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ButtLite III -- Leg Two -- In the Zone

Montana Hoon

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Eight o'clock p.m. came and the Rally Pack for Leg Two was handed out. Getting a new challenge further motivated me to continue on in the Rally. This time there were two Route and Answer Sheets. I scanned them and saw that both of them had a bonus requiring going southeast to Minneapolis and picking up a coffee mug at Bob's Java Hut that night. This was an especially significant bonus because it was worth 333 points on this leg, as well as an additional 333 points on each of Legs Three and Four -- in other words, a total of 999 (let's call it 1000) points over the course of the rally. Some folks saw the 333 point total and that it required "backtracking" and skipped right over it. I took off for the coffee cup, having previously been to Bob's once before. Unfortunately, the little knowledge about where Bob's was messed me up. There's a big difference between 2700 NORTH Lyndale (where I got off) and 2700 SOUTH Lyndale (where Bob's is at). After wasting close to an hour, I made it to South Lyndale and picked up my cup. One of the patrons at Bob's asked if I was also going over to St. Paul. I checked the Route Sheets and saw that both had options for picking up bonuses by getting a gas receipt in a state's capitol city. On one Route Sheet, you could get four state capitol cities for some number of points, and on the other, eight capitol cities was worth something like 5000 points. I still hadn't really looked at the Route Sheets in detail, and since I was already so close to St. Paul, I decided to run over and pick up the gas receipt.


I pulled off the freeway in St. Paul and got my gas receipt. I pulled up to the mini-store and got out all the route sheets, maps, etc. and spread them all out on the ground right there in front of the store. I must have looked like some kind of nut. One thing I wanted to do was get out of Minneapolis / St. Paul so that I wouldn't get caught in morning rush-hour traffic. So I did a little mini-planning session there at the gas station to decide which way I would get out of town. Tom Roe had taught me a method to evaluate which of multiple Routes to take and it worked very effectively here. This led me to the Route that had most of its bonuses in Wyoming and Montana. I decided to head across I-90 so that after doing some more detailed planning, I would be able to easily get to either state.


I set off down I-35, picked up I-90, and hoped to make it to Sioux Falls before taking a rest stop. As I got close to the border, the town of Luverne looked pretty inviting. I stopped at a gas station, put in some fuel, and made sure all required information was on the receipt. I found a cheap motel, finished my planning and went to sleep for three or four hours. I then went back to the same station for some more gas and a second receipt, again making sure it had all the required information. After having lost so many points because of paperwork mistakes, I was determined to get everything right this leg. As Tom Roe said to another rider, "The paperwork won't win you a rally, but it can sure make you lose one."


Having decided on the main Route I would take, and then eliminating the bonuses that weren't feasible for me leaving from Luverne, I had plugged the remaining bonus locations into the computer. I again dropped low-point bonuses until I had a route that would get me to Post Falls, Idaho by the 10:00 a.m. opening time of the Checkpoint. Living in Montana, I had a little bit of a "home-field advantage" in riding this Leg. My plan had me getting the following remaining bonuses:


Vivian, SD

Absarokee, MT

Red Lodge, MT

Cooke City, MT

Bozeman, MT

Butte, MT

Anaconda, MT

Blossburg, MT


Vivian, South Dakota was right off I-90 on the way west. I pulled off the freeway and into town. I use the term "town" loosely. I rode up the main drag and there was nothing resembling a gas station. I pulled over where a couple of guys were shooting the breeze and asked them where the gas station was. They pointed off in the distance toward the freeway. As it turns out, the gas station was at the next freeway off-ramp and not in the town. I got gas, checked that the receipt had all the required information, and got back underway.


The next bonus was some 500-plus miles away on I-90. Fortunately, the riding conditions were great and it was just a matter of keeping the hammer down. As I crossed into Wyoming, I picked up the Highway Patrol on the scanner. I could tell the dispatcher was in Gillette and was talking to a trooper somewhere east of there on I-90. Dispatch told the trooper to be on the lookout for a particular car heading his way from Gillette. Shortly thereafter, the V-1 picked up a hit and I came up behind the trooper sitting in the median. Now if I've got this figured out right, I just passed the only trooper between where I am and Gillette. Hmmm, what to do?


The miles continue to roll by and I get to Columbus, Montana, the exit off I-90 to get to the next bonus. I'm supposed to take a picture of a sign about five miles south of Absarokee. Montana Highway 78 is a bit more fun than the slab I've been pounding all day and I'm in my own backyard. I also know I'm about to ride the Beartooth Highway -- sixty miles of the most incredible combination of road and scenery there is.


I get "about" five miles south of Absarokee and see a monument to the right. I stop to take a look at it, but it's not the right one. I continue on, and then on a little more. Up on the left I see another monument. This one is to Father Madson and the correct one. The instructions say to take a picture of the sign at the monument. Immediately to the right of the monument is a sign with a history about the Bozeman Trail. I hang my flag from the sign and snap the picture.


I continue on MT-78 into Red Lodge. This was a fun road -- somewhat twisty and very deserted. My main concern is coming upon some wildlife in the road. (Strangely enough, I did clip a deer while riding this road on the RS just a couple weeks later. No harm to me or the bike and the deer walked away from it too.)


In Red Lodge I pull up to the Little Red Box Car Drive-In (or some such name) and write down my odometer reading and the time. I slip on my Darien liner because I know the temps will be dropping as I climb up to Beartooth Pass. Off I go on the Beartooth Highway. It's a great ride, but the temperature drops fast and the sky is mostly overcast. Plus, I haven't had much practice in the twisties with the LT. This would sure be a lot more fun on the RS on a clear, warm day! (And it was, just a couple weeks later!)


I get to Cooke City and write down my odometer reading and the time. The RallyMasters can use this information to verify that the ride was actually made. In addition, I have to go to a bar and snap a picture of a statue that resides there. The bonus description asks, "What do you get when you cross a really short lawyer with a bottle of Viagra?" The statue is a four-foot phallus.


I leave Cooke City and go through Yellowstone National Park's Northeast Entrance. It's dark now, so I'm concerned about running into wildlife. Not concerned enough to use the cages as shields, however. They just run way too slow. I exit out the North Entrance of Yellowstone and put it on autopilot for the next bonus in Bozeman. Geez, a measly 46 points for picking up a gas receipt in my home town. I pick up the receipt and go home. My house is practically right on the way! I pull into the driveway and find the garage door open, the lights on, and the obligatory pickup truck is even moved out of the way so I can pull right into the garage!


Valerie came out, took one look at me, and said, "You look TERRIBLE!" After I looked in the mirror, I had to agree. I didn't recognize myself. Between lack of sleep (about 10 hours of sleep from Sunday to Wednesday) and the puffiness around my eyes from rubbing them because of the allergens in the air, I looked 10 years older. Maybe a few hours in my own bed would help!


Now, one of the maxims of long-distance riding is to never sleep in your own bed. A couple of guys did it in an IronButt and decided the bed felt better than continuing in the rally. I was determined not to let that happen to me. The main constraint I had was to get to the next bonus in Butte at sunrise, as it could only be claimed during daylight hours. I took sunrise, subtracted about two hours from that, and set the Screaming Meanie. I woke up when it went off, showered, dressed, and took off. I got another gas receipt so that I would have another set of documentation for the rest bonus. I could only get credit once, but this time I would have two sets of documentation.


I arrived in Butte a few minutes before sunrise. I gassed up and got the requisite receipt. This bonus required a picture of the 90-foot Madonna that overlooks the city. Checking around, I found the only way to get close to the statue was via a bus that didn't start running until 9 a.m. I got as close as I could and snapped a picture. The Madonna appeared as a small, white speck in the picture. It's about the best you can do with a single-focus Polaroid camera.


MTBUTmad1.jpg (Photo from roadsideamerica.com)


The next bonus was in Anaconda. Another picture bonus requiring a photo of a 585-foot tall smokestack. The smokestack is visible for miles, but it would be another thing to make it come out in a picture. As I got close to the Anaconda exit, I saw it was closed because of construction. This bonus was worth 108 points. I've also been looking at my GPS-V, into which I had previously programmed the coordinates of the next checkpoint at Beaudry Motorsports in Post Falls, Idaho. The GPS is giving me route instructions to get there and is showing the ETA for the checkpoint. I blow off the Blossburg bonus -- the points vs. time doesn't make it anymore. The ETA at Beaudry is somewhere right close to 10 a.m. The penalty for arriving after 10 a.m. is five points per minute. I go to the next freeway exit and estimate it will take me close to 20 minutes to get down close to the smokestack and back. In other words, it's a wash between getting a good picture of the smokestack and losing points for a late arrival. I pull off the freeway and take the best picture I can from the distance I'm at.


MTANAstack.jpg (Photo from roadsideamerica.com)



I get back on the bike and adjust my speed based on the ETA on the GPS. I correlate this with the mileage markers and everything is agreeing. I should get in just before 10 a.m. As I continue this slab blast, I pick up a couple of other riders who fall in behind me. I'm running a pretty good pace and the ETA improves a bit, so I back down a little. As I continue on, the ETA starts to slip, so I pick up the pace again. I learned that it's really easy to lose minutes off the front end of the leg, and it's REALLY, REALLY hard to make them back up at the end of the leg. Nevertheless, I pull in to Beaudry with a couple minutes to spare to avoid any penalty points.


DSC01206.jpg (Photo from TeamStrange.com)

I get my documentation in order and then go to present it to the volunteer doing the pre-scoring.


Review of the fuel log. Everything in order. KA-CHING!


Review of the rest bonus. Everything in order. KA-CHING!


Review of the bonuses for Vivian, Red Lodge, Cooke City, Bozeman. Everything in order. KA-CHING!


Review of the bonus for Anaconda.


"Where's the smokestack in this picture?"


"It's right there between the two telephone poles. See that little black line? If you had a magnifying glass you could make it out."


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


Volunteer checks with RallyMasters and returns.


"I'm going to deny this, but you can discuss it with the RallyMasters. Now, let's look at your Butte bonus. Yep, there's the Madonna. You get that one."


"Wait a minute, the speck on this picture of the Madonna is barely bigger than the speck on my picture of the smokestack!"


"Well, the Madonna has a distinctive outline. Now, let's look at the Absarokee bonus. You're supposed to take a picture of the sign on the monument. What's this?"


"It's a picture of the sign AT the monument."


"Hmmm. I'll have to check with the RallyMasters."


Volunteer checks with RalllyMasters and returns.


"I'm going to deny this one, but you can discuss it with the RallyMasters."


The volunteer assigns a preliminary score and I'm off to see the RallyMasters. They check over the Answer Sheet and enter the data into the computer.


I then say, "Let's discuss the Father Madson (Absarokee) Bonus. First of all, the instructions say he's Father Madison and the monument says Father Madson."


I get a look like, "Yeah, it's a typo -- that doesn't mean anything."


I quickly continue, "But that's not my point. The instructions say, 'Take a photo of the sign AT the monument' and that's what I did. If the instructions had said, 'Take a photo of the sign ON the monument' I would have done that."


The RallyMasters confer and Adam Wolkoff says, "Yeah, it is ambiguous." Eddie starts to get mad. Both Eddie and Adam assure me that Eddie is not mad at me, he's mad at the instructions not being precise. Plus, if I get the points, anyone else who was previously denied that bonus will have to be re-scored. In a very rare moment, the RallyMasters concede and award me the points, but Adam says, "But I'm not even going to discuss the smokestack bonus."


"No problem," I say. I felt like I had scored a major victory, and I had taken the smokestack picture knowing that it was "iffy."


When the results were posted, I had moved from 51st all the way up to 20th! I voted myself "Most Improved Rider" for this Leg. Now this felt much better than the First Leg!


Lesson learned: Plan the ride, ride the plan, adapt to changing circumstances, and get the paperwork right!


Next installment: Leg Three -- Disappointments

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Keep on posting. You're making me want to try this. After seeing how hard this is, I can't even imagine what the full Iron Butt challenge is like. You guys rock.

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Montana Hoon

Michael --


Had lots of free time for the first three installments. Had to make a trip to San Francisco and from here I'm on the way to Torrey. Will get to it soon!



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I just passed the only trooper between where I am and Gillette. Hmmm, what to do? smile.gif


Hay Steve, So I bet he was between Aladdin trun off and Beulah! Sometime tell me what the speedO over here to Gillette was on. smile.gif Thanks for the ride here, Keep it coming!

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