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Jul 17 2013

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Iron Butt Rally 2013

Leg 3: 08-12 July 2013

IBR13-Leg-3-Map

IBR Leg 3: 08-12 July, 4424 Miles

Having screwed up the second leg we were determined to have a better leg 3. When we got the bonus pack we saw there was a large cluster of high value bonuses in the North West. They looked promising but scoring opportunities were a bit sparse after that so we decided against going there. That left the lower route back through the desert again. Not something we were looking forward to, particularly as Kevin really doesn’t like the heat (he says once it gets to around 32◦C his body says “It’s too hot, let’s go to sleep”), but at least we knew what to expect after our Coast-to-Coast.

Before moving south there were several bonuses in San Francisco. Great, another big city for us to exercise our ability to get lost in! Beggars can’t be choosers and there were quite a few points available there so we found ourselves heading in that direction. We knew we had to take a picture of the Golden Gate bridge. What we didn’t realise until a bit later was we could get two bonuses by taking a picture from either end. To cut a long and very hot story short, we ended up going round in circles. By the time we’d been in and out of the city several times we were getting friendly with the people we kept passing. I think we went over the Golden Gate bridge three times but it’s all a bit of a blur.

Never mind, we got all the bonuses we wanted from San Francisco and moved South towards the desert again.

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You can see why California is such a successful wine producing area. There are miles and miles of huge vineyards. This is wine growing on an industrial scale. I wonder where all the water comes from as outside the fields it’s just desert so there must be lots of irrigation. We noticed elsewhere that a lot of the fields are circular where the irrigation rigs go round.

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Another new area going under cultivation

We bagged a few more bonuses,some more Pony Express and some more Air Museums. There are a lot of air museums in the US. There are also a lot of redundant aircraft as we saw as we passed by the Aeroplane Park in Arizona.

We were retracing steps from our previous ride a lot of the time but you always notice something new and the sky was particularly interesting. One of our games is spotting shapes in the clouds. Well you have to do something to pass the time!

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Zoom in to see the aeroplanes

These rallies can be a little frustrating in that we arrive somewhere really interesting but there’s no time to have a proper look around. The Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum, which is in a very pretty Bavarian-looking town, was another example of this. We arrived here in the dark and could only press our noses against the window to admire the pristine looking bikes, many of which we’d never heard of. Another site to put on on our ‘must return to’ list.

We met FJR-mounted Chris at several waypoints and happened to be entering LA with him in the dark. Most of the bonuses here were time-barred to us but there was one any time bonus, another aeroplane, available. Then we ran into a traffic jam…at around midnight! California is a civilised state as it allows filtering but for much of the time there was no way through. Still, we didn’t get held up for too long.

We cleared LA then checked into a Motel 6 for three hours in Palm Springs, about 100 miles short of our intended stopping place for that evening but we’d lost time in San Francisco and had covered 800 miles so we weren’t too unhappy.

Out in the middle of the desert, about 450 miles from our overnight stop, is a Minuteman silo where people were holed up waiting for the instruction to turn the keys to enable them to participate in the ending of the world as we know it. Now the Cold War is over the silo is open to the public and was one of our high point bonuses. We were extremely hot when we arrived but were buoyed up by a lady cheering as we entered the car park. Raven is a long distance rider and had enjoyed seeing the riders at Pikes Peak (don’t mention that to us!) so much that she’d decided to take the day off and cheer on people coming to the silo. It amazes me how much enjoyment other people get from the Rally and it’s always a boost when we meet them.

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At the Doomsday control panel

The silo reminded me a bit of being on a submarine and a bit of my old job working for GEC Avionics.

Once again our planned route proved to be over-ambitious and we weren’t going to get to some daylight-only bonuses. Out with the laptop in the silo’s car park and time for a re-plan.

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The road goes on endlessly

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I was glad we retraced our steps here as the last time I tried to take this picture the battery in the camera had gone flat. It’s just a random load of rocks in the middle of nowhere!

One of the bonuses was a motel sign just past Tombstone which was a bit of a detour off the main road. It’s quite close to the Mexico border and there was a Border Control checkpoint on our way out. Oh no, how much time would that cost? There was not much of a queue and when we got to the guard he took one look at us and said “You’re running late. Go!” I guess we weren’t the first IBR people through.

We saw signs for ‘The Thing’ during our Coast to Coast. They intrigued Kevin who said if we’d had time he might stop to see what it was. Luckily for him it was one of the bonuses. It was nothing spectacular though. We were expecting…well, I’m not quite sure what we were expecting but it was just an odd collection of items, lots of odd shaped bits of wood and several interesting vehicles including the one we needed to photograph, a carriage used by Abraham Lincoln on his inauguration parade (we may be doing the place a disservice as we walked through very quickly). Attached to the buildings housing the exhibits was the largest shop selling tat we’d ever seen.

About two hundred and fifty miles after the Minuteman silo, still relatively early in the day, we were in trouble. Kevin was really struggling with the heat and was in quite a bit of pain from his coccyx which had been fractured in a bike accident some years ago. We had a discussion and decided to take an early but short break then ride through the night when it should be a little cooler; we’d only ridden 700 miles that day which wasn’t enough and we were concerned about a DNF. After a very short sleep we were back on the road, Camelbaks full of ice which takes a long time to do but is necessary, even at night, and Kevin full of painkillers. Kevin also started to put open bags of ice down the front of his jacket which eventually resulted in ice burns on his stomach and bruising (presumably from the chunks of ice being hit by the tank bag) but they provided relief from the heat.

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Sunrise over the desert

Our first waypoint of the day was the ferry from Bolivar to Galverston, 960 miles away. We knew we couldn’t achieve the target we’d set ourselves before we next checked into a hotel – about 1700 miles – but we were going to see how far we could get. Having ridden about 600 miles I heard this over the intercom: “We have 350 miles to go to the ferry and 1000 miles or so before our planned rest. I think we’re going to be OK”. I knew I was starting to lose my mind when not only did this make perfect sense to me but I agreed!

As we neared the ferry we wondered whether it would be our undoing when we began to see lots of signs warning of long queues and telling us not to overtake (of course, being on a bike we weren’t allowed to queue hop like we would in Europe). We were lucky. As we approached the ferry there were no queues but Kevin thought we’d just missed one. As it turned out we had about 5 minutes to spare. The other side had a variety of houses on stilts and we were treated to the sight of a large flock of geese flying by.

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Relaxing on the ferry

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Nodding donkeys were a key feature in this landscape

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Sorry, another one of those large industrial installations

Eventually the heat and short sleep rest we’d had took its toll and we decided we needed to stop for a short while. We set the Screaming Meanie and Kevin was able to get to sleep but just as I was nodding off I felt a sharp prick on my neck. Investigation showed that my bag, which I was using as a pillow, was inundated with ants. I had laid right on top of a nest and they had quickly detected a half-eaten protein bar in my bag. It took me ages to get the bag cleared up. I also found the little blighters in my jacket and helmet. It’s really disconcerting when an ordinary itch on your head (quite common in this heat under a helmet) grows out of all proportion when you think there may be an ant crawling around there!

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“Iron Butt Motel”

We needed to take our rest bonus so checked into a motel some 300 miles short of our target. Still, we’d ridden just over 1400 miles which wasn’t too shabby. A quick calculations showed us we could only stop for four hours otherwise we’d be time-barred at the large bonus in Kitty Hawk. Normally we set two alarms but we only set my one this time and I made a mistake which meant the stop would be for five hours. We realised my error when we awoke and, once again, we were in trouble. This time it was serious as we thought there would be NO TIME FOR ICE CREAM during our journey east! 😯 Armed with this last statement, anyone who knows us well will fully understand the gravity of the situation we found ourselves in.

Kitty Hawk, a daylight-only bonus, was about 1000 miles away. Sunset there was at 20:30 and we had 30 minutes of civil twilight after that by which time we needed to have taken our photo. It was going to be tight.

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We rode though Louisiana and the Carolinas. We needed to go out to the far east of North Carolina to get to the Wright Brothers’ memorial at Kitty Hawk. Time was pressing but we needn’t have worried as we did manage to sneak one ice cream in :). As we were nearing the waypoint, Kevin was flagging. We’d ridden all this way and it was looking like a no-go. The weather was stormy, the sky was black. Where was the sun?

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Was it worth it or should we make the decision to skip it and stop to give Kevin’s back a rest? He was in dire need of some encouragement. “We’re wasting our time” I heard through the intercom. “Well, if we stop and don’t take a photo we’re DNF. At least with a photo we have some chance.” It did the trick.

We turned off the main road. 60 miles. What a long 60 miles that was. It was lots of little villages and the speed limit was (to us) frustratingly low. I kept looking back. I could see the glimmer where the sun was – it still wasn’t down. In the direction we were heading though, the clouds were black.

Now we only had the last 9 miles. We’d be OK, it was still ‘light’. Aaaaggghhh! It wasn’t the 9 miles of open countryside I was expecting, it was a strip of shops and traffic lights. Why were they all red?

Finally we reached the waypoint. There were a couple of other bikes there including Ken who always took the time to have a short chat whenever we saw him on the road, something we really appreciated. He pointed out we had about another 15 minutes before the end of civil twilight. We’d done it!

What a rush.

Photo taken and Sam turned up, even later than we were, but still just within the window.

We went to the nearest petrol station to get a receipt to prove the time we were there, then found a McD’s for some well earned food. Now all we had to do was ride the 525 miles back to Pittsburgh.

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Kevin sharing a joke with Ken at the Kitty Hawk waypoint

We had our final major bonus, now the IBR had one last trick to play on us. It had been raining on and off but now it got really heavy. Our XM radio warning had shown ‘Flash floods in the area’. Well, we had to keep going. We were riding on really badly lit state roads (as opposed to Interstate roads) with no cats’ eyes or even painted lines on the surface to show where the road went and the weather was appalling. We struggled to keep up with a couple of trucks which were just ploughing through the water as we needed their lights, despite the array of lights we had on the bike. We followed them through a flood that came over the footpegs (we learned that later riders were turned back at the same spot by the Police, so we were lucky). Eventually we came to the Interstate which was better lit but it just kept raining. It was our own fault because we’d said we’d like it to rain for 11 days as the heat was too much. I have to say that even though this was biblical rain it was still better than the heat.

We stopped for a rest at one of the Rest areas. Another of the rally riders was having an Iron Butt Motel sleep there too. We stopped again at a petrol station a short way up the road as our previous stop had been too short. Kevin managed to get some sleep before the *$£%&! of a manager woke him up to tell him he couldn’t sleep there (‘there’ being out of the way of anyone else in the corner of the forecourt). When Kevin asked him why he was told it was in case he got robbed…in a busy petrol station with a State Trooper parked close by?! Fortunately he’d had just enough sleep to get us back to the finishing point.

A few miles down the road we passed a bike on its side. The police and medics were in attendance and there was nothing we could do so we pressed on. Nothing else to do but to keep going and keep concentrating. We found out later that it was unfortunately one of ours, Ken who had been so encouraging to us earlier (he was OK but suffered a broken collar bone).

Was that a glimmer in the sky? Yes! Morning had arrived. As the sun came up and the traffic got busier we bagged three last bonuses, the Penn Turnpike get-a-receipt-from each-of-these-services bonuses. I was in and out in record time.

Last turn into the hotel. We’d made it! It was about 07:50 so there wasn’t much time to spare but arriving early is just wasted bonus-collecting time.

I was overwhelmed by the reception. There were lots of people cheering us on. I was so pleased we’d made it there were tears in my eyes and a big lump in my throat. I was so proud of Kevin for getting us through this challenge. The riding, the navigating, the ‘noise on the back’ (me!). He’d achieved our goal and got us to the finishing post in one piece [It was a team effort and the ‘being proud’ was mutual; I would not have done it without you. Kevin]

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Photo courtesy of Joe Yarzebinski (thanks for sending us the photos Joe)

We didn’t lose any points at the scoring table. [What Lyn hasn’t mentioned is that she does all of the paperwork and she did it brilliantly. We didn’t lose a point over the entire rally. Kevin]. Our final score was 66,118 and our mileage 10,043 giving us a bronze position in 35th place, a leap of 42 places. Having screwed up leg 2, to say we were pleased would have been an understatement.

IBR13-Full-Map

2013 IBR: 01-12 July, 10,043 Miles

Of the 96 bikes that started the rally 67 achieved finisher status. Of those that didn’t quite make it, five had accidents, six had mechanical problems and the rest had unspecified issues that caused them to abort (statistics courtesy of Bob Higdon on the LDRider list).

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The European Class of 2013. We all finished apart from Robert whose XBR 500 let him down.

Permanent link to this article: http://thewellers.net/motorcycling/iron-butt-rally-2013