So the riders have taken off. Eleven long days are ahead of them. Eleven days of happiness, frustration, surprise, soaring muscles, boredom, euphoria and pure joy. As the famous quote says: “you don’t know what the Iron Butt Rally is like unless you have ridden it.” True. It’s difficult to explain, but it is definitely an experience of a lifetime.
Two years ago, the riders had to gather at 8 a.m. in the bike park. Two hours of agony before we could take off. Last preparations…did I think of everything? It was raining and some bike were under some rain covers. I wondered why bikes that will go on a 11.000 miles adventure needed to be sheltered from the rain….another culture shock was the provision of ice cubes…riders put them in their big water jugs on their bikes. At high temperatures…OK! But it was rather cool and raining…weird. I put on my flashy yellow rain suit and together with my fluorescent helmet I stood out of the crowd in the last minute rider meeting. Some guys were laughing at my sight but I knew that I would stay dry the whole day. The other riders in their Roadcraft suits probably wouldn’t…
We had been instructed to leave immediately then the finger would be pointed at us, because the whole pack should leave within four minutes. The police would stop the traffic for us, and the start should be very quick. So it was 10 a.m. and the riders that had participated in the “hair cutting contest – oh my dear!” were out first. You’re nervous when it’s your turn and don’t want to cock it up…finally Warchild’s finger pointed at me – wrooooom! What? No propulsion? Ah, The bike was in neutral gear! And with an enormous “WHACK!!!” I hammered the first gear in its position. Off I went! Through an applauding crowd, through lines of policemen keeping the traffic stopped. A special moment.
From the first day, I remember rather little. It was partly raining and rather cool. I went on not so crowded roads in Pennsylvania, New York and Vermont. I learned soon that there was a huge difference with Europe: when riding on highways, there were no parkings where you could stop and empty your bladder….After the first bonus point location ( an old locomotive), I couldn’t hold it for longer and I disappeared in the high grass…..ouffffff. I visited some locations and enjoyed the countryside roads, especially in Vermont. I had a lot of pressure during the whole day for I wanted to visit a location before sunset and there was little time to spare. I was pushing for the whole afternoon, but in the end I arrived with the last sunlight…but I found out that the access was closed already….aaargh! I rode along the site and could see the boat from the distance. This should do. However, it was getting dark very quickly and I needed a lot of shots before I had an acceptable picture of the boat and my rally flag. 5 minutes later, it was pitch dark…..I put some petrol and finally could have snack. I checked my next locations and decided that I better stayed in this town for I needed to go to some remote places and it didn’t make sense to do this at night. So I checked in a hotel and had a good rest for a couple of hours. I took it easy, I knew that the first leg would only be a snack compared to what was ahead of us and I wanted to sleep a lot to be fresh for the second leg.