2010 IB 5000 Ride Report
Posted 07 September 2010 - 09:50 AM
The scene from my vantage point on the tarmac was surreal. I was at ground level looking up and back at traffic inching along in the right lane of I-94 past my bike which was lying on its left side; back a bit more my riding partner Cameron Sanders was looking over at me as he was stepping off of his bike. To his left a stranger stepping out of a white car was running over to me yelling “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to hit you!”
It took me a nanosecond to realize that I had been separated from my bike after being rear-ended by the fellow in the white Camry. Although Cameron had just managed to get out of the way by riding the line separating right and left lanes, I got wedged in between the stopped car ahead of me and the fellow who came sliding in on rain slicked roads.
I was up in seconds. There was no pain, all systems worked. All three of us converged on the downed bike, a newly-farkled 2004 FJR. The driver of the white car’s mouth was still moving but I wasn’t hearing a thing he said. By now the reality of the situation was setting in: months of planning and preparation were now in jeopardy. The bike could be un-rideable in the IB5K rally. My mind raced.
“Let’s get your bike off the road,” Cam said as the three of us lifted the fully loaded FJR. While Cam rolled it over to the side of the road, I picked up the right pannier knocked off in the hit and scrambled to collect the bits of plastic scattered around the lane.
Within minutes a fire truck came by, on his way to the accident a few hundred yards ahead, the reason we had come to a full stop in the first place. “Can I call you an ambulance?” the driver yelled out. “No, we’re O.K.” I answered and waived him on. The Kalamazoo Sheriff’s office was not far behind.
The car driver was still talking. Although my gut reaction told me I should break his nose, he was so deeply apologetic that I had a hard time getting mad at him. I had more important things to worry about: like did the wheels turn, was the steering O.K., were there any leaks, and would the bike start?
Cam and I got the bike on the center stand and tested everything. Amazingly the tires turned, the bike started, and the brakes were fine; the steering worked but I was missing a front turn signal and had no headlights. At roadside in the pouring rain we got a headlight working and duct taped the entire front of the bike to keep the headlight housing from dropping out onto the road.
I knew that if I could make it to Denver there would be plenty of expert help to get things functional again. I didn’t need a dealer to order me parts; it was too late for that. I needed MacGyver, someone who could get things functional with duct tape, binder twine, and a tube of glue.
Off we went, down the road, testing things as we rode. With headsets Cam and I were in constant contact. Other than the obvious damage the bike handled fine, the engine ran as smoothly as ever, and we were going to make it to Denver, come hell or high water in Iowa. I was so determined to take part in the inaugural IB5000 5-day rally that I was ready to pedal it if I had to.
The Denver Tech Center Marriott was a welcome respite after a day riding the endless Iowa and Nebraska landscape on a bike that kept shedding its duct tape. We immediately parked the bikes and headed inside to get checked-in and registered for the convention. I had envisaged three days of relaxation before the rally, but that had all changed. Work on the bike would start in earnest the Friday morning. It would mean missing the speakers that day but the goal was to pass tech inspection on Sunday at the latest, and getting the bike in shape was the new priority.
After breakfast, I headed out into the parking lot and began undoing some plastic and removing shreds of duct tape. It didn’t take long for MacGyver to come along.
“What'd ya do to your bike?” Mark Reis asked.
“I got rear ended. Headlights are broken.”
“Ya wrecked your bike. You were an ASSHOLE!’ Mark’s subtle nature showed through. ‘O.K. lets take some plastic off and we’ll have a look underneath. I’m going to listen to Higdon’s talk. I’ll be back to check on ya after that.”
Before I could get the side panels off Mark was back out.
“I felt guilty sitting there thinking I should be out here helping you so I left early. Let’s get more plastic off. I need to see where the headlights connect to the bike.”
And so it began, Mark leading me on, cajoling, insulting, yapping, sipping his bottomless Starbucks, and shouting instructions while more plastic parts came off the bike.
“If he’s talking to you he likes you,” his friends would whisper to me. That made taking the abuse a bit easier. None of what came out his mouth could disguise the fact this guy had a big heart.
“I was the morale officer in the navy,” Mark would remind me regularly.
“Not to be confused with morals officer, right Mark,” I would reply.
“He’s catching on,” Mark would tell all who listened.
Before long a small army had gathered and qualified help was forcing me out of head technician role. Jacques Titolo from Montreal had volunteered to rebuild the light housing with all the broken plastic bits I had picked up or that had remained attached to the bike. While Jacques spent the next five hours rebuilding the mounts on the headlights, his partner Jennifer pulled out a socket set, raised her sleeves and got to work as well.
By afternoon the headlight housing, a mixture of plastic, multiple types of epoxy and duct tape, was reconnected to the sub-frame of the bike. Then the front cowling went back on and was attached to the headlight housing by using zip ties.
By supper time, the FJR’s black dash panels were attached and the bike was ready to go. A test of the lights proved successful. It even looked like a bike again. We would be ready for tech inspection, a day earlier than I had expected. I was amazed! It was a total team effort.
“Admit it. You didn’t think we’d have it ready today did you?” Mark prodded.
“When I saw the bike in pieces I didn’t think there was a hope in hell,” I admitted.
“I knew we could do it,’ Mark replied, ‘now you just have to promise me two things. Make sure you’re a finisher. I’ll have guys watching for you in Spartanburg. And second thing, NO DIRT ROADS!”
I shook his hand. “Thanks Mark. Promise.”
“Now my fee: you owe me a Starbuck’s franchise, oh, and one more thing, QUIT BEING AN ASSHOLE.”
I assured Mark his cheque was in the mail.
It took me many years to realize that I was a visual learner, so when they handed me the full page of written instructions for the odometer test I quickly did my best to visualize the route. Reading the instructions while underway was difficult though not impossible. Luckily I managed to make it back without making a wrong turn.
The tech inspection was passed, on Saturday no less. They seemed mainly interested in making sure the fuel cell was on solidly and that the overflow drain was away from the exhaust. The most exhaustive tech inspection I ever experienced was at the Blackfly rally (Northern Ontario and Quebec) in 2004. Technicians inspected brake pads, tires, lights, fuel cells, fluid levels, and cables. Everything. And if there was anything questionable or on the border of being passable you lined up to have the needed work done. Here you were expected to show up with fresh tires, brakes, fluids, coolant, and a fuel cell so solidly affixed that one could pick up the back of the bike by lifting on the fuel cell.
I was relieved to get the first step over with on Saturday, saving Sunday for the various sign up lines: the camera memory card line, the T-shirt line, the legal line, the video release line, the photo line, and my favorite, the line you get into before you are actually considered in the next line. That allowed for a quick nap on Sunday afternoon while others were outside doing their odometer test and tech inspection.
A four o’clock riders meeting was followed by a 5:30 banquet where riders received their rally packs, including flag and bonus listing. Rider numbers were handed out in reverse order to the IBA number, that is, those with the lowest IBA number (indicating earlier membership) got the highest flag number. I was rider #29, kind of mid pack, Cam was #47 Within minutes of receiving the packs and learning that it would take 1,900 points in the first leg to be on pace to be a finisher, the room had cleared out and people ran to their rooms to start planning.
The first leg was 38 hours long with 50 potential stops northwest and southwest of Denver. The stops were a nice mix of past IBA locations and bonuses used by Eddie James’ Team Strange rallies. I was disappointed the infamous Mother Featherlegs memorial was not listed. I planned a route northwest because that seemed to be where the best points were in relation to the miles that needed to be ridden. That route included Hell’s Half Acre and Thermopolis in Wyoming, Cooke City, Red Lodge, a sign near Absarokee in Montana; at that point I would turn west and head off to Butte and Anaconda, MT to wait for the sun to rise. From there I would turn south to pick up bonuses in Afton, WY and Salt Lake City, UT. If there was any time left there would be a bonus not far from Laramie, WY and three smaller ones in Denver. It was an ambitious route, of just over two thousand miles, one that was sure to wipe me out physically for the second leg.
I debated doing the route in reverse, but timing the bonus in Cooke City along with daylight for the Beartooth Pass seemed like the more intelligent way to go. Either way, I would be arriving in the Butte area by midnight, could grab a room and rest until about 5 AM then get back on the road to collect the daylight only bonuses in Anaconda and Butte. At least that was the plan.
Monday – Day 1
On Monday morning, after a restless night’s sleep, the wait in the Marriott parking lot seemed interminable. Finally at 8 AM Warchild waved his arms signaling the orderly exit of bikes. Past the cheering throngs we headed for I-25 into Denver rush hour traffic. It looked as if most of us were heading north with some brave soles heading into the furnace down south.
Riders spent the first hour negotiating traffic. Things cleared up nicely the further north we went. At the I-80 interchange I watched some riders drop off to pick up the AME Bonus and to head west towards Salt Lake City or Afton. I kept riding north and eventually west to Casper where I caught US 20 taking me straight to Hell. Behind me were the lights of another rider on and ST1300, Joe Zulaski. Going over a rise in the road we could see a thunder storm off in the distance, with lightning strikes every few seconds. The scene was taking place deceptively far away, as we got nothing more than a few drops of rain.
We made it to the Hell’s Half Acre sign, took our 90-point photos of the deep canyon, and kept moving west. We were 331 miles into the trip and the next stop, Thermopolis, was 87 miles away. That meant a gas stop somewhere along the way. Flush with prepaid Shell gift cards I searched a Shell station on the GPS and found one on my route in Shoshoni, WY. Joe and I both stopped for gas at the same station. I had assumed we would be following each other all day, but after the next stop, a big 648 pointer, I wouldn’t see him until we got back to Denver.
From Shoshoni we headed north to Thermopolis, a ride that kept getting better with each passing mile. The road rambled through Boysen State Park with rock cliffs on my right, a river on my left and more cliffs beyond the river. It gave the road a very intimate feel. We went through three tunnels on our way there, eventually locating the statue of the cowboy walking a horse in the downtown district. Many of us converged on the site at the same time.
From the city of warm springs the route led us northwest towards Cody, WY, along HWY 120, a route that was not as scenic as the entrance to Thermopolis, but faster and less busy. Temperature that day was very moderate compared to what others were dealing with on the southern run. Once in Cody, I made a quick right turn onto Chief Joseph Highway, a road I had never ridden. I was now on one of America’s great roads: a smooth, scenic, well engineered ribbon of asphalt that wound its way up and around mountains and canyons. There was nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the ride.
In planning my route, Mapsource did not include this highway, but rather had routed me from Cody through the northeast corner of Yellowstone Park then on to Cooke City because I had kept the ‘seasonal road closure’ option turned on. As far as Mapsource was concerned, this road didn’t exist. By going this way I had just knocked off two hours on my ETA to Cooke City and everything beyond. I wasn’t sure at this point if that was good or bad.
I stopped to take photos at a lookout thinking that I may never come back here again. I loved this road: the vistas, the hairpins, even the free-roaming black cattle sitting on the side of the road. Other riders joined me on this part of the trek, some riding at my pace, others blowing by me as if I had never ridden a twisty mountain road.
Chief Joe ended at the Beartooth Pass. I turned left and headed for Cooke City to take a photo of a four foot statue of a little man with a jacket. About four of us converged on the Miners Saloon on the main street and ran in to take a photo of the wood carved erection standing in the corner of the bar. I was surprised, but it seemed like a bonus that several rallymasters would enjoy throwing into the mix for shock value and quirkiness alone.
At this point in the route I had options. If running behind I could head west for the smoke stack in Anaconda and bigger points in Butte, or continue north to pick up two bonuses just beyond the Beartooth Pass. I opted to head north along the Beartooth, expecting much the same type of road I experienced with the Chief Joseph Highway. What I got was quite different: construction, traffic, and a much more technical ride with more (and tighter) turns, higher altitudes with cooler temperatures, steeper drops and longer climbs. Considering I was 600 miles into the day it felt a lot more like work than the Chief Joe. I remember thinking “I’m glad I’m not doing this at night, or in the rain” Many others weren’t so lucky.
It took a while but we finally reached the red caboose fast food joint in Red Lodge, MT. Several bikes were there, heading in both directions. Some riders approached the town from the east avoiding the Beartooth, temporarily at least. My next stop MNT, worth 138 points, was 30 miles further north on the same road. It was a wooden sign beside a historic stone marker. Some unfortunate riders made the mistake of taking photos of the stone marker instead of the wood sign. I took both to be safe.
For me MNT was turning point in the route. The original plan was to go west to Butte Montana from here, however the original plan called for late arrival, sleep for four or five hours then get in position to pick up the daylight only bonuses at Anaconda and Butte. Here it was 6:40 PM, and Butte was only three hours and a few minutes away, too late for the daylight bonus, and too early to call it a day until sunrise.
So to keep moving I could bypass the daylight only points in Butte and Anaconda, and head counter clockwise to Afton and Salt Lake City for a 1200 mile count that included Yellowstone Park at night, or I could head east toward Devil’s Tower, on a lower-point route that would include an arrival time early enough to pick up the little stuff around Denver, and the dirt road I promised Mark I wouldn’t go on. That mile count was about 900 miles.
Because I knew I had enough points to be well above the finisher’s pace, I opted for the easier, shorter route, avoiding Yellowstone at night in the process. That route would get me in to Denver early so that I could get scored quickly and in bed for a good night’s sleep, which up until this point had eluded me. I had a plan for sleep Tuesday night though.
For now, my route had changed 180 degrees as I started on the long trek southeast following a fellow on a Gold Wing, and Karl Snell on his GS. It was mostly super slab for the next several hours. Karl and I stopped for gas along the way then for sleep in Sheridan, with a 2:30 AM wakeup call. My call in bonus took place at 2:57 AM from Sheridan.
Tuesday – Day 2
The goal was to get to the Tower by sunrise (or a half hour before) to get a photo of myself in front of the Tower. Not equipped with much of a tripod I needed another rider there at the time. Karl and I made it there a few minutes early. We waited for daylight to break before getting the photos at 5:40 AM. Then it was adios and I started heading straight south to Denver. Just leaving the Devil’s Tower road I ducked in behind three deer that nonchalantly hopped across my path.
Along the way, at about 7 AM I started to get very tired. On U.S. 85 I found a rest stop and did my first “Iron Butt Hotel,” that is I found a nice comfy looking shaded picnic table and made it a bed. I kept my helmet on for good measure. I slept about a half hour. When I tried to get off the concrete table my back was so sore I could not move. This is where a video camera of the event could have recorded one of those impossibly funny scenes of someone struggling to get up: feet in the air, scissor kicks, twisting one way, then the other, backing off, trying to get my head up first, trying to turn over to roll for the edge of the table, finally dragging myself to the edge and doing the Fosbury Flop off the table top. I’m sure the truckers had a good laugh. My recommendation is if you really need to sleep on a picnic table, don’t make it a concrete one.
I was happy to get back on Hwy 85. Something about the dark pavement, the golden color of the fields on each side of the road, and the light traffic that was easy on the eye. By 11:00 AM I was approaching the Ames Brothers monument. The road off the interstate leading to the monument was described as 2 miles of washboard, a surface that could wreak havoc with the repair job on my lights. But I needed the bonus points since I backed off on the other route. There were no other riders around when I got there, but there were two big graders smoothing out the road surface for me. That left only 50 yards of washboard to get to the parking area before the pyramid-shaped monument. It was a lot easier on the bike than I expected. I thought of Mark and the promise of no dirt roads. I could hear his voice reminding me I was being an asshole. Sorry Mark, I needed to do it.
The pyramid built in the 1880’s to immortalize the Ames Brothers, Union Pacific Railroad tycoons, stood alone in the tree-less field, at the top of a rise. Writing on the base proclaimed the memorial to be “perhaps the finest in America”. I’m sure many would debate that claim.
Getting back to the interstate didn’t take long and the pilgrimage to Mother Cabrini’s, located in the foothills on the west side of Denver, began. Traffic was not an issue as I made my way to the mountain. This was always one of Eddie’s favorite bonuses because it involved a climb of 373 stairs to get to the top of the Shrine, a twenty-two-foot statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus erected in 1954. There were a handful of bikes in the lot when I got there at 1:30 PM. It was a hot difficult climb at an altitude I was not acclimated to. There was wheezing involved. There were many names taken in vain before I reached the top.
The photo we needed was of a scene describing the 2nd commandment. Being a lapsed catholic I had no idea what the 2nd commandment was so one of us asked an attendant. “Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain.” Too late! I was beginning to appreciate Eddie’s sense of humor. With points obtained, I took a few other photos from the top of the mountain, including a view of Denver in the distance.
Not far away was the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the scene of a Rush concert the night before. This was a beautiful natural setting for a concert stage. I obtained a receipt at the visitor’s center but couldn’t resist taking a photo of the big red rocks from the parking lot.
The last bonus stop was another one of Eddie’s favorites, because it invariably ended up being a long wait for a food receipt at the famous Casa Bonita, one of the world’s largest restaurants. I knew from reading past reports that this drove many riders crazy, as the receipt appeared only when the food was delivered. But this time, we only needed “any receipt” from the place; that meant a visit to the gift shop for an inexpensive trinket, bypassing the servers in the process. There were no lineups to get in at that hour of the day so Bob Rippy and I got escorted through the restaurant over to the small gift shop. The lady inside was familiar with the IB5K routine now and pointed out some inexpensive items. I grabbed a tiny bell, bagged the receipt and was gone.
Now it was time to fuel up on Leg 1’s clock before making it back to the hotel. Tanks were filled, drinks were gulped, and it was on to the hotel, sometime around 3:30 PM. I was early, real early, and had time to go up to the room, get cleaned up and organize receipts. Having all that extra time didn’t help much as I still managed to lose points in the fuel log. A clean score would have given me 2796 points, but an error in the name of a city on a gas receipt cost me 13 points. A mental note was made to make sure it didn’t happen again.
The important thing was I had successfully finished the first leg; I was scored, showered, fed, and ready to get a good night’s sleep. On previous nights I put up with the room’s noisy air conditioner and a roommate with a diminished airway capacity. I was getting maybe four hours sleep at night. Tonight I was not only getting to sleep before my roommate Cam made it back to town, I was wearing my ear plugs to bed. Net result: end of problem. I slept soundly until the alarm went off at 4:30 AM.
Daily summary: Leg 1 2783 pts
Monday Aug 16: Hell’s Half Acre, WY 90 pts
Thermopolis, WY 682
Cooke City, MT 544
Red Lodge, MT 382
Madsen Historical Monument 138
TOTAL: 1836 pts
Tuesday Aug 17: Call in bonus 100 pts
Devil’s Tower 238
Ames monument 198
Mother Cabrini’s Shrine 58
Red Rocks Visitor’s Center receipt 62
Casa Bonita receipt 54
Fuel Bonus 250
TOTAL: 947 pts
2002 BMW R1150RT
1991 BMW K1
1974 BMW R90S (being restored)
"It's not just music, it's the soundtrack to my ride."
Posted 08 September 2010 - 08:31 AM
I wouldn't change a fucking thing; I've lived hard, played hard, and I ain't done yet. I've paid some severe penalties along the way, but the rewards have been so much greater; even if for just have participating in the game of life with utmost abandon. It's not who rides the furthest in a day, but rather in a lifetime. CBA member #1, IBA #31845 and very proud of both.
Posted 08 September 2010 - 03:32 PM
IBA Premier Member
2007 Yamaha, FJR 1300A
2003 Harley, Ultra Classic
1983 Honda, CB1000 Custom
Posted 08 September 2010 - 05:36 PM
Posted 08 September 2010 - 05:52 PM
I'm working on it. Let's face it BMW makes a very dependable hat.
Hey I just got rid of the RT plate.
2002 BMW R1150RT
1991 BMW K1
1974 BMW R90S (being restored)
"It's not just music, it's the soundtrack to my ride."