Thursday, June 20, 2019

2019 Iron Butt Rally - Start

Our plan was to leave Tupelo, MS on Wednesday, June 12 and head toward Greenville, SC which is the start location of the 2019 Iron Butt Rally (IBR).  However, as with many well laid plans, ours didn't happen.  We had to hang around home waiting a furniture delivery and as luck would have it, we were the last delivery of the day so no afternoon start for us.  Oh well, that just meant an early 6:00 am start on Thursday, June 13.

Fortunately, the weather was nice and because of the early departure there was very little traffic. My bike, which had been in the shop for the past five weeks was running smooth and I was totally enjoying being back on the bike.  Our route took us east on Interstate 22 until just after the Alabama border where we got off the interstate and onto nice small country roads.  We took Highway 278 to Gadsden, AL then Highway 411 east to GA-20 until we jumped on Interstate 85 the last 100 miles to Greenville.  Traffic was generally light until Greenville where the remaining five miles to the host hotel was stop and go, stop and go, stop and go.  Ugh!  Oh, by then it was quite hot and my butt was quite tired!

We pulled into the Marriott parking lot around 4:30 or so and there were already a number of bikes parked in the lot.

Thursday evening we hung around the hotel and chatted with riders, staff and spectators.  There wasn't much tension as the start wouldn't happen until Monday morning.  Lots of time to sort out last minute issues!

More riders arrived on Friday and it was another calm day.  No IBR business today, just last minute bike and body preparations.  Michelin Tires was located just across the parking lot from the host hotel and they had arranged a free lunch and presentation for those attending the IBR start!  WooHoo, free food!  Hahahahaha.

It was well attended and peeps enjoyed pizza, salad, cookies and soft drinks.  Just prior to the food arriving they held a short question and answer session.  You know, there is always a rabble rouser in every crowd and we were not disappointed.

/ˈrabəl ˌrouzər/
  1. a person who speaks with the intention of inflaming the emotions of a crowd of people, typically for political reasons.
    synonyms:agitatortroublemakerinstigatoragent provocateurmischief-makerincendiaryfirebrandrevolutionarydemagogue
    "a group of rabble-rousers conducted a public protest"

A certain ginger who was at the start to help with tech inspection felt compelled to ask the Michelin executive his thoughts on using a tire car on a motorcycle!  Yes, yes he did and boy did all Sh*t break loose, hahahahaha.  For those who don't know, this is a point of contention among motorcyclists.  Many will use a car tire on the rear, (called darksiding), to extend tire life and bear a heavier load on the bike.  Some, gasp, actually put car tires on the rear and a rear motorcycle tire, reverse rotation, on the front, especially those riding big touring bikes two up.  This is called double darksiding.  Purists and tire manufacturers are aghast that anyone would ever consider doing such a thing.  Thus, a lively discussion ensued ;-)  The Michelin Corporate viewpoint was not changed that day.  < ;-)

The lunch and presentation was a nice break in the day and allowed IBR riders a respite from all the intensity of prepping for their big ride coming up in a few short days.  The rest of Friday was spent hanging in the parking lot, chatting with riders, helping out where we could and giving lots of pep talks  =:-)

Saturday morning saw us up early as we were on the Tech Staff and the Tech Checks started at 8:00 am.  Prior to starting Tech, we were given a tutorial as to what we needed to do to check each bike.  Each rider had a packet of papers that they carried from point to point throughout the Check In, Registration, Tech Check, Odo Check, etc.  Promptly at 8:00 am, riders were lined up for their Tech Check.  We had quite a few volunteers helping on this end so we were able to quickly get through the long line.

Here Lynda Lahman gets ready at the Tech Check station with Warchild looking on.

And here is my honey, Eric, ready for the next rider.

I had a blast!  First, check driver license to be sure it was current and had the appropriate motorcycle endorsement. Most were pretty straight forward and simple.  However, a few states used weird codes for the endorsement and one rider had to look it up on his cell phone so we could verify it was the proper endorsement.  And, the European and Australian licenses were, well, different from what I'm used to :-)

Then it was check the rider's helmet to ensure it was DOT approved.  Bike registration and insurance papers were checked to the bike's VIN and verified the correct amount of insurance coverage.  Then the bike was inspected for Vendor or Sponsor Stickers (not allowed) and just a general once over.  If aux fuel was on the bike, the tank and mountings had to be inspected along with the fuel lines and overflow tube.  I actually had a couple of bikes that did not pass the "shake" test.  I figured if I could shake or move the aux tank, then there was a problem with mounting.  Yes, there were a few problems, however, they all got sorted out and passed inspection prior to departure.  Whew!  A few rough, tense moments for a couple of riders!

James Owens, two time IBR champion got special Tech Check by Warchild himself.  James' bike was thoroughly gone over with a fine tooth comb looking for violations.  Much to James delight, he passed with flying colors!

Jonathon "Hammy" Tam manned the Tech Check station, checking off each rider as they came through inspection.

Wendy Crockett had arrived late in the day Friday afternoon.  I couldn't resist taking a few photos of what her bike looked like after riding from South Dakota.  She told me some of the bugs were so big and hit so hard it would move her helmet!  Sad thing is her lovely hubby, Mike, had spent the entire day before she left detailing her bike to showroom perfection!

 This is the rear view of Wendy's bike.  I'm thrilled that she sports my DFF and FYBYFF stickers!  I'm really cheering for Wendy to win this year!

Back to Tech Check.  The Weller's, Lynda and Kevin from England had shipped their Super Tenere over for the Big Dance.  Rather than a fuel cell, it had a frankentank, an expanded gas tank.  Also, there was an after-market exhaust system on the bike.  This called for expert inspection.  Enter Brian Roberts, the fuel cell and noise meter specialist.  Brian got out his tools and did his job.

Both Kevin and Lynda let out a big sigh of relief when Brian claimed they were good to go!

Dylan Spink came to the Big Dance with a hopeless class motorcycle that he had all decked out.  A 1983 Honda Silverwing 650.  Just look at how sweet this machine is!

 Rob Nye (hint - he has ginger hair) cleared Dylan as good to go after Tech Check.

In addition to all the riders going through registration, check-in, tech, odo, etc. more shenanigans were going on in the parking lot.  Lisa Cover Rufo, a rider in this year's Rally, staged a surprise birthday party for her husband Steven Rufo!   Hahaha, life is curious.  Steven and I share a birthday, June 16 (both born on Father's Day) in the same year.  We figured out birth times and considering time zones, I'm about 6 hours older than Steven, lol.

 MMMmmmmmm, cupcakes, sammies and ........

 Terry Lahman and Eric V. were happy to sit in the shade waiting for a piece of cake ;-)

Although the focus is certainly on the IBR riders, I was delighted my friend Erin Colombo showed up to spectate and visit!
Now here's a motley crue if I've ever seen one!  Bob Higdon, Ed Otto and Bill Shaw.  I believe they have been with the Iron Butt Association since it's inception!

After all the riders completed their check in routine it was time for the Saturday night bbq and pool party.  Everyone gathered at the pool and patio area for hamburgers, grilled chicken, salad, potato salad and more.  Dinner was delicious and the weather was perfect.  Here are a few random photos from the BBQ.

 Mike Riley and Marc Beaulac, both veteran IBR riders.

Sunday morning dawned to find riders in the parking lot attending to last minute business.  A couple of riders were busy upgrading the mounts to their aux fuel tanks.  Others were gassing up.  Some riders were shopping to fill their tank bags with edibles.

Probably the busiest rider was Cliff Wall who was going to ride a loaner bike.  Apparently Cliff's Goldwing developed issues and was not a candidate for the 11 day 11,000 mile ride.  Bill Thweatt, longtime Iron Butt Association member and IBR vet very graciously loaned his Yamaha Super Tenere to Cliff so he could compete.  Bill's bike was basically stock so Cliff, Bill and others pitched in to move all Cliff's farkles to the Tenere.

Here is Bill Shaw, Ed Otto and Bill Thweatt (admiring his Tenere that he loaned to Cliff Wall)

 Here is Cliff making last minute adjustments.  It will be fun to watch his progress and hear his tales of riding a new to him, barely farkled bike in the IBR!

Meanwhile, my buddy Andy Andresen is considering making a bid for the IBR in 2021 and wanted to check out my bike as a potential candidate for his long distance machine.

Saturday afternoon was the Rider's meeting and no spectators or volunteer staff allowed.  Following the Rider's meeting was the challenge of herding everyone across the parking lot to the Michelin building steps for a group photo.  Much more challenging than any of the prior IBR tasks!
 Shepherding the riders to the stairs.
 Steve Hobart, IBR photographer, trying to get everyone to pay attention and line up as directed, hahahaha.
 Finally, everyone is in place.....

And the moment is captured.  These are my phone photos.  For the real thing clink on the link below!  Steve's photos are professional and so much better than my snapshots :-)
 Then, after finally getting the group photo, it was another task to get everyone off the Michelin property and back to the host hotel.  These long distance riders, I'll tell you......independent, Type A peeps they are indeed ;-)

Gosh, everyone is having so much fun!  You can just feel the excitement and anticipation building and building.  It's now about 4:30 pm and they still have a few minutes before the start banquet commences.

Here are a couple of pics of Dan Crowley's motorcycle with the custom umbrella install!  Hey, how genius?  Shade from the heat and cover from the rain.  Not to mention a nice place to tuck under when staying at the Iron Butt Motel ;-)

 Finally, it was time for the Start Banquet.  After the meal, riders would get their rally packs and begin planning their route.  Dinner was fabulous.  Really, really fabulous.  You don't often get a banquet meal that is all that good.  This was super yummy!  I'm sure everyone enjoyed it.  Even those nervous, anxious, jittery riders :-)

Lisa Landry, Rally Mistress addressed the group after dinner and introduced Jeff Earls, the Route Master.  Jeff then had the riders open their packets and went over some details of what and what not to do.  Believe me, everyone was paying close attention.  You could almost hear a pin drop and the intensity was off the scale!

Once the riders were excused they all disappeared to start planning.  The spectators and volunteers on the other hand, went out to the patio to party!  Greg and Pat Blewett had very kindly given me a nice bottle of Cognac infused vodka for my birthday and I was delighted to share it with everyone on the patio.  We went through a few bottles of other spirits and a lot of stories about prior IBR's and riding adventures.

 A nice way to finish the evening :-)

Monday morning - this was it - this was the start of the 2019 Iron Butt Rally.  Oh my, the parking lot was packed with both riders and spectators as well as staff and volunteers.  The air was buzzing with anticipation.  It was getting hot and riders were intense.  All bikes were impounded in the parking lot at 8:00 am.  Riders had better be ready beside their bike with their Emergency Rider ID tags around their neck and key or fob at hand to turn on the bike for final ODO check.

 I was on the final ODO check team and I'm happy to say that all the riders my team checked were ready!  Final check went relatively fast and once their tags were punched, riders were free to do whatever.  However, everyone was warned and knew to be at their bikes ready to leave at 9:45 am.

 What's in the tank bag?  Well, whatever floats your boat I guess ;-)

Chillin' before departure.  Actually, the hotel lobby was nice and cool unlike the baking parking lot outside.  The hotel provided ice and water so riders could ice up their hydration systems and keep cool.

Lovely Lisa Cover Rufo trying to look calm before the storm!  Rooting for you, Lisa!

Lovely Lynda Lahman also trying to look calm before the storm!  Rooting for you too, Lynda.
 The epitome of chill.....

 Wendy Crockett poses in front of the Rally Poster (my bad photo, sorry).
 And then, it was almost time!  A few of us Tech peeps ushered the spectators out of the impound area.  After all, we didn't want the riders to have to worry about hitting someone after Warchild (Dale Wilson) gave them the go signal.

 Warchild getting ready to send off the 2019 IBR riders!

 Last minute preparations......

 Waiting in the shade, trying to stay cool before departure.

 Oh wait, the dinosaurs!  Gregg Lenentine's wife and daughter gave him a fitting send off :-)

 Now, it was time for a brief rider's meeting before mounting up and waiting for the go signal.
 Warchild gave clear instructions to the riders as to how the departure would work.  He also gave clear instructions that nobody should be cause for Lisa Landry to open her red book.  Be safe, ride smart, have fun!

 All riders were fully attentive.  Only a few minutes to take off.......

 Non riders hung in the background, listening to every word, feeling the intensity build......

Okay, impound area cleared, riders ready, countdown to take off has commenced.......
 And just like that, they were gone.  Here is a link of the departure.  Jeanie Cumbie's video of the start.

 Whew!  That was EXCITING!!!

So now, there are only two bikes left in the parking lot and they are not 2019 IBR riders ;-)  Eric and I finally packed up the bikes and left Greenville around noon.  Hey, it was a beautiful day for a ride!

 We stayed off the Interstate as much as possible and took small country roads toward home.  It was evident we wouldn't make it home today so we spent the night in Cartersville, GA.  The next morning held ominous skies and it was very likely we would be going through some rain.  Yes, we went through some rain, lol.  Not bad, no frog stranglers, just soft rain now and then.  Mostly nice weather.  The rain actually was welcome as it cooled the air.

We made a lunch stop at Libby's Catfish and Diner.......okay.......typical Southern fare.  We are learning :-)  It was fine.  Probably won't get any stars but it filled us up and it's always rather fun to dine local rather than chain restaurants.

Score, our route home took us about 60 miles down the Natchez Trace.  So incredibly beautiful and calm.
 Once on the Trace, it was simply set the cruise control and head on home.

Missing most of the cloud bursts, we arrived home, dry, about 4:30 pm on Tuesday.  Just in time for cocktails ;-)

We had a fantastic time volunteering at the IBR start and plan to do the same at the finish at the end of the month.  If you've never been to an IBR start you are missing an incredible adventure.  Just to be a spectator is awesome!  The vibe is intense and happy and scared and nervous and every emotion you can imagine.  This is the ride of a lifetime for most participants.  It WILL change their lives.  They will learn things about themselves they didn't know.  They will find determination and perseverance and guts and courage.  I so admire and love every single rider. 

Here is a link to the Iron Butt Association page where you can read the daily report, follow the SpotWalla page and see Steve Hobart's amazing photos.  Iron Butt Association Link.

As always, thanks for following along.  Stay tuned because we'll be riding out again soon to attend the finish.  There are sure to be good stories and tales of adventure!

Cletha #454

P.S.  I rode the Iron Butt Rally in 2011.  Here is a link to my blog of that event.  Cletha's Iron Butt Rally - 2011