I have been selected for the Iron Butt Rally in 2021.
Rally resumes were due in January 2020 and selection notices went out in March 2020. The rally will be held in June of 2021.
Arguably the ultimate rally for long distance riders, this is a grueling 11 consecutive day rally where riders hunt for bonuses across North America. The rally is normally run in three sections with checkpoints between each third. For 2021, the start and finish are in Utah, but the middle two checkpoints have not been announced as yet. This type of rally takes a lot of effort by the Iron Butt Association and many volunteers to pull off. So much so, the rally is offered only every other year. Many hundreds apply, only about 120 are chosen.
The process for being chosen is wrapped in a bit of secrecy. Each rider who wishes to put their name in the hat prepares a biography of their riding accomplishments and sends that in with a nominal fee to secure their place in the drawings. There are several categories that you can qualify for: returning rider for those who didn’t get enough the last time, rookie riders for those first-timers like me and previous riders who have not finished an Iron Butt Rally, a hopeless class for those who want to ride a low powered or old motorcycle on a 9000 plus mile journey across North America, a second chance drawing for those who are premier members of the Iron Butt Association, and, frankly, there is probably a perennial favorites class for the organizers’ favorite riders or those whose resumes peaked their interest. I think it also helps to participate in events, including RTEs (Ride to Eat events) so other riders get to know your name and your personality. Not being an asshole is an important qualification.
My resume goes back a few years. To get your IBA number, sequentially ordered by when you completed your first ride, you must complete the minimum ride which is a Saddlesore 1000 – or 1000 miles in less than 24 consecutive hours. Alternatively, you can complete a few other rides, like the National Parks tour which you have up to a year to complete, or a Bun Burner 1500 which is 1500 miles in less than 36 hours. I completed my first SS1000 in 2001, so my IBA number is a relatively low 16976. I have since completed more rides. List is accurate as of original writing date:
- 12 Saddle Sore 1000 rides. 1000 miles in less than 24 hours
- 4 Bun Burner Gold Rides. 1500 miles in less than 24 hours
- 2 Saddle Sore 2000 Rides. 2000 miles in less than 48 hours
- 2 Saddle Sore 2000 Gold Rides. 2000 miles in less than 36 hours
- 1 50CC Gold Rides. Coast to Coast across the US in less than 50 hours. Gold level is 2900 miles or more in less than 50 hours. I completed mine from Coney Island in Brooklyn to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
- Mile Eater. More than one certified ride
- Mile Eater Bronze. 5 certified rides with at least 2 at gold level or more than 48 hours in duration.
- Mile Eater Gold. 20 certified rides with at least 5 at gold level or more than 48 hours in duration.
In addition, my resume includes rallies.
- 4 – 24 hour rallies. The Land of Enchantment 1000 series. I finished one, had two DNFs for a blown motor and a blown transmission, and one DNF for the rider too tired to continue.
- 2 Big As Texas Rallies with one completed SS1000 and one completed BBG 1500.
- 1 Heart of Texas Rally. A multiday rally in which I placed 13th. Pretty good for a rookie.
- 1 How the West Was Won Colorado rally in which I placed in the top half – barely.
2020 has seen most of the rallies get cancelled due to Covid. At this point, the only rally that I signed up for that is still on the schedule is the multiday Big as Texas Rally, which was rescheduled from April to October. Update: Because of work and covid, I was forced to cancel my participation in October Rally.
This is the resume that got my name in the hat. I’m also a Premier Iron Butt Association member, so that got my name in the second chance drawing hat as well. I have no idea what part of this got me in – total chance or not, It doesn’t really matter to me how I was chosen, just that I was.
From the March 2020 email telling me I was in and the June 2021 start, there’s a lot to do.
- Choose a bike, either the one you have and noted on your application, or move on to another.
- FARKLE the bike.
- Ride. Ride some more. Then keep going. This is a marathon, not a race. You have to know your body will work for 11 days and that your bike helps you do it rather than hinders your effort.
- Test your FARKLEs (Fun Accessories, Really Kool, Likely Expensive). If they don’t work, they aren’t going to help you during the rally. If they aren’t functional, remove them.
- Read the information being sent to you by the IBA and do all of the things being asked of you.
- Read other people’s experiences with the rally
- Figure out how you are going to eat and rest during the rally
- Plan out your maintenance needs to ready your bike for the rally and plan for what it will need during the rally.
- Go to the gym: Lose some of the spare tire and work on core strength. It’s not all that easy to sit there and twist that for 11 days straight.
- Get familiar with your computer and GPS technology. Practice moving data around, preferably with previous rally data.
- Determine what you are taking with you. Pack it, then remove about half of what you think you will need. You will still have too much shit on your bike.
- Riding gear. What do you need? What is its purpose? Does it work? Prepare for any weather from snow and ice to 115F, wind, hail, tropical storms, tornados, and anything else mother nature and the Rally Staff might send your way.
LEG ONE: PROVO UTAH TO CARMEL INDIANA
The riding started on Monday June 21st at 10am with an escort out of town by the Provo police department, and ran 11 days to 10am Friday, July 2nd. Every rider received their first leg packet at the banquet the night before. Once released from the banquet we all took off to our rooms to open the packets and see where the bonuses might take us. We each had a choice to balance our routing and programming of our GPS devices with our need for sleep. Bikes had to be in the start area by 7:30am and we each had to be at our bikes at 8:00am to get our odometers read. We then had until 9:45am to do any last minute things we wanted before the 10am start.
Our general path would take us through three legs.
- Leg one from Provo, UT to Carmel, IN: June 21, 10am to June 24, 10pm
- Leg two from Carmel, IN to Huntsville, AL: June 25, 5am to June 27, 10pm
- Leg three from Huntsville, AL back to Provo, UT: June 28, 5am to July 2, 10am.
There is no way to simply ride from checkpoint to checkpoint and finish the rally. You have to collect bonuses, each of which have a point value. The easier the bonus, the less it’s worth. The harder to get to bonuses are worth more points. There are a minimum number of points necessary to be considered a finisher of the rally. The more points you gather in comparison to other riders, determines your finisher position. At the finisher banquet, the top three, top ten, gold, silver, bronze and finisher levels will be announced.
There are ‘free’ points each leg. These bonuses are worth roughly half the points needed to be a finisher for leg one of the rally. For this rookie, they are too important to miss out on. I know that some riders will be operating on very short sleep and may be able to route themselves to enough extra bonuses to cover the cost of missing all or part of the rest bonus. For myself, I promised I would sleep as much as I needed to keep myself from nodding off on the bike. Not knowing what to expect for riding time in the second and third legs also led me to route a fairly conservative route.
- a tracking bonus for having an operational tracker for each entire leg
- a call in bonus for calling in at a certain time range during the rally and recording a message with your name, rally number, where you are, last bonus, next bonus
- a rest bonus which is worth a significant number of points per minute up to 8 total hours on a specific day during each leg
My minimum goal for Leg 1 was 12,000 point. I knew I had roughly half for the tracking, call-in and rest bonuses. I had figured that most of the bonuses would be on a general path North and East through the top of the country based on the start in Provo and the first checkpoint in Indianapolis. I also knew they would throw in some high point bonuses in out of the way places to see if anyone would bite. I wasn’t disappointed.
The rally pack consisted of a set of bonuses that would be available for the entire rally. One bonus in each of the 48 states plus one in Washington D.C. Unusual in that point values usually increase per bonus in each successive leg. As an incentive, addition points were added for each 5 state bonuses you collected through the rally. If you get to them all, you would have the points for each of the bonuses plus the points for the progressive bonuses plus the points for the one all rally combo bonus. These would total just under 80,000 points but would require some really tenacious routing and riding to get to all of them: Maine was at the top of the state, Florida in the Panhandle, California in San Diego, Oregon on the coast, Washington near Seattle. Most 48/10 certificate rides are in the mid 8000 mile ranges, but that ride only requires you to get a receipt in each state, not go to a specific location. Many of the bonuses had restrictions, such as hours of operation, tides, or daylight only. At this point in the rally, we didn’t know how many total points we would need to be a finisher. So, I considered them to be extra points that I could grab if I came close enough to make it worthwhile.
The Leg 1 bonuses were mostly concentrated in the top third of the country from the coast of Oregon through Lake Michigan. There were a couple of higher point bonuses in Michigan, one high point bonus in upstate New York and a very high bonus in the Florida Keys.
The most obvious Leg 1 path was north to Montana, West to Wisconsin, then South to Indianapolis. As I suspected, the higher point bonuses were well north or well south of the direct line across the middle of the country. I thought that the rally master would put more bonuses in the SE and South on Leg 3 and didn’t want to suck up the rally wide bonuses in the south on the first leg. There was a series of 5 bonuses, three in Nevada, one on the coast of Oregon and one near Seattle that looked tempting. They were worth about 10,000 points, but would have made for a mad dash either through the north country or through the middle of the country to make the checkpoint in time with the necessary added miles. I did look at this route, but decided I didn’t want to use all of my energy on the first round when the second and third round points would ramp up and I would need to ride more and sleep less. We were told to be a finisher that we would need at least 12,000 points on the first leg. I set a route that could get 17,000 to 20,000 points.
Another reason for heading north and east from Provo is that most of that run is my home territory. I have lived in New Mexico for 25 years, but I also lived in Pocatello, Idaho, went to school at the University of Montana in Missoula, grew up in eastern Montana, have relatives in North Dakota and Minnesota, went to school in Eau Claire, Wisconsin and lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I’ve been on most of these roads.
The theme of the rally was Innovations. On the rally poster were pictures of a steam engine from Promontory Point where the golden spike was driven, a monument from Spaceport America in New Mexico, a bust of George Washington Carver who revolutionized modern farming, the Wright Brothers airplane, a Saturn V rocket, a Triumph motorcycle, a telescope and a radio tower.
My first bonus was north to Promontory Point, UT for a group photo bonus at the site where East and West railroads met. At least 80% of all of the riders showed for this one. Most went straight there, necessitating an hour wait for the official photo. Yes, that is real smoke coming from the trains. They were firing up the steam for a re-enactment. After the photo, you have never seen so many people vacate a parking lot so fast.
As with previous rallies, one often finds themselves in a crowd for the first couple of bonuses. After that, as riders peel off on other routes, as gas and bladder stops put minutes between riders, as rest stops put miles between riders, you see less and less of your fellow rally riders.
I headed north into Idaho for the next bonus along with a good number of those in the photo above. One rider hit something leaving this bonus which destroyed her tire and had to limp into Blackfoot for an early tire change. A time suck for sure, but far better than a crash that ends your rally.
Most bonuses aren’t that hard to get to, but are rarely on a direct line from one to another. My second bonus was near Arco, Idaho. An experimental Breeder Reactor that produced the first electricity from a nuclear power plant. We had to take a picture of the reactors.
I normally wouldn’t go to a low point bonus unless it’s not too far out of the way. Rigby, Idaho provided just such a bonus. Philo Farnsworth invented the electronic television as a teenager. A picture of the front of the museum got us the points.
Still fresh and getting into a rhythm, I head north into Gold Country. Bannack, Montana has the distinction of having has the first electric gold dredge in 1895. the dredge is long gone, but the sign commemorating it is easy to get a picture of. It was windy and it’s not against the rules to have someone help hold your rally flag.
I remember seeing Gideon Bibles when I was young. You still see them occasionally if you dig deep enough in hotel drawers. Well, they started here, at a hotel in Superior, Montana. The plaque is on the wall of a laundromat. This one was a bit out of my way and of a fairly low point value, but being the Montana state bonus, meant it was eligible for the rally wide Progressive Bonus I mentioned earlier.
My next bonus was on the east side of Great Falls, some 300 miles away. While this one was a 24 hour bonus, the day was already getting long. I remembered the road from Missoula to Great Falls from the mid 1980’s as being a narrow, dark, deer infested mountain road prone to fog. I really wanted to get to Great Falls tonight, but decided to try to find a hotel in Missoula and get up early to keep my schedule. Alas, no hotels in Missoula. I’m not sure what was going on, but all I could find was a $279.00 room near the university. I was able to secure a room in Great Falls for a 3 hour nap.
To my surprise, though maybe I should have understood that 40 years is a long time to improve roads, the highway had most of the nasty kinks taken out of it, there were actual lines on the road with paved shoulders, and there was no fog. Deer? Well that’s something that you can’t get rid of. This was my closest encounter with a deer. She came out of the woods on my right and as I grabbed an handful of brakes, she planted her front hoofs and bounded back into the woods. A few miles later, I double thunked a skunk – luckily for me, not so much the skunk, I got the head end. The rule for motorcyclists I was always told was that if what you are about to hit is small enough to eat in one sitting, run over it. If it will take two sittings or more to consume, avoid hitting it. It worked for me this time. I also didn’t know, until I was washing the bugs off the bike at the end of the rally, that the skunk took out a fist sized chunk of my chin fairing.
Great Falls, and a rest. Up the next morning to grab a picture of a sign commemorating the first of the Minuteman I Missile sites near Monarch, Montana.
I now have a long ride to the next bonus bonus in Medora, North Dakota, and I’m trying to get to a time barred bonus in Fargo, North Dakota. I’ve got some miles to go and just enough time to do it. For the moment, though, I enjoy the peace and quiet of a Montana morning to the West of Nowhere, Montana. It’s cool, a little humid and everything is green for the next 100 miles or so before entering the middle of nowhere, Montana. Reminiscence of long, never ending bus rides to this game or that event, of my Mother getting pulled over the state police because they were suspicious of a 100 pound 5 foot nothing woman with 8 kids in her car (two of which were hers, the others part of a band of 4-H kids coming home from some event or another – also remember this was the 70’s – no need for seat belts), of knowing when you got to the eastern edge of nowhere (Circle, Montana), you still had at least 2 hours drive to get home.
Like clockwork, the Honda pushes me out of Montana into North Dakota, with the Medora bonus an hour away. Refreshing, as my previous memories can also conjure up bubble baths as a kid. Mr Bubble was formulated by Howard Schafer and his Heritage Center is in Medora, North Dakota.
This is a quick stop, as I have to get the next picture in Fargo, North Dakota at Bonanzaville before 7pm. My GPS says I have plenty of time. Even so, I still work to beat the time my GPS tells me I should get there. David Houston had a patent for a roll film apparatus that ended up in Kodak cameras. His house has been relocated to Bonanzaville. We had to walk a bit for this one, but it is nice, after a long day riding, to get some exercise. While they didn’t charge us an admission fee for to get the picture, I did put a few in the donations box.
I may be an old dog, but I have learned a new trick. From my difficulty in finding a hotel the night before, I decided to try to reserve one ahead of time for tonight. My next bonus is in Hibbing, Minnesota, north of Minneapolis, about 4 hours away. I would be arriving close to midnight, right at the start of my 8 hour rest bonus. The rest bonus can be taken anytime during this particular Wednesday. I can start it early, but points only accrue starting at 12am Wednesday. This happens to match my needs perfectly as the bonus is daylight only. If only I could get a hotel…
Apparently, road crews have taken up all the hotels in the area. I finally find one 2 hours along my path, but 2 hours shy of my bonus. The rest bonus will mean I won’t get to the Hibbing bonus until 10am. I could ironbutt hotel it, but I decide I’m tired enough with 3 hours the night before, so I hole up in the nearest hotel I can find. I wave to my aunts, cousins and friends as I pass through their towns. No time to visit this trip.
The Greyhound Bus Line started in Hibbing, Minnesota. I take a picture of the plaque at the museum.
I’m behind my schedule now because of the hotel debacle and I may not make the last daylight bonus in Milwaukee because of it. This also limits my ability to get a couple of Michigan bonuses I planned on if I had time. Regardless, I have three bonuses from the top of Wisconsin to Madison to grab and I better not waste time.
Running through Duluth is a chore as one of the bridges is closed. The detour takes me left and right and up and down and eventually, I get to the Wisconsin side. Now I have to slow for every town, but I finally make it to the place where snowmobiles got their start, near Sayner, Wisconsin which is pretty darned close to Michigan.
Flying south now, trying to keep my daylight date with Les Paul, I find where Wisconsin’s first airplane capable of sustained flight was made, near Rothschild, Wisconsin.
Finally back on four lane then interstate roads, I’m heading to the University of Wisconsin, Madison where they discovered that even cows need more than single grain diets, they need vitamins and minerals too. Getting from the interstate to the campus takes some time. Lots of turns and several miles later, the GPS took me to the exact spot in the nearby roadway, but finding the sign took a bit of sleuthing. Finally found it in the grass yard behind some trees. Be careful, take the picture of the right sign or sacrifice your points.
Boogie to Milwaukee. Getting dark. Daylight bonus only. Find the Les Paul guitar in Waukesha. Funny, I lived in Milwaukee for a good period of time and did not know that Les Paul was from Waukesha and they sure are rightly proud of that.
I no longer have time to get to the Michigan bonuses if I have to drive through Chicago. But, the Lake Michigan ferry website says it has a 10pm run – three hours of sleep and it drops me about an hour from the first of the Michigan bonuses with time to grab a big bonus in Detroit and a state bonus in Indiana before making my way to Indianapolis for the first check point. I call for a reservation, but alas, the website lied and they don’t have a 10pm run and I missed the 7pm run, next run at 5am which doesn’t leave time for the Detroit bonus and it’s not worth going that way. So, back to the original plan: Hit the near Chicago bonus, then the Indiana bonus, then on to Indianapolis. I should be at the checkpoint around 6pm.
Gail Borden makes condensed milk. His first condensing plant was near Elgin Illinois.
I’m too close in to Chicago to go around without adding a lot of miles, so I program the GPS for a graveyard in Fort Wayne, Indiana and hope the traffic isn’t too bad. Chicago throws up 10 miles of feet on the pavement construction, but otherwise not bad. The graveyard gives up Sylvanus Bowser’s headstone. Sylvanus invented something I’m using two or three times a day on this rally, a gas pump.
Checkpoint one is next. I arrive after it opens, but in plenty of time. My odometer is read at the hotel entrance, I park my bike and take my things inside to check that I have my bonus form filled out properly and I have everything I need for scoring. I stop the clock and go through scoring. I needed a minimum of 12,000 points, I came out of scoring with 17,289 points with no points or bonuses lost. It turns out this puts me in 52nd place after the first leg. I was hoping I would do better in the standings, but it does show me that what I’m doing puts me on solid footing to finish the rally. Two more legs to go.
LEG TWO: CARMEL INDIANA TO HUNTSVILLE ALABAMA
With the checkpoint closing at 10pm and having gotten in and through scoring earlier, 4am came after a good night’s sleep. Breakfast served and some light conversation later, we get our updates on the rally, the leaderboard and our positions and our rally packs for Leg2. Once everyone has their rally pack, we can all retire to our rooms and prepare to head out for our ride. We are told we need 40,000 points combined for leg1 and leg2 to be considered a finisher. Point values are higher per bonus than in Leg 1, but many of the bonuses look more difficult to obtain.
Opening the rally pack and uploading the files into Google My Maps, I see most of this leg’s bonuses clustered in the northeast with one tempting bonus back in Minneapolis worth 14050 points. Most of the points are in a line from Indianapolis along the edge of the Great Lakes to the NE terminating with a tempting tidbit in the top of Maine, then more or less following I-95 south through the United State’s most populated corridor towards Alabama. I suspect this is where most people are going. I decide to go for the Minneapolis bonus. Those points with some other bonuses on the way and a bigger rest bonus will give me the points I need plus a small cushion to stay in the finisher loop. This is the point in the rally where I decided that being a finisher was my ultimate goal. Risking being a finisher for position in my rookie IBR didn’t make sense to me.
There was one rally long combo bonus: Get Ohio – the Wright Brothers bicycle shop – and North Carolina – Kitty Hawk – and you get both bonus values and a 5831 point combo bonus. I figured that if I got Ohio now, getting Kitty Hawk on leg three would give me a points boost for little effort. So, I headed east from Carmel to Dayton OH and took a photo of the Wright Cycle Company building.
This was an easy one for people headed north to start their run to the NE, so there were several rally riders here. It’s a cloudy day, so not that hot and I’m heading north and then west into a line of thunderstorms. I may get a bit wet, but I’m not expecting to be too hot. Ohio City, Ohio is my next stop. This a small town that has the distinction of having the first successful Automobile built here and the first Automobile wreck. Two pictures of two signs a few blocks apart.
Now for the long slog to Minneapolis. I head through Chicago again, thinking I’m early enough to beat most of the traffic on I-80 west. Unfortunately, I meet the two headed construction monster again – 20 miles of feet on pavement slog. Oh well, at least it wasn’t raining. The big bonus is a daylight only bonus and there is no way I can make it tonight, so I set my GPS for Cresco, Iowa to take a picture of a statue of Dr Norman Borlaug who worked for more than 30 years to improve wheat yields. This too, is a daylight picture and I get here with about an hour to spare.
This leg’s rest bonus starts tonight at midnight which happens to be about 2.5 hours away. I make a reservation at a hotel in Rochester, MN which is about 2 hours ride, checking in a couple minutes past midnight. The next morning, I’m ready to go at 8am precisely for my 2 hour ride to Mound, Minnesota, just west of Minneapolis. This is a time barred bonus and I arrive just a few minutes after 10am as the bonus opens. Perfect timing. We are to sign the guestbook and meet Ron Pauly, getting him to pose for a picture with our flag in front of one of the many Tonka toys he designed. It’s awesome to meet the man who designed many of the Tonka trucks I played with as a child.
Now for the long slog to the second checkpoint. I have more than the minimum points needed for leg one and leg two with the rest bonus, call in bonus, tracking bonus and the above bonuses collected. Everything I can pick up after this gives me some headroom for the final leg. I head into Wisconsin to pick up I-39 south through Rockford, Illinois, keeping my wheel pointed south through Champaign and Effingham to Mount Vernon, Illinois where I start to head East on track to Huntsville. There are no bonuses to get in this area, so it’s just a long ride. I hit numerous small storm cells, but only one nearing Mount Vernon has any power to it. My gear keeps me dry. I find out later, it was this storm that washed out I-55 just a hundred miles West of me in the couple hours after I passed through the area. I got the lead of that storm. Weather timing for me was perfect.
By running south first, I have avoided going through Chicago traffic and stayed in to open on interstates, good for making time. On the way to Huntsville, I pick up the KY bonus near Cloverpoint, Kentucky. An easy picture on the side of the roadway of a sign where the first coal oil was produced in 1951.
I have time for one last bonus before getting to the checkpoint. The John Fitch Memorial is a monument on a roundabout in Bardstown Kentucky. John Fitch launched and operated the first steamboat near here in 1787.
And, now, a couple hundred miles to the second checkpoint in Huntsville, Alabama. I have plenty of time, arriving after the the checkpoint opens (5pm), but well before the checkpoint goes into penalty points (8pm). After verifying I have everything, I head to scoring and come out with 25728 points, leaving no points at the table. I have dropped two places to 54th from the first checkpoint but am only one more leg from being a finisher of this rally. 69 riders have made it through this checkpoint with 6 listed as DNF.
LEG 3: HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA TO THE FINISH AT PROVO, UTAH
I have had a safe rally to this point. I have played it safe, without pushing myself beyond my abilities. I have not been riding to win it, or even to place all that high in the rankings. My goal is very clear at this point, I want to finish the rally. I have a hard 5 days ride as it is to get the 40,000 points I need to be considered a finisher without pushing for position and losing it all. 4am comes really early and we all get our bonus listings after a bite to eat. I spent about 2 hours looking through several scenarios. Most of this is focused on a series of bonuses in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. I didn’t go there on the second leg, so there are two state bonuses available, NC – the Wright Brothers National Monument, VA – the Mercury Test Capsule, a new 3rd leg bonus with big points just south of Kitty Hawk and the combo bonus of the Wright Brothers National Monument and their bicycle shop in Ohio, which I got earlier. These are worth 19,655, half of the points I need to be a finisher. Kitty Hawk is the wrong way from Huntsville to Provo, but I have 5 days.
So, out to the bike and I’m off to Kitty Hawk. First, I get the TN bonus in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Do look at what you are taking a picture of: the sign I see at the correct address isn’t the right sign! The correct sign is 1/2 block down set in front of some bushes. This is the site where the first abolition periodicals were published in the US in 1819-1820.
I did make a mistake here. I passed by the Y12 bonus in Oak Ridge TN and had plenty of time to pick it up. Unfortunately, MyMaps (Google) showed the bonus up North and I didn’t snap to the fact that it was in North Carolina right off my path. At this point, my plan after Kitty Hawk area was to mop up as many point in the SouthEast, then head West picking up points until I had to head for the barn in Provo. The second thing that I didn’t snap to was that one of the bonuses in the Kitty Hawk area was daylight only and the other one was time barred and had to be gotten between 9am and 5pm. By going East North East out of Huntsville, I put myself in the Kitty Hawk area way too early – bonus sleep, but not productive bonus hunting. I could have run south to Mongomery and picked up a line of higher point bonuses in a line through Charlotte, using my riding time much more efficiently, losing some of the sleep, but picking up a lot more points. From Kitty Hawk, I intended to ride south down the coast to Florida and then run West picking up the highest point bonuses I could. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize this until I was in the Kitty Hawk area, too late to alter my course.
LIFE is a huge point bonus, daylight only picture of most complete remaining USLSS site in the nation – later part of the Coast Guard. 10917 points.
Now, It’s a short trip north to NC, the Wright Brothers National Memorial. I have to take a picture of the 4th landing spot, which is, of course, the furthest walk possible in the park. Fortunately, it’s early and not too hot and they really didn’t fly that far. When I get here, there are a couple of bikes waiting to get in. I’m third in line. Once the gates open, there are 20 cars lined up behind me. This one is worth 1577 points, add in the combo bonus of 5831 points.
One of the bikes waiting in line was former IBR veteran Jim Frens, whom I had read about, but had never actually met. He took a picture of Marc Bialt and myself at Kill Devil Hills. Thanks Jim!
Having had time the night before, I looked at my route again and the weather. I noticed a tropical storm pushing up the east coast right into a couple of high point bonuses I wanted to get in South Carolina. If this was strong enough, it was going to make riding through SC and Florida miserable, so I looked for alternatives. One was to go for some high point combo bonuses in the NW. Another would be to head directly for the Atlanta area and pick up the bonuses that I should have gotten the day before. The one I chose was to go back to Minneapolis for a very high point bonus, picking up more Leg 3 bonuses along the way, then heading down to the Omaha area before heading West to Provo. Not an epic ride, by any means, but easily doable in the remaining time and well over the 80,000 points I would need to be a finisher, just in case I lost some points from a bonus.
Scrapping my south by southwest route, I headed to the VA bonus in Hampton, Virginia. Apparently, someone decided they needed to test re-entry for the Mercury capsules to make sure their astronauts wouldn’t burn up on re-entry. A picture of one of those Mercury test capsules.
Now I go to the Y12 bonus in Oak Ridge, Tennessee where they had a super secret plant and the X-10 reactor that supported the Manhattan Project.
North to Cincinnati, Ohio. Here is where the first glass oven door was invented and manufactured in 1909. I don’t think I have ever had to take so many turns in so few miles to get to a bonus – ever. Does no street in Cincinnati run straight?
Rally Masters seem to like to not only take you to places where you would never think of going, they also like to take to you places you have already been – on this rally! FTS is a bonus in Carmel, Indiana. A 3rd leg bonus located only a few miles from the first checkpoint. At 4820 points, it’s definitely worth getting. Here lies a shrubbery hidden ground level plaque commemorating the first automated traffic signal.
Now for another revisit. For me, the third time in Minnesota and the second time in Minneapolis this rally. A 5986 point bonus where the largest flour mill was constructed at the time – 1881. I’m here late in the day and traffic is extremely light. Easy in, easy out.
Most of the bonuses from here back to Provo aren’t worth many points. I do need one more state bonus so I can have 15 total states and get the third level of combo bonus. The highest point state bonus in my general direction of travel is in Columbus, Nebraska: a picture of Leo Sokol who invented the first single cylinder hydraulic manure loader.
There is only one bonus between here and Provo that is above 500 points, a 4520 point bonus near Parachute, Colorado. I have time to get there, but I know there is road construction on I70 and the bonus instructions say that the last 5 miles is dirt and may be impassable when wet. I have more than enough points to finish, and extra 4520 isn’t going to get me much higher in placement (turns out it would have moved me up about 6 places) and it could knock me out of finishing if I misjudge timing. I decide to head straight in on I80 west.
The checkpoint opens at 5am and the rally is over at 10am. If you are 1 second past 10am, you are disqualified. I had plenty of time to avoid a crash, deer, breakdowns – none of which occurred. I made it in at about 2am to a hardy group of people with noise makers welcoming riders back from 11 days of riding all over the country.
It’s too early to go to scoring, so I head up to the room I reserved and sleep for 3 hours. I set three alarms to not miss scoring. Scoring is easy now, as I’ve done it twice. I leave no points on the table and end up with 90,012 points for the rally, 10,012 more than enough to be a finisher and good for 54th place overall. I rode 8942 corrected miles.
Overall, a great ride. I didn’t make any real routing mistakes until the third leg. If I had been contending for a top ten finish, those mistakes would have knocked me out of contention. As it was, I had the ability to reroute and make it back on time with plenty of points to finish. It’s an incredible feeling to stand up at the finishers rally when your name is called and get your finisher’s plaque and swag box. Once home, you get mail call – the email with your new three digit Iron Butt Rally number, the box with your rally poster, and the engraving for your finisher’s wall plaque.
The top three finishers were all Iron Butt Rally rookies. Each scored over 16,000 points and rode up to 13,906 miles. Incredible rides. Everyone who started finished safely, even those who had mishaps along the way, which is a feat when you consider the number of collective miles we all rode.
A huge thanks to the organizers, staff and volunteers who put in an enormous effort over the last two years to make this rally happen. It just gets better and better every time.