Brick1's 2011 IBR report/story

Yamaha FJR Motorcycle Forum

Help Support Yamaha FJR Motorcycle Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Well-known member
Apr 25, 2010
Reaction score
North Bay, ON
2011 IBR – Experiences and Observations of an IBR Rookie

Part 1

Sturgeon Falls, ON – Thursday, June 16th

My last day at the gym turned out to be a bit of a letdown. I had walked without fail early every weekday morning for eight months to the well-equipped gym in the town’s community center. In doing so, I became one of a handful of early morning regulars, often waiting for the doors to open around 6 AM. As I worked through three different daily routines, we got to know each other. They knew why I was there. I had told them about the 11-day motorcycle rally I was going to be in next June, an endurance-rally where riders were expected to travel one thousand miles or more daily. “I need to be in the best shape of my life,” I would half joke, not thinking for a minute I could get to that level. The fitness commitment stemmed from my belief that even if exercise didn’t make me a better rider or help me route smarter, it would help me recover more quickly with the limited sleep I was expecting to get.

Expecting a big sendoff from my fellow exercisers, I was a bit disappointed when no one else showed up that morning. In a town known as the “Chip Stand Capital of Canada” that was not unusual or totally unexpected. I went through the Thursday routine in silence, showered and shaved as I always do, then hit the street twenty five pounds lighter than the first day I’d walked in.

At least the sun showed. It was a perfect morning, winds were light, and the residential streets were quiet at 7:15 am. As I walked the usual route to my office, I made special note of the neighborhood: the yards, the trees, the homes; it was as if I was seeing things for the first time, or maybe the last time. The next morning, I would be flying out from Toronto to Seattle, to the start of the 2011 Iron Butt Rally.

Because it was my last day of work before taking off for two weeks, I had promised myself a real treat: breakfast in the ‘home-style’ restaurant across the street from the office. As I walked past a porch where a woman sat sipping her morning coffee, the sight of an approaching police car nudged me out of my dream-like state. He pulled up right beside me, so close that I stopped walking and looked in to see what the officer was doing. “Excuse me, sir,” he said stepping out of the cruiser. “Do you have any I.D.?”

“No, I don’t,” I said. “I’m just on my way back from the gym.” I offered up my gym bag as evidence.

“You should always carry I.D.,” he said.

Startled by the scold in his voice, I said, “My office is two blocks away, so if you want I.D. I’ll get you whatever you need. What’s the problem?” I asked.

“You match the suspect description for a vehicle Break and Enter.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. True, I was all dressed in black: black jeans and T-shirt, a black windbreaker, ball cap, and sunglasses; on my feet, matching Skechers. Even my gym bag, soft luggage made for BMW motorcycle side cases, was black. Stylish as the ensemble was, it was an unfortunate choice of colors.

“Where do you work?” he demanded.

“Two blocks away on Queen Street.” We were standing on Queen Street, but two blocks seemed a long distance away.

He pulled out his pad and started writing. “What’s your name? Address?”

My brows rose in astonishment. Was he the only person in town who had no idea who I was? I told him what he wanted, then waited as he went back to the cruiser and radioed in the information. As I stood waiting by the open car window I heard a voice screech, “That’s my dentist!”

Still, the officer was unconvinced. “There will be another cruiser coming by in a few minutes followed by a pickup truck. I want you to stand here while the witnesses drive by.”

You’re kidding me, I thought, but wisely didn’t say. Not only was I going to miss breakfast, I was about to take part in a one-man drive-by suspect lineup. Even the Americans - inventors of drive-through weddings - don’t do drive-by lineups! As I stood there thinking how absurd this all seemed, a cruiser and pickup truck came zooming around the corner. Two people were sitting in the truck’s front seats.

As they approached, the passenger rolled down the window. “It’s him! It’s him!” he shouted, pointing. My eyes widened as I recognized one of my clients, and a light bulb clicked on in my brain. I started to laugh when the guy grinned and said, “No, that’s not the real guy after all. We were looking for someone a bit more ‘native’ looking.”

“Sorry, sir,” the cop said, clearly not in on the joke.

As I made my way back to the office, I shook my head, wondering what the next two weeks would bring.


Queen Street - Sturgeon Falls

Part 2

The World’s Toughest Motorcycle Rally

The Iron Butt Rally (IBR) is the premier Long Distance (LD) motorcycle rally in the world. It’s the top of the food chain for us mile-hungry motorcyclists, billing itself as “The World’s Toughest Motorcycle Rally”. Contestants are expected to ride about 1,000 miles per day over 11 days, collecting a sufficient number of points to be considered finishers by documenting visits to an assortment of bonus locations. Whether you subscribe to the “World’s Toughest” trademark will depend on your opinion of the Dakar Rally.

The two rallies are very different. Because of the difficult terrain Dakar riders endure, it requires physical exertion and a level of athleticism in excess of that required for the IBR. At 14 days long (2012 version), and about 5,000 miles in distance, it is a shorter distance over more days than the IBR. Riders in the IBR can plan a route that is strictly on pavement, over as much interstate as possible - the fastest and safest roads in America. Occasionally riders venture onto gravel roads, as in rides to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, roads that become a challenge when wet. However, our bikes shouldn’t be buried axle deep in soft sand unless we went hopelessly off course.

Those who believe that the IBR is the more difficult challenge point out that the Dakar is not a motorcycle-only rally, but rather an off-road race for cars, bikes, trucks, and quads, with a small army of support vehicles in tow. The leg routes are pre-determined and expected to be completed in daylight (if all goes well), unlike the IBR where nighttime riding is essential to set up some ‘daylight-only’ bonuses.

For all the resources required to compete in an IBR, it is not the money pit of the Dakar, which is so expensive it becomes all but impossible for private teams to compete against the better funded factory teams, where even the riders are hired guns. Unlike the Dakar Rally, the IBR is not a traveling circus. There are no tent-cities erected at checkpoints, nor does it allow the commercial sponsorship needed to support a team of mechanics, drivers, logistic experts, and a cook in chase vans stocked with spare parts.

Leading up to the IBR, the un-sponsored riders first buy, then install extra items onto their bikes by themselves - if they are mechanically inclined - or with the help friends. This is one way of containing costs and is an essential part of the learning process allowing riders to get to know their bikes intimately. If service is required at a checkpoint or en-route at a dealership, the rider must be present and awake the whole time. Dakar riders sleep while a team ensures bikes are ready for the next day.

The IBR unabashedly attracts amateurs, who compete for notoriety, a pat on the back, and a handshake. It is not a race; arriving early means that you left potential points unclaimed. What it does better than the Dakar is pit the individual rider against the challenge. Calling it a scavenger hunt on two wheels doesn’t do it justice. It’s more of a chess game played on a board the size of North America. Riders will plan and run separate routes, are alone for hours or even days at a time, and are more or less solely responsible for the success or failure of their rally. It requires a level of creativity not seen in other rallies, the ability to visualize a winning route from a series of dots on a map. Creativity aside, the rider needs to finish the job, riding the route to completion within a set timeframe. That is the allure of the IBR.

In 2010 a pretender surfaced, the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge, worth a mention if only to dispel its claim to be the ‘world’s greatest long distance endurance motorcycle event.’ It wasn’t quite the IBR. It appealed to riders of American-made cruisers (read Harley Davidson) who may not have heard of the IBR. Sitting squarely between a scam and ten-day Harley Davidson advertising tour, the 2010 version was a race, marred by deaths, injuries, disorganized checkpoints, unsportsmanlike behavior, and accusations of fraud. The 2011 version of the Hoka Hey (meaning ‘it’s a good day to ride’) was set up ideally for the Harley rider, plotting a set-course in a series of checkpoints running from one dealer to another, so riders were never far from the convenience of service. Organizers offered $500,000 in prize money, but only after some auditing of riding behavior.

For all the negatives said and written about the Hoka Hey organizers, the riders attracted to the event were there for many of the same reasons we are attracted to the IBR, and should become part of the Iron Butt Association’s target audience. They were attracted to the adventure and challenge of riding a marathon event. The official winner in 2010, and unofficial winner in 2011 – a pilot, impressed me by his level of pre-ride preparation. He attacked the event with the dedication of a serious athlete: he worked on his mental and physical conditioning, modified his nutrition before and during the rally, took high altitude pre-competition conditioning rides where he rode and napped beside his bike, and was thus properly prepared and rewarded with the win. The impression I had reading an interview was that he was so well disciplined he would do well in the IBR as well. I made a mental note of his attitude and level of commitment and resolved to adopt them for the IBR.

Part 3

Getting the bike rally-ready

In anticipation of the 2011 IBR, I purchased a new-to-me motorcycle in Ottawa, a 2004 Yamaha FJR1300 with ABS. That bike replaced an identical one I owned that had been damaged when rear-ended on my way out to Denver for the IB5000 rally in August of 2010. After riding 7,500 post-accident miles, the cost of repairs was more than the book value of the bike so the insurer cut me a cheque to replace the original bike. I was able to remove all the extra bits I had installed on the original before the salvage company took it away, and re-installed those on the new bike during the winter and spring.

Rallying isn’t a cheap activity. In addition to those existing extras, there seemed to be a never ending procession of new farkles added to the bike. For safety I added a four gallon fuel cell, a radiator protector, HID hi-beams, HID low-beams, a tire pressure monitoring system, frame sliders, wider mirrors, reflectors on the side bags, and flashing LED lights in the trunk case. The larger windscreen, a keyless ignition, a Russell day-long saddle, the Skyway hydration setup, heated grips, fork brace, and Pazzo levers increased my comfort level. Navigation equipment included two GPS’s and wiring for a third, a radar detector, a SPOT 2 satellite tracker, XM radio with NEXRAD weather hooked up to a GPS, and a Bluetooth headset with in-helmet speakers.

With the help of my electrical guru Mike Buck and fellow LD rider Cameron Sanders, the bike was ready for a shakedown run at the popular Cape Fear Rally, the first official rally of the 2011 season. It would be my chance to test the hardware and new electrical connections, to see if my soldering could withstand the weather, vibration, and hard knocks of a 3000 mile road trip. The bike fared better than the rider, who was beat up by the cold, the wind, fog and rain along the way to Wilmington, North Carolina. My timing through Raleigh, North Carolina, was fortuitous though, as I managed to miss the tornadoes that rumbled through that weekend. I thought about giving up in Charleston, West Virginia, after looking out the hotel window at the wet bike-cover flapping violently in the wind. I decided that the risk of damaging the bike was too great to continue, and actually called Rallymaster Jim Bain to tell him I was through. However, as the wind eased a bit, I reconsidered and persevered, avoiding the dreaded DNF. On the way home I rode through a blizzard around Buffalo, New York. The bike and equipment never stuttered.

The next step was getting the machine from my home in North Bay to the IBR start in Seattle, Washington. Rather than ship it out, I decided to ride it to Seattle a month before the competition and leave it at the home of fellow-rookie IBR contestant, Pat Clark, of Tacoma, Washington. That way I would only miss two weeks of work in June, as opposed to three. Pat offered garage space to those out-of-towners needing to store their bikes before the start of the IBR. I took him up on his offer, as did my roommate, Iowa’s Corey Nuehring.

After work on Thursday May 19th, I left for Seattle hoping to make it as far as Sault-Ste-Marie, Michigan, that night. It was a cool ride with some rain along the way. At the border the fully loaded bike was not a hit. The customs agent noticed the video cam mounted behind the windshield. “I hope you weren’t videotaping anything here,” he said angrily.

“No, it’s not turned on,” I replied.

“What’s your final destination?”

“Seattle, Washington,” I said as I handed him my passport and never-before-used Nexus card.

“Business or pleasure?”


“Duration of trip?”

“Three-and-a-half days.”

“How are you going to get home that fast?”

“I’m leaving the bike in Seattle, flying home then flying out again in June for a two-week vacation.”

“Are you selling the bike?”

“No. I’m storing it.”

“Where are you storing it?”

“In a friend’s garage.”

My story seemed to touch a few raw nerves, and before I knew it there were two other agents and a dog around the bike. So much for the ‘trusted traveler’ card!

“Pull in under the canopy and park the bike,” the first agent said. I was greeted under the canopy by the other two. I had to open all the cases, before being led inside. One wrote a didactic report of my story, asking variations of the same questions over and over again trying to trip me up and get my story to change, while the other combed through the bags.

After an hour I was free to go. Luckily I had copies of the flight arrangements offering corroborating evidence. Once across the border I headed for the Days Inn to get a good night’s rest. The trip would start officially the next morning.


After leaving the bike in Pat Clark’s capable hands I flew out of SeaTac on a direct flight to Toronto. By Monday night I was back sleeping in my own bed, ready for work Tuesday morning. Pat was a great host, looking after my bike as if it was his own. He took my FJR in for service, and called me when he saw a puddle of coolant form under the bike. He had his mechanic look after the problem immediately; I felt relieved the problem announced itself then and not a week into the rally.

We became good friends very quickly. Pat’s the kind of guy you want to go to war with –or at least a rally. We pledged that if either one of us was considering dropping out of the IBR, at any stage, the other could slap some sense into him and drag him physically to the finish line. I had no doubt Pat would hold up his part of the bargain.

Part 4

Sleepless in Seattle

On Friday June 17th, 2011, I caught an 8 AM flight for the west coast, not as easy as it sounds as Air Canada was on strike at the time. The flight that routed me from Toronto to Vancouver then to Seattle went off without a hitch, and I was greatly relieved to land at SeaTac. Once there, Pat Clark picked me up at the arrivals level and whisked me away to his place to get the bike ready.

Pat took Corey Nuehring’s bike over to the hotel while I rode mine, up I-5 to the 188th Street exit, down to the airport, then up the hill to the Marriott. Corey was expected in on a flight from Iowa late that night, so getting his bike to the hotel saved him a step. After a month away from the bike I can honestly say it felt really good to hop on and ride it.


Darrin Hicks(ON), Bob Chadwick(MO), Bob Rippy(MO), Karl Snell(GA), Perry Karsten (ON)

We joined a large number of bikes and riders already there. I had two and half days to soak up the IBR ambiance, something organizers encouraged rookies to do. I also had two and a half days to get rid of the bad BMW habits which interfered with smooth operation of a Yamaha. While the FJR was holidaying in Seattle, I was riding my second motorcycle, a 2002 BMW R1150RT. The German-made BMW was quite different from the Japanese-made Yamaha. For instance, the turn signals on both bikes were different. The left BMW turn signal was situated where the Yamaha horn was positioned. Sounding the horn on the Yamaha before passing a car was one sure way of knowing I was getting tired. It also got me ‘the finger’ more times than I care to remember. Another difference was the 6-speed transmission of the BMW versus the 5-speed transmission of the Yamaha. I was always looking for 6th gear on the Yamaha, like a guitar player trying to turn the amp volume up to ‘11’ on a dial that only goes to ‘10’.

Saturday and Sunday before the IBR are the days that riders use to get registered, photographed, videotaped, have their bikes inspected, their cameras and memory cards validated, and have meetings with rally organizers. The only bottle neck this year was at the camera and memory card validation. Long distance legend Dave McQueeney double checked my camera settings, marked the memory cards, and took the required mug shots.

I managed to get almost everything done on Saturday, including the tech inspection. Rally veteran and 1999 IBR winner George Barnes went over the bike and everything checked out. The odometer check was a different story. It took 50% of the riders two tries before getting the rain-soaked route figured out. I was one of those. Some have argued that the very gracious and always smiling volunteer, Lisa Hart Stevens, was responsible for more odometer test repeats than missed road signs. I’m pleading the fifth on that one.

Because my body was still locked into the Eastern time-zone, I was waking up very early in Seattle with not much to do. On Saturday and Sunday morning I joined Lisa and Georgia rider, Karl Snell, in the gym for spirited 5 AM workouts. The time in the gym allowed the release of pent up energy, and helped me maintain some type of routine.

Saturday night a group of Canadian riders got together for dinner. The group had been unofficially dubbed the ‘Eh? Team’ after comments made two years ago by IBA spokesman Bob Higdon. Jacques Titolo decided to make up some red team-shirts with the ‘Eh? Team’ crest emblazoned on the chest. In matching shirts we looked like the sales team at Future Shop, but to Jacques’ credit the shirts were a hit, even in the restaurant that night.

By the time Sunday rolled around, there wasn’t a whole lot to do for riders unless you were a rally veteran and showed up at the last second to get registered. A few of us stood outside the insurance room waiting for the final signatures on our sign-off sheets. Ira Agins, Iron Butt Association Communications Officer, moved to the door, looked around, smiled, and addressing no one in particular, declared, “That’s how we like ’em!” referring to the rider behind me resting on both knees while leaning on his tank bag.

Peter Behm, a Team Strange rider from Minnesota, accurately described as “quiet and self-effacing,” looked up at Ira then at me, and seemed unmoved. The comment wasn’t lost on the rest of us standing there. Mr. Behm, a previous top-ten rally finisher, would respond appropriately in the next week and a half.

That same day, I filled both gas tanks and checked tire pressures. The bike was returned to the lot, ready for impounding the next morning.

Part 5

Evening – Sunday, June 19th

During the months leading up to the rally, a few of the rookies managed to get the IBR organizers and veterans upset. In particular, a Texas rider named Tim Masterson, a rider who had never actually ridden a rally, had somehow managed to get under the skin of the establishment. Although he had a lengthy list of accomplishments in the long distance riding field, most felt his lack of rally experience should have put him on the receiving end of information, not on the distilling end.

Tim, a bright and talented computer programmer, used his skills to refine existing rally routing software to a level beyond what any of us could have imagined then developed his own routing software that merged seamlessly with Garmin’s Mapsource product. Being a generous fellow, he offered the program to all riders, even producing video showing riders how to use the software.

With years of experience in the armed forces, he always had ideas and recommendations on subjects like training for the rally, dealing with the heat and cold, how to pack efficiently, what to eat, how to set up a bike for the IBR. Come to think of it, he had something to say about pretty much any subject. Much of it was viewed as rookie “effrontery”. His responses were not always the most polite; in fact, several times he came off sounding like a drill sergeant. After an incredibly aggressive outburst to a simple question from a Memphis rider, I affectionately dubbed him Sgt. Fury. He arrived in Seattle in a meticulously matched camouflage jacket with a proud “rookie” label stitched onto his left chest pocket.

At the ‘Pre-Rally Banquet,’ we picked up our rally flags and booklets; we also found out the nature of the rally itself. With the IBR in danger of being taken over by technology and the techno-savvy, rally organizers did the equivalent of a reverse-flea-flicker in announcing the nature of the game for 2011. Although Canadian Bill Watt was widely believed to be the architect of this year’s rally, in a type of rehearsed vaudeville act, Bill handed off to Mike Kneebone who threw a lot of crumpled paper over his shoulders before handing off to quarterback Tom Austin. Claiming a return to older times when technology didn’t determine rally success, Tom announced that, to be a finisher in this year’s rally, riders had to document visits to “the 48 contiguous states.” In one swoop, the technology that Tim had fine-tuned or developed was rendered insignificant. Although we were surprised by the Bill Watt replacement, we were not surprised by the final gesture. One could easily run this rally with paper maps, local knowledge, and road signs, though most, like me, did not.

To gain more points and bolster their finishing rank, riders could also do a 4-corners ride, and visit state capitals. The dreaded ‘daylight-only’ or ‘time-specific’ bonuses were nowhere to be seen. Riders who did the 4-corners would be guaranteed ‘Gold Medal’ status regardless of the number of points they acquired. Even Alaska, a state Bill Watt expressly told us earlier in the year we were not going to, was back on the table for big points in Leg 1. The 4800 points couldn’t entice me to go, but three riders would take the bait and ride to Hyder, Alaska.

I had little or no local knowledge, but still loved the format of the rally. It would mean some long miles, but I had been training to do 1200 miles per 24 hour period if necessary. At the supper table, sitting with legendary rider George Barnes, there were comments that this was his type of rally: big miles and no computers. But George looked like he was in no rush to come out of retirement.

Another rule change that riders were happy with involved the dissolution of the fuel log requirement. Because of the number of stops required in this rally, there would be more fuel stops than ever before. Between stops for different states, rest bonus receipts, and simple fuel stops, there would be a massive amount of fuel receipts to keep track of, requiring extra time at the scoring table to check the validity of each receipt. The rally organizers wisely eliminated the requirement to save all but the most important receipts.

After dinner, my roommate Corey Nuehring, and I, ran up to the room to mull things over. Like myself, Corey is extremely competitive; he is also a very capable rider. I can add ‘quickest decision maker I’ve seen’ to that list. It took Corey about three minutes to decide what he was doing, where he was going, and how he was going to get there. I barely had time to boot up my computer to find Blaine, Washington, before Corey slammed his shut and said, “Goodnight.”

I had decided at dinner that the 48 states and 4-corners plan were my ticket to a gold-level performance, though I’d come to Seattle aiming for a bronze medal finish. With a bit of planning I could pick up some capitals along the way. I knew Corey was figuring on the same thing. I understood now why bonus packages for Leg 3 were being handed out at 10 PM on Monday night: to allow us enough time to get to Key West and to then head west to pick up the 4th corner in San Ysidro, California. Leg 3 would be roughly 4000 miles in 3½ days for the 4-corners riders, and that was before state capitals were considered.

I sat at the computer and planned out Leg 1: north to Blaine, then off to Oregon to get a gas receipt. I set a track through Idaho and into Montana, figuring on a stop somewhere in that state in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. I continued that kind of planning for the first leg all the way to Buffalo, New York. To do well it was essential to pick up the freebies in Leg 1: the call-in bonus and the rest bonus.

I felt it was important to pick up Blaine, Washington, even for riders partially committed to the 4-corners. If points for capitals were nothing special in Leg 2, I could then include Madawaska, Maine, in the second leg. If I decided that Leg 2 capitals were worth more points, I could drop the 4-corners ride and concentrate on state capitals. If I didn’t stop to get Blaine, I shut myself out of the extra points early on.

I roughed out the second leg, meaning I plotted a route from the Buffalo checkpoint up to Madawaska, Maine, down to Jacksonville, Florida, to give me an idea what kind of mileage I should be expecting. I did the same with the third leg, from Jacksonville to Key West, Florida, to San Ysidro, California to the finish in Ontario, California.

I looked for states that needed to be picked up in the first leg and I decide that West Virginia and New York would get receipts even though the capitals were not listed as bonus locations in the first leg. Had I been on the ball I would have included Tennessee in Leg 1 like Curt Gran did. The Nashville capital was out of reach for most 4-corners riders after picking up Key West in the 3rd leg.

By 10 PM PDT, I was done debating and routing, had downloaded the capitals and 4-corners waypoints to the GPS’s and was ready for bed. Corey was already fast asleep.

Part 6

The riders behind the visors

Riders gathered in the parking lot about three hours before the start, mingling with friends, family and supporters. I shot a bit of video in the parking lot, holding mini-interviews with some of the riders. It was obvious we were all a bit anxious and impatient, finding the wait long. I knew that it was going to take me a couple of hours, perhaps until the first bonus location, before I would settle-in to the ride.

As the start time approached, riders climbed into their gear. I sat on my bike and scanned the scene from the anonymity of my helmet, observing the ‘usual suspects’ lining up beside their bikes. Long distance rally riders are a highly-specialized subset of touring riders, a tight-knit community of people who compete in regional events, socialize at Rides-to-Eat, share technical information, and keep in touch through Forums and social networks. I know most of the people here, even those I’ve never met.

If there is a division among these riders it is created by the Mississippi River, separating east coast riders from those on the west coast. The top riders have broken through that muddy barrier, and excel on either side of the river. For others, this will be their first venture into unknown territory. The west coast riders worry about traffic volume, slower roads, and humidity in the east, while the eastern riders worry about desert heat and the lack of services in the wide open western spaces. Regardless of where they are from, all riders are expecting to push their limits and redefine the time versus distance equations they have come to know.

Customarily 100 riders are selected for the IBR from a large number of applicants. Three of those selected had pre-ride medical issues causing them to forfeit their ride, while others were no-shows because of personal or work related matters, or victims of the weak U.S. economy. Of the 87 bikes at the start line, there were six female riders, and six couples riding two-up. Although the IBR is based in America because of the well-developed road system, the relative absence of border crossings, and the diversity of the continent, LD riding is not limited to the U.S.A. It is now a global phenomenon, with groups on every continent, proving this challenge has universal appeal. Most of the competitors gathered are American, but the list also includes seven Canadians, an Australian couple riding two-up, a German, and two colorful British riders, one aboard a 1969 Triumph Trident, placing him firmly in the ‘hopeless’ class. Bob Higdon, IBA spokesman, has promised “You can call me, Sally!” if the Triumph and rider make it to Ontario, California.

Although IBR organizers strongly discourage riders from pairing into teams by setting rules that make it extremely difficult for teams to be competitive, there are three this year: two couples riding separate bikes, and a couple of California friends who have decided that they want to share the IBR experience together, content to be “finishers”. Among the couples are Jacques Titolo and Jennifer Audet (the ‘J’ Team) from Quebec. They are not only very popular and well-liked for their outgoing personalities they ride very well together and are fun to follow.

Typical of motorcycling in general, receding hair lines and grey hair dominate the heads in Seattle. Riders are mostly middle-aged guys, with the exception of one 24 year-old fellow riding his first IBR. The reason for the grey hair is simple. Most of us started riding at a time when motorcycles were much less expensive than automobiles. As students who needed wheels, we could not afford a car or the insurance that went with it, but we could afford a bike that sipped fuel, was inexpensive to own and service, and above all, fun to ride. In time, our bikes got bigger, our trips became more ambitious, and the challenges we sought escalated.

Today, young people are faced with a first motorcycle purchase that will rival the cost of a used car, and insurance rates that will put operating costs out of reach. For those who do get into riding, touring is not the initial motive. Young riders are drawn to sport bikes or off-road riding; the desire to tour on a motorcycle and cover long distances comes later, if at all, when job and family responsibilities permit more time away.

The organizers go out of their way to welcome younger riders and female riders to the group. And they have to. The end of this sport is little more than ten years away unless new blood, in the form of young men, female riders of any age, and Harley riders, replenishes the baby boomers drifting away from the sport as age, and health, make it more difficult to compete in such challenges.

The majority of motorcycles at the Marriott are either sport-touring, adventure, or large touring bikes made by Yamaha, BMW, and Honda. In real life, ‘cruisers’ dominate the American landscape. There are few cruiser-style bikes entered in the rally because they are believed to be a less-than-ideal platform for such escapades. Pat Clark, on his Yamaha Road Star, was out to dispel that notion. There were only three Harley Davidson’s entered, though if we expected numbers consistent with the real world, there should have been upwards of fifty.

Beyond hair color, LD riders are a diverse group. Although permitted some overlap, our rally routes will all be different, run at different speeds, with different stops along the way in order to accomplish different goals. Among riders, there is a substantial range in educational levels, a wide variety in careers, and a large discrepancy in socio-economic status. Several riders are retired, but most still work daily. Some can hardly afford the fuel it will take to ride the distances involved over the next two weeks, while for others, the costs associated with the rally are incidental. Because motorcycling is an activity where the rider becomes anonymous once the visor is flipped down, it’s impossible to tell who falls into which category. None of those categories will have an impact on finishing position.

For over half of us, it is our first IBR, while others have done multiple 11-day rallies. There is little pressure on the rookies in the field because our only real goal is be to be a finisher. No one expects the rookies to do well, except some of the rookies themselves. The ones I know and compete against regularly – Karl Snell, Corey Nuehring, Perry Karsten, Darrin Hicks, and Mike Ligons – all are expecting to acquit themselves respectably. We all hope to be in the top half of finishers; most of us would be ecstatic with a twenty-fifth place ranking, or a Gold Medal.

Everyone one of us has a different reason to be at the start line. I’m here because of a promise I made to myself in the late nineties when failing eyesight due to a familial condition forced two cornea transplants. Having sold my car and motorcycle at a time when I could not pass the eye exam for a driver’s license, I pledged that when I got my license back I would ride as if they were going to take it away from me tomorrow. There were still too many places I wanted to visit and things I wanted to see before my riding career ended. After fourteen months of relying on other people to get around, I had a driver’s license again, a motorcycle in the garage a little later, and a commitment to my promise.

But for all our differences, the similarities run right down to our underwear. We share a love of motorcycle travel, that feeling of having all of our senses engaged, of having hands, feet, and body active in the fluid process of forward motion. We love the sound of the engine on hard acceleration and finding the perfect rhythm of the road when presented with twists and turns. We dress alike in padded Goretex all-weather gear over wicking garments. We have socks so highly-specialized they come with L and R on them. Our full-face helmets have flip-up chin guards to make talking and eating possible without removing the helmet.

We take those different bikes and equip them similarly, adding extra lights, a fuel cell, and GPS’s. As consumers, each one of us buys more goods and services than ten average motorcyclists combined. We need the best, use what is tried and true, and because we cover more miles in a season than anyone else, need more riding gear, tires, and scheduled maintenance in a year than some will need in a lifetime.

We are sticklers for details and love our gadgets. We can rhyme off trip stats the way a kid can recite the baseball stats of his favorite players. Moving average, overall average, total distance travelled, stopped time, and elapsed time all mean something to the riders. We are adventurous, yet cautious and calculating. We look for challenges, yet make an effort to control every variable short of weather to ensure things go smoothly. We will plan routes over paved roads wherever possible for better distance over time. We no longer use mileage to describe distance; we use time. “This is eight hours away” means something is 500 miles away to an east coast rider, 600 miles to the west coast rider. We plan down to the minute. We hate stopping for any reason.

We enjoy the solitude of motorcycling yet share our rides with friends and family via satellite trackers, and never stray too far from home or work without our Bluetooth cell phones linked to our helmets, allowing us to place and receive calls on the go. We ride alone but enjoy meeting other riders to share the experiences we had on the way there, knowing that they alone can relate to the sensations we experienced with only a few words of description. We take photos of our bikes in front of scenic vistas, as if they are our travel companions.

Perhaps most importantly, we share a common belief that we are invincible, that each one of us will make it to the finish line intact and on time, as if we were riding surrounded by an impenetrable force field. Believing otherwise would not allow us to lift a leg over the machine we love. We are not only some of the best street riders in the world we are the most confident as well.

On Saturday afternoon, Jeff Earls, a multi-rally podium finisher, hosted a rookie meeting where he gave us a sobering talk on the reality of this type of rally. If history and statistics give any indication rookies are much more likely to have serious accidents, and more likely to DNF. “Look around,” he said. “Not everyone here is going to be at the finish.” As accurate as that prediction was, not for a second did anyone listening think he was referring to “me”.

Finally, it was time. As I became aware of each breath I took under my helmet, spectators cleared out of the way and lined up to catch a glimpse of the start. It took us months to get to this point, but it would only take four minutes to clear out the parking lot. It was apparent the calm looks and smiles of those ready to embark on their journey were nothing more than a mirage. Our insides were churning like the sea as engines fired, exhausts roared, and headlights lit up; we waited anxiously for Dale “Warchild” Wilson’s point-and-wave signal.


Part 7

Day 1 – Monday, June 20th

Riders filtered out of the parking lot single-file and headed in one of three directions. Almost half the field headed north to Blaine, Washington; others headed south to Olympia, the state capital, while a third group headed east to get an Oregon receipt. That was not surprising as Blaine was the easiest of four corners to get and left the door open for more corners later in the rally. I was in the crowd headed to Blaine.

In my mini-interview with Kincardine, Ontario, native Perry Karsten before the rally, I asked him what his intentions were. “I’m just going for 48 states and capitals,” Perry said. “The ‘4-corners’ seems like an extreme ride, and I not willing to do the miles.” Coming from Perry, this surprised me, but I can understand when riders are more fixated on finishing than on finishing up the ladder. His attitude was the same one I had last summer, in the IB5000, where ‘being a finisher’ overshadowed ‘finishing well’; it was important to ‘finish’ in order to qualify for the IBR. Having already qualified, I felt there was nothing to gain by going easy. I wanted to be at the finish knowing I didn’t hold anything back, and not feel that if I had pushed a little harder, like in the IB5000, I would have scored better.


The IB5000 experience showed me what to expect at the start so there was no surprise when riders took off out of the gate like thoroughbreds chomping at the bit. After getting onto I-5 North, we jostled for position in traffic then settled-in to our own rhythms running through Seattle in the double-occupancy lanes, then further towards the Canadian border. Heading north, there always seemed to be a mountain in view. The weather was perfect for riding: 70’s, some cloud, low winds.


The scene in Blaine at noon was frantic as thirty or forty riders arrived within minutes of each other. This was my first rally photo so I took a bit more time than usual in setting up the shot and making sure the photo had everything they asked for. Once it was taken, I turned south and followed Art Garvin and later Pat Clark back to Seattle. At the I-90 junction, I turned off and headed east for the Cascade Mountains. The route took me over the Snoqualmie Pass (3,022’), a beautiful sight at any time of the year. I was heading for a receipt in Oregon so I took the I-82 fork leading for Yakima, Washington, where I stopped for fuel at 3:30 PM.


Back on the interstate, I followed I-82 to Prosser, Washington, then took smaller roads to the north side of the Columbia River, crossing into Oregon at Umatilla. Once over the Columbia, several of us stopped at a Shell station just south of the river close to 5 PM. Shell stations would become a recurring theme in this rally, as I carried Shell gift cards to use in lieu of Canadian credit cards. Shell always supplied good fuel and an accurate receipt, but with a gift card there was no danger of credit card shutdown after multiple daily gas purchases. Before stopping for fuel I always scanned the GPS for Shell stations, and though not always successful, used that company 75% of the time.

The best LD riders are great in traffic and can leave me a long way back in minutes. They can line up traffic and move smoothly through it, like multiple captures in checkers. It’s virtually impossible to keep up with them because you need to be in that Zen-like state good LD riders get into when they ‘car count’ the way Vegas blackjack players count cards. The passes are perfectly timed, quickly and cleanly moving from one lane to another, never looking rushed or hurried, all the while monitoring the cars in multiple lanes around them, keeping track of who is approaching, who’s dropping off or gaining, and who is static. The ‘J’ Team rides great together as evidenced by the way they sliced and diced Kennewick traffic. Jacques and Jennifer do have to ride through Montreal traffic on occasion so I’m assuming they get a lot more practice than I do. I was much more conservative, and not in the Zen-like state; I needed a straight line to catch up.

I knew the way north to Idaho along U.S. Route 395 was a quick ride, in temperatures that were running near 90 degrees F. This was great road through the semi-arid parts of Washington, cutting diagonally northeast towards Ritzville, where the highway merged with I-90. Beyond Spokane and over the Idaho border many of us stopped at the first gas station we saw, an Exxon in Post Falls at 7:30 PM. It was there I got to say a few words to the ‘J’ Team. Jennifer offered me one of her gummy worms, treats used as compensation for a job well done. Jacques took advantage of the stop to enjoy a cigarette. Their plan was to get to Helena that night. Mine was more conservative, just to get as far into Montana as I comfortably could. With the late start out of Seattle, my three hour time zone differential, and the hour we would be losing crossing into Montana, Missoula seemed more achievable.

I left before the ‘J’ Team hoping to squeeze the very last drop of daylight out of Day 1. I rode through some of the most beautiful sections of the trip, including the Fourth of July Pass and Lookout Pass close to the Idaho-Montana border, before nightfall gradually closed in, making it more difficult to track through the intermittent construction zones. Missoula could not have come at a better time. I pulled off the interstate and saw two hotels. The first was a Hampton Inn, part of the Hilton family known for their comfortable beds. When I was told there was no vacancy, I didn’t believe them, not on a Monday night in Missoula. The next hotel was a Super 8, a place that was always willing to take even scruffy looking travellers like us. At just after midnight, another rider, Shuey Wolfe, and I, checked in. We parked under the canopy beside the Triumph Trident.

I set things up so that I only had to carry two bags into the hotel room: the tank bag which held a number of important items - like my medical insurance, passport, and cash - and the soft luggage out of the trunk case that held my computer, and rally items. With the trunk case empty I removed the GPSs and hid them inside. I then placed a cover over the bike to hide other things attached to the dash like the Spot tracker and the Dispatch 1 control module. That was the tuck-in routine every night for the bike.


Day 1 summary:

Distance traveled: 813 miles

4-corners: Blaine, Washington (1)

States: Washington, Oregon, Idaho

Day 2 – Tuesday, June 21st

I slept about four hours then went under the hotel’s canopy to load up the bike. Shuey was already outside, a few minutes ahead of me. Shuey and I were both headed to the Montana state capital, Helena. Following the lights of a guy who managed to hit two deer in separate incidents in the Minuteman Rally this year was a good thing. In football terms he was ‘blocking’ for me. We rode along I-90 for a time then exited off onto Hwy 12, the scenic road leading into Helena.

Because we were riding east, the sun rose in our faces, and at some of the corners the sun sat like a big, blinding, yellow ball on the road ahead. In the clear mountain air, temperatures were 44 degrees F that morning. At one point I could see Shuey’s brake lights came on as he crested a hill. It was at a point where, after climbing a steep bend, the sun parked itself right at the top of the road, blinding us as we reached the peak. To make matters worse, the sun’s rays hit the road at an angle that made the surface look like ice. We both held our breath. I kept checking the thermometer on the Dispatch screen. The temperature remained in the forties, so it couldn’t be ice. The sun slowly rose becoming less of an issue as we approached the capital.

Stopped at a red light in downtown Helena, I came face to face with the official Montana welcoming committee. Standing with those distinctive ears in the left-turning lane opposite me was a Mule Deer doe, giving me the ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ look. I blipped the throttle a few times, and it nonchalantly headed right, down another street. Funny place to meet a deer I thought, but better there than at highway speed.


At 6:15 AM local time, Shuey and I got our photos of the state capitol built at the turn of the 20th century, then parted ways temporarily. After fuel, I headed east out of town following Hwy 287 that brought me back to I-90. I recognized two sets of headlights shining in my rear view mirrors gaining on me. It was Jacques and Jennifer. We were all heading to Wyoming for a receipt in Ranchester. On I-90 there was an impromptu meeting of the ‘Eh? Team’. With Jacques and Jennifer in tow, I passed Darrin Hicks on his Harley then I caught up to Perry Karsten on his FJR. Five of seven Canucks on a twenty mile stretch of I-90. We had a quorum!

I exited off the interstate for breakfast at a Subway in Billings, Montana, the first food eaten since the start the day before that didn’t come pre-wrapped in foil. Back on the road a half-hour later, I stayed right on I-90 heading south towards Wyoming. At 11:45 AM local time, several riders stopped for receipts and a cold drink in Ranchester. Jacques asked me where I had spent the night.

“Missoula,” I replied.

“Smart move,” he said. “It was 42 degrees heading into Helena, with a lot of deer.”

The ‘J’ Team was not dressed for those conditions, and if they were like me, stopping was not an option. The unpredictable nature and stunning population increase of deer gave all riders cause for concern.

From Ranchester, some headed to Pierre, South Dakota, while others, myself included, were going east by way of Bismarck, North Dakota. At 305 points, including Pierre in the route should have been a priority, but for some reason I thought that both Dakotas were worth very little points and headed north to minimize Leg 1 route distance. That was a routing error. I headed to Bismarck for 23 points and left Pierre off my route altogether.

I doubled back along I-90, heading north into Montana, past the Little Bighorn Battlefield, taking a shortcut to I-94 via Hwy 47. The pack thinned out heading to Bismarck, although I caught up to Shuey on his ST13 in rain. Just what North Dakota needed: another good downpour to swell up the rivers! Shuey and I arrived in Bismarck and located a good photo angle of the capitol.

The capitol wasn’t hard to find. We looked for the tallest building in North Dakota, a 19-story Art Deco skyscraper on the prairie. It was built during the Great Depression in the early 1930’s at a time when the Empire State Building was just being finished. I’m sure Frank Lloyd Wright pulled his hair out over this one. It’s an abomination from an architectural standpoint, towering over its neighborhood like an imperial ruler. You get the sense the North Dakota government is giving the finger to its citizens every single day.


That building got me so wound up I needed an energy bar before continuing east along I-94 towards Fargo. At some point Shuey dropped off and headed south. I continued on, riding through the downpour, dipping into low lying areas where air-barriers kept water off the road. At Fargo I looked for a gas station and found one: the Loves truck stop on I-29 just south of I-94. I joined Bill Thweatt at the pumps. We talked briefly before he took off in search of a South Dakota receipt.

My original goal that day was to get somewhere near Minneapolis, but I realized as I headed south on I-29 that I wouldn’t make it. It had been raining steadily since the afternoon, with no letup in sight. I took off after Bill, reaching Sisseton, South Dakota close to midnight. I got a gas receipt and decided to look around for a room. The Super 8 was full; the hotel across the street was jammed as well, leaving only the Holiday Motel behind the gas station. The ‘Loggins and Messina’ song came to mind, with the prophetic lyrics: “Don’t ya let me catch you stayin’ at a Holiday Hotel.”

I approached carefully, walked in to the little office, rang a bell, and was surprised when the person at the desk told me there was room at the inn. He was curious as to why I would be riding so late on a rainy night; I gave him the Coles Notes version of the Iron Butt history, in 30 words or less. He seemed quite interested and as he handed me the key wished me luck. The room was a bargain, although I would have gladly paid more for a shower with hot water.

Shortly after I checked in Jim Winterer signed in and was surprised that the manager already knew what he was up to. I ran into him early in the morning as we were loading our bikes, wishing each other a safe ride before we headed off in the rain. An accident the next day in Indiana would take Jim out of the rally.


Day 2 Summary:

Distance: 1,204 miles

Capitals: Helena, MT, Bismarck, ND

States: Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota

Day 3 – Wednesday, June 22nd

With the Loggins and Messina song stuck in my head, I left the Holiday Motel in Sisseton and traveled east on the two-lane Hwy 28 to where it merged onto I-94 at Sauk Centre. It was raining most of the way to Minneapolis. I timed the rush hour in Minneapolis/St. Paul perfectly and joined a sea of cars entering town. My target was a receipt in Hudson, Wisconsin, at exit 2. Despite the rain and traffic, I swore I passed the Triumph rider on the emergency shoulder of I-694 around Minneapolis. He was riding at a slow speed being tailed by someone on a Gold Wing. I suspected the wet weather caused an electrical problem.

At the service station in Hudson, I met Shuey Wolfe again; he was leaving as I was going in at 8:45 AM. This was one state I could not afford to miss, because returning to Wisconsin from Buffalo then getting back on track to pick up the eastern states would make it impossible to reach Jacksonville on time. Once I triple checked the receipt I waded back into traffic, this time bypassing the low-point state capital of St. Paul, Minnesota, and dropping south down I-35. The points for the capitol were not worth battling rush-hour traffic for.

After a fuel receipt at a Shell station off I-35 in Minnesota, I continued on towards Des Moines, Iowa. To stay awake, I played cat and mouse with a rider on a Honda ST1300. So far during the rally the low-point of each day, energy wise, was between 1-3 PM. The low energy level made it difficult to stay focused. North of Des Moines, I pulled off to eat a meal as much for safety as for hunger. After lunch, I elected to bypass the capital of Des Moines, and continued west along I-80, stopping for an Iowa receipt at a gas station at 1:40 PM. From there, Nebraska was not far away as I cut diagonally southwest on I-80 towards Hwy 75, a two lane road running north/south just inside the Nebraska border. Again the state capitol points were low and I felt it was better to make miles.

My Nebraska receipt was at a Shell station on Hwy 75 at 3:15 PM local time. That same road dropped straight south to Topeka, the capital of Kansas. I stopped at the capitol building to get a photo of the state offices, under construction. After getting the photo at 6 PM, I made my way to a McDonalds close by to get a cold drink and to do my call-in bonus.


I was trying desperately to make Jefferson City, Missouri, in the daylight for a photo, but arrived in the dark near 10 PM. I opted for a receipt and a ten-point penalty. The GPS had tracked me down Hwy 50 rather than the interstate, one of those questionable decisions that allowed a shorter, more direct route, but at the expense of expediency. As I left the service road and made my way to Hwy 54, I could see the dome lit up in the distance. Just north of Fulton, Missouri, I found a Super 8 Hotel at the intersection of Hwy 54 and I-70. It was there that I took my rest bonus starting at 10:43 PM local time.


Day 3 Summary:

Distance: 1,042 miles

Capitals: Topeka, KS, Jefferson City, MO

States: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri

Call-in Bonus: from Topeka, KS

Day 4 – Thursday, June 23rd

I hit the road around 4:35 AM, heading east towards St. Louis on I-70 until I hit I-64 leading me southeast through Chesterfield and guiding me over the Poplar St. Bridge. With the sun in my face I could only catch a quick glimpse of the famous Gateway Arch that seemed inches away as I went by. Once across the Mississippi I was in Illinois, and I was on the lookout for a suitable receipt, namely Shell. That came at 6:10 AM. With a good receipt in hand, it was time to head over to one of my favorite riding states, Kentucky.


Spot track of riders early Thursday moning. I'm 777.

I followed I-64 cutting the southern tip of Indiana, passing Louisville, and continuing on to Frankfort. I could see I-64 West backed up as I entered the city, so I made a mental note to avoid that road on the way out of town. This was probably my favorite state capitol: an impressive, stately building, as all state capitols should be, perfectly balanced, set back on a rolling hill, with a whole lot of Kentucky bluegrass in the foreground. There are many French Beaux-Arts influences in the design, and perhaps that was why I was so impressed.


With my photo in the camera, I stared at the GPS trying to figure an alternate route out of town. A worker approached. “You look like you’re doing an Iron Butt ride. I can tell by the fuel cell.”

“This is it,” I said, “the Iron Butt Rally: 48 states, 4-corners, and state capitals.”

He knew enough to wonder why it was being held in June rather than late August. We chatted for a few minutes before he wished me luck and watched me depart. I crossed a bridge and found Hwy 127, the road that got me around the I-64 chaos, guiding me north towards Cincinnati. It was a really nice change from the interstate, with twists and turns and elevation changes, and proved to be a smart decision as it knocked a lot of time off the original route.

Somewhere south of Cincinnati on, I-71, I stopped for a cold drink and an energy bar. The plan for the rest of the day was to get a receipt in Indiana, and concentrate on the higher value state capitals in Michigan and Ohio. I had to keep moving, heading west towards Indianapolis, but breaking away straight north before traffic became an issue. I stopped for a Shell receipt in Greenfield, Indiana, then followed Hwy 9 north to I-69. This was an area I was quite familiar with having traveled through these roads many times to and from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, for the Not Superman Rally.

I stayed on I-69 all the way to Lansing, Michigan. That capital was worth over 600 points and was a must stop along the way to checkpoint 1. I passed many riders heading south including Karl Snell, on his BMW GS. We met at the Not Superman Rally a few years back and had become good friends because of that rally. After entering downtown Lansing, I managed to get a photo of the state capitol, built in 1879, despite the wind that kept whipping the flag.


I relished the thought of picking up a big bonus and enjoyed the moment as I rode south east on I-96, then dropped straight south on Hwy 23. From here on in it was all about setting up for a big bonus in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the next day, while riding through Columbus, Ohio, for a state capital. I found my way to I-75 south, exiting back onto Hwy 23 leading southeast to Columbus. Once near the Ohio capital I exited off 315 and began looking for a receipt. It was dark and I really didn’t feel like heading into the heart of the city for the state capitol photo. I opted for a receipt and a ten-point penalty. There was another rider at the Columbus McDonalds on Olentangy River Road, Wallace French. The fun was just beginning for Wallace; over the next few days he learned how frustrating mechanical issues can be in a rally. At close to 10 PM I took a few minutes to eat, and planned the next hour or two of riding.

After the stop in Columbus, I made my way to I-70 and followed the road east as far as I could comfortably ride. At the Zanesville, OH, exit I noticed a sign saying Travelodge Hotel, so I ducked into town. I was disappointed to find it was the Travel Inn, a Ma and Pa operation, not the chain I was expecting. I woke someone up to check in, carried my computer and tank bag up a flight of stairs to the room, then studied my route for the final charge to Buffalo. I calculated that I needed to be on the road at 7 AM at the very latest to be in Buffalo for 5 PM the next day. I crashed on the bed, and set the alarm to wake me at 5:00 AM local time.


Day 4 Summary:

Distance: 1,151 miles

Capitals: Frankfort, KY, Lansing, MI, Columbus, OH

States: Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio

Rest Bonus 349 minutes

Day 5 – Friday, June 24th

At this stage I was no longer sleeping under the sheets, rather on top of bedspreads in LD Comforts. When daylight peered through the curtains I thought it might be time to open my eyes. Instant panic set in. “I slept in!” I thought as I checked my watch that said 5:20 AM. Whew! Not so bad. How did that happen? I grabbed my phone and tried to turn it on. Dead! “Shit, shit, shit!” I repeated as I scrambled off the bed disappointed that I could let that battery die. In a few minutes I was down at the bike, loading things up. I caught glimpse of the local time on the GPS: 6:40 AM! I looked at my watch, at the GPS time, at my watch. “Shit!” my damn watch was set for Central time not Eastern. I was almost two hours late! I tried to keep calm, reminding myself that 7 AM was the latest I should be leaving to arrive at a good time in Buffalo.

I made all kinds of mental notes to make sure the phone, my only alarm clock, never died. It had to be charged every night, like the Bluetooth headsets. I had even acquired a Zagg Sparq, a combination USB charger and battery, expressly for that purpose. It was time to put it to work. Luckily I had reviewed the route the previous night and remembered the order of states I would be going through that day. After Ohio, I had planned a stop in Wheeling, West Virginia, to get a receipt. West Virginia was a bit out of the way in Leg 2, so I opted to get a receipt as I traveled through the little isthmus that stuck up between Ohio and Pennsylvania.

On my way there I passed fellow Canuck, Darrin Hicks, again. Like me he was heading to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for a photo of the capitol. Because he rides a big Harley and strives to maximize fuel efficiency, he doesn’t ride as fast as the rest of us do. That means he has to get up earlier in the morning, and ride later at night in order to rack up the miles he rides. Shortly after passing Darrin I ducked off into Wheeling for a fuel receipt, and scratched that state off my list.

The stretch of I-70 through Pennsylvania I’d seen several times in different rallies, the Void Rally for instance, and preferred doing it in daylight. Pennsylvania is regarded as one of the states with the highest deer population and the most numerous deer strikes. I shut down last night to avoid this road at night. It is most beautiful in the fall when the leaves are bright yellow, and the air cool and crisp. On the way to Harrisburg I rode through four tunnels on a highway in serious need of repair. With my suspension set taut for the ‘smooth’ American roads, each frost heave sent a jolt up my forearms. I was dragging pegs in the decreasing radius corners of the E-Z Pass exits, but the benefit of the electronic tag completely outweighed the inconvenience of going through the toll gates. I smiled every time that green light came on.

I finally reached Harrisburg at 11:35 AM and took special delight in bagging 1000 points, the largest point capitol in Legs 1 and 2. Within seconds of my arrival, Karl Snell pulled in, taking his photo in his well-rehearsed way. The two of us aimed north to Buffalo, riding the slow 2-lane highway 15 through the Keystone State. Karl dropped off for gas early, as I continued my march north. Eventually the road became four lanes and with an absence of stop lights, we were able to make better time. I waved to Karl as he leapfrogged ahead of me while I stopped for gas and a bar.


In New York, I continued to push north, before exiting off I-390 onto Hwy 36. Back on two lanes, the road was slower in top speed but ultimately quicker to the finish than I-90, which was backed up with weekend traffic. Five miles from the finish, I stopped at a McDonalds for a cold drink and a New York receipt just to calm myself down a bit and collect my thoughts. This was the first checkpoint. I reminded myself that I had to make sure my Passport book was properly filled out; the scene there could be crazy, and there could be a lot of distractions. I had to maintain focus. To remember the occasion I clipped on my video cam and recorded the last few miles to the Millennium Hotel checkpoint.

Riding in to the parking lot, there was very little chaos. The checkpoint seemed a bit loose and disorganized as bikes were parked all over the lot. I would have preferred a secure area so that we could have left a few things on the bike while getting through scoring. Greeting me was North Bay rider and friend Cam Sanders, who was doubling as my pit boss that day. It felt good to get off the bike, but very satisfying to know I had arrived within minutes of my initial plan. In the IB5000 I was showing up to checkpoints hours before they opened, not the most productive strategy. I stopped the clock then went to my room to freshen up and download the photos to my laptop before rechecking all my entries in preparation for scoring.

The ‘Beef on Weck’ buffet was delicious. It really hit the spot after all the bars and gels I had consumed on the first leg. Scoring went perfectly, and I was very pleased that I had not dropped a point at the scoring table. By 8 PM, Cam and I, along with a fellow Blackfly rider were in the parking lot changing the wheels on my bike. There would be fresh rubber for the next half of the trip! One front-brake bolt gave us a hard time so I needed to find someone with a special wrench. That person turned out to be none other than John Ryan, the man who would stop at nothing to remove a stubborn bolt. Having the Ultimate Coast to Coast record holder wrenching on my front wheel was certainly a treat.

Few people know that many years ago in an IBR, John Ryan ran into problems in North Bay, Ontario, my hometown, and was helped by a fellow I know called Ron Leblanc. Ron and his buddy, both talented mechanics/machinists, were able to build the needed part for John’s BMW K75 and get him on his way. He has never forgotten the generosity these guys exhibited towards him in his quest to finish the rally. Here he was returning the favor.

Perry Karsten was in a panic. He wrote the Wisconsin capitol information in the wrong section of the Wisconsin page of his Passport book and was told he would not get credit for his visit to the state. That essentially meant a DNF because it would be impossible to backtrack to Wisconsin to pick up another receipt, before heading over to Maine to continue a course to Florida. Disappointed, he called his wife to say he was out of the rally. Fellow Canadian Bob Todd who was at the hotel heard about Perry’s predicament and suggested that Perry challenge the ruling with the IBR organizers. In the end they agreed to accept his photo as proof of his visit to the state, but docked him the points for the capitol.

Later, I met him in the hallway of the hotel. He was ecstatic about the decision. “I feel like I’ve been given new life, a second chance. I’m going to re-dedicate myself to the ride.” This was not the same guy who wanted to pick up a few capitals on his way to being a finisher.

I also ran into Darrin in the hallway. He told me about the electrical problems he had had along the way. He did not make it to Harrisburg for the big bonus either because of construction delays that would have meant late arrival to Buffalo. Even then, he ran 5,178 miles and collected some great points in Leg 1.

After my wheels were on, I headed off to the room I shared with Corey Nuehring. I wasn’t going to risk having Cam wake me up before the 4 AM meeting. Cam enjoyed his Buffalo visit, socializing until the wee hours of the morning.


Day 5 Summary:

Distance: 601 miles

Capitals: Harrisburg, PA

States: West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York

Leg 1 Totals:

Distance: 4811 miles

Points: 2931

Rank: 40th

Day 6 – Saturday, June 25th

Just before 4 AM, riders gathered in the meeting room to receive the morning briefing and the list of Leg 2 bonus values. The top-ten list was dominated by the three riders who returned from Alaska. In first place was Ken Meese, a man who made no bones about his intention to win this rally like every other one he had finished in the last few years. He was on a mission, and Leg 2 would be no different. Organizers posted the standings on the wall but I didn’t bother sticking around to check. My position would have no bearing on my Leg 2 planning.

The values of the state capitals were disappointing in Leg 2. There was nothing anywhere near as big as the 1000-point bonus for Harrisburg. I remained committed to the 4-corners ride, meaning I was heading to Madawaska, Maine, then, percolating down to Jacksonville, FL, to collect as many state capitals as possible along the way.

Charleston, West Virginia, and Atlanta, Georgia, were the only two high value capitals on this leg of the trip, but both were so far off the base route that I judged it would be impossible to get either after reaching Madawaska. A nice catch would be the Vermont capital on the way to Quebec, roads that I judged faster than a trek through Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine along the infamous Highway 2.

At 6 AM I gave Cam the clenched-fist ‘freedom’ salute and left Buffalo, in light rain, on fresh tires, spending the next couple of hours treading carefully until the tires had roughened up. After a gas stop along the way, I headed north off I-90 on my way to Montpelier, Vermont. East from Buffalo, I interacted with a procession of riders including Mike and Betty Ligons, and Brian Bray, the young rider on the Suzuki. At Montpelier, several of us arrived simultaneously for our photos. There was a Shell station one block from the capitol, so I topped off the tank and planned my run to Quebec.


Through a maze of Vermont back roads I scratched and clawed my way north to the Stanstead border crossing. Once through, I ran for Hwy 20, a four-lane highway leading northeast on the south side of the St. Lawrence River. Again, a low point in my energy level forced me to get off the highway for a twenty-minute break just south of Quebec City. Back on the road, feeling much better, I made good time heading to Riviere-du-Loup, then into New Brunswick. I even gave my mother a call to let her know I was having a great time. She had sent me an e-mail telling me how much she was enjoying the Spotwalla site. Not far from Edmunston, New Brunswick, I stopped at a Shell station.

Crossing into the U.S. at Madawaska was no problem. The border guard asked me if I was doing the 4-corners ride, then pointed to the park I should be going to for my photo. I needed the Post Office in the center of town, not the park with the 4-corners plaque. I was the only bike there when I pulled up, but after taking my photo about five other bikes converged on site; among those riders were Tim Masterson, and Pat Clark.


Although my original plan called for me to exit the U.S. back into New Brunswick and ride the Trans-Canada highway to Woodstock, New Brunswick, then turning down to Houlton, Maine, Pat and I ended up following a rider on a GS on U.S. 1 that paralleled the border. We eventually reached I-95 and coursed south towards Bangor. I had decided to stop there once I reached the hotel exits. Although not really raining, roads were still wet and there was a lot of mist in the air. I exited off with Pat when we saw a sign for a Comfort Inn. We checked in and shared a room that night. Tucking the bike in I talked to a German tourist, a European rider, who was curious about the equipment on the bike. He found the distances in North America hard to fathom. Back upstairs, after dripping in the required eye drops, I went to bed without even bothering to remove my contact lenses.


Day 6 Summary

Distance: 1081 miles

4-Corners: Madawaska, ME (2)

Capitals: Montpelier, VT

States: Vermont

Day 7 – Sunday, June 26th

Up early, I did the call-in bonus from the hotel room. I was heading to the capitol in Augusta, Maine, while Pat was heading to Massachusetts. It was a pleasant ride to Augusta, with little traffic early on a Sunday morning. My mind had time to wander just enough for minor panic to set in. I realized as I rode along that I had not seen my pack of contact lenses that morning. I remembered them being stored in a plastic zip lock bag, which I definitely didn’t pack that morning. During the IBR, I was carrying three pairs of gas permeable contact lenses, in addition to the pair on my eyes. They are hard lenses, designed to be removed daily to rest the eyes, and rotated daily while others soak and clean. I tried desperately to remember what had happened to the lenses. Did I leave them in Buffalo, and if I did, in which room - Cam’s or Corey’s? I had no idea where they were, but I began hatching some wild plans for their replacement. I developed a scheme so elaborate that, with one phone call, the National Guard would deliver new contacts into my tankbag from a helicopter hovering over my motorcycle while moving down the road at interstate speed; imagine refueling an F-18 mid-flight and you get the drift. I guess I could have pulled over to look through my cases but that would have meant stopping, and I refused to stop unless my life, or someone else’s, was hanging in the balance. So I continued to roll.

Finally, it occurred to me that at some point in the first Leg, I had moved my contacts into a hard case for protection, and because I didn’t remove the lenses last night there was no need to remove the case containing the extra lenses. I breathed a sigh of relief because I knew where the case was. Case solved. Crisis averted. Deep breaths. Neck stretch. Call off the National Guard. I could now return to my regularly scheduled program, the ride to Augusta, Maine. I pulled up to the front of the granite building, built in 1832, to get my photo. After fuel the goal was a receipt in New Hampshire.


I knew that there were only so many minutes required to cross New Hampshire, so I paid particular attention to the state line on the GPS to ensure I pulled off early enough. I found a McDonalds along the way that would give me a chance to sit down and look at a map, as states would be going by quickly over the next few hours. After a quick breakfast and a review of the order of the states, I left the restaurant made a right turn and headed for the interstate. Following the GPS instructions to get in the right lane, I took the first ramp and began heading north on I-95, instead of the next ramp south.

“What the hell?” I caught my mistake immediately, but it was too late to get off the ramp. “Pay attention,” I reminded myself as I was forced to drive about ten miles to get turned around. Beyond New Hampshire I took I-495 through Massachusetts. I judged the swing on I-495 too long through the state and promised myself I would just stay on I-95 next time. I was able to find a Shell for top-off fuel and a good receipt.

From Massachusetts, I aimed for Rhode Island and debated going in to Providence for a photo of the capital versus a receipt in Wyoming, Rhode Island just off the interstate. I decided to duck in for a photo, because I knew that capitol, built at the turn of the 20th century, was close to the freeway. Again traffic was light in town so I was able to line up the photo quickly.

On the way out, I decided to follow the GPS route to I-95 and Connecticut, but missed a turn to put me on the freeway, forcing a detour through a section of Providence. That was the third mental lapse that day: the contact lens drama, the missed ramp in New Hampshire, and now a missed turn that would have put me back on I-95 south. Again, I caught the mistake immediately, but had my mind not been five states down the highway, it would never have happened. I was finding out Day 7 was the day the brain started to play games and behave rather poorly. I was concentrating so hard on not missing a state that I was missing other things, like ramps and exits. I realized I couldn’t juggle six things at once. Not anymore.


Just past Providence traffic ground to a halt, inching along until the Hwy 4 turnoff, then started moving again as I entered Connecticut. I exited off I-95 for a receipt at a Shell station somewhere around New Haven. Having already picked up a New York receipt in Leg 1, my next target was New Jersey. Again, I was undecided if I wanted to go to the state capital or just drop off for a receipt. I set my sights on the capital and figured I could duck off for a receipt if traffic dictated.

I enjoyed the ride south with occasional glimpses of Long Island Sound over my left shoulder. I continued on towards New York City as my GPS wanted to route me over the George Washington Bridge. I debated using the Tappan Zee Bridge figuring that it would be quicker, but curiosity got the better of me, and I opted for a bridge I had never crossed before. This was the IBR after all, and seeing something new often trumped making things easier. It was a mistake, as lineups and delays overwhelmed the George Washington Bridge. Queued in traffic, a dump truck driver yelled at me out his open window:

“What state is that plate from?”

“Ontario,” I yelled back.

“Boy, you’ve come a long way!”

I did a quick mental calculation. Ontario, the province, was a few hundred miles away. If he only knew!

After crossing the bridge into New Jersey, I stayed on I-95 south to my chagrin. Traffic was highly irregular, either moving like crazy, or stopped dead. I had to get off that road as soon as possible, so with the coordinates for the state capital in the GPS, I exited off as prescribed. Traffic immediately dropped and I was able to reach the capitol building quickly, get my photo and leave town on a freeway (I-295) that was empty. The state house was originally built in the late 1700’s, the second oldest state house in continuous use. Although the neighborhood was no hell, the capitol building had a very unique look to it. I was enjoying the history and the differing architectural styles of the buildings.


My next stops were a series of state capitals in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. Because I had picked up a receipt in West Virginia on Leg 1 there was no detour required for that state. The road to Dover was relatively quiet. I took the photo of the “Old State House,” another building dating to the late 1700’s, and in my hurry, left without filling out the passport information. I looked down to check the odometer, an easy number to remember, and figured I’d get the time off the camera.


On the way to Annapolis, I stopped to mount the video camera onto my helmet to film the crossing of the Bay Bridge. The sun set as I crossed the bridge, giving me a few more minutes of daylight before reaching the capitol building. Riding through a very lively historic district, on narrow streets radiating from the circle around the capitol, it took me two approaches to get close enough for a photo. This state capitol was the oldest one still in use, dating back to 1772. The unique wooden dome was covered by restoration drapes and hidden behind trees, so I didn’t actually see much of the building. I filled out the information for Annapolis and for Dover, but because I had put the camera away, I made a mental note to enter Dover time information when I stopped that night.


In darkness, I left Annapolis behind and made my may to Richmond, Virginia. I cut through Washington, DC, and got onto the beltway. A couple of helmetless squids zipped through traffic, crisscrossing through cars like shoelaces through eyelets. Somewhere south of Washington, on I-95, the sight of a blinking odometer startled me, indicating I was already 40 miles into my reserve fuel. I reached back and grabbed the lever to the fuel cell but was shocked to find out it had already been deployed.

“Shit, shit, shit!” Another Day 7 screw-up! I wasn’t sure how far I could ride on the reserve of the main tank, but as I approached 43 miles I was in a state of panic. The GPS search showed fuel in Fredericksburg, VA, 7 miles away, so I positioned myself into the slow lane, scrubbed off speed, and worked on keeping the throttle as steady as possible until I could see the exit. I made it, with over 49 miles on my reserve odometer. It was dumb luck that I looked down when I did.

With full tanks and a cold drink in my belly, I stood by the bike and counted my lucky stars. Three young boys in their early teens came up to me and started asking questions about the bike, where I was from, how far away that was, and where I was going. One turned to me as his friends walked away and said: “I’m gonna see you in another life.” I wasn’t sure what he meant but it spooked me out. He was looking forward to another life and I was trying not to look any further than my headlights could shine.

From Fredericksburg, I motored on to the Virginia capital arriving there at 11:30 PM. Although this one had no visible dome, the massive pillars gave it a very stately ‘southern’ look. I took a night-time photo of the capitol then headed south for a bit in the rain before deciding that the next capital was too far off to reach that night in deer country. I pulled off the freeway and had a choice of hotels: a Red Roof Inn, or a Hampton Inn. Still smarting from the ‘no vacancy’ at the Hampton Inn Missoula, I opted for the Red Roof.


I had never seen a bulletproof reception area before, but this hotel had one. I watched as a client used the elaborate system to hand over I.D. and money through a slot under the window, his credit card and driver’s license disappearing for 5 minutes before they were handed back to him by reversing the mechanism. I couldn’t resist asking “How bad is this neighborhood?”

The young black man replied, “This is South Richmond. It’s not very good.”

After parking the bike and emptying it of valuables, I noticed a security guard walking around the property. I gave him ten dollars and asked him to keep a close watch on the bike. South Richmond or not, I needed that bike to be there when I woke up. It was time to re-group and put Day 7 behind me.

Once settled in the room I checked my e-mail and noticed one from Darrin stating that he had dropped out of the rally. After three deer encounters the previous night in Maine, the last one causing a low speed get-off, he had decided that the risk/reward ratio did not warrant his continuation in the rally. After getting his bike patched up in Boston, he headed home. I felt bad for the guy, because he had had a great first leg and would have finished up the ladder had he continued. I also learned that John Coons had an accident leaving Buffalo. I wasn’t sure what had happened, but felt that another legitimate contender was out of the rally. Those little Day 7 miscues didn’t seem so serious after all.


Summary Day 7

Distance: 900 miles

Capitals: Augusta, ME, Providence, RI, Trenton, NJ,

Dover, DE, Annapolis, MD, Richmond, VA

States: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island,

Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia

Day 8 – Monday, June 27th

The previous night’s rain left the roads wet as I turned south from Richmond on I-95 in the dark. The first stop that morning would be at the capitol in Raleigh, North Carolina. That would mean exiting to I-85 at Petersburg, Virginia, just south of Richmond, then exiting off that interstate in a more direct route. It was a very pleasant morning with light traffic on I-85, a smooth stretch of asphalt bordered by tall trees with thick foliage separating north and south lanes. I arrived in Raleigh just as rush hour got into high gear, but as I had found out in other cities, the state capitol buildings are rarely in the busiest parts of town.


I had my photo before 8 AM of the building finished in 1840, and continued the southern trek along I-40 back to I-95. Somewhere just inside South Carolina, I stopped for fuel, meeting honorary Canadian Bob Rippy in the process. He was inside enjoying a cold drink. We talked for a few minutes, discussing where we spent the previous night, and were surprised to find out that we’d been neighbors. He was at the Hampton, and I was next door at the Red Roof Inn. His bed was more comfortable, that I can assure you. He was gunning for the checkpoint in Jacksonville, Florida, but I still had to get to Columbia, South Carolina, before the second checkpoint.

I continued for a short spell on I-95 before turning west on I-20 to Columbia. I arrived at the state capitol, a building that somehow avoided the Union Army’s torches during the Civil War, and scouted out the best photo location. I could ride up onto the sidewalk in front of the building, but had to step onto a busy street to get a photo that showed everything required. As I was packing up I heard a horn sound. I looked around and saw Pat Clark coming in on his cruiser. That immediately put a smile on my face, as I knew I wouldn’t be the last one in to Jacksonville. We talked for a bit, got cold drinks and fuel, then headed south along I-26 before reaching the familiar I-95. Neither one of us was ready to call it quits, so there was no sense-slapping needed at this stage.


We remembered to stop for a receipt in Georgia before making a run for Florida. Jacksonville was not far from the Georgia border. My GPS wanted to track us south through the main part of the city, showing an ETA of 4:30 PM. After a few stop lights, I could see the steam coming out of Pat’s helmet. “We gotta get back onto I-95,” he said, figuring it would take us all day to get to the hotel. Off we went in search of the interstate, something I wish we would have avoided as we waded into a sea of stalled traffic. Now I understood why the Zumo wanted me to go through town. It was faster. As if that wasn’t enough, the skies opened up drenching us in a torrential downpour.

Pat and I got separated in the rain and traffic. At some point I exited off the freeway to use city streets to get me to the hotel. I arrived just before Pat at about 4:45 pm, fifteen minutes before penalty points, but too late for food. Dinner had been cleaned out. We weren’t happy about that, and there was nowhere to grab a quick bite. After checking in and getting freshened up, I spent some time going over the Passport book to make sure things were filled out properly before heading down to scoring. Day 7 reared its ugly head once again, as the Dover capitol had date, odometer but no ‘time’. My plan to get the time from the camera didn’t work out so well. I was docked 37 points for my oversight.

I went back to the room to join Corey Nuehring and try to get a few minutes of sleep. It was now close to 8 PM. After dozing off for what seemed like seconds an alarm went off in our room ¾ of an hour later, waking me from a deep sleep. That would be all the rest I got before getting downstairs to await the next bonus listing.

At the rider meeting, rally leader Ken Meese was singled out. He had maintained his lead through Leg 2; Mike Kneebone had Ken stand up and let him know the rally was his to lose. I could see Ken take a deep breath, but he wasn’t about to walk away from the challenge. There was doubt amongst the other riders and the organizers that the three who rode to Alaska could pour it on at the end to stay in the top of the field. The next few days would decide their fate.

Many of the 4-corners riders were dressed and ready to leave for Key West at 10:00 PM. I wasn’t one of them. After picking up the listing, I went back to the room and spent some time loading the GPS locations, and trying to plan out a day or two beyond Key West. Although I felt rushed to stay with the group, I left after the bike was packed at 11:30 PM.


Summary Day 8

Distance: 695 miles

Capitals: Raleigh, NC, Columbia, SC

States: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia

Leg 2 Summary

Distance: 2656 miles

Points: 2162

Penalties: 37

Rank: 36th

Day 9 – Tuesday, June 28th

Up until this point the rally had been straight forward pattern: ride, sleep, ride, sleep. But things were about to change. In order to leave time to make it to Key West and San Ysidro, riders had to leave as soon as possible after receiving the bonus listing. That meant shifting the ride/sleep pattern. Although the day had not been a particularly difficult one, leaving on no sleep and an empty stomach was a bitter pill to swallow. The ‘state capitals only’ strategy was looking good right now, but I remained committed to the unique nature of ‘the ride within the ride.’

My departure time would put me into Key West about 1½ hours after the pack of 10 o’clock riders. The 500 miles to the 3rd corner was along flat, straight stretches of interstate. I stopped for fuel when I felt tired, but mostly kept on motoring, stimulated more by the ‘newness’ of the scenery as opposed to the scenery itself. The only excitement along the way happened when I reached forward to push a button on the Garmin 478 GPS and inadvertently hit the ‘kill switch’ on my keyless set up. Because I was riding with loose sleeves, the strap caught the switch and shut off everything, and I do mean everything, at freeway speed. No panic, I found the switch in the dark, turned everything back on and kept motoring as if nothing had happened. Now I knew the answer to the question “What happens if I hit that switch while rolling down the highway?” The same thing would happen one more time before the finish, without as much drama, in daylight. I made a mental note to change the toggle switch for one with a flatter profile.

Storms were invading the Keys as I began the final hundred mile push to the post office. I had subscribed to NEXRAD weather radar before the IBR, and this was a part of the ride where it was very useful. Heading west through the Keys, I could see the storms developing over an area covering the westernmost islands. As I got closer, the areas of green, yellow, and red would coalesce, expanding to cover the one road west. Early that morning, in the dark, the first wave of storms hit.

Because I was 90 minutes behind the pack, I could see who was leaving Key West first and who was following. I passed the first rider when I was still about 1½ hours from the 3rd corner. In the dark and rain it was hard to make out who it was, but he was fully 45 minutes ahead of any other rider. Once I was 45 minutes from the goal, a string of bikes came down the highway. Again, I could only go by headlights, but I could make out Gold Wings, ST13’s, FJR’s, and GS’s. On a rainy morning, it was still too dark to tell who the individuals were, but I knew I was still an hour and a half behind the pack.

By 7 AM I entered Key West, and started to make my way to the post office. That town has a unique flavor, and I enjoyed the ride past the harbor and through the different neighborhoods to get the photo. The waypoint wasn’t exact so it took a bit of walking around before I was able to locate the post office and get the photo. As I was leaving town around 7:30 AM I saw another rider doing what I had done, that is walking around the homes and businesses looking for one that housed a post office.


Driving by the Tropic Cinema marquee, I was drawn by a statue of Marilyn Monroe out by the street, reenacting the famous scene from “The Seven Year Itch”, where her white dress flew up in the air as she stood over a grate on the sidewalk. I knew I would not be back for a long time and simply had to stop and take a photo of that scene. The cinema, rated the best in Florida, oozes a cool vibe and doubles as a community cultural center.


Two riders headed over to take photos of their bikes at the southernmost point marker while I had a date with Marilyn. Greg Guillermo and Pat Clark took a few minutes to get the photo before turning back. We all met up just outside the city on our way north east. Together we rode through some intense storms, as the areas of green on the screen blended together and transformed to yellow blobs, surrounding a small red core. The GPS looked more like a lava lamp. There was nothing to do but to keep moving as the storm cells continued to mutate and coalesce into larger forms, covering most of south Florida by now.

I stopped for fuel at a Chevron, and waited to see if Pat was going to ride by. No sign of him, so I kept moving towards Miami. In fact, that is where I stopped for lunch shortly after a particularly intense downpour where water had accumulated on the surface of the freeway. After a half-hour, I was back on the road, climbing north along the Florida Turnpike, fighting off fatigue. My body screamed for rest, but I was having a hard time finding a place to stop. Finally, I got off the turnpike and stopped for fuel and a cold drink.

While there, Greg Guillermo pulled up for the same reasons. He was in need of sleep as well; together we soldiered along, heading north until we spotted a Days Inn sign. By 3:30 PM I was asleep, getting four good hours of restful sleep midday, hitting the road again by 8 PM. The rest of the ride north through Florida was largely uneventful except for a good storm around Gainesville. It would be the last storm I would encounter.

Following I-10 west across the Florida panhandle I heeded the warnings about deer and wildlife. I actually enjoyed riding that part of the state because unlike the east side, there were hills and curves. The mist in the air that night following the rains gave the road a very intimate feel, being closed in by tall trees on each side and low lying cloud above. Fortunately the deer stayed away.

Approaching Tallahassee the radar screen showed a yellow blob covering the city. Ahead, bursts of lightning lit up the sky, although no raindrops fell. The highway leading in to the city cut into that blob but the rain held off, keeping me dry until I got to the state capital. It was a struggle to get an acceptable night time photo of the white building, as I was unable to park near the front of the place. At least Florida built their government tower behind the ‘old capitol’, a building completed in 1845. On my way out of town I found a Shell and topped up the tank. The transaction would not only give me a Florida receipt if I needed one, it would also back up my photo in the event the night time shot was unacceptable.


Before long I was into Alabama and another time zone. Shortly after 2 AM local time I pulled over to check into a hotel in Loxley. I asked to verify the check-in receipt and noted the computer time was accurate. Perfect, I thought, I can start my rest bonus right now. So I got settled in, and set the alarm for a four-hour nap. I planned on using the extra time in the morning to do some routing.

Had I spent a bit more time routing in Jacksonville, I might have included Montgomery, Alabama, as a stop. It was easily doable, worth over 600 points, and would have made it a cinch to reach Jackson, Mississippi, and then a receipt in Louisiana.


Day 9 Summary:

Distance: 1380 miles

4-corners: Key West, (3)

Capitals: Tallahassee, FL

States: Florida

Day 10 – Wednesday, June 29th

This was rest bonus day and call-in bonus day as well. I woke up after 4 hours of sleep and took my time getting ready. I turned on my computer to do some route planning and as the computer booted up, grabbed the starting rest receipt to double check the time and date to ensure it was acceptable. The time was perfect, the date was June 28th. “What the #*&@?” I stared in disbelief. The right time, the wrong day! That changed everything. In my bleary-eyed cursory exam last night I had overlooked the date.

It was a mad scramble to get moving, because now I had to stop again before midnight to take advantage of the rest bonus. As it turned out, the date on the hotel’s computer system didn’t change until 3 AM. Had I noticed it the night before I could have gone to either of two gas stations beside the hotel to pick up a valid receipt. I was so busy kicking my ass for missing the date on the receipt I almost forgot to do the call-in bonus.

I was back on the road before 7 AM, heading for Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was a perfect morning for riding. Temperatures were still comfortable, the sky had cleared, and the sun was at my back. Through Mobile, I caught a glimpse of the large battleship, USS Alabama, docked at the port. Traffic was not an issue. Along the way I was passed by Phazer Phil, a Brit riding a white Yamaha Fazer in sport bike trim. I followed him for a while but decided I wouldn’t try to keep up.

Within minutes it seemed I was out of Alabama and crossing a thin section of Mississippi. I looked for evidence of Hurricane Katrina but didn’t see much, as most of the damage had been cleaned up, repaired, or torn down. I was surprised at the number of casinos in the Mississippi gulf area. The state was trying hard to make this a major tourist destination and I’m sure they will be successful over time.

After entering Louisiana, I got off I-10 onto I-12 in search of the state capital. After a Chevron fuel stop I was back on the interstate only to be passed by Phazer Phil again. I noticed this time he had no fuel cell and only a trunk case for luggage. He was traveling light. He reminded me of a ping pong ball on that white bike. He would pass you in one direction, then you’d see him go by in another, always looking like he was in a rush, then he’d go by you again and you’d wonder where the hell he went. Like me, he was doing the 4-corners, but beyond that I had no idea where he was going.

I got to the capitol building of Louisiana, an eye-sore in Baton Rouge. I was really beginning to hate these skyscraper capitols. This one I would actually rate lower than Bismarck on the tasteful index. Not only did it look like the government was giving the people of Louisiana the finger, you could make out the knuckles on each side as well. Nice attention to detail! The building, where popular Louisiana politician Huey Long was assassinated in 1935, still sports the bullet holes in the wall.


I doubled back along I-12 to I-55, pointing north into Mississippi. Jackson, the capital was not far away. I made good time to that city, stopping for a photo of the capitol building. I knew that my capitol-photo-taking-days were nearing an end as I needed to make miles more than points at this stage. I followed I-55 straight north for my Tennessee receipt. The state capital in Nashville was out of the question, but I could get a receipt in Memphis before turning west on I-40.


I arrived just in time for rush hour traffic to stop me dead just south of the city. It actually was an accident that caused the delay, so after a mile of stop and go I was able to resume my normal speed. As I got closer to the city limits I had the GPS search for Shell stations or McDonalds restaurants because both seemed to be everywhere. I found a McDonalds close by and set it as a ‘via point’. When I arrived the restaurant had evolved into a Shell station. “Even better,” I thought.

I topped off the tanks and went in to pay. On my way out I was approached by a young lady with a complexion problem. Would I give her “some money for food?” she asked. I had a good idea where that money would go, so I looked at her in my sweaty, disheveled state and asked her straight up: “Do I look like I have any money to give away?” It was like one bum asking another for change.

“Sorry, sir,” she said. “Have a good day.”

Back on the road I passed the Pyramid, scene of the ‘Art of the Motorcycle’ show Cam and I attended several years ago, and followed the exit to Arkansas, crossing the Mississippi for the last time. There was an immediate drop in road quality. Truck traffic was intense along I-40, along roads that could only be described as sub-standard. This was a road only in the sense the Appian Way was a road. With my suspension set as firm as it was, my forearms absorbed each bump. I longed for a nice smooth Northern Ontario road, and couldn’t believe I was thinking that way.

As I rode along, through the dry landscape I kept wondering, “What do people do here to survive?” It looked to be too dry for agriculture, and I didn’t see any pumpjacks bobbing for oil. There were no trees to cut, and no mountains to excavate. This was the only state to legislate the pronunciation of its name (AR-kan-saw as opposed to Our-kansas, I guess). Before long I was in Bill Clinton’s former stomping ground in Little Rock, the largest city in Arkansas. The state capitol surprised me. I was expecting something smaller, simpler and less imposing. The exterior, made of Arkansas limestone, and the stairs leading from the street level gave the building a powerful stance, without overwhelming the surrounding grounds.


There was no one around when I arrived, so I parked right in front and walked up those stairs to get my photo. With that done it was time for a cold drink, and a burger. Again, McDonalds had a restaurant about a mile or so from where I stood, so off I went. Funny, I never eat at a McDonalds back home, but on the road, in an IBR, their fast food and good receipts ruled. There I took a half-hour break and enjoyed a few minutes off the bike. I brought my phone in and decided to call my buddy Pat Clark to see where he was. I hadn’t seen him since Tuesday morning in Key West. I reached him on his bike. “Where are you?” I asked.

“I’m heading to Baton Rouge,” Pat replied. I was shocked. I was there 9 hours before. If he was following a route based on the simplest most efficient route, he wouldn’t be sleeping much over the next two days.

“You’ve got to get moving,” I told him, not realizing that he had already been to Nashville, Tennessee, and Mississippi.

I left thinking that I wasn’t doing so badly after all, but Pat was going to run out of time if he wasn’t careful. Unfortunately I still needed to stop before midnight in order to get some rest-bonus points. That mistake was going to cost me, and I knew it. I rode I-40 into the sun and well after it set, trying to get to Oklahoma City. At 11:40 PM, in Shawnee, Oklahoma, just east of the capital, I saw hotel and gas station signs and took my cue, pulling into a Days Inn. The hotel receipt was good, but I decided to get a gas station receipt next door as well, just in case. With two good start receipts I couldn’t possibly screw this one up. The hotel clerk was very helpful and assured me the checkout receipt would be good in the morning as well.


Day 10 Summary

Distance: 1,050 miles

Capitals: Baton Rouge, LA, Jackson, MS, Little Rock, AR

States: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas

Day 11 – Thursday, June 30th

I slept soundly until the 4 AM wakeup call. This was going to be a big day. No way around it. I had 1,740 miles to go to be an IBR finisher, and about 30 hours to do it in. I was confident I could do it, but it meant no screwing around, and no screw ups. The ace up my sleeve was the two hours I would be gaining as I headed west. I triple checked the hotel receipt and checked out at 4: 42 AM. Step one was complete. The rest minutes were less than I would have liked but I had no choice. I had to get moving.

The next stop would be a receipt in Oklahoma City giving me the capital minus ten points. Getting a receipt was a wise thing at night as it could potentially save a lot of time versus riding through the city and taking a photo. I rode for a few minutes watching for the Oklahoma City “city limit” sign. I saw it, waited an appropriate amount of time then pulled over at a Shell station to top off the fuel cell. Once done, I checked the receipt and saw “Midwest City”, not “Oklahoma City.” Too bad, I thought. I just blew the stop, but the points available didn’t warrant a second stop a few minutes down the road. I didn’t need another Oklahoma receipt, I had three already.

With the sun at my back, I enjoyed the ride west. It didn’t take long to reach Texas, a state that I would be able to ride through very quickly. I stopped for a fuel receipt in Amarillo at 8:33 AM local time. As I rode through the state I noted how dry the vegetation was. They were in desperate need of water.

Next on the list was New Mexico. I had decided I no longer had time for state capitals so that I could concentrate on getting to the last corner and the receipts from each state. I would have enjoyed going to Santa Fe, one of the few western capitals I had visited before, but I opted for a route through Albuquerque, then northwest towards Shiprock and the Four Corners monument.

I normally flipped the lever to empty the fuel cell after my main tank indicated one or two bars remaining. Occasionally the reserve gauge would be flashing before I reached back, even though I had become more careful about checking the fuel level after my experience in Virginia. In New Mexico, after flipping the lever, the gauge kept flashing reserve, and yet I was certain I had filled the fuel cell. Again as the miles racked up, panic was setting in. Was it a lack of fuel, or was it the gauge. I stopped at a gas station in to check. It appeared my fuel level indicator was the problem. The next time I flipped the lever before the last bars remained and the indicator bars rose as I moved along. The heat and dryness of the air somehow affected the gauge if I let too much fuel drain out of the main tank. I could feel the dryness in my mouth and lips as I went along. I could not get enough water in me fast enough. I forced myself to drink as much as possible, and I topped off water reserves every time I stopped for fuel.

On my way to the monument at the Four Corners I could see ‘Shiprock’ in the distance. With a bit of imagination it did look like a tall ship from certain angles, but then again I swore I could make out Mother Theresa’s profile from another angle further down the road. I understood now how they could charge for a closer look.

After not seeing another bike all day, several of us converged on the monument at 4:15 in the afternoon. I walked over to the monument to get my photo and noticed John Harrison standing in line with a group of tourists. He told me the heat was getting to him. I convinced him he didn’t need to be standing on the granite marker while the photo was being taken, as long as the flag and granite circle were in the photo together.


He took a photo of me holding my flag and I took one of him holding his. It’s in my nature to overdo things, so I took a couple of other photos of the circular symbol just in case one of the others was not acceptable because of wind flipping the number on the flag. After getting the required photos, I made my way back to the main road, with the goal to reach Laughlin, Nevada for a receipt. On my way out I waved to the ‘J’ Team as they made their way to the monument. I witnessed the remnants of a dust storm, although I’m sure I missed the worst part of it. I enjoyed this part of the ride through Arizona: the scenery was different, cities like Tuba City had very unique architecture, and the mountains were never far from view.

My route took me southwest on Hwy 160, then Hwy 89 leading a few of us into Flagstaff, Arizona. The temperature that had been near 100 degrees F all day dropped to 65 F through the mountain town. The air was definitely more refreshing at 7000 feet. I had no idea how close I was to the Grand Canyon as I moved along Hwy 89.

I followed a Gold Wing rider onto I-40 to resume the westward trek. As we traveled the sun was setting in our faces making it difficult to see for about an hour or more. I used trucks for shade, something the truckers didn’t comprehend. There were many slow, tense moments in that ride down through some beautiful scenery that was impossible to fully appreciate. I would learn at the finish that a Gold Wing rider hit a mountain lion that night on that road. I wasn’t sure if the setting sun played a role or not, but could certainly empathize with the fellow if it did. At Kingman, Arizona, I exited for Laughlin.

This IBR was nothing if not the ultimate geography lesson. I couldn’t believe the elevation drop between Kingman and Nevada. The road dropped like a tech stock on Black Monday, for over thirty miles. In the dark I could catch glimpses of far off light that I assumed was Laughlin. The drop got steeper the closer I got, before bottoming out as I crossed the Colorado River into Nevada.

I rode down the main street in Laughlin, finding an Exxon and Subway combination at 9:30 at night. I couldn’t bring myself to eat, although the smell of freshly baked bread had me salivating. I ran a route on the GPS from Laughlin to San Ysidro and back to the finish in Ontario, California, to see how I was doing. It looked like I would have about three hours to play with before penalty points. I got back on the road as quickly as possible and followed the Needles Highway back to I-40, then turned west and pushed for Barstow, California.


Early Friday morning Spot. I'm 777.

I was getting tired along the way and decided that if I had three hours to play with I would try to find a hotel room. The more I rode, the fewer hotels I saw. Each rest area I passed was blocked off as well, citing repairs. By midnight, I was in desperate need of rest. I saw a sign for a Chevron, and exited the highway west of Ludlow, California. It was a busy place, as it was one of the only places people could pull over for fuel, a cold drink, rest, or all three. I bought a cold drink and moved the bike to a quiet corner behind the store. I grabbed my rainsuit pack and plumped it up as a pillow on the pavement. This was my last night on the road and it was time for an Iron Butt Motel.


Day 11 Summary:

Distance: 1,366 miles

States: Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah

Arizona, Nevada, California

Rest receipt: 596 points

Day 12 – Friday, July 1st

I set my alarm for two hours then lay down on the pavement beside my bike. My last image before falling asleep was of the large Chevron sign above me. That was also the first thing I saw as my eyes opened spontaneously about an hour later. I got up feeling mentally rested, but physically sore. Pavement should never replace a mattress. Hoka Hey!

I had no idea that north of the interstate was the Mojave National Preserve, one reason there were so few hotels in that area. I made my way to Barstow on I-40 before reaching I-15 and heading south. Around L.A., I hopped onto I-215 and ran with it until it turned into I-15 again. I followed that freeway as far south as it went before getting onto I-5 and exiting at San Ysidro. It was surprisingly cool running through the valleys around Los Angeles at 3 AM because I was still dressed for 100 + degrees, wearing minimalist cloth under my summer weight jacket. I had to breakdown and turn the heated grips on at some point.

By 5:15 AM, I was in a parking lot in San Ysidro taking every possible combination of photos before heading to the finish. There was the sign and flag photo, the bike and flag with sign photo, and the ultimate: bike, flag, sign and post office photo, all with and without flash. A Shell station two doors down allowed me to top off the main tank before the two-hour ride to the finish.


I felt a great sense of accomplishment knowing I had picked up the fourth corner with time to spare. By 5:30 AM I was flying up I-805 north, under the influence of adrenalin, to I-15 which I followed all the way to Ontario. Along the way on a Friday morning, commuter traffic was building. I got to see many motorcycles lane splitting that morning, and witnessed a Hayabusa, fully dressed in the latest race trim, scream up the road, unquestionably the loudest motorcycle I had ever heard anywhere. Harleys ran for cover when this thing let loose. Although he was about 8 lanes over, he scared the crap out of me as he opened up the throttle and rocketed up the road.

That feeling of accomplishment I had sensed in San Ysidro had triggered the adrenalin rush. But within a half-hour of the finish I was experiencing what many runners experience near the finish of a marathon. My mind was starting to shut off because it knew the game was over, even though there were still many miles to go. I struggled to maintain alertness, breaking actions down to the simplest movements to get to the finish. I made sure there was a lot of room between me and the car ahead of me; I concentrated on keeping the bike in the center of the lane; I talked to myself, encouraged myself, set small milestones, tried to focus on stuff outside my body.

My GPS instructions were like echoes in the background, and it took me more time than usual to react to them. When it came time to exit onto I-10 to enter Ontario, California, I listened to the instructions then looked at the lane-assist diagram which showed about 8 lanes. The second from the right was the one I needed, so I moved the bike carefully over to the lane and waited for the next set of instructions. I exited onto I-10 and merged into traffic for a short period before exiting right again. I was completely at the mercy of that GPS. It could have ordered me anywhere and I would have followed. I still had another turn to make onto North Vineyard Ave. I made the turn and stayed in the right lane. I saw hotels; I had to be close.

I caught sight of some people standing by the hotel street entrance who were waving their arms frantically to signal riders. I realized I was home, and thankful those people were waiving me in. My immediate thought was that they must know what it’s like to arrive at the IBR finish. You’re in a sort of half dream state, zoned out to anything but the road and traffic.

A few people I recognized were standing at the finish when I arrived around 7:30 AM. Dianna Love, Karl Snell’s wife, snapped a few memorable shots. I remember parking the bike, removing a few things then heading inside to stop the clock. What does it feel like to arrive safely at the IBR finish? Imagine the feeling of hopping on the back of a tiger, riding on its back for a while, then hopping off on your own terms - without the tiger tearing you to pieces. That’s the feeling. A mixture of satisfaction, elation, and a feeling you accomplished something worthwhile that required skill, and daring. Like you beat the odds, or won a lottery.


On my way in to the hotel, icon Voni Glaves stopped me and gave me one of her patented hugs. She treated riders as though she was the shepherd and we were the flock, and welcomed each back with an innate sense of caring that made the memories of those long solitary days in the saddle melt away instantly, leaving only recollections of the best times, places and people. It felt good to know that somebody cared that we were back!

With the clock stopped I went up to the room that Corey Nuehring and I had reserved and went over the third leg bonus receipts and photos. I downloaded the photos to my laptop and removed any excess photos from the memory card. When I was ready I headed down to get scored. All went well, there were no points lost at the table this time, and with the points from the 4-corners ride included I had a respectable third leg score, even without a whole lot of capitals.

From there I went back to the bike to remove a bag containing fresh clothes before making my way up for a shower and a shave. Looking at my hairy mug in the mirror I couldn’t resist taking a photo. After a much needed shower, I shaved eleven days-worth of growth off my face and allowed myself a few hours of sleep. Hilton does have the most comfortable beds.


Day 12 Summary:

Distance: 380 miles

4-corners: San Ysidro (4)

Leg 3 Summary

Distance: 4,141 miles

Points: 11,171 pts.

Rank: 19th

Part 8

The Awards dinner

By the time I got back downstairs people were already lined up for dinner. The word was out that Ken Meese, the leader after Legs 1 and 2, was out after an accident the previous night. It was anybody’s rally at that point. I sat at a table with Karl and Dianna to my right, and Art Garvin on my left. Camaraderie is everything in this sport, and the friends I’ve made over the years make these events a pleasure to attend. Dinner was exceptional, especially for the road weary who had survived on foil-covered bars and gels for the past week and a half.


Dianna Love and Karl Snell

The awards night began with certificates for the successful 4-corners riders. There were twenty of us who snagged all four corners automatically qualifying for ‘Gold Medal’ status. Riders included Corey Nuehring, Mike and Betty Ligons, Jacques and Jennifer of the ‘J’ Team, and Peter Behm. Pat Clark ran out of time at the finish and had to give up on the fourth corner. He rode that cruiser over 11,800 miles, picked up more state capitals than I did in the third leg, but lost precious time in Louisiana, forcing two 1500-mile days to get to the finish. That killed his 4-corners aspirations. Had he managed to collect the 4th corner he would have finished in 17th place; without it he finished 51st.

Then it was time to announce the finishers for the 2011 IBR. Names are always called in reverse finishing order. I really had no idea where I finished because at this stage I was still unaware of where I had ranked after Leg 1 and Leg 2. I was surprised by some of the names that had been called before mine, quality riders who had obviously run into problems along the way. When Rallymaster Lisa Landry announced that she was up to the top twenty and our names still hadn’t been called, Karl and I looked at each other in a mixture of amazement and disbelief.

In 20th place was the FJR rider I met in Florida, Greg Guillermo from Arizona. Although Greg had a better 1st and 3rd Leg, he missed a call-in bonus in the second Leg. That accounted for the 64-point difference in our scores.

I heard my name called in 19th place, certainly a better finish than I had hoped for or even imagined. I learned later that after Leg 1, I was in 40th place and in 36th place after Leg 2. Another two legs and I might have caught the leaders!

Fellow Canadian and Ontario rider Perry Karsten, the man who said he didn’t want to do the miles involved in a 4-corners trip at the start of the rally, went from 42nd place after the first leg to 18th place at the finish. His final miles were 112 less than mine. He stuck to state capitals, a strategy that paid off for him in the end.

Mike and Betty Ligons, the couple I followed to Montpelier, finished 17th, after doing the 4-corners and a mix of state capitals. My dinner partner Art Garvin had an outstanding rally finishing 16th, sticking to state capitals only. In fifteenth place was Wendy Crocket - a strong competitor in every rally she enters. She ran the 4-corners and state capitals as did my roommate Corey Nuehring. He landed in 14th place by riding the tires off that FJR while covering over 12,400 miles. I was never sure how he could ride more miles and still get to the checkpoints before me every single time. I couldn’t have asked for a better roommate: he was thoughtful, helpful, and didn’t snore!

Next was my good friend Karl Snell. I was really happy for Karl who ran a very smart, efficient rally picking up state capitals only for extra points. The next day, he received a congratulatory text message from the owner of the shop that services his BMW. “They know me now,” Karl joked.


Pat Clark, Mike Ligons, Peter Delean, Corey Nuehring

In 12th place was the rider I met at the Four Corners monument, John Harrison, who was frustrated in the heat. I guess the heat didn’t ruin his 3rd Leg after all.

Although I had little contact with any of the other top riders, I must make mention of the top-rookie performance by 6th place finisher Kirsten Talken-Spalding, who rode over 13,000 miles during the event. Karl and Kirsten are friends, but fierce competitors, much like Cam and I. She is an outstanding rider and hers is a remarkable achievement. Hopefully this will inspire a generation of women riders.

Third place finisher Jim Frens, who was beside me at the start in Seattle, set a record for miles ridden in an IBR, with 14,185 miles. I’m in awe of this stat, because I knew what I had to do to ride a paltry 11,608 miles. By collecting Madawaska and Key West in the second Leg, he demonstrated that by blending a creative strategy with endurance riding skill, a rider could turn the rally on its ear. He had enough points to win, but for a routing error late in the game that cost him penalty points. He certainly raised the bar another five notches.

The winner, Peter Behm, the man on his knees on the Sunday before the start, had an amazing third leg to win the event. He didn’t have to say a word, he let his riding do the talking and it was deafening. I like this kind of winner: lead by example; all action; no talk.

It’s hard not to look at things philosophically. For me to finish in the top twenty many things had to happen, many stars had to align. Think about it: Meese had to hit an animal on Thursday night, Mark Crane had to forget a state receipt, John Coons had to slide out, Nancy Oswald, Chris Sakala, and Andy Kirby had to have bad weeks, Jim Winterer had to be on a bike without ABS and Pat Clark had to run out of time. Of course, I had to complete the ride and score some points on the way.

Rookie Tim Masterson rode over 12,000 miles to a 23rd place finish. I’m sure he derived great satisfaction from his performance and the results. Phazer Phil Weston, the Brit who zipped around on his FZ1, finished 43rd, amazing when you consider until just before the rally he had never ridden on roads in the U.S.

By far the biggest ovation was reserved for John Young, the British rider who successfully rode the 1969 Triumph Trident through 48 states to get to the finish in Ontario, California. I think even he was surprised he successfully finished the rally because he barely made it out of the parking lot in Seattle on a bike that wouldn’t maintain idle. It was proud moment for a gushing Sally Higdon!



The day after the rally I rode the rally bike over to Winnetka, about an hour away from the hotel and met the man who would be storing my bike and some gear for the next year. I cleaned the bike and parked it with four or five others in the garage. The next morning I caught an early flight to Toronto and a shuttle home. With a bike in the southwest, I plan on taking several trips annually to go riding and exploring without the pressure of a clock ticking. I love the roads, the geography, and the wide open spaces of the west and hope to find a place where I can set up a pied-à-terre.

I made it in to work Monday morning after the rally, and was back in the gym by Tuesday morning. I planned on a lighter schedule the first week back at work because it takes my right hand (throttle hand) about a month to get back into shape. The hand was really pretty good (I’d say 90%), but I noticed certain flicks of the wrist had no power to them, forcing a work around. Those are the perils of being a dentist/LD rider, I guess.

I had a weigh-in on that Tuesday morning at the gym and calculated that I had lost 7-8 pounds during the rally itself. I bottomed out at 180 lbs., low when I consider where I started the previous October: 212 lbs. By Tuesday morning after four days of re-hydration my weight was on its way back up. I dropped the dumbbell and resistance levels by 30%, in order to do the same number of sets and reps; it took me three solid weeks of working out before I was back up to pre-rally strength levels. Although I’d been doing aerobic workouts four days a week in addition to the five days at the gym pre-IBR, the heat of July made it impossible to ride a stationary bike after work, and besides, the IBR was over. I put ten pounds back on over the next two months.

I enjoyed participating in the 2011 Iron Butt Rally. I not only learned some of the finer aspects of multi-day rallying – like, top riders use the whole rest bonus, not just part of it - it was the ultimate road trip, with a ride within the ride; it was also a geography lesson with a bit of history thrown in for good measure. It gave me a new appreciation of the differences between the states, witnessing firsthand the disparities between the have and have-not states. I understand why there can be a difference in road quality while travelling from one state to another.

I spent many of the early-July days just getting caught up on the LDRider Forum and the FJR Forum reports. It was amusing to read the opinions of the non-competitors after the fact: some were exactly right in their opinions, others were in left field; still others got off on tangents that should have been silenced. In particular, “The Chain Affair” involving Cletha got out of hand.

I also learned about the Spotwalla fiasco where numbers where randomly selected for all riders after Day 4 because someone drew up a name list of the riders based on initials riders used to identify their Spot. We were told not to use initials, to use numbers instead for confidentiality. Many couldn’t resist, and as a consequence my numbered Spot disappeared.

Shortly after rally winners were announced, someone on the FJR Forum mistakenly thought that I was the rally winner, on RenoJohn’s old FJR no less. Someone got Peter B. confused with Peter D. That moment of misplaced fame was short lived. I was glad to see a 4-corners rider win the event, proof that my gut reaction to route choice was a good one. I know organizers didn’t feel including ‘the corners’ was a wise decision if one intended to be on the podium. Peter and others proved them wrong. I was drawn in by the chance for a ‘Gold Medal’ and was never thinking podium, or top twenty for that matter.

This has been the year of the FJR. With wins in the IBR, 3-day Utah 1088, Minnesota 1000, among others, it is not so much the bike as the fact that the riders that bought them are reaching a stage of maturity in their riding that rivals that of BMW and Honda owners. FJR riders placed seven in the top twenty at this year’s IBR. My feeling is the trend will continue because many of the top FJR riders are approaching peak riding ages and know what it takes to win.

In mid-July I got a call from a female reporter from the local newspaper, the North Bay Nugget, who had heard that I had won a ‘Gold Medal’ in the IBR. I sensed the ‘Gold Medal’ I won was not the same ‘Gold Medal’ she was envisioning. She rode out to my office on a Harley and spent two hours interviewing me. I really wanted her to get everything right, and she did a pretty good job, but she misspelled Cameron’s last name. For reasons I will explain later that bothered me more than anything.

The article was published on the front page on a Saturday edition on a long weekend and later the next week in an advertising supplement that went out to all homes in the area, even to those who do not subscribe to the newspaper. It was also online. I was out of town that weekend but knew something was up when got back on the Monday evening and went into a convenience store and was told by a store clerk I did not know that she “Really liked the article about my motorcycle trip.” I still hadn’t seen the paper at that point, but I was surprised by the response it generated. A month later and people are still coming into the office talking about the article; people approach me in ATM lines, at breakfast, at the gym. These are not ‘motorcycle’ people, just regular people who have now heard about the Iron Butt Rally.

People keep asking if I’ll be doing it again next time, and I have to honestly say that I’m undecided at this stage. I put life on hold for almost a year, and have a list of things I want to do on my motorcycle and off. These include riding in the southwest, doing some of the Western rallies, finding a home base out west, riding in Europe, and getting the car I’ve always wanted. I’m not sure if another IBR “just for the hell of it” is in the cards. There is one reason that would definitely get me revved up to do another one.

Several years ago Cam Sanders and I met at a Christmas dinner, introduced by a girlfriend at the time who assumed that because we both rode motorcycles we should get to know each other. That spring we started riding together, doing a few of the IBA long distance rides and a Blackfly Rally that ran in our own backyard. I was hooked. Cam was already fanatical. We decided that to get better at the game we had to do some U.S. based rallies, reaching out to New England, Virginia, and the Midwest in the process.

We started at the absolute bottom of the pack, rallying without the benefits of GPS or fuel cells, and worked our way up the LD riding ladder. Cam is not only a trusted friend, but also a mentor. He is enthusiastic and passionate about the sport, and that passion rubbed off on me. He also knew how to hook up a farkle to a motorcycle, a real bonus for a non-mechanically inclined guy like me. I learned so much from him. So when he was mistakenly called Cameron “Saunders” in the newspaper I was upset. I really wanted to give credit where credit was due, and Cam deserved a heap of it.

When we travelled, he rode behind me like a big brother. He always had my back. Last year when we both made the cut for the IB5000 our intention was to use it as a springboard for the IBR. We both wanted to get to the ‘Big Dance,’ to share the experience together, but no one deserved it more than Cam. After the 1st Leg, Cam was in 4th place. He was not only going to finish he was going to finish on the leaderboard. The freak accident in Nebraska took a toll on a great rider and friend. Although Cam survived the accident, his bike did not, and with symptoms of a concussion to deal with, it forced him to question the whole ‘rallying at night’ issue. He has a wife now, responsibilities at home, and has to take that into consideration. The risk/reward ratio had tipped into an unacceptable zone.

I not only lost my ride partner, I lost my major source of motivation and competition. Like Karl and Kirsten, Cam and I competed against each other first, the rest of the field second. It meant more to me to beat Cam at a rally than anything else, and he relished kicking my ass as well. There were bragging rights involved. There was merciless ribbing for months afterwards. There was the knowledge that the next time out the previous loser would be gunning down the winner and pulling out all the stops to even the score.

It also meant I was going to the IBR without Cam. Like a greyhound chasing a rabbit, I had to try to find someone else to target, a source of motivation, difficult to do when the only other character I wanted to run into the ground didn’t make it to the start line. My goal became not only to finish, but to finish in a way that would make Cam proud. I think I succeeded.

Would I do another IBR? Yes, I would, when Cam is ready to do one. I need to beat him one more time before I call it quits. Mind you, he could have something to say about that.

Peter Delean

Rider 61

Sep 3, 2011

Last edited by a moderator:
What a great read Peter! It's great fun reading about a places that I've been through as well, half a continent away. For instance Shiprock, we crossed New Mexico at sunset and it gave me a huge case of the creeps. It reminder me of Mt Mordor in Lord of the Rings. It just seems to have no business being where it is. Regardless, it was great listening to your stories in Parry Sound. I still have a hard time believing the ride you did. Simply because you don't give the impression that your 'the type'. I know this isn't the case, just stating that you can never tell. Here's just a common, unassuming guy, who just was able pull off a very uncommon, Herculean ride because of perseverance, dedication and ultimately, a belief in himself to attain his goals.

A person is ultimately judged by what they do, not by what they say.

You can be sure I'm greatly disappointed about missing the Rendevous Rally this weekend, not that I have any aspirations about riding in the IBR, just because its fun and a chance to ride with some of the best riders in the world.

See ya soon.

Shortly after rally winners were announced, someone on the FJR Forum mistakenly thought that I was the rally winner, on RenoJohn’s old FJR no less.
..Guilty :lol:

Peter, this is the *best* account of riding the IBR I've ever read. And I've read a bunch. I fully appreciate the humility and honesty in the words. Truly incredible.

Of course, as the CandyButtAssociation prez, would you expect less that I thought you had won? :lol:

Seriously, I was so hoping you had won the big dance - what a great ride for you and you should be very proud.. :yahoo:

This is one of those reports that's so well written, I didn't want it to end! Excellent job, and congrats again :clapping: .

A GREAT that should be read by many, especially those that aspire to the IBR or any rally for that matter.


Shortly after rally winners were announced, someone on the FJR Forum mistakenly thought that I was the rally winner, on RenoJohn’s old FJR no less.
..Guilty :lol:

Peter, this is the *best* account of riding the IBR I've ever read. And I've read a bunch. I fully appreciate the humility and honesty in the words. Truly incredible.

Of course, as the CandyButtAssociation prez, would you expect less that I thought you had won? :lol:

Seriously, I was so hoping you had won the big dance - what a great ride for you and you should be very proud.. :yahoo:

Trust me I was flattered. I enjoyed my 15 seconds of fame.

Notice I didn't write in to correct anyone either.

A most excellent report. :) The inclusion of your emotions at points made this a great read.

Um Tom? yer going somewhere?

Last edited by a moderator:
Once I finish the read, I will comment further...just wanted to say that this is a great report...hard to stop reading it once you start. :clapping:


I will say publicly, what I previously mentioned to you in private. Outstanding report!!!! One of the best I have ever read! Well done.

PS: I enjoy your story telling so much that I am waiting for you to offer to be my "shadow" writer for my report...

This was an absolutely amazing read. I followed along on here during the IBR weeks, but reading it from a rider's perspective is incredible. You are a great writer and rider, for that matter. Well done!


Not to hijack this thread off track but, maybe Peter should spend a day with Tom... He could make not going anywhere sound fun. :lol:

Sorry Tom.. I had to do it!

Last edited by a moderator:
WOW great write up.All I can say is you guys are of a special breed. Congrats on the great finish also.