48 hours. It was enough time to lose my focus and regain it as well – many, many times over.
As I entered the room for the rookie meeting Jeff Earls stood at the front of the room nervously pacing and getting ready for his presentation. I said hello but knew that he was working hard to get his head in the right place to deliver his message to us rookies.
I mentioned to no one in particular that I was a double rookie. Someone asked, “what’s that?” You’re a rookie until you finish. Doesn’t matter how many you start, only that you finish. Like Jeff, I hoped that my message that it’s possible to screw this up was not lost on those that heard me.
I love Jeff’s talk and wish that they would make the non-rookies go as well. His passion is evident in his message. His intention is for all IBR riders to come back safe. Finishers or not, safety first. Sadly I fear that most folks are just too caught up in ego to hear it. The number one thing I hear when motorcyclists talk about motorcycle crashes is what they do so that it can’t happen to them. Or why it happened and how that can’t happen to them. I guess if they thought it could happen to them, then maybe they wouldn’t ride. Ah well.
Just like that the talk was over. The main event was about to start.
Earlier in the day we had been told to bring our laptops to the rider meeting. Rumor was that they would be confiscated. This was possibly started by the official IBR rally scribe Chris Cimino. Now I loved this rumor. First I figured there was no way it could be true. Second it freaked he hell out of people. I did my best to spread if far and wide and sell it was well as I could. Not sure how many bought it, but at the end of the meeting there were some relieved looking folks that left with their laptops in hand.
As dinner started people were getting antsy. The start banquet is always a strange affair. Everyone gets introduced and gets their rider packet. Of course, it’s only fair that everyone have their time in the limelight. But really we all just want to open our freaking packets!
The rally theme was not a very well kept secret.
The rally poster offered a pretty good clue. Many folks were a little grumpy as they were scared that we were going to spend a lot of time on a holiday week riding behind Winnebagos.
Tom Austin, the architect of the rally, finally instructed us to open our packets. Tom had heard this negative criticism, but he assured us that 99% of these stops were going to be in little out of the way places that the Winnebago set was unlikely to visit in any numbers great enough to give us much pause. Looking through the rally packet it certainly looked like he was right!
Tom also explained that the locations would not change during the rally. Points would change but not locations. Only 3 locations were not available on each leg: The group photos. Also that all photos were at best daylight only, with one exception. You could get a picture of Old Faithful erupting at any time. This added a real challenge to the rally. With no night time photos, it was going to be tough to plan well.
The huge wrinkle, however, was what it took to finish. Unlike past rallies, this year your points would not count towards finisher status. Before the announcement, I had guessed that to finish we would have to earn national park traveler awards. This award requires visiting 50 national parks in 25 different states. Tom explained that this was exactly what we had to do, but unlike a normal award, you didn’t have a year do complete it, you had 11 days.
Of course, all this worked to my favor! I could ignore points! I could not ride late at night and avoid wildlife! It was a rally designed to let me finish!
The instructions were finally over and all non-rookies were asked to leave the room. Rookies were invited to stay and hear what Tom and the rally crew had to say about the rally. I’m always amazed at the number of rookies that leave and don’t listen to Toms words of advice. As if they could possibly use their time better than listening to a guy that’s been designing this puzzle for four years. About a third of rookies left. In 2013, it was even bigger than that!
Tom explained that to finish the rally you’d probably end up having to ride 9,000 miles. I think I heard an audible gasp from a few folks. I was happy, but others seemed to be hoping that they could finish with a lot less. Folks its the Iron Butt Rally. Yes, 11,000 is the motto, but you should know that 8-9.000 is going to be required.
Our sage also instructed us to aim for a minimum of 8 states on leg one, and that none of these states should be east of New Mexico. I quickly sketched out a loop that had me go to California then up to Montana then back down. 9 States in all. I left the room feeling like my ride was going to be a lot easier than I had ever hoped.
Up in my hotel room, I got down to refining my route. I would take it easy. I dropped CA as it was just too far and not worth many points. I added some stops into the route and figured it would be good for a nice mid pack finish. At 2900 miles, it was good for about 10,700 points. I had the option to add 350 miles that would bring it up to 12,500. This was before any static points like call in or rest bonus.
At only 2900 miles it was an easy route for me. That only required an overall speed of 37.6mph and an average moving speed of 53.1. Well below my usual pace. Sure there were some timing issues that didn’t really work, but it was no big deal. I’d drop a few locations but no states if I couldn’t make them work. I also avoided that sucker bonus at Old Faithful.
At 11:00pm, I was in bed. fully one hour before my usual midnight cut off. Things were looking up!