Thursday, July 21, 2011

2011 Iron Butt Rally Part 1

The 2011 Iron Butt Rally is in the books. The picture is me at the start of the rally. I left Boston for the start of the Rally in Seattle on June 14th. I decided to do what is called a SaddleSore 3000 on my way out to Seattle. That's 1,000 miles per day for three days. That ride went off without any problems. In fact, I can't even remember much about that ride. I started from Boston with a friend from work riding a Harley. He was going to ride with me to South Dakota and then he would head south to go to San Diego to visit his son while I continued west to Seattle. We got about two hours outside Albany NY when he broke down on the side of the road. Luckily he was on a Harley and there are dealerships in nearly every town in the Northeast. I waited with him on the side of the road for the tow truck, but then I had to keep moving because I was on a schedule. I was planning to stop for a few hours in Cleveland to visit with a friend and thought Skip would have time to catch up to me if he could get his bike fixed. The dealership didn't have the part he needed so he had to spend the night there and then he said he would just turn around and head home from there. The next day, his bike broke down again. I made it to Cleveland and had an early dinner with my friend Steve.

I got to Seattle on Friday and made arrangements with the BMW dealer (Ridewest BMW) to get the bike serviced including new Metzeler ME880 tires which I planned to ride the whole rally on. Once the weekend started, the riders had several tasks to take care of before the start on Monday the 20th. I wanted it to be a stress-free weekend because I didn't want to panic before the start. It wasn't too difficult, but it wasn't stress-free either. I had a problem with my fuel cell. My cell is mounted on the rear seat of my bike. This is within regulation, but the cell cannot move around. Most cells are bolted to the frame of the bike. Mine moved around a little too much for the tech inspector so I had to rush around town and try to find some straps to secure it to the bike a little better. I got it taken care of, but I was freaking out for a little while.
There was a lot of speculation about the theme of this year's Rally. Nothing is revealed to the riders until the riders meeting/dinner on Sunday night. However, there were clues around the hotel like posters, lanyards and t-shirts worn by IBR staff. It looked like it was going to be a 48-state ride based on the clues, but you knew there would be a twist. At the dinner we were given our rally packs and rally flags. Tom Austin was the mastermind behind this year's theme and it was indeed a 48-state ride. The rules were very basic. Ride to all 48 states within 11 days and you will be a finisher. The base route for this was only 8,500 miles. If you wanted to be competitive and improve your position in the standings, you could visit state capitols and take a picture of your rally flag at the capitol buildings. Each state capitol had different point values. The capitols along the base route were of minimal value, but the further from the base route, the higher the point value. Plus, as the rally goes on, the point values increase so the points in the first leg are considerably less than the points in the third leg.

We knew ahead of time there would be three legs in this rally. The first checkpoint was in Buffalo NY, the second checkpoint was in Jacksonville FL, and the finish was in Ontario CA. Only certain capitol bonuses were available during the individual legs, but you could visit any state on any leg. Additionally, bonus points were available for resting and calling-in to the IBR staff during certain time windows. This was a drastic departure from the tradition of receiving a 50+ page bonus listing and spending half the night before the rally trying to plan your route. Once all was revealed in Seattle, I went back to the room and only spent about an hour on routing. I decided I was going to take it easy and stick to the base route and maybe hit a couple capitols along the way, but not go crazy and do a ton of miles on the first leg. That didn't last long. We left the hotel on Monday, June 20th for 11 days on the road. I went to Olympia WA, Salem OR, and Boise ID on the first day. I stopped for the night north of Boise before heading into Montana. I thought for sure I would see several riders in Boise, but I only ran into Chris Sakala. This was encouraging because Chris is one of the top riders in this game. I thought I was doing something right by seeing him there. My plan was then to go through Montana, dip into Wyoming, and across North Dakota. I spent the second night in Bismark ND. I did a lot of miles on day two. The speed limits are high through Montana and North Dakota so you can cover a lot of ground. The ride across North Dakota was brutal. It was heavy rain, wind, and cold temperatures. I had my electric vest working overtime. At one point, I turned my head to the left and rain was stinging my neck. It continued to burn so I thought a wire popped out of my electric vest and was burning my neck. I turned off the vest and when I got to the motel for the night in Bismarck, I looked at my vest and it was fine. The rain was like wet fire I guess. From Bismarck, I went south to South Dakota and then east through Minnesota. It was somewhere in here that I decided to change my plan. I was feeling really good about the ride so far and I was getting plenty of rest. This was likely going to be the last time I was going to be able to do this so I decided to crank it up and ride as hard as I could for the next nine days. I hit almost every state capitol left on the leg; WI and PA were the only ones I missed. I passed right by my mom’s house in Minnesota and all I could do was wave. The highlight for the leg was Kentucky. I did about two hours of back roads in Kentucky on some of the nicest twisty roads with beautiful landscape. I really want to go back there for a couple days and ride those roads again. I made it to Buffalo with a couple hours to spare.

Part 2....

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