By John Parker
2004 Northwest Passage Rally
Wednesday September 8, 2004 0550: I said goodbye to my wife Becci and rode down the hill from
our home in Grants Pass, Oregon
aboard her 1994 Honda ST1100A en-route to the start of this year’s Northwest Passage Rally in Chelan, WA. This event is organized by
the Wetcoast Irregulars, a Seattle
based group of Long Distance Riders. Previous years were 72 hour events.
This year would be a 55 hour affair. This was my first time in this rally, or any of Joe Zulaski’s rallys.
I cruised north on I-5 through Roseburg, OR and on to Eugene, OR where
I took the scenic route up over Willamette Pass to join US-97 in Rosemond, OR. A
little over 600 miles later I rolled into the touristy little town of Chelan,
WA. It was 1600
so I checked at the front desk of Cambell’s
Resort (NWP Headquarters), but Joe Zulaski
(Rallymaster) hadn’t arrived yet. So, I rode the 2 miles up
the road and checked into my room at the Chelan Country Inn. This quaint little inn was built in the 19th
century. My room
was a tiny little place but clean and quiet. The price was higher than what I am used to, but much lower than at Cambell’s.
It did have a small refer and a microwave, so I went shopping a stocked it with
grub. I also
bought a 150 watt light bulb to replace the little 60 watt bulb in my room. It turned out that I wouldn’t have to buy any meals out while
staying there, so the little inn had more value than I first thought. Later that night I got Joe on the phone and found out the
schedule for the tech inspection and odo
At 1400 on Thursday we all met down by the lake below Joe’s room for tech
inspection and the odo check. At 1800 we assembled at Cambell’s for a delicious Pre-rally Banquet. This was a great idea for
a 55 hour event, as many of us knew that it would probably be our last solid meal for a couple of days. After Joe briefed everyone
on the rally rules, he had all of the participants get up in front of the crowd and introduce themselves. A video record was made of
each individual as he/she described what their goals were for the rally. Sheesh!!! I never expected to have
to give an impromptu speech before an endurance rally.
Next time I’ll have something prepared. The shenanigans finally ended at 2000 and the rally packets
were passed out. “Packets”
may be a misnomer. The
suckers were encyclopedias!!! Sixty-six pages.
Yup…66 pages split pretty evenly between 3 routes. “Route One” was called B2B2B-BBG-Plus. It had 14 pages with 40 possible bonuses, some with very detailed
other two routes were the “Southwestern” and the “Northeastern” routes. One had 84 bonuses and the other with 96. All routes were merely alphabetical lists of bonuses with
no “route” mandated or suggested. It was up to the rallyist
to design their own route to incorporate the bonuses that they thought worthy of their effort. It was going to be a long, long night.
Back in my room at the Inn, I had all
of my maps pre-deployed and my laptop and GPS setup for quick planning and loading. I had the 150 watt bulb lighting the room up like noon in
Phoenix in July. I started by carefully reading through each tome looking for
the winning route. This
was made more difficult by the fact that there was no clear route in any of the three, and only one had the shell
of a route for guidance. That
was Route One, the “B2B2B-BBG-Plus” which mandated the three border crossings. How you got to those crossings was left totally up to you. That route would be influenced
by two main considerations. A route that would allow the average speed necessary to complete 1500 miles in 24 hours yet still
pass through enough bonus locations for a good score would be the ideal. Due to prior information spoon fed to us over the few weeks
leading up to the rally, I knew the possibility of a B2B2B Gold Insanity and a BBG 3000 within this event. A BBG 3000 is a documented
ride of 3000 or more miles in 48 hours or less.
A B2B2B Gold Insanity is a documented ride from Canada
to Mexico and back to Canada
(or visa versa) in less than 48 hours. The borders must be crossed, and witnesses must certify each border crossing. In addition each border to border leg must be completed in
less than 24 hours. I
had missed completing a BBG 3000 during my 50 CC Gold in 2002 by a couple of hours and wanted the chance to successfully
complete one here. I
was also intrigued by the B2B2B Gold Insanity as I had not heard of the ride before this event and wasn’t sure
if one could be successfully completed under rally conditions. By “rally conditions” I mean that, unlike a straight Iron Butt Association Certified ride, there would
be bonuses to be collected along the way. A “straight” IBA ride can be performed with a minimum number of stops and minimum time spent during
stops. My rally
bike can go 400 miles between gas stops, and I require 6 – 10 minutes for a gas stop. Under rally conditions, bonus location stops can add a great
deal more time to any ride, as each bonus has different requirements. Some of them are very involved and time consuming. It is not uncommon for the
Rallybastard to send bonus hunters
on long rides up one-way dirt roads and include strenuous hikes on foot. Literally HOURS can be eaten up by bonus stops during a long
rally such as this one. So
with some trepidation, I threw prudence to the breeze and jumped on “Route One.”
Another twist that Joe apparently likes and I saw for the first time on
this event, was the concept of the “Thread.” A thread basically applies a multiplier to a set of similar bonuses within that thread. For example, if there are
several bonuses that require eating of some sort, they can be lumped into an “eating thread.” If the bonuses meet all of the requirements of the thread,
an extra bonus is added to your score depending, usually, on the number of bonuses that fit in the thread. For example, if “Eat at Joe’s”
is a bonus worth 1000 points and “Eat a taco in Otay Mesa, Mexico is a bonus worth 50 points, you can score the
1050 points for the two bonuses PLUS you can add the thread bonus of 2 X 1050 for an extra 2100 points for the
thread. You can
see how this would really increase your points for a few bonuses if say 4 or 5 were in a thread. Each of the three routes had opportunities for thread multiplication,
some more than others. Route
One would be tough to collect bonuses on at all due to the time distance restraints, however, there was one good
thread on this route that I saw would probably be a rally winner if it could be nailed down. More on that later…
Needless to say (so why am I saying it?), I did not get much sleep the
night before the rally. It
was after 12 midnight before I had read all of the routes and hypothetical’d each possibility, entered the final route into the laptop, and finally, uploaded the route and bonuses
into the GPS. When
I did finally get to bed, it was a very fitful night, in and out of sleep, rolling the route, bonuses, and unknowns
over and over in my mind. I got a total of maybe 2 hours sleep that night.
Friday September 10, 2004: 0500 came around way too soon but, in a way, not soon enough. I’m sure all of those whose
have tossed and turned all night will know where I’m coming from. At 0600 all riders had their odo’s recorded by the rally workers, who also stuck some little sticker
thingies on the headlight. I don’t know what those were for, except maybe to possibly preclude riders from swapping mounts (or
headlights) sometime during the next 55 or so hours.
I didn’t have the heart to tell them that the chances of those little stickers
still being on my HID headlight after 55 hours, 6 border crossings, and something over 3000 miles was pretty thin
indeed. At a
few minutes before 0700, Joe gathered all riders down by the lake for a bit of a rider meeting and pep talk. We were informed that the
WSHP and every local LEO were out in force this morning looking for speeding rallyists on the way to Osoyoos, BC
on US-97. Great! That is the direction I MUST
go for the B2B2B. We
were asked to state our routes. 4 of us declared “Route One” “The Border Run.”
We ignored the incredulous looks by the remaining riders. At 0700 the flag dropped and the thundering heard was off. I let everyone blast out
ahead, as I usually do, to clear the road ahead of LEOs for me. It
works every time :
Out on US-97 north the ride was brisk but controlled with very few V-1
hits and only a few LEOs circling
in what looked like the confusion of a feeding frenzy.
At 0845 I crossed into Canada
at the Osoyoos, BC checkpoint. It was no sweat crossing
into Canada. The questions went something
Canadian Customs Female: Water youse cuminta Canada fer today? EH?
Slightly Sleep Deprived
CCF: Duh youse avnee dane gerz farms, mace,
CCF: Ava nice stay. Eh?
Jerry Smith was right over the border and I was the first rider to get
his witness signature. Three others were right behind me.
I collected a timed receipt from the duty free store to verify the start
time of my B2B2B Gold Insanity, and headed back over the border to the U.S. The crossing back was a little
tougher, due to 911 undoubtedly. The questions went something like this:
U.S. Customs Agent: Are you a U.S.
Very Polite Biker: Yes sir!
USCA: Show me some I.D.
VPB: Yes Sir! (Shows CA Driver’s License and Fire Dept I.D)
USCA: What was your purpose of
VPB: To buy souvenirs, sir.
USCA: Did you purchase any tobacco
products or liquor?
VPB: No sir.
USCA: You a Fireman?
VPB: Yes sir,
USCA: Go on. Have
a nice day.
These folks don’t have much sense of humor so no use trying to make small
talk with them. Later
I heard that one of our bunch tried crossing with one of those “Terrorist Hunting Permit” stickers on his windshield. He may still be there!
Finally, I was motoring south on US-97, headed for Otay
Mesa, Mexico. I had several choices for routes. The most likely course would be to stay on the Interstate
as much as possible to maintain a high average speed.
With the distances involved in this ride, it would certainly make sense to pick
a route to optimize average speed. I suspected that this was the plan for most of the others on “Route One.” I was counting on it! My planned route avoided the Interstates on the southern leg
in favor of the wide open Washington, Oregon, and
Nevada 2-lane highways. I’m very familiar with these roads and know where I can make
time on them. My
second reason was that I knew I would have to use the Interstate for most, if not all, of my northern leg due to
the proximity of the Surrey, B.C. checkpoint. Thirdly, there was a 1000 point bonus directly along my southern
route, and any bonuses along the Interstate could be picked up on the northern leg. At Omark, WA
I picked up WSH-155 to Grand Coulee Dam. This is wide open prairie, and efficient travel was very easy so I made good time. After crossing US-2, I cruised along WSH-17 until it converged
with US-395 north of Kenniwick, WA. Mile after mile of open prairie unfolded in front of me and
swiftly passed beneath my Avon ST45/46’s. A couple of “rabbits” willingly cooperated to provide consecutive radar targets for unseen traps ahead,
so my travel was largely unimpeded all of the way to Pendleton, OR where at 1400 I collected a 150 point bonus
for gassing up.
Traveling south on US-395 from Pendleton, the terrain rises quickly from
the Columbia River Gorge and its undulating prairie landscape, to the fir trees of the Umatilla National Forest
and the John Day River. For
mile after mile as US-395 approaches John Day, OR,
I followed the winding John Day River
through deep rocky canyons, green grassy meadows, and passed sparkling lakes in alpine meadows. Small farms and ranches dot the countryside. It was immensely evident that this is cattle country. As I rolled through the small
town of John Day, I passed one of my favorite restaurants,
the Outpost, where I usually stop for one of their sumptuous steaks. Not tonight. I had much too far to go before Sunday afternoon. It would be turkey jerky,
trail mix, and Red Bull for the foreseeable future.
After John Day and its twin city Canyonville, it was more of the same through
the Malheur National
Forest to Burns, OR where I stopped for fuel at 1655. I had traveled 620 miles in the 9 hr 55 minutes since the
start in Chelan. Not
a BBG pace, but the worst of the technical stuff was behind me.
One thing that had been troubling me since selecting this route the night before,
was the condition of the highway from Burns, OR to a 1000 point bonus in the town of Fields, OR. I had never been on that particular highway, even though I
had hit all of the surrounding ones many times before.
The highway in question was OSH-205. From the maps I had, I couldn’t even tell if it was paved
or not. A time
consuming, but very productive conversation with the old timer who ran the Shell Station there in Burns, revealed
that 205 was indeed paved all of the way and in good condition.
He had driven it many times in his fuel truck.
Traveling south on OSH-205 it was evident that this was a great road. The forests of Oregon
were behind me. Long
flat straights through arroyos and around mesas dominated the countryside for the next 500 miles. My average speed of 62 mph for the first 620 miles was easily
raised to a level that would sustain my overall pace for the rest of the southern leg to Otay Mesa. Fields, OR and the 1000 points
were readily bagged, and I was on my way again.
It was 2000 when I gassed up in Winnemucca,
NV with 7.7 gal, for what would turn out to be a NWP Rally low of
30.4 mpg. The
bright neon lights of the casinos really provided a stark contrast to the serine simplicity of nature that had
dominated the past 800 miles.
A quick 93 mile blast west on I-80 took me to US-95 for a quick trip south
through Fallon, NV and Hawthorn, NV to Lee Vining, CA. The
air temperature really started to drop as I left the military ammo depot of Hawthorn, NV and climbed over the high
mountain pass to Lee Vining. I turned up the heated grips
to max and crouched down behind the Laminar Lip to tough it out until my next gas stop. About 30 miles from Lee Vining I could see the lights of the small tourist trap at the entrance
to Yosemite National
Park. I rolled into the gas station cold to the bone, but in high spirits and not yet fatigued. It was 2355 and I had gone
1115 miles in the past 16 hr 55 min. for an average speed of 65.6 mph. Undoubtedly I could have maintained a much higher average
on the Interstate, but the thought of running the I-5 in both directions for most of 3000 miles would be much too
boring for me to take. I
liked the 2-lane option much better, and it was working out fine so far. To complete a 1500 mile ride in 24 hours requires an average
speed of 62.5 mph. I
knew that given that I had started the rally 100 miles before the start of the B2B2B Gold ride, I would be completing
1500 miles shortly before reaching the Mexican border.
Therefore, it was safe to figure a 62.5 mph average would get the first leg of
the B2B2B Gold in less than the 24 hours required for success of the first half of the ride. My current 65.6 mph average would hold me in good stead for
the remaining 400, or so, miles of the southern leg.
I donned my Gerbing’s heated jacket and gloves and set out south on US-395.
I was now in very familiar territory, as I ride this section of highway
about a dozen times a year. I knew all of the nuances of the trip I had ahead of me and could playback past memories of this route
as the trip proceeded. I
knew where the LEO’s set up their
radar traps, where the deer were a hazard, where the wind could be a problem, where fuel and food were available
24 hours, what the temperatures would be, what the road surface was like, and how long it was from point to point. The route runs through the
high mountain meadows and forest as it skirts the eastern edge of the Sierra-Nevada Mountain Range. From over 7,000 feet around
Lee Vining, through Mammoth Lakes,
and the upper Owens Valley, US 395 quickly drops down to around 3000 feet at Bishop, CA. From Bishop the highway runs through the high desert and the
small California towns of Big Pine, Independence,
and Lone Pine. Five
miles south of Independence, the abandoned WWII
Japanese internment camp of Manzanar
can be seen next to the road. At Lone Pine the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states, Mt.
Whitney (14,494’), is passed just west of the highway. Then in just a few more miles,
highway 190 leads off to the east to the lowest place in the Western Hemisphere in Death
Valley at Badwater
(282’). I traveled
another 60 miles south, and US-395 merged with I-15 just north of Los
Angeles. After many weeks away from the big city, I was getting a rapid re-introduction to “life in the big
I was over the Cajon Pass
and barreling down I-15 near San Bernardino when
the first of many “rabbits” volunteered to guide me the remaining miles of my trip south. Traffic during this predawn Saturday jaunt was mercifully
light. As I negotiated
the valleys and passes that the I-15 traverses north of San Diego,
I realized that I was getting low on fuel. I was actively trying to spot an open filling station along the Interstate
in Northern San Diego when I felt a telltale miss in the engine. I realized immediately that I was nearly out of fuel and had
mere seconds left before the engine quit altogether, so I headed for the nearest exit. The engine died at the top of the off ramp, so I pulled the
clutch in and coasted as far as I could down the ramp and up the street at the bottom. Unfortunately, there was no open station within coasting distance,
so the pushing began. Fortunately,
after an uphill push of only about 200 yards, I was able to coast down the other side of the hill for several blocks
and into an open filling station. Now I was completely awake! I took on just a splash of gas, as I knew that I needed to stop for a gas receipt in less than 50
miles to document the end of the first B2B leg.
At 0600 I stopped for fuel on the US
side of the border at Otay Mesa. I had completed 1526 miles in 23 hours.
I still had 2 hr 45 minutes to cross the border, obtain a time/dated receipt,
and get my witness form signed. The instructions for the “Otay Mesa Border Crossing” Bonus stated that there would be two pre-arranged
witnesses waiting for us in Mexico
to sign our witness forms from 0400 to 0700. There were also very detailed directions, including GPS coordinates to the AM/PM-Pemex station where the witnesses were to meet us. Unfortunately, as I found out once I was across the border,
the directions were inaccurate.
The Border crossing At Otay Mesa is about 10 miles east of the large, very
busy crossing at San Ysidro/Tijuana. It is also known as the “Truck
Mesa is quite a bit less busy; a fact the Rallymaster obviously took into account when planning this route. As I approached the Mexican Customs gate, I was anxious, wondering
if I would be delayed and searched here. There was no one at the gate, but 3 or 4 kaki uniformed guards with M-16’s were farther ahead, apparently
searching a vehicle. No
problema… one of the guards signaled
me to go on through. No
strip search. Whew!!! I followed the bonus directions
to not go over the bridge, but to stay right and go to the light and turn right. I stayed to the right of the bridge, but UHO! There was no light at which
to turn right, but I turned right anyways. I passed one AM/PM – Pemex
station on the right but it wasn’t the 1 mile described in the instructions. At about 1 mile, I found another AM/PM – Pemex station.
Eureka! It was 0630 so I drove through
the station looking for the witnesses. Hummm..no one that looked like a witness waiting for tired rallyists to arrive after a BBG. I parked and went into the AM/PM and asked the clerk, who spoke even less English than I spoke Spanish. She indicated that she hadn’t
seen anyone that looked as if they were a witness waiting for tired rallyists. She
looked at me like I was from Mars. This is understandable, considering this big bald headed gringo in a blue cordura jumpsuit, who obviously
hadn’t had more than 2 hours sleep in the past 48 hours, was mumbling incoherently in some foreign langage and
stumbling around acting more like “burnt meat on a stick” than a human. I’m lucky she didn’t call the policia on me.
I went outside and called Joe.
He said that the witnesses left at 0600. Rats!
It’s Just my luck that the witnesses hadn’t read the rally instructions. I went back into the AM/PM
and bought a bag of M&Ms for “sesame centavos.”
I held out a handful of ‘merican coins. She
took them all and gave me back a gold colored cinco centavos coin. I later showed the coin to a Mexican co-worker who said I got gypped. I didn’t care. I was happy to get my time/date stamped receipt to document
the end of the first leg of my B2B2B Gold Insanity.
I had made it within the 24 hours by 1 hr 45 minutes. The next step was trying to explain to two people who spoke
no English that I needed them to sign my witness form and give me their phone numbers as well, so that some time
in the future, someone equally as crazy as I might call them to verify that this loco gringo was in this store
in Otay Mesa, Mexico when I said I was. Yeah right. Sí, eso es correcto.
Now it was time to make the fourth of my six border crossings this weekend. The Mexico
to U.S passage should be the toughest. If I could survive this, I reasoned, the last two at Surrey should
be a cinch. As
I rolled up to the U.S. Customs gate after bypassing about 2 hours of traffic by using the curb lane, I could see
that this crossing was going to be different.
You should have seen the pedestrian venders jumping for their lives when they
saw the loco gringo on a motorcycle with bright lights swooping down on them as I split the traffic lanes! At the gate, 4 U.S. Customs
Agents dressed in all black uniforms looked me and my bike over with eyes that reminded me of those of a Great
White Shark. After
I shut off the engine and flipped up the chinbar on my Schuberth, one of the agents told me to pull forward so he could see my license plate. After showing my D.L. and
LAFD ID and answering the usual questions with the standard reply, “I just visited Mexico
to buy souvenirs, sir” he said,”You a Fireman?” I affirmed, and he waved me through. Whoopee!!!
Half of this great adventure was over. Now it was just a matter of keeping the average above 62.5
mph while getting some well deserved rest and maybe collecting a few more bonuses.
While I motored up I-5 past Del Mar Racetrack, Camp Pendleton Marine Base,
the U.S. Immigration Check Station, and San Onofre Nuclear Power Station, I noticed that the effects of the long miles and sleep deprivation were becoming
I had no problems keeping my eyes open, numbness was rolling over my mind and body. It had been 27 hours since my last 2 hour nap back in Chelan. I placed a cell phone call
to Becci using the “handsfree”
feature through the Autocom. She suggested I stop at our
house in the San Fernando Valley, just north of Los Angeles. She volunteered to coordinate
with our son, Rick and his fiancée Jennifer to have a good breakfast and a cool bed ready for me when I
was definitely in need of a recharge. I had been running on adrenaline for quite a while, and it wouldn’t be long before that wore off. I jostled with the Saturday
morning L.A. traffic from my first smoggy view of the downtown skyline, all of the way west on the I-10, then over
the Sepulveda Pass on the I-405 to the off ramp for my haven in the little pueblo of Reseda.
It was 0955 when I rolled into the Shell station around the corner from
my house for a time/date stamped receipt to verify the start of my “Two Hour Layover” Bonus, worth 300 points. A few minutes later, I pulled
into the driveway of my home for a wholly anticipated and drastically needed rest stop. As promised, Rick and Jen were there with a nourishing and
delicious breakfast. The
kids listened to my mush brained babbling as I ate, then left so I could get some massively needed shut eye. I was out as soon as my head
hit the cool pillow in the darkened room. Boy that sure beat the “Iron Butt Motel” I had formerly planned for this time of the rally!
I was lying on the beach in Kauai with
a cool trade wind blowing across my relaxed body, when a far away ringing disturbed the solitude of my paradise. The ringing became louder,
and I irately wondered who dared to disturb me from my repose.
Suddenly, I wasn’t in Hawaii. I wasn’t on the beach at
all. I was in
my bed in Reseda. The
phone was ringing. It
was Becci calling to wake me so that I could continue on my quest. If she hadn’t, I most certainly wouldn’t have awoken before
Sunday. It was
Saturday at 1130. I
had just power-napped for 45 solid minutes and felt great!
Any more sleep and I would have been dopy headed. As it was, my body and mind “thought” that I had just slept
a full night. I
was totally recharged and ready for the second half of the rally. Thank you Becci, Rick, and Jen.
At precisely 1155 I was back at the Shell station around the corner from
my house to collect the receipt for verification of the end of my “Two Hour Layover” Bonus. With 300 more bonus points under my belt, and two more cans
of LD Rider Kool-Aid (Red Bull) in my saddlebag, I was off with my sorely needed sojourn behind me. Ahead, the Interstate unfurled
like a ribbon for fourteen hundred and some odd miles to the border gates of Surrey,
lie hundreds of mountain curves, endless miles of straight concrete, cool breezes, hellish heat, brilliant blue
skies, inky-black darkness, bone numbing cold, frog strangler downpours, and mind deadening zero visibility fog. Also ahead were thousands
of BDCs (Brain Dead Cagers), dozens of revenue avaricious LEOs (Law Enforcement Officers), and endless
tons of euphoric inducing motorcycline. Additionally, a handful of bonuses were there for the picking. One way or another, in 21 more hours I would be finished with
my border chase.
A short time after getting on the road again, I approached highway 126. About 45 miles west is the
town of Ojai, CA. Two bonuses lay there waiting to be plucked. Widder
Electrics and Bill “Rocky” Mayer Saddles were worth a combined 1800 points. Most importantly, Rocky’s was part of a “Thread” Bonus. As I described early in this report, threads were a way to compound bonuses, potentially massively. I rode East on the 126 to Santa Paula. Then a short
trip over the Sulfer mountains to Ojai for the Widder and Bill Mayer bonii. Fortunately I'm a regular at Pat Widder's
and Rocky Mayer's shops and have a large supply of their excellent wares. Pat is a long time staunch supporter
of the Iron Butt Rally and just one real great guy. Rocky is the oldest son of the late Saddlemeister Bill Mayer
Sr. Rocky learned the saddlemaking trade directly at the hand of his dad, and his seats are arguably the best
in the business. I have them on several of my bikes.
I left Ojai behind as I motored North on one of my favorite roads; Hwy 33. I turned East on Lockwood Valley Road
and cruised through the pastoral scenary of Lockwood Valley and the pine fresh mountain air of Frasier Park. This
would be my last taste of the twisties for almost 500 more miles. The course
ahead would require an average speed of 66.6 mph.
This wouldn’t allow for many side trips, especially this early in the northern
leg. I had to
allow for unforeseen events later in the journey.
My priority this weekend was to complete a B2B2B Gold and finish the rally. Scoring bonuses would have
to be secondary to that goal. As I would find out later, this would turn out to be a wise decision.
The torquey Honda ST1100 floated effortlessly over the mountains of the Los Padres
National Forest and down the Cajon- Pass toward the expansive San
Joaquin Valley. This bike is arguably one of the best platforms on which to
pursue the goals of Long Distance Riding.
In any event, it has worked flawlessly for my riding style and preferences for
years. It doesn’t
have eye popping power, but it has enough to potentially jeopardize my license. It is, however impeccably smooth, stable, fuel efficient,
and stone cold reliable. With
a few modifications on my part, it is also immensely comfortable for Long Distance Riding.
By 1600 hours the Central Valley area of the San Joaquin
was a virtual boiling caldron. My dash mounted Radio Shack thermometer read 106° as I pulled into a Mobil Station in Stockton,
CA, stuck the fuel nozzle into the ST’s gas fill, locked it on, then staggered into the mini-mart and sidled up
to the ice machine. I
began pouring ice into every opening in my ‘Stitch, filled my Camelback, and dumped ice cold bottled water down
my parched throat. Though
I had been consciously hydrating myself with a Camelback all day, I had still become a borderline heat exhaustion
patient. I know
that common wisdom is to not drink large amounts of water, especially ice-cold, when de-hydrated. Nonetheless, years of conditioning my body to take on large
amounts of ice-cold fluids during extreme physical exertion during desert racing and firefighting has mitigated
much of the ill effects of such obtuse behavior.
Shortly, with my body well hydrated and the ST full of 11 gallons of 87 octane, I left a slack jawed store clerk to mop
up the loose ice cubes as I rejoined the fray northbound on the “Superslab.”
While I thrummed along toward Sacramento,
CA I gave Becci a call on the “handsfree.”
I was taking a beating in the sweltering heat and monotony of the Big
Valley, and I knew that I would be ready for a good break by the time
I reached Grants Pass, OR. Becci suggested we meet at
a Subway Shop just off exit 58. That thought kept me going the rest of the way up the I-5 to Red Bluff, CA. By then the vast open expanses of the Big
Valley had morphed into rolling hills covered with vast Oak
tree forests. The
first bonus available since Rocky Mayer’s in Ojai was coming up soon in Anderson,
I made a check of my average speed on the Garmin computer, and it showed that
I had a little cushion thanks to the high ambient speeds of the Interstate for the past 7 hours. “Rick Mayer Cycle” was worth 1000 points, so I took the side
trip. After a
bit of searching, (Hey Rick, that is one weak ass street sign for Heavenly
Valley Lane, Dude!!)
I bagged my bonus and was back on the route with 1 hour down. By now I was pretty “fried” again and blew right past the
easy “Off-hours at Russell Saddles” Bonus, worth 500 points.
More importantly was the thread multiplier. I could have picked up an extra 3000 points just for that. Oh well, chalk it up to my
inexperience with Joe’s evil Rallybastard
mind games and my Carnitas Brain
Mush condition at the time. It was twilight as I steered my Steed over the bridge at Lake
Just 180 miles of the best mountain twisties on I-5 to go until a welcome break
in Grants Pass.
At 2230 I putted into the Subway parking lot of my new hometown. I was near the end of my
rope after 9 ½ hours of mostly mind numbing superslab and pizza oven heat stress. Becci and I had a relaxing half hour over a BMT, and by the time I got back on my bike to leave, I
was rehabilitated and recharged. I had 10 hours to do the 600, or so, miles to Surrey.
The next 70 miles were the coldest since 24 hours earlier in Lee Vining, and I crouched closely behind the windscreen
with the Hot Grips up to max for the hour ride into Roseburg,
This section of I-5 is beautiful during the day, and an incredible ride that belies
the fact that it is Interstate. Old growth forest lines the curvy tarmac of the perfectly banked, impeccably maintained roadway. During the pitch-black night,
even in the “Stadium-Like Lighting” of my HID headlamps, it is less than remarkable. Still, the curviness was a welcome respite from the previous
beeline run up through Central California. I pulled off in Roseburg
and donned my Gerbing’s. I
was surprised by how numb I was. It was with some difficulty that I donned the electrics. The long hours and lack of sleep were now starting to take
their toll in ways I could see. The performance of such simple tasks such as zipping up a jacket and putting on gloves took an excruciatingly
long time to manage. Nevertheless,
I still felt alert and capable of operating my cycle.
I wasn’t exhibiting any of the familiar symptoms that signal me that a stop for
sleep is imperative. I’ve
experienced those in the past and was prepared to stop for a power-nap if need be. So, I slammed back two Red Bulls and hit the road again.
The warmth of the Gerbing’s were just what the doctor ordered, and the
ride through Eugene, OR and up the Willamette Valley was very cozy. I kept myself amused during the long ride by flashing the
full HID high beam at the Brain Dead Cagers
who were dumb enough flash my low beam. About 1 in 100 flashed me once. Maybe 1 in 1000 flashed me twice.
I am easily entertained at times like these. Sunday at 0300 found me motoring through a deserted Portland,
I was “in the zone” as I crossed the Columbia River and up the I-5, until Columbia
City, WA. It is here that I “hit the wall”. No, not the well documented wall of endurance. The wall I hit here in southern
Washington was a wall of FOG. Thick, THICK, Pea Soup Anderson’s thick fog. With only 255 miles to go, I was now faced with a serious,
rally buster, impediment. I slowed to a crawl but kept moving forward.
I tried to keep the occasional 18-wheeler in front for an escort, but they were
far and few between at this hour. These conditions continued, with brief respites for the next 85 miles, until I got to Olympia,
WA, where it started raining. The rain, at least, cleared out the fog. Heavy rain continued all of the way to Seattle. This wasn’t as bad as it
seemed at first blush. The
speed limit drops to 60 mph in this section, which worked out fine under the poor conditions. As a bonus, if it hadn’t been raining, I might have been tempted
to speed through this area, as it is all multi-lane highway with very sparse traffic. This would not have been good, as the area was swarming with
very aggressive revenuers. Meanwhile, I got a great lesson in how the LEOs work their speed traps in this part of Washington. A technique that I saw employed
all of the way to Bellingham, WA. Instead of patrolling the
highway with their radars on, sitting stationary in the center divider, or parked up an on-ramp, these guys would
use parallel side roads to pace unsuspecting drivers.
They would then accelerate wide open up the next on ramp until within a few hundred
feet of the unsuspecting motorist then hit the instant-on and the light bar in quick succession. I thought it was an isolated instance until I saw it happen
half a dozen times in the next 150 miles.
Once north of Seattle,
the rain decreased to occasional sprinkles, and the grey dawn slowly pushed away the darkness. I gassed up in Blaine,
WA at 0637 on Sunday the 12th. The
GPS computer showed that I had ridden the 1537 miles since Otay Mesa in 23 hrs 37 min. That made for a rally total, so far, of 3063 miles in 47 hr
37 min. I had
until 0845 to get across the border and check in at the Campbell River Store in Surrey,
B.C. to stop the clock for the B2B2B. I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in Blaine before crossing over to Canada
for my fifth border crossing in 48 hours.
When I finally pulled up to the Campbell River Store in Surrey,
Steve Broadhead was already there
drinking a root beer next to his ST1300. Steve was the only other rider in the rally to complete the 3 Borders Run within the allotted time. Bill Watt and Ted Timmons
jumped in and witnessed my paperwork, even documenting the time with a GPS. Tamara Timmons documented everything with her camera. I went inside the store and
got a time/date stamped receipt for the IBA requirement.
Well, this was it!
I had successfully completed a Border to Border to Border Gold Insanity. I now had a good idea why
the “Insanity” part was added by Mr. Kneebone:
I had 5½ hours left to travel the 240 miles back to the finish line
in Chelan. Though
body numb and brain dead, I was still alert and pretty oriented.
I could still grab a couple of bonuses in the Seattle
area, I thought. The
sixth border crossing was a piece of cake. I was an expert at it by now. It is still strange, though, that six border crossings in 48 hours didn’t throw up a “red flag” on
their computers. They
entered my name and license number at each crossing.
The next 85 miles to Everett,
WA was pretty uneventful. The only diversion was a local Harley rider who volunteered
to run interference for me. There were six good bonuses and three threads in the Seattle
area worth a total of 4700 points. A sure rally winning combo. The GPS calculated that I had an hour and a half buffer in the route back to the finish. I mulled
my options over in what was left of my road-kill mind.
I had accomplished what I had set out to do with the Border Ride; I was beyond
the “burnt meat on a stick” stage. There was no need to take a chance on being time barred at the finish. A “return to the barn” urge eclipsed my resolve. I blew off the Seattle Bonuses
and turned east on US-2 at Everett. US-2 through the Snoqualmie
National Forest is a primo motorcycle road. Much of it was clogged with cages this Sunday afternoon, but
I had a blast anyway. I
was feeling good that this marathon task was about over, and I would soon be able to get some sleep. The two day adventure had
been awesome, but enough was enough already!
Soon I saw the crystal clear blue deep water of Lake
retraced the odo check route of
three previous back to Cambell’s
Resort. I was
cruising down the boat ramp toward the finish line when I remembered one final bonus that I needed to bag. This one would be easy. It was the “Go Jump in a
Lake” Bonus; worth 600 points.
I hopped on the Wave Runner, provided by The Wetcoast Irregulars, with my riding suit on and had the kid running
the concession snap a Polaroid of me riding it for the certification
I crossed the finish line at 1220. The GPS showed 53 hrs 20 min total rally time and 3302 total
miles. I put
my paperwork together and headed up to Joe’s room at the top of the hill (311 steps). Man that’s really cruel Joe! I was handed a hotdog and a cold MGD as soon as I reached
the top, so I guess it was worth the hike. Next, all of the finishers sat in Joe’s room reminiscing and trying to stay awake, while the line
to the pre-verification table crept at an imperceptible rate.
Once in the “chair” we somehow had to clear the fog from way too many hours with
far too little sleep from our crispy-fried brains and put all 55 hours together on paper for the pre-verification
the tedious process was completed, the final paperwork was turned in. This was quite a long process, and it was time for the Post-Rally
Banquet by the time it was over.
Amazingly, when we got up to the banquet room, it was closed, and Chelan’s
Finest were conducting a bomb search! Apparently, some Brain Dead Gomer with a longtime beef against Joe called in a Bravo Tango on the Banquet. After about a 45 minute delay, we were allowed to go in. The food was great, especially
after 55+ hours of mostly Red Bull and turkey jerky.
Thanks to my mush brain condition, due mostly to the 3+ days with 3 hours sleep,
I don’t remember too much of that night. I do recollect that Brian Roberts, Jim Peterson, and Jim Owen took 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places respectively. I managed a 4th overall. I also remember that everyone
had to go up in front of the congregation and tell about something interesting or humorous that happened during
their ride. I
have no Idea what I or any of the others said.
I caught myself, and a couple of others, fading off into a snooze while sitting
up with our eyes open. If
we had been riding, we would have checked into the Iron Butt Motel long before then. Joe, the B#%$@!!, video taped everyone’s testimony.
Now, THAT will be a revealing documentary when it comes out! Thanks Joe for a great rally, and thanks to your volunteers
for their enormous sacrifice. Lord willing, I’ll be back for your next one.