Motorcycle Endurance Rally           August 11th-16th, 2006


Day 0  •  Day 1  •  Day 2  •  Day 3  •  Day 4  •  Day 5  •  Finish  •  Epilog

Day Zero (sign-in & tech)

The riders and staff are rolling in now to this dusty and bleached little desert town from all compass points. They're here to ride a 5-day long-distance motorcycle rally which will finish in Colorado Springs, CO next Wednesday.

Today is allocated to tech inspection, riding the odometer check, the rider's meeting where the bonus listings will be handed out, and the pre-event banquet (authentic home-made Italian fare at Bruno's Country Club).

Yes, it's 10:30am. Why do you ask?
Heidi Still heads out on the odometer check.

So far, the motorcyclists are far outnumbered by the Burning Man organizers, who are creating the transitory town of "Black Rock City" which springs up on the Playa once a year around Labor Day. It's usually not hard to tell the two groups apart. The BM crew is mostly young, with lots of body art, eclectic clothing and hair, and "interesting" transportation devices. Like the long-distance motorcyclists, they also have a strong streak of individualism, however differently expressed.

Bob & Sylvie Torter, one of the two entries competing 2-up.

Gerlach is so much a part of the LDR fabric, that it is simultaneously a checkpoint for another 5-day rally running concurrently with Spank. The Butt Lite Rally started in Minnesota a few days ago. Several of the riders passed through last night, including #10, John Cooms, who spent an hour in the parking lot trying to fix a leaking fuel cell, courtesy of the infamous Jungo Road from Winnemucca. He'd already been victim of a broken exhaust yesterday in Oregon when by luck he found a highway department road crew who welded an improvised bracket for him.

LD riders are a resourceful bunch. By necessity.

It's pretty dusty out there on the Playa.

For two Spank riders, the problems began on the way to Gerlach.

Jim Owen (whom some of you will remember came within a few hours of winning the 2005 Ironbutt Rally when his R1150RT's clutch/transmission blew up) showed up missing his nice Ortlieb dry bag. In a rare lapse of focus, Jim assumes he simply forgot to strap it down after a stop. The next time he looked, the Roc Straps were there, but no bag. He lost most of the clothes he brought, including a couple irreplacable Ironbutt Rally t-shirts. Bummer.

Maura Gatensby, one of two Canadian entrants, was riding her Concours through a construction zone in Federal Way, WA, when she hit a big bump and one of her saddlebags and sleeping bag came adrift. In her rear view mirror she watched them disappear behind her. As soon as she could, she stopped and did a long hike back along the construction barrier to where she last saw the bag. Alas, no bag. Someone must have stopped and picked it up. Of course it contained all of her clothes, and rally information. Seems kinda like a trend, doesn't it?

After lunch, a bunch of the riders headed up west of the Playa to Guru Lane, to visit and pay their respects at the Ironbutt Association memorial. If you're an LD Rider and you're passing through Gerlach, this is a Must Do.

John Langan and his sticker collection.

I just gotta slip in here mention one of the rally staffers, John Langan, as in my opinion he typifies the long-distance rider. Last year he bought a BMW F650GS, and this past January 1st, he rode it to Ushuaia, the southern most place you can get to by road in South America. Then he not only rode it back up the other coast of the continent, but continued on to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska before returning home. 34,000 miles in 4 months. Just because he could. Oh, and by the way, John doesn't speak any Spanish. He does smile pretty much constantly though...

Lisa and Tobie Stevens got special rally numbers.

After the banquet, rallymaster George Zelenz handed out the 20-page rally packets. Eric Vaillancourt was the first to notice that pages 17-20 weren't there. George's promise that this would be a very, very challanging rally is becoming reality. They won't get the last 4 pages of bonuses until 07:00 Friday morning, thus thwarting any rider's efforts to go to sleep knowing for certain what their route will be tomorrow morning.

All the bonuses are optional, but the riders know they will need 10,000 points on the first leg to remain in contention to be "finishers" in Colorado Springs. Showing up at the Joshua Tree checkpoint is worth 4,000 points, and a properly documented fuel log is worth another 5,000 points. You do the math.

The bonuses on leg #1 include getting a photo of the lighthouse at Point Roberts, WA (14,000 points), getting to which pretty much requires riding through Canada. And a couple of my favorite rides: Lolo Pass (5,819 points) and the Rattlesnake Grade (3,185 points).

George took a shot at himself by including the Point Cabrillo Light Station (1,826 points), a photo of which was a bonus in the '05 IBR where George took a shot from the parking lot to avoid the 1/4 mile hike. He was unable to convince Chief Scorer Tom Austin that the tiny blur in the photo was actually the lighthouse. George's directions for the Spank riders? "Take a photo of the Light Station. Think you can do that? Sheesh!".

There is rarely a one-bonus-will-win-it challange, but George included one in this event. For a guaranteed rally winning bonus of 1,000,000 points, riders can visit the the Pyramid of the Sun temple in Parque Nacional Tikal, Guatemala. This is questionably possible if you have the ride of your life and if everything goes perfectly (of course bypassing the Joshua Tree checkpoint is a given). But you have to ride through Mexico, Belize and into Guatemala. Iffy, no? Yes, definitely.

I wouldn't try it, but someone may. Friday morning we'll know...

H. Marc Lewis
Gerlach, NV

Day 0  •  Day 1  •  Day 2  •  Day 3  •  Day 4  •  Day 5  •  Finish  •  Epilog

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