Monday, July 28, 2014

Rider #14 - Butt Lite 7 Ride Report

Submitted by Rider 14, Martin Little, one of our Australian mates:

As well as this being my first time in the States in 15 years, this was my first multi-day rally and would also be the first time I would be riding on the right hand side of the road in America.  Was I was nervous? You bet, but felt I was ready as I could be.

The trip from Australia was uneventful, including picking up the R1200GSA in Santa Fe and then riding to Minnesota with Olaf Moon (Ollie) through Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota.  My partner, Rebecca, followed in the rental car, which would become our home away from home after the Rally. In Minnesota the bike had new tyres fitted (Michelin Pilot Road 4’s) which were a noticeable improvement over the Metzler Tourances.

Saturday night after the Rally Packs were handed out seemed to pass in a blur. Not helped by IT issues but I did manage some sleep. Feeling totally underprepared with respect to my route and overall plan I was really glad to be finally underway on Sunday morning as the Rally commenced at 8:00am and it felt great to be out on the interstate heading south to Iowa for the first Bonus Point. (Even though it was raining.)

With the first points collected in the cornfields of Iowa I then headed west to Nebraska hoping to collect the extra special points at the Two Rivers Saloon, which I missed by about an hour. (As I was riding I felt I was taking an indirect route but was happy to rely upon the GPS) Leaving Two Rivers I headed south to Kansas where I was held up by a truck on fire which delayed progress by 45 minutes. While I was waiting in the queue I had plenty of locals giving me advice about the road ahead and the travel times and this would occur many times over the course of the Rally.

Finally pulled stumps for the night at Red Cloud near the state border and celebrated the first day of the Rally with a Subway meal. Felt disappointed with my efforts for the day but happy to be on the road and with plans for the next day. Got moving again at 3:30am crossing over the State Line into Kansas. In the pre-dawn darkness ran over a dead deer in the middle of the road. Collected the points at Pawnee Rock in Kansas and then continued onto Oklahoma aiming for the summit of Mt Scott. This Bonus Point was awe inspiring with the location of Medicine Park in Oklahoma reminding me of Lake Taupo in New Zealand. Gorgeous scenery and then there was the ride up the mountain! 

With my spirits buoyed after Mt Scott it was on to Texas for the Dr Pepper Sculpture and then Ballinger. I took a moment to reflect as the sun set over the huge cross outside of Ballinger, feeling much better with my progress today as I watched the sun set and the warm Texas evening slide across the countryside.

Early next morning I was surprised at how much traffic there was about. Near dawn I had 4 close encounters with deer all in the space of an hour, then never saw any more for the rest of the Rally. After collecting the bonus points at Fort McKavett, Texas it was onto Medina, where I struggled to extract myself from a conversation started up by a passer-by who was determined to tell me his life story, despite my best attempts to explain I couldn’t hear a thing with my helmet on and ear plugs in. Finally escaping I stopped outside of Medina to check my options, as I was ahead of time. I chose north looking, which in the end was a mistake as the traffic on the interstate was really bad and moving slowly, which in the afternoon heat was a struggle. Finally made it back to Austin where I clocked in for the Rest Bonus and shouted myself the first decent meal of the trip. Got up early morning to collect the Bat Bonus at the bridge and then motored over to the Check Point for an early check in.

Scoring didn’t go so well, I left my Rest Points on the table as I didn’t get the printed time out on my receipt (that’s a rookie mistake) and then to cap it off my camera had reset itself to Australian time (14 hrs. ahead) on Day 2 and I left another round of points on the table. Very humbling! Still it was great watching the other riders come in and hearing their stories from Leg 1. So much to learn! Overall I was thrilled to be at the check point and had only ridden on the wrong side once! (Fortunately in a very quiet area)

Leg 2 was very different, after reading and rereading the Rally Sheet the strategy for me was get up to Arlington via Waco to collect the 2,500 points for the bowling and then complete my route planning somewhere cool in the afternoon heat. Loved the ride into Waco, some decent corners at last and once the points were collected at Waco, I shot up the Interstate to Arlington where the Bowling was a real blast.  Left the bike in the car park of the Bowling Museum while Routing for leg 2 was then completed in the air conditioned comfort of a restaurant although the same IT issues with laptop and GPS continued. Once done struck out for Louisiana with Olaf for company heading for the Bonnie & Clyde BP near Gibsland, LA. 

Rolling into Gibsland my GPS went AWOL again so I resorted to the old fashioned method of map and asking directions. After 30 minutes of aimlessly riding round the Louisiana forest in the dark I finally stopped and asked the local policeman on the town’s outskirts who was most helpful but admitted in the end he couldn’t give me precise directions as he didn’t know himself. A passing rider stopped to check on me so I followed him out in the dark where we collected the BP at 10:30pm that night. Kept heading west on the Interstate till 11:30pm before pulling stumps and checking into accommodation for the 6 hr. rest bonus (worth 3,600 points!) I made damn sure the receipts had the times printed on them this time as I was not making that mistake twice.

Next morning had one of those great moments leaving Louisiana when I stopped for breakfast with Olaf at a Waffle House. Clearly from our bikes and our accents we were not from around here and we provided the mornings entertainment for the local crowd. The breakfast was damn good too! After collecting more points in Louisiana it was then onto Mississippi to the old civil war cemetery and then out to the Onward Store where Roosevelt had refused to shoot a beer. The Bonus Point required a purchase of a teddy bear and once done and the bear safely stored on bike it was off to Lake Lurleen in Alabama, stunning scenery here and the ride into the Lake was great with lots of corners to enjoy.

I had great plans of heading further eastwards but after stopping to recheck the amount of time available erred on the side of caution and turned back to Mississippi and then onto Missouri aiming for the Bubble and the Ferry. Got slightly lost in Memphis and this was not a great feeling crawling along suburbs that didn’t feel friendly. Got back onto the Interstate North as soon as I could and headed north to Missouri and Kentucky. 

Caught up with Ollie for a rest stop and we agreed to head for Bubble together. Collected Bubble in the pre-dawn darkness (along with some other riders) and then off to the Ferry. This was another rookie mistake as the ferry only ran from 7:30am and there we were at 5:00am. Nothing for it but to head north through Kentucky and this was one of those rides that will stay etched in the mind forever, the soft dawn light and winding roads through the Kentucky hills. Riding Heaven. (Not many Bonus Points mind you but riding heaven.)

Headed northwards for Liberty Bell Bonus Point then onto the Toxic Dump near St Louis. Lots of other riders now at most of the BP’s and it was great to watch the other rally participants in action, learning lots as I go. Fatigue overcame me on the Interstate in St Louis so it was an hour’s nap in a parking lot. I parked the bike in the shade and lay down in the grass. This was the best sleep and I felt rejuvenated. Rechecking the route decided to head for Rochelle, Illinois for the points on offer there before striking out for the finish point in Minnesota. The gallop north east up the Interstate went well and within 5 minutes of arriving at the town of Rochelle in Illinois the required train provided the perfect photo for the bonus points.

From here it was homeward bound, although I wanted to collect the small bonus points at New Richmond near Minnesota.  After all it was only 50 miles from Minnetonka. Had dinner with Olaf in Wisconsin and then continued northwards.  Had to stop for a nap at a truck stop about midnight as I was feeling shagged. Got going again after a 20m nap and a 5 min discussion with a local trucker.
Pulling into Richmond at 2:00am my fuel reserve light comes on and I realise I could be in trouble here. The first servo I try is closed and won’t take my credit card for fuel at the pumps. Flustered I ride out on the wrong side of the road and promptly ride the wrong way round a roundabout, realising half way round that “this doesn’t feel right”. I stop on the side of the road to regather myself and locate a servo using the GPS.  15 minutes later I’m fuelled up and see Ollie ride past looking for the same bonus point. I catch up and we both collect the points whilst being interrogated by the local Sherriff. (She was very understanding considering it was 2:30am and there were these 2 men with funny accents trying to explain what they were doing)

From here the last 50 miles to Minnetonka seemed to take an age but eventually the lights of the Sheridan came into view and I was very relieved but exuberant to pull into the same spot I had vacated 6 days earlier with approx. 50 minutes to spare.

Scoring went much better this time with no points being left on the table! I’m learning!

So having successfully completed my first multi-day rally in America I can say I had a ball! This is a great way to see the country while competing with other like-minded people, although clearly I have some work to do on my Rallying skills.

I must acknowledge the fantastic work done by Rally Masters Lisa, Bart and David. The amount of work required to organise and run a Rally like is huge. Thanks also to the other Aussies who helped and encouraged me along the way. Experienced Rally hand Ian McPhee was a very calming influence supported by Colleen. Olaf Moon was always his enthusiastic self plus there were Ox and Shane back in OZ who had provided invaluable support over the last 8 months. And last but by no means least, my partner Rebecca was there to share in the journey and the stories.

And to all those other Rally Participants who lifted my spirits along the way, either with a friendly wave as we passed or shared stories and notes at various times, Thanks!

The Aussies @ the start- Olaf and Martin share a light hearted moment while Ian readies his bike in the background

Ian, Martin & Olaf ready to go.

Ian rides out at the start of Butt Lite 7

Martin rides out at the start of Butt Lte 7. “Now where am I going?”

The enthusiastic Butt Lite 7 participants ready to go!

Austin Texas Bonus Point 2:30amish and one of my favourite photos from the Rally

The Aussies at the Finishing Banquet

Ollie is all concentration at the Finishing Banquet as the results come in!