September 1, 2000: Halfway Home
At the Salt Lake City checkpoint, rider Rob Nye checked in with his support network, which offered the encouraging observation that at least he was ahead of the car. Clearly, this was a message for us to quit messing around and get serious.
By 1125 rally time the TeamStrange Buick has shot to the top of the Leg Three standings. Our success can be due only in part to the fact that Keith has again assumed his station in the back seat, allowing Eddie to push the speed above the night minimum. Unconstrained as we are by minutia such as the rulebook, we have freed ourselves of the rigidity imposed by having to choose only one route on the leg. Plus we figured we’d be kind of busy today, so we took the liberty of grabbing a couple of bonuses yesterday. And as long as the scoring computer is so convenient, what could be wrong with scoring our entire route now, before we get to Fargo? What are these riders all complaining about? This rallying stuff is pretty easy!
Turning our attention to the rest of the field, it looks like we may need to get real creative to stay ahead of the Minnesota Wrecking Crew. Six of the current top ten hail from the Gopher State, among them the top finishers from the MN2K. The first place leader leaving Salt Lake was none other than Mark Kiecker.
Kiecker was on track to win BL5K with a gutsy run from Ohio up around the Great Lakes, before losing his paperwork to the Canadian roadside. Since that time, he’s traded in his Seca II for a new VFR800, and upgraded the el-cheepo rain suit to an Aerostich. What remains unchanged is Mark’s ability to spot the right route, and lay down the long miles to make it happen. Many times over the past year, we have told you to keep your eyes on this rider. Today, the rest of the BL2 field has no choice in the matter.
Less than 200 points behind Kiecker sits Nels Gebben, a veteran BL5K rider who won this year’s MN2K. Gebben ran with Kiecker on Leg One, but different riding styles apparently led to a reevaluation of the partnership. Of the two, Gebben is slightly more risk averse in his routing decisions. This might not be a bad thing. Since the two are separated by less than 200 points—the value of one bonus—the slightest over calculation on Kiecker’s part could play right into the hands of the more methodical Gebben.
Todd “Harley Trash” Witte, holding down third place, could be considered your dark horse. Todd’s ride got off to a rocky start after he emblazoned the front of his Harley Dresser with a sticker indicating he was sponsored by Mom, Dad and wife Karen. Todd’s answer to Karen’s question why she wasn’t listed first (“Ummmm….”) nearly ended his BL2 ride before it even began. Apparently these issues have been resolved, and Todd has been at the top of the standings ever since. BMW riders on the event have grumbled that Todd’s success is due to the roundels he has plastered to the side of the Harley’s fuel tank. We would suggest the rider planted firmly in the saddle is more the determining factor.
Though Kiecker, Gebben and Witte are riding strong, the event at this point is wide open. Many veteran riders are out of the rally or no longer a factor in the hunt for the winner’s circle. Allen Dye succumbed to mechanical problems and an ear infection. Kerry Church and Ron Ayres were time barred in Salt Lake, the latter after a failed attempt to beat San Francisco traffic and secure the bonus at Point Reyes Station, California. AMA Congressman Ed Phelps and veteran endurance rider Gary Eagan continue to show strong performances, though one must wonder what effect Phelps’ relative lack of rally experience and Eagan’s lingering illness will have on their staying power. The run to Fargo will be telling.
Of course the rally has more tales than are found in the standings. One rider has apparently gained a rather high placed fan. This year, we again invited the riders to visit the Mother Cabrini shrine, where they were to have their photograph taken after climbing the 385 steps to the top. Will Outlaw made the ascent only to find himself alone as the valuable minutes ticked past. “At that point, me and the Lord had a little conversation,” Will related. “I dropped $5 into the collection box, and before I knew it, another visitor appeared to take my picture.” Last year, Nels Gebben dropped like a stone in the standings after swearing like a sailor at the shrine. There is no telling what results Will’s more positive approach might yield.
Other riders overcame mechanical difficulties to keep their bikes on the road and themselves in the hunt. Howie Stueber, the lone Buell entry, fixed a leaky header with a Dr. Pepper can and a hose clamp. “I know how much Eddie loves Dr. Pepper, I figured it couldn’t hurt,” he told us. Don Sills enlisted the aid of four cans of fix-a-flat to help get him to the checkpoint on time. Since he owns a motorcycle dealership, he felt bad sticking the checkpoint mechanics with the gloopy stuff. Don needn’t have worried. The Perry Motorsports team leapt to action. A tire for Don’s Venture was secured, mounted, and balanced, returning the bike to action in record time.
Don’s experience with Perry was hardly unique. From shop owner Ron Perry on down, Perry Motorsports put their entire operation at the disposal of BL2. As befits a family operation, the staff took a familial interest in the riders. They flat out refused to allow Ninja rider Doug Stout to rent a hotel room. Instead, Doug was adopted by the salesman’s mother, who insisted on taking him home for a hot shower and comfortable bed. The shop’s concern extended to offering assistance to Richard Smith, a gesture for which we are very grateful. TeamStrange is glad to have made the acquaintance of the fine folks at the Perry Ranch, and we hope our paths will cross again soon.
As the riders checked in, other tales began to unfold. Dick Fish met a new friend in Leon, Oklahoma. Dick was not willing to kiss and tell, though he did admit to considering a return visit after the rally. Jed Duncan is the newest member of the Diesel Club, though he fortunately caught his error before firing up the bike. Note to Manny: get that certificate in the mail, pronto. And yes, Bill Davis and his Harley are still running strong, though Bill lost points for a photo bonus when he discovered we wouldn’t wait for him to develop his film after the rally to award him the points. Bill is making the doubters look more foolish with every mile that passes beneath his Harley’s wheels, and his minimalist approach to the event continues to draw fans at each checkpoint.
As we draw closer to Fargo, it’s getting harder to keep Ed from bonus hunting. “Its only 80 miles out of the way, and we’d lock up the lead for sure!” I’m getting worried about him. Fortunately, we’ve just secured Salem Sue, and there isn’t much else between our favorite cow and the Fargo checkpoint. The riders’ choices remain more varied. Who will visit the Mother Featherlegs Monument, located in Wyoming’s open range country, 10 miles down a dirt lane? Will any riders go on a shopping spree at the Polebridge Mercantile Store in Montana? Perhaps some are craving the tasty Mexican food served up by the fine folks at La Paloma Restaurant in Lincoln, Nebraska. All things are possible in this best of all possible worlds, and at this point, BL2 is anyone’s rally.Back to Intelligence Reports, or Back to ButtLite Archive
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