Friday, July 5, 2019

2019 Iron Butt Rally - Finish

Unfortunately, Giel Kirkhof had to drop out of the 2019 Iron Butt Rally because of issues with his GPS units.  His misfortune became our good fortune as he decided to spend a few days with us before returning to Greenville, SC for the IBR finish.

The three of us left Tupelo, MS on a fine, sunny Wednesday morning and we headed up the Natchez Trace toward Nashville, TN.  I called this part of our adventure the Turtles, Turkeys and Deer Ride.  We saw a lot of turtles along the Trace, mostly slow but one that was moving very quick to get across the road.  Turkeys, lots of turkeys!  We had to stop for a large flock with about 2 dozen babies.  LOL, the adults hurried across the road while the babies ran the other way into the woods!  And then, the deer!  Only one but that was enough.  It bounded out of the woods right beside Eric and me.  Eric was ready to hit the throttle and I was prepared to panic stop.  Fortunately the deer thought better of jumping into the road and turned back into the woods.  Yikes!!!

We made a couple of stops along the Trace to take a break and enjoy the views.  Our first stop was at Holly.

There is a beautiful picnic area down below the road with several tables, trashcans and a small stream.

Our next stop was the infamous overlook with the steep 900' trail down to waterfalls.  We chose not to take that trek this time.  Again, with a nice picnic area, restrooms and gorgeous views.

 We reached the northern end of the Natchez Trace just before noon which was perfect timing as we wanted to try the Loveless Cafe.  For more than 65 years, the Loveless Cafe has been making scratch-made Southern meals and has had a number of famous personalities grace their door.  It has quite a history and an extensive menu and best of all they serve breakfast ALL DAY LONG!!!!  Yippee!!  Brekkie is my favorite meal and I was excited about this restaurant!  Take a look here for more information and their menus. Loveless Cafe

 They happen to like motorcycles and have reserved parking just for us!
 Doesn't really look like much from the outside...
 They have a couple of retail stores on the property and I scored a magnet for our garage fridge and a couple of stickers for the bike.

 It was very crowded.  Tour buses stop here.  So, there was about a 30 minute wait.  We spent that time looking at the shops and hanging out in the shade waiting for our beeper to let us know our table was ready.
 We took some silly photos to pass the time ;-)

 Finally, our food came!  I forgot to take a pic of the big pile of fresh baked biscuits that were served with blackberry jam and orange marmalade, yummy!  Chicken fried steak, eggs and hashbrown casserole for Eric.
 Sampler platter with ham, sausage, bacon, eggs and hashbrown casserole for Giel.
 Bacon, eggs and hashbrown casserole for me.  OMG, the food was delicious.  Totally worth the wait.  We will definitely be making this a day trip.  What better than to cruise the Natchez Trace, grab a fantastic meal and cruise back on home?  Yup, this will become a regular thing, lol.
After lunch, we mounted back up and aimed toward Greenville.  We got as far as Dayton, TN and settled into the Best Western.  Taco Bell for dinner (UGH!!!!!).  NEVER AGAIN!!!!!  I'm not a big fast food fan and boy, oh, boy, did that Taco Bell food do me bad.  Gack!

Next morning we again pointed toward Greenville making a stop at another fine food establishment for lunch - Waffle House, lol.  It was Giel's first time.  I like Waffle House ...  sometimes.  This happened to be a pretty decent one, it didn't stink of rancid grease when we entered and the floors were clean, hahahaha.

 Of course I had bacon and eggs!

 One more rest stop along the Seneca river before Greenville.
 It was getting downright HOT and HUMID.  We went through a ton of liquids trying to stay hydrated.

 And then, we were at the host hotel in Greenville ready to watch riders come in to the Iron Butt Rally finish.  Both Eric and I were tasked with helping in the scoring room so we couldn't stay up all night but did manage to catch a few riders come in early Thursday.  Riders had to arrive and check in no later than 8:00 am on Friday, June 29.  There was a penalty window from 8:00 to 10:00 am where riders would lose 20 points per minute.  At 10:01 am any riders checking in would be DNF (Did Not Finish).  Plenty of riders checked in within the penalty window!

 We were up at 4:00 am on Saturday to get ready for scoring the riders.  Dude, that is early!!!  Here are a couple of pics of the scoring room.  First couple of riders into scoring, Cathy Davies (Rookie and first rider out at the start) and Martin Cover (IBR Vet).

 A group photo of most of the volunteer staff. (Photo by Steve Hobart)

I happened to be in the hall when Wendy Crockett came in to stop the clock.  Looking very happy, very tired and VERY DIRTY.  Love our Wendy!!

 The parking lot was filling up with riders and bikes at the finish.

 Celebration decor on one of the rider's bikes.

 Andrew Byrd was happy to get back and ready for a nap!
 James Owens had his welcoming crew.
 Chris Purney and Craig Brooks at the finish.  Chris had an issue when his Yamaha Super Tenere was hit by a truck somewhere in the remote mountains of California.  Fortunately, Chris was not broken but only bruised.  The Super Ten, however, did not fare so well and is totaled.  If you've followed the IBR reports, you know the story.  Erik Lipps happened to have a rally ready Yamaha FJR in his garage only 4 hours away.  Erik, his wife Dana and son Jack loaded up the FJR and hauled it to Chris so Chris could continue the Rally!  Didn't hurt that Chris used to rally on an FJR, lol.  This is just one of the many, many stories of people pitching in and helping a rider during the IBR.  These people are simply the best!
 Chris' wife Abbie was pretty happy the Tenere got trashed and not Chris!

 Marc and Dee Beaulac.  Before the finish, Marc had called in to say he was going home.  What he neglected to say was that he was stopping in Greenville for the finish before going home!  Tired but happy ;-)
 Andy Mackey told me he had a fantastic ride and was ready to do it all over again, NOW!  Andy had final drive failure on his BMW R1200GS on his was to the IBR start.  He was able to source a new final drive and get the bike repaired with time to spare.  During the rally his bike ran like a brand new machine :-)

It's not just rally riders, there are plenty of fans here too!  Everyone was so excited to see the riders coming in.  The hotel lobby was a buzz of activity all day.  Riders had to be scored within one hour of stopping the clock.  Riders who came in during the penalty window only had 15 minutes to get scored after stopping the clock.  Eric Jewell who arrived well into the penalty window, like only a minute or two to spare wasn't aware of the 15 minute scoring time.  I found him in the prep room with ONE MINUTE to get to scoring.  Hahahahaha, I rushed him into the scoring room and he was safe!

Things got pretty quiet after scoring.  I imagine most riders were taking a hot shower followed by a long nap.  The banquet would be held later that evening with social hour and adult beverages starting in the afternoon.


 Kirsten and Jennifer Talken-Spaulding in the lobby, cheering riders and just generally being a ton of fun.
 With Mr. Ironbutt himself, Mike Kneebone!
 Craig Brooks looking fresh for the banquet.
 Mark Starrett had a great rally and ride.  Mark and I met about 10 years ago and rode the first MERA 10n10 Rally.  We will never forget the tornado at Sayre, OK where I used the lawyer card to prevent being put out of the Travel America and the Deer Soup on I-40 in Texas!  This was his third IBR and he had only good things to say about it!
 Mark shared a fun story and a few pictures of his rally.  He had slogged quite a way to get this photo.  Here he looks all happy and comfortable.  Butt.......
 This photo shows much more accurately just how he was feeling at the time!  HOT, HUMID, EXHAUSTED!   Hahahahaha, thanks Mark for sharing the reality with us ;-)

Me and Miss Kitty (Nancy Oswald).
 Cutie pie, Paul Tong, did not ride the IBR this year but was on the staff.
 The banquet begins.........

We were delighted to find some IBR legends at our table starting with Bob Higdon and Jim Bain.
 Eric Bray, Jennifer & Kirsten Talken-Spaulding, Kevin Craft and his lovely bride.
 IBR Rookie, Paul Slaton, Eric and Jennifer.

  And this is the moment we've all been waiting for.  How did everyone do?  Mike Kneebone gave the opening address.

 And then Lisa Landry, Rally Mistress took the floor to announce the finishers up through number 11.  Leaving Jeff Earls, Route Master the honor of announcing the top ten riders.

 I can honestly say that everyone in the room was excited, riders, fans, family, and staff.  The past 11 days were filled with official IBR reports, Facebook posts, forum posts, phone calls and on and on.  Lots of speculation as to riders whereabouts and possible routes.  The intensity just continued to build as the days wore on.  It all culminated here, right now, the finish banquet!  Yes, it was electric.

Each rider was called to the front to receive their plaque and bound Rally Book.  Each rider was unanimously celebrated and applauded on their outstanding accomplishment!   My hands hurt from clapping and I cheered for every rider!  WOOHOO!  WAY TO GO!  YOU PEEPS ROCK!!!  Wowza, these riders are simply phenomenal and so very humble.  My tribe ;-)

One Rookie, Lew Ballard, later related to me that he thought he had finished the IBR but when his name wasn't called time and time again he began to think that maybe they had re-checked his score and he DNF'd.  Wasn't he surprised when he was called out as number 15 finisher!  WAY TO GO, LEW!!!

Now, down to the final top ten riders - Jeff Earls did the honors.

 Ohhhhhhhh, Ohhhhhhh, dang the room was sooooooo tense!  Jeff called ten people up to the front (in no particular order).  There you have it folks, the top ten finishers of the 2019 Iron Butt Rally.  Wowza!!!

Dylan Spink, IBR vet, on his hopeless class 1983 Honda Silverwing took 10th place.  Kevin Gardner, Rookie, took 9th place.  Paul Meyer, IBR Rookie, came in 8th.  James Owen, two time IBR winner took 7th and Billy Connacher, IBR vet was in 6th place.  Eric Bray, IBR vet was in 5th place and Craig Brooks, IBR vet garnered 4th place.

Ohhhhhh,  Ohhhhhhh, more Ohhhhh's!  The top three.  I can't hardly stand it!!  I'm on my feet at the back of the room, holding my breath.  There are only three people up there.

Okay, most of you already know the outcome.  But, dang, it was so freaking exciting.  Steve Gallant, a ROOKIE came in THIRD!  Yippee!!!   Dude, way to go.  I had the pleasure of meeting and scoring Steve at the Rock 'n Ride Rally earlier this year.  Such a humble, kind, gentle soul.  Can you imagine?  Getting third place in your first Iron Butt Rally?  Nope, me either.  Congratulations, Steve.

Now it was down to two riders.  Mike Heitkamp, IBR vet and Team Strange rider and our dear friend, Wendy Crockett, another IBR vet.  Mike was on a BMW R1200GSA (the same bike I ride) and Wendy was riding her 14 year old Yamaha FJR.   OMG, stop the presses!  First time EVER a WOMAN WON THE IBR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, Wendy won.  Congratulations to Mike Heitkamp.  Maybe 2021 will be his winning year and he had a stellar rally.  Come on, second in the IBR is nothing to snicker at.  Good job, Mike.

BUTT,  WENDY WON THE IBR!!!!!!!!!  Heck, tears came springing out of my eyes as I jumped up and down and yelled WOOHOO!!!!!!   (I wasn't the only one with tears on their cheeks!).

Oh FUCK! It was just that frickin' good!  You go GIRL!

 Wendy, talking to her hubby Mike after the announcement!  All smiles and happiness :-)

 Wendy's start photo!  (Photo credit - Steve Hobart)
Wendy's finish photo!  (LOVE)
The father - daughter team of Marty Cover (IBR Vet) and Lisa Rufo (IBR Rookie).  Both finished and are very happy about that after a few mishaps along the way.  Congrats!

 Ian McPhee, my long lost cousin (another story) quite happy with his Bronze finish!
 Six happy women.  All fans, except for Shirley Davis, second from right who was an IBR rookie, two up, some significant others and some just hear because they love the IBR!
 Peter Green (IBR vet - two up with Paul Tong in 2017) and Paul Meyer, Rookie.  Both finishers and well done!
 Terry and Lynda Lahman's awesome truck with bike lift.  Too cool for school ;-)
 The next morning.  After the banquet many peeps stayed up way tooooooo late to shoot the breeze, talk about their ride, chill, etc.  Breakfast was a fun event.  Most peeps hung around long enough to have some food and more conversation.  It was so fun to talk to the riders about their IBR.  I asked a number of folks what their "Highest High" and their "Depths of Despair" were during the rally.  It was awesome to hear their experiences.  Wish I had thought to capture it on video or audio, butt.....I didn't.  Sorry :-(

 The parking lot was starting to empty....

The 2019 Iron Butt Rally was over....done....finito....
 It was time for us to leave as well.  Astonishingly we left before noon, lol.  And took yet more roads less traveled toward home.

Here is a break stop at Hartwell Lake in Georgia.  Beautiful place to take a rest.
Our ride home was uneventful and hot and humid.  But heck, a day riding a motorcycle is always a good day!

We had the great pleasure to host Margaret Peart, Tazmanian (Australia) IBR Vet both before and after the IBR.  Here she is after 40 hours of sleep (lol) ready to hit the road and head west before going back home.

 Geared up and ready to roll...... to more exotic places than Tupelo, lol.

So, that's a wrap folks.  We had a fabulous time both at the start and again at the finish of the 2019 Iron Butt Rally.  We had the honor of hosting some IBR legends at our little Tupelo home.  We had a great ride to and from Greenville with no mishaps other than Taco Bell (lol).  We are thrilled our friend, Wendy Crockett, won the 2019 IBR.  And, we had the best time, hanging with the best peeps ever!

There is simply nothing like an Iron Butt Rally.  If you ever have the opportunity to attend a start, checkpoint or finish, do it, you will not regret.  It is simply fabulous!

Massive thanks to those that make it happen.

Cheers and thanks for following my blog!