Wandering Ganesha

2015 Iron Butt Rally – Part 1.4: A Giants Arrival

Sanjay and I mounted up and headed to the photo location. Lucky for me it required going into the park, which would require inspection of my pass from my Hi-Viz shod goddess. Sadly she remembered the last 15 minutes when I had bought said pass and just waved her pink digits at me to pass on through.

We arrived at the photo location and there were already about 20 bikes there. Amazingly about 90% of them were parked so that they would have to back up to leave. Now I know it only takes a minute or two to get out of a parking spot that way. But right now we were waiting for the photo time. Once the photo was taken we would be back on the clock. Might as well park in a way that let you leave the spot judiciously, take the time off the clock, not on. This is probably the most common rally mistake that I see riders making. They pull into the bonus with no plan on how they will leave the bonus. Now admittedly I’ve been shooed away by jack-booted thugs from many a poor parking job, but in general I get my picture while being scolded and just move on.

Having about 20 minutes to wait I took my helmet off and relaxed. Sanjay, scoundrel that he is noticed that I didn’t have a hat, and knowing that I sunburn easy gave me his. It would serve me well throughout the rally. Nice guy that Sanjay.

Under the cool shade of Sanjay’s hat, I wandered over to the IBR staff members Dennis Bittner and John Ferber and checked in. You had to check in 15 minutes before the photo was to be taken. I was there at 2:06, check-in deadline was 2:30, the photo was 2:45. So I still had a lot of time to kill.

Eric Bray - Photo by Bruce Beisner

Eric Bray – Photo by Bruce Beisner

I spied Eric Bray there. I went over and warned him that if we saw me that he must be in the wrong damn place! I knew Eric was shooting for a top 20 finish, and with my just finish mantra then he really was in the wrong place. Eric explained that he had indeed screwed up the time zones and yes he was in the wrong damn place. Ah well, even the best of us makes mistakes I guess.

Mark Starrett, also from the bay area was there as well. Al Holtsberry was also in attendance, still in his stylish if somewhat unprotective 20+ year old riding suit. Hammy Tan was there as well. Hammy was a rider after my own heart as he was riding a 700cc chain driven bike (Honda NC700x). He and I had chatted a lot before the rally as I have lots of experience on running on a chain driven motorcycle in LD events. I’d killed my Versys 650 in the 2013 rally with a blown stator.

Mark Starrett - Photo by Ann Melchild Garcia

Mark Starrett – Photo by Ann Melchild Garcia

Dale Wilson admiring Hammy Tan's "hair"

Dale Wilson admiring Hammy Tan’s “hair”

Giel Kerkhof showed up as well on his big ass Harley. Giel is from Belgium and was still recovering from his trip to the far east. He’d been hit by a car in China while riding a Super Tenere. The bike was totaled, and after a brief time being airborne he landed in a Chinese hospital for a few days. I could hear his ribs creaking when he walked. They make those Belgians tough. He’d been at dinner with Danny and I, some of Danny’s hair grooming had rubbed off on him.

Giel Kerkhof

Giel Kerkhof

At about 15 minutes before the photo was to be taken the Dennis started shouting out that you needed to sign in before the cut-off or you would not be allowed to be in the picture. He shouted this out every few minutes or so getting a little louder and closer to me and Sanjay each time. I thought it a little odd. After all, I had already signed in, but they were clearly looking over at me. Finally, Sanjay leaned over and whispered to me: “I think they think I’m in the rally!” Sanjay is a Database programmer and sharp as a tack. Nothing gets by Sanjay! I wandered over to Dennis and told him that Sanjay was just an observer and not in the rally. I’m sure his Aerostitch and RT with fuel cell had thrown them off!

At about 4 minutes before the photo cut off time, none other than Jim Owen showed up. Now I began to wonder if maybe Eric Bray was in the right place and I was in the wrong! Jim was the winner of the 2009 Iron Butt Rally, and had multiple top 10 finishes. He’d been in rally retirement but was back this year. I’d been an integral member of his rally team as I’d supplied him with a micro USB cable for his BMW Navigator V GPS. Apparently he had not realized it took a different cable than the older GPS he had. (Remember my rant about being prepared for rally electronics… I’m not going to tell Mr. Owen how to ride a rally!). Jim had also parked in a manner that would lead to a judicious departure.

Jim got off his bike, took off his helmet and proceeded to fiddle with something on his dash. “3 Minutes till cut-off!!! You must sign in to be in the photo!” bellowed Dennis. Jim continued his fiddling. “You must sign in to get in the photo! No exceptions!” Dennis was shouting directly in Jim’s direction.

A small crowd was beginning to gather, their intent gaze on Mr. Owen’s wrinkled brow. He continued to look pre-occupied with his dash, and unconcerned with the time or gathering crowd. By now Sanjay and I were beginning to think we might be able to start taking wagers on if Mr. Owen was going to make it into the photo. Had the 6 years of retirement addled his brain? Was he going to miss the cut-off in front of a crowd? A hushed silence had fallen over us as we watched Jim calmly working away at his dash.

Jim Owen ODO check - Photo by Steve Hobart

Dennis Bittner checks in Jim Owen for the ODO check – Photo by Steve Hobart

“2 minutes! You better sign in now!” Dennis had closed distance towards Jim. Was he now deaf too? Tension was building in the crowd; who would go over to the master and lead him to the sign in clip board? John Ferber nervously clutched the check-in clipboard.

I could hear the inrush of air as the Dennis prepared to let one final bellow of warning out. Jim looked up. The crowd stood on its toes. Jim started moving towards John and the clipboard. John loosened his death grip on the clipboard. You could hear the sigh of relief in the crowd as the master crossed the parking lot to John and presented his rally ID. The black X next to his name on the sign-in sheet was like a calming salve to the rest of us, the master still had it, Rider 01 was signed in – Heck he still had 45 seconds to spare! Why were we so worried?

Jim had his owners manual for his new 2015 BMW RT in hand. Seems that the keyless start on his bike was on the fritz and he was having to use the small backup key. He’d had this issue before, but the dealer hadn’t been able to reproduce it and fix it. Jim was hoping that he could reset the computer and get it back on track.

A few minutes later the rally staff herded us together. We jostled and jockeyed into position making sure that the wind didn’t catch our flags. Behind the camera, Dennis called out rider numbers telling us to move right or left. After a minute or so he dropped the camera to his chest. We looked back at Dennis. We hadn’t heard the click of the camera. “I was just checking you fit in the picture! You’ve got 10 minutes still!” Our groans echoed off the canyon walls. We were getting itchy it was time to get back on the road!

Finally, time passed, and Dennis called for us to line up again. Waiting until exactly 2:45 local time finally we heard the click of the shutter. Just a single click. Someone shouted out that maybe a backup picture would be a good idea. Dennis took a 2nd picture. Pandemonium broke out as we hustled back to our bikes. I said a quick goodbye to Sanjay, stuffed his hat into my tank bag and mounted up and was off. Yup, first out of the lot. First back on the highway.

Not sure why I was in such a rush, as that rain in the background of the photo was exactly where I was headed.

PEFO – Petrified Forest National Park
116 Miles from ELMO Arrived 1:16 pm Departed 2:47 PM

Leg 1 Group Photo - Photo by IBR staff

Leg 1 Group Photo – Photo by Dennis Bittner via Iron Butt Magazine

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