My Iron Butt 5000 Rally

This is the blog that I started for friends and family to follow my Long Distance Riding preparation and competition in the inaugural Iron Butt 5000, a 5 day 5000 mile motorcycle rally. In May 2011, Mike Kneebone for the IBA announced there would not be an IB5000 in 2012, but instead that the IBA and Team Strange would be sponsoring the But Lite 6IX in 2012. So that makes this blog a bit of Long Distance History, so I've decided to leave it as it is for historical purposes. I will create other blogs as I have new adventures and rally competitions.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

RI Park Tour Plus

Last weekend was a fabulous New England Weekend that almost makes up for the near continuous rain and cold weather for the past several weeks.  After a full day of Daddy Day Care; Amy gave me a kitchen pass for Saturday.  It was 8 PM Friday night so I needed a plan and route to practice and exercise my rally routine as much as possible.

Rallies usually have themes which make them a lot of fun to experience.  I’ve had an idea for a RI only ride that hits every known State Park in a day, and not leave the borders of the state.  I quickly came up with 250+ mile loop, which was not doable for a ‘quick’ ride.  I cut it down and added some extra locations that would be difficult to document with a photo of my bike in front of a landmark.

9 AM Sunday morning I was on the road heading due south to Newport, RI, to grab my first set of ‘bonuses’ for the day.  I really wasn’t in ‘rally mode’ so I elected a more scenic ride by heading south on East Main Rd on my way to the Mansions of Newport.  It was a beautiful day, the the traffic was light, and the ride along the coast was refreshing with views of the bay.  Newport is home to some of the oldest historic mansions from the Gilded Age. Most tourists usually want to see the Newport Mansion Tours and I have been subjected to them several times.  Not that I don’t like the tours, but after going to them several times now I’m pretty much all set with that check box.  I decided what I wanted to do was to get my bike in front of each mansion sign and take a quick photo, hop back on and hit the next one.  There were four that I wanted to bag, The Elms, Chateau Sur Mer, Breakers, and The Mable House.

My bonus snagging routine was pretty rusty; I struggled to find the right sign and to get a picture that clearly showed the name and the bike.  I realized, I was jumping off and on the bike a lot which forced me to unplug and plug in my helmet headset several times.  That extra action was becoming a real pain.  Looking back at the route now, I should have routed up the other side of the street so that all the locations were easily accessible by just pulling over real quick instead of having to cross traffic two times at every stop.

After futzing around with the mansions, it was time to get back to my primary objective.  I continued to hug the coastline and enjoyed a great ride around Ocean Avenue on my way to Brenton Point State Park and then Fort Adams State Park.  From Fort Adams I made my way through the narrow streets of Newport to cross the Clairborne Pell Bridge to Jamestown.  Once again hugging the coastal route I made my way to Fort Wetherill State Park, which is right across Naragansett Bay from Fort Adams.  I made my way along the southern end of Jamestown Island and got my first sample of dirt roads for the day. I continued onto the south west end of the island to Beavertail State Park and Lighthouse. After a beautiful view from the lighthouse I headed back north to cross the Jamestown Bridge to head down to Narragansett Bay.  Although it was nice for New England, the temperatures were still a bit cool so beach traffic was very light in this well known area.

It was approaching noon by the time I arrived at the end and I had already decided that a trip to Narragansett required a stop for a lunch at Iggy’s Doughboy famous for their Chowder, Clam Cakes, and of course sugar loaded Doughboys.  I sat outside in full gear and enjoyed several fresh hot Clam Cakes; surprisingly I was the only one eating outside!  After a great lunch stop, I grabbed Fishermen’s Memorial State Park.

Back on the road I headed toward US 1 and continued south to Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge.  This turned out to be a pretty neat area with very little people and some nice facilities to come back to with the family for a day to explore on foot.  Back to US1 again for Burlingame State Park, for a fun road with some interesting scenery as I worked my way around the park’s border.

I rode some great riding fun on 2 lane roads all the way to Arcadia Management Area, and purposely planned for some dirt roads to cross this area.  Riding the Wing in the dirt has never been especially fun for me, mostly I think it is in my head so I figured I need to practice more and get more comfortable with the bike.  I crossed over using Bald Hill Road which isn’t too bad but with the recent rain did have some wide ‘ditches’ across the road.  There was also a mix of hard pack, sand, lose rock and larger marble rock.  From now on I’m going to try and hit some dirt roads every time I take a short day ride to keep practicing and getting comfortable.

After the dirt road adventure, I continued onto Beach Pond State Park, which brought within a lake crossing of CT.  With a time check I realized that I needed to cut the northern RI Parks out to make a decent estimated arrival time at back in Bristol.

Sticking with my goal to stay in RI, I plotted my next stop for Squantium Woods State Park.  This turned out to be a bust as I was at the GPS location, there were woods on my right but I never found the Blue State Park Sign.  I pressed on and headed for Haines Memorial State Park next and after some horrible stop and go traffic I arrived and got my photo.  Unfortunately it was now pushing 3 PM and traffic in Barrington was just creeping along at a snails pace.  I finished up at 3:30 PM pulling in my garage, 171 mile all RI, not made for a day ride.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Quick Test Run

Not many understand or comprehend my long distance riding aspirations, and that is fine, as it is not something that I can easily explain.  For me, the long distance riding is just a skill I have to get me to places I want to go to.  There are certain rides that are short and give me great pleasure and there are rides that are long, that end someplace I enjoy.  This last minute weekend trip was just such one of those latter rides.  Originally, I hadn’t planned to make the IBA Annual Bike Week Dinner (historically know as the Pizza Party) in Jacksonville, but when a fellow rider couldn’t make the trip and offered up his ticket I jumped at the chance.  It was a great opportunity to knock off the winter riding dust and to put my new Aux Tank through a proper long distance ride.  The weather predictions were all over the place for the east coast, so I waited to see how it looked the day before I left.  On Wednesday it was rain and snow flurries all day, which was making Thursday morning departure look a bit challenging.  But, at 4 AM Thursday when I pulled out of the garage it was warm (a relative term for March in RI) and no snow accumulation on the driveway or roads.  A misty rain / snow flurry mix was about all I had as I made my way south and it pretty much stopped just south of TF Green airport in RI, with the roads perfectly dry and clean.  

This trip was not unique or especially challenging, as I have made it several times before, so I planned to see how I felt and how my changes to the Wing worked out.  After 350 uneventful miles I pulled in to fill the tanks and get some breakfast and coffee.  The sun was up, the skies were clear and blue and the temperatures weren’t too bad...with heated gear!  I discovered my new favorite breakfast stop, Roy Rogers.  I had a great egg, ham and cheese sandwich on toasted sourdough bread that I highly recommend!

Back on the road I made my second stop, another 350+ miles away, off I-295 going around Richmond, VA.  This was a familiar stop, I seem to always hit this one exit for gas and McDonald's cheeseburgers almost every trip I make to FL.  However this time there was a bit of excitement from the girl working the counter.  She noticed I had wires hanging out my sleeves and on my leg which caused her to be a bit concerned.  In a rather loud voice she asked why I had all those wires coming out of my rather bulky jacket.  Well this quickly got the attention of fellow customers and the manager and not wanting to be tackled like a airline shoe bomber, I reassured her it was for my heated jacket, gloves and controller for my motorcycle gear.  At this point she asked a second profound question, “So, you're on a motorcycle, huh?”.  With my size large silver helmet sitting on the counter in front of her, I said yes I was riding a motorcycle and I would take the burgers to go.  As I left, I wondered if there was a big problem with ‘questionable’ looking strangers with wires in their jackets running around Virgina.  

Back on the road I set my cruise to the speed limit and kicked back.  BTW, here is a warning to everyone, DO NOT SPEED IN VA!  The amount of troopers pulling over people for speeding (radar detectors are illegal) is just crazy.  They are every where and in a variety of cars from your regular Crown Vics with light bars to several unmarked Chargers, and Impalas.  They are sitting right out in plain sight and they are sitting in hiding places that are shielded from direct view till you pass them.  You have been warned, set your cruise and sit back till you can get through VA.

The rest of the ride was uneventful and by the time I made Savannah I decided to just continue on to Jacksonville.  I called ahead and was able to get a room and pulled into the front of the hotel at 10:06 PM with 1150 + miles behind me.  Inside I found some fellow New England LD Riders at the bar.  Dave Riley thought I had stopped for the night in SC as that was my last location he had since he was tracking me on Google.  It turns out my phone stopped updating my location in SC on the way down.  The battery was just about dead so I made a quick call to Amy to tell her I was checking in and that everything went well.  The rest of the night till 12:30 AM I meet old friends and put faces to on-line friends for the first time.  I had a great conversation with Ira Agins; Ira is a legend in the LD world and I was honored to have him spend time just talking with me.  

I was up at 7:30 and by 8 AM Friday I was having a totally awesome breakfast which was included with the room.  You can always count on Lisa Landry who puts in great effort to organize, coordinate and makes sure every thing is top shelf at IBA events.  The breakfast was a huge buffet that included just about anything you could want including my all time favorite, fresh biscuits and gravy!  I loaded up with eggs and bacon and then spotted the giant waffle makers and grabbed a second plate!  I had a great meal with some old friends and some new friends. 

After breakfast it was off to Andy Kirby’s eBoni Workshop for IB5k Riders.  It always impresses me the effort that individuals put in to this sport and it is always free and volunteered.  Andy, who is also competting in the IB5K, saw on the IBA Forum that there might be a need for some help with riders to understand and process electronic data that we would be using in the rally.  He volunteered to come up with a complete training package and even demonstrated how to use the several different techniques.  In addition to Andy, Rick Miller actually put together an electronic rally package including a rally book to practice with!  Amazing effort and time from those riders is humbly appreciated by myself and the other riders.
After a great class, the follow on presentation was by legend and noted author of Against the Wind, Ron Ayres.  This is the book to read to understand this long distance / rally riding stuff.  I sooo wish I had my copy with me for him to sign as I got to meet and talk with him for a bit before his presentation.  Ron presented a new IBA / Ron Ayres Adventure Group ride program that was specific for IBA members.  After Ron’s presentation, Mark Kincart of Go AZ Motorsports presented a new discount program specific for IBA members and included some interesting new products.  

After Ron’s presentation, I met up with another IBA legend Tom Austin.  Tom had volunteered to check anyone’s Aux tank set-up at the event and I had called to make arrangements for him to inspect my set-up.  He looked it over and didn’t note any issues or problems to correct, which very much made my day.  He also asked about my rally tray to hold note cards and info on during my rides and I was glad to explain to him how I made it.  

If all that wasn’t enough, those in attendance also got so see the first promotional preview of the Hard Miles 2 video about the 2009 IBR.  It looks totally awesome and I can’t wait to see the finished movie. For the rest of the afternoon there continued to be a growing crowd of riders in the hotel lobby and comedy club / bar.  I spent a bunch of time just visiting and introducing myself to others, as I recognized their names, till diner started.  

 Once again the buffet meal was great and top notch.  I found the New England Riders table and had an excellent seat to see the rest of the evening events.  This year the IBA sponsored a special SS1000 ride called The Legends 1000.  A twist on the normal 1000 miles in 24 hrs was added that the riders would ride to checkpoints in FL and meet some of the legends of the IBA.  70+ riders finished the ride and each one received there award in front of the 300+ riders in attendance.  After dinner finished up there was, of course, more social hours and more chances to meet people I knew online but not in person. 

My evening finished up late, as I left the hotel to walk across to my room I ran into Mike Kneebone, the president of the IBA, taking a cool evening walk.  We ended up just chatting for quite some time in the parking lot and I was impressed that he was so friendly and personable with me.  It was a perfect way to end my evening on a high note.

8 AM Saturday and I was up and ready for another breakfast.  I enjoyed some great morning conversation with friends and was on the road heading due north. 

The ride home went well and since I had a late start I decided to stop in NC for BBQ Dinner and a hotel.  I ended up running into Dave Riley, who was about an hour behind me, and he swung in to the restaurant after having tracked me to my exit!  He too decided to call it a night and we ended up splitting the room I already had.  The next morning we got our complimentary breakfast, which was not the same level of the previous 2 days, I really missed those biscuits and gravy, but they did have the giant waffle maker at least.  Dave agreed to let me follow him and we stuck together all the way to CT where we each went our ways. 

I pulled into the garage at 5:30 PM, having covered a total of 2300+ miles in four days.  It was a great trip and with the exception of my heating gear cord failing was nearly flawless.  I feel much better about my set-up and look forward to some more rides in the next month.