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August 31, 2001
Just got back from CP2, where I had volunteered to score, but wound up
mostly drawing signs and staying out of the way. My back is acting up, so I
took the four-wheeler on the 400-mile trip from Coos Bay to Sunnyside. Out
of habit, though, I put my tank bag on the passenger seat and my hydration
system--a one-gallon Igloo cooler--behind the driver's seat, with the drink
tube clipped to the tank bag.
By Thursday afternoon, when I got there, a bunch of other volunteers had
already arrived, and we--including old buddies Bro Ron Smith, John Cheney,
Bill MacAvan, Rody and Vicky Martin, and new buddy Cori Phelps --stood
around in the parking lot jawboning. I called Dale Wilson, who was to join
us for dinner, and we went to the Mexican restaurant on the other side of
the motel parking lot to wait for him. Dale and Jack Baird arrived
eventually, as did Randy Carlson. Dinner, more jawboning, and off to bed.
Up early the next morning, we breakfasted and trooped over to HIPY. Many
constructive things were no doubt done--maybe even some of them by me--but
it all seems a blur now. We got word that Mike Kneebone and Warren Harhay
would be arriving late, probably after the CP window opened, but they showed
up early in the afternoon. Airyn assembled the volunteer scorers and
Kneebone ran us through the drill. About halfway through it I realized with
a shock that someone with my aversion to math--it borders on a severe
allergic reaction--shouldn't be doing anything as monumentally important as
scoring the riders. So I bowed out and drew signs instead, and sort of
played utility volunteer for the rest of the day.
A lot of riders arrived before the window opened, but as 5 p.m. drew near
things really picked up. It was like watching a storm build in the desert.
First a few stray gusts of wind, maybe a puff of dust, then the wind gets
stronger and the dirt and sand swirls and next thing you know the wind is
howling and the rain is bucketing down. That's what it was like at its
craziest, with riders pulling into the cramped lot, getting checked in,
dismounting, scurrying inside to do their paperwork, hanging around by the
scorer's table shuffling from one foot to the other. Meanwhile bikes are
rolling through the showroom, going to and from the service department out
back. Out front riders are chasing electrical gremlins, polishing
bug-spattered windscreens, fixing broken gizmos, replacing entire wheels,
tearing tankbags to shreds looking for that missing receipt, staring blankly
into the middle distance.
At the center of the whirlwind sat Kneebone and Airyn, serenely (or so it
seemed to me) overseeing the chaos. Meanwhile Jack and Dale were running
around like field marshals during a battle. I swear I saw Dale in two places
at once at least two times. Say what you will about his withering, corrosive
blasts aimed the impertinent, the unthinking, and the downright clueless who
clutter the list with witless and petulant complaints. There is no
questioning his fierce loyalty to, and admiration of, the participants in
the IBR. LD riders can ask for no better advocate, nor are they likely to
get one any time soon.
There had been a lot of talk about Alaska and its attendant bonuses, and I
experienced an odd moment while standing next to Kneebone when his cell
phone rang and he got a call from a buddy of mine, who was up there
somewhere (if I may be secretive) at that very moment. There I was standing
in Sunnyside HIPY, sweltering in the stagnant air, with the madness of a
checkpoint swirling around me, and there my friend was, a few thousand miles
north and west, maybe standing ankle deep in mud by the side of a gravel
road, almost certainly standing there all alone in a vast, empty landscape
under a low, gray sky, wondering what to do next. I saw him in my mind's
eye, and when Kneebone's cell phone flipped shut with a snap my friend's
image abruptly vanished.
Another moment--a volunteer scorer looks up at the kindly, grandmotherly
face of certified Iron Butt legend Ardys Kellerman as Ardys settles into the
chair across the table. The scorer, a young woman, smiles sweetly and says
something along the lines of, "Oh, did you ride all the way up here from
Pomona on the back? How wonderful!" There is a sharp intake of breath from
the nearby scorers and onlookers, and a hush falls over the scorer's table.
Ardys sits up straight, informs the young women that she rode here herself,
thank you very much, and hands over her paperwork. The scorer blushes
absolutely crimson and falls all over herself apologizing for not
recognizing Ardys, whose name and reputation she is apparently familiar
with, but not her face. Ardys's face breaks out in a huge grin. She is
enjoying this immensely.
After the window closed Kneebone gathered the riders together and told them
about the next leg. I doubt I'm revealing state secrets if I say the guys
who went to Alaska on the first leg should have waited. They're likely to be
headed south, thinking they have the rally in their hip pocket, only to pass
a group of Big Dogs headed north in search of a single bonus worth more than
the combined bonuses of the entire first leg, with even more available on
the way to Maine. Kneebone told the riders right up front this was more than
a possibility. The wise listened.
Gary Eagan, whose rally came to an abrupt halt very early in the first leg,
came forward at Kneebone's request to explain that the one thing you cannot
be in a rally is STUPID. He help up his bandaged arm and hand to illustrate
the point. "Repeat after me," he said to the riders. "I cannot be--what?"
"Stupid!" some called back, along with some laughter. Eagan was not slightly
amused. "No laughing!" he said. "This is SERIOUS! I cannot be WHAT? STUPID!
Say it!" They all said it, and no one laughed this time. Eagan went on,
channeling his anger at his own lapse of judgment (not to mention the
resultant mandatory non-participation in the '03 IBR) into a lecture to the
assembled riders, who quickly figured out Eagan was in no way, shape, or
form kidding about any of this.
The packets were passed out, the riders retired to corners of the showroom
and nearby motel rooms to consult maps and laptops, compile weather reports,
or sleep. The rally staff tied up loose ends, rested tired feet, sat down
for a smoke and a Coke, and tried to remember how many chairs--was it six or
seven?--we had, uh, borrowed from the Travelodge swimming pool.
Eventually the CP staff and volunteers walked to a local restaurant and were
seated in the banquet room. Airyn, armed with a fistful of cash Kneebone had
given her to feed the crew, told us to go wild. By the time everyone showed
up--including Martin Hildebrand, who good-naturedly endured a gut-busting
roasting from Jack Baird doing a dead-on Ahhhnold impression--there must
have been 30 of us. Kneebone and Harhay showed up last.
I ran out of steam before everyone else. I'd spent the whole day on my
feet--in my job as a writer I typically spend the whole day on another part
of my anatomy--and I was hammered. I said my goodbyes and trudged back to my
room at the Travelodge with its one working electrical outlet, melodic
plumbing, and deafening air-conditioner.
Bro Ron Smith was packing his Gold Wing as I was packing my car this
morning, and we said goodbye again. It took me about 10 hours to drive home,
not counting the power nap in the parking lot of the Texaco station in
Salem. It's about 11 p.m. now and I'm hitting the sack, but I wanted to get
this down before I forgot most of it.
One last thing--if you've been mulling over going to one of the two
remaining checkpoints, stop mulling and get going. It's a gas.
- Jerry Smith