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.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Minuteman 1000 - 24 hours of New England

“What's wrong, don't you know how to pick up a wing?” said Cdog, “Yes I do! I have already picked it up 5 times trying to get out” I said. “ It is now stuck in the mud up to the left saddle bag!” After a brief pause to relay the “entertainment” to the other staff members “OK where are you...?” What a way to be 2 hours into this year's Minuteman Rally...I'm at the end of a dirt road, stuck in mud, in the middle of nowhere, this must have been some of that entertainment we were promised last night at dinner.

This year's Minuteman 1000 was an event I was very much looking forward to as it was going to be my last opportunity to run a rally before the August IB5K, and very likely my last opportunity to see my New England LD friends before moving to Huntsville. This was my 4th year of riding the Minuteman 1000 and every year has been a blast and allowed me to make new friends and ride to places I would never normally go.

This year the theme was “That's Entertainment” and as the website said, there was no telling who would be more entertained, the riders or the rally staff. On June 2, Rob Nye, the rallymaster, sent us the 3 electronic bonus location files, a .txt, a .gpx, and a .gdb. This is the new age of long distance rallies now, for the most part – electronic files with latitude/longitude locations to map in a variety of programs. This wasn't my first time dealing with this format and data, and it followed the same approach that will be used in the IB5K. The data also came with point values but no time availability, so you can see what is possible to some extent for a ride, but you have to wait for the rally dinner to get the packet to find out availability and what was required to claim a bonus. Looking at the menu of locations I saw that a lot of locations were in VT, NH, and along the coast of New England from ME to NYC. I immediately focused on the top high point value options; there were 6 locations over 1000 points each. With the greatest concentration of points in VT and NH, I could see a route to take me north to Canada and then loop back down into Boston and RI in the night. This had the advantage of riding the north in daylight and less animal problems and then riding the cities in night with usually less traffic and better lights for photos.

Friday morning came and I was ready to hit the road for Northampton, MA. I had volunteered to help out the staff as the “GPS Help Desk” since Andy Kirby was not able to make it to the rally; so I had to head up a bit earlier than usual. It was a lot of fun to chat with the crew before the masses showed up and just in general catch up. My check-in went fine and I ended up helping a few riders out with their GPS files and some quick tips on using Mapsource and e-boni. As usual the dinner was top notch and the room was packed. I was fortunate to share diner with some old friends and meet some new ones.

It was time to get serious and put on the game. The packets were handed out and we were allowed to read them for a few minutes to see if anything jumped out for questions. This year, Rob dismissed the 24 hour rally riders and gave us time to read the details and come ask questions to the staff. I spent the time and read them all and noted a few questions to ask, and missed a few I should have asked, more on that later. I felt good and headed back to start a serious plan of attack. A nice surprise was that there were no limits on any of the bonus locations, with the exception of the Carman Brook Farm. I looked at the target rich environment and just started planning a route that hit 36 bonus locations in under 1000 miles, with a couple of options to pick up some additions, if everything went well. With a 2 hour rest bonus it seemed like a very doable ride assuming I could get to Northern VT before noon. I also decided that going to Canada was not a good option since the miles were just too much to make it worth it, given the availability of all the other locations.

By 10:45 PM I had my plan, my route cards and my bike packed and ready for the 5:30 AM riders meeting. I never sleep well before a rally, I think my mind is still racing and planning what-ifs, so it takes some time to fall asleep. The alarm went off and within 10 min I'm geared up and outside getting the bike cover off and GPS hooked up and loaded. At the riders meeting Rob informed us the big Carman Brook Farm bonus was only available till 1 PM. You could buy any VT maple syrup for 3500 points, or get the Carman Brook Farm brand for 3750. I really wanted the extra 250 points so I would have to watch my time; I knew I had about an hour buffer in  my plan.

Departure was very exciting, the release was well organized and timed. Once on the road it was obvious that several people in front of me were heading to the same locations. My first 6 stops were also on the hit list of some of the top riders I know, so I felt pretty good about my route. My sixth stop was a sign to a dirt road, with the next bonus down that road, or so the GPS told me.

At first I tried a few alternate routes for a detour to avoid the road, but each route keep bring me back. So I figured, what the hell, I'll check it out and see if it is bad. The ride down wasn't bad, some slick spots here and there but nothing too horrible. I was glad that I had spent several rides in RI on dirt roads so I was feeling better about my little off-road adventure. As I continued on the road, I came to a fork and continued down a slight hill with some grass growing up in the middle. I dismounted my bike at the top and walked down the slope, noting that there was water on the sides but the center looked okay and not that bad. So I decided to ride down the middle to the bonus and take my time. I eased the bike over the edge and went straight down the middle fairly easy with the help of gravity. Unfortunately that was the last time it was easy! As I applied a little power the back end broke loose and spun to the left which put the bike in the water I was trying to avoid. Since I was going slow, she just tipped over on the crash bars and I was able to get the bike back up. So, maybe this wasn't such a good idea as the mosquitoes took note of the fresh red meat in their area. Well after about 10 min trying to get moving and dropping the bike an additional 4 more times, I was not happy. So I decided to turn around and try to get out of this mess. Luckily reverse on the Wing worked and I was able to maneuver the bike back to face up the hill. I started back up the hill but my luck had finally run out. As I got about 6 feet from the top the rear broke loose and into the mud she went, this time digging in deep up to the left saddlebag. Now I was screwed, because there was no way to lift the 900lb bike when it is that far over. I made the call to Cdog to let him know I had a problem. Thus providing the entertainment for the rally staff!

After spraying myself down with bug spray I decided to take a walk up the road a bit. I ended up finding a farmer that was willing to help me out. With her truck, a tie down strap and some very slow driving on her part we were able to right the Wing and pull it up the hill, out of the mud. No damage was observed except for my pride. I tried to pay her for her time but she refused and ended up drawing me a map to the bonus location. About that time a fellow rally rider, Adam Peirce, came along and agreed to ride with me to the next bonus. It was very helpful of him to ride behind me and get my mind back in the rally.

I had lost about an hour and was pretty sure I would not make the Carman Brook Farm by 1 PM. I decided to push on and not change my route, and see what I could do. After bagging several bonuses en route to the farm, I watched my arrival time slip to 1:30, minutes late. I instead swung into a local store and grabbed some VT Maple Syrup so that I could get the 3500 points. I decided that I wanted to make Max's BMW Dealership by 9PM, so I pushed on and continued on my plan. Riding in VT and NH is some of the best roads for motorcycles, if only the tourists would get off the roads!

I pulled into Max's BMW about 15 min to 9PM and was greeted by several rally riders. Somehow my off-road adventures had made the rounds, and even Max wanted to know how I was doing. I spent some time catching up with a few friends and decided I needed to hit the road for Boston. Riding at night is always fun, especially into Boston. With very little drama, I found my way into the city and bagged 2 more bonus locations.

A time check revealed that I had lost too much time and I was going to have to drop a significant amount of bonuses. I ended up dropping about 2000 points in the end, based on the time I had left and the fact that I had a rest bonus to take too. I bagged my last bonus in RI and grabbed a gas receipt at 1:50 AM, with 10 minutes to spare til the 2 AM mandatory time. I now had to sit still for 2 hours, so I filled up one tank, and then got my paperwork in order. I ended up taking about a 20-30 minute nap next to my bike using my sleeping bag as a pillow. I filled up my aux tank at just 2 minutes past the 2 hour rest bonus requirement, and then was on the road for the 2 hour ride to get back to the hotel before penalty points started at 6 AM. I ended up pulling into the hotel and stopped the clock with less then 10 minutes to spare; which was the closest I've ever come.

Surprisingly I felt very good and still very excited that I finished. I had no idea how well I did, nor did I really care as I had just had a great ride and recovery. I headed inside and got in line to be scored. At the scoring table I came away in pretty good shape. I lost 2 bonuses, one for not writing the complete marker down and another for not properly claiming it. I learned a valuable lesson, to always give more info than needed and to make sure all the blanks are filled in properly. These 2 errors on my part cost me 675 points, but I still walked away with a solid 28,145 points.

After resting in the lobby and chatting with friends, the brunch opened up and once again the meal was great! I ended up being the featured “entertainment” story for the rally and Rob very much enjoyed a fully documented picture of what I did! Everyone enjoyed the story and laugh and I did too; especially now, looking back! The Saddle Sore Riders were announced and then the rally riders were up. Rob decided to read out just the top 10 riders, so I figured I would have to check my position when I got home. As he made it up into the top 5, I was excited to hear several friends did well. Then to my complete surprise I was announced as the third place finisher! My good friend Jim Abbott once again won the rally with an unbelievable 32,165 points; so even if I had managed to bag the 2000 additional points I still would have been about 2000 points behind him. What an impressive ride he had!

In the end I learned a lot on this rally about my limits and abilities. It was a great 24 hour event and I look forward to next year.  Here is a link to all my pictures from the rally.  This is a great write up from my friend Bob on the rally.