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Leg one: Alabama to California
Early Monday morning alarm clocks jangled, phones rang and soon the sounds
motorcycle engines joined in a cacophonous mix. The one hundred and twelve
Iron Butt Rally entrants began queuing their bikes two by two for the 10:00
AM start. Each had worked hard to start. All expected to finish.
This was the largest starting field for an Iron Butt Rally. Although there
were 112 rider IDs issued, 114 would ride as two couples would ride two up,
the McDaniel's on the Ducati and the Baileys on a Cagiva Gran Canyon. The
field was mostly men but the eight women riding were more than equal to the
task. Grandmotherly Ardys Kellerman prepared to begin her fourth rally and
Carol Youorski, aka Skert, her first. The rally was a birthday present to
Carol from herself. She hoped it would take the next eleven days to unwrap.
Phyllis Lang rode individually with her husband Fritz attempting their hat
trick. It was to be the second rally start for Marsha Hall who put prior
equipment failure behind her and this time expected to finish on a bright
yellow BMW R1100S.
Karol Patzer is the mileage contest coordinator for the BMWMOA, a BMW
motorcycle enthusiast's organization. An ACL knee injury incurred just weeks
prior did not prevent her from competing in this her third rally. She has
made an even greater sacrifice than just riding the route with a leg brace.
When a conflict arose with her longtime employer regarding available time
off to participate, the conflict was resolved when Karol dismissed her
employer. IBA members sport license plate frames proclaiming "Worlds
Toughest Riders". It is a toughness that transcends the physical.
A horn bleated noisily as the rider queued immediately behind Karol shouted,
"Damn women riders! Get out of the Way!" The good-natured ribbing of Eddie
James melted the tenseness of these waning prestart minutes. Eddie mentioned
that his route decision was easy. After riding in three "conventional" Iron
Butt Rally's the siren call of the north was just too seductive. He
mentioned that his new BMW R11500GS was crying out to tackle the frozen
tundra. It was apparent that Eddie had recovered from his faux paux at the
previous evening's opening banquet. Eddie picked up not only the wrong bonus
envelope, incorrect rally flag but the wrong ID card as well. Eddie is the
events coordinator for a national motorcycling organization where his
polished organizational skills surely must shine. Only another jaded Iron
Butt veteran would consider an eleven thousand mile four corners tour of
Corky Reed, mayor of Reed's Landing, observed at the start line as Dale
Wilson's technical team collected the route declarations from each rider.
This list of expected bonus goals was worth five hundred points. Corky is
one of a number of folks who have attained positions of prominence that are
involved in the long distance riding community. Ira Agins and Bob Ray each
hold doctorate level degrees while others have attained executive level
positions in the military, government and business. They are proof that
high intelligence has little correlation with common sense.
Todd Witte was breathing easier this Monday morning. One day before he was
greeted to a growing puddle of oil spreading beneath his Harley Davidson
Tour Glide. An evening full of work to the engine had been completed and he
was now ready to ride. He was motivated to fulfill the expectations of his
proud sponsors now painted along the sides of the big black Harley's
fairing. The lettering exclaimed: "Sponsored by Mom, Dad and Karen"
Jeff Jones fidgeted nervously while repacking what he describes as a 1993.5
Honda ST1100. He rebuilt the bike with both 1993 and 1994 model parts. Until
he rescued it this ST was headed for wrecking yard oblivion. In 1999 Jeff
helped with the IBR technical inspection. Then he was attired in full
uniform. Jeff is a California Highway Patrolman. One can only wonder if he
will require any professional courtesies as this rally novice motors north
One after another the bikes crossed the start line. Forty-eight BMWs, thirty
Hondas, a dozen Harley Davidsons, six Kawasakis, four each Triumphs and
Yamahas joined three Ducatis, a pair of Cagivas and sole representatives of
the Indian, Ural, and Suzuki brands. The most senior bike a BMW built in
1938, the newest a 2002 model Honda Reflex. Although most of the riders were
from America there were three riders from Germany, a pair from Australia, as
well as entrants from Canada, France, England and Texas.
Thirty-seven minutes after the first rider departed, the field had crossed
the start line. This did not include rally entrants Leonard Aron, Dave Zien
and Gerhard Krueger. Aron's Indian required a battery jump and was off the
line slightly thereafter. Dave Zien, a state senator from Wisconsin, and
Gerhard Krueger, one of the two rally entrants from Germany, enjoyed a quiet
brunch together in the Ramada coffee shop while their mounts were being
repaired at their respective dealers. Zien's Harley had encountered severe
engine problems on the ride to Madison while Gerhard's new R-1150GS was
suffering from rear end difficulties after being shipped to the US from
Germany. Zien's keen devotion to his well-worn Harley was amply demonstrated
when he declined the local dealer's generous offer to trade his half million
mile Harley for a brand new ride for this year's rally. Devotion? Yes!
Common sense? Well............
Twenty-two riders sought illumination from the Northern Lights and were
headed directly for Alaska. Of this ambitious group included BMW riders Asa
McFadden, Sean Gallagher, Eddie James, Glen Pancoast, Terry Smith, Michael
Smeyers, Dick Fish, Paul Taylor, and Phil Mann. They were joined by an equal
number of Honda riders including Bob Ray, Jeff Jones, Peter Hoogeveen, Alan
Barbic, Kerry Church, Shane Smith, Chuck Pickett, Joe Zulaski and Seamans
This could be a particularly whimsical ride for Seamans has he had just
ridden to Madison from his home in Anchorage Alaska to compete. If he is
successful he will have to have ridden from Alaska to Alabama, Alabama to
Alaska, Alaska to Alabama then once more ride home Alabama to Alaska all
within three weeks. He may become a candidate for AA after this ride.
Pete Withers and Bryan Moody rode the two Kawasakis. Two Triumphs piloted by
Dennis Kessler and Kevin Sickles rounded out the ambitious band of endurance
riders headed toward the cold unknowns of the artic circle. The remainder of
the field rode west expecting soon to be bathed in California sunshine while
being baked by the desert heat. Unexpected extremes even for this extreme
Gary Eagan certainly had expectations of doing very well. This three time
veteran and past IBR winner had every reason to expect that he would travel
further and last longer than rest of the pack. Less than an hour and
twenty-eight miles from the start, just across the Tennessee border, he
decided to glance at his tank bag map. He did so with a curve looming
directly ahead. Gary is expected to set records. And he did, although
certainly not the one he expected. His was to become the shortest Iron Butt
ride attempt recorded for both time and distance. Fortunately the only major
injury occurred was to his well-earned pride.
Through driving rainstorms these riders traveled on to their individual
bonus quests. Riding along at night along Interstate 40 a bright orange
triangle appeared to float above the road ahead. At first thought the
possibility occurred that this triangle was attached to some quaint Amish
horse drawn buggy. Upon closer approach it was clear that no buggy could
travel at 65mph. No buggy could make the incessant buzz of a high revving
Honda 125. No buggy could be lit up brighter than rider Bobb Todd. Although
Bobb shortly thereafter withdrew from competition it was apparent that his
prior year of preparation and testing at least was working at that point in
As in all past rallies the bonus locations and their value cruelly tugged at
the rallyist's psyche playing a wicked game with each rider's mind. High
bonus point locations required riders to head east when their ultimate
destination lay west. The straight-line route from point A to B would not
graph the ride of the big dog. More likely that map would resemble the wild
swing of a California seismograph in the midst of the "big one". That cruel
combination of value and location explains the gaggle of bikes and riders
swarming through the lush green roadways of the Blue Ridge Parkway
collecting points all the while knowing that soon they must grind through
the bland beigeness and oven-like heat of the Mohave desert. It also
provides the motivation for driving well north past the first leg's
checkpoint in Pomona to collect a tantalizingly high bonus waiting at Pat
Widder's business in Ojai. The points cruelly inflated to such a tempting
level that even the most cautious rider would find himself fighting
agonizing freeway traffic through Los Angeles to Ojai and then back once
again. Off course at most of these high point locations and all of the
checkpoints local law-enforcement has been made aware of the arrival of
these bonus hungry motorcyclists. This is fun. At least that is what the
evil Lord Kneebone says.
By Wednesday afternoon riders began to arrive at Brown's BMW in Pomona. Bob
Brown, himself a veteran of the 1999 IBR, had made his dealership available
as the checkpoint and terminus of the rally's first leg. By the end of the
check in window at 8:00 PM all 112 riders had been accounted for.
In addition to those 22 riders who did not arrive because they were
otherwise engaged four others did not appear in Pomona. These were the
unexpected. Surprisingly the 2001 Ural experienced mechanical difficulties
requiring Paul Pelland to rethink his plan for world domination. Gary
Eagan's frame altering experience in Tennessee had temporarily muted his
mighty Ducati's roar. Bobb Todd had abandoned his ride and was returning to
Canada. Although Dave Zien's Harley finally had been repaired, after a long
talk about the requirements for rally completion with Mike Kneebone Zien
chose to withdraw. The evil Lord had convinced the state senator that his
Iron Butt ride was yet to be. The irony of this being a government employee
and bureaucrat telling a state senator and politician what to do. Perhaps it
is a good thing they don't share the same jurisdiction.
Gerhard Krueger who faced the same unexpected dilemma as Zien chose to ride
straight to Pomona from the shop in Huntsville, arriving within fifty two
seconds of incurring time penalty points. Although he is at the bottom of
leg one's standings yet has placed himself at the top of most people's
lists. He expects to finish. He has company. Bob Mutchler, a veteran of the
1999 Rally, was running once again to champion the Polio Plus campaign of
International Rotary. This Rotarian rider, himself a polio victim, rode his
sidecar equipped BMW R1100RT. During the ride from Alabama a road alligator
unexpectedly rose up from the road and snapped off his bike's custom
designed hand gearshift lever. While stopped at the bonus location hosted by
Eddy Metz a Rube Goldberg-like repair allowed Bob to continue on his quest
to rid the crippling killer disease from the face of the Earth.
A quick review of the preliminary first leg standings places 1999 IBR
Champion George Barnes in first place which was expected. Ardys Kellerman
leads all of her female riders with a solid ride. She also leads Bob Higdon,
which to some is not unexpected.
As the riders all head north, some to Washington, others to Alaska they
realize to expect the unexpected.