September 3, 2000: Endgame
“Door County at this time of year? Oh, you guys are assholes.” Ironbutt legend Eddie Otto was obviously glad to see us. We’d tapped Eddie to staff our traditional “buy a burrito” bonus at El Famous in Summit, Illinois. As we gorged on tamales and burritos as big as your head, we traded lies and waited for riders to show up. And waited. And waited. Where were our riders?
Maybe no one was hungry anymore. On this leg, riders could sample Zan’s Mexican in Mankato, Minnesota, stop for Sloppy Joes at the home of TeamStrange member Lori Schmidt’s parents, enjoy the fine flavors of Arthur Bryant’s BBQ in Kansas City, or suck up a gut bomb at one of two White Castles built into a gas station. First among these culinary equals was one of the first bonuses offered to riders: the opportunity to enjoy a cheese on a stick at the Minnesota State Fair.
This bonus, worth a whopping 777 points, was one of the biggest on the leg, and also one of the easiest. Riders had only to ride to the secured, free motorcycle parking lot outside the grounds, walk two blocks into the fair and have their photo taken while enjoying their tasty, toasty fried cheese. Many riders decided to forgo this bonus, however, by electing to ride someone else’s rally.
At the Fargo checkpoint, we overheard a spectator loudly proclaiming that this bonus was “a trap,” and that it would be “impossible” to achieve. Riders who listened to this questionable wisdom learned the hard way that free advice is always worth what you pay for it. Want proof? It took Eddie and his R65 less than ten minutes to travel from the freeway exit to the front of the Cheese on a Stick stand. It’s hard enough to ride your own rally. Riders who decided to ride someone else’s rally will pay the price in Ohio.
The State Fair bonus was not without its perils. Steve Strickstein purchased his cheese on a stick and approached a checkpoint worker to claim the bonus. “OK, where’s your camera?” asked our staffer. “Its on my bike,” Steve replied. “Oh no.” Steve is having a hell of a run on this year’s event, and he certainly deserved to take a little break at the Great Minnesota Get Together.
Eric Jewell earned his PETA award by administering the coup de grace to a deer that had already been struck by a car and a semi. Bike and rider were sufficiently unaffected by the impact to continue the campaign. Though the delay may prove costly to Eric’s quest for a repeat victory, many observers still predict a top ten finish for the intense rider from California.
We imagined that at least a few riders would lose their rally flags by this point in the rally. Our prediction remains in error, though we were close to calling it right. Howard Stueber was sitting in a truck stop enjoying a sandwich when a cowboy walked in, looking curiously at the white, red and yellow talisman. “Rider 214,” thought Stueber, “Hey! That’s me!” Jerry McCumby left his flag at the Post Office in New Germany, Minnesota. The local constabulary was kind enough to drop the flag off for Jerry at his hotel, thus saving him from certain embarrassment at the finisher’s banquet.
If you were wondering just how far a 250 Ninja can go on a multi-day endurance event, the answer is Madison, South Dakota. It was there that Doug Stout’s little bike finally gave up the ghost. Taking a page from Paul Pelland’s book, Stout earned his own 10,000-point penalty by purchasing 250 Interceptor and continuing on to Ohio. Thanks to Paul and Doug, we now have an exciting rally within the rally: which rider will be the first to break zero points?
This rally is over for the TeamStrange Buick. We have returned to the Lenox and are safely ensconced in the Operations Center. As we undergo the debriefing process (aided by strategic application of eight-year-old Bahamian Bacardi), one thing becomes clear: the last leg of BL2 will prove decisive for a number of riders. At this point in the rally, many riders are feeling the strain imposed by the pressure of high miles and short time. The natural instinct under such conditions is to head for the barn, so we will not be surprised to see many riders parked at the hotel when we wake up tomorrow morning. Those riders that can put their heads down and stay in the rally groove will find that they have climbed several places in the standings by virtue of their perseverance. Those that gave up will have many months to second-guess their decision. The next 24 hours are decisive to the final results of this rally. Check back tomorrow and find out how the time turned out.
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