Iron Butt Rally
April 11, 2014 Location ==> Iron Butt Rally - 2001 IBR - SunnySide Observations
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© 2014, Iron Butt Association, Chicago, Illinois  Please respect our intellectual property rights. Do not distribute this document, or portions therein, without the written permission of the Iron Butt Association.

Sunnyside, Washington
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

 
 
Please respect our intellectual property rights. Do not distribute any of these documents, or portions therein, without the written permission of the Iron Butt Association.

 

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