Vancouver Dave (guest) View all posts in this topic  
Thu Aug 14, 2003 2:08 pm
Re: Point taken        

Here's Higdon's take on the situation, which i somewhat paraphrased above:
Albuquerque, New Mexico
August 13, 2003
Day 2

Go West, Young Man, Or Maybe East

The first leg of the 2003 edition of the Iron Butt Rally followed
a typical format with its route instructions. Thirty-three bonus listings
spread over nine pages invited the riders to figure out the most efficient
and effective way to pile up points between Missoula, Montana and Primm,
You might think that there is a fairly good correlation between
efficient riding and a high finishing position. There isn't. More than
any other factor, a winning ride almost invariably correlates with total
miles ridden. There's no getting around it: Efficiency looks great, but
sloppy most often takes home the bacon. Never forget, however, that
fatigue can easily give it all back. The dynamics are complex.
After the first leg the points-per-mile efficiency of Eric Jewell
and Bob Cox was almost the same (2.12 v. 2.11), but Jewell stood in first
place while Cox was 60th. The difference was that Cox had ridden a very
short, controlled route while Jewell was all over the map, racking up 621
more miles than Cox. A rider with an excellent efficiency is smart; a
rider with big points is an animal; a rider with both is the guy to beat in
the Iron Butt.
But the bonus instructions are not always so straightforward. In
1993 Mike Kneebone handed out not one but two sets of instructions for a
single leg. He called it "Pick Your Poison." Both sets of route
instructions went from Point A to Point B, but one set was dramatically
more difficult than the other. You didn't have to decide which route to
follow, but if you began picking up bonuses from Poisoned Route #1, you
couldn't grab any from the other route.
It sounds somewhat worse than it was. The tough route was clearly
for those who had aspirations of winning the event; the simpler set of
instructions was for everybody else. Most entrants realize that they have
no realistic chance to win this rally. Being selected in the drawing for a
starting number was more luck than they ever should have had. They had
jumped to the head of a line of more than 2,100 hopefuls. For almost
everyone the mere fact of being able to participate in such an amazing
circus is sufficient. There are rides with some friends in the country;
there are cross-country rides that can last weeks; you may take rides to
foreign lands. And then there is the Iron Butt, the big one. Winning it,
except for a couple of dozen heavies with the thousand-yard stares, isn't
why they're there. Finishing it is.
For the second leg on this year's IBR from Nevada to Florida,
Kneebone turned up the heat to a degree that was clearly uncomfortable for
more than a few of the riders. Instead of having the opportunity to check
out bonuses in a single set of route instructions or having the chance to
compare two sets of route instructions and decide which might be more
suitable, at 11:00 p.m. PDT last night The Evil Lord Kneebone forced the
lambs to select one of two possible routes out of Nevada without first
being able to look at either of them.
It was a variant on a theme from the original "Matrix" film. The
rider would pick a colored pill, red or blue, and once having done so, his
future would be fixed for the next several days. The riders had been
gathered together in a huge showroom. Kneebone walked up to the
stage. They stared at him uneasily.
"In that movie," he began, "the blue pill made your life fairly
easy and safe, but it wasn't reality. If you needed reality, with all its
sordid, downside risks, you'd take the red pill. Your life would
immediately become hard, dirty, tiring, nasty, brutish, and short. But it
was in the tradition of True Iron Butt. And it will be the route that the
winner of this rally will take. Any questions?"
A hand was raised. "Is there any way the blue pill route can win?"
"Yes," Mike said. "If every single rider on the red pill route
crashes, breaks down, goes home, is time-barred at the next checkpoint,
develops tertiary syphilis, or is abducted by aliens, it is theoretically
possible that a rider on the blue pill route could win. Still, I view it
as unlikely."
There it was. You want to win? Pick that red pill. You say you
don't have a clue where it could take you? Well, Kneebone spent the next
twenty minutes trying to assure the quaking riders that most of the rumors
they'd heard during the months leading up to the event were
baseless. Yeah, one option was the road to Goose Bay, Labrador, but it
wasn't worth taking. No, the winning route wouldn't require slogging
through 15,000 miles of corrugated dirt roads. Yes, rallymaster Lisa
Landry had gone to every major bonus aboard her massive Gold Wing, and if
she can do it, stop telling me that you can't.
The long and short of it was that taking the blue pill would
guarantee a nice, easy ride from Las Vegas to Florida via the top of Mt.
Evans in Colorado (the highest paved road in the U.S.) or via the bowels of
Carlsbad Caverns. The average motorcyclist would view either of such trips
as the mother of all rides; for the Butt entrant, it was not much better
than an also-ran. Me? I'd have kicked my own mother down the stairs for
one of those blue pills. Let's be realistic, OK?
Lisa and Mike arranged to have the riders approach the stage
single-file, declare their preference of pill color, and accept
one. Having done so, they were directed to return to the chairs in the
audience. The chairs to the left of the stage were for red pill holders;
those to the right for blue. I later asked Mike how he and Lisa had
arrived at this structured kind of dance.
"People are constantly telling me that they're ready to go to
Prudhoe Bay or Cabo San Lucas or the Isles Beneath the Wind. Talk is
cheap. Half the people who declared they were going to Alaska in 2001
never went near the place. I thought it was time for them to decide in
advance whether they were big dogs or not. The red pill will win. I told
them that. The blue one won't. You want that red sucker, not knowing
where it will take you? Here it is, Jack, and good luck."
All in all, they had about two hours to consider the odds. Then
they were lined up and fed up to the stage one by one where Lisa waited
with the two bowls of pills.
"Red or blue?" she asked repeatedly.
Kneebone dotes on this sort of drama. It's the most obvious kind
of cheap, staged effect, from the Greeks to Jolson. I tell him that these
poor bastards are tired, frazzled, and crazier than rats in a coffee
can. They don't need to stand in a line like this, I plead. They need to
be lying down in a manger somewhere, loaded up with 200mg of Ambien and
Prozac, dreaming of bunnies hopping through a green meadow. You're
prolonging their nightmares, I say. Have you no sense of shame, sir? He
chuckles sadistically.
When the ceremonies were concluded, just 33 of the still-standing
110 riders held red pills in their sweaty fists. Thirty-four had initially
picked red, but Rob Nye, a BMW MOA club director, chugged back to the stage
just before bonus packages were handed out and begged for the chance to
exchange his red pill for something milder. Landry granted his wish.
Today 77 riders are on their way to Florida, while 33 of their
friends have gone in the opposite direction to the western slopes of the
Sierra Nevada mountains in California. There they will receive further
instructions. Pain is on the horizon, I fear. Stay tuned.

Bob Higdon

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