestly say I have one regret - not having breakfast in Gerlach. I'll have that breakfast at some point.

Many thanks to Mike, Lisa and everyone involved with the 2003 IBR. For this rider, every last one of you were instrumental in making a dream come true. My friendship, respect and thanks to you all.

Homeward Bound

I stayed in Missoula for two days after the rally. My summer of being on the road was coming to a close and I was in no mood to go home and find another contract. I thought about where I wanted to go from here. I had looked forward to riding to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest on the first leg, but never made it. I set my sights for that area of California. On my way I traveled through Winnemucca again and thought about heading to Gerlach for breakfast. It's going to have to wait until another day. I took my time getting to Bishop, California where I stopped for a couple of days. I rode out to Bristlecone and had a wonderful time walking through the Ancients.

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CA-168 Looking West Toward Big Pine, The Patriarch Tree and a View of the Sierras

After a summer filled with many roads, 58K miles, many smiles, wonderful memories and cherished friends, I reached the outskirts of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex with a peculiar feeling in my gut. I was home, yet so far away from having a home. I reckon it's time to get my belongings out of storage and find a place to hang my hat again. Work will soon follow... or will it?