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Life is full of decisions.
Sometimes big ones become little ones. More often the reverse is true.
Some decisions when revealed simply stun. What is striking is not who took
the decision to participate in this year's Iron Butt rally but conversely
who did not.
Harold Brooks has completed more Iron Butt Rallies than any other rider on
Earth. While doing so he has traveled the equivalent of more than two
complete circuits around the globe. His friendly southern drawl and pleasant
courtly manner are an integral part of the Iron Butt experience. Always a
fierce competitor, this colorful character, this southern gentleman chose
not to ride this year's rally.
Richard Frost had entered the 1988 Iron Butt Rally. He planned to ride a
1953 Indian Roadmaster.
The 1988 rally was cancelled. Richard's ambition to ride was not.
He was granted an entry into the 2001 rally but did not realize that the
type of run he was contemplating was not in keeping with the present day
rally's spirit of individual competition. Richard's friends had planned to
follow the Roadmaster with a fully equipped mobile machine shop to insure
the old Indian's success. When Richard learned of fellow Indian owner
Leonard Aron's fourth consecutive individual attempt to complete the rally
as a team of one, he made a decision. Not all decisions are easy, even those
that are clearly apparent. Richard and his crew decided to throw their
support behind Leonard's solo attempt. They announced their decision to
withdraw from competition at the starting banquet. Leonard received
Richard's team's custom 2001 rally tee shirt while Richard and his crew were
presented with a standing ovation from the starting field. Even before the
rally began it was clear that there would be more than one winner.
In an effort to improve a rider's decision making skills, a new provision in
the rules was announced whereby a rider's at-fault accident would result in
disqualification from participation in the next rally. The consequences for
a bad decision would linger long past the healing of the rider and the
repair of his machine.
The real reason for the rider banquet was not pot roast and potatoes and,
after their quick dispatch, it was on to the more important task of
quenching this assembled group seemingly insatiable appetite for miles. Lots
of miles. Menus and meal tickets were about to be distributed.
To the refrain of "I can see clearly now" the theme for IBR 2001 was to be
revealed. No more Mr. Nice Guy, Mike reentered the room cloaked in a hooded
cape clothed as if a wizard. He was no wizard. He was evil Lord Kneebone.
The evil Lord asked all those riders who would consider a ride to Prudhoe
Bay Alaska (if it was possible) to gather on the right side of the hall.
Shortly the room divided itself into either the ambitious or the cautious.
For almost two years Mike Kneebone has been dropping not so subtle hints
about incorporating sites in northernmost Alaska as possible rally bonus
locations. Talk had swirled among the big dogs as to just how this trek into
the Artic Circle could be squeezed into the time constraints of an
Mike went about assigning the rider's numbers. Special recognition was given
to the first thirty riders who had distinguished themselves in the past.
Riders received their rally flag, the rider ID tag and a sealed envelope
containing the bonus locations for leg one.
Once the last rider's number was assigned Mike instructed the group to open
their bonus envelopes. After a preliminary discussion of rules and
procedures Mike unveiled the single most significant rally change. Riders
could elect to forego the traditional loop of the United States and opt for
a ride to Dead Horse, (Prudhoe Bay) Alaska and back within the eleven day
rally period. It seemed as if the barking from the assembled ambitious big
dogs suddenly turned into yelps.
The banquet over, the riders filed out to their rooms to ponder the contents
of their bonus envelops. They were filled with decisions yet to be made.
Effectiveness of the mind game that is the Iron Butt Rally was so complete
that late into the evening even Bob Higdon was seen huddled over his
portable computer displaying a map squarely centered on Alaska.
Outside in the humid air of an Alabama evening Rally staff made final
preparations for the morning start. A huge chalk arrow was drawn on the
exit drive payment labeled "TO FINISH". At the curbside a new signpost was
erected besides the existing "DECATAUR 20". It simply read "PRUDHOE BAY
The ride of a lifetime is about to begin. It will include them all.