I have always admired those who have done the Iron Butt. Even as a younger man, I fondly thought of doing the IB, even while riding my crotch rockets and racing in CCS and WERA. Having switched from crotch rockets to a sport touring motorcycle, Concours 14, last year, the idea of doing endurance riding become something of a more realistic possibility. I am surely in no way in the region of an Iron Butt rider, but that Saddle Sore thing seems doable. Hmmmmmmm…….
May 31, 2012
My Girlfriend, Kate, took up riding last year. She had a rebel 250 for about 5 minutes, and then moved on to a BMW F800ST, whom she calls Snot Rag. Don’t ask. We bought this bike from Max BMW in CT, http://www.maxbmwmotorcycles.com, last Memorial Day weekend. Kate put nearly 8,000 miles on Snot Rag between Memorial Day and November, when she had an encounter with a ditch outside of a corner. Terrifying experience for both of us, and she broke 4 ribs. While she was in the hospital for the second time, yes second, I offered that if she wanted to give up riding, I was OK. Her response? “Get my bike fixed, I wanna ride”. THAT is the definition of a keeper.
Since Max BMW puts out a great e-flyer every week or two, we became aware of the Minute Man 1000, a combination rally and Saddle Sore event. Perfect! An organized event, with a laid out route, built in witnesses and time keepers. It doesn’t seem like there is an easier way to do this, if you can use the word easy in relation to this type of activity. That is, until Procrastinator Man (queue theme music, maybe Low Rider by WAR) enters the picture. Procrastinator Man is my arch nemesis, and he looks suspiciously like me. I think I have a doppelganger.
Anyway, registration for the even closed on May 22. On May 31, I decided I wanted to register, went to the site www.minuteman1000.com, and saw the deadline was well past. Since Kate and I were not in it for the Rally, just the Saddle Sore, I thought I would take a shot and ask the Rally Master if we could somehow be allowed in, just for the witnesses and course, basically. Here is a summary of our email conversation:
Me: Is there any way my GF and I can sneak in for the SS?
Rally Master (RM): Registration is closed. No.
Me: Cool, hope it rains.
RM: WTF? You suck, Procrastinator Master is an SOB. I put these things on all the time. You can’t even register on time, but want special treatment. I hate you, your family….it went on for about 400 words, but you get the drift.
Me: And you get a flat tire.
RM: GAAAHHHHH!!!!! I hate you even more now.
(Some time passes)
RM: I changed my mind. You can register. I don’t think you can do it.
Me: You are just messing with me, in the hopes I will come up there and you can laugh, or punch me in the nose.
RM: Damn. You are on to me. OK, you really can register.
Me: Sweet. Take that Procrastinator Man! Biff, Pow, Socko!
So, Kate and I end up registered for the event and we are good to go.
June 6, 2012
At some point in time after we registered, it became clear that Saddle Sore riders could and would be participating in their own rally within a rally. This was for SS riders only, but used the same bonus point locations as the regular rally guys. Bad news. Besides my doppelganger, Procrastinator Man, I also have an alter ego, Mr. Competition Guy (Journey’s “Don’t stop believing” theme song, not sure why). Mr. Competition Guy cannot just enjoy an activity. He has to turn any activity into a competition, even with himself. And God help the weak and timid of this earth if there is an actual competition going on that he is part of.
Mr. Competition Guy used to make much more frequent and intense appearances. I have managed to rein him in, like Bruce Banner and the Hulk. You know, the Hulk still appears, but sometimes he is in full rage mode, and sometimes Bruce is in charge. I am at the stage where Anthony is in charge or Mr. Competition Guy, but only somewhat.
So with the perfect combination of Procrastinator Man aggravating the Rally Master, and Mr. Competition Guy seeing an opportunity to flex his muscles, a path of destiny began to appear. Win the Saddle Sore class in the Rally. It had to be. It was the only way to redeem myself, I mean Procrastinator Guy, in the eyes of the Rally Master, as I saw it.
So, I got my geek on and researched everything I could about the art and science of doing an efficient rally. The first, and most important part, was the Saddle Sore. It is 1,000 miles in 24 hours. I knew I could do that. That is just a question of mental toughness. Mr. Competition Guy helps me in that area.
There were several very useful articles on how to plan an efficient route, how to make good stops, outfitting you and your bikes, etc. If I were a better person I would have bookmarked those and provided them here, but Procrastinator Man has other flaws, and bad record keeping is one of them.
On Wednesday, June 6, we were emailed the rally bonus point locations. Using a combination of Streets and Trips, Excel and Basecamp, I spent several hours laying out routes that were as efficient as I could make them, with the most bonus points. There were several bonuses along the route that I skipped as they were not worth the points to time ratio. For instance, a bonus can take you x minutes off your intended route; you need to take a picture, or do an activity, then record it in your rally book, and be on your way. Well, a bonus worth 2,000 points that will take 10 minutes total (200 points per minute), is not as valuable as a bonus worth 6,000 points that will take 15 minutes (400 points per minute).
So I came up with several routes, each encompassing between 1050 and 1150 miles. All coming in at 18 hours of riding, give or take, which allowed for 6 hours of fuel stops, rest bonus (major points for staying in one place for 2 hours) and riding breaks. The routes came up to 100-120K in points, before any extra bonuses.
I modified all my stops in Streets and Trips to allow for bonus execution, fuel stops and the 2 hour rest period. When I redid my calculations, it was close. I was at 23.5 hours total travel time. Any mess ups or delays, and I would have to bail on certain bonuses. So I built in go/no go decision points into my routes. So if I was at a certain point and it was later than X, I knew what I had to skip in the future to make up the time, to get back on schedule.
Kate put in her route in about 15 minutes with some bonus stops along the way. Silly girl. (More on this later)
OK, Me, Kate, Procrastinator Man and Mr. Competition Guy are all ready to go.
The Trip Up
June 8, 2012
We both take Friday, June 8 off, to ride up, get checked in, do the odometer check, etc. We posted on the MM1K forums and picked up another first time rider from NJ, Chuck Quintero. Chuck is an MIT educated rocket scientist. Literally. Despite that, he is going to do the SS on a ZX10. One of the new ones. You know, a unicycle with 170 HP.
We stopped at Max’s CT store on the ride up, as it was about halfway, Kate wanted to look at some tank bags, and we just wanted to say hi to the staff. On a side note, Max BMW is the best dealership of any kind I have ever set foot in. The guys should bottle their plan and sell it to other dealers. To say that professionalism and customer service are the keys to their success is an understatement.
June 8, 2012
We arrive at the Rally start point and go in for our odometer check. This is basically a route that the staff has outlined. They check your odometer when you start, you then ride the route, and they check your odometer when you get back. I am assuming this is to confirm a working odometer and get an idea of the error rate. We got our checks done with minimal fuss, and head in to registration. And the fun begins.
It turns out that the Rally Master that Mr. Procrastinator Guy messed with is Rob Nye, one of the luminaries in the Rally community. The man writes a column for Iron Butt magazine. Way to go Mr. Procrastinator Guy.
To his credit, Rob busted my chops, made fun of me, scared me a bit about points and scoring and made Kate laugh so hard at me she pooped a little (everybody poops), but he was very fair and professional. Despite his warnings about how tough he was going to be on me and how my favor bank was empty, he was a great guy. Thanks Rob.
So we are now registered, fueled up, have some road food (cliff bars and water), checked into the hotel and are ready to rock and roll.
Next step was the dinner, where official rally books would be distributed. Dinner was provided by Max BMW and was amazing. It was buffet style, but the food was great and plentiful. Rob got up and announced that the buffet was open. People casually sauntered over to the line and ate, drank (nonalcoholic beverages, mostly) and were merry.
Rob then went through the rules, clarified time limits on certain bonuses and spent extra time with the Saddle Sore group (28 people!) giving us guidance, etc. Off to the room for final route prep, check out to make sure my bonuses are good and I can make my ride and plan for the extra bonuses from the rally book! My route prep included listing my way points, times of arrival, times of departure, what needs to be done and point value. I also make sure my go/no go points are correct. If all goes according to plan, I am looking at about 200,000 points (rest bonus was 50,000 of that). Should be good enough for my goal.
All done and now off to bed by 10 PM! And lie awake in bed until 2! Really Mr. Competition Guy? You can’t let me sleep? I have to ride like 1,200 miles tomorrow. I hate him sometimes.
The Rally Starts!
June 9, 2012
Alarms go off at 4:30. Why god? Why?
Kate and I get prepped, go downstairs and get our bike’s odometers checked in for the start. Riders meeting is held, and we are ready to go. Rob takes one more opportunity to bust my chops and make Kate laugh. We are launched out of the gate 3 by 3. Kate goes out at 6:03, I am in the group behind her at 6:04.
6:04 AM to 10:45 AM, June 9, 2012, 250 miles
Our first stop is about 100 miles away. Two bonuses, easy to get to. What was not in my plans was the pea soup fog we had to ride through for the first 50+ miles. Did I mention we were wearing our vented gear? Despite these conditions, both Kate and I bagged the bonuses, along with several other riders. Next stop, our first fuel up at about 133 miles, a little early, but OK.
When we get to the fuel stop, I realize there is a maple syrup bonus and there is a shop there selling maple syrup! Sweet, 2 birds, meet one stone. Now we discover Kate’s GPS is acting up, and we are about to part ways for a few hours, she taking the more direct route to Saddle Sore Point 1, and me taking back roads to bonus hunt. We decide on a plan, she will use her phone GPS and call me from SS1. I should be 45 minutes behind her.
Kate heads of up the highway and I peel off to go hunt down some points. This part of the rally was probably the most fun for me. The route that these bonus points dictated was a back road dream, twists and turns going up and down mountains. I am a rider who enjoys the twisties, so I was able to keep up a good pace, while expending little energy and making my times. I could see how a less aggressive rider could have lost a lot of time on this leg. As it was, I had planned on it taking me an extra 45 minutes, which it did, almost to the minute.
After gathering my bonuses, I was heading up the highway to SS1. Kate calls, she is there, has met Chuck (from our ride up) and is going to ride with him. I am happy she has company and a plan, and we pass each other in opposite directions on the highway, me on my way to SS1, she coming from it.
I get to SS1, gather the bonus, chat for a few minutes with another rider, and head off.
10:55 AM to 5:10 PM, June 9, 2012, 257 miles
My route to SS2 was the longest leg, relative to time, for me, but also bonus rich. When I was laying out my route, I had excluded several points along the way, as they did not seem to be worth the time expended. I saw I would be riding along route 2, which looked like a highway on the map, and decided that exiting a highway, getting the bonus, and getting back on the highway was not worth it. Route 2 is a 2 lane road. Had I known that, I would have been more aggressive with my bonuses.
As I was going along on my route, I realized that I could easily pick up some extra points along the way and I added two stops. Those two stops would end up being very important.
Kate called me from about halfway through this route, at one of the bonus points I was going to be stopping at. Those guys were still about 45 minutes ahead of me, which was great. That meant that at the spot where I was going to rest for 2 hours, Kate would be able to rest closer to 3. I ask her to call me from SS2, we agree, all is well.
I get through the second leg and start riding up the highway to SS2. I am about 45 minutes away and realize I have not gotten a call yet. No big deal, maybe they took a break or something. I get to SS2 and still no call. Huh. I get my receipt, grab water for my camel pack, and talk to a group of guys who are in the rally. Something like this:
Me: How’s it going? You guys having fun?
Guys: Yeah, we are. We stopped and got 3 bonuses! Are you doing the bonuses?
Guys: How many do you have so far?
Mr. Competition Guy (remember him?): 13.
Guys: You have competition issues, don’t you?
We all hug, and I check my time. I am literally within 4 minutes of my go/no go for the next set of bonuses.
5:25 PM to 8:00 PM, June 9, 2012, 196 miles
This portion of the rally was important to me. I planned on resting at MAX3, the NH Max’s BMW store. That is worth 50,000 points. The check in at MAX3 was worth 3,500 points and if you bought something, that was another 15,000 points. Key thing is, the MAX3 bonus was only open until 8 PM. I had 3 bonus locations in my GPS between me and MAX3, and they would take me about 45 minutes and were worth 10,400 points. So clearly, making it to MAX3 by 8 was more valuable than taking those 3, but as it stood, I would make all bonuses.
Then, the rally gods kicked in. Kate calls me and informs me she is about 10 miles farther along the route she had planned than when we had spoken 4 hours earlier. It turns out that she and Chuck had some misadventures in navigating. They had gathered some bonuses, but made almost no progress on the course. I did some quick math and realized she would not hit SS2 until about 7 PM, which is 13 hours in and only half the miles done. I am starting to worry for her, but she says she is fine, so we agree she presses on and we meet at MAX3 to rest.
This is where I make mistake #2. I realize that if I push I can make all 3 of my bonuses and get to MAX3 just in time. But then I would have to wait at least 90 minutes for Kate to catch up, which would put my down time at nearly 3.5 hours, if Kate would take her rest, which was important. So I varied from my route plan. I did a quick look up on my GPS for any bonus points I did not have on my route, and lo and behold there is a 6,200 point bonus a little out of the way, but on the route. I figure I am losing my 15,000 and 3,500 from MAX3, so why not make it up with 6,200 free points? It would take the sting out of it. Except I had grabbed this bonus already, on my way to SS2. 30 minutes wasted.
So now I know I am not making MAX3 on time. No big deal, I will grab my 3 bonuses on the way down. I do that and one of them was at the end of a ¼ mile of boulder and rick strewn dirt road. Not the best type of surface for the C14, but she handled it perfectly.
I get to MAX3 and it is closed, as to be expected, since it is around 9:30 PM. I have spoken to Kate and she is at least 45 minutes behind still. Kate is a great person, and a good rider, but she has only been riding for 1 year, it is getting late, and she rode an extra 200 miles or so. I am not comfortable with her riding the rest on her own, so I know I am going to wait. I still want to gather points though, so I come up with a plan. There is another bonus about 5 miles down the road from MAX3. I decide I will bag that bonus, jump up to 95S and meet Kate enroute, instead of her meeting me at MAX3.
I go, grab that bonus and make mistake #3. I forgot to put down the time and mileage for the bonus, as I was distracted from all that was going on and a bit flustered. Stupid mistake. Time to get on 95 and wait for Kate.
11:00PM ish to 1:00 AM, June 9 to June 10, 2012, 120 miles
This is where my protective instincts and caring took over and Mr. Competition Guy went back to his cave, shredded purple pants and all.
Kate was diligently making her way down 95. We were talking on our cell phones (via our helmet communicators) and it went something like this:
Me: What mile marker are you at?
Kate: I am at 16.
Me: OK, I am at 14, I will start down the road and turn on my hazards. Look for me in the right lane.
Me: Where are you now?
Kate: I am at 13.
Me: OK, I am at 12, you should start seeing me
Kate: Nope. (Time passes) I am now at 10.
Me: I am at 11. How did you pass me and not see me?
Time passes and this goes back and forth.
Kate: I am coming up on a toll plaza.
Me: I am at the toll plaza, get in the right lane.
Kate: I am in the right lane, I don’t see you.
Me: OK, go through, what does the next sign say?
Kate: Welcome to New Hampshire
Me: Well mine says Welcome to Massachusetts
DAHHHHHHH!!!!! We were both on 95, both going south, both at the same mile markers but a state apart. Now I know we are seriously behind schedule. I estimate that we MIGHT be able to get the rest bonus, but that was a serious maybe. I decide to wait on the side of the road for Kate and she comes along in about 30 minutes.
So we are together again, finally. We separated at mile 133. We were now at mile 798. Kate had done an easy additional 150-200 miles by now. It is about midnight. 18 hours in. We have 325 miles to go and about 6 hours to cover that mileage. I wanted us both to get a little sleep and hopefully get the rest bonus. I was unsure of Kate’s state, so we planned on stopping near SS3.
I still had 2 bonuses to get in Boston, which is on the way. Mr. Competition Guy made a reappearance and I thought I could slide in there, send Kate down to SS3, grab my bonuses, get the sleep bonus and be back on track. Looking at my go/no go, it would be super tight. I also did not want to leave Kate again, so I could keep an eye on her. I am familiar with short, hard sleep on road trips. I knew it was better to push her a little bit, so she could knock out when we stopped, rather than stop and get fitful sleep. So Boston stops were a no go.
With all this in mind, we pushed on to near SS3, but Kate actually needed gas before then. We found a gas station, fueled up, got our receipt for rest bonus, pulled into a parking lot nearby and Kate promptly passed out. While she was sleeping I had a powwow with Mr. Competition Guy to decide our plan. I knew we could make the rest of the ride and get back to starting point within the 24 hour window. Question was, could we take the full 2 hours and make it.
My route plan and Garmin showed me that it was almost 1 AM exactly. We had about 225 miles to go. We had to make 2 more fuel stops, SS3 and SS4. I wanted Kate to sleep. The full rest bonus put us at 3:05 AM. 2 Fuel stops, at 5 minutes each put us at 3:15. We could cover the 225 miles in a little less than 3 hours, putting us back at the start point with 4 minutes to spare.
Way to close.
I decided to forgo winning my class and just to make sure we finished and got our certificates. There was no way I was letting Kate go through all this and not get her certificate. There was no way I was not gonna make it either. If I lose the overall, so be it.
2:30 AM to 4:15 AM, June 10, 2012, 100 ish miles
Knowing I could not get the full rest bonus and be sure of a finish, I decided to wake Kate up 30 minute early. So we roust at 2:30 and are rolling by 2:40. We go a grand total of about 10 miles to get to SS3. The requirement is to get a gas receipt from Wyoming. The GPS point is the center of town. So we follow the GPS, end up in the center of town, where there is no gas station. Back track and stop at a gas station and get our receipt. Lost a few minutes. Receipt does not say “Wyoming”. Grr. Too late, gotta push on.
We get on the road and head towards SS4. I have a bonus on the way, but not gonna make it. Ah well. We discuss the plan for SS4. We are gonna pull in to the gas station, get gas. I am going to shoot off to a nearby bonus, come back, grab Kate and fly like the wind to our last stop. Then the engine error light comes on. I look at it in disbelief. No way is my Connie going to let me down this close to my goal. Mr. Competition Guy makes a quick appearance. He says to Connie “If you die now, I will kick you over and throw a match in your gas tank.” Connie, thinking better of it, decided to turn off the check engine light.
We get to SS4 and the GPS point is just like SS3. Middle of town. No gas station. GRRRRRRRRRRR. But, my bonus is right there, so I go grab it. Fill out my form and we ride back to the gas station.
Fill up and who shows up but Chuck? He has been riding this entire time with no sleep. Remember he is on a ZX10? One other rider shows up and he fills up and we all head out about the same time.
Sixth and final Leg, the Magical Leg
4:30 AM to 5:40 AM, June 10, 2012, 90 miles
So now we are scheduled to arrive with 20 minutes to spare. Nothing to do but put down the miles. This is going to be the boring part, right? Wrong. This was probably the most special time of the ride.
As we are riding along, we pick up the rider from the gas station. Now there are 4. We go along a little further and 4 more riders show up. These are the same guys I was talking to at SS2 about bonuses. One of them is riding a Mike Hailwood Ducati. Yes, I did not make a mistake. We are now 8. I am sitting there thinking of how proud I am of myself for completing the Saddle Sore, if not winning the division.
I am looking at Kate riding in front of me, realizing how much extra she had gone through to get here, and she was now going to complete her Saddle Sore, with just over a year under her belt.
I looked up the road at Chuck, he had sped off, I am sure he just wanted to get out of the saddle, and was proud of him for pushing through and riding nearly 24 hours straight to complete his Saddle Sore.
The odd thing was, I was then looking at the other 4 or 5 riders in our little pack and I felt proud of them. We had all shared an adventure, albeit separately. We had all faced our own set of challenges. We each had preconceived notions of what we could do and would do and we all accomplished our main goals. We rode over 1,000 miles, in less than a day, and in the final stretch, we came together as a pack. Each small group their own, but together, as a whole, we were one. We all fell into formation and took turns leading. We all knew the adventure was soon to be over and we would all be better people for having made the trip. As we rolled along, with less than 30 minutes to go, the sun rose in the east, with a beautiful red hue. Red at night, sailor’s delight, red in the morning sailors take warning, but in this case these road sailors were joyous and free and basking in the warm red light
At 5:50, we rolled in as one. The clock stopped, and we each had earned our Saddle Sore. Silent smiles and nods were shared. There were a few handshakes, but no overzealous celebrations.
Next stop, check in.
6:15AM, June 10, 2012
So at check in, you are to bring your rally towel, your photo card, receipts, items purchased and your completed rally book. Here is where the fun starts and rubber meets the road. This being my first experience, I was a bit concerned about doing it all right. There are no do-overs so get it right first time.
The man checking me in asked which bonuses I was claiming. I claimed all 4 of the saddle sore bonuses, then 18 Bonus stops and a couple extra bonuses. Time to provide the proof.
SS4, forgot to fill in my sheet. Rushing at the end. Cost me 1,500 points.
Of my next 18 Bonus stops, I only lost 1 for not filling out my book. It was the one where I rushed to after MAX3 waiting for Kate. I had a ton of time to fill it in. Dummy. 3,600 points gone.
Only other bonus I applied for that I missed was my Fuel Log. I kept it, but you are supposed to write your ending mileage and time in the Rally Book to claim it. No one told me. Their answer? “Some things are just assumed”. Damn. Ah well, that one gone too. 7,500 points. (apparently I didn't listen well enough in the riders meeting. These missed points are all on me.)
In the end my total was 98,100. Had things not gone crazy with Kate, I would have picked up about another 80,000 points and been near 180,000. I told Kate I better lose by more than 80,000 points or she would never hear the end of it.
Off to the room for a little nap before the brunch and awards.
Call comes into the Room, it is Andy from the staff.
Andy: Is this Andy Mills?
Me: This is Anthony Mills
Andy: Can you ask Kate to come down to scoring to clarify a bonus point she went to?
Andy: Thanks Andy
Me: I am still Anthony
We get to the Brunch. Everyone is sitting around their tables, we all got our shirts, and everyone is all smiles. Rob comes to the mic and says, “I am not gonna call” and before he could get “tables” out, there was a mad rush for the buffet. It was quite the stark contrast to the orderly procession from the previous evening. Brunch was again, amazing.
Rob then announced that everyone made it back, to loud applause. He also singled out one of my pack, a guy on a BMW, who had lost his headlight, but finished because he had Aux lighting and fought through it.
Rob then announced the scores for the Saddle Sore Rally. Starting at position 28, with about 20,000 points, he starts going up the rankings. Chuck had 35,000 points or so, Kate had 42,000 or so. When he got to 10th place, we had yet to cross the 30,000 point level. We all perked up. Chuck was the first of our tribe called, in 7th. Kate was getting excited. Then the numbers got into the 40,000 range. Kat eventually was announced in 4th place, despite having “unbelievable baggage” meaning me. When Third was announced, it was another member of the pack. The man on the Mike Hailwood. AMAZING.
Rob then relayed the story of our initial email exchange to roars of laughter. He announced me something like this, “And in first place, putting in a hell of a ride (my favorite part), is Anthony Mills with 98,100 points.” I got to go up, get my plaque and shake hands with Rob, thanking him profusely.
And thusly ended my Saddle Sore and first rally competition.
I am now addicted.
Kate is addicted.
We will be back.