Leg 2b: Monday to Friday
This key to this leg for us, and for many others, was getting all ten Mississippi river bonuses. They were mostly low value on their own but completing them gave us an opportunity to claim two high value combination bonuses. One combination was for all ten waypoints, the other was for the waypoints at the start and end of the river. We added/adjusted several waypoints where needed to ensure no nasty surprises (one of the adjustments was a 90 mile addition).
Whilst it was the route I wanted to ride I thought it was tight at nearly 5k miles and we had an animated discussion about whether we should include the Tabasco factory bonus in Louisana. I agreed it was worth a lot of points but if it was a bit of a stinker, e.g. lots of gravel or traffic, I felt it could jeopardise our chances of finishing. Ever willing to compromise (well, for the moment) Kevin said we’d reassess it when we got a lot nearer but there was one bit of the plan he hadn’t told me about yet.
We got up early, packed the bike and just after 04:00 we were in the hotel’s lobby ready to check out with Jeff and Lisa. Our primary focus today was the Mississippi combination bonus but there were a few more we could pick up on the way. Our first stop, a marker at the Missouri River Headwaters, was just over 500 miles away and was daylight only. It wasn’t worth a lot of points but was practically on our route and it would be nice to stretch our legs.
Another rider was about to pull out at the Missouri/Yellowstone confluence in Buford, ND. We climbed the small bluff to the marker we needed to photograph and there was a couple up there who’d obviously settled in for a while with their binoculars to admire the view. I bet they were sick of motorcyclists by the time we’d all finished arriving there. Our final stop before starting on the combination bonuses was the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota and was a pleasant ride down a winding mostly paved track, avoiding the bison and deer on the way, to an overlook providing a rather nice view of the Little Missouri River valley. We were quite late to this daylight-only bonus and the light was fading as we took it. We were sure we’d be the last bike in on that day but we passed another rider going in as were on our way out. It was definitely getting dark by that point, we hope he was able to get a qualifying picture.
We stopped in a Super 8 motel in Bismark, ND, just after 01:15 and were somewhat surprised to see a small child in the lobby playing a computer game. Three and a quarter hours later we were back on the road. It was still dark. Not long after leaving, on I-94, we suddenly swerved. Before I had time to exclaim “What was that?!” I glanced to the right and saw a deer just stepping into our lane.We seemed to have encountered a lot more deer and other wildlife on this rally than the previous two.
A Brief Hello
A couple of hundred miles later, just west of Fargo, Kevin was flagging and decided he needed a sugar hit. “I need a doughnut”, he said, so we pulled into a petrol station and parked next to the other vehicles there (when did a ring doughnut become an acceptable breakfast substitute?!). We’d also use this as an opportunity to top up the water in our Camelbaks.
I leapt into action and went into the shop. I had just grabbed the water and was looking for the doughnuts when a lady approached me and said they’d been watching the spots from the rally and just wanted to say “Hi and Good Luck”. We had a quick chat and she said that her husband was out in the parking lot. I looked out and they were parked right next to the bike. I said “Is that your husband staring at mine?” It was. She said he would not want to disturb a rider so was just watching him. We wandered outside where Kevin had been texting his sister and I told him about these two people who were rally watching. Kevin was quite happy to chat to the couple who said they’d been at the 2017 rally start and finish to watch. They lived in Fargo, were excited to see the rally coming through and had parked where they hoped to see some of the bikes. One other person had passed them but the other riders were on the interstate. They were quite surprised when we stopped. We were on Hwy 200 and probably should have been on the interstate as well but this was the way our GPS had brought us and we were happy to be on a more interesting, albeit slower, road.
It was really nice talking to them, a brief interlude on what can be quite an isolating/lonely journey even when there are two of us. We’ve heard some rally competitors don’t like being interrupted whilst on the rally but we always enjoy the interaction and appreciate it when people go out of their way to say hello. If we were in a hurry and didn’t have time to chat we wouldn’t be shy about politely saying so. Kevin actually found the conversation stimulating and after eating the doughnut he was ready to continue again, refreshed. I think the lady’s name was Nuno and she gave me a quick hug then we were off. If you’re reading this thank you for chatting to us, we enjoyed our short conversation.
We definitely seem to have attracted more than our fair share of peculiar people on this trip but on the whole, just like this lovely couple, everyone we’ve met has been warm, friendly, interested in our trip and helpful.
It is always a surprise to us that people follow the IBR spots in the US then go to places where they might see rally riders. The sheer number of people watching Spotwalla, the fact that the IBA needs to open up a special web site for the IBR because the traffic is so high and the amount of discussion on lots of forums demonstrates that the IBR is a big thing in many places. In Europe there seems to be much less interest. The only places we could even find the 2019 IBR mentioned was on the IBA Ireland Facebook page where there was a brief summary of Joe’s rally and on the IBA Sweden forum where they were discussing Benny’s progress.
Anyway, on to our next stop which was the Mississippi river headwaters in Shelvin, MN. It seemed to be a popular place with several other riders there, including another pillion pair. I marched off to scout the location while Kevin parked the bike and recorded the mileage. “Don’t forget the camera” I said as I left. He seemed to be a long time and when he eventually arrived had to admit, somewhat sheepishly, that he’d got halfway there then gone back for the camera!
Just outside Monticello, MN, the front of the bike started vibrating. Oh no, not again . We were in heavy traffic on a busy road so got into a side road as soon as we could. Off the bike, quick look at the tyres…nope, no puncture (and the rim was in one piece). OK, maybe this time it really is the road. We got back on and carried on. By the time we’d traversed a couple more roads we knew it was not just the roads. Then I said to Kevin “I wonder if the wheel is loose?” Having put that nugget into his brain we had to stop again at the next services. Of course the wheel wasn’t loose but this time we had a much closer look at the tyres which showed the rear was badly worn and equally badly cupped. As predicted, there was no way it was going to last until the end of the rally. Buggrit! Now we needed to find a dealer who had some tyres in stock and would be prepared to fit us in at short notice.
I went into the petrol station and asked if they knew where a Yamaha dealer was. One of the customers overheard and said “Moon Motors”, it was only a few miles away. Luck may yet be on our side.
At Moon Motorsports we explained we needed tyres and that we were currently riding in the IBR. Was there any way they could fit us new tyres right now? The service guy knew about the rally, which always helps, and, even better, they stocked Anakee 3s. Result! We decided to replace the front as well. It probably would have made it to the end but seeing as we were already stopped why take the risk? We were going to be next into the workshop as soon as a technician became free. Just over 2.5 hours later we rode out with newly shod wheels ready for the next onslaught. More time lost but we were still in the rally 😊. Moon Motorsports is yet another name to be added to the long list of people we need to thank for helping us during the rally.
Dave Foley was sitting in the waiting area where we slumped while the tyres were being fitted. He started to chat to Kevin and must have thought him quite rude as all he was getting in response were monosyllabic answers. Kevin was buried in the laptop trying to re-jig an already tight route so we could get back to Greenville with all the bonuses intact. We were due to be at the Fenelon Elevator in Dubuque, IA, before dusk on that day and there was no way we were going to make it now. Eventually he had revised timings that worked, closed the laptop, apologised for being uncommunicative and explained why. “Well you certainly seemed focussed” said Dave. He suggested an ice cream place on the way south but we just didn’t have time which was a shame as we really like ice cream.
The New Plan
Our new schedule had us stopping in Dubuque overnight, claiming the rest bonus there and going to the elevator first thing in the morning. We weren’t sure we were entirely out of the woods as there were two further daylight-only bonuses we needed to get today before we lost the light. The Lake City Lighthouse in Lake City, MN, was110 miles down the road and Pikes Peak. Not THE Pikes Peak which we’d missed on a previous rally, another one in Iowa which was a further 140 miles away. We had no idea what time it got dark in this neck of the woods but we needn’t have worried as there was plenty of light at both locations.
We stopped at a Super 8 in Dubuque and managed to get a full 8 hours rest bonus. Bliss! While I was checking in Kevin was arguing with a strange person in the car park who had pulled up behind him, was beeping his hooter and shouting at Kevin through his car window. Kevin still had his ear plugs in, couldn’t hear what the guy was saying and never responds well to being shouted at. Once he’d got his helmet off it was apparent the car driver wanted Kevin to move the bike so he could park a short way further down in the car park. Kevin pointed out to him that two double-decker buses side by side with space around them could get through the gap between the bike and where the driver wanted to park. I wasn’t there but I can imagine there were some choice words being used! Eventually the driver got the message and moved his car through the enormous gap into the parking space.
I was quite down in the dumps when we reached the room which was a mixture of being very tired and thinking about how much time we’d lost. “Order a pizza to be delivered” said Kevin who knows how to keep me happy. He doesn’t like pizza but when we looked at the Pizza Parlour’s menu we saw it included a steak sandwich. Once I’d eaten I was much happier. I didn’t realise how hungry I had been and when I was a bit more rational I realised that I’d just spent the last week existing on hot dogs, milk-shakes and doughnuts with the odd ‘proper’ meal thrown in. No wonder I was hungry.
In the morning we drove to the ‘elevator’, what we would call a funicular railway. We met Andy Mackey outside who was just leaving (Andy is an old friend from 2013). Kevin was standing chatting to Andy and I had to yell at him to “Come on!” as the car was waiting for us.
The railway was both quaint and lovely and claims to be the shortest and steepest railway in the world. It was originally built in 1882 by a businessman called J K Graves to enable him to have a nap at lunch time! In those days they had 90 minutes for lunch, but it took him half an hour to buggy up the hill and another half an hour to buggy back down to work. Once it was built he found lots of his neighbours wanted to use it. A couple of years later it burned down and when Mr Graves rebuilt it he decided to open it to the public for the grand price of 5 cents a ride. It was not a lucky railway and in 1893 it burned down again. This time, due to the recession, Mr Graves couldn’t afford the rebuild but as the neighbours had come to rely on it some banded together to create the Fenlon Place Elevator Company which continues to this day. If you’d like to learn more about this piece of history check out fenelonplaceelevator.com or click the link.
A couple of elderly ladies were in charge of the running of it and had already had several rally riders in the car before so knew the drill. We paid our fee and sat in the car which slowly descended. At the appropriate point on the tracks the car stopped and a disembodied voice said “Take your photos”. We did as instructed and continued to the bottom where we picked up Lew Ballard, another rider, who took his picture on the way up.
I don’t know how high we were in Dubuque but we were riding downhill on a long gentle slope for miles and miles. I was glad we weren’t on a tandem trying to come the other way as that would really be hard work.
Mr Twain’s Memorial
Missouri has a close association with Mark Twain and our next stop was a lighthouse named in his honour in his home town of Hannibal. It’s a completely landlocked lighthouse originally built as a memorial to Mark Twain in 1935 on what would have been his 100th birthday. The original lighthouse was levelled by a storm in 1960 and rebuilt in 1963. The site on top of Cardiff Hill marks a favourite play area for Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and the gang.
The hill itself is exceptionally steep. It’s approached by an equally steep ramp then a 90° right turn and we nearly came a cropper on it. The Ténéré has two modes of riding which equate to ECU maps. Sport mode is what we almost always use and is the most responsive. Kevin doesn’t like Touring mode as the bike is just gutless then, especially two-up with luggage, but on rallies we use it most of the time as it’s much more frugal with fuel which minimises the time-sapping petrol stops. Even on rallies Kevin will switch back to Sport mode if we’re in the mountains or anywhere else he’d like a bit more power.
As we approached the hill we were in Touring mode. We made the ramp and the turn OK but as the bike started up the hill it died because there just wasn’t enough oomph (technical term!) to pull it up the steep incline. Kevin had both feet on the ground to ensure we stayed upright and the front brake had locked the front wheel but he needed a third foot to engage the rear brake as we were sliding back down the hill. We stopped. Phew! He engaged Sport mode, gave it a lot of throttle and released the clutch only to find that somehow or other he’d managed to put the bike into neutral so all that happened was we started rolling back downhill again. Both feet still on the ground, front brake pulled in again and he desperately needed that third foot as we were sliding much faster and further backwards. “I can’t hold it and I think we’re going to go down this time” he said. It’s funny how in the middle of a crisis we seem to have quite calm and rational conversations. Sometimes there’s just too much information coming over the headset and if we’d gone down I’m pretty sure it would have hurt, a lot! Kevin must have had his dancing shoes on as despite sliding quite a long way backwards he somehow managed to keep us upright with lots of nifty foot work. Phew again!
Making sure we were in first, in Sport mode and with lots of throttle we eventually made it up the hill.
Picture taken, back down the hill and we were on our way.
As previously mentioned there has been quite a lot of flooding this year and our next bonus, the Missouri/Mississippi Confluence, was affected by it. The flooding was such that the road running alongside the river was closed as we neared the waypoint. There were no helpful detour signs, we were just confronted by a ‘Road Closed’ sign on our way in. We needed to get as close as possible to the waypoint so we just headed away from the river and kept trying to get back to it until there were no longer any road closure signs. A state trooper who drove past as we got as close as we possibly could told us they weren’t even sure the marker for the Missouri/Mississippi confluence was still there. We documented the flooded road with a photo.
We needed to take two photos for the Old Chain of Rocks bridge waypoint in Granite City. One from the Illinois bank and the other from the middle of the bridge. Needless to say we approached it from the Missouri side. The bridge was closed on this side for construction but there was a sign saying we could access the bridge from the other end. That was OK as we needed a photo from that side of the bridge anyway. We jumped on the bike and headed over to Illinois only to be faced with yet more road closure signs. There was no way to get on to the bridge. We took photos of the road closure and then needed to go back to the Missouri side to take a photo there to show the bridge was inaccessible from both sides (shame we didn’t think of that before).
It was very hot so when it started to rain in St Louis we were quite pleased; often the rain is over in minutes leaving us feeling cool and refreshed. This time though it continued and there was quite a storm. We managed to traverse St Louis without encountering any more marauding truck drivers.
By the time we got to our next waypoint in Fort Defiance Park in Cairo, IL, we were quite cold and we took advantage of the stop to put our electric jackets on. The place we needed to access for our photo was another of those areas which had been flooded.
Coming from England where the weather is relatively mild it always surprises me how extreme the weather can be in the US. The thunder storms that we came through were exhilarating, if not a little scary. At one point we were riding along with lightning going off all around us – both in the clouds and forked – when suddenly ‘CRACK!’ a bolt of lightning arced across the sky directly above us. It was so close we heard the fizz as the lightning split the sky and the very loud clap of thunder happened immediately afterwards. It reminded me of a Harry Potter spell – Acceleratum! I shrieked and Kevin laughed. I’m not sure if he was laughing at my shriek or it was maniacal laughter because he loves storms! [The former. I save the maniacal laughter for when I’m on my own. Kevin].
Our last stop of the day was the Isle of Capri Casino in Lula, MS, where we arrived just after 00:30. This time we needed a gaming chip that showed the casino name and town, and a photo of the entrance. It was the first time either of us had ever bought a gaming chip so I hadn’t got a clue what I was doing. The staff were very helpful but I’m not at all sure what they thought of me wandering through the casino with my crash helmet on.
Last Rest of the Rally
One of the things Kevin promised me when we first started doing the Iron Butt Rally was that we’d take rests in a bed every night apart from the last, however short that rest may be. At the Casino I asked about accommodation and was told about places nearby. Unfortunately they were in the wrong direction so we pushed on to the next town en route which proved to be Cleveland, MS, more than sixty miles away. There were four hotels on the way in but they were all full and it takes valuable sleep time to find that out. We’d decided to move on the next town, hoping it wasn’t too far away, when we passed the Super 6 Inn and Suites on the way out of Cleveland. Hmm, wonder why none of the people we spoke to had mentioned that one? As I paid for our stay the receptionist put a notice on the table in front of me which contained a list of things the rooms didn’t have, including a coffee machine. The other thing it didn’t have was any refunds. Hmm again, I wonder what the room is going to be like? To be honest I was too tired to care.
Shall I just say it wasn’t the best motel we’ve ever stayed in but we appeared to have a clean bed, we needed some sleep and we managed three hours of that before we had to be back on the road.
So this was it, our final rally riding day. Remember I said we were going to discuss the Tabasco factory bonus on Avery Island, LA, when we were nearer? It wasn’t much of a discussion as there was no way Kevin was going to give it up. The disconcerting part of the plan he hadn’t told me about was we were going there before we went to the waypoint that completed the Mississippi combination bonus. His reasoning was quite simple – it saved 100 miles over finishing the combination then visiting the factory. I wasn’t comfortable with the plan, I was really worried about losing the combination bonus but he wasn’t budging. I couldn’t argue with his logic and he proved to be quite right.
On our way through Mississippi, the state, we witnessed even more flooding. There were complete fields that were underwater and many houses poking up through the water. I have read that the flooding has affected an estimated 860 square miles. We saw lots of ‘President Trump finish the pumps’ protest signs but I have to wonder where they could pump the water to? It was quite heart breaking to see so many ruined lives and this was only one small spot. I assume it must have been the same around the I29.
Mmm, Fresh Doughnuts!
We stopped for petrol and Kevin decided it was doughnut and coffee time again. The doughnuts inside the filling station didn’t look very appetising so I asked if they had any fresher ones. The assistant directed me next door to a place called Divine Donuts where they made them; I hadn’t noticed the adjacent property when I went in. The doughnuts were really fresh and tasted lovely.
We got to the Tabasco factory and met about 6 other riders. It’s always reassuring when you meet other riders, especially this close to the end of the rally. I told Kevin to have a rest for a few minutes as there were lots of people milling about who could take my photo with the penny pressing machine and I got the required squished ‘penny’ with the Tabasco logo.
At last we were on our way to Venice for our final Mississippi combination bonus. It was on a peninsula with about 55 miles to ride to the end. When talking to Dave in Moon Motorsports he said he’d ridden down this way intending to ride to Venice but eventually decided it just wasn’t worth it and turned round. We had very good reason to go there. It started off badly with a very busy town but soon petered out into odd houses here and there. We were riding alongside the edge of the sea and could see large vessels moored.
As we were riding in we saw other bikes coming the other way (obviously ahead of us) and everyone waved. We’d seen quite a few other riders during the rally and everyone always waves to one another. These waves seemed different – a really cheerful and encouraging Keep going we’ve nearly finished! wave, or perhaps that was just our imagination. There’s definitely an esprit de corps feel at this stage of the rally.
The Long Night
Neither of us was looking forward to the traffic on the way back out but the GPS seemed to be taking us in a different direction and we were surprised to discover ourselves at the Algiers ferry terminal, just in time to see the ferry gate close.
We were pleased to miss the traffic but sitting there for 30 minutes or so in the heat on a metal grating roadway which meant the bike couldn’t be put on its stand wasn’t pleasant. We assume the ferry staff weren’t very used to loading bikes. There were plenty of places on the small ferry where the bike could have been comfortably parked but the slope in the place they directed Kevin to meant he couldn’t put the bike on the stand there either. At least the lady ferry assistant realised we needed a bit of swing space to turn the bike at right angles off the ferry and moved the vehicle next to us first.
We tend not to plan for a hotel stop on the last night. Our original plan had been to see if we could add more bonuses after the big Mississippi combination but the time lost having our tyres changed and the resultant reschedule of our route meant we had a lot less time than anticipated. Deciding we’d done enough we just headed for the hotel.
What we didn’t realise was we went within ten miles of the Port Pontchartrain Lighthouse in New Orleans. It was hidden under another waypoint in Basecamp (the mapping software we use) so we didn’t realise it was there. It wasn’t worth a huge number of points but every little helps and it was so close to our route we would definitely have gone there if we’d realised. As we were writing this blog Kevin realised we didn’t claim a combination bonus we were entitled to either. Again it was relatively low scoring for a combination but…
The weather was still up-and-down and we encountered another torrential storm. This time it was raining so hard that many cars pulled over and stopped (same as they did in 2017 when we hit a storm) and the others turned on their hazard lights and went very slowly. It’s best to keep going at a reasonable speed on a bike as the impetus helps keep it stable in the wind but the slow speed coupled with the very gusty wind meant we were being blown around quite a bit, especially as we went over large bridges. I suggested we pull over for a while but Kevin said it was manageable. The trip back in the torrential rain was reminiscent of the run back to the IBR finish in 2013. The road flooded then and Kevin was unable to keep up with the two large trucks whose lights he was borrowing. This time there was no flooding and we kept behind a truck that seemed to be in hurry until we were disappointed to see it turn off.
We discussed taking some time for a nap but Kevin was feeling OK so we didn’t bother, he just topped up with coffee and had a short break every time we stopped for fuel. We rolled into the hotel car park at 05:00 on the dot having ridden 4213 miles since leaving Kennewick. Perfect timing! Even at that time of the day there was a small crowd of people there to welcome the riders back. Lots of smiling faces and clapping is a great way to finish. Thanks to everyone who turned out.
A Good Sleep at Last
We were scored by Tim Masterson. All IBR scorers do their best to take any pain out of the process but it is always going to be stressful because of the possibility of having made errors and losing points; maybe even losing enough points to ensure you don’t qualify as a finisher. Tim took us calmly through the process step by step, explaining what he was doing at every stage and it was just so relaxing Kevin said he was falling asleep! It was a really good experience. No penalty points this time and we’d miscalculated so had a slightly higher score than expected. I did comment to Tim that I thought the Klammath Falls receipt (for our wheel replacement) would be the highest value receipt they would come across on the rally. It was a lucky coincidence that we broke down at a receipt location but I’m not sure the $/points ratio was very favourable.
The GPS said we’d ridden 9517 miles during the rally.
We ate breakfast then nipped back to Powersports to have the wheel balances checked as we were still experiencing some vibration. That done we jumped into the shower then gratefully into bed and had a lovely long sleep.
The Finisher’s Banquet
During the presentations that evening we were somewhat surprised to find ourselves in 26th position and the top 2-up team. On day 1 we’d harboured two secret goals – a gold finish and the highest placed pillion pair. Both were somewhat ambitious given how little preparation we’d done. After the time we’d lost we were delighted to achieve one of those, and with our silver medal position.
103 bikes were listed as starters at the beginning of the rally. 97 actually started of which seven were pillion pairs. 26 were listed as DNF, two of them pillion pairs, so 71 bikes made it to the end, five with a pillion, with enough points to qualify as finishers.
Of the other European riders Giel abandoned the rally during leg 1 after a rear tyre blow-out and significant problems with his GPS units. Joe, who went north to Alaska from Kennewick during leg 2, had problems with an uncomfortable seat and was forced off the road into a ditch by a pick-up resulting in broken mirrors and indicators plus other damage to the bike. He too took the sensible decision to abandon the rally. Benny made it to the end and is the proud recipient of one of the three-digit numbers reserved for IBR finishers. We were sorry that Giel and Joe weren’t able to finish, in fact we’re sorry that anyone had to DNF but I guess that’s the Iron Butt Rally.
The top 10 finishers are called up for special attention. Suddenly there are only two people standing there – Wendy Crockett and Mike Heitkamp. There was a lot of speculation – would Wendy be the first woman to win the IBR? It was her 5th IBR and she is a popular figure in the community. I was struggling to see so stood on the chair. All around people were waiting with bated breath.
Then it was announced that Mike was second. The room erupted. I was so chuffed for Wendy but have to say I felt a twinge of sorrow for Mike. Second is a really great achievement but it had been a little overshadowed by Wendy’s win and she won it by a country-mile. I hope he didn’t mind. Wendy has written a short piece explaining why she rallies which is very well written and sums it up beautifully. Click to open text
Endurance riding isn’t for everyone. We’re the 1% of the 1%, and even that is probably a pretty generous figure. Not everyone understands why we do what we do; some people don’t care at all, some are intrigued while acknowledging that it’s not something they’d personally pursue, and some are quite vocal in declaring that this is NOT the right way to ride a motorcycle. No one is obligated to condone or participate in endurance riding, but I thought I might shed a little light on why I personally love this type of riding in the context of the 2019 Iron Butt Rally rally.
In the course of these 11 days I watched the sun rise over the vast, rugged Nevada desert. I watched the sun set from the lush beauty of the Gaspe Penninsula. I felt the weight of a deep, moonless night in one of the most distant corners of the Everglades. I felt the buzz of humanity in a traffic jam in Washington DC at 1am on a Friday morning. You can do any one those things right now, should you desire. Load up, head out, and be confident that you can have those experiences at your leisure.
I also traversed some earth that you almost certainly will never ride, because there is absolutely no good reason to be there. I rode nearly 100 miles north of an already far-flung town on virtually flawless asphalt to reach a small informational sign overlooking a remote dam. Aside from being a dam employee, there is no logical reason to travel this road. And yet there I was, with beautiful blacktop unfurling along the shores of a stunningly beautiful reservoir, beams of sunlight stabbing through silver skies to highlight the perimeter of rugged, verdant cliffs deep in the Canadian Rockies, and I had it all to myself. I reached the terminus of this quest, snapped a quick picture, and saddled up for the return journey. In what seemed like only minutes, I reached a sign indicating that I would be intersecting the main highway in 20kms, and I was legitimately disappointed. I was in the middle of nowhere, with no practical reason to be there, and I was disappointed that this amazing bit of moto-perfection was coming to an end.
But you could go there. If you’d like to go to Mica Dam, you certainly can put that on your bucket list. But there’s more to it than that. At some point – I couldn’t tell you exactly where - I was riding in the rain in the middle of the night when the wind shifted just so, such that the only sound, the only sensation in the world, was the quite pull of my tires against wet pavement. I was riding through a misty dawn when I came upon a moose in a field of wild flowers – tall, willowy flowers in every imaginable shade of red, pink, orange, purple, and white – simply enjoying her breakfast and regarding me with the same fascination with which I regarded her. I’ve had just exactly the right song show up on my playlist at just exactly the right minute, as though the cosmos was telling me that this is exactly where I was intended to be at this very moment in time. I’ve watched the breathtaking symphony of distant thunderstorms, powerful and beautiful and nearly impossible to capture in all of its majesty; it simply must be experienced and absorbed. I’ve had moments where the sky is so blue, the air so calm and warm, the ride so fluid and so effortless, that the entire world melts away and I’m left with a calm focus that I can only imagine must rival the most ardent practitioners of meditation. I have formed connections with people who, outside of this pursuit, I never would have had occasion to meet, people who make my life richer, fuller, more complete.
This is my zen. This is my release. This is my connection with that which is both greater than myself and deep within myself. You can’t put those moments into your gps. You can’t plot a trip to the place where your soul will heal or grow or quiet or shout for joy. You just have to put yourself out there. Your place may come through hiking or biking. Sailing or soaring. Brushing the dog or holding your new grandchild. I hope you all have a space in the world where you find your best self; this is mine. On two wheels, exploring, experiencing, looking for any opportunity to avail myself of the majesty of the universe. The more you’re out there, the greater the likelihood that these moments will find you. Rally riding is not for everyone, but its right for me. Any excuse to be out there, leaning, twisting, seeing, smelling, feeling, focusing, absorbing; any opportunity to be so overwhelmed by the majesty of it all that I have no choice but to hone in and thoroughly experience the precise splendor of this solitary moment. This is why I rally.
This event is one that really does make you feel proud to be part of such a caring community and we feel very lucky and privileged to be in a position to participate. There are always the shoulda, coulda, woulda thoughts but there were times during this rally when we were certain we were going to DNF and we were very happy to have finished. Anyone who has read this far will realise there’s a long list of people we had to thank for that. This list includes Jason Jonas who allows us all to share our wonderful adventures with friends, family and anyone else who is just curious via his Spotwalla web site, and Steve and Tobie for their photographs.
Last but certainly not least, the one set of people we haven’t yet thanked are the rally staff. Lisa did a brilliant job as rally master, the puzzle Jeff set us was very well constructed and took us on some fabulous roads and John kept everyone up to date with what was happening during the rally. Those three, with Mike Kneebone, Warchild and the army of rally volunteers, both during and prior to the rally, make this event possible and do an amazing job. We are very thankful for the time and effort they put in.
At the start of the rally we were asked “What are your top 3 goals for the 2019 IBR?”. Our answer: Have fun (check!), see the country (check!), finish (check!). Job done 😊.