September 2, 2000: Roll On
Last report, we stressed how close a contest this rally has become. This is even truer today, after we kicked ourselves out of the rally. Whether out of fear at the ascendancy of the Buick in the standings, or out of disgust at our many and varied rules variations, rider after rider filed protests against the TeamStrange Buick. As Rallymasters, we ultimately had no choice but to banish ourselves from the competition. Now more than ever, it truly is anyone’s rally to win.
Mark Kiecker continues to hold the lead at Fargo, though not without some setbacks. One of the leg three bonuses required riders to stop in Salt Lake at Hire’s Big H Drive In, and purchase a bottle of tasty fry sauce. Kiecker made the stop, but left the sauce in the saddlebag of his bike when he went to check in. Unfortunately, TeamStrange rules are clear: to earn points, a bonus must be claimed at the time the route sheet is submitted for scoring. Since Mark didn’t turn in his bottle with the route sheet, he earned no points for the bonus. At least he got the keep the sauce.
Kiecker’s worries weren’t over after scoring. He had literally run the rubber right off the wheels of his yellow VFR, and was badly in need of new tires. Unfortunately, Ma’s Cycle has little call for sportbike tires, and none of the required size were in stock. A frenzied round of phone calls ensued, and eventually a set was located in Minneapolis. Kiecker vowed that the tire-related distraction and delay would not affect his focus. Whether this was a statement of fact or whistling past the graveyard will be clear at the finish on Monday. In either case, there is no doubt that Kiecker is serious about winning this event, and that he has the skills to do just that.
Eric Jewell is one cool customer. When his rally bike crapped out days before the start, he simply picked up the phone and rented a replacement. When the speedometer cable broke on the rental he talked a dealer into pulling a replacement off a used bike, and kept on riding. When he didn’t feel satisfied with his place in the standings after leg two, he decided to do something about that as well, moving all the way up to second place, just 700 points out of the lead.
We have come across Eric a number of times at various bonuses during the rally. While we might find other riders gathered together in groups, laughing and shooting the breeze, Jewell is always sitting alone, focused on maps and plans. At check in, he appeared sharp, fit and ready for the final leg. Eric won last year’s BL5K with a similar disciplined approach. Many spectators at Ma’s were laying money on him to repeat the feat this year. Jewell certainly has the ability to make good on these bets.
Newcomer Jed Duncan was genuinely surprised to find himself in third place. We were less so—remember his math background? “I planned to take it easy on this leg, and just visit some relatives on the way to Ohio,” he told me. “Now I’m thinking of changing my plans.”
Duncan has plenty of motorcycle miles under his belt, but this is his first multi-day endurance event. His capacity to maintain his place at the front of the pack will turn on his ability to manage his rest as well as his fuel. Students of this sport are well familiar with the phenomenon of the talented rookie who lets enthusiasm outpace The Plan. Jed chose to forgo the sleep bonus on leg three, and was showing signs of fatigue in Fargo. We have many times reminded our riders of the Ironbutt maxim that one sometimes has to take time to rest in order to make time on the road. If Duncan can keep this rule in mind, he may find a trophy with his name on it in Ohio.
Before we booted ourselves from the rally, the TeamStrange Buick paid a visit to the bonus at the General Store in Aladdin Wyoming (population 15). There on the wall was a tee shirt whose printed slogan neatly summed up Gary Eagan’s ride to date: “Just One Bucking Thing After Another.” Gary had a strong first leg, but was slowed by the flu on leg two. “I was so busy doing my Linda Blair impression that it was tough to make time,” Eagan explained. Leg three presented its own challenge, in the form of surprise catastrophic tire failure.
Saturday morning, the rear tire of Eagan’s Ducati disintegrated at speed, leaving him to wrestle his bike to the side of the road hours away from the checkpoint. His strong leg three run seemed in jeopardy, at least until he talked to the good folks at Ma’s Cycle.
Within minutes, Ma’s had scrambled a service vehicle to retrieve bike and rider. “They’ve got 250 roundtrip miles to cover in four hours,” Eddie observed, “it’s going to be tight.” By 0910, however, Gary had checked in and the Duc was in the service bay being shod with new rubber. The 720-point penalty for late arrival cost him second place, and he was visibly disappointed. Nevertheless, at only 800-odd points out of the lead, Eagan remains a very dangerous threat. George Barnes, winner of the 1999 Ironbutt, has picked Gary as the likely winner of BL2. Does it take a winner to spot a winner? We’ll know on Monday.
Eagan wasn’t the only rider to experience the hospitality of Ma’s Cycle. The dealership had been doing advance work for weeks promoting the rally, and spectators rode in from miles away to cheer on the riders The Triumph demo truck was even on hand for those looking for their next rally bike. Shop employees went out of their way to help riders with directions, repairs and plain old encouragement. BL2 participants were treated to a freshly prepared hot breakfast, compliments of their “Ma” in Fargo. Checkpoints are crucial to the success of the rally. A disorganized, disinterested sponsoring dealership can result in a checkpoint so messed up that the results of the rally are affected. Ma’s Cycle went above and beyond our every expectation, and gave the riders such personal, friendly attention that many participants vowed to return after the rally, if only to deliver their thanks in person.
Results aside, we learned a lot of other information at the scoring table. For example, Kerry Church relayed that given the choice, riders should opt for carrying their Screaming Meanie to their third floor hotel room before taking a sleep bonus. Church woke up four hours late, and came in time barred at Salt Lake. Though Kerry was disappointed about his performance thus far, he cheered up a bit upon learning that he was again getting more sleep than his rallymasters.
Riders often experience a swing in emotions over the course of the event. Sometimes the swing is so fast it’s easy to miss. Tom Loftus told us he wasn’t doing much bonus hunting, having come to the conclusion that this was his last rally. “Of course, I’m running the 2001 Ironbutt,” he added. We will apparently have to wait and see whether Tom will compete again after next year’s last rally.
Our favorite bonus on leg three was the Mother Featherlegs Memorial located outside of Lusk, Wyoming. Riders who chose to visit the only known monument to a prostitute in the U.S. first had the opportunity to ride 10 miles through open range country on a surface only theoretically related to the familiar concept of a “road.” Even the TeamStrange Buick bounced and jounced down the rutted path, though things smoothed out after Eddie remembered that the car didn’t actually belong to us.
Some riders turned back after only a few miles travel. Others made the trip, but complained “we have too much to do without worrying about this shit.” Ahmet Buharali took a contrary view. “I fantasized I was riding my G/S on the Paris-Dakar as I went zooming by Terry on his K1200LT,” he told us. “I was even standing on the foot pegs.” Leg four may present some more opportunities for Ahmet to hone his off road skills.
Bill Davis’ panhead continues to soldier on, as does Davis himself. Other riders look rougher with each passing mile. Not Bill. Neither his appearance nor his attitude has been affected by his lack of fairing or rear shock. He’s still out there, knocking down miles and having fun. See you in Ohio, Bill.
Bubba Kolb’s rally came to an unexpected end in Montana, after his bike was reportedly struck by lightning. Whether the incident can be attributed to bad luck or God telling Bubba what, we may never know. Bubba had been riding with Carol Youroski (now sporting the new nickname “Lil’ Britches”), who will now continue without the Redneck Goodwill Ambassador. Bubba took his setback in stride, asking only two favors from me: that he be sent an entry for the next ButtLite, and that I please tell Eddie that Bubba “still hates you.” Consider both done.
The lone Buell entry has undergone additional roadside repairs and is still in the rally. Rider Howard Stueber noticed that the Dr. Pepper can used to patch a hole in the bike’s header was not holding up, so he liberated an empty Mountain Dew can to bolster the repair. A farmer by trade, Howie is well acquainted with repairs of the spit and baling wire variety. Given sufficient roadside trash, we will see him cross the finish on Monday.
At least Stueber will likely finish the rally on the same bike on which he started. In Salt Lake, Paul Pelland’s K75 had the phrase “NEW MOTOR” scrawled across the windshield with grease pencil. Paul reported the bike was seriously down on power, and was having trouble getting much over 60 mph on the highway. Nevertheless, Paul decided to continue on, in the hope that the problem would sort itself out. It did, only not in the way Paul had hoped.
Our first news of Paul’s predicament came in an email from his friend Scott at home. “Good morning rallymasters,” the letter began, “my friend Paul called me last night to tell me he toasted his K75 somewhere in Montana and was having it towed to a Honda dealer. Then he calls back and tells me his new ride is a 1988 1000 Hurricane. I TRIED to talk him out of it but he really wants to finish the rally. I owned the same bike for seven years before upgrading to my ST. This man is insane! If you can tell him Scott said...DAAANG!”
Scott was as good as his word. Pelland pulled into Fargo on the aforementioned Hurricane, now sporting a cut down plexifairing attached to the front of the bike with duct tape. We impose a 10,000-point penalty for switching motorcycles, which Paul accepted with a smile. “There was no way I was going to drop out of the rally. I was having too much fun to quit!” he said. Though he now trails the field with negative points, we believe Pelland exhibits the spirit and drive of the true endurance rider. As he pulled out of Ma’s, I noticed he’d added the famous red NSD decal to the duct tape holding on his improvised fairing. We are quite sure Paul is not done with his rally, and we wish him well on his quest to achieve a final score greater than zero.
Riders will have their work cut out for them on their way to Ohio and the end of the rally. Gone are the days of multiple route sheets, each with clearly defined objectives. In Fargo, riders were presented with a Minnesota 1000 style list of 70 plus bonus locations spread across eighteen states and provinces. Riders can head west to the Laura Ingalls Wilder house in DeSmet, North Dakota, east to the Washington Monument, north to Thunder Bay, or south to the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. This last option, worth 2888 points, is the biggest bonus on the entire rally. To earn the points, a rider must photograph the Hotel’s ducks as they march on a red carpet from an elevator, through the lobby to a waiting pond and back again. The catch: the bonus is only available when the ducks march out at 1100 and back at 1700. Make this bonus and you could duckwalk to the winner’s circle. Miss it, and you’re quacking with the rest of the flock.
This evening, we’re parking
the Buick. Eddie plans to visit the
bonus at the Minnesota State Fair, Keith hopes to catch up on his sleep, and I
hope to reacquaint myself to my family.
By 0500, we’ll be back in the car on the way to Ohio, stopping only for
encounters with Ironbutt legend Eddie Otto and an El Famous giant burrito. Think there could be some relation between
the two? Check back and find out.
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