Buttlite 99 5000 Miles in 5 Days?
Are you nuts?
This was the most common statement made to me by my friends when they found out my plans for my summer vacation this year. Now there is already the premier street motorcycle endurance rally held every 2 years called the Iron Butt Rally. That is a 10,000-mile rally held over 10 days.
Two Ironbutt Rally veterans, Eddie James & Adam Wolkoff decided to offer an Ironbutt style Rally of a shorter time and distance rally as an alternative to the Ironbutt Rally. 5000 miles in five days- "The Buttlite 5000- Same great ride, less miles.
Mr.James and Mr. Wolkoff already put on one of the best 24-hour rallies held yearly called the Minnesota 1000. I have competed in that rally since its second year in 1996 and have found it a well run and challenging event, so immediately this new rally peaked my interest.
Now riding these events on Harleys is not a common thing. Harley doesn't make a bike specifically designed for high-speed touring. The other drawback to using a Harley is you must carry an additional racing fuel cell to compete with some of the other brands of motorcycles that have much larger fuel tanks.
These endurance rallies are not about speed. They are basically scavenger hunts spread out throughout the nation. Each segment of the rally requires a rider to get from one point to the next in a time allowance, which does not require excessive speed to complete. The added twist is along each leg of the rally, there are bonus points available off the direct route that each rider may try to obtain on his way to the next checkpoint. The bonuses may be as simple as taking a Polaroid of you rally towel with your rider number on it or something as difficult as climbing to a mountain shrine to write down what is written on a plaque.
The key to accumulating points on each leg of a rally is to efficiently plan a route which will allow a rider to get as many bonus points as possible without taking up more time than needed to reach the next checkpoint. This is where the true test of an endurance rider is. Riding fast is not the answer; planning and executing an efficient route is the key to success.
Some of the considerations that need to be taken in account when planning a route are: Is the bonus point too far out of the way for the point value assessed? Will the point bonus require too much time to accomplish? (I.e. climbing to a mountain shrine takes more than a few minutes.) Is the bonus point simply a carrot placed in front of the rider to lure him off a better route?
Each rider will be required to use his best judgment skills to plan an efficient route to be successful in such an endeavor.
The bike I chose to ride this event was my 1999 Harley FLTRI with the new Twin Cam 88 with fuel injection. I did add a racing fuel cell on the platform Harley use to mount its tourpacks to bring my total fuel capacity to 10 gallons. I used this bike in the 1999 Minnesota 1000 and rode it to a 10th place finish in the Expert class. Other modifications to the bike were the Harley Stage One kit with the upgrade chip for the EFI and the Screaming Eagle Air Cleaner. I added a handlebar mounted Garmin GPS III+ navigator for those times when direction and location might be hard to ascertain otherwise. This would later prove to be the best modification to the bike as the rally went on. A ride of such an undertaking also required an upgrade from normal riding gear. I upgraded my riding wardrobe to include boots made with a water-resistant lining, pants and jacket with breathability yet water-resistant and of course appropriate gloves. I chose boots made by SIDI in Italy, Motoport Voyageur Ax pants and a First Gear Kilimanjaro jacket. I decided to stay with my open face helmet with a face shield, this would later prove to be a bad decision near Mobile Alabama in a blinding rainstorm during the rally.
With all this preparation completed it was now time to ride the rally.
Day one. Gallons on Gas Receipts Required!
All the riders were making final preparations before the start. At exactly 8 am, 48 riders will be given a packet containing three possible route sheets to choose from. The rider had to decide which offered the best combination of miles x points over time. You could only obtain bonuses on the route you chose, no mixing and matching from the different routes was allowed.
At 8:00AM with route sheets in hand I was off to find a quiet place to sit down and plan my route. I also carried my laptop computer to plug in my proposed route to figure my riding times correctly. At first his may seem like quite the advantage, yet most riders, myself included only used laptops to confirm what they had already formulated and make minor tuning changes to you already planned route. The key is being able take your map, highlight the bonus points and then connect the dots.
The route I chose start with stop at the Minneapolis Coucilmans office to have my picture taken with my rally towel in her office in front of her bike-yes she is a rider in her own right and has a BMW parked in her office.
The next stop would be Winterset, Iowa to get a picture of the house John Wayne was born at. During the first segment I refueled once along the way, got my gas receipt and off to the Dukes house. Winterset Iowa was just south west of Des Moines. Lincoln, Nebraska was next on the route to take a photo of the Kawasaki plant. Just before the Kawasaki plant, I stopped for gas again. As I was checking my receipts, I noticed that my previous receipt did not have one of the requirements on it- the amount of gallons purchased. I was faced with two choices, go back 300 miles or press on. Having all the gas receipts was worth 1000 points; I already faced loosing 1000 points of my possible points on this leg. Talk about starting yourself out with a handicap! If I went back, my point total for the leg would only be 1000 or I could try to pick up as much as I could and hope to offset the loss in points.
I decided to press on and not make that mistake again. After the one-hour delay during which I did come up with a rather inventive way of getting the gallon amount, I proceeded on to the next bonus- Scottsbluff, Nebraska to obtain a gas receipt. From there one, more stop in Cheyenne for a gas receipt and on to Denver. The last bonus I would get would be a large amount of bonus points for taking a 3-hour layover and not riding during that 3 hours. I was riding this first leg of the rally with a friend and fellow Buttlite rider, Allen Dye out of Texas on his BMW K model.
In Scottsbluff, there were two routes possible to Cheyenne. The map showed a shorter route, but it wasn't clearly marked on the map. This as the first time my GPS came to the rescue. I simply zoomed in until I found the road in question, then followed the arrow on my screen right to the road. Now this was going to be a great way to navigate on my trip. Thank you Allen Dye for giving me advice on using it- his Street Pilot was very similar and I was able to figure it out (bought it day before Rally and promptly left instruction manual back home)
In Cheyenne, it had been a long day and time to rest. Since Denver was only 100 miles away, it was logical that now was a good time for that 3 hour rest.
Having slept for 3 hours, off to the Fay Meyers Motorcycle dealers hip in Denver for the 1st leg checkin. Though I did have a faxed copy of my first gas receipt, and the original with the date, time and account number, but because I didn't actually go back for it was disallowed. A tough deduction to take and as Rally master Adam Wolkoff would later say - I was sad............
With checkin complete and over 4 hours before receiving our next route sheets it was time to recollect my self, rest and prepare for leg number 2.
Leg 2, day 2 Doing Penance at Mother Cabrini
After taking an hour or so nap in the private rest area at Fay Meyers Motorcycle Dealership in Denver, it was now time to set my sights on the next leg or the BL5K.
Our Rally masters had a wonderful assortment of fruit and sub sandwich choices available at the checkpoint. This was a great idea on their part for not only did the riders get a good easily eaten meal, but fruit to take on the road in our tankbags. I learned I could peel oranges while riding!
Promptly at noon, the checkpoint was closed with only one rider being time barred. We were then given our next set of route sheets. Allen Dye and I had a good ride the day before so team tell you what," was off to plan our next segments ride. After about 45 minutes, Allen with his Trip-O-Meter and me with my Tripmaker had settled on exactly the same route choices. Confidence was high as we saddled up on our respective steeds for our trip to Marietta.
Bonus point #1 for us would be the Mother Cabrini shrine in Golden Colorado. Big Points sounded easy right? Well, when we got there, we realized that we would have to climb all the way to the top of this mountain- Arghhh!!!!!! My knees just cringed at the thought of this task. Allen took off his stitch, I took off my Kilimanjaro, opened my pant side zippers and we started the climb. For our added entertainment, Adam & Eddie were there with the supercharged Buick Rally car to see us off on our climb.(They really do have a mean streak)
A gazillion steps later, having written down all the information required, down the mountain we went. Being a Catholic, I felt I had done my share of penance for the week (Not realizing I would require it the following day!)
Suited up and off we went. Our next bonus point would not be until Wichita Falls, TX so time to put on the miles, enjoy the scenery and get into the groove so to speak. While we were going through SE Colorado, I noticed what appeared to livestock pens that stretched for miles-some kind of loading point for truck or train I guess. I thought the pens were empty until I noticed the earth in the pens was moving. That wasn't earth! It was wall to wall cattle as far as I could see. It was the largest concentration of meat on the hoof had ever seen. Time for a BBQ!!!!!!!!!
The temperatures were rising and the day was getting long. We had planned only one or two bonus with a 3-hour rest to give us ample energy and time to pick up as much points on the next day enroute to Marietta.
We had some trouble finding a motel room and finally got one of the last rooms in town in Dumas, TX. The desk clerk looked kind funny at our request for a room for 3 hours, but rented us a room anyway. Allen set his screaming Meamie and now to power nap.
Leg 2 Day 3 Easy Run through the small state of Texas?
Three hours later rise and shine. I was a little slower refueling, so Allen went ahead and we would meet up in Wichita Falls. Either he or I were at the wrong gas station, so we separated by default but were on the same route. Allen had thought about heading to Luckenbach. While looking for him, I deduced that Luckenbach was too far off the beaten path, so I headed south for Waco to the Dr. Pepper Museum.
I don't recall how hot is was getting, but removing the lowers from my bike the night before the rally, plus my 100 ounce Camelback canteen were a definite right riding choice. After a great Dr. Pepper float it was off to Navisota, TX to visit Live Oaks resort and spend a little time with the fine folks there. On the way to Navisota I passed Brent Bruns heading the opposite direction he was going the Waco for his Dr. Pepper I guess. I arrived at the Live Oaks resort around 230 or so and on the way in I passed Allen on his way out- hmmm he must have abandoned Luckenbach as well, but must have missed Waco to be that far ahead of me.
TIME FOR A SWIM! LET'S GET NEKKED!!!!!!!!!!!
As I rounded the corner to the Live Oaks Resort, I noticed a tall privacy fence around the resort- It was a Nudist Resort! Cool, since I had planned this to be a meal stop as well, I went to their restaurant and had a very good club sandwich. While checking in, the staff explained that we were welcome to use cabin 6 to shower, rest, freshen up and if we so desired, strip down and go for a swim. Well, there were some pretty women in the pool; I was hot and tired, in the middle of nowhere and a long way from home. Yup, I jumped right in! No Guts, No Glory!!!!
Had a wonderful time .....hmmm.........swimming and talking with the ladies in the pool about the rally. David Allen Coe was going to be performing there on the weekend and they invited me to stay for it..hmmmmm.Maybe I should just call, withdraw from the rally since I was properly attired anyway, but damn, no tent! I said thanks ladies but I must be off.
I did spend a little over an hour and a half there though (hehehe) Had some pictures taken with my towel hoping to change the Rallymasters minds about my 1000 points the day before or maybe some Extra Credit Points, but alas, no more points than what was listed. But Joan did appreciate the pictures!
As I was leaving, I met up with a good friend and co-worker at the Post Office, Doug Holmes. I was off to Hot Coffee MS and he was off to Alabama. After looking at the routes, the points would be simpler and easier to go to Mobile than go for Hot Coffee. So we set off together. Around Houston, Doug needed fuel and since I had a fuel cell, I continued on and we would meet at the Battleship. Little did we know, Mother Nature had other plans!
I ended up an hour ahead of Doug, but since I was putting distance between us, I thought it only sporting that I should slow my pace by heading through New Orleans on I10 instead of bypassing it on I12. Right when I got to the highway separation, I got pelted by something which hit my bike, my boot and distracted me enough to miss the I-12 exit-Damn and no way to turn around! While getting gas in New Orleans, I surveyed the damage to the bike-minimal-large divot in my front cylinder exhaust pipe heat shield but nothing else.
Of to Mobile AL, enough of the sightseeing, it was now getting late and time was ticking away, but still on schedule for arrival before the checkpoint opened. Along the way, the monsoons hit just 25 miles out from Mobile. The raindrops were as large as Buicks. (Should have stayed at Live Oaks after all!) I was staying dry, but my open face helmet with a face shield was not enough. During this I passed Doug Holmes, by the time he got back on the highway, I had already pulled off at the next exit to put Rain-X on my face shield.
Getting to the Battleship was quite an experience. Just as I was exiting the tunnel, a Ford Explorer had just spun out of control and hit the wall. I narrowly missed the accident in the rain. I exited and right there was the battleship- took picture, got back on I-10 west and stopped adjacent on other side of freeway of the accident- the horn was blowing, so I called in a 911 call. The operator confirmed the accident; they had the call already but again confirmed location. Thanked me for the call. During my stop at the side just before the tunnel entrance, a truck seeing me with the phone out in my hand, stopped behind me to block traffic while I made the call. I do not know who he was but there are some descent folks out there on the highway - and he definitely had my thanks.
Now time to buckle down, put on mile and get to Marietta. I started getting a little tired so I weighed the alternatives. Press on and nod off or take an IBC hotel stop for 20 minutes and be a few minutes late. I chose the IBC hotel, set my clock and 20 minutes later back on the road wide-awake. One thing I had learned in previous rallies- rest when your body tells you so.
I puled into Marietta 8 minutes late; the rallymasters adjusted it to 3 minutes for the 911 call, which was a fair adjustment since it didn't take that long. Another bonus mistake- No picture of a giant chicken in Marietta along with a Gas receipt. Thankfully only a 111 point loss. Where the hell was that Chicken? I must have missed it somewhere. I had made up considerable points, going from second to last up to 21st I think. Not too bad .
The checkpoint again was well manned and rally style food abundant. Kudos again to the BL5K Rallymasters and volunteers! Time to rest a little, buy some new maps as the rain had leaked in my tank pouch and turned my maps to mush.
The rally was taking more of a toll, some more withdrawals, Dan Stephens(the Younger) playing Tango with another vehicle but the biggest surprise to me, fellow Minnesotan and 99MN1K 1st place finisher I think, Brent Bruns being time barred by a few minutes. He had gone just a shade too far and need to rest. Though a disappointment to Brent, I was glad to see a friend had chosen discretion over pushing the ride too far. He has a great picture of his family on his fairing, and that's all that really matters anyway in my opinion, the people back home- there will be other rally days.
Just over half the rally now complete!
Leg 3 Day 4 Easy Day up to Springfield- NOT!
I've seen the enemy and it was Time!
On the previous leg, I found out that no matter how waterproof the map pouch looks -- its not! Some of my maps for the next leg of the rally were just mush, so time for new maps. Good thing there was a Speedway gas station near by!
Again the Rallymasters & volunteers had a great checkpoint-ample parking, a place to rest, food and beverages to gives us one good meal that day-Kudos Again!
We were handed our packets promptly after the check point closed. Before we opened them, Adam reminded the riders that it was a short ride to Springfield and we didn't have that much time to get there. A bit of advice that I would later forget in Tennessee.
I opened the sheets, quickly discounted the bonus points I thought were obvious distractions in favor of a direct route to Springfield, and would just pick up points right along the route. I also decided I would take a 3 hour layover in Chattanooga on the front end of the leg to give me the rest to ride through the night, and hey it was only 600 miles-can't be that tough right?
I picked up my Chattanooga Choo-Choo picture and proceeded to take my 3 hour rest. Rested & showered, I left Chattanooga for my short ride up to Springfield.
I looked at my map and wow, those bonus points around Gatlinburg sounded great! Just a quick divert off the freeway and I should get them both. I would be back on the freeway by 1100 PM at the most -- still plenty of time to get there.
As I rounded a corner entering Pigeon Forge, I couldn't believe my eyes. Where did all this tourist trap come from-here I was stuck in traffic and not even at Gatlinburg! It was like the Las Vegas strip tucked away in the Appalachia's. Dollyworld! All this traffic cost me about an hour getting to Gatlinburg. After getting my picture in front of the car museum, I asked the attendant which way to the Clingdome bonus point. "oh its just up the road a piece about 17 miles" he said. Great I told him, I would quickly go get it and then get out of this area on another road. A minor complication had developed 2 days earlier with my GPS- I have broken a pin on the back for the 12v power from bike so it was on a limited use basis during the dark hours to conserve batteries.
Off I went, now a little behind schedule, but still OK. This is where my "brush with stupidity "would start. The trip to Clingdome was anything but quick. The closer I got to it the denser the fog was becoming. At the top, I could barely make out the other 2 bikes up there. Kerry Church was up there wandering around in the fog looking for the sign and Don Sills would also join us up there. We all took our pictures and all disappeared in the fog (the Bonus had an X-File kind of feel to it).
Upon arriving back in Gatlinburg, I opted to avoid Pigeon Forge and go north to the freeway and start pounding down miles to Springfield.
I misread my map and started heading toward Knoxville I though. After about 35 minutes I realized I was headed east not north-whoops, well OK just continue and I would pick up the freeway and head back toward Knoxville. This is where my new maps did me in, they were in a different scale than the maps I got from AAA. Once reaching the freeway, I realized I was a whole lot farther off course than I initially thought-about 90+ miles.
Somewhere in here is where I saw the elephant - Too many miles for too little time- I needed warp drive and my Harley didn't have it. Moreover, on top of it I would be going through Cincinnati during morning rush. I was beginning to get.......sad .....as Adam would say.
Ride strategy changed at this point-skip the bonus points left and get there can't be time barred this far into the rally. My 10 gallons of fuel would be the difference on the remainder of this leg. Quite simply, I had enough gas for the remaining miles so I could cover the remaining distance by not stopping at all. Getting through Cincinnati immediately would have to rely on luck. I had certainly painted my self into a corner now!
I focused on getting there, all points on the way faded as I drove on. Cincinnati posed a question-take the bypass around and loose more time or roll the dice, go right though downtown on the freeway and hope because of construction, the locals were avoiding it.
Just as I was approaching Cincinnati, I saw it Florence, KY water tower-this point I remembered! I wrote down Y'ALL, noted my mileage and time as I rode past.
Well, the gamble was paying off, traffic was light and I slipped right through. I approached Dayton at 800 am, I had made up time, though I needed a rest stop in the worst way.
My body would have to wait- I would not be time barred. Thankfully it was only 30 minutes more and Competition Accessories was easily located right off the interstate in Springfield.
I pulled in at 8:30, and checked in, 1.5 hours behind schedule, but not time barred!! The HD dealer in Springfield was going to change my oil, check the bike over and even put tires on if I needed them had I arrived when the checkpoint opened. They were ready for me and I didn't have the time to do it. I called and thanked them and they were disappointed not being able to help me on the rally, but wished me luck and said maybe next time. I have to send them photos anyway. I checked the oil on the Twincam 88- it was fine, tires looked OK and it was time to go.
Leg 4 Day 5 - I need my Head Examined!
Well, I was pretty beat from my previous night's ride, so I was definitely looking for the most efficient way to St. Paul.
While looking at the route sheets, I noticed that on the three different sheets, the same bonus points had different point values. I chose the most direct route with the most points- I would only make 3 stops and finish with nearly 5000 points on this leg-very doable. I would take a slightly longer route through Des Moines to ensure that 5000 miles would reflect on my odometer readings.
I headed off to the AMA bonus point by Columbus-too many points to pass on this leg. All was going on schedule and on time, so off for a quick ride to Indianapolis Motor Speedway- wrong!!!!!!!
Is there any road in Indiana that does not have construction? As soon as I got to the Indiana borders the construction started. I didn't reach the speedway until about 415. So much for being on time. I bought Eddie a magnet at the track and headed west for Illinois -- Get me the hell out of road construction Indiana!
I had planned to get as far as I could before taking a 3-hour rest, but thanks to the construction, I rested much earlier just prior to entering IL. Around 900 PM, I hit the road again and off to Peoria. I would have no more checkpoints until Minneapolis. All I had to do was ride and make absolutely sure my receipts showed gallons.
Somewhere around or 4 am I came on a rest stop and decided to take an IBR hotel break for 20 minutes. As I rode up, I saw a BMW with a fuel cell and a rider asleep, helmet on the bike. I promptly parked in the next stall, set my alarm and took a nap.
Just after the alarm went off, this rider is standing next to me. A fellow Minnesotan- Nels Gebbons. We decided to ride together till Capt. Kirk's bonus point. When I told him what route I was doing, he regretted having thrown away his other sheets, since I was getting easy points for fewer stops.
We had a nice ride to Iowa, parted company and I was off. One last bonus stop. I was going to get my head examined in Minneapolis at the Museum for Medical devices. Along 1-35 I was passed by Brent Bruns, so I rode with them awhile. Great to see Brent was doing fine and on track for home as well. We were all migrating home.
I pulled in with 30 seconds to spare from penalty points. I had racked up 4980 points this last leg and ridden my odometer over the 5000 mile mark.
Was it fun? Yes, Challenging? Yes, Was the Rally well run? A BIG YES to that! Winnable on a Harley, yes-had I made better riding decisions. Did I learn a lot more about endurance riding ? You Betcha! Would I do it again-OVERWHELMINGLY YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Adam and Eddie-where do I send my check and save rider #60 for me!
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