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Leg Three: Washington to Maine or ?
One hundred twelve had entered.
One hundred now remained.
On Labor Day eve 2001, if you were among the one hundred and were intent
upon winning the mind game that is the Iron Butt Rally, you had already made
one major decision.
You were now well along on one of two paths.
The first had you headed directly north to Alaska from Alabama. You were
betting that the weather would hold. You also hoped that a larger bonus yet
to be announced could not be claimed later. If it were, it would diminish
your own heroic Herculean ride northward.
The second potential winning path found you riding your own ride,
aggressively collecting bonus points, while pacing yourself to later seek
that even bigger unknown bonus to an equally remote destination. Of course,
who knows where that lay and what the weather would be?
Entrant Dick Fish had argued in Madison that there was just no road on this
continent equal in difficulty and remoteness to the Haul Road to Prudhoe
Bay. He reasoned that it would be absolutely impossible to have an equally
remote and difficult bonus. Fish overlooked the possibility that the exact
same bonus location was the one sure exception to his line of reasoning.
At Sunnyside, Prudhoe Bay was re-offered as a bonus as were a number of
other Alaskan locations. The easiest to achieve, as if any site in Alaska is
easy, was Hyder. Hyder was the terminus of Ron Ayers record setting
forty-nine state ride. The Sealaska Inn has become one of those long
distance rider shrines like Bruno's in Gerlach, Nevada that are entrenched
in Iron Butt legend and tradition. If you elected to go to Hyder you were
not excused from the ride to the next checkpoint in Gorham, Maine.
Once again it was decision time for the riders at the Sunnyside checkpoint.
The twenty-two other Alaskan bound riders had already elected the
strategy and sole focus; ride to Prudhoe Bay, 4800 miles distant, collect
five hundred thousand points and return.
Prudhoe was the big one. Could it be done? Could anyone reach Prudhoe from
Madison? That question had already been answered in the affirmative. But
could they return in time? Five hundred thousand points hung now in the
Could it be done from midpoint in the rally and would anyone return in time?
A million point bonus would be rewarded to the rider answering that ultimate
Iron Butt challenge. Both questions will remain unanswered until the rally's
conclusion. Both questions are really the same. Could it be done?
At the Arctic Caribou Inn in Deadhorse, Alaska, Innkeeper Rick Schindler
remarked, "It's the best day that I've ever seen since I've been here".
Nine of the twenty-two first wave travelers who had reached the Prudhoe Bay
hotel felt the same. They included Shane Smith, Alan Barbic, both on
ST1100s, Chuck Pickett aboard a Gold Wing, Peter Hoogeveen riding his
CBR1100XX, Dick Fish and his K1100LT, Dennis Kessler on a Triumph Tiger, Phil
Mann Jr. aboard a K1100RS, Paul Taylor riding a R1150GS and Asa McFadden on
his K1200LT. Seven of the nine were on street bikes. The GS and Tiger were
the only "adventure" tourers but all the riders were true adventurers.
ST1100 rider Shane Smith was the first of the gang of twenty-two to reach
Prudhoe Bay. One could only guess what went through Shane's mind as he saw
other motorcycles from the second wave headed north to the frigid haul road
as he was riding south to balmy Key West. Convinced that he had grabbed the
gold and in a celebratory mood, Shane called Mike Kneebone's cell phone
singing the refrain "I can see clearly now". Perhaps so, since riders Bob
Hall, Eric Jewell and George Barnes were not yet in sight, riding hundreds
of miles behind him with a potential half-million point advantage.
Nevertheless, Shane had been, and for all of time will be, the first.
Bob Hall always seemed to find himself stuck in second place in the previous
endurance rallies he entered. He was suffering what has come to be known as
Hoogeveen Syndrome. Once again he was second in the standings at Sunnyside.
1999 IBR winner George Barnes held a mere 66-point lead. If Hall was to
remain among the point leaders he needed to ride to Prudhoe Bay. For surely
George was, as was BMW rider Eric Jewell on a R1100RT and certainly Rick
Ohioan Hall aboard a BMW R1100RT was the next rider to check in at the
Arctic Caribou. He was first to stake claim to the million point bonus coded
He had done what others thought undoable. Under clear skies in the crisp
thirty-five degree Alaskan air, he also could see clearly now. His vision
was first place.
Rick Morrison and Eric Jewell were in a similar situation to Bob's at
Sunnyside. Morrison, the 1997 IBR winner and Jewell the first place finisher
of the Butt Lite, had only one option for a top-level finish. It was to join
George Barnes in the second wave of Alaska bound riders. Unfortunately the
last remaining ugly "ducling" was last seen mired in mud on the Alcan
Highway. Rick had been sucked in.
Peter Hoogeveen had reached Prudhoe Bay, but the CBR1100XX was somewhat worse
for wear. The bike, leaking anti-freeze, brought back visions of the 1997
rally when the Blackbird crossed the finish line leaking every fluid that
the bike carried. Peter had returned south after hooking up with Joe Zulaski
and Seamans "Jack" Jones who both had been unable to overcome the rain and
mud. Even on a good day the 480 miles haul road from Fairbanks was 430 miles
of dirt and gravel. One can only guess what was going through Seamans' mind
as he headed back south to Alabama where he had to contemplate yet even one
more ride to his home back in Alaska.
Jeff Jones another of the original twenty-two Alaskan adventurers, steered
his road worn ST1100 in HIPY Motorsports at Sunnyside. He changed tires for
the return trip south and east to Alabama. Jeff who had trained for the Iron
Man Triathlon found this Iron Butt competition every bit as difficult. The
rigors of traveling Alaska roadways had claimed the bike's fork seals and
left multiple bodywork badges of honor on the ST. Terry Smith and Peter
Withers were both reported seen headed south in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
after also stopping in Hyder. IBR veteran Kerry Wiley aboard a Yamaha
Venture saw them both and called from Moosejaw to mention that he might
himself be a tardy arrival in Maine.
Dennis Cunningham, a San Bernardino fireman and EMT, struck a deer while in
crossing Canada. Will Lee pulled his K1100LT over and stopped to assist
while Harry Kaplan stayed behind to also help. Dennis, who was later checked
out at the local hospital, was found to be OK. He fared much better than the
either deer or his BMW K1200RS. It's a long walk back from Moosejaw.
Phil Mann Jr. aboard his K1100RS bagged a buffalo and broke a couple of his
own bones in the process. Chuck Pickett aboard a Goldwing stayed with Phil
thereby earning him self the second IBA Valor award and an entry in the next
rally. Chuck and Mike Smeyers the only two riders now guaranteed a place in
the 2003 rally. "Buffalo Phil" was doing OK and arranging to rent a truck to
return his bison banged BMW. Chuck mentioned that even with all of the
obstacles that this had been the "best ride of my life". Phil couldn't be
reached for comment.
Edwin Phelps called from North Dakota to report that he would be unable to
make the Maine checkpoint within the available time window and would rejoin
the group later in Madison.
Bryan Moody was on his way back from Denali, traveling through North Dakota
when the engine of his Kawasaki Concours suffered a simultaneous loss of oil
and power. Bryan was arranging shipment of his Kawi back to North Carolina
and arranging transportation for himself to the finish line in Madison
One hundred forty miles north of the Artic circle on the haul road to
Prudhoe Bay; Eddie James discovered that his tires were badly shredded. He
decided to return to Fairbanks to source replacements for a second attempt
Time now short, Eddie's points total may also be headed for the shredder.
Bob Ray was riding the newest bike in the rally, a 2002 Honda Reflex, to
Denali National Park in Alaska. Although certainly an extreme distance and
subject to all the vagaries of iffy weather along the Alcan Highway, he did
have the advantage of traveling over all paved roadways. At least that's
what the maps said. Along his journey he had to stop at Watson Lake to
replace the scooter's drive belt. Later Bob came upon the buffalo carcass
that was the handiwork of Phil Mann Jr. On his way back south through Canada
the little scooter broke down once again. Bob was about to tear down the
Reflex for a roadside repair when he noticed a grizzly observing the process
from the forest. Since the big bear was not as curious about the new 2002
model scooter and really more interested in doing lunch, Ray decided to call
for assistance and have the Reflex towed to a nearby Honda dealer in Fort
Nelson, British Columbia. Every rally entrant was rooting for Bob's timely
arrival, as a finisher's party was scheduled at his home in Madison on
Friday evening. It is always polite to be in attendance at your own dinner
party rather than to BE the dinner at someone else's.
The wrongside riders were now riding as a team. Eversfield from the UK,
McCrindle and Sutton from Australia had made it to Denali from Sunnyside and
were returning to Alabama after a seven-hour rest bonus at Haines Junction,
British Columbia. They now needed to concern themselves with only one final
checkpoint in Madison for an assured gold medal finish. One can only wonder
if McCrindle sent a postcard from Denali to the Harley dealer thanking him
for that unlimited mileage rental of the Tour Glide.
The Alaskan bonus option originally appealed to Bill Weyher. If he elected
to gather points in Denali and then return directly to Madison Bill wouldn't
have to deal with the traffic in the east from Maine to Alabama. He was in
Bellingham, Washington for a few hours rest. When he awoke it was pouring.
The rain was successful in diluting his desire and decided that Maine was
more inviting after all. Besides, Bill was still experiencing problems with
the sidestand on his K1100LT. They are much harder to put up in the rain.
Paul Meredith had already completed a Saddlesore 1000 and was well into a
second consecutive 1000-day ride when in Minnesota the diminutive Cagiva
Mito's engine died. Earlier the tiny Cagiva had a piston replaced in
Sunnyside but evidently that wasn't enough. The lower connecting rod seized.
Paul's engine was frozen in Frazee. Paul had planned for this eventuality
and had a spare engine waiting in Chicago only an eight-hour drive away.
Fellow IBA member Jon Diaz drove the engine up to Paul.
Frazee, MN is the site of the world's largest turkey a 456-point rally
bonus. Local motocross riders discovered Paul. The Fett brothers, well
known snowmobile riders, took him to their fully equipped shop where the
engine would be swapped.
Paul Pelland lost a pushrod in Wyoming and was blazing a whole parcel of
creative new applications for JBWeld and old coat hangers to keep the new
URAL in the hunt.
Leonard Aron lost his wallet at a Chevron station in Boise, Idaho. He
discovered his loss near Salt Lake City a couple hundred miles further down
the road. Unfortunately by the time Mike Kneebone had arrived to do search
and recovery, the wallet had already found a new home. The Indian putted on
to Maine running a bit less rich.
The Bailey's Cagiva Gran Canyon threw a chain in Montana. This after earlier
having George Barnes' K1100LT throw a brake pad at them. The Baileys riding
with IBR veteran Greg McQueen were all startled when, while braking
approaching a turn, George's bike flung a front pad whizzing past their
helmets. Unfortunately they were unable to source a chain during the holiday
weekend and because of the delay were heading directly to Madison.
Greg Roberts was able to limp from Sunnyside to Kirkland, Washington where
the service department of Cascade BMW was able to repair the rear end of the
K1100LT. Since Greg was barred from collecting bonus points on the leg to
Maine he decided to stop in Enterprise, Oregon to assist at that checkpoint
of the annual Three Flags Rally by the Southern California Motorcyclists
Association. He then planned to continue on to the checkpoint in Maine and
eventually qualify as a finisher.
Radisson, Quebec is as far north as you can travel on a paved road in
Quebec. It is so remote that it isn't even shown on most maps. Yvon Gauthier
had considered piloting his R-1150GS to pluck these points in his home
province. Fellow Canadian Thane Siliker's earlier rear wheel bearing failure
on his Green Honda ST1100 was caught in California at Pat Widder's and was
repaired. He hopes to arrive without further incident in Gorham, Maine.
Finally getting back into the ride was Martin Hildebrandt. After arranging
shipment for his broken 1938 R51 Beemer back to it's fatherland, Martin had
leased a CBR1000 Hurricane from HIPY Motorsports and started a whirlwind ride
to Maine and to once again overtake Bob.
Now just past midway in the rally the branches of this mind game were about
to bear fruit. The Alaskan adventurers had plenty to think about. Time
management, contingency planning for equipment and route, weather, road
conditions as well as a whole host of variables that silently lurked,
waiting to crush their high hopes for victory. No less a mental burden was
the task for the remaining riders. Bonuses remained yet to be claimed during
the waning hours of leg three. It was not yet clear whether they could make
One hundred and twelve had entered.
Ninety-two now remained.
Checkpoint three awaited.
A mind game yet to be rewarded.
(c)2001 Warren Harhay Boulder City, NV USA