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ButtLite III -- Leg One -- Emotional Roller Coaster

Montana Hoon

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ButtLite III -- Leg One -- Emotional Roller-Coaster


I woke up before my Screaming Meanie went off Monday morning. I managed about three hours of sleep. I did the last-minute packing of what I needed and headed over to the Rally start point. I was probably the fifth person to line up for the start. I got checked in with an odometer verification and then waited until the final Riders Meeting at 5:30 a.m. The RallyMasters gave some final instruction and then handed out Leg One Rally Pack #2. This one included an additional THREE Route Sheets and corresponding Answer Sheets. I scanned through the three new possibilities and quickly concluded the none of them offered enough additional incentive over my planned route to justify the planning time needed to fully evaluate them. I tucked them away and got ready to head out at the official 6:00 a.m. start time.


When the start signal was given, I was one of the first ones away. I had earlier decided that I would take the "back roads" to Natchez, rather than dropping down to I-10 as S&T said to do. I recalled hearing about some flooding, and I guessed there was bound to be construction.


I was tooling along the back roads making good time and thinking, "Hey, this isn't so bad -- I'm doing pretty good!" I guess it's easy to be optimistic in the first two hours of a ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY-SIX HOUR RALLY.


Of course the optimism died pretty quickly when I flipped on the auxiliary fuel pump a couple hundred miles from the start. The red LED indicator light DID NOT COME ON when I flipped the switch. GREAT! It worked perfectly on the ride from Montana to Texas and it fails the first time I use it in the Rally. I start wondering if I can make it to a gas station on the back roads I'm on. I'm thinking that when I washed the bike the night before, maybe I shorted something out. All kinds of things race through my mind -- like when I'll get time to find the problem and fix it. I finally decide to flip the switch again, only this time with a little more force. The LED lights up and I'm back in business. WHEW!!!


The rest of the trip to Natchez was uneventful. I'm looking for Mammy's Cupboard Restaurant about five miles south of town. I go "about" five miles south of town and traces of civilization are disappearing. I'm about to turn around and decide to pull in to a gas station and ask if they know where Mammy's is. I'm told it's just over the next hill to the south. I pull up to Mammy's and drape my flag over the bike and take a picture of the restaurant -- a twenty-eight-foot high Aunt Jemima. Lesson learned: "About" can mean just "about" anything!


MSNATmammy1_stromquist.jpg (Photo from roadsideamerica.com)


With a full load of fuel and my first bonus under the belt, it's northward to my second bonus in Ebenezer, Kansas. There, I have to take a picture of the tombstone of Elmore James, "King of the Slide Guitar." I had planned on S&T that my route should take me over the Natchez Trace Parkway, but when I punched the destination into the GPS-V, it took me a slightly different way. Nevertheless, I ended up in the right place at about the right time.


9951302t.jpg (Photo from deltablues.net)


The next bonus was to take a picture of a tree near Dorena, Missouri at the Big Oak Tree State Park. As I was heading north, I began to think a little harder about the directions given to get there. They said something like, "Go north 5 miles from the ferry landing..." Of course, both S&T and the GPS-V were telling me that the quickest way was to go up through Kentucky and catch the ferry across the Mississippi. But the more I thought about it, the more I reasoned that there had to be a "gotcha" to this route. Either the ferry would not be running by the time I got there, or it wouldn't allow motorcycles, or something else. As I rolled toward Memphis, I decided I would take a slightly longer route and avoid the ferry, but at least I wouldn't get trapped. Having bagged two bonuses and thinking I had not let the RallyMasters outfox me, I was feeling pretty good. Roller coaster heading up...


I ran up I-55 to New Madrid and then cut over. From the map I had, it looked like I would have to travel a little ways on a dirt road, but I figured that would be no big deal. As it turned out, the dirt portion wasn't very long. What scared the heck out of me, though, was that it was getting dark, and, as I tooled along a back road that was paved, I suddenly hit a section where the bike felt like it was riding on marbles. I knew I was going down, it felt sooooo slippery. I don't know exactly how, but I somehow stayed upright. I must have said a prayer earlier that kept the bike up. That experience really shook me up. The roller-coaster emotions that had been high a moment before, took a big drop.


I finally found the Big Oak Tree State Park after dark. The bonus required a photo of "tree number 5." I took two flashlights, the Polaroid camera, and my flag down the boardwalk path that led to the tree. Of course, it was the very last tree at the end of a quarter-mile trek in the heat and humidity. I lit up my flag and the tree with both flashlights, and got the picture.


boardwalk.gif (Photo from mostateparks.com)


I walked the quarter-mile back to my bike, packed everything up, and headed for my next bonus in Hannibal, Missouri. Here I had to go to Lover's Leap and find a monument to three children who disappeared from there. Getting to Lover's Leap wasn't too hard, but the monument was at ground level somewhere and it was dark. After searching for several minutes with the flashlight, I finally found the monument and recorded the children's names. The roller coaster is climbing again...


leap.jpg (Photo from visithannibal.com)


My next planned bonus was for Monterey, Iowa. This required a picture of a sign in front of any church in town. Given that it's almost impossible to find Monterey, Iowa on a map, it was likely that there would be only ONE church in the town. I rode the miles and ran out of pavement just as I hit Monterey. Here, a dirt and gravel road teed off to the right and left. There was a large building on the other side of the "tee" but it looked more like an old, one-room schoolhouse than a church. I took the road off to the right, as it looked like there was more "civilization" that way. I rode about a half mile and found nothing but a few farmhouses. I went back to the "tee" and decided the building there would have to do. The only sign around was a street sign, so I draped my flag from it and took the picture. I was tired and muscling the KLT around on the gravel road was no fun at all. Roller coaster heading down.


I continued on to the town of Bloomfield and decided it was time for a "Rest Bonus." By stopping for three hours in one place, I could claim about 600 points. I put a few cents of gas in the bike at a 24-hour station and got a receipt. The receipt didn't show the location, so I had the clerk stamp the back of the receipt. I doubled back to a rest area, parked the bike, set the Screaming Meanie, and laid down on a picnic table.


When I woke up after about three hours sleep, I returned to the same gas station, got another receipt, and continued on. I decided that I didn't want to take the time to go for the Iowa City bonus, so I turned left at Ottumwa and headed for Des Moines.


When I got to Big Daddy's BBQ in Des Moines, a few other riders were already there. We were required to purchase a bottle of BBQ sauce at Big Daddy's after 10:00 a.m. Since I arrived a bit before 10:00, I used the time to make a few adjustments on the bike. I had a clipboard box attached to the bike to carry the Route Sheets, maps, and miscellaneous stuff. During the ride to the first bonus, it became obvious that the clipboard would not stay attached with a single piece of dual-lock. I stuck a RAM-Mount ball in the right mirror hole and pulled out the backup clipboard that already had a RAM-Mount arm I had used on my RS. Lesson learned: make sure everything is SOLIDLY attached to the bike.


It turns out that Big Daddy's was closed for remodeling, but Big Daddy was there and set up a table outside to sell us his sauce for $10 a bottle -- a two-ounce bottle. This has to be the most expensive BBQ sauce on earth!!! It turns out that Big Daddy also has cheaper bottles of sauce, but I guess he figured he had a monopoly and went with his most profitable offering.


I left Des Moines heading north on I-35. I decided against the bonus in Hudson, Wisconsin, opting to go straight to the checkpoint in Monticello, Minnesota. As it turns out, I caught just a piece of rush-hour traffic in Minneapolis and arrived at Moon Motors in Monticello well before the checkpoint opened.


After settling in, I started to go through the paperwork in some detail. It was my responsibility to pre-score myself to make sure I had all the required documentation to support the bonuses I was claiming. As I went through everything, I noted that I had forgotten to write down my odometer reading at the Hannibal and Des Moines bonuses. I roughly calculated out what the odometer reading should have been, but I wasn't sure if this was acceptable.


I went to one of the RallyMasters, Eddie James, and said, "What if one of the riders forgot to write down the odometer reading at a bonus. Hypothetically, could he calculate what the reading should have been and write that down?"


Eddie replied that a detailed audit would probably show that the "calculated" odometer reading would not match with the corrected reading (remember the odometer check before the rally) and it would be better for the rider to take the lumps now. Besides, he added, the point values on the first leg are low so that the riders can learn from early mistakes without a huge penalty.


OK, fair enough. I want to play by the rules, so I crossed off those two bonuses and totalled up my score. It was something like 2500 points. Wow, that seemed pretty respectable. Roller coaster going up...


I assembled all my paper work and went to the scoring table. Here, volunteers review the documents and verify the points claimed.


My reviewer started with the gas log, worth 500 points.


"Do you have all your receipts?"


"Yes, all but one. I got gas between Hannibal and Monterey in the middle of the night. The station was closed but the pumps were open. It asked if I wanted a receipt and I hit the 'Yes' button. No receipt came out and it said, 'Please see cashier.'"


"Hmmm. I'm going to have to ask the RallyMasters about this."


Reviewer checks with RallyMaster and returns.


"They said they announced Sunday night that if you got gas from an unattended station that you did so at your own risk."


As soon as the words left his mouth, I remembered that, sure enough, they had said that. BOOM! FIVE-HUNDRED POINTS WIPED OUT!


"OK, let's look at your rest bonus."


"Here it is, two receipts from the same place."


"Hmmmm. This one is stamped on the back, but the other one isn't. I'm going to have to check with the RallyMasters."


Reviewer checks with RallyMaster and returns.


"If you had gotten the second receipt stamped on the back, it would be acceptable. As it is, I'm going to have to reject it."


I was stunned. Wasn't it obvious the two receipts were printed from the same machine? As I later thought about it, though, I had to agree. Especially when I saw many other gas stations of the same name. It WOULD be possible to pick up a receipt somewhere else that looked the same.




"OK, let's look at the rest of the bonuses. This one is supposed to be of a sign in front of the church in Monterey. This is just a street sign."


"Right, it's a sign and it's in front of the church."


"Hmmmm. I'm going to have to check with the RallyMasters."


Reviewer checks with RallyMaster and returns.


"I'm going to deny this. If you want to discuss it with the RallyMasters, you can do that."


BOOM! Another 300(??) POINTS WIPED OUT!


Roller coaster hits rock bottom. From thinking I had done pretty well with 2500-odd points going all the way down to 1120 points really deflated me. I took my decimated form over to the RallyMasters for final scoring. Eddie asked why I had crossed off the bonuses for Hannibal and Des Moines. I replied, "Those are the ones that the hypothetical rider asked you about earlier." Eddie understood.


In discussing the sign in front of the church, Eddie said that the church was about a quarter-mile to the left at the tee. I knew I was stretching with my street sign picture, and I was at the bottom of the roller coaster, so I just sat quietly and accepted my 1120 points. Later, I asked, "What was the 'gotcha' at the ferry?" Eddie replied, "There was no 'gotcha' -- but it only runs until 6:15." Uh-huh, by my definition, that was the "gotcha."


At least my lot wasn't as bad as some others. One rider didn't originally have one of the sheets in his Rally Pack. He turned in everything he had received, but it's incumbent on the rider to make sure he has every sheet before leaving. If he's short a sheet, he has to ask for it before leaving. Result: No score for Leg One.


Another rider filled in his Answer Sheet, but every answer was off by one line. Result: No score for Leg One. (I think the Answer Sheets were deliberately constructed to make possible this type of error. What's that you say? The RallyBastar.. er.. Masters would never do that sort of thing? Hmmm.)


I tried to catch a few winks before the Leg Two Rally Pack would be handed out at 8 p.m., but there was so much going on that I couldn't. Once all the riders got checked in, the preliminary results were posted. I was in 51st place. I calculated that if I had done a better job on the paperwork, I would have finished above the average for Leg One. That gave me enough motivation to hang in for the next leg.


Next: Leg Two -- In the Zone

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You're a stronger man than I. After the second "You didn't get this bonus because...." I'd be climbing over the table trying to introduce the Rally Masters to my boot. smile.gif

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I guess that means we don't invite Russell to the ralleys or we station body gaurds like me at the checkin stations. smile.gif


I've done skill/gimick car ralleys a few times. It sounds like the Iron Butt bonuses aren't as hard to figure out, but require more planning/riding to do. It's really frustrating when you get burned on some technicality, but that's part of the game.


Loving the reports Steve. I could feel your pain. Keep it up.

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You have to love the fact that the line in the sand is not moving...it's just your perspective to the line. I heard teeth grinding. OUCH!


It appears to be quite an accomplishment to make it to the next check point without beating your own head into a wall.


What a marvel to compete with yourself.





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Great report, Steve. Can't wait to read the rest of it. But was this a motorcycle event or were you dealing with the IRS? "Disallowing this," and "Disallowing that." Sheesh.


At least there some promise of good news in your next report. Looking forward to it.

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The bonuses have sometimes tricky instructions to follow, which are strictly interpreted, to test the rider's mental condition when he or she gets to the bonus. If you're too tired to follow the directions, you don't get the points, which is the same as if you never went there at all. (Actually, it's worse, because now you're more fatigued from riding extra miles for no purpose.)



The strict interpretation of bonuses also ensures that every rider has to exert the same level of effort to get the same points. If a bonus tells you to get a picture of a tree that's a half mile walk through a swamp, a picture of another tree that's easier to get to won't do. If a bonus tells you to get a receipt with the name of a town printed on it, a receipt with the name of the town hand-written in (which could be from anywhere) won't do. You have to prove that you go to the bonus location, and you have to do unambiguously.



And people take these rallies so seriously that they will try to cheat. The photo with the rally flag in it is one way to ensure that the rider actually went there. The odometer reading is another verification method - after the rally, the rallymasters go through the route sheets and make sure the recorded odometer readings match the mileage on the recorded route. So if your odometer readings are missing, or a receipt isn't correctly printed, or a photo doesn't show what it's supposed to, the rider can't unambiguously prove that he or she was there, and so gets no credit, to make it fair for the people who did the bonus correctly.



And you thought the license plate frame said "World's Toughest Riders" just because of the mileage.

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