The Cruelest Day

All my photos are at *:
http://s280.photobucket.com/albums/kk178/rallybubbas/2009IBR/

All locations mapped are at [courtesy of the FJR forum]:
http://tcfjr.goption.com/ibr/ibr2009-all.html

Official website:
http://www.ironbuttrally.com/IBR/2009.cfm

I started the 2009 Iron Butt Rally with only two minor changes over the setup I’ve use on Hmmbee since 06.  Leonard Roy was kind enough to loan me a Ron Smith fuel cell over my old RCI (picked up about 1.25g) and I got a set of beaded seat covers from Chris Sakala at www.beadrider.com.  The Short School Bus for the RE Higdon Area Schools was ready to roll.  I left for Spartanburg on Thursday morning 8/20 for a leisurely ride from Baltimore - this would be my last leisurely ride until after I got home.  I spent the night with Amanda and Mike Allen near Raleigh and chose an “overland” route to the start; I really dislike the interstates and I had a feeling that I’d be spending a great deal of time on them from 8/24 onward.

Unlike 07, I arrived on Friday just after lunch - my room was ready early, so I checked in and went straight to the hotel bar after harassing Chris who was having comm system” issues (see page 2 of that report)- he gave me a raft of shit for being early (“What are you doing here? It isn’t midnight on Saturday” or the like).  Roger Sinclair also was there aiding the ailing comm problems sporting a nice, shiny C14 Concours with a very familiar looking fuel tank….(see Mr Freeze, circa 2002).  In the bar, I worked with a few riders who wanted refreshers on how to handle electronic bonus locations and using the e-Boni workbook

Registration day was a full day of “airport mode” activities.  Staff did a very nice job of shuttling around to cover the surges through the paperwork, but it still bottle necked at a few spots: camera check, final check and the 2 working elevators.  Twas no big deal though as it was nice to sit and chat with my fellow “crime scene investigators.”  I chose to perform my final check first thing Sunday morning and it was as smooth as pie.  The official rally poster offered scant few hints as to what was what - I’m still not sure what the collies are about; perhaps I’ll get to read all of the rally books and find the mystery inside.  Although we weren’t finger printed, mug shot or perp-walked, one thing was for sure, we were going to get the Gil Grissom treatment by the looks of staff.

Rallyday minus Zero, Sunday 8/23.   Collin Tanji of Abracadabra Productions was looking for volunteers to carry “rally cams” during the rally - these little buggers are just barely bigger than the AAA batteries inside and store the images on CF cards.  We tested out the mount on my short Sunday morning ride.  Everything was good to go, so Collin supplied me with a few CF cards and batteries for the rally; he planned to pull the images at each checkpoint - I promised to change the cards on a regular basis.

During the afternoon meeting, Dale “strongly reinforced” his statements about starting procedures.  Dale is a ‘to the point’ guy - I like that in Dale.  Tom Austin covers the rules changes in effect and finally we get a tongue thrashing about f-ing up and not to do it.  Which goes to my rally rules that I condensed after blatantly stealing the first four from Chris’s website:

-         Get Big Rocks First - that is, go after the big boni first, a bunch of little ones isn’t the same as one big one, at least for the IBR
-         Get Big Sleep – sleep, sleep sleep- you can’t bank it, but the more you get early on, the better you’ll feel when you push on later
-         Use Big Roads - avoid the squiggly lines unless absolutely needed, especially after dark
-         Go Big Last - go big or go home
-         I added  Have Big Fun - no sense showing up if you aren’t having fun

I was also carrying around Alan Sheppard’s quote from Mercury One- “Dear Lord, please don’t let me fuck up.”  Some how that was the most appropriate quote to have after the meeting.

The starting banquet commences the what’s what of most rallies - same true here.  Bus 35 was my designation for the next 11+ days.  Yellow Crime Scene lanyards, matching ID tags and flags.  This year’s IDs rode up a lot - at least mine did- more often than not  as I would be in a near panic to locate it through my gear, I would find the ID at the nape of my neck with the lanyard draped down my back - not sure if I found annoying or amusing, but it was better than the 07 lanyards that left me with a rash of some type.  I nearly hurt myself laughing over the negative bonus point locations; not like this past Cape Fear 1000 where the lowest score won and negative points were to be had, but these were sizable numbers of negative points - so much so, I was tempted to get one and intentionally screw it up somehow so I would get no points for a negative bonus.  Bwha!

LEG 1

Two Basic Choices- Martha’s Vineyard or Florida (a few variations thereof for this one).  I looked at Florida for about an hour after fixing my beta version of the newest release of e-Boni (I wound up fixing it on every leg, that’s why it was a beta).  While tempting, it didn’t yield the point total I was after.  At the riders’ meeting, we were told that to be a finisher we’d need 9000 points on the leg and gold was about 30% more than that (or 11,700 for those bad at math) - to me this was my minimum, gold level.  Therefore, my route had to be at least 12,000 points; better yet, 30% more than gold or about 15,200.  I settled on a high 14 route with a few optional stops; no one has ever won the IBR on the first leg (Shane Smith got very, very close in 01), but numerous riders have tanked it on the first leg when they over reached.  I also knew, historically, the points got higher as the rally went on - the legs were longer and the miles would be tougher.

At the start, Dale moved us off the HQ parking lot in an extremely efficient matter with a parade of bikes heading for the BMW factory museum and Amigo - the first bike to ride the entire length of the Pan American Highway. The catch was it was only available from 10:30 onward; the trip took all of 20 minutes.  Upon my arrival, several riders were already on their way back to their bikes despite the fact it was merely 10:25.  Oops.  I patiently waited outside the museum with a few other riders for 10:30 to appear on my camera - I actually heard one rider exclaim, that the real time is irrelevant, it’s whatever time his camera has that counts.  My yellow brick of a camera is 2 minutes slow - so I moved inside the museum to view a display of Izettas - including a very rare 2-door, 4 seat model.  After stalling long enough, I grabbed my pic and I headed northeast for my next stop, Kensington, MD where the DC “sniper” claimed one of his victims.  Despite being within a mile of the house when I hit Baltimore, I couldn’t not “go home.”  I had to make it to Wilmington before nightfall for my last bonus of Day 1.  I had planned to be at the Jackson Pollock house at daybreak, and it occurred to me as I rode east on Long Island, that IF I could find a room in East Hampton, I probably couldn’t afford it.  So I pulled up about an hour short of the house at a Travelodge for a mere $100; not the most I’ve ever spent for a rally room, but not bad considering where I was and where I was heading.

Day 2 started with a long, frustrating attempt to get the Pollock house in “daylight.” I knew I had a ferry to catch and the clock was ticking.  I broke my personal record for the most number of photos taken to obtain a bonus - now stands at 14.  After finally being satisfied with the results of the second to last and last pics, I headed for the first of seven ferries on the day - the two short Sag Harbor ferries before the long one over to New London.  I made the Orient – New London Ferry with 7 minutes to spare.  Aboard, I made a few phone calls, tried to nap (didn’t work) and did some basic math on my arrival to the Martha’s Vineyard ferry. According to the website, getting off the island was going to be the real issue - every ferry was booked solid until 6:30pm in the off island direction.  Motorcycles are first come, first served and crammed into whatever spot they’ll fit.  I grabbed two more boni on the way to the ferry - I had hopes of making the noon ferry but arrived to find the authority boarding a “freight ferry” that wasn’t on the schedule - what a catch.  The short, but expensive trek to the Vineyard produced predictable results; a painful ride to the ferry over to Chappaquiddick and a more painful ride back to the terminal.  At a weirdly shaped intersection, I happened across Alan Barbic (on his 6th IBR) and Thane Silliker (who invented the TC75 ride, the evil bastard).  We ride into the Dike Bridge together; I noticed one of the “fishermen” isn’t really fishing, so I wonder if this is a boni spy we’ve been coached upon.  We head back to the weird intersection - I let both Alan and Thane know that the next ferry off the island is at the Oak Bluffs terminal.  Thane and I catch that ferry - we’re not sure what happen to Alan.  Fearing a team might be forming (teams are a new feature in 09 and can be very painful point-wise if formed and broken) Thane and I compare notes about our next stops. Thankfully, we are running this leg backwards of each other, however we are both heading to a bank just “mere minutes” away from the ferry terminal in Woods Hole.

Yea right - once I got into that rats nest I should have bailed.  It was a 58 point bonus and in the grand scale of things really shouldn’t matter. Stupid stupid stupid.  This would not be the biggest mistake for me.

Jill, that bitch inside of my Garmin, routed me on this really odd path to get to the next bonus in Connecticut.  I have no idea why she did it, but I figure her “loop” cost me about 30 minutes and I should have over ruled her upon discovery; I would later over rule her numerous times.  There were a few daylight only boni in suburban NYC including the Lou Costello statue featured on the Sopranos, so I grabbed what I could and headed west on 80 toward the next day’s goal - East Liverpool, Ohio and the sites where Pretty Boy Floyd was killed, laid to rest, etc. 

When I arrived, there  werea bevy of other riders working their way through the Bed and Breakfast for the required photo and keyfob.  From here, the leg isn’t over for me, I have to get the trash place, and ride into southern Michigan for a swing across the lower tier to on the way to the end of Leg 1 in West Chicago.   I arrive in the rain, to my goal - cut the windows close, but not too close.  I round up my stuff, go through it all and once satisfied I get in the queue for digital downloads.  Somewhere along the way, I get skipped and lose my place in that line.   This is despite Bob Higdon’s clipboard and his “Miller, don’t’ fuck with me” attention getter.  Dutifully, I sat on the stairs and waited; 4 hours later, I’m finally scored and off to bed.  3:45am comes awful early for the Leg 2.

LEG 2

Packets out, back to the room to dissect the goods.  This time 27000 points are needed with the same 30% premium.  It’s fairly obvious, that a swing west to the Hobo Museum (a big rock) is required before heading to Shane Smith’s house in  McComb(really big rock) on Friday; this is where I made my mistake.  There was another big rock, sitting one hour with Miss Laura at her bordello turned museum, that I had put in for the same time as Shane’s.  Turns out, I had coded Shane’s 5a to 4p and not 5p to 4a.  Major mess up and it would cost me.  I went defensive after discovery and glomed up everything I could along the trip to the checkpoint - I tried for the Barbed Wire Museum but could do no better than 7 minutes late on its closing time, so I bailed several hours short of arrival.

The stop at Shane’s was amazing. True hospitality is a rare treat and his family put out the spread. What a great place; you can hardly tell it was all new since Katrina. I asked Shane if he has plans to start doing the crawfish boil again, now that his competitive riding days are mostly over. He said he’d seriously consider it; I hope he does, I didn’t get the chance to attend one in the past.

In retrospect it was quite obvious I had messed up - I double-checked the Miss Laura bonus since it didn’t make sense, but never rechecked Shane’s.  Also the routing was quite clear - Hobo, some other stuff to fill out the time, catch Miss Laura first thing and head to Shane’s.  From there, you could head to a big rock in south Texas or northwest to the Barbed Wire Museum.  Either way, it yielded the correct number of points; mine didn’t.  The absolute highlight of the leg was the ride out of Prescott towards the Salton Sea (another bonus).  A delightful mountain road where every cage yielded to the big yellow school bus as I thrashed down the mountain.  If it weren’t for the IBR, I would have turned around and done it all again for fun.  I suspected the road was going to be a good one so I saved a chip just for this section of road. At the Salton Sea it is a mere 115d; in about 30 hours it will be 37d.  The evening of day 11 would be much, much colder.  More on that later. I get the news that Salty has had a catastrophic blow out and is in a Las Vegas hospital as a result; man that sucks.

Check-in goes much smoother as I don’t get skipped this time.  3:45 still comes early.

LEG 3

Mired in 38th place, I do the math.

40,000 points to be a finisher, total 76,000 for the rally.  So far the leaders have been running about 50% more than the finisher level.  If 76,000 is needed to be a finisher, the mid-teens should be enough to challenge for the tops spots, maybe even a podium finish.  I have 44k points, therefore I will need at least 70,000 plus to achieve that goal, my long stated goal, a podium finish at the IBR. 

Now the hard part - find a 70k route.  Fully one third of that total was located on/near Lake Superior (Little Bohemia, Gay Bar and Thunder Bay); roundtrip 4200 miles.  One third was also located in BFE Yukon Territories, but there were scant few points to gather on the 5400-mile trek.  One sixth was available in “administrative bonus points” (call-in, fuel log, rest etc).  The catch was to fill in the other half.  Using the Big Rocks First rally rule, I went for the biggest rocks I could on the way to the Lake.  My plan was to spend Wednesday gathering up the Lake rocks and then head west as far as possible before the time ran out on the rest bonus start (must be started on Wednesday).

Now the really hard part- riding the damn thing. I ain’t no Jim Owen or Jeff Earls, although the route I have selected is pretty much what they wind up riding.  I count on my wits and ability to grind out miles when I really don’t want to grind out miles.  I would also be routing on the fly like never before - how can I squeeze in that one more big rock, where can I shave off some time, etc. 

Day 8 - I depart the checkpoint around 6am local.  Traffic is starting to thicken up with the morning commuters.  Jeff Earls and I work our way through traffic; he has hinted that I’ll see him in Utah (the Mountain Meadows Memorial).  Somewhere east of town, Jeff departs the freeway and I won’t see him again until the finish.  At first, I was concerned; so much so I later asked one of rally staff if his status was “OK” since he made no hints that he was planning to stop on the way to Utah.  Turns out, he was after another bonus along the way - Brooks Robinson to you and me then.  I “sit there, twist that” all the way to the Mountain Meadows Memorial and am surprised to find Bob Mutchler and Dean Tanji of Abracadabra.  Dean has the coolest body armor - it looks like an exoskeleton in segmented parts.  I couldn’t pull off the look, but he does.  One the short gravel road in, I noticed a set of tire tracks that head sideways - I comment that looks like someone might have went down.  I find out later Derek Dickson was the rider who crashed and fractured his collar bone as result.  His rally was over - and he was having a splendid ride- the cruel days were starting.  Leaving the Memorial and heading for a sunset arrival at Dead Horse Point in Canyonlands Park, I choose to skip the tempting semi-big rock south of there and the teeny pebble directly on the path to Canyonlands.  I cannot afford to blow sunset on the next bonus, no matter how tempting anything can be along the way.  There is a major forest fire along I-15 and smoke is hanging in the air all the way across Colorado; you could actually still smell the fire hundreds of miles to the east.  My nightfall goal was to get to the I-70 exit for the northward section through the mountains, via Rand, on the way to possibly pick up Crazy Horse and Devils Tower before dead heading to the Lake.  These were my first optional boni.  I got a good night’s sleep and hoped to bag both, if time permitted.

Day 9 - I started the ride north in subfreezing temps.  My trusty Widder was still hanging in there despite having the telltale signs of a catastrophic meltdown on the horizon. The “junction panel” was very hot and actually starting to burn my skin through my riding gear.  I resorted to duct taping one of my lightweight gloves over the panel and kept on plugging away.  Richard Buber and I catch each other just short of Rand.  He has some photos to show me; he got hit by a hawk. Well, his bike got hit and the photos showed this large raptor wedged in the small gap between the windshield and the body of his bike. If it wasn’t so sad about the loss of this majestic bird, I would have shit myself laughing. 

Despite my aversion to small boni in this rally, there is one in Laramie that is only 4 blocks off the route through town. I feel compelled to nab it.  A quick route check indicates that Devils Tower is possible so I program in Devils Tower, Crazy Horse and Trent, SD (daylight only) for the remainder of this section..  Jill routes me up 25 (which runs sort of NNW) and then across 20.  I recall the old Laramie Trail parallels I-25 to the east and runs more north-south than the interstate does.  So what the heck, I give it a try.  At first, Jill is sarcastically sighing “recalculating” at me every few minutes as I blow off every u-turn she forces at me.  Eventually, she gets with the program and says I will save about 10 minutes.  WY-270 (the old trail) is a heavily travelled truckers route and boy do they roll along at speed.  Near Manville, I head east on 20 to 85.  Not sure why; 270 continues north for another 30 miles or so before joining the main highway (US-85).  Hello Dean Tanji and what in the wild, wild world of sports are you doing out here?  Turns out he intends to set up shop at Crazy Horse figuring its proximity to the interstate and high value would make it a popular stop for the Tuesday riding crowd.  It was.  Unfortunately, I got all of this information as we sat waiting for pilot cars to guide us through construction zones along 85 - four of them.  Needless to say, Devils Tower got dropped like a “pro-family” southern governor with a “soulmate” from South America.  This would be the last optional bonus I would have to drop; in fact, from this point to the barn, the only bonus I would not get that was planned as one about 30 minutes or so from Trent and only because it was a daylight only and I arrived there well after the threshold. On the ride up, i keep hearing and feeling things hit my boots. At first, it has to be pebbles from the recent tar n chip job, but there is no corresponding "tink tink" off the bike- in fact, there is only the 'thuchk' against my boots. Finally, i see the culprits- grasshoppers. I must be slaughtering thousands of them.

Day 10 - I knew this night was going to be tough after leaving Trent.  It would require near constant movement to make Little Bohemia at the appointed hour - 7am local (in this case Central).  I took a few naps along the way and felt fairly refreshed for the start of the last “easy day;” three stops and then ride west on the Trans Can Highway.  About 1 mile short of  Little Bohemia, I see a familiar face trying to flag me down - Jim Owen is warning me the employees at the restaurant are “unbelievably uncooperative” and makes us wonder who did what last evening that pissed them all off so much.  We know that some riders headed straight for the Lake and had planned to Hoover up everything they could on the way to Spokane.  Seeing Jim gave me hope - not that Little Boh would go well; I knew it wouldn’t so I was prepared to call Lisa as soon as I got there.  But seeing Jim made me realized I was on the right path; Jim is one of the best riders I have ever met.  He’s smart, he’s smooth and brutally efficient.  If you’re in a rally and run across Jim, generally, you’re thinking the right way.  Upon arrival at Little Boh I see Mike Hutsal, one of my favorite Canadians.  He’s trying in vain to get the bonus requirements (staff actually walked right by him without even acknowledging his presence - how’s that for uncooperative?).  As soon as the helmet was off I had Lisa on the phone explaining that Mike and I were at the restaurant and there was no way in God’s green earth that the staff was going to give up a precious business card.  She said “You know the drill,” to which I replied - “Pics of the restaurant and the gate - will that be enough?”  “You betcha.”

You have to love Lisa; as ‘rally mom’ she has to tend to her flock of 101 chicks.   When we’re out on the road, sometimes our brain turns to mush - we get stupid.  We forget things. In 07 I lost track of what day of the week it was.  This year, I left my wedding band in the checkpoint’s hotel room.  I called her and asked for a major favor; could she somehow rescue my wedding ring?  She told me this is kind of phone call she actually likes taking from a rider - I guess the other choice is “I’m out,” so yea, I guess it is a better choice.

Mike and I leave the restaurant at the same time - we’re both heading to the Gay Bar on the UP of Michigan.  I suspect we are on the exact same route since we both plan to hit Gay, Thunder Bay and the Manitoba boni - as Mike called it “heading home” (he’s from Winnipeg- go Bombers).  I check my GPS and see that there are a few ferries that cross over Lake Superior; maybe there is a way to shave some time off the Gay->TB leg.  I wave Mike onward to prevent a team from forming.  Team play by riders comes with a hefty penalty and I’m not sure if Mike and I have the exact same routes – so we separate to prevent the penalty application.  In the next small town, I make a few quick calls about the ferries (passenger only - darn), take a short nap and then head towards Gay.  I see a string of bikes heading south including Jim Owen, now about 40 minutes in front of me and Mike 20 minutes in front.  That’s fine with me.

I get to Gay, take my photo, click click, get out of Gay and start the loooooooong ride to Thunder Bay - Daylight Only but I don’t forget, despite being well west of where Gay sits is in the Eastern Time Zone - BOGGLE.  The ride is basically uneventful; the RCMP border agent has some pointed questions beyond “Are you carrying any tobacco or liquor?”  She keeps asking about firearms; she asked three times about guns.  Guess us bad assed bikes do have a reputation for our guns.  She asked me my destination and where I planned to stay - Thunder Bay for the evening, the Travelodge there, I don’t have reservations I tell her.  Satisfied, she whisks me through and I’m in the land of clicks, colours and litres.  In Thunder Bay, I ask a local what time the sun sets - oh about 8:30 or so eh.  Hmmm, I can get pretty far west on the highway before hard darkness falls and that gets me out of moose country quicker in the morning - goal for the rest bonus Kenora or Dryden, depending upon how I feel and the time of day.  The rest bonus must be started by midnight.  I opt for Dryden, snag a receipt for some food at 24 truck stop and trundle next door to the hotel for a room.  6 hours later, I repeat the process, fuel up and set off into the early morning glow.  Just before I depart, I see a ST1300 head by - wonder who that is? (Jim Owen is on a RT, Jeff Earls rides a GT.  Hmmm).  After a few hours of leap frog, I realize it’s my good riding buddy Eric Jewell.  Eric and I have been in this game together since Buttlite III (earlier for him).  We laugh - “we are not a team” we proclaim.  I call Lisa to proclaim that we are not a team although I suspect we have the exact same route from this point to the barn - I mean the exact same route.  Why else would you be in Dryden, heading west in the pre-dawn hours.

Day 11 - I stop in the MB-ON welcome center to make my call-in bonus and start the rally camera for the last day.  In jest, I had a small sign made up “Welcome to the Cruelest Day.  Day 11, 2009 Iron Butt Rally.”  Little did I know how prophetic that would be.

I get the Winnipeg bonus pretty smoothly and on the way to Portage la Prairie for the Viking ship. I haven’t seen Eric since we split up near the provincial border.  There is the one last “must have” in Saskatoon. From there I can continue west to Edmonton to two semi-big rocks with-in a few minutes of each other.  The math says I can be up to 1:40 late and still have enough points to make the trek worth it - so off I go.  Not more than 10 clicks from the Viking ship, Eric buzzes by me; honest, I haven’t seen him in like 4 hours and there he is all the sudden, again.  In Saskatoon traffic, tada, there he is - we’re laughing “we are not a team, dammit.”  I stop for fuel just outside of town and Eric plods west.  Just about dark in an impending downpour in Edmonton, I find Eric again - this is getting laughable.  I ask if he’s done the other bonus; he said no - we’re not a team dammit as we laugh again.  Eric is leaving the insurance agent as I pull up.  We agree to see each other at the diner in the morning, since there are exactly 2 more stops to the barn: Calgary and Zips Diner (5-7) in Sandpoint. I figure at this point there is no way we’ll meet before then.  Choosing to stretch out this tank a bit (needing 2 fuel stops to make it comfortably), I bypass the ever present and visible fuel in Edmonton and press south towards Calgary.  I learn something real important - in the Archives of Wisdom it says to buy gas before you need it.  In Canada, buy gas when you see it; lets just say the Points of Interest Garmin dataset for Canada is weak at best.  The warning light is on - I pull off an exit that says “all services available” in East Jabip or whatever town it was.  10 clicks later (I set my GPS to kilometers so I could follow along with the roadsigns) I pull into the “town” to find the only two gas stations are “card only” stations.  I don’t have a card for these stations (fleet fuel and COOP).  I flag down a local - “Howdy, where can I buy gas?”  “There’s an Esso station just down the road a few clicks - they’re open all night” is the reply.  Lesson learned.  This stop cost me half an hour - that’s precious nap time I could have used later.

Oddly and laughably, as I’m hanging my rally flag on the pawn shop in Calgary - guess who rolls up?  That’s right - we are not a team Dammit - Eric Jewell.  This is getting too funny.  I warn him that I’ll be stopping at the 7-11 I saw on the way in; I want a cup of coffee and not to follow me there.  We laugh; too friggin funny.  According to Jill, I will arrive at Zips shortly after the window opens and the finish line about 30 minutes early;  these times have held pretty constant all day. I even phoned Jean that these arrival times are probably pretty solid but I would call her from Zips (1:15 from the finish) to confirm.

Somehow, I catch Eric as we head south.  He pulls in for fuel - probably his last stop; mine is slated for a station about 100 clicks down the road - already programmed in as a waypoint.  Here I ignore Jill again and take Chris’s rule #3 - use big roads.  Jill has me routed down AB-533 or something to cut the corner off the routes 2 / 3 triangle.  I opted for the big road; in retrospect, probably foolish as it immediately added 45 minutes to my arrival time - I was now going to be late. 

An hour later, my trusty Widder of 8 years croaked - no heat.  The temperature was dropping like a stone – mid-30’s, low-30’s, finally the 20’s.  I had no heat.  I put on every piece of clothing I had to fight off the cold.  I stopped every 45 minutes to warm up - I located 24 hour convenience stores along the way just to warm up, buy some hot chocolate and press on.  The cold took its toll on my stamina too; when I left Calgary I was confident I could easily push through to Zips with maybe a short nap.  I wound up sleeping on the bike for nearly an hour as the cold just zapped what little strength I had left.  Only when I saw the Canadian Customs barrier did I feel better. Our Homeland Security wasn’t nearly as polite as the RCMPs were - I guess it’s just that Canadians are better at this than we are.  They trust people; we don’t.  As I wait my turn at the barrier, I pull out my passport; the car in front hasn’t yet moved so I decide to switch my rallybook to the page where Zips is.  PLOP - my passport lands on the ground next to the right side of the bike.  Shit.  So off I get and stomp around the bike to grab my errant passport.  PLOP, my rallybook falls off the left side. Aw CRAP.  At this point, DHS agents have waved me up; so with my pile of loose paper and passport I creep to the checking station.  The officer takes my passport and asks not “name and nationality” the usual question, but “Are you in this Iron Butt Rally thing?”  Never, ever lie to a federal agent; mainly because they have badges and guns.  This one has my passport and I’m still technically in Canada until I get it back.  “Yes, yes I am.” I respond. “Pull around and park - we have questions for you.”  Oh Christ - what the fuck happened?  After the Little Boh incident, I envisioned some idiot rider pissed off the wrong agent and now he’s taking it out on any motorcyclist that crosses the border.  Basically it came down to this: Davo had had a bad accident just a few miles south of the border which closed the road.  This stretch of US-95 is a major commerce corridor with numerous trucks waiting to cross both ways - the DHS agents wanted to know as much as they could about the rally since they “were not informed” etc, etc.  They held me for about 15 minutes before being satisfied enough to give me back my passport.

Daybreak, the final one on this IBR. I will arrive at Zips with about 20 minutes to spare and the finish an hour or so late - still offset by the Edmonton ride.  I phone Lisa from Zips that I should be in around 8.  I call Jean as promised; her phone immediately picks up and I hear muffled voices.  Great, her pocket answered - I scream “Hello Hello” into my phone to no response. I redial - same scenario.  I have to get going - points are burning off at 30 per minute.  Not 5 minutes later, my phone rings; I can hear it in my jacket. It has to be Jean after noticing my attempts.  There is no real place to stop; US-95 is a major construction zone nearly all the way to I-90; a total pain, lousy with school buses (real ones) and orange barrels. Yuck.  I finally get to I-90; presto.  Some dipweed has used the interstate’s guardrail system to remove this pick-up truck’s cap and they’ve temporarily closed the highway.  Tick Tick Tick. Jill, give me a detour. “Proceed west 2 miles and exit right.” “That doesn’t help you stupid witch; I can’t get past the accident.” I scream at her.  She’s ever so patient and understanding and doesn’t really care what I think of her.  As I sit there, watching my arrival time continue to creep upwards 8:04….8:05… I decide oh, what the hell, and light my celebratory cigar. I’m not going anywhere, I might was well enjoy the moment at least.  8:06..........................8:07.....

.........8:08….finally traffic starts crawling…............8:09  we get by the scene - the cap is one place the truck is another.  Everyone seems to be just standing around as if they’re waiting on IBR riders to come by. 8:10.  Hey this is starting to get expensive.  Exit 90, turn right, left catch a light. I can see the hotel…8:10.  make the left into the driveway there is a huge crowd at the double doors - some one yells “go see Ira inside now” and I obey.  8:10:50 my clock is stopped.  I find Jean, get a huge hug and kiss; my IBR is almost over. All I have is paperwork for this leg and then the wait; would it be enough.  I head back outside - there is applause all around.  Hmmbee is a mess. Between the slaughtered grasshoppers, and splatted mosquitoes, there is a cold night’s worth of hot chocolate all over the right side of the shelter.  I look up - no shit Eric Jewell rolls in, nearly 15 minutes behind me. He had to skip Zips and got minimally held up for the pick-up accident.  That’s just too funny - we are not a team dammit.

Staff motions me to our parking area - I grab the essentials and head to our room to complete my paperwork.  Total- 73,222 minus lateness penalties (2100 or so); I’m shocked. That’s a big friggin number and I suspect will place me high up in the standings.

I get scored - as one of the last riders in, I’m one of the last scored too.  In fact, Eric and I are the last two riders scored.  We’re not a team, dammit.  We’re howling at this point.

Jean and I devour most of a pizza, and I take a quick nap.   Groggy, I head downstairs. No coffee to be had.  Groggy, I wander around enthusiastically greeted by riders, staff and those attending the finishers’ banquet.  I need coffee.  Jean tracks down some; got to love that woman.  Bill Shaw hails me - Mike Kneebone needs to see you.  Oh crap, what did I mess up - nothing he says, it’ll be obvious once you’re there.  It was - there were 10 of us in a conference room, lined up against a wall with a horseshoe shaped table facing us; it felt like a firing squad.  There were 10 of us; there are 10 podium positions.  Bill was right, it was obvious.  “Try to act surprised” Mike asks as we depart in small groups to avoid attracting attention (too late).

Banquet Time.  Bob again entertains the room with stories.  He’s a funny, funny guy.  Finally, we’re down to business.  Finishers, here we come.  The longest and loudest ovation goes to Joel Rappaport on his R60-75/6 that now has nearly 525k on the clock.  Finally, the Top 10.  109,300 got you into the top 10 - I have 114 or so.  Fellow Buttlite IIIII rider Peter Behm nabs 10th in first first IBR appearance. Ken Meese, also in his first IBR, 9th at 111,100.  20-20 vet Bob Lilly 8th at 111,800.  then me - 7th place, Mike Hustsal in 6th just 3000 points in front (so the lateness didn’t really matter), Greg Marbach 3000 in front of Mike.  Interestingly the gap among the top 9 finishers was roughly 3000 points. Chris Sakala, long time 20-20 veteran is 4th.  Eric, “we’re not a team dammit” Jewell is 3rd.  It came down to Jeff and Jim; they had been outclassing the field by so much it could have been either and they both deserved it.  But we keep score and Jim outscored Jeff by nearly 6000 points on the last leg to take the 09 IBR by 3000.  I am astounded.  We pose for our group photos and then off for our official IBR group photo.  As we’re standing on the stairs, I look around.  “These are my guys” I proclaim pointing to Bob, Chris, and Jim. I’m so damned proud of them and so honored to be part of that elite group.

Epilog

The ride home was almost a complete let down.  No more points to chase, not more clocks to manage, only how far can I get tonight before I get too cold to continue.  I had a long stated goal - a podium finish at the IBR.  I have done that.  I rode the longest and hardest I ever had.  I put more miles under my wheels in those last 4 days that most riders do in a year.  And, it’s time to let someone else take their crack at it.  There are too many good riders begging to get in that it would be pigheaded and greedy of me to return.  So for now, this was my last Iron Butt Rally.  I wish everyone who comes afterwards happy hunting and the best of times.  I want to thank everyone involved with making it happen, but especially Lisa Landry for coaching me, saving my wedding ring and being the rallymaster we should all try to emulate.  Beyond that is my wife Jean who is in a class by herself.  I know the Spot tracker made her days more tolerable, but I’ve put her through enough hell for a while.  I owe it to her to stay home and make her life hell there instead.

Finally, I want to wish Godspeed to Davo’s family; he will be missed.

 

* some photos on this page are courtesy of Steve Hobart and John Frick.