Every two years they gather. From all parts of North America and far beyond they come. They arrive with different motivations, yet all come to answer a similar challenge. A challenge that originates deep from within. They seek answers to questions that only they themselves can ask and only they alone may answer. They've come to conquer personal demons and perhaps quell inner doubts. They've come to compete, to measure themselves among other like-minded souls. They’ve come to join the cadre of less than 300 who have completed this, the toughest motorcycle competition on Earth. They seek membership in a fraternity where admission is granted only by finishing. A fraternity more exclusive than those who have been to the peak of Mt. Everest, a community tinier than the total of humans who have ever traveled to outer space. These 112 have come to ride the 2001 Iron Butt Rally. They all will ride it alone; they all will ride it together.
It is hot in Madison, Alabama, just a few miles west of Huntsville. You'd expect it to be hot in these dog days of late August. "But it’s a wet heat!" laughs rally volunteer Ira Agins, himself a finisher of the Iron Butt Rally in 1999. The mug factor is high as perspiration freely rolls down his back, drawing dark wet blotches across his gray Iron Butt Association T-shirt. Ira is a tech inspector. He is a volunteer like the majority of the IBA staff, here to assist in the start of this biennial competition. He and other past finishers Dale Wilson, Tom Austin, Dennis Bittner, and a score of others have had their ride and earned their membership in the elite band of rally veterans. They go about their tasks on Saturday and Sunday checking licenses, insurance, registrations, and basic equipment. They check for compliance to the rules and regulations that limit and define fuel storage and aftermarket mufflers, and then send the entrants on a short route for odometer calibration.
The Ramada Inn is a classic roadside motel, and is also rally headquarters and the site of both start and finish. The two-story beige brick quadrangle has been completely taken over this third weekend in August by the Iron Butt Association. Motorcycles and riders began to congregate in Madison as early as the Friday before the scheduled rally start on Monday, August 27, 2001. The vast majority of entrants are riding the major marques-—Honda, BMW, Harley-Davidson, Yamaha, and Kawasaki—most of which displace a liter or more. But again, as in every past rally, there are some notable exceptions. This year Leonard Aron is joined in his biennial campaign of the antique and now defunct Indian brand by Richard Frost. Aron is seeking his first successful finish on his fourth consecutive start for the well-worn 1946 Indian Chief. Richard has brought his 1953 Indian Roadmaster to spur a rally within the rally. Will Leonard finally complete the circuit to that elusive last checkpoint? Will the Roadmaster outlast the Chief?
Paul Pelland represents the Siberian Speed Team with his 2001 Russian-made Ural. This brand-new solo Ural model sports the most up-to-date, state-of-the-art technology available from the early 1970s. Will it be enough to overcome the rigors of an 11-day, 11,000-mile ride across our fruited plain? Will Paul and his Ural--with its Germanic-originated, Soviet-Russo improved-on design--prevail and realize Nikita Khrushchev's prophecy to bury the field of competition?
A number of riders have discarded the conventional wisdom of liter-class power and opted to ride bikes of smaller displacement. A proponent of the "size does not matter" school, Canadian Bobb Todd, has exchanged his contact-papered ride of 1997 and 1999, a very capable Honda ST1100, for a 125cc Honda. Joining Bobb in the diminutive-displacement dare on a 2001 Cagiva two-stroke is Paul Meredith. His mustard-yellow Cagiva Mito looks very much like a Ducati 916 suffering from dwarfism and in dire need of steroids to supplement the four-ounce engine displacement. Veteran Bob Ray has selected a Honda Reflex scooter since deciding that his 1997 entry, a Honda Pacific Coast, possessed much too much horsepower. Keith Keating, the other entrant in the unofficial Hopeless Class, campaigns a 1997 Suzuki GN125E. Who will finish first in this group of advocates of the "little engine that could" philosophy? Sure, they all say, "I think I can, I think I can.” But do you think they can? Will conventional wisdom bring enlightenment to these unconventional entrants?
There is nothing conventional when it comes to describing the remaining hundred-plus entrants in this year's Iron Butt Rally. Rick "Mango" Morrison has teamed with Gary "Hobatz" Eagan on a pair of matched rally-prepped deep blue Ducati ST4s. These ugly Duclings have hopes as high as the rev limits on these sweet-sounding V-twins. Another new ST4 is entered but in a stunning yellow. It is being ridden by Michael and Caroline McDaniel, who will celebrate their second wedding anniversary aboard the new Ducati. In the 1999 IBR they circled the country with "Just Married" on the Duc's top box. This year the back of their their new bike proudly announces, "Still Married".
The weekend is filled with tech inspection, odometer inspection, and riders’ meetings. Novices listen to the freely given advice and oft-told war stories of rally veterans, some of which actually may be true. A nervous expectation pervades this gathering of folks about to undertake the ride of their lives. Their entry into the select fraternity is not yet assured. Commencement begins with the pre-rally banquet Sunday evening. An 11-day test soon follows on Monday morning.
The class of 2001 has now gathered. The Iron Butt Rally is about to begin.
August 26, 2001
Day 0: Decisions
Life is full of decisions. Little ones. Big ones. 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 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 canceled. 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 ensure 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 T-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 the assembled group’s 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 revealed. No longer Mr. Nice Guy, Mike re-entered the room in a hooded cape, clothed as if he were 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 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 Arctic Circle could be squeezed into the time constraints of an 11-day rally.
Mike went about assigning the riders’ numbers. Special recognition was given to the first 30 riders, who had distinguished themselves in the past. Riders received a rally flag, a 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 Deadhorse (Prudhoe Bay), and back within the 11 -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 envelopes. 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 driveway pavement labeled TO FINISH. At the curbside a new signpost was erected beside the existing DECATUR 20. It simply read PRUDHOE BAY 4400.
Decisions large. Decisions small. The ride of a lifetime is about to begin. It will include them all.
August 27, 2001
Leg No. 1: Alabama to California
Early Monday morning, alarm clocks jangled, phones rang, and soon the sounds motorcycle engines joined in a cacophonous mix. The 112 Iron Butt Rally entrants began queuing their bikes two by two for the 10:00 a.m. 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 because two couples would ride two-up, the McDaniels 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 11 days to unwrap. Phyllis Lang rode individually with her husband Fritz, the pair 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. A knee injury incurred just weeks before 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 lined up 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 pre-start minutes. Eddie mentioned that his route decision was easy. After riding in three "conventional" Iron Butt Rallies, 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 pas at the previous evening's opening banquet. Eddie picked up not only the wrong bonus envelope and the wrong 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 11,000-mile, four-corners tour of America conventional.
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 500 points. Corky is one of a number of folks who have attained positions of prominence 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. The day before he was greeted with 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 this rally novice will require any professional courtesies as he motors north to Alaska.
One after another the bikes crossed the start line. Forty-eight BMWs, 30 Hondas, a dozen Harley-Davidsons, six Kawasakis, four Triumphs, and four Yamahas joined three Ducatis, a pair of Cagivas, and the sole representatives of the Indian, Ural, and Suzuki brands. The most senior bike is a BMW built in 1938, the newest a 2002 Honda Reflex. Although most of the riders were from America there were three riders from Germany, a pair from Australia, and entrants from Canada, France, England, and Texas.
Thirty-seven minutes after the first rider departed, most of 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 R1150GS was suffering from rear-end difficulties after being shipped to the U.S. 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. 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 Jones.
This could be a particularly whimsical ride for Seamans because he had just ridden to Madison from his home in Anchorage, Alaska, to compete. If he is successful he will have ridden from Alaska to Alabama, Alabama to Alaska, Alaska to Alabama, then once more from 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 Arctic 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 ride.
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 farther and last longer than rest of the pack. Less than an hour and only 28 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. On closer approach it was clear that no buggy could travel at 65 mph. 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 his ride.
As in all past rallies, the bonus locations and their value cruelly tugged at the rallyists’ psyches, 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 Mojave Desert. It also provides the motivation for riding 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 so cruelly inflated that even the most cautious rider would find himself fighting agonizing freeway traffic through Los Angeles to Ojai and then back once again. Of course, at most of these high-point locations and at 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 p.m., 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 was 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 52 seconds of incurring time-penalty points. Although he is at the bottom of leg one's standings he 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 the 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 know to expect the unexpected.
August 30, 2001
Leg No. 2: California to Washington
Sometimes you're up. Other times you're down. As in any challenging event, too often and all too soon you find your place is reversed. The trip from Pomona to Sunnyside left some riders fried, others scrambled, and a few well poached. Mostly this group was sunny-side up.
Gerhard Krueger was definitely up. The entrant from Germany, with his newly repaired BMW, had begun to recover from the late start at Madison and was able to collect bonus points along rally leg No. 2. He jumped up from a last-place standing in Pomona to the middle of the pack at Sunnyside.
While undergoing a bike check at Brown's in Pomona, Karol Patzer discovered a nail in the rear tire of her BMW K75. The service manager had initially informed her that he had no tire of that size in stock. She was down. Owner Bob Brown came to the rescue when he double-checked and found some skins that had not yet been entered into inventory. She was back up. Karol was soon on the road with a new tire ready to fight the winds of The Dalles after a visit to the Devil's Postpile.
Devil's Postpile National Monument is the kind of bonus location that causes Mike Kneebone to beam with pride. It tests not only the rally entrant's ability to ride efficiently but also their reading comprehension and overall sense of timing. A successful rider would have arrived at these layered lava flows before 7:00 a.m. Any time after that, the access road is closed and transport to the site restricted to a grindingly slow snail-paced bus. Once at the piles, the riders must then take a strenuous hike to the summit for the required bonus picture.
The Mono Lake bonus location was only 35 miles from Devil's Postpile, if you walked. However, if you had chosen to take the easy way over and ridden, you fell into a trap that ensnared IBR veteran Jim Culp, his brother-in-law Geoff Greene, and rookie Mark Keicker. Keicker, a veteran of the Butt Lite but a first-year IBR rider, was so taken with the wonderfully twisty nastiness of the 330 miles of access road and this fine opportunity to flick his Y2K Honda VFR800 through each and every hairpin turn that after completing this extremely tedious bonus ride, he placed a very special fawning message of praise on Lord Kneebone's voicemail.
"Kneebone, you suck!."
Glacier Point in Yosemite was one of those rare IBR bonuses that exist just for the pure wonder of going there and enjoying the marvelous panoramic view. Of course, selecting this most popular gem of our national park system was done purely for appreciation of its intrinsic beauty, not for the fact that it is now Labor Day weekend and the unwary rider could be hopelessly snarled in a massive holiday traffic jam. This year, however, tourist traffic was down due to the forest fires raging nearby. Some fires were burning right up to the road’s edge along the riders’ path. One way or another, you could have gotten burned.
Dr. Roger Van Santen, a veteran of the ‘99 rally, was more than an Oregon bonus location for BMW rider Bernie Weiss. Riders who stopped by to get their official IBA dental dam only picked up additional bonus points. Bernie, who had undergone dental work just weeks before the rally, was in need of an emergency consultation. Dr. Van Santen was happy to oblige. It was evident from Bernie's smile that he was up on his arrival in Sunnyside.
Martin Hildebrandt had noticed a slight piston slap from the 1938 R51’s right cylinder on his east-to-west run. The mechanics at Brown's in Pomona worked throughout the night to fabricate a wrist pin from rebar while they replaced other worn parts. The effort was successful. The following day Martin headed north towards checkpoint No. 2. Hildebrandt made it into Washington, but as he approached Exit 122 on I-84, the crankshaft suddenly cracked, rendering the antique boxer engine kaput. Martin, engulfed in gloom, slowly glided the now dead black bike down the ramp to Coffin Road below. The lid had slammed shut on the R51's effort to conquer America. Martin was down. Yet, while some go down others creep up.
Harry Kaplan, an IBR veteran from both ‘97 and ‘99, was very much up at Sunnyside. He excitedly related to others his almost mystical experience. Just outside Eagleview, Washington, a bald eagle lifted off from the road directly ahead as he approached on his Kawasaki Concours. The big bird swooped. Harry instinctively ducked, the bird's talons just grazing the top of his helmet. Harry certainly was touched by an eagle. He zoomed from 40th place to third place in the preliminary standings.
Reporter Sue Carpenter had joined the ride in Pomona. She rode after completing a series of calls and meetings with IBA media relations coordinator Chris Cimino. Sue writes for the Los Angeles Times, specifically for the Southern California Living section. She has done numerous articles on motorcycles and motorcyclists. Only after flying to Huntsville to meet with Chris was she deemed qualified to ride the leg from California to Washington and experience the Iron Butt Rally firsthand. Along the way she hooked up with IBR veteran Terry Pipes from Louisiana, and novice riders John Harrison and Al Willis, both from Alabama – all great ambassadors of IBA goodwill, all examples of the best of what endurance riders are about. On the ride to Washington Sue got into the spirit of the rally and began to search out bonus locations and accumulate points.
The desert heat of the prior leg's travels had claimed both Mary Sue Luetschwager and Richard Smith. They both opted to bow out of the ride after falling ill in California. A family crisis claimed Tom Loegering and he returned home.
Of those 22 riders headed north seeking an Alaskan adventure, Kevin Sickles was being towed back to Vancouver with massive mechanical failure to his Triumph Tiger. Near the aptly-named Destruction Bay, Kerry Church's noble effort was nullified by road construction along the Alaska Highway. He was nursing a broken arm and abrasions. Fellow rider Michael Smeyers bagged his own effort to stay behind to assist his fallen riding partner. His effort would earn the Iron Butt Valor award and a free pass to the next Iron Butt Rally.
U.K. entrant Steve Eversfield never needed to stop while in Nevada to play jackrabbit roulette. Earlier he had just missed a deer. Later he narrowly avoided a lurking road alligator. Finally he hit one of the infamous Nevada kamikaze rabbits "spot on" at speed.
Head to the left, body to the right Steve put it all on red and motored straight into the night.
Besides Eversfield, the remaining wrong-side road riders are Derek Sutton and John McCrindle from Australia. John is a past rally veteran aboard a rental Harley Road Glide. Imagine the dealer's amazement when that bike comes off lease in two weeks. Derek, on the other hand, was enjoying his first circuit on American roads aboard his own Kawasaki ZX6 sportbike. Riding alone, Sutton first realized that he overshot the exit for U.S. 395 just a tad when the world's tallest thermometer arose from the desert floor to the left, the spire announcing the oven -like temperature of Baker, California. Derek then remembered that the rally organizers had conveniently placed 1,323 bonus points at a Primm, Nevada, casino only one hundred miles more distant. He motored east to collect that jackpot.
Steve Chalmers can now claim that he was on a western big-game hunt and not just the world's toughest motorcycle competition. First, it was reported that he had been run off the road by a wily coyote. Steve would not let this distraction from a fellow predator deter him. He went on to strike a small deer. Still undaunted, he cleared his limit in Oregon with a second deer strike. Before he decided to call it quits, Steve was actually attempting to establish a new rally endurance record for heart bypass recipients. Even if he had finished the rally, officials would have challenged that claim, as many veterans of Steve's Utah 1088 know that Steve has no heart.
Greg Roberts is an experienced endurance rallyist. A veteran of many 24-hour events, he has volunteered to assist in past Iron Butt Rallies. This was to be his first Iron Butt ride. Along leg No. 2 in Oregon his K1100LT suddenly developed mechanical problems, consuming all of its final-drive oil every hundred miles. After the dealer in Salem, Oregon, was unable to resolve the BMW's problem, Greg limped on repeatedly stopping to replace the missing oil all along the remaining miles to checkpoint No. 2. Before he arrived, the 7:00 p.m. time window had already slammed cruelly shut. You would have thought from Greg's pained look that being time-barred was more than mere disappointment. His bonus points gathered along this leg would be forfeited. He could not collect bonuses along the next leg, that is if he would even be able to make the necessary repairs to his bike in time to ride to Maine. For Greg there just was no sunny side to Sunnyside.
Just the reverse was true for rider Paul Pelland. Paul and the Siberian Speed Team Ural had not made the earlier Pomona checkpoint. Most had assumed that the Russian-built bike was deadski when the Ural went missing at Pomona. Many assumed that Paul might now be sipping vodka somewhere in the southeast, mourning the loss of this flower of Mother Russia's mechanical manufacturing might and his chance at an Iron Butt finish. But nyet!
Paul had traveled about a hundred miles from Madison when the Ural's engine seized. This was surprising, as Urals have been known to travel many hundreds of miles without experiencing serious engine problems. Paul was able to locate a Ural dealer and was towed east for repair. Since the large 750cc engine is new to the 2001 model year, the only option open to Paul was a swap for an older 650cc engine. The swap would leave Paul without advanced state-of-art features like electric start. Paul resumed his stalled rally and headed west. He got as far as Arkansas when again he almost ran out of hope.
The Ural’s stolid suspension was quickly compressed by a road depression resulting in a medium speed wobble. The precision handlebar-mounted steering damper could not overcome this vicious assault of Arkansas roadway. A tank-slapper ensued and the Siberian Speed Team was once again sadly grounded. After a copious application of duct tape, the injection of two tubes of J-B Weld, and the artful manipulation of the Ural multipurpose tool (a two-pound hammer), Paul continued his westward assault to collect a gas receipt in lieu of the missed checkpoint. After arriving in Pomona he putted north. Along his route he was able to enjoy nine additional unscheduled rest breaks. Miraculously these breaks coincided perfectly with the occurrence of connector failures and mismatched wiring harness anomalies resulting from the earlier engine swap.
At Sunnyside Paul took advantage of the crack Ural field-warranty repair service provided in the parking lot of the adjacent Travelodge. A sparkling new 750cc engine, the only other in North America, replaced the J-B Weld-encrusted 650cc workhorse. Its scars now covered, its cracks concealed, its powerplant reloaded, the airhead was now ready. As was the Ural.
The Siberian Speed Team was now Team Lazarus.
Spirits were equally high for other members of what has been termed the Hopeless Class. Keith Keiting received a high-visibility yellow vest, bringing his night visibility up to the high Amish-buggy standard set earlier by Bobb Todd. The hanger from the vest was given to Paul Pelland on the remote chance he would again require spare parts. Paul Meredith was all smiles as the spare piston for the Cagiva Mito was snug in its cylinder ready for the trip east.
Leonard Aron’s stately old Indian had arrived the night before. It now was proudly parked next to the main entrance to HIPY Motosports. With a slow dignity, the old V-twin marked the territory beneath it with 30-weight. Leonard was up even though some oil was down.
As 7:00 p.m. approached, the riders nervously gathered outside that same entrance to HIPY Motorsports, the gracious and helpful IBR checkpoint No. 2 hosts.
Gary Eagan had arrived from Salt Lake City with but one simple task. It was to deliver a message that only he could give with pure sternness of conviction. Before the start of each rally leg and just prior to the dispersal of bonus locations and values, there is a brief riders’ meeting. Gary came forward and exhorted his fellow riders not to follow his poor example but instead ride smart. A brief indiscretion, a moment’s lapse had cost Gary his ride to glory and instead garnered him embarrassment, bandages and a cast. Gary had gone down.
After thanks to the rally volunteers and local Boy Scouts, Mike announced the news that six riders had already reached Prudhoe Bay. They were among the 22 on their way to collect the bonus announced at the start and coded "Mightwin.” Soon an opportunity would be offered to these riders present for a bonus that was equally remote and worth even more points than Mightwin. Its bonus code: "Winner.”
The diaspora of IBR riders had been sprinkled from the Mojave Desert to Prudhoe Bay. From the most densely populated metropolitan areas IBR entrants fought traffic jams and congestion while thousands of miles distant other riders for all appearances were the only humans on Earth. It was amazing to consider that for that brief moment in time even though all were riding alone, all were riding together.
One by one, the rider's turned in their planned routes. Soon bikes ranging from the two remaining 125cc entries, to Morris Kruemcke’s Gold Wing with an engine 14 times larger, buzzed, purred, and roared into the night.
Even though the sun had long ago gone down, the riders departed, all feeling Sunnyside up.
September 1, 2001
Leg No. 3: Washington to Maine or ?
One hundred and twelve had entered. One hundred now remained. On Labor Day eve, 2001, if you were among the one hundred and were intent on 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 heading 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 again 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 Ayres’ record-setting 49-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 22 other Alaska-bound riders had already elected the straightforward strategy and sole focus: Ride to Prudhoe Bay, 4,800 miles distant, collect 500,000 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 balance.
Could it be done from midpoint in the rally, and would anyone return in time? A million-point bonus would be awarded 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 22 first-wave travelers who had reached the Prudhoe Bay hotel felt the same. They included Shane Smith and 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 22 to reach Prudhoe Bay. One could only guess what went through Shane's mind as he saw 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. Last year’s 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 Morrison.
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 "Winner.” He had done what others thought undoable. Under clear skies in the crisp 35-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 antifreeze, 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-mile 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 one more ride to his home back in Alaska.
Jeff Jones, another of the original 22 Alaskan adventurers, steered his road-worn ST1100 into 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 Alaskan roadways had claimed the bike's fork seals and left multiple badges of honor on the ST’s bodywork. 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 Moose Jaw to mention that he might himself be a tardy arrival in Maine.
Dennis Cunningham, a San Bernardino fireman and EMT, struck a deer while crossing Canada. Will Lee pulled his K1100LT over and stopped to assist and Harry Kaplan also stayed behind to help. Dennis, who was later checked out at the local hospital, was found to be OK. He fared much better than his BMW K1200RS or the deer. It's a long walk back from Moose Jaw.
Phil Mann Jr. aboard his K1100RS bagged a buffalo and broke a couple of his own bones in the process. Chuck Pickett aboard a Gold Wing stayed with Phil, thereby earning himself the second IBA Valor award and an entry in the next rally. Chuck and Michael Smeyers are 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, 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 in 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, Alabama.
One-hundred-and-forty miles north of the Arctic 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 at Deadhorse. 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 it was an extreme distance subject to all the vagaries of iffy weather along the Alcan Highway, Bob had 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 on 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 scooter as he was 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 be the dinner at someone else's.
The wrongside riders were now riding as a team. Eversfield from the U.K, and 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 he 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 1,000-mile ride when in Minnesota the Cagiva Mito's engine died. Earlier the tiny Cagiva had a piston replaced in Sunnyside but evidently that wasn't enough. The connecting rod’s lower end 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, Minnesota, 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 J-B Weld 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 of hundred miles farther 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 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 Motorcycling 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 R1150GS to pluck these points in his home province. Fellow Canadian Thane Silliker'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 its 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, and a whole host of variables 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 No. 3. It was not yet clear whether they could make the difference.
One hundred and twelve had entered. Ninety-two now remained. Checkpoint No. 3 awaited. A mind game yet to be rewarded.
September 3, 2001
Leg No. 4: I Can See Clearly Now
At the Maine checkpoint Mike Kneebone announced that of the 22 riders in the first wave of Alaska point seekers, nine had already reached Prudhoe Bay. Twenty-two additional riders then elected to go far north from Sunnyside while an additional 28 chose to ride to Hyder, Alaska, and then on to Maine. Of the starting field of 112, more than half had chosen a ride north to Alaska, an opportunity that was offered to all in the 1999 rally yet selected by none.
Jim Frens claimed both big ride bonuses in a monster 5,500-mile third-leg ride aboard a Honda Gold Wing. He was the only rider to travel to Hyder, Alaska, then travel on to northern Quebec to claim the big points at Radisson. Twenty-eight riders joined Jim at either Hyder or Radisson and they comprised the first 26 positions at checkpoint No. 4 in Gorham. The checkpoint was located at Reynolds Motorsports, a long-time Iron Butt Rally checkpoint.
The 18 riders returning successfully from Hyder included Harley riders Todd Witte, Robert Lyskowski, Homer Krout II, and Dan Stephans. Lyskowski and his FLHT was one of three last-minute wait-list replacements for the 13 slots that were vacated by last-minute no-shows. Homer Krout's Road Glide is one of two bikes he owns. The other is in Germany, a Fat Boy. Homer works for the University of Maryland and his wife is with the U.S. Defense Department of Education.
Ontario farmer John Ferber and fellow Canadian Gerry Golany were both on Triumphs. Golany had been nursing the Triumph 900S Sprint right from the start line in Madison. While it stuttered and spurted east to west, south to north, and back east again he was able to still retain his big smile in Maine.
Rick Williams remarked that the ride east across Canada was the ride of his life. Veterans Kerry Willey and Rick Williams are Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructors and a fixture at Yamaha-sponsored ride and drives. Both were aboard their own Yamaha Ventures and had again started the rally together. This year Rick completed the ride to Hyder and the return to Maine while Kerry was headed straight for Madison.
Bill Kramer, Art Holland, Texan David Bankhead, and Canadian Thane Silliker were all on Honda ST1100s. Kramer is a bonus hunter, and prone to stopping along the route if he comes on something else interesting to see. This time Kramer had little time for the luxury as his bike required major brake repairs. The task was completed in Washington at the house of fellow ST owner Darrell Snow. Rear brakes from Darrell's bike replaced those that had been installed incorrectly and damaged by Kramer's local dealer. Art Holland, a Detroit Edison lineman, enjoyed an electric-smooth, trouble-free big ride on his black ST all along the way from Hyder to Maine.
Land of Enchantment rallymaster James Hickerson and Harry Kaplan from New York both piloted Kawasaki Concours along the same route.
BMW riders Al Holtsberry was on a new R1150RT, while Californian Will Lee and Dan Stephans II piloted K1100LTs and joined Lyndon Murray, an American living in France, from Hyder to Maine. Dan Stephans II made a short rest stop at a roadside comfort station. While outside he took off his riding gloves and heard an ominous rolling "pling.” The removal of his glove had dislodged his wedding ring, flinging it to the darkened pavement around the tiny structure. He searched in the dark of night while on his hands and knees for that special band of gold. He was unable to find the missing ring but posted a reward on the outhouse door for the wedding band's return.
Roy Collins conferred with veteran Howard Chain as he neared New England regarding the advisability of taking a sleep bonus. Howard wisely assured Roy by phone that the value of the sleep bonus would overcome any penalty points for late arrival as long as he could park his Gold Wing at the checkpoint before it closed. The much-needed rest would also pay a bonus not reflected by points alone.
The Radisson riders joining Frens in northernmost Quebec included Tom Loftus and Leonard Roy on Honda ST1100s, Andrew Duthie on a Kawasaki Concours, Craig Tegeler aboard a K1100RS, Michael and Caroline McDaniel on the Ducati ST4, and Jim Winterer on the Yamaha SR500 thumper.
Frank Brown aboard a ST1100 led the pack of riders who had stayed within the borders of the lower 48 states. Frank, a Floridian transplanted from Ohio, and a Cleveland Indians fan, was able to keep his perspective by sharing baseball scores while he himself was being scored by rally staff.
Mike Heran had been suffering from shoulder problems and was favoring his remaining one good side. It's tough to ride a motorcycle this distance in perfect condition and he looked relieved for the opportunity to get off his K100RT for a few hours at Reynolds.
Bill Weyher pulled into the checkpoint running on empty. He had plenty of fuel. He had exhausted his supply of extra-strength ibuprofen tablets and carefully planned his route to the nearest pharmacy to get a refill immediately after the last-leg bonuses were distributed.
Geoffrey Greene's BMW R80ST was rally equipped, complete with an oversized Paris-Dakar gas tank. Its age placed it in the Near-Hopeless class. Geoff had been riding with brother-in-law and veteran rider Jim Culp when the airhead's transmission failed near Pasco, Washington. Jim went on while Geoff located nearby BMW Owner's Association member Steve Doctor from the "Anonymous" help book. Geoff has an R80GS back at home in Tennessee and he called his friends Ed Huey and Richard Hilten who removed the transmission and air expressed it to Pasco where Steve and Geoff made the swap. Geoff then rode across the country directly to the Maine checkpoint with out being time-barred. The veteran Culp was not as timely and missed the time window. Certainly to become a future Culp family topic of discussion that Jim will find hard to live down.
Michael Spangler, a rally novice, was having the time of his life. The Christian Motorcyclist Association member hoped his fellow Gold Wing riders would not notice that his right running-light bulb had burned out before he could change it. The Gold Wings were, however, bulletproof and one of the few models not needing a new transmission or engine.
Jerry McCumby had pulled his R1100RT off the road in the middle of Nevada's Mojave Desert. He was checking his map in this most remote of western locations when Mike Kneebone came across him. The surprising happening on a rally participant is true serendipity and was repeated throughout the rally.
Ardys Kellerman's arrival in Maine was celebrated with her grandchildren Tara and Elena. "Grandma! Grandma!” shrieked the little blonde-headed Tara as she leaped into Ardys' outstretched arms. Her daughters Ellen and Sue had driven up to cheer on their motorcycling mom. Ardys has seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. She has become a benchmark of performance for other riders.
Ed Farrell, riding a Harley FLHT, is the coordinator for the Northeast 1000 endurance rally. It was tempting for him to go home to his home in Augusta, Maine, but his final destination lay south and a bit west.
Bryce Ulrich succumbed to that same temptation and stayed a full two days at his home in Washington State after arriving in Sunnyside. The competitive fire smoldered to mere embers but he stoked his competitive coals and blazed into Maine in time to continue the rally and finish.
Paul Pelland's Siberian Speed Team Ural putted east, now powered by its third engine. In Rawlings, Wyoming, one of the Ural's pushrods suddenly began pushing up daisies. Unfortunately Paul was a tad removed from the authorized Ural parts-distribution network. After blazing a failed trail in replacement metallurgy encompassing both coat hangers and J-B Weld, the resourceful New Hampshire Yankee sourced a replacement. He fabricated a replica pushrod in a full-service hardware store from a 12-inch-long drill bit. It was clear when pushrod came to shove, Paul was up to the task. One can only wistfully wonder whether, if Mother Russia had had Pelland, the Mir space station would have had to be ditched after all.
Bob Mutchler's BMW R1100RT sidecar rig was experiencing charging problems when he arrived in Maine. The problem was diagnosed as a bad alternator belt. One could be had but it was 20 miles distant. Richard Frost had come to the checkpoint to observe the progress of the field. He learned of Bob's plight and without hesitation made the emergency parts run. This is the same Richard Frost whose crew withdrew the second Indian entry at the rally's start. Richard is being proposed for the Nobel Peace Prize, Mother Theresa Memorial mention, and is putting in his bid to challenge Mike Kneebone for the title of "world's nicest guy.”
Quebec rider Yvon Gauthier had celebrated his 43rd birthday with the official rider/photography team of Lisa Landry and Dean Tanji. Lisa wished she could collect more bonus points but was being held back because of a suspension problem with Dean's Harley. Later Dean and Lisa would come on Yvon broken down near the intersection of I-90 and I-95, his alternator fried. A call for assistance made its way to the Internet and within minutes Ahmet Buharali offered to help. After determining repair efforts would take too long and time-bar Yvon, Ahmet, who did not know Yvon, nevertheless offered Gauthier his rally-prepared R1150GS for the final leg. The GS was ready to go, as Ahmet was himself entered in the 2001 Rally but had to withdraw at the last hour because of illness. Buharali's preparatory work would not be for naught. Even with the 10,000-point penalty for switching motorcycles, Yvon could successfully finish.
Bob Cox, a retired Air Force colonel, piloted his BMW K1200RS from Gorham intent on achieving silver-medal status in the final leg. Colonel Bob was going to make a strafing run to take out all available east-coast bonus targets on his flight to Alabama.
During the Maine break it was interesting to note that two other Kawasaki riders shared the same table as Dickerson: Bryan Main and Andrew Duthie, who enjoyed the giant Subway sandwiches provided at the checkpoint. Later Main and Duthie decided to harvest some last-minute bonus points in Manhattan, New York: a picture of the Wall Street bull in the financial district in downtown and another in front of the Apollo Theater in uptown Harlem. Both of these pictures had to be taken in the middle of the night.
Keith Keiting left Maine with the Suzuki 125 engine still intact. He carried no aux fuel, reasoning that this allowed his engine to cool down during the frequent refillings. The small continuous operational interval limited the tiny engine's duty cycle and prevented thermal runaway. The bike remained completely stock except for the re-geared front sprocket. Paul Meredith on the other 125 quickly followed Keith south to Alabama. The Cagiva was now running on its second complete engine.
Tom Loftus and Leonard Roy were having a great ride on their ST1100s. Both had planned to ride to Radisson, Quebec, and collect that big bonus. Leonard's wife had actually encouraged him to participate in this year's rally. Roy competes on the track in the 250cc class. Earlier this year, a high-speed get-off caused a concussion that would leave him disoriented for a week. His wife figured that a nice calming Iron Butt ride of 11,000 miles would be less of a threat than his already demonstrated short-track prowess.
Outside of Duluth the pair noticed flashing blue and red lights gaining behind them and pulled quickly to the roadside. After routinely running their license and registration the patrolman suddenly told Leonard to assume the position. After a standard frisking and thorough pat-down Roy was relieved of his pocketknife and placed in the cruiser's backseat of dishonor. Roy pondered his predicament while observing the lack of door handles in the back of the Minnesota patrol car. A further check of CIC came back with no wants or warrants. It was later relayed that the dispatcher had misunderstood the Maryland DMV code for not suspended. Roy had earned the dubious distinction of being apprehended and detained while driving on an unsuspended license. The officer apologized as he set Leonard "Outlaw" Roy free to continue, rearmed with both pocket knife and pride but only after receiving a written warning from the red-faced lawman.
Leonard Aron was faced with a real dilemma. After he discovered that he had misplaced his wallet at a Boise, Idaho, Chevron, he quickly put a plan of action into place. His leg No. 3 Iron Butt ride temporarily morphed into the Leonard Aron Charity Fund Raiser. Friends and sponsors along the route came to Leonard's aid providing him food, shelter, and funds. If Leonard showed up in your driveway with that oozing Indian you'd probably pay him to move on too. Quick thinking and smooth talking resulted in Leonard arriving in Maine with $3,500 more than when he left Sunnyside. The Indian and its bearded kimosabe continued south on their finisher's quest, now running once again a bit richer.
Shane Smith had returned from Prudhoe Bay and decided to continue on to Key West. Along I-95 he encountered thundershowers and before he could seek shelter he was dealt a glancing bolt out of the blue. Shane took immediate shelter under the next bridge while he pondered a new moniker, Shane "Lightning" Smith. Lightning continued to Key West and decided that he still had not struck enough gold. He proceeded to IBR veteran Jerry Clemmon's home in North Carolina. Shane planned to rest at Jerry's before sweeping north through the Blue Ridge Parkway to suck up all remaining bonus points scattered there before arriving in Madison. Lightning was cleaning up.
Sean Gallagher was the first to return from the first wave run from Denali, Alaska, to Alabama. If he were the first to check in at the finish he would be the top dog in this pack of mileage hounds. It would stand perhaps for a few fleeting moments.
The other riders were now bearing down on the finish line in Madison, Alabama.
September 6, 2001
The Finish Line: Madison, Alabama
Bill Kramer felt good. The three-time Iron Butt Rally veteran's ride was right on plan and he was going great. The North Carolinian could smell the barn. He was only 15 miles out from the finish at Madison, Alabama. Bill had more than enough time to arrive and be cheered by the waiting crowd of motorcycle enthusiasts and friends. His wife Judy anxiously waited at the Ramada Inn to cheer him on when he crossed the finish line.
Judy Kramer is an old hand at this waiting game and had organized a pre-finish dinner for wives and significant others the previous evening. They all would be at the finish to greet and congratulate their hard-riding life partners. She had relayed to them her own past experiences in playing this tense waiting game and offered support and encouragement as only someone who had been through it could.
Northbound on I-65 Bill felt good about this year's ride. He had left Alabama 11 days ago deciding then to forgo the Alaska option. He knew that the bonus points would steadily rise as the rally progressed clockwise around America. The veteran would pace himself and arrive at Pomona 17th in the standings of those riders choosing the rally's conventional four-corners route. On leg No. 2 he would again ride a tight route, picking up points based on value versus their cost in time and miles. The strategy found Bill in 11th place at Washington when the big points bonuses were announced. The manufacturing manager pointed his ST1100 north towards Alaska and made his way to Hyder. After check-in at Maine he had boosted his standing to fourth and now was assured a gold-level finish. If he could finish.
He decided that on this last leg that he would carefully budget his time, snagging a newspaper in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, visiting Mike's Famous Museum of the American Road in New Castle, Delaware, grabbing an easy 3,450 points by taking a rest bonus, getting gas in Chattanooga, and along the way picking up a whopping 4,813-point receipt delivered at any gas station in Jackson, Mississippi. He had totaled it all up in his head again and again. His points were accruing. His gold level was in the bag. Bill Kramer felt good.
Fifteen miles away entrants had begun trickling in to the finish line. Jeff Jones' finish schedule was trapped in a failed pocket computer and he didn't want to risk the fear of arriving late. He returned from Alaska a full day early. One by one the entrants arrived. Bob Ray had made a beeline from the north on his newly repaired Reflex scooter. He had little time to spare as two full hours of his ride back were spent in a remote comfort station out-waiting a hungry grizzly looking for lunch.
Bernie Weiss was not feeling good. He had missed the Maine checkpoint. It was a story right out of the twilight zone, a story that confirms that everything in this world is somehow connected to everything else. Bernie was dog-tired in Edson, Saskatchewan, and did what endurance riders do when exhausted—he stopped to grab some rest. Sometimes the rest is taken at the Iron Butt Motel, which might be an unused picnic table at a rest stop, a park bench, or the bike itself. Bernie chose a comfy Edson park bench. A concerned passing RCMP noted Bernie taking his power nap, very much looking like a sleeping Power Ranger. He closely checked out Bernie and said, " We can do better than that.” He offered Weiss a night's free shelter in the local constabulary. Bernie accepted the gracious gesture. After a few hours rest, Bernie arose and proceeded to leave. The officer in charge mentioned that the Mountie who offered Bernie the night's accommodation was the only officer who could permit his exit, and that very officer was now out on a call assisting in a deer-motorcycle accident. The deer was of the local variety but the motorcycle was from California, a K1200RS to be exact. The motorcyclist was from San Bernardino, Iron Butt Rally rider Dennis Cunningham to be exact. Bernie was going to be late to Maine. Bernie might be late to Madison. Real late. Despite the rest Bernie was not feeling good.
Leonard Aron was going to do it. He had made all the checkpoints and had broken the curse. Three times before he had tried. Three times before he had failed. Perhaps it was that plastic Jesus that Mike Kneebone had given him, perhaps it was the prayers that fellow rider Shane Smith offered up each morning at 8:00 a.m., perhaps it was the sheer guts and determination and years of preparation. Whatever it was, it was working. Leonard would take it. He would take it all. He crossed the finish line early, the old Indian once again, briefly a proud warrior, leaking perhaps a bit less and looking very much The Chief. Leonard was happy.
Shane Smith had arrived in Madison early. His wife Karen and friends were ecstatic to see the pharmacist from McComb, Mississippi, return from a monster ride from Prudhoe Bay to Key West. It made no difference if his extraordinary efforts would be surpassed in the point totals. He had been the first of the Alaska adventurers to arrive. He was and will always be their winner. Shane felt good. Everyone felt good.
Al Willis was 100 miles from the finish. Two hours more and he could start telling his own Alaskan travel tales to his wife and friends assembled in Madison. He had traveled to Denali and was only 50 miles from home when he found himself standing at the roadside looking down at his mangled bike. Not good.
At 5:00 a.m. am the checkpoint opened for the early arrivals. The riders had until 8:00 a.m. to check in without penalty. Points then were deducted until the checkpoint's closure at 10:00 a.m. A late rider had 36 hours more to arrive to claim a finish. However, any bonus points earned along the last leg would not be counted in the total with such a late arrival. But you could still be a finisher.
Bob Hall arrived at 7:54. By a six-minute margin he narrowly missed any late-arrival point deductions. Bob had just returned from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. He had elected to go for the big million-point bonus offered in Sunnyside, Washington. He gambled on the weather. He won. He gambled that the BMW R1100RT would run without problems. He won. He knew that what he could control he would. And he did. Bob felt good. Extremely good. He won.
George Barnes, the 1999 IBR winner, had made a similar gamble. He had elected a more aggressive route by also sweeping through the Denali National Park. His plan would have him return before 10:00 a.m. window slammed shut. He hoped. Eric Jewel, an accomplished rallyist and winner of other competitive rallies, had similar ambitions. He had made it to Prudhoe Bay from Sunnyside and had a similar plan for his return. He was bearing down on Madison for the finish. Eric, like George, had no time to waste feeling either good or bad.
Bill Kramer knew that his ride would not garner the top spot. His concern was doing the best that he could do. And he was. He felt good as the truck to his right suddenly pulled into his lane. Bill had no option but to swerve left to the median. Exit 334 was not where Bill planned to leave I-65. Especially not into the median opposite the ramp. Not in the grass. Bill stood on the pegs and tried to recover, but the big Honda ST1100 sport-tourer was not intended to be ridden off road. The bike bucked and high-sided and Bill was thrown off, perhaps mercifully. The bike crossed the opposing lanes of traffic and came to rest in the middle of the southbound lanes. Bill was wearing a full-face helmet, boots, and protective riding gear, but his arm and hand really hurt. He was 15 miles from the finish. Bill Kramer now did not feel good.
Paul Pelland was happy. He had ridden around the country with a unique combination of good nature, determination, and resourcefulness. He had been tested again and again by a machine that was in many ways technically similar to entrant Martin Hildebrandt's 1938 BMW R51. The BMW broke. While Martin crossed the finish line with a 10,000-point penalty on a rented Honda Hurricane, his old Beemer was on its way back to Germany, still broken.
Paul's Ural had broken also. He fixed it and then it broke again, and he fixed it again. At least a score more times this vicious cycle would repeat. Paul took it all in stride as he rode the Ural over the finish line, fixed once again, at least for now.
Marsha Hall had arrived in Maine late. She was time-barred and as such could not pick up additional bonus points on the final leg. Marsha certainly did not feel good about that. As she made her way south she joined fellow rider Karol Patzer, a veteran rider who was conquering her own demons. Karol's knee injury had not been improved over the last few days but she knew that she could make it. At a stop Karol helped Marsha find a room and get some well-needed rest. Marsha would succumb to a problem that others had encountered and had a late start for those last miles into Madison. She arrived a little past 10:00 a.m. She had missed the checkpoint window by just a few minutes. Cruelly, she had crossed the finish line but it would be for naught as this was her second missed checkpoint. She had ridden the miles. She had gone the distance. She had lasted the 11 days but missed only by minutes. She had arrived but she had not finished. Marsha, of course, felt bad. Later she would feel better, reflecting that her effort to arrive had a revealed a toughness of spirit and a commitment to finish no less than any other's.
Paul Meredith had answered the challenge of "Could it be done?" with planning, preparation, technology, and a well-executed drive to pilot the little Cagiva Mito across the finish. The other tiny bike, a Suzuki 125GN, relied less on technology and more on brute determination and sheer saddle time. Keith Keating had also made the full circuit of rally checkpoints. Keating's only required repair was to replace the speedometer bulb in the process. Yes, it could be done. They had done it. Paul and Keith both felt good.
Ardys Kellerman had finished once again. She held the distinction of being the most senior of riders at age 69.
At the finisher's banquet the room buzzed with tales of the road. The riders all shared their differing variants of a shared similar experience. It would tie them together for all time as the class of 2001 in this most exclusive of organizations, Iron Butt Rally finishers. The stories of the big dogs would be known by all, as would their counterparts who barely squeaked to a finish. Although there was but one rally it was knit from 112 different threads.
Mike Kneebone announced the point totals and then offered a special treat of baked Alaska to those who had ridden to the far north. While awards were distributed two faces were noticed outside in the hall. Eric Jewel and George Barnes had arrived. George, still in his Aerostich, his face covered with road grime, looked very much like the cartoon character Wile E. Coyote after the box of Acme dynamite blew up in his face. Both were roundly applauded for their big ride. It was futile only in points, meaningless only in the final standing. They won the admiration of each person present. George and Eric would always be winners for their effort.
Bill and Judy Kramer had also arrived, but straight from the local hospital. Bill was achy but doing OK. The banquet luncheon had not satisfied Bill's hunger for his Iron Butt finish. A 15-mile gap remained in his ride. It branded his standing as DNF. A plan was brewing to satisfy this craving. Actually two plans were brewing to satisfy the same lust. One hundred miles distant a similar hunger tore at Al Willis. Since neither rider had missed any checkpoint but the last, and even though the final checkpoint had closed, there remained a 36-hour window to claim the finish.
Bill approached Bob Ray regarding borrowing the Honda Reflex. The clutchless automatic scooter could easily be maneuvered with Bill's remaining one good hand. That evening at the after-rally party at Bob’s home, Bill took Bob's scooter out for a spin to confirm that he could safely pilot it those last remaining 15 miles.
On Saturday morning Bob Ray arrived at the Ramada with the Reflex, followed by his car to pick up Bill and Judy. The plan was simple. Bob piloted the scooter to exit 334 on I-65. Bill suited up in his gear and simply rode it back to the Ramada and the finish line. Bob rode in his car ahead while a van followed behind. As the scooter turned off for the exit to Madison, it was joined by Shane Smith on his Alaska-dirt-encrusted ST1100. Shane had seen the trio of vehicles while traveling west. He turned around and closed in on the procession. Shane pulled alongside the scooter, flashed a big thumbs up, and fell behind as if in an escort in this parade of toughness, determination, perseverance, and honor.
As Bill pulled into the Ramada, a small crowd of assembled riders applauded his successful effort to finish. Bill had completed what he started a dozen day ago. Although he was still hurting, Bill now felt good. Really good.
Later that day the Ramada parking lot was almost empty. And although most had now left, surely thinking this Iron Butt rally was complete, it was not. Not until 3:30 that afternoon when Al Willis arrived on his other bike, a Harley-Davidson. The last two IBA volunteers remaining checked him in. Ira Agins noted the mileage. I noted Al's big grin. His family cheered and applauded. It was no less a roar than that for the others. He had been to Alaska and back. He had been sorely tested. He did not win but yet was a winner. He felt good. Everyone felt good.
It's not over until it's over. The 2001 Iron Butt Rally was now over.
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