“The Iron Butt Association is dedicated to safe, long-distance, endurance motorcycle riding. Although based in the United States, they have over 5,100 members world-wide. The Iron Butt Rally is held in the United States every two years. Although we have looked into moving the rally to other countries, only Australia offers the wide-open spaces without international borders for the running of this 11 day, 11,000 mile plus marathon. The Iron Butt is a fairly simple concept. The rally consists of five checkpoints located around the perimeter of the United States. In order to be considered a finisher of the event, riders must be present at each of these checkpoints within a two hour window. “(Reprinted from IRONBUTT site.)
As I drifted down into Missoula through the smoke in the early evening of 21 Aug I had a lot to think about… barring unforeseen mechanical issues just 75 miles from the end, I was about to successfully and safely complete the 2003 Iron Butt Rally.
Was I ready for it to end?
Certainly in some ways… my family had been VERY patient with me in this quest and VERY supportive, but I did NEED to get back to them and it would still be 3 days after the finish before I would arrive home. I was indeed tired…. 10 days was a long time to be in constant motion.
But in another way, I did not want it to end and actually started to slow down. I stopped at a rest area outside of Missoula with the intended purpose to take a picture of the smoke but never pulled out the camera. I just sat on the bike with it idling.
Back on the highway, I pulled off at another exit and did take the picture of the smoke filled valley…the fires were still raging around Missoula. Then Rick Rohlf rode by me again and it prompted me to head back down the highway. I felt a strange sensation that the singular focus I had for almost 11 days would diffuse and the insulated world I had been living in would dissolve into reality. I was not sure I was ready for that transformation… but usually one has little choice in these matters and I headed on toward the finish….
How did I get to the start, let alone the finish of the 2003 IBR?
Before 1998, I had never ridden a motorcycle before. 1998-2000, a daily commute to the Pentagon was my practice field. I heard about the 1999 IBR and became interested in Long Distance Endurance Riding (LDR). By 1999, I had completed a SS1000 to Bikeweek at Daytona, a SS2000 and BBG to Montana, along the way; I rode my first rally (Cap1000) and rode a mini rally (FITE). Then I was posted to Korea and it all came to sudden stop. I sold my 1st bike, a Pacific Coast, and watched from the sidelines for two long years. When I arrived back in the USA in the summer of 2002 I thought I wanted a 2003 ST1300 but Honda could not deliver on time. I canceled my order and got a 1997 ST1100 ABS. What a smart decision! Over the winter I prepared it for rallying and then received an entry into the 2003 IBR! Could I really do it? The start was 2500 miles from my own, there was a war brewing, and I had huge responsibilities at work. Thinking positively, I squeezed in a 24 hour rally, The Fearless 1000 in Jun as final prep.
Let’s just say it all worked out and on the 7th of Aug I headed to Washington DC at 4:00am on a packed bike to meet Leonard Roy to load up a trailer for Missoula.
I had met Leonard at the FEARLESS 1000 when he had won the rally and I finished 8th. He mentioned he was going to get a trailer for the IBR and I immediately committed to going with him so that fresh tires, fresh oil, etc. could be mounted/added at home and we would be able to run entire rally without a tire change or service. Plus Debbie told me I would arrive at the start MUCH fresher! Spending 2.5 days on the road with Leonard paid unexpected benefits. This was to be his 4th consecutive IBR – he was a bonafide veteran and always ran near the top. So I had a 2.5 day tutoring session before we even got close to Missoula. His advice alone should be credited with me not making a serious tactical mistake on the rally and making it easier than it would have been without his sage advice and understanding of the dynamics of what I was getting ready to undertake. We cruised across America is his very large Dodge 3500 DIESEL truck and new trailer, marking our progress via cell phone with the Brent and Todd rig being driven at higher speeds with a 8 hour head start. As they were having breakfast in Sturgis, we were in Iowa. As promised though, we arrived in Missoula at noon on Sat, 9 August.
Quickly unloading the bikes (Leonard’s Goldwing and my ST), and then Paul Pelland’s RT from the back of the pickup truck, we rolled over to the impound lot. Within minutes I was checked in and starting on our 30 mile odometer check.
Leonard was there also and as I started I noticed I needed gas, but I could not stop now. I followed Leonard back east up through the mountains, dropping back to save fuel as I saw the reserve fuel light come on. I asked myself how embarrassing it would be to run out of gas during your odometer check and decided I did not want to test how funny that story might be and slowed even further. Leonard was waiting for me at the turn around overpass and asked what was up….. “reserve– how big is it for an ST?” He stated with authority “you can go 40-50 miles – no problem” “Err, ok, I am going to ride slowly back to make sure I make it” and Leonard offered to follow just in case. We did it make it back and my bike was still running – a good thing!
The next day, Sunday, the riders meeting came first with the kinds of questions you get anytime a group of any type gets together. The award winning question was “if my bike breaks down in Texas and I trailer it to Lake City FL, will I still get credit for making the checkpoint?” This was probably the singular question that pushed Mike Kneebone over the edge and the meeting became very businesslike after that particular query.
* If you are wondering, the answer was “no.”
The banquet was next and rider numbers and flags were handed out. I was #25.
Bonuses were also handed out and after the banquet was over, I made a beeline for my hotel room to plan. Routes on the bonus legs were pretty straightforward. Although I had thought there would be bonuses along a route through Utah, it was not to be so I reoriented my thinking to take a westerly departure through Washington State and then down into Gerlach and through Las Vegas. It was about 1700 miles but I thought it was doable. I was concerned about the road from Sunny Side, Wash down through Oregon but Dale said it was fine. I did not relish having to ride all night through deer country and nagging doubts haunted me. The next morning I ran into Leonard and told him of my planned route and he said he was planning on heading east and taking an all-day ride to set himself up for a big day on Day 2. I thought about the tough (maybe too tough) western route I had picked and after about 30 minutes pulled out the bonuses and planned an eastern start. I changed my route and tank bag route cards and felt immediately at ease. Changing the route would be a smart move for lots of reasons, allowing me to meet a new friend in an unusual place in about 12 hours from the start.
Fleeing the Fires in Missoula… Day 1
I had been in Missoula two days by the time we all started our engines up at 9:45am on 11 Aug…we were ALL ready to go. The morning was surreal, with smoke in the air and ash falling on our bikes from the forest fires.
We all lined up and Lisa Landry switched the exit on us; that put me near the start rather the end. I was about the 15th rider out as Dale Wilson slapped a note card with a number into my jacket pocket. (we never did figure out what those note cards were but you had to have it when you got to Primm, the 1st checkpoint. (* Mike later told me it was a simple control mechanism to prevent anyone from leaving early*)
I concentrated on not falling over as I exited through a tunnel of clapping hands, TV cameras, and innocent bystanders. My goal at that point was to get out of Missoula and then taking a deep breath and take stock that the IBR has finally begun and “I” was in it! Heading east on I-90, I gathered my thoughts and the ST for the long ride ahead. A few faster riders passed in in the first hour and then the intervals stabilized. Good to know other riders were also headed my way also! At Butte, Montana, I turned south on I-15.
The head winds were incredible and as I passed a gas station at the MT/ID border, I thought that gas will be needed soon. (I was running a stock tank) Ten miles later into Idaho I have stepped into the middle of nowhere and the gas gauge began falling rapidly. My reserve fuel light came on strong and at that moment I realized I was about to make a very large rookie mistake…I was going to run out of gas in the middle of nowhere with a ground temp of 115 degrees. I checked my Garmin Street Pilot III and it said no gas ahead for 50 miles…I was in trouble. Like any “man”, I tried to convince myself I could make it and there would be gas. 🙂 As I thought about it, every mile was taking me further from known gas. I started to look for a cross over the median as there were no exits. About 18 miles past the gas in MT, I found a gravel median strip and turned and headed back toward MT. Then I started to pass riders who had been behind me. We waved but they had no clue as to why I had turned…I am sure I confused all of them. I tucked myself behind the wind screen as the gas light shined brightly and headed back to Dillon, MT where I found a gas station to fill up and compose myself.
There were two ways of looking at what happened as I prepared to mount back up. I did a bonehead thing and now I was “last” or I had made a great decision to backtrack and save myself from the bigger mistake of running out of gas. I chose the latter and hurried south, hoping to catch up with some of the 15 riders who have passed me…I never did. 🙂
South through Idaho through incredible heat, I ran through two tanks of gas through Idaho Falls, Blackfeet, and Pocatello to Twin Falls where I would take another turn south for Nevada. As I exited I-84 at Twin Falls for a gas bonus, I got behind a livestock semi-truck and trailer. All of a sudden my eyes started to burn intensely and it got so bad I barely got to the side of the road before I was completely blind with tears and pain. I opened my face shield and quickly rubbed them enough to see and limped into a gas station where I got a towel from the GIVI trunk and wet it, finally relieving the pain. I can only think that the urine or something from the truck was so intense that it was leaving an acid vapor cloud behind it. I would experience this two other times during the rally.
Heading south on 93 toward Wells, Nevada was a relief. I was getting closer to Gerlach, or at least I thought. Beautiful road through the landscape of Nevada as the sun began to slip from the sky. Desert scenes exactly like you would suspect and it finally was a bit cooler…as even a few rain drops fell. My goal was to make it to I-80 in Nevada before sunset and I arrived in Wells at about 7:00pm after having a few miles of road construction. I saw two other riders who have taken the “shorter but longer” route avoiding the interstates. As I got to I-80 I immediately hopped on and headed west for Elko and Winnemucca. As the sun set, I slowed down and then stopped in Winnemucca for gas. After fueling, I lingered as I was starting to tire and wanted to recharge my batteries. A fellow rider came in on a Yamaha Royal Star Venture and we chatted. He turned out to be Kerry Willey, riding his forth IBR. It made perfect sense to ride together on into Fernley at that point and have safety in numbers so we did just that; chatting away on our CB radios, telling each other our life story. Also stopping at the gas station was Rody Martin and Bill McAvan. We ended up leap frogging with them all the way to Fernley and the four of us shared a high priced hotel room for about 3 hours of sleep.
Day 2 onto the Playa!
At 4:00 am, Kerry and I took off for Gerlach across open range roads. We could have slept in another hour but we had misjudged the time zone and got up. I led and kept the speed down in the dark as I did not want to meet Mr Steer on the road. We arrived in Gerlach as the sun was rising and went up to the IBA rider’s memorial for our first bonus picture of the day.
At the appointed hour, Joe gave us slips of paper with lat/long on them and our mission was to go out on the playa and find “something” at the exact coordinates. I programmed my SPIII to navigate off road but we could not figure out how to get Kerry’s older SP to do the same so finally I suggested we go find mine, and then go get his. I had never ridden the ST off road before but just acted like I knew what I was doing, following the dual tracks out onto the Playa. Dust clouds from about 20 riders ahead of me fanned out in all directions. It looked straight out of a western with stage coaches going in all directions. I thought we would just have to go out a little bit but my GPS said it was three miles out! Leaving a furrow behind, the ST tracked across the desert. I rode to the lat/log indicated, but not exactly and got off the bike and saw nothing. I then retraced my steps and stopped at the EXACT coordinates and looked down and saw a silver piece of metal; I had found it! A matrix coin. I recorded the bonus and then we put Kerry’s different coordinates in and found his was back toward where we had entered the playa.
We also found Kerry’s and since it was worth a lot of points we were pleased. Now to get OFF the playa! Kerry led us back and then we saw darker sand (mud) and saw riders getting stuck and falling left and right. All had help…but some were really stuck fast. I was going about 30 mph and hit a shallow hole. My left mirror broke free but I reached up and slapped it back on. I wondered if I had bent a rim but nothing could be done now so I carefully exited off the playa back to Brunos. I made a point of telling Joe Denton what a fun bonus that had been. Kerry and I then knew we had to head south and we did just that, heading back down the road we had driven up in the dark.
Even before we got to Fernley, it dawned on both of us how far Las Vegas was and how big a state Nevada is when you are on a bike. We forgo a few smaller bonuses to concentrate on getting the New York Casino bonus in Las Vegas and the Boulder City Casino bonus. All we did was ride south, and south and south. The farther we went, the hotter it got; the farther we went, the stronger the wind became. It was pretty damn hot and even though I was drinking water continuously, it was not enough and the heat was starting to really hit me about 1 hour from Vegas. We dragged into Vegas as rush hour was starting and I routed us to the NY Casino hoping I would not take a wrong turn and get us completely mired in traffic. We exited the I-15 just as it came to a standstill and my SPIII took us right to the front of NY NY. We pulled off where the street widened and trekked down to the far corner to get the required pictures of the World Trade Center memorials.
Kerry chatted with a Vegas police officer and plotted our next move. After securing our flags, we headed toward Boulder City where we ran inside to get the $1 gambling chips. I was completely wasted at this point from the heat and Kerry wanted to get gas and one small bonus but told me to press onto to Primm and the checkpoint. I arrived at Primm Resorts, rode up the front and was directed to the 5th floor of the parking garage reserved for the IBR bikes! Uggg… Not what I had in mind as I lugged my gear down five flights of stairs (I found the garage elevator on the 2nd trip) to the casino and hotel where I checked it to my great $19.95 room on the 9th floor. I ate a hearty buffet and went to my room after scoring to regroup. I made no mistakes on my paperwork and ended up 56th for the leg out of 110 still running. Some folks were already out of the rally.
Day 3- Heading for the Mountains and beyond…
When I came back down for the rider’s meeting at 11:00pm I had already decided to sleep for another four hours. The riders meeting was a protracted, drawn out affair (the only one the whole rally) to add a wee bit of drama on whether you were going for the win and taking the red route or looking to ride well on a blue route. Most of us took the blue route. As soon as I was handed my packet I headed to my room and decided I wanted to go for the big bonus, riding to the top of Mount Evans at 14,000′ in Colorado. I set my screaming beekin and passed out for four hours. When I awoke at 4:00am and got the bike packed, there were still at least 40 bikes still parked while others slept. I stopped across the highway to get a $1 gambling chip for a bonus and headed north through Vegas BEFORE the morning rush hour to get to St. George, Utah for a gas bonus. Then it was up to a Zion National Park – Kolob Canyon overlook for 92 points. As a climber and a hiker, I would normally have gazed at Zion (where I have never been before) for hours. Now, it was take a picture and get back on the bike!
I next headed for Moab, another place I had always wanted to visit — but all I saw was the gas station! Leaving Moab along the “River Road” (Colorado River) as locals called it; I came upon Rob Nye beside the road with a policeman directing us around. Rob had gone down on some oil and his K1100 BMW was sitting there with many pieces gone and leaking oil from a hole in the engine case. I pulled up to him, stopped and we just sort of looked at each other. He said he had help coming, the policeman yelled at me to keep going and Rob waved me on. I did not think I would see Rob again during the rally. Remarkably, he got the bike back into Moab, spot welded the hole and continued on, eventually finishing 24th, one the most interesting stories from the whole rally I think! Way to go Rob!
Working my way down this twisty river road (Colorado River) for the next 30 miles I bagged a historic Dewey Bridge Bonus and made my way back to I-70 just time for a dust storm and a hunderstorm!.Entering Colorado I debated about the Independence Pass bonus near Aspen and the Leadville bonus, but I did not want to be riding all night in the mountains so I headed toward Idaho Springs via Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs, Colorado. There was also a thunderstorm with lightening going through as I passed.
I called Tom Vervaeke, a friend in Colorado Springs who I had not seen in a long time, and he said he would come up to Idaho Springs on his BMW 1150GS Adventure. I welcomed the company and gave him the name of the hotel I was staying at in Idaho Springs. As I was checking in, he arrived and we caught up on old business. He was also kind enough to go find some food for me as I regeared. Gathering a sleep bonus by getting a receipt at 7-11 I was in bed at midnight and slept until 4:00am.
Day 4 – Highest paved road in America to Kentucky
Tom had gone back home the night before (thanks for the dinner!) so I got my ending receipt for the sleep bonus and headed up Mt Evans road. I had climbed Mt Evans before in summer and winter (by foot) but had never driven the road before…don’t want to do it again. Near the top of the last alpine lake, the run is narrow and completely switched backed with nothing from stopping you from going over the side. Most turns were 1st gear turns all the way to 14,000′. I reached the top at sunrise and quickly scored the bonus picture. Pete Icazza from CT, suggested I take my IBR flag when I almost left without it; thanks Pete!!
I wanted off that mountain and worked my way down, honking the horn to get the big horn sheep off the road. Back on I-70 through Denver for another gas bonus and I finally headed east through Kansas. I had done this drive a number of times and it never gets shorter…Kansas is a long state east/west, and even longer when its 95 degrees. It was a tough day, and as I entered St Louis about 9:00pm, I was pretty tuckered out. I made it over to the Illinois rest stop after Scott AFB on I-64 and pulled over to refresh. I met a fellow trailering his Harley back from Sturgis and he told me just to follow him which I gratefully accepted, turning south on I-57, then I-24 toward Paducah Kentucky where I found an Ironbutt Motel at a rest top on a picnic bench for 4 hours. At about 7:00am, I headed south through Nashville, TN toward Chattanooga and a stop at unclaimed baggage in Scottsboro, AL for 203 points. Geez, it was hot there too!
I decided that was not enough of a challenge so I routed through Atlanta during Friday rush hour, coming to a stop in the city center in 97 degree temps. Even the HOV lanes could not help me! Finally clearing Atlanta and back up to speed on I-75, I was following a car when I saw a large board in the center of my lane laying parallel with my travel. I hit it square, traveled its full length and flew off the other side. I slowed down to assess any issues with the bike and then continued on, arriving at Lake City and Checkpoint #2 at about 8:00pm. After checking in, I took my bonus receipts and headed over to Bob Evans where I tried one meal and sent it back (new chef) and nibbled on another while scoring myself. Then it was back to the room for 7 hours of sleep (I think). The following morning I scored officially and found I essentially stayed the same, dropping just a few positions to 57th place.
Day 5 – Stopping at Home
At this point I needed to do a gear refresh and see my son Ben before he went off to college. I decided that I would stop by my home in Hampton, VA if the bonus route allowed for that. I knew I would be dropping way down in the standings and even discussed it with Ben who said he did not care if I did not care. Ben had been one of my strongest supporters over the summer and I really wanted to say goodbye before he left for college again.
The veterans say NEVER stop by your house. They say you will lose your competitive spirit, that some never leave the home to come back to the rally. Well for me it worked perfectly. I did a gear refresh (different riding clothes), saw my son Ben and daughter Kate, Debbie, and had a home cooked meal while I rally planned, attempted to fix my PIAAs (unsuccessful – found out later the relay had broken internally), picked up my beaded seat cover, and got 4 hours of sleep. It worked for me!
Day 6 – Heading for the Big Cities
My goal for the day was to make up for some lost bonuses and hit a Harley dealership in New Castle, DE, another one in Hope NJ and then on to Boston.
In New Castle I ran into Sean Gallagher and we rode to Hope. NJ, making it with 30 mins to spare. We waited on a large lightening and rain storm to pass at a mom and pop gas station before starting toward Boston. I had an EZPASS automatic toll pass (I would never ride in the east without one! – Thanks Harry!) and Sean did not so after a while we got separated, even as I waited so I continued on through Danbury and Waterford, CT in a pouring rain by myself.
Before this rally I had decided a few things…I would not go to Los Angeles or Chicago if a bonus was there and I would also avoid New York City so I never blinked an eye passing my some bonuses in the Big Apple on that Sunday. I also passed a big one up on Monday night on the last leg, that if I had to do all over again, now that I am more experienced, I WOULD go into the city for a large bonus.
As I angled toward Boston, my first stop was Plymouth Rock. I felt like I was riding all the way to the ocean, and of course I was…it seemed like a long way. I recorded what date was inscribed on the rock, much to the amusement of the tourists there at the late hour.
Next I had to go through the center of Boston to find Salem, MA, where the witches has been hanged, visiting a cemetery in the process. The ride through Boston was like a roller coaster, dipping through tunnels, corkscrewing through overpasses…it was all a blur, but I find myself dumped on the streets of Salem in a blue collar neighborhood at 11:30pm on a Sunday night. I stopped where I ‘thought” the bonus location was, but after getting off and walking around I realized I was in the wrong place. I hailed a kid on a bicycle and he said head this way, so I did, eventually finding the witches museum with the help of one other group of folks. I parked the bike and wandered into the cemetery to find out this witch was hanged in 1692 I believe. Where are all of my partners now? Creepy, but who would mess with this guy in a red snowmobile suit I reason? You can go here to see the cemetery I walked through to find out when Bridget was hanged. I visited it at midnight! 🙂
Day 7- On to the 3rd Checkpoint in Maine!
I wish at this point I would have headed toward the Maine checkpoint to find a hotel but instead I found one nearby after I could not find the Comfort Inn Debbie had found for me on the Internet. I paid $60 for THE worst hotel I have ever spent 4 hours in before! Leaving at 7:00am, I headed north on I-95 through New Hampshire and finally into Maine. I stopped in Saco, Maine for a great breakfast even if I had to pour my own coffee. I did see a drive in Starbucks across the street though!!
After fueling, I headed to Reynolds Motor Sports, a long time Checkpoint for the IBR and my 3rd of the rally! As I had thought, I took a drop in the standings and after scoring was complete, I had dropped to 70th place – ouch! While resting in the breezeway of the dealership, Mike Thibodeau, struck up a conversation with me and we agreed to ride from the checkpoint together, hopefully west. Mike rides a tricked out Goldwing and is from Southern California. Kerry had arrived at the checkpoint without much rest and he was concerned about how far he might be able to go, but decided to also leave with us.
Maine Checkpoint Pictures
After looking at the bonuses, it was obvious that we needed to head to Portsmouth, NH to get the timed bonuses at a cigar shop where we would get a massage and a daily paper to claim two bonuses. Kerry said,”…… and it will be FUN! We NEED some FUN about now” 🙂
After claiming those bonuses, we decided we need to skirt New York and get outside of Philadelphia so we could make the bonus there the following morning when the dealership opened and then get down to the Pentagon, so we headed south. Running into the night, we allowed ourselves to be routed around new York City by Mike’s and mine SPIII…interesting experience and it worked until one turn where we dropped off I-95 and down into the city streets of New York City. Mike, a dye in the wool west coaster, has a brief orientation to nightlife in New York at 2:00am on a Tues morning!
Quickly getting off the streets and back onto the bridge/tunnel access, we got over to New Jersey and onto the New Jersey Turnpike, where we held it together until about Exit 5/6 when we got off to get a hotel. I got through the toll gate quickly and drove over the motel to secure a room. When I came out, neither Mike nor Kerry was to be seen so in my haste I got back on my motorcycle to go find them. Just as I started it, they pulled in and I attempted to park my ST again in another section of the parking lot. Unfortunately there was construction going on and I did not see a 2″ drop off so when I deployed the side stand, of course the bike continued on over. Mike and Kerry helped me pick it up while I surveyed for damage. Obviously a new mirror cover would be on order soon, but a quick job of duct tape put the pieces back on and they held until I got to Missoula. Duct tape can cure anything!
In a comedy of errors, as I took off my helmet to pick up my bike, I had set it in front of Kerry’s bike, thinking we were not going to move the bikes. Well, we decided to pull them up by the front door and Kerry got going quicker than I and started to pull off…we heard this grating. I hear Kerry say, “oh no” and I know what has happened. I walk over to pick up the helmet and it has a Yamaha Road Star tire tread pattern on the clear visor. A comedy of errors – all mine. We go to bed….
Day 8- Philadelphia, Wash DC, and points west
The next morning I find my AUTOCOM helmet disconnect is also smushed so I whip out the duct tape and for the rest of the trip, disconnect it from the bike, versus the helmet. I switch to my tinted face shield, but I will need a replacement for the heavily scratched clear one as night riding will be dangerous without a new one. We head into Philadelphia and have the hardest time finding this dealership as we are approaching it from another direction then what the directions say in the bonus guide. We stop and ask numerous people and then at one intersection, Kerry goes straight and Mike and I turn. Mike and I wander around for another 15 minutes then he sees it off I-95 (exactly where it should be).
We expect to find Kerry there, but only find this beautiful multi-million dollar facility full of friendly people who wanted us to relax and eat and drink in their lounge. We took our picture and tried to figure out where Kerry was…and how long we should wait. After about 10-15 minutes we decided to press on to Wash Dc to get the Pentagon bonus. I would not see Kerry again until Missoula, but we had a few cell phone conversations. The traffic through Philly, Baltimore and Washington was amazing; it was great and I knew where the bonus location was so Mike and I essentially rode right to it, snapped our pictures and regeared for the ride out.
We headed out the George Washington Parkway to the beltway and out north I-270. It was a tad depressing I was so close to home and now going to ride clear across the United States AGAIN. We headed up to the Pennsylvania Turnpike toward Shanksville, PA where Flight 93 had gone down on a mountaintop to visit the memorial.
Mike led the way and as we snapped our pictures, thoughts of an early stop to savor our departure to the west were dashed when we realized how far we had to go. We took off down I-70 west toward Indianapolis. As the sun set, I switched to my scratched clear face shield and had real problems following Mike as we crossed the Indiana state line. It was difficult and my vision was definitely impeded. I doubted I could go all night safely.
At this point I began to think of Indianapolis as a great spot to claim the 4 hour rest bonus before pressing on to Minneapolis. My sister, Susan, lives around the beltway in Indy and I called her from the bike and she offered a great pit stop opportunity for Mike and I. We could pull our bikes into her garage, unload nothing and get right to bed. 24 hour gas and a receipt were just a block from her house and I knew exactly how to get there. I suggested the plan to Mike via the CB, but he saw Missoula as a long way away and he was not as tired as I was so he opted to continue on. As we reached I-465 surrounding Indianapolis, Mike kept going while I pulled onto the beltway. I stopped short for gas and a receipt and my sister was waiting in her driveway. I pulled right into the garage, retrieved a few things and my computer to check my route and immediately took a shower, checked the route, ate a sandwich and was in bed 45 minutes after getting there with the beekin set for 4 hours. It was a GREAT stop and a smart decision. I owe a lot to Susan as the rest set the stage for me to press on through to Bismarck North Dakota the following day.
Day 9 – Across to Minneapolis and out to the west!
I was refreshed and ready to go when I awoke and headed west from Indianapolis to Illinois and up to Wisconsin. Across Wisconsin I got sleepy that morning and I pulled off twice to refresh before skirting Minneapolis to the north and coming into St Cloud for the big bonus at Brett Donahue’s Motorcycle dealership. I had asked Susan to call the dealership and see if they had a replacement clear shield for my Shoei helmet. They were VERY helpful and even went to another store in town to locate it and pick it up – it was waiting for me when I arrived! Thanks Brent and Lynn! I photographed the bike used by Brent’s father who lost an arm as a child and claimed the 2110 points. As I had approached St Cloud from the east, Mark Perry, fellow ST rider and member of the ST-Riders list on his way back from WESTOC in Idaho, had spotted me on the interstate and reported my progress to the list. He had also seen another Gold Wing rider behind me…
I also just relaxed for a while and tried to figure out where Mike was as Brett said he had not arrived yet. A few minutes later, Mike pulled up and he said he had gone about 4 hours past Indy and then pulled into a hotel. Also at that moment, my idol and traveling partner, Leonard, who was in 1st place at the Maine checkpoint after a great ride to British Columbia pulled up on his Goldwing.
My jaw dropped and my first words were, “what are you doing here? You should be coming back from Nova Scotia!” Although I could tell Leonard was crispy at Maine I felt sure he was going to Nova Scotia to claim the rally winning bonuses. He explained he decided not to go north for a couple of reasons, but had got all of the big bonuses in New York. Since I had gotten there first I was ready to go and Mike indicated he wanted to continue on alone so I headed west on I-94 toward my favorite town of Fargo, ND. Ever since that one movie….
Claiming a gas bonus there, I pressed onto Bismarck where 50 miles out by reserve fuel light comes on due to the headwinds and cruising pace. Hmmmm, there was nothing in sight so I throttled down to 65 mph and sat there for the next 45 minutes hoping I did not run out of gas! Made it and has .4 gallons remaining! I found a motel and an Arby’s (1st fast food since Colorado) and set the beekin for a 4:00am wakeup. I had decided to go for the Cooke City MT big bonus in Yellowstone National Park and I wanted to be rested.
Day 10 – A return to Missoula with lots of smoke
Fatigue has a cumulative effect and this was my toughest morning as I worked my way through Dickinson ND to Miles City MT and then on to Billings MT. I stopped numerous times to rest and clear the cobwebs. At one of my stops, I noticed the sun was coming up behind and took the time to snap some shots…
At Billings, another fellow at the gas pumps said it would take me 3 hours through Red Lodge and over Bear Tooth Pass to get to Cooke City and another two hours to get back to the interstate at Livingston, MT. Frankly I was surprised at the times but did not have an appreciation for the huge pass I would have to traverse or the fact I was going through Yellowstone! The pass was high, technical, awesome, and challenging.
Up and over I went as I dived down into Wyoming and then back up to Cooke City. I did take about 3 hours. Once there I claimed the gas receipt for 2399 points and plotted my exit through Yellowstone. I had never been to Yellowstone before but I was one impressed person when I exited the park at Mammoth Hot Springs. And that was with no stops to see the sights or smell the roses. I had seen numerous fly fishermen in beautiful rivers, buffalo herds, elk herds, beautiful and rugged mountains, beautiful valleys and plains…I had seen it all and I wanted more of it. It was fantastic. I took a call from Harry as I was nearing the north entrance and told him how tired I was and asked him how I needed to end this rally. He said there was a Dairy Queen in Livingston, and he wanted me to stop there and get a “blizzard” and rest. Then he suggested I take about 4-6 hours to ride the remaining two into Missoula if I needed it and not make a mistake near the end. I did what I was told and found the Dairy Queen and ordered a blizzard and sat down to talk with two local teenagers.
On the way into Livingston, I had a debate with Debbie that I thought there were some movie stars who lived there, but she said no. The boys confirmed that Harrison Ford has a ranch nearby. Score one for the locals!. It started to drizzle so I finished the blizzard and got back on the bike to head the remaining miles west.
Fast forward to the start of this essay…I finally decided whether or not I was ready for it to end… it needed to come to a conclusion. I reached Missoula, stopped for a large gas bonus, and rode into the finish area, already populated with about 20 bikes. A small crowd was there welcoming the early returning riders and they immediately came over and congratulated me for a successful finish. Ira took my picture as I stepped off the bike.
The world stopped moving. I gathered my thoughts, and my bonus materials and walked to my favorite restaurant for a glass of milk, a salad, and a sandwich to score my records. While I was there I got a cell phone call from Leonard…he was also in and had a room where I could crash for the night. We shook hands and congratulated each other and then I suggested he go to where I had just had dinner for his and I joined him for company.
Day 11- the Finish!
Awaking early, Leonard and I checked in and got scored. My effort had moved me from 70th place to 46th and a bronze medal performance, which was later announced at the banquet. One of the things I am most proud of is that I lost no points at the scorer’s table for any leg!
We spent the day loading the bikes into the trailer for the trip home and talking with friends. As the banquet drew near we filed in, had great food and congratulated all of the great rides that had taken place. Paul Taylor from VA was the winner, but obviously, we were all winners and it was a great feeling to be a FINISHER!
We did just that and arrived in Wash DC on Monday at about 1:00am. I slept on his couch for about 3 hours and then made the last remaining 3 hour ride back home, arriving at about 8:00am. A quick shower and I was into to work that day, but obviously not too functional.
Dale Wilson had said I would have dreams about the IBR after the finish and I sort of scoffed at him. I did not sleep well the first three nights back as every night I dreamed that I was going down the highway for the next bonus and obviously I could NOT sleep. My sleep did not return to normal until 4 days after my return! Dale was right as usual. 😉
Epilog and Thanks
There are a bunch of people to thank for this dream to have come true. First, Debbie, my wife. Had she not supported me from Day 1, this ride would have never gotten off the ground. Whenever I thought about not making the start she would simply say, “Go do it; it is the Ironbutt” Her support before, during, and after the rally was the key to my success. Next in line are my daughter, Kate, and my son Ben. Both had the same attitude as Debbie even when we had lots of things going on in the last few months. Ben helped develop the music for my MP-3 player, took my phone calls at all hours and tracked my progress on the website for family and friends. A big thank you to Ben and Kate!
A couple of friends were also key. Dale Wilson started providing me advice on my preparations on my ST a year ago; putting up with silly questions and my mistakes. He gave me lots of confidence that this whole idea would work. Bob Ray gave me advice in 1998 that helped me do my first SS1000 and Harold Brooks helped me also in 1999. Tom Vervaeke and Harry Greenspun were also keys to my success. They first gave me encouragement in the application process, then worked with me to prep both my bike and mind in the preceding months. While neither one of them really had an interest in the IBR to ride themselves, they supported me 100%. During the rally they would call and check on my progress and let me know weather, etc. Tom visited me in Colorado during my stop in Idaho Falls and gave me personal encouragement – a big boost! Harry stayed with me via cell phone throughout the rally and gave me the valuable advice on how to finish safely after the last Cooke City bonus had been collected and now I just needed to make it to Missoula. His advice centered on that Dairy Queen and taking it easy. He knew I was tired and wanted to make sure I did not push it too hard at the finish. All smart advice! Leonard Roy’s tutoring session cannot be overestimated in its importance and Todd Witte’s advice prior to the rally struck a chord with me in my mental prep. My new friend, IBR veteran Kerry Willey also gave me tons of advice the days we rode together.
I also need to thank Susan, my sister, for that GREAT stop in Indianapolis — it was SO easy and she took such great care of me, allowing me to press on into ND the following day which got me to Cooke City, MT on that last day! Lastly a host of friends, some who I have never met on the STOC and LDR mailing list, of which I have been a member since 1998…all contributed in a significant way whether it was riding advice or how to farkel.
The bike ran perfect. The only maintenance I did throughout the whole rally was put 3 lbs of air into each tire in Lake City FL. It ran on the same Synthetic Mobil 1 oil from start to finish and the same tires (F/MEZ4; R/ME880). I’ll include a little section near the end on the gear used, but it all worked very well. By the way, I had no medical issues and no medication, including Motrin, etc of any type, was taken during this rally.
I am keeping this area open for the time being while the experience I went through settles in. Maybe in a month or too, I will draw some conclusions and observations about what the 2003 IBR. Thanks for now to Mike Kneebone and Lisa Landry for putting on the show.
46th Place – 9,160 miles, 35,011 points Bronze Medal
$$ – How much does did it cost…?
Approximately direct costs…does not count bike prep… $2500
|Transportation to/from Missoula||$300|
|*$300 was at start/finish – Holiday Inn|
Bike related – Most can be seen on my farkeling page
1997 ST ABS: started with @24,000 miles – Mobil 1 Oil
Tires: MEZ4 Front; ME Marathon 880 Rear – could have gone at least 5000 more miles
Garmin Street Pilot III GPS with Touratech mount – One of most frequently used pieces of equipment on the rally
AUTOCOM Setup with music, CB (Firestick antenna with Cobra 38 WX/ST handheld), and cell phone interface
GIVI trunk with Chase Harper 750 compact tank bag
PIAA 910 Lights
Iriver MP3 CD player
Rick Mayer Saddle
ST Foot Pegs by Kleinen – When I could not buy these before the rally due to being out of stock, I got an incredibly generous offer from fellow STOCER, Ron Epperly in Florida. He took his pegs and covers off his bike and mailed them to me so I could install them on my bike for the rally. Ron and I had never spoken before on the list. I decided halfway through the ride I would not have been able to complete the ride had it not been for Ron lending me those foot pegs. With friends like that on the ST list, it makes reading the daily mail a joy. Thanks RON!
By bike was serviced by REDLINE MOTORS in Yorktown, VA just before the ride. It is a great dealership and shop and they were very responsive when I took my bike to the local HONDA dealer and told just to hurry up and wait. All my service business now goes to REDLINE MOTORS!
Joe Rocket Revolution Jacket and pants – 1st half of rally
Aerostich one piece Roadcrafter Suit – 2nd half of rally!
* A lot of people ask me, “why the heck did you switch riding gear in the middle of the IBR!?” Well…. I had been riding with a one piece road crafter suit for three years…summer, winter, etc. love it. Then I thought about the versatility of the two piece outfit and found the Joe rocket outfit on sale and bought it. After the first day on the road I knew it was not for me with 117 degree temps. Fit and size were also an issue – my fault. I guess I needed a long.
I rode parts of leg 2 and 3 with the jacket bungeed to my bike; simply too hot with its lining. To get my head “right” I knew I needed my Stich, hence the change. I immediately felt at home, better protected, and better cooled. I sold the Joe Rocket stuff after the rally and bought the Aerostich Darien pants. The High Viz Darien jacket will be purchased this winter. Then I will have both a one piece and a two piece outfit, ready for any season or challenge – all Aerostich products. I also like how Andy Goldfine supports the long distance riding community!
BMW Gore Tex Boots
Shoei RF800 Helmet
Widder electric vest and gloves
Laptop: Street Atlas 6.0, Mapsource, and Streets and trips 2003 – really only used Street Atlas 6.0 and Mapsource to load maps into memory
Pocket audio recorder, Kodak Digital camera, Polaroid Instamatic 600 camera
One gallon insulated water jug with camelback drinking tube
Waterproof kayaking duffle for clothes
Copyright © 2003 Robert Broeking. All rights reserved.