Friday, August 30, 2002

Butt Lite III

Leg One - Navasota, TX to Monticello, MN

I remember my first job as a teenager. I was a brick-mason's helper. It was hard, grueling work, but it sure was a good way to make money as a budding teen. After a hard day’s work I came home grumpy and soar. I remember my Father telling me that I would have to make a decision about my future and how I was going to earn a living. He said, “Son, you have a choice to make between using your back or using your brain. Have you decided yet?” It didn’t take long to decide to use my brain.

Part of my attraction to endurance riding is the mental aspect of the run. From a pure mileage/time run like many of the IBA rides that are so popular with today’s riders to a rally route developed in record time and executed to perfection, the mental aspects of developing an optimal plan and executing it are intriguing. I pride myself in being able to read and comprehend at an above average level. Sometimes though, I have bouts of idiocy that amaze the hell out of me. Such is the case with the first leg of the Butt Lite III.

One of the route sheets was passed out at the banquet the night before the rally began. I went back to the hotel and plotted all the locations in the GPS and determined the optimal route went through Dallas, Hot Springs, Missouri and then points to the north. I didn’t want to stay up any longer beating the hell out of this route because I knew additional route sheets would be handed out before leaving in the morning. So I opted to pack the bike and get a good night’s sleep. The latter being something I didn’t think I’d get too much of over the next week.

I awoke Monday morning ready to ride. When the additional route sheets were handed out I quickly scanned them for locations that were begging to be visited. Nothing stood out enough to change the current route. I was so fired up about starting my first multi-day rally that I had tears of adrenaline rolling down my cheeks. I fired up the bike, performed a nut check and was off.

Getting to Dallas wasn’t a problem. I just retraced my route down to Navasota. The location, however, was a little different. Sure. I live in Dallas, but that doesn’t mean I’ve seen everything. All we had to do is take a picture and count a bunch of steers. Easy enough, right? Yea, right. This was a good introduction to a rallybastard’s demented way of thinking. Son-of-bitch had us counting a large number of big-ass steers. I’d have slapped the shit out of Eddie and/or Adam after the fourth time walking up and down the hill counting the steers. In the end, I must have missed one. I don’t know which one, but I live in Dallas and will be back sometime soon to figure out where that 40th steer is. It better be there too.

Update: I went back and found the lost steer. It was quite easy to find. There's a ledge above the entire area. I stood there and counted and got 40 everytime. Why I didn't drag my ass up the ledge during the rally isn't even worth speculating on. Too easy, I reckon.

After Dallas came Hot Springs and an excuse to have a good BBQ sandwich for lunch. I especially like bonuses that combine points with food. Well, food that I don’t have to turn in at the scorer’s table.

After Hot Springs came a big oak tree in Missouri. I’m just glad I got there with daylight to spare. This was another one of those locations that a sexually frustrated rallybastard chooses in order to inflict the same kind of pain on riders that turns him on so much. You know... his desire for whips, chains and a big dildo stuck up his ass. As I was leaving the location I saw a few people flow into the area. I couldn’t help but think, “Those poor bastards better bring a flashlight, bug spray, duct tape and make sure there’s film in the camera or they’ll be making two trips.”

I stopped in Sikeston, Missouri to determine the next move. After looking at my options, I decided to hit Stonehenge and work my way north through various other locations.

The mistake I made at this point was deciding to ride through the night and take my sleep bonus in Monticello 3 hours before the checkpoint opened. At that point I was still pumped up enough to convince myself that I should ride through the night and then double up the sleep bonuses in Monticello – one at the end of the first leg and the other at the beginning of the next. In retrospect, this was a fatal decision as it successfully knocked my body clock out of whack for the remainder of the rally. I don’t think I fully recovered from that move.

When I arrived in Monticello with three hours to spare I didn’t sleep at all. I was too excited about finishing the first leg. Plus, it was daytime. Who sleeps during the day?

I decided to fill out the answer sheet for that leg.

That’s funny. It appears the answer sheet printed out the time/odometer spaces in the wrong position. That’s cool though, because I’m smart and will use a pen to bracket off what time/odometer readings go with what answers. Yea, that’s it. The scorer will be proud of me and my ability to make sense out of this cheesy-ass answer sheet. Up for 36 hours and still mentally sharp. It’s a good thing I caught that. Life is good.

After perfecting the answer sheet and coming up with a pre-score of close to 3200 points I felt like I rode a kick-ass leg and would score very well. I decided to get in line at the scorer’s table. My turn eventually and unfortunately came. I sat down. The scorer counts the number of sheets in the packet.

Woops. Miscount. Let’s try that again.

OK. It’s all there. Phew!

We start going through the answer sheet. I got the fuel log, sleep bonus and the first answer right because the time/odometer spaces printed out properly for that one, but the rest of them were all screwed up.

My mistake came clear the second after the scorer looked at the next answer. He told me I wrote down the time/odometer readings for the wrong answers and he couldn’t award me the points. I knew I was screwed. I thought I could make a case to Adam and Eddie, but knew that case would be futile. I filled the damn thing out incorrectly. Period.

On the bright side of things, I now know and understand what it feels like to screw myself. I couldn’t believe it! In the end, I lost 2100 points because I thought I knew what was right. It didn’t even dawn on me to ask someone or to think that this ‘confusion’ is part of the game.

That feeling was present again immediately after leg one’s scores were posted. I would have been in second place, but fell to a totally unacceptable 52nd place after the mental abortion at the scorer’s table. What a total shitter. That entire experience really took the wind out of my sail. After riding my ass off and getting little to no sleep, I stood there in amazement at how utterly stupid it was of me to assume I knew what was going on.

I learned a few things on this leg:

  • Don’t bust your ass beyond its limits and throw your body/mind out of kilter on the first leg - or any leg for that matter. It’s hard to recover from and, in the end, does not serve you well. It’s not like I haven’t read this in other the reports of IBR and other rally riders. I should have known this, but adrenaline is a very tough thing to tame. I should have a better handle on this next time around.
  • Don't even think you’re smarter than the rallymasters. If something looks out of whack, don’t try to make sense out of it yourself. Ask the son-of-a-bitch running the rally for clarification and guidance. This is a game and from the beginning of the rally to the end, everything you see, touch, feel and hear is part of that game.
  • Take your time at each location and make sure you got the right answers. I thought I counted the steers correctly in Dallas. After four different times, how could I be wrong? If there’s any question, do it over. I left that bonus hoping I had the correct count. I should have left knowing I had the right count. Not getting points for a location you visit turns into wasted time.

Leg Two - Monticello, MN to Post Falls, ID

When the route sheets were handed out for leg two, I was totally spent. I decided to take leg two’s sleep bonus immediately and went to the Days Inn in Monticello to mull over the route sheets and get some much needed rest. I had to try and get my body-clock back on track. I spent a couple of hours on the route and decided that a direct route to Post Falls would be best. There were some very good locations along the way that I would pick up. Mainly, I wanted to take it easy and not overdo it like the first leg.

I gave up points going over the Beartooth Pass in lieu of getting to Butte in time to pick up a daytime bonus. In retrospect, not a good move. If I were thinking properly at the time, I would have run the Beartooth and spent the night in Butte to wait for the next morning. There was plenty of time for this to occur, but I didn’t take the time to see it. Hindsight’s a real bitch.

The ‘Our Lady of the Rockies’ bonus in Butte was a real booger. The bitch is 90 feet tall, perched on top of a mountain overlooking Butte and there’s no way to get a good picture of her. The location is worth too many points to give up. There has got to be a trick to this location. I scour the area for any kind of road or hiking trail that would get me close enough to take a decent picture. This after taking about a dozen pictures that just didn’t turn out. I ask some locals how to get up there and they indicate it’s on private property and there’s no way to get up there unless you take the tour. Well, it’s getting dark and I’m getting pissed. I decide to spend the night in Butte, try to get a good picture in the morning and haul ass to Post Falls. In the end, I was able to get a good enough picture of her, but I spent way too much time on it. Time that could have been better spent crossing the Beartooth or gathering other bonuses in the area.

I made it to Post Falls with time to spare. I was well-rested and ran a half-way decent route. Most importantly, I filled out the answer sheet correctly this time and was awarded all of the claimed points. I can’t tell you what a relief that was.

When the scores were posted I jumped from 52nd to 30th. Mid-pack and gaining some ground back. I felt good.

The most important lesson on this leg was to take the time to think through all options. I decided to skip the Beartooth in lieu of a bonus that I could have easily obtained the following morning. At the time I didn’t see this as a logical choice because I didn’t consider it as an option. I was rushing my decisions and not rationally thinking through the options before me. Keeping a cool head and taking a few extra minutes to consider options would have helped a lot.

Leg Three - Post Falls, ID to Bakersfield, CA

Multiple routes were passed out in Post Falls, but we could choose from all of the locations. Nice little twist on the entire process I thought I was getting used to. I quickly perused them and decided on a route that would take me through Washington, Oregon and to the bonus-rich California coast.

There were two park bonuses in Washington that I thought would be an easy retrieve on the way down to California. Now that I knew how to fill out the answer sheet properly, I should fill out as many answers as possible, right? Well… the park bonuses were much more than the little blurb in the route sheet. When I got to Mt. Ranier, I figured out it was another 20 miles back to the visitor’s center to get the appropriate picture. It’s not like I shouldn’t have known this, but I came this far and I’m just riding around anyway so I may as well giddyup and get the points.

And after Mt. Ranier it was just a hop, skip and throttle twist over to Mt. St. Helens for a lot more of the same – except this was at night. I don’t know what Mt. St. Helens looks like in the daytime, but it sure is spooky after coming around one bend and everything in the headlights turn from green to gray and the shadows of tall, dead, stripped-of-life trees lean at varying angles, but all in the same direction like something hellish blew through there.

I got to Windy Ridge when it was as dark as it would get that night. They don’t call it Windy Ridge for nothing either. I had to whip out some major duct tape to keep my rally flag plastered to the sign. If the damn thing blew away at that location, there was no way to retrieve it and continue scoring points on that leg. But the duct tape didn’t fail and I was able to ride on through the night.

Getting out of that region of Washington took some time too. Performing the work at those two locations was time-consuming and that kind of riding is tiring to both the body and mind.

I finally got to Portland and decided to stop at a Denny’s and have breakfast. I needed my strength if I was going to push on from there and make it through until morning and the first rays of light that would provide the energy needed to knock out some points on this leg. Plus, I could take another look at the route and convince myself this was the right thing to do.

Remember that lesson learned about getting sleep at night? I reckon it wasn’t fully seated in the ol’ noggin’ or it was just disregarded. Doesn’t matter which one, the result was the same.

After breakfast I carried on down I-5. Around 3am I developed a serious case of the nods. I saw a Best Western and decided to check it out. They wanted $95 a room. I decided against it (big mistake here, kiddos). I decided to carry on. I found a nice, what-should-be-cheap hooker hotel, but the office was closed. I continued south and at the first rest stop decided to pull over and rough it. I remember pulling into the spot, dismounting, walking over to the curb and laying down for a little shut-eye. At that moment, life was good.

I woke up feeling nauseated. My innards were seriously offended by the breakfast and gave it the boot in the bathroom.

I knew I should have stopped in Vancouver, WA for breakfast.

After that eye-opener I felt somewhat rested and ready to roll. So I hopped in the saddle and began the push into northern California. One stop I really wanted to make was Hollister. The bonus was up at 3pm and I knew it was going to be a stretch to get there by then. This entire route was down the 101 along the northern California coast and then down PCH (Hwy 1) into the San Francisco Bay area and south to Monterey.

After picking up some bonuses I was already familiar with from an earlier trip through the Redwood region south of Eureka, traffic began to get worse and worse and the heat started to pump up and up. While my body felt good at the time, my brain was taking the brunt of the abuse. It retaliated by launching some of the biggest head games since before the rally. Here’s some of the crap that was being dished out at the time:

  • I'm sick and tired of this crap.
  • These bonuses along the coast were worthless because it would take way too much time to get through them all
  • What are you doing here right now?
  • Why'd you pick this route? It’s Friday before Labor Day. What a dumb ass!
  • You're not giving me enough sleep
  • You're not feeling well despite what your body says
  • Pack it in and get to Bakersfield and a hotel to prepare for the final leg
  • Getting through San Francisco is practically impossible

And on and on. What can I say? I gave into the “I’m sick and tired of this crap” and the “Pack it in and get to Bakersfield and a hotel to prepare for the final leg” excuses. After collecting two bonuses in Washington, throwing up somewhere in Oregon and picking up two more bonuses in California, I had convinced myself it was time to head to Bakersfield. Wow!

I left a lot of points out there. Don’t even like to think about it, but I could have gotten another 3K points, rested in a bed and made it to Bakersfield no problem. What an idiot.

Here are some lessons from this leg:

  • National Park bonuses might look attractive, but can be very time-consuming. Once you get there, it’s practically impossible to admit the mistake and leave the points behind.
  • The nods are one of the scariest things that can happen on a bike. Pull over and rest immediately. There are some good ways to keep you going for a few extra minutes, but this should be time spent getting somewhere to rest and not necessarily just down the road. And don’t consider the price of a hotel room when making this decision. If you need sleep and you’ve decided to stop at a hotel, don’t try and find a cheap one. Take the first one.
  • Over the previous days and nights of the rally, my mind was in a very submissive state and easily swayed by the games it plays on itself. This is my fault and could have been prevented to an extremely large degree had I managed my own internal body clock a little better. The first leg of no sleep threw my body and mind out of kilter. My body was able to recover, but I was never the same in the brain. I learned this lesson on the 48+, but failed to apply it here. I can shorten my sleep time, but my mind has an effective sleep window where I must get the sleep that’s needed to sustain any pace. My personal sleep window is sometime during the night. It can be 3 hours anytime between 10pm and 7am, but it must come within that window in order to be effective to both the body and the mind.
  • When your mind starts with the games, don’t stay on the bike. You’ll give in too quickly. I should have stopped, got off the bike and rested for a spell in the shade or by the beach or in a park or anywhere I could listen to the crap in the brain and rid it with one wide, well-protected wipe. Getting off the bike is key, I think.

Leg Four - Bakersfield, CA to Washington, TX

Ahh!! The final leg.

Check out time was at 12pm at the La Quinta I checked into the night before. I decided to keep the room, head over to the checkpoint and then come back to do the route planning for the final leg.

That part worked out. There was a big bonus in Phoenix, but it was time dependent. I had time to go through Los Angeles or up to Hoover Damn before heading to Phoenix. Los Angeles was out of the question. So I was off to Hoover. Pretty basic ride although there was a lot of traffic up I-15 from Barstow headed toward Lost Wages. Imagine that on the Saturday afternoon of Labor Day. Anyway, the Goldwing is a very capable, high-speed lane-splitter and the traffic didn’t seem as bad as it would have been if I were driving the cage. Thankfully, by the time we crossed the border the traffic had thinned out to a degree that wouldn’t require lane-splitting. I don’t think I could have stopped.

After hitting Hoover I sauntered on down to Phoenix. I had taken very good care of my body earlier in the day going through the Mojave and the heat didn’t take a large toll out of my spirits or stamina.

While stopped in Phoenix for a brief period, I thought about the rest of the leg. I wanted to put myself in position for a good push through Lajitas to see the Mayor, Stonehenge and get down to Corpus Christi to meet the famous Bob Hall.

When I got to Lordsburg, NM I stopped at a Love’s Truck Stop. These places are typically good about having a place for people to chill. In my case I’d be sleeping. I didn’t like the digs and should have moved on or checked into the hotel across the parking lot, but I didn’t.

I didn’t sleep well there at all. It was a half-ass sleep that didn’t result in any effective rest for the body or the mind. After a couple of hours, I decided to haul ass. About 80 miles down the road I start to have serious nods that I cannot get through. I see a sign for a Super 8 and decide to grab a room and try to get the sleep I tried to get at the Love’s in Lordsburg. That worked, but I was now behind schedule and had to modify my route. The Mayor of Lajitas was out. Stonehenge, a daytime bonus, was in.

I barely made it to Stonehenge, but I made it.

I decided to head to Corpus and grab a hotel for the evening. I could then meet Bob Hall at 6am and then haul ass to the Live Oak and get there by 11am when the checkpoint opened. Well, I thought it opened at 11 anyway. I was wrong. Why? I can’t understand what I don’t read. For some reason I knew the checkpoint opened at 11 and everything I did had this end time in mind. Even the planning at the hotel back in Bakersfield and the decision to skip a couple of major bonuses.

When I arrived at the Live Oak at 10:30 I was expecting more people there. But I was the only one. This isn’t right. I spoke with Eddie and he set me straight on the checkpoint hours. Sometimes I amaze myself. I didn’t feel I had time to make anymore bonuses so I went and checked into the Best Western. The rally, for me, was over. All I needed to do was come back before 4pm and get scored.

I checked into the hotel and eventually took a nap. I woke up about 2:30 and told myself I should probably stay up. I didn’t. I went back to sleep and woke up at 3:40 – 20 minutes before the checkpoint opens and penalty points begin. It’s a 15 minute ride to the Live Oak from the Best Western. This would be close.

I made it with a couple of minutes to spare. I got scored and popped my first beer in a while. It was a Budweiser, but it was cold and good. All I did after that is shoot the shit with the other rally riders and waited for the banquet.

The banquet was fabulous and the awards banquet followed. Several people asked me who I thought would win. My money was on Todd Witte. He rode an incredible last leg to shoot ahead and take first place. The dude was non-stop and business all the way. I can’t wait to read his ride report. A big congratulations to him as well as every rider who began this same trek the previous Monday.

In Conclusion

I finished in 24th place in Butt Lite 3. I feel good about that, but also know that I can ride a better ride. The mental aspects of the game intrigue me the most. I didn’t do a good job of maintaining a healthy mind throughout the rally. I screwed it up on the first leg and never fully recovered – losing points on the first leg and making some bad decisions throughout the entire rally that I never was able to fully recover from.

One thing I need to do is understand what I’ve learned in order to ensure it never happens again.

I’m not finished with this. I love this stuff and hope to ride in another multi-day rally soon and put what I’ve learned into practice. It should be fun. For now, the next rally is the Land of Enchantment Rally. I hope to see some of you there.

A big thanks goes to Adam and Eddie specifically, but also to everyone else involved in the rally. The Butt Lite 3 was ran incredibly well and was fair to everyone involved. I’m glad I decided to be a part of it and I totally look forward to the next one.

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