Tom Austin's Ride Report
Adam Wolkoff and Eddie James put on a superb event. The more people hear
about this rally, the more they are going to want to be there next year. As
announced at the closing banquet, current plans are to shift the dates to
early September and run it every other year (the year the Iron Butt isn't
The results on the Team Strange website imply that 1st place finisher Eric
Jewell was the only rider who took a shot at making it to West Fargo, North
Dakota and back on the final leg. This was the route that required you to
ride 250 miles past the final checkpoint in St. Paul, MN and then turn
around and come back to it. Eric had a much better run than I did, but I
made Fargo also, which pulled me up into the top ten. I slowly moved up
from mid-pack after Leg 1 to finish in 8th by scoring the West Fargo bonus.
Unlike most riders, I took my "layover" at the very beginning of Leg 4.
Rather than sleep, I used the time to plan an optimum route while being "off
the clock". That route involved running from Ohio to Indianapolis, IN along
I-70 (with a few side trips for bonuses), then heading through Chicago (with
a bonus stop at a Mexican restaurant), then going though St. Paul, MN to
West Fargo, ND, and then back to St. Paul. Most riders saw the North Dakota
bonus as too much of a risk. If you were late getting back, you ran the
risk of failing to finish the rally. Assuming others would take more
conservative routes, I figured this would give me a good shot at finishing
in the top ten, if not the top five. It almost came off as planned.
As chance would have it, taking my layover up front put me right in the
middle of a horrendous traffic jam on I-70 caused by an accident. Traffic
was completely stopped for as far as the eye could see. I lost about two
hours; two hours I intended to use for a nap in Chicago to prepare for the
final charge on the North Dakota bonus. When I finally reached Chicago, I
still had time for the "burrito" bonus at the Mexican restaurant, but by
going for that bonus, I would have to ride to North Dakota and back to St.
Paul with no sleep. I passed on the burrito and took a much needed power
nap after getting further down the road (my first sleep in about 24 hours).
After a 1-hour nap, it was off to North Dakota. I got there 10 minutes
before the bonus opened and about 20 minutes before Eric, who had also
collected the bonus points in Chicago. I experienced no traffic delays on
the return trip to St. Paul and arrived almost 1/2 hour before the
checkpoint opened. With the benefit of hindsight, I could have hit the
Chicago bonus, taken my nap, and finished not more than 20 minutes late.
The penalty points would have been worth it and I would have moved further
up in the standings. Of course, hindsight is always 20-20. I have no
regrets. It was a great rally.
One thing I learned on this rally is how tough it is to maintain a 1,000
mile per day pace, day-after-day, under Iron Butt-type rally conditions.
The 2-hour checkpoint window takes a big bite of time away. More time is
spent trying to figure out a good route. Additional time is lost chasing
bonuses over 2-lane roads. Covering just over 5,000 miles during this 5-day
rally was MUCH tougher than covering just under 5,000 miles in only 4 days
during a coast-to-coast-to-coast run.
Some other stuff I learned is kind of embarassing. OK, I'll mention one
thing. Do you know you can't get a toll receipt from the automated toll
collection lanes in Indiana? (Duh!) I won't make this mistake next year,
but I'm sure I'll make new ones.
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