Monday, August 1, 2011

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Rally

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Rally ("GBU") made its debut this year starting in Big Sky, Montana. It is a 32 hour rally and follows Iron Butt Rally rules. Departing from St. George, UT it was about 750 miles from home. However, we took two days getting there with a stop in Salt Lake City to pick up some master chain links at Cycle Gear and to have my chain checked and adjusted at Bavarian Motorcycle Workshop (a terrific, independent BMW mechanic). We spent the night in Tremonton, UT and then motored on up to Big Sky the next day at a leisurely pace, stopping at West Yellowstone for lunch and playing tourist for a bit.

We rode directly to "The Lodge" at Big Sky which was the host hotel. We had a welcoming committee at the front door. Photo courtesy of Lynda Lahman. Note Warchild with his legendary salute. We arrived at the same time as Jerry White with his lovely bride Sally and precocious daughter, Claire. Let the fun begin!

We arrived on Thursday afternoon with tech and odo check scheduled for Friday. So we took advantage of our early arrival to indulge in a few adult beverages. Another Lynda Lahman photo shows me in a custom T-Shirt courtesy of Bob Still following my Iron Butt Rally adventure. (I know, I know, I have yet to write that blog but promise to do so soon). For those who don't know, I had serious chain issues during the IBR which almost ended my rally.The GBU was themed after the Clint Eastwood movie of the same name. We were given awesome hats at registration which were our meal tickets. Yet another Lynda Lahman photo of Eric and me in front of one of the many great posters. Notice the mean looks on our faces and the FYBYFF sticker in my hand. For those who don't know, during the IBR a certain person made disparaging remarks about my relationship with Eric and it ticked me off. My response was Bruce, FU which eventually got translated to F you Bruce, you effing F. Matt Pflugh had these stickers made up and were handed out to GBU participants. Good fun! Gee, the ride hadn't even begun and already we were having a boat load of fun.
Now it starts to get serious. The next photo is my rally camera photo. On Friday, first thing was to get your camera checked for resolution and correct date and time. After making sure no other pictures were on the SD card, staff took a photo of the rider and marked the rider's number on the card. I managed to pass this part fairly easy.

We then had tech inspection which again followed IBR rules. Motorcycle VIN numbers were checked as well as insurance and waivers. Next was the odometer check. It was an easy ride of about 20 miles. We managed to ride the odo check without mishap.

After a fantastic bbq dinner of chicken, corn bread, potato salad and brownies, we were called to the rider's meeting. It got really serious....Rally Master, Bob Torter opened the meeting followed by Warchild's lecture. Terry Lahman along with his beautiful bride Lynda with the help of Sylvie Torter handed out the rally packets and flags which we were told to not open. Terry then went over the rules and, after allowing us to open our rally packs, held a question and answer session. Another photo courtesy of Lynda Lahman. We then all left to begin routing in earnest. Note that we were given the waypoints a week earlier but had no point value assigned to the bonus locations. Eric and I had already picked a route and pretty much decided we would ride that route regardless of point value as they were roads and places we wanted to see. Having just finished the IBR and Eric having just finished the Utah 1088, well, we weren't in competitive mode. We were in have fun mode :-)

Up early on Saturday, we loaded our bikes and prepared for final odo check prior to the start. Dang, it was early. Start was 5:00 am and we were told to be at our bikes at 4:30 am. Did I say, dang it was early? I do believe this is yet another Lynda Lahman photo. Thanks Lynda!
Finally, it was time to go. We had the honor of a Warchild send off. As Dale moved up the line of bikes, he would point a finger at you and with the other hand wave you off. Makes ones nerves get on edge a bit. I was slow to leave and boy oh boy did I ever get the move it out NOW signal. Yikes!!!! I managed to let out the clutch and get moving without killing the bike or falling over. Oh, I forgot to mention, I was parked on an incline and Mr. Hickey helped me get my bike upright prior to the start. I was lopsided on the pavement so the take-off was not one of my best.

No matter, we were off. Since there is only one road to Big Sky, all the rallyists were pretty much in a row for the first nine miles. At the intersection bikes went both ways. We headed toward West Yellowstone. Got passed by Matt Watkins (no surprise). Our first bonus - take a photo of the large sign in front that says "Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center" - mission accomplished. Of course, a number of riders were getting the same picture.

We then headed toward our second bonus which was in Rexburg, ID. Take a photo of Idaho historical marker 273 describing Beaver Dick. It was here that we spotted another riders rally flag left on the sign. Oh well, leave it alone, they will either come back for it or not.
From Rexburg we headed to Atomic City, ID. A nice, scenic ride to find a building that looks like a blue radio. Photo taken and we were off again. We met up with Jim Boone at this bonus and played leap frog with him for a while.
Moving along to Arco, Idaho we got the picture of the SSN-666 conning tower. I almost let the bike take a nap when making a tight u-turn on the gravel. Whew!!!
Onward to MacKay, ID where we took a photo of a concrete monument that says "Battleground Cemetary." It was a little ways down a dirt/gravel road that at the start was not pleasant so I parked on the shoulder of the highway and ran down to the monument. Full gear, getting plenty warm outside...jog, jog, jog. Got the photo just as Eric turned around on his bike and flew past me. Then, I had to return UPHILL to my bike. Jog, jog, walk, stop, walk. Hahaha. That was the last time I let a little dirt stop me. It was just too much work all that jogging in full ATGATT.
Bayhorse, ID was our next bonus stop. The road to this location has a big sign that say to watch out for Big Horn Sheep on the highway. Wow! Kind of glad we didn't encounter any. It was a beautiful road and we scooped up the bonus.
We stopped in Salmon, ID for a Subway sandwich then turned the bikes toward Tendoy, ID where we rode up a gravel road only to make a right on a worse gravel road. A ways up was a Y in the road. I spied a rider, sans bike which was parked on the "good" gravel road, who was walking around looking for the bonus. He pointed me to the left of the Y. However, I was too far to the right and had to turn around on lumpy, grassy, rocky stuff. Heck, Eric had already made the correct turn and was at the bonus location. So I asked the rider to give me a push backward so I could get turned around. He very kindly complied. I don't know who it was but THANKS!!!! Poor guy was in full gear, including helmet and had hiked quite a distance in some pretty impressive heat and he still gave me a hand. Again, Thank You!!! So, I finally got turned around and up the proper road which was truly a goat trail with grass growing tall in the middle and the tracks not so nice. Photo snapped and bonus in the bag. Hey, there's someone in my mirror. Maybe that is the kind rider who walked up to the memorial for the bonus shot.
From Tendoy, we backtracked to Salmon and then up the highway towards Montana. Our goal was the Big Hole National Monument which is a memorial to the largest battle fought between the Nez Perce and US Govt. forces in the five month conflict know as the Nez Perce War. We saw a few other riders coming/going from both directions at this bonus.
On to Wisdom, MT for the Conover's Trading Post bonus. Easy score!
Moving along, we headed to Dillon, MT for a bonus at Bannack Ghost Town. This is where I spied the first of many deer. A monster doe just casually walking along. Ugh - those Montana deer are massive. Anyway, no problem except for the tourist who wanted to know everything about what we were doing. Eric was much more polite than I. I just took care of business, set out my flag, leaned back in the seat and snapped my photo. Put everything away, entered the required information on my rally pack and moved on.
Our next bonus stop was in Butte, MT where we took a photo of Evel Enievel's tombstone. We took a short break in Butte for some gas and a snack.
From Butte, we rode to Helena where we stopped at the Archie Bray Foundation to snap a photo of the ceramic arch. Good stuff here. Next time I'm in Helena, I'll spend some time looking at all the art.
We stopped in Helena for a meal and change of plans. Originally, we planned on returning to the host hotel to sleep a few hours and then head out early to finish our rally. After discussion in Helena and the fact it was getting dark and the fact that I did NOT want to ride much in the dark, we decided to head to Great Falls, MT and get a room and then resume our bonus hunting early in the morning. So, we aimed the bikes up the Interstate for Great Falls. It was a very beautiful ride. The sun was just setting and the scenery was most impressive. Unfortunately, it got pitch dark before we made it to Great Falls. About 15 miles south of Great Falls, Eric gets on the CB radio and says one word, "Deer." He gassed it and I slammed on the brakes. A humongous buck shot out of the median and crossed the interstate between us!!!

That was it, I told Eric that I was pulling off the freeway at the next exit that had hotel signs. And, that's what we did. We ended up paying $107 for a room at a Best Western that had a view of the interior building and specifically, the ice machine and soda machine. Sweet :-) We hadn't brought any overnight stuff with us so the next morning, I brushed my teeth with a washcloth. Hahahaha.

We got up early (before dawn) and headed out toward our next two bonus locations which were in Great Falls. Kind of difficult to see but the following photo is a picture of the Lewis and Clark statue.
Also in Great Falls was the Kid Russell with Monte statue. Both bonii captured.
Dang, it's still dark. All my dinking around and wasting time and still it was not daybreak. At this point my camera died and I had to change the battery. Which also meant I had to reset the resolution, date and time. That took as long as I could possibly make it take. I really didn't want to ride in the dark on a "Scenic Byway" loaded with big old Montana deer (or even worse, Elk or Moose). Oh well, on to a route bonus. Other than specific locations, during the GBU, you could get additional points for riding specific routes. The routes required a start, middle and end photo. We went for the Kings Hill Scenic Byway Route. Our first stop, to document the start of the route was a photo of the Welcome to Belt sign along with the Historic District sign. Both had to be in the photo. Thanks, Eric for reminding me to get both signs in the photo. I think I took 4 photos before I was satisfied I'd met the requirement!
So, off on scenic byway we went - in the dark. Finally the sun began to peek over the horizon. Thank goodness. We spied many deer on this route. No big surprise since we were in the forest. Did I mention that Montana deer are HUGE? I just could not go fast. I was sure there was a deer in the road around every corner. And, at some point that seemed to be the theme of the morning. Oh well, no serious encounters. Our next stop was the mid-way point of the route where we were to take a photo of our motorcycle in front of the Showdown Montana sign. As we approached the sign we saw a bike taking a nap and the rider removing luggage/bags from the bike. Eric stopped and helped the rider get the bike upright and made sure he was okay. He was! We would see him again down the road. Photos taken with BIKE in the picture and we were on our way to the next bonus.
We stopped at White Sulpher Springs, MT to catch a photo of the Castle.
From the Castle, it was a short skip to the south endpoint of our route bonus - take a photo of the Fort Logan sign. We met up with the napping bike and rider here.
Leaving the scenic byway, we hit the Interstate and headed to Livingston, MT where our goal was a photo of the plaque that says Sacajawea on the Yellowstone. Easy, peasy. Just before this bonus, we stopped for gas and a quick breakfast at McDonalds where we spotted Brian Roberts and his protege Sammy. Hmmmm.....guess we're doing okay if BR is here. LOL

That was the last of our bonus hunting. We were short on miles and short on time. After discussion, we decided to slog up the Interstate and back to put on some miles and hopefully be a finisher. That's just what we did. We headed for Butte at a reasonable clip. Unfortunately, we lost maybe 15-20 minutes on a stretch of uphill construction that caused the semi trucks to go painfully slow with no passing opportunity. Heck. Turn around at Butte and head to the host hotel. My GPS said we would arrive 2 minutes late. Eric said we could make up that time easy. My experience is that I lose time and the GPS starts to say even more minutes to the finish. Aarrgghhhh!!!!

Okay, we got back to Highway 191 and got held up yet again due to tourist traffic. We made several passes but got stuck yet again behind lookie Lou's. Eric found a break and made a great pass and that was the last I saw of him. I got stuck behind a driver that would not use a pull-out and let me pass. Solid double yellow lines. Heck - I don't even know how many miles. Finally, I had the opportunity to pass. Woohoo!!! Back in the game. GPS is saying I will arrive a minute before being time barred. More Woohoo!! Turned at the intersection to Big Sky. Dang, behind some more slow pokes. Yay, they turned off and I had the road to myself for a while. I picked up a few more minutes only to have another cager slow me down and refuse to use the pull outs. Oh heck, oh darn, dang, and much worse. Move over you stupid idiot!

Well, I followed that cager directly to the hotel. I parked in front and literally ran to check-in. Three minutes to spare! Hahahahahaha.

Got through scoring (only after a sad riders meeting about the loss of Dick Fish, RIP) and didn't lose any points. I even had the honor of having Lisa Landry do my scoring :-) Yeah, I felt good. However, I knew I didn't have enough miles to finish. I think we were short 30-50 miles. My fault entirely. I just did not want to ride at dark so I wasted time and miles. Doesn't really matter. This rally was about fun and going new places. Not so much about competition. Although it would have been nice to be a "finisher", I'm not going to beat myself up too much about that. I had a fantastic ride, through beautiful scenery in both Idaho and Montana, saw new places and met new people. I don't think it gets much better than that.

We ended the rally with a great finish presentation where the winners were made known. I'm so impressed at the riders and their rides. What an incredible group of folks! Our final "official" rally task was to partake in the delightful bbq rib dinner. Oh yes, it was fantastic.

The next morning, we dinked around and finally got packed up and left the hotel about 8:30 am. We retraced the route we had taken two days prior to get to the Interstate. Riding along, just outside of Pocatello, ID we spied a bike on the shoulder of the hiway and a helmet behind the bike. We both immediately stopped. It was Nancy Lefcourt and her BMW. Sorry I didn't get a picture. Eric rendered assistance and made sure Nancy was okay with water and had a tow truck on the way. We later found out that IB Pete (Mike Langford) also stopped and gave further assistance. Nancy eventually got towed to Salt Lake and the bike repaired. LD Riders are the best ever people.

We stopped for a late breakfast and then headed home. Uneventful, we made it home about 10:30 pm. Nice to be back home. Super nice to have had a wonderful time riding to, riding during and riding home from the GBU.

Big time thank you to Bob and Sylvie Torter for hosting this even. More thanks to all the volunteers who made it possible. Even more thanks to the Iron Butt Association staff who attended the event, volunteered and certified SS1K's. Just an awesome group of people.

Too bad I didn't take more photos. The young fellow on the Honda 250 dirt bike who completed an SS1K and completed the rally deserves many kudos. Jeez, what a feat!

There were so many awesome riders and stories on this rally. It was truly a fantastic debut for the GBU. I got to put faces to names and also hang out with LD riders I'd met before. Would I do it again? In a heart beat. Would I ride it competitively? Who knows. This time around, it was a nice, easy, fun ride to beautiful places. Yes, I would have liked to be a "finisher." But I wasn't and it doesn't bother me in the least.

Yes, I need to get over my "deer" issue but I'm working on that. Is the GS the perfect "rally" bike? Nope. Not even. But, it fits me well and I'll make due. Maybe I'll post a blog about that in the future.

For now, all is good. I'm home after having a terrific time in Montana. Next scheduled rally would be the LOE in Sept./Oct. timeframe. Who know what might come up before then?

Be safe my friends and travel well.