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Sun Aug 11, 2013 11:25 pm
Leg 1        

IBR'13 - Leg One

Places To Go - Things To Do

After watching the '09 and '11 rallies unfold. I had decided that I would approach the '13 IBR with a relatively easy first leg. I would maximize my rest and minimize bonus collection, collecting just enough to maintain a track for finisher status. If previous rallies were any indication the points on the first leg would be relatively low compared to the second and third legs. We already knew that the second leg would be a relatively straight shot across the center of the country and we suspected the third leg would give the riders a southern and northern option to return to Cranberry Woods. Of course the devil's always in the details.

The first bonus pack was handed out Sunday evening, the first riders would be departing at 10 am Monday. We had a lot of off the clock time to develop a route. Most riders retired to their rooms to begin planning. I was no exception, I was eager to attempt to put into action what I knew was one of my weakest rally skills, data entry. I've attempted several different methods but I had not come across a way to quickly enter the data from the rally pack to into my routing software - BaseCamp. By 10 pm I had the data entered the way that I wanted.

Several things were very apparent from looking at the bonus pack.
The major bonuses required you to interact with the bonus to collect the points. Which would add time to each bonus stop.
The major bonuses were daylight only (even though sunset was close to 9 pm) or time restricted by open hours. This would be a major factor in attempting to reach multiple major bonuses
Leaving out Key West and New York City. There were four anchor points in the North East US and South East Canada.

Figure One shows I visualized Leg One. To maintain a score that would allow for finishing we were told that we would need roughly 14,000 points.

1,000 points were available for the call-in bonus
1,000 points were available for tracking or fuel-log bonus
1,920 points were available for the rest bonus

We needed roughly 10,000 points to stay on track. I quickly focused on the western and central bonus locations. They were relatively close together and comprised 10,700 this gave me a fair buffer and roughly 2500 miles to cover in 82 hours. That's a pretty slow pace I should have plenty of time for rest.

My thoughts on the other bonus clusters:
Florida - 5,000 points, the only other points that were viable were the PA Turnpike and Washington DC. At roughly 8,000 points total it didn't appear to be a viable cluster.
New York City - I just didn't want to ride there. Even though it appeared that we could reach there in low traffic periods.
PA Turnpike - In order to efficiently get all the points you needed to ride the turn pike in both directions, other wise you'd leave half the points on the map.
The North East - It was enticing but, the bonuses were spread out over many miles and it didn't play into my take it easy strategy. Still I considered it several times. I figured the leaders would make a run at the south west and north east anchors passing through the center.

Weather was the last factor to impact my route decision. There were Thunder storms passing through the North East, but they hadn't too bad around Cranberry. Locally there was heavy rain but it was confined to relatively small areas. Still the shaft drive bikes had the advantage in wet conditions. Lot's of rain would mean that I'd be spending more time on chain maintenance than I really wanted. If possible I tried to avoid it. The weather was moving South West to North East and looked to be almost clear on the South West Bonus anchor. So that would be my plan head to the South West conner and leave the wet stuff for other folks.

The big bonus in the South West was the Henry Ford Museum. No matter what your ride strategy was, missing the Museum would mean that you'd need to cover a lot of ground to make those points up ... It was a must get bonus. It was however a potentially tricky bonus as it required that you take 25 photos of specific items in the museum and it closed at 5 pm. I allotted 2 hours to complete the bonus. My best guess was that it was reachable on the first day but I may not have time to complete the bonus which would mean that I would have wasted a bunch of time. I opted for a more conservative strategy and decided to reach it in the morning on a return route. That would allow me to clean up the south west bonus anchor and position myself for a daylight shot at he North West anchor. From there it was a straight shot to the central bonuses and an easy ride back to the museums in the south west. Lastly I could pick off the bonuses around Cranberry as time allowed.

By 0930 on the 1st everything was packed or stowed in the hotel storage I was checked out and ready to go. The sky's were over cast and light drizzle was coming down. The parking lot was full of people but it was eerily quiet or maybe I was lost in my thoughts about getting on the road. As we received our last instructions the rain fell just a bit harder. At precisely 10 the first riders left ... to the cheers of the large crowd gathered to send us off. The police had blocked traffic for us so at least getting to the freeway would be minimally hazardous.

I was in the last 25% of the riders to get the signal to go. Jon Good and Ande Bergmann a two up couple that I rode in the 2012 LowCal 250 (the first rally for all three of us, I think) were immediately in front of me and Irish-Phil O'Conner who rode the '13 BMR was immediately behind me. I was at least in good company.

I headed west on I-76 the rain falling at a steady rate but not hard. My first bonus stop was two hours west. It was an easy "get a bonus under belt bonus." The "Amish Horse and Buggy ATM" in Wellington, OH. The rain had all but stopped by the time I turned off I-76. I was dry grabbed the bonus photo, it was worth more in confidence points than bonus points, but it felt good to have it done. I was off headed to my second bonus.

Merging onto I-80 the rain started falling again., lightly at first but gaining intensity as I approached Toledo. I checked XM weather on my Garmin. It appeared that the rain was heavy for about 60 miles centered on Toledo. I continued on into heavier rain and learned that my jacket wasn't as waterproof as I would have liked. Also my waterproof gloves were holding the run off from my sleeves pretty well. I hadn't filled my gas tank prior to the start. I was pretty soaked and looking for an excuse to pull over so I pick the toll plaza just West of Toledo. As I filled my tank and shot some lube on the chain. I noticed that an IBR Motorcycle was parked no rider in sight. I headed into the toll plaza to see if they needed assistance but couldn't find them. I learned later that they were experiencing some electrical problem. No doubt the rain didn't help. I checked XM weather again and could see I that the rain would stop in about 20 miles. I made the decision to press on rather than wait for it to let up. The rain got heavier traffic was slowed to about 30 mph and visibility was down to less than 100 ft. It was the second heaviest rain that I had ridden in. XM weather was spot-on and in 20 miles the rain had stopped. The rain had done it's job it and added about one hour to my second bonus, the "Rail Speed Record Marker" in Bryan OH. It was another easy bonus take the photo and go. 50 minutes later the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Automobile
Museum in Auburn IN, would prove just as easy. This is a place that I made a mental note to come back to and spend some time. At each stop i had made so far another rider or two would pull in just after me. That gave me some reassurance that so far things were going ok. There hadn't been any rain since Toledo but as I was leaving Auburn the tornado warning siren went off. I grew up in South West Michigan so it was a familiar sound. It sure didn't look like tornado conditions but wasn't going to stick around to find out if it was a test.

An hour and half later bonus number four got checked off. The Harriet Quimby Memorial Plaque this was the first bonus that I hadn't spotted another rider at, it was 1730. I was pleased with my decision to hold off on the Henry Ford Museum. I had one last bonus for the day the Underground Railroad Monument, in Battle Creek MI. After grabbing that bonus. I had a pleasant ride north to Mackinaw City. I'd get some rest there and stage myself for a shot at the Mackinaw bridge at first light.

The ride north was pleasant the over cast sky gave way to a clear blue. I'd forgotten how light it stays in summer in the northern part of the country. It didn't get really dark until 2200, when it occurred to me that I was dead center in the heart of white tail country. Having had two close encounters with deer during my BMR practice runs I was a bit on edge.

I rolled into Mackinaw City about 2330, stopping at the first motel with a vacancy sign. The sign in the window that indicated that I should call a number to have someone come to the front desk should have been a clue for me to move on but I dialed anyway. The clerk came from one of the rooms in PJ's, another clue to move on. After getting a room and opening the door, much to my surprise there was already someone staying in it. Back to the front desk ... dialed the number again. The clerk can back apologized and gave me the free up-grade? to the honeymoon suite. You already know what this room looks like ... kingsized bed with obligatory rose petals and champagne. Large jacuzzi tub in the center of the room. Oh well I'd only be here five hours and it did give me plenty of room to lay things out, clean them from the days rain and repack, allowing me to get everything in a optimum position now that I had at least the first days ride done.

5 AM took its sweet time coming around. I woke at 4:30 with out the assistance of an alarm. Packed and headed for the Bridge. The bonus shot was on the north side of the bridge. It was still dark so i wasn't in a particular hurry. Another rider was headed for the bridge as I was pulling on to the street. It took longer to find the park on the north side of the bride than I had planned. I don't think he toll operator had his coffee yet and it took me a couple of minutes to extract my change from him. Maybe tipping toll operators is a custom in Michigan these days but none the less I wasn't going to tip $16 on a $4 toll. Upper Peninsula shenanigans behind me, I got the shot at sunrise and continued North to Sault Ste. Marie.
Crossing the boarder into Canada I caught up with two other riders. Third in-line my crossing went quickly. No real questions, just a "keep it moving" form the Canadian Customs agent. I guess the riders in front of me cleared the way. The Bush Plane Museum was less than a quarter mile from the boarder crossing. At 7:00 Am on a tuesday there's not a lot of traffic in Sault Ste. Marie. I got the impression that there's never a lot of Traffic in Sault Ste. Marie. Bush Planes that's an odd theme for a Museum but cool and another place I'd like to visit in the future.

The weather was perfect for riding, low 60's light cloud cover. Day two was shaping nicely. The Trans-Canadian Highway marker was an hour north. The ride was spectacular. Passing near Lake Superior we had some great views of the lake and traveled through a stretch of Moose Crossings. I was glad to be on this section of road in daylight. Five or six riders passed me heading south, which gave me some motivation to pick up my pace a little. The Trans-Canadian Highway marker was missing from its stone mounting so after a call to rally HQ to receive clarification on the bonus, I snapped the photo of the stone monument, sans marker started my longest bonus transit so far. An eight hour transit to the Big Chute Marine Railway following Hwy 17 East and Hwy 69 South.

I passed two or three riders headed north to the Trans-Canadian Highway marker which gave me the feeling that I was roughly mid-pack on this leg which put me in good shape. Both Hwy 17 and Hwy 69 were two lane with limited passing and traffic was moving about 5-10 miles/hour over the limit. I did catch-up with with the Red Norge several times before he'd drop me on a pass and disappear. We played leap frog until I stopped for fuel and a quick bite in Greater Sudbury. I'd catch up with him again later in the evening. I meet up with Jon and Ande at the Big Chute Marine Railway. Jon gave me a hand not only finding the photo location but he also saved me from losing my keys as I had dropped them after I took a bonus photo. The Railway is very cool and I lingered here long enough to see it carry a boat form the upper lock to the lower, 60' below.

Energized by my last stop I made a quick trip to the Kirkfield Lift Lock. I tried to make a quick get away but the Lock operator was leaving for the day and had questions about why all the motorcycles were stopping to take photos of the Lock. We had a good conversation form which I gathered that a number of riders had been to the Lock on the previous day. They must have taken a path straight north through Niagara Falls. The time was 1650 I had plenty of time to make my goal., an 8 hour rest stop starting at midnight in Niagara Falls. I also knew that I wouldn't make the bonus at the Canadian Automotive Museum which closed at 1700. No matter it was a low point value bonus and only on my route because I was passing it in transit to Niagara Falls. It didn't have enough points to make me reconsider my plans.

The ride the the Canadian Canoe Museum and the Robert McLaughlin Memorial Plaque were pleasant. Riding mostly secondary roads through rolling country-side wheat and corn farms. Just before arriving at the Robert McLaughlin Memorial Plaque I meet the Red Norge headed north. He was looking for fuel. I let him know that I had passed a station about 4 miles back. At 1900 I had gathered my last bonus for the day. I was headed for Niagara Falls. I had five hours to get there and it was two hours away ... through Toronto on Hwy 401. I made a point of stopping for an extended hot dinner at a Swiss Chalet Rotisserie & Grill. Hum a Canadian Denny's, only better or maybe I was just hungry after dining on Cliff and Kind Bars for two days. If you've ever been through Toronto on the 401 you certainly have my sympathy. the 401 is a system of express and collector lanes that is just plain confusing. Fortunately it was around 2000 my understanding was that traffic was very light as I passed through. I've read others descriptions of near death experiences during the IBR.

I arrived a the Niagara Falls Hampton Inn around 10 pm. If I was staying for eight hours I didn't want to do it in the honeymoon suite again. My next planned bonus the Whirlpool Aero Car wasn't available until 9 am. and it was walking distance from the hotel. I had a relaxing night.

Day 3 had an easy plan. Ride from Niagara Falls to Detroit and set up for a first opportunity to capture the Henry Ford Museum Bonus. Less than 500 miles, but i'd be bouncing back and forth across the boarder and spending a good bit of time in downtown Detroit. There was certainly plenty of opportunities to have my paced slowed to near zero. I got plenty of sleep and arrived at the Whirlpool Aero Car bonus around 0830 and had to find things to do at the hotel prior to departing. I was the second to arrive and over the next 20 minutes another 4 riders arrived. We had an interesting ride on the Aero Car and received a view of Niagara Falls that none of us probably would have never stopped to see. Our guide was very accommodating and did her best to deliver her canned pitch on the whirlpool but since all the passengers were IBR riders it was apparent we were mostly interested in getting a photo and heading on our way. We ended up discussing the rally with her as much as she discussed the whirlpool. Off the Aero Car and headed back to the parking lot several other riders were arriving in the parking lot to claim the bonus. A shorter gentleman on a GS Adventure was pulling into the spot next to the Ninja. I should mention that the parking lot was on a hill, it wasn't a particularly steep hill but there was a definite slope to it. I was almost back to the Ninja when the GS disappeared behind it and I heard an all too familiar clunk followed by a second clunk. Several of us who were near by ensured the rider was ok, the second clunk was his helmet hitting the pavement. He was fine, we righted the GS ... it appeared to be ok as well. a couple of farkles were dislodged but there wasn't any damage that couldn't be repaired with zip ties or bungie cords and maybe some solder.

I headed West on the 401 to the my next bonus the Oil Museum of Canada. The weather was good with scattered thunder storms predicated. As I exited the 402 to head to the Museum a light rain started to fall. A couple of miles south in Wyoming, ON the clouds opened up and large drops came down in a deluge. By the time I was out of town the had completely stopped. I had a good bike washing but not much more. I again was very pleased with my tire performance on wet pavement. I arrived at the Oil Museum around 1245 and found the first commercial oil well in Canada snapped the photo. I stopped a moment and marveled that this well was really just a shallow hand dug hole and a bucket suspended on a pulley.

I skirted the localized rain I passed through on my way to the museum and rejoined the 402 headed for the Port Huron boarder crossing. There was a slight back up at the boarder but It only took about 10 minutes to reach the US CBP agent. I spent another ten minutes talking with the agent but I knew I'd be awhile when the first question he asked was "Did you know that your motorcycle is registered in California?" At that point I turned off my engine and tried to explain concept of motorcycle rallies. I don't know if he ever believed that I was from California or not but after repeating everything twice I think he gave up and sent me on my way. Good thing I hadn't planned on a big mile day and had lot's of cushion.

I was headed to Flint, MI and the double bonus Buick Gallery & Research Center and Sloan Museum. As I made the final turn off I-69 onto I-475 Josh Mountain passed me headed to the exit. I passed him again as it was clear he was searching for the turn that I had already spotted and followed me into the Buick Gallery & Research Center bonus. He was much more efficient than I was and was departing the Sloan Museum as I entering. It was at this point that I realized that the bite valve on my camel back had come off at some point and my camel back was empty. It was quarter to 3, I was well ahead of schedule. It took an hour to locate a sporting goods store with replacement Camel back parts. Back on schedule with no chance of making the Henry Ford Museum a day early. Id'stick to my originally planned route.

I ran into Marc Beaulac at the Dossin Great Lakes Museum taking a photo of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald memorial on Belle Isle. I remember Belle Isle from the 1970's it was a crowded and vibrant park. It was eerily vacant has I traveled around it following the path of the Detroit Gran Prix.

It was 5:30 pm I had two more bonuses for the day, the remaining Underground Railroad monuments. One on the Detroit side, one on the Ontario Side. Both would prove to be a challenge to get. The one in Detroit proved to be a challenge locating. It was the first bonus that I couldn't see from the street. I knew I had an issue when my Garmin indicated that I should "take a right on trial" ... the trail was the side walk. I'd park and walk a short distance ... the good news was that Detroit is mostly abandoned. Rush hour traffic was very light.

The Ontario bonus was difficult for two reasons. The people that were in Detroit were all attempting to get back to Ontario. both the Windsor Tunnel (no-motorcycles allowed) and Ambassador Bridge had significant delays. No sweat It was still early and I probably had several hours of daylight. Marc Beaulac and met on the bridge and spent 20-30 minutes chatting as we waited to get to the boarder crossing. Again the boarder agent wanted to discuss why I was so far from California. When I mentioned I was sight seeing and wanted to photograph some of the art work in Ontario, he was incredulous that I would ride a motorcycle from California to take photos of statues in Ontario. That got me a visit to the secondary inspection and a wait in line. I spent another 30 minutes while they looked at my passport and asked questions about my recent trip to Turkey. Eventually I made it to the Underground Railroad memorial got the photo and headed back to the US. It was early I was spending the night at the Double Tree in Detroit roughly 3 miles form the Henry Ford Museum. There were maybe 20 guests at the Hotel that night ... which was a little creepy since it was a 700 room hotel. At least it was quite, and the chef wasn't rushed fixing me a steak salad. I had another relaxing evening. This Iron Butt Rally was going surprisingly ... cushy.

Day 4 I'm up early again. This time for a good reason, the Double Tree has a great hot breakfast and my coffee intake has been significantly curtailed over the past 3 days. At any rate I was out early and arrived a the Henry Ford Museum by 9:00. The bonus window wasn't open until 9:30 so I spent some time looking around and speaking with the docents. 9:30 came and the doors opened I had corralled two docents who were by now very familiar with what needed to photographed. They walked me from point to point and I had all 25 photos in 30 minutes. My concerns about crowds were unsubstantiated, maybe folks had other plans on the 4th of July ... so now I'm about two hours ahead of schedule. The Henry Ford Museum really is spectacular and deserves more than 30 minutes but I was on the clock and wanted to capture as many of the clean up points around Cranberry as I could.

I made the best time I could to Erie PA to photograph the US Brig Niagara at the Erie Maritime Museum. For the first time in the rally I met Mark Starrett we got the bonus photo from opposite sides of the ship and didn't see each other again. until Leg three.

It was 1430 and I was about 90 minutes from the checkpoint. At this point I started working on how many turnpike bonuses I could pick off. I calculated that I could make the Johnstown Inclined Plane and probably three toll plazas after getting Drake's Oil Well. All of them would add 2000 points to this leg. The Ride to Drakes Oil Well was pleasant. The sky were partly cloudy and the temperature was in the 60's. the roads were secondary roads with posted limits between 45 and 55, through rolling wooded hill country. In the last mile headed to the well I was coming down hill on Drake Well Rd two other IBR Riders were approaching an intersection coming from Drake Well Park. I don't remember but I think the intersection was un controlled. I started to slow when I noticed the lead rider had come to a stop, which apparently surprised the trailing rider as he cam to a quick stop on an down slope angled incline. He was on a large GS Adventure and you guessed it over he went. I made a quick u-turn stopped and assisted him in righting the bike. Not too much damage however, his left foot peg had snapped off. That would make shifting tricky. He was ok and I continued to the Bonus. The folks at the Museum were very nice and weren't charging riders admission, they also pointed us to the bonus location. As I was headed out to the Ninja. The rider with the broken foot peg was making a field repair swapping his rear foot peg for the rider's ... nice that BMW's have exchangeable pegs.

I made my way to the Diamond Plum Pennsylvania Turnpike Plaza. I needed to make several purchases before I obtained a receipt that identified the toll plaza. I got on the bike and headed for then North Somerset Pennsylvania Turnpike Plaza. The weather looked ominous to the east. I checked the XM Weather and there was a large red cell over the plaza as well as the Johnstown Inclined Plane. With heavy rain and lighting over the next bonus I made a decision to call the leg early and drop those stops. I made the Turn and arrived at the check point with two hours left on the clock.

Leg one was complete, I had ridden the leg on plan and was generally pleased with the performance of the bike and my ride. I was in 58th place with 15,518 points having ridden 2276 miles. I was well rested and ready for leg two.

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