Iron Butt Rally 2011


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Iron Butt Rally 2011

In late June 2011, I had the privilege of participating in one of the most challenging motorcycle events ever conceived.  The goal for this years rally was to visit all of the 48 lower states (100 points each) in eleven days.  As if that weren't enough of a challenge, there were extra points for visiting Alaska (Hyder), for getting pictures of capitals, for visiting the most extreme north/south/east/west cities in the US, for calling in to let them know how we were doing, and for getting off the bike from time to time.  The winner was not the one who arrived first, or the one who traveled the most miles, but the rider who collected the most points for the entire event.

The rally started in Seattle and we had 5 days to get to Buffalo, NY, picking up as many states and state capitals along the way.  Then we had 2 days to get to Jacksonville, FL and those states along the way.  The third, and final, leg we had 4 days to get to Ontario, CA, which is a suburb of Los Angeles.  If you visit the Iron Butt Rally site listed below, you will find they gave us a "base" route if we wanted to use it.  However, each rider was free to chose their own route which they felt would give them the best chance to meet their goals (win, place, or simply finish).

Shown farther down the page are a few of the photos from the rally.  Listed below are a few of the questions I tended to get from my family and friends as I filled them in on the rally (with my responses):

What was you favorite capital?  I think the Harrisburg capital was the best looking "typical" capital.  Cool building and grounds, and huge.  Just look at the close-up photo of Harrisburg.  But my favorite had to be Dover, Delaware.  The building has that old time, New England look to it, which is pretty neat.  Plus, the grounds around the capital, with the expansive lawns and lots of trees, appealed to me.

What was the most challenging moment?  Probably Day 8, the day after Jacksonville.  I slept too long the night before Jacksonville and so could not fall asleep between Leg 2 and 3.  Then the sheets were handed out at 10pm and I was on the road by midnight.  I was very tired and caught a couple hours on a roadside picnic table after Tallahassee.  Later that day my rear tire was going flat and the heat was building.  It was at this point I "realized" no one was making me do this.  I could quit at any time.  These are not good thoughts on a multi-day rally.  I struggled through it, texted family and friends, and the next day was much better.

What was the most memorable moment?  Columbus, Ohio.  It was late when I got to Columbus.  The front side of the capital was four lanes of traffic and there was no place to park.  So, I stopped right by the curb in front of the capital and put my emergency flashers on.  I hustled to get my photo before cops came along, imagining I would get a ticket for parking where I shouldn't.  For endangering myself and others.  After I got a decent night shot, which took some effort, I was looking down to hurriedly pack my rally flag and camera away so I could get away unscathed.  I was just about done, and thinking "I made without incident".  When I looked up, there stood a capital police officer not five feet from my bike.  "Can I help you?", he said.  I proceeded to explain that a group of us were on a 48 state ride in eleven days, and attempting to photograph as many capitals for extra points as possible.  "How many states have you done", he said.  I let him know it had been 16 so far, and he just  laughed.  As I was firing up the engine, a couple riders pulled up next to the curb ahead of me and I heard him say "That's an active traffic lane, you can't park there."  A few blocks away I passed Peter Behm heading toward the capital.  I hope it went well for him and the others.

Another memorable moment?  I was in the northeast states and it was late at night.  I had gone through New York, New Hampshire, and about to go through New Jersey.  Because we had to get a receipt in ALL 48 states to even be considered a finisher, I was really worried I was missing one of those small states.  So, before I left the area I called my friend Todd to find out where New England (where the New England Patriots play) was because I could not find it on any of my lists.  He was kind enough not to laugh when he said they play in Foxborough, Mass.  There is no state of New England.  At that point I decided I needed a nap.

Were there any surprises?  There were lots of surprises, like the shock of an unconventional rally.  No wild point juggling, no time restricted boni, no daylight only boni, and a very simple routing effort.

The real surprise was the support/encouragement I got from family and friends.  Susan sent out short updates to here Outlook contacts on a daily basis.  This encouraged lots of people to call and text me.  I really, really appreciated that.  I have a younger sister, Claire, who with her kids kept an eye on my Spot imagining where I was headed next.  I bet she even made it a geography lesson for them.  My older sister, Mary, followed my progress very closely too.  She was very supportive and even took off of work to fly out and greet me at the finish line.  This was totally spontaneous, but something that meant the world to me.  She got a hold of Kneebone and confirmed it would be okay and that banquet tickets were available.  You can see her in some of the Post-Rally photos below.

The best advice an IBR veteran gave you?  Working the "throw away" clothing scheme.  It was suggested to me that I should consider purchasing tee shirts and socks that I could toss out every night.  Do this instead of repacking the dirty clothes and carrying them to the finish line.  This was very high on the list of advice from a past IBR winner.  I went to Goodwill and purchased tee shirts and over-the-calf socks from the discount/seconds rack.  I think it cost me a total of $25 for 12 days of clothing.  This IBR veteran also suggested rolling up the socks in the tee shirt and putting a rubberband around them so I could just grab and go.  In a photo below, you can see my black tees rolled up in the box I shipped to Seattle.  This was a great idea because having a fresh shirt and fresh socks every day was awesome.  Very comfortable every day.  When I took a rest break, I just tossed out that days tee and socks and doned fresh ones.  This method also had the benefit of less and less clutter on the bike as the rally progressed.  As my mind got foggier over the 11 days, the saddlebags and trunk got easier and easier to rummage through.  I kept half the bundles in my Overboard bag (you can see it on the luggage rack in some photos below), and the other half in a bookbag in my saddlebag.  Halfway through the rally, I moved most of the bundles from the bookbag to the Overboard bag.  Using this method, the bags I carried into the motel rooms were very light and extremely efficient to move.

Speaking of the Overboard bag, I thought I would say a few words on that as I really think I hit on a good combination here.  I purchased the Overboard Pro Sports bag, which is a 100% waterproof backpack/book bag.  It is 20 liters in volume and fits perfectly on the luggage rack of my Goldwing.  I use Rok straps to connect it to the luggage rack too.  When I stop for the rest bonus/breaks, the Rok straps unclip quickly and the Overboard bag slings over my shoulder and has thick padded straps.  Slinging it over my shoulder keeps both hands free to carry other stuff, which makes unloading a one trip effort.  As we all know, time is critical in our sport.

Did you ride alone, or in a group?  Most of us have found that each of us has our own timing on when we need fuel, food, bathroom breaks or rest.  While it's not too difficult to coordinate these between two people, with three or more it's not really possible.  So, almost everyone rides alone.  That's my style too.  If I see someone at a bonus location, I'll ask where they are headed and depart with "see you there".  Sometimes I do see them, but often the timing is off and I won't see that person until the next checkpoint.

How many miles did you ride?  I rode 10,549 miles.  This is not quite the 11,000 targeted in 11 days, but just fine with me.  It was "only" 959 miles per day (for 11 days straight).  The top riders all exceeded 13,000 miles and the one with the most miles was over 14,000.  In eleven days that is either impressive or crazy, depending on your viewpoint.

When did you sleep? One of my goals for this rally was to be a finisher.  To do this I knew I had to sleep some decent hours.  The IBR people know this too, so they give us riders bonus points for getting off the bike.  And it's enough points that the "rest bonus" is hard to pass up.  For just about everyone this means getting some much needed sleep.  Getting points for up to eight hours off the bike was a very good thing for me.  Of the eleven nights, I slept eight hours on three of them (two for Rest Boni), and four hours every other night except the Jacksonville night starting Leg 3, where I only slept two hours.  On several occasions, however, I did hop off the bike and take a 20 minute power nap.  You can see one of the more scenic locations where I just plopped on the ground and slept outside of Denver on Day 10 (pictures below).

Did you map out your route?  Yes.  However, instead of a hundred fifty boni to juggle for points, we really only had 15 - 25 choices on any given leg.  So, routing took about a half hour instead of all night.  I then upload the waypoints and routes to both my gps and off I went.

How did you do? I accomplished all my goals.  First, ride safely the whole time.  Second, collect enough points (states, in this case) to be a finisher.  The IBA grants the each finisher a three digit member number and I wanted a three digit member number.  And third, to finish respectably.  I finished 28th out of 87 who started.  This made me a Silver Medal finisher, which is more than I could have imagined and I am very happy.  I had forgotten there was a silver medal.  I thought it was gold or plain finisher.  I didn't actually get a medal, it's just what they call the position (21st to 40th place, I think)  I am happy to report that I'm no longer IBA #11744, I'm now #419.  Pretty cool.

Did you have fun? Well....  Sort of.  I really wanted to have the "typical" fun I have come to enjoy in these rally's, but this rally was a different challenge than the others.  To be honest, I like seeing new and and offbeat locations.  I like reading an interesting interpretive sign at a rest area, finding a ghost town at the end of a dirt road, visiting a city with a population of 1, or finding a unique headstone in the middle of the night.  To learn a little something new and say "I gotta come back here someday".  Those are the challenges I like.  This rally was ride, ride, ride from one capital to the next.  It is very exciting to say "I visited all 48 lower states in eleven days" and "and 22 capitals for extra points", and while not the fun I was looking forward to prior to the rally, it really was fun none the less to criss-cross the country and see lots of new and interesting places along the way.

What did the winner get for winning?  Basically a trophy and bragging rights for two years.  There is no money involved in the winners circle in this sport.  That keeps it totally amateur, which allows anyone, from any walk of life to participate.

Anything you would have done differently? I probably would have done the "ride and fly" option for getting the bike to Seattle.  While Haul Bikes was great and got the bike there safely, I had to part with it a month in advance and once I got to Seattle, it took a day and a half to get it set up the way I liked it.  I underestimated how much time it takes to set up a rally bike properly, even when I had all the parts in front of me waiting to be attached.  The "ride and fly" option is to ride the bike out there in rally-ready condition, store it somewhere, and fly back home for the week or two wait for the rally.  One thing I am glad I did was to ship the bike back instead of riding it.  I flew back and didn't have the long haul heading home after an eleven day long haul.

Would you do it again?  It's too early to say.  Ask me after some time has gone by (and only the good memories remain).  Update 7/31/12:  It's a year later, and after doing a few 24 hour rallies and just finishing the Not Superman 100 hour rally, doing the IBR again is not such wild idea.  The idea of a personal challenge of monumental proportions sounds appealing to me.  Of course, I would have to enter the lottery this time.

Most common comments I get:  "You're crazy", "You do have to have an Iron Butt to do that", and from others who ride "I could never do that".

Iron Butt Association Site:
Spot Tracker Video (I'm "GEB" until Chicago, then "123" Chicago to Buffalo, then "771" to the end of the rally):  Spot Video

When I get some time, I'll put up some of the other memorable events I experienced.

Pre-Rally Photos

Contents photographed Contents photographed Packed bike photographed Packed bike photographed

Rally Photos

Voni Glaves wished me well.

Post-Rally Photos

More photos to come.

Additonal links to IBR2011 news and views:

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