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The Riders' Meeting
Ninety-nine riders stood in the Reynolds Motorsports parking lot
in Buxton, Maine at 6:00 p.m. yesterday, awaiting the distribution of bonus
packets. After a week of separation, the red and blue pill entrants had
rejoined for the run back to Missoula. Lisa Landry called for quiet.
"On this final leg," she began, "you may be visiting some airline
disaster sites that will demand your respectful attention. Families of
passengers lost on these downed flights visit the memorials to this good
day. You will do nothing to disturb their thoughts. Nothing. Is that
Ninety-nine heads nodded.
"Those of you who went to the bonus in Palouse Falls, Washington
on the first leg may have seen a bird watcher near the falls," Lisa
continued. "You may also have noticed that he trained his binoculars more
often on your license plates than he did on the fang-beaked mud warbler."
"It was pretty obvious," Paul Pelland said.
"It was meant to be," Landry replied. "We wanted you to believe
us when we tell you now that we have volunteers stationed at every one of
these tragic sites. They may identify themselves to you. They may
not. You will be watched, that I promise. And if our observers report to
us that your behavior has brought the slightest discredit to yourself or to
this rally, rest assured that at that moment your participation in this
event has just been terminated. Are we clear on that as well?"
Ninety-nine heads nodded.
"Good," she said. "Now in the battle for
dead-last-but-still-running, Sparky Kesseler with -1,946 points has
overtaken Bob Wooldrige with -2,101." A huge cheer went up for the
arsonist, particularly from Sparky's wife and daughter. Elizabeth had
shown up earlier in the day wearing a fireman's turnout coat and a red,
plastic helmet that read "Ride 'Em, Sparky." There's nothing like support
from the home front to keep your overall score closing in on zero.
The sites that Landry mentioned hold terrible memories. They are
five of the worst airline disasters in recent memory: the SAS crash near
Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia; the downed TWA flight in Long Island Sound; the
Twin Towers memorial in lower Manhattan; the west wall of the Pentagon
where the hijacked plane struck on September 11, 2001; and the field near
Shanksville, Pennsylvania where the last plane came down on that awful day.
These locations are clearly not typical IBR nonsense stops like
touring the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices or paying a call on Clay
Henry, the beer-swilling goat. They are serious, somber places, difficult
to get to and more difficult yet to absorb once there. Riders may one day
forget taking a photo of the world's largest ball of twine, but they're not
likely to forget visits to places that have scorched the pages of American
Jack Savage, a senior editor at Whitehorse Press, came into the
SAS memorial park this morning and met John McKibbin, our observer. Jack
thanked him for providing such spectacular weather. John replied that they
have about ten days like that on the south coast of Nova Scotia every
year. When Savage left the park, he called Mike Kneebone.
"Thank you for sending me here," Jack said. "It's a beautiful
park and a beautiful day. If I don't finish the rally after this, it'll be
McKibbin reported that while he was there (from 5:45 a.m. to 8:30
a.m. ADT) the following riders showed up: Jim Frens, Eric Jewell, Leon
Begeman, John O'Keefe, Jeff Earls, Brent Ames, Todd Witte, Sean Gallagher,
Will Outlaw, Marty Leir, and Mark Kiecker.
"You've got some big bikes there," John told Mike, "but what
really impressed me was that fellow on the 250cc Ninja."
"Leon Begeman. We call him 'The Animal.'"
"I'll say," John said. "Do you know that he's about to complete
ten straight 1,000-mile days?"
We do. In fact, while at first blush it looks as if Leon lost two
places (from 24th to 26th) in the leg from Florida to Maine, when you
factor in those riders from Canada who reappeared in the standings and took
over the top seven positions, The Animal actually gained five spots on his
Hopeless Class indeed.
John Hart, one of the original 33 red pill riders, had gone to
California, declined to join the 11 pills heading for Canada, and showed up
at Ira Agins' house in Santa Fe on the way to Florida. There Hart was
offered an additional bonus: go to Andy Goldfine's Very Boring Rally in
Duluth. There he should track down the person who had won the I'm Wearing
the Ugliest Aerostich Suit on Earth Contest and take a photo of the
winner. If successful, he could bypass the Florida checkpoint.
The problem was that no one had a clue when the contest would be
over. Hart might be sitting around, bored to tears at the Very Boring
Rally, for longer than riders would ever have had to wait for a barricaded
road to open in Bella Coola. No one in his right mind would accept a
challenge with so many uncontrolled variables.
Why not, thought John. He set his GPS coordinates for Minnesota,
called to say he was skipping the Florida checkpoint, and disappeared from
the Iron Butt radar for the next four days.
Hart could hardly have expected what would follow when he arrived
in Duluth. Andy Goldfine, Aerostich's founder, hauled Hart onto the stage
and introduced him as an Iron Butt rider who was then and there bravely
fighting his way through snow, rain, heat, and gloom of night toward the
swift completion of his appointed bonuses. The crowd applauded happily.
"It was unbelievable," Hart said. "They treated me like a
gladiator." He was surrounded and assaulted with questions about his
heroic deeds. The 2005 IBR unwittingly may have recruited 15 new riders
that evening. Hart got his photo, climbed onto his chariot, and charged
out into the gloom of night, feeling possibly just a little like Spartacus.
The Moving Finger, Having Writ, Moves On
On Sunday morning Marc Lewis was forced to withdraw because of
family problems. He had been running 31st at the Florida checkpoint.
In Maine yesterday Mike Grosche's endless struggles with his
Hopeless Class Suzuki GS750 came to an end. In Missoula he began
re-routing the fuel cell hose minutes before the start of the rally. He
was the last rider out of the Holiday Inn's parking lot. Two flat tires
slowed his ride east, but a blown head gasket was worse, causing him to
miss the Florida checkpoint altogether and dropping him down to 108th
place. The gasket was fixed, but as he plodded north to Maine, his clutch
headed south to Hell. He came into the Reynolds' parking lot 45 minutes
too late. With a second missed checkpoint, his rally is history.
August 18, 2003