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2007 Iron Butt Rally, Day 1
There has never been a more dramatic start for an Iron Butt Rally than
occurred this morning in Chesterfield, Missouri. Although there were
threatening skies all morning, there was little more than a light mist
in the air as staff members recorded outgoing odometer readings and I
collected information from the riders regarding their basic route plans.
We walked down two long rows of motorcycles arranged side-by-side, one
row facing the other with an empty parking lot aisle in between.
A ten minute riders meeting began at 9:45 a.m. during which Chief
Technical Inspector Dale Wilson reviewed the starting procedures one
last time and Rallymaster Lisa Landry announced a few minor corrections
to the Leg 1 bonus listing. Following Lisa's comments, Dale told all of
the riders to mount up and be prepared to exit the parking lot
one-by-one when he pointed to them. At the very instant the meeting
ended, the deluge began.
It didn't just start raining, it started pouring with the intensity that
causes cars to pull off of the freeway and wait it out on the side of
the road because windshield wipers won't keep up. Dale, Lisa, and other
rally staff that were working the start were soaking wet in less than a
minute. (To the surprise of Bob Higdon and many riders, Lisa did NOT
Riders and staff alike were no doubt contemplating whether the
cloudburst was some sort of omen. But almost as soon as it had begun,
it quickly tapered off to a light drizzle just a minute before the
start, leaving the superstitious to ponder the mixed message being sent
At exactly 10:00 a.m. Dale pointed to Rob Nye; "Go!" Next was Dick
Fish; "Go!" One by one they pulled into the center aisle and headed for
the exit where the Chesterfield Police Department had stopped all other
traffic and provided a clear path to U.S. 40, the nearest limited access
Another new record was established. 94 motorcycles crossed the starting
line in 4 minutes and 59 seconds; 1 motorcycle every 3 seconds.
Reiner and Lisa Kappenberger's Gold Wing was the only motorcycle left
sitting on the starting grid. The battery had died and it wouldn't
start. Following a jump start, the Kappenbergers continued on to the
Gateway Arch. Five miles down the road the bike died. Reiner took a
taxi to purchase a new battery while Lisa stood guard over the bike.
After installing the battery on the side of road, they continued to the
Arch, scoring the bonus before the end of the time window.
The Brunsvold father and son team also failed to leave the starting line
on time. They were still at the local Harley dealer where Li'l Arlen's
new-to-him Road Glide was being prepared. Thanks to the not quite
lightening-like speed with which the dealer transferred the auxiliary
fuel tank from the old bike to the new one, it was almost 5 p.m. when
they finally rolled out of the parking lot. They were still planning to
make Perce Rock. Hopefully, they can make schedule changes as necessary
as the week progresses.
Doug Chapman's FJR1300 left the starting line on time, but all was not
well. His alternator was producing less than 12 volts at idle. Even at
elevated rpm he wasn't seeing more than 12.5 volts, significantly below
the normal reading of 14 volts. The only person more concerned about
this situation than Doug is Dale Wilson. If the FJRs don't prove to be
more reliable than the BMWs in this year's rally, Dale is going to
Off to Gateway Arch
As expected, almost every rider headed for the 3,565 point bonus at
Gateway Arch, the famous St. Louis landmark. (Dick Peek is the only
rider who told me he was definitely not heading to the Arch because he
was going to try to make New Orleans before dark.) The bonus
instructions for the Arch are as follows:
Take a photo of the large display entitled "The
Builders" and bring a receipt from the Arch Parking Structure. Located
on the bank of the Mississippi River in eastern Missouri just north of
the intersection of I-55/I-70/I-64. Parking is available in the Arch
Parking Structure on Washington Avenue, just east of I-70. The display
in located in the Visitor Center under the Arch.
The parking structure is at the north end of the arch. There are
entrances to the underground Visitor Center at both the north and south
ends of the arch. Even though it's only a few hundred feet away, you
can't see the south entrance when walking to the north entrance. So all
the riders headed for the north entrance. As they walked down the steps
to the entrance they got their first surprise of the rally; everyone has
to go through a metal detector to gain entrance. It's sensitive enough
to detect keys, cell phones, pocket knives, and numerous other items
that the riders were carrying.
As the riders waited in the queue that forms at the metal detector,
Lisa, my wife Helen, and I had a leisurely drive to the Arch and walked
to the south entrance where there was no line. We got right in and
walked to the large mural where the riders needed to take their bonus
photo. A number of riders had already made it through security and were
busy taking their photos. Several riders who were just walking in
looked at us in stunned amazement and asked, "How did you beat us here?"
The normal tourists in the Visitor Center seemed quite puzzled at the
scene they were observing. There were piles of riding suits and helmets
strewn everywhere. Several of the tourists approached the three of us
to ask questions, probably because we were relatively normal looking
people who seemed to be acquainted with the weirdoes in the funny
outfits running around with the Polaroid cameras. We were asked
questions like, "Why are all of these people with the snowmobile suits
taking pictures of flags with numbers on them?" But the absolute best
question we got was, "Is this some sort of a senior citizens tour?"
Some of these bystanders were quite observant.
We hadn't been in the visitor center for 2 minutes when Lisa noticed a
Polaroid 600 sitting on a trash can. Someone had apparently left the
camera behind. George Barnes noticed it too and made some comment about
the rookie mistake that had obviously been made. George had already
gotten his photo and hustled off to his next destination.
20 minutes later, the Polaroid remained unclaimed. Then we noticed
George Barnes coming back from the direction of the parking garage.
George sheepishly picked his helmet off the floor where he had left it.
As Jeff Earls was leaving with his bonus photo, he suggested this bonus
should have been named "the goat rodeo."
Where They Are Headed
I didn't get a chance to talk to every rider before the start today, but
I did get basic routing plans from over 80% of the riders. Based on my
survey, about 60% of the pack is headed for the 33,000 points available
at Perce Rock. A little under 20% of the riders are headed for Key West
and a little under 20% are doing a loop somewhere in the Northeast,
Southeast, and or Midwest that does not involve either Perce Rock or Key
A single rider is headed for Goose Bay and it's not Dick Fish. It turns
out that Chip Hyde is the only rider who thinks he is manly enough for
the Goose Bay bonus (which is code named "MANLY"). He's an Iron Butt
Rally rookie and relative unknown. When I mention that Chip Hyde is the
only rider going to Goose Bay, the next question is usually, "Is he
riding a GS?" It's interesting to see the look I get when I say, "No,
he's on a Gold Wing." "You have got to be kidding me," is what I hear
Nobody I've talked to thinks a rookie on a Gold Wing has a snowball's
chance in hell of making it to Goose Bay and back. But this is someone
who has ridden the infamous Haul Road between Fairbanks, AK and Prudhoe
Bay. Maybe he is going to surprise everyone. It would be one of the
greatest accomplishments ever achieved in the history of the Iron Butt
Rally if he pulls it off.
I asked Dick Fish why he changed his mind about Goose Bay. He said,
"It's not a good choice. I would have to average 53 mile per hour from
here to Goose Bay and back and do nothing else. I would be fried and I
would have abused my motorcycle on the first leg." I responded, "Do you
realize how many people you are disappointing?" Dick replied, "Do I
give a ****? I'm riding this for me." Dick had obviously come to his
senses since declaring that he was going for Goose Bay on the previous
Perce Rock is obviously a much easier bonus than Goose Bay, but it does
require dealing with a fairly narrow time window. The bonus
instructions are as follows:
This bonus requires two photos.
Photo #1: Take a picture of Perce Rock from the bottom
of the stairway. Your ID flag does NOT have to be present in this
photo. This photo must show that the tide is out! These are fast
moving tides; no wading this year Tom! Depending on weather conditions,
you may access Perce Rock for approximately 2 hours before and 2 hours
after low tide.
Photo #2: Walk out to Perce Rock, place your flag on the
rock and take a closer photo.
WARNING: This bonus requires a short walk across the
ocean floor; however, the footing is treacherous and should not be
attempted unless the water has subsided during a low tide. Tides in
this area are extreme and fast-changing, rising 6 to 8 feet per hour!
Perce is located on the eastern end of the Gaspe
Peninsula on Provincial Rte-132. To get to the access stairwell, turn
right on Rue Biard.
In contrast, the Key West bonus is available 24 hours a day. It's worth
far fewer points (8,999), but there are many relatively high point
bonuses that can be bagged along the way.
The people headed for Perce Rock include seven of the riders assigned
numbers 1 through 10: Chris Sakala, Jeff Earls, Eric Jewell, Marty Leir,
Jim Owen, Dick Fish, and Peter Leap. Rider number 1, George Barnes, and
rider number 7, Brett Donahue, are headed for Key West. Rider number 8,
Alan Barbic is taking a loop that includes the Midwest and Northeast,
but not Perce Rock.
Seven of the next nine riders are also headed for Perce Rock. They are
Tom Loftus, Andy Mills, Jim Frens, John Langan, Doug Chapman, Bob St.
George, and Bill Thweatt. Tom Melchild and Chris Cimino are doing
routes that involve neither Perce Rock nor Key West.
Four of the five 2-up teams are heading for Perce Rock too. They are
Jim and Donna Phillips, Tom and Rosie Sperry, Bob and Silvie Torter, and
Reiner and Lisa Kappenberger. Terry and Lynda Lahman are headed for Key
If the majority are right, a route based around Perce Rock is likely to
produce a greater number of points than a route based around Key West.
The likelihood of the majority being right would seem to be reinforced
by the fact that routing guru Jim Owen is headed in the same direction.
But, perhaps George Barnes has found a way to make more points out of a
Key West-based route. Maybe Chip Hyde will surprise everyone and return
from Goose Bay with 75,527 points. We will know a lot more in two days
when the riders call in to report their progress.
Monday, August 20, 2007
August 20, 2007
Copyright (c) 2007, Iron Butt Rally, Inc., Chicago, IL