My First Motorcyle “Race” – The Desert 100

Rally vs. Race

I’ve been riding competitive scavenger hunt RALLIES for so many years that when I decided to sign up for the 2014 Desert 100 RACE–I feel a twinge everytime I type and say that four letter word that starts with an R and ends with an E.  It’s a totally different thing than RALLIES–that R word is much easier to say.

I’ve never “raced” a motorcycle before and both excited and a a little nervous at the prospect of flogging 700 pounds of dual-sport and rider through the scrub lands of Odessa for 50 miles in amongst hundreds of other riders.

Race Flyer

My Ride

I’ll be riding a 2013 Husqvarna TR650 Strada (that’s the street ABS version) converted to off-road by swapping to spoked rims and knobbies.  Essentially the bike I’m riding and camping from for the weekend is the bike I’m racing…and the bike I’m relying on making it back home with.  I’ll be leaving behind bags, top case, windshield, mirrors, and a few other accessories.

Daddy O’s History

The race is also a surreal event with almost 45 years of history.  My dad raced it in the early 70′s and even won the team class one year….and I was there as a 5 year old kid.  Some things are a bit different today including the fact two-stroke oil isn’t made from castor beans anymore, the suspension on even my compromise enduro bike is light years ahead of the death machines they rode, but several details are exactly the same as before.

Ready, Set, BOOM!

It’s a “running start” race.  That means 750+ riders stand behind their motorcycle about a hundred feet, a cannon goes off (shotgun’s can’ be heard or seen by everybody in the 3/4 mile long line), riders run to their bikes, start them, launch, and everybody tries to make the hole shot about a mile later across a giant undulating field.

Cannon Start from spectator view:

Running to Your Bike on an F800GS (about 100 pounds heavier than mine…got 3rd place last year:

The whole premise of me signing up for this is that I’m forty-something, don’t own an actual “dirt bike”, and signed up because they’ve recently added an “Adventure Class” to the event.  Supposedly, I’m starting in a second “wave” that includes “Vintage” class bikes before 1986, 15 years of age and under, women, seniors (which scarily are considered 50 and older), and only have to do one lap instead of two that the boy racers and grizzled old timers will do.  I’m sure some of them will be lapping me.

Regardless, I’m guaranteed to be passed, to pass, and to encounter bottlenecks.  My goal is to finish….and if possible 3 hours or less.  Again, I’m my racing machine IS my transportation, so I have a big interest in being able to ride it back home.

And I can’t forget that this is adventure riding too.  I’m camping for the weekend and hanging out with THOUSANDS of other people.


Friday, April 4

Noon-Afternoon – Depart on Husqvarna TR650 with knobby tires, camping gear, and supplies to camp two nights a few miles west of Odessa, WA.

Afternoon-Evening – Arrive in Odessa and camp with other adventure riders and an adventure riding acquaintance I’m planning to ride the UTBDR with in July.  William B. will be riding in the same class with a KTM 690 Enduro.

Evening – Stories, Frivolity, & C2H6O

Saturday, April 5

7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. – “Dual Sport Poker Run”.  The first 100 “adventure bikes” to sign up get a free lunch at the brewery in Odessa.  I understand you get to ride part of the course to get a bit of a taste for things…anywhere from 20-150 miles.

Afternoon – Who knows

Evening – Stories, Frivolity, & C2H6O

Sunday, April 6

8:30 a.m. – Riders Meeting

9:30 a.m. – Race Starts with Wave 1 (the big classes doing 100 miles or 2 laps).  I’ll be in Wave #2 and will undoubtedly be lapped by riders in the first wave.

I estimate riding 2 1/2 to 3 hours to finish the event.

2:30 p.m. – Awards

Late Afternoon – Ride back home.

Monday, April 7

400mg Ibuprofen administered orally every 6 hours or as needed.


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Big Money Rally Ride #4 – I’m Going To Where Liz C Has Been

Watch me do this ride with the tracking mapS below and as I bag bonuses near real-time at Big Money Rally.

This will be my fourth Big Money Rally ride of the season and includes collection of up to 90 points AND a signed napkin by Liz C. The latter would be if I successfully capture an image of ALL the green circle bonuses below in less than a 24 hours period….which is about 27 of them by my count (the list is curiously missing LC013) and goes to LC028.

Liz C has ridden in every BMR rally to-date. Liz is always enjoying the ride and shares her fun so very well. And she’s always riding beautiful motorcycles and she has a posse of followers in tow to many of the BMR bonuses she earns.

Here is your chance to be one of those followers, ….or at least go to where Liz has already gone. We’ve taken a few of Liz’s past BMR bonus pictures and created a theme. These are good spots, in good locations. Note: Your emphasis should be on the item in the picture, and include your bike and placard unless noted otherwise.

I’m also doing this ride on Friday, February 28 because it is the last day of the optimal point month.  It makes those 27 bonus locations worth 70 points instead of 56 points a day later.  They were worth 2.0 in January, 2.5 in Feburary, 2.0 again in March, and trail off to even less points April and May.  In fact, the ride organizer echoed these points:

Earning the signed napkin is an accomplishment that will be relished the rest of your life, …even longer if you choose to take that napkin with you to your burial.

A few things to consider:
On Saturday the points for this theme go down. Earning the napkin when point value is at it’s current peak is icing on the cake.

Many western riders have already forfeited the napkin by already earning a LC bonus. So, you are truly in an envialbe position: Not only earn world-wide fame, but also bragging rights and admiration from BMR participants and spectators.

If you go and earn this napkin on Friday, BMR will kick in something special.
Certainly you’ll want to permanently display the napkin in your well-stocked trophy room with all of your other moto-bike awards. BMR will access it’s resources and furnish a zip-lock sandwich bag to showcase the napkin.

We’ll be watching…….


A ziplock bag?  Whoa!  I can’t not go now!


HOWEVER, there is a hitch to the giddyup.  It’s frickin’ February!  And PNW has been pummeled the past 2 or 3 weeks with WINTER weather.  Yes, they plow roads, but another weak storm is coming through on Thursday, clear again for most of the day Friday, and another weak storm on Saturday.  The trick or issue is that one of the bonuses is on Mt. Hood at Government Camp and 4800′ elevation.  Two others are at 1900′ elevation in some remote areas of Washington.

I’ve been burned 3 or 4 time in this area of the world including this season opener of the Dam tour near Hood River on the exact same day of the year, and barely made it to a lake near Mt. Hood the third time in MAY of another year:

This narrow weather window (as of Thursday 10 a.m. it’s raining) says Government Camp has high of 46 at 1 p.m. on Friday, partly cloudy with 20% chance of rain, giving way to low that evening of 26 and chance of snow of 80%.  And once I snag my first bonus at Rufus, I’m committed to the ride.  I either earn the napkin on this ride or never at all.

Watch conditions as I go up the hill from Tygh Valley to Blue Box Pass Summit at 4000′, Frog Lake, merge onto Highway 26 at 3735′, and Government Camp here.

I Want the Napkin!

The question I’m pondering on Thursday morning is whether to ride up at o’dark thirty and crawl my way in the cold night when no other cars are around or wait until what heat there might of the day to melt the slushy roadway, but with many cars around.  I’ll probably go the latter option on this one as I want a good night of rest Thursday to do what is a 900 mile ride in less than 24 hours.

If Government Camp isn’t reachable…so be it.  I’ll as far as safe, turn around, loop to Portland area via Hood Rive,  and snag the other possible bonuses.

Ride Plan (Estimated Times)

  • Depart Tri-Cities – 6-7 a.m., Friday, February 28
  • Begin route at Rufus, OR – 9 a.m.
  • Important Trout Lake & Glenwood, WA Bonuses – 10:30-11:00 a.m.
  • Critical Government Camp Bonus – 1 p.m.
  • Astoria – 5 p.m.
  • West of Portland option to stop at 8 or 9 and and sleep for 6-8 hours
  • End route at or near Sweet Home, OR – Midnight (or morning before 9 a.m. if I stopped earlier)

Note that I have 24 hours from the first bonus to complete the ride.  I may end up using it all.

Technology Testing

On this ride I’m also trying a little technological experiment. I have TWO different GPS tracking devices. I’m trying my new SPOT 3 unit out and I’m trying my iPhone running the recently released SWConnect app in parallel.

SPOT 3 Satellite Transmission


SWConnect and iPhone Cellular Data

They both will provide GPS coordinates, but have different performance characteristics.  The biggest difference is that the iPhone with SWConnect will NOT transmit a position unless I’m in cell phone data range.  If I’m out of range it will “buffer” those locations and report them in a burst as soon as I’m back in range to transmit data.  The SWConnect is free (in that the app is free and I already have an iPhone).  The SPOT unit cost me about $150, but I also pay about $175 a year in a fee for the tracking service.

Additional differences will be the reporting frequency.  The SPOT is set at 10 minutes (unless I want to go to the $225 level) and the iPhone can go from 1-10 minutes depending on how I change the application.  Since it cost nothing…that’s a bargain.   With SWConnect I can also choose about 10 different custom messages…where the SPOT has technically only 1 “custom” message.

After The List of Bonuses

After the LC bonuses (with a few libraries thrown in)–I’ll find myself in the Corvallis area probably around midnight Friday.  Get some sleep at a hotel, and then ride around Saturday for some more bonuses in the area and aim for Portland area Saturday night.

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The Road Well Traveled

On a subject completely unrelated to rallying I wondered the other day if I’d been to a particular place in Wyoming and tried recollecting in my rallying over the years…to no avail.

Then I remembered as I’ve accumulated various rallies, rides, and trips using my SPOT tracker over the years–I wondered if it would be in the various trips I’ve accmulated via SpotWalla.  Unfortunately, I have about 80 trips since I purchased my tracker in May of 2009.  Then I thought in a brain flash–just create a trip that spans those 4 1/2 years!



It doesn’t include rallies I’ve done since 2005 including the 2007 Iron Butt Rally, 2008 SPANK Rally…that would include more on the map including Northeast and Southeast, but still illustrates how one can cover the country fairly well on a motorcycle.

And have I been to Gilette, Wyomong?  Yes, I have!  Once….at least.  The morning of September 1, 2009 in the final leg of the 2009 Iron Butt Rally.

11-7-2013 9-57-30 AMAnd judging by the spacing of reports and position of the one icon I’m fairly sure I fueled up here…fairly quickly….at a Kum & Go near the freeway.  Not that I remember it exactly since it was Day 9, but mystery solved.

I love technology. :)

11-7-2013 11-43-02 AM

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Autumn at China Hat

I’ve been watching since August the planned gathering of NW Husqvarnas near Bend, Oregon at a place called China Hat.  And other than the weather being potentially very harsh in the high country in the end of October I’m pleasantly excited by the promise of decent weather this weekend.

Friday, October 25

I’m planning to leave Friday morning from home, stop by Cycletown in Hermiston to pick up a Oregon ORV tag (Oregon doesn’t honor my street plates from Washingon when off-road).  $10 for 2 years….so I guess I can live with the slight hassle. (I got my newly required Oregon “ATV Safety Evaluation” and got my card in the mail….best 3 hour waste for 15 minutes of something worthwhile I’ve ever seen).  Besides, maybe they’ve got some dirtbike boots I can try on and pick up a 1/5 of hooch as it’s cheaper in Oregon these days.

Then meander through Lexington, Spray, and Prineville, before getting off the pavement for the last 10 or 15 miles.

This is my tentative route.  I updated it a bit Thursday as I thought I’d like to visit John Day Fossil Beds National Monument do a bit of mix of paved and non-paved cut-offs.  The route takes me through Post, OR which is a single pump outpost of a place and only 60 miles from camp…leaving me 3 gallons of fuel to play with on Saturday.

Or, as an alternate I could also choose a more direct route via paved roads and gas up last in Prineville.

Ultimate destination is a campground with supposedly a dozen or so campsites just south of the actual China Hat cone.  I find one pretty good video of the area riding…except for the ending part.  Reminds me I need to take my GoPro…and not fall down.

Saturday, October 26

Ride around, see the countryside.

This year seems the 3rd or 4th year of a larger Husky end-of-season gathering and if this picture from last year is indicative of the tenacity of this group–they seem like kindred spirit to me!

DSC_3576Fear not!  Weather forecast is for mostly sunny, highs in the 60′s, lows in the high 20′s, and no chance of rain.  Morning’s oughta be brisk and I’ll be packing my heavier sleeping bag.  Although, if there were snow–this looks fun!

43.65777665, -121.0369419

UPDATE: Here’s what I actually did when I got there.

Picked a nice place to park my bike and setup for a cold night of camping.


Went for a little ride before dark.

Once the sun went down…the fire warmed up.

The music played, stories of the days ride exagerated, the booze flowed, and the embers warmed.

Sunday, October 27

Ride back home.

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Moonrise and Packwood in the Autumn

A little impromptu ride to visit my friends in Packwood for the evening.

On the way I’m going to stop at Chinook Pass for a hike in the full moon, but since the full moon should be rising at 6:20 and sunset at 6:03 (my location, but similarly adjusted when I move a hundred miles to the west) I think it *might* be an interesting event to photograph…maybe I can get some interesting background in the twilight.  Figure I’ll get there early to see what I can see.


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FJR PNW Tech Meet

I was invited to attend an FJR Tech Meet and Greet to talk about rallying and looking forward to visiting about 20 fellow FJR riders in Auburn Saturday, October 5th.

I’m planning to ride up either Friday night or Saturday morning for the event and spend the night at the family cabin on Whidbey.  Should be fun. :)


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Ride Report to Gerlachfest 2013

I bailed on Steens Mountain as I was blocked by snow 12 miles away and. 3000 vertical feet.  No way I was going to make it.


Friday morning shortly after sunrise I found a nice picture opportunity near Fields, Oregon. Snow level was just a few hundred feet above this picture and tires were slippery in the fresh morning frost sticking firmly to the road in shadowy spots.


Meeting up with George Swetland in the middle of nowhere….to be specific the center of the Summit Lake Paiute Tribe’s land….32 miles from the nearest paved road. George’s IBA number is #005…which means he was 5th place in the very first Iron Butt Rally in 1984. I’m #332 having finished first in 2007…and they’re up to about #500 these days. His KTM is SERIOUSLY pimp.


About 30 miles later I found Double Hot Springs, parked the motorcycle and soaked in remote beauty.



After the hot springs I rode 25 miles on the playa to Twelve Mile entrance. That means the left lobe of the Black Rock Desert Playa is 37 miles long! This is the general area they broke the speed of sound with a car and where Burning Man happens annually. Picture is from a fish eye lens to force perspective.


The next day I went out on the playa with friends for a little target practice (Barbie is ziptied to a post) with pistols ranging from .38 to .45 in caliber and a variety of .223 rifles. It should be noted that passing cyclists (even TR650 riders like myself) RARELY actually hit the target.


My cycle amongst a variety of others including FJRs, GSs, a Tiger, multiple Tenere, a DR650, STs, and who knows what.


Shortly after our little shooting competition (I estimate $500+ of ammo was expended) I rode the playa for a bit. My iPhone is not the best choice, but it does give you a glimpse into the surreal nature of skating across a Euclidian flat plane, what it’s like to ding your brand new AltRider skid plate on railroad tracks (about the 6:22 mark), and to have an impromptu adventure through some seriously slick mud, sand dunes, and to navigate a bit of the mythical “Jungo Road”.

Visit rail road track initially by myself at 0:00.
High speed by the breaking up shooting group at 3:20.
On tail of friend on DR650 at 4:15
Railroad tracks 2nd time at 6:00
Riding through some wet playa and washes 11:45
Jungo Road at 15:30
Arrive in Gerlach at 25:55
Commence to drinking at 27:00

And while the Strada is not in the picture…this photo is important because it’s the Iron Butt Association Memorial Monument with the Black Rock Playa in the distance. It’s an incredible location and sight. And also on the post is a list of IBR winners since 1984. We had three attending this year’s Swetland from the first event. I bagged 5th place in this year’s IBR on my FJR.


I also got to thinking about the geology of the region.  It’s a HUGE flat expanse…one of very few this size on the planet.  Supposedly it’s the largest mud/akalai playa in the world.  I’d heard it was from a variety of volcanic activity, but there’s this theory that the region was shaped significantly as a 54 mile wide impact crater.  Makes me want to go back and find a chunk of basalt that shows shatter cones.

If I had to pick my favorite picture of the weekend…it’s probably this one. 6400 miles on the TR since I bought it in May. Only thing left to put on is a front Woody’s spoked rim that will be finished sometime this winter.


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To Gerlach….via Steen’s Moutain…on a Husky

Something Cool | ~1100 Miles Round Trip

The end of the rally season marks a tradition I’ve had the great honor of attending for the better part of a decade, and as the days get shorter and summer season starts to wane I swear I can smell alkali dust in my nose.

I’m talking about Gerlachfest and this year its September 27-29th.  I’ll be leaving home about 10 p.m. on Thursday, September 26th and riding through much of the night to hopefully catch a sunrise picture in Oregon.

  IMG_7169eGerlach is an oasis of food, liquor, and marginal motel beds in Northwestern Nevada.  It is also a unique crossroads of bipeds representing an interesting sampling of humanity.  Whether it’s Burners cleaning up after 70,000 of themselves, rocketeers shooting missiles high over the Black Rock Desert, car drivers breaking the speed of sound in a jet car, locals lamenting the disintegration of traditional family values and encroachment of their property, or “other 1%’er” LD riders doing a little binge drinking and ravioli face stuffing–Gerlach is very special to me.

My usual commute is via FJR on a Thursday night down the lonely stretches of 395 and high-speed pass via the back door to Gerlach on cow-infested 447.  But, this year my route and bike choices are a little different….

Something New (To Me) | ~400 Miles

I read a little piece in my local newspaper and find myself drawn to alter course ever-so-slightly and detour to Steens Mountain along the way.  This detour is almost the same distance, but makes it much more interesting, dramatic, and adventurous.  I think I remember seeing the turnoff sign before, but thought it was a gravel road and didn’t think much about riding it on the FJR, but the article suggests its a nice paved loop with stellar views comparable to national park, but in the middle of nowhere.  Regardless of road condition for my road bike–I’m taking the Husqvarna and know it will be up to the task–even though the 9,734 foot peek will take a 34% toll on the output of my 58 hp thumper compared to sea level.

Thursday night is expected to be as low as 39 in the dark part of my journey and I’ll be riding a minimally protected motorcycle with a 400 watt alternator.  I’ll be taking my electric jacket to be certain and it will be interesting to see if I have a surplus or defecit of watts while firing it and my auxiliary lights.  I’ll pack some extra fleece, glove liners, and socks to be sure.  If I get some time Wednesday evening I may rig a temp gauge and voltmeter to monitor.

I’m hoping to get to the area somewhere around sunrise Friday and hopefully find some interesting stuff to photograph.

And, after the fact, I realize my friend H Marc has done all this and other things before. :)

Something Stretchy | Mile 425

All is the same for the first 268 miles of the trip.  I fuel up in Burns, OR (technically Hines…it gets me 3 miles closer), but then head down 205 like I’m going to Winnemucca. This stretch of road is interesting even on a fuel-cell equipped FJR with extremely long fuel legs. While I’ve fueled up at Denio Junction in the past–I’ve learned they are now closed.   And on the limited Husqvarna (the reserve light comes on about the 150 mile mark…and runs out of go juice around the 170-180 mark) I’ll be having to fuel at the recently confirmed $4.09/gallon berg of Fields, OR (157 miles) sometime early Friday morning. (Thanks Tim B.!)

I’ll be carrying at least 3 or 4 liters of spare fuel to extend range another 40 or 50 miles , but there’s just no way I can make it the 300 mile shortest distance to Gerlach from Hines.  While I could make it to Winnemucca for fuel (180 miles) and then to Gerlach via Jungo Road (160 miles) I fully intend to half the distance and go directly to Gerlach via gravel and other interesting roads.

Something Sketchy | Miles 425 – 564

About 30-40 miles after Fields I’ll turn off the paved blacktop in favor of various road names like “Knott Creek”, “Pearl Creek”, “Summit Lake”, “Soldier Meadows”, and the infamously generic “Local Road(s)”. Fields, Denio, and Denio Junction are barely wide spots on the tarmac in the middle of nowhere, but this stretch is going to be new and different to me….and I think even obscure to the regular motorcycle Illuminati that attend Gerlachfest.

West of the Black Rock Playa: In fact, as I write this and zoom the finer details of one possible route I find it will go through the Summit Lake Paiute Tribe of Nevada…that has a whopping 6 members living on the reservation with 112 members presumably living elsewhere.  There’s a story here I’m sure.

East of the Black Rock Playa: Alternatively, I could route to the east of the Black Rock Desert Playa and join Jungo Road at its midpoint for a more “traditional” sketchy arrival….or maybe even go onto the playa and ride it across to the memorial and then to Gerlach. It’s funny how riding a dual sport changes the way you look at dashed roads on maps. They become more suggestions with myriad options than when riding a sport-touring bike where paved roads are much more defined and, pardon the inaccurate pun, concrete.


Regardless of the route I ultimately take–this 150 mile’ish stretch is sure to be interesting.

Something Soothing | Miles?….far out man.

The whole Black Rock Desert area is littered with hot springs and maybe I’ll take a page from previous riders and stop for a soak.

Soldier Meadows, Black Rock Desert, Nevada – 60 miles north of Gerlach on the west side of the Playa. 90-105 degrees.  This would be an easy to get to spring….it may even be close to pavement or at least a numbered state highway of gravel.  41.358515,-119.189301.

Double Hot Springs, Black Rock Desert, Nevada – 35 miles north of Gerlach and “25 miles across the playa”…which could be difficult to cross if it’s rained recently.  If I did Soldier Meadow I could make it to this spring via “road”, but then be on the wrong side of one lobe of the playa.   It has a 200 degree source, but piped to a bathing area.  Supposedly “fantastic”. 41.05098, -119.02642  This is a stretch plan and depends on the condition of the playa if I were to ride across the lobe.  Optionally, I could backtrack and make a longer ride…..I’d be on the edge of reserve fuel if I did.

Trego Hot Springs, Black Rock Desert, Nevada – I’ve heard of Trego before and know it’s 20 miles north of Gerlach on the east side of the Playa. 100 degrees at the source and 95 degrees in the pool.  This would be an easy and single get for Nevada springs if I choose to come in via Jungo Road.  40.770922,-119.113855

Alvord Hot Springs, Oregon – Doing a little homework I find Alvord Hot Springs just a few miles off my intended route from Steens Mountain to Fields in Oregon. It’s supposedly 112 degrees…which down from the 174 degree source, but still seems pretty danged warm.  It was a candidate…..but maybe not now that it now has a $5 fee and presumably people monitoring.

Something Nostalgic | Mile 565

Assuming a west-of-the-playa arrival I’ll be coming in on a road I’ve only ventured on 12 miles north of Gerlach on.  This approach guarantees me a stop to the IBA Memorial and see the addition of Derek Dickson to the IBR Winners Plaque. Visiting this site is always an inwardly dramatic event for me as I increasingly know the people on the IBR Winner Plaque….as well as the faster growing floor of memorial stones…that unfortunately I know as well.

Something Thirst Quenching & Homey  | Mile 568

Arriving at Bruno’s Bar, Casino, Country Club, and Regional Events Center I have the routine down.  Park in front of bar amongst a gaggle of fuel-cell equipped motorcycles, go to the bar, switch from a bright desert day to a darkened room filled with other motorcyclists that proclaim your presence with “MATT!“, receive a drink somebody buys you, ask “Chuck” the bartender/hotel staff to check in, pay room fee, receive big brass key (no card locks in this place!), greet next rider that comes through brightly lit door struggling to adjust to the low light with “TOM!“, buy them a drink…..lather, rinse, repeat.


Something ‘Nummy | Ravioli #6

Friday evening is more informal than Saturday, in that you could probably not wear pants and nobody would even notice. Saturday evening there’s an old fashioned eating contest and nobody wins given the sheer mass of Italian food served.

Something Somber | +20 miles

What happens Saturday I prefer to not share in full detail.  Sometimes the day is filled with fun bench rallies to try out an impending IBR technology.  And, sometimes it’s just casual a case frivolity, tire-kicking, lie telling, while simultaneously maintaing moderate BAL levels in the afternoon breeze.  Or more commonly it involves riding out on the playa and shooting at Barbie dolls in a somewhat sketchy, but riotously fun manner.

Suffice it to say there’s a bonfire after dinner and I’ll spend time with my friends. And a toasting flask will be involved.

Something Pasty | Mile 600-1200

Waking up Sunday morning with a hangover and nostrils filled with playa dust is always bittersweet.  Motorcycle engines fire up as dawn approaches, settle into a warm idle in the usually crisp morning, clunk when the rider puts it in gear, and then wander off in the general direction of their home with the fading sound of a motorcycle snicking through its gears.

I’ll see them again next year.

I get up too. Not the first, definitely not the last, but I repeat the ritual the previous person did–knowing that somebody more hungover than I is lying in their lumpy bed awakened by my motorcycle starting, idling, and motoring away.

Once aimed back towards home on 443 I’ll unwind the miles, be reminded that Fall is here, and ride through the little bergs that I’ve memorized: Cedarville, Lakeview, Burns, John Day, Seneca & Fox, Long Creek, Ukiah, Pilot Rock, Pendleton, Hermiston, Umatilla, Kennewick, home.

My computer awaits downloading pictures and king sized bed awaits me.


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7 Choices for TR650 Skid Plates….I Mean 9!

UPDATE 9/6:  I FINALLY received my AltRider skid plate.  It’s seriously sweet and super easy to install.

UPDATE 8/13: It’s been two months and I haven’t yet seen this work of industrial art.  I just read on a forum that they were supposedly “manufactured incorrectly” and “engineers were assessing the situation”.  I’ll be eager for a response and decide if I need to switch to another choice.

UPDATE:  I purchased the AltRiders product on 6/13 and got free shipping from Revzilla.  It should be in shortly!

Who knew that a motorcycle that is less than a year old has no less than 8 choices when it comes to skid plates. It certainly needs one for ANYTHING off-road, but I didn’t expect I’d spend two hours pouring over Internet discussions on the subject and create my own blog entry about it. From cheapest to most expensive:


$99.95, the Richochet Skid Plate comes in 5 mm thick aluminum and seems to be a big hunk of aluminum to cover the bottom of your bike plus the front and sides as well. It’s not sexy all bare metal and there’s a question about its mounting hardware, but if it’s job is to protect the bike from taking a nasty hit…it looks like it would do it’s job. With no holes in it I’m sure it reflect engine noise and probably would add some Dynamat stick-on sound deadener.

This one is a contender even though it’s the cheapest….less than half one of the other easily purchased units. I can also powder coat at home if I like and bet it will look WAY better in black.


I’ve read about them, but haven’t seen a picture….and Google searches come up with the same one as Richochet.


At $179.90 this one seems the welterweight of the bunch in price and function. It offers 4mm thick material–although corrugated for some extra stiffness. It covers the sides and front…a little. I don’t like how that one of the hoses are exposed. Otherwise an “eeee-ficient” German design….Gunter would be proud of.

6-10-2013 2-32-02 PM


If Tony Stark to were to design a skid plate…one of his designs would definitely be this one. CNC machined from billet aluminum (I think that plate is 6mm) and then welded it looks like an engineering marvel of unobtanium alloy. The mounting hardware is VERY elegant and robust.

But…..why doesn’t it offer any projection to the side or front of the engine? Does Tony know something I don’t?

At $199 it’s steal for the bottom strength and detail. I saw one at the dealer I bought my bike.  It looks like a metaphorical .22 round aimed at an up-armored Abrams tank that would bounce off with nary a scuff ….only to  ricochet through an open hatch and make a small red spot between the….duhh…commanders eyes.

Note:  I learned they or somebody else does offer some optional wings, but didn’t know before I ordered the AltRider.

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They make some nice products and at $234.50 it seems a welterweight fighting up a class with 4 mm thickness on the main plate and 2.5 mm on side wings to provide fairly decent coverage. They up the Swiss Army knife quotient by offering a $139 optional toolbox (Canadian pricing). Kinda cool, but perhaps spendy for what you get.


This product is seriously pimp! And at $240.97 they’re proud of their product. The combination of 4.75 mm (.187″) aluminum stock, inclusion of well-considered front & side flanges, radiusing along the bottom at various points to more closely follow the motorcycle lines, recessed fasteners, and cleanly cut holes to reduce some weight & still look cool. They also added an elliptical hole for oil draining to accommodate lean from the side stand…niiiiice touch!

It’s also 2.5 time more expensive than the Ricochet, but the other one I’m seriously considering. And black powder coat is an option with no premium.

Bonus, they’re made and marketed in my own state by some cool kids (or they seem young to me).  Bummer, they’re made and sold in my own state and I won’t get the opportunity to forget to remit my use tax and they’ll go ahead and add sales tax for me. ;)  Hmmm, I’m headed to Whidbey Island next Friday.  Maybe I’ll have to stop off and pick one up personally and see their other goodies firsthand.

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I learned about the HT skidplate after I bought the AltRider.  Similar coverage and decent price at $154.95.


Those Aussies have a slightly more elegant answer to the Ricochet. It looks like a beefy unit, but to ship one would supposedly make this thing in the $350 range delivered.


Somebody told me Husqvarna does make an optional skid fin, but laugh at the minimal protection, weak projection, and laughable price. (Did I really hear it cost $1000+ for it?). I read an entertaining account of making a Franken-plate of a Motosportz and OEM for hyper numbers.


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Following Lewis & Clark…”Into the Unknown”

MontanaMapI’m returning to visit my friends Bob and Sylvie in Big Sky, MT and participate in the second Big Sky Rally. Some may remember I rode the 2010 event…and won.  So, I’m the returning champion….but there are some incredibly talented experienced riders and even several relatively new riders that will be sure to competitive.

I admit I’m a little behind the curve on this one as the shock absorber I blew in the Iron Butt Rally (and later found cracked the clevis) is due to arrive Thursday afternoon (with a used clevis that still cost $80) and hopefully I will be mounting up and using sometime in the later evening as I headed to Big Sky.  The commute there will be fairly boring as I ride I-90 to Bozeman and hang a right the last 50 miles.  The bike will still have bug cuts and patina from the IBR on it.

Friday will be tech inspection and catching up with friends and newcomers.

Saturday morning will be the rally…O’dark thirty.  It will be 32 hours long which is enough time to ride back past home to where Lewis and Clark made it near Astoria OR ride to where L&C started 2 years earlier near the headwaters of the Mississippi in Minnesota.

Rally Details:

  • Start & End: Big Sky, Montana
  • Begin: 05:00 MDT, Saturday, August 24, 2013
  • End: 13:00 MDT, Sunday, August 25, 2013

Regardless of path, Brian Roberts, is the puzzle master.  He’s the one that came up with Wild Wild West (I got a 2nd) and the Zombie Apocolypse.  Rumor is he’s outdone himself on this one…and I was nearly outdone by both of those…so it’s gotta be good.

Enjoy watching us in Montana and I’ll update with links to resources as they come available.



Article About Me!!!!

Official website

My commute and rally

Group Page

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Burger in C’Da

I can’t ever spell Cour D’ Alene the same way twice, but somebody says there’s a free burger involved…I’m all over it.  Going to see the GZ in C’Da with the TR on Saturday along with WC, HMarc, and others. Then some camping somewhere in the area Saturday night.

Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur.
Happy kitty, sleepy kitty, purr, purr, purr.

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Touring the Tucannon via Timbuktu

Impromptu camping with my homie Nooch. I’m supposed to go “where the pavement ends take a left into Camp Wooten…” (I’ve failed twice in the past to actually find it) and “…follow signs we are making.”

So, this sounds suspiciously like the ol’ ‘follow the paper plates marked by a half-working pen from the glove compartment and be confused for hours before accidentally finding your party’ type of directions….in an area I’ve had miserable luck before finding to begin with.

Sounds like a perfect Adventure Ride for me! I might even not follow directions on purpose and try this alternate route to get pre-lost…so that finding them will feel like even a bigger achievement.

8-9-2013 1-57-31 PM

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Iron Butt Rally 2013 Report

This isn’t a conventional full-detail report, but mostly a beefed version of a few e-mails I sent family & “close friends” during the rally pecked from my iPhone or laptop, and a few things I was either thinking or wish I’d written in the rally.  It’s important to note while I was really focused on the solo part of the rally and in strict adherence to a rule about “going dark” in the rally online publicly, but the reality is that over the years I’ve accumulated a core group of supporters and watchers that worry about my progress in this challenging of a rally.  I’m permanently tethered to them in spirit, but also connected to them in areas of solid 4G as well as jonesing for them in remote areas with bursty of 3G.  Just knowing they knew what I was up to was in important part of me doing well in the rally mentally as well as any place I might finish.


DAY 0: 12:45 EDT “The Calm Before the Storm”

Last email before riders meeting. I feel great!

See Tobie’s pictures at for daily photos of the 2013 Iron Butt Rally. Check out the motorcycle category, then choose the Iron Butt Rally 2013 gallery. Will update daily with new photos. Also go to Iron Butt website for more photos too.

Higdon should start reporting soon at

Matt IMG_0540b

DAY 1: 09:17 EDT “Headed to New York City!”

47237710-untitled-132Route planned. East to NYC, up towards Montreal and maybe as far as a museum near L’Islet.  Back through Montreal to Toronto…maybe Niagara.  Up to Sault Ste. Marie, down to Detroit, and back to Pittsburgh.

Lots of variations with similar points and bail outs in this leg. Green = 24 hour, yellow = daytime, red have restricted hours. Trick is making bonus clusters work while there’s daylight.


The packet I was working from is at



OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was the first one to leave the starting line!  Photo courtesy of Tobie Stevens.


DAY 2: No Report

Snagged Grumman Aircraft F-14 Tomcat on a stick in the middle of Long Island, morning bonus of a steamship in Vermont, Bomardier plant near Montreal, and Big Chute in Ontario as part of the Trent-Severn Waterway.


DAY 3 05:01 EDT – “Hanging Out in the ‘UP’”

Beautiful morning in the UP. (that’s the Michigan “Upper Peninsula” to you non UP’ers) Riding my plan…mostly. Traffic in Ontario region bad yesterday and bailed out on two smaller bonuses to make a bigger one by nightfall.

Snapped attached photo at 6:30 of Lake Superior. About to cross Mackinac bridge…it’s LONG!

Snagged Brooklyn Bridge Monday JUST before dark.

Headed to Henry Ford museum for 16 photos and cluster in Detroit area this afternoon. May snag Niagara tomorrow…


Looking forward to 8 hours of sleep plus this evening!!! 1920 points to sleep!

Plan to get to CP early tomorrow. Front bike nose is loose a little. Bent a light…dumb  story.  Dang Quebec and radar detectors illegal made me do a pre-border duct tape covering session and tipped bike over on the side of the freeway.  Nobody saw me, but I feel dumb, picking mud out of my lights, and had to re tighten some bolts..  :)

Feeling good and seeing America…



DAY 4: 08:33 EDT – “My First Time to Niagara Falls”

I’ve been in Niagara Falls since 8:30 p.m. last night. I had an 8 hour rest bonus, but since the bonus closed 1/2 hour before I arrived…I have to wait until 9 a.m. to ride the “Aero Car” for 999 points. Then headed towards Pittsburgh…and past the CP…..I’ll scoop up some small 100 point bonuses along the PA turnpike.

I feel good…well rested. Back’s a little sore, but it’s because my throttle lock wasn’t tight enough. I’ve tweaked it a bit by adding an extra piece of Velcro I had wrapped around a power cord.  I think it’s an elegant and permanent solution!  I should be able to lean back and relax a little more often now.

I wonder if Higdon using my SPOT track as a sample for the daily dispatch is a good thing? He doesn’t call me out by name, but it’s obviously mine. I enjoy the idea of him watching me make a big spiral. Today I’ll blow his mind, take a right, and even cross my own GPS track path. :)



DAY 5 07:30 EDT – “They Call Me ’6 Putt!’”

(made it to checkpoint fine, 13th after 1st leg, and received next leg bonus packet)

Rookies make such mistakes, not pros like Matt. It was akin to watching Tiger Woods six putt from 20′.

Bob Higdon’s Daily Report:

Rookie mistake on first leg. :( .  I’ll learn from it. :)

Doing combo bonus now that REQUIRES all 34 Pony Express monuments. I have to make it just west of Marysville, Kansas by 30 minutes after sundown. I estimate that as 9:15 Central time and will have many of the top riders…I think.

This is a STRONG field of riders! I think the last leg will be dramatic.

Westward like a Pony Express rider!

The packet is at

Matt aka ’6 Putt’


DAY 6 08:52 EDT – “Redemption?”

Another critical bonus was at sun up this morning. Just Tim Pawlowski (FJR rider) & I got at first light. (I’d find out later that Eric Jewell snagged too)

And only I turned left to go add a picture on Pike’s Peak.

Picture courtesy of Randy Bishop. He shot a picture of me shortly after bagging the Pike’s Peak bonus…I even waved as a motorcycle rider going the other way with camera in hand was unusual!pikes

So, another tight bonus before sunset tonight! I add 9000 points …if I pull it off. Watch 38 miles south north of Rock Springs, Wyoming at 8:56 MDT. Green spot icon = success.

Last nights bonus pic attached.



DAY 7 04:09 EDT -  “Into the Known…Not Quite Knowing”

Just cleared Salt Lake City. Saw Eric Jewell at the pre-dawn bonus downtown.

Made bonus last night north of Rock Springs, WY…barely. Surreal weather, sunset, and landscape.

Oh…and snagged Pikes Peak! Plus several others.  10,000 extra points to make up for my six putt. Take that Higdon!

I don’t think Crane made the Wyoming bonus in time….he didn’t look happy near Casper when I passed him. :-(

I show 880 miles left with 16 hours…which sounds easy to me, but it includes Lake Tahoe on a Sunday in the summer.  Plus 2 lane road to Sacramento. Plus I have to do 20 bonuses perfectly right. Plus even more extra bonuses in the area if I have spare time.

Sun coming up behind my shoulder..heading into open desert.

See ya in Sac.



When I first rolled into Sacramento…my favorite picture of the whole rally.  Thanks Tobie!IMG_0601

Day 8: 10:20 EDT – “Headed Home!”

My mention of Eric Jewell was prophetic (heard he and I moved up to #1 and #2)…I just didn’t know he went to Pike’s Peak as well.

Two basic choices this morning. PNW or to Death Valley/Arizona/Texas/South/Humidville. I’d like to say I analyzed the latter to the nth degree, but I KNOW I wouldn’t survive the heat. I feel good right now, but heat would kill me.  North is right for me…plus it’s my back yard!

Packet is at

Headed to Wallowa Lake by dark to take a pic of the tram.  I know a shortcut others might not see. 8:40 according to GPS.

Then Astoria in morning, then north to BC (some options I might be able to tweak)

Eric is the finest sportsman there is..he and I got 1/1 in SPANK 2010….he won by 500 points out of 125,000…and I helped him win by steadying his bike in a 60+ mph wind at the top of my. Hamilton. I’d love to see him win, but I’m going to do my best to beat him.

BTW, I may be 298 points less in leg 1. BB4 (see packets had hours till 5, but I got there after and gate was still open. Other rallies this is OK, but not in IBR as we were told (or reminded) this morning on another bonus. I “confessed” as soon as I realized.

Or Wendy…watch her! And 4 or 5 others in the top 10 too. Leg 3 is where it gets interesting.

Am I seeing America? Oh yes, I am. :)


Bonneville Salt Flats picture yesterday morning attached. I wept salty tears in the colored dawn. Several hit the ground and i feel solace they are now part of the Great Basin for eternity. :)

Matt aka Watkins Express

P.S. You’re a crazy Mofo George several days ago…great bra pic!


DAY 9: 09:19 EDT – “The PNW Island of Points”

I’m in Seattle with 90 minutes until the air museum opens eating at a 32 year old diner called Randy’s…it’s full of Boeing and flying memorabilia.  A cluster of bonuses within 100 miles involves ferries, daylight only, and other factors.  The weather is great and I’m tired, but I’m not sapped from heat.  I looked a little more and if one can hit the daylight only bonuses and 24 hour ones just right…there may be a few thousand more points to snag.  It could be very close.

I’m riding MY ride though….and I’m getting back SAFE!

I heard about Eric Jewell hurting his foot.  Watching for another report by Higdon and hoping its not bad..hoping he gets back to the finish.

Wallowa was exciting.  I did it from Oxbow, ID and it involved goat trails my FJR really doesn’t belong. Credit to Dad making me go up and down steep forest service roads when I was 6 on my dirt bike!

Pictures attached of sunset over the Lake and remainder of route.  Starting to aim back east this afternoon.

8 hours of sleep tonight…somewhere NE or E of Vancouver, BC.



EVENING 9 – 21:40 MDT “Revelstoke and Canadian Rockies”

I’m in Hope, BC doing my 8 hour rest bonus.  Quick note before I go to sleep.  I’ll get up at 4 a.m. PDT and have 2 days and 1 hour to cover about 2900 miles.  That’s a stretch of miles…even for me.  I gotta wonder a bit about that one SPOT tracks still behind me I have two bonuses here in B.C. (one by Revelstoke and one by Cranbook) and then a GIANT gap before bonuses appear again in Little Falls, MN.  Duluth, Milwaukee, Chicago, and then for the barn.

Today was not very many miles, but between traffic, border crossings, more traffic, ferry rides, ferry waits, more ferry rides, and then a seriously distracting city of Vancouver (is every 23 year old woman hot in that town…or have I been rallying for 9 days?)

I feel pretty good for Day 9.  MUCH better than the last two rallies.  Weirdly, after I’ve lost all this weight and my lower back is sore.  Why is that?  I’ve resorted to trying to lean back with my feet forward like I’m a Harley rider.  It’s either that or hunch over.  Lots of little weird things are accumulating.  My tire is squared off so it vibrates going down the road.  I’d be more freaked out, but had it happen on the other two IBRs.  My GPS bracket is loose and flops around when I hit bumps, but at least it hasn’t broken off completely.  My XM radio cuts out if I bump the cord wrong.  I lost a glove at the airplane bonus in Colorado I find myself wearing the one I didn’t lose and one of my mesh ones…very undignified.  I’ve lost 2 sharpies and one dried out on the Pony Express blitzkrieg in the Sierra…now I have only a crappy Marriott pen left.

But, my FJR is going to roll over 150,000 miles in the next tank of fuel and just runs like a Timex.  I’ve never really bought into the vehicles having souls sort of thing, but I find myself patting it/her/him on the side of the tank occasionally, “Good FJR….good FJR.”  The Pony Express theme just struck a chord with me and my bike.

Bill and Susan Watt greeted me at the bonus in Vancouver…with a homemade brownie and bottle of water!  Bill was the mastermind of this rally (once his fellow staff reigned in his 500+ bonus locations to something maneagable) and a lot of fun.

Two photos attached.  One is by Tobie Stevens as I came in from my monster ride on Leg 2.  It totally captures how I felt…..

The other was on a BC ferry today to Victoria.  VERY cool ferries and experience even if it was $90+ plus round trip for 5,000 points.

May not be a report for Day 11…or may be short from my iPhone.

I wonder how friends and competitors are doing?  I’m still glad I’m not in the heat.  But, I see SPOT tracks and wonder about a couple of them…hoping Wendy is busting a move on me. :)  Whoever it is going to Florida…is an ANIMAL!





DAY 10

No report to family and friends.  In Canada and cell phone data rates were exorbitant.  Chose to head back south into U.S. where megabytes are cheaper.

Matt aka PNW Flower Sniffer

DAY 11 – 04:12 EDT – “Cruising The Great Plains”

Yesterday was a tough aday for the most part. No bonus between B.C. and Wisconsin felt weird. I had to play catchup to get my last possible day bonuses…including a P-38 Lightning. I’ll finish the day south of Chicago and aim for Pittsburgh.

Watched Northern Lights last night …and flaring fires from MASSIVE amount of oil wells across half of North Dakota.  Combine being Night 10 of the rally and the surreal expanses of open prairie having oil harvested was a bit like descending into Dante’s 7th level of Hell or riding through The Matrix.

North Dakota Gas Flares – Anamorphic Driving from Andrew Wonder on Vimeo.

Watching SPOT I see some serious riding by several riders and serious points.

Higdon’s report likely will prove to be true, but I’m still going to snag bonuses until the last minute.  There are 15 available on the PA turnpike between Pittsburgh and Philip…so I’ll go as far as I have time and turn around. I still have a goal of a Top Ten.

Otherwise, I’m rooting for Wendy Crockett to win!

24 hours 50 minutes to go



NIGHT 11 – “It’s Like Riding a Hardley!”

I blew a shock 530 miles from the finish line.  Sseveral text messages I exchanged with several friends after I snagged a bonus at the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukie, WI.  It was helpful to have moral support the last night.

Milwaukee, WI – 20:01 CDT

I think I’ve lost forks and shock…….I have maybe 5% compression and dampening and no rear travel.  Riding on springs…but nothing is rubbing. :)

Seriously?  Suspension trouble?

Seriously.  I’m on freeway.  Fortunately no twisties left to finish line.  It looks like I’m going to have to work to finish this IBR.  I refuse to DNF.

So you’re basically good?  And rolling?

Yes, but going to have to leave extra following distance behind cars and dodge frost heaves.  I think it started last night in North Dakota as I had to adjust my headlights.  It’s now like riding a Harley hard tail.

K. Monitor. Report at any time.  Clear?


Chicago, MI – 20:57 CDT

Just attempted Route 66 bonus, but street closed down, circling helicopter lit me up like a fugitive, and cops thought I was a terrorist.  Won’t let me go past fenced gate.  Hopefully picture of gate will suffice.


Rear absolutely. I think the seal blew.  Front may be just affected because ass has dropped 4 inches and headlights pointing into sky.  Steering is a bit off.  Hoping for 4 a.m. arrival.

Indiana – 01:37 CDT

Made it to Indiana.  Unless something else happens I should easily be there by 8 a.m.  Gotta adjust headlights at next rest area….couldn’t at gas station in Chicago…sketchy neighborhood and meth head was sizing me up to mug me.  Forgot receipt…I hope my SPOT tracks are working.

kk…Text as needed I am HERE for you all night!

Stopping for nap at rest area.  195 miles left.  Be there closer to 6 a.m.

(napped 30 minutes and awoken by text from another friend)

Been chatting it up with your mom via email.  You are in good shape, but don’t nap too long.

(began riding again)

Pennsylvania – 05:53 EDT

Nap helped.  Shock still blown.  Back sore doing constant pull-up to handlebars.  Indiana was INFESTED with semis and I was only other vehicle amongst one lane traffic for 30 miles.  65 miles left….now there is a clunking noise.  I SO wanna be to the finish line.

I made it to the finish line at about 07:15 EDT with 45 minutes to spare before penalty points started accruing.

I place 5th, my best finish ever in the Iron Butt Rally.  I scored 85,615 points and rode 11,621 miles.

Of the Top 6 places, 5 riders were on FJRs.  And three of those were the bass boat blue 2005 FJR I ride.1

My as-ridden route:

 8-6-2013 9-03-43 AM

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Riding “Terra-fied” To Lake Chelan

I began the weekend by making it as far from home and work as I could make it before dark. This landed me near Vantage, WA in a blustery evening with the Colockum Fire in the distance.  I think I slept for about 3 sketchy hours when I was woken up by the beginning drops of rain.  I decided to get up and aim for Cashmere for breakfast instead of trying to secure the rain-fly.

Friday morning having rained much of the day before turned the trails into greasy slides.  An old truck appears to be in the process of parted out near Chumstick Mountain (north of Cashmere, WA).  Or, maybe it will be rescued to log again one day…the chains on the rear tires hadn’t even rusted up yet.

The rain-soaked trails proved to difficult to traverse.  I caked mud on the front and even the rear was limited in effectiveness. 0102Trying to traverse the last 5 miles or so to French Corrall I started down a muddy incline with both lanes scoured out because of recent water flows, and I couldn’t see the end of it. Besides having to put feet out as outriggers…I just felt like I was getting in more and more over my head.  Remembering I was riding solo, I decided it was a better move to not risk getting stuck or hurt in this remote area and back-track.  I found a slightly better gravel covered forest service road and angled for Peshastin.

As I entered the back side of town I ran across a steam engine that TOTALLY could have been in the Iron Butt Rally and instinctively stopped to take a picture of the bonus.  I even panicked when I couldn’t find my rally flag.  This, I believe, is a CASE Steam Tractor…a cousin to the  Avery Steam Traction Engine I’d seen in Detroit a few weeks ago.

03Even the chain drive was interesting….before the advent of more proper worm gear steering arrangements.03a

Peshastin then led me to a cup of coffee in Leavenworth and a proper sit down with maps to plan my route options for the rest of the day.04Reanalzying maps I decided to head north on a paved road I’d never been before called the Chumstick Highway and found an even better FS road that proved much drier from the previous day’s showers.  While it fed into the same place I needed to ultimately go (French Corral and then the little berg of Ardenvoir) I couldn’t help notice a sign that said, “Sugarloaf Lookout – 5 miles”.  I had the fuel, the time, and interest to go visit this place and pleasantly surprised to find it staffed by a retired gentleman that would pull shifts for the Forest Service as a fire spotter.  Pictures below are from the lookout, but this article about a Firespotter in Northwest Montana exemplifies the lifestyle of a service these spotters perform and live.

06 05And I probably should have taken some detailed photos of the cool central tool to his job–a special rangefinder that pinpoints the location of a fire by a simple, but very accurate device.  Turns out it was an “Osborne Fire Finder” is a hundred year old technology.  Having done some surveying it was clearly a precision instrument, but elegant in the minimal number of moving parts and analog nature of it all.  Some may be surprised to find it requires no NiMh batteries nor has any USB ports.  It’s also guaranteed to be computer virus free.

After the lookout I stopped for a bit of lunch (MRE #2) and then later stopped at Ardenvoir for some hard candy. This is the sum of commercial establishments in Ardenvoir.07Baldy Mountain overlooking Lake Chelan.  This place burned massively in ’94 and I watched comfortably from a deck in Chelan (in the distance) drinking gin and tonics.

Shortly after I found myself viewing up the Lake towards Steheiken and new I was close to my landing point for the evening.0825 Mile Creek near Lake Chelan, WA Ran across two XR and two KLR riders doing the WABDR going the other direction. We camped, ate dinner (I had MRE #3), shared some hooch, and hung out for the evening.MWK01221bCamping was free as they were unimproved sites…and had the wonderful sound of running water to wake up to.  Unlike my first night I found falling asleep and staying asleep much easier.  I think I even got 7 hours of fair sleep.

In the morning I began exploring things along the north shore of the lake.  25 Mile Campground was urban camping, but they did have a very nice bathroom and shower facility.  Had there not been a line for the latter I might have snuck in.  Otherwise, laid down some wolf bait and quickly fled down lake.

At Fields Point I stopped in to size up the facilities and found myself next to a bramble of tasty blackberries.  If only Starbucks grew on canes….it would be better than Judy-Jane’s.09Taking an early afternoon nap near Bear Mountain.  Ants wouldn’t honor the Aerostich as my intended boundary and preferred exploring my hands every time I drifted off to sleep.  Also a deer wandered by and must not have seen me sleeping.  When it snapped a twig both she and I were rather startled……she fled popping poop pellets as she ran.  I stayed still and proud to report nothing came out of any orifices.

Lake Chelan

Chelan Butte overlooking the Columbia on Saturday afternoon.

Riding into Chelan I began the transition from adventure rider geared up for the Apocalypse to that of semi-urban vacationer in a tourist town.  It turns out this is a more difficult process than one might imagine and requires planning and a visit to both a local Wal-Mart and Safeway to properly provision yourself for an afternoon of hard drinking by the lake.

  • Red swim trunks $7.97
  • WSU Cougar T-Shirt $9.97
  • 750ml Hood River Distillery Gin $21.00
  • 750ml Schwepps Tonic Water $1.99 x 2
  • Limes $0.33 x 3

After a bit of lunch on the main drag and receiving no less than 3 compliments for my now dusty adventure Husky I parked across the road at Campbell’s and tried to blend in with guests.  I stank, was grime covered, and didn’t have a wrist band identifying me as an actual guest….the people paying the room bill had not quite arrived.  Being an expert in semi-urban vacationing I parked the motorcycle near this one very special bathroom I had gotten to know over the years and locked myself inside.  I quickly removed all my riding gear, wetted up in the shower stall (it’s a special bathroom intended for people to use as a shower before they enter the pool…but never use that way) , grabbed heaping handfuls of soap from the foaming sink dispenser, left water EVERYWHERE, and even shaved a bit in the now steamy room.

Without a towel I just donned my tourist-gear and exited the bathroom much like John Travolta and Samuel Jackson did in this scene….just not looking quite right for the situation.  It’s hard to go from sinewy mountain rider to puffy tourist in the blink of any eye.

Strategically located I filled water bottle with ice from a dispenser 10 feet away and then move my bike to the corner of the resort.  I looked funny doing this too as I opted to not wear a helmet, was in shorts, and tennis shoes–however I decided it was a worthwhile risk.  There I locked up the expensive and boomy bits in the top case, mixed myself a stiff gin and tonic, squeezed in a 1/4 of a lime with my Spyderco knife, and and wandered to the lake like I owned the joint.  I did take my tank bag with me strategically on my arm to reduce the chance of a pesky question about my lack of wrist band.  Once on the dock I thoroughly enjoyed my tasty beverage and began to settle in for this very different lifestyle.11And even looked back up at the butte I had just ridden to the top of.  My sun-starved toes began sunning themselves and would occasionally jump in the cool lake until my friends arrived.10The party extended into the twilight.MWK01377b

Heading to Lake Chelan this weekend for latter part of weekend with friends.  But, headed out Thursday evening on the Husqvarna Strada (becoming a Terra except for the front rim at this point) for some adventure riding and camping.

Headed towards Wenatchee and camp when it gets dark..wherever that lands me….maybe Vernita, Vantage, or Crescent Bar if I don’t make it to Wenatchee by dark.

Friday, meander around the woods, camp again.

Saturday, meander a bit more, land in Chelan and party like a rock star.

Come back Sunday.

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Going to Look for America….

Going Dark

While we’re not allowed in this rally to blog or share details publicly outside of family and very close friends during the rally–we need to focus exclusively on the task in front of.  However, IBR officials post great daily reports and an aggregate page of GPS positions for riders…which I’m certainly one of.  It’s fun to watch the ripples move away from checkpoints and then converge on the next checkpoint.

I have lyrics of one of my most favorite songs stuck in my head as I type this “real estate in my bag“, and it’s fortuitous happenstance I’m in Pittsburgh as I sing lines in my head.  I’ve pasted it below for those wanting to follow along and wax nostalgic.

I’ll be going dark sometime Sunday evening after our rider meeting, around dinner time, retiring to my room to route and plan with my manilla envelope full of bonuses, drifting off to sleep after I have a plan, getting up to a nervous and exciting Monday morning, and departing at 10 a.m. Pittsburgh time (EDT).

Thanks everybody for the incredible support of my little hobby the past 7 or 8 years.  I’ve seen some historically significant, scary, weird, and stunningly breathtaking places on our continent of North America. The U.S. and Canada have been very good to me.  And my FJR has been a magic carpet taking for the ride.

Until about 11 days from now….I’ve gone to look for America. / Matt

America – Simon & Garfunkel – 1968

“Let us be lovers we’ll marry our fortunes together”
“I’ve got some real estate here in my bag”
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner pies
And we walked off to look for America

“Kathy,” I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
“Michigan seems like a dream to me now”
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I’ve gone to look for America

Laughing on the bus
Playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said “Be careful his bowtie is really a camera”

“Toss me a cigarette, I think there’s one in my raincoat”
“We smoked the last one an hour ago”
So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field

“Kathy, I’m lost,” I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all gone to look for America
All gone to look for America
All gone to look for America

2013 Iron Butt Rally Schedule

Start: Monday, July 1, 10:00 a.m. EDT in Pittsburgh.
Leg 1: 82:00 Start July 1 1000 EDT in Pittsburgh. Checkpoint 4 July 2000 EDT in Pittsburgh
Leg 2: 65:00 Start July 5 0600 EDT in Pittsburgh. Checkpoint 7 July 2000 PDT in Sacramento CA
Leg 3: 95:00 Start July 8 0600 PDT in Sacramento. Finish 12 July 1000 EDT in Pittsburgh

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Planes, Trains, Automobiles, and FJRs!

Every Iron Butt Rally has a theme and this year’s includes an FJR front and center!  Let the games commence.


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Made it to Cranberry Township!

I’m here…my GPS transmitter doesn’t show me quite there…but I’m HERE! Marriott at Cranberry Township.

Life is good…I’ll do some things tomorrow and kick back.

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The Commute to Pittsburgh

Tuesday, June 25-27′ish – Commute to Pittsburgh

Myself, Rusty, and Paul will be commuting to Pittsburgh via enclosed trailer starting Tuesday morning. We’re planning to drive through, but stop if necessary. I-94 is the shortest, I-90 & I-80 are 50 miles more….I’m guessing we go Montana.

Monday, July 1, 08:00 a.m. EDT in Pittsburgh.

Leg 1: 82:00 Start July 1 1000 EDT in Pittsburgh. Checkpoint 4 July 2000 EDT in Pittsburgh
Leg 2: 65:00 Start July 5 0600 EDT in Pittsburgh. Checkpoint 7 July 2000 PDT in Sacramento CA
Leg 3: 95:00 Start July 8 0600 PDT in Sacramento. Finish 12 July 0800 EDT in Pittsburgh

My commute:

Other Riders Position:

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The Final Countdown to the IBR

Less Than A Week Out

I’m leaving in less four days for Pittsburgh!  The realization of this is starting to hit me as I’m wrapping up things at my day job so I can take essentially 3 weeks of vacation, lining up the Mayor Pro-Tem and Vice-Chairs of various community things will fill in with my absence, and the prospect of trailering my FJR in an enclosed trailer and hanging with my two nice friends Paul and Rusty has me smiling like a kid before Christmas.

Not My Typical Preparation

I’ve taken a very different tack in preparation for my third Iron Butt Rally.  Not that I’ve been neglecting getting the bike ready (it’s almost there with another 5-10 hours of work), but I’ve REALLY focused on getting MYSELF ready for this year.  I’ve dropped about 30 pounds over the course of the last 90 days by hiking two to three days a week as well as engaging in “dieting” only the 2nd time in my life.

I’ve been following fairly closely the The Fast Diet” after watching a documentary on PBS.  Aka:  “Intermittent Fasting” or “The 5:2 Diet” I essentially eat 600 calories a day, 2 non-consecutive days a week.  Usually Monday & Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday I eat 1/2 a ham Subway sandwich without any cheese or mayo and then a chunk of fish and bunch of broccoli for dinner.  600 calories for a 36 hour period has had a HUGE effect on dropping weight while only seeming to be doing without 2 days a week.  A great lover of all tasty things in this world–even I can do that.

And I’ve been exercising so regularly and consistently that and can now walk full speed straight up the Canyon Trail of Badger Mountain, jog/walk a mile or so around the flatter top area, descend the whole thing without joint pain, and not be sore the next day.  Where I started at 2.7 miles in about 55 minutes I upped the past few weeks to a 4 mile routine and have it down to about 60 minutes.  The combination of being more fit, dropping 30 pounds (as of this morning!!!!), not having to run, still getting full cardio with a steep trail, not having to do it all on hard asphalt has been a perfect fit for me.

Now that I’ve been doing it 3 months straight I’m even flirting with it being a genuinely sustainable “lifestyle change” and have to buy new clothes or punch another hole in my belts.  And after all the work I plan to keep it up after the Iron Butt Rally.

I weigh less than I did 15 years ago!

And while I’ve NEVER been in the “ideal” height to weight zone my entire life–I’m still in the “obese”….but flirting with being in the “overweight” zone the first time in 20 years.  There’s a chance I might make it to 245 during the Iron Butt Rally as I’ve lost 10+ pounds in both the previous IBRs.

The Bike

I have been getting the bike ready too and sorting some final details that I probably should have sorted out weeks ago.  All the basic mechanical items are done (I just finished tire mounting and bleeding the brakes) and I’m mostly fiddling with re-situating farkles (I had a last minute change from using my iPhone as MP3 player to switching to XM Radio), routing wires to and from my tank bag, and trying to get the audio system as dialed in as I can.  I also installed a dash bracket to try and fit all the extra stuff (i.e. move radar detector to dash, put the SPOT unit, maybe a temperature gauge)

Other things including little details like getting a duplicate key for my fuel tank made (I always carry a spare set of keys on the rally after having to leave a set behind in 2009 because of a critical time window), xerox copies of various documents, packing, and deciding which bottles of good wine I’m planning to take to the finishers banquet (I’ve made it a tradition to give one to the rally master).

The Overall Schedule

  • Tuesday June 25- Friday 28.  Commute to Pittsburgh, PA with Rusty and Paul via Chevy pickup and trailer.  GPS tracking will be open.
  • Sunday Evening, June 30.  Communications Blackout probably commences after riders meeting and dinner.
  • Monday, July 1, 8 a.m. EDT.  START of the 2013 Iron Butt Rally!
  • Thursday, July 4, 8 p.m. EDT.  Checkpoint #1, Pittsburgh, PA  (next leg packet at 6 a.m. Friday)
  • Sunday, July 7, 8 p.m. PDT. Checkpoint #2, Sacramento, CA (next leg packet at 6 a.m. Monday)
  • Friday, July 12, 8 a.m. EDT. FINISH, Pittsburgh, PA  (Penalty points accrue until 10 a.m….then DNF if not arrived by then)
  • Friday, July 12, 1 p.m. EDT. Finishers Banquet.
  • Saturday, July 13 – 14.  7 a.m.  Return Home.

The Commute to Pittsburgh

I’ve always ridden to previous Iron Butt Rallies and there is an advantage to clearing your head and acclimatizing your body to the heat and elements.  The downside is you have find an oasis near the starting line to service your bike.  It’s probably 6 of one and half dozen of the other…so showing up to the starting line and wheeling out a ready-to-go bike along with being able to take luxuries like more than one pair of underwear and shoes will be nice.

Rusty has a crew cab Chevy with a Diesel and enclosed 3 place trailer.  Divided 3 ways the fuel on this behemoth will probably be comparable to what I would have spent on the bike, but with three driving I imagine us possibly driving straight through in 2 days or so.  Being there on Thursday gives us time to decompress, fiddle with bikes, get haircuts, combat pedicures, and tell lies in the parking lot.

6-20-2013 12-54-33 PM

Going Dark

One of the things that’s different now with the IBR compared to most other rallies is the requirement that we “go dark” during the rally (July 1 – July 11).  I won’t be allowed to blog, to share GPS transmissions, or share details.  Except for family and VERY close friends I trust won’t get me disqualified by sharing information publicly–you won’t see any information on this blog.  I invite you to view the official “Daily Dispatch” that will be located on the official Iron Butt Rally website.  I’m hoping they’ll share an aggregate page of riders overall positions.

Meanwhile, I’m assembling my short list of family and close friends.  If you’re on it–you’ll get an e-mail next week.  If not, you’d have to e-mail me and I’ll consider adding you.  But, also the IBR is first and foremost a personal endeavor.  One I’ve been preparing for at least two years and one that I’m extremely driven to do well in this time around.

See you July 11th with hopefully some good news.



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My Favorite Story from 2011

I didn’t ride the 2011 Iron Butt Rally, but did help out as staff and enjoyed following the unlikely story of a true underdog from a foreign land.  It’s kind of hard to read as it’s in a foreign language, but muddle through with a stiff upper lip and you’ll be as amused and enchanted as I was with this cliffhanger of a ride.

John Young’s 2011 IBR

John Young’s 2011 Iron Butt Rally by Craig Vetter

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