Leg 2: 05-07 July 2013
There’s no denying we made a complete pig’s ear of this leg and it started at the planning stage…
We took the bonus listings back to our room to start to plan for leg two which was to finish on 7th July in Sacramento, a mere 2467 miles away.
Everyone has their own method for sorting out routes. We go through the listings and colour code the bonuses high (red), medium (green), low (blue) then try to work out a route with as many reds/greens as possible.
There was a combination bonus which gave an extra 10,500 points for completing all 34 ‘Pony Express’ bonuses. We seriously looked at this but each of the 34 bonuses was relatively low value so it would rely on getting to all 34 and ensuring we made no mistake with any of them. It really was an all or nothing option that we decided not to risk. We looked at the other options and chose a route that would take us to Denver for a couple of red bonuses. With hind-sight we were too ambitious with our planning and ended up dropping a few bonuses en route; fortunately they were low value.
Our downfall on this leg was that we completely missed the key bonus – a trip to Pikes Peak Cog Railway for a massive 8666 points, more than eight times the value of any other single bonus waypoint. We’ve no idea how we missed it, our entire route should have been built round it, but miss it we did.
Anyway, here’s what we did.
This delightful ride was our first stop – we had to take a ride and get our picture whilst on the train. The driver and conductor were very enthusiastic (being volunteers) and gave us a potted history of the car, they were very interesting to listen to. We were excited to learn that the train we were in was the original ‘Streetcar Named Desire’. (Now I’ve got to get the book and read it).
Anyone not familiar with Iron Butt Rally rules may be wondering why our ‘flag’ is in all of the pictures. Well, the flag is an essential part of the rally. It has a number unique to each rider, in our case 43, and proves we took the photo as part of the rally and didn’t dredge it up from a previous visit. As we are a rider and pillion pair one of us also has to be in every photo. Most photos only require the flag and one of us but occasionally the instructions require the bike to be in the photo and sometimes the rider him/herself. In the latter case we both have to be in the picture. If the flag is lost you, or in our case both of us, have to be in all the photos from the point at which we lost the flag to the end of the rally and points are lost at the final checkpoint. It sounds simple doesn’t it? After thousands of miles and days of riding it’s very easy to make a mistake and people do. One of our friends got it into his head there were only 33 Pony Express bonuses and didn’t go to the 34th, another rider got to all 34 but forgot to include his bike in one of the pictures that required it. All that effort for so little reward. It’s heartbreaking but that’s the Iron Butt Rally.
We had to go to a museum to photograph a specific bike. Unfortunately the bike was off for renovation so after a quick check with Lisa, the Rally Master, we left with alternative proof of our visit. That was a nice quick stop then off to the next one which was a gravestone in a huge graveyard. When we got there we stopped at the cemetery map and Kevin asked “What are we looking for?”. I said “Get the listing”. He said “You had it”. I said “I haven’t got it”….
Sinking feeling. Where the heck was it?
We decided I must have left it at the museum. I felt sick. Without that listing our rally was over. Luckily it was only 15 miles away. On another bonus it could have been hundreds of miles away. We retraced our steps, praying no-one had picked it up by mistake.
Luckily when we got back to the museum there it was, just where I had left it! Phew! OK, calm down, back to the cemetery. Put it behind us and look forward.
Everything is bigger scale than at home, including the grain silos (I assume this is what they are). Truly on an industrial scale. Kevin commented that he thought I only take ‘pretty’ pictures so I’m endeavouring to take some more of the ‘grittier’ side of things. Apologies if some of the pictures later on are not so pleasing on the eye.
One very small (100 points) bonus was in the United States Air Force Museum where we had to photograph the Mercury Spacecraft. The museum is HUGE and we had to walk (well, trot actually) all the way to the back, through crowds of people, to get to the Space section. All for 100 points! Well worth it though as the museum is fascinating and we will definitely try to get back there to have a proper look before heading home.
Considering how many miles we are all travelling and how many different bonus locations there are, it is surprising that you do occasionally meet up with other nutters er, riders, at the stops. This is Ian, another Aussie, who we saw on a couple of consecutive stops. He was always very cheerful and a delight to meet. He was happy to spend a few minutes chatting and even took a photo of us. The photo was taken in a tiny village with a commemorative plaque for a biplane and train race (sounds like something Top Gear would get up to) on an interchange with the delightfully silly name of ‘East Scroggin Avenue’
One of Kevin’s promises to me was that we would spend each night in a proper bed. Six hours was our aim but we didn’t always make it. We had a five hour stop this evening and got up early ready to tackle some of the Pony Express bonuses. The first one was the starting point for the riders’ 2000 mile journey. They took 10 days to ride it and having ridden it on today’s modern ‘steel horse’ I have every admiration for those tough guys. I was surprised when Kevin told me the Pony Express was very short-lived and reading about it later I saw it only lasted 18 months before being superseded by the telegraph. Somehow the romance of it has got into our psyche and everyone knows about it.
The starting point now holds a Pony Express museum and very little else.
Aeroplanes and pilots featured heavily in the bonus listings and we rode to Amelia Erhart’s house which was a charming place in a lovely little town. The roads leading out were less than charming though being rough gravel. I can see Amelia came from a privileged background.
As everything in the US, even the farm vehicles are super-sized. This one held us up for a few minutes.
There were Pony Express Stations all along the route. Most of them have now been lost, or moved to more convenient locations, but this one is believed to be the only one left in situ (and reasonably original).
I was giving Kevin some grief about going to Denver as I didn’t think we had enough time despite there being a lot of points available there. At this waypoint he decided I’d gone on about it long enough and got the laptop out to show me it was rideable.
Somehow we found ourselves on a local route rather than the interstate. It was very hot and we decided that we should stop for a drink and breakfast (at lunch time). We stopped in a McD’s and were mid-lunch when a guy came in. “How’s the rally going?” he asked. Surprised we said OK, how did he know we were on the rally and he said he’d been following the rally spots, had seen one coming into town and had to pop in to say hi. He said it was a small town and they had to make their own entertainment! I am always blown away by how much interest there is in the rally and how friendly people are towards the entrants. Hi Wally, if you’re reading this, you made our day and your sticker is still on our pannier.
Inevitably it started to rain, but it was quite refreshing and didn’t last too long.I’m sure the pillion clinging to her man on a Harley with only a skimpy pair of shorts and a tiny tee shirt didn’t think the same!
We caught up with a couple more rallyists at a locomotive museum and exchanged horror stories. Tom, who has been in the rally many times, had left his flag at an early bonus so was having to be in all his photos. It just shows how easy it is to make mistakes when a veteran like Tom can do something like that. We were just pleased that our earlier error had been easily rectified.
We had a lovely ride through Wyoming where the landscape just goes on forever. You come round a bend thinking it’s over and there’s another huge vista before you. This time of the evening was just perfect with the sun disappearing behind the mountains.
You can see from the photo below that lots of the roads suffer badly and are patched up with that horrible ‘overbanding’, a motorcyclists’ nightmare.
The organisers had been very generous with provision for a Rest Bonus – minimum of 4 hours, maximum of 8. We were hoping to take the full 8 but when we had a work out of what we needed to do the next day we decided we could not afford the time. We sacrificed some hours of our Rest Bonus to get some more riding in. Here’s another example of our Leg 2 mistakes. The Rest Bonus has to be taken on a specific day. We belatedly realised we could have used our previous night’s sleep rest for our Rest Bonus which started at 00.15 so would have been acceptable. As we’d only just thought of it we hadn’t got the required receipts so had to count this one which was shorter.
We had another early start and were in Salt Lake City before it really woke up.
After the city we were making our way to the Bonneville Salt Flats. We seemed to be riding in the centre of an enormous crater which went on for miles and miles. We’d been riding for an hour or so when I asked Kevin how far we’d been as we still hadn’t got to the edge, it was about 70 miles. This really is a vast country.
Eventually we saw recognisable salt flats (although these bits weren’t flat at all) and then we got to the sign we needed to photograph for our bonus. We were pleased to see Robert there as he’d had problems getting a new tyre for his old bike. We had a quick catch up and a chat with some other visitors resulted in being able to have our photo taken all together.
We continued on towards Sacramento, bagging some more pony express bonuses and melting as we went. It seemed to be getting hotter and hotter. We did come past another rallyist, Kurt on his ‘hopeless class’ 250 Ninja. He looked very uncomfortable on this little sports bike. Brave man, I hope he likes the picture.
Finally we were at the Sacramento Marriott and ready to score. It was really nice being cheered in by people we knew and had ridden in Iceland with and by people we didn’t know.
We knew we’d screwed up by missing the big bonus but also knew we had enough points to exceed the minimum suggested. “Did you have a good leg?” asked our scorer, “No!” we both said in unison then started laughing. Our ‘mid pack’ rating was going to be pushed and we found ourselves at position 77, down 30 places.
We consoled ourselves with the fact that even if we had gone to Pikes Peak we didn’t know the queues there can be over an hour long unless you get there first thing in the morning. We may have lost a lot of riding time. Still, 8666 points…coulda, shoulda, woulda…
We had a quick bite to eat then went round the corner to Haustyle Motorcycles to get new tyres and an oil change. The bike was going really well and the rear tyre still had loads of tread left. The front one was shot, probably due to it losing air. Massive thanks to Andy Mackey who pulled the wheels and did the oil change (he was only there to say “Hi” to people!), to Clarke for opening on a Sunday evening, changing the tyres and for the very welcome cold drinks and to Eric for asking Clarke to open for us all. Hi to Don who we spent a couple of hours chatting to, we hope to see you soon.
So, we need to have a big leg for leg 3 if we are going to be able to finish. In bed by 11.30 in anticipation of the 6 am bonus listing. Night night…