So I am sitting here in the hotel lobby and welcome the riders entering the building. The European riders seem well, except for Giel Kerckhof, who seems to have stopped…due to a broken gear box! This is ironic, because my problem appeared when I tried to follow Giel after the start in Sacramento. After a couple of miles, we had to exit the freeway and it was there when I couldn’t shift gears anymore…we must have caught a gear box virus in Sacramento 😉

I immediately knew: “that’s it”. I had to stop for I couldn’t switch down gears. First I thought to get back to a Honda garage in Sacramento and with the help of MJ I found one – but on Mondays, services seem to be closed in the US. That’s also what Lisa Landry, the Rallymaster, had told me on the phone. After a while, I managed to use the first three gears and while back to Sacramento, I learned how to put forth and the fifth gear, carefully, avoiding to have them jump out again. One thing was clear immediately: I couldn’t ride my planned route to LA, Tucson and New Orleans. I seemed simply utter madness to cross the Mojave desert with a broken gear box. A breakdown there could get really serious. But if I could not go that route, I wouldn’t get enough points to be a finisher. So the most logic conclusion was to try to get back. First, when I only could use the first three gears, I was calculating the time I would need to get back to Toronto Airport going at 45 mph….6 days? That would do…When I managed to get the fifth gear back, I changed my objective to “Let’s try to get back to the finish line in Pittsburgh”. So I entered the Interstate 80 near Sacramento and followed it for the next four days. What kept me thinking a long time is why this happened. I still have no answer. Gear box problems of XBRs are basically unheard of. Well, my first gear box lasted 232.000 km until the second gear died. I had expected that something similar would happen one day to this gear box as well. Since I had placed it, it never had the smoothness of normal gear boxes and lately, the second gear would jump out a little bit too often. But problems with fifth AND fourth gear, out of the blue?? That doesn’t make sense. Was I riding too hard? Not really, I was going faster than usually during the rally, but in Europe, I ride a lot harder than that. The temperature was still cool in the morning, so overheating is unlikely, the oil temperature was hot, but in a normal range. I categorised this as “simply bad luck”.

A Honda never gives up: gear box sick XBR in California

A Honda never gives up: gear box sick XBR in California

In the end, I have achieved my prime objective: Arrive safely and healthy at the finish. The second objective, “be an official finisher”, I cannot meet for I could not collect more points. Well, with some detours, I could have bagged some, but it never would have been enough. So why taking a risk. The gear box still could fail completely any time. And there was also another problem: risking a total breakdown would have gotten me into a big trouble: How to drop off the bike next Monday morning at Toronto airport? This would have been a major logistic (and financial) disaster. So under the circumstances, I am happy to be here, safely and with a (more or less) running bike.

Rob Roalfe and others have mentioned that the ride back must be very frustrating. That just seems logical. The funny thing is….it wasn’t. I am surprised myself. I did everything I could do, but when force majeure happens…you only can make the best out of it. Was the whole project worth it? Yes, it definitely was. It would have been nicer to finish the rally properly, but I was already very happy to reach the second check point in Sacramento. I learned of things during this rally and it was big fun. Remember, when I had the fuel problems in the beginning, I was hoping to make it at least to the first checkpoint. By the way, these problems did not come back after I bought always top grade petrol….Things could be worse. Eric Jewell, a top rider who was also very close to win this rally many times…but never managed, was leading after leg one and two until he had a small accident during leg 3 that took him out of the rally. I am sure, he would finally won this time. THAT is tragic.

Could I have been a finisher? Yes, I think I could. But it would have been very close. There is a reason why this is called “the hopeless class”. I learned that my pace was good enough for the first leg where I did quite well. But when it came to cover big distances…the XBR is not strong enough. Not in terms of constant pace. I did obey the speed limits in the West, going at 75 mph (122 km/h), but I was constantly passed by other riders, often with a considerably higher speed. That was also the reason why I lost so many positions after the second leg. I had not done Pikes Peak that was worth 8000 points. It was a mixture of several factors: I thought it would be tougher to get there (missing experience of regional geography), I didn’t know that the difference in altitude was not that big to the top and I thought that the road was still partly unpaved (it isn’t anymore). But my considerations were correct at that time: I simply had no time! Remember, on leg 2, I did 3500 km in 37 hours (including one hour tyre change in the beginning) in one go! My calculations left simply no room for Pikes Peak. With a more powerful bike that is not subject to power loss at higher altitudes, of course I would have done it. Also because I would have got quicker to Colorado Springs in the first place. So, summarising: Leg 2 was already a hell of a ride for a XBR500, 4600 km in 59 h total time.

Leg 3 would have been similar. When I heard that the minimum points to be a finisher were set to 60.000 (I had expected 45.000), I thought “UH-OH, this will be tough”. My route that included enough points was 6200 km long, to be ridden in four days, with tricky daylight bonuses that probably required a lot of night riding to get there on time. It appears to me that this rally was maybe the toughest ever – I wonder if there will be finishers with less than 10.000 mls. Something previously unseen. I had initially estimated to do some 9000 miles, but my planned route would have forced me to go more than 10.000 mls. Well, there is a reason why it is called “the toughest motorcycle rally in the world” 😉 I am happy that I did it.

Riders are still at the scoring table. Tonight, there will the banquet and the ceremony. I’ll report about it later.

Back at the finish!

Dear all,

these are my first words since 11 days ago…I have reached the finish line despite my sick gear box. But, as you know (Skye and Hampe, does this sound familiar?) :

“A Honda never gives up until it is burning up”

Despite a sick gear box that needed very careful shifting, the XBR made it back to to finish. So far, this bike never stopped in 356.000 km and still keeps running!

I am quite tired and I need some sleep now because I have to get up early for the scoring (which will be very short 😉 ). I will write more during Friday. But first of all let me thank John for his excellent job during the last 11 days. He did this during his trip to Norway, trying to find access to internet, was woken up in the middle of the night by my status updates…..thank you very very much John, the comments posted show that your reports were very much appreciated by the many readers….maybe your writing makes you a potential successor of Bob Higdon in the future 😉 ?

As Thomas commented correctly, you shouldn’t be worried about the restaurant – it will be definetely above fish ‘n chips level 😀

Robert has sent me a quick update before hitting the sack (that means going to bed …..)

He’s had a relatively quiet 750 mile ride today.  The bike still runs perfect – apart from the gearbox.

He’s been through Nebraska, Iowa  and Illinois.  Iowa was were I lost my chain, number plate and half my chain guard back in 2011.  I wonder whether he saw it …..

He’s done his “call-in” bonus today which will increase his points tally

He says he’s tired at the end of today but he is now only 540 miles away from the end of the ride.

So as Robert will be back at the chekpoint hotel by the time the next update is due, (which I assume he will write himself), this will be my last “blog” entry.  I hope that you’ve all enjoyed reading my updates and not been too annoyed at some of the comments and thoughts that I’ve committed to text over the last 10 days or so. 

I was really honoured to be asked by Robert to keep his blog going whilst he was riding the rally and so Robert I thank for for that priviledge, admire you for your determination to finish the rally under extreme circumstances and wish you all the best as your friend ……….

TTFN

John

 

 

Robert sent me an email earlier today – except I didn’t receive it …..

So, I’ve just had a lengthy phone call bringing myself up to date with what is happening.  I should point out here, that I had to make the call and so yet again, that damn German has suckered me into paying ……  This posh restaurant he’s taking me to at the end of all of this had better be bloody good !!!!

Anyway, at the end of day 9 he finds himself in Nebraska having covered 650 miles today (that’s Tuesday in the USA).  He’s some 1300 miles from the finish now and expects to be somewhere around Chicago this time tomorrow.

Once the bike is in top gear (5th), it runs just fine but each and every time he stops to top up the bike and/or empty his bladder, then getting the bike through the gears back into 5th is a real problem.

He says that he is starting to feel weary and his knees are hurting.  That will be nothing more than the fact that now is he just limping the bike back and not under pressure any longer, the adrenalin is leaving his body.

We also agreed that the format of this rally has been particuarly tough for the “Hopelessclass” bikes.  In 2011, I got a finish with somewhere around 8500 miles.  We reckon another 1000 miles, at least, is needed to be a finisher for the 2013 event.  Not a problem on a modern bike, but a real problem for the “Hopelessclass” machines.  I notice, for example, that it already looks as though the 1978 XS1100 may not make it either – albeit for other reasons than the mere performance of the bike. 

But that’s just the issue – riding a Hopelessclass bike puts so much stress on both the machine and the rider, that the likelihood of something going wrong is just multiplied many times over compared with the riders on modern machine.

What I am pleased to say though, is that he has spent the thinking time as he makes his way back very wisely – he is already considering what bike he will buy to use in 2015 – Pepa you were right !!  You obviously know him so well 🙂

The other thing that he has said is that the gearbox failed as he was following the other Belgian “immigrant” riding in the rally, Michiel Kerkhof at a speed above what he’d set himself as his limit.  Typical – a German blaming a Dutchman for his problems ……. 🙂  🙂  Us British of course are above all of this squabbling between you Europeans ……..  Thank goodness for the English Channel ….. 🙂

He has asked me to pass on his thank to all of the readers of his blog (actually MY blog !!!) and all of the kind comments that have been posted.  He says reading them form time to time has given him great pleasure.  I have to say throughout the 2011 IBR, I received a constant stream of text messages that always gave me a lift when I read them.  No mention of what I’ve written though I notice … 🙂

Robert agrees with me that the expeience of riding in this rally has been invaluable.  Without the risk of sounding condescending, the experience of riding in the IBR is something that you simply cannot really explain – you either have ridden it and therefore understand or you haven’t and you don’t.  Robert will get to the final checkpoint of the rally, of that I’m sure.  No he won’t have enought points to get the coveted “3” digit IBA number, but he will have something actually as valuable – the experience.

Yes, it will hurt for the two years between the end of the rally and the start of the 2015 rally.  However, at the end of the 2015 rally as he collects his finishers award at the banquet, with a top ten (at least !!) placing under his belt, it will all be forgotten ….. 

With apologies to the former “Governator” of California, in 2015 “He’ll be back” !!

Right, I’ve got a days work ahead of me now ……

See ya !!!!

John

  

 

 

Just in case you were all wondering !!

Just had word from Robert that he has reached SLC again – (no, I don’t know what SLC is either !!)

5th is now working, but the gearbox is in a really bad way.  Shifting is very difficult.

He is 2000 miles away from the finish and 3 days left to complete the ride.

I really feel for Robert right now and it will take all of his mental strength to get back to Pittsburgh – but he will do it, that I’m sure.

I’m equally sure that WHEN he returns in 2015 on a modern machine, he will surprise many of our American cousins at just how well he will do.

In my opinion, he should now use the remainder of this rally (however “down” he feels) to begin the preparation for his next attempt.  He has nothing to prove to any of us further on the IBR 2013, he’s already a hero !!

 

My blog tonights was going to be about how all was going well

I received news from Robert this morning at 8.00am (midnight on Sunday in California) basically saying that in the end he had 3 hours of buffer due to my efficient rest break (finding the hotel and check in) and he also gained some time in riding.  Although he was going slow at 70-75 mph (for him that is), he was constantly passed by other riders – yes, I know how he felt …..

However, he is much faster than others at the BPs !!

In Nevada it was hot (but nowhere near as hot as the Mojave is) at around 40 degrees and although the engine oil temperature was OK, no more than 110C, his knees and thighs are getting burnt.

He acknowledged after this that he had to avoid the southwest!

As he was ahead of time, he sat down and checked the computer and then put together a route that collected at the small BPs around Sacramento and he arrived 30 minutes before the cut-off.

He had a few issues at the scoring table and with a bit of gentle persuasion got the scorers to see his point of view – he can be very persuasive …..

Once he had the bonuses, his worst fears (and mine were confirmed), the rally masters were “encouraging” riders to head into Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado – basically the Mojave Desert and just where he needed to avoid.

Eventually he figured a route that would keep him out of the worst of the heat (albeit that he was probably going to need another tyre halfway through leg 3  – I was working on that one for him) and off he set …..

But not for long ….

Basically, 5th gear failed, then any downward selection failed and then when he could get selection, 5th gear no longer worked.

At that point he wisely chose to return to Sacremento as attempting the desert leg and breaking down would be dangerous.  Back in 2011 when I hit the sandstorm, I was lucky in that my bike actually came to a halt at Kayenta – a (very) small town bult around a crossroads.  There was though shelter and more importantly water there whilst I was trying to fix the bike.  Robert might not have been that lucky.  

His plan is now to try to make it to the finishing control, picking up whatever points he can on the way – call-in bonus, rest bonus etc.  He already knows that even if he does make it back (and he’s now only got 4 gears working), he’ll not have enough points to be classed as a finisher.

That doesn’t stop him being a true hero though !!

Riding the IBR is tough.  Riding the IBR on a Hopelessclass bike is all but impossible – that’s why they’re called the “Hoplelessclass”.  I was just lucky back in 2011 that the rally format suited me and my plan.  Even then though, I was the only “Hopelessclass” bike to finish.  Non finished in 2009 and one, I think, finished in 2007 – or maybe it was the other way around.  The point is, very, very few Hopelessclss bikes succeed.

There will be other opportunties for Robert to go back to the USA and compete in the IBR an (but on a proper bike) and show them just what a rider he really is.  For now, he’s just got to limp his poorly bike all the way back across the continent ……

As news filetrs in from Robert, I’ll keep the blog updated

 

Day 6 Update

Just as we were leaving Lillehammer this morning, a text came through from our hero !!

As I need to be back home tomorrow for business meetings, I’ve had to wait until I was nearly home before finding a hotel with a computer to give this update – the things I do to cement Anglo-German relations …….

Yesterday Robert came across a sign that read “Hell is real” – he actually didn’t need to be told that as he’s actually experiencing it for real !!

Anyway, the news is that in the last 36 hours, he’s covered 2200 miles with only two short power naps.  He has all of the bonuses that he aimed for but with his rest he is now taking (well he was at 8.00 am “our” time this morning), he only has one “buffer” hour built in to ride the last 700 miles on day 7 to the checkpoint.

He has wisely chosen to avoid Pikes Peak (see my comments below as to what my thoughts were on that bonus)

Day 6 brought all kinds of weather for him including high wind and nasty rain in Wyoming.  However, by choosing a more northerly route for leg 2, he has at least kept out of the extreme heat of the Mojave Desert.  He needs to continue to avoid that in leg 3 if possible as I still worry for the little Honda if he spends too much time in 100 plus degrees …..

So tomorrow (well it’s now today for him), it’s just basically the dash for the checkpoint window.

Then it gets interesting for leg 3.  

This is where he will experience “the wall”.  I was lucky back in 2011.  I hit “the wall” just as I was taking a rest at the end of day 8.  I had pulled into a rest area, parked the bike out of sight and lay down beside it to get a couple of hours sleep.  As I lay there just beginning to doze, the thought hit me that I had been riding for 8 days solid and I was still 3000 miles away from the end of the rally (actually “ordeal”).  Before I could depress myself too much at that thought, I fell asleep and when i woke, dawn was breaking and the world all of a sudden seemed a better place and I was over it.  Robert will almost certainly have some sort of similar feeling tomorrow. He needs to find a way around the negative thoughts that will, just for a moment, flood his mind.

My last text message to him today was just to get to the leg 2 finish and then plot a nice safe route for leg 3.  Now is not the time to take chances.  He has broke the back of this challenge.  No heroics, just now finish the job.  He doesn’t need to leap across the finish line with a flourish, he just needs to cross it.

And, here’s a word of warning …..

Back in 2011, I found myself with 25 hours of the rally left, 600 miles to do and just two states to collect – Nevada and California.  Things were going great.  I had at least a 13 hour buffer zone that I had been steadily building up over the previous three days.  I could see the finishing line.  I could see the ticker tape parade that was going to greet this mad Englishman who’d taken on the IBR with his 43 year old “heap” and come through. My acceptance speech was already being put together in my head …..

Then I ran straight into some of the worst sand storms that Arizona had experienced for some 50 years.  8 of those 13 hour buffer hours disappeared in a puff of smoke (well sand actually), as I frantically tried to get my bike working again.  I really did limp my bike through that last 12 hours riding.

That’s what the IBR does to you.  It suckers you in and let’s you think you’ve beaten it.  Then it turns on you.

ROBERT – IF YOU’RE READING THIS (AND I KNOW YOU DO), TAKE NO CHANCES ON LEG 3.  I REPEAT TAKE NO CHANCES.  THAT’S NO CHANCES – UNDERSTAND ?  PLAY IT SAFE.  JUST DO ENOUGH TO FINISH THE JOB ……..

Pepa – if you could just tell him as well please …….

Next update will be from the UK.

John

PS – The first thing I have to do tomorrow at work is to explain to various clients why all of their meeting times have changed and been put back a few hours.  I was thinking along the lines of “well, you see, I was riding the1400 miles back home in one day from Norway with Sonia on the back when this mad German friend I have and whose blog I am keeping up to date whilst he rides the IBR, sent me a text which I just had to get out to people as I was crossing Germany”   What do you think ? No, I didn’t think it sounded very plausible either ….

PPS ´This one is for Robert.  You know the time we met up when you quizzed me over the IBR over that dinner ?  The dinner that I paid for when we “accidentally” found ourselves in quite possibly the most expensive restaurant in Gent ?  Yes, that one ……  Well, when all this is over, I’m expecting to find ourselves “accidentally” in a similarly expensive restaurant – and this time, it’s your turn to foot the bill !!!

Well he’s obviously taken pity on me and not sent a text message so far today telling me how day 6 fared for him

The only problem is, we need to be back home for tomorrow and as we are currently just over 1450 miles from home, we’re having to make an early start.

So, if I can and if I receive news, I’ll try and stop somewhere and post a quick update.  If not, my next blog entry will be when we’re back home in the UK.

As a matter of interest, I currently have the same problem as Robert – tyres !!

Our trip to Nordcapp was a little harder on the tyres than I anticipated resulting in what I can best describe as tyres currently bordering on something akin to racing slicks ……  Fortunately no rain is forecast for the trip home, so fingers crossed, the tyres should get me home. 

See ya !!!

At 4.00pm this afternoon (9.00am “ish” depending on exactly where Robert is), Robert stopped for an hours rest having ridden through the night.  It seems for this leg he’s staying at the “Iron Butt Hotel”.

He is now 1400 miles away from the checkpoint with 34 hours to go.

It will be tight for him, but he will do it, I know he will !!  These damn Germans are tough S.O.B.’s

As he rides into the desert he will need to keep hydrated. In 2011 Lisa Landry pulled me to one side immediately before the start of the third leg to give me this advice “when you ride through the desert, if you are not peeing at every fuel stop, you are not drinking enough”

That advice got me through my tough last leg.  I have passed the advice on to my Geramn friend ……

More later

It’s a little after 4.30 am here in Lillehammer and I`ve just learnt the news that Pepa is Roberts girlfriend !!  If nothing else, by keeping this surrogate blog for him, I`m getting to know who all of his friends and family members are ……………..

On another note, a text message from him and just woken me up – again  !!!! (for the third day running !!!! – Jeez, I feel like I`m riding the damn rally myself)

As Pepa commented, it was 3 hours out of leg 2 that he lost and so he is now preparing to ride through the night to make up some time.  Those of you who have access to his Spot will know exactly where he is right now.  For those of you that do not, all I can say is that he has 45 hours of leg 2 left and is currently 2000 miles away.

Some of you reading this blog will be already IBA  members and will be thinking 2000 miles in almost 48 hours is a relatively easy ride – it`s just two  SS1000 rides after all ……..  But Robert remember has already been on the road for 5 full days.  Each “just an SS1000” becomes ever more difficult for him.

He has just told me that he’s switched from “Comfort zone” ro “Rally Mode” due to the tyre incident.  I’ve told him to show restraint still …….

No doubt you will be thinking I’m a “bit of an old woman” in keep telling Robert to hold back.

Maybe I am, but I know what’s coming next for him and remember, although Leg 1 was a four day ride, he’s only just over a third through the rally, with the tough two-thirds still to come …..

Right, I’m back off to bed now to have the rest of my nights sleep.  Robert, on the other hand, will be heading west …….

As some of you will now know, Robert is currently lying in 36th Place.

What you will not know is that he “lost” 3 hours searching for a bike shop that could change his tyre.  His message was not clear as to whether he lost 3 hours of rest or 3 hours of the second leg.  If it`s a loss of rest, that`s not too bad.  If he has lost some time out of his second leg, then he will have to ride a little bit harder to make it up.

His messages to me already indicate that he knows that “leg 2” is “massive” (his words). 

I still have plenty of confidence in Robert, but his machine has so far had  more problems than I think he anticipated.  If he has already used one tyre in 3000 miles of north-east USA / Canadian roads, then the South west desert conditions will be equally hard on the tyres again, even though it`s slightly less miles in leg 2.  I am in contact with him regarding this and will report back just as soon as he lets me know.

He will hopefully be able to deal with the continuing fuelling issue, although hopefully it was just poor petrol.

By simply achieving what he has done already, he will have impressed many American Iron Butt riders, many of whom cannot see past a BMW or FJR for these kind of competitive rides …..  Us Europeans are already more than impressed by this mad German no matter how the IBR 2013 ends up for him !!

My confidence remains high in Robert and although the bike is clearly suffering, as I reported earlier, the fact that he has overcome them will only boost his confidence.

Okay, I should be hearing from him within the next 12 hours as to how leg 2 is progressing for him.  I will report asap …..

John  

First of all an apology.  In yesterdays blog, I mentioned excessive fuel consumption that Robert was experiencing.  That was a mistake.  It,s actually excessive tyre wear he is suffering from.  I misunderstood his text message.  That is what happens when a German in Canada is sending brief text messages to a Brit in Norway !!

Anyway, the good news is that he hit the checkpoint deadline and lost no points at the table.

In the first leg, Robert covered 3000 miles.  The bike is running ok but needs some attention now – routine stuff but this will eat into his rest period.  The tyre wear could become an issue on leg 2 where he will be running into blistering heat which takes its toll on machines.  Unless you have actually experienced the desert in New Mexico, Arizona or Nevada, it´s impossible to understand just how hot it is – 49 degrees centigrade is what I experienced back in 2011 and I suspect that is what Robert is about to ride into. 

His oil consumption so far has been close to zero – that is about to change with the heat.  In Three Days times, he´ll be very glad that he chopped the bottom of his fairing away.

Sorry this is brief – I´ve had to borrow someone´s laptop to do this report !!

When we get back to relative civilisation in Lillehammer tonight, I´ll post again 

For those of you unfamiliar with the works of Shakespeare, those are the words uttered by Hamlet when he realises his worst fears are confirmed about his fathers death.

And so it was with me on Day 3 of the IBR when I had news from Robert that one of his throttle cables had snapped.  No problem of course as he had spare cables.

Except he’d listened to all that “good” advice about ditching “stuff”.

Guess where his spare cables where ?  Yes, in that “stuff” he’d left back at the hotel.  As I said, riding a Hopeless Class bike in an IBR is a totally different experience to using a modern machine.  Moderns machines rarely fail.  “Stuff” therefore is quite correctly unimportant.

Except, Robert is not riding a modern machine ……

Fortunately, the Honda is equipped by two throttle cables and by butchering the return cable, he “bodged” enough of a repair that should see him through the rest of the leg and only lost an hour in the process. 

I’ll bet he carries all of his “stuff” with him on leg 2 – no matter what the experts say !!

Day 3 was hot for him and he again experienced fuel problems which he now believes is due to using low grade Canadian fuel meaning he’s using over twice as much petrol as normal – thank goodness for the auxilliary fuel tank.  He’s now taking a full 8 hour rest break before heading back to Pittsburgh tomorrow.

As I said earlier in the week, “competitive Robert” wouldn’t be taking an 8 hour rest break at this stage, but it’s “cautious Robert” we’re now seeing …….

My thoughts are at this stage is that he’ll just aim to get through Leg 1 and 2 safely and still be “in the hunt”.  Any heroics can wait until Leg 3.  That is a good strategy ………

Right, breakfast now for me and Sonia and then we head further south and continue to avoid the hundreds of reindeer that seem to roam freely up here.  We wouldn’t want to kill Rudolph would we ? 

Day 2 …..

Well it looks as though Canada was succesful.  Robert managed to ride 980 miles today and reports that he is on track.

And it’s finally stopped raining on him.

More importantly, he’s had his first mechanical set back when he thought the alternator had stopped working.  Fortunately, it was nothing more than a loose battery connection.  The main thing is that he’s had his first issue and overcome it.  Although there will be more (no matter how reliable a bike is, the Iron Butt Rally will “find you out”), the fact that he was able to fix it will be a huge physchological (is that how you spell it – where is a spell checker when you need it ?) boost to him.

Each set-back I had in 2011, just made me more confident that I could fix anything that occurred and I’m sure it will be the same with Robert.  I do have a concern though – it seems that he took advice to leave a lot of “stuff” back at the hotel.  That’s good advice for riders of modern machines which rarely go wrong.  Hopelessclass bikes require a different approach.  Spare clothes, yes, you can do without.  Spare parts for your bike, you cannot do without.  Let’s hope he has no more problems before he can recover his “stuff” again.

Apologies for this blog entry being late – I couldn’t find a computer anywhere last night at Nordcapp and my HTC phone refused to log onto the blog.  Now we are back some 400 miles south again, computers are more plentiful so as soon as I hear from Robert tonight/tomorrow moring, I’ll bring you up to speed. 

Day 1 ………

Well, it looks as though he’s stopped for the night in Vermont.

There’s been a lot of rain today for him, but his general direction suugests he may be heading into Canada tomorrow.

Now that could be risky.  He had problems on the 2012 Brit Butt Rally with multiple border crossings in a short space of time and the UK border control are pussies compared to the rottweilers in the US.  If that is the plan, I can only assume that there is a “big bonus point opportunity for not many miles”, which must be the attraction.

Many of the US riders seem to avoid border crossings if possible (remember that statistic about something like 80% of the USA population not even having a passport), so it may well be that the rally planners have tried to lure riders across the border with the promise of big points to get them out of their comfort zone.  If so, then there is logic to his decision – it’s still a risk though …..

Still, the main thing is that we’re heading into day 2 and he’s still going !! 

Right, well me and Sonia are off up to Nordcapp now (it’s raining here as well) so I’ll “blog” further tonight – assuming I can find a computer !!

Well with the wonders of modern technology, here am I posting on the blog about Roberts IBR ride over there in the good old US of A, whilst I am sitting in a hotel a few miles south of Nordcapp.

As you will all be aware, Robert will be some 6 hours into his ride now.  If he’s anything like I was on that last night before the rally and during the first few hours, his mind will be full of all of the things that can go wrong. 

6 hours into an 11 day rally, will undoubtedly mean he’s still shuffling in his seat trying to get comfortable !!!

This will be a whole new experience for him.  He’s done many big bike trips before, but during those, he was master of his own timetable.  If he wanted to stop, he could.  If he wanted a day off, he could.  On the IBR, those options aren’t available to you.  All he’ll be focussing on, is hitting that first leg cut off deadline. 

I have been pleased that during my chats and text messaging with him over the last few weeks, the normally ultra competitive Robert has been replaced by a Robert whose primary aim is to finish and get that important “3 digit” IBA membership number (the first 999 membershis numbers are reserved for those IBA members who have finished an Iron Butt Rally.  Since the first rall was run nearly 30 years ago, less than 600 of those memebrship numbers have been issued) .  Riding a “Hopeless Class” bike will present Robert with all sorts of issues that the riders of modern machines just will not have to face.  As reliable a Roberts Honda is, it was never built with the thought of it running virtally non stop for 11 days.  Thing will go wrong with the bike. Ultimately what will decided whether Robert comes homes with the “3 digit” number is how well he copes when they do.

Finally a quick apology – just whilst we’re away on this trip, my Blog entries may at time be a bit short and to the point.  I’ll try and post something each day as I get news, but it will not be until we are back home a week today (Monday) that I’ll be able to write much more than a rief summary of what’s happening  

OK friends, this is my last post for the next 11 days. The rally rules do not permit me to publish anything during the rally (“You’ll have no time for that!”).

I have finished my planning which I cannot reveal now. I only can say that I will go where I wanted to go, Some relaxed 4700 km in quiet surroundings…just follow my spot or if you don’t have the password, follow the public SPOT site on http://www.ironbuttrally.com. I think you will soon find out which is my tag.

You will also find the daily reports from Robert Higdon there that comment the rally every day.

And I hope that John Young will be able to entertain you until I’ll be back on air. So pop in every now and then. Yesterday, the blog received 326 hits, impressive! Thanks for your interest.

See you!

When I logged into my account, I was stunned: to this point, the blog has 239 hits today! And the day is not over yet! This topped the record back in 2011 when I reported during the Africa trip. Thanks for your interest!

I received a lot of good wishes from many friends, but also from people I don’t know…be it via the blog, in the bike parking from the many spectator, from other riders, from rally staff, or from people on the street who wave at me to stop!

I went to the Walmart today and bought some food and water. I couldn’t get a pre-paid phone card there, this was already tricky in Canada. So I will reply that the data roaming will work. I had planned so many things around my electronic farkles, but as often, I might not really use them, including the radar detector. I’ll just stick to the speed limits and that’s it.

I also bought me a E-Z Pass, a transponder for the tollways system in the Eastern States and activated it. I filled up the tanks and everything should be prepared now. I followed the advice of Jeff Earls during the rookie meeting yesterday and I will leave half of the luggage back here. The stuff is already in the panniers, and the bag including the spare tyre that I will leave here are also prepared. Maps are unfolded on the bed and the electronic devices are prepared for the routing this evening/night. At 4 p.m., there will be the rider meeting with the banquet. The riders will be presented one by one and the layout of the rally will be explained. Then the rallybooks will be handed out and the riders disappear in their rooms to do the planning of their routes for the next 4 days (leg 1). Tomorrow morning we have to be in the park at 8 a.m. and will start at 10 a.m. Leg 1 ends on Thursday, July 4th on 8 p.m., right here in Pittsburgh. There will be a bank holiday in Canada (1st) and in the USA (4th), heavy traffic is expected and the weather forecast for the Northwest predicts rain, rain, rain. I plan to take it easy and to ride some 3000 mls, the top riders will surely do some 5000 mls.

I took some pictures in the car park this afternoon:

Little XBR playing with the big boys :-)

Little XBR playing with the big boys 🙂

The bike of Ken Meese, one of the top riders and a candidate for top 3

The bike of Ken Meese, one of the top riders and a candidate for top 3

CIMG0941 CIMG0942 CIMG0943 CIMG0944 CIMG0945 CIMG0946 CIMG0947 CIMG0949

 

This morning, I had a light breakfast and started my day of registration. I got me my registration papers that should lead me throughout the day. My first stop was a video recording of my statement that I understood all the risks of the rally and was aware of all the liability issues. Second stop was at technical inspection of the bike. Apart from some comments about loose cables (that have no function) my bike was approved, also my insurance and bike documentation. Good! I am getting a lot of positive reactions about the selection of my bike, the Americans can hardly imagine you can do long distance riding with a bike with less than 1000cc. My next stop was at the camera station, my memory cards and the settings of the camera were checked. Next was the odometer check. We had to ride a 50 km route on the highway to calculate a calibration factor. During the ride, the bike went perfect. I had received a lot of friendly offers for help with the carburetor, but at the moment, there is no problem anymore. One reason more to be relaxed. I removed the fuel tube and cleaned it, just in case. Finally it was time for the compulsory rookies meeting. We made aware what is ahead of us. This will be nothing we have ever experienced before. It is challenge to ride 1 to 2-day rallies, but no comparison to 11 continuous days of about 18-20 hours riding per day. This really serious. We were presented the statistics of rookies in the last years: DNFs (did not finish), accident, hospital stays….to remind us this is no piece of cake and that the most important task is to return safely to the finish here in Pittsburgh. Anything else is less important.

In the end I had to pass the final station with some of the most important guys. My emergency information sheet was not there and also my notarised liability waver. I sent it by e-mail, but apparently they had waited for the originals. Finally, this was accepted. I sorted the issue about my Spotwalla track with Mike Kneebone, the IBA president and thanked him for his invitation in person. I had to answer final questions by Ira Agins and after asking, he told me that I was granted the status of being in the “hopeless class”. Yes! My first achievement! I will start the rally on Monday morning!

I didn’t have time to get to the Walmart again, so tomorrow it has to be. I attended a reception for all riders plus the subsequent dinner. I was with the other riders of “Team Europe” and had many chat. Tomorrow is supposed to be a relaxing day, however, I’ll be busy with the visit to Walmart, preparing my gear, my luggage that I will take with me, the luggage I will leave here…and at 4 p.m. there’s already the rider’s meeting!

It is a very warm welcome here, people are impressed that riders from other continents show up here, despite all hurdles. And a 500cc thumper get’s some extra attention, of course 😀 .

Before the storm...

Before the storm…

...the luggage also still needs to be prepared...

…the luggage also still needs to be prepared…

Many people think that the poster shows the (still unknown) motto of the rally: planes, trains and cars.

Many people think that the poster shows the (still unknown) motto of the rally: planes, trains and cars.